Bloody Great “Titus Andronicus” at the Globe, and Letters 7

Titus Andronicus at the Globe:  Wild, Bloody, Great

Titus Andronicus at the Globe: Wild, Bloody, Great

This evening, self caught a performance of Titus Andronicus at the Globe.  She snagged the greatest seat:  middle gallery, first row, center section.  She had a completely unrestricted view of the stage and the audience in the pit.

What is it about British stage actors?  They can make the grandest of gestures feel so intimate.  Of the play itself, could anything equal the horror of seeing the beautiful Lavinia turned into a twitching horror, stumps for hands? Self knew the play would be violent; she didn’t know it would also be so moving.  And darn if the production didn’t have two brilliant actresses tearing up the scenery:  because of them, self actually forgot that the play was called Titus Andronicus.  And — talk about melodrama!  Talk about angst! Both actresses were beautiful, lithe, and perfectly emblematic. The men were adequate, but after the scene where Lavinia, still bruised and bleeding, picks up her father’s hand with her teeth — her teeth, dear blog readers! — self was completely overwhelmed with horror and pity. What an outrageous sight.  It might interest dear blog readers to know that the play was directed by a woman.  (The only criticism self could make about the production is:  they used way too much bloody incense.  What was the point?  To emphasize the ritual aspects of sacrifice?  Phew!)

It’s strange how her London sojourn has ended up being about the brilliance of women:  poets Jenny Lewis and Joan McGavin; filmmaker Sally Potter; and now the director of Titus Andronicus.

Moving on to the ostensible reason for this post: here’s another set of photographs on this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, LETTERS.

The New Orleans Review has a new look!  Took this picture at the AWP Book Fair, February 2014.

The New Orleans Review has a new look! Took this picture at the AWP Book Fair, February 2014.

The Chinese Character for Longevity.  Self bought this from the Redwood City Nursery, ages ago.

The Chinese Character for Longevity. Self bought this from the Redwood City Nursery, ages ago.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Letters 6: Another Language

A henge is a ditch. A trench. It doesn’t need to enclose anything.

  • The first stop on the Stonehenge tour self took was Woodhenge, which apparently was discovered only in the past century, when the pilot of a Spitfire noticed there was a pattern to the way the wheat grew in a field just outside Salisbury. He reported his observations, the field was examined, and that’s when it was discovered that the wheat grew thickest at points in the ground where (presumably wooden) posts had once stood. Marking each of these post holes, what emerged was an unmistakable pattern of concentric rings.

There are apparently many of these circular henges, all over Britain.  The one near Salisbury is called Woodhenge.

Woodhenge, Just Outside SalisburyWoodhenge, Just Outside Salisbury.

  • The day after self arrived in London, she saw signs like these posted next to certain Underground stations.  The strike started Monday, two days ago.  Bummer.  It’s all self hears anyone talk about (Self is an incorrigible eavesdropper.  And why not?  She’s gotten some of her best story ideas that way)
Warning of an Impending Transit Strike

Warning of an Impending Transit Strike

  • One of the members of self’s writing group has a journal.  He’s hoping to end up with a longer manuscript, and the journal helps to keep him going.   He was kind enough to allow self to photograph a sample page:
Jay Dayrit is a member of self's writing group.   He writes longhand into a journal.

Jay Dayrit is a member of self’s writing group. He writes longhand into a journal.

And there you have it, folks:  Three very different “takes” on the WordPress Photo Challenge theme this week:  LETTERS.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The German Peeta

Oh, fan fiction.  Why have not one of self’s favorite authors updated since she left California?  She checks practically once — no, twice — a day.

There is nada, nada, y nada.

Anyhoo, as self explained to Joan McGavin during our meandering stroll along the banks of the Serpentine River in Kensington Gardens, last Sunday, there are so many AUs on fan fiction.

In one, Peeta is a galley boy and Katniss is returning to America after many years studying in the Panem School for Proper Girls in London.

