Dull In Denmark

 

Took another Stratford day-trip Wednesday to see Hamlet. First the good news – we had lunch at the re-located Features & were happy with the bright, spacious location. Same menu (on new a menu folder). Same staff. Best part, the washrooms are no longer down a slippery flight of rickety stairs into a dark low-ceilinged basement.

Now for the bad news, something was dull in the state of Denmark & it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps it was the long pandemic delay that gave them too much time to simmer this production – a simmer that turned it into flavourless Hamlet.

The opening was promising with funeral organ music & the dead king in a glass coffin already on stage. Guards were contemporized into a dark suited security detail – earplug communicators etc. The ghost work was nicely handled. But after Hamlet ‘swears,’ I got sleepy & missed some things, including the To Be soliloquy. A sure sign of how dull the performances & staging where. I perked up when the travelling players finally arrived. 

from a past production

Overall it was, to me, an uninspired production, though the staging had some good elements. The use of the balcony mirrors & projections was interesting, as was hidden body mic on Ophelia. The costumes were street wear – as if the cast had arrived late & rushed on stage without changing out of their street clothes. I can’t even remember what Hamlet wore. Costumes should help define the characters & so everyone here was defined as nobodies. Laertes in sweatpants? How regal.

from a past production

Amaka Umeh in the lead works hard, saws the air at every possible moment but never found a character. The King lacked any sense of threat. Ophelia lacked wispiness & seemed more peeved than heart-broken. None of the principles felt that invested in their characters, none of them seemed to be enjoying being on stage.

In the end we were left with a dull silence.

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Good Looks

Good Looks

I wasn’t looking at you

I wasn’t looking at anyone

no one is looking at anyone

<>

we don’t even look at ourselves

expect through a lens

of memory

of perception

of cultural filters

of digital accuracy

<>

I don’t want to see anyone

not directly

so as not to give rise

to inaccurate expectations

to misinterpretation of the glance

<>

we all just want

to find our place

without bumping into anyone

without having to look 

where we are sitting

<>

look up

is to make unwanted contact

visual acknowledgements

are not to be allowed

they lead to

well

no one knows what they lead to

it is better not to take that chance

<>

I’m not looking at anyone

at anything

no one looks at me

life is serene

Many years ago a discredited televangelist was accused of giving another man a ‘homosexual’ look in a spa locker room. Decades ago a man in Australia was found not-guilty of murderer because he experienced a ‘homosexual panic’ because of the way another man looked at him. The eyes have been weaponized.

Sexual harassments suits have cited the way other employees looked at the accuser – focused too long on legs, buttocks, chest. I’m not sure how long ‘too long’ is – the punch line ‘my eyes are up here’ underlines the need to direct our gaze anywhere but at the anatomy. Yet not looking someone in the eyes is seen as hiding something, of being shifty – looking them in the eye is being accusatory or invasive of their privacy. 

Hence the power of hand held devices to avoid those treacherous waters. Soon, like modern cars, they’ll have a proximity alert to let you know how close you are to bumping into someone, or something, because   they are in our blindspot. Maybe they’ll develop a way to give people who are too close a slight shock to alert them to ‘get back.’ 

As a kid I remember wishing I had Superman’s x-ray vision that allows him to look through things – though unlike x-rays he saw them as objects not outlines or ghosts. I always wanted to send away for x-ray glasses I saw in the back of comics that supposedly did the same thing so I could use them to see through clothing, or through walls to watch people undressing. Google tells me some were merely plastic glasses filled with cardboard that had a depiction of the things you could see if you had x-Ray vision 😦 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-ray_specs)

I’m sure if I was wearing them in public my eyes would be covered so no one would accuse of giving them a homosexual look. I’ll stick to my wrap around sunglasses.


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Pointers for Cabaret Singers

I loved the Pointer Sisters from the get go. Their first several lps were an eclectic mix of the Andrews Sisters harmonies & swing, raunchy r’n’b, country, blues, pop & eventually, high energy dance music. The retro big band sound had been heralded by Bette Midler but the Pointers took it in a less camp direction.

