27 October 2012

Counting Losses

From the expression on her face, I suspect she is plotting
to get some vanilla ice cream.

When she was just a tiny child, pronouncing her own name proved an almost insurmountable challenge: “Marna Towtee” was as close as she could manage. Years later, when her first grandson was born, I suggested “Marna” as an alternative to the inevitable “Grandma” — but, like most of my ingenious nicknames, it never caught on. Still, it’s how I think of her. Marna.

Over the course of four decades, I must have shared countless conversations with her, but the one I’ll remember best came on the night that first grandson was born, and it was entirely one-sided, an answering-machine message. “Cairn’s had her baby,” she said, since even in adulthood her old-fashioned Texas accent made her daughter’s name a challenge, too. And then she added, “I guess you know what she’s going to name him.”

I did not in fact know that Cairn planned to name her firstborn after me. Marna’s message was my only warning. I had a new godson and a new namesake. You could say that Marna changed my life the day she gave birth to Cairn, my oldest friend, but the extent of Marna’s power was never clearer than it was that night when Will was born.

She passed away last week, the first in a rapid succession of loss that caught up two other souls dear to me, Little John and His Excellency. A week later, I’m still absorbing the shock.

As Marna foretold it: Christening my godson, 1992.

Marna’s power over me was remarkable, because when I was a kid, I seldom saw her. She was resolutely hands-off when it came to her daughter and her friends; Marna was anything but a helicopter parent. And of all my friends, Cairn was the readiest to live as a grownup, who earned her own keep long before she graduated high school. Independence was her nature, but it suited her mother, as well, and only my fear that my godsons will read this and try to copy us can prevent me from recounting here the sorts of scrapes and jams Cairn and I got into, while Marna was off in some quiet corner of the house, reading a book or watching Masterpiece Theatre.

Shy and retiring, she was a quiet soul, all right, but in the right company she could be a chatterbox, going on breathlessly about the subjects that captivated her: mystery novels, classical music, art, history, genealogy. Cairn and I loved these things, too, and it’s safe to say that, while we might have discovered them on our own, Marna’s interests fueled ours. She planted the seeds, as it were, but true to her nature, she left the cultivation to us.

Between Marna and me, especially in later years, there developed a complicity, and thus even when she was at her most voluble, we didn’t talk about personal matters. We didn’t need to. A topic might come up — Cairn’s ex-husband, for example — and Marna would simply say, in a fretful tone, “Well….” And that was all, and I’d know what she meant. And she’d know I felt the same way.

Thus there are things I never asked her, and because we weren’t warned of her passing, I’ll never have the chance now. Something the same is true of Little John, my cousin, who passed away just days after Marna did. I’m not sure anyone else ever called him Little John — but when I was a boy he seemed so right for the part that I couldn’t call him anything else. Older than I by several years, he was big and burly and, you could tell, absolutely capable of overthrowing the Sheriff of Nottingham.

His parents, my Uncle Johnnie and Aunt Loey, were very much a part of my childhood, and their other children and I were very close, too, at several points. Davy came to stay with us for extended periods, and Paulie was close enough in age that he always seemed my big brother. Ruthie lives in Rhode Island and kept an eye on me while I was in college. But I never saw as much of John: no matter where I lived, he lived far away: the Madison diaspora swept him up early.

Even from a distance, I could tell that he was honest and reliable. I knew he was funny and loving. I caught glimpses of his mind from the relics left around his parents’ house and the influence he exerted over his brothers: a particular band or a book or movie could be traced back to him, and might influence me, too, in turn.

But I never seized the opportunity to ask him about much of anything. It can be said that for 51 years I adored him without really knowing him. You always think there will be time to catch up — until the time runs out.

His Excellency.

And so it happens that, of the three losses I’ve sustained in the past week, only one entailed a proper farewell. I think that both His Excellency and I knew when we said goodbye that it would be the last time we’d see each other. Even the way he greeted me seemed meaningful, the look in his eyes full of recognition if not quite reproach: “Well, there you are,” he seemed to say. “I was wondering when you’d show up.”

