(Venus A Love Story, was renamed because of a similar title currently on Broadway.)
I talked to John Denver on the phone the night before he died. The night before his own great leap into the abyss, although “crash” is a more correct choice of word. His first big hit sung by Peter, Paul and Mary, was “Leaving on a Jet Plane. Yes, I know what you are thinking: his death is rife with irony. No, he didn’t crash in a jet plane, but it was a plane. I loved to fly with John. He was an excellent pilot. I don’t understand all the rigmarole about his pilot’s license before the crash, but I trusted Roger. Roger was also a good pilot and like John, grew up flying with his dad and if John had been a mediocre pilot, Roger would have been the first to rag him about it. Roger liked correcting people, and even if he could be annoying about it, he was usually right. I also took flying lessons and knew enough to know that John was an expert pilot. John’s father, Dutch, was a famous Air Force Pilot who I knew briefly. Dutch and John flew Roger and me to Lake Tahoe the week after Roger won a Grammy in 1981.
Father and son were obviously very close. They laughed with each other—had a great time. No simmering anger beneath the surface of this relationship as implied in other books, one supposedly co-written by John. I had problems with my dad when I was young, but we smoothed that over later, the same with John. John did leave an architect degree behind to be a folk singer. I doubt if many dads would have been thrilled with that choice, but his dad supported him soon thereafter and I could tell from Dutch’s demeanor, no one could have been prouder. You could see it in his face when looking at John. Some stories get hijacked, I mean, ghost-written, which is why, my readers, I take full credit for this book; whatever it is, it is me (and maybe Roger’s ghost just a little).
Daniel Hahneman, a Nobel Prize winning expert in these matters of how we experience life says that the “remembering self [...] our memory tells the story.” And, we all know there are as many versions of a train wreck as there are witnesses. Think of my “remembering” as my offering of poetic prose, a glimmering of words from a subconscious mind that has followed my “experiencing self” around for nearly sixty years. The goal of my book is for me to heal, and for you, to hopefully, be a little inspired, or maybe just entertained—critics are embraced. (Portion of Chapter 2)
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The long-suffering fans of the New Orleans Saints can celebrate tonight for their big Super Bowl win 31-17 over the Indianapolis Colts! Hallelujah!!! Special send-out to all my UNO buddies….
(And “geaux” is a cajun nod to “go”– AHHHEEE.
At that time, I wrote about the recording studio, Abdala, for EQ Magazine and fully expected to return soon to continue my love affair with the island, the music, and the people, but historical events botched my plans; in particular, the selection the following year of Bush and friends in D.C. and their allies in South Florida. Couple this with the strangle-hold Castro & friends have on free speech on the island and what is left is an escalation of anger and embargo policies.
These different factions closed all doors leading in and out of Cuba for citizens of the United States. Imagine. My passport does not let me go everywhere anymore—at least not without incurring the wrath of my government. Depressing. And sounds a lot like a communist country. The irony. An island a mere 90 miles from my house in South Florida is off limits.
But today, I see a ray of hope, and once again music leads the way. I watched John Denver open up closed doors in Russia in 1984 and in Havana, Cuba earlier today, Juanes, an award winning fusion rock singer/songwriter orchestrated a Paz Sin Fronteras Concert, in spite of threats from the usual suspects in South Florida—Cuban Americans who think only of revenge and retribution—not the way forward in any relationship I’ve been in.
And from the live feed on NBC, I could feel the joy of the long suffering people of Cuba as they exploded into song. May this be another stepping stone on the path to reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba. I know so many Cubans on the island and in Miami that want this.
As an outsider looking in, it feels like the anger of this Cuban Civil War should have been diffused a long time ago. My own U.S. Civil War still rages on in some ways, so maybe I’m just a Pollyana. But it seems to me that if the Cubans in Miami had truly wanted to get rid of Castro they would have kept the dialogue and the doors open. Culture and human nature would have taken care of him.
