“Rotten Governments Destroy More Than A Hurricane,” Or, An 82Things Extended Link Roundup For August 1-9, 2014

"Playing Card with a Knave"--the Met's Artwork O' the Day for Aug 9, 2014. Link below.

Playing Card with a Knave“–the Met’s Artwork O’ the Day for Aug 9, 2014.

This-82Things-is a new blog format I’m trying out, inspired by the way in which HTMLGiant deals with the pervasive “listicle” format. Their list-articles seem to me to have more to do with “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” than with BuzzFeed.

I was particularly inspired by John Rufo’s list-review, Sortes Poundianae“. It seemed to me that the list format also referred interestingly to the way the Cantos, themselves, do not hold together. The way it is so difficult to make over-arching claims about Pound’s life. The way that Pound’s “do-I-contradict-myself”-ness contradicts himself so consistently.

So–this is my attempt at a listicle/round-up of my own, 82 items long, not related by theme or argument, only by a nine-day timespan. Rather than (or as well as) posting things when I read them, to Facebook or elsewhere, I am accumulating them here, with some commentary.

The title quote of this post is one of the lyrics from composer Huang Ruo’s new opera “Dr. Sun Yat-Sen.” (This is a translation: the original is in Mandarin.) It’s a chorus of people singing about “the state of the country under the Qing dynasty,” (see article here) but I found the line relevant to so many things we’ve all been thinking about in the news recently recently…Israel, Palestine, Gaza…Hungary…Ukraine, Russia, Poland…

August 1, 2014

1) R.L. Stevenson, “Death, To the Dead For Evermore”:

“The all-pondering, all-contriving head,
Weary with all things, wearies of the years;
And our sad spirits turn towards the dead…”

I do like “the all-pondering, all-contriving.” Unfortunately, the first two stanzas that get you there are pretty general and negligible; only the third has gas in the tank. I keep running into poems like this, older poems, where there’s an elaborate heap of setup for the only worthwhile part. I am probably too dismissive of them; I remember a teacher telling me once, in response to my saying that “The Raven” was too long, that this was a form of entertainment, like a television episode, and that people didn’t *want* poetry to be shorter. They wanted it to last awhile. But now, I suppose, we expect PASSIONATE INTENSITY from every line-crevice.

2) “Gallivanting around the cosmos is a game for the young.”
– James T. Kirk, The Wrath of Khan

Is it possible that I have never watched The Wrath of Khan before August 1, 2014? Despite being an avowed Trekker? [Ed: And despite it being released in the year I was born??]
It would seem so.
It seems utterly new to me.

August 2, 2014

3) Reading about Israel, about Gaza, about Gaza and Izrael, about Israel and Gaza. I remember when we thought Bill Clinton was close to something. To “brokering” (verbs, verbs) some kind of peace that would last. That was over a decade ago.

I remember when I first assistant directed Aaron Davidman’s production of GOLDA’S BALCONY, the one-woman show about Golda Meir, in the Bay Area, which taught me more about Israeli history than I had known until that point. That was over eight years ago.

I remember, seven years ago, reading Aaron’s script of his one-man show WRESTLING JERUSALEM (about visiting Palestine and Israel over a period of years, and coming to terms with the injustices and inequities there; still one of the best pieces of writing I know on the topic) ; I remember seeing readings of WJ in both the Bay and DC; I remember assigning his script to my literature students in Poland just last semester, and trying to talk to them about Israel, and the efforts of American Jews to understand, to come to terms with, to support without taking sides, to support and still be permitted to question.

I remember being disturbed, last semester, by how very up-to-date and topical Aaron’s script still seems. As if nothing had changed.

This has been going on for a very long time.

Israeli Arab writer Sayed Kashua has left Israel for Chicago. His July 20th essay on the subject in The Guardian: on his efforts to write about the Palestinians in Hebrew and hope that his writing would change Israeli perceptions of them.

“I wanted to tell the Israelis a story, the Palestinian story. Surely when they read it they will understand, when they read it they will change, all I have to do is write and the Occupation will end. I just have to be a good writer and I will free my people from the ghettos they live in, tell good stories in Hebrew and I will be safe, another book, another movie, another newspaper column and another script for television and my children will have a better future. Thanks to my stories one day we will turn into equal citizens, almost like the Jews.

Twenty-five years of writing in Hebrew, and nothing has changed. Twenty-five years clutching at the hope, believing it is not possible that people can be so blind.”

And commentary, on his having left, in Tablet:

“In his Guardian essay, Kashua goes on to explain that he can no longer abide a second-class status whose immutability has become crystalline with the current Gaza incursion. The odious chants of “Death to the Arabs” in the streets have irreparably broken him. Those chants and the sentiments behind them should make us all ashamed. So, what was to be Kashua’s imminent departure for a year’s sabbatical in Chicago with his family will now become a permanent move. His writing, he realizes, will change nothing in Israel. The hate that exists will not give way in spite of his best efforts.

He believes now that his idealism, that his belief he could help broker peace (or at least co-existence) through art, has been for naught. We will all be far poorer for his absence.”

I hope Kashua and his family have a safe journey to Chicago, and he finds a way to write, from exile, there. I understand and respect his choice to leave, but I hope his commentary–and his fiction–on this topic will continue. We still need him, more than ever, to keep writing.

Recently, I have been involved in quite a few discussions about if I pray, and if so, what for and whom to, and so on. Well, I don’t pray in the way that some people mean it. Jewish prayer is different, and my version of Jewish prayer is doubt-based and personal, and has very little to do with a “God,” in whom I do not “believe” in the way most people refer to belief, and more to do with trying to figure out my thoughts. But inasmuch as I do, I pray for peace, and I wake up every morning hoping that there will be some news other than the news that there is.

This has been going on for a very long time.

4) Quite a few interesting things going on in the world of opera. Peter Gelb in trouble at the Met. Lots of trouble. We seem to be approaching a Minnesota-style lockout where the chorus members, refusing to accept a pay cut, will not return to work.

There is also a lot of good new work happening here and there…I am excited, as mentioned, about what the NYT writes about “Dr. Sun Yat-sen.”

“In the opening scene of “Dr. Sun Yat-sen,” a dramatically assured and lyrical new opera in Mandarin by the Chinese-born American composer Huang Ruo that was given its American premiere here on Saturday by Santa Fe Opera, a group of well-to-do citizens in prerevolutionary Shanghai reflects on the state of the country under the Qing dynasty. Turning to face the audience, the chorus sings:
Corrupt officials are like savage beasts.
Rotten governments destroy more than a hurricane.
In this chaotic country of ours,
Let us create a shelter for our souls!

The libretto by the Hong Kong-born playwright Candace Mui-ngam Chong offers a vivid dramatization of the turbulent times leading up to the birth of the Chinese republic, and the life of the doctor-turned-revolutionary who was to become its first president.”

(Composer Huang Ruo has also been part of the American Opera Initiative, the same program Doug and I are writing for now.)

I am also excited about Kyle Gann giving a lecture at Glimmerglass about American opera. Wish I could go. And the link to the lecture reveals that he’s also going to be talking about An American Tragedy. Excellent.

But it seems unlikely that I will be anywhere near Glimmerglass on August 9th–or Doug either–even though the OperaThing we wrote is having a workshop there a week later.
Gann says, on his blog, that he’ll be covering these pieces:

“The Mother of Us All (my favorite opera ever)
The Tender Land
Delusion of the Fury
Einstein on the Beach
Perfect Lives
Nixon in China”

I’m ashamed to say I only know Einstein and Nixon. Will have to catch up. Especially, apparently, on The Mother Of Us All.

