Monday, May 30, 2005

Assuming "Family Values"

I get irritated when people use the phrase "family values". I work with many families whom I would not want to emulate. To say that their values are in some way a good thing is ridiculous. Of course, I know that when people (usually politicians and the like) use the phrase, they are often referring to specific values that they assume all families have, based on either their little exposure to families or their ego that tells them that all "good" families believe as they do.

The problem is that the values they describe (usually having to do with sex or consumables of some kind) are either not values that I want or values that are inconsequential to me.

I make it my goal to not assume I know what values and beliefs others hold. (My dissertation is partially based on that belief.) I wish others would begin doing the same for me. I also consider myself a person who values my family above anything else in life. Yet, I constantly hear people spouting "family values" that I completely disagree with. Those "family values" are far from being valuable to my family.

[Passions Take Many Forms] Musical Shakespeare

Yesterday, I read in the Detroit Free Press about the Stratford Festival of Canada in Stratford, ON, about a four-hour drive from where I live. It sounds like it may have started as a simple Shakespeare festival, but then expanded to incorporate plenty of other material from other genres. This year, the festival is doing 14 shows on 4 different stages. They have everything from Marlow's Edward II to Hello Dolly. They're doing classic plays, such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Orpheus Descending, as well as modern musicals, such as Hello Dolly and Into the Woods. Of course, they have the standard Shakespeare fare with The Tempest and Measure for Measure, but the show that caught my eye was a musical version of As You Like It.

Their production reminds me a lot of a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that I did my junior year at ACU. Like Midsummer, they are using the original text that Shakespeare wrote for the lyrics to the songs, but they have new music written by the Canadian rock band, The Barenaked Ladies (who knew they were Canadian?). Also like Midsummer, they are setting the show in a decade of turmoil, the 1960s (Midsummer was loosely set in the 1970s). From the Detroit Free Press article about the show:

"This play, like 'Romeo and Juliet,' is really about the young people getting it right. The young people have more practical sense than their parents," [director Antoni] Cimolino says. They flee (or are banished from) the corrupt court of a false duke and take refuge in the Forest of Arden. These characters, Cimolino says, ask the question: Why isn't there love instead of hatred? "When I thought about it, there's no period that more clearly shows the power of love and of youth and youthful rebellion than the late '60s."

I don't know why the thought of setting this show in the 1960s never occurred to me, and to put it to music in sort of a rock opera style makes it even more appealing. If I ever get the chance to direct this show, I might have to think about this particular setting-- very interesting. To hear a couple of clips from the show, click here. Although the cast performs the songs in the show, the clips are of the band. The music doesn't sound like anything special, but it does sound fun. I wonder if they'll license it out for other theatres to do.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] 2 new (to me) Radiohead albums

I bought two new (to me) Radiohead albums today. The first, I Might Be Wrong, is a collection of 8 songs (The National Anthem, I Might Be Wrong, Morning Bell, Like Spinning Plates, Idioteque, Everything in Its Right Place, Dollars and Cents, and True Love Waits) recorded live in concert. Although this live album was released in 2001, I had purposely avoided buying it because I do not care for live recordings. It's very annoying for me to hear the crowd yelling in the background (or foreground, on some live albums). Also, the songs often aren't very different from the studio versions, and they're never as well-polished. Plus, I generally don't go to concerts (although Radiohead is on the short list of artists I would go see), so why would I want to "recreate the experience"? That said, I had heard a few live Radiohead recordings not on this album, and I was VERY impressed.

So I decided to buy it today, and for the most part, I'm satisfied. Like all live recordings, the crowd noise bothers me. Also, a couple of the tracks do sound too much like the studio versions to really merit mention. But there are three tracks that make this album worth it. First, they do a great job with "Like Spinning Plates", transforming it into a beautiful piano song, highlighted by the fluid driving of the transcribed backwardness of the original. This isn't one of my favorite songs on Amnesiac, but I love this live version. Second, "Everything in Its Right Place", one of my favorites, has some great free-flow jamming with an electronica twist, which is what makes Kid A such a unique album. (This is largely manifested by the random mixing of Thom Yorke singing the title line.) Third, "True Love Waits" is a beautiful song of Yorke singing with acoustic guitar accompaniment that I originally heard as a piano piece on Christopher O'Riley's (first) Radiohead tribute album. I don't think it's on any of Radiohead's studio albums, which makes this song so unique on this album. The melodies and harmonies are as beautiful as I've heard in almost any song. All-in-all, I'm glad I bought it, but it does have some of the flaws that all live recordings have.

