We are never going to see gun control as long as we’re in love with post-atrocity rituals. Over and over, crazies buy assault weapons, shoot people in a church, a school, a nightclub--and we rush joyfully to our grieving routines. We hug, sob extravagantly, pile up flowers and toys, light candles, sing, bow heads in silence, and chant that we are strong, will move forward together, and that of course, love conquers all--though it obviously does not.
We enjoy our virtuous feelings as we assemble with printed banners to listen to speeches, send facebook condolences to people we don’t know, and circulate petitions to elected officials who do nothing--because that’s what we really really want. No lost lives--even 30,000 a year--are as important to us as the fun of a copious sniffle with someone else who, like us, was not mowed down.
Gun nuts proclaim that a good guy with a gun--worshiper, schoolteacher, nightclubber--would promptly take down a shooter, pop his (or her) gun back into a pocket, and everyone would go home happy. That fantasy has never been seen; far more frequent are sprays of missed shots fired off by policemen–who are trained in shooting--attempting to hit a fleeing target.
At this summer’s presidential conventions, we'll see if concealed-weapon advocates believe what they bleat about. We’ll see if law-abiding citizens that elected officials prize are allowed to circulate in the halls, swaggering in their heavy belts as they approach the speaker’s platform.
It was scary when my ear doctor prescribed an MRI “to rule out an acoustic neuroma.” I know someone who had one of those tumors, and the results of the surgery are worse than the protracted operation, because after you heal, you are decidedly less perfect, and are annoyed forever.
Not to mention that I usually don’t allow any procedures on my person, period, and until that moment, that included an MRI.
The doctor wanted it done in a particular office that of course was a huge deal to get to, and then I had to wait for more than an hour--which was actually when the nice part started.
I went around the corner to a cute little restaurant with white tablecloths, and had a small fancy pizza and a half a glass of chianti. I’m a lousy drinker so I got back to the radiologist’s office in a pretty good mood.
They’d said my time in the tube would be 45 minutes to an hour, and no, I couldn’t play music or invite friends to hold my hand. They also said that most people got claustrophobic.
The MRI turned out to be a lovely experience. The room was cool because of the machine, so the Ukrainian doctor put a blanket over me. I like blankets. He also gave me earplugs. I was slid smoothly into the chamber, and then offered--a percussion concert!
I enjoy percussion. I recently reviewed “The Conjurer,” a percussion concerto by John Corigliano, at the New York Philharmonic. (Google my name at classicalvoiceamerica.org, and find a link to the concerto there as well.)
Now here, for my purposes, was another opportunity to consider differences in timbre, volume, speed and rhythm. I sank into the sounds, and suddenly–too soon--I was slid out again, and the radiologist took away my plugs and my brankie. Hey, I was just getting into this. It had taken only 20 minutes, he said, because I lay so still, so the images were clear. (It’s also a good length for a concerto.)
Ahem. I recommend this procedure to anyone interested in percussion. Some may not find this attitude normal, but my brain results were just fine. So I’ve got evidence.
We're talking about someone to represent our country, and me, here and in the rest of the world.
So Bernie: he has great dreams, but can he implement them? It doesn't look that way. Can he do anything about Congress's roadblock? Maybe they'll be persuaded by his ideas because they love Jews? Not in this life. There's plenty of anti-semitism, which would come right out there if he were the Democratic candidate.
Once in a while he lets someone comb his hair. Unkempt doesn't play outside the US. He doesn't care.
Hillary's hair has been her trial by fire, but she's got it going now. However, she has a peculiar relationship to facts: worth talking up when they're useful, otherwise they're to be adjusted. ("Vast right-wing conspiracy," anybody?)
Truth is to Hillary what Bernie's hair is to him: a nuisance, you stand there till people subside, and then you continue with what you care about--which for Hillary, is becoming president.
Hillary is stronger, more experienced. Bernie is sweeter and more passionate about his dream.
By tomorrow night I'll know what I did and I'll be interested in how I feel about it. I'd love to write in Mayor Bloomberg or George Clooney, but that's throwing away my vote. Maybe I'll watch TV till I get to the polling place. Maybe I'll play the radio at the same time. And read the newspaper.
At least I won't have a problem with the November election.
Modern tourists encounter spirit of Carnival in Les Arts Florissants production of Campra’s ‘Les Fêtes Vénitiennes.’ (Photos by Jack Vartoogian /FrontRowPhotos)
By Leslie Kandell
NEW YORK — Music-lovers usually know Bach from Beethoven or Brahms, but they leave tilling the turf between Lully and Rameau to specialists in small seminars. However, the Paris-based American conductor William Christie — God’s gift to the French Baroque — regards those two composers as worlds apart, and with his period-instrument ensemble,Les Arts Florissants, he explores this repertoire’s crannies with vigor and joy. He triumphed last week in Brooklyn with a stunning, witty French opera-ballet by André Campra, who was born before Bach and between Lully and Rameau.