More Gann:

“Critic Andrew Porter, late of the New Yorker, shared so few of my opinions that he refused to speak to me the one time we met, but we both considered The Mother of Us All the greatest American opera.”

I wonder if there is anyone who shares so few of my opinions that they would refuse to speak to me. Well, probably lots of people who I don’t know. But is there anyone *in the same professional world as me* who would refuse to speak to me? Like, another experimental theater practitioner-nutcase from LA/Poland?

Yeah, perhaps.

5) Wczoraj-yesterday (Aug 1) was the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. Poles eating apples to piss off Vladimir Putin, who has instituted a ban on importing Polish apples. Hashtag: #jedzjablka.

The Guardian, July 31:

“A Facebook page called Jedz Jablka Na Zlosc Putinowi (“Eat apples to annoy Putin”) also sprang up overnight.

The Polish agriculture minister, Marek Sawicki, said in an interview with Polish media that Russian consumers would eventually force Putin’s government to overturn the ban.”

My friend Alex asked me where he could buy Polish cider in the US. My favorite brand is Cydr Lubelski, but some research revealed to me that the Polish cider market is still growing and expanding its business within the country and to the EU–hasn’t reached US markets yet. Other Polish cider brands: Desire and Warka.
I look forward to Cydr Lubelski being available for drinking w Stanach.

6) After only five of these things, I’m like, “Wow, this is great, I should just post this now.” But no. I want to get to 82. I’ve been unblogging and not blogging and unable to blog for SO LONG NOW and when I do return to it, I want it to be substantive, and something I can stick to.

I’ve been writing a lot of memoir-y stuff since coming to Poland in 2011, and my blogging has dropped off since then. Partially, I want to save things for the memoir. Partially, I’ve been publishing articles, and things go there too. You know. But I want to have some way to put things here as well.

And even if some of these scraps also end up in articles or memoiry things, the scrappy nature of an “82 Things post”–it is, after all, a LIST, a collage, a sort of scrappy pile of postcards, Post-Its, and torn-off URLs–will perhaps ensure that if some of these scraps are “repurposed” (BLEARGH VERB BLEARGH) into other writingy scrap quilty things no one will notice or care. Because no one will have read so far into these posts! You see?

This is an art, hiding the thing you actually want to say.

7) I’ve eliminated comments on this blog and am very happy to have done it. I get enough comments on other things I write, and I’m not just talking about Internet things. I am not actually looking for *more* commentary or feedback. The contrary.

8) I’ve been sick, which is why I had time yesterday to reread Villette and also watch most of Wrath Of Khan. (Why have these two works never previously been juxtaposed in academic/blogarific analysis?) Er…

Anyways, I always enjoy starting Villette. It’s CharBronte, it’s sardonic and pungently written, it lets me read French along with the English. I often have a point about 1/3 of the way in where I’m like “I would read 80 more books exactly like this.”

And then I get further in, and it starts being all about religion, with Bronte’s Protestant narrator Catholic-bashing, and I realize every single French character in this book can be viewed as, to some degree or other, a snooty stereotype, and I’m like “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No.”

Every time.

Since I have not finished Wrath of Khan yet, I do not know if there will be a scheming Catholic villain or not.

But Villette is full of memorable writing. Some of the many vinegary quotes I pulled out yesterday:

“My reader, I know, is one who would not thank me for an elaborate reproduction of poetic first impressions…” (p.55)

“Unutterable loathing of a desolate existence past, forbade return. If I failed in what I now designed to undertake, who, save myself, would suffer?” (p. 60)

“I did not then know that the pensiveness of reverse is the best phase for some minds; nor did I reflect that some herbs, “though scented when entire, yield fragrance when they’re bruised.” ” (p. 196)

“Whenever I die, Lucy, my persuasion is that it will not be of heart-complaint.” (p. 289)

“Appliquee, indeed! The means of application were spread before me, but I was doing nothing; and had done nothing, and meant to do nothing. Thus does the world give us credit for merits we have not.” (p. 308)


Villette also has one of the most devastatingly written endings in literature. About which I am now going to talk. If you do not wish to hear it, skip to Thing 9, below.

The narrator, who has held herself superior to the reader (and most other people) throughout the book, holds herself superior at the ending, too, telling us that the ending is sad but she will allow us the deluded pleasure of pretending it’s not, by not actually telling us what has happened.

This forces us readers to realize that we’ve been hoping for a happy ending and to despise ourselves for our hope.

Just as we have gotten annoyed at the narrator for mocking our hope, she hits us with these last three sentences, where she reveals that her enemies and those who have worked against her lived long, happy, fulfilled lives…

“Madame Beck prospered all the days of her life; so did Pere Silas; Madame Walravens fulfilled her ninetieth year before she died. Farewell.”

Chilling hate. Best lines of the book.

(Not unlike how Khan feels about Kirk.)

9) Doug is vigorously composing; he needs to turn in a PENNY draft today, August 2nd, and we have been talking a lot all week about it. Every day, sometimes several times a day. Making small changes–little cuts, little expansions–so the text and music work together.

We work very closely. I often wonder if other music-words teams do the same thing.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin, for example, only work separately. I read this article some time ago and took a lot from it.

“When one thinks of great songwriting teams, one imagines them lounging in a studio with guitars and empty beer bottles or sitting at a piano together, joking, fighting, becoming excited over a tune’s possibilities. But Mr. Taupin and Mr. John have always worked separately. Their songs start out as Mr. Taupin’s poetic meditations, inspired by some event in his life or something he has read.

He labors for weeks on his horse ranch in Southern California and delivers the lyrics fully formed to Mr. John, who goes into a studio, props the papers on the piano and churns out melodies and harmonies to fit the words at breakneck speed. “It’s kind of spooky,” Mr. John said in an interview. “I get bored if it takes more than 40 minutes.” “

And yet when Taupin is coming up with the lyrics, he makes up temporary placeholder music to get him through them. Which implies that the two sides are not so disconnected…

“Over the years, Mr. Taupin learned to play guitar and studied the structure of pop songs. He likes to strum chords and block out a temporary rhythm and melody while writing. “It’s almost like Linus and his blanket,” he said. “I have to have some sort of musical tapestry behind me that gives me an idea of the melodic line of the lyric.”

There have been so many lyrics throughout history that lost their “original” music–all the Greek choruses, for example. But words written to take music can always take music back.

This is something I tried to talk about in the “Hybrid Culture” class I taught in the fall of 2013–how forms with two kinds of art in them (words+music, images+words, etc.)–hybrid forms–can become dehybridized, separated into their constitutent parts.
Many of us know William Blake’s words without his engravings.
Many of us know Allie Brosh‘s images without her stories.
And then, of course, they can be re-hybridized, combined with other forms again.

In the case of words written for music, it’s something I’m very involved with, so I take it personally. Whenever someone says to me “The words don’t matter, it’s all about the music” (a statement I have run up against, too often, since I started orbiting a shuttlecraft around Planet Opera).

I remember that there have been many, many instances from dramatic history where part of a hybrid art form has been lost. If the words aren’t good enough to stand on their own without the music, I’m not interested.

Likewise, music can lose its words and retain only its melody. This can occur through The Passage Of Time, or intentionally. A great example of this is that composer who shall not be named here who wrote a song to be set to Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” only to discover he couldn’t get the rights to it. Well, the song was done. So he hired a hack librettopoet, who shall also not be named here, to write words in exactly the same metrical arrangment and rhyme scheme as Frost’s. The resulting choral song, “Sleep,” has been performed and recorded eighty gazillion billion times, including in a kitsch-laden “virtual chorus.”

