Wednesday, February 24, 2010
This doesn't answer my second question though. Why? They are not compelled to fight ... no conscription like the Vietnam War. Do they possess a real conviction of belief in American foreign policy; do they simply love the discipline of an ordered and ultra-physically challenging training regime, or do they just want A JOB ... ANY JOB!
I find myself thinking of Tony Blair, who I believe was at least the youngest British Prime Minister, and even at that he was around 45 years old, which isn't old, but is still at least twice the age of these young soldiers. Bernard-Henri Levy (French philosopher) believes Mr Blair to be one of the greatest European statesman of this era, even though he didn't agree with his illegal war in Iraq.
Most leaders, decision-making statesmen, flung worldwide, are over 45, veering towards their 70's, 80's and 90's in some cases. In other words, 'An Old Man's Club' with a sub-committee of 'Aging Warmongers'. These guys toss a coin or throw the dice for the game of war to start, and young men and fewer women find themselves in the killing fields, tackling, fouling, being off-side, defending, attacking... risking their lives in a war that has nothing whatsoever to do with them. Many do not even vote! Some have become so disillusioned, they don't bother to exercise their plebescite. In some jurisdictions, others are not of an age to vote, yet are considered old enough to die for their country by the so-called wise (wizened!) elders of society. The sheer hypocrisy and madness of it all!
Sometimes, I think some men ( not being sexist here ... just my honest opinion) are born strategists and quite possibly in the detachment of themselves for the 'cause', they forget that the blood of human life is coursing through the veins of their soldiers. These are not the lead soldiers of their childhood, painted and lovingly set up on a board in the library or dining room table, reliving the battles of Waterloo, Crimea, Trafalgar, and more recently World War I & II, Gulf Wars ... etc.
Sitting in Stansted railway station, I am concerned about the bodies and minds of the morning's youth.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Back to today's news conference, that seemed on the surface to be an extremely cynical attempt to get back on side with Gillette, Nike and all the other various companies that have poured millions into Mr. Woods' bank accounts. I squirmed watching the small part of it, that I could bear to watch. It was just so dreadful... so choreographed... so pathetic! And at the end of it... the hug from his mammy! Of course he might want to apologise to his wife and children and receive a hug from his mother, but was it really necessary to broadcast it to the world. Postmen, bricklayers, professional golfers, doctors, scrap metal merchants, housewives, judges, rock stars, cleaning ladies, actors, our neighbours etc...etc...etc. are being unfaithful at this very moment all over the planet. C'est la vie! Get over it!
I still don't understand what one's personal sexual life has to do with one's professional life. I remember the uproar that surrounded Bill Clinton's sexual encounter of an oral nature with Monica Lewinsky. Would having a 'blow job' from someone other than his wife, somehow detract from his performance in foreign affairs or domestic economic policies? In a way, I felt sorry for Mr. Woods today and quite possibly, he should have been discouraged by his advisors against this public display of American sugar, and kept if for the autobiography that is bound to follow.
Sadly, they say we get the kind of government we deserve, and now it would appear we get the kind of news we deserve! Mr Woods did not bear any resemblance to a tiger today, he looked more like a rather timid ... rather ordinary pussy!
Friday, February 12, 2010
Well for someone who was questioning the whole idea of blogging, I'm not doing too badly this week with what... 3rd or 4th blog of the week.
It's that time of year again! Roses will be 'man-handled' into blacksacks or carried, nonchalantly, under the arm. Sneaked into carboots as if they pose a threat to the nation's safety. I speak from personal experience as a florist and owner of 'The House of Merlin' up until two years ago. From a floristry point of view, this was my busiest time of the year. It was extremely rare to see a man walk out of the shop with a bouquet for his beloved without some degree of embarrassment or self-consciousness. While I am amused, I really don't get it...flowers are beautiful! I have mixed cement and laid bricks and blocks, dug out channels for central heating pipes, varnished floors etc. etc. and relished every second of going to the hardware shops to collect tools, tiles, gadgets, scouring architectural salvage yards for whatever.
