Harper’s First Halloween
October 31, 2010
Harper’s Second Halloween
October 31, 2011
Harper’s First Halloween
October 31, 2010
Harper’s Second Halloween
October 31, 2011
Yesterday morning I attended the Met’s ‘Live in HD’ simulcast of The Nose. It was fascinating.
The plot, based on a short story by Nikolai Gogol, is absurd in every meaning for that term. Kovalev, a minor bureaucrat awakens one morning to find that his nose is missing. It has left his face. There is no evidence of wound or physical trauma; just a smooth flat space where his nose had been the night before. He is devastated by his disfigurement and the effect he fears it will have on his life. For it’s part, the nose starts its independent life by being baked into a loaf of bread and served to the barber who may or may not have accidentally removed it while giving Kovalev a shave. The barber attempts to throw the wayward nose into the river but he fails and the nose goes off to explore the world on it’s own, at one point pretending to be a government official. Soon, the nose has become more successful in society than its former owner and has no interest in returning to its life on Kovalev’s face. Hijinks ensue. The castration symbolism is pretty heavy handed but, more interestingly, the story is blatantly critical of social authority.
The history of The Nose is almost as interesting as the work itself. Gogol’s short story of the same name was written about 1835 during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. Nicholas I was a hardline reactionary and one of the most oppressive the Romanov rulers. Social critique was not in style and the story was controversial.
Almost a century later, at age 22, Dimitri Shostakovich creates his first opera based on Gogol’s short story. It is now 1928. The Romanov’s were ousted a decade earlier. Lenin had died in 1924 and Stalin was consolidating power and creating a regime that would become more oppressive than Nicholas I would have imagined possible. Shostakovich creates an opera that is also critical of the social system. Throughout his lifetime Shostakovich would fall in and out of favor with the Stalin-era Soviet power structure.
It is hard to identify what influences had the greatest impact on the 1928 opera’s style. The music is modern and atonal. Long passages are percussion only. While Gogol’s story predated the Absurdist movement in theater and fiction, Shostakovich would have had the opportunity to know of it by the time he created the opera. Jarry’s Ubu plays had been written a quarter century earlier. Kafka’s The Metamorphosis was published in 1915 and Pirandello’s Six Characters In Search of an Author premiered in 1921.
The Met’s new production is created by South African artist William Kentridge. It is visually stunning as the action moves back and forth seamlessly from live action to abstract animation. Many of the design elements were taken from newspapers and publications the artist located in Russia and has described as including “Stalinist kitsch”. I think the design is a perfect match to the music and libretto. I also think it is well suited to the Live in HD simulcast format. Much of the action on stage exists in two dimensions and so is ideally suited to the movie screen. The opera is structured in three acts but, with a running time of less than two hours, is intended to be performed without intermission.
It is short by opera standards but still tests the audience’s focus. There are few ‘numbers’ that invite the audience to stop the action with applause. Shostakovich was reported to be irate that an earlier performance was done in a concert setting feeling the material could not be appreciated without action.
The Nose is not for everyone. About 10% of the audience in the movie theater left by the middle of Act III. I am curious to know how it will be received by Lincoln Center audiences. One the one hand, Mr. Kentridge’s work is popular in New York museum circles. At the same time, the Met’s subscribers are well known to express their displeasure with anything that falls outside their expectations for the way things have been done in the past. We’ll see. I admit I am not anxious to see The Nose again soon. But I am very glad I saw this production of it.
Harper was among the top fund-raisers in the recent AIDS Walk- Phoenix. As such, she won a nice gift basket. The basket included a variety of pet-related items; toys, treats, shampoo, flea & tick treatments, etc. The gift basket was a nice recognition but included a few items that are, well… noteworthy.
They gave us some flea & tick treatment for cats. At first, that seemed strange. I’m no statistician but it seems to me that the likelihood of the any of the winning dogs in AIDS Walk being a cat was pretty low. On reflection, however, I realize many pet-lovers’ homes include both dogs and cats. It’s like sharing the Halloween candy with a sibling…by giving them the things you don’t like.
I’d written previously about “Girlfriend”, the toy that makes noise when shaken or bitten. (Don’t we all?!). So far, Harper has shown little interest in this toy. I find it a little frightening when I see it leering at me from the toy basket. Perhaps it’s the Halloween spirit but I think she looks like someone “Chuckie” might have hooked up with from an online dating site… and probably not ‘Christian Mingle’. Maybe we can make a few bucks if “Girlfriend” gets cast in the role of the ‘Slutty Mistress’ in the next “Bride of Chuckie” sequel but I’m not holding my breath.
I’m giving her a couple more weeks. If Harper has still not shown any interest, “Girlfriend” is off to some needy pet-owning family in Amityville. That is, if she doesn’t kill us all in our sleep first.
