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I have been struck low and deadly blow, comrades! Sugarsync, a back up and file syncing program which I have been using for years–YEARS–suddenly turned on me like a vicious snake. And, DELETED HUNDREDS OF MY FILES. Whoops, said Mr. Program Support when I cried out in my agony. Hey, our bad! Oh, they are “working on it”.
Which is such a comfort of course.
But, ha ha, I have another back up program in place! Code 42, which backs up everything on the computer every day! So all is well!
Except, what do you know, my subscription ran out in March, just around the time that Verizon stopped providing webmail, switching subscribers over to AOL. So all their warning messages (7 of them, I was told later) were never delivered, or went into the efficient AOL spam folder. And consequently, Code42–without any malice, more in sorrow than in anger, I like to think– dutifully had deleted all my files from their servers.
Image result for nightmare painting
And yes, I DO in fact have an external hard drive for saving backups. The fatal error was in NOT DOING THE BACK UPS.

Yesterday,
All those backups seemed a waste of pay.
Now my database has gone away.
Oh I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly,
There’s not half the files there used to be,
And there’s a deadline hanging over me
The system crashed so suddenly.

I pushed something wrong
What it was I could not say.
Now all my data’s gone
and I long for yesterday-ay-ay-ay.

Yesterday,
The need for back-ups seemed so far away.
I thought that it was here to stay,
Now I believe in yesterday.

Lagniappe: when I came home this evening the INTERNET WAS BROKEN. Which is to say, the router was blinking red, unable to provide access.
I shall just go out in the garden and eat wooly worms.

Brooklyn

Having just returned from Brooklyn, it seemed fitting to watch the movie of that name, a rather charming evocation of the city as it was 80 years ago, teeming with hard working immigrants from Europe. The lovely Eilis has arrived from Ireland, lonely and homesick, but with the aid of a kindly priest (played by dear Jim Broadbent, always fun to watch), her sharp tongued but amiable landlady, and others–all lovingly portrayed, and the ladies especially pleasant to look upon in their splendid 1950’s array–she survives and prospers. And naturally enough, finds a likely lad–who, shockingly, is NOT Irish! However, being Italian he is of course Catholic, so THAT’S OK. He is almost as lovely as Eilis!

MY, what a lovely couple.
They first meet at a dance and I was so afraid he was going to prove to be a Bad Guy–but, not so! No dark scenes with the lovely girl pregnant and abandoned on the cruel streets–or worse, sobbing in a back room abortion clinic, heartbroken and overwhelmed with guilt–NONE of that! There are hard times and anguish to be sure–and an absolutely venomous lady back in Ireland whose bitter words had a great deal to do with Eilis’s determination to emigrate–but it all ends well. A detailed look at my parent’s generation. Really, simply charming.
PLUS there is a scene at Coney Island WITH PINK COTTON CANDY! How can you not love it?

Father’s Day

I recently watched a documentary about a brilliant young Ukrainian dancer who found himself on the world stage, major ballet companies all agog to have him. This movie has the usual tedious interviews–his contemporaries ponderously saying this and that–while the audience is thinking, SHUT UP and show me the lad dancing. The reason for the documentary is that this young man went slightly loony, couldn’t take the life. Drugs! Tattoos! He is quite beautiful, and in his anguish and rage, had his exquisite body covered with tattoos (which all of course have to be covered up for any traditional ballet role).

But the big news was, he quit the Royal Ballet! NO ONE quits the Royal Ballet. The story was a sad one, the gifted child, the poor family that tried so hard to give him the training he needed–and which then split apart, leaving him, a child lost and alone in an alien land. Young Sergei Polunin was suddenly motherless AND fatherless and almost fell into the abyss. Which reminds me of another tattooed lost child, remember Leonard Smalls? Who came to a very bad end indeed, hoist by his own petard.

But, this story ends happily, with his parents, reconciled if not back together, sitting together with granny, to proudly watch their splendid son dance like an angel in some spectacular show.

Coincidentally, I was rereading some Terry Pratchett stories–and was so moved by good old Sam Vimes, and his determination to be a good father to Young Sam. He is going to read to his son every night at 6, and no excuses!

“Would a minute have mattered? No, probably not, although his young son appeared to have a very accurate internal clock. Possibly even 2 minutes would be okay. Three minutes, even. You could go to five minutes, perhaps. But that was just it. If you could go for five minutes, then you’d go to ten, then half an hour, a couple of hours…and not see your son all evening. So that was that. Six o’clock, prompt. Every day. Read to young Sam. No excuses. He’d promised himself that. No excuses. No excuses at all. Once you had a good excuse, you opened the door to bad excuses.”

