Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Liberal's Dilemma

So now that we in America have finally joined the 21st century when it comes to choosing leaders, we are faced with a hard choice: a Black man and a woman, both vying for the presidency. What to do, what to do? I think either one would make a fine president. The far right wing-nuts already have their knives sharpened, so it's going to be a really dirty campaign no matter which one will be running. Obama is the Manchurian candidate for the evil doers of Islam. Hillary is a bee-otch. He's all talk and no action, inexperienced. She's just going to be a front for Bill Clinton. I'm sure there is more venomous stuff lurking out there in Limbaughland.Maureen Dowd, who loathes Hillary is already writing snarky op-eds about her and I'm sure she has more ammo lined up.
In the meantime many of us are at the point of flipping a coin for next week's Ohio primary, which the media has pretty much awarded to Obama. I have had a problem with Hillary's vote for the Iraq war, knowing at the same time that Obama wasn't in the Senate at that time. I think people have forgotten how the Republicans condemned those who objected to anything Bush and his gang came up with. Tom Daschle paid the price for going against the juggernaut of both the Bush regime and public opinion after 9/11. There were a number of courageous folks in Congress, among them Dennis Kucinich, who is no longer in the race, who stood firm against the rush to war.

Well, I only have a few days to make up my mind. Actually I am really tired of the whole thing and rather dread the final campaign, knowing that millions of dollars will be spent that could do more good for more people than filling the air with blah, blah, blah. The important thing is for people to VOTE next fall and VOTE for Democrats, yellow dog style.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Handing Out Prizes

Well, I stayed up last night to watch the Academy Awards, wondering why I was doing it. Habit, I guess. Very few surprises, of course, except that one of my favorite performances of the year won the best actress award for Marion Cotillard who played Edith Piaf. There are probably not many people around these days who even know who Piaf was, but she was very popular back in the early 50s. When I was in college, her "La Vie en Rose" was a big hit. She personified Paris, smoky cabarets, romance and sex to a lot of us who dreamed of going to France and becoming something great - an artist, writer, Apache dancer or actor. Well, I never did that, of course, but I did practice blowing a sophisticated stream of cigarette smoke out of my mouth and into my nose the way I was sure a bored Parisian would. I have chronic sinusitis to show for it.
As predicted by all the critics, Daniel Day Lewis won for his John Huston impersonation. In a few years, the academy members are going to be asking themselves, "What were we thinking?" I think he's a fine actor - loved the Left Foot gig, the aesthete snob in "Room With a View", the Irish rebel in "The Name of the Father", etc. but I think this performance in "There Will Be Blood" was just overdone and false. But what do I know?
I had seen just about all of the movies except for "No Country for Old Men" which I am assured by everyone is a very good movie, even with a crazed serial killer played by an actor who obviously loves him Mum. I may have to see it. I do like the Coen brothers movies.

I was glad to see that the young woman who wrote "Juno" won a writing award. It's one of my favorite movies of the year. Another one I love, which wasn't even nominated, was "The Darjeeling Limited" by Wes Anderson. It has occurred to me that Anderson is the new J.D. Salinger, using film instead of text. "The Royal Tannebaums" is another version of the Glass family, as are the brothers in "Darjeeling". The kid in "Rushmore" is latter day Holden Caulfield. There's probably a PhD dissertation in there somewhere. Think about it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Literature and Music

Fifty some years ago, "The Catcher in the Rye" was published. I was still living at home and got it out of the library. I loved it. It reminded me of a boy I had dated in college, and even though I was about to be married to John Burnell, I dashed off a letter to that boy to tell him how much Holden Caulfield reminded me of him. I never received a reply and none was expected. I have no idea what ever became of my Holden and I assume he joined the establishment like almost everyone in the 50s. At any rate this book caused a sensation and is now required reading for most high school students.
I recently decided to read it again, all these many years later. There had been a lot of discussion of the so-calles "obscenities" used by Holden. My father had picked the book up when I was reading it then and was outraged at the language and was shocked that I, his pure young daughter was actually reading such "filth". (He was the last of the Victorians, so I just laughed.) Reading it now I find it so innocent and sad/funny that I can't believe it was ever considered racy and profound. I have a book of essays, a collection of articles writtn by some of the most esteemed critcs of the day - Leslie Fiedler, Granville Hicks, Alfred Kazin, Arthur Mizener, John Updike - analyzing "Catcher" (as well as the Glass family stories) as if these are on the level of Shakepeare or Tolstoy. There's one essay in the book entitled "The Language of the Catcher in the Rye", written in the most absurdly academic lingo possible, exploring the use of "vulgarity and obscenity" in Holden's telling of his story. Other articles explain his language and actions in Freudian terms (Freud was big in the 50s). There was no such thing then as teenage angst, especially if one was a rich white kid living on Cenral Park West in New York City.
Holden's favorite and over used expletive is "goddam", which he uses t o describe people, things and feelings. He also uses the word "bastard", as in "I was sweating like a bastard." The only appearance of the F word (used as practically all parts of speech by most high school kids now) is when he sees it written on a wall and is horrified that it is out there where "little kids can see it." That's the extent of the obscenity in the "Catcher in the Rye" and it seems so naive and childish that it's hard to understand how it caused such a furor.
I have to wonder what today's high school students make of Holden Caulfield. He has no IPod, no cell phone, no computer, no Xbox - this kid is supposed to be rich? Most kids have a very limited frame of reference beyond a few months ago. They also probably think old Holden is nothing but a flit, as he would say.

