The Miserables

This weekend, Kelly and I went to see Les Miserables with the family. As a side note, we saw it at the West Olive AMC, which is like a restaurant and a movie theater mooshed together. It was an interesting idea, but the execute was lacking in a couple of places. One, it was ridiculously expensive. $200 for the movie and food for a group of six. The food was actually pretty good, but it was a little distracting. The waiters were walking around for the whole movie, and because of that, they had to leave kind of an obnoxious amount of light on. So it was a fun thing to do once, but I’m not sure that I would do it again.

Okay, so on to the movie. There has been a lot of discussion about the movie online, mostly negative, from what I’ve seen. And I would say that the reaction from my family was the same. Except for Kelly, who said it was her favorite adaptation of the musical she had ever seen. I would say I am closer to Kelly. I really enjoyed it, but think I might still enjoy the play more.

One of the main concerns that my family voiced was that it was too gritty. That I actually liked. The stage version can make 18th century France seem to clean. So while maybe it wasn’t pretty to look at, I thought it worked.

But let’s ignore those concerns and others about the pacing and cinematic choices. I want to talk about the singing. In particular, I want to talk about Russell Crowe.

Russell Crowe is getting blasted on the Internet. People are talking about him like he is the worst singer in the world. And I’m gonna be honest. I think that they are all completely full of shit. I thought Russell Crowe did an amazing job. And I say this having gone in thinking he was going to be awful. But I really thought his voice fit the part, and I thought that he was in tune, and I actually thought that there was a lot of nice subtlety to his voice. In fact, I would say that he was the most interesting performance in the whole thing.

So basically, to sum up – the Internet is wrong. The whole thing does work as a movie, the singing, while not perfectly sweet, fits into a story that isn’t meant to be sweet, and Russell Crowe did an awesome job.

History of Rome

A few days ago I posted about TBTL, my favorite podcast. Well, truth be told, sometimes I get a little sick of it. I mean, it is great, and everything, but it can also get a little old listening to literally the same two people talk about basically the same two things over and over. And I’ve been doing that every day since August of 2010, basically. That is a long time to have been listening to the voice of one person every time I am in the car.

So a while ago I decided that I needed something to supplement TBTL for when things got a little rough. What I came up with is a little podcast called The History of Rome. It covers, in a fairly in depth matter, the history of the Roman Empire from the founding to the fall of Rome. So pretty ambitious. I think in all there are around 185 episodes, clocking in at around 15 minutes an episode.

I studied Latin in High School, and had a teacher at the time who loved Roman history. And yet I didn’t care. I just kinda made my way through the work, but didn’t particularly care one way or another. It turns out that I was a moron. Because Roman history is crazy interesting. There is war, and romance, and intrigue, back stabbing, crazy diplomacy, and the rise and fall of one of the most important empires the world has ever seen.

The narrator does a really good job of keeping it interesting, and keeping the pace moving, while making sure that he covers a lot of stuff. And at times it can get dry. You can’t cover 1000 years of history of one empire without running into a few dull patches. But for the most part, it is riveting.

Right now I am at the point where the Huns are about to become a problem for the Romans, so we are talking about getting pretty close to the end of the West, and I am just as into it as I was when I started back at the very founding of Rome.

The whole process also makes you really take a look at yourself, because there are some interesting parallels between things that happened 2000 years ago and things that happen today. It is also really amazing at the level of sophistication that people had so long ago. And for me it has been personally interesting to watch what I thought I knew about Rome be basically shattered left and right.

So if you are looking for some history to get you through the day, I really recommend The History of Rome podcast. I think even if you don’t like history, you will really appreciate it.

Midnight Mass

I am not, and have never been, a religious person. We didn’t go to church growing up, and besides like a month when Mom and Dad were getting read for Abby’s baptism, I’ve never gone regularly. I think it would be safe to say that the amount of church services/masses/whatevers that I’ve been to in my life is under 30, maybe ever lower than that. Never a part of my life, and I’m really hugely grateful for that in a lot of ways.

