This was perhaps the best week of the year thus far for me, in terms of the arts. First, for Valentine’s Day, Boanne and I went with friends to see Fun Home at the Curran Theater, which has just reopened for this production. Fun Home is based off a 2006 graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel (who came up with the Bechdel test) and won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical (prior to Hamilton). Prior to watching this, my favorite musicals were, in order, Wicked, Les Miserables, and probably Rent, which I had also just seen last weekend. Fun Home is now securely somewhere between Les Mis and Wicked for an absolutely devastating story filled with grace and heart. The most novel aspect of this production was having Alison, in the near-present, as a constant presence on stage, observing her past and seeking answers as she creates her work of art. Very few productions in any medium can make me weep, but a climactic, fourth-wall and heart breaking moment in this musical did (and as I later told my high school students, “The best experiences in life are those that make you cry”). I am looking forward to getting my hands on the graphic novel, and I implore you to seek this out if you haven’t already.
That same day I pre-ordered the new Dirty Projectors self-titled album, which is fueled by Dave Longstreth’s breakup with bandmate Amber Coffman (who has some great stuff on her own now as well). One of the most incredible songs so far is “Keep Your Name”, which grabs a piece of the chorus from my favorite song from the last album, “The Impregnable Question”, and turns it sour, the phrase “We don’t see eye to eye” taken out of context of “But I need you” and threaded through a distorted, tortured soundscape. This is the kind of real-time human intimacy and fallout that artists generously share with the world, that makes music so compelling to me. Jens Lekman’s Life Will See You Now came out in full on Friday, and unfortunately did not live up to the joy of the title single “Evening Prayer”, but will probably grow on me in the coming weeks as a Belle & Sebastien-like pop album that is fresh in its un-American-ness.
This weekend Boanne and I visited the SFMOMA and I got to see Sohei Nishino’s work again, a grandiose love-letter to cities, a larger-than-life manifestation of Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City through a collage of thousands of photographs laid out to mimic the geographic map of each subject city. Then we went to see the sequel to The Lego Movie, which happens to have been the movie we watched on our “first date”, and it once again proved that you don’t need live action or anything beyond Lego blocks on the screen to far surpass the quality of 95% of screenplays and character development in films today. Bravo, Warner Animation Group, for putting creativity and authenticity to excellent use.
And then… I cozied up to Cixin Liu’s sci-fi The Dark Forest, the sequel to The Three Body Problem, on Saturday night, and, sometime Sunday morning, emerged out of a mind-blowing journey into the depths of human ethics and universal truths. I know I seem to have more superlatives than is reasonable so far this year, but I mean this: Cixin Liu is an absolute genius, the kind of philosopher artist that should represent humanity in the face of aliens. And The Dark Forest was staggeringly epic in its scope and confidence, a massive augmentation of the world set up in The Three Body Problem that reminded me of the brilliant scope of Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, which is now my former favorite science fiction novel of time. It literally pains me to not be able to talk about all the incredible ideas presented in this story, so I am nearly willing to smuggle these books in stacks out of the San Francisco Public Library system to get my friends to read them, or Amazon Prime them directly to you, just so we can bask together in the glory of the story. In fact, it has triggered an idea for a short story of my own, a slight variation on the theme, which may be strong enough to move me to actually write it out later this year.