Aaaahhh no.

I am not the biggest fan of any of this, artistically, but it does prove the dehybridization point. You should never, qua wordologist, qua compositor, qua doodler, assume that the thing that makes your work good–the hybridization–will endure. Your part had better be good enough on its own.

(“As I surrender unto sleep,
As I surrender unto sleep.”

Doug has even intentionally dehybridized some of our old work. I remember a song we wrote that we never got to use–he just pulled the music away from the words and stuck it in again, somewhere else. Part of it ended up as an instrumental. Part of it he somehow made fit to the new words that were being set.

Happens all the time.

10) On July 31, Speight Jenkins writes an interesting post on his blog, OperaSleuth: “How Has Opera Changed.” He points to the role of supertitles in drawing people’s attention to the text, the total theatricality of the piece–not just the music.

“The other interlocking and even more important factor in changing opera came about in 1983 when Lotfi Mansouri, General Director of the Canadian Opera, invented titles. Hearing about it made me think it was a fad; about two minutes in the first titled performance I attended—Lohengrin in Toronto—I realized that I was seeing the future and became a strong advocate. Titles stopped forever the tiresome canard—“I don’t care what they sing about in opera; I only go to hear the voices.” I had heard that since I started going to opera in the 1940s, but when an audience suddenly found out the meaning of the sung words as they heard the music, the libretti, even weak ones, made sense.

Good titles were never literal translations, but they made the public aware of the words sung as they heard the music. In a few years almost every opera house in the world used titles, the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth as an exception. In my opinion this mechanical invention restored the basis of opera as articulated by the Camerata and realized by Monteverdi, particularly in The Coronation of Poppaea. Opera was suddenly theater with great music. I think it is especially interesting that titles became so popular in countries, such as Germany, where many operas have libretti in the vernacular. Any opera lover knows that a singer’s words, no matter how brilliantly articulated, can be hard to understand in certain areas of the voice or over a loud orchestra. A perfect example of the difference titles made came from a tenor friend of mine who had sung many Toscas. After an Act I shortly after titles were first used, he said to me, “I almost stopped singing. The audience laughed so much I thought something was wrong until I realized that they understood the humor of what we were singing.”

OperaSleuth is a fairly new ArtsJournal weblog, only since January 2014. I don’t think I had previously read any of his posts. Looking forward to following it.

11) Something else old and operatic I wanted to put up here: Ivan Fischer’s “The Red Heifer,” in Hungary. This is old, from Oct 2013 in the NYT:

“Based on an infamous 19th-century case in which a group of Jews were wrongly accused in the death of a Hungarian peasant girl, Mr. Fischer’s opera, “The Red Heifer,” is a vivid display of how cultural figures have emerged as some of the most vocal critics of Hungary’s rightward and authoritarian drift under Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

At a time when the traditional left-wing political opposition is hobbled by corruption scandals and its Communist past, Mr. Fischer is among a growing group of artists challenging a government that has tested the ideals of the European Union. The others include the pianist Andras Schiff and a popular theater director, Robert Alfoldi, who was ridiculed by right-wing politicians for his homosexuality.”
“Hungary has a vocal civil society. Since 2011, thousands have taken to the streets to protest the government’s changes to the constitution and its new media law. Journalists and analysts say that the changes have not stifled free speech but are a potential threat — a weapon the government could use if it decided to. The result has been self-censorship. (The government denies that the law represses free speech.)”

I was able to see two of Alfoldi’s productions when I was in Hungary for an academic conference last year–including his final one, MEPHISTO, based on the Klaus Mann novel. A Hungarian Jewish friend gave me a free ticket she had–she had to wait in line for hours for them. I never, ever would have been able to get the tickets on my own.

MEPHISTO is about a Jewish theater actor and impresario in prewar Nazi Germany who ends up betraying his family, his friends and his culture to stay alive/stay in the theater/stay performing. He becomes a puppet of the regime.

I have never been at a theatrical performance where the audience was more engaged, or where the subject and the topic seemed more meaningful. Alfoldi was trying to draw parallels to the current government situation in Hungary.

(MEPHISTO is what got me and Doug thinking about some of the themes that turned up in the current OperaThing, actually. A good or good-seeming person with a weakness of character, stretched into betraying themselves and what they believe in, out of self-interest. It was more pertinent to our last topic, the one we had to shelve, but it is not unpertinent to this one.)

I won’t forget the audiences for Alfoldi’s MEPHISTO. As the NYT article says, Hungary does have, indeed, a “vocal civil society,” and an engaged arts community, and whatever does or doesn’t happen there as the extreme right comes to power, I believe the artists there are not going to be easily silenced.

12) More recent news from Hungary: (July 30, 2014) Newsweek: ” ‘Hungary’s Mussolini’ vows to make the EU Member an ‘Illiberal State’ “

“Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has prompted outrage from liberal and left leaning opposition after he announced his intention over the weekend to follow in Russia and China’s footsteps to create an ‘illiberal state’ in Hungary.

“We want to build a workfare society… which is willing to bear the odium to declare that it is not liberal in character,” Orban said.

Orban cited economic unfeasibility as the main fault of liberalism and applauded the political models of countries such as Russia, Turkey and China…”

The Wall Street Journal, quoted below, is furious. (My friend AR posted this on FB.)

“Mr. Orban entered politics as an anti-Communist in the 1980s and once identified as a liberal in the 19th-century sense of the word. Yet since returning to power in 2010—he first served as premier from 1998 to 2002—he has chipped away at the country’s constitutional checks and balances. He has packed courts and other independent institutions with loyalists from his ruling Fidesz party, politicized the central bank, nationalized private pensions, and barred the media from delivering “unbalanced news coverage.”

The same period has witnessed the rise in Hungary of Jobbik, an explicitly neo-Nazi party. Jobbik’s leaders have called on the government to count the Jews in parliament, proposed to set up “criminal zones” outside cities to segregate and surveil Roma residents, and erected a statue in Budapest honoring Miklos Horthy (1868-1957), the military leader who allied Hungary with Nazi Germany. Fidesz has often abetted and amplified, rather than confronted, Jobbik’s ugly politics.

Many of these developments are attributable to Hungary’s painful post-Communist transition. As elsewhere in Europe, slow growth, joblessness and economic mismanagement by parties of the center-left and center-right have been a boon to extremists and would-be authoritarians. “Liberal democracy can’t remain globally competitive,” Mr. Orban said.”

13) Just posted some of this into a WordPress window to make sure the HTML I’m using will come through. (I’m composing this post in Stickies.) It does, which is good. Means I can

    do this

without any trouble. Huzzah!

14) Er…czas na śniadanie. Pre-blogging gets as absorbingly distracting as blogging blogging. I’m hungry. #However, I wish to also point out that in the August reading month for #WeReadDeadPeople, the Murray-Weinberg Virtual Book Club, is ticking away, and you would all be well advised to get your FREEEEE Kindle copies of Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers (did I mention FREEEEE)? and read along with us.

I was going to hold out for a hard copy for this book club, and then I un-held out.

Maggie blogged (does one say “blogged” if it is a Tumblr? Does one say “Tumbld”?) about watching a Trollope miniseries in her youth, The Pallisers. I never saw that, and I’ve read very little Trollope apart from…wait, *have* I read any?? I thought I had read “The Way We Live Now,” but maybe not. Or maybe over a decade ago.

