Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Kitten Thanksgiving

Kittens are not thankful for turkey because they feel entitled to it.

Kittens are also not thankful for their family, because kitten brothers are just the worst.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Things that Make me Feel Better about Myself as a Dancer

Taking classes from professional dancers who are even more one-sided than I am.  Petite Jamila of Bellydance Superstars spins in one direction.  She says if we want to do spin the other direction we are welcome to figure it out for ourselves.  Christina Camperlongo of Cirque du Soleil says she has the side that works and then she has the stupid side.  She doesn't do things on her stupid side.

Speaking of Christina Camperlongo, I got her to sign my program from Amaluna.  Dream big, darlings!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Depends on What you Mean by Love: Atlanta Opera's Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly is not, in my opinion, Puccini's best effort musically, nor yet the easiest to stage interestingly.  Nor is the Atlanta Opera necessarily the best company for overcoming either difficulty.  Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised.  I had seen the opera once before, but on video, which in itself is usually not a great medium for opera, and the complete lack of stage presence of Pavarotti did nothing to enhance this video.  Also, at the time I was too young to pick up on the rather interesting points Puccini makes about racism, sexism, religion, and American imperialism.  So here, as an adult, wearing a houmongi kimono (because I am that fabulous and thematically appropriate) with a pretty purple (but pretied, because I am that incompetent) obi, I found myself despite expectations quite enjoying the Atlanta Opera's presentation of Madama Butterfly.  Dina Kuznetsova may not be the most spectacular soprano ever, but she is pretty voiced and full of appropriate pathos.  Nina Yoshida, as Suzuki, provided a strong-voiced counterpart, and together, the two of them had enough stage presence to carry us through the second act, which is spent largely by the two women alone in the house.  I would have liked more supernumeraries whenever possible to add visual interest to the stage, particularly instead of what the opera was doing, which was project (mostly cheesy) images on the projector backdrop.   I hate hate hate projector screens in a performance.  Momix is the only company I will make an exception for.  Everyone else should just stop and go back to making pretty patterns on the stage with the lights.  It's less cheesy.  And for the love of cheese, director, don't beat us over the head with imagery with projecting giant slow moving butterflies.  Unless you are planning to go full Cirque du Soleil and just shower the audience with tissue paper butterflies (which was actually kind of a fabulous end to Varekai). I'd be okay with that. 

The only thing I did like about the set, which was just Butterfly's house and garden, was that the ambient light changed  whenever people opened or shut the back walls (behind which was the projection screen).  That was a nice touch.  Costumes were good as well.  The opera also set the scene by having kimono and ikebana displays out in the lobby.  Well done them.  

As far as watching the opera as an adult, I was really surprised at the extent and viciousness with which Puccini attacks the U.S.  I was expecting more of the orientalism that was common at the time, but that's mostly background in this story in which all bad things come from America and adopting American customs and religion.  There's no subtlety whatsoever.  Our tenor, that cad Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, exults in his ability to buy a wife and a house forever but cancel both with a few weeks notice, and then poses awkwardly while declaiming "America, forever!"

As a side note, I am absolutely going to start assuming awkward poses and declaiming "America, forever!"

Our eponymous Butterfly starts out as a dignified old money but newly poor girl working as a geisha.  She has, however, been sold to this itinerant American seaman B. F. Pinkerton, and instead of taking the approach of her peers, who pragmatically remark that foreign husbands never come back, she is head over heels in love with her foreign husband.  To the point where she is abandoned by her family and friends because they see her as abandoning them by adopting the religion of her new husband.  After (and with a remarkably silly projection of the bloody sun of the Japanese flag with some Japanese characters superimposed) he denounces her, Butterfly's priest type uncle and most of the other Japanese characters depart to never be seen again.  This is more a projection of the way religion works in America than an accurate reflection of how religion usually works in Japan, but Puccini knows nothing of Japanese religion and just needs a plot contrivance to leave Butterfly alone playing at being an American wife. Well, one can see anger at someone ditching family in favor of condescending imperialists, so it's maybe not too unrealistic, this abandonment. Back to Butterfly's American homemaking.  She makes a good go of it to, as she proceeds to be the paragon of Debi Pearl (Of {Created,Preparing} to be His Helpmeet fame) style perfect wifely submission.  As in, Ms. Pearl actively advocates that young wives sit at home being bored and lonely as it will teach them to be more dependant on their husbands, and that is exactly what Butterfly does, without ever complaining. She apologizes to her new husband for bringing some of her own stuff to the marriage and never protests about how he refers to her as a toy and a butterfly, and basically infantilizes her as much as possible.  Butterfly even mixes in the worship of America with the worship of the American God (which is how the god of the Christians is referred to throughout.)  She has a giant (and period accurate) American flag displayed in her house, and welcomes her visitors to "an American household."  She insists that she is Mrs. Pinkerton in the face of all evidence that Pinkerton himself doesn't consider himself married, and dismisses the lack of prayer-answering from her new god as this god probably doesn't realize she's in Japan, but is still better than the "fat and lazy" Japanese gods.  

