30 March 2009

Kristin Chenoweth on success

I've suffered greatly from a lack of female role models in my life, not just because I happen to work in technical fields. I notice that I used to idolize older men, both in media and personal life. I liked older British actors, in particular, like Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, and Alec Guinness. In real life, it was male teachers as father figures and mentors.

Now that I'm out of college, no longer under the pressure of constant deadlines, I take in a lot more pop culture. I find myself gravitating to young female actresses as role models. (Sadly, I just haven't found many female physicists that I connect with.) I admire Sarah Michelle Gellar (Prinze) of "Buffy" fame and more recently, Broadway actress-singer Kristin Chenoweth. They seem hard-working, grounded, and ambitious.

I enjoyed this New York Times interview with Chenoweth from 2006. A few choice bits:
She drew further criticism when she appeared in a parade of tiny bikinis in the March 2006 issue of FHM... “I’m a young woman, I like men, I’m not going to pretend to be what I’m not,” she said. “Anyway, I’ve finally graduated from the college of I Don’t Give a Hoot.” But “hoot” was not her first choice of words.
Go Kristin! I'm finally starting to get this concept but I have a lot of work to do.
“Last night,” she said, “it was this line from ‘The Apple Tree’: ‘The Really Real Acting Academy has shown me that all my films, alas, are naught but tinkling trivia, sugary, shoddy, shallow shadows. Schlock.’ How am I going to say that? How am I going to make that funny? It’s so frustrating because people say, ‘It comes so easily to her,’ or ‘She’s just playing herself.’ Well, I work my butt off. These ideas don’t come from nowhere. You have to think them up. Sometimes I think until I think my head might explode.”
I don't understand why so many Americans think that success comes easily. There is technique and practice behind everything, whether it's sports, acting, or science.
“I BeDazzle everything,” she said. “It’s a sickness.”
Apparently, Chenoweth applies stick-on rhinestones to everything. I just threw that quote in, for amusement.
“People could be so awful,” she said. “I remember once I was in the bathroom, and this basketball player girl came in and said, ‘I just want to punch you out.’ When I said, ‘How come?’ she said: ‘Because you’re happy all the time.’ And I said: ‘You know what? I’m not happy all the time. I’m human. And I’d really like to leave the bathroom now.’ That’s when I realized: Oh my God, they’re mad at me because I’m talented. Because I do something they don’t do. But they have their gifts. Why do they envy mine?” Ms. Chenoweth said she now resolves this sort of thing by cutting off contact “the minute something goes awry with me and another female.”
I don't understand why people can be so cruel. And I completely understand the statement about female drama. A female friend of mine recently told me that she wanted to only work in labs dominated by men. She had had horrible experiences with the other women in her lab.
She had experienced that star-making moment when alienation and empathy, both formerly experienced as painful, fuse into ecstatic pleasure and thus a lifelong mission. You are lifted up but also away. “I hate to say it made me a loner,” Ms. Chenoweth said, “but I did learn that there’s nobody else to rely on but you.”
I haven't become famous or successful, but I already feel like working in any competitive, creative field makes you somewhat of a loner. Creativity requires long trains of deliberation and solitude, honing your craft.

Song of the day: "The Girl in 14G" by Jeanine Scanlon and Dick Tesori

I'm on a huge Kristin Chenoweth kick. She's amazing. Cute, charming, beautiful, gorgeous voice... who can ask for anything more? I've never seen anyone's charisma just pop out of the screen like that. She looks radiant in every photo taken of her, as if she was born in the spotlight. Check out her hilarious performance of "The Girl in 14G" with the Boston Pops.
I just moved in to 14G
So cozy, calm, and peaceful
Heaven for a mouse like me
With quiet by the lease-full
Pets are banned parties too
And no solicitations
Window seat with garden view
A perfect nook to read a book
I'm lost in my Jane Austen when I hear

[Dramatic opera]

Say it isnt so
Not the flat below
From an opera wanna be
In 13G
A matinee of Socantota
Wagner's Ring
And Traviata

[Dramatic opera]