My sometime roommate ate out of my hand and did not object to my petting him, though I was anxious about it: he was frail and terribly thin, but his dignity could not be shaken. After a while, he retired to his favorite chair for another nap, waking only a little when I took my leave of him and giving a little nod before dropping his head again to drift to sleep once more. Bursting into tears would only have upset everybody, but I had to remind myself of that fact and to hope that His Excellency’s servant would attribute the huskiness in my voice to the onset of seasonal allergies.

I don’t know how many of his nine lives he’d used up in the various health scares he’d had in the course of his 16 years: I can count at least three or four off the top of my head. It’s possible then that he’s arrived in kitty heaven, or whatever you want to call it. For the first time, he will be surrounded by others of his own kind — and forced therefore to confront the realization that he may himself be a cat.

He will take this news with his customary dignity, I am sure. But I don’t say he’ll like it.

And for my part, I’ll miss him. I’ll miss them all.

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21 October 2012

Progress Report 18: Message in a Bottle?

A Woman’s Career, At a Glance.
Photo by WVM.

Madeline Kahn was an intensely private person who would never have written an autobiography, much less cooperated with a biographer. She left a remarkably thin paper trail, with only a few playbills from her stage career and no more correspondence than what lay in and around her desk at the time of her death, in 1999. Instead of a diary, she kept a single spiral notebook with several years’ worth of musings, observations, notes for an act that never happened; she also kept appointment books — and these, mercifully, have survived.

To the extent that there’s any “Sweet Mystery” to Madeline’s life, the books do require a fair amount of detective work. The personal notebook contains no dates whatever, so I have to make educated (I hope) guesses as to when she wrote a particular page. In the appointment books, dates are easy to spot, but Madeline will sometimes write “Rehearsal,” without any indication as to what, precisely, she was rehearsing. “Audition” is another tough one, since like any actor she didn’t always get the parts she auditioned for. She wasn’t trying to make this easy for me: she just wanted to be sure she showed up on time.

I do occasionally find hints that, wherever she may be now, she doesn’t entirely disapprove of the work I’m doing. One of the most surprising came the other day, as I was going through the personal notebook. On the third page, there’s an entry that looks very much like a message for me — not just her future biographer, but Bill Madison, specifically.

Madeline as Esperanza the Gypsy Queen, from Lucky Luke (1992): Maybe she could read these portents.

I worked for Dan Rather at CBS News in a variety of capacities from 1987 to 1999. Among the most sacred of my duties was the guardianship of the “Ratherisms,” the colorful expressions Dan uses to keep his reporting lively during longer, live broadcasts, especially election-night coverage. The Ratherisms were stored in a big binder and, as needed, written out on index cards; we culled them from oral tradition, books, the sports page, almost anywhere — and some were entirely original.

Now, Madeline never met me, and even if she had, it’s doubtful that she’d have had reason to know that I was the curator of the Ratherisms. So how do we account for Page 3 of the personal notebook?

With the underscored title “Bill,” Madeline jots down four Ratherisms:
That person makes me do this (telescope.)
" " has more nerve than a toothache.
— is flying on the wrong trapeze.
— ought really to be in costume at all times.
The first might require a bit of pantomime, or else rephrasing (“makes me close down like a telescope”), but the three others are Rather-ready. It’s uncanny.

Please note that she does not split the infinitive “to be.”
Photo by WVM of a photocopy by WVM.

Presumably Madeline had encountered someone whom she found so annoying that she had to look for fresh ways to express herself. But I have no idea who the fellow was. A colleague? A character? Me?

If she did have a premonition that the Keeper of the Ratherisms would someday write her biography, I confess I’d prefer to find a list of colorful descriptions of how charming “Bill” can be.

Ah, well.

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20 October 2012

If Strauss’ Elektra Had a Sassy Gay Friend

Oy, has this girl got problems: Christine Goerke
as Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Those who are unfamiliar with this exciting artist should know that she’s really very attractive when she’s not working.

If Brian Gallivan of the Second City troupe is still playing his Sassy Gay Friend character, then I’d advise him to hurry over to North Wacker Drive as quickly as possible, because there’s a girl at the Civic Opera House right now who really needs his help.

I’m talking about Richard Strauss’ Elektra, of course, currently incarnated by the brilliant Christine Goerke in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of the 1908 masterwork. Sure, Goerke is surrounded by a galaxy of great singers, a dream cast including Jill Grove, Emily Magee, Alan Held, and Roger Honeywell — but Elektra is allein! Weh, ganz allein.

