Thursday, December 31, 2015

This glitzy 2016 is appropriate for the day. I truly wish a happy new year for the world and most especially for the people I know and care about. Long ago I was told that people react to their names -- of course that's a very old idea. We know there are name ceremonies in many folk traditions and that in some groups a person has a secret, personal name that is not revealed to others.  I suppose my last name, "calender" has me pondering on New Year's Eve and on birthdays, mine and others.  Ponder I do, and have as long as I remember. I rarely go out to parties or such on New Year's Eve. I assess and mediatate and throw the I  Ching - a very long time habit.

I feel it has been a good year for me; good health, some accomplishment, a sense of being very creative in many ways that is extremely satisfying, a kind of harvest of many years of learning to write and quilt and, laterly, especially write poetry.  If this is the autumn of life, as I tried to say in a quilt I made this fall, it is a colorful and beautiful one.

Not so for the world in general. I have difficulty thinking about all the awful things I read and hear. I find the terrorism, whether the extremism of ISIS or the home grown madness of random shootings, of police shootings of, often, unarmed people, and the bigotted ugliness of the Republican candidates for President, depressing and stupid. Meanwhile the weather around the world, the degradation of our natural resources, including the seas themselves is awful for the human suffering already happening and the increase in suffering it is bringing. 

I have been thinking about "Dover Beach," Matthew Arnold's despairing poem that tends with these  painful lines:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another!  For the world which seems to
To lie before us like a land of dreams
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Has really neither joy, nor love, nor light
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain,
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

That was a hundred years ago; it is still true. I can only agree with his first ten words (and the exclamation point) -- we must be true to those we love, to those we care for in any way. We must live with love and kindness despite the state of the world.  We can do very little, one at a time, to influence the ignorant armies that clash by night. But we can do all we can to make the small world around us a place of refuge and peace. We can resist the hate and bigotry that seems to be infesting so much of the world and of our country.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas time

Some bright quilt blocks are about as Christmasy as it's going to be this year.  I  have a small poinsettia (because Rachel doesn't like them and it was given to her by a co-worker). I never decorate for Christmas  and barely celebrate it so this is my "ho-ho-ho!" 

With the temperature above 60 today, it's a lot like being in Florida for the holiday.  I really like red, I have a lot of red in my living room and I have not been without a red raincoat for half my life, I think. The current one needs replacement but that will only happen if I find another red one.  I actually have an "undercover detective" beige trenchcoat  but it doesn't feel as right as the old red raincoat does.  And talking about it today is not out of place although the sun is now shining. We had something near two inches of rain in the night and more is predicted for this afternoon or evening. The morning newscaster assured his litsteners that Santa Claus would make his rounds. 

The quilt of red squares is the throw that's on the back of my beige sofa and the fancy log cabin quilt was sold at the time I moved from New York City to Cape Cod.  I hope its owners are enjoying it. I enjoyed making it and am proud of it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Magic Flute for the Whole Family (Except Grumpy Gramma)

Mozart's Magic Flute was given a  Las Vegas magic show production at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004 with a stage full of amazing puppetry by Julie Taymor. The photo shows Papageno, the Bird Catcher, who is the comic relief and entirely charming in anybody's production of the opera. I was undecided about going to this simulcast yesterday because I've seen mysterious Magic Flute production, feel I  don't really understand what Mozart was doing with this, his last opera. I know he was expressing his understanding of the Masonic tenets but I'm unclear whether the"war" between the Queen of the Night and Sarastero, a light or sun "god?" is about good and evil or about men triumphing over women.  Those sorts of thoughts and analyses are not pertinent to this production.

Whatever Mozart was saying isn't important because the opera has become a "family" spectacle complete with a new rhymed text that is too close to Mother Goose for Dr. Suess.  The opera has been cut down to under two hours -- fine!  It's a cartoon, a prince and princess have to undergo trials before they can get together and finally the evil queen is "disappeared".  I came away from the theatre thinking that as I grow older I become more and more liberal politically and more and more conservative culturally.  I've seen too many "new" productions of operas and classic dramas tarted up to appeal to today's taste.  I certainly am glad opera now expects the singers to also act (no more "park and bark" static productions!) but a stage full of serpents, birds both flying and dancing en pointe, and various esoteric symbols all thrown together in one witches' cauldron of florescent colors doesn't appeal to me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Beautiful Bolshoi Ballet

The Lady of the Camillias was the ballet that was "simulcast" from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow on Sunday. I have never seen or heard about it although I had heard of John Cranko of the Stuttgart Ballet whose idea it was. But he died before finishing it so it's really the work of John Neumeyer and has mostly been done in Germany. This was the Bolshoi's first production and it was spectacular and marvelous. It's a full-length (very long, in fact) costume ballet that tells both the story of Marguerite (renamed Violetta when Verdi used this story for La Traviata) and Armond. It is paralleled by the story of Manon Lescaut and  Des Grieux, also the subject of an opera.  The music is all Chopin.

Cranko and Neumeyer were very influenced by Stanislavski's acting techniques so that the dancers were cast for appearance and acting ability -- it was superb! -- to the point of being told that every movement must reflect the emotion of the moment. Mostly in ballet technique and dancing comes far ahead of acting, but in this case, they were equally important and equally well done.  Sets, lights, and the many, many costumes were equally expressive. The various Chopin music was exactly right -- some with piano alone and some piano and orchestra.

Seeing this ballet was absolutely fascinating. I felt I was seeing a work of art that went beyond the wonderfulness of ballet -- and ballet is to me always very wonderful. 

For a change the sometimes awkward intermission features (which are done in English, French and Russian) was an important addition helping me understand what I was seeing.  I'm totally delighted that I only have to drive about 15 miles to see something of this sort which I could never see otherwise.