0

All Eyes On Me In The Center Of The Ring Just Like A…

Greetings again from Charlotte, y’all. It was a beautiful day today, and it’s supposed to be rainy tomorrow which is no bueno because I still have 8 geocaches to find before the big 2200.

I brought a ton of books along on this trip. I always bring way too many, but I actually started and finished one on the plane from Madison to Charlotte: After the Circus, by Patrick Modiano.

Modiano is a French writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014, and with that knowledge, I saw this newly-translated book on a shelf in the library and thought that it might be interesting. It’s a quick read; over a hundred pages but it went by so fast that when I finished, I had no idea if I had even started. We don’t learn the protagonist’s name until two-thirds of the way through the book, but everything about this book seems to be on a need-to-know basis; we meet the two main characters as they meet each other, while they are giving testimonies at a local police station in Paris. The mystery thickens when she (Gisele) has him pose as her brother, for some sort of plan, and then there turns out to be a plan within the plan, and so on. As a reader, you don’t really find out what happens, but there’s subterfuge and adventure, vague as it is.

Appropriately, the one article I found written on After the Circus, written by Ann L. Murphy, is entitled “Confusion in the Service of Clarity: The Circus in Patrick Modiano’s Une cirque passe.” Confusion seems to resonate with this one. Murphy concludes that we learn something, but don’t necessarily move too far forward, and I can see that – something like, there was change, and now things are different in a way, but your interpretation may vary.

This book review has been brought to you by: my feeling of accomplishment. Good job, me.


Works Cited:

Modiano, Patrick. After the Circus. Trans. Mark Polizzotti. New Haven: Yale UP, 2015. Print.

Murphy, Ann L. “Confusion in the Service of Clarity: The Circus in Patrick Modiano’s Une cirque passe.” Romance Notes 45.2 (January 2005): 171-180. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. Accessed 28 May 2016.

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0

Flip the Script Friday: Avant-Garde French Plays

As usual, I resolved to have read and analyzed a script by today, and as usual, I didn’t quite get there this week. I did, however, find a fantastic book at the back of a shelf in my basement, Modern French Theatre, an anthology of avant-garde, dada, and surrealist plays from 1896-1961. The anthology was translated into English by Michael Benedikt and George E. Wellwarth, and is well worth (what up author pun) a look. Some of the plays I had heard of, like Ubu RoiThe Wedding on the Eiffel Tower, and The Gas Heart, but the rest I hadn’t heard of, so I decided to flip to the middle of the book, read a few of the shorter plays, and see what I could find. If this goes well, perhaps a future post with all the rest of the plays will be in the cards.

First up, A Circus Story by Armand Salacrou.

Basics

A Circus Story was written by Armand Salacrou in 1922, and originally in French. It is subtitled a play for reading. According to Wikipedia, Salacrou had a very long life, dying a few months after his 90th birthday in 1989 in Le Havre, France. He was born in Rouen. He started out in advertising, but switched over to playwriting full-time in the 1920s, writing up until the 1960s. There does not seem to be a huge amount of information on him out there, at least in English, other than his plays and the fact that he was president of the Cannes Film Jury in the 1960s, as well as having written several films.

Characters

  • The Acrobat (who doesn’t seem to stick around for that long)
  • The Equestrian (a fine lady)
  • The Ringmaster (who has all of one line)
  • The Magician (a magician, who speaks a lot and can be a jerk)
  • The Young Man (seemingly caught up in all this nonsense)
  • Mr. Loyal (a stagehand, or something)
  • First Clown, Second Clown, Third Clown
  • Audience
  • A Juggler (non-speaking, just juggling)
  • A Girl
  • Eight Men in Evening Dress (I’m assuming that refers to evening attire of the time and not actual dresses
  • A Hearse Driver (played by one of the eight men)

Setting/Plot

Being an absurd, surrealist French play, there’s not too much to grab onto for the uninformed. Suffice it to say, it happens at a circus, the Acrobat dies in an accident, the Young Man has the hots for the Equestrian, the Magician gets in his way and the Equestrian is kind of bitchy to him until he attracts the attention of A Girl, who, upon approaching him, doesn’t think he’s as attractive up close. So he goes back to the Equestrian, then Mr. Loyal comes back with a Hearse Driver, and they drive around and the circus disappears except for the Young Man, and then some snow falls and children run on and pelt the sad sack with snowballs, laughing.