She’s an urgent case, even worse off than Sally from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. Time is of the essence. In the event that Mr. Gallivan is unable to find a cab, I’d like to suggest how the scene might play out.

Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet as Elektra in Berlin.

SASSY GAY FRIEND: Girl! You are a mess!

ELEKTRA: I don’t care!

SASSY GAY FRIEND: What happened?

ELEKTRA: Well, you remember how my dad walked out on my mom a few years ago and then killed my sister?

SASSY GAY FRIEND: How could I forget? It’s all you and your mother ever talk about! I could practically set it to the Brady Bunch theme song.

ELEKTRA: Well, he came back — with some tootsie he picked up in Troy.

SASSY GAY FRIEND: Is that so ter—

ELEKTRA: So mom and her boyfriend killed him.

SASSY GAY FRIEND: Enough with the drama, already!

ELEKTRA: Now I think of nothing but revenge.

SASSY GAY FRIEND: And that’s your excuse for looking like a dumpster drag queen? Get over yourself!

ELEKTRA: I wish I knew how.

SASSY GAY FRIEND: I have one word for you: shoes. Sister, we are going shopping.


SASSY GAY FRIEND: The first step to vengeance is always a new pair of shoes.

ELEKTRA: Are you sure?

SASSY GAY FRIEND: Girlfriend, by the time I’m through with you, you’ll be Elektra-fying! You’re gonna look so good, no one will pay any attention to your mother — and with her fashion sense, that won’t be too tough. Then you can do whatever you want!

ELEKTRA: I guess you do have a point.

SASSY GAY FRIEND: First, though, we’re going to have a spa day! [Looking her over slowly.] Or maybe a spa week. This could take a while.

ELEKTRA: A mani-pedi does sound nice!

SASSY GAY FRIEND: Then put down that axe and let’s go! [They start to leave.]

ELEKTRA: By the way, I saw this really cute guy on the beach this morning. I’m hoping we’ll run into him again —

SASSY GAY FRIEND: You mean the mysterious stranger from Athens who looks exactly like you? Hello, Gaydar! Didn’t you notice his inseparable companion Pylades, son of Strophius?

ELEKTRA: He’s not in this opera. But speaking of Pilates, do you think we could take a zumba class this afternoon? I really feel like dancing!

Brian Gallivan as the Sassy Gay Friend.

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19 October 2012

Afterthoughts on Anthony Roth Costanzo at the Players Club

Like Teresa Stratas, ARC-en-Ciel (background) has the power to seem the most imposing figure onstage — at least until an Apollo like Jared Angle (foreground) makes his entrance.

Writing of the premiere of Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls at Fort Worth Opera a couple of years ago, I confronted the sobering realization that I had brought to bear too much of my education. As my Brown classmate Rick Moody has observed of the graduate writing program at Columbia University (which he followed a few years before I did), much of the workshop process is predicated on the notion that any new work is necessarily a work in progress, and therefore one’s criticisms derive from fault-finding, ostensibly with a view to “improving” the piece. Much less emphasis is placed on identifying areas in which the new work is successful, and in the case of music–theater work, on how the audience (not to mention the producers) got its money’s worth.

As it happens, Jorge joined me on September 28 for a performance that made me face the same issues: a collaboration among that polymath prodigy, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo; New York City Ballet principal dancer Jared Angle; harpsichordist Bradley Brookshire; and choreographer Troy Schumacher, under the aegis of Jessica Gould’s Salon/Sanctuary Concerts program at the historic Players Club on Gramercy Park. While primarily a fairly straightforward recital of Baroque music, the program offered as a centerpiece a choreographed performance of Vivaldi’s cantata Qual per ignoto calle, in which Angle joined ARC-en-Ciel, nothing if not a flexible artist who danced at several points, as well.*

And I’ll be damned if I didn’t walk out of the performance thinking — and talking — of ways to “improve” what was, on a purely gut level, a marvelous experience. What follows is my belated attempt to correct my own responses.

