Good advice

February 27, 2011

Stephen Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes is so important to our subject, I’m spreading my comments over  four blog posts. The second post, about lyrics for the head, not always for the heart, is here. The third post, in which I knock him for knocking superior lyricists, is here.  The fourth, admiring his admiration for Porter, Fields and Loesser, is here.

First, the good news, this is the best lesson in lyric-writing you could get by reading a book since Oscar Hammerstein’s introduction to his collection of Lyrics sixty years ago.  That’s a long time between textbooks, and it’s fair to say the craft has changed significantly.  Some might say it’s changed because of Stephen Sondheim.  Looking at this book, you can take in more than half of Sondheim’s lyrics (there will be a second volume in the fall) at your leisure.  Usually, these words hit us at the pace of the music, but this is a chance to turn off the metronome and carefully examine what makes them work.  Or not work.  And then, on a lot of the songs, you get to read the author’s commentary.  The discussions of craft herein are Sondheim’s greatest gift to the world of musical theatre (if only we listen!), greater, I’d maintain, then the Sondheim-composed shows themselves.

And then he’s added some fun stuff: one grudge, a few fine whines, and some fairly good anecdotes.  These don’t reveal all that much about Sondheim, the human being, but hey, nowhere does it purport to be an autobiography.  In fact, the last page would seem to indicate that he didn’t read Meryle Secrest’s 1998 biography, as one of its central themes “occurs” to him while writing this book.  So, Sondheim-watchers get that rather rare feeling of knowing something before Sondheim did.

For me, the chapter on West Side Story is most fascinating, because it reveals Sondheim’s greatest blind spot.  Composer Leonard Bernstein initially intended to write the show’s lyrics himself.  In collaborating with the 20-something Sondheim, he faced the frustration of dealing with a lyricist who wasn’t quite comfortable with romanticism.

Let’s stop to define the term.  Romanticism, in songwriting, refers to the unrealistic, larger-than-life vocabulary used in expressions of love.  It’s one of the oldest traditions of musical theatre that characters in love burst forth with hyperbolic sentiments.  The elation of love gives people in musicals a smile on their face for the whole human race.  We accept this, partly out of tradition, partly out of enjoyment of the bubbling-over-the-brim feelings.  Many theatre-goers, bless their hearts, attend musicals because they enjoy romance.

Sondheim has many strengths as a lyricist, but writing songs in which lovers tell each other how they feel ain’t one of them.  It’s his weak suit, and, as such, he was precisely the wrong choice for penning West Side Story‘s lyrics.  In what sounds like a healthy and effective creative friction, Leonard Bernstein kept pushing him to exercise his romantic muscle:

He especially liked “Tonight there will be no morning star”: granted, Tony is supposed to be a dreamy character, but it’s unlikely he’s even seen a morning star (you don’t see stars in Manhattan except at the Planetarium), much less that he would be inclined to use it as an image.  Lenny kept encouraging me to come up with these maunderings

“Maunderings,” he calls them!  We should thank God for Lenny’s encouragement, because it led to some of the best show tunes of all time; e.g., Tonight, I Feel Pretty and Maria.  How frustrating that Sondheim sees these songs as embarrassments, rather than pinnacles of his achievement.  The opposite of romanticism is realism and when he talks about images Tony would be inclined to use, he’s being realist to a fault.

There’s nothing in Finishing the Hat about Sondheim’s second collaboration with Bernstein, The Exception and the Rule, which never saw the light of day.  As one continues through the book, with its chapters on each subsequent show, the realist vs. romanticist argument gets left behind.  This is because Sondheim left it behind, in life, by writing musicals in which characters never make love to each other in song.  In so doing, he left behind many of the lessons taught him by his mentor Oscar Hammerstein, the acknowledged master of the romantic musical.  Many of the specifics are discussed in the book: What good-neighbor Oscar told him to do, what he did differently, and why.

On the front end-piece pages, printed over and over, are three principles: Content Dictates Form; Less Is More; God Is in the Details.  The pages in between explain, in exquisite detail, how these ideals can be applied to lyric-writing.  And – I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet – there are pages from Sondheim’s notebooks.  So, you can see what the alternate lines were, and the huge lists of words he might use, sometimes rhymes, sometimes words beginning with be- for “Behold the hills of tomorrow.”  Unfortunately, these notes are hard to read, a combination of bad handwriting, tiny words on now-faded paper, and the smudging of the Blackwing 602 pencil.  (One might also quibble with the font and design of the book, which makes the whole thing hard to read.)