I remember seeing them on Carol Burnett’s show doing Shaky Flat Blues. I have The Pointer Sisters (1973), That’s A Plenty (1974), Steppin’ (1975), Energy (1978),  Break Out (1983). I loved the dense harmonies on songs like Jada, the funky energy of Wang Dang Doodle, their take on Springsteen’s Fire. As they progressed their look change too from the almost church late’s 30’s look to a take change shirts & high-heels disco look. 

Rounding out the mp3 collection are The Ray Charles Singers: Songs For Latin Lovers – a great version of Desafinado – more sweet harmonies. The Manhattan Transfer: The Best of – featuring Java Jive; Swing: this is another group that mined retro 40’s, 50’s with bouncing harmonies, great orchestrations & even some ‘original work’ like the Twilight Zone & Birdland – the hits collection is excellent.

Now a deeper step back in time with some real cabaret stars. First is a great fake-live album by Marlene Dietrich: Wiedersehen mit Marlene. The audience reactions are from her actual shows but have been layered onto some studio recordings. Next is the legendary Mabel Mercer: The Art Of, which includes  Little Girl Blue (later done by Janis Joplin). She has gravelly gentle voice with an unhurried jazzy take on classic songs. Jaye P. Morgan, a nightclub singer who became a TV personality (or maybe it was the other way around) with a sweet voice for songs like My Heart Belongs to Daddy.

Finally the legendary Bobby Short: Live at Town Hall. He has one of those jazzy voices that is an acquired taste – urbane, slightly naughty & sophisticated. This is a fun set of show tunes, jazz standards & a nod to pop music of the time. If you want to dabble in cabaret singers Mabel Mercer is your best bet.

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Mae Being

Mae Being

the outrage

at her success

was matched by the publicity

the outrage

brought her success

how dare she

a woman

write like a man

use men

the way men used women

the obscenity 

of carnality on stage

was too much for the male

powers that be

when she wouldn’t back down

they shut her down

sent her to prison

sentenced her to becoming

the top box-office draw of the decade

despite being a woman

yet her success

didn’t silence her censors

it only made them more eager

avid

to teach her a lesson

to be obedient

to shut her mouth

watch her words

or they would snip the words

so only the censors heard them

so she

took her money to the bank

& bid the public

good bye

One of the last plays I saw on stage was Mae West’s Sex at the Shaw Festival: https://topoet.ca/2019/09/21/mae-brechts-sex/. Re-reading my review Make the production sound better than it was lol – it was ultimately disappointing in its lack of performance energy.

During the 70’s I was somewhat of a Mae West fan. I had poster of her – hands-on-hips, her sequinned, form-fitting dress glittering &, I think, a giant feather boa over her shoulders. A deliberate choice on my part to appear heterosexual. I read a couple of biographies, loved her double-entendres – Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? At the time I didn’t realize this was a tell-tale sign of being gay lol.

At the time I hadn’t actually seen any of her movies. TV fare in Cape Breton was quite limited & we rarely got such scintillating oldies. Clark Gable yes, MaeWest no. I didn’t see many of them until I picked up a box set of her films – which I enjoyed but time sure have changed. I didn’t see what the fuss was about. Yet even today being open about enjoying sex leads to judgmentalism. Pleasure being deemed as less authentic, less ethical than suffering.

Today I wonder if Mae was as sexual in her private life as her persona projects. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she died a virgin, a very wealthy virgin

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Gunn Mann

Soundtrack composers are easy to dismiss for the mass appeal of their work – populist & therefore shallow. Henry Mancini is one such composer. The range of his musical ability is staggering when one looks at the span of his career. Academy awards only testify to the popularity of his work not of its quality.

Also with time, even his timeless pieces have taken on a sort of nostalgic campy quality. A song like Moon River seems quaint. I have always loved his music for Peter Gunn & have the original TV soundtrack. When you get past the Arch of the Cue Balls you have a fine, state-of-the-jazz art album that can stand with anything by, say, Horace Silver.  Quincy Jones Plays Mancini is a great set of covers. I love Baby Elephant Walk.