The James Franco of countertenors, ARC-en-Ciel is no stranger to multi-disciplinary stage pieces: having co-written, produced, and starred in The Double Life of Zefirino, he’s better aware than I of the challenges involved. Moreover, he and his collaborators are acclaimed artists, much in demand in their primary fields and very, very busy. ARC-en-Ciel particularly is taking off like a rocket these days. Who’s to say when these men would have time to work out the kinks in this show, if they even want to?

And really, if there were any flaws in the performance at the Players Club, they were mostly logistical. Neither salon nor sanctuary, the space at the club isn’t designed for multi-disciplinary programs, and depending on where you sat, sight lines were terrible. Much of Angle’s dance was obscured for me by a pillar.** In order to put on the dance, Brookshire’s harpsichord had to be moved back and forth, and so it also had to be tuned and retuned (a harpsichord’s tuning evidently more delicate than a chocolate soufflé), which prolonged the concert: a different ordering of the pieces would have streamlined the evening.

Artistically, my principal complaint — my only complaint, really — lies with the choreography. While Schumacher found some marvelous means of incorporating the singer in the dance, at some points Angle simply picked up ARC-en-Ciel as if he were an inconveniently located piece of furniture, a floor lamp perhaps, and plunked him down by the harpsichord, out of the way of the next steps. Heck, even Dick Van Dyke managed to dance around the ottoman, those nights when he didn’t trip over it.

But in hindsight, these things don’t matter much. Consider that I had an unbeatable opportunity to witness ARC-en-Ciel’s stage presence. Singing arias by Handel and Purcell and wearing a suit, he’s commanding: you’re consumed by his gleaming voice, his astute musicianship, his uncanny fidelity to text (in songs where, to many people’s thinking, the words barely matter at all) — and, let’s be honest, his good looks.

Then set him barefoot and coatless alongside Angle, a strapping fellow by any measure, and ARC-en-Ciel seems suddenly fragile, and all the more so as he traverses the searching, lonely lines of the Vivaldi cantata. In the choreography, the men were by turns friends, lovers, and alter-egos: sometimes Angle’s dancing illustrated what ARC-en-Ciel described, and sometimes he took a more dramatically active part, provoking or consoling the singer.

This was all the more fascinating because countertenor singing by its very nature (or its alteration thereof) challenges conventional notions of masculinity — especially in works written for castrato. In ARC-en-Ciel we have an artist who can, as Marilyn Horne might say, “Sing big” (as too few young singers in any voice type can do), and yet who explores his vulnerability, who projects heroic virility even as he’s acted upon by another man.

Hell, yes, I’d like to see them develop this piece further. But what I got was stunning, and weeks later, I’m still turning it over in my mind. That’s revolutionary in more ways than one.

*NOTE: ARC-en-Ciel does indeed move beautifully, but he doesn’t have the pop singer’s option of lip-synching when the dancing gets strenuous. His movements here left him plenty of breath control, and so we’ll have to wait to see him pay homage to Britney.

**Okay, I bought a cheap seat. It didn’t occur to me to ask for a press ticket.

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12 October 2012

Raddatz/Lehrer Debate a Draw, Undecided Voters Say

Moderator Raddatz.

ANN ARBOR, MI -- Last night’s debate between Martha Raddatz (ABC) and Jim Lehrer (PBS) at the University of Michigan’s Crisler Center ended in violence and drew sharp contrasts between each moderator’s moderating policies but left undecided voters unsure which moderator, if either, was the victor.

“I just felt that neither Martha nor Jim showed me what it really takes to moderate a debate that serves all the debate viewers, especially the moderates,” said Ann Bivalent, a self-described independent viewer from Cincinnati. “Is it better to be vague and somewhat dull, permitting the candidates to shape their own responses, or to be aggressive and detailed, keeping the candidates in line? I’m just not sure.”

Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole (R–KS), himself a veteran of debates in 1976 and 1996, moderated last night’s debate, but the opposing moderators wasted little time before directly confronting each other. Lehrer was first, about 5 minutes into the debate, when he asked, “Martha, how does your moderating style differ from mine?”

Moderator Dole.

Raddatz in turn hammered Lehrer for details on how much of his PBS Newshour budget comes from taxpayer dollars and how much is diverted from the marketing income from sales of toys, games, videos and other products related to another PBS program, Sesame Street.

