Bertie buying the Collected Works of the great philosopher for Jeeves's birthday: There's nothing I like better than to curl up with Spinoza's latest. Made me want to start on the Ethics all over again. Almost.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
I could have listened to ten hours of Elvis & Elton doing their thing, but the one hour we got on Spectacle last night will have to do. Most of it was a tribute to the people who influenced them and what a treat to hear names like Laura Nyro, Leon Russell and David Ackles being accorded the respect they deserve. (Quite honestly, though I've heard of Ackles and knew he was highly regarded I never really got exposed to his stuff, but Elvis & Elton's storming version of his song Down River at the end of the show made me seriously consider righting that omission.)
Great sane line from Elvis: David Ackles finished his career in community theatre but why should that be regarded as some kind of failure? Helping develop the talents of young people and sharing a creative gift sound very like success. (Or words to that effect. It was well said, however he put it.)
I wonder if the reason we don't get much intelligent conversation on the box is because it undermines what the box really stands for?
Sunday, March 28, 2010
I can't remember having a bad afternoon or evening in any black box style production in this country. And this was no exception with the usual virtues on display: great ensemble work: beautifully economical sets, making much of little in highly imaginative ways; a delightful physicality in performance; nicely measured and cleanly executed lighting and sound; a desire to engage with experience in a serious yet entertaining manner. It was especially pleasing to see one of our old guys, the very talented Hadi, in action - and to recognise his growth as an actor.
The only downside I'm aware of in this 'local' style of theatre is a tendency to milk scenes for all they're worth in a somewhat self-indulgent manner. These groups are not afraid of a bit of melodrama. But perhaps that is an essentially Asian trait. And I suppose self-indulgence is a virtuous fault - it speaks of a confidence in communicating depths of emotion and experience
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
And then I remember how poor Nick ended his life. I've occasionally said to classes that sometimes the only sane response to what you're reading is tears. They think I'm joking. I'm not.
Monday, March 22, 2010
So Torres's 'demand' that Liverpool buy five quality players to show they're serious, seriously misses the point. You need to win with what you've got to be winners.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I don't think anyone was badly hurt, it was all too slow for that, but obviously there was going to be plenty of business for the car repair services in the area. Just how much we only realised as we rounded the blockage, which was quite easy for us being so close so there no queue to speak of, and suddenly realised that what we had witnessed was just the back end of a much longer shunt. I'd guess it involved a further twelve cars at least. The thing none of us could quite grasp was what had happened to the car right at the front, a red one, that meant everyone ploughing into him.
So it's appropriate to be thankful I'm back here in one piece and life can get on without enormous disruptions of one sort or another. I mention this in the awkward knowledge that it sounds a bit like crowing over the misfortunes of all those involved in the mess on the highway. Any celebration of good fortune can sound that way, and some can be meant that way. But I'm trying to mean mine as a genuine recognition that just being able to keep things going in a routine manner is an enormous blessing that we, well me at least, are apt to overlook.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
After that each day is a new challenge to make what you've got work as you take the mystery ride. If you're lucky, it really turns out to be a journey down the tunnel of love. A sort of undeserved grace, in my case.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Which I hope I'm not - because this is a doctor who deals in extremes, cases at the edge, as it were, of what the brain is capable of, and, sadly often, rendered incapable of. As with the other books of his I've read (Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and Seeing Voices - oddly I have the impression of reading more because of reviews I've come across of his other stuff and seeing him in several documentaries, and I really must make in-roads into his entire oeuvre) I find myself moved, intrigued and simply frightened by the case studies in Musicophilia in roughly equal degrees. You come away from Dr. Sacks with an enhanced sense of our vulnerability to all sorts of insults to the matter of the brain and much admiration for those who deal with often appalling situations with extraordinary courage.
And you also learn a lot. This is not the first edition of Musicophilia and, as with his other works, Sacks gradually accumulates all sorts of fascinating 'extras', often in the form of footnotes. His footnotes make thought-provoking reading in themselves, opening out new conjectures, pointing in directions not necessarily considered in the main body of the text. I get the impression they reflect the workings of the doctor's own mind - never quite still, always alert to new possibilities, exploring avenues that cannot quite be assimilated by our current understanding of how things are. That understanding, in Sacks's work, is always provisional anyway.
So how do we account for the complete lack of interest in music in the James brothers? Sacks doesn't provide any kind of easy answer and I suppose that's the point. The world becomes a little more fascinating, a little less easy to account for through the simple awkwardness of this fact. Indeed, Musicophilia begins with a meditation on how strange it is that any of us should like music at all, and an awareness of the sheer oddness of music as an experience in itself.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The offices themselves are quite large, but very quiet. The grounds are nicely landscaped but the buildings look slightly run-down, as if no one can be bothered to properly maintain them. There seemed to be no system of queue numbers or the like. It took us quite a while to pay as we were shunted between a couple of counters, one of which was deserted when we got there and remained so until the gentleman manning it got back from his lunch. Fortunately we were in no great hurry and used the time to get a cup of tea in a desultory sort of canteen and do the prayer in the surau there. There was actually somebody asleep there when I was praying.
It was very hot and quiet and laidback in the Malaysian way. Like a trip back to the 1950's, we felt. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, but not exactly productive either.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
For quite some time now I've been ringing on an almost daily basis. I suppose I'm trying to comfort her, in some shape or form. Curiously, though, I think it's me who takes the greater comfort from the calls. It's strange how talking about almost nothing takes on a deep and poignant meaning.