I’ve read something. Just can’t remember what it is.
Approaching Barchester Towers with a pretty clean Trollope slate, then.

15) My Hopkins MFA friend, fiction writer Robin Tung, interviewed on The Rumpus, with Tom Kealey, about the MFA application process. It’s informative, for anyone out there still thinking of applying–and also funny.

Rumpus: Thank you both for sharing your knowledge. I think this may be my spring to start, so it’s exciting!
Tung: Yes, get writing!
Kealey: Yes, get writing, or Robin and I will show up at your house.

(The writers are coming! The writers are coming!)

16) Proposals for other kinds of pants, inspired by parachute pants and also by Fashions of Contemporary Warfare:

Helicopter pants
Missile launcher pants
Rocket pants
Unmanned drone pants
Torture pants
Secret prison pants
Erosion of civil liberties pants
Aircraft carrier pants
The Ends Justify The Pants
Freedom Pants
Spreading Democracy Pants
If You’re Not With Us You’re Against Us Pants
EU Sanctions Pants

17) I do have some fears that, by blogging more/again, I will decrease, reduce, impact my wordography in other areas: like the Giant Memoir Documents, page-bloated, that I’ve been compiling since 2011.

However, I think this is a false fear.

Writing more leads to more writing, not the other way around. If I had hit on this format earlier–flitting about, never fully developing any one idea, and bogging down all ideas in a mass of other ideas–I think I would have been able to keep blogging throughout the generation of those Massive Memoris.
I mean “Memoirs.”
But I like “Memoris” too.
See, that’s the sort of pleasant typerwriter-typo that wouldn’t happen if you weren’t typering on a keyboard!

(There is an Ipad app that lets you be, I mean lets your computer be, I mean your Ipad, be a typewriter: but I have no Ipad and have not tried it.)

18) Breakfast already!!

19) So, this is cool. The AllNOTE mailing list informs me that it is now time to submit short plays to SCI-FEST 2015; a Los Angeles festival of short science fiction plays. By December 15, 2014.

Some LAWeeklyage about last year’s festival:

“Sci-Fest’s producers believe their festival to be the first of its kind, anywhere. Without the benefit of gimmicks like CGI or suspension wires, its nine one-act plays, ranging from 10 minutes to just over half an hour in length, must roam though worlds as diverse as Manhattan apartment buildings, the deep woods and deep space, for encounters with the ever-popular apocalypse, time traveling and alien creatures.”

They seem to get a lot of LA-based science fiction actors, many of whom are working in film and TV, involved. This is such a great idea.

As I found out when I was wandering around the Matrix and NOTE and Antaeus in the mid-2000s, many of the science fiction genre actors are among some of the most connected to the small theater companies in LA.
Wandering LA’s microtheaters, I found myself meeting people who had been my Star Trek idols (many of them completely unrecognizable devoid of their extensive makeup, and going by a nickname–I didn’t realize, in some cases for years, just whom I had met/been working with for weeks) in 99-seat-or-less houses. It just makes sense to put these things together.

Stage and Cinema about the LA connection to the genre:

“…Los Angeles has played a huge part in putting the genre of science fiction on the global map, making it the perfect setting for his festival. Georges Méliès may be the grandfather of science fiction film, but most of the Sci-Fi movies and television shows were and still are created in the L.A. area. “


20) Via ArtsJournal, an NYT article about dance conducting.

“The trick is to find the right balance between pragmatic considerations and “pure” music. As with any art, it often comes down to intuition. “As an opera conductor, I have to relate to the singers’ breath, and when I conducted ballet, I knew that if I watched those legs, I could get in sync with the dancers,” Arthur Fagen, the chair of conducting studies at Indiana University, said in a recent interview.

It’s not something you learn in conducting school. In fact, conservatories don’t offer specific courses in dance conducting. “They teach you high and mighty things like Mahler and Bruckner,” said Mr. de Cou, who trained at the Music Academy of Vienna. “But they should also teach how to conduct ‘Nutcracker’ and ‘American in Paris.’ ”

I like the idea of the opera singers’ breath being the equivalent of the dancers’ legs. That has some relationship to a couple unformed Polish theater ideas slogging around my brain lately.

21) Anne Midgette weighs in, in the WaPo, on the current situation at the Met.

“There’s a lot of talk, these days, about the future of classical music; and in this debate there is considerable blurring — as I’ve said before — of the distinction between the art form itself and the institutions that surround it. Cars are not in trouble every time that automobile manufacturers are in crisis. Similarly, classical music is not in trouble; opera is not in trouble; the news is not in trouble; religion is not in trouble. But some of the large institutions that have traditionally disseminated these things — opera houses and orchestras, newspapers and traditional old-line churches — are facing shrinking audiences, declining revenues, and the challenge of figuring out how to reinvent themselves to make themselves vital to a younger generation. And openly identifying the issues is a way to begin to find solutions — even if hearing about the problems of the field is off-putting to prospective donors. (This is the main argument I hear about why not to address the issue of audience decline — as if lying to people to get them to give money were a better alternative.) ”


I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all.


“Between a beginner and an experienced actor there is a huge gap. And often it’s better not to fill that gap, because someone with absolutely no experience, and therefore no technique, can be just as good as the most experienced actor. With experience come actorly tricks, acting techniques that can make a performance false.”

– That was director Philip Noyce, who is apparently going to direct a film of American Pastoral with Ewan McGregor in the lead role. Time to read American Pastoral!

24) Star Trek 3 (search4spock) is not very compelling. It’s no “Wrath of Khan.” (Thanksmerci, Dara, keep up the good work reporting more news everyone has known for 20 years…)

25) Reading more about Israel, more about Gaza. More about Israel, more about Gaza. Hard to think about anything else; hard to even think about thinking about anything else.

One of my former Stan professors shared this account awhile back, by an Israeli academic–David Shulman from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

July 12, 2014 Umm al-Ara’is, Susya, Bi’r al-‘Id, Ma’asara

Business as usual in the South Hebron hills. There’s a war on in Gaza, but that too is business as usual, the meaningless biannual ritual in which both sides gleefully smash one another before reverting to the status quo ante. The Israeli media are drowning us in words, a vast and raucous flood, and the government is putting out its familiar, mendacious statements; perhaps in recent days only Abu Mazen has spoken the truth. The only solution, he said, is a political one, and Netanyahu is no partner. Meanwhile, rockets are flying, the Air Force is bombing, children are dying, soldiers are doing what soldiers mostly do, that is, wait around, and in South Hebron the land-grab proceeds apace, as always. Nothing, it seems, can stop that.

But wait a minute, some things have changed. Since the horrible murder of three Israeli teenagers, followed by the equally abominable revenge killing of the Palestinian boy from Shuafat, Israel has witnessed a wave of racist hatred on a scale perhaps not known before. Part of it has to do with the near-infinite opportunities of the internet: tens of thousands of virulent hate messages sent by ordinary Israelis have clogged the major sites; thousands of them call openly for revenge. I remember a time somewhat like this one, in the summer and autumn of 1982, the days of the first Lebanon War; the nadir came when a hate-filled nationalist threw a grenade into a Peace Now demonstration, killing my student, Emil Grunzweig. Some of the internet sites these days have called for the execution of leftists. Perhaps most striking of all is the utter shamelessness of this wave. Probably people used to have these same feelings but were not so ready, or eager, to state them in public. Decades of demagoguery and xenophobic incitement by the right, including, famously, by Netanyahu himself, have had an effect. The sluices are open.

And that was July 12th.
Today is August 2nd.
It is still going on, and on, and on, and on, and on,
and on, and on, and on, and on,
and on.