Grinning, rolling her eyes, and shaking her head disdainfully throughout the 90-minute joint appearance, Raddatz asked, “Is Gwen Ifill eating out of Big Bird’s soft, feathery paw? Is this another case of Trickle-Me Elmo economics?” She also referred to one Newshour anchor as “Mrs. Woodruffupagus.”

“It’s all about mathematics, Jim,” Raddatz insisted. “Subtract x number of cookies from y number of cookies.”

Without waiting for Lehrer’s response, she addressed the camera, saying, “You see, folks? His subtraction just doesn’t add up.”

Raddatz abruptly cut herself off, saying, “Let’s move on to the next topic now.” Lehrer responded with a lengthy synopsis of his next “One-Eyed Mack” novel.

Dole repeatedly tried without success to get the moderators back on track, asking whether either or both would be willing to pledge to bail out Frito–Lay, the makers of Doritos™ Brand snack chips; and Pfizer, the makers of Viagra®, in the event of another economic crisis.

Overnight polling showed undecided voters evenly split, with 27 percent agreeing with the statement, “I feel that Martha Raddatz understands the needs of a viewer like me,” 26 percent agreeing with the statement, “I feel that Jim Lehrer understands the needs of a viewer like me,” and 47 percent undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 98 percent.

“Jesus H. Christ, what is wrong with you people?” Gallup Organization Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton said, in response to the polling results.

University of Michigan campus security officers report 86 injured and 3 dead in the mayhem that erupted at the Crisler Center immediately following the event. Raddatz and Lehrer are scheduled to debate 18 more times before election day.

Moderator Lehrer.

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11 October 2012

Facing Low Ratings, ‘Today’ Show Mulls Guthrie’s Future

Guthrie: In the competitive world of morning television, it’s never too soon to start updating her résumé.

NEW YORK -- Faced with declining ratings and negative press like this article from the Associated Press, Today Show executive producer Jim Bell has suggested that Savannah Guthrie may step down after only three months as co-host of the long-running NBC program, “provided she can still walk after the send-off we’re planning.” In July, Guthrie had replaced Ann Curry, who was removed from the co-host position after only 11 months on the job.

“We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our audience, and we owe it to our ratings to get rid of Savannah in a way that is even more spectacular and publicly humiliating than the way we got rid of Ann,” Bell told television reporters in a conference call today.

Bell called reports that co-host Matt Lauer will strip to his underwear and flog Guthrie before a live audience in Rockefeller Plaza during a segment of Today “totally false and unsubstantiated rumors, albeit highly intriguing.”

Today’s “on-air ‘family’,” from left: Natalie Morales, Guthrie,
Al Roker, and Lauer.

Curry’s departure was “on the right track but, really, too small-scale, too Jane Pauley,” Bell said. “Savannah is no Deborah Norville. She’s unique. We definitely want something bigger, up-to-date, and glamorous for her, something that will really score high in the ratings against our competitors at Good Morning America.”

The AP said of Curry’s final broadcast as co-host, on June 28, “She cried in bewilderment at her perceived failure at losing the job she had sought for years, as her uncomfortable co-workers and a nation looked on.… Even people who didn’t particularly like Curry loathed the way she was dispatched.”

Following her ascension to the co-host seat, reports surfaced that Guthrie felt the pressure intensely and had begun to suffer migraines as a result. While declining to confirm or deny those stories, Bell acknowledged that Guthrie’s susceptibility to pressure and pain were “an inspiration” to the Today producers.

“I don’t want to give away the surprise,” Bell said, “but we have something very special planned, something painful and public that you’ll never forget, and that you’d never in a million years see on ABC or CBS.

“Over the past 60 years, our viewers have come to know what they can expect from Today and our on-air ‘family,’” Bell continued. “They know they can always count on us to do things the Today way.”

Several minutes after concluding the conference call, Bell phoned reporters again. “I just want to make clear that this was totally not Matt’s idea, okay?”

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06 October 2012

‘Glee’-nalysis: Relationship Troubles

Alone together.
This and all screen caps from the indispensable AfterElton.com.

Watching Glee on a regular basis is a lot like having a difficult boyfriend, I have decided. Just listen to the way people complain about the show! (But change the pronouns a little.)