My Thoughts

It seems like a dream, not entirely pleasant but not entirely unpleasant either. There’s some fun imagery, and skeletons of wreaths, and it’s not like anything I’m familiar with. Well…avant-garde, go figure. Curiously, it’s titled “a play for reading,” despite elaborate stage directions involving trapezes, high wires, and body-bending.

How I’d Flip It

Being “a play for reading,” it might be interesting to set it up initially as a music stand read in a black box, and then have wacky things going on behind the readers (or reader), in a sort of pantomime.

Next up is a piece entitled en gggarrrde! by Rene Daumal.

Basics

en gggarrrde! (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) was written by Rene Daumal in 1924. Also originally in French. According to Wikipedia, Daumal was born in Boulzicourt, Ardennes in 1908 and died in Paris in 1944, at the age of 36, from tuberculosis (and probably drug use as well). He started his career as a poet, first published as a teenager. Even though he lived a short life, he was very accomplished: he wrote an allegorical novel called A Night of Serious Drinking, translated spiritual texts into French from Sanskrit and Japanese (all self taught), and was in the middle of writing a second novel, Mount Analogue, when he died. He is considered to be an early influence of ‘pataphysics.

Characters (parentheses are my notes)

  • Mygraine, a woman in a hennin (pointy hat)
  • Napoleon, Napoleon (his words, not mine)
  • A Toothbrush (probably my favorite character in the play)
  • Bubu, a little angel
  • Ursule, a depraved young thing
  • Some Snails
  • A Cigar, pure Havana
  • A Leech
  • A Sociologist
  • A Pernod with Sugar (it’s a drink)
  • Cleopatra, a person not to fool around with (something tells me he had a sister)
  • The Author, me.

Setting/Plot

Somewhere. Something happens. At one point they’re inside a snail shell, then on a raft, then nowhere really. At the end, a father says to his son, “Let that teach you, Arthur, to always follow the right road.” Drugs are bad, kids.

The Best Line in the Play

THE TOOTHBRUSH (parading her dignity): Vive le France! (She sinks).

And that’s all she says.

How I’d Flip It

Definitely index cards taped to foreheads and cardboard cutouts.

7

We’ll Always Have Paris

I would be remiss to let this weekend pass without reflecting on the events of the past few days in Paris.

I’ve never been to France, but I desperately want to go someday. I want to feel like I will be safe when I go, but something like this is incredibly scary. But it’s ironic, my parents always tell me that India and Africa are oh-so-dangerous places, yet we are seeing catastrophes happen in Madrid, London, and now Paris.

This is not a fluke. This is real life. Terror can strike anywhere, at any time, and the fact that it happened in Paris just makes it even more apparent that we need to reexamine how we live, and the messages we transmit to the world.

8

That’s SoMG: The Curmudgeon of Liechtenstein

Take two!

That’s So Jacob presents:

That’s SoMG: Scandals, Secrets, and Shockers That Will Make You Slap Your Hand Over Your Mouth

Episode 2: The Curmudgeon of Liechtenstein

Germany, 1930s.

This is the story of my great uncle, whom I’ll call Uncle Herschel. Born and raised in Germany, Herschel trained as a telegraph operator before meeting his wife, a lovely lady otherwise known as Aunt Greta. Before the war, they had two children, Bert, who passed away of meningitis at the age of 13, and Rosalind, whom they called Lindy. (All these names are fake, by the way).

Anyway, when the war came to Europe, they sent Lindy away to live with some uncles in Dijon, France, while they weathered the Nazi storm in one of the most unusual places.

locator map of LiechtensteinZámek Vaduz na pohlednici

Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein is a principality with only eleven towns. The entire country could fit inside the District of Columbia. It is so small that the Germans were not even interested in getting involved, which was lucky for Uncle Herschel and Aunt Greta.