Elodie Bonnard as Fortune in ‘Les Fêtes Vénitiennes.’
A huge hit in 1710, Les Fêtes Vénitiennes had more than 300 European performances before languishing until Christie, with directorRobert Carsen and (surely wild-eyed) Dutch choreographer Ed Wubbe of Scapino Ballet, shaped it, raunched it up, and presented it in Europe. The performance on April 14 — the first of three — at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was its U.S. premiere.
In the prologue to three barely connected acts, scruffy tourists jostle into the Piazza San Marco, wearing backpacks and snapping selfies. “This is you, now,” is the message to the audience. Suddenly a towering red puppet lumbers in, maneuvered by men with long sticks, in red velvet.
Mezzo Emilie Renard and pals: Partying like it’s Venusberg.
It is the grotesque spirit of Carnival, sweeping away inhibition and swinging forward a fantastical past in a red haze. Egged on by La Folie (mezzo-soprano Emilie Renard), singers and dancers of both sexes don orange wigs, heels, and red velvet gowns slit up to here. They sing and dance, partying like it’s Venusberg.
In marches La Raison (soprano Magali Léger), a nun with two horrified — and titillated — priests in tow. Reason gets nowhere with these revelers, who rudely hustle her off. The audience is now prepared for whatever might happen.
While puppeteers turned stage crew and revolved the buildings’ panels into courtly salon walls, listeners had time to savor the gutsy, precise orchestra, which included theorbo, lute, gamba, and harpsichord. Christie negotiated euphonious spaces between tones with open-mouthed delight, as if hearing them for the first time.
The first entrée has a plot about mistaken identity. The Prince (smooth, balanced baritoneJonathan McGovern who, like most others in the company, had multiple roles) wants assurance that his intended lady will love him even if she is tricked into thinking he is only a servant. After a few masked dances (beak masks are common), it turns out she will. Planned entertainment ensues, with drinks and pass-arounds for the nobles looking on. (Intended is thrilled.)
Bass François Lis (as the two-timing youth Léandre) with parade of gondolas.
Entrée Two, about faithless love and mistaken identity, is darker and takes place on a canal at night. There are two jilted girls, a fickle boy, and, in an upstairs window, his first choice. Rachel Redmond, a charming soprano from Scotland, is a veteran of Christie programs, and like a few of the singers, has been here before. Her intonation was elegant. As was almost everyone’s.
The high point of this act is a parade of gondolas: dancers wearing little boats, floating on a canal where stage fog stands in for water. Wubbe’s louche dance-making is like Mark Morris exploded, and we’re not going into what dancers were doing with their boats’ phallic bow ornaments. The act concludes back on San Marco, reveling girls (or ersatz girls) wearing small gambling tables. The puppet surveys the carnival and the fetes roar on.
Rachel Redmond as opera singer fends off Marcel Beekman as singing master.
Redmond also appeared in the last entrée, rehearsing for an opera while fending off a lecherous coach, the very funny Dutch tenorMarcel Beekman. The opera is about shepherds and sheep — which we won’t discuss either, except to say that buoyed by the accompaniment, sheep-costumed dancers did evocative animal impressions. And they bleated.
After the raging, black-clad god of wind descends to carry off the loveliest shepherdess (she’s fine with that, knowing it’s her lover in disguise), the scene shifts back to the piazza for the epilogue. Fast-forward to hung-over tourists awakening as from a dream, and shambling off, dragging their gear and leaving litter and plastic bags. We’re back in the present. Nice touch.
Thecurtain calls were celebratory, the cheers long and loud. Les Fêtes Vénitiennes, three hours with intermission, was a boisterous, imaginative spectacle, successfully connecting the centuries.
Suspenseful, engrossing and well acted, this important film was mentioned late in a Times article: "Receiving nothing, Concussion... Among a raft of splashy weekend newspaper display ads, Concussion, starring Will Smith (for whom it was written), with Alec Baldwin in the convincing cast, didn't even appear.
It's the true story of an African pathologist, Bennet Omalu, who identified the lethal effects of football's head collisions by doing autopsies on former Pittsburgh Steelers, who had lost their minds, broken laws, and died--often by their own hand.
The more evidence he gathers, the more the top football establishment wants him to go away. After all, football is such fun, so lucrative, such a part of American culture, that there is no way they'll let their lovely franchises be tainted by some foreign black doctor who doesn't get it. Even Will Smith told a TV interviewer that as a football fan, he himself had mixed feelings about making the film.
You there. See Concussion soon. (Cover your eyes if you don't like watching autopsies, they're brief.) The film ("receiving nothing") is getting the same silent treatment Omalu got, and will be swept away with, as Shakespeare put it, "all convenient speed." Maybe it sheds light on the article on the death, in prison, of former Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips, 40, "a suspected suicide."