“He’s so cute and fun!” “His mood swings are driving me crazy! It’s like I don’t know who’s going to show up for our next date!” “He really knows how to make me laugh.” “His taste in music is so variable. I mean — rap? It really doesn’t work for him.” “Either he’s got amnesia or he’s got ADHD. He can’t stick to any subject.” “He can be really naïve, and he really doesn’t know how to make good use of his assets — if you know what I mean.”

And then of course consider how so many people brag about having broken up with Glee. “Oh, are you still watching that? I gave it up ages ago — I outgrew it.”

But breaking up is hard to do. Glee ended its back-to-school mini-season with one of its smartest, most deeply felt episodes yet — and the subject was breakups. Even as it sometimes felt I was watching Invasion of the ‘Glee’-Snatchers (“Where did this wonderful show come from?”), “Breakups” built on preexisting strengths, even to the novel extent of remembering prior episodes, and pointed to ways in which this season’s almost maddening Lima/New York split might actually work.

Heather Morris as Brittany S. Pearce.
What started as a dance turned into a joke that turned into an emotionally powerful story.

The first thing we have to understand is that Lima, Ohio, is blessed both with a first-rate train station that links directly to New York City (as witnessed by Rachel’s departure at the end of last season) and with a major airport served by airlines offering really, really cheap last-minute fares both to New York and to Los Angeles. This will help to link the multi-city plots in future.

But as we welcome the potential benefits, please note that they do come with a price tag, in the form of suspension of disbelief. Not only must we believe that Finn, Blaine, and Rachel could simply zip back and forth at will, or that Kurt could leave Lima a single day after deciding to give New York a whirl, but also that Puck could fly in from California for a surprise meeting with the half-brother he’s never heard of, stay for five minutes, and then leave again.

Presumably Mr. Schuester paid for this. On a teacher’s salary. Which is totally believable because my high-school teachers were always buying me plane tickets. As I’m sure your teachers did for you.

There have been token acknowledgments that our Lima lovelies are freakishly adept at finding cheap fares, just as there have been other acknowledgments that Kurt and Rachel’s vast New York apartment is “in a sketchy neighborhood,” so that we know the kids aren’t suddenly millionaires. But it’s more plausible to think that Santana simply drives home from Kentucky on weekends, as this week we learned that she’s been doing just that.

Acting! Naya Rivera, brilliant as Santana.

Nevertheless, poor Brittany feels left behind, to the point that she’s joined a club dedicated to the Christian apocalyptic Left Behind novels. Running the club is new head cheerleader Kitty, not with a whip but with an arsenal of Bitch Goddess behavior that makes her this season’s heir to the crown sometimes worn by Quinn, and sometimes by Santana. Because we really, really don’t like cheerleaders. (Except in Bring It On: The Musical.)

And since motherhood has taken much of the bite out of Sue Sylvester, we have a New Sue in the form of Cassandra July, Rachel’s pitiless dance teacher at NYADA. She has the advantages of being better motivated and less irrational than Sue (remember the David Bowie disguise?), and she’s played by Kate Hudson, but thus far I find her meanness too monotonous. With little to do but victimize Rachel, she’s one of the principal victims of the show’s bipolar “focus” this season.

Likewise Kitty’s primary nemesis, a new student named Marley (Melissa Benoist), whose freshness and singing I like. Here, too, the constant Lima/New York back-and-forthing means that her character remains largely undeveloped: she’s just a nice girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Likewise Unique (Alex Newell), a transgender student introduced last season, who sings like a powerhouse but has thus far been given little else to do.

What made this week’s episode special was that the multiple storylines were brought together over something basic and recognizable and true. Drawing on several years’ worth of plotting and aiming for an emotional center, the show’s writers advanced the characters, incorporated smart musical numbers, and wound up with a winner.

Ladykisses: Santana and Brittany.
Are boykisses more controversial? Guess so.

So when Blaine wanted to express his conflicted feelings about his relationship with Kurt, he didn’t sing any old song, he sang the very first song, “Teenage Dream,” with only a piano and no Warblers to accompany him — and who knew a song so dumb could be so emotionally resonant?

