Friday, December 07, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

 A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare

One of Shakespeare's most-performed plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream is an amusing farce.   It is not one of my favorites, but it is very light and amusing and inoffensive.  I found the production of the parts about the fairies to be particularly well done.  I also thought Bruce Dow was incredible as Bottom; he was the perfect actor for that role, and he played it wonderfully well.  I also really enjoyed Adam Green as Puck.  All in all, it was a light, amusing evening at the Shakespeare Theater.

Washington Post Review

Washingtonian Review

DC Metro Review

The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol

The Government Inspector, by Nikolai Gogol

Previously, I had read the Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol, and I consider him one of the greatest writers I have ever read.  His short story, Diary of a Madman, is the most well-written story I have ever read.  However, I feel that much of his writing was inconsequential and useless.  I knew that this play was a satire; however, I didn't know whether I would find the play well-written or not.  Fortunately, I loved the play.  The play was a satire/comedy about life in Russia in the early 1800s, especially how those in positions of any power at all forced the powerless to pay bribes for everything.  Corruption by government officials at all levels was rampant.  The play showed the extreme lengths to which those same government officials would go to cover up their corruption.    I really enjoyed this play.

The Government Inspector

Washington Post Review

Washingtonian Review

DC Metro Review

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shakespeare Theatre 2012-13 Season

Shakespeare Theatre 2012-13 Season

The Government Inspector -- Nikolai Gogol

A Midsummer Night's Dream -- William Shakespeare

Hughie -- Eugene O'Neill

Wallenstein -- Friedrich Schiller

Coriolanus -- William Shakespeare

The Winter's Tale -- William Shakespeare

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Flashman Papers

Harry Paget Flashman was a fictional character created by George MacDonald Fraser as the protagonist in a series of 12 historical novels, covering the period 1839-1894. The novels are based on the "discovery" of Flashman's memoirs, and the books were published during the period 1969-2005. Flashman is an unapologetic antihero, who described himself as "a scoundrel, a liar, a cheat, a thief, a coward—and oh yes, a toady." The history of the novels is accurate, and Flashman provides amusement, so I enjoy these novels. The following is the complete list of the novels, taken from Wikipedia; I have them all, and I am working my way through them.

Volumes of the Flashman Papers

The following extracts (in publication order) from the Flashman Papers have been published:

- Flashman (1969): 1839-1842. Lord Cardigan; the First Anglo-Afghan War (the retreat from Kabul, the last stand at Gandamak and the siege of Jellalabad).
- Royal Flash (1970): 1843, 1847-1848. A pastiche of The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, set in the fictional German state of Strackenz. Lola Montez; Otto von Bismarck; bare-knuckle boxing; the Schleswig-Holstein Question; the Revolutions of 1848.
- Flash for Freedom! (1971): 1848-1849. The Atlantic slave trade; the Underground Railroad.
- Flashman at the Charge (1973): 1854-1855. The Crimean War; the Charge of the Light Brigade; Russian invasion of Central Asia.
- Flashman in the Great Game (1975): 1856-1858. The Indian Mutiny, the Rani of Jhansi, the Cawnpore Massacre, the siege of Lucknow. Flashman was required to perform heroically in this conflict and was awarded the Victoria Cross and a knighthood. But the publication of Tom Brown's Schooldays with its portrayal of Flashman as a coward and bully spoiled his satisfaction.
- Flashman's Lady (1977): 1843-1845. The first "hat trick" in cricket; "White Rajah" James Brooke and the pirates of Borneo; Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar. Parts are written as if drawn from the diary of his wife Elspeth, and edited by her slightly puritanical and much offended sister, Grizel Morrison de Rothschild.
- Flashman and the Redskins (1982): 1849-1850, 1875-1876. The Wild West: the Forty-Niners, the Apaches, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
- Flashman and the Dragon (1985): 1860. China: the Taiping Rebellion and the Peking Expedition.
- Flashman and the Mountain of Light (1990): 1845-46. The First Anglo-Sikh War; the Koh-i-Noor diamond.
- Flashman and the Angel of the Lord (1994): 1858-1859. United States: John Brown and the Harper's Ferry Raid.
- Flashman and the Tiger (1999) incorporating:
-- The Road to Charing Cross: 1877-1878. The Congress of Berlin; assassination attempt on Emperor Franz Josef.
-- The Subtleties of Baccarat: 1890-1891. Edward VII; the Royal Baccarat Scandal.
- Flashman and the Tiger 1879, 1894. The Zulu War; Oscar Wilde; Colonel Sebastian "Tiger Jack" Moran; Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.
- Flashman on the March (2005): 1868. Escape from Mexico at the end of the French occupation; British invasion of Abyssinia to rescue hostages.