Some (mostly men) say Valentine's day has become too consumerist, too materialistic etc.etc. and maybe it has all been taken a little too far, not unlike the Christmas hype, but it cannot be a bad thing to make an extra effort to acknowledge the feelings we have for that special someone in our lives. Yes, of course, we should be doing that every day of the year, but come on we are all dealing with the'stuff' of life, and guilty of being just a wee bit self-absorbed at times. That said, a fortune does not have to be spent saying 'I love you'. A cup of tea in bed, a certain look or smile, a picnic or bike ride... whatever turns you on! Nor should it be all about the boys doing for the girls.
Apparently, the feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine on a list of martyrs of whom very little was known. The first representative of
Saint Valentine appeared in the Nuremberg Chronicle, (1493). The text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. Legend has it that Valentine was a doctor and gastronomist, who made his medicines more palatable by mixing them with herbs, spices, honey and wine. He was asked to treat the blind daughter of one of the Emperor's guards. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians was considered to be a heinous crime at this time. However Claudius took quite a liking to him, that is , until Valentine tried to convert the Emperor, himself. The priest was condemned to death and was beaten with clubs and stoned. They finished him off by beheading him outside the Flaminian Gate in 269, 270 or 273 AD. It is thought that the doctor, priest and martyr fell in love with the young blind girl and his final act was to send a note to the girl, signed 'from you Valentine.' Apparently her sight was restored as she read his last words.
Some historians believe that the holiday derives from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on 15th February. This was a fertility celebration of the Roman god Faunus, the god of flocks and fertility. It was to ensure fertility and easy births for the women of the community.
Given the apparent connection between St. Valentine and food, cooking a meal for your loved one, or indeed, cooking together might just be the ticket, that's provided you don't end up killing each other in the process. Perhaps some of the following foods might be included on the menu because of their supposed aphrodisiac qualities.
Asparagas was a 19th C favourite. 3 courses were served to bridegrooms! Apart from the obvious phallic shape of the banana, they do contain the enzyme bromelain, which is said to enhance male performance. Caviar is high in Zinc, which stimulates the formation of testosterone, which maintains male functionality. Champagne is pretty good! Lowers inhibitions, but drunk by the bottle has a sedative effect, which would not be conducive to romantic tryst. Chocolate (my favourite... one for the girls) sets off happy chemicals in the brain and stimulates a desire for physical contact. It was banned from monasteries in years past. Figs (divine with cheese) were celebrated by ancient Greeks in a frenzied copulation ritual and radish was considered a divine aphrodisiac by the Egyptian pharaohs. Of course, the best known aphrodisiac of them all is oysters (yuck!). Some oysters repeatedly change their sex from male to female, giving rise to claims that the oyster lets one experience the masculine and feminine sides of love. (That's one experience I will most definitely have to skip!)
Some love quotes:
When love is not madness, it is not love. Pedro Calderon de la Barca
You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love, the running across fields into your lover's arms can only come later when you're sure they won't laugh if you trip.
Jonathon Carroll, 'Outside the Dog Museum'
We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatile with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
Henry Van Dyke
We don't believe in rheumatism and true love until after the first attack.
Marie Ebner Von Eschenbach, Aphorism
The eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.
Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law.
Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy
Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.
Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.
For twas not into my ear you whispered
But into my heart
Twas not my lips you kissed
But my soul.
As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.
A big, big 'Thank you' to Paddy, a farrier from Bansha, for fishing me 'facedown' out of the mud yesterday and then wiping my hands on his fleece. The age of chivalry is not dead! He pulled my leg for almost an hour, calling me 'Mrs' and 'veteran', and I watched with admiration as he worked miracles on Mel's hooves. What great fun and banter we had! I was reminded again, of just how much I love living in Ireland. Hope you and Margaret share a lovely Valentine and Wedding Annniversary dinner tomorrow night, Paddy! You are still a romantic, whatever you might think!
