Archive for October, 2011
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged american studies, angel, angel wing, boston college, carlo rotella, gratitude, lowell, Luna & Stella, lunaandstella.com, marathon, pendant, thanks, thanksgiving on October 30, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
I’ve been thinking about angels and how almost anyone might be an angel at any moment in time. An ex-con who rescues a baby from a burning building is an angel to that baby’s family.
When I read this Boston Globe essay by Carlo Rotella (Boston College director of American Studies) I thought that — even though they all mispronounced his name — the people shouting encouragement as he ran a grueling marathon were angels to him that day. Especially a stranger he calls Mustache Man.
“Thank you, Mustache Man of Lowell,” Rotella writes, “and the rest of you no-r-pronouncing Samaritans along the race route. You said my name, badly, when I badly needed to hear it.”
And I’m thinking of a particularly nice thing that happened to me some years ago, after a dark time with chemo. Two completely unconnected friends chose Thanksgiving Day to acknowledge some little favor, which I learned was more than “little” to them. It was such a treat to receive their e-mails, one from China! I felt touched by two angels that Thanksgiving.
P.S. I hope it will not detract too much from the high-minded tone of this post if I do a kindness for Suzanne and point to the angel wing at Luna & Stella, the company that gives me permission to blog on “anything that interests me.”
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged canadian press, caracas, Christopher Toothaker, dickens, dropping into poetry, limerick, marcel marceau, mime, poem, poet, poetry, rhyme, venezuela on October 28, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Who wouldn’t love this story? Remember the mime Marcel Marceau? Now try to picture him directing traffic in a crazy intersection.
According to an article in the Canadian Press, by Christopher Toothaker (really his name), “Caracas, Venezuela, is placing over a hundred mimes on its busy streets to admonish reckless drivers and pedestrians. The mimes, dressed in clown-like outfits and wearing white gloves, may frown and gesticulate the command of ‘stop’ to motorcyclists roaring towards crosswalks or wag their fingers at jaywalking pedestrians. Although some reprimanded motorists have predictably hurled insults, mimes have reported that most people have reacted agreeably. Caracas is following the example set by Bogota, Columbia, which has successfully used mimes in a broader effort to increase commuter civility.”
Let’s bring back the Works Progress Administration and employ people as mimes. I can think of lots of intersections that need them, mostly in Boston. (But learning to be a mime is probably not as easy as it seems.)
With the increase in vehicle crimes
Caracas has turned to some mimes.
They’ve slowed down the speeding,
Which no one was needing,
And inspired these few awkward rhymes.
Your turn. (If you use the French pronunciation, “meem,” that opens a whole other slate of rhyming options.)
P.S. Isn’t there a literary character — probably in Dickens — who keeps “dropping into poetry”?
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged acrobats, arabic, baghdad, circus, cotton candy, dog, Greatest Show on Earth, iraq, Jasim Mohammed Saeed, lady's hair, michael s. schmidt, sword swallower, tiger, trapeze, Zaid Thaker on October 26, 2011 | 1 Comment »
The happy faces say it all. The circus is good for Baghdad.
An article by Michael S. Schmidt and Zaid Thaker in today’s NY Times describes the scene. “There were not any tigers because the animals were stuck in Egypt. There were dogs, however, but they were not [the promised] poodles. And the big snake, well, the snake had become sick and had to be evacuated …
“A circus coming to town may be a routine event in most cities. But in battered Baghdad, even if it was not the Greatest Show on Earth, the arrival of the circus was yet another small step in this city’s efforts at building a more normal life. …
“There is not a commanding ringmaster. What it does have, though, are dancers jumping rope, a woman swinging from a trapeze (without a net, but with a harness), and a grand finale of a man clad in an Iraqi flag plunging swords down his throat. …
“Faisil Falleh, 56, who took his family to the circus on a recent night, said, ‘I haven’t seen anything in my life like this.’ …
“Promoter Jasim Mohammed Saeed said, ‘Nobody is working in this business in Iraq. It is just us.’ ” Read more here.
If you want to go, it’s $12 for adults, $6 for teens, and free for children. The cotton candy — “lady’s hair” in Arabic — is $1.
I like to sing this old blues song to toddlers, “I like the way you walk, I like the way you walk, You my babe, I got my eyes on you.”
I was thinking about that song recently when a relative who’s an orthopedist said my toddler grandson walks just like his mother.
The doctor is a connoisseur of walks, which he says are like signatures. I believe him. I often recognize people from afar by their walk. And in detective stories, any perp who wants to do a thorough job of disguising himself puts a pebble in a shoe to throw off his walk.
When I read an article in the Boston Globe indicating that most of us walk all wrong, I thought, “Is it a good idea to change your signature?” Look what happened when left-handed children were forced to become right-handed.
Actors can learn to speak in a new way for a role. Newsmen can get rid of their accents. But if something is a deep part of who you are, can you change it, even to save your joints?
Here is the article that caught my eye.