Flashman also plays a small part in Fraser's novel Mr American (1980). His father, Harry Buckley Flashman, appears in Black Ajax (1997). At one point, it is also mentioned that a member of the Flashman family was present at the Battle of Culloden, 1746. Fraser has confirmed that Flashman died in 1915 but the circumstances of his death have never been related.

In early 2006 Fraser said that he planned to write another installment of the Flashman Papers. Fraser said he had chosen three possible subjects to write about, though what these are he was not willing to say. At the Oxford Literary festival in 2006, Fraser estimated that it took him roughly three to five months to research and write a Flashman novel.

Fraser died of cancer on 2 January 2008.

Flashman Papers in chronological order:

Flashman: 1839-1842. the First Anglo-Afghan War.
Flashman's Lady: 1843-1845. Borneo, Madagascar.
Flashman and the Mountain of Light: 1845-46. The First Anglo-Sikh War.
Royal Flash: 1847-1848. the Revolutions of 1848.
Flash for Freedom!: 1848-1849. The Atlantic slave trade; the Underground Railroad.
Flashman and the Redskins Part I: 1849-1850, The Wild West: the Forty-Niners,
Flashman at the Charge: 1854-1855. The Crimean War; the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Flashman in the Great Game: 1856-1858. The Indian Mutiny.
Flashman and the Angel of the Lord: 1858-1859. the Harper's Ferry Raid.
Flashman and the Dragon: 1860. the Peking Expedition.
Flashman on the March: 1868. British invasion of Abyssinia to rescue hostages.
Flashman and the Redskins Part II: 1875-1876. the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Flashman and the Tiger
The Road to Charing Cross: 1877-1878. The Congress of Berlin; Emperor Franz Josef.
The Subtleties of Baccarat: 1890-1891. Edward VII; the Royal Baccarat Scandal.
Flashman and the Tiger 1879, 1894. The Zulu War.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

La's Orchestra Saves The World, Alexander McCall Smith

La's Orchestra Saves The World
Having read all of Alexander McCall Smith's books, I was expecting another light hearted book with a happy ending. However, this book is very different from other McCall Smith books. This book is a melancholy biographical novel about a sad life of a wonderful woman. One keeps hoping that after the sadness, her life will become happier, but instead, more sadness ensues until the end, leaving one feeling quite sad. While I am sure that many lives are unhappy, I am not attracted to books about those lives. I prefer not to read books that leave me feeling sad, and I don't recommend this book.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Sound of Language, Amulya Malladi

The Sound of Language, by Amulya Malladi

Amulya Malladi grew up in India, then went to the United States to study and while there, married a man from Denmark.  They went to live in Denmark in 2002, where Malladi came to learn about Afghan immigrants to Denmark, fleeing the Taliban.  This book is about one such Afghan immigrant to Denmark and the difficulties she faced in going to live in a society that was completely alien to the society she came from in Afghanistan, including a new language that sounded like the buzzing of bees.  The book describes many differences that Raihana faced, and the difficulty she had in coping with those differences.  The book also describes those Afghans who wanted to cling to their past social norms and their tension both with Danish society and with other Afghans who wanted adopt some of the social norms of their new country.  The book also describes the tensions in the Danish society in coming to accept the new immigrants from Afghanistan.  In addition, the book describes the inner turmoil of a young woman faced with the loss of her husband, her move to this new country, and her own continued growth, regardless of her place of residence.   I suspect that many immigrants from all over the world face similar difficulties, no matter where they come from or which country they immigrate to, including the United States.  I liked this book.  Malladi informs through the means of a story.  Her story, like real life, includes more sorrow than joy, in the end, coming to a compromise living situation, as so many immigrants do, letting go of some of her old society, but not fully integrating into her new society, living out her life in a state of limbo, neither here nor there. 

