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Tune-Up Time
For many of our readers, summer is a time to slow down, maybe even take some time off. And so it seemed like perfect timing to suggest using the slower months of summer to look inward and do some personal maintenance. We all take our cars to the mechanic and our kids to their checkups, but how often do we focus on our own well-being? In this issue, we’ve got some ideas on how to do just that, through a creative process of goal setting, a primer on meditation, some apps to help you with on-the-go wellness, and a few fun tips on teas and inspirational jewelry. It’s a package designed with you in mind, the brainstorm of my editorial assistant, Arisa White.

And now I’m going to take the idea of introspection a step further and say that it could (and perhaps should) include some awareness-raising about our attitudes toward others. So I’m going to steal some suggestions worth noting from an online holiday card posted last December by, a company that promotes transformation in organizations. (Some of the wording is theirs; some I’ve paraphrased.)

First, exercise relentless empathy. How? Set aside your own worldview and see someone else’s. Dignify others by acknowledging their value.

Second, be that person. Which one? The one who’s fully present, calls everyone by name, and starts sentences with “What if?”

Third, curmudgeons be damned. There’s good in everyone, so find it. Expect the best in people and that’s usually (eventually) what you’ll get.

Fourth, embrace not knowing. In a fast-changing world, it’s the best way to open yourself to great things.

It’s not too late to add these behaviors to your list of resolutions for 2012. I’m sure going to try—are you game? —Cheryl A. Ossola, Editor in Chief

Sondheim’s Songs
I’m engrossed in a new book, and it’s a real page turner. I know whodunit, so there’s no mystery. In fact, I’m pretty familiar with the protagonist and his life story. But still, I’m savoring each word and can’t wait to see what the next paragraph brings.

It’s Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954–1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim. I wasn’t too thrilled to pick it up initially—I have a shelf full of musical-theater books, from rants to gossip to dissertations on the worst flops ever, and a list of lyrics sounded like a yawn. Did I say I knew Sondheim? I should have known better.

Because not only does he list all his lyrics, including changed verses and discarded tunes, but he dissects his own work with the skill of a surgeon (or a show doctor, as it were). It’s fascinating to follow him along as he looks back on his earliest efforts, and with the wisdom gained through years of doing a job only a few people have actually done well, tells us exactly where he went wrong.

From miscalculations to compromises to plain crappy work, he explains the art of lyric writing. Consider this comment from a song cut from West Side Story: “Wrong: the heavy use of soft consonants like s and n, which make the Jets sound more like a hissing radiator than a gang on the warpath.” Or, despite Maria’s uneducated immigrant status, how he couldn’t resist showing off with “It’s alarming how charming I feel.”

Of course, as he moves along to Gypsy, Company, A Little Night Music, and beyond—in this book as well as the sequel, Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011)—the comments become more about why things work than why they don’t.

So since I’m a choreographer, not a lyricist, what does his book teach me? That all artists (even geniuses) have to take time to hone their craft; that no work (even on songs thrown away) is wasted; and that everyone can benefit from a little self-reflection now and again. Some nice advice from a man with no vice . . .  or is it price? Mice? (Sigh.) —Karen White, Associate Editor


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February 2012
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