Wishing friends a day filled with sunshine, love and laughter... whatever you find yourself doing!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
For the life of me, I can't understand why no-one has come up with a solution for a problem that most of us have to deal with, and some of us more than others! Lost keys! I nearly went demented yesterday, because I lost keys to a car that was only on loan to me, while my car was being repaired. I was leaving the house to go into my drama classes for 4. No keys! No neighbours in sight to cadge a lift, had to wait half an hour for taxi. Driver, a very nice man, but 20 mph...come on! I arrived, finally at the hall 4.45pm in an awful state, aware that parents would not be best pleased. Not only that, I had to be in Clonmel for 9pm for a production meeting. Thought about my daughter's boyfriend and thankfully, he lent me his car and I promised him faithfully that I would not let his keys out of my sight. I was sifting through ashes at 1am this morning, I just couldn't rest. It was a 'Hard Day's Night!' Rang the Volkswagen dealers at 9am this morning to order another key, in the hope that I wouldn't have to involve the garage dealer that had kindly lent me the car in the first place. Anyway there was all this paraphenalia about log book, verifications of all sorts and it was going to cost 180 euros and would take 5 days. I had no choice but to ring the dealer. Although he is a friend for years, I still felt like a real chump, but bless him he was very sweet, and said to leave it another day and suggested that one of my dogs might have snapped them up and left them somewhere. Anyway they turned up almost 24hrs later by my music shelf that I had visited just before attempting to leave yesterday. Quell' idiote!
How about we ring a specific number allocated to our keys on our mobile phone, that would somehow trigger (and I'm not the technician here!) a musical response. Keys would then be located, particularly if mislaid around the house or workspace. Easy-peasy! Come on some nerdy, beautiful person! Invent a musical key that would banish one of the bains of existence... please!
Anyway, in real terms it was only a small thing, but I was concerned about the youngsters waiting outside a hall... cold! Today and calmer I remembered words of Mother Teresa that helped to bring things into perspective:
We can do no great things,
Only small things
Monday, February 8, 2010
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
From another perspective, and arguing with myself, which I do regularly, I wonder how far we should take this whole making amateur as 'professional' as possible. As a performer and director, I am passionate about getting 'it' right, but on the other hand, how do we handle the sense of community that is supposed to be at the heart of every amateur musical or dramatic society throughout this ultra-talented country, in which I have the good fortune to live. I'm not too sure what goes on the world of amateur drama, but I believe there are festivals and awards just as there are in the world of amateur musical theatre, under the umbrella of AIMS (Association of Irish Musical Societies). AIMS is divided up into two leagues, 'Gilbert' and 'Sullivan' rather like the 'Premier' and 'First' Divisions in English soccer. There are adjudicators for both leagues, who travel the length and breadth of 32 county Ireland to see approximately 80 shows between them. They assess each show and at the end of the season, there is an awards weekend, where, not unlike the oscar ceremony, nominees learn of their victory or disappointment in the various categories, which travel from best female singer, actress, actor, best visuals, through to best overall show etc. Michael O'Donoghue, a very close friend of mine, is one of those adjudicators and assessed my production of 'HMS Pinafore' in Clonmel before Christmas. That felt weird, but he was very sweet, and gave only constructive criticism.
In that melting pot of 80 shows, there are some companies, who may have spent anywhere up to 120,000 euros on their production competing for awards and accolades with other societies, who spent as little as 17,000 euros and under. How does one compare like with like? Some societies audition members for the chorus. How do you turn away the neighbourhood postman or teacher that takes care of your children's learning? In other words, where do you draw the line? There is a whole debate to be had about this whole question. Naturally any director wants his/her show or play to be a smash hit, but I cannot help wondering whether this quest to be 'professional' may have a negative effect on the soul of community theatre. I think Dublin musical societies changed the whole face of 'amateur'. There was a set of performers, directors, musical directors, who were nigh on professional, taking all the leading roles and production roles. You would see the same names appearing with Tallaght, Bray, Rathmines and Rathgar etc...etc. Naturally there was more money available for sponsorship in the 'big smoke', but rural musical societies wanted to be as good as those shows staged in the capital, and a need to bridge the urban/rural divide was born. The pressure was on to become ever more 'professional' no matter what the cost.