Jon Stewart had a bit about the silencing of dialogue, too.

Somewhere deep in the comments on that video is this gem: “Russia could obliterate the USA, stop thinking the USA runs earth.” Okay then. Thanks for the reminder, Ghost of the Cold War!
(Stewart finally gets out of the bit where he can’t discuss Israel by saying “Well, can we talk about Ukraine?”)

26) Oh, this reminds me that there is something I meant to do with the number 26 that I haven’t finished yet.

August 3, 2014

27) A friend posts on FB: a picture of a Warsaw bus with the electronic signs inside the compartment also supporting the #JedzJabłka campaign.

28) A morning of grantwriting. The last stages are never as bad as you fear they will be, or as those early-to-mid stages were.

29) Have begun Barchester Towers on Kindle for #WeReadDeadPeople; trying to prevent self from speeding through it too speedingly. The writing is an icing-drizzled delight.

“And now, had I the pen of a mighty poet, would I sing in epic verse the noble wrath of the archdeacon.”
War, war, internecine war was in his heart.”


30) The anguished hurmbling of the neighbor’s washing machine, or perhaps blender.

31) Summer in Poland: Ciągle pada. (“It’s Raining All The Time.”)
And it is–every hot August afternoon, at approximately 3.21 PM.

32) The Economics of Jane Austen, in the Atlantic:

“…if any Smith book was likely to have sat on an Austenian side table, it wasn’t The Wealth of Nations, but the work that Smith himself considered foundational, and thus revised a staggering six times over the course of his lifetime, up until the year of his death. The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) introduced Smith’s concept of sympathy. This was a word used slightly differently in Smith’s time than in our own, and doesn’t have much to do with the modern tendency to click like on a Facebook friend’s engagement announcement to show our support, or to feel terrible about the plight of child soldiers. It referred instead to the mortar of civilized society, the way that we modify our behavior as we come to an understanding of how others see us and realize that they cannot regard our problems in the same close and passionate way that we do.”

33) 15 Maps That Don’t Explain The Middle East At All

“At their best, maps can clarify complicated global dynamics by making them appear simple. So perhaps there is something perverse in using cartography for the opposite purpose: to make the world appear even more convoluted than we think it is. But if these maps serve as a reminder of the many things that individual maps can’t quite capture, that’s all the more reason to study them well.”

34) Rebecca Mead, “The Scourge of Relatability

“A Web site called Thought Catalog offers “29 Incredibly Relatable Quotes from ‘Girls’ That Will Make Any 20-Something Feel Less Alone,” among them the following, from Hannah Horvath: “I’m an individual and I feel how I feel when I feel it.””
“In creating a new word and embracing its self-involved implications, we have circumscribed our own critical capacities. That’s what sucks, not Shakespeare.”

I agree with all of this (what reasonable person could not?) but am still very delighted by the original, Bardolator-baiting Glass tweet, “Shakespeare sucks.” Tee hee. Hashtag-ready!

35) Sorry, folks. By way of appeasement, here is Sonnet 26, “O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power…”
(I had to memorize this in high school acting class. Yes, I had the best high school acting class on the planet.)

O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Dost hold Time’s fickle glass, his sickle, hour;
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st
Thy lovers withering as thy sweet self grow’st;
If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure!
She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure:
Her audit, though delay’d, answer’d must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.

PS. Only 12 lines, did you notice? Crazy, right? BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT DEATH AND TIME AND THINGS BEING CUT OFF IN THEIR PRIME. Oh, the Shakespeareity.

PPS. Note the “quietus.” P.D. James, anyone…?

PPPS. Try, try, try to read the second line aloud and clearly differentiate, when saying “sickle, hour” that those are two different nouns in a list of three nouns, and not to say something that sounds like “sickleower.” or “sickle. Our…”
Go on. Just try it. Really.

36) Met Opera, trying to stave off the Ferengi Commerce Authority…or something…invites Quark to take a look at the books.
Met Opera Postpones Contract Deadline One Week For Financial Analysis.”

“”We all look forward to a fair and independent analysis of the complex issues we have been contending with for months,” Tino Gagliardi, president of the Met orchestra’s union, said in a news release.”

Hope springs infernal. I wish that didn’t make me want to laugh as much as it did.

37) Now there’s a number with which I have all sorts of unpleasant associations! Bleargh.

38) That’s better.

39) “Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round…”

– Philip Larkin, Au“overplayed”bade

(Nothing to link with? Clearly imagining a blogless world.)
(or the plight of Odo without the Founders.)
(The use of the word “link” is the one blemish, moim zdaniem, on an otherwise perfectly sour death-apple of a poem.)

40) The Andrew Motion biography of Larkin was the second most depressing biography I have ever read, seconded only by the Samuel Beckett biography. (To my extreme horror, I can no longer remember which Samuel Beckett biography it was.)
Depressingness aside, I have lately been seized with a passion to reread both those slog-books.
I miss having a US university library with an unending supply of enormous fat expensive literary biographies of poets and playwrights.

(The least depressing biography I ever read was one of Moliere, of course. The dude went through some hard times but…somehow it was all so theatrical. Running around France evading debtors!) It was Virginia Scott’s “Moliere: A Theatrical Life,” and it was awesome. Had I the edition with me, I would quote from it. I regret that I cannot.

41) I think #WeReadDeadPeople (SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION!) is an excellent thing by way of new blog content; I am also excited about 82Things, of which, of course, this is the first one (can one link to a post within the post itself, or does that break the Internet?); and I have been thinking about hanging my book-reviewer’s shingle once again on this weary blog. (ANOTHER SELF-MOBIUS-LINK.)

That ought to be a good variety of things with which to fill this space, now that I have removed musings about my own existence into a space of curdling into massive Word documents into such time as they are miraculously hardened into the cheese of memoir.

Yes: reviews. But only with regard to biography. Can one be a reviewer, but only of biography? Why the Philip Larkin not?

I really like 82Things, and I like even more so that this self-blogerential musentary has fallen upon Thing 41 of 82.

Back in a more prolific time of Style over Substance, or maybe even when I was at LAist, I found myself–by virtue of having written a few things about books–receiving totally unsolicited review copies of totally awesome books. By people like Edwidge Dandicat and Michael Connelly.

I became a lifelong fan of both, felt terrible guilt for having read the books and not reviewed them, and shortly thereafter stopped book-blogging (and theater reviewing) out of guilt about my own involvement/disingenuity/false pretenses. Thing is, I’m never going to be able to review literary or mystery fiction. I’m just…not. Too involved. I did write one poetry review, yes, but I don’t see that happening a lot either.

I admire the writers who are able to keep the heads in their boxes, I mean the boxes in their heads, more separate. I am not one of them.

42) 42!!!!!!!!

43) Not surprisingly, I have no associations with the number 43.

44) Salon: “Climate Change Could Make Cheap Travel A Thing Of The Past.”

“..climate change could mean “sun kinks” could warp train tracks in the heat, airplanes will be more expensive to fly, highway surfaces could soften in heat waves, roadways and bridges could be washed away in rising seas and storm surges, and storms in the open ocean could increase the cost and risks associated with shipping.”

August 4, 2014

45) Today’s Poem-A-Day:
Psalm in the Spirit of Dragnet
Julie Marie Wade

“Axiom, from the Greek meaning “No rebuttals,” meaning “Whatever I say is true.” 
For instance, the heart is shaped like a Hungryman dinner,
indestructible as Styrofoam & always divided.”

Long long lines of the sort I frequently can’t abide; these, I can, for some reason.
There is humor with the length of it.

