I sewed a toy lamb for one of my nephews who just had his first birthday (given to him along with a book, naturally). It turned out okay, though I wasn't completely happy with the face... I think that maybe I set the eyes too high. In any case, it's kind of cute and met with my nephew's unqualified approval, which is all that matters. Speaking of lambs...
The Lamb Little Lamb who made thee Dost thou know who made thee Gave thee life & bid thee feed. By the stream & o’er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing wooly bright; Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all the vales rejoice! Little Lamb who made thee Dost thou know who made thee
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee, Little Lamb I’ll tell thee! He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb: He is meek & he is mild, He became a little child: I a child & thou a lamb, We are called by his name. Little Lamb God bless thee. Little Lamb God bless thee. -William Blake
The above poem "The Lamb" is found in William Blake's 1789 Songs of Innocence. It is a poem which is written in the form of a posed question and then an answer. The voice in the poem is that of a child, which is fitting because it is a work about innocence and child-like faith. It's in the form of a question posed and then answered by the child. At first the question seems quite literal: the child asks a little lamb if he knows who made him, gave him life, and cares for him. Then the question becomes rhetorical as the child answers his own query, and the lamb becomes a metaphor for Jesus the Lamb of God. As the speaker refers to Jesus as the Christ child and as the Lamb, the pure, gentle, peaceful nature of God is emphasized. This seems very straightforward- almost simplistic- unless one realizes that Blake's "The Lamb" is meant to be read juxtaposed with his poem "The Tyger", found in Songs of Experience, written in 1794 and published in a single volume with Songs of Innocence. In "The Tyger", we find an echo of the child's question "who made thee" in the opening verse: "What immortal hand or eye,/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" And then, in the fifth verse: "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" Blake reminds us that, if the making of the lamb displays the gentle, loving attributes of God, the creation of the tiger- beautiful, powerful, and dangerous- represents other less peaceful aspects. The creator who made the cute, fluffy lamb also formed the fierce and deadly tiger; the God of love and mercy is also the God of power and judgement. You don't get one without the other. "The Lamb" as you might discern from the title Songs of Innocence was intended to be sung and has been set to music several times. I sang it once in the choir at my old church, to the tune composed by Sir John Tavener in 1982. Here is a boys' choir singing that version:
This is a picture of the ruins of the library of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. It was set on fire by German troops in 1914 during World War I:
This is a picture of Jewish and other non-German books being burned in Nazi Germany:
This is a picture of the Al Saeh library in Tripoli, Lebanon, burned down by radical Muslims in 2014:
This is the public library in downtown St Louis, Missouri after rioters smashed and trashed it a few days ago:
Dear rioters: if you find yourself or the people you associate with smashing library windows and destroying books- which provide education and entertainment for all, irrespective of race, wealth, or social standing- it's a good sign that you're on the wrong side and frankly, a bad person.
"Reading is the royal road to intellectual eminence...Truly good books are more than mines to those who can understand them. They are the breathings of the great souls of past times. Genius is not embalmed in them, but lives in them perpetually." - William Ellery Channing
When I was a teenager, I went through a period when I was addicted to murder mystery novels from the 1940's. Because these were readily available at used bookstores, I own quite a collection of them, including several by Charlotte Armstrong. One of these is The Unsuspected, written in 1945. It wasn't until sometime later that I realized there was a movie based on the novel, filmed in 1947 and starring Claude Rains, Audrey Totter, Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett, and Michael (Ted) North. I didn't get around to seeing the film until last year; while it's not my favourite film noir, it is definitely worth watching. One reason for this is the cinematography: this is a gorgeously shot movie, reminding me at times of The Naked City. It must be admitted that all of the acting isn't the best, especially that of Michael North. This was, I think, his first- and last- starring role in a film, and soon after this he left acting and became an agent. Audrey Totter as Althea is, however, delightfully catty and Claude Rains is amazing as Victor Grandison, the unsuspected one.
School is back in, and my sister who home schools her kids organized their first Finer Things Friday of the term. This time they were studying Claude Monet and trying to recreate some of his paintings. This is Monet's "Waterlilies":
And this is her nine-year-old's version of it:
And this is the seven-year-old's painting of it:
A favourite- Monet's "Bridge Over A Pond of Waterlilies":
The four-year-old's take on it:
They also did something called "Colour the Classics"... here they are colouring pictures of the 18th century composer Georg Philipp Telemann while listening to some of his harpsichord music. They apparently really liked it: my nine-year-old nephew said, "It sounds like music from some fantasy world!"
