Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is it just human nature?

I'm a little irked.  I don't know if it's just human nature to be ungenerous or if it's men paying no attention to women.  I have done two treks in Nepal, one on the usual tourist route and one in a very little visited part of the country (see photo -- see any people?) A series of lectures have been put together this fall at the adult learning center. Today was one about trekking in Nepal. A well liked man had been asked to talk about his three treks in Nepal. He's personable, been around the organization a long time, a good speaker.  His treks were all in the popular area where I first trekked.  He and his wife both know that I have done these treks. Last winter I won a magazine contest with an essay about my more exotic trek and send both husband and wife an emai link. I don't know for sure if either read it.  -- Wouldn't most people read a link to a publication by someone they know? -- Anyway, a casual conversation with the man some months ago included a brief mention that I too might have interesting information to share at the time of this lecture.

No.  No mention was made of my treks, I was not invited to speak even a little bit, it's as if they had no idea my experience might be as interesting as his. (More so, I think, because I got to know something about Nepali life, past and present.) So I remain ladylike and quiet and they certainly won't see this blog so I am venting a bit here.  Does the man want all the glory for himself? Did he utterly dismiss my experience from his mind? He totally ignored the fact that the talk might become more broadly informative if I were given ten minutes to speak. What is going on here?  I will not confront him and will not complain to his wife; that seems petty and I will not be petty.  Yes, my ego would very much like people to know I did something that is a bit extraordinary, too, I admit that. But I certainly think if we were in opposite roles, I would have invited him to share the stage.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turkish film Before Your Eyes

Very strange, I think, to sit on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon in a lecture hall at the Cape Cod Community College and watch a film about Kurdish Turkey set in the 1990, showing Kurds being killed arbitrarily, and their children forced to live on the streets of the city whose name I've never heard and can't spell. A ten year old girl and her little brother - and until she dies, an infant sister (she seems to die because a pharmacist will not let the brother have medicine because he does not have enough money).  The children sell what possessions are in their tiny apartment, then they are evicted. They eventually meet other down and out people, plus a free lance prostitute.  When the little girl goes (as the prostitue's little sister) to the home of a john, she wanders around, sees photos and realizes the guy is her parent's murderer.  She finds his gun but does not shoot him.  Instead, somehow (unexplained) flyers are made denouncing him as a murderer and are put under every door in his aparment building and spray painted on the street denouncing him as a murderer.  He is outted, what becomes of him we do not see.  The children have already been recruited by a Fagan-type hustler to go to Istambul where they will pick pockets. 

This is a harsh film, considering the Turkish treatment of the Kurds in their Eastern provinces  was probably a brave story to tell.  As the woman who introduces films emphasized, this is probably all any of the audience will ever see of Kurdish Turkey and we may never know much more about their plight than this movie shows -- that they are grossly discriminated against.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spectator Sport?

 Our family does not watch football.  Several of us do not even have TVs.  Several members of the family had run a fun marathon, including Sophia who managed three whole miles -- it's that kind of family.  So our Thanksgiving dinner was a time of talk and relaxation and some parlor game playing, including the youngest, little 4 year old Sophia, who won the "piggy"game against all the big people. (It's much like dice with two tiny rubber pigs that are tossed; the position in which they land determines the counting of points or erases points-truly a game all ages can play.) 

Keeping my eyes open for insights into trends a senior citizen might miss I was surprised that one of Sophias's teenage brothers was nagging his parents to take him to the mall at midnight.  He had some money he might spend but that wasn't why he wanted to go.  He wanted to watch people in their shopping frenzy -- a new spectator sport.  His brother was not quite so keen on the idea but would have enthusiastically gone along ... except neither is old enough to drive and the parents were definitely not going to take the boys anywhere at midnight.