But the Miami group that desires revenge and retribution on an entire island of people, who mostly had nothing to do with any of this disaster, except for their accident of birth, perpetuates a failed policy that has led to the misery of 11 million people who in many ways endure their suffering as a badge of martyrdom: the “Us Against the World” type of martyrdom.
I will never forget the college-educated Cuban girl I interviewed for my article who candidly told me off-tape in a resolute tone that she foresaw “no hope” for things ever changing for the better in Cuba. Heartbreaking. At the time, I believed her wrong, but thus far, she has been right. And things got a lot worse soon after.
I don’t presume to know how it feels to lose your home and your loved one, only to watch the villains of this crime (Castro & friends) go unpunished, and continue to survive and somewhat thrive. It must be miserable beyond words. But how does punishing an entire nation of mostly innocents fix any of this pain? Embargoes don’t work. Pain begets pain. La paz genera paz.
Thank you Juanes and friends for this concert—so nice to see Los Van Van once again. In 1999, angry Miami Cubans pelted me with cans as I entered a theatre to hear a Los Van Van Concert. As a musician, I refuse to let any one group tell me what music I can listen to. In my life, music trumps politics, especially failed politics.
Time will tell if things can really change, but maybe through new efforts and new policies, especially those of our new President Obama, one day I will get to return to Cuba and resume my quest to explore the island in the flesh, instead of in my mind.
Writers like A. N. Wilson at the Daily Mail use psycho-babble to confuse readers. The smarmy writing with over-kill phrases like “orgy of saccharine” or “artificially whipped-up sentiment” pepper a piece that makes mincemeat out of critical thinking, mainly with the false assumption that large shows of grief must be fake.
Says who: a writer who compares a beloved pop star to a crafty politician and a beautiful princess? The only thing these people have in common is this writer trying to connect their memorials with crazy dots.
The reality is this: millions truly mourn Michael Jackson (not fake mourn).
Although managers and promoters can be cagey and ruthless at times, even talented Frank Dileo and (Euro) AEG execs can’t invent heartfelt grief. Get real.
The cheapest shot by Wilson is mentioning Michael as “possibly” a child molester. Gossip-mongers like Wilson propagate slander and innuendo in an attempt to appear all-knowing, and in this case, pretend to know more than a jury of non-fans who carefully deliberated over the facts and found Michael innocent.
But I guess since Wilson, the expert on “gentlemen,” has also “possibly” studied the facts and feels justified to malign the memory of a star—a star that suffered as much by his own gloved hand as by the hand of any hack writer at the Daily Mail.
So, for those of you who don’t care about the passing of an iconic performer–so what? Don’t watch and don’t participate. The millions of us who do mourn Michael will not miss you.
1 thing leads 2 another. At 1st, I was turned off by E. B. White’s title, Death of a Pig, & was determined not to read it. Sometimes I can’t take much gore. But, I couldn’t help myself, I read White’s story.
I thought it was going to be about slaughtering a pig, but instead, it was about caring for a pig that White was going to slaughter, but ended up not, because the pig got sick & died. Poor pig. White agreed.
And then White said, “I noticed that although he weighed far less than the pig, he was harder to drag, being possessed of that vital spark.” So much is in this one thought. White’s talking about his irascible ten-pound Dachshund, a mini might, who he had to haul away from the hundred pound pig’s grave. Life is vital & willful.
I can only dream to write with such humble force. White led me to Montaigne’s The Essayist. I’m not that familiar with Montaigne, but somehow White led me to him. Montaigne is writing over 400 years ago in a style that I can now see informed many writers I love…
Voltaire being one.
Montaigne’s warning in On Books gives me pause: “Mistakes often escape our eyes, but it is the sign of a poor judgment if we are unable to see them when shown to us by another.” I struggle daily to find my own voice in word or song, & lines like that drive me crazy.
