Saturday, December 31, 2011


i may come back here later today and begin my 'merry wives' thoughts--then again, i may not.  and it's the day of new year's eve, so something should be here.....which i guess is simply this:

bad as things have been this year and for a long time, remember what we have been given:  thousands of people creating the beginnings of a new movement, different from previous movements, similar to previous movements.

so the challenge is for all of us, in whatever ways we can, to follow through with what they've begun.  the physical occupation of public spaces was spectacular, but they never intended it to be the entirety of their movement.  if the media like to act like it was, that's the media's limitation, and should it surprise us?  when have the mass media really stretched to find the whole truth, or even a larger part of the limited truths?  their honesty can only last till the next commercial, which pays for their existence.  what matters to the corporations is that we buy their products and, more important, that we buy their message.   freedom means a choice between 20 kinds of mascara, or cars, or breakfast cereals.

we need to 'occupy' the parts of our own minds they have succeeded in infiltrating, and then to move further and find ways to occupy the rest of our planet.  these heroes have given us a wonderful tool.  let's use it in the new year.

happy 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Optical Illusion

i'd been planning today to write an analysis of shakespeare's merry wives of windsor, which i find very underrated.  but the day has gotten ahead of me and there's no time right now. so instead, just  few easy lines on a beautiful optical illusion i was just with.

there is a pool in my building which is often empty. i'm trying to do pre-resolution things i should-do, exercise being high on the list. the pool is indoors [i'm not that motivated!  on either side of the pool, which is glassed in, there are terraces, and on the non-door side, wonderful birch trees--in themselves a reward for being in the pool.  there are odd pool lights, which create strong reflections of the spaces outside, and on the right-side terrace, it looked so perfectly like a parallel room i forgot for a moment that there was no room over there.  what there was was  a combined reflection of the pool area with its beach chairs and the birch trees.  and it created something far more lovely than any one part of the area:  one end of the 'room' had a wall over which, perfectly, birch branches grew into the room, as if through a high, open window.

if i were rich, i'd instantly buy the building and have that reflection-invented room built, in exactly that way.  breathtaking....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

old christmas poem--the jesus doll

 this is maybe 5 years old, the poem i wrote when i first went to a christmas concert at the church nearby . its real title is 'knuffel jesus' b/c the dutch word for plush toy is so much nicer than ours.  it isn't the official christmas-card-poem this year--that i've already posted.  but for anyone who liked the prose piece i posted a a few days ago, you might like this; it was the card-poem 4 or 5 years ago....


Tucked in a side pew corner
Jesus watches me walk by.
I glare and walk past him: I’m here
for a concert, not a service,
And the first snow is weeks away;
Autumn’s not about Jesus.
But his eyes pull me back
and where else can I sit, but with the Jesus doll?
My evening’s turned into a blind date with God.
But who ever heard of a ragdoll Jesus?
He doesn’t even make sense.  He’s soft and small, like
baby Jesus, Christmas Jesus—the size
for cuddling.  Lullaby size.
But his face is Easter Jesus,
knitted hair falling over sad eyes.
 cardboard sandals on his feet,
Like he’s planning to walk through deserts.
So which are you, little ragdoll?
I whisper.  Like he’ll answer. I glare at him.

Then the music surrounds us; the concert’s begun,

 And we listen. Together. Enthralled.
Oh,  and I want to hug him, through the mightied music!
But which Jesus is he?  You don’t
cuddle Easter Jesus.  Easter Jesus
dies for your sins.
He bleeds in your soul and stains it.
Christmas Jesus gurgles, smiles, reaches to be held.
The concert ends, the baritone bows.  Hands
Sting with praise.  People
Get up to leave.  I get up to leave.  Jesus  stays put.
Will you be here when I come back, Jesus doll? Holding the whole
Ache of humankind
The span of birth through death,
 The newborn winter, the dying spring?
Will you wait, patient, on your wooden bench,
Wood of cradle, wood of cross,
For the next song, the next prayer,
The next slight stagger toward redemption?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Whatever You Celebrate

my christmas poem-card this year-----have a great holiday, everyone!

