Saturday, 25 October 2008

Troy Game

At the age of 64 years and five months I saw my first ballet today.

I gained a love of classical music by osmosis from my Dad. He listened to it all the time on the old BBC “Third Program”.

But Dad’s taste was specific. Not for him were opera,(apart from the great overtures and choruses), ballet or chamber music. He relished the great symphonies and concertos of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Brahms, and the oratorios of Handel, and his 19th Century imitators.

And there was next to no regional ballet or opera in England. For those you’d have to travel to London – a whole 120 miles away!

Besides which, in blue collar communities, ballet was conceived of as being snobbish, effete, and perhaps even “faggy”.

When I moved to the USA I served in small towns and cities which had no ballet apart from amateurish Christmas productions of the “Nutcracker”.

True there was the wonderful summer dance festival near Pittsfield at “Jacob’s Pillow”, but “I did not like ballet” so never attended (but once for a modern dance production with my good parishioner Jeanette Roosevelt).

Even in Boston (next to Cambridge) there was no great ballet tradition.

But I said “yes” without hesitation when Ben asked me to join him at the Sarasota Ballet.
I knew that I needed to see and experience ballet.

I am glad that I did so.

We saw “Rococo” variations, a new ballet in the classical style (first performed on 31st May 2008), with music by Tchaikovsky. I was enchanted. I knew enough about the theory of classical ballet to know what to expect.

Then there was the 1936 ballet “Lilac Garden”, with choreography by Antony Tudor, and music by Chausson. This was ballet “with a story”. I found it to be very moving.

The program ended with the 1974 contemporary dance “Troy Game” (Robert North, choreographer; music by Bob Downes).

This all male ballet involved athleticism, “acrobatics” and a bit of camp. It was a crowd pleaser, with wondrous “eye candy”.

Here is what our local paper had to say:

‘Twas a great afternoon and I’ll be back with the Sarasota Ballet for more productions next January.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Feed me Mussels (third revision 25th October)

One of my favourite poems is “Do not go gentle into that dark night” by Dylan Thomas. (see below)

He was addressing his father on the latter’s death bed. Dylan’s father had been a coal miner and a Union activist. He was being urged to die peacefully.

But Dylan wanted his father to die as he had lived - raging against the dying of the light.
After all, there was not much light in the coal mines, when Thomas Sr. had raged against the injustice of the mine owners.

I am writing my own death poem. It is entitled “Feed me Mussels”.

“Rage not against the dying of the light
But welcome it.
Welcome it with bliss, for such is this:
We all must meet this fateful tryst,
At ends of lives both brief and long
With peace, with joy, and with a song.

The song I sing is not of faith,
nor heaven, nor hell beyond the grave.
For hell’s not there, and heaven’s a myth.
We are but atoms finely made,
Destined for dust – not a parade
of angels, demons, heaven or hell.

So when I’m dying grant my wish,
for mussels plump – served in a dish
with butter, garlic: sweet shell fish.
Fill every orifice with these,
the ocean’s gift for me to please.

Thus shall I die without regret,
Sated with mussels, (better yet
than prayer or bread or wine).
Plumped up with mussels, I’ll be fine
for burial in the foaming brine

Dylan Thomas’s poem


Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

My pals

Billie was a very butch-type lesbian - homeless - and a guest at Res. House. I liked her very much.

The other week after the Res. House prayer service I told her that I was praying that she would find a wonderful girl-friend.

That was not to be. Billie overdosed on neat Vodka, and after a few days in Intensive Care at our local hospital she passed from this life.

I will miss her. We remembered her at today’s prayer service. We remembered her without judgment.

After the prayer service (n) came to hug me. He said that our prayer time at Res. House is the highlight of his week.

Our homeless guests pray to get jobs and to find a place to live. They pray for their siblings and children. They pray for all the homeless folks. They pray for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My friends at Res. House are so cool. Some are mentally ill; many are military veterans with post stress traumatic disorder; some are alkies or druggies.

The vast majority are folks just like us, who have fallen on hard times. They are so anxious to get back into the mainstream. They also understand that the “system” works against them.

They know full well that McSame and the Pistol Packin’ Momma offer them no hope.

(Speaking of which, McSame was in SRQ today. I got caught up in the traffic jam his motorcade caused. I felt personally affronted that he came to town).

“Blue” was at the prayer service today. Blue” is his street name, and he grins from ear to ear when I use it. He lingered after the prayer service and implored, yes implored me to pray for him each day. I made a promise which I hope that I can keep.

I’d rather hang around with 100 “Blues” than one McSame or Palin.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Just a thought

I was back at Res. House today. Truly the homeless ones are (mostly) so precious. “They” could be any one of us. Many folks are but one or two pay cheques away from homelessness.

Orlando, James and Ben will join me here for lunch on Thursday (23rd). I am already brewing the fish soup.

I have some questions.

1) If Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama because they are both Black Americans (as some have said) ; are all the Caucasian endorsements of John McSame because he is a White American?

2) Why is the Right wing attacking Senator Obama, because he believes that wealth should be distributed in favour of poorer people?

