In Tune with June!

We were fortunate to get tickets to “the hottest show on Broadway.” And here’s another quote – this time from the New York Times – “Hamilton – yes, it’s really that good.” It’s a Broadway show that changes the language of the American musical. All the credit goes to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the hip-hop genius who also stars in the show. It started when Miranda read the book “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. He connected the line between hip-hop and the world of eighteenth century politics – and it worked. The house lights rise on Aaron Burr, the third vice-president of the United States and infamously the killer of Hamilton in a duel in 1804. Burr steps to center stage and reels off several lines asking how exactly did Hamilton rise from the depravation of his childhood in the island backwater of St. Croix to become a storied Founding Father, an aide-de-camp of George Washington, the prime mover in the creation of the United States financial system, the subject of America’s first sex scandal, the bane and bugbear of everyone from Burr to Jefferson and Madison. “Hamilton” the show is a rigorously factual period drama about the political intrigue of the early republic. But wait, there’s more that’s so unusual. The cast consists of mostly black and Latino actors, with a score deep in hip-hop. And how do they dance so effortlessly in those beautiful but complicated costumes? To the 35-year-old Miranda, already his generation’s prominent musical auteur, it surprises one to learn that he was simply captivated and inspired by reading the Chernow biography. This hit show is actually an introduction to hip-hop on Broadway (and to me, although I’m still not a great fan of that musical genre). Imagine cabinet meetings with Hamilton and Jefferson trading rhymes which are delivered seamlessly. This smash musical rewinds history so how did I get to see “the hottest show on Broadway?” 28-year-old Ian Weinberger, who led the orchestra at the Wednesday matinee, is the grandson of Martin Weinberger, a Bayonne native. It’s a hackneyed saying, but perhaps it’s true that it’s not what you know but who you know. “Hamilton” is a most memorable show. I’m in good company: President and Mrs. Obama have also attended matinee performances.
My friend loves to read. So, when he was appropriately gifted with the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs he dug into its 630 pages and that took a lot of doing. However, when the Aaron Sorkin movie based on the book came out it was much easier to sit back and watch the movie I can’t say I understood. It is not very kind to the visionary. At every turn he treats employees and colleagues as expendable cogs in his corporate game often without understanding the damage he inflicts on those around him. He’s not motivated mainly by ego and greed. Instead, what really gets him going is an insatiable desire to “put a dent in the universe.” The film implies that his egomaniacal mind can be ultimately tolerated because of what he produced. The movie sets its story on the development of the personal computer. Of course that’s the technology that is so important now that it is no longer a matter of dispute. As a personal aside, I must add that I am delighted that the Computer Guy and the Networking Café are available in our town. Thanks to the most remarkable tool I can visit my family in California, see and iChat with them. The computer’s ultimate importance hangs over every conflict of the film with the Apple engineer Steve Wozniak (the arguably more important inventor and computer programmer). Jobs is a big picture, bull-headed narcissist and, above all, the knowing conductor of talent and ideas. It’s not fun being around a guy who compares himself to Julius Caesar and sees assassins all around. How to reconcile someone who can refuse to pay for his daughter’s college tuition but who can, like magic, put a thousand songs in her pocket? Jobs could be a monster but he was also a genius who belongs in the company of Edison, Einstein, and so on. The film frames the life of the Apple co-founder in three backstage dramas of major product launches. The movie depicts a flawed man who made perfect machines in spite of his thin-skinned sensitivity and detail obsessiveness. In the course of his rise he betrays his friends, alienates his allies, and mistreats his loved ones. “Steve Jobs” is a rich and potent document of the times. It’s both tribute and critique. The world most of us live in is the world Steve Jobs made.
“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s Juliet wanted to know. Names may be arbitrary but they are powerful. Declan Patrick MacManus chose a moniker that paid tribute to his great-grandmother and took the King’s name in vain to become Elvis Costello. His new autobiography “Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink” is enormous — 674 pages — and he tries to cram everything in. He was born into music. His father was a dance band singer and sang on the radio, and his grandfather, a trumpet player. His parents met over the counter of a record shop. It’s interesting to read how he absorbed music when he was young. Before he was twenty-four he took the popular music world by storm. His performances had taken him from strumming a cardboard guitar in his parents’ front room to fronting a rock-‘’n’-roll band on television. In “Unfaithful” he describes how his career has endured for four decades. This idiosyncratic memoir offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international stardom. It’s a self-assessment from a musician whose creativity and brilliance changed pop-rock. Elvis Costello is physically recognizable because of his ever-present horn-rimmed glasses and fedora. He writes about ruining his first marriage with drugs and sex but he always took music seriously. I became more interested in him when he married my favorite jazz pianist and singer, Diana Krall. In 2003 she married the English musician, singer-songwriter, and record producer. They live in Vancouver with their twin sons. Those two boys must be musical if there’s any validity to heredity.

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