“[Cara] Lewis studies the way people walk and believes that if they can learn how to move properly, taking the stress off their hips, they may avoid the injuries and joint deterioration that often lead to a hip replacement down the road. …
“ ‘They may not be pushing with their foot as much as they should be,’ Lewis said, ‘or they may be taking too long of a step, so their leg ends up far behind them.’ …
“The plastic and metal robotic device she designed, which is strapped around the pelvis and thighs, weighs about 11 pounds and is powered by an air compressor attached to each thigh — think bicycle pump — that is turned on by the researcher at the precise point when a person walking on a treadmill needs some correction. For instance, the compressor can exert pressure on the front of the thigh to shorten a stride.”
Just thinking about it makes me want to lie down.
“In a tiny South African cave,” writes Amina Khan in the Los Angeles Times, “archaeologists have unearthed a 100,000-year-old art studio that contains tools for mixing powder from red and yellow rocks with animal fat and marrow to make vibrant paints as well as abalone shells full of dried-out red pigment, the oldest paint containers ever found. (Photo by Magnus Haaland / October 5, 2011)
“The discovery, described in [the 10/14/11] edition of the journal Science, suggests that humans may have been thinking symbolically — more like modern-day humans think — much earlier than previously recognized, experts said. Symbolic thinking could have been a key evolutionary step in the development of other quintessentially human abilities, such as language, art and complex ritual.
“The artifacts were uncovered at a well-studied site called the Blombos Cave, which sits by the edge of the Indian Ocean about 180 miles east of Cape Town. The two shells, lying about 6 inches from each other, had a red residue from a soft, grindable stone known as ochre. Ochre is rich in iron compounds that usually give it red or yellow hues, and it is known to have been used in ancient paints.”
It is lovely to think that the longing to be creative is something innate. Now we know that at least 100,000 years ago, people were experiencing that urge and acting on it.
Everyone had a camera out, and most occupiers were taking advantage of being on display by holding up signs for their causes or handing out flyers. Souvenir buttons were on sale. A brass band whooped it up. Both occupiers and visitors danced.
I got to thinking about the documentary I saw in September on how to start a revolution. The movie was about the work of 80-something Gene Sharp, an influential exponent nonviolent ways to overthrow despotic regimes. (See my blog entry here.) After the screening, I listened to Sharp as he answered audience questions. One thing he said was that he believed the uprising in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 failed because the organizers were winging it and didn’t have an adequate plan for next steps.
Today’s Occupiers also seem to be winging it. But they are not aiming to overthrow the government, and I’m not sure it matters that a central theme has yet to stand out. I’m willing to wait and see what emerges. In the meantime, here are pictures from Saturday.
Well, not always quiet in the middle of the night when, on more than one occasion, I’ve woken up wondering, “Should I be calling 911?” Fortunately, last night’s commotion didn’t seem like a true 911 issue. Her: ”Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” Him: “But I love you!”
Margareta and Jimmy, mostly recovered from the jetlag caused by a long flight from Sweden on Wednesday, spent Friday afternoon wandering around Chelsea art galleries.
They got a kick out of taking the bus back north, watching as the mostly white clientele became the mostly black clientele, observing the people interactions, and trying to understand the rapid English conversations. (Of course, like most Swedes, they are great at English, and a whole bunch of other languages.)
Margareta was fascinated by one episode that took place as the bus approached Harlem. A boy of about 10 tried to sneak on behind his friend. It seemed that he did not have the bus pass that is routine for New York school children. Margareta was impressed that the driver was not too stern and just told him to have the pass next time. Meanwhile a woman on the bus, possibly from his school, told the boy not to worry, that the school would help him get a new pass.
A day in the life.
A couple years ago, buried under unwanted catalogs with every mail delivery, I decided to join Catalog Choice. It’s easy to use (if intitially time consuming).And I think I have really stemmed the flow.
Catalog Choice saves your address and all the different ways that companies spell the names of people in your household, and each time you go to the website, you just report the name of the new catalog you have received. They already have most of them in their database.
You may also check a box from a list of possible reasons that you no longer want the catalog (help the environment? don’t like those products?). And if you want to get fancy, you can say that you would be willing to receive the catalog once a year or twice.
At first I couldn’t bring myself to cut LL Bean or Gardeners Greenhouse, but eventually I realized that as long as I’m on some lists, those lists might get shared. And I can always look online for what I want from favorite companies.
Catalog Choice notifies vendors of your wishes or (in some cases) provides a template for you to use if they have ascertained that the vendor insists on being notified a special way. Every year, the program works out more of the kinks, so keep it in mind and have less to recycle at the holidays.
Taking my walk in Chinatown this morning,
I got up close to read the sign, which said the South Cove Community Health Center Tobacco Control Project that had created the mural in 1998. The Boston Youth Fund site adds more: “This mural was commissioned by the South Cove Health Center as part of their antismoking campaign. It was funded in part by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The mural depicts the path to a healthy lifestyle from cigarette addiction.”