But a few years ago, Kelly and I started going to midnight mass. Not because of any fear/love of God, but because my sister plays the oboe, and so we go. And it turns out, that I actually kind of enjoy it, to the point of actually looking forward to it now. But that is only because this isn’t any ol’ midnight mass that we go to. No, this is an old school, Latin, high holy, whatever whatever mass. (You might be catching on at this point that I don’t really know all the correct terms.)

Anyway, there is this church on the south side of St. Louis that still does traditional Latin masses, including Midnight Mass, with all the fixins. Although it seems to me that the only fixins involved are myrrh and a baby Jesus on a stick, wearing a dress and a crown. There is some meaning to that, but I don’t know what it is.

The ceremony always ends up taking forever. There are like 50 parts to it. And this old church is really cold because they can’t afford to turn the heat up. And like I said, the whole thing is in Latin, so you don’t have any clue what they are saying. Oh, and it is all sung, so you can’t really even follow along in the book to pretend like you know what they are saying. And I don’t understand Catholic dogma or any of that stuff, so it is really inscrutable to me. And all the ladies wear handkerchiefs on their head, and that strikes me as really old and sexist and I don’t approve.

And I’m pretty sure that the church uses some of the money that they collect to advocate for things with which I do not agree.

However, I still enjoy it. It is this link to the past that even I can appreciate. And the old church is really pretty. And since I can’t understand what they are saying, I can pretend that it is whatever I want it to be. So I look forward to it, and have a good time, and then wait another year before I can be bothered to go again.

Too Beautiful To Live

Somehow it has happened that I never made a post about TBTL, which seems a shame, since it is one of my favorite things in the world. What is TBTL? It is a podcast, formerly a radio show, hosted by former NPR personality Luke Burbank. To describe it any more than that is really hard to do, but I’ll give it a shot.

You know those morning drive zoo shows? It isn’t that, but people who don’t like TBTL have compared it to that. They have also compared it to your typical “hot talk” talk radio show. And while there are comparisons, it isn’t really that either. And it isn’t really a news show, although they definitely cover news, and it isn’t really a celebrity gossip show, although they do that as well. It isn’t a call in show, although they have had call ins from time to time.

What it is, I guess, is the ramblings and mind dumps of Luke Burbank and his friends and coworkers. There will be episodes where all they do is talk about what they did over the weekend, or episodes where all they do is talk about how much of a screwup the previous episode was. But they will also have interviews with people from Fran Lebowitz to Patton Oswalt to Ira Glass to a random guy talking about Scientology. They will solve mysteries and do radio cooking shows and break the news down into two categories for you: awesome or not awesome.

I’m doing a terrible job of selling it. And I would say that over the two and a half years of listening, I’ve only managed to get one person to agree that it is any good, and she is married to me, and probably has no choice but to agree with me. But I love it, and it is really the only thing I listen to.

There are around 1250 episodes, going back to the start of the show as a radio program in January of 2008. I started listening in August of 2010, so I missed a lot, which I have been working my way through for the past two years. I would say I’ve heard probably 800 of the episodes, so I still have a long way to go, but I’ll get there probably in the upcoming year. That will be a sad day for me, and yet also pretty exciting to know that I’ve listened to everything that these people have to say.

Yeah, that sounds really lame. And at times it definitely is. But the show has become a really important part of my life. It is a huge part of my daily routine. I almost don’t know what to do in my car when I don’t have it to listen to, and when I’m cooking at night with no TBTL on, things just seem off. I would say that one of my proudest “boxes” that I put myself into is that of a “ten”, which is the term given to listeners of TBTL. As the claim goes, they have “tens of listeners.”

Anyway, if you want to get a taste for what the show is like, may I humbly suggest listening to episode #850. In it they talk about sun damage, the book Go The Fuck to Sleep, oh, and they interview this fellow from St. Louis who is really into artistic roller skating.

Episode 850