Heartland III: Not My Mama’s Shakespeare

It’s astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
So listen closely
Not for very much longer
I’m going to lose control

Quick–what’s the next line?

Stratford Festival Theater
Shakespearean Festival Theater in Stratford Ontario, originally built in 1953. Photo by kajmeister.

Forty-two years ago, I saw the legendary Canadian actor Brian Bedford play three roles at the Stratford Canadian Shakespearean festival in repertory: Angelo in Measure for Measure, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and Richard III. The breadth of his performances changed my idea of what actors could do.

Forty years ago, as a freshman in college at Berkeley, I watched a science-fiction movie about a transvestite where people shouted at the screen and threw toast and rice. It changed my idea about how a movie can connect with an audience.

Who would have thought that, getting old, we would wax nostalgic about doing the time warp?

Stratford Festival program, Rocky Horror
Stratford Festival’s Rocky Horror, starring Dan Chameroy. Program photo by Stratford staff, uncredited.

Gimme That Ol’ Time Theater

Continue reading “Heartland III: Not My Mama’s Shakespeare”

Last Night I Dreamed of Algebra and the Taliban

The subconsciousness is a strange device. It’s our human CPU, running subroutines in the background. When we shut down for the night, it keeps running, energetically trying to solve all the world’s problems.  How the universe was formed. Whether there is life on other planets. What x equals. Why cruelty exists.

American Conservatory Theater production
From SF American Conservatory Theater production of Khalid Hosseini’s book, photo from Playbook.

A Thousand Suns… Some Not So Splendid

Last Thursday, I sat mesmerized during San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater production of A Thousand Splendid Suns. This play, based on the best-selling novel by Khalid Hosseini, is the story of women enduring the Afghanistan Civil Wars and the rise of the Taliban in the late 1990s. I choose the word enduring carefully because it is the core verb that women in the play use to express what must be done. Afghanistan under the severity of the Taliban interpretation of Sharia Law was as perilous a place for women as any; endure is what they must.

Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam….There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don’t teach it in school . . . Only one skill. And it’s this: tahamul. Endure . . . It’s our lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have.
–Nana in A Thousand Splendid Suns

I don’t know if Hosseini read his Faulkner.

DILSEY.
They endured.
–Last line of The Sound and the Fury

Continue reading “Last Night I Dreamed of Algebra and the Taliban”

Basketball as Epic

Golden State Warriors artwork battling NBA
NBA Battle from 2018 exhibit Dubz Against the World, drawn by Pzhouart.

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
The Odyssey, opening, Fagles translation

The Trojan war lasted nine years, not counting pre-war skirmishes, trade negotiations at Grecian Menelaus’ palace, or the kidnap of Menelaus’ wife Helen by the Trojan prince Paris. The Trojans and the Greeks had a long history. Epic hero Odysseus wandered among the magic isles of the Mediterranean for ten years. Still older Sumerian tales of Gilgamesh spanned decades while the Indian classic epic Mahabharata lasted for generations. So it may seem impudent to talk of a four-year basketball rivalry in the same terms. Yet many parallels lie between sporting events today and the stories of old, and a contest that now covers an unprecedented four meetings could be described in the language of the epic. Continue reading “Basketball as Epic”

The Hypnotic, Horrific Jolliness of Mr. Trololo

The screen begins to undulate in a moire pattern of yellow, green, and orange. Purple drips start to appear, and just as your eyes start to scream No more!, jaunty waves of violins, punctuated with trumpets and cymbal crashes, chime in to assault your ears. Words appear. In Russian. The screen dissolves to a man wandering behind a curved iron gate in front of a honey-colored wall … crooning. What is he singing? Why is he so cheerful? Is that his real hair? And why is he singing like that?

20180110 trololo screen
YouTube Mr. Trololo, with English Subtitles

So many questions come to mind. You are transfixed with emotions you cannot name. Horror. Fascination. Amusement — no, Giddiness. Glee! Make it Stop! Never Stop! Continue reading “The Hypnotic, Horrific Jolliness of Mr. Trololo”

Yes, But is it ART…Art…art…or art?

Yeah man, Interpreting is Generative
–Forsaken Artform comic

20170830 Interpreting

Generative—gen·er·a·tive (adjective)
adjective: generative
relating to or capable of production or reproduction.  “the generative power of the life force”

On the drive back from Oregon last week, we spent quality time discussing a topic that could fill many a long and winding road:  What defines art?

Mind you, this is a topic with which I am greatly enamored. I could easily fill 10,000 words without blinking. My traveling companion and I debated for over an hour between Arbuckle and Benicia; even writing an outline for today’s entry took 800 words. So, I will try to focus mainly on one output of the discussion – a taxonomy of art.

It’s ART/Art/art whether You Like it or Not
Two ground rules are, however, necessary. First, let’s not confuse whether something is art (in a moment, I will redefine that term, but hold that thought) with what we like. Walt Disney is credited with saying, “I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it.”  The converse is true. Whether you like it or not does not make it art. What defines art and its value to you or anyone else are two different things.

It’s valid to dislike things that are art, even when you are knowledgeable on why that thing is art. I like Jackson Pollock but dislike Mark Rothko, even though both were abstract expressionist painters with some of the same goals in mind. Leonard Bernstein once said there is good and bad Beethoven and good and bad Tina Turner. Some good Tina Turner can be better than bad Beethoven. Continue reading “Yes, But is it ART…Art…art…or art?”