Archive for the ‘Such people’ Category

Last week the radio opera was Nabucco, Verdi’s grand reworking of the biblical Nebuchadnezzar story. As it happens, I had just come across this very man, in the midst of a giant history of the ancient world. He is famous for going completely crazy and thinking he was an ox:
“he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.”

In the opera, the madness is the result of a spectacular bit of blasphemy–“Non son più re, son dio!” (I am not KING, I am GOD!)–whereupon there is a giant thunderclap and the next thing you know, there he is on hands and knees eating grass.
In addition to this crowd-pleaser, the opera features the famous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (“Fly, Thought, on Golden Wings!”) which you will probably recognize if you hear it. Not, so far as I am concerned, with any particular enjoyment. The opera ends with Nabucco converting to Judaism and the bad queen poisoning herself. What can I say–Verdi, after all.

The book in which I came across the mad king (History of the Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer) is a valiant attempt to find humans in history–the author eschews the passive voice, to which she attributes the stultifying tedium of many historic texts: “Civilization arose in the Fertile Crescent…” As much as possible, she quotes from texts and inscriptions, and often, amidst all the turbulence, plotting and war there is a sudden and surprising glimpse of a living breathing human being.
Mostly, I will own, phenomenally NASTY living breathing human beings. The instances of ghastly violence are numerous, a rich source of stories for all our modern day fabulists–red weddings, beheadings, blindings, betrayal, and general mayhem: all carefully set down on the clay tablets or carved onto plinths and obelisks.
WITH illustrations.

Here is Sennacherib the Assyrian king, telling of his victory over the Elamites:
Like the many waters of a storm I made the contents of their gullets and entrails run down upon the wide earth. My prancing steeds, harnessed for my riding, plunged into the streams of their blood as into a river. The wheels of my war chariot, which brings low the wicked and the evil, were bespattered with filth and blood. With the bodies of their warriors I filled the plain, like grass.
You don’t want to hear the part about what he did to their delicate body parts (=tearing them like the seeds of cucumbers in June).
These non-stop wars always end with a city being burned and the inhabitants either massacred or led off in chains.

You know, it occurs to me that the one business guaranteed to succeed in ancient times would be chain manufacturing. Well, that and weapons manufacturing.
Not so different from today, actually…


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I JUST had time for a quick grocery shop on Thursday evening before my ballet class, and darted into the store, grabbing that handy dandy laser gun, and scanning the needful items before popping them into my bag–sultanas and dried cranberries for the morning oatmeal, coffee beans, cans of beans for the neighborhood food drive, all neatly packed and ready to be paid for at the register.

But when I scanned the gun at the register up came that glum message:”HELP IS NEEDED WITH THIS ITEM”. What that means is that the system thinks I am a THIEF and a company employee must come over and rescan a random sample of the items in my bag in order to foil my fiendish plot. As I was a little pressed for time, the system naturally chose that moment to bring the club down on my innocent head.
An indolent youth ambled to my side, took the radar gun and began aiming at a paper of bar codes.
Time went by.
Nothing happened.
I spoke with some heat to the lad, saying that I was in a HURRY. He responded in disapproving accents, explaining that it wasn’t working.
I am a mild tempered lady, polite to a fault, always ready to see the other fellow’s point of view.
HOWEVER. It had not been a great day, and I did not want to miss my class.
Comrades, I am ashamed to report that I found myself overwhelmed by a sudden impulse of rage. Snatching up my so carefully filled bag, I upended it into the cart and let the raisins, the coffee, the canned goods so virtuously assembled, all tumble out. Out I marched in a storm of ridiculous vexation, ignoring the rude exclamation of the inept youth.
Sigh. We are none of us perfect.
So today I returned to the scene of the crime, and reassembled the items. As I left that place, I pushed a dollar into the Salvation Army bucket, which was being managed by a man inexpertly playing a TUBA of all things. He was playing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and I found myself silently singing along–through the years, we’ll always be together, if the fates allow.
But the fates didn’t allow.