Shouldn’t it matter who is pointing out your mistakes? Am I even seeing all the criticism lobbed my way? Do I ever question the critic? What is a mistake? Turning right on red when the sign says, “Don’t turn on red” is a mistake. Using sentence fragments & calling it poetry, or numbers for letters as a techie innovation that seems to be leading us back to hieroglyphics, might be called a mistake by writers who stick to so-called rules, but is it?
Is having an abortion a mistake or poor judgment, or a logical choice on a planet where thousands of unwanted children die every day? I guess, Montaigne was speaking in the woo-woo Land of the Hypothetical. In Montaigne’s The Commerce of Books I found this jewel: “In books I only look for the pleasure of honest entertainment: or if I study, the only learning I look for is that which tells me how to know myself, and teaches me how to die well and to live well.”
That takes the pressure off—just read what entertains me. I never really cared about learning useless facts that add no pleasure to my life, anyway, such as there are more pigs than humans in Denmark, almost 5:1. Learning that 5.4 million Danes are subjected to the smelly poo of 25 million pigs informs me of nothing about myself or offers any clues as to how I should live or die. Most likely in this, Montaigne & White would agree.
Some days, I wish I could be White’s beloved pig instead of a worrisome middle-aged writer on the verge of something or another.
Oh to be immortalized in print by such an excellent wordsmith. The pig didn’t worry about deadlines or paying bills…or analyzing personal & professional mistakes. He did suffer a couple days at the end, but he didn’t go through the indignity of being eaten. Yes, he was dead & who cares, but how do we know?
No swell way to die/ this flesh-eating frenzy/ whether pig, man, or writer.
Dead or alive, I fear I will always feel every rejection letter, every no thanks, & no way—another bit of flesh off the bone. And who has time to learn how to die well? Living occupies my every waking moment.
Other days, I’m not so worrisome (like today), & chow down on a ham & cheese—honey ham for me. After all, there is no such thing as swine flu–it’s really the H1N1 virus.
I tug & pull at my leash, a regular feisty Dachshund. Let’s go this way!
Like White says, once you’ve given a pig an enema, there’s no turning back. Strip away all the trappings & just rite [sic].
Welcome to my new old blogspot on wordpress. Let’s just say I was “pressed” into making this move. So far…so what.
Plays by women and the roles for women in theatre represent a developing, dynamic field–historically, a much neglected field. If women wrote throughout recorded ancient history, most of it never saw the light of day, or was lost, if not systematically destroyed.
Based on the available evidence, the origins of Western theatre began in ancient Greece. Susan Pomeroy asks in her book, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, “What were women doing…” during this period (xiv)? Were the classical male playwrights accurate in their depiction of women (93)? There is no evidence showing that women were even allowed to attend the ancient dramatic festivals (80). Men portrayed women onstage until the seventeenth-century C.E.. What, if anything, did women actually write for theatre throughout recorded history?
Pomeroy also asks, “If respectable Athenian women were secluded and silent, how are we to account for the forceful heroines of tragedy and comedy”(93)? The simplest answer may be the best; men wrote these stories, promoting and perpetuating the most dramatic and entertaining archetypes from their cultural religion. Greek women may have been sequestered, but Greek Goddesses, like Athena, the Goddess of War and Wisdom were not.
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), the renowned mythologist, defined archetype as follows:
They (archetypes) are elementary ideas, what could be called ground ideas.
These ideas Jung spoke of as archetypes of the unconscious. The Freudian unconscious is a personal unconscious, it is biographical. The Jungian archetypes of the unconscious are biological. The biographical is secondary to that.
All over the world and at different times of human history, these archetypes, or elementary ideas, have appeared in different costumes. The differences in the costumes are the results of environment and historical conditions (Campbell 61).
