Christmas is Coming

I remember when the neighborhood had people with their crazy Christmas decorations.  Some parts of town are still like that, including the home of Frank Seddio, former Surrogate Court judge and Assemblyman:

With 250,000 lights, dancing reindeer, hammering elves and talking Santas, a Brooklyn house transforms each December into a holiday wonderland.

“We have enough electric power in this house to probably light up the whole block,” said Frank Seddio, 64, of the holiday display that kicked off yesterday, a Canarsie tradition since 1963. “At any given time, we’re using enough (amps) to light the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.” [….]

Seddio, a former Surrogate’s Court judge and assemblyman, has been putting up the display with his family since he took it over from the house’s previous owner 24 years ago. “I caught the fever of it,” Seddio said. “It’s three times the size now.”

Twenty family members chip in to help, stringing lights and setting up animated dolls starting around Halloween.   “I got no choice. I’m his brother. Besides, it gives you a little spirit,” said Vito Seddio, 62.

Included are a winter wizard reciting “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” a family of deer in a Victorian holiday scene, dolls from Walt Disney World’s “It’s a Small World” ride, a life-size Nativity scene from Milan, soldiers riding reindeer on a spinning carousel, nods to Chanukah and Kwanzaa, and a tuckered out, dozing Santa. “That’s Santa Claus on Dec. 26,” Frank Seddio said.

Speaking of judges… there was this thing where Newsweek has Sandra Day O’Connor interviewing her former colleague, John Paul Stevens…  Well, J. O’Connor wasn’t really interviewing J. Stevens, when the Newsweek person had to ask them both questions; but this was an interesting read.  Wonder if Charlie Rose could get them both on his table; now that’d be a cool hour of tv.

The story on how there’s some compensation for the victims of Bernie MadoffTime’s Stephen Gandel made the calculations prior to the breaking of the latest collection of billions, and Gandel still seems to think it’s pretty fair, post-breaking of the story.  I’m kind of impressed by how trustee Irving Picard has managed to get something for the victims of Bernie Madoff (as crazy as it sounds, $7billion split among the victims probably doesn’t do all that much); it seems to me that Picard did all the right things to zealously on behalf of the trust and the trust’s best interest (which is to make the victims whole as best as possible).   Picard did the kind of thing they would tell us back in law school: name all your possible defendants (so long as it’s not entirely frivolous) in your pleadings.  Then, negotiate.

Plus… his name’s Picard… 😉

(yes, I know, that other Picard – Captain Jean-Luc Picard – isn’t real.  But, Capt. Picard was good at bringing parties together and making things happen and all that).

Thursday night, 12/16/10: saw “The Hard Nut” at Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Had such a good time.  It’s one of my favorite versions of the Nutcracker, because it tells such the story in such a funny and poignant and romantic – if not sensual – way.  It breaks boundaries, and brings everyone together.  As “Time Out New York” notes: “It’s funny and gorgeous.”

Oh, and seeing Mark Morris as Dr. Stahlbaum (Clara’s dad) – that was really something!  In the past, he was one of the Stahlbaums’ drunk party guests (you can’t even recognize him), so he’s taken up more of the spotlight as Dr. Stahlbaum this time (spanking Fritz, being the caring dad, and – really, how did the Stahlbaums end up being related to or were friends of Drosselmeyer?).

As a side note: the interview of Mark Morris in Time Out New York was witty!  (NY Times also had an interview with him; also interesting for what he says about the source material of the E.T.A. Hoffman Nutcracker story).

And, NY Times critic Alastair Macaulay’s review raises some nice observations about the Hard Nut:

Even or especially if you’ve seen it before, it has the freshness of a revelation.

What’s revealed, though? Here, human innocence; there, artful complexity. Frequently “The Hard Nut” demonstrates — at times better than any other “Nutcracker” — how those things coexist within Tchaikovsky’s score; frequently it demonstrates how they coexist in Mark Morris’s mind. Tchaikovsky’s vision and Mr. Morris’s don’t always match; at times they seem to tug — amicably — in opposite directions. Every “Nutcracker” choreographer at some point imposes a scenario different from the one Tchaikovsky was illustrating, but Mr. Morris goes much further than most, and there are incidental sequences in which his scenario grows overambitious and perplexing.

The funniest “Nutcracker” and among the most touching, “The Hard Nut” is always a big audience hit. Based on the work of the cartoonist Charles Burns, this hilarious production says a host of serious things and is audacious as sheer theater. It’s naughty, satirical and camp in its vision of 1960s America, but also starkly anti-illusionist in the way some onstage transformations are executed before your eyes by uniformed costume changers.

It is elaborately layered metatheater and straightforward boy-meets-girl narrative. It refers explicitly to the original tale within the tale of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s original “Nutcracker and the Mouse King” story, to “The Wizard of Oz” film (switching from black-and-white to color), to the Balanchine “Nutcracker” (with its heroine asleep on a spinning bed, here a sofa), to Twyla Tharp’s full-length “Catherine Wheel” (with its nuclear white family and black maid exploding into a new utopian redeployment of human energies). It includes several different accentuations of drag and gender transcendence, and it solves the problem of misrepresentational national and ethnic dances in ballet by way of tongue-in-cheek overt caricature.

Parts of “The Hard Nut” are constructed intricately around dance motifs that spell out meanings in ways that deserve extended analysis. Parts of it open out — especially in the way the hero and heroine hang upon each other’s eyes and kisses — to celebrate dewy naïveté. Yet once you notice how artful the seemingly artless duets between its child-hero Nutcracker and girl-heroine Marie actually are — with a range of steps and gestures introduced earlier by the Nutcracker with his uncle Drosselmeier; by Marie’s mother, Mrs. Stahlbaum; and by two of the Act I Snow dancers — you may well feel as bewildered as transported.

This bewilderment is crucial to the Mark Morris experience. He is among the most disconcerting artists before the public today in any genre. I watched Friday’s performance with a friend who had never seen any Morris choreography. During the Waltz of the Snowflakes a single moment made him laugh out loud precisely as it filled my eyes with tears of wonder. Both reactions strike me as right. In this waltz fun and amazement dance in the same steps; the choreography lifts the whole audience through a crescendo of changing emotions.

There is no Morris work I’ve changed my mind about more than “The Hard Nut,” and I presume this process of re-evaluation will continue in years to come. At times it’s too wise guy, too anti- “Nutcracker” for me; at other times its largeness of spirit — nowhere more so than in its snow scene — carry me away. I could never imagine taking my eyes off it for an instant, but I don’t think anyone can leave the theater with one simple thought about it. [….]

The dance I hanker to watch again is that grand ensemble to the Sugar Plum’s adagio. Its amalgam of intimacy and impersonality, of faith in purely classical-ballet design and its dramatic masterstrokes, are unlike anything even in Mr. Morris’s work. Characters from every part of the story participate in this vision of harmony, and at times they pass in vertical columns across the stage in academic phrases both selfless and ravishing, like pages of music passing before your eyes. At the end, as the heroine stands motionless, a battalion advances toward and right past her, leaving her alone with the former Nutcracker. The world sweeps by her, but amid it she has eyes for only this one man.

This was a nice review!  Macaulay gave a lot of food for thought, especially about the whole Nutcracker.  Indeed, the Arts Beat blog on the Times has Macaulay doing “The Nutcracker Chronicles,” having him run around the country watching all the different Nutcrackers.  Great reading about the variations.  Although, I still wonder why we love the Nutcracker; is it the music, the story, the dancing – or what it says about us as a culture – that we love what makes us feel good, without worrying what’s below the surface (not too often anyway).

I miss “Law and Order,” the mothership version.  “L&O: SVU” doesn’t satisfy me.  And I kind of lost track of “L&O: Criminal Intent” and I don’t have a cable channel that shows “L&O: UK” (or London, to be accurate), and I don’t care for “L&O: LA.”  But, I suppose this video tribute was nice:

A Salute to \”Law and Order\”

As soon as it’s up, I’ll link to the “Saturday Night Live” opening of 12/18/10: Jeff Bridges and Cookie Monster, singing “Silver Bells.”  Sweet and weird!