There is Katniss as a therapist and Peeta as a member of a support group.

There is Katniss as a World War I nurse.

There is even a Katniss as a World War II nurse.

And now she has encountered a fan fiction that puts these words into Peeta’s mouth:

Es war laut und die Wachen dachten das wir tot waren.  Vater rannte Zuruck zu mir und sah das ich noch lebendig war, also zog er mich hoch und wir rannten los.  Sie schossen auf ihn.

He also says “Vat — .”  A lot.

They come upon Peeta’s family farm, somewhere in the German countryside.  Ach!  Murdered, all of them.

One of the American soldiers (whose name happens to be Odair) tries to comfort Peeta by saying:  “It’s OK, it was quick.  One bullet to the head for each.”

Mein Got!

Self was going to double-check that there wasn’t a typo in the above, but realized — So what if there’s a typo?  This might not even be German!  For all self knows, it could be Albanian.

In this particular AU, Katniss is very forthright: she propositions Gale (while his unit is doing reconnaissance, no less) and he says, gulp:  “I have a girlfriend back home.  Her name is Bristol.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Letters 5: Approaching the Stones (Stonehenge)

The stones are a kind of code.  A language, like semaphores.  Only, this code was written in stone.  Massive stone.

The feeling is a little like that of seeing the great Olmec heads (which, BTW, were also made of stone, and were also massive).

The stones seem to say:  We are here!  Throw anything you like at us:  disease, starvation, freezing winters.  We will still be here! We will endure.

Wonder what the ancient Romans thought when they first discovered the site?  They must have recognized and appreciated it, for they never did anything to deface or dismantle it.

Here is the way we approached them (via sheep meadow.  If you happen to see one or two white dots in any of the photographs, those represent actual sheep)

Two of the members of the tour, approaching the monument from the sheep meadow.

Two of the members of the tour, approaching the monument.

From this vantage point, we could clearly see the jagged outline of the stones, just above the rise.

From this vantage point, we could clearly see the jagged outline of the stones, just above the rise.

Holy Mother of All Monuments!  We are getting close.

Holy Mother of All Monuments! Getting close.

If you are going to visit Stonehenge only once in your life, then take a late afternoon or early evening tour.  The shadows are lengthening and the stones look absolutely massive in the fading light.  By then, also, most of the big tour buses stop coming.  When self was there on Saturday, there were only a few people, aside from the 12 in our group.

Also, try to go when it’s cold.  In the summer, this place must be jammed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Letters 4: Stonehenge, A Language We Still Don’t Understand

Apologies, dear blog readers, for stretching the meaning of this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: LETTERS.

On The Daily Post site, the instructions are:  Share “a snapshot of how we communicate with one another, even if we don’t speak the same language.”

Stonehenge, which self visited yesterday, is a heartstopping monument. The stone pillars meant something to the early Britons. What, we still don’t understand. But just because we don’t know or don’t understand doesn’t mean we can’t recognize the power.  The power of the natural.  The power of the Not-Speaking.

The Approach to Stonehenge. Is. Across. A. Sheep. Meadow.  Please.  My heart stopped at the sight.

The Approach to Stonehenge. Is. Across. A. Sheep. Meadow. Please. A heart-stopping sight.

Around the monument are meadows.  On which graze herds of shaggy sheep.  And self knows that numbers are not letters (duh), but numbers, too, are a form of communication.  In this case, they signify ownership.  Someone owns these sheep.  And this is Sheep # 925’s 15 Minutes of Fame.

Flocks of sheep surround the monument.

Flocks of sheep surround the monument.

The stones speak so powerfully to Pat Shelley (pictured below) that he leads small-group tours there year-round (except for a few weeks off here and there).

