Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Beckoning of Hope

Marjorie McKee
The Beckoning of Hope by Michael Burton adapted by Marjorie McKee for solo actor, from Michael Burton's "It's not permitted to Hope"

A play in four movements. A solo performance with live accompaniment on cello by Sebastian Morgan-Lynch, directed by Andrew McKenzie from an original concept by L'hibou Hornung.

Phew, so many names for a solo show. That is theatre. A solo show is never a solo show. Marjorie McKee embodied two characters: Nadezhda Mandelshtam, widow of the Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam and Becky, a "Western" woman; "a stupid Western Woman," as Nadezhad refers to her in a voice over, admonishing her attempts to write anything worth while since she will never be able to come of anything because she and her country has not suffered enough. But she has, for who can know how much any one person suffers, it is not for others to judge. Toward the end Becky writes her poem on the floor in chalk white, a beautiful testament to her belief in herself, she is enough.

McKee played each character throughout the performance, individually and with strong conviction to living a full life and writing; both women struggle with memory, their writing, and the men, both real and some perhaps imagined. One director's choice of Nadeshda moving down stage placing her husband's poetry on the floor as she moved towards us, blessing it with water from a crystal bowl was very engaging. Marjorie McKee can probably play any role, her performance was simply flawless.

Jay Yager's reply to "Cat Jokes"

Jay Yager behind the camera, Belle River, Ontario, 2006.

Jay Yager wrote to me after reading my blog on Cat Jokes. With his permission I'm posting his response because it has the word vulture in it.

From Jay:
I read your piece about cat jokes on your blog. While I agree that such jokes are abusive I do think that there's another big issue involved. I recently read Alan Weisman's book "The World Without Us" which elaborates on my longstanding view that human overpopulation is wrecking the planet. An important part of that condition is the parallel overpopulation of dogs and cats and in the case of the latter the serious reduction in population of birds. I certainly don't advocate cruelty to these household pets but neither do I subscribe to the large scale favoring of some species over others. A couple months ago when Leda and Mark were here a turkey vulture landed in our next door neighbors yard and was eying one of the wild cats that live in the woods around our place. Leda ran out and chased the vulture away, a seemingly humanitarian reaction. My view is that that was a pretty even match and I would let nature take its course. It's likely that the cat would have survived anyway but the point is that our human intervention at all levels in the environment (now including the dramatic change of the very atmosphere of the planet) is causing a huge imbalance in the worlds natural systems. Of course we are part of nature but our success and overabundance, if it continues unchecked, is likely to lead to our own extinction along with that of a large number of other species. This prospect troubles me more than any of the other (and there certainly are many) humanitarian disasters in the world. But enough of the heavy stuff.

Mr. Skid

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cat Jokes?

I like to use this space to be supportive of other people and their work.

However, there are things I read about that I don't get. So I like to use this space to put them out there to see other opinions. Like dead animal jokes. I find them harmful and hurtful. I don't believe in censorship, and I realize I don't always get Kiwi humour (for example the Grammy for best comic album to Flight of the Conchords), but what is so funny about dead animals?

When I read Linley Boniface's essay in Wellington's Dominion Post 11 February, about returning from vacation, I did not laugh at her dead cat joke. She wrote about finding rancid dairy products in the refrigerator and lamented that her cat was still alive: "…(I) … discovered … the vicious and much loathed family cat that had again ignored our instructions to get run over while we were away."

Abandoning cats and dogs while going on vacation is too common in New Zealand. Many homes have cat doors and cats like to roam. A neighbor's cat often comes for a visit in our home and hangs out on the sofa, but the owner would never take off for two weeks abandoning their pet. It's against the law. Boniface may have made arrangements for her cat while she was away, but the intention in the essay is to say otherwise. Why? To be funny?