The second album I bought today is the new Christopher O'Riley album, Hold Me to This, which is a re-imagining of 14 Radiohead songs on classical piano. I have his first album of this kind (True Love Waits), which is great. This new album can really be considered an extension of the first. O'Riley has continued the same theme, technique, and even the style of cover art. But that's all fine with me because I love the first album. In fact, I might actually like this album better because it has two of my favorite Radiohead songs, "2+2=5" and the magnum opus, "Paranoid Android". O'Riley does a fabulous job with both songs. "2+2=5" maintains the basis of the original, but it has a very different feel; in a way, it feels more upbeat and optimistic than the controlling, omniscient feel of the original. I can't say that I prefer one version over the other, which is a real complement to O'Riley. They are really two different sides of the same coin: opposite, yet complementary. "Paranoid Android", however, maintains the theme and feel of the original. The wonderful main line in 7/8 time, in addition to the melodic middle section, are beautifully rendered on the audible canvas with the piano-paintbrush. The other songs are great, but I was very impressed with some of the Radiohead B-sides that he includes on the album. Specifically, I love his renditions of "Polyethylene Part II", "Cuttooth", and "Talk Show Host", which was Radiohead's contribution to the soundtrack of the Baz Luhrmann film, Romeo and Juliet.

Overall, these are two great albums that I would recommend for any Radiohead fan. Of course, I may be the last true fan to get I Might Be Wrong, but it was worth the wait. As I continuously itch for any new (to me) music, I was glad to get them both. Now, I'm considering whether or not I should get some of the singles that contain the original B-sides that O'Riley does. I've never heard the original songs, but any new (to me) Radiohead music is a welcomed to my ears.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] An "incredible thing"

Alex Rodriguez (a.k.a. A-Rod), one of the most popular, talented, and richest men in sports, said today that he has been in therapy for a while now. This is significant because of the example he is to millions of people. As a therapist, I am constantly met by resistance to therapy from some because people see it as something for people with "serious problems". Many people don't understand that therapy is a great resource for working through any of life's problems, even the normal problems of everyday life. Therapy is a safe environment and controlled environment. It's aim is not to make people feel bad about themselves or give meaningless advice, but to allow clients to develop a clearer view of the problem and potential solutions. (I've written more on this on my other blog.)

I hope that other people will be able to look at A-Rod's admission today as an indication that even the "best" and "most successful" of us can still benefit from therapy (not that A-Rod necessarily is those things, but he has that appearance to some). I hope that more people will think, "If someone as together as he seems to be can benefit from therapy, then maybe I can too."

[Passions Take Many Forms] Sondheim's Bounce

I finally bought the Cast Recording of Sondheim’s newest musical, Bounce. The show went through a lot of trials and turmoil, only to be met by audiences and critics in DC and Chicago that were respectfully cool at best. The project was essentially abandoned before plans for a Broadway run could really take flight. The problems with the show primarily centered on the lack-luster story and lack of focus. Audiences didn’t really know where the show was going or what it was trying to say. I got the impression that audiences left asking, “So, what?”

That said, Sondheim’s music and lyrics have been largely praised for its haunting melodies, remarkable themes, and wit. The liner notes compare the recording to the original cast recording of Merrily We Roll Along, another Sondheim show that was largely panned and met an early demise. The comparison isn’t to the actual music, but to the response that it will likely get by people unfamiliar with the show’s struggles:

Few people saw Merrily in that first production, and those who hadn’t, and then listened to its sparkling original cast recording, could not believe that the show had failed on Broadway. Thus began a creative odyssey of many years in which Sondheim and hiss collaborator, the playwright George Furth, would periodically retool their original text in a variety of venues until they achieved a version that has proved both as playable and popular as that original cast album. A similar journey awaits Bounce. [from Bounce liner notes]

I couldn’t agree more, and I honestly hope that this show does acquire a second life over the coming years. This is a great recording of a score that is every bit as good as many of Sondheim’s works. The title song is desperately upbeat, reminiscent of songs like “Everybody’s Got the Right” from Assassins. Songs like “Get Out of My Life” provide the depth of character that often permeates Sondheim shows until they burst through in an explosion of raw emotion, and songs like “Boca Raton” provide the organized chaos that I have come to love about many of Sondheim’s shows. While I can’t say that I absolutely love every song, the show as a whole is intriguing and melodic. The trademark Sondheim wordplays and syncopated rhythms are present, and the cohesiveness of the show, while lost on audiences, does come through on the recording.