I do believe this Black Friday sales stupidity is being marketed, in part, as a mass rite.  The ads  promise an adrenaline high if you elbow your way through the crowd and score the flat screen TV for $100 less than the inflated list price.  We could liken it to those occasional mass migrates of lemmings running to throw themselves into the sea. Or I could go off on the tack of accumulation, hoarding, buying for the sake of buying.  That very momentary buzz of getting home with another (----) fill in the blank; it's like the  quick high of a Snickers bar, a Red Bull, and, I suppose, but don't know, a short of cocaine.  The high won't last long and they'll  have to repeat, repeat, repeat -- it's called addiction. Addiction means you have ceded some part of your independence to a physical or psychological compulsion.  Both Sophia's parents, and my older daughter, all work in the mental health field -- they will always have jobs.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

An interlude

After the recent storm and before the storms that winter will bring, today -- Thanksgiving Day -- is a beautiful, peaceful interlude.  The sky is a soft blue with a few little puffy clouds. Most trees are nearly bare but I just passed one that blazed a red I haven't seen on a maple tree in several years. I walked on a quiet beach -- along with dogs and their people and  a couple of joggers -- where tide had recently turned and was receding. The beach, part of a conservation area, is the ecological mini-verse that I watch with interest and a bit of possessiveness. The storms partly resculpted it. Today I found great heaps of seaweed thrown up as if Poseidon were harvesting his hay.  I had a quiet hour and a healthful walk.

My holiday feast will be reasonably quiet. The little boys will be with their father's family, and only little 4 year old Sophie and her teen-age brothers (my son-in-law's family) and their parents will join us. I have a little bit of cooking to do before I go and will help with more cooking once I'm at my daughter's.  But it's all low key.  It's been a low key week; I like it that way.  The next couple of weeks will be very busy.  This quiet interlude comes at just the right time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

From Serious to Silly

 Probably I once ate a Twinkie.  What is this nauseating nostalgia orgy in the media about the Hostess Bakery's bankruptcy and the possibly demise of Twinkies and all their equally disgusting brothers and sisters on the snack shelf?  Why are American's minds being filled with the mysterious "creme" filling of those concoctions while big things are happening int he world: Myanmar is being visited for the first time in history by an American President because heroic Daw Ange San Suu Kei (is that in the wrong order? Is it spelled correctly?) maintained her moral stance throughout decades of house arrest.  The Israelia are bombing  Palestine again, yes, again, again, again. And the Chinese, as I previously noted, seem to be satisfied with an oligarchy as the super rich settle in to talk economics with the super rich in American banking and so on...  Twinkies!  Where do they fit into the news?  They've displaced Kate Middleton and a possible arsen in Indianapolis that destroyed a neighborhood of peaceful middle class families.

The emails multipy, old fashioned fliers stuff post boxes and parking places in malls are filled because of the sales idiocy called Black Friday -- the greed is good fantasies of people who think Christmas is about overwhelming the kids with toys and overwhelming residential streets with lights, Santas, deer, creches and artificial snowmen all bound for the town dump sometime in January.

"Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap/ had just settled down for a long winter's nap/ when out on the lawn there arose such a clatter/ I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter."  It was curious townspeople driving around to see who had wasted the most money in the big box stores to turn their lawns and houses into the another version of Twinkies with HoHos seeming to boom from that fat Santa on the roof. Mass madness takes over the next six weeks, now that most of the pumpkins and other orange colored junk have been carted off. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wen Jiabao

New #1 in China, Wen Jiabao. I am taking a course about the economic "miracle" of Southeast Asia.  Every class, no matter whether the chapter was about Mayalsia or India or Japan or Korea, we have talked about China. 12 or 15 people who are fascinated by how money makes the world go 'round -- and me.  My interest is about the people and the age old Confucian philosophy of China and especially about that portion that is Chinese occupied Tibet.  Now the papers are full of analayses. Wen and his family is called "extraordinarily wealthy."  Most of the 400  in the Politburo and their families are also extraordinarily or very wealthy. The analysts I have read say Wen is a very  "ordinary" bureaucrat".  Soon he and the politics of China will recede in the papers, same old, same old. And Israel, Syria, and, briefly, Myanmar, will take over the front page. (I speak of the NYTimes, not the many other newspapers in the US that devote their front page space to local news rather than world news.