Those notebook pages prove that great lyrics aren’t written, they’re rewritten.  The Sondheim process involves constantly crossing out lines, words, phrases and stanzas and thinking up something better to replace them.  Less proficient lyricists stand pat with a first draft, or maybe a second.  Sondheim holds himself to an impressively high standard, and it’s astonishing to see how often he looks back all these years later and kicks himself for not doing the job better.

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A jolly little song

February 21, 2011

It’s one month since my father’s birthday, which means it’s now my mother’s birthday (she was born many years later).  Rather than re-using the reminiscence-connected-to-writing-principle theme of the recent post, I’m going to discuss a type of show tune my mother especially likes.

We might as well call them rousers – those click-your-heels, totally positive celebrations of ordinary pleasures. The vociferous enthusiasm is supposed to be infectious: ideally, if you’re in the audience, by the end of the song you love life too.

Used to be, songwriters would look for opportunities to create this type of production number.  Today, they’ve gone out of fashion, and this may have to do with a shift in what modern musicals are doing.  Where once musicals extolled good things in life, it’s become far more common for shows to cast a negative judgment.  One thinks of the old aren’t-the-Amish-wonderful chestnut, Plain and Fancy, versus Sondheim and Weidman’s Assassins, which purports to criticize America by giving voice to its most famous miscreants.

May I say, as my mother’s son, that I kinda miss the rousers?  The unrelenting misery of, say, Miss Saigon wears on me.  In Area 51, I seized the opportunity to write a big production number that salutes the natural world, and director Gary Slavin got it to pour out onto the stage like a Gower Champion showstopper.

While it’s perfectly legitimate to write musicals that critique the status quo, I find that too many writers disdain the rouser completely.  And so the audience loses out on a chance to feel a burst of joy.  One of my mother’s favorite shows is based on a Dickens novel about how life is awful for the poor, the orphans, the dregs of society.  And yet Lionel Bart filled Oliver! with one rouser after another, each a delightful spoonful of sugar helping the polemic medicine go down.  I don’t know whether contemporary show-writers are unable to do that, or are unwilling to do that, thinking such expressions old-fashioned.

Playwright Jeffrey Sweet connected Our Wedding – The Musical! to the jubilant side of the praise/harangue divide:

It would be simplistic to suggest that the theatre of protest speaks and the theatre of celebration sings, but generally musical theatre has produced a larger share of works offering the audience more support and encouragement than criticism.  Though Oklahoma! has some surprisingly sophisticated things to say about citizenship and when people are ready for self-government, ultimately it expresses its faith in the essential integrity of the American character.  The Music Man may make mild fun of stiff-necked Iowans, but ultimately it is a story of both personal and social redemption.  Even that tough old bird of a show Gypsy suggests the possibility of reconciliation between the generations at its final curtain.

We need both kinds of theatre.  We need the works that shake us and shock us into seeing where we are betraying the ideals to which we give lip service, but we also need the works that express those ideals and encourage us to live them.

A wedding is a celebration to begin with, and, by structuring theirs as a musical, Noel and Joy employed a celebratory form to express it.

Click for the full essay


We take our time

February 16, 2011

I had to write it fast.  I had to write it while accompanying a dance rehearsal.  There were five days until the show, and thirteen people would have to learn it.  It had to be done by the time the rehearsal was over, at which point the choreographer took my hand-written scribbling and texted the cast.

Such was the pressure-filled situation Friday night when I realized I’d have to create a new lyric for the finale of the Circle-in-the-Square School’s industry showcase.

Dutifully, the graduating students had chosen I Hate Musicals from Ruthless as their opening number.  The plan was always to reprise some of it as their closer. As a group, the cast cut and reformatted the solo into a group number, assigning lines to each of the thirteen, equally.  When it came time to stage the finale I realized that all the lyrics we wanted to sing were heard in the opening.  Using them again was not an option, as all on the creative team loathe verbatim repetition. Here, we would be using the final lines rhyming pay/stay/ballet, so I just had to fill the 25 bars leading into that.