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Last Boy, by Jane Leavy

The Last Boy
Mickey Mantle And The End Of America's Childhood
By Jane Leavy

In 1996, the year after Mickey Mantle died, his wife Merlyn and three of their four sons published a memoir of Mickey, A Hero All His Life.  In that book, they recognized Mickey's faults -- his massively irresponsible life toward his family, his profession, his teammates and friends, and himself; his addictions to alcohol and womanizing; and his boorish behavior. They also discussed why they loved him -- despite his faults, he was a genuinely nice, caring, loving man.  In the first chapter of that book, Mantle admitted his many faults and apologized for letting his wife and sons down.  In a press conference, Mantle told kids in America, "Don't be like me."

Jane Leavy's book details Mantle's personal failings, and it also describes some of his greatest triumphs as a baseball player.  Despite Mantle's horrendous lifestyle, he was a truly gifted and great baseball player.  Like Babe Ruth before him, he was great despite his degenerate lifestyle. One can only imagine how much better he might have been if he had lived the responsible life that his counterpart across town, Willie Mays, lived.  Would he have been as great as Mays?  Very likely he would have equaled Mays offensively, although not defensively.  Adding to Mantle's difficulties as a baseball player was the fact that in his first year as a Yankee, in the World Series of 1951, he severely injured his knee while fielding a ball hit by another rookie -- Willie Mays.  Medical science at that time was not able to repair the knee as it could easily do today, and he played his entire career on that injured knee.

It is interesting to note that Mantle's lifestyle was not widely known at the time that he played, just as the personal failings of the president at that time, JFK, were not known.  Personal lives of public figures were off-limits to the press at that time.  In today's press climate, details of private failings are widely reported and widely known, as in the case of Tiger Woods.  Such wide reporting, while very intrusive, robbing individuals of their privacy, also has the advantage of helping athletes and other public figures to let go of character flaws and live and perform at a level closer to their full potential.

It is also interesting to note that athletes of Mantle's time did not employ weight training or other exercise programs.  Their achievements were accomplished through natural talent alone, making them all the more remarkable. It is truly amazing that Mantle could accomplish all that he did with a degenerate lifestyle, no exercise, and a severely injured knee.  Even with all of his accomplishments, he did not realize his full potential as a baseball player.

Jane Leavy is a good writer, and I find it enjoyable to read her prose.  However, reading about Mantle's degenerate lifestyle produces a sadness that greatly diminishes the pleasure in reading the book.  She writes well, describing perhaps too well Mantle's failings. I finished the book about a truly great baseball player feeling very sad, when I should have felt intense joy.

The Boys From Syracuse -- Shakespeare Theatre

The Boys From Syracuse

The Boys From Syracuse is a musical based on Shakespeare's play, A Comedy of Errors. The musical was written by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart and first produced on Broadway in 1938. As described in The Washington Post review of this production, this "show was Shakespeare Theatre Company’s inaugural attempt at replicating, with an Elizabethan wink, New York’s highly successful and widely imitated Encores! concert series, which regularly blows the dust off vintage (and sometimes not-so-vintage) musicals." Shakespeare Theatre produced five weekend performances of the show. I loved the show, as I love musical theater. The play and the music leave one feeling happy and remind one of a golden age of musical theater in America, led by Richard Rogers, who teamed with Hart and later with Oscar Hammerstein, to write some of the greatest shows in Broadway history.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Jennifer Stone Artwork

At the Augustana College Center for Western Studies

Interesting acrylics and watercolors.