My first night in 14G
I'll put up with Puccini
Brew myself a cup of tea
Crochet until shes fini
Half past eight
Not a peep
Except the clock tick-tockin
Now I lay me down to sleep
A comfy bed to rest my head
A stretch, a yawn, I'm almost gone when

[Scatting noisily]

Now the girl upstairs
Wakes me unawares
Blowing down from 15G
Her revelry
She's scattin' like her name is Ella
Guess who answers a cappella

[escalating transitions between scatting and opera]

Im not one to
Raise my voice
Make a fuss
Or speak my mind
But might I query
Would you mind if
Could you kindly

That felt good

13, 15, 14G
A most unlikely trio
No quite three part harmony

All day and night we're singing
[All three sing]

I've had my fill of peace and quiet
Shout out loud, "I've changed my diet!"
All because of

17 March 2009

My apparently eccentric musical tastes

I've been using last.fm. It's a web service that you feed your musical listening data to and in return, you get recommended artists and stats. It's also a social networking service for music lovers. Today, I found out about the super-eclectic test which uses your last.fm data to calculate how eccentric your musical taste is.
Take your top 50 artists. For each of these artists, collect the top 20 similar artists (where the artist itself is the #1 most similar). The resulting number of unique artists is your super-eclectic score. You can compute your own score.

My super-eclectic score is currently 703/1000.

The most similar artists for my profile are 桜庭統 (8), Stephen Schwartz (7), Company (6), Hootie & the Blowfish (6), 崎元仁 (6), 植松伸夫 (5), Original Broadway Cast (5), Masaharu Iwata (5), 光田康典 (5), Andrew Lloyd Webber (5)
According to the test website: "People with scores over 700 have bragging rights. People whose score is below 400 should consider more musical styles!"

I'm not sure how accurate the test is since I've been on last.fm for less than a month. I tend to listen to the same music for a long time, then move on to another artist and listen to that person for a long time, etc...

16 March 2009

Quote of the day: Anders on the "perfect throw"

In a flashback before the nuclear bombing of the Twelve Colonies, Anders, a star professional athlete, is interviewed by a news reporter. She congratulates him on his Hall-of-Fame worthy career. Then she asks him about how he feels about the fact that he hasn't won a championship yet.
If you want to know the truth... I don't really care about the stats. Or the cup, or the trophy, or anything like that. Um, in fact, even the games aren't that important to me, not really. What matters to me is the perfect throw... making the perfect catch... the perfect stepping block. Perfection is what it's about. It's about those moments when... you can feel the perfection of creation. The beauty of physics, the wonder of mathematics. And all the relation of action and reaction. And that is the kind of perfection I want to be connected to.
- Samuel T. Anders, "Daybreak, Part I," Battlestar Galactica
I love this quote. It's beautiful. It encapsulates how I feel about life. The moments matter more to me than the end result.

I play hockey for that magical moment when I see the puck, I know I'm going to get it, I know what I'm going to do, and everything happens the way I planned without conscious thought.

I do physics for that moment when I'm working with a colleague and I'm overwhelmed by the spiritual experience of sharing such intellectual passion.

This is a tangent, but I thought I'd mention a special moment for me. Many of my undergraduate physics classes were taught by these brilliant particle theorists. I remember one day, sitting in class, tuning out the lecture and just marveling at the professor's genius, passion, and gifts of communication. But it wasn't just that one guy, there were four of them!

15 March 2009

Song of the day: "What is this feeling?" by Stephen Schwartz

This song is ironically funny. It starts off a bit like a stereotypical first love song but then you realize the song is about hate, not love. Very clever, I enjoyed it. I love the way Kristin Chenoweth sang/spoke "flushed."

From Wicked
(spoken) Dearest darlingest Momsie and Popsicle:

(spoken) My dear Father:

There's been some confusion
Over rooming here at Shiz:

But of course, I'll care for Nessa:

But of course, I'll rise above it:

For I know that's how you'd want me to respond
(Spoken:) Yes
There's been some confusion
For you see, my roommate is:

Unusually and exceedingly peculiar
And altogether quite impossible to describe:


What is this feeling,
So sudden and new?