Friday, when I began my writing class with the usual "free writing" minutes, as teacher I drank my coffee and glanced at the editorial section of the NYTimes left behind by the previous class. An op-ed piece by a Chinese-American caught my eye. When the writing minutes were over I asked the class -- 15 or 16 intelligent seniors who read papers and watch television news -- if they knew anything about the 1950s famine in China. No, not really. So I read the first paragraph of that article which pointed out that the greatest famine ever known  in the world was in China 1950-52, thanks to Mao's land reforms. 36 million people died. More than died in WWI. More than died in WWII.  Far more than the Armenians. Approximately 20 million more than in Stalin's private famine in the Ukraine. 36 million poor peasants and townspeople. The Jews will never forget their 6 million nor will the world be allowed to forget them. 

But well educated Americans who lived during that period have no inkling of what happened in China--nor do they have any idea what is happening now.  Our papers talk about economy, money, money, money. They talk about technology and they talk about the scandals we love--be they Generals or TV personalities. We can do nothing at all about the millions upon millions who died in the 20th century, in wars, famines, revolutions, at the hands of madmen like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot.  We have the most pervasive media coverage that ever existed but ignorance reigns, history is forgotten. Only an academic few recall the axiom: Those who do not know history are bound to repeat it.  Never again, say the Jews.  What do the Chinese say, the Cambodians, the Hutus and Tutsis, the Serbs, Ukranians, Armenians .... on and on and on. 

These are my Sunday morning thoughts. I wonder if any ministers, preachers, evangelists in America sermonized about China this morning.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Consummate actor plays consummate actor

A few years ago Christopher Plummer was a great success on Broadway as John Barrymore in an almost-one-man show.  The success was reprised earlier this year in Toronto and, after a short run, filmed, as it appeared on stage -- with some filmic additions.  The film version was shown in selected art cinemas yesterday, including at our own Cape Cinema.  With only the addition of a slight mustache, a double breasted suit with a 1940s cut and a fedora -- and later on the tights and paraphrenalia of Richard II, Plummer became Barrymore supposedly having rented a middle sized legitimate theatre for a final stage appearane, a one-man show in which he would mostly recite the great moments of Richard II.  As playwright Wm. Luce imagined it, this was not strictly a one-man show because an off stage prompter, named Frank, was very much present, both as helper and as goad trying to keep the meandering actor on point.  But, of course, as with such one-man shows, Barrymore renamised about family, wives, past successes and his aging, alcohol addled mind produced silly songs, jokes, poems and bits from other Shakespearean plays. 

Although Luce was not entirely sure handed (he has Frank exasperatedly suggesting Barrymore try AA -- which was not formed until after Barrymore was dead), Plummer was unerringly wonderful.  The emotions ranged from fey to deeply poignant, from witty to truly grand. His smallest gestures, his pauses and vocal subtlties were an example of what a truly great actor can do ... even in his 80s. I have fallen in love with Christopher Plummer over and over again since The Sound of Music and I am in love with him once more ...  and in love with the art that is great acting.

Monday, November 12, 2012

No one cares!

Four self-immolitions on Friday -- Buddhists protesting the continued Chinese destruction  of the culture of Tibet. This year there have been nearly 70 self-immolitions.  American newspapers do not mention them, of the 2 billion Chinese almost none know they are occurring.  Most Chinese think their presence in Tibet is not only historically appropriate but that they are improving the lives of Tibetans.  Tibetans think otherwise and they protest in the only way they can.  These are not people who will, like too many other oppressed people in the world, become suicide bombers.  The only life they will take is their own. 

China is about to swear in new leaders.  All the American press writes about is their economic policies.  Civil rights have long disappeared from out news papers and media coverage. We are deeply in debt to China; they have efficiently muzzled us. 

Many groups are suffering, tyrants continue to murder their own people.  We read eagerly about whether the rich in our country are going to have to pay higher taxes  -- or at least be assessed to pay higher taxes  -- many of us are cynical and think they'll find ways to avoid paying up no matter what laws are changed.  We cannot think beyond our pocket books.  Meanwhile a culture has been nearly destroyed already in  Tibet -- it was a magnificently complex and rich culture. Now the Tibetans who remain are second class citizens in their own country.  Many are in jails, being tortured.  The Dalai Lama is contiually vilified although he has offered compromise again and again. And desperate monks and nuns, who know their monasteries and shrines are not really their own -- they are seen as tourist attractions by the Chinese, the only reason some are allowed to remain, and the ranks of lamas are infiltrated by spies -- desperate people who set themselves on fire, the only way they can speak out.  And no one seems to care.  Their pain is unimaginable. When was the last time you accidentally burned your finger?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A new opera, The Tempest

Today we in the hinterlands had an opportunity to see the simulcast of the new opera of Shakespeare's The Tempest by British composer and conductor, Thomas Ades. This was quite a marathon for me. The opera was three hours long, which was all right.  In the past two months I've read The Tempest in a class and watched the most recent movie of it which starred Helen Miren as as female lead, Prospera.  It also had, as only film can do. It was a very fine film.