I guess I am a Herbie Mann fan, at least of his work up to the mid-70’s. The first Herbie Mann I heard was Push Push way back in 1971. I loved it & the use of harp in jazz was a revelation. I had that lp & replaced it with the cd. I found the double lp Evolution of Mann remaindered at Zellers & it covered the earlier part of his career, eventually I did the conversion from lp to cd. Stone Flute, & Gagaka I also had as lps at one time & both are stunning sets.

As mp3 I have by Herbie Mann:  Flute Flight 1957, Flute Soufflé 1957, Do The Bossanova 1962, The Complete Latin Band Sessions w Chick Corea 1965, Impressions of the Middle East 1966, Gagaku & Beyond 1976, Two Amigos 1990 w Dave Valentine, Beyond Brooklyn 2004 w Phil Woods. Stand-alones: lp to cd transfer of Evolution of Mann: a sort of hits collection; Stone Flute 1969 meditative with strings includes stunning take on The Beatles ‘Flying’, Push Push 1971 w Duane Allman Gene Bianca on harp. 

Mann was a world music fan before it was on trend. He explored Latin, Japanese, Northern Africa music with musicians from those areas. He steeped himself  in the sound & sensibility & co-created memorable music. I love the Gagaku work. Where to start? I’d go with Push Push. Don’t let his hairy shoulders put you off.

Rounding out the Mann mp3 cd compilations are: Wes Montgomery: Fingerpickin’, Moving’ Along. Early work by Wes with his trademark fluid jazz guitar. Stanley Jordan: Magic Touch – modelled after Wes, another deft guitarist. Art Pepper: The Trip – excellent sax with more of a hard bop edge. Some mid 50’s sleaze adventures, where you feel the tassels twirling around your nose as you listen: Strip Tease 50’s Classics: by the likes of Dave Rose, Sonny Lester – songs like Strip Poker, The Stripper; Buddy Bregman: Swinging Kicks. Burlesque A Go-Go: various rock-a-billy for peelers.

Perhaps the ultimate Bond soundtrack by John Barry: Goldfinger. Shirley Bassey delivers the best Bond title song of all time. Finally as a break from all that:  Don Slepian: Electronic Music From The Rainbow Isle – a moog, computer music pioneer; Szatvari Csaba: Galilei’s Nightmare – new ageish sound textures.

Take The Plunge

the room was full

maple leaves sumac oak

aspen poplar beech

more leaves than the eye could see

could gave names to

rose lilac no flowers just leaves

stacked

each one tagged 

ready to be discarded

<>

leaves fluttering chafing rustling

at each breath I took

whispering to each other

that I was there

shuddering 

at the sight of my rake

they feared the rake

<>

the brown big bag behind my back

wasn’t going to hold them all

I’d need more bags

more rakes

<>

the leaves trembled in anticipation

to be stuffed crammed

longing to be taken outdoors

to become compost

for future leaves

<>

I didn’t know where to begin

were there stairs

the house was crammed

floor to ceiling

nothing could be seen

leaves crumbling 

stumbling 

over one another

more arrived every minute

squeezing though cracks in the wall

down the chimney

<> 

it was an endless task

I began raking 

pulling them from under chairs

bag after bag

line the curb

yet the house never emptied

all around me 

the swirl of leaves

green red black pointed waxy

I couldn’t get down the stairs

my rake was useless

they no longer had fear

no bags left and there were more

<>

catalpa palm smoke tree

I climbed out to the porch roof

the street was an ocean

the bags I had tenderly packed

had all broken open

children where running and playing

diving through the leaves

never touching the ground

unaware of the dangers

beneath the glorious tempest of leaves

<>

I took the plunge

(2008)

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The Kafka Hotel

The Kafka Hotel

Nothing was the right size. G stood in the centre of the hotel room. The windows were too high to look out of & were too large for the room. On tip-toe G could barely get a brief glimpse of the high-rise across the street.

