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I am drawing towards the end of the horrifying and addictive series that has had me transfixed for months now–and how I dread that moment, hearing the narrator say, “The End. You have been listening to…”

This author, Steven Erikson, has a way with names–during the stories we meet hundreds of characters, with such fine names as Whisky Jack, Dujek Onearm, Icarium, Anomander Rake, Karsa Orlong, Toc the Younger–all with​ ​
complex ​histories and family; is it any wonder there are so many of the books, with each one going into such detail, such stories.

So in this last book (Book TEN, if you can believe it) we come to the final last battle, Armageddon as it might be, and the valiant Brys Beddict is ​battling Brother Diligence, a Forkrul Assail​ ​(=​ ​terrible non-​​human creatures​ ​who can enslave humans by using their voices)​. ​But Brys has within him hundreds of names, the names of forgotten gods, whom he had promised to honor by remembering. And he confronts the monstrous creature and speaks the complicated ancient names of the lost gods: …

‘”Saeden Thar, Lord Protector of Semii, Haravathan of the River People, Y’thyn Dra the Mountain of Eyes, Woman of Sky above the Erestitidan, Blessed Haylar Twin-Horns of the Elananas, Horastal Neh Eru SunBearer and Giver of Crops in the Valley of the Sanathal, Itkovas Lord of Terror among the K’ollass K’Chain Che’Malle of Ethilas Nest…’ And the names rose unending, flowing through Brys Beddict’s mind, one after another. ‘Tra Thelor of the Twin Rivers, Sower of Spring among the Grallan. Adast Face of the Moon among the Korsone…’ All the forgotten gods…” ​ ​

Brother Diligence​ ​is overwhelmed, overthrown.

Mr. Erikson was an archeologist and anthropologist before he turned fictioneer, and he studied many a lost civilization whose gods died with them.​ There are many elegiac moments in the books,​ ​steeped in sorrowful remembrance of things past.

 

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Cultural Event

I’m sure you are all familiar with college theater, which can be surprisingly good–and of course, surprisingly horrid–but which is always available, and very grateful to the wallet. I just attended such a show–of the surprisingly good variety–and during the perhaps a TEENSY BIT long fund-raising spiel that preceded the show, the worthy dean mentioned that tickets for the show cost less than parking at the Kennedy Center. Well of course, MOST things cost less than parking at the K Center, but still, I see his point.

The show was at the Hartke Theater, of Catholic University, where my parents used to take us back in the stone age–they were ever on the lookout for thrifty ways of introducing their children to culture. For more expensive shows, they chose one amongst us on a rotating basis. (I will never forget that black day when the grim chore of child sacrifice to culture fell on me and I experienced Handel’s Messiah for the first time. A quick perusal of the text had fostered the comforting illusion of brevity—HA! A vile trick! I was outraged to discover that having once sung whatever it was–they went and SANG IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Hours and hours passed by. The infant Hope fumed.)

So now, some 60 years later, my kindly nephew and his family invited me to see the Hartke Theater’s boffo version of Kiss Me Kate, that grand show. I had seen it at the Shakespeare Theater a couple years ago, and this show was actually more fun, if of course less professional. Fine singing, good sets, and if some of the costumes were heinous, I have seen worse. (Though perhaps not MUCH worse than the fairly ghastly attempt at a cod-piece which possibly was meant to be humorous but which covered the groin like a frontal diaper. Spare my blushes, Catholic University!) However, nothing could be more garish than the costumes of the original production.

One of the songs has aged badly, alas, and is something of a trial for modern audiences-gamely performed by the charming young singers, but they must have had inward misgivings:

I’m a maid who would marry
And will take double-quick
Any Tom, Dick or Harry,
Any Tom, Harry or Dick.
Dick, dick, dick,
A dicka dick,
Dick, dick, dick,
A dicka dick,
Dick, dick, dick,
A dicka dick,
Dick, dick, dick,
A dicka dick!

Which brought to mind a VERY NAUGHTY SONG by Frank Zappa which I will not sully these pages by quoting but will just add a teensy link. I always liked Frank Zappa–what might he have accomplished if he hadn’t died so young!

I continue to read the wildly inappropriate series by Steven Erikson, dripping with gore and ghastly violence. I have even–to my shame–introduced my dear friend Cathie to the Dark Side. She too has descended into the depths of this terrible addictive series.
What can I say–è più forte di me.
So today I was listening to a scene where some unbelievably horrid violence has taken place, and the Dark Lord ShadowThrone–once ruler of a mighty empire on earth, and now God of the Realm of Shadow—appears once the battle is done. Cotillion, dark Second to ShadowThrone, is with him, and somehow the conversation strays to…ShadowThone’s mother: “every time we end up in the same room I can see the disappointment in her eyes, and hear it in her voice. “Emperor? Oh, that empire. So now you’re a god? Oh dear, not Shadow? Isn’t it broken? Why did you have to pick a broken realm to rule? When your father was your age…” Aagh, and on and on it goes! ​”
​Cracks me up!​

I was calmly reading a review of what seemed like an interesting book, The Fear Factor, about the abnormal lack of empathy that characterizes some humans, so that they have no compunction causing pain and terror to their fellow beings. The author, Abigail Marsh, a psychologist and neuroscientist, goes into the subject and has an interesting thesis to offer. However, she then opens up into a more general discussion of human behavior, and I was charmed by the following quote:

"Describing the extraordinary evolutionary change that enabled mammalian mothers to feed their young with milk, she writes: “Imagine if you one day discovered that you could shoot hamburgers out of your armpits at will. That’s basically how incredible lactation is.”