Without a doubt, the strangest item in the prize basket was a sample-size of a new dog treat. I have removed the label to protect myself from possible product defamation charges. At first glance, the concept seems inspired. Take a bottle that could otherwise contain roll-on deodorant, fill it with some tasty liquid and have hours of fun holding the bottle upside down while your dog licks the roller ball. In practice, however, I find this treat lacking. There are issues.
We gave this innovative idea proper consideration. By that I mean I opened it and looked horrified and Harper sniffed it before diving under the bed. We’ll pass on this one.
I’ve been AWOL from the blogosphere for a couple of weeks. It’s happened before and I am sure it will happen again. It would be easy to claim the muse had fled and I was not inspired to be creative. That would not be true, however. I don’t think my blogging is particularly creative. Some blogs are wonderfully so, They include original material and/or present their content in innovative ways. Harper’s Valley is not among these. That is not disingenuous. It’s a fact. And I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t write fiction or poetry and I am not a wiz with the technology. Inspiration isn’t really required. There is always something on my mind. It’s not that difficult to write about it. All that is really required is hubris.
Recently I found myself in kind of an unhappy place. I allowed my feelings to be hurt by a few random, unrelated events; none of them from the blog. I would not say I am too sensitive but I admit that I internalize negative feedback, sometimes to a disproportionate degree. Worse still, at least for my own well-being, is I tend to connect unrelated bumps or slights in ways that make them feel cumulative. The thought bubble always reads; “See… more evidence of my (insert character flaw here)!” Of course, as I read that it kind of sounds like a pretty good definition of “too sensitive”. Who knows? Whatever it is, when I look at it objectively, it seems pretty childish. Awareness notwithstanding, when it happens my first reaction is to stop blogging and stop writing on Facebook.
I was in high school when I first read about Maslow’s Hierarchy. My understanding of it is pretty conceptual; that is to say, I don’t know much about it. In simplest terms, a person is only able to engage in activities related to their needs in the higher levels of the pyramid when they feel secure in the elements of the levels below.
I think, for me, Facebook, blogging and similar activities exist on the border between “Self-actualization” and “Esteem”. Publishing comes from a spontaneous impulse and, to a degree, involves a bit of problem solving to present my thoughts in a way that is clear and visually interesting. In any event, when I allow myself to become insecure about the features in the ‘Esteem’ group, I drop to that level and ‘tend to bidness’ and cobwebs start to grow on the keyboard.
Anyway, I’m back.
It was a terrific day for AIDS Walk – Phoenix 2013 with a cloudless sky and temperatures in the 70’s.
Thanks to the generosity of so many, Harper picked up the second place gift basket for raising $1260. Technically that is the 3rd place finish but the winner received the coveted “Golden Bone Award” from Paws For The Cause so Harper’s 3rd place standing earned her the second place gift basket which was chocked full of canine-related gift items. Harper’s dads had an additional $800 in sponsorships so the total Casa de Harper contribution to this year’s event was over $2000.
Harper did well during the event. She was a little overwhelmed, at first, by all the people and other dogs but once the walk started she did fine. Her biggest struggle was adjusting to walking on the street. Harper has learned when walking to stay on the sidewalk and to sit down and wait for permission before stepping off a curb so she spent much of the first mile trying to drag me out of the street to the sidewalk.
Once she realized it was OK to walk in the street she relaxed. There were nice people at each mile marker with water and treats and for dogs such as Harper who were especially cute they had little pieces of sliced turkey. Harper liked these people very much.
Harper and her two dads were walking with her uncles Neal and George,
One of the stranger items in Harper’s gift basket was a stuffed toy called “Girlfriend”.
On it’s back was a sticker (warning label?) that says; “Bite Me. I Squeak & Rattle”. Admittedly it has been a three decades since I had a girlfriend but I did not recall that; neither the characteristic nor the warning label
After the walk, Harper, her two dads, and her two uncles went to brunch . Harper was extremely well-behaved.
Harper’s Keeper… not so much.
Harper’s fabulous parting gifts included two new bandanas. I think they are fashion-forward, albeit in an Eastern European kind of way.
Due to your generosity Harper is breathing hard on 3rd place with about 36 hours to go.
Thanks to all those who have contributed. I know there are always more worthy causes than available resources and many of you support charities in your own communities. We appreciate your support more than I can say.
I received an email this morning indicating that Harper is “in the running” for Paws for the Cause.
“Good Morning. You are in the running for Paws for the Cause. The Awards Ceremony will be about 0830. Please check in with Nancy Nunez upon arrival. She will be located on the west side of the stage. You may move about the venue, but please return to the west side of the stage at the time Nancy gives you. You will each receive a plaque following the event. Since we do not know who will be winning until the final numbers are tabulated that morning, we must wait until after the Walk to have the plaques made. Thank you all for your amazing fundraising efforts. We couldn’t do this without you. On behalf of our 18 agencies, we are very grateful for your support. See you Sunday Morning!”
….. not bad for a rescue pup from the wrong side of the tracks.
Thanks to all that have sponsored the Harper Girl. If you are able to make a contribution and haven’t yet it is not too late. It will be much appreciated.