The-Lesson-1992

21 January 2017

INAUGURATION

Whatever others had in mind when the name of God was repeatedly invoked at the inauguration ceremony yesterday, it seems to me that Donald Trump's deity is a two-headed gold idol consisting of himself and money.

Billy Graham's son Franklin declared that the sudden downpour of rain was a holy omen. I felt that the heavenly host, wherever and however you define it or them, were shedding anguished tears.

But what do I know?

Trump swears in

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17 January 2017

WILDNESS AND UKITUDE

Fascinating 'finissage' of the Call of the Wild exhibition yesterday at Natalia and Simon Zagorska Thomas' home and Studio Ex Purgamento with one-celled organisms behaving almost intelligently and Morse code going Dada and conversations ranging from this to that and every variation in between. Happy to have been there and looking forward to further eclectic/electric salons at ExPurg.

And tonight was my first ukulele lesson in a pub room near the BBC. It was fun even though my hands are too small, my fingers too short and fingertips so sissy that nylon strings hurt. The fingertip cushion skin toughens up after a while, I'm told. We learned and (sort of) strummed three chords and two songs and have homework. Teacher and students (about 12 of us) all very simpatico - a short course, once a week for 4 weeks. Hope to report on some progress at the end of it. At the moment my ukulele aptitude or ukitude, on a scale of 1 to 10, is approximately minus zero.

Ukulele anatomy

 

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14 January 2017

TIME'S WINGED MOSQUITO

(Thanks to Marly Youmans for her comment to this post on Facebook today in which she brought up Time's Winged Chariot - it hadn't ocurred to me in connection to my mosquito and I love this connection!)

When you’re not as young as you used to be the month of January behaves like a mosquito. Not only does it keep on buzz buzz buzzing stupid cliches in your head likeTime is Marching On, You’re Not As Young as You Used To Be, The End is Nigher Than You Think and so on, but it’s also literally after your blood - allright that’s pushing it a bit, but how better to describe a month that won’t shut up about  how little time is still allotted to you in the chronoilllogical calendar of your life?

Even though my health and general joie de vivre are in good working order, thanks to God and my DNA and my ancestors and whatever other miracles may be responsible for such a blessing, there are frequent moments in January, possibly more than in other months, when I am struck  - nay, buzzed - by the awareness that not only am I not as young as I used to be but even older than I used to be a few minutes ago.

January mosquito

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9 January 2017

HARD QUESTIONS IN THE SILENCE

Still from 'The Silence'

Saw 'The Silence' yesterday. Here is The Guardian's review which gives the background and the story but in its heading needlessly highlights Liam Neeson who is not that significant in the film. He does a good job, as always, but that's not the point.

I thought the film was visually stunning, the script nuanced, the pace slow and unobtrusive enough to let you think, the directing/acting excellent from everyone but I agree with the Guardian that Adam Driver would have been better cast in Andrew Garfield's role. However I don't want to talk in cinematic terms (am incompetent to do so even if I wanted to). What interests me most in this film is that it leaves a door open for philosophical/ethical questions and doesn't attempt to answer them for you. 

Obvious questions regarding religious faith: 
If there is a God why is He/She/It silent in the face of suffering? 
Which religious or non-religious teachings are the kindest, truest, most beneficial to humans and to the world? 
Should any believers try to convert anyone to their beliefs, whether religious, atheist, political? 
What should you do about beliefs which threaten your existence, your culture, your identity? 
How important are symbols of your beliefs such as images, relics and other artefacts? 

What immediately came up as I left the cinema, got on a bus and took out my notebook (as usual when a thought seems worth jotting down) was the concept of heroism. Who is or is not a hero?
The martyrs who endure unspeakable torture rather than deny their faith?
The soldiers who accept torture and death in order to defend their country?
The conscientious objectors who refuse to fight in a war?
The Jew or Christian or Muslim or Hindu or member of any other denomination who denies being of that race or faith in order to save him/herself and family from extermination?
The child who refuses to snitch on a classmate who has done some dreadful deed?
The whistleblower who publicly reveals information which will wreck his/her life but will expose serious wrongdoings?

And what about symbols: flags for instance. Desecrating their country's flag is seen as a crime by some, whereas they may see others' veneration of an image or a book as nonsense.

I don't have answers. But I welcome a film which elicits hard questions.

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3 January 2017

LOST FAN OPPORTUNITIES

I was in a queue for the train to Paris once, probably before Eurostar, and right in front of me were an attractive couple. I recognised the man: it was John Berger. The woman maybe his wife, maybe not. I knew what he looked like from author photos but the vitality fizzing from him could not have been captured in any still images. I very much wanted to speak with him but only if it was a real conversation and I couldn't think of any way to initiate that. Besides, the couple were talking to each other and I didn't want to interrupt. I love his work but don't know how to be anyone's fan - don't believe in fandom (not even the fandom of the opera) So I missed that opportunity. 

Just as I missed another fan-op many many years ago when I was only a tiny pre-teen and George Sanders, my then-hero, was actually literally in the same elevator with me in the very same brownstone house in New York City where I lived at the time with my parents and where my hero's mistress, Zzzazza Gabor, also had an apartment. Fate, in its occasional whimsical generosity, gave me another chance to approach this particular hero of mine many years later (1972) at the airport in New York, on my way back to London: George Sanders, my George Sanders, was there in the pre-boarding area, wrapped in a fur-collared coat, looking grey and grim and old. I desperately wanted to speak to him and again could not think of anything to say - "I love you" would have been stupid. I didn't know then that he was on his way to die by his own hand in an anonymous hotel room somewhere in Spain. I read the obituary when I was back home.

RIP long-gone George Sanders. RIP gone only yesterday John Berger. Wherever you are, see you there one day.

John Berger

George Sanders

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