Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Viewing Nature

Nature

Aesthetica Magazine: “Dutch photographer Ellen Kooi’s theatrical images challenge assumed perceptions
of the world and transform bleak landscapes into dramatic stories.” The image is entitled “Halfweg,”
which is a name of a Dutch town in north Holland. It means halfway.
Photo Credit: ©Ellen Kooi

Source: Aesthetica
I do not find this image particularly bleak, but rather striking and wonderful. It is true that there is a vastness and an openness to it that seems to go on and on. Perhaps, some would find this gives an unpleasant sensation, which might be what Ellen Kooi is trying to convey. Not everything can be “captured” in a photo, particularly something as vast as “Nature.” One can view only a small glimpse—a detail—at a particular point of time. But even this might be considered a passive act, as in viewing TV or some other theatrical performance, rather than being an active participant in Nature.

A TV Production Of Verdi’s Rigoletto (1982)



Luciano Pavarotti stars in Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto in a 1982 TV production by Jean Pierre Ponelle; in the background is the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Riccardo Chailly. This opera is in three acts, with the music by Giuseppe Verdi and the Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on the play Le roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo. It premiered at La Fenice in Venice on March 11, 1851. It remains a standard of the opera repertoire. The synopsis can be found here.
Cast (in order of credits)

Ingvar Wixell: Rigoletto / Monterone
Edita Gruberova: Gilda
Luciano Pavarotti: Il Duca di Mantova
Ferruccio Furlanetto: Sparafucile
Victoria Vergara: Maddalena
Fedora Barbieri: Giovanna
Bernd Weikl: Marullo (singing voice)
Roland Bracht: Ceprano
Louis Otey: Marullo
Rémy Corazza: Borsa
Kathleen Kuhlmann: Contessa di Ceprano
This production from Unitel, the German media company, was released on disc in 1992,

Monday, August 31, 2015

Peter, Paul & Mary: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?


Peter, Paul and Mary perform “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” live at their 25th anniversary concert in 1986. The group consists of Peter Yarrow, (Noel) Paul Stookey and Mary Travers (who died in 2009, age 72, as a result of leukemia). This folk group first recorded the song in 1962 on their debut album; you can hear an earlier version here.

Pete Seeger wrote the first three verses of the song in 1955 and Joe Hickerson added additional ones in May 1960. The tune taken from the Ukrainian folksong, “Kolyada Duda.” Seeger also drew inspiration from Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel And Quiet Flows the Don (1934), which is a sweeping narrative of the Cossacks residing in the Don River Valley during a period of great change before the First World War. Some have compared Sholokhov’s novel to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace in its complexity and over-arching themes of love, honour and war. Sholokhov won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1965.

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
by Pete Seeger & Joe Hickerson

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone to young men every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

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True; and, where have our values gone? I remember learning and singing this song in elementary school around 1964 or ’65 (I am now 57); we had wonderful teachers at Bancroft School in Montreal.

Surviving Hiroshima: 6 Stories, A Year Later (1946)

Surviving The Atomic Bomb: Hersey of The New Yorker writes: “A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb. Survivors wonder why they lived when so many others died.”
Photo Credit: Rolls Press; Popper Foto via Getty.
Source: The New Yorker

In a series, “Perspectives on War,” in The New Yorker, there is a fine piece of reportage by John Hersey, published on August 31, 1946, a year after the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It chiefly looks at the lives of six survivors.

In “Hiroshima” (August 31, 1946), Hersey writes:
At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defense fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order’s three-story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city’s large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassermann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man’s house in Koi, the city’s western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next—that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything.
We know more today.  It is seventy years later, and we know the effects that atomic bombs have on people, on civilization itself. The larger problem—and it still looms large—centres on war itself, which is impersonal and has become more so with weapons that are guided from afar; the classic example are drones. The difference between a video-game and war is that one is a virtual-reality game, the other a plague on civilization.

We ought to question the necessity of war. If Hiroshima taught us anything, it is that the purposes of war differ for the leaders who declare them than for the men (it is still mainly men) who fight and who battle—the soldiers themselves are caught in the trap of their leaders’ decisions. All that some have left afterward are “honour” alongside missing limbs and bad memories. There is a valid reason why post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) are so common, and why its numbers are rising. War might be common among humans, but it is not normal. To be sure, it is never good for one’s mental health.

The story of the civilians, which this article gives from six different perspectives, is another one altogether. No enlistments here; no one signed up to fight. Common to the individual stories of six survivors is how each of their lives changed, without warning, in a flash on that morning in early August. Reading their stories might change your view on war and whether it should be given the honour it is often accorded.

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For more, go to [NewYorker]