And he keeps his word, despite demons and dragons and trolls and dwarves and the machinations of very bad people. He is such a good man, and such a good dad.
Which reminds me, happy father’s day to all you dads out there! AND to the moms!
And to all the people who help protect the young from the abyss.

Here is Polunin doing trad ballet
Here he is doing more moderny stuff

Moana

I just watched the latest Disney animation, Moana–simply lovely. The vision of green islands in glittering ocean is ravishing, and then the images invoking Polynesian art and culture are so inventive–brilliantly drawn, deft and clever. And the story–a folk tale involving a goddess and a stolen heart–is quite charming. There is–of course–that whole business about Believing in Yourself and Girls R Strong, which frankly I have had about enough of. Kids these days are so COMPLETELY believing in themselves! A new message: doubt yourself every once in a while, maybe.
But the gorgeous ships gliding over the turquoise sea, just wonderful–there is one scene where a whole fleet of those splendid Tahitian vessels sails by, incredibly detailed, crammed with people–and all quite accurately drawn. The wind in the sails! The porpoises dancing in the waves!

And Moana herself (available not only as a doll but also as action figure AND Lego set, not to mention the costume and artificial flower crown) is of course adorable–and so is the demigod Maui, huge and tattooed (with a tattoo that talks back to him).

This is, by the way, an EXCELLENT example of typical Disney sexual dimorphism: males are generally 4 times the size of females. More, even, see fine Scottish example below:

These movies are such astonishing works of art. The detail and scope are breathtaking–I am filled with admiration for the vision that created these fine shows, and the hundreds of people who labored to make them happen. Sail on, Disney!

Dear Terry Pratchett

Just a note to say, thank you again, Terry Pratchett, for all the joy you have given me. I happened to have The Fifth Elephant on my iPod, and idly started listening to it again.
SUCH WONDERFUL SILLINESS!
Gracious me, what a delightful treasure. How I remember reading this one for the first time, on the train to New York, and being overwhelmed by that absolutely boffo scene where Lady Vimes, in a difficult spot, bursts into full operatic song– a long and moving aria from Bloodaxe and Ironhammer of the Dwarfish Ring cycle (as remembered from her girlish school days, when she had sung the role of Ironhammer). And the attendant dwarves, completely won over by her interpretation, actually break into tears–which they wipe away with their little pocket hankies (made, of course, of chain mail, as are all their accessories). I couldn’t help bursting into hearty guffaws at that last detail. Splendid stuff.

Dear Terry Pratchett, how we miss you.
Image result for bloodaxe and ironhammer

Rosenkavalier

These days, one can watch spectacular Met productions in the comfort of local movie theaters–saving not only the $100+ of a ticket but also the stress, the parking and the driving. True, you miss the excitement of the live show, but the older I get, the more this seems a reasonable exchange. Not to young people, it appears– the audience at the movie theater last night was almost exclusively ancient. We were there to see Der Rosenkavalier: rapturous music, lavish staging, fabulous flamboyance. An added bonus: no violence, no one dying of tuberculosis, and the boy gets the girl!

So–the show begins–the conductor waves his baton, the curtain goes up! We are in the Marschallin’s palatial home. Her husband the prince being absent, she is enjoying her lovely boy toy, Octavian–a trouser role for a mezzo soprano.

This production has moved the time to prewar Vienna, so rather than the powdered wigs and embroidered doublets of yore, the lad is outfitted in snappy military uniform, when he’s not in his pj’s as below.

And really, as played by stunning Elīna Garanča, a very believable and completely beautiful boy. The ravishing Marschallin was sung by Renee Fleming, a role she has made her own over the past decade–this, she said, was to be her last performance of the role. The world mourns. She is one of the most famous and splendid divas of our time–gorgeous, generous, and with a voice of an angel, truly. Think of honey, think of roses, think of dreams come true–that is Renee Fleming’s voice.
But she is getting old–she is 58 now.
In the opera, the Marschallin is also getting old: she is 32. She must relinquish her lovely boy to someone his own age, and it is a bitter grief to her. But in between all this anguish there is the business with ridiculous Baron Ochs–usually played as a fat old fart, but in this production, a handsome and imposing man, if boorish and foolish.

baronochs

Boorish Baron Ochs (Günther Groissböck) with his retinue of louts. Yes, he is sitting on some kind of howitzer in the picture on the right. See, his father-in-law-to-be is an arms dealer and so OF COURSE has furnished his living room with enormous guns.

