Ooh, it’s the dreaded blogaversary – marking two years of churning out essays every five or six days – which means I have to talk about the blog, review highlights and pat myself on the back. And I’ve always had some trouble patting myself on the back. It’s awkward. I get pains in my elbows.
We get some conflicting messages about back-patting. “Don’t keep your light under a bushel,” it is said, as if a bushel is some opaque blocking device and not some obscure measurement. On the other hand, we’re taught to be modest. Ugly Americans (and men, in general) get criticized for talking about themselves too much. And when you add to this conflict the nature of a blog, that editor-free place where people often talk about themselves and there’s no one to stop them. May I quote Kleban? “It’s a mess; it’s a mess.”
Something within me rebels against the notion that every five or six days I should go on Facebook and yell “Hey! I wrote another blog entry! Read it!” The whole idea of it makes me think of the time in my teens I had the score to Threepenny Opera out from the library. As I was struggling through the overture, a minor key march in 3/4, my father came in with a friend of his to listen. In the small talk that followed I said that this piece was a particularly large influence on my writing. The next thing I knew, my father uttered some caustic comment about my swelled head, as if citing a relatively obscure and not-widely-loved inspiration was an act of immodesty. This stung so much, I still worry I brag too much today. (“Adolesce, adolesce.”)
Still, I hope I’m attracting readers here, and promoting interest in my musicals. (2012 was pretty fallow.) Just the other week readers came in record numbers to read my reminiscences about my main mentor, John Ingle. Right before that, many read my review of the New Notes concert of show tunes by The Contemporary Traditionalists. One thing that’s pleasing about this is that both posts were dashed off in a hurry – something of a “Stop the presses!” flurry – I hadn’t intended to critique that cabaret; it was just so good, I felt suddenly inspired.
Usually, though, these things are written in advance, affording me more time to rephrase things, or scrap a post completely. Earlier this year, an esteemed colleague of mine died but I decided not to eulogize on this blog as I couldn’t think of anything positive to say.
Similarly, there are times when fellow musical-makers invite me to look at their works and I think “There are so many fascinating flaws here, it could make a great post on what not to do.” But I can’t do that, of course. Blogging isn’t How To Lose Friends and Influence People.
But there’s the rub. My goal here, usually, is to encourage people to create better shows, so we all can enjoy more. It’s narrowcasting so extreme we need a smaller word than narrowcasting to describe it. While I hope to help librettists, lyricists and composers, I don’t kid myself that many of that ilk are reading.
But judging by which entries are read most, a lot of you tune in to see what I have to say about the widely-derided TV drama, Smash. It’s emblematic of how theatre struggles to compete with mass media. While its ratings are low, many more have seen Smash than two fascinating original musicals, both about somewhat obscure episodes in American history, that I wrote about in 2010: The Scottsboro Boys and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Innovative creations that might push the fabulous invalid forward a little: that’s what I like musing about, and I hope you enjoy reading about. There are “Smash sucks” pieces all over the Internet.
I prefer praising to deriding but this is what gets people to this space. Perhaps I ought to write about Glee, a far-more-interesting musical TV series that’s a high-rated phenomenon.
Which reminds me to reveal that I’ve got a little list of blog ideas. (I’m open to suggestions for topics.) And I fight back the temptation to write about other things. I’m passionate about politics, very excited about this election but God knows there are a zillion political blogs out there. Who wants to add a voice to an already deafening din? And my ten months of being a father: there is no bigger cliché in the blogosphere than sharing hair-raising child-raising tales. I’ve a sign on my desk that reads “Eschew cliché” and whenever I read it I’ve an urge to say “Gesundheit!”
I guess I take pride in this blog’s uniqueness. Where else can you learn how to write a musical? While it’s disappointing that I still don’t have a website where you can hear my songs and learn about my musicals, at least my essay-writing light isn’t kept under a bushel. Or a peck. Or a cubic decameter.