Quick, what jokes could I write about contemporary Broadway?   Well, obviously something about Spiderman.  Immediately, the question becomes what does the audience know?  An obscure reference can only cause confusion.  Since the play currently in the Circle-in-the-Square is about Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, I thought it was reasonable to surmise our audience would know this.  After all, it’s why we were using a different venue this evening.  What else?  Last season’s hit, The Addams Family is pretty famous, and I thought there might be a funny rhyme in the world of Gomez and Morticia.  Would everyone be familiar with their butler, Lurch?  Could I rhyme him with church?  What would the joke be?  I thought there’d be a way of referencing the fact that the Mark Hellinger Theatre, where My Fair Lady opened, has been converted into The Times Square Church.

Whenever the choreographer stopped to adjust something, I popped up from the piano bench to madly write ideas on a page on top of the piano.  This frequent Jack-in-the-boxing caught the eye of an actor who wasn’t involved in the dance then being rehearsed.  I asked her if she knew The Times Square Church, which she passes every day, was once a Broadway theatre and she did not.  Therefore, I could not use the reference: I now had evidence the audience wouldn’t instantly know what I was talking about.

Daniel Radcliffe is coming to Broadway in a revival of my favorite musical.  On his previous trip to The Great White Way, he was naked.  Surely there’s a joke there.  (I know: don’t call you Shirley.)  Again, I returned to the question of what the audience knows.  Does everybody remember that the Brit was in the buff in 2008?  Isn’t this song about hating musicals?  Do people really instantly recognize the name, Daniel Radcliffe?  Or is the name of the character he played in umpteen films more famous?

Once I’d thought of three things I wanted to reference, it was time for rhymes.  The original lyric, by Joel Paley, is inconsistent in its rhyme scheme and uses false rhymes.  I wanted to make sure my punch lines were, well, punched and leading the ear, through rhyme, accomplishes that.  Since a rhyme adds emphasis, you should always make sure that the second half of your rhyme is a word you want underlined.

One other circumstance to consider is that the audience knows it’s the end of the show.  They’re busy applauding the last number and it’s my job, as accompanist, to decide when to start the next number.  The previous song was a trio, but now, I knew, we’d be bringing out the whole cast, which might trigger applause.  The first line might not even be heard, but I had to trust the women singing it to command the audience’s attention.  To support that, I added an internal rhyme.

Stupid shows refuse to close as Tony approaches

We’d rather praise dramatic plays ’bout old football coaches

Tragedies boost ticket sales, among other factors

“Let’s go see Spiderman, and catch falling actors!”

Times Square is Disneyland with no room for cars

With Idol runners-up and Hollywood stars

So, Harry Potter’s singing?  I’m still not enticed

(The rest of the lyric is the original song:)

It’s way over-priced

And I won’t pay.

I hate musicals but I fear they’re here to stay

Yes, I hate musicals, but not as much as I hate ballet

We staged the number before the cast had time to memorize the lyric.  So, first, the choreographer (who had texted it to them) commanded “Take out your cell phones and sing!”


Romance

February 11, 2011

So, as I sat down to write this seasonal discussion of love songs, my wife was on the fourth day of a five-day business trip, one of many she must take in the coming months.  Listening to, and thinking about, great love songs I was moved to tears on more than one occasion.  Far more frequently than most people, I’m at the verge of weeping: This may be a good thing, in terms of being in touch with the sorts of emotions I often write songs about.

Love song writing, like love letter writing, seems a lost art.  When couples choose the song for their first dance at their wedding, they don’t tend to pick things written over the last thirty years.  Chances are it’s a ballad written between 1925 and 1957 (maybe it’s Chances Are).   What’s been up since 1957?  The rock era, of course.  Don’t rockers ever want to get romantic?

One thing that happened was a generational shift.  Rock’s appeal was linked to capturing the raw power of (often angry) young people’s emotions.  In a way, love ballads seemed the stuff of a previous generation.  The great songwriters of that generation: Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hart (and then Hammerstein), Irving Berlin, etc. all wrote rapturous tunes that continue to be embraced and appreciated.  The rockers, to a certain extent, were driven by a market that thought of tender sentiments as old-fashioned.  And, starting with The Beatles, the majority of Top 40 Hits came from singers who also wrote their songs.  Which meant that they had to be good at two different skills.  I can’t think of a single singer-songwriter who crafted love ballads the way the aforementioned masters did, but those old guys didn’t have to sing and sell records.

