Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ballets Russes

Friends invited us, including Erin, to the ballet this evening. Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. I should go to bed but I have to find out how I liked it by writing about it. I know I liked it, but getting the impressions down asap is de rigueur. Words make it real.

I lack the vocabulary of dance, and have not seen a lot, but dance is visceral, thus offers an immediacy that does not require expertise to enjoy. Plus there's music, Prokofieff, von Weber, Stravinsky, and Debussy. I see that I am going to be turgid here, tired as I am, so this report will be quick.

I seem never to have heard of The Prodigal Son, neither music or dance. The backdrop was a lovely thick-lined painting. This might be my favourite of the 4 dances, despite overdone dramatics. A gang of dancers, referred to in the notes as Goons and by Erin as Zombies, made terrific visual effect. They came onstage in train, walking in a squatty, apish way. They landed heavily when they leaped, and were antic, vivid, and hilarious. The Siren was exquisitely en pointe. I do not really like seeing dancers do that, it seems so physically harsh, but she did it so blithely and for so long, and I even got a sense of line, postured down to the detail of her ankle. The music was melodic yet bombastic.

the 2nd act began with The Rose Whatsis (I do not have the scorecard handy). The set was stunning, a bedroom with hugely tall windows. The lighting was lovely. The music was pretty and the dance tasteful. It did not resound but pleased. This may be the ballet in which Nijinsky leaped thru a 7' high window, which I read somewhere. Maybe not 7' in reality. Here it was about 3', tho it was a neat maneuver.

Next came L'Apres-Midi d'Un Faun. I translated the poem years ago, heaven help me, tho Mallarme is a very difficult poet for the likes of me. And I like the moody moment that Debussy creates. The piece is sexual, yes, but there's a nympholeptic quality over all that seems to be the real intersection of poem, music, and dance. The audience reacted as if this was a tour de force. I did not catch it quite like that but it was great.

Finally, The Rites of Spring. Years and years ago I wrote a thing that consisted of stupid vignettes involving the Brooklyn Dodgers (I had just read Boys of Summer), written in a blend of English and rudimentary French. Title: The Rites of Spring Training. The vignettes were of the order of: Jackie Robinson said to Clem Labine, "Qui est. l'homme avec les cheveux gris. And Clem Labine replied, "Il s'appelle Duke Snider." Which I mention only because I was reminded. The curtain rises and along the back of the stage is a line of fire (gas jets, of course). Wow, rock on! Yes, this was raucous stuff in the day. My father got season tickets to the Boston Pops because a neighbour was confronted by Bolero and refused to have anything more to do with an orchestra that would play such music, and so gave my father the tickets. Music and dance, Rites was muscular and vivid. I should write more, but I am tired.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Angels and Demons, the book

When I see people reading in public, I want to know what they are reading. Usually it is popular fiction, which, indeed, is what I likely will be carrying. Tho one time on the train someone said to me, Hey, Freire's awesome. Meaning Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which I happened to be reading. I think I have actually had Hegel as reading matter, but he is not ideal. Zippy fiction is the thing.

Which is all preface to saying that I am reading Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown. Brown wrote Da Vinci Code. OR DID HE ??? Okay, fake controversy. Altho...

Angels was published in 2000, a few years before Code. I am pretty sure, as I think of the 2 books, that Brown must have performed a global search & replace to 'write' Code. this in itself is not damning. P G Wodehouse only wrote one plot and 4, maybe 5, characters. Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu books all have the same plot. Such need be no problem, because it is the intensity of the author that counts. With Brown, the repetition is more that of a hack than of an obsessed. He is fascinated by weird nether worlds but, alas, he voices that interest thru a dullard (Langdon). He distances himself from the crazies, so the crazies just seem overblown.

The parallel features between Code and Angels are pretty exacting: the super focused assassin, the officious police type, the beautiful mystery woman, and the frantic run hither and yon (mostly yawn). Plus the conspiracy angle. I'll give Brown plus points for delving into interesting worlds, however over the top he does so.

When I saw the trailer for Code, I was hooked, it had the look of weird action, tho in fact the movie was largely a run around. Hanks looked uncomfortable but Gandalf is worth watching and I seem to like Jean Reno a lot. I did not hate the movie, but I could see how others might.

As to Angels, wow, Brown keeps asking the reader to nod unthinkingly. The protagonista and her father managed to use the CERN facilities to manufacture a goodly gob of antimatter with no supervision. Oh, ok. And the bad guys stole it. Right. Yup, and the antimatter was deposited in Vatican City, ready to annihilate a vast area. Gotcha.

That is as far as I have gotten. Those loopholes in reasonableness are distracting. Brown insists in making his Harvard expert in symbology (sic) explain everything to us, the dumb readers, so Langdon comes across as none too bright. Both the Illuminati and Agnus Dei are involved in producing cockamamy puzzles. Our hero the symbolist comes across as someone who is good at the Times crossword.

Despite the failings, the book rollicks along, tho I do not care for the mindless run from place to place. In Code the movie, Hanks had to climb out of a bathroom window and I saw there a terminal insistence on daffy plot evolution. Which, it appears, is a hallmark of the Brownian 'style'. I still have 500 pages to go, which I am sure will prove a little wearying. Plots based on peregrination need more than regular application of the author's assurance that the situation is frantic. We shall see.

Brown is Umberto Eco without the erudition or the humour. Still, I want to find out if Vatican City is blown up and if the Illuminati destroys the world as we know it. What do you think?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I notice that I have been writing poems.