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The mouth flaps

Today in a meeting the study director revealed a plan to hold an unplanned workshop in January. Taken aback, I asked for more detail, and suddenly found myself telling the team that workshops “make my soul recoil in horror”. Which they do, but usually I manage to politely mask the reaction.
No harm done however, a general chuckle, and the study director wrote it down to tell her husband.
SHUT UP HOPE, is what I tell myself.

But do I listen? NO.

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After having my bedroom painted, a novel thought occurred–why just hang those same old pictures on the wall? Time for a change! I have a large store of artworks created by my own fair hand in my angel infancy–why not frame a few of these and replace the so witty and amusant kitsch that had previously adorned the room? So I took some deathless art in hand and dashed off to the local frame shop in my neighborhood mall.

Of course, what was I thinking–it was after 6. Tough shit for those poor jerks who don’t get home until 5:30.

So, the next evening I carried the same pics with me on the way to my ballet class–because, guess what, there is a Michael’s Craft Store in Silver Spring, and if I bustled with extreme briskness, I could drop off the articles there (AND have the job done for probably HALF the cost) before class. However, I had to be SWIFT, so as not to be late for class.
I nipped into Michael’s and found the frame shop. A lovely young black man with adorable curls framing his lovely face came to help me to choose the perfect frames. GREAT, found–except, now we must find the perfect mat. I was very ready to choose whatever mat they had. Off white? GRAND, make it so! But it appeared that Michael’s had bought some very fine software, to show me just how my artworks would look in my chosen frame and mat, and the charming youth fired up the camera and computer to demonstrate.
Meanwhile, I could feel time slipping by.
It turned out the software was not quite so swift to launch as one might wish. Also the adorable youth had forgotten his password.
WHAT of that! I had FIVE minutes to spare! Trying hard to be patient, I let the lad continue with his artistic notions.
Suddenly that fine scene from Love Actually, in which Alan Rickman (Harry) is trying to swiftly buy a gift for his girl friend before his wife notices, from artistic sales person Rowan Atkinson (Rufus) came to mind.

Rufus: [gift wrapping a gold necklace] Let me just pop it in the box. There.
Harry: Look, can we be quite quick?

Rufus: Certainly sir. Ready in the flashiest of flashes!
[he ties a ribbon around it]
Rufus: There.
Harry: That’s great.
Rufus: Not quite finished…
Harry: [Rufus pulls out a plastic bag] Actually, I don’t need a bag, I’ll just put it in my pocket.
Rufus: Oh this isn’t a bag, sir.
Harry: Really?
Rufus: This is SO much more than a bag…

Finally I told him I HAD TO LEAVE, and he graciously allowed as how I might return later to complete the fabulous project.
So, I left. When I returned an hour and a half later, he had mastered the software, and managed to print out a bill.
What we suffer for art.

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NOT that one wants to complain, but this week seems more than usually HORRID, what with TWO back to back meetings, both fraught with soul killing vexation. The first one–on Wednesday–is cursed with a distant overlord, whose response time is measured and stately, whereby one deadline after another has been missed. But what of that! The underlings (=me) can deal! Today the major excitement was planning the strategy to enable the importation of the Personal Chair upon which–and ONLY upon which–the exalted underparts of the Most Puissant Overlord could be trusted to repose. This chair must be brought to our meeting place in time for the Event, after which, it must be removed. Some 8 or 9 anxious emails–each marked as Super Important, Return Receipt Insisted Upon–were sent to me in an attempt to settle this difficult problem.
Hope: “bring it to the front door, I’ll wheel it to the meeting”.
Minion: “This Chair [while worthy in every other way] HAS NO WHEELS.”
Hope: “Bring it to the loading dock with a minion to carry it to the meeting.”
Minion: “What if there were TWO minions, one in the van, one with the Chair–could it then be brought to the front door?’
Hope: “Bring it to the front door.”
Also, I forgot to mention that I had to schedule 2 sessions in the Breast Feeding Room for one of the panelists. From which we learn that we HAVE breast feeding rooms.
The other meeting is set for Thursday and Friday, and is all about…marijuana. See, all these states that have so blithely legalized it are suddenly thinking, WHOA, what if there are medical consequences–THAT WE WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR? There will be a meeting a month until Christmas.
Conclusion: this week=TOTAL BUST.
In other news, the hydrangea are blossoming, and looking very well indeed.
So there’s that.