For this discussion the term “Virgin” signifies an Archetype with a valuable commodity traded in society, as well as a sexual state. Most of the Goddesses of myth enjoyed lusty sex, so in this context the title of Goddess signifies a woman who can decide her own fate. The only power earthbound women held until recent history resided in their “Virgin” state, and the brokering ability this virginity gave them through the men who manipulated them. The prostitute was the exception. Prostitutes were historically the only women who exercised control over their own money (Pomeroy 91), but this was a power only fit for a life in the shadows.
Throughout recorded history prostitution was one of the very few positions open to women. Playwrights, male and female, have used the role of “Whore” with dramatic effect. Art mixes with life, and dramatists have painted the Whore/Mistress as a hapless character in soap-opera stories played out in every village and town from ancient history up to now, as recent events surrounding New York Governor Spitzer will attest, but the Whore can also have power and influence history making events. The famous courtesan, Aspasia, was vilified by later writers for influencing the Greek General Pericles of Peloponnesian War fame in the 5th century B.C.E.. Madame Pompadour exchanged sex, then companionship with married King Louis XV (1710-1774) for titles and funding, but she was the one blamed for the disastrous Seven Year War, not the King or Queen. The Whore is always the convenient scapegoat.
Although being a prostitute meant a woman without other means could survive, it also generally meant being subjected to societal scorn and ridicule, after all, prostitutes had no real authority to object otherwise. Playwrights generally left the whore in the dust. Even the rebel Aphra Behn leaves her character, Angelica, the prostitute in The Rover, unmarried and unsupported. Angelica sums up her ending with, “He’s gone, and in this Ague of My Soul/ The shivering Fit returns” (Behn 74). Until recent history, men have not traditionally been excoriated in text or in life for having extra-marital sex (Garton).
The Wife Archetype portrayed social respectability, a role that centered around the affairs of domesticity and childrearing. In the lower classes (even today) the role of wife was (and is) synonymous with that of a slave worker. Ask any working wife trying to raise a family with a lower income about her life.
Historically, playwrights often used the role of slave or servant to ridicule the upper classes and speak to the heart of the matter i.e. in Aphra Behn’s, The Rover (1677), it is the servant Moretta that quips to the roguish Cavalier, “Your Linen stinks of the gun room” (35).
Reducing the sum of assigned roles/archetypes to women as “Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves” catalogues broad categories that reflect the female stock characters on stage and in life. By scrutinizing how playwrights in the West and elsewhere have used these archetypes throughout recorded history, the next extrapolation would suggest Goddess/Virgin, Whore/Sex-No-Marriage, Wife/Married, and Slave/Worker.
With ancient texts labeling women as the “root of all evil” (Kramer & Moore), it would seem that a discussion about women and their role in theatre should begin with an examination of language, segueing to a look at Euripides’ Medea, as an early example of Greek theatre to kick-off the discussion.
According to the earliest (male) writers of Greek antiquity, the Muses were goddesses of song and prophecy. They lived on Mount Helicon in Boeotia. The exact number of Muses and their parentage varies from source to source. Early on, there were three of them. Some claim that they were the children of Mnemosyne (memory), one of the few Titan relatives Zeus favored and found useful. The popular Greek poet Hesiod (7th century B.C.E.) was the first to name nine muses—all female. Later writers assigned them to nine branches of literature, art, and science (James).
Erato – Erotic poetry
Urania – Astronomy
Polymnia – Sublime hymn
Melpomene – Tragedy
Euterpe – Lyric poetry
Thalia – Comedy and idyllic poetry
Calliope – Epic poetry
Clio – History
Terpsichore – Choral song and dance
It would seem from this that women were prominent in the original scheme of things, based on key positions of deity and power, but certain early male writers took umbrage as to why women even existed. Theories abound. One currently circulates that the act of writing and reading somehow rewired our brains, splitting the sexes into a power struggle that literate societies continue to wage. Non-literate aboriginal societies have typically not vilified women (Schlain).