 

The thing about Ochs is that despite being a total jerk, he has the most beautiful melody of the show. This is the tune my mother asked us to play at her funeral, in fact. Another factoid: Ochs has to sing a low C. This is about as low as bassos can go.

As is usual in these things, the director was determined to do something NEW and exciting, and while I applaud his losing the powdered wigs and all, setting the last scene in a whorehouse (instead of an inn, as per the story) felt a little off. Why, how NAUGHTY we are! Wilkommen im Cabaret my friends! All the ladies in their naughtValkyriey nighties–and there were a LOT of them, the stage so crammed with bodies that at times one searched in vain for our main characters–didn’t quite mesh with the actual plot. It reminded me of that staging of Valkyrie, when trendy director had the dread daughters of Odin–now outfitted as WWI aviators–slowly dropping to the stage suspended from parachutes, all the while urging on their gallant steeds: “Hoyotoho! Hoyotoho! Here, Helmwige, bring your horse here.”

So, anyway, there they are in a brothel. For dinner. Whatever.
At the very end, the director decided it would be a fine touch to have a bunch of guys dressed as WWI soldiers suddenly rush on stage–and collapse.
You know, there is a fine line between expressing the grief caused by the countless war dead and using them as props to add depth to a show. That line was crossed.

Still, the singing was gorgeous.
Opera, the astonishing art produced by hundreds of people working together. Whenever you think, we are doomed, this world is an abyss–remember opera, a miraculous accomplishment of humankind.

PS here is Günther Groissböck singing Ochs’ lovely song which ends with a low C. While doing a sort of strip tease. Well, OK, he takes his outer shirt off.

PPS here is a version of the Presentation of the Rose.

Fantastic Beasts

I bypassed the whole Harry Potter experience—the books seemed simple and derivative to me, thin stuff compared to Tolkien, CS Lewis, TH White–the honey dew upon which I had fed as a child. Though I can well understand how rich and rare they must have seemed to those children starved of fantasy, whose reading had hitherto consisted of politically approved books whose message was uplifting and whose story was stolidly non magical at all times.

The Harry Potter series being played out, the author had the pleasing notion of making a story about one of the text books Harry and his colleagues studied: Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them. Hence, the new movie—which if successful, will start a whole new series. The story is negligible, but the images are ravishing. And Eddie Redmayne makes eddie1a charming hero, diffident and shy, disguising his quite astonishing beauty beneath a tangle of artfully tousled hair and an affectation of pigeon toed awkwardness. He steps off the ship and arrives in a simply splendid vision of old New York—really, a work of art, full of delightful details. There is some business with accidentally exchanged suitcases (his contains a menagerie of magical creatures, the other a collection of baked goods) and the story goes forward. A bad mage, a secret society, a wicked witch (played with alarming verve by Samantha Morton, excellent as always). The creatures are of course extraordinarily well made and seem very real– magic that we take for granted these days—undeniably fun to look at.

And I was going to leave it at that—lovely show, lots of gorgeous images—but then I came across a scene in the fantasy series I am reading concerning another kind of beast altogether—and was amused at the comparison.

In this book, an army is marching across a vast desert, and by way of entertainment on the grueling march, they capture one each of the 3 types of deadly scorpions native to the desert: a Red Bastard, an Amber In Out, and a Birdshit. This last is a puny creature, looking like its namesake. The squads name their champions Magonel, Clawmaster and Joyful Union. The mini arena fenced with knives is set up, and betting is heavy. The moment arrives, the champions are dropped out of their boxes into the arena.

“Joyful Union sauntered into the middle of the arena. Mangonel’s assortment of natural weapons all cocked in unison, even as the creature began backing up, its shell turning fiery red. Clawmaster suddenly wheeled and darted straight at the nearest wall of blades, halting a moment before impact, pincers waving wildly. ‘He wants mommy, looks like, Hubb,’ Koryk drily observed”. . . “Joyful Union finally lifted its tail. Upon which, all but Fiddler stared in utter disbelief, as Joyful Union seemed to…split. Horizontally. Into two identical, but thinner, flatter scorpions. That then raced outward, one to Mangonel, the other to Clawmaster—each like a village mongrel charging a bull.”. . “With its enemies vanquished, the two Birdshit scorpions rushed back into each other’s arms—and, in the blink of an eye, were as one once more.”

Inventive, no?

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