It strained G’s neck to keep looking outside. The suitcase took up half the bed. The bed would clearly be too small for anyone to stretch out on. The desk was more like ledge. There wasn’t enough room under it for legs. Not enough room on it for a laptop to open properly. The chair back came half-way up G’s spine and offered no support to lean back on.

The wall-to-wall carpet wasn’t quite wall-to-wall. In one corner there was an bare angle of raw concrete floor that hadn’t been covered. The sink in the bathroom was so low G had to stoop to get hands under the taps to splash lukewarm water on the face. There was no cold or hot just lukewarm. The shower stall door didn’t close properly so water rained all over the floor when the shower was on.

Nothing was the right size except for the price.

I’ve never stayed in a hotel room this bad but some have come close. I remember one where the ‘closet’ was just big enough to hang a shirt. More than one had desks with minimal leg room underneath. I did have one with a shower door that didn’t close properly. I suspect every hotel, no matter how good, has crappy ‘discount rooms’ that they give when people book with points or though some online agency.

The first draft of the piece had only ‘G’ as a name so I kept that. I pruned away gender designations to make G as anonymous as the room itself. I was tempted to not mention body parts – hands, face to further dehumanize G but then it felt too much like a parody of Metamorphosis. 

I’ve read Kafka’s novels & short stories a few times. I enjoy his sense of things happening for no discernible reason. Characters who hit that blank wall that refuses to explain, apologize or help. In fact they are made to feel at fault or shamed for even asking for ‘clean towels.’ Life is out of our control – which isn’t fiction as we’ve learned in these covid19 days.

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Telemann for Dinner

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767) is a German Baroque composer & is one of the most prolific composers in history, as a result of his productivity his music was often seen as second-rate & not up to Bach’s standards. I have as stand-alones: Oboe sonatas 1 2; Recorder sonatas 1 2; Water Music; Paris Quartets 1 2; Darmstadt Overtures 2 cd; Twelve Fantasies for traverse flute; Concertos/Tafelmusick (lp to cd transfer); Partitas (lp to cd transfer); Twelve Fantasies for Flute/Sonatas (lp to cd transfer).

Telemann did not write for the concert hall but for relatively small ensembles for private court musicians. It was meant, for the most part, to be background music: Tafelmusick was for dining to not for dwelling on the mysteries of a spiritual life. He rarely wrote to express emotions or to create pastoral images.

In some ways we’ve done some periods of classical music a disservice by reducing to concert halls or radio broadcasts where we feel trapped or compelled to listen to it without distractions, without being able to do anything but listen. It was meant to be interacted with not worshipped.

Telemann was a journeyman composer who could write an elegant march for your walk down the aisle, or background for the the opening of your water fountain display. In the salons off the day people would walk around, chit-chat whiles the music was being played or danced to – it was meant to create an ambiance not pull focus to itself.

His work is soothing, elegant & sometimes sublime. My favourite are his Twelve Fantasies for Flute – I have two different recordings, one on transverse flute & the other on recorder. Both are a delight & perfect dinner music 🙂