Great musicals, with very few exceptions, involve romance.  You’re going to have to write songs that communicate love, at some point.  The ultimate goal is to make the listener feel something akin to what the character being sung to is feeling.  Show-writers have a secret weapon: they’re sculpting material for characters in a situation.  This gives you a set of images and ideas to hang your lyric on.  For instance, Ira Gershwin wrote They Can’t Take That Away For Me knowing Fred Astaire would sing it to Ginger Rogers.  

The way you wear your hat speaks for itself: She’s just adorable in a chapeau.

The way we danced till three Exactly the sort of romantic activity one associates with Fred and Ginger

The way you sing off key This is more inspired by Fred than Ginger.  His on-screen persona was always that of one who razzes women he was fond of, deep down inside.

Another thing that happened more commonly before the mid-fifties than after is that musical theatre writers, hoping to get a hit song out of their scores, would strive for a certain universality, an expression that could be felt by everybody. In a way, they were servants of two masters: Were they writing precisely for character and situation, or were they writing the extractable ditty that would be enjoyed outside of the context of the show?  One of favorite duets, Namely You, is so wedded to the way these two characters talk, that one can’t imagine Sinatra or any pop crooner singing it.  And that makes me love it all the more. (song begins around 1:23)

Eight years ago, I faced the ultimate challenge: to write a love song that my bride and I would sing at our wedding (which was a musical).  Of course, I was intimately aware of Joy’s admirable qualities, so that inspired what I sang to her.  In what has to be seen as the ultimate act of egotism, I also had to figure out what Joy could possibly sing about me.  I don’t think that highly of myself, certainly not as highly as she thinks of me, but, from my experience writing musicals, I was used to putting myself into the minds of characters.  Plus, any words I put into Joy’s mouth, she had to approve; in that way, it was a collaboration.

The thing I’m proudest about here is that How Could They Have Missed is a fairly original idea for a love song.   Knowing that we’d have an ex-lover or two in our audience inspired me to acknowledge the fact (and call them idiots).  And I don’t think they minded one bit.

Crass commercialism: you can click on the Playbill at the bottom of the column at the right to purchase Our Wedding – The Musical for a mere $20, including postage.  Sorry about the sales pitch, but Valentine’s Day is the holiday that turns love into a money-making enterprise.


Lost

February 6, 2011

I’m still reeling from my disappointment with Lost in the Stars at Encores (City Center).  This is a very bad musical, but I’m not here to trounce a well-meaning show from 1949.  An examination of why the piece is so relentlessly boring may save us from further snoozefests.

(My hat is off to critic Charles Isherwood of The New York Times for writing “While some evenings at this series of Broadway musicals in concert bring the intoxicating delights of a bottle of vintage wine, and others savor sweetly of old-fashioned candy, magically fresh, at Lost in the Stars you often feel as if you were consuming a jumbo can of spinach.”)

Lost in the Stars is known (if it’s known at all) as the musical that addressed South African apartheid, and it’s remarkable that no other Broadway show even mentioned the subject until decades later.  Now that I’ve seen it, I’m unhappy to report that it doesn’t address apartheid at all: it pays lip service to it.  There are some references to the economic conditions of native Africans, and much talk about forging friendship between the races, but the plot doesn’t dramatize anything to do with prejudice.  It’s a tragic tale, but none of the sad events relate to the conditions of being an oppressed ethnic group in a white-controlled society.  The white people – and all are connected to the ruling power in the country – are portrayed as respectful to the blacks.  True, one character says a few things about how the races shouldn’t mix – it’s exactly what you’d expect a white senior citizen to say – but, observing the way the main black characters act, comes to change his mind.

So here’s a problem: nobody is Evil; everyone is Good.  Perhaps I’ve overstated.  There are two young men who convince a young man to join them committing a robbery.  They’re Evil, all right, but they’re presented as young and foolish.  I’m reminded of the character of Jigger in Carousel.  He, too, convinces someone to commit a robbery with him, with fatal consequences.  It’s interesting to note that Dorothy Hammerstein, wife of Carousel‘s author, suggested to composer Kurt Weill and librettist Maxwell Anderson that they adapt Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country.  Trouble is, Oscar Hammerstein knew how to depict moral issues on stage, and Anderson’s Lost in the Stars doesn’t.