I doubt this show will ever be a crowd favorite, but with some minor reworking and a few courageous and adventurous artistic directors, I think the show could find a home among certain playhouses, much like Merrily We Roll Along. Until then, however, this recording will serve as a wonderful reminder of what this show could be and how Stephen Sondheim is still the king of American musical theatre.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Meet the stay-home dad (NOT Mr. Mom)

Today I began a stage of my life as a stay-home dad. Tuesdays through Fridays, for the foreseeable future, I will be the primary caregiver while my wife goes back to work. I plan to see clients on Mondays and work on my dissertation on Mondays and scheduled times in the evenings and on weekends. We're doing this primarily to save on childcare, but I'm looking forward to it as a learning experience.

I also hope that I can help change perceptions about fathers. The dominant perception in our society is that if one parent stays home with the children, it should be the mother. Mothers are believed to be inherently more nurturing and, therefore, the superior parent. I don't believe that this is the case. While mothers are generally more nurturing than fathers, I believe that it is largely a socialized characteristic, not an inherent one.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I'm out with the kids (actually, this mainly happened when I would be out alone with Aidan when he was an infant), and someone says, "Oh, are you being Mr. Mom today?" My response is always, "No. I'm being a dad." It bothers me for two reasons. One, it implies that being an active parent is primarily a mother's role, and any "help" the father gives is just that: Help (i.e. voluntary and extracurricular). Two, it brings up thoughts of the Michael Keeton/Teri Garr/Martin Mull film of the early 1980's. While the film made some great statements about women in the workplace (a common theme in early 1980's films), it is not an incredibly flattering look at stay-home dads. It shows the father staying home as a last resort and basically bumbling his way through it. (Paper towels used as a diaper?! Come on.)

When people see me out with Aidan and Regan over the next couple of months, I want them to pay no more notice to me than if I was a woman. I know that won't always happen, but that's what I want. I'm a father, and I know I can care for my kids as well as a woman (well, except for the breastfeeding part).

Monday, May 23, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Oy vey...

Getting swept by the Rangers. That's pretty low. Sure, they had a chance to win Friday and Sunday, but they couldn't pull it off And Saturday was simply embarrassing.

It's not all over yet, but this is not going to be pretty

The most important lesson my kids have taught me.

Regan's beautiful eyes

They are watching me like a hawk.

Energy in marriage

My brother got married a week ago Saturday to a great woman. I had the privilege and honor to conduct the ceremony, and I had a good time doing it. One point that I wanted to get across to in the ceremony (not that they were listening; who actually pays attention during their own wedding?) was that marriage doesn't just happen. It takes energy and effort to make a marriage work. We can't let down for a moment, because our partner will remember that moment over all others. Energy is what we say and do with our partner. It's the big things (going on dates together regularly throughout marriage), and it's the little things (apologizing for an argument even when you know you were right all along). Marriage is one of the most difficult "natural" things in life, but energy is the key to its success. As long as Amy and Ryan consciously infuse their relationship with energy by working together and avoid taking energy away by being selfish, their marriage should last a very long time.

Amy and Ryan Martin

Congratulations and good luck, guys!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Updated web page (Finally!!)

For those of you who used to check out my web page, you probably noticed that I hadn't updated it in a while. Well, it's been updated in a big way. Check out some of the new pages and pictures. I hope to update it more regularly now.

Jason Martin, MMFT: Marriage and Family Therapy/ Dynamic Family Ministry

[Passions Take Many Forms] 2005 Tony Nominations announced

I know I'm a week late on this, but I was out of town. The Tony nominations were announced, and I can't say I'm surprised by much. Monty Python's Spamalot received the most nominations (14), followed by Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Light in the Piazza with 11 each. I can't say that I've seen any of the shows that have been nominated because I haven't been to New York in 5 years, but I know which ones I'm rooting for. While I'm sure Monty Python's Spamalot and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels are fine shows, I really hope that The Light in the Piazza takes home some significant hardware. The music and lyrics are written by Adam Guetell, who also wrote one of my favorite musicals, Floyd Collins. Also, it seems to be the dark horse in the Best Musical category.

I also hope Pacific Overtures wins Best Musical Revival. I love the story and music from this show, which I consider to be one of Sondheim's least appreciated. Also, B. D. Wong is just cool as the Reciter.

On the non-musical side of things, I fully expect Billy Crystal 700 Sundays to win its category based on the unending praise I've heard for it and the mediocre responses that the other nominees have received.

I know absolutely nothing about any of the plays up for Best New Play, so I won't even mention them.