HAHAhaha! That certainly livened up my morning commute! I kept my arms firmly DOWN at my sides, in case any errant hamburgers might be squirting out.

GiantBaneRecently I have noticed ads from a streaming service, urging me to FEAR NOT THE SUBTITLES! Accentuated by the intense gaze of Kristofer Hivju, the actor whose international fame consequent to his role in Game of Thrones has made the hearts of his fellow Norwegians swell with patriotic pride.

Comrades, I subscribed!

And leaving Mr. Hiyju and Norwegian Noir aside for the time being, settled on Italian detective Montalbano. Heavens, so molto Italiano—the driving of fancy cars at lunatic speeds! The dress casual but so elegant! The supreme importance of good food! The wonderfully expressive faces and gestures!

The series takes place in Sicily, that island of fabulous antiquity set in a turquoise sea, famous for its volcanoes, its immensely complicated history–and of course, the Mafia, ever looming in the background. Our detective has grown up understanding the delicate balance an upright man must develop, to be an officer of the law under these circumstances.

The stories are good, not so totally farfetched as to make one groan, but complicated enough to entertain. But what most entranced me was the infinity of people and faces in the show—rugged, lined faces, old people with warts and bristling eyebrows, vividly individual men and women all passionately arguing, laughing, eating—real people. It made me realize how many shows I’ve seen that are skewed to show just young people—and, not only young people but young beautiful people. Pretty to look at of course—but how tedious it becomes, particularly when set against Montalbano’s world.

Every night I think, time for something different, but then find I can’t resist just one more bout with the brusque balding detective–eyebrows waggling, hands windmilling, mouth going a mile a minute—solving yet another heinous crime. As Lawrence’s mother-in-law used to say when discovered having a forbidden treat: “è più forte di me”.

The Magical Red Shoes

The first dance performance of the season–for which I virtuously purchased season tickets, thus demonstrating my support for the arts–was a dazzling performance of The Red Shoes, a full length show based on the old movie. The Washington Post reviewer was disappointed to find it not quite up to the movie—never having seen the movie, I allowed myself to be enchanted.

The show was created and choreographed by that naughty wunderkind, Sir Matthew Bourne–famous for his gay version of Swan Lake. Which, I will own, I did not entirely love. But then neither do I entirely love the traditional version. Quite the reverse, in fact–deadly old chestnut which you would have to pay me to watch. But the Bourne version is not winning my vote either…

However, The Red Shoes is another thing altogether, charming and witty. The music is a mélange of music by Bernard Hermann, who composed scores for films: Citizen Kane, Fahrenheit 451, and many others. You’ll be thinking, whoa, what a dog’s breakfast, but in fact it works very well. The show was absolutely stunning, with gorgeous dance, astonishing sets, deliriously silly and wonderful costumes. Bourne’s dancers are very athletic, and the women are much more, how to put it, voluptuous, than traditional ballet dancers. The dancer playing Victoria Page (= ensorcelled by the red shoes) actually had breasts—unheard of for most ballerinas. Possibly Bourne allows his dancers to eat the occasional cupcake, something which traditional ballerinas can only dream of.

Flamboyant scenes, one after another—dancers rehearsing, cigarettes hanging from those beautiful mouths—dancers partying at the beach, wearing the most amazingly garish swim suits while bouncing matching beach balls–

—and, oh my, the brilliant ballet-within-the-ballet, which at one point became nothing but elegant black silhouettes against a white backdrop. This was a SHOW, comrades. I came out of the theater still smiling.

Next week: La Bayadère. Sigh.

Burglar, banker, father

My father loved the poems of Emily Dickinson; quoted them often, so that those poems are twined in the hearts of his children. One of them was in my mind yesterday.

I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod;
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels, twice descending,
Reimbursed my store.
Burglar, banker, father,
I am poor once more!

The mother of a close friend of mine died recently, and it was a sad bad time for her. For me too, not that I knew her mother so well, but that she was a part of my life, as the parents of your friends often are.
In the midst of life we are in death.
But in the midst of death we are in life!
Yesterday I got two joyful messages from two friends–both new grandparents, both so happy to welcome this new soul to the world. These two new humans were born on opposite sides of the Atlantic, both are hale and hearty, and both bring such happiness to their families.

Welcome, little ones! And farewell to the woman who had lived on this floating world for so long, almost a hundred years.

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