The central character is a Christian clergyman.  Let’s immediately throw a red flag.  There’s a great danger, dramatically, if your protagonist is 100% good.  Portray a man who’s free of flaws and you’ve fallen into a trap.  Saints are admired in real life, but on stage, they’re hard to love.  Think of Harold Hill, Henry Higgins, Tevye, or Momma Rose Hovic.  We understand, watching them, that they won’t automatically Do the Right Thing.  A kind, gentle and benevolent pastor?  Right away I’m starting to yawn.  What’s he going to do that will surprise me, startle me into attentiveness?  How am I going to care what happens to him?  He’s not like me (a human with flaws); he’s a saint.

This may seem obvious, but it wasn’t to Maxwell Anderson, one of the 20th century’s most successful playwrights: make sure your protagonist does something.  He must take actions that affect other people, effect change, and have consequences – that is, cause other things to happen.  In the first act of Lost in the Stars, the hero, Stephen takes no actions at all.  A series of (sad) events unfolds, in front of his eyes.  Eventually, they test his faith, but Lost in the Stars fails to make him compelling because he’s just a naive traveler who is moved by events, rather than one who does things to move events himself.  He’s the leaf, not the wind.

Late in the second act, Stephen has a crisis of faith.  This causes him to take an action, at long last: he resigns as preacher in a small church in a rural town.  This, naturally, has an effect on his parishioners.  I suppose one could feel sad for them, but, unfortunately, we haven’t met them before.  Later, it turns out that the crusty old bigot witnessed his resignation speech, and was moved to abandon his racism.  Good for him, I say, but it’s still not much of a story.

Racial prejudice, as a subject, has a pitfall: We Know It’s Wrong.  It’s the obvious knee-jerk reaction.  So, bigotry, presented in a musical, can just lie there like a lox.  (Sorry if any lox are reading this; I mean no offense.)  Lazy writers depict racists and expect us to be horrified.  But, to me, an audience reaction must be earned.  I’ve an example in mind:

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song addressing prejudice, Carefully Taught, was in their musical that opened the same year as Lost in the Stars, South Pacific.  In the context of that story, Lieut. Cable’s self-loathing over his own cowardice (a fear of his Philadelphia family’s prejudice) drives him to accept a suicide mission.  He’s trying to explain American racism to Emile, who is a victim of it.  Soon they’re both on that suicide mission together, bravely fighting for America.  For my money, that’s a very moving scene, fully earned, honest and surprising.

I’ve long enjoyed the original cast album of Lost in the Stars, and would say that Anderson and Weill succeeded in writing songs that are a delight for the ear.  I guess a lot of us treasure the scores of shows we’ve never seen.  But now that I’ve seen Lost in the Stars, I feel like I’ve lost a friend, as my old admiration for these songs came crashing down when I experienced them as part of a crushing bore.

Little Grey House by Bing Crosby


How to be a pirate

February 1, 2011

Scarlett & Natalie, sistren

While I’m in the very early stages of writing a song called Jewish Girls, I can describe, in some detail, the way I chose a hook.

A hook is a short and hopefully catchy musical phrase that will recur several times during a song, hooking the listener into remembering and liking it. The hook is often the setting of the title (it is in this case) but it doesn’t have to be, and a song can contain more than one. My work on Jewish Girls has gone slowly. I had a bunch of lyrical ideas but hadn’t yet found a form for the song. So, I thought coming up with a hook might jump-start the process.

Context is of paramount importance here. So, there’s much to describe: The setting is a log cabin meeting room in a religious retreat deep in the woods. The character – I’ve actually forgotten his name, so I’m going to call him Merv – is a gregarious thirtysomething who’s apt to share too much, making others uncomfortable. And sharing is the activity of the scene: various “campers” have been asked to tell what brought them to the retreat.

Orchestration has an impact here: The band will consist of intruments that one might carry into the woods, so no piano or cello. This limitation has been imposed much earlier in the process than is normal, but I’m hoping, in this score, to get away from the piano-based composing I so frequently do. So, many of the tunes will have a folk-rock feel, but there’s still got to be a lot of variety, stylistically. Elsewhere, there will be rap, unaccompanied chorus, and a love ballad that’s really a subtle march.

