This image is from the 1979 movie The Black Stallion, which is based on the 1941 children's novel by the same name. In this scene, Alec Ramsey has been training the Black- the wild horse with whom he had been shipwrecked- with the help of Henry Dailey, a retired jockey. Since the Black has no papers, it's impossible for him to be entered into a regular race. Henry has used his connections to get him into a match race which has been arranged between the two greatest racehorses from the east and west coasts. Alec's mother of course is aware that he and Henry have been working with the Black, but knows nothing about the training, the match race, or Alec planning to ride in it. With the race drawing close, he has asked Henry to come over to help him explain... as Henry rings the bell, Alec blurts out the news about the race and then runs to answer the door.
One of the songs we're learning in choir is Erev Shel Shoshanim, a Hebrew love song which translated into English means Evening of Roses. It was written in 1956 by Israeli composer Yosef Hadar and Israeli poet Moshe Dor, who based his lyrics on phrases from the Biblical book Song of Solomon. I think mostly from Chapter 6, ie. : My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies. (The word 'shoshanim' can be translated as either 'roses' or 'lilies'). Fittingly, the song has become very popular at Jewish weddings, and has been recorded by many, many singers and groups over the years. Here are the lyrics:
Original Hebrew ערב של שושנים נצא נא אל הבוסתן מור בשמים ולבונה .לרגלך מפתן לילה יורד לאט ורוח שושן נושבה הבה אלחש לך שיר בלאט .זמר של אהבה שחר הומה יונה ראשך מלא טללים פיך אל הבוקר, שושנה .אקטפנו לי
English transliteration: Erev shel shoshanim Netzeh na el habustan Mor besamim ulevona Leraglech miftan Layla yored le'at Veru'ach shoshan noshvah Havah elchash lach shir balat Zemer shel ahava Shachar homa yonah Roshech maleh telalim Pich el haboker shoshana Ektefenu li
English translation: Evening of roses Let us go out to the grove Myrrh, perfumes, and Frankincense Is the carpet under your feet Night falls slowly And a wind of rose blows Let me whisper a song for you slowly A song of love Dawn and the dove coos Your hair is full of dewdrops Your lips are as roses unto the morning I will pick them for myself
Yosef Hadar's music is also beautiful; here's a choir singing the same arrangement we're working on:
One of my brothers-in-law turned 30 this weekend and we threw a 1930's themed party for him. We dressed in 1930's styles (or as close as we could come to them) and used 1930's recipes to make the birthday dinner. I made potato soup from a recipe book from that era, and it was really good, if I do say so myself. I gave him a movie as a gift, though not one from the 1930's. Rather, it was a copy of Christopher Nolan's 2006 film The Prestige which is about two magicians engaged in a bitter rivalry during the late 1890's. It's an engrossing movie full of twists and turns which will keep you guessing right up until the end, and I enjoyed it very much when I watched it. My brother-in-law has never seen it, so he's definitely in for a treat. There are a lot of really solid performances in the film, and David Bowie makes an appearance as Nikola Tesla- who can resist that?
I watched the first episode of Picard last night and it was... really not too bad. As mentioned in my last post, I had no emotional investment in T.N.G. and therefore no particular need for the Picard series, good or bad. Although I'm always interested in well written, thought-provoking fiction, Star Trek or not. So far there's nothing ground breaking or earth-shaking about Picard; the plot makes use of some well-worn tropes: dreams of portent, the bitter and disillusioned former hero who finds a cause worth fighting for, and a Manchurian Candidate-type character who doesn't know who she really is or what she can do until she's "activated". But if these tropes are well-used, they're also well done in this episode, which manages to strike a pretty good balance of referencing the past without wallowing in it. We find elderly Picard living on the family estate in France with a couple of Romulan housekeepers and his dog, Number One. It's rather fitting that he's named his dog what he used to call Commander Riker, his former first officer because frankly, Riker always was a bit of a dog. Of the two, so far I prefer canine Number One. As the episode progresses, we discover that Picard quit Star Fleet years before in protest of the decision to withdraw aid from the Romulans, who were forced to abandon their home worlds after their sun was destroyed by a supernova. Picard had been heading up Star Fleet's relocation efforts when Earth's Mars colonies are attacked and destroyed by synthetics (androids) resulting in the deaths of over 90,000 people. This results in a Federation-wide ban on synthetics and also causes Star Fleet to abandon Romulan relief efforts during the resulting chaos, apparently feeling that, while in a weakened and vulnerable state, it is no time to be giving succour to their enemies. Picard disagrees with this decision strongly enough to resign his commission over it. I guess he is only in favour of letting planets full of people perish when they aren't as advanced as the Romulans (hello, Pen Pals).