Why is it funny? What if you substitute another word for cat? Like child. Not funny? Where do you draw the line? While reading this essay I realized how common it is to see and hear dead animal jokes in the media. By laughing at these jokes we are adding to an acceptance of this type of humour which reinforces our already shameful neglect for those who can not speak for themselves. Many years ago I read a book that I will never forget: "The Dreaded Comparison," by Marjorie Spiegel, which shows how slavery was (and is) only possible because of our tolerance to oppress animals. Perhaps Ms. Boniface doesn't realize her own contribution to a long history of cruelty to animals and it's connection to slavery of people of color through mindless jokes.

If she truly has a "...much loathed and vicious cat..." perhaps she should look at her own environment and family. Pets often exhibit the personality of their owners. Maybe her cat needs to be rescued by the SPCA!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Chrysler sells to Men who want to be Pimps

Pics of car dealership on Courtney Street
Ad reads: Confident Woman seeks muscular American with bad-boy attitude and a hint of bling....

At first I thought the message was directed to women. On a second look it's clear: Chrysler is selling to Kiwi men who want to be imitators of American rappers and gangsters? I know it's supposed to be hip to say bling but the name came from rappers and gangsters who wear gold and silver in a gaudy display on their teeth and body while eating at fast food restaurants with menus with pictures of food because they can't read. The real message? Confident woman seeks illiterate pimp who will treat me bad?

Waitangi Park

Waitangi Park.
New mural of Bob Marley, the caption says "Don't Forget Your History. Know Your Destiny." Waitangi Day is the same day as Marley's birthday, and so the connection.

Walking by the park the day after Waitangi Day I saw this new mural. What's up with the spliff? Is this a pro drug promotion? In a public park? Sponsored by the government?

I heard a radiio interview with Kerry Pendergast, Mayor of Wellington, on Waitangi Day. She said she has no memories of pop music growing up because it wasn't allowed in her home; and she was too scared to listen to the Beatles, even at a friends, because it was forbidden. I can't imagine growing up without music, or living without it now. How can anyone escape it?

Not that she missed much. The Beatles were okay. They built their sound by imitating (stealing) the melodies and sounds of Motown (Detroit) until The Sargent Pepper's album, which was original; although they were completely stoned on acid, so it is said, when they recorded it. John Lennon on the other hand created beautiful songs on his own. Imagine is one. Although it was written with Yoko Ono, the record company refused to allow her name on the record. Nice of Yoko to agree to that. Of course she owns the song now! To her credit she has refused every major corporation's offer to pay for the song to sell stuff, until she said yes to Greenpeace.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The trouble with women is other women

Now that Super Tuesday is over, it looks like McCain will be getting the Republican nomination. It's neck to neck for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and the Republicans are hoping for Clinton because Barack would be harder to beat.

Harder to beat the more qualified candidate? Harder to beat the less experienced?

Come November if Clinton is the Democrat candidate, then women will turn out in record numbers to vote against her. As Betty always says, 'the trouble with women is other women.'

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Waitangi Day

Native Fern, Stokes Valley, New Zealand

Waitangi Day February 6, 2008. National holiday since 1974 in New Zealand commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February, 1840 between the British Crown and some Maori Chiefs. On what the agreement actually says though is disputable. There are two versions, in two languages: one in English and one in Maori. According to various New Zealand government websites, the treaty gave Britain sovereignty of New Zealand while granting Maoris the same rights as the British citizens. Sounds good but the treaty was ignored by the courts until sometime in the 1970's. This fact explains a lot about social conditions here that remind me of the black and white problems because of racism in The States. The USA didn't sign the Civil Rights Act until 1964.

Do the Right Thing - Super Tuesday

Gandhi. Wellington Train Station, New Zealand

I asked my mother who she voted for in the Florida Primary and she proudly said, Hillary. And Dad I asked? Hillary she said. But we don't tell anyone she added. Mom and Dad, 80 and 85 years of age respectively, live in Florida where they find themselves in a minority. Keeping your mouth shut Mom says saves a lot of arguments. Everyone they know, those they play tennis with, play cards with, chat over the back fence with, and share an occasional meal with are all Republicans. Mom says: "It's a status thing they are proud of. It's prestigious to them. They think they are better than anyone else and only vote in ways that affect their own pocket and don't care about anyone else."