The lyric has a long way to go. One year ago, I decided to do the lazy thing: pose this question to Facebook friends. For a song, need to compile a huge list of positive answers to: What’s so wonderful about Jewish girls? The responses all came from Jewish women; seemingly, my male friends were stymied. Or prejudiced. I found that a bit shocking.

Creating a comedy song that may divide the audience is daunting. Humor is often based on a certain amount of agreement between audience and jokester. Writing this musical, I find myself fretting a lot about shared views: my characters, with their takes on mildly controversial subjects, must be embraced by an audience that disagrees with them.

Flipping back pages through my notebook, I find that I had the idea of dealing with Merv’s embarrassment in the verse, so that he baldly blurts things out in the chorus. It reads:

Jewish girls.

I love Jewish girls

Can’t get enough of Jewish girls

And I’m looking to hook up.

Looking at that, it seems in peril of using title and hook too frequently, too little space between.  So, I rewrote this to place the title in different positions in sentences:

Jewish girls.

I’m just wild about Jewish girls

Is there any doubt

Jewish girls make the rockin’ world go round.

“Make the rockin’ world go round” is, of course, the last line in the chorus of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls (by Brian May).  So it’s a quote from another humorous song, but, in its new context, it hopefully does a couple of things.  There’s something ridiculous about schlubby Merv quoting a rock song.  There’s also an implication, perhaps too subtle, that Merv may appreciate big butts; this could be one of the things he likes about Jewish women.  Or not.

My first idea for the hook was to set “Jewish girls” on A-G-B (in the key of C).  I may have come up with this phrase because it’s also in a song I wrote for one of those Facebook responders, years ago.  The three notes are heard on “close your eyes” and then “say a prayer” towards the end of my jazz lullaby.

As I started to compose using the A-G-B hook, I found myself slowly increasing tempo, like the start of a carousel ride.  The chords that came to mind descended: C, B7, B-Flat Major 7, A7.  But now the song reminded me of a carnival, as rendered by Nino Rota or another 1960’s European film composer.  Worse, it struck me as being something of a cliché and I’ve this sign on my desk that reads Eschew cliché.

How had I gotten so far afield?  My second attempt at a hook was a bit more overtly Jewish-sounding.  In C-minor, it drops an octave from G to G, and then surprises the ear with an A-natural on “girls.”   I dearly love a minor sixth chord, but this tune also reminded me of one I’d written before, a female duet called Alphabet Soup.

Much as I love the minor sixth, it began to seem utterly wrong for this context.  It’s a contemporary scene, not a 1930’s rally like Alphabet Soup‘s setting.  In pondering the environment Jewish Girls exists in, I was reminded that the sound of guitars, perhaps a solo guitar, would be part of the scene.  How did I lose sight of that?

That chord sequence I had under the first hook seemed worth revisiting.  If played slow and steady, it could sound sexy, like the wonderful Quincy Jones number in the film, The Color Purple.

That sheet music contains the tempo marking “Gutbucket blues” and I admire this song so much, I’ve long wanted to write something in that style.  Of course, it’s rather incongruous: Why is a contemporary horny man making reference to an early twentieth century black sub-genre?  Well, it’s possible this incongruity will bother me so much that I’ll throw this idea out too, but, currently, it’s striking me as a funny way to go.  Merv sees himself differently than the rest of the world, so it might be humorous to suggest he thinks that, deep inside, he’s a southern black blues singer from a century ago.

The feel virtually prescribes a hook: “Girls” has got to go on the seventh – it’s a common thing old blueses do: E-C-B-flat.  My trick here is to invert: the first title will have the shape of an upside-down check mark, going up than slightly down; the second title will go straight down, to a hopefully sexier growly part of the singer’s range.  During the time I was searching for a hook, I happened to have caught  William Finn’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, where used the first phrase in setting his title Woe Is Me.

The good news is: now that I’ve got the hook and some of the form, more and more lyrical ideas are occurring to me.  And, ladies, if you’re one of the Chosen People and catch me ogling you, remember it’s all for art’s sake.