I find myself torn. On the one hand, as a director, I want everything to run like clockwork, but as a spectator, I find myself strangely attracted to 'imperfection' and simplicity. I'm a real basketcase honestly, constantly talking to myself, re-thinking and changing my ideas. Apart from one or two exceptions, most of the matter in my head, like the clouds and the mountains (that don't move , but look like they do depending on the light!) from my kitchen window... is transforming continually. It annoys me to death, but alas and alack, I am wholly powerless! Yes its wonderful to listen to a singer who has fluidity and musicality in their voice, but if it doesn't have that rawness of honesty and emotion, I get bored and switch off. Take Maria Callas for example, one could argue that her voice was not the most 'beautiful' voice in the world, but her 'Tosca' remains unrivalled, because she wasn't afraid to expose her vulnerability... her soul! Someone like Mariah Carey, who is adored by millions, I know, sounds like a musical gymnast to me. There is no doubt that she has a phenomenal range, but I don't want to hear 3 octaves every time she opens her mouth! Harsh maybe, but its all just a little too ornate and complicated without any real substance for my taste. While I enjoy the embellishment of acciacaturas used by Mozart and Rossini for dramatic effect, things that are overdone lose their magic!
Back to your average amateur musical society, I love the 'triers', the ones who give their absolute everything. So their top 'c' is ropey, but their soul and their ability to take direction and 'work', is much more attractive to 'be' around, than someone who takes their gifts for granted, is lazy and wooden. In some ways, I would like to go back to the days when things were perhaps not quite so sophisticated, where performers or those who didn't fancy themselves under the bright lights made the sets, dyed and stitched costumes etc... etc., but now that the bar has been raised, outsiders are more likely to be commissioned to carry out an extremely important part of amateur community theatre.
Thankfully,I am going to see two plays in the Granary Theatre in Cork this coming week. 'In Room 116' is directed by my friend, Mairead ODonoghue. The other play, which is part of the 'Spiral Season', will be performed on a bare stage without technical gadgets of any kind. This company want to go back to Grotowshki's idea, that the spoken word should be centre stage. Naturally a musical requires an entirely different approach than a play. How many times, do you see someone bursting into song in the middle of ER or Coldplay. The only two TV drama series that I can remember the characters bursting into song, were 'Pennies from Heaven' starring Bob Hoskins and 'The Singing Detective' starring wonderful Michael Gambon. Likewise, in opera, the aria offers an insight into the inner workings of the hero/heroine's mind, rather like the solliloquys of Shakespeare.
Although, I love the musical as a medium, and I am heading into auditioning this weekend for my up and coming production of 'Oklahoma' in Clonmel, which promises a genuine romance between Laurey and Curly and an extremely 'believeable' villain in the guise of Jud Fry, I am really looking forward to just listening to the 'spoken word' and watching how it is delivered, without the distractions of music and heavy-duty technology... keeping it simple ... for a change!
After all my to-ing and fro-ing (yawn!), Tipperary Musical Society produced an amateur show that was as 'professional' and as slick as any professional show I have seen. Of course, the story is gorgeously romantic and perhaps at this rather cosmetic juncture of our supposedly civilized world, we should remind ourselves that there is a 'beauty' and indeed a 'beast' alive and kicking in all of us.
Congratulations Tipperary! X
ps. Reading an amazing essay written by Thomas Love Peacock, The Four Ages of Poetry. For the next blog! Have been thinking about the whole business of blogging too. To blog or not to blog!