All Is Well

it’s not me it’s them

it’s a war zone out there

no safe haven 

to stop and breathe in

who wants to breathe 

the air out there

stand in what sort of shit

no place to rest 

to put down the gun 

for even a minute

random bullets materialize in the air

when you are down the street

to look for a burger joint

for a corner to piss in

and bang

if the bullets don’t get you

the burgers will

<>

you’re all out to get me

people everywhere cough sneeze

wipe damp hands 

on door handles I have to touch

grimace at me

at my gun

over their newspapers

crank up their mp3 players

so I can’t hear mine

daring me to shoot 

as they light up a cigarette

as they push ahead of me 

to get their death burger faster

fast food being too slow for them

tear off price tags

rip books to shreds

push their way 

down crowded stairs ways

jump at me with atomizers

when I enter a department store

try this sir

what’s your favourite blood 

I like the smell of 

cosmetic salespersons blood

do you have anything like that

or something that smells 

like fast food counter help

that empty fried fresh aroma

that tingles the taste buds

something that makes people hungry 

when they smell me

<>

it’s not me it’s them

I set out peaceful almost serene

avoid the unscooped spots on the sidewalk

even manage a smile at the barista

who would smile back

if she weren’t afraid it’d slow her down

the swish my coffee enough

to make sure the lumps of milk 

and sweetener have dissolved

I’m happy for the first sip

until the lid pops off 

and I have to watch 

the slick scum cling 

to the sides of my cup

as I sip sip sip to the last drop

<>

I am now ready for anything and everything 

that is out to get me

I won’t fight back too much today

I want to be a power of calm

in all this mindless 

that staggers 

stumbles

hurrys me

to step out of the way

resist have a nice day

resist fuck you too

resist kicking cars 

that stop in the crosswalk

as if they owned the damn streets

<>

it’s not me

I know that even if this a war zone

all is well with the world 

(2008)

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Toys Curbed

When I see these various boxes or collections of toys set out for garbage I wonder – were they outgrown? or was some child so bad their favourites were tossed while they were visiting grandma for the weekend? or maybe they were too painful reminders of lost childhoods

butterfly? or bee that’s lost its stripes
Fall from grace
these aren’t lego 😦 I hate them.
anyone seen Mary?
it’s leaving home whatever it is
look into my eyes
hand-eye coordinators
ramp to the future
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Recap October 2021

Over the past month by TOpoet.ca following blog grew to ! The WP map does show my hits have come from  21 countries around the world. That the USA tops the list is no surprise but that Ecuador & Singapore are in the top 10 is a surprise. Most popular posts were The Late Charlie C Petch https://topoet.ca/2021/10/24/the-late-charlie-c-petch/, Ramsey Lewis https://topoet.ca/2021/10/27/ramsey-lewis/ – my personal favorite was one of my spooktastic pieces Remains  https://topoet.ca/2021/10/18/remains/

My Tumblr is 352 at followers, it would be a much large number but I block bot follows that promise me sites better than Grindr (which I don’t have anyway). 229 Twitter followers. 

Picture Perfect: 90 sections, about 130,000 words posted so far with 60,000 approx to be edited then posted. Cutting or refashioning scenes that don’t push the plots forward has made the editing more fun as I get near the end, I think. 

Really really enjoyed American Horror Show: Double Feature. Francis Conroy gives an amazing performs in Red Tide, the first half as the failed, historical romance writer whose career changes thanks to The Muse. Death Valley, the second half, is a brilliant tribute to early 50’s scifi & THX 1138 & hundred of conspiracy theories (microwave ovens are from outer space) as aliens impregnate abducted women & men with their hope for the future. Men give birth. How? You’ll have watch for yourself. Several laugh out loud moments For me their best season so far.

Read some fun books including Wingmen – an exciting aircraft carrier novel! US flyboys vs the Japanese after Pearl Harbour. You’ll feel like you can fly after the dogfight descriptions. Details of the mundane routines fascinated me – the politics of army life, the pressure woof men living together in battles & oh yes, our heroes do fall in love. I loved it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wingmen_(novel)

Also look at the making of Pasolini’s Arabian Nights by Michael Moon – A Queer Film Classics – Arsenal Press – a study of Pasolini’s film full of gossipy revelations, serious cinephile contexuralizing of nudity in film. Makes me want to watch the movie again in the new year.  

Through October I’ve been watching the BBC’s Elizabeth R: a series of six 85-minute plays from 1971 with Glenda Jackson as Liz. The arc of her monarchy is told in 6 plays – each dwelling on a single time or event. After finished the Tudors I wanted to see what came next 🙂 These are excellent video, as opposed to filmed, productions. Good costumes. Jackson in her prime. No real tension mind you as history is a spoiler – will she marry the French prince – of course not. At this time Jackson also made the film Mary, Queen of Scots, with Vanessa Redgrave as Mary.

Watched Hereditary – which tuned out to be a depressing, overlong, melodrama about grief & people’s indifference to red flags. Mom & son are so clearly disturbed yet no seems to take notice other that Dad. Toni Collette gives an intense performance as Mom & the ending, to me, was ho-hum. The music by Colin Stetson was excellent & I downloaded the soundtrack album.