46) DP tells me about Beethoven, disappointed in Napoleon, and the Eroica: a funeral march after a battle.

Conveniently, NPR posts article/mini audio thing on Eroica at same time: Beethoven’s ‘Eroica,’ A Bizarre Revelation Of Personality.
It’s an interview with Jan Swafford, who has just written a new Beethoven biography: Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph.
(Not out till Sept. 4th.)

(Anguish! Triumph!!)

“Arun Rath (NPR): There is a march, but it’s a funeral march.
Jan Swafford: Yeah, I mean, the logical thing: After the battle you bury the dead. There’s a funeral march, which I think is an absolutely French Revolutionary-style, humanistic funeral march. It’s not a hymn to god; it’s a hymn to humanity. And it’s so expressive and so tragic and so original, musically. There’s a big horn fugue in the middle that, to me, is one of the greatest moments in music. That moment is one of the reasons I, and probably a lot of people, are musicians today.”

And there’s an excerpt from the upcoming Swafford book that you can read on the NPR site.

“After the lingering decay of Romantic myths in the twentieth century, writing on Beethoven during the last decades has largely risen from the academy, so it reflects the parade of fashions and shibboleths of that industry. Many present-day books concern ideas about Beethoven rather than Beethoven himself. The assorted theoretical postures of late twentieth-century academe took some heavy shots at him but do not seem to have dislodged him from his unfortunate pedestal, which I believe lodges him too far from us.”

47) Herzog! Herzog! Herzog! (Director Werner Herzog, that is, not Saul Bellow.)

“I’m trying to find these rare moments where you feel completely illuminated. Facts never illuminate you. The phone directory of Manhattan doesn’t illuminate you, although it has factually correct entries, millions of them. But these rare moments of illumination that you find when you read a great poem, you instantly know. You instantly feel this spark of illumination. You are almost stepping outside of yourself and you see something sublime. And it can be something very average, some small thing that everybody overlooks.”
“I should have made films about women all my life.”

[Ed: I sent this to a friend and fellow Herzog fan and he wrote back: “I hate reading interviews, should I just buy the box set?” I suppose so. But who hates reading interviews?
Have I gone my whole life assuming everyone likes reading interviews as much as I do?]

48) Grant: submitted! Yahoo.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

49) SacBee: Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera scrap fall season because of financial problems.
No more San Jose Rep…and now this…the greater Bay is not doing well in terms of maintaining its performing arts institutions.

50) Finished rewatching Star Trek: DS9; have now run out of Star Trek again (that I care about). Anne Helen Peterson says we should watch Outlander.

51) The rabbi, Michael Lerner, who founded Tikkun Magazine, writes about Israel and Gaza in the context of Tisha B’Av and mourning.

“In my book Embracing Israel/Palestine (www.tikkun.org/eip) I argue that both Israelis and Palestinians are victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. I have a great deal of compassion for both peoples. Members of the Jewish people have been the victims of 1,600 years of oppression in European countries and hundreds of years of apartheid-like conditions in Muslim countries. We have faced a world that mostly refused to help us or open its doors to us as refugees when we were the victims of genocide. The traumas of that past still shape the consciousness of many Jews today. Jews deserve compassion and need healing. Similarly, the Palestinian people’s expulsion from their homes in the process of the founding of the State of Israel, remembered as Al Nakba (the great catastrophe), continues to shape the consciousness of many Palestinians sixty-six years later. But those traumas don’t exonerate Israel’s behavior or that of Hamas, though they are relevant for those of us seeking a path to social healing and transformation.
Yet that healing is impossible until those who are victims of PTSD are willing to work on overcoming it.”

(via A.Price on FB)

52) Syreeta McFadden, “Teaching The Camera To See My Skin.”

“With a white body as a light meter, all other skin tones become deviations from the norm.

It turns out, film stock’s failures to capture dark skin aren’t a technical issue, they’re a choice. Lorna Roth, a scholar in media and communication studies, wrote that film emulsions — the coating on the film base that reacts with chemicals and light to produce an image — “could have been designed initially with more sensitivity to the continuum of yellow, brown and reddish skin tones but the design process would have to be motivated by a recognition of the need for extended range.” Back then there was little motivation to acknowledge, let alone cater to a market beyond white consumers.

Kodak did finally modify its film emulsion stocks in the 1970s and ’80s — but only after complaints from companies trying to advertise chocolate and wood furniture.”
“The Guardian notes that filmmaker Jean Luc Godard was quite vocal, famously refusing to use Kodak film stock in 1977 while on assignment in Mozambique because the product was “racist.” And a 2013 exhibition by London-based artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin explored the question of racism in film photography. Using Polaroid’s vintage ID2 camera and nearly 40-year-old film originally that they say was designed for white skin, the pair spent a month in South Africa photographing the countryside in an attempt to reveal the camera and film’s true intent.”

(also via A.Price on FB)

53) David Remnick in the New Yorker: Vladimir Putin’s New Anti-Americanism.”

“Nearly a quarter century after the fall of empire, Putin has unleashed an ideology of ressentiment. It has been chorussed by those who, in 1991, despaired of the loss not of Communist ideology but of imperial greatness, and who, ever since, have lived with what Russians so often refer to as “phantom-limb syndrome”: the pain of missing Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Baltic states; the pain of diminishment. They want revenge for their humiliation.”
““In the long run, I am still very optimistic about Russia and Russians,” he [former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul] went on. “In my two years as Ambassador, I just met too many young, smart, talented people who want to be connected to the world, not isolated from it. They also want a say in the government. They are scared now, and therefore not demonstrating, but they have not changed their preferences about the future they want. Instead, they are just hiding these preferences, but there will be a day when they will express them again. Putin’s regime cannot hold these people down forever. I do worry about the new nationalism that Putin has unleashed, and understand that many young Russians also embrace these extremist ideas. I see it on Twitter every day. But, in the long run, I see the Westernizers winning out. I just don’t know how long is the long run.””

(via A.Barys on FB)


“It is indeed a matter of thankfulness, that neither the historian nor the novelist hears all that is said by their heroes or heroines, or how would three volumes or twenty suffice! In the present case so little of this sort have I overheard, that I live in hopes of finishing my work within 300 pages, and of completing that pleasant task–a novel within one volume…”

– Anthony Trollope, The Warden.

This book is the first of the Barchester series, of which Barchester Towers, book 2, is the August selection for #WeReadDeadPeople, which I refuse to self-link to any further. You know what it is by now. LAZYBLOGGER

55) An advanced academic summer program for high school students. Politics, ethics, philosophy. Something along the lines of TASP. It sounds great; I would like to see it.

August 6, 2014

“The best woman in the world, doctor; the very best,” said he, as the door closed behind the wife of his bosom.

“I’m sure of it,” said the doctor.

“Yes, till you find a better one,” said Scatcherd. “Ha! ha! ha!”

– Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne

(and swear…no where…)

57) “”You’re a very good fellow, Thorne, but I ain’t sure that you are the best doctor in all England.”

“You may be sure I am not; you may take me for the worst if you will…”

– Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne

58) Lev Grossman, How Not To Write Your First Novel.
(He is so right about Pennsylvania being larger than you think it is. Pennsylvania is practically like a sideways California. One can be caught off guard by this.)