Best Revival of a Play, however, has some interesting nominees. 4 classics: Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Glengarry Glen Ross, On Golden Pond,and Twelve Angry Men. I have no idea who to root for, because I've always loved Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Glengarry Glen Ross. They're just incredible. I think it will just come down to which company pulls off the play the best. In other words, I have no idea.

Regardless of who wins, however, it does not mean that the best shows win. I learned a long time ago that the shows that win are the ones that get all of the hype. The biggest example that I always point to is The Lion King winning over Ragtime a few years ago. I saw both shows and enjoyed them both, but Ragtime was clearly the better show. The Lion King had incredible costumes, great scenery, and plenty of flash, but the Tony for Best New Musical is supposed to go to the best overall new musical. Ragtime was clearly the best show. (I still get goosebumps when I hear the Prologue.) But, I'll still enjoy the Tonys. I'll just know that the best show might not always win.

Lastly, I heard today that Little Women is closing on Broadway, but it will tour. That's too bad. I had heard the cast recording, and while it was nothing special, it was a good little show that would have been great for family viewing. That's the way it goes, I guess. Maybe it will get new life on tour the way Big did a decade or so ago.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Astros finally score some runs

My family and I went to the Astros game tonight. It was a great game. The Astros won, 9-0, Morgan Ensberg went 4-4 with 3 HR, and Brandon Backe pitched a 4-hit shutout. We (Kari, Aidan, Regan, Dad, Kyle, Amanda, and myself) sat in the Club Level, which is really nice, but the best part was enjoying the game with my son and daughter. Of course, Regan didn't know what was going on, but Aidan had a blast. I'm finding more and more that he loves life. He loves to live and have fun. I have learned so much from him, not just about how to parent but also about how to live life: enjoy it. He enjoyed the game so much, even though he didn't understand much of it.

I'm finding that baseball is a great way to entertain and bond with my son (and maybe eventually, my daughter too). He has a blast. I have a blast. Baseball is great.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Plunk Biggio

One of my favorite baseball players (and one of his more underappreciated accomplishments) has a blog devoted to his honor (or pain, take your pick). Check it out. If you're a fan of Biggio, you can really waste a lot of time on the blog.

Plunk Biggio

[Passions Take Many Forms] Passion is...

Passion overtakes you. Passion makes you feel that there are few things in life more important than the object of the passion. Passion exhilarates you and flattens you like a truck.

Everyone experiences passion. For some, passion is a curse; but for others, passion is a blessing that gives life that extra spark. Sure, it can hurt at times, but if you keep the proper perspective (i.e. "How much does the object of my passion really matter in the grand scheme of life?"), the passion can excite life like few other things can.

I write of this from experience, because I, like most people, have felt passion. You could say that I'm a passionate person.

Of course, I'm passionate about my wife (the way she looks, smells, "winks", etc.). I'm passionate about my children (the way my son cuddles up in my lap and hugs me, the way my daughter looks just as she's falling asleep, etc.). But they're not what I've decided to write about in this blog. They aren't the object of my passion in this context.

I've decided to write about my other passions: baseball, music, and theatre. This blog is dedicated to those three things that make my blood boil and my joys triumph. Here, I will write about how the Astros seemingly break my heart every night. I will write about the way I feel when Beck is on the stereo. I will write about what Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff? means to me. I'm passionate about these things, and I now have an outlet to share my passion. Yippee!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I'm back

As you can probably see, I was able to recover some of my previous posts, but not all of them. I don't know if there was any point to that, but it's done now.

As for an exaplanation as to what happened, I had begun another blog about baseball, music, and theatre, which is currently up. Anyway, I didn't like the way it was formatted, and the quickest way to undo it was to delete it and start over. Long story short, I deleted the wrong blog. Unfortunately, there is no automatic backup (at least none that I could find), and so everything was lost. The posts I was able to recover were the ones I hadn't deleted off my computer (I have all of my posts deposited into my inbox).

Lesson learned: Keep an archive because you never know.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Let's start over

Well, I finally made a stupid mistake. It only took a little over 28 years, but I did. I made a stupid mistake. No, seriously... This is the first time.

All right. Stop laughing...

I accidentally deleted my blog. That totally sucks. Luckily, I kept the archives on my computer, so I should be able to get all of the old entries up, but it will take some time. With working on my dissertation, seeing clients, and trying to get ready to go to Texas for 2 weeks, time is not something I have in abundance. Maybe when we're actually in Texas I'll repost all of that crap. In the meantime, check out this blog. It's pretty cool, especially if you're a fan of the great Craig Biggio (aka. "Pig Pen").