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Today was Day 1 of my dreaded twice yearly board meeting–but, now that I have ways of keeping myself from annihilating despair during these stultifying events– getting work done while the blather booms on, webcruising on cunning electronic devices when I can’t work–I am able to stagger on without undue loss of life force, towards that golden moment when the chair announces that… the meeting is adjourned.
The meetings are readily summarized, thus:
“I am a GOOD person, who helps other less fortunate than myself”.
“Why, I am also such a person!”
“As am I!”
[repeat] x [number of persons present]
All: “Let us rejoice in our goodness!”
Chorus: “Blessed be the poor, whose pathetic weaknesses we study and whose sad state provides us and our prosperous non-profit organizations with sustenance!”
An easily ignored background noise.
However, there is one thing that tries even the most saintly of souls (=mine): the Solemn Worthy Video. Because why, because the LIGHTS ARE ALL TURNED OFF and the booming soundtrack cannot be ignored. This time it was the Noble Savage whose plight we were mourning–and it began with a paean to the splendid simple yet worthy life lived by the Native Americans in the good old days of yore–killing the buffalo (but only as many as needed of course), taking from Mother Earth and giving BACK to Mother Earth. Cute children! Simple yet moving ceremonies!
But OH WOE! Now such bad! The people despair!
Which is quite true, the totally catastrophic situation of the Indian nation is a black shame–and why are there not protests and pickets at the doors of Bureau of Indian Affairs? Their methods have been complete failures, and have had fatal outcomes.
But we are not concerned with such things, we are in pie-in-the-sky country as is our wont. Silos! Outside the envelope! And what I find offensive despite my best efforts to remain unmoved is that everyone else is just EATING THIS UP. I look around and see nothing but reverent approval.
Sometimes I think I am an alien in my own dear country.
However, tomorrow is only a half day meeting, and the rain seems to have stopped.
So, there’s that.

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I first heard of Prince back when I was a wild wild 30-something-mother-of-4. I loved his music–not as you might say very intellectual, but irresistible. So that when I heard he had made a MOVIE I got a baby sitter and dragged the hubby to see the show. Purple Rain! WHOA! Such baroquely overwrought prancing and dancing—and my dear, the costumes! Ruffles at the neck and cuffs, high heeled boots, and adorable tight pants—not to mention voluminous mascara! Lordie! I was quite ravished.
And was so grieved to hear of his death last week.
In honor to the man and the time, I rented the movie I had watched with such joy so many years ago—and found it retains its joy, its complete ferocious self centered jubilation.

It has a sort of spurious story—his parents are fighting, his gorgeous girl with the massive 1980’s hair is dating a rival—but mostly, it’s just him singing in the club, and everyone loving it. Watching it now, 30 years later, I note that while randy sexiness is the theme, there is no vice portrayed in this move. No drugs, no drinking, no smoking. Comparable club scenes today would include as a matter of course ample portions of sleaze and sin—cocaine, drunken vomiting, sex in the bathrooms. Prince talked dirty but lived clean.
His costumes set the tone, Teddy boy dandy mated with transvestite sex queen. Those boots! I have looked online in vain for an image of the gathered lace boots he wore on one of his motorcycle jaunts. And then the lavender satin ones, accessorized with lace gloves. Or wait, I think the lace gloves went with the lace half-mask that he wore with the tight white satin pants and no shirt. Nice, very.

Here is a brief clip from the movie. Hard to find, Prince was VERRA controlling and didn’t allow this sort of thing.

Random Notes:

  • All the men in the movie except Prince’s dad are wearing heavy eye makeup. Rather becoming, actually.
  • Morris Day, Prince’s fellow performer, is a stitch. Silly, funny, and wonderful stylized dancing. ALSO snappy dressing!
  • Quote: Morris, trying to seduce girl friend tells her– with a significant leer—“I got a BRASS WATERBED, baby.”

Sigh. Such silly stuff. It made me smile.
Prince was a great entertainer. I don’t care that he was slightly crazy—that was part of the show. And the show was a grand show. Over now.

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