“…I hadn’t counted on the sheer, dispiriting width of the state of Pennsylvania. It took the fight out of me. While superficially high-functioning, I was in fact easily daunted, and instead of driving west I gave up and veered north to Niagara Falls. If I failed to cross the country I could at least check off one major geographical milestone.
“by the end of November my sanity was starting to sag under the weight of all that solitude and empty time and creative failure. I wrote less and less and liked less and less of what I wrote. I felt like I couldn’t go to bed till I’d accomplished something, anything, but usually that just meant I stayed up till dawn and then collapsed from exhaustion. I had no TV but I would watch any movie Hollywood cared to release: Hook, Bugsy, Cape Fear, Dead Again, Billy Bathgate, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Highlander II: The Quickening.”
“When I finally made up my mind to leave Ellsworth I was so relieved I felt like I was weightless. I couldn’t believe it was finally over. I felt like I was walking on the moon. I stayed up all night packing everything I owned into the Subaru and left just as the sky was starting to show cornflower blue on the horizon. I drove out of town — the radio was playing “Tangled Up in Blue” — then drove back into town when I realized I’d forgotten my one good kitchen knife, then I drove out again, this time for good. Not a single word I wrote there was ever published. I haven’t once set foot in the state of Maine since then.”

I love this so much, and I like his message–it’s not true for everyone, but it is true for me–that you get more writing done, and certainly more living, in the company of humans than in Extreme Artistic Isolation.

But what a story! Painful as it is, who among us doesn’t want to also drive to Maine and live
off Bailey’s in bed and purloined basement pickles?

59) “He knew,” so he said to himself, “what stuff girls were made of. Baronets
did not grow like blackberries.”

-Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne, p. 401

60) From Victorianweb.org’s Trollope biography (which is, in turn, taken from British Authors of the Nineteenth Century, pp. 629-31):

“In May 1871 Trollope gave up Waltham House, and went on a long visit to a son in Australia. At sea as elsewhere he wrote indefatigably; on this occasion completing Lady Anna on the voyage out and Australia and New Zealand on the return journey, which he made via New Zealand and the United States. Back in England just before Christmas 1872, he settled at 39 Montagu Square, Bloomsbury, London. Here he worked, as was his habit, to a regular and rigorous schedule, assisted by his niece, Florence Bland, as secretary. Rising at 5 :30, he would write till 11; then, after breakfast, he would ride or drive. Between tea and dinner a favorite diversion was whist at the Garrick Club; and at night he would dine out or entertain some of his many friends at home. This routine was interrupted (though he never stopped writing) by journeys to Ceylon and Australia (1875), to South Africa (1877), and to Iceland (1878). The Autobiography, a model of clear-headed modesty and frankness, was written between October 1875 and April 1876, but not published until after his death.”
“After his death Trollope’s literary reputation sank low, and he was regarded as something of a journeyman of letters. This arose partly from the revelation in his Autobiography that he treated literature as a trade and wrote by the clock. No author has been more methodical.”
“A final judgment is given by Hawthorne in a letter of February 11, 1860 to his publisher Fields: “Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope? They precisely suit my taste; solid, substantial, written on strength of beef and through inspiration of ale, and just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were made a show of.”

61) “The Future of Iced Coffee,” about Blue Bottle’s mass-produced iced beverage. Via Longreads.

62) New Yorker: “Shigeru Ban, Master of Paper Tube Architecture“. Via ArtsJournal.

“He [architect Shigeru Ban] is a hard man to buy a sandwich for. If you succeed, you must ask him questions while he chews. (Is it a conversation if one of you is also writing e-mails on his iPad?) He exasperates quickly. Many things are too complicated to explain. You must read his official biography, on the Web site of the Pritkzer Foundation. You must attend his upcoming public lecture. Parting ways, even when you are boarding the same plane, he will say, “See you tomorrow,” but it’s possible you will never see him again. His seat, in first, is in Row 1, by the aisle.”
“The Cooper Union curriculum was rooted in the rational modernism of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, with flourishes of Dada. One seminar consisted of Peter Eisenman reading “In Search of Lost Time” aloud to the students for several hours at a time. “I felt that it was important culturally for them to know how important Proust was to thinking about space,” Eisenman, who now teaches at Yale, told me. Hejduk asked students to design a house in the mood of Juan Gris, and to study a piece of fruit over the course of a semester, as it decayed. A self-styled poet, Hejduk also insisted that architecture students take a poetry workshop. Ban says he was often asked to read his poems aloud, as examples for the class. “Surprisingly, I was very good,” he told me. “My poems were always short.””

63) CMU friends on Facebook (R.Metz) reminiscing about acting teacher Mladen Kiselov. I didn’t know who he was.
I’ve now learned that he died in 2012, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obit.

“The director [Kiselov] was born in Ruse, Bulgaria, to an English-teacher father and a mother who was the director of the local opera house, according to IMDb.com. He studied directing in Moscow and was active in theater and film projects in Eastern Europe before his work brought him to Yale University and then CMU in 1992, where he became an associate professor of directing and acting at the school of drama. He had been resident director of the Bulgarian National Theatre and assistant professor at the theater’s academy from 1975.”
“One of the reasons it is hard to think of him not being around, you felt as if you were so important to him,” Mr. [Gregory, of CMU] Lehane said. “He would get so excited, like a little boy, about an idea that he might have or that I might have that he would recognize as a good one. It's so rare, in an age of cynicism and inarticulateness, to find someone totally noncynical and completely articulate…”

64) The story R.Metz told on FB about Kiselov was that at a time when she was feeling overwhelmed with her work, he told her that one day quantity would change into quality. “You will see,” he said to her.

65) The Toast provides a list of 100 actual titles of real 18th-century novels. Many of them are bedecked with subtitles and exclamation points, such as “Horrible Revenge, Or, The Monster Of Italy!!” That’s one of the shorter ones.

66) Old interview with J. Michael Straczynski:

“I always knew that I was going to be a writer. There was no question in my mind about that. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know that, so I knew I had to prepare myself. I read voraciously. I learned about all the different kinds of pens and grades of paper. When I got to high school, I took four semesters of typing, because I knew that if I was going to be a writer, I should learn how to type. I was one of the fastest typists to come out of Chula Vista High School. It was in my senior year that I had prepared myself enough so that something kind-of rolled over in my head and said, “Now.” That’s when I wrote my first short story, three poems, and some other material. That day, I wrote 10 pages, and the next day I wrote 10 pages… and I’ve been writing 10 pages ever since – to my current age of 46.”
“It [B5] was monstrously difficult. It was all-consuming. I’d be at the stage from early in the morning until 7:30-8:30 at night with the shoot, grab a sandwich on the way in, and then write until 3:00-4:00 in the morning and crash and then do the whole thing all over the next day. I also knew that the opportunity that I had was one that I might never get again in the course of my life. Particularly after the second season, because we stopped getting notes from Warners after about episode 2 of year two. To be able to do a series with no network interference at all – whatever you write, you shoot, and no one has a problem with it and you have total creative control. I would go over and work with the guys in prosthetics and costumes and CGI and set design… I personally was hands-on with the editing of every episode… The scoring… every single aspect of that show, I was personally involved in. That chance might never come along again, so I was not about to complain about the hours. Although it was a lot of strain on my life – in my personal life, and I didn’t have dinner with friends much, I didn’t see movies… I just stayed home and worked all day. I would do it again in a hot second… in terms of reliving it. I wouldn’t try it again now, a second time, because it was just too damn hard. But doing it once was more than worth it. It was like putting in five years in the army.”
“One NASA engineer once sent me a note that said on a bulletin board there at NASA they pout up a sign saying, “Never apply a Star Trek solution to a Babylon 5 problem.””
“On television, you can write a story and ten million people will see it in one night. For any kind of a storyteller, that’s a hell of an attraction, because the whole purpose of telling stories is to be heard and to be seen, and tell those stories to lots of different people and try and affect social change and get a point across. Consequently, there’s a certain lure and attraction to staying in a little bit longer. I don’t want to stay forever, because I think that would be sad. I think I can stay outside and play just a little bit longer before it gets dark.”