Here's a few minutes of one of Telemann's works, "Fantasia In G Minor":
Okay... with gritted teeth I return to this travesty of a movie. Having survived Mark's ghastly job interview, we now are forced to endure the grim spectacle of Joanne's and Maureen's engagement party at a country club, hosted- and no doubt paid for- by their respective parents. After the toast Maureen, who has been drinking like a fish, approaches one of the club's serving staff and puts the moves on her. Because this film would have us believe that Maureen is irresistible to everyone, both male and female, the server doesn't flee the scene and/or file a complaint. Instead she responds to the drunken lout, giggling and flirting. Personally, I find this slightly less believable than if aliens had suddenly materialized in the reception room and vapourized everyone with a death ray. Not that I fantasized about that happening, or anything... In any case, Joanne is aghast that her fiance of about five minutes is already on the make, and at their engagement party, no less. I can't see why she would be surprised by this, since Maureen has cheated on everyone she's been with including Joanne, and their relationship began by Maureen cheating on Mark. You'd think a lawyer would know the importance of precedents... oh yeah, I almost forgot: every person in this movie is an idiot. Joanne storms up to Maureen and demands that she behave herself... it's a little late for that, isn't it? Maureen sings "Take Me Or Leave Me," yet another song of moral inversion. In it, what I suggested sarcastically- that Maureen is irresistible to everyone- she states seriously. That's right, it's not her fault that she's a trollop: she's just been a sexual magnet to every man and woman in New York since she hit puberty. What else could she do but spread herself around as much as possible? It's a public service, really. She demands that Joanne accept her as she is: an amoral, unfaithful sex fiend. At the end of the scene, the two break up, unable to resolve their differences... Joanne thinks their relationship should be a private dinner for two, while Maureen thinks it should be a help yourself, all-you-can-eat buffet. It hardly needs to be said, but the movie sides with Maureen: Joanne is uptight and judgmental. Also, lest someone entertain a stray thought which is critical of Maureen, the camera swiftly pans to her mother, who is suggesting to a bemused Mark that perhaps now he and Maureen can get back together. We're invited to sneer at her parents who, though supportive of her decisions, obviously engage in wrong think: secretly they believe their daughter would be better off with a man... I guess Mark technically qualifies. But this is the real sin here, and not that Maureen is a dissolute floozy.
Now the losers return to the apartment, where they are shocked to find that all their belongings are back. I'm shocked, too... this is disappointing. Benny is also there, and says that he wants to make peace. He explains that he had dinner with Mimi, who convinced him to see things from their perspective, and he's offering them the apartment rent-free, courtesy of CyberArts. No one is grateful; they accuse Benny of doing this for good public relations, and Mark writes a cheque for the rent they owe, paid out of his advance from Buzzline. He says that they don't need Benny's charity, although this is exactly what they've been demanding since the start of the movie- a free ride. Let this be a lesson to you: never expect gratitude from a bunch of entitled jerks, no matter what you do for them. Also, how low was their rent, that he could pay it all out of his first advance? This just makes Roger and Mark seem even more pathetic and useless. Finally, this means that Mark has had the funds to pay off his debts for a while and simply chose not to do so. What a hero. Despite being treated with rudeness and contempt, Benny remains civil and congratulates Mark on his job before leaving. The man who Rent tells us is the villain of this movie is, by any measurable standards, a better person than any of its supposed "good guys". Although Roger denies it, he's obviously miffed that Mimi had dinner with Benny, her former boyfriend. Whoa, whoa, mister. Didn't we just go through this with Maureen and Joanne? I think it's been made pretty clear that it's not your place to judge, even if Mimi had decided to sleep with every man- and woman- between Tampa Bay, Florida and Thorne Bay, Alaska. Remember "love is love"... or maybe that doesn't count if the guy in question is a dirty capitalist. After all, you have to draw the line somewhere. Roger and Mimi don't break up, but Mimi is so upset by their tiff that she goes out, finds her dealer, and gets back on the drugs. This leads me to think she was just waiting for an excuse, however minor, to do so. We're treated to a montage of her buying, injecting, and Mark alternately trying to stop her and care for her. Eventually, when he finds her with her drug dealer yet again, he walks away. Well, I think we can all see who is responsible for her downward spiral; why couldn't Roger just accept her the way she was? It's not as though she has any personal agency, after all.
Interspersed with the scenes of Mimi's descent into addiction, we see Angel getting progressively sicker from AIDS. He is eventually hospitalized and dies. This surprised me at first, because so far the major theme of Rent has been 'no judgement/ no consequences' and here we have some rather realistic consequences for life choices- disease and death. Then I realized that every social justice narrative needs a victim/martyr, and that's what Angel is in Rent. Too good to live in this cold, hard world, Angel has been sacrificed on the altar of a materialistic and moralizing society. My take on this is, however, that someone who chose to live for today and indulge every whim and appetite discovered too late that nothing is free in life, and that every choice has consequences. Looking back over the last two paragraphs, I can see that I probably sound completely unsympathetic about Mimi's addiction and Angel's death. Well, yes and no; I admit that I wasn't particularly moved by the demise of Angel and by Mimi's suffering. The fact is, I find both of them unlikable on a personal level, so have no emotional attachment to their characters. On an impersonal level, I think it's tragic when people die at a young age, especially from causes which are completely preventable. Also, I know that addiction is a terrible thing, though I'm not a fan of calling it a disease because this insinuates that it is something that just happens involuntarily. It divorces the addicts from any personal responsibility and this can only hamper them from pulling themselves out of their addictions. Alright- that's all I can take for today. Next on the agenda will be Angel's funeral; it will come as no shock by this time that these self-absorbed twits manage to make it into a grievance-mongering farce.