Monday, March 15, 2010
So it's farewell to The Born Loser, The Wizard of Id, Blondie and the weekend version of Get Fuzzy, just to name the ones I can remember from the good old days. I can see a vague logic regarding the removal of the first three. They might have been unfairly regarded as rather old-fashioned, a little passe. Certainly they had a distinct charm, and charm doesn't cut it in the new century, I'm afraid. But the loss of Get Fuzzy defies any kind of logic. It still runs as a daily in The Straits Time, for goodness sake, and its art-work was the highlight of the final half-page of cartoons that was. I suppose it really doesn't matter at all about the loss of the kids' stuff. Again, all it had going for it was a kind of gentle calm and kids don't buy newspapers anyway.
I'm only surprised the editors haven't been doing the usual crowing over the improvements offered to you, the reader. They generally greatly enjoy letting us know how everything is getting better, especially when it obviously isn't.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
We'll be shipping everything across the border into Melaka around the middle of the week and from then on it will be serious preparations all the way - from which I'll stand well clear. It isn't that I don't want to help. It's simply that I know I'll just get in the way of everyone else who'll know what to do. My job is to make up the numbers, try not to create any further unnecessary fuss, and smile amiably when required. And I'm very happy to try and do so.
One of the (many, many) qualities I admire in my wife is her expertise in these matters, and desire to put it to use simply to help the family and make everyone happy. A tall order - but somehow she succeeds.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
It's probably not going to surprise anyone when I tell you he, the one going to prison, was a decent enough sort of student. Unfailingly polite but just a little bemused at having to put up with what must have seemed like the irrelevance of school. Me, for example, trying to teach him things about English that had little if anything to do with the worlds in which he moved. But he did what it was necessary to do in the classroom and, most importantly of all, stayed largely out of trouble even when it was clear enough that he'd be able to handle himself when he got into it.
Except that he wasn't able to handle himself in the end, because this kind of trouble can so easily escalate to the point that the forces of the state get themselves involved and a much bigger, realer, harsher world than the streets of Geylang takes control of your life. I can still see him sitting in my classroom, the middle of the second row at the back (where he could be trusted, as he was intent on staying out of trouble) and just getting on with doing what he needed to do to build some kind of life - one he's now thrown away.
And that's why I don't see what has happened as inevitable, despite the difficult background he was from. He had chances. There were other possibilities open to him. People were working to provide them for him, and he got the best advice and guidance he could have had. My old mate Deepak put a lot into his case, and you just don't get better help than that. In the end he made the wrong choices but the choices were real.
He's young though - which is one of the reasons all this is so sad. But it means he'll get out of clink still quite a young man. And I suppose there's some hope in that.
Friday, March 12, 2010
This has nothing to do with having developed a greater understanding in the intervening years or anything of that nature. I don't think I've come away with any profoundly new insights. But this time round I've had time to relish the fine detail of the text in a way I denied myself all those years ago when I read it so quickly. Since I've never really had that much time to settle with the book this time, I've tended to just focus on the passage at hand in the fragments of reading time available - a paragraph over a ten-minute cup of tea in the canteen - that kind of thing.
And it has worked wonderfully well, I suppose assisted by the fact that there's little in terms of forward momentum involved in Erasmus's squib. It goes nowhere but circles remorselessly round itself, playing with its ironies in an often dizzying fashion - except going as slowly as I did there was no chance of getting at all dizzy. It was also pleasant to let myself linger on the plentiful footnotes in my old Penguin classic. Now all I have to do is to read the chunky Letter to Martin Dorp which is part of the same edition and I'll consider myself ready to move on and try and do a lingering Trollope some justice, having unkindly, unjustly, unconscionably neglected the great storyteller.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
But that awful, aching idea that for most people sheer misery is the due portion wouldn't quite go away.
Monday, March 8, 2010
It will be nice to the point of slightly wonderful to feel normal again. And if, in addition to that, I can get to the point of finding some reasonable reading time, I'll be able to return to the embrace of the Goddess Folly and things will be entirely hunky dory.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Not much has changed over the centuries, eh?
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Have the streaming nose, sore throat and force three headache I'm struggling against finally made me lose all sense of reality? No. It is possible to have fruitful focused meetings that deal with real issues and have real and immediate results. In my experience of the last twenty or so years such meetings have generally been planning meetings for drama productions involving the core team, and today's was no exception.
It helps that the only thing anyone is interested in at such meetings is getting whatever one is doing to work as well as possible. And it helps that when you're dealing with people who know what they're talking about you know the talk is worth listening to. In fact, it's beyond that. The ideas inspire, inflame and you suddenly start to see something you could never have seen on your own.
Friday, March 5, 2010
No, it's what people regard as the minor roles that cause the problem. Because they're not 'minor' and the depth and texture of what you do depends on them. But you sometimes can't know what performers can do until they've done it.
So it's often a matter of glimpses, hunches. But here's an optimistic thought based on a few years of experience: whatever you catch a glimpse of in audition, you are guaranteed to get wholesale in performance - and usually, nearly always, better.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
You see, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Choose someone with the capacity for a role and some degree of talent and they will make a role their own over weeks of rehearsal. They may well excel, and it's a joy when they do. But the truth is that Candidate B may have done even better. You will never know.
You can't presume you really were right. It would be silly to assume that somehow you got it wrong. Because you didn't.
So I agonise. And I agonise. And I agonise. And then I don't.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I'm lucky to enjoy the essence of my job. I'm unlucky in that so much of what I find myself doing is not of the essence, as it were.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Which leaves four days to get through before I can force myself to get up early to clear more marking at the weekend.
This is beginning to sound unhealthily self-pitying, but there's not much else it seems reasonable to be when one feels unhealthy.