Pomeroy suggests the advent of the city-state (polis) advanced a culture ruled by laws and courts, instead of tribal law. This city-state evolved outside of the home. This new realm of men excluded women whose realm of influence remained inside the walls of the home. “Misogyny was born of fear of women. It spawned the ideology of male superiority” (Pomeroy 97). Since records are sparse, historical context might be missing, but misogynistic examples are numerous in ancient texts, including the above mentioned Hesiod, who wrote in his Theogony that “Zeus who thunders on high made women to be an evil to mortal men, with a nature to do evil” (590-93).
One wonders if Hesiod was working off his angst after being jilted in love when he wrote that, but the Judaic canon written roughly about the same time corroborates the stiff sentiment with “in sorrow dost thou bear children, and toward thy husband [is] thy desire, and he doth rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16). Even Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the angelic doctor, refers to women as “defective and misbegotten” (Kramer).
Euripides’ Jason in Medea (431 B.C.E.) laments, “Life would be better without women if men could get children any other way” (564), and that was before Jason’s ex-wife, Medea, killed Jason’s virginal bride, the bride’s father, and his two young sons with Medea. Earlier versions of the Medea myth implicated an apparent unintentional killing of the children by the sorceress Medea during a ceremony to immortalize her sons. Another story blamed the Corinthians for killing the boys after Medea fled. Robert Graves catalogued the story about Euripides being bribed by Corinthian businessmen “with fifteen talents of silver to absolve them of guilt” (Graves 617).
Euripides upped the stakes by having Medea commit infanticide, which more than muddles the crimes committed by Jason. A mother killing her children betrays the most basic human interaction and therein the foundation of civic society.
It seems a girl can’t get a break from certain ancient writers.
PART 2: Next Week. Women Write, Too!
WORK REFERRED TO
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Brockett, Oscar G. and Franklin J. Hildy. History of the Theatre. 9th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2003.
Campbell, Joseph with Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1991.
Case, Sue-Ellen. “Re-Viewing Hrotsvit.” Theatre Journal, Vol.35:4. Dec. 1983 533-42. http://www.jstor.org 8 Feb 2008
duBois, Page. Sappho Is Burning. Chicago: UCP, 1995.
Garton, Stephen. Histories of Sexuality: antiquity to sexual revolution. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths: Complete Edition. London: Penguin Group, 1960.
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Jung, Carl G. The Portable Jung. Ed. Joseph Campbell. New York: Penguin Group, 1976.
Korzybski, Alfred. Science and Sanity. 5th Ed. New York: Inst. General Semantics, 1994.
Kramer, Daniel & Moore, Michael. “Women are the root of All Evil: The Misogyny of Religions.” Secular Web Modern Library 17 pp. 2002. http://secweb.infidels.org/?kiosk=articles&id=203 30 March 2008
May, Rollo. The Courage To Create. New York: Norton, 1994.
Murphy, Brenda, ed. American Women Playwrights. UK: Cambridge UP, 1999.
McDermott, Emily. Euripides’ Medea: The Incarnation of Disorder. USA: Penn State U., 1989.
Partnow, Elaine T. with Lesley Anne Hyatt. The Female Dramatist. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Pomeroy, Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. New York: Schocken, 1995.
Schlissel, Lillian. Three Plays by Mae West: Sex, The Drag and Pleasure Man. New York: Routledge, 1997.
Shlain, Leonard. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image. New York: Viking Penguin, 1998.
Theatre Theory Theatre: The Major Critical Texts from Aristotle and Zeami to Soyinka and Havel. Ed. Daniel Gerould. New York: Applause, 2000.
Watts, Jill. Mae West: An icon in Black and White. New York: Oxford UP, 2003.
Women writing Latin: from Roman antiquity to early modern Europe. Ed. Churchill, Laurie J.; Brown, Phyllis R.; Jeffrey, Jane E.. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own.
http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91r/complete.html 8 Feb 2008.
© 2008 Conrad Reeder All Rights Reserved