Fortunately, as it happened, Uncle Herschel and Aunt Greta managed to secure visas for themselves to leave Liechtenstein and immigrate to America. They first tried to get Lindy to Liechtenstein, but apparently she was recognized on the train and had to return to Dijon. They then attempted to have a hearing for her to get an American visa, which did not happen. It is unclear why Lindy was sent to live in Dijon in the first place, but rumor has it she was messing around with a German soldier. Though Herschel and Greta immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland USA, they did not find out until the war was over that Lindy was among the Jews rounded up at the velodrome at Drancy and shipped to their deaths in Auschwitz. She was in her mid-20s.

Meanwhile, in America, Herschel got into business, and Greta was just…a stay-at-home wife. In no photo was Herschel ever smiling, and he treated Greta horribly. He refused to learn English, saying “let the Americans learn German and French.” Yes, he was that guy. They had no more children, mostly due to what happened one day in the 1960s, when my dad was still a kid.

Aunt Greta was found dead.

One day, she was found outside their home, and no one ever found out how she died. Though it is possible that she fell out of an open third-story window or was pushed, she most likely committed suicide by jumping. Nobody was close with her, not even my grandmother, who got along with pretty much everybody. My dad remembers very little of her, other than the fact that she was quiet and enjoyed knitting.

Uncle Herschel lived until the mid 1970s, and died at a ripe old age.

But mostly, he is remembered for always being grouchy.

The story was much better when my father told it, and we had photographs, postcards, letters from Lindy to her parents in Liechtenstein, including one where she describes wanting to go swimming in the river, but she knows that everyone will watch her and go “who’s that’s crazy person swimming in the river?” (Lindy’s words, not mine). The most unique object in this particular collection was Aunt Greta’s passport. Unlike everything else – the letters, the visas, the photos – for some reason, Aunt Greta’s passport was preserved remarkably well. We passed it around the seder table and marveled; it was as crisp and clean as the day she got it. It looked like it had just come out of the printer, aside from the outdated Nazi stamps and visas for Germany, Liechtenstein, and the USA.

And that’s my one connection to the nation of Liechtenstein.

In other news, the sign I have on my door saying “No Advertisements Please” worked for the first time today, as I came home to find pizza menus sticking out of every door but mine.

And although no Africans came to visit today, cheers to a five continent day: North America (Canada, USA, and Mexico), South America (Brazil), Europe (UK, Belgium, and Germany), Asia (Israel, India and Taiwan), and Oceania (Australia and Papua New Guinea).

31

What A Nightmare, Charlie Hebdo

So, today my dad came into my room at about 9 AM telling me that there’d been a shooting in Paris today, and not of the fashion kind. It wasn’t until I got out of bed and went online that I read about the casualties; seasoned journalists, talented cartoonists, and policemen who had nothing at all to do with the magazine. They showed the videos on the news, but I could barely watch them. It looked like something out of Grand Theft Auto. And why?

Because of a cartoon.

Just a drawing, an image, a figment of someone’s imagination inked with pigment. Before I get into my political/non-political harangue here, let me check myself by saying, yes, Islam does not approve of depictions of Mohammed in any way, shape, or form, and that in a way, depicting him in a political cartoon is a little disrespectful of a tradition and culture of millions. But there are options. First, they don’t have to even look at it; most media in Islamic countries is heavily monitored anyway, so it’s not like people in rural Saudi Arabia or Indonesia are going to even see it. Second, there’s the option of writing a strongly-worded letter to the magazine in question, in this case Charlie Hebdo, a French humor/satire periodical. Oh yeah, and third, don’t kill people, because as we learned in kindergarten and the musical Urinetown, killing people is wrong.

What surprises me is how many people didn’t see it coming. This is the worst terrorist attack in France since 1961, which is horrible, but more people are killed in terrorist attacks every day for less, like villagers in Nigeria and Cameroon who just wanted to live their lives and educate their children, or commuters in Australia who just wanted some morning pastries. According to the news, Charlie Hebdo had previously been the victims of hacking and firebombing, for the exact same reason. Who would’ve thought that something like this would ever happen in contemporary, hip Paris?

I could name one.

Molly Norris.

In 2010, Norris, a Seattle-based cartoonist drew a picture of a box of pasta, a coffee cup, and other random items shouting “I’m Mohammed” in a Ryan Stiles-does-Carol Channing kinda way, with the headline, “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

It was kind of cute and a little funny, but free speech didn’t fly with Islamic fundamentalists who drew the cartoonist in their cross-hairs. The comic also drew attention from Internet users all over America who drew their own Mohammeds, and soon it spiraled out of control, with her name all over it. She tried to distance herself from it, to no avail, even proposing “Everybody Draw Al Gore Day,” but it was too late. The newspaper terminated her column after receiving threats, and when she took her case to the FBI, they shrugged. Her life unraveled; she changed her name, left Seattle, and stopped drawing cartoons. A woman’s career, home, and identity ruined because of just one drawing (Cashill, Goldstein).

And that wasn’t even the first time it happened.

In 2005, the Danish newpaper Jyllands-Posten ran a comic depicting Mohammed, and got worldwide backlash. In fact, according to this article translated by Jacob Wheeler, the newspaper’s editor Flemming Rose made a statement.

“It sends a shiver down my spine. Thinking about the people in Paris, what they’re experiencing now. In addition to shock, I’m not surprised. If you look at what’s happened in Europe over the past 10 years, since Jyllands-Postens Muhammad cartoons were published, time after time there have been threats and even violence…Here at Jyllands-Posten we live in fear.” (Rose)

As we can see, a pattern has developed. Oddly, a five-year pattern, but that’s besides the point. I could write a pretty long list of cartoons and comic strips that offend a particular religion. Christians are the butts of jokes all the time, and how many people have reacted inappropriately angrily to those depictions? (And no, the Westboro Baptist Church does not count.) How many Jews stormed and pillaged Seth MacFarlane’s home after the controversial lyric in Family Guy’s “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein?” Answer: None. There was a backlash against it initially by some Jewish groups, but MacFarlane changed the lyric and everybody just went back to the couch. But with Islam, it’s a whole different set of characters; if a cartoon is enough to rile people up so much that they feel the need to reach for the guns and the car keys, whether figuratively or literally, on repeated occasions, what does this say about the Islamic agenda? You can talk all day long about how they are extremists, and how they’re not representative of the true Islam, but the facts remain the same: it keeps happening. And it’s the same people. And they have access to more and more ammunition, resources, money, and power.

And who is taking action to stop it from happening?

In the 24-ish hours since the event, world leaders have spoken out about today, in defense of freedom and in denunciation of acts of terror. The list is long and growing: USA, UK, the EU, Russia, Australia, Israel, the Vatican. And the words come from their leaders: Barack Obama, Tony Abbott, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But one part of the world has been conspicuously silent.

Where is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Or King Abdullah of Jordan? What about Sheikh Tamim of Qatar – what does he think?

Silence. Figures.

The question is this: with the world knowing what it knows now, as a result of today’s shootings, what’s going to change? How can we prevent this from ever happening again?

What have we learned?

Ok, ok, forget free speech for a moment; in what kind of world is it okay to go to someone’s workplace and gun them down, under any circumstance? That is the question.

I don’t think there is an answer, but if anyone reading this knows, please tell me.

For the latest info:

NPR: At Least 12 Die In Shooting at Magazine’s Paris Office, Suspects Named

Works Cited

Cashill, Jack. “First They Came for Molly Norris.” WND. 7 January 2015. http://www.wnd.com/2015/01/first-they-came-for-molly-norris/.

Goldstein, Aaron. “A Further Thought on the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks & where is Molly Norris now?” The American Spectator. 7 January 2015. http://spectator.org/blog/61410/further-thought-charlie-hebdo-terrorist-attacks-where-molly-norris-now.

Rose, Flemming. “Jyllands-Posten Editor on Charlie Hebdo.” Trans. Jacob Wheeler. The Daily Beast. 7 January 2015. http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2015/01/07/jyllands-posten-editor-on-charlie-hebdo.html.

Taylor, Adam. “Why Would Terrorists Kill Cartoonists?” WorldViews. The Washington Post. 7 January 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/01/07/why-would-terrorists-kill-cartoonists/.

