Wednesday, August 15, 2012

100 Posts!

In honor of this being my 100th post on this blog, I'll reveal the story behind the title of this thing you've been reading. It goes back to high school.

I was in a music theory/appreciation/history class, and I came across "Alfonso el sabio," or Alfonso X, king of Spain. His title means "Alfonso the wise." I thought that was a hilarious name, so when I took Spanish class and we got to pick names for ourselves, I naturally picked "Alfonso."

I actually came to like Al's music. Here's one of my favorite pieces of his:

Anyway, so I picked that name in Spanish class, and I took all the Spanish classes my high school offered. In consequence, lots of people knew me only as "Alfonso." Once I was in town with my parents, and I heard someone scream, "HEY! Alfonso!" I think this was the first time my folks found out about my alias. I don't know if they knew what to make of it.

Later, my group of friends decided to make matching "Happy Wednesday" shirts with our nicknames on the back. My obvious choice was Alfonso.

Early on, I realized the power of the Happy Wednesday shirt. I wore it on a Tuesday in Disney World, and a poor man came up to me in something of a frenzy asking me, "It's not really Wednesday, is it? I'm supposed to be back in the office."

My favorite confrontation, though, is with people who have visibly mustered up the courage to approach me about it, and say with almost shaky indignation, "It's Tuesday; not Wednesday."

I pull them aside in a tone of mock conspiracy and say, "Shhh. Don't tell anyone!"

So there you have it, folks. I don't know who you are or why you read this blog, but thanks!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why I Hate Phantom, or More Musical Iconoclasm

Short answer: It's tacky and I hate it.

Long answer:

I'm currently watching the PBS Great Performances version of The Phantom of the Opera and blogging along live. Let's talk about how tacky and ridiculous the opening is. The chandelier is "Lot 666." Ooo, subtle. I see what you did there.

Next up, I understand that this was a product of the 80s, but that overture needs a facelift. Mainly, we need to get rid of that drum kit. *up chromatic scale* ==DZOO DZOO== *down chromatic scale* ==DZOO DZOO==

Okay, I like "Think of Me." One point for Andy. BUT, at least in this production Christine's coloratura skills were wanting. To be fair, it may have been my speakers.

Ugh. And now we hear the Phantom with his breathy "Brava, brava, bravissima!" It's hammy. Hammy, hammy, hammy. And quickly we launch into Christine's creepy Elektra complex and daddy worship. Well, to be fair, I guess at this point it's just foreshadowing of the upcoming creepiness.

That's one of the big problems with this musical—no one is even remotely likable. The Phantom and Christine are both creeps and Raul is a worthless nancy boy.

Also, the whole referring to the Phantom as just "the angel of music" gets old fast.

"I'm your angel of music. Come to me, angel of music." Great lyric, but can we repeat that eight times?

YES! Return of that 80s drum kit. That's when you know you're listening to real art music.

I'd also like to point out that up to this point, the only thing like counterpoint that has shown up in any of the singing has been parallel thirds and sixths. Don't work too hard, Andy.

Okay, even though I hate the song, the staging of the actual song "Phantom of the Opera" is pretty rad. Especially in this production. One more point to Andy.

Oh. Oh. But do you hear that majestic guitar solo? Sorry, you just lost that point. Oh man, I can't stand this.

I'd love to see someone do a drinking game with this musical: take a shot every time someone says, "angel of music."

And now we're at Christine's famous AAAH-UH-AHHH-UH-AH-AHHH. Watch out guys! Andy's figured out key changes. His gain; our loss.

"Music of the Night." Not a bad tune. I'm going to turn down my sass for the present. BUT the song's still gross. Also, Andy once again shows that he's recently discovered the chromatic scale. (Sass is back on, btws.) Phantom just sang, "let your soul take you where you long to BEEEEEEEEEEEEEE." And he did that thing that is my most hated mannerism in all of broadway-style singing. He threw in a high-pitched hiccup at the end of his note. Sometimes people do it right before a note or right after. Either way, it gets on my nerves every. single. time.

Okay, we're at the "Damn You" Phantom solo. Not Andy's greatest exhibition in melody.

I have friends over, so this writing may be more sporadic, or it may just end in a second.

Video Games Can Never Be Art

I did this piece for BYU Radio. It's a response and investigation into Roger Ebert's now infamous claim that "Video games can never be art."

Also, here's the link to my friend Will's blog:

I interviewed him for the segment.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Les Miserables

The film version of the musical is coming out in December. It stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, and although I love Hugh in pretty much everything, I have some beef with the musical itself. The music is fine—some of the songs are great. But the lyrics are lacking. I'd like to highlight three of my favorite bad lyrics.

1) From Fantine's "I Dreamed a Dream":

"But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame."

Mixed. Metaphor. Just read it. Where are these tigers coming from? It totally breaks the mood of the setting of revolutionary France to bring in exotic predators. And it's a bad metaphor. Tigers aren't seductive, and when's the last time you heard someone complain about a tiger turning their dream to shame? Ugh. And the great thing about this song is that Fantine reaches climactic cheesiness right on these lines—right as she's climbing up the scale on "shame." I HATE THIS SONG SO MUCH.

And actually, I really don't like the music either. The intro, with that repetitive E-flat, makes me think of Peter Seller's parody of "Night and Day," where he played the beginning in Morse code.

2) From Cosette's "Castle on a Cloud":

"Crying at all is not allowed,
Not in my castle on a cloud."

This is maybe my most hated number in the whole musical. I like the kind of Renaissance treatment that the theme gets when Valjean shows up, BUT this song was born tired. And these lyrics represent the lowest of lows in the song. In my minds eye, I can see the worn page in the rhyming dictionary for the entry, "cloud." And so we get the line, "Crying at all is not allowed." Let's think about this practically. Making crying a punishable offense seems to work against itself:

"What is that you're doing? Crying?!"
"No, officer! I swear I wasn't!"
"You're in for it now! We don't put up with any of that nonsense. Not in the castle on the cloud!"

3) From "Do You Hear the People Sing"

"Do you hear the people sing,
singing the song of angry men?"

Outside of a musical, when's the last time you heard someone say, "I'm so mad I could just…just sing!" The answer is never. You've never heard anyone say that ever.

I could go on, but I won't.

I'm learning that I don't particularly like musicals. They tend to be hammy and tasteless, sung by people who are over-trained to over-act—people who can sing loud but not necessarily well.

That said, I'm absolutely going to see the movie come December. I really like the book, and I really like Hugh Jackman. And you know what? After The Dark Knight Rises, I'm really liking Anne Hathaway. Let's just hope there's some leather pants in Fantine's future. Am I right?

But seriously, Hathaway did a fantastic job in DKR. Just please never ask her to host the Oscars again. Although, she did a great duet with Hugh Jackman in '09: