Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland

I had heard this piece before, but it wasn’t until NPR talked about it extensively that I could name it.

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Seaside (July: Specimen of a Portrait) by Jacques-Joseph Tissot

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My mom loves this painting.  She actually bought a print of it and framed it.  I bought a postcard of it and keep it at my desk at work.

My mom loves the folds in the dress.  She points out how we forget that it’s a two dimensional picture.

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An Open Letter to the Sister Survivors — The Gymternet

An op-ed from gymnastics fan and occasional reporter Izzi Baskin.

via An Open Letter to the Sister Survivors — The Gymternet

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Emma’s Random (Reylo) Thoughts Part 14: Is Reylo a “Twilight Thing?”

It’s been months since I wrote a shameless attempt to get more views, so it’s time for another one!

So, in my last post, I promised that I would talk about the vampire in the room, ie “Is Reylo a Twilight Thing?”

This is a common charge, even among guys who are not hostile to the idea of Reylo.

So, before we begin, what is Twilight?

Well, you are in luck, dear reader, because a year ago, I read about 1/2 of the first Twilight book.

I was inspired to do so by two things.  One thing was a friend, who said that I should read it.  “You’ll be sitting there saying, Wow.  Just.  Wow.”

The other was Lindsay Ellis, a YouTuber I love, posting her apology to Stephanie Myers.

After I saw that, I realized that, in order to fairly react to Twilight, I had to read it.  Plus, I think that she is right, we’re too hard on teenage girls.  I mean, I remember watching this clip a few years ago and laughing hysterically.

Yes, like everyone else, I made fun of the teenage girls, but in the back of my mind, I remember thinking, “If I had been 13 when the Twilight books came out, I would totally have known the answer to the question, ‘How many times did Jacob kiss Bella?'”

I skimmed through the first half of the first book. Bella was a horribly undefined character.  She also called her dad Charlie, which pissed me off.  I mean, I get that in these stories, the father must be dead or useless (in order to make the girl more vulnerable to men) but still, Charlie?  Ick.  Plus, I didn’t really care about the school dance stuff, which is not the fault of the book.  I am in my 30’s, so it’s hard to pretend that what happens in high school is All Important for the future of life.  (Thank God!)

Then Bella confronts Edward about the fact that he is a vampire.

Wow.  Just.  Wow.

First of all, the language.

“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…” he murmured. I looked away, hiding my eyes as I thrilled to the word.
“What a stupid lamb,” I sighed.
“What a sick, masochistic lion.”

And this.

“Your scent is like a drug to me like my own personal brand of heroin.”

I would send quotes to my best friend.  She replied, “How much longer are you going to torture yourself with this?”

Second of all, this kind of shit only work if the guy is intimidating, and I can’t be intimidated by a 17 year old guy.  (Oh I’m sorry, a 100 year old guy who is stuck in a 17 year old’s body.)  Now, granted, that is not the book’s fault.  I am not the target audience.  No doubt a 13 year old girl would be intimidated by a 17 year old boy.  I find them stupid and obnoxious.  I did when I was 17, and they have only gotten worse as I age.

Third, it’s hard not see that she is trying to make Edward Cullen into Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre.  Sadly, she wasn’t able to make Bella Swan into Jane Eyre.  Jane Eyre is a smart, defiant character with a profound, internal sense of her own worth and right and wrong.  She refuses to be cowed by Mr. Rochester, despite the fact that he is her boss and a very wealthy man.  Bella is none of those things.  She isn’t anything at all.

So, it was about this point that I stopped reading Twilight.  But I know enough about it to come up with a list of some of the qualities that make Twilight, well, Twilight.

1 A female protagonist who is basically a blank slate, without any defining features.

2 The female protagonist has a poor relationship with her father and is separated from her familiar surroundings.

3 The female protagonist falls prey to the attraction of a dangerous male character.

4 The male character tries to dissuade the female protagonist from loving him, emphasizing how dangerous he is.

5 The female protagonist abandons her (nonexistent) sense of self, her world, and her connections in order to be with the male protagonist.

So, let’s go through these points and compare them to Kylo Ren and Rey, as presented in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to see if their story matches these qualifications.

1 A female protagonist who is basically a blank slate, without any defining features. 

That’s a hard no.

Rey is a very well defined character.  We know that she was abandoned on Jakku by her parents.  She is a survivor, because she has continued to survive in a harsh existence.  She is also emotionally needy to the point of delusion.  When we first see her, we see a tenacious, intelligent young woman who stubbornly refuses to move on with her life because she can’t come to terms with the fact that her parents abandoned her.

(BTW, it bugs me to no end that people’s first thought when they heard Rey tell BB-8 that her family is coming back for her is “Oh, I wonder who her parents are.”  I keep harping on that, but I just can’t get over it!)

So, setting aside the fact that Rey has the same problem Hermione has (she is far too good with too many things) she is a well defined character with a clear character flaw.

She is a far better character than Boba Fett.  But that’s not hard, almost any character is a better character than Boba Fett.

2 The female protagonist has a poor relationship with her father and is separated from her familiar surroundings. 

This is true.

Rey has no relationship with her biological father.  She has three surrogate father figures: Unkar Platt, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker.  She only had a good relationship with Han Solo, but he is dead.

She is also separated from her familiar surroundings.  She leaves Jakku early in The Force Awakens and has not gone back.  She has had to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one…

Oh sorry.  That’s another space story.

3 The female protagonist falls prey to the attraction of a dangerous male character. 

True.  In The Force Awakens, she is kidnapped and held prisoner by Kylo Ren.  However, far more relevant to this discussion, she discovered that she has a Force Connection with Kylo Ren.  As they talk, she experiences a growing sympathy (attraction?) to him and believes that she can rescue him.  Now, it’s different than Bella.  Rey believes that she can free Kylo Ren from his current state; Bella wants Edward to turn her into a vampire.

4  The male character tries to dissuade the female protagonist from loving him, emphasizing how dangerous he is.  

That’s a hard no.  There is only one moment that could kind of be seen in that way, and that is when Kylo Ren and Rey have their second Force Skype session.  Rey calls him a monster, and Kylo replies, “Yes, I am.”  Other than that, we do not see any time when Kylo Ren tries to push her away and she ignores his protestations.

5 The female protagonist abandons her (nonexistent) sense of self, her world, and her connections in order to be with the male protagonist.  

Once again, a very hard no.

The climax of Rey’s story in The Last Jedi involves the moment when Kylo Ren offers to give her an identity and power, in exchange for her abandoning her life and everyone she has grown to care about over the past two movies.  Rey rejects him.  This makes her far, far more like Jane Eyre than it does like Bella Swan.

 

Now, of course, we cannot say definitively that the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey will not end up like Twilight, because we do not have the third movie.  It is possible that the relationship between the two will change.  It is possible that Rey will try to abandon her sense of self and her friends to be in a relationship with Kylo Ren, and that Kylo Ren will try to dissuade her from that because of how dangerous he is.  That could be Twilighty, but it would also depend how the story ends up at the end.  Does she give in?

I also don’t think that it is a bad idea of Kylo Ren challenges Rey’s deeply held beliefs about herself, the galaxy, and good and evil.  Quite the contrary, it would be the only thing that would give Rise of Skywalker any meaning at all.  I also think that they could include a sexual subtext in this challenge, which would not be the same as having them be in a literal relationship.

Or, it could involve Rey standing her ground and being true to her convictions, and ultimately Kylo Ren having to abandon his life and identity (as Kylo Ren) in order to be with her.  That would be kind of Twilighty, but with a key gender reversal, and with good triumphing over evil.

Or we could find out that Rey is secretly Luke’s daughter and the last movie will turn into a meaningless, stupid fight between Rey, Kylo Ren, and Emperor Palpatine.  That sounds mind numbingly boring, so J.J Abrams will almost definitely pick that option.

We simply don’t know.

But as it stands right now, the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey, in my opinion, is not Twilight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Future (Woman in Stockholm) by Gabriele Munter

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Gabriele Munter is a German expressionist.  I like the hopefulness of this picture.

 

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Emma Revisits Professional Wrestling

Well, I never thought I would write this article.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  I am just as surprised as you are.

(Seriously, how the fuck did this happen?)

So, I like watching John Oliver clips on Youtube and about a month ago, he did a story about the WWE and how badly it treats its wrestlers, and how dangerous professional wrestling is.

I hadn’t thought about professional wrestling in almost 20 years.  About 20 years ago, my younger brother was no different than a large percentage of young men in America; he LOVED professional wrestling.  Seriously, my readers who don’t remember the late 90’s cannot understand how popular professional wrestling was during that time.  It was MASSIVE.  The performers in this SNL skit were all very well known to a wide audience, not just The Rock.

There is a joke in John Oliver’s story where is exclaims, “Wrestling is better than the things you like.”  I laughed at the joke, but I started to think, is professional wrestling really all that different than the kind of things I like?

At the end of March, I would have said, “Absolutely.  It’s completely different from the things that I like.”

But I found myself somewhat curious.  After all, John Oliver talks about professional wrestling has characters that are good guys or bad guys, as well as scripts and stories.  That makes it sound like, well, theater.  And I love theater.

So, with that in mind, I decided to re-watch a few professional wrestling clips, and watch other ones for the first time.

So, here is an example from the late 90’s.  I remember seeing clips of this shortly after it aired.

OK, first of all, yes, it is dumb as rocks.  But I can recognize a basic narrative structure.  They have a point of attack (the beginning of the story) when the Undertaker kidnaps Stephanie McMahon.  They have an inciting incident (the moment when the protagonist becomes involved in the main action of the story) when Vince McMahon asks for Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Help.  When the Undertaker stages the wedding, they build the tension by having other people try to rescue Stephanie first, but failing.  It is only after the guy declares that the Undertaker and Stephanie are married and that the Undertaker can kiss the bride that Stone Cold Steve Austin comes out to rescue Stephanie.  It is dumb as rocks, but it is a story.  It is theater.  (And truthfully, it is probably impossible to tell this dumb story line any better than they did.)

OK, two quick asides.

First of all, why is there no sexual danger in the wedding scene?  It is amazing how tame it is.  And believe me, wrestling in the late 90’s was not tame.  But they go out of their way to minimize the sexual danger to Stephanie.  What is up with that?

Second of all, the video has tons of comments whining about how this would never be allowed on television because it promotes violence against women.  It doesn’t actually promote violence against women.  It depicts violence against women, but it does not promote it.  It is framed as something negative in the story.  Stephanie is kidnapped by the antagonist (I’ve learned in the past month that in professional wrestling, the antagonist or villain is called the heel).  The area goes dark and threatening.  The Undertaker baits the audience to cheer for Austin to come out and rescue Stephanie, which they readily do.  And as if none of that was enough, the TV audience has the fucking Greek chorus squawking about how horrible all this is.

OK, moving on.

So, this is unusual for professional wrestling because much of the storytelling is done through words.  Normally it is done through the wrestling itself, such as in this clip.  Dean Ambrose had apparently been a heel (bad guy) after turning on his best friends.  Now, his best friends forgive him and turn up to save him from being attacked.

None of the characters talk in this scene, but again, the Greek chorus is squawking away on TV.  Even so, the actions of the characters advance a narrative.  They also express themes of friendship and forgiveness, even grace.  But unlike theater, there is no dialogue, except for the Greek chorus.  Theater is all about dialogue and language, so when professional wrestling tells story through action, it is different than theater.

Now’s the part where I piss off all the wrestling fans.  Because professional wrestling kind of reminds me of this.

And this.

Yes, I am going on record saying that professional wrestling is like ballet.  And if professional wrestling fans want to protest, “But wrestlers are telling stories with their bodies and through movement!” I will answer them, “What do you think ballet dancers are doing?”

So, is wrestling better than the things I like?

No.

But, it’s actually got a lot in common with the things that I do like.

So, am I going to watch wrestling now?

Well, no.

First of all, I am not all that interested in the stories they tell.  Not that it’s bad to like them.  If you enjoy it, knock yourself out.  It’s not just not my thing.

But there’s a far more important reason.

Professional Wrestling isn’t fake enough. 

I know that sounds like a bizarre statement, but that’s what I think. Hear me out.

First of all, there is the injuries and deaths listed by John Oliver.  (As I write this, another professional wrestler died at 39.)  It’s bad enough I have to deal with the fact that 7 out of the 8 women gymnasts on the past two US Olympic teams were sexually abused by the USA Gymnastics doctor.  The Tokyo Olympics is coming up next year, and I know that any moment that I watch women’s gymnastics, I will be haunted by the gymnasts’ impact statements about the pain they suffered at the hands of a sexual predator.

I don’t need any more moral quandaries.  I really don’t.

But there is another, less important issue, and that is the dividing line between fiction and reality.

Non-wrestlers, or people outside the wrestling business, are referred to as “marks.”  This is the same term that con artists use to describe their victims.  Wrestlers were encouraged to keep “kayfabe”, a word that denotes maintaining the illusion of the character and plot, even in everyday life.

Theater has a very different attitude towards the audience.  George Bernard Shaw once remarked that a theatrical convention is “an agreed upon lie.”  The actors and the audience, together, agree upon the lie.  The actors also do not attempt to convince people that the play is an event that actually happens, at least outside the stage.

Theater also has very strict conventions to show the dividing line of the world of the play.  I have been to several “talk backs” after plays, where the audience can talk to the actors.  Before the actors show up for “talk backs,” the actors change out of their costumes and into their every day clothes.  This is not simply for comfort; it also shows that the actors are speaking to the audience as themselves, not as the characters.

Professional wrestling has traditionally shunned such a divide between the world of the stage and the real world.  It seems to be changing, but it hasn’t gone far enough for me.

But I must say, I owe professional wrestling a debt of gratitude for making me realize how important the relationship between the audience and the performers are.  So I do owe it that.  Thanks.

 

 

 

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Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsokov

I have lately been sharing music I heard at the Cleveland Orchestra.  Sadly, this is one piece I did not get to hear due to illness.

I will have to check it out the next time the Cleveland Orchestra or CIM plays it.

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