Same Time Next Christmas

every year, the Boston Cecilia gives a christmas concert at the church near my apartment.  it's  always beautiful, focusing on classical music that involves the christmas story.  rudolf never pokes his crimson nose into this event.  i have gone there every december since i discovered it in 2006.  this afternoon's concert was, if anything, more beautiful than all the rest. britten, berlioz, bruckner [and some whose names don't begin with 'b'--i just noticed that].  the first year i'd gone i had no idea what it would be like, but it was cheap, christmas-related, and 2 short blocks away.

but to be honest,  my major reason for returning annually hasn't been the music itself, though that always makes it  more than worthwhile.  it's this doll.  i had never--and still have never--seen anything quite like him.   a ragdoll not of baby jesus, but of the adult jesus, the one who preaches, is brutally executed, and rises from the grave.  the first time i saw the doll, sitting on the bench in the last row near  the side entrance, i thought he was odd--and then, as if through no will of my own, i walked over and sat down next to him. i felt ridiculous--mommy, look at the big lady with the ragdoll!--but i couldn't move.  i tried to look nonchalant, like i'd just happened to sit next to this funky doll and barely knew it was there.  i went home and wrote a poem about him. then i came back the next day with my camera and took a picture.

the next year, i still felt self-conscious, but there was no question in my mind. if i could find ragdoll jesus i was sitting with him.  by the third year i'd ceased being self-conscious, and today i sat with my arm around him.  i wonder each year if he'll still be there, and before i sit, i look for him.  he's a toy for children, and he's always placed near the other toys--but only one year was he actually among the toys.  someone who arranges the place for the christmas concert obviously appreciates him as much as i do.  yet each time i walk toward the church for the concert, i wonder if he'll still be there.  will some vile child have torn the doll? or some greedy adult stolen it for their own christmas decorating?  so far, not.  he always seems a bit disheveled, but that's fine--i straighten his jacket and brush the hair away from his eyes.

  it occured to me tonight that it would be easy to steal the ragdoll. but i wouldn't do that, and not just because stealing toys at christmas is a pretty rotten thing to do, or it would be embarrassing to get caught.  it's not even a temptation.  the jesus doll belongs to me only for two hours, in this church, once a year. he would never live comfortably in my home.

it's hard to explain why this toy moves me so much.  i grew up catholic, and have always maintained a small affection for the Baby Jesus, the jesus of the christmas story, born to bring love and goodness into a sad, sorry world.  grownup jesus, on the other hand, has little claim on my heart.  he said some wonderful things, and has been misused by zealots who seem to ignore the wisdom and decency of their god, while acting with the viciousness of his crucifiers. so i respect this jesus, without love.  but let's face it, he was a bit pompous [you would be too, if you believed you were god].  he tells martha not to guilt-trip mary into doing some of the housework, but doesn't offer any help himself.   he forgives, and saves the life of, the woman caught in adultery--'let he who is without sin cast the first stone'--which is great as a trick to save her, but which also presupposes that she had indeed done something wrong. i always thought you couldn't know that unless you knew the whole story of the marriage.  maybe she was forced to marry this guy she couldn't stand, and every night with him was a rape, and then she met someone else,  kind and gentle.....whatever.  that sad-eyed, white gowned, handsome fellow of the endless pictures i grew up with just doesn't get to me.

but this jesus--this floppy ragdoll of a jesus--somehow captures the decency and wisdom of the man, along with the trust and vulnerability of the baby.  i think that's the reason i love  him, but i can't be sure.  logic is logic, emotion emotion.  so there it is.

i've seen a lot of jesus icons in 67 years---the sappy holy-picture jesus of my catholic youth, the child in his mother's lap in the pieta; i've stared in prepared awe at the sistine chapel ceiling.  great works of art, doubtless inspired by great faith.  i'm always glad to see them and take in what they offer me. but i've never wanted to cuddle them or make sure they're not too cold, to brush their hair from their faces, pull their jackets around them.  this toy, however--this silly, charming toy--speaks to me, speaks past the dogma and ritual and all the things i dislike in christianity, and gets to the place in my soul and mind that experiences something of the awe of faith, not faith in the story of the god-man who must be honored for his death, but in eternity, and in the never fulfilled but always possible vision of redemption.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

''Opera Scenes'' Review

If this look oddly framed, it's because i wrote it first for my music forum, and then decided there might be other opera fans here]]

along with its biannual full opera, the  new  england conservatory of music also does free student performances of opera scenes, and i try to make these when the scenes seem at all interesting. this had 3. one was a full 1-act

opera, a very early bizet [he was 18 and composed it for a prize. competitors had to compose a score to a pre-written libretto. it was fun; i always love it when they perform complete pieces. it's called 'dr. miracle,' and is a slapstick farce about a young soldier in love with the mayor's daughter, who is in love with him but whose father hates him, though the mother favors the marriage. so to get to the girl, as in  ''barber of seville'', the hero comes to the house in a sequence of idiotic disguises till the father eventually gives in. it seemed more like a precursor to musical comedy than opera, and reminded me of some of the early-talkies screwball comedies. the music was fun with no hints that i could pick up of bizet's later, famous works, '' carmen'' or ''the pearl fishers.'

next was a short scene from a modern opera, carlisle ford's 'susannah,' of which i'd never heard, an opera based on the biblical story, transferred to 19th century rural america. i liked the music, which used some folk-music [real, old-fashioned folk music] sound and generally was more evocative for me than much modern music. but here the fact of it being just a scene lessened my enjoyment somewhat. i'd like to experience the whole opera one day.

the highlight for me was also a scene from a modern opera-- the beginning of 'miss havisham's fire.' the history of opera, which i read later, is weird. domenick argento first composed it as a one-act, one-woman piece for beverly sills, then got persuaded to expand it to a full-length opera, set with flashbacks in an imaginary inquest on miss h's death [she being the character in Dickens's 'great expecttions']. i loved the one act version which he had again adapted to work for the conservatory production last year, so that 3 different singers did miss haversham as an old woman, young woman, and middle aged woman. last night they did something different, an early scene from the long version, in which her aged servant recalls the wedding day, in which we see an ecstatic girl dressed in her wedding gown, waiting for the groom to come, and then getting the fateful letter. it was very powerful, wonderfully and heartbreakingly sung and acted by a singer named soyoung park [a great name in context, b/c of her own youth and her great depiction of a young bride's joyful anticipation and then her  tragic breakdown]. it presupposes a knowledge of the dickens tale, which i think would be no problem for most of the audience.

the 'staging'  of all three pieces was modern, but only in the sense of minimalist props and contemporary clothing, which may have at least partially belonged to the singers themselves. so it wasn't bothersome [as a rule, i hate 'concept' productions]. there was no orchestra, just a piano, but the guy did his job well. and the kids were as they usually are at these things terrific.

not bad for the price...


Friday, December 9, 2011

In His Image?

To be honest, I am not a christian or a believer in any of the abrahamic religions, nor am i a biblical scholar. but i was a catholic in catholic schools when i was a kid, and i have read bits of the bible in the years since.  i read long ago the very misogynist, very conservative, beautifully written and imaginative sci-fi novels of c.s. lewis,  the space trilogy.  the first book is about mars, the 'silent' planet, whose inhabitants look, to the human traveler, fairly weird.  mars, we are told, was created earlier than earth. in the second book, the guy goes to venus, which was created later than earth. to his shock, despite different cultures and mores, venusians look exactly like humans.  this, it turns out, is because, as the bible notes, man [sic] was created in god's image.  since god's image must be perfect, it stands to reason that in designing earthlings, god had shown us what He looks like, and thus, since you can't improve on perfection, it was the design god would stick to.

the story, as well as the biblical story its theology is taken from, has stuck with me over the decades.  its message--that what god designed can't be perfected-- has appeared in various forms over the centuries. humans create other humans through heterosexual intercourse, but they are working out god's design each time.  stories like that of the golem and the hundreds of robot tales since the last century brought us Karol Capek's original robot in his play RUR, and of course mary shelley's frankenstein, reiterate the notion that when humans attempt to create life they are stepping on god's toes, and they'd better be careful.  all this explains the catholic church's objections to even such ministeps as artificial insemination and cloning. i don't know where other fundamentalist religions come out on these issues, but it would seem consistent with the conservative christian view.  [okay, having said that, i'll check my google--but meanwhile, you get the point].

so why then are the US conservatives so enthusiastically espousing the relatively new myth of corporations as people?  it seems to me far more blasphemous than the idea of robots, let alone cloning, in which humans use images of humanity to create new forms of humanoid life.

in what way can a corporation be called a person by anyone espousing belief in the bible?  does it have a soul?  can it--the corporation itself, not the individuals within it--make moral decisions and act on them? can it sin?  when it dies, does it go to heaven, hell, or purgatory?  does it marry corporations of the opposite gender and beget baby corporations?  or have illicit affairs with corporations of the same gender?  do the people who condemn the harry potter books and movies because there doesn't appear to be a God in the magic world of wizards actually believe in the humanity [literally] of corporations?   if you prick them do they not bleed? well, no, they don't.  what does a corporation look like?  a building, or a suite of offices in a building? a giant version of one of its products?