I felt the moment
I laid eyes on you;

My pulse is rushing;

My head is reeling;

My face is flushing;

What is this feeling?
Fervid as a flame,
Does it have a name?
Yes! Loathing
Unadulterated loathing

For your face;

Your voice;

Your clothing;

Let's just say - I loathe it all
Ev'ry little trait, however small
Makes my very flesh begin to crawl
With simple utter loathing
There's a strange exhilaration
In such total detestation
It's so pure, so strong!
Though I do admit it came on fast
Still I do believe that it can last
And I will be loathing
Loathing you
My whole life long!

Dear Galinda, you are just too good
How do you stand it? I don't think I could!
She's a terror! She's a Tartar!
We don't mean to show a bias,
But Galinda, you're a martyr!

Well; these things are sent to try us!

Poor Galinda, forced to reside
With someone so disgusticified
We just want to tell you:
We're all on your side!
We share your;

What is this feeling
So sudden and new?
I felt the moment I laid eyes on you
My pulse is rushing
My head is reeling
Oh, what is this feeling?
Does it have a name?

Loathing Unadulterated loathing
For her face, her voice, her clothing
Let's just say - we loathe it all
Ev'ry little trait however small
Makes our very flesh being to crawl



There's a strange exhilaration


In such total detestation


It's so pure, so strong

So strong!

Though I do admit it came on fast
Still I do believe that it can last
And I will be...


For forever...


Truly deeply loathing you
Loathing you
My whole life long!

Unadulterated loathing



13 March 2009

Wicked review

Two days ago, I went to the Wednesday matinee showing of Wicked. The musical is loosely based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Both the musical and the novel are a "revisionist" re-telling of the well-known Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz, from the perspective of the witches. Stephen Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics, and Winnie Holzman did the book.

The plot feels like another Harry Potter or Buffy the Vampire Slayer clone. The coming-of-age story, featuring a misunderstood, outsider protagonist, just never gets old or unpopular with the public. I went into the musical thinking I be jaded about another such story, but Wicked had enough charm and cleverness for me to enjoy it. The main characters Elphaba and Glinda were played by Nicole Parker and Alli Mauzey. They had just taken over from the previous actors and were quite good. The plot starts off pretty stereotypical. Elphaba is the sassy outcast with a chip on her shoulder and Glinda is the ditzy blonde who is obsessed with looks and popularity. However, there are some clever twists, mostly in how the story is connected with the familiar Wizard of Oz story. We find out how Elphaba became the "Wicked Witch of the West" and how the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow came to be. Elphaba utters the famous "there's no place like home" catchphrase for a little laugh.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the cleverly constructed plot doesn't have many real emotional moments. I never felt like I really got to know the characters. Plot developments moved too quickly and everything was resolved too neatly.

I'm also not taken with Schwartz's score. I liked the songs "No One Mourns the Wicked," "What is this Feeling?," and "Defying Gravity." The last song is my favorite and absolutely amazing on the original cast album with Idina Menzel. It cycles through so many emotions and ends on a soaring (literally) belt. But the rest of the songs seemed like pleasant, forgettable pop tunes. I don't appreciate pop scores in musicals. Composers should do better and write more sophisticated melodies. Parker and Mauzey sang well, but Parker doesn't have the belt required for a show-stopping Elphaba.

Some critics have accused Wicked of being overly commercialized. That is true to some extent. The set and costumes are eye-catching (and probably extremely expensive). The pop tunes and relatively conventional plot are designed to appeal to the general public. It's hard to say that Wicked offers any sophistication to the experienced theatre goer. However, most theatre lovers grew up on "popular" stuff. I started with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Les Miserables. These musicals are frequently panned for their over-commercialization, but hey it got me into musicals, right? Sadly, we will never go back to the days of Rodgers & Hammerstein where musicals were mainstream and sophisticated. (People forget that works like Oklahoma were revolutionary for their time.) It's hard to get the attention of kids today, so you need some glam and glitter. One could do worse that Wicked as an introduction to musicals.