2

Just Plane Silly

Today, I went to a play. No, really, this theater major for the past eight years actually went to a play today. So I rounded up four friends to go to Fells Point Corner Theatre to see Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti, trans. Beverly Cross & Francis Evans. It was directed by Josh Shoemaker and featured Adam Bloedorn, Cassandra Dutt, Wesley Niemann, Rachel Roth, David Shoemaker, and Kate Shoemaker in the cast.

The play takes place in a Paris apartment in the swinging 1960s. The plot centers around Bernard, an American expat who juggles three fiances – all of them air hostesses. Using the timetables of their respective flight schedules and airline routes, he makes sure that no fiance is in Paris at the same time. His copilot, for lack of a better term, is his maid Berthe, who alters everything from the layout of the furniture to the dinner menu according to which countrywoman is dining with Bernard. When Bernard’s friend Robert comes to town from Wisconsin, Bernard insists he stay. Also staying the night are Gabriela (Bernard’s Italian fiance, whose Alitalia flight schedule causes her to spend the night); Gretchen (Bernard’s German fiance who works for Lufthansa, who ends up with three nights in Paris); and Gloria (Bernard’s American fiance, a TWA air hostess whose trans-Atlantic flight turns back to Paris due to bad weather). General havoc ensues, but it all ends neatly with two engagements and one girl taking flight to make her own destiny.

A zany show like this spawns over-the-top characters; some of the actors met the challenge, some didn’t, and some went a little overboard. Though balding and not conventionally attractive, Adam Bloedorn held his own as Bernard. This was my second time seeing him onstage after last year’s The Mousetrap at Vagabonds. Similarly, Kate Shoemaker (Berthe) was spot on with the one-liners and brought a lot of laughs. As Robert, David Shoemaker impressed everyone in my group, but I thought that he could’ve been funnier and for a guy from Wisconsin, he sure talked like a Marylander. Of the three air hostesses (who we all agreed were gorgeous), my friends preferred Italian Gabriela (Rachel Roth) and Gloria, the American (Wesley Niemann) over the German stewardess Gretchen (Cassandra Dutt). For me, Rachel Roth captured the essence of the role the best, with remarkable control over her face, body, and voice to keep it all together. As Gloria, Wesley Niemann was cute as a button but didn’t carry as much attitude to match the other two. Granted, her character was a bit more easy-going, but she was a bit too nonchalant at times. Despite the character professing to being from New York, Niemann’s voice was, again, undeniably Baltimore. Cassandra Dutt as Gretchen impressed me (and my friends) the least. Someone in the group said that she was trying too hard to be funny, and I agreed. She was also incredibly loud, but maybe sitting in the second row lent itself to that; we were aware of the fact that Gretchen is way more intense, domineering, and passionate than the other two, but loud does not always equal funny. I also noticed Gretchen slipping out of her accent at times; she should’ve taken lessons from Berthe. One of the girls said that the fact that she was the tallest girl with the shortest skirt made her stand out, and that she was funnier when she wasn’t talking; again, cementing further the fact that “loud” and “funny” are two totally differing concepts. The other girl had a strong opinion about the ending; she thought that it was “too perfect,” but it’s a pretty classic well-made structure, so it’s inevitably going to end well.

My favorite technical aspect of the show were the costumes. We all loved the classic airline stewardess uniforms. Costumer Helenmary Ball is a regular in the Baltimore theater scene and she always does a good job. My two female friends pointed out how psychedelic and 60s everything was, and compared it to Catch Me if You Can. The set, on the other hand, for me, was a major fail. The walls of the apartment were painted a la Piet Mondrian with the color palette of an Austin Powers movie. One of the girls pointed out how the couch and chairs matched the walls and that she really felt like she was in a “groovy bachelor pad” from the 60s. It was cute, but it lost points with me for using shiny duct tape on the walls rather than just plain black lines separating the squares; when the lights hit the tape, it was really distracting and looked shoddy.

Overall, it was a sexy, light, and fun comedy with something for each one of us to enjoy. I give it 7 out of 10 airplane tickets.