i suppose there might be an excuse for atheists to believe in the personhood of corporations, though they'd have to be dumb enough to bypass the absurdity of the idea.  but christians?  why are fundamentalists not attacking this stunningly satanic doctrine?

there is only one answer.  a 'corporation' may not be as pretty as a golden statue, but it does serve the same purpose.  you are worshipping gold, my brothers and sisters; you are worshipping a seductive but false image of god.

watch out.  i remember that part of the bible too.  god doesn't take kindly to his worshippers kneeling to false gods.  you've given up your brains to this idol.  aren't you a little worried about your souls?

Occupy Boston--it ain't over till it's over

1:30----sitting watching the clearing of the park with mixed feelings; they have, probably wisely, cleared out of dewey square, stretching the midnight deadline but nonetheless leaving,for the most part. now they are in the streets around the square with hundreds of their supporters, partying, making a triumph of an inevitability.  glad i went there a few times, even just to walk around and tell them how great they were, and bring a few supplies.  odd to think it will stop being there, at least in that way.

it would have closed eventually, here and everywhere else.  and as they all keep saying, it's a movement, not a geographical spot.  they've triggered something amazing.  it's not going to stop, as its opening phase ends.  there are tentacles everywhere.  everywhere.

time for me to go to bed.  too tired, and asthma kicks up.

RIP, dewey square.  and welcome, welcome to everything it's created, and the next phase of the moving movement.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

niece and grandnieces

tell me these 3 aren't gorgeous! am i a lucky aunt, or what?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Michalelangelo in East Cambridge

 If you take the T from the  Lechmere  stop into Boston,  you will pass, right after Science Park, a nicely manicured but clearly institutional apartment complex for the elderly.  It consists of about 40 individual apartments, each with its small porch facing the back, and thus the passing T.  In nice weather you might see one of the residents sitting on the porch and basking in the sun.  You never see more than one, and never frequently. 

Otherwise, the porches are mainly empty and lonely looking.  A few show signs of habitation: they become storage spaces for mops and brooms and old dishes.  In the months after 9/11, large flags hung from some of them.

One, however, was different.  Here a human-sized replica of Michaelangelo’s David lived, perpetually watching the train speed by. 

In those days, I took that train often, and in time I developed a sort of relationship with the statue.  Though—or perhaps because—no one ever came out to that porch, I formed a story in my mind about the apartment’s tenant.  He was, I decided, an elderly gay man who had lived there for many years and whose rooms were decorated with decades worth of fine antiques and good reproductions of  classical paintings.  He had moved there alone, after the death of his years-long partner, and the furnishings, including the David, had belonged to them both.

In the holiday season, when my train passed the home, I worried about  my imaginary friend.  He would be sad, surrounded by the ghosts of happy Christmases with his lover. But perhaps he had young relatives who spent the holidays with him and took the edge off his loneliness.

One day I was talking with my friend and then-neighbor Marcia about the T, and somehow the subject of the elders home came up. “Don’t you love the David on that one porch?,” I asked.

“Oh sure,” she grinned. “The one where the gay couple lives.”

This threw me.  Marcia knew the people there?  I was half excited that I would now learn about the statue’s owners, half deflated that the knowledge would destroy my pleasant little fantasy. “What gay couple?” I asked.

She looked a bit sheepish. “Well….the one I invented.”

I cracked up, of course. What a pair we were!  "You must be mistaken,'' I told her.   ''the one I invented lives alone.''

From then on, Marcia and I would  occasionally share fanciful gossip about our David friends.

Then one day, the statue wasn't there. Maybe it broke and it's out getting fixed, I thought. Marcia knew better. "It's gone," she said glumly. "They're gone."

After several weeks with no David, I had to concede.  Still, I refused to be depressed.  "He must have moved back to Paris with his young relatives.  They like living with him there.  He has so many stories about the old days, with Camus and Josephine Baker, and Noel Coward when he was on the Continent."

Marcia raised an eyebrow.  "No, they retired to the country.  They're still in Massachusetts-- in an old farmhouse near Provincetown."

I knew she was wrong and he was in Paris.  But I didn't argue.  Marcia, after all, has a right to her illusions.