Mom's analysis of Republicans sounds as good as any I've heard by political experts. Thinking about our conversation while being here in Wellington, New Zealand, on Super Tuesday (actually it's Wednesday morning here since we are 18 hours ahead of US time) I am proud of both my parents.

I remember eight years ago when many friends and political analysts said we had to vote for the Democrat who could win and not THROW away our vote. This irritated me and I had many discussions about this issue. (Because my vote was going to Nader). Friends were angry with me. But I believed I had to do the right thing since both the Republicans and Democrats were in the same corporate bed. We had to vote independent. Bush won two elections by bulldozing people down with terrorist rhetoric instilling fear into the hearts of the people. What if all the people including independents and democrats had done the right thing and voted independent? Isn't doing the right thing how we create change? We could have had a political revolution if people had voted for the right 'person' rather than throwing their vote away by voting against Bush.

This is not hindsight saying, "if only we knew...." No. Most people believed they were voting the right way and people like me were throwing the vote away. They are wrong of course. No matter the consequences, we must not believe others, we must not believe what polls say, we must not be persuaded by anyone else. We must always do the right thing. We have a conscious. It is our responsibility as citizens of the US to look at people's records and vote for the right person, who will represent ALL the people, not just 'our own pocket' as Mom says. Voting against someone is throwing the vote away. Not the other way around.

This voting against rather than for has now come to a new level we could never predict four years ago. A woman and a black man! I suspect that racism and sexism will be so strong come November, that no matter who gets the Democratic nomination, the people of the US will vote AGAINST women and blacks both. No one will have to steal the election this time. If we admire people who do the right thing, who make sacrifices for the good of others, can't we do the same? What is the alternative? There is talk of a recession. I remember the Detroit riots of 1967. I was there. So were Mom and Dad.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Money & Writers & Bush

Bush, New Zealand

Writer's Strike.
Looks like a deal is in the making so the academy awards can go forward. What a relief. I really didn't know what I was going to do without the academy awards.

Give me the money! According to the BBC (February 5 2008), "The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation says the strike has cost the region's film and TV industry at least $650 million (£330 million) in lost wages, with the wider economy losing over $1 billion (£508 million)." I know journalists are part of the union, so how is stuff getting written and published in US papers every day? What is the loop hole here? Lawyers must be doing very well.

Pic: Hudson Street, Manhattn "Your Closet's Scarier Than Bush's Agenda."

President Bush's new federal budget is $3.1 trillion. He's asking for the biggest increase for the military since World War II. He's cutting back Medicare and Medicaid (health care for the poor). He's cutting out 151 programs including 47 that involve education.

The federal debt was $3.3 trillion when Bush took office. It's expected to reach $5.4 trillion this year. This is the worst situation for the USA in its entire history. Looks like trouble ahead.

Bush wants to stimulate the economy by offering incentives to spend money. The next time I'm in New York, I'll take the subway instead of walking. That $2.00 one way should help. It was 60 cents when I moved to NY in 1981. In '81 the minimum wage was $3.35/hour. Now it's $5.85; however, New York state has it's own wage at $7. Of course undocumented workers, employed by the wealthy and government servants are paid whatever their employers feel like. The presidential candidates have not said much on immigration. The person I was going to vote for, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, has dropped out. He was the only one who voted against the war. I can only hope that people vote for the right candidate not the one they think can win, which is why the republicans took over 8 years ago in the first place.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Fly Nude

I don't care what people wear but I know I don't want to sit in a seat that was previously occupied by a naked person, squirming in a tight space. According to the BBC, there is a big demand for this new nude air flight in Germany where people will board with their clothes on and then take their clothes off. What is the point? Once seated you can't see anyone (the stewards and stewardess will keep their clothes on for safety; and no tea or coffee as a safety precaution.) And what about those seat belts strapped across your lap and the large metal clasp cutting into naked flesh? As I recall that clasp sits right about the center of my body just below the naval, where, well let's say, it could be dangerous, especially for men?

And what about the life span of a crab in the upholstery? I don't care if they say there will be a cloth on the seat. Nothing stays put in an airline seat.