At the end of October I had an unsettling computer access issue – one morning Safari was a bit wonky on all my Macs. I could access a limited number of site but not access WordPress, Twitter etc. turns out Apple was launching their new Monterey operating system which included an updated Safari – so figured that was the problem. I downloaded the new system – which took some time – installed it – which took even more time. The Safari issue remained though 😦 One of the sites I couldn’t access was Apple. I found the number for their Tech support & called it.

I was taken though some standard clearing caches & such to no avail. Because I couldn’t access Apple screen sharing was not possible. end of call one. next day call two & an even deeper dive into various libraries, files, folders with no result. I was told re-install Monterey. But I got message ‘the recovery server could not be contacted.’ I gave up & limp along with my lamed Safari. I couldn’t access alternatives i.e. google chrome.

So the next day I try again with the Monterey, no luck & call Apple tech again. I end up with a Senior tech & he takes me through a different set of folders etc. He can’t find any problems with either the software or my hard drive. Finally he suggests I reboot my Roger’s modem & it clears up the problem!! He had me check the other two Mac & they were working fine too. So it wasn’t a Mac issue after all. Whew. For a moment I suspected it their attempt to force us to upgrade to their silicon hard drives. 

Brotherhood of the Bottle

I won’t be getting drunk 

with any of you 

any time soon 

so chances are 

we’ll never become more 

than nodding acquaintances

it’s not that I don’t like the idea

that I don’t think there something

between us 

that could do more than nodding

<>

but the bottle’s been gunning for me

for a long time

I’ve taken more than a few body blows

after a few too many body shots

I’m not going down that road again

yeah I know there’s

a cost to everything

the one to this is 

being a little more outsider

<>

getting dunk 

would make me more one of the guys

someone easier to relate to 

I wish that could happen

but not in that way

besides it pains me to see

angel head hipsters 

on that road of self-destruction

thinking 

as I once did

that this amber road 

is the way to the true self

<>

but a drunk is drunk

whether they are muttering about

grant applications or restraining orders

or fighting racial slurs

to make sense

of things that are slipping away 

faster than the minutes dragging 

them to morning

in some fried egg joint

where they feel a sense 

of oneness with one another

<>

the uncracked bottle

has weight until opened

but it always ends up empty

I’m not going to invite 

that empty back into my life

to make anyone feel

I’m one of the guys

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Ramsey Lewis 

Ramsey Lewis’s falls at the jazzier end of instrumental music. He carved out a career strongly based on jazzed up, excellent, covers of pop songs, movie themes & some straight ahead jazz work. His earlier lps Bossa Nova (62), The In Crowd Live(65), Hang On Ramsey! Live (65), Wade In The Water (66), are fun, better than easy-listening work. You would never mistake him for Keith Jarrett but he’s miles away from Eddie Duchin. 

I had Wade in The Water as a cassette & loved it & the horn arrangements. He recorded some of these lps under the direction of Charles Stepney, who was also the producer of The Rotary Connection – a trippy, LSD soul, r’n’b group that are sweet & stunning. The peak of his work with Cadet Chess is Mother Nature’s Son (68), an lp of all Beatles covers with wild electronic, electric piano work. I loved it but my buddies at the time didn’t get it. It wasn’t their idea of jazz & as it flirts with a weird LSD cocktail lounge sound. Plus musician like Phil Upchurch & Minnie Ripperton added to the sound.

In the early 70’s he changed labels & direction. Thanks to the jazz-rock trend he tested that expansive sound with Upendo Ni Pamoja (72), Funky Serenity (73). This are more Bob James than Weather Report & his electric piano work is pleasant.  As much as I enjoyed these this didn’t hold as much as his earlier work so I lost interest in him after these. 

On the mp3 collection are three lps by Stan Kenton – & his big band. Cuban Fire, Hair (not as campy as you might expect), Easy Go. Like Lewis Kenton did interpretations of pop, Broadway shows. He remained more ‘grounded’ & never ventured into the trippy territory that Lewis handled so deftly. 

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