The scene above is from the opening of the opera when the calm sea is about to become a raging torrent that capsizes a ship.  This opera was premiered in 2006 in Covent Garden in London and has had 6 or 8 productions in various opera houses -- it is a success.  The Metropolitan Opera production premier was only about three weeks ago.  The setting is different from the previous ones  showing the play taking place inside the La Scala opera house.  Although I understand the reference since Prospero is Duke of Milan this seemed a  director's ego trip and not integral to the story (at all!).  The text was much simplified, some rhymes were too forced such as "loiter/around my daughter."

By and large the opera caught the spirit of Propsero (and we're told, Sbakespeare) as he gives up his wizardry and returns to ordinary life.  The music was never tuneful but always appropriate except  that Ariel's arias were almost all in the highest, squeakiest notes and quite ugly as was her face make up. Prospero strangely had symbols "tatooed" all over his body.  I feel that I now have imbibed as much of The Tempest as I need to.  I know the story, I understand it, I think, and  I have a sense of satisfaction that this important play is now imbedded in my intellect. This is not an opera will expect to see a second time.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Double Whammy

These are patterns in muddy sand left by Hurricane Sandy on the beach I wrote about a couple of posts ago.  We had a breather after Sandy but have just endured a couple of days of howling winds and madly choppy seas thanks to the season's first nor'easter. I suppose most of the limbs that were weak came down in the first storm.  This storm caused some school delays but no closings and only scattered power outages.  But it brought very chilly winds. I will be curious to get out there to the beach when the sky lightens again -- possibly this coming weekend. 

As a quilter I find these wave patterns fascinating. I took several photos. And, as I've also written before, I am fascinated by the man-made rock designs that multiply every summer when many people wander the beach.  These circles are small; there is a much larger circle of rocks nearby where people have chosen to put only white or very light colored rocks in the center of the circle.  I have never seen remnants of a fire in the middle which I find curious because my own impulse would be to sit before a fire in such a place.

I will be curious also if the storm of the past two days has made further changes to this vulnerable portion of the beach.  While it feels very wintery out today, I know the weather can change greatly this time of year.  In a few days it may be much warmer. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Leave peeping - and quilt seeing

No, the leaves weren't this bright. But they were lovely Thursday when I went with the Bayberry guild to see the New England Quilt Show in Manchester, VT.  North of Boston the leaves were not torn from the trees by Hurricane Sandy's winds. There were displays of red and yellow that even this relatively unusual fall hasn't produced -- before the storm -- here on Cape Cod. 

The trip was a work out for my senses.  Besides the leaves the bus was one of the noisiest places I've been in ages.  40+ women all vibrantly glad to get away after three days of storm worry and chattering like a hen house when the fox has just sneaked in. Plus a bus driver who never stopped talking and he had a booming baritone as the bass cleft to all the sopranos. 

The show was pretty -- that was the overwhelming feeling.  Pretty which is both complimentary and derogatory.  Lots of flowers and beautiful colors.  This quilt was decidedly an exception.  Like a blast of a heat gun in the lukewarm room.  I love these complex red squares with the blacks and grays, like charred bits of log in the fireplace.  (I've put a few other exceptional quilts on my other blog.)
I've been a private kind of quilting world critic, watching trends, deploring some of them, enjoying others.  Each part of the country has it's own gestalt in quilting as it everything else. But the omnipresent media, quilt books, quilting blogs and the increasing number of big regional shows, tend to homogenize new trends and people's tastes. So, too much is pretty, too much is over decorated, over quilted.  Not many people make bold statements like this quilter.  I look and mutter to myself; no outlet exists for a quilting trend watcher.  No outlet except, of course, this, my own blog.

Apologies for not getting the quilter's name.  She deserves that attention.