Dahj is the young woman who comes to Picard for help. She had been living a normal life, planning her continuing education, when Romulan agents of some sort show up, kill her boyfriend, and try to apprehend her. To her own shock and confusion, Dahj becomes "activated" and kills all of the agents. She keeps having visions of Picard after this, so tracks him down in France. It eventually comes out that she is, despite the ban and despite not knowing it herself, a synthetic cloned from some of Data's components. Whoever developed her somehow has designed androids who appear and function as humans until activated. More Romulans come after Dahj and despite her mad skills, she is eventually killed. Picard is devastated, but then it comes to light that there was another- her twin- made at the same time and he determines to find her and find out what's going on. We then meet the "twin"- Soji- who is working with Romulan survivors who appear to be inhabiting an abandoned Borg cube, of all things. She seems to have more awareness of her origins than Dahj did. This is a very brief overview of the main plot points: of course other things happen and other characters appear. I'd say that, as first episodes of Star Trek go, this one was really good (many were not). It sets up the world, introduces the main characters, and sets in motion some intriguing plot lines. And so far- fingers crossed- it's not preachy. Patrick Stewart may be an virtue-signalling annoyance, but there's no doubt he's a skilled actor and he makes us believe that he's a retired, crotchety old Picard. The actress playing Dahj/Soji does a fine job as well, which is important considering the considerable screen time she gets. This isn't to say that there were no flaws in the episode, and I'll get into those- and my overall impressions- in part II.
The last new Star Trek I watched was the abysmal 2013 film Star Trek: Into Darkness. I've since occasionally viewed some old episodes of T.O.S. and D.S. 9- heck, even some Voyager- but not the last movie or S.T. Discovery. I haven't had any desire to do so. Star Trek was always at its best- hokey effects and all- when its story lines posed moral conundrums to which there were no easy answers. Newer Trek seems to be a tiresome mix of smug self righteousness and mindless action. So when a new series was announced, I had little interest. T.N.G. was never my favourite Star Trek series- its crew too often displayed that self righteous and self-satisfied attitude that I so dislike. I'm not saying that there weren't good episodes but I never really warmed to any of the main cast, including Picard. I've never been interested enough to watch any of the T.N.G. movies. And when woke Patrick Stewart started giving interviews saying that his new show would be taking on Trump and Brexit, I rolled my eyes. Oboy, another tedious lefty screed focusing on their "message" instead of plot. I couldn't wait to not watch. Since the first episode aired, however, I've seen several people whose opinions I trust (and a few whose I don't) say that the premiere was actually quite good. So... I think that I might watch it, just to see what it's like. My expectations are pretty low, so it shouldn't take much to exceed them.
"New fathers, political prisoners, traumatised presidential aides, resolute schoolboys, MEPs addressing unfriendly chambers - we all find that Shakespeare has magically anticipated our precise circumstances. How he was possible, I still don't understand; but there isn't a day I'm not grateful that he speaks to me in my own language." - Daniel Hannan
“I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's so inconvenient. If I didn't care about doing the right and didn't feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally.”
This statement is made by Jo March in Louisa May Alcott's 1868-69 novel Little Women. It occurs after Professor Bhaer has been gently but frankly expressing his distaste for the type of "thriller" stories which Jo has been writing because she wants the pay cheques they bring. His opinion hurts Jo, but mostly because she shares it and is embarrassed by the trashy tales. She determines not to write any more of them but, already feeling the loss of the money, half-humorously bemoans the inconvenience of having a conscience:
As soon as she went to her room, she got out her papers, and carefully reread every one of her stories. Being a little shortsighted, Mr. Bhaer sometimes used eye glasses, and Jo had tried them once, smiling to see how they magnified the fine print of her book. Now she seemed to have on the Professor's mental or moral spectacles also, for the faults of these poor stories glared at her dreadfully and filled her with dismay. "They are trash, and will soon be worse trash if I go on, for each is more sensational than the last. I've gone blindly on, hurting myself and other people, for the sake of money. I know it's so, for I can't read this stuff in sober earnest without being horribly ashamed of it, and what should I do if they were seen at home or Mr. Bhaer got hold of them?" Jo turned hot at the bare idea, and stuffed the whole bundle into her stove, nearly setting the chimney afire with the blaze. "Yes, that's the best place for such inflammable nonsense. I'd better burn the house down, I suppose, than let other people blow themselves up with my gunpowder," she thought as she watched the Demon of the Jura whisk away, a little black cinder with fiery eyes. But when nothing remained of all her three month's work except a heap of ashes and the money in her lap, Jo looked sober, as she sat on the floor, wondering what she ought to do about her wages. "I think I haven't done much harm yet, and may keep this to pay for my time," she said, after a long meditation, adding impatiently, "I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's so inconvenient. If I didn't care about doing right, and didn't feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally. I can't help wishing sometimes, that Mother and Father hadn't been so particular about such things." Ah, Jo, instead of wishing that, thank God that 'Father and Mother were particular', and pity from your heart those who have no such guardians to hedge them round with principles which may seem like prison walls to impatient youth, but which will prove sure foundations to build character upon in womanhood.
We started up choir practice again last night and received our music packets. Flipping through it, the theme for our spring concert became evident; every song references the night in some way. One of the songs we worked on during practice was Skylark, a jazz standard from 1941, lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by one of my favourites, Hoagy Carmichael. Here are the lyrics:
Skylark, have you anything to say to me, Won't you tell me where my love can be? Is there a meadow in the mist Where someone's waiting to be kissed?
Skylark, have you seen a valley green with spring Where my heart can go a-journeying Over the shadows and the rain to a blossom-covered lane?
And in your lonely flight haven't you heard the music of the night? Wonderful music, faint as a will-'o-the-wisp, crazy as a loon, Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon, oh
Skylark, I don't know if you can find these things, But my heart is riding on your wings So if you see them anywhere Won't you lead me there
Songwriters: Hoagy Carmichael / Johnny Mercer
We are, of course, singing an SATB arrangement, but here's Skylark being sung by the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald: