Friday, October 29, 2010

Van Morrison Sending in The Clowns

I was at the last stop on the New Jersey Light Railway in Newark a couple of months ago, after an especially tough day trying to love that unlovable city... around the platform (see below) as I waited, and waited... were the lyrics to Send in the Clowns, by Stephen Sondheim.

And so I had time to study the lyrics: There aren't any actual clowns in the song, at least not in the circus sense. Rather, the clowns are emblematic fools, any fool who might fall in love. In other words, you or I or anyone.

Van Morrison does a half-decent version of the song, dirge-like, with his Belfast accent giving it a slightly taciturn impact on the ears. Some people loath the Belfast accent, but I love it, with its funny wee   odd differences from the accent I had, growing up in the countryside 40 miles away (forty miles is like the other side of the Milky Way Galaxy to Northern Irish people).

Well, I had never paid attention to the lyrics before and so, on the platform in Newark, all alone, I was reduced to tears. Time does not permit me to talk about that remarkably odd style of Sondheim's, how he captures through his choice of words, the flow and clash of everyday speech, the blunt endings of words all over the place, fitting together or not fitting at all.  Unlike what we write down and maybe rewrite or edit, speaking conveys meaning as much by the awkward, sometimes ugly half-formed sentences we come out with., which I think one can see best in the third stanza:

Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want -
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Quick, send in the clowns.

Setting the words to music is almost to play down the natural rhythm of speech.

Send in the Clowns

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I'd stopped
Opening doors,
Finally knowing
The one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again
With my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.

Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want -
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Quick, send in the clowns.

What a surprise.
Who could foresee
I'd come to feel about you
What you'd felt about me?
Why only now when i see
That you'd drifted away?
What a surprise.
What a cliché.

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother - they're here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Darling, Those Frightful Bureau People Came Round Again

...You should have seen what they were wearing!

Actually, the FBI is nothing to be afraid of.  The ones who really chill my blood are... the Reclaimers.

The text of the above party invitation reads:

A Halloween Party to Stop the FBI Witch Hunt

The FBI recently raided the homes & offices of anti-war and international solidarity activists in several cities, issuing subpoenas to appear before a grand jury.

Dancing! Drinking! Solidarity!
Bring friends and family!

Friday, October 29, at the Brecht Forum
7 to 11pm, 451 West St., New York City
$10-100 donation, sliding scale
Children welcome

Monies raised will support the Committee to Stop FBI Repression
For more information:

An important update--each of the fourteen activists subpoenaed to appear signed a letter from the lawyers stating they would NOT testify. The Assistant U.S. Attorney, Brand Fox, told the lawyers he would withdraw the subpoenas, but he would say nothing more. This is not over yet - the government is not likely to let go. The government has a number of options—more raids, arrests, new subpoenas, or offering immunity to some with the threat of jail if they do not speak. For the time being, the FBI continues to harass other anti-war activists at their homes and work places, trying to divide and intimidate. So we need your help – we’ll see you on Friday!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010