Critics can't rave enough about this movie in which two women discover themselves as they fall in love. Maybe reviewers don't want to chance being called prudish or insensitive or not with it. Even those who don't like the film praise Cate Blanchett as Carol: "magnificent" is a conservative term, as are "masterful" and "excellent." Adjectives float upward ecstatically from there.
Blanchett, real-life married mother, who gets the most Oscar buzz, is quoted in a headline as saying "I'm not a lesbian, but who cares?" I (not a movie critic, so like others, I pay for ticket and popcorn) care. I doubt that I'm the only one.
I think it's showing off, and what's missing in her performance is enhanced by her publicly distancing herself from what this character would have had to go through internally and in life, were she in fact a lesbian. Truly gay people know about the lying, sneaking away from friends, substituting pronouns, and the tremendous risks to their jobs and personal lives, the wait for promised legal equality. Do you feel that history behind Blanchett's skillful acting? I don't.
Her answer would be, well, didn't I adore her in Blue Jasmine, where she wasn't that character either? Isn't that what acting is about? Maybe it's that sexuality is core human stuff. The absolute first question about a birth is, boy or girl?
Murderous psychos are more acceptable: Jack Nicholson and Richard Widmark never gave interviews denying that they were psychopaths, though they played them terrifyingly. It's obvious. Blanchett, however, unconsciously needed to be sure that no one would be tempted to imagine her performance coming from a personal reality.
There was no scene in which she seemed driven and thrilled. She was only miserable and confused. Mara watched--metaphorically, with a camera. It was like a performance in blackface. Everyone knows that trip doesn't apply to the performer.
I’ve been removed from the jury duty rolls, permanently. The unpublicized rule is that if you nose around the options enough, and you’re over 75, you’re free. In the words of the gospel performer Andrae Crouch, “I didn’t think it could be, till it happened to me.”
When the summons to report on Sept. 21 arrived, I cursed under my breath, as people do. I don't like being confined. Don’t tell me when to be someplace. But it said you can get a single postponement online or by automated phone call, so I asked to serve in mid-December, my usual time.
That's when I go downtown in the morning with two shopping bags full of paperwork, which I process sitting in a cubicle. We’re let off early at that time of year, and with my two empty bags, I Christmas-shop my way through Chinatown to the subway. I guess that should all be told in past tense now.
But the second summons, which could only be rescheduled if you apply in person, was for January--when the holidays are over, and they keep us as long as permitted. Not what I asked for, hey. They just computered that so it's not my doing.
I never make it past the voir-dire panel anyway. I’m too opinionated. One time they asked how I’d feel about trying a defendant who held up Duane Reade at knifepoint. Everyone knows how I feel about that pharmacy jungle: I said if I had the courage, I’d have done it myself long ago. Excused. I’m always excused.
So it’s not like they need me. Plus I totally hate trying to get there by 9 AM, instead of having breakfast. The subway is about three miles from the court, so I get lost, and no one in the street has ever heard of the court address. Ever.
I wouldn’t mind jury duty if it were in the afternoon, and I could go on the days I wanted. I love having lunch with new acquaintances or old friends I’m surprised to run into. Restaurants have price wars because of all the hungry jurors near there, and I’ve had great meals for $5.99.
Single diners sit at a round communal table. I speak no Asian languages, and some of them speak no English, but those who speak both translate for us. That way I find out stuff about people I’d never be able to speak to. I learn why they order what they order, and where they think I should eat tomorrow, and it drifts around from there, and everyone gabs.
So thinking of all I learned, I decided to see if I could reschedule jury duty without dragging down there to argue. The office phone numbers on the summons have auto-responses, except for the handicapped line, which you call if you’re blind or deaf and need special help. That’s me. Mirabile dictu, the other end is not only live, but someone gave me an unpublished number for schedule changes.
I phoned it and when the guy answered, I began, “I’m so glad to speak to a live person.” He says, “I’m not a live person.” I say I know how he feels. We're friends! He asked for my juror number but got tired of waiting for me to locate it, so he clicked it up, and said, “If you’re over 75, you can ask to be removed.” That was a curve. Well, I said, I guessed I was, and he said, “I know exactly how old you are. Do you want to be removed?”
To my amazement, I saw that I did not want to be removed. I wanted my rituals, my expanded world, my cheap lunches, my exotic purchases (fake jade rings, Ovaltine labeled in Chinese). My youth.
Old people--like me--don’t want to drag downtown at dawn. They want the courts brought to THEM. At their convenience. They (I) don’t hear, and they shuffle, talk at the wrong time, call the lawyers “dear,” and are a probable nuisance to the court system.
Quietly--wistfully--I said, “Yes please.”
And so, goodby, life chapter. I must beat on, boat against the current. You’re welcome to call me in January: I’m free for lunch.