12 March 2009

Song of the day: "Defying Gravity" by Stephen Schwartz

What an uplifting, defiant song! Imagine this with Idina Menzel's "larynx of steel" (according to New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley).

From Wicked
Elphaba, why could't you have stayed calm for once, instead of flying off the handle!
I hope you're happy!
I hope you're happy now!
I hope you're happy how you've hurt your cause forever,
I hope you think you're clever!

I hope you're happy!
I hope you're happy, too.
I hope you're proud how you would grovel in submission to feed your own ambition.

So though I can't imagine how, I hope you're happy, right now!

Elphie, listen to me! Just, say you're sorry.
You can still be with the Wizard, what you've worked and waited for. You can have all you ever wanted!

I know.
And I don't want it.
I can't want it anymore.
Something has changed within me.
Something is not the same.
I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game.
Too late for second-guessing.
Too late to go back to sleep!
It's time to trust my instincts.
Close my eyes, and leap!
It's time to try defying gravity.
I think I'll try defying gravity, and you can't pull me down!

Can't I make you understand?
You're having delusions of grandeur!

I'm through accepting limits,
'Cuz someone says they're so!
Some things I cannot change,
but 'till I try, I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love, I guess I've lost!
Well, if that's love, it comes at much too high a cost!
I'd sooner buy defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye!
I'm defying gravity, and you can't pull me down!
Glinda, come with me. Think of what we could do. Together,
Unlimited. Together we're unlimited. Together we'll be the greatest team there's ever been,
Glinda, things the way we plan 'em.

If we work in tandam:

There's no fight we cannot win.
Just you and I defying gravity!
With you and I, defying gravity,

They'll never bring us down.
Well, are you coming?

I hope you're happy, now that you're choosing this.

You too.
I hope it brings you bliss,

I really hope you get it,
And you don't live to regret it!
I hope you're happy in the end!
I hope you're happy, my friend!

So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
"Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!"
And if I'm flying solo,
At least I'm flying free.
To those who'd ground me,
Take a message back from me:
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity!
I'm flying high,
Defying gravity!
And soon I'll match them in renown.
And nobody in, all of Oz.
No Wizard that there is or was.
Is ever gonna bring me down!

I hope you're happy!

Look at her, she's wicked!
Get her!

Bring me

No one mourns the wicked!


So we've got to bring her



08 March 2009

Adventure games ain't dead!

I grew up in the "golden age" of adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island, Quest for Glory, and Legend of Kyrandia. This is definitely my favorite genre of games (followed closely by action-adventure games like The Legend of Zelda and Prince of Persia).

Adventure gaming, in the commercial sense, is pretty much dead, though a few games have been released for the Nintendo DS such as the Phoenix Wright series and the upcoming Broken Sword remake.

However, I recently discovered the Adventure Game Studio (AGS). It's a user-friendly GUI editor for creating your own adventure games. It takes care of most of the programming, allowing game creators to focus on graphics and story. People have used it to create 992 games! I guess I know where to go now, if I'm really really bored...

I think AGS is wonderful for the gaming community. There are way too many first-person shooter, slasher type games (think: Halo and Grand Theft Auto) that mainly appeal to men. Adventure games are one of the few genres that appeal to both genders. With AGS, women can make games that appeal to them. For example, check out Cirque De Zale by Rebecca Clements. An interview with Clements can be found here.

04 March 2009

Song of the day: "Ballad of Booth" by Stephen Sondheim

I love the lilting style of the Balladeer and the folksy tune.

From the musical Assassins
Someone tell the story,
Someone sing the song.

Every now and then
The country
Goes a little wrong.

Every now and then
A madman's
Bound to come along.
Doesn't stop the story-
Story's pretty strong.
Doesn't change the song...

Johnny Booth was a handsome devil,
Got up in his rings and fancy silks.
Had him a temper but kept it level.
Everybody called him Wilkes.

Why did you do it, Johnny?
Nobody agrees.
You who had everything,
What made you bring
A nation to its knees?