The language isn’t just in the stones themselves, but in the site:  the absence of what Shelley called “human garbage” or detritus means that the land here was not close to a human habitation.  Archaeology is the study of sifting through the various human waste of centuries.  As an archaeological site, therefore, Stonehenge is amazingly pristine.  It was meant for the one purpose only — what, no one knows for certain.  But the land is full of clues:  barrows, henges, places where the meadow grass grows thicker than in other places.  The land must have been sacred to this people once.

If you join Mr. Shelley’s small-group tour, be prepared for loads of walking.  But self is convinced that the only way to approach the site is to experience it:  to walk and look at the chalk-y ground, to sight hills and barrows, to view the monument from afar, in freezing wind.  And, only then, approach.

The landscape was shaped in the long-ago time.  Here the land, too, is a kind of language.

Pat Shelley, who led the tour.

Pat Shelley, who led the tour.

There is a Visitors Center, which is completely redundant.  Who wants to look at pictures of Stonehenge when the thing itself is just outside?

What self finds so powerful about the monument is that we still don’t speak the language, but we relate to the emotions.  Can you imagine what the people must have felt, after they positioned the stones?  And this was without the benefit of cranes or lifts or diggers or what-have-you.  The enormity of the physical effort involved — it’s simply astonishing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Letters 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

So far, self has managed to hang on to everything. She made it to London, really really tired, but she’s already been to Stonehenge.

Now, if she can only keep her luggage safe while she takes the train to Southampton (day after tomorrow), she can give herself another big pat on the back . . .

This had better work . . .

This had better work . . .

From the AWP Book Fair in Seattle, at the One Story table

From the ONE STORY Magazine Book Table at the AWP Book Fair February 2014 in Seattle

Hard to believe she arrived in London just two days ago!  Yesterday she took the train to Salisbury (about an hour and a half from Waterloo Station) and joined a five-hour tour of Stonehenge:

The approach to Stonehenge, near Salisbury.  The land around the monument is controlled by the British National Trust.  Visitors approach the site on one narrow road, and no one is allowed to stray off the road to the meadows (except for sheep, who do double duty as lawn mowers)

The approach to Stonehenge, near Salisbury. The land around the monument is controlled by the British National Trust. Visitors approach the site on one narrow road, and no one is allowed to stray off the road to the meadows (except for sheep, who do double duty as lawn mowers)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

The Mystery of Stonehenge

Self did it, she actually did it.  Crossed another iconic monument off her “Must Visit” list.

Thinking and comparing Stonehenge to other sacred sites she’s visited — like Chichen Itza; like Teotihuacan; like Angkor Wat; likeDharamsala; like Jerusalem; like Bethlehem — she thinks it is the simplest, and also the most mysterious.  What would the ancient Romans have thought when they stumbled upon it, thousands of years ago? Below, just a few of self’s niggling questions.

What is the deal with the ancient Brits and circles?  While Mayans and Egyptians have their pyraminds, the Brits have their circles.

Why did they find a child’s body accompanied by a dog’s head with four nails driven into its skull?

Who built it, and how were they able to carry stones quarried from many miles away?  How did they set in place the 40-ton lintels?

Why was the site chosen?

What was it used for?

How much manpower was required to lift those heavy stone pillars, and were they all volunteers or were some — or most — of them slaves or conquered peoples?

Who built the barrows surrounding Stonehenge, all around the Salisbury Plain (all within clear view of the massive stones)?

It is a powerfully cold and remote site.  They closed the National Highway that used to bring gawkers within yards of the monument (for which we can all be truly grateful).  The wind whipped self’s lips to shred, even in late April.  The guide said the tours go year-round.  So, the tours in December must be positively arctic.  On the good side, there must have been only two dozen visitors at the stones when self’s group arrived, in late evening (There is only one tour that arrives in the late afternoon:  Pat Shelley’s.  Highly recommended.  You get the setting sun and the shadows.  Bring a down parka and gloves and wear boots.  The sheep shit dot the meadows)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Letters 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

It’s strange that self is in London but here she keeps posting about back home.