Have not the Presidents since Ronald Wilson Reagan viz:-

40 Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981-89 (Republican)
41 George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993 (Republican)
42 William Jefferson Clinton, 1993- 2001(Democrat)
43 George W. Bush, 2001- 2009 (Republican)

Redistributed wealth in favour of richer people?

Just a thought.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

No blog today

No blog today, Tuesday 21st October 2008.

Check in again tomorrow

Monday, 20 October 2008

Voting and Colin Powell

I voted "early" today. I was reluctant to do this for I love the thrill of Election Day (and I do not
trust the State of Florida to keep my vote intact).

But I voted because I have volunteered to drive electors to the Polls on Election Day itself. This is my part in getting out the vote - I hope for Obama/Biden.

I voted at the Library in Newtown, SRQ.

Newtown is the community created by the Burghers of Sarasota for black people when those Burghers decided that the black area (the Rosemary District) was ripe for white expansion.

I voted there because I am pissed off with my "liberal" white friends and neigbours who are scared even to drive through Newtown.

Of course I voted the for Senators Obama and Biden. It's the right thing to do!

And I was heartened by General Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama.

What for me is important is not simply what he said, but why he said it. (You can read this below).

I believe that General Powell stated many things which are important for the health of our Nation.


Former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Sunday that he will break with his party and vote for Sen. Barack Obama. "He has both style and substance. I think he is a transformational figure," Powell said on NBC's Meet the Press.

"I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities -- and you have to take that into account -- as well as his substance -- he has both style and substance," Powell said. "He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."

Powell noted that McCain has been a good friend for 25 years, but expressed disappointment in the "over the top" negative tone of the GOP campaign, as well as in McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the vice presidential nominee.

"Now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president," Powell said. "And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

He also harshly criticized some of McCain's campaign tactics, such as the robocall campaign linking Obama to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

"Mr. McCain says that he's a washed up terrorist, but then why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have the robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow Mr. Obama is tainted. What they're trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And I think that's inappropriate.

Now, I understand what politics is all about, I know how you can go after one another and that's good. But I think this goes too far, and I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for."

Powell also spoke passionately against the insinuations by some Republicans that Obama is a Muslim.

"Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian," he said. "But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Powell said he does not plan to campaign for Obama.

Following the interview, Powell told reporters outside NBC's Washington studio that McCain "is essentially going to execute the Republican agenda, the orthodoxy of the Republican agenda with a new face and a maverick approach to it, and he'd be quite good at it, but I think we need more than that. I think we need a generational change. I think Senator Obama has captured the feelings of the young people of America and is reaching out in a more diverse, inclusive way across our society."

Powell charged that the Republican focus on William Ayers and Obama's religious affiliations were damaging America's image abroad.

"Those kinds of images going out on al Jazeera are killing us around the world," he said. "And we have got to say to the world, it doesn't make any difference who you are or what you are, if you're an American you're an American.

And this business of, for example a congresswoman from Minnesota going around saying let's examine all congressmen to see who is pro America or not pro America, we have got to stop this kind of non-sense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and diversity. That really was driving me."

Powell continued, defending Obama against McCain's latest charge that the Democrat's policies are quasi-socialist:

We can't judge our people and hold our elections on that kind of basis. Yes, that kind of negativity troubled me. And the constant shifting of the argument, I was troubled a couple of weeks ago when in the middle of the crisis the campaign said 'we're going to go negative,' and they announced it. 'We're going to go negative and attack his character through Bill Ayers.'

Now I guess the message this week is we're going to call him a socialist. Mr. Obama is now a socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have. Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who pay them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there's nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more or who should be paying less, and for us to say that makes you a socialist is an unfortunate characterization that I don't think is accurate.

Asked whether he still considers himself a Republican, Powell responded, "Yes."
Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama called Powell to thank him for his endorsement and express how honored he was to have it.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Yes we can!

A Sarasota group called “Women for Obama” arranged a “Walk for Obama” across the Ringling Bridge today. 700 walkers registered.

Then they put the word out that all were welcome, so I joined in.

I joined in with thousands of others.

We walked approximately 2200 yards east to west (and then back again).

Mid-walk the bridge was filled with walkers for the entire 2,200 yards.

Assuming that we were a yard and a half or so behind each other, if we had been single file we’d have numbered about 1,500.

But we were often three or four abreast, so a very conservative estimate would place our numbers at 4,000.

So I suspect that there were at least 4,000 walkers, and probably more.

It was an exciting, exhilarating walk. The weather was so much in our favour, a cloudless sky, temperatures in the high 70’s, and a consistent cooling breeze.

Motorists on the bridge were great. We received so many “toot, toot, toot” sounds from the car horns, to which we responded “Yes We Can”.

A few motorists gave us the thumbs down. Some averted their gaze. One brave couple drove back and forth with a McCain sign, and we responded with good grace and humour.

This all happened in Sarasota, which has not voted for a Democratic Party candidate since the days of F.D.R.

I am psyched and pumped, and will work my butt off for Senator Obama here in SRQ.