67) More old JMS interviews. On Slashdot:

“I’m not a “content creator,” I’m a writer, and to the degree that I can tell stories with, as Balzac said, “clean hands and composure,” I am happy, regardless of genre or medium. To the degree that I cannot, I am a cranky pain in the ass.”

68) More old JMS interviews. On Collider.

“When I came on in television, I would write a script and someone would rewrite it.  Well, ‘Who rewrote me?’  ‘The story editor.’  ‘Well, I want his job.’  And then I became a story editor, and someone rewrote my stuff.  ‘Well, who did that?’  ‘The producer.’  ‘I want his job.’  It wasn’t about the money or about the title, it was I just didn’t want my stuff messed with by somebody else.  Not that I’m better or worse than somebody else, but it’s my own voice. “

69) US airstrikes in Iraq.

“The strikes were aimed at halting the advance of militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria toward Erbil, the Kurdish capital, which is home to a United States Consulate and thousands of Americans.

The action marked the return of the United States to a direct combat role in a country it left in 2011. Warplanes dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a number of targets: a mobile artillery piece that was being towed from a truck and had begun shelling Erbil, a stationary convoy of seven vehicles, and a mortar position.”

70) Gaza ceasefire ends, rockets continue.

“Mkhaimer Abusaada, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, said that firing a few dozen rockets into Israel was not, “from a rational way of thinking,” likely to move Israel on core issues it considers a threat to its security. The audience for Friday’s display, he said, was really the beleaguered population of Gaza, where whole neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble, displacing nearly a quarter of the 1.7 million residents, and virtually everyone has buried a loved one.

“Hamas is trying to send a macho message to the Palestinian people — that we bring Israel to the negotiating table and we are still launching missiles,” Mr. Abusaada said. “The problem is, Hamas is acting like a superpower. We know that Israel is the superpower, and Hamas can only annoy the Israelis, but Hamas is not in a position to put enough pressure on Israel to make concessions.””

August 9, 2014

71) On this radio station, every song is cut to two minutes long. Via AJ.

“Though the QuickHitz format was first offered to stations in 2012, the original, even more extreme inspiration was spawned seven years earlier. That’s when a feature called “The 60 Song Music Hour” — yes, five dozen songs pruned to one minute apiece — made its debut on an alternative San Francisco station, as chronicled by Billboard.biz.

Now, listeners of a certain age would contend that the notion goes back considerably further than that. You could argue, notes columnist/consultant Sean Ross, that “it’s a throwback to the mid ’60s when stations used to attack each other regularly on the number of (then shorter) songs they played per hour, usually somewhere in the 16-17 song range.””

72) More technology for some museums; less technology for others. Engaging the people far away vs. engaging those close to home.

The Brooklyn Museum’s experience reminds me of what happened with Anne Bogart’s play about, by, and for theater people. It was one of her most popular pieces. Sometimes reaching the audience you already have, but reaching them more personally, more in-depth, and in something targeted to them, is the way to go.

73) More on the US airstrikes in Iraq, from the Guardian.

“The regular thud of bombs into the northern plains did not, however, slow the exodus from Arab Iraq into what is fast becoming the crumbling country’s last redoubt. Tens of thousands of Iraq’s newest displaced poured into the Kurdish north on Friday adding to the estimated half a million arrivals now being hosted by the regional administration.

Many of those arriving in Irbil were not as reassured as Kurdish officials by the return of the US to the battlefield. “We lost everything in an afternoon,” said Miriam Athous, a Christian woman from Tal Kaif, south-west of Irbil. “Why should we be happy that the Americans come now? We were sitting in our homes like sheep in a lion’s den for two months.””

74) Who are the Yazidis in Iraq?

“A historically misunderstood group, the Yazidis are predominantly ethnically Kurdish, and have kept alive their syncretic religion for centuries, despite many years of oppression and threatened extermination.

The ancient religion is rumoured to have been founded by an 11th century Ummayyad sheikh, and is derived from Zoroastrianism (an ancient Persian faith founded by a philosopher), Christianity and Islam. The religion has taken elements from each, ranging from baptism (Christianity) to circumcision (Islam) to reverence of fire as a manifestation from God (derived from Zoroastrianism) and yet remains distinctly non-Abrahamic. This derivative quality has often led the Yazidis to be referred to as a sect.

At the core of the Yazidis’ marginalization is their worship of a fallen angel, Melek Tawwus, or Peacock Angel, one of the seven angels that take primacy in their beliefs. Unlike the fall from grace of Satan, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Melek Tawwus was forgiven and returned to heaven by God. The importance of Melek Tawwus to the Yazidis has given them an undeserved reputation for being devil-worshippers – a notoriety that, in the climate of extremism gripping Iraq, has turned life-threatening.”

75) The absence of state power in Iraq abetting ISIS’s rise:

“According to Toby Dodge, the scholar of Iraq at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), what’s driving IS, or at least making its phenomenal success possible, is not pre-modern religious zeal so much as a pre-modern absence of state power. The state structures of both Iraq and Syria have all but collapsed. The result is a power vacuum of a kind that would have been recognised in the lawless Europe of seven or eight centuries ago – and which IS has exploited with the ruthless discipline of those long ago baronial warlords who turned themselves into European princes.”
“The void in Iraq can, then, be doubly blamed on the US. The 2003 invasion is, of course, the original sin. But the manner of the withdrawal in 2011 – gifting state-of-the-art US military hardware worth billions to an army headed by al-Maliki, only for that hardware to fall into the hands of Isis – was clearly a catastrophic error too. The result is that Barack Obama, whose presidency was predicated on a promise to end the war in Iraq, has been drawn into combat once more. His air strikes on IS forces in northern Iraq on Friday make him the fourth US president in succession to order military action in that country. Ronald Reagan was the last one not to drop bombs on Iraq.”

76) 76; 8/9.

77) How “Please, Mr. Kennedy”; Was Born And Why It’s Not Eligible For Oscar Consideration.
Short version: it’s a pastiche, including quotations from existing songs…
But what an awesometastic pastiche…recorded with an instrument from Norm’s Rare Guitars in the San Fernando Vallleeeee!

“”As soon as we were in the office he [Timberlake] just started writing it,” [T-Bone] Burnett recalls. “He had his guitar. There was no reason to wait another second, and he just wrote that groove and that vibe. He’s the one who sent it into this Coasters vibe, because, you know, folk music didn’t swing. It was never sex music. It was always very straight, church music, maybe. Not out of the whorehouse, really. And Justin was able to take that little song to the whorehouse, and that helped!”

78) You maaay need to watch it again.

79) You may also need to watch a few hours of Alison Krauss.

“Every Time You Say Goodbye” starts at 20:09.
[Ed: Also, they cover “Man of Constant Sorrow” at 1:11!!!!!!]

I read between the lines of words you can’t disguise…
Love has gone away…
Put these tears in my eyes…

Look at the sky, baby,
see how it cries…
Ain’t it just like my tears…

80) Yes, I did enjoy Inside Llewyn Davis, but I still wish the Coen Brothers would do nothing but make one bluegrass movie after another.

81) Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ’d.

82) Enough! or Too much.

(August 1 – 9, 2014: Kraków.)