Your eyes are drawn to the Buddha-like figure in the center and the yin/yang symbol, but if you look more closely, there are giant cigarettes throughout the scene. This photographer got sharper pictures.
Much as I love projects like this, I do wonder if they meet their intended goals. Did more people quit smoking? How about the people who created the mural? Was the goal to have youth working on something constructive? Did they continue to be constructive in their lives?
I remember when the storekeepers in my hometown were worried about getting their windows soaped on Mischief Night. They decided to partner with the school to have young people create nice window paintings for them at Halloween. I was one of those kids. Did that prevent store windows from getting soaped? Little Miss Goody Two Shoes would no more have done mischief on Mischief Night than have flown to the moon. The initiative may not have hit the intended target.
The online magazine Salon has a story this month about New Guinea tribe members taking up Facebook.
Anthropologist and filmmaker Jonnie Hughes writes, “Ping! The other day, I got a Facebook friend request in my in box. … Intrigued, I opened it up, to find that this was no ordinary future friend (from the past) – it was a man I’d met while making a film about a tribe from the Sepik Valley in Papua New Guinea. It was a man who was born and raised in a remote hunter-gatherer society, where, to this day, the women spend their time searching out wild sago palms in the swamps to pulp into flour for pancakes, and the men hunt monstrous saltwater crocodiles in tea-colored jungle rivers at night with nothing more than spears. My new Facebook friend no longer joins these hunts – he’s an elder and has managed to find some income in the embryonic Sepik tourist industry …
“I’ve long since ceased to view the cultures of the Sepik tribes with the romantic and naive preconceptions that we in the West routinely assign to hunter-gatherer societies. I know, from having lived with these people in their magnificent A-frame stilt houses, that Sepik tribes are as modern a group of people as any of us – people who, like you and me, must constantly interrogate and adapt the culture they have inherited so that it best suits the changing world about them. But even I was astonished to discover that a community that only recently learned that arrows could fly better if they had feathers on their shafts was now into Facebook.” Read more here.
This lead came from ArtsJournal.com.
ArtsJournal.com sent me to this article describing a ballerina posed on the Wall Street bull. The article suggests that one of the many tipping points that led to the Occupy movement was this image of a dancer. I like to think that the arts can spark a movement, although I think the Arab Spring played a bigger role in this case.
“When Vancouver-based Adbusters presented the idea to the world, it did so in the form of a poster that featured a dancer posed on the shoulders of the Wall Street bull statue, a foggy clamour of demonstrators behind her. The poster asked the question, ‘What is our one demand?’ Activist groups seized on it, as did the hacktivist group Anonymous, and a collective began to form. …
“To hear tell from [Vancouver-based] Adbusters founder and editor Kalle Lasn now, the question of that one demand still needs to be answered concisely and directly. But as the movement overspills Wall Street, he describes it as the most successful in the 22 years he and his magazine have been advocating ‘culture jamming.’ ” Read more. The Kalle Lasn interview is at Seattle’s Crosscuts.com (“news of the the great nearby,” whatever that means).
As intrigued as I am that a ballerina poster could have been a tipping point for a movement, I think the question, “What is our one demand?” is even more intriguing. I would like to spin off from that and ask, “What is the one thing you want (in general, not public policies necessarily)?” Could you name the one thing? I think this is different from making a wish and blowing out candles. But maybe not. I will give it some thought myself.
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged allison voth, boston, boston univeristy, fringe, fringe festival, gene scheer, jake heggie, opera, school of music opera institute, school of theatre, set design, steve mcgonagle, terrence mcnally, three decembers, tomer zvulun on October 17, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Steve McGonagle is a set designer whose community-theater work always amazed me back when I was a reviewer. One set that stands out in my mind was his huge train engine charging toward the audience in the Vokes Players performance of On the Twentieth Century (not to mention all the scene changes for that old-time musical).
Recently, Steve returned to school, to Boston University, to get his PhD, and he mentioned to me that he and other students were working on a BU Fringe Festival entry. (I blogged a bit about the original, 50-year-old Edinburgh Fringe Festival here.)
On Sunday my husband and I went to see the 90-minute opera in the black box space upstairs from the Huntington Theater. It was wonderful in every way, not least because Steve designed and built a beautifully plausible Golden Gate Bridge with only a $200 budget.
The new Jake Heggie opera, Three Decembers, was based on a Terrence McNally play. The story revolves around a self-centered and overbearing stage diva. Her grown children find her maddening and hurtful but still important to them. The acting was subtle and true to life in a way that opera seldom is, for me anyway. And we were amazed at the clarity of the words sung by the cast from BU’s School of Music Opera Institute. (We got the “blond cast” and understood that there was also a “brunette cast” to give more students opportunities.)
We admired the variety of styles and moods in Heggie’s score, some of it wonderfully lyrical. Three Decembers had a libretto by Gene Scheer and was directed by Tomer Zulun. Allison Voth was music director. More here.