Monthly Archives: November 2012

There’s No Dignified Way to Say “Christmas Unicorn”: Sufjan Stevens at the 9:30 Club


My review of Sufjan Stevens’ “Christmess Sing-a-Long” — or to use its full, formal designation, the Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice — at the 9:30 Club Saturday night appears  in today’s Washington Post. Continue reading

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Twelve Songs of Christmas

I was asked to provide a sidebar for my Washington Post essay (in today’s Sunday Style insert, with Helen Mirren on the cover, which actually came out Friday) about making my annual yulemix. We didn’t have room for my brief rationales for choosing the Twelve Songs of Christmas that I did, so I’m posting it here. Bow your heads and tremble before Twelve Songs of Christmas!

(Not the twelve songs, as if there could be such a thing. Merely a dozen yule-sides that ring my Christmas bell, presented chronologically.)

Continue reading

What Justice Stewart Said About Christmas

My essay about making my Christmas mixtape is in the Style section of today’s Washington Post, the pullout section with Helen Mirren on the cover. I was surprised how difficult I found it to write about this silly little project that’s come to claim so many tens hundreds of hours of my time and moxie every fall. Continue reading

Psilocybin Tea and Sympathy: Studio Theatre’s The Aliens, reviewed.

Scot McKenzie and Brian Miskell.

Wherein I gradually fall under the under the slow-burning spell of Annie Baker’s The Aliens, the pausiest third of her Vermont Trilogy. I reviewed its other two-thirds already: Theater J’s production of Baker’s Body Awareness back in September, and Studio’s production of her Circle Mirror Transformation two years ago.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

This Band Is Your Band: Woody Sez, reviewed

I reviewed the bio-musical Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie for the Washington City Paper.

Skyfall-In: The Education of Sam Mendes

THUNDERBALL (1965)

I wrote about Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, over at NPR Monkey See. The piece is basically my apology to director Sam Mendes for having expected him to screw this thing up.

Gently Mendes-dissing line I wish I’d written: In his Skyfall review at Grantland, Zach Baron described Mendes as “taking a break from plastic-bagging the American Dream in Revolutionary Road and American Beauty to shred the enduring illusions of his native country instead.” Continue reading

Bruuuuuuuuuce in the Lion’s Den, going the distance once more. Again. Still.

It’s a death trap! It’s a suicide rap! And so on.

My love of Bruce Springsteen is not exactly news. It may no longer even qualify as infotainment. He played the single best concert I’ve ever seen anyone play, out of hundreds of bands and artists. (This is merely a partial list.) There is nothing remotely controversial about the assertion he is the greatest live performer in the history of rock and roll.

I wrote all of this down three years ago, after I saw him play his penultimate show of 2009, in Baltimore’s appealingly small and out-of-date sports area, the end of a busy two-year tour wherein he also made one of his worst albums. Basking in the glow of that remarkable show in the days afterward, I knew if I were never to see Springsteen and the E Street band play again, I’d be fine with that.

I had a Born in the U.S.A. on cassette when I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until college that I became a hardcore Springsteen fan. His Live 1975-85 album (three discs, because I got it in the CD era) and his solo acoustic, recorded-in-his-bedroom Nebraska album were the documents most directly responsible for my conversion. At the time I was discovering this music, Springsteen hadn’t toured with the E Street Band in seven years. Another four would pass before they’d announced they were reuniting.

Those reunion shows in 1999 and 2000 were remarkable. I saw five concerts on that tour. They were different from the shows Bruce and the band had played in the 70s and 80s, the ones I had heard only on cherished (and in the pre-broadband era, expensive) bootlegs. There was no intermission. Bruce’s meandering, easily parodied, improvised on-stage stories were gone, replaced by a gospel preacher schtick. The shows tended to be about two-and-a-half hours long — a generous amount of stage time from anyone but Springsteen, who had regularly broken the three-hour mark all through his twenties and thirties.

His twenties and his thirties. Continue reading