Four couples confronted similar but not identical predicaments, all predicated on the challenges of long-distance relationships but evolving in different ways. The two gay relationships were treated with exactly the same respect as that accorded to the straight relationships — instead of the comic relief or side-kickery one usually sees — and the cliff-hanger ending, beautifully staged as a musical number that, through spotlighting and arrangement, is nothing like an ensemble but instead eight anguished solos.* Every one of the actors responded with a spectacular performance, all night long.

Speaking of anguish, though, I’m disappointed to see that my beloved Jayma Mays is now listed as a guest star. Nevertheless, Glee will have a hard time persuading me that Emma won’t work things out with Will. I’m persuaded already that Finn would return to McKinley High to get his groove back: the glee club was the first and only place he’s ever been able to understand himself. Which does suggest that he and Rachel are finished — freeing her to be something other than the Drama Queen with a clingy crush on the Football Captain. Fine by me.

Really, it’s the camera angle. Kurt is not licking Blaine’s cheek. Believe me, they don’t do stuff like that.

The two other relationships may be determined by forces outside the narrative universe of Glee: Naya Rivera needs to get on with her career, and since Santana decided to go to college after all, it will be harder to incorporate her character into either the Lima or the New York storylines. Easing her out of the picture would give Brittany a chance to put the “Questioning” into the show’s LGBTQ agenda — and Sam seems eager to assist her.

Since Kurt and Blaine are portrayed by Chris Colfer and Darren Criss, their futures may depend on situations most likely to generate iTunes sales. Given how invested viewers are in the almost-perfect love of these characters, however, any lasting breakup is virtually guaranteed to provoke a backlash.

What’s certain is that Glee won’t be able to sustain the kind of coordination and conviction we saw this week. When the show comes back, it will screw up. Start with the fact that this year’s musical is Grease, obliging us to forget how many of the best numbers from that show Glee has already featured in previous seasons.

So, yeah, our bad boyfriend Glee has screwed up yet again. But look! He also brought us a big bouquet of gorgeous fragrant flowers to make up for it! See? He really wants us to stick around until November.

Should we break up? A quandary that should last about five weeks.
(Because, like other bad boyfriends, sometimes Glee disappears for weeks at a time without writing or calling.)

*NOTE: The exception to the show’s egalitarian treatment of the gay and straight lovers is P.D.A. While Santana and Brittany got to kiss quite a lot this week, Kurt and Blaine barely got a hello peck on the cheek, and the lack of physical contact between them — since the episode last season when they began having sex — becomes increasingly difficult to understand.

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04 October 2012

Liberal Mob Demands PBS Cut Funding for Jim Lehrer

ARLINGTON, VA -- Minutes after the conclusion of last night’s debate between presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, an angry mob of liberal voters gathered here outside the headquarters of the Public Broadcasting Service to demand an immediate cut in funding for Jim Lehrer. The veteran anchor, 78, served as moderator for the debate.

Arlington police estimate that as many as 800 protesters surrounded the PBS building, blaming Lehrer for President Obama’s disappointing performance in the debate.

“When the economy is in trouble, there’s no reason the American people should pay for something they don’t need,” said one protester, Viva Maxwell of Silver Spring, MD, who carried a hastily made banner that proclaimed “Moderation in the Defense of Obama Is No Virtue.”

“Instead of asking Mitt Romney the toughest questions and ‘gotcha’ follow-ups to trap him in his lies and make the President look good, Lehrer let Mitt run around the stage and babble on without any kind of restraint,” said another protester, Charlie Henderson of Richmond. “He didn’t even ask about the 47 percent! Mother of mercy, what kind of moderator is he, anyway?”

The exit is that way, Mr. Lehrer.

“At the very least, Jim Lehrer should have punched Mitt Romney in the nose,” agreed Mack Einaeugig, of Georgetown. “What are my tax dollars paying for, if not for a debate moderator who will punch Mitt Romney in the nose?”

As protesters linked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome,” a McLean woman, Mrs. Billie Joe Hallson, surveyed the scene.

“I just hope that cutting funding for Jim Lehrer solves the problem,” Mrs. Hallson told reporters. “I mean, what if he isn’t to blame? What if President Obama just had a crappy debate? What would become of us?”

On the bright side, at least we can say the Obama campaign was telling the truth when they said he’d be disappointing in the debate. We won the battle for low expectations!

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