Butterfly's wifely submissions still don't break down even after a heartbreaking and lovely scene of her standing alone, dressed in her wedding finery in the cherry-blossomed moonlight, waiting for a love that never comes.  She never questions that her son will indeed  be better off in America (not sure why, since it seems being raised by Pinkerton would predispose the kid into growing up to be an ass).  She also has far too much of a very American Christian sense of shame about her old profession of geisha, so now without a husband to give her money, she has no means of support.  This also makes her a paragon of Pearl-style Christian womanhood.  

Fortunately for my sense of justice, the opera stages her suicide as a fuck you moment against Pinkerton.  As in, when he gives her some anguished singing she turns around, looks him in the eye, and stabs herself.  I don't even care (much) that traditional Japanese suicide for women is throat-cutting rather than gut-stabbing.  I'm just relieved the production didn't try to play it as Giselle type forgiveness for the abuser in the end.  Because really.  Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton should not be forgiven.  Nor should a culture in which wives are expected to be submissive in the face of abuse.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Little Bit of Happiness

On the left is Pockets, my beloved small white plush kitten made for me by my Grandmama many years ago.  On the right is plush Toothless, the utterly adorable night fury from How to Train Your Dragon.  They seem be getting along swimmingly. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Things I Hope People Will Never Call Me

Down to earth.

I don't ever want to be a down to earth person.  Things are such that I must cultivate a ruthless pragmatism, but when there is nothing in particular that I must do to satisfy immediate demands of living, I do not want to be down to earth.  It sounds so dreadfully bourgeois.  I want to have flights of fancy, admire orchids, and consider poetry.

Mozart was not down to earth.  He spent most of his time pretending to be Italian, fell in love with a woman who never loved him back, spent a ridiculous amount of time writing beautiful concert arias for her and marrying her little sister, and died young after some weird paranoid delusions (probably from the same syphilis he probably died from).  Sure he had sexist, racist plotlines, but it was the 18th century.  Such was the zeitgeist of those times.

In the words of poor dear Oscar Wilde, "We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Caturday Lifehacks: Tidying up your Kittens

Instead of letting kittens sprawl about the house tripping people, try stowing them on bookcases.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Votes for Certain Women

It came to my disgusted attention recently that there is a person on a news show who is willing to say almost in so many words that young women are too vapid to vote, and should really be dismissed to go get back to their online dating sites.  Her defense of this statement against the criticism it has received seems to miss, at the least, two obvious points.  First, that young men are not, in my experience subjected to hearing that they don't have the life experience to vote, much less with a side of condescension about what they do on the internet (and, frankly, their multitasking abilities.  These days portable internet-enabled devices are purchasable, so presumably, the presumed vapid young women could take them into places of polling without excessive loss of dating site time.  And given voting lines, why not?).  Second, that voting is a right that does not come subject to other people's judgy-ness.

This news person's justification is that deciding who to vote for is hard.  As I recall, on this ballot there were never more than three choices, and in several cases, no more than one.  Each person had a helpful indication of political party alignment, which is usually enough to give a good starting indication of the way the candidate, if elected, would go about being an elected person.  As a young woman, I face a far more bewildering variety of choices, with far less information, every time I buy lipstick.  I can't even imagine the hard choices I'd have to make if I used online dating sites.  Even if I eschewed information entirely and voted for the people with the silliest sounding names, Bruce Schneier (who is rather a hero of mine) postulates in Liars and Outliers that the most advantageous approach to voting for both the voters and the democracy is for people to vote, but without being informed.  No one would, I think, accuse Schneier of either lacking experience or being on dating sites, though I rather wish he would go in for investigating dating sites.  I'm sure he could break them fabulously and be entertaining and informative about their security flaws.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Caturday Post: In Which Kittens Help me Work

I was working from home.  Since work is bad for me, my kittens have decided to make it as difficult as possible by stealing my spot on the couch every time I get up.  I foiled them by sitting on the floor instead.