Saturday I went to the opera, or at least a live high definition version at one of the local theaters. This is the second time I have gone to one of these and it is actally quite exciting and all. You are watching as the people in New York at the Met are watching, only you can see the goddam singers up close as the cameras move about the stage. There are interviews (by the gorgeous Renee Fleming) with the perfomers backstage while they are still sweating like bastards.
This one was "Manon Lescaut" by Puccini, based on the French custom of exiling "bad" women to America and all. The star was this amazing Finnish soprano Karita Matilla who sings like a bastard and also is a terrific actress and all. Unfortunately the tenor sounded like the goddam Cowardly Lion. The final scene is where they are taking a goddam hour to die while singing like bastards and all.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Socks Addenda

I haven't figured out how to get more than one picture into a blog entry, so I am forced to add this independent of the previous blog. They are just so colorful,
almost like a quilt. As I have run out of bookshelf space, so have I run out of sock drawer space.


I have designated a friend's blog as the Quilting Addict. I decided she was addicted when she took a couple of quilting blocks to work on during a sailing trip among the Greek islands. How else to explain even thinking about quilting while sailing about that beautiful part of the world? I was pleased to learn that she put down the needle and looked about her.
There are certainly worse habits than creating colorful and practical fabric coverings and wall hangings for oneself and others to enjoy, a productive occupation indeed. I spent 30 years or so chained to cigarettes, only quitting when I developed breathing problems. I only produced a cough and some wheezing.
I do have several less unhealthy addictions, though. One major one is book collecting. I have been trying to quit for some time, since I have run out of shelf space. The major part of this obsession involves old picture books, and children's literature I enjoyed when I was growing up, books I used to get out of the library but didn't own. I have found almost all of the ones I have been looking for: E. Nesbit's wonderful fantasies (which also inspired J.K. Rowling), Lois Lenski's historical novels, Lucy Perkins' the Twins books (The Dutch Twins, The Chinese Twins, The Cave Twins, etc.), Noel Streatfield's Shoes books (Ballet Shoes, Circus Shoes, Tennis Shoes, etc.), Frances Hodgson Burnett's Secret Garden and Little Princess, Enid Bagnold's National Velvet, Hull and Whitlock's The Far Distant Oxus, and many more. I also have a library of books about books, especially children's books. I have bought some of the newere picture books because I love the illustrations. Every year in Akron there is an antiquarian book fair. I have had to quit going. When I first started collecting, most of these book were 25 to 50 cents. Now they are more like 25 to 50 dollars and I just don't have room, and I have pretty much found all the ones that mattter, along with some adult books which are no longer in print, which I like to reread once in a while. I have reached a point where I need to start downsizing, culling is hard.
Another addiciton is socks. I love socks. It started casually when I saw some interesting socks in a Cleveland shop called Sox Appeal. Alas, it is no more, but I did find a great one in Pittsburgh last year. England has The Sock Shops where I have found aome of my most colorful ones. I just found a huge hole in one of my favorite pair of Brit socks, unfortunately not mendable. They were royal blue with bright yellow sunflowers on them. Very jolly. Kohl's also has a great sock department. I do have staid black socks in case I have to go to a funeral - modestly embellished with bright green frogs or red cats.
I used to collect shoes, but now that I am so ancient, my feets hurt unless I wear clogs or Crocs, of which I have some very colorful specimens which clash with the socks.
That is the sad story of my own addictive behavior. I am not producing anything this way, but I am not hurting myself or others.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Killing for God

Today's paper continues the accounts of man-made death in various parts of the world, and violence mainly over belief systems, the tragic loss of lives over how groups interpret the spiritual side of existence. It's been going on for centuries with today's availability of weapons causing death more quickly and making it possible to amass more bodies with the single push of a button on a cell phone.
Last year I went to a performance of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" and the text, thousands of years old, consisted of a lot of smiting and destroying of those who worshipped their own gods. In those days, God spoke directly to his favorites and commanded them to punish (kill) whole groups of people. (This might explain Bush's conviction that he acts on instructions from the Almighty.)
I have to admit that the Old Testament was not taught to us in Catholic schools at that time. In fact we were discouraged from reading the Bible at all, for fear that we might misinterpret it.(In high school a bunch of us discovered the "dirty" parts in Leveitcus, but didn't share that with the nuns.) I took a course in the Bible a number of years ago and found it to be a rather confusing group of narratives about ancient people who seemed to enjoy doing the exact opposite of whatever God told them to do, thus bringing about their deaths by fire and flood and salt.
At any rate, at the time I heard "Elijah," there had just been some horrible bomb blast in Iraq which had killed dozens of innocent people, Darfur was bleeding, we were still killing and being killed in Iraq and I was struck by the fact that nothing had changed for thousands of years. This is hardly world shattering news. I thought of all the wars fought over religion over the centuries. (The Spanish Civil War was going on when I was in grade school and the nuns told us may have to die for our faith and if you weren't willing to do that, if called upon, you would surely end up in hell. That was the first crack in MY belief system.)
What is it about the human race that impels us toward destruction of innocent others whose religious beliefs differ from ours? I realize that this very question is simplistic and human interactions and motivations are much more complex than this, but it does concern me.