Nevertheless, she needs to store her London images for a while, it’s all a little bit much (i.e. overwhelming)

In the meantime, here’s a second post on the week’s theme:  LETTERS.

For this post, self decided to focus on signage.

San Luis Obispo Farmers Market, August 2011

San Luis Obispo Farmers Market, August 2011

Picture # 1:  Son attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  Two years after he graduated, we finally attended San Luis Obispo’s famous Farmers Market, where self took this photo.

Filipino American Fiesta at Yerba Buena, summer 2011

Filipino American Fiesta at Yerba Buena, summer 2011

Picture # 2:  There are so many Filipinos in the US of A!  And the biggest groups are in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Every year, there’s a Filipino fiesta at Yerba Buena Park in San Francisco.  Self wants to say August.  Pampanga, which self visited last year (at the invitation of Alawi Canlas, who she met when she was a Fulbright Fellow at Skyline College, several years ago) is famous for its cooking.

T-shirt self bought today from L'Fisher Hotel Gift Shop

T-shirt is sold in the gift shop of L’Fisher Main.

Picture # 3 is self-explanatory.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Letters: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Today, dear blog readers, after enduring a 10-hour trans-atlantic flight to London and NOT EATING, self feels quite exhausted.

The Penn Club, where self is staying, is only 1 block from the British Museum, so self will perhaps check out the Viking Exhibit which just opened.  She is meeting Joan McGavin there tomorrow afternoon; we are attending Jenny Lewis’s reading of her new poetry collection, Taking Mesopotamia.  To think, self met these two less than two years ago, at Hawthornden.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is LETTERS.

The prompt:  “Share a photo with letters —  no matter the alphabet.”

Here’s her first take:

Paris Souvenir Placemat:  Bought this one in Montmartre, July 2013

Paris Souvenir Placemat: Bought this one in Montmartre, July 2012

The cover of Phoebe Literary Journal: A few years ago, they published self's flash fiction, "All the Missing."

The cover of Phoebe Literary Journal: A few years ago, they published self’s flash fiction, “All the Missing.”

I amsterdam letters in -- Where else? A public square in front of the Rijksmuseum.

I amsterdam letters in — Where else? A public square in front of the Rijksmuseum.

Anyhoo, she finished writing a 10-page story on the plane:  It’s called “Sand.”  Reading it aloud, self finds herself chuckling in several places.  So she must still be in satirical mode.  This doesn’t happen all that often, so she is completely psyched.

Today she will go out and about.  There’s a verdant green park at one end of the street which she plans to stroll to when it gets light.  The Russell St. Station for the underground is somewhere nearby.

The first order of the day is to find out how to get to Salisbury, for that is where her tour of Stonehenge starts.  But first, breakfast.  And coffee.  Tons of coffee.  Ugh, she is still so bleary-eyed, as dear blog readers could probably tell, since almost every fourth word of this post was mis-spelled and it’s taken self almost 20 minutes to correct them.

It’s just as well her two favorite stories on fanfiction.net haven’t updated yet with new chapters, or she’d probably spend the whole morning inside in her room, avidly reading.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Darren Aronofsky Quoted in The New Yorker (Mar. 17, 2014)

Tad Friend (who wrote a spectacular piece called “Jumpers,” in a long-ago issue of The New Yorker), had been wanting to visit the childhood home of filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, who  directed Noah. But Aronofsky balked:  He “worried that exposing his finite store of childhood imagery would sap its seminal force . . .  Once you let all that stuff into the world, it no longer fully belongs to you.”

Self couldn’t disagree more.  It’s when you don’t “let all that stuff into the world” that you allow it to linger in your psyche, like a festering wound. (Oh!  Self belatedly realizes that Aronofsky is referring to happy childhood experiences.  In that case, it’s OK not to share them.)

This is what sharing her personal experiences means to self:  Release. Ownership.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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