Some say it was your voice had gone,
Some say it was booze.
Some say you killed a coutry, John,
Because of bad reviews.

Johnny lived with a grace and glitter.
Kind of like the lives he lived on stage.
Died in a barn in pain and bitter
Twenty-seven years of age.

Why did you do it, Johnny,
Throw it all away?
Why did you do it, boy,
Not just destroy
The pride and joy
Of Illinois,
But all the U.S.A.?

Your brother made you jealous, John,
You couldn't fill his shoes.
Was that the reason, tell us, John-
Along with bad reviews.


They're coming! they'll be here any minute-

I need your help.
I've got to write this and I can't hold the pen

Johnny, they've found us!
We've got to get out of here!

Not till I finish this.


Have you seen these papers?
Do you know what they're calling me?!
A common cutthroat! A hired assassin!
This one says I'm mad!

We must have been mad to think
that we could kill the president and get away with it!

We did get away with it!
He was a bloody tyrant and we brought him down!
And I will not have history think I did it for a bag of gold
or in some kind of rabid fit!

Johnny we have to go-

No! I have to make my case!
And I need you to take it down!

We don't have time!

Take it down-

An indictment.
Of the former President of the United States,
Abraham Lincoln, who is herein charged
with the following high crimes and misdemeanors.

They say you're ship was sinking, John...

That you did ruthlessly provoke a war between the States,
which cost some six hundred thousand
of my countrymen their lives. Two:

You'd started missing cues...

That you did silence your critics in the North,
by hurling them into prison without benefit of charge or trial. Three-

They say it wasn't Lincoln, John.

Shut up! Three-

You'd merely had a slew of bad

I said shut up!

Booth! I have fifty soldiers out here Booth!
Give yourselves up or we'll set fire to the barn!

Don't shoot! I'm coming out!


I have given my life for one act, you understand?
Do not let history rob me of its meaning.
Pass on the truth! You're the only one wo can.

He said
"Damn you Lincoln,
You had your way-

Tell'em, boy!

With blood you drew out
Of blue and gray!"

Tell it all!
Tell'em till they listen!

He said,
"Damn you, Lincoln,
And damn the day
You threw the 'U' out
Of U.S.A!"

He said:

Hunt me down, smear my name,
say I did it for the fame,
What I did was kill the man who killed my country.
Now the Southland will mend,
Now this bloody war can end,
Because someone slew th tyrant
Just as Brutus slew the tyrant-

He said:

Damn you, Lincoln,
You righteous whore!

Tell'em what he did!

You turned your spite into Civil War!

Tell'em the truth!

And more...

Tell'em, boy!
Tell them how it happened,

How the end doesn't mean that it's over,
How surrender is not the end!
Tell them:

Hoe the country is not what it was,
Where there's blood in the clover,
How the nation can never again
Be the hope that it was.

How the bruises may never be healed,
How the wounds are forever,
How the How we gave up the field
But we still wouldn't yield,

How the union can never recover
From that Vulgar,
High and mighty

Never. Never. Never.
No, the country is not what it was...

Damn my soul if you must,
Let my body turn to dust,
Let it mingle with the ashes of the country.

Let them curse me to hell,
Leave it to history to tell:
What I did, I did well,
And I did it for my country.

Let them cry, "dirty traitor!"
They will understand it later-
The country is not what it was...

Johnny Booth was a headstrong fellow,
Even he believed the things he said.
Some called him noble, some said yellow.
What he was was off his head.

How could you do it,Johnny,
Calling it a cause?
You left a legacy
Of butchery
And treason we
Took eagerly,
And thought you'd get applause.

But traitors just get jeers and boos,
Not visits to their graves,
While Lincoln, who got mixed reviews,
Beacause of you, John, now gets only raves.

Damn, you Johnny,
You paved the way
For other madmen
To make us pay.
Lots of madmen
Have had their say-
But only for a day.

Listen to the stories.
Hear it in the songs.
Angry men
Don't write the rules
And guns don't write the wrongs.

Hurts a while,
But soon the country's
Back where it belongs,
And that's the truth.

Still and all,
Damn you Booth!