Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Anniversary of Sorts



I started writing this blog six years ago, having no idea where it might go.  And it's gone all over the place, following, mostly, my personal views.  It's become a journal, a diary, albeit a public one, a place where I've been able to say my piece, unfettered except for some self-imposed censorship to safeguard family and friends and some past history.

Two primary reasons I write this is for accountability and to remember details that get washed away with the years.  Even if I wrote this privately, the latter might be achieved in part; it's so much more constructive to form views, and to remember them by the process of writing.  Probably that's why I've increasingly written "reviews" of plays I've seen and books I've read, although it should be noted that I do not write about everything I read or see.  It's better to forget the more marginal ones.  And as I've said in my disclaimer at times, these are all personal views.  I don't pretend to be a critic.

Accountability is something else.  My opinions are there for all to plainly see, and when I wrote them.  Some I'd like to erase (although I've never removed anything written in the blog), such as a political view I might have expressed, one I might now feel somewhat differently about, but that is where I was at the moment.

Collectively, this blog of, now, 372 entries constitute a significant slice of my life, and as I've been dealing with some health issues, potentially serious ones, I may not be getting to the blog as often.  I've learned that the best medical advocate is not one's Doctor, but oneself.  It takes time.

But looking back over the last six years, I'm basically satisfied by where the blog has gone.  These entries, including the photographs, would fill volumes of printed pages, but it is important (to me) that the search engines bring "visitors" to my "little" blog (that is, small by the number of visitors, typical of a blog that is more personal than professional, or subject focused).  By Google's count, I've had more than 48,000 "page views", with the most popular entries (no surprise) mostly being descriptions of trips we've been on, which include many photographs (and frequently accessed through Google Images).

Then there are the are the emails I receive (I have disabled the comments section of the blog as I have no interest in a debate with strangers) but I have always included this email address and over the years I've received some very interesting notes from people all over the world.  I never fail to respond, even to the few that were not complimentary, but critical of what I wrote.  This one came quite recently, even though I wrote the entry it refers to more than a year ago. I was delighted that my efforts reach out across the globe:

Dear Lacunae,

Thank you for publishing these pictures of Operation Sail Bicentennial they are truly a treasure to me as I was a crew member on the warship in front of the Statue of Liberty.  The ship is the frigate SAS President Kruger (SAS being South African Ship).

We anchored in front of the Statue of Liberty on the afternoon of July 3rd 1976 after sailing up from Norfolk Naval Base in three convoys of warships.  I can still remember the excitement of sailing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on our arrival and steaming up the Hudson River to our anchorage.  I still think we had the best anchorage.

On the 4th July 1976  after the sail past of the Tall Ships at approximately  4pm we lifted anchor and sailed to Manhattan and tied up at pier 40 for 5 days.

Whilst berthed in Manhattan I had the privilege of going up to the top of the World Trade3 Centre and walking around on the observation deck and also a trip up the Empire State Building.

What impressed me the most was the friendliness of the people and the helpfulness of the police, this was a trip that I shall never forget!

I live in South Africa in a town called Kommetjie just outside Cape Town.  It is near the Simons Town Naval Base.

Again Thank you for posting these pictures,

Kind Regards
Kjell Hvidsten

Thanks to the Web, we've truly become a world community. 

I'm also pleased that my write-ups of the Dramaworks productions, in the aggregate, would place them among the top entries.  I said that I don't bother "reviewing" productions that have marginal interest to me.  Ever since I began including plays among the topics I cover, I think I've covered every Dramaworks production, as all are relevant and inspired, as professional as one would expect to see on Broadway or the West End.

Rummaging around in my old files I found the "first review" I ever wrote -- it was for my college newspaper -- and for a while I was their "film critic."   I wrote several, but only one survives in my files, so I scanned it and include it here.  It was written when I just turned 20.  Interestingly, to this day I think of This Sporting Life among the best films I've ever seen and no doubt, just writing about it cemented that opinion in my consciousness.

So, from fifty years ago, a little sophomoric, but a beginning....

'Sporting Life' Brings 'True Life' Approach
by Robert Hagelstein
Man's acceptance and rejection of life is the theme of "This Sporting Life," which presents a realistic if not shocking approach to motion pictures. The plot begins violently as Frank Machin, star rugby player, battles his foes in a ball game. He is helped off the field with six broken teeth, blood pouring from his mouth.

The challenge of the rugby game is juxtaposed to the challenge of life. Frank accepts both and deals with them in the only manner he knows how: using brute force.

Although a vigorous, powerful, and relentless symbol of strength throughout the film, he is unable to dominate life entirely. His desire for his young, widowed landlady, Mrs. Hammond, is futile. Though later she accepts him physically, his quest for spiritual love remains unreciprocated.

Mrs. Hammond's husband has died a year before the action of the film. Furthermore, there is an indication that he committed suicide. Unable to accept reality, she remains forever in mourning. However, she continues to clean her husband's boots and place them by the fire, secretly expecting his return.

Spiritually, she has already relinquished life. Thus Mrs. Hammond can't accept Frank, who epitomizes the turbulent and the unpredictable aspects of living. The conflict between these two personalities eventually results in Mrs. Hammond's physical death.

Incredulous of her death, Frank returns to the house to search for her. He is enveloped by the same malady from which Mrs. Hammond once suffered: the refusal to accept reality. However, this is not sustained. Grievously afflicted by her absence, he kneels in the empty house and his thoughts wander. Once again he hears the roar of the crowd and the juxtaposition of the rugby field reappears. The analogy to his present situation is explicit. Knocked down by the opposing team, he is stunned. Weary, but not beaten, he picks himself off the turf and once again plays the game of "this sporting life."

The previous scene demonstrates the superb technique which Lindsay Anderson, a fine new British director, employs throughout the film. Much of the action is revealed in retrospect as Frank lies dazed on the football field or as he sits unconscious in the dentist chair waiting for remnants of broken teeth to be removed. The film is logically constructed, moves rapidly, and the significance of the theme reaches the viewer with tremendous impact.

The acting is especially good. Richard Harris, as Frank Machin, is excellent.  Acclaimed the new Marlon Brando, Mr. Harris surpasses his American predecessor. His portrayal of Frank Machin is sensitive and highly expressive. Rachael Roberts, as Mrs. Hammond, also does an admirable job. She handles the role of an emotionally disturbed woman sensibly and does not carry it to an extreme. Her depiction of a human who runs from life is memorable.

The striking, realistic approach of the film certainly illustrates that motion pictures can be a highly developed art form. It is one of the finest films in years.

And on a final anniversary note, for thirteen years our friends, Ray and Sue have made their way to our home on their boat, departing Connecticut, arriving some 10 to 12 days later at our dock in Florida.  As Ray swings the boat around for docking, with Sue on the bow to handle lines, we customarily exchange a greeting, "It's a miracle!"  And when you think about the challenges of living on a boat year round as they do, making this journey up and down the Intracoastal, with some off shore cruising, docking at our home, and then out to the Abacos in the Bahamas where they spend most of the winter before returning to Connecticut, it truly is a miracle to make these trips safely and with such efficiency.  Of course it is primarily a testimony to their teamwork and boat handling.  We made the trip with them the first time they brought their boat down in 2000, but we took a few weeks to make the journey and to smell the roses along the way.  By Ray's reckoning, they've put about 42,000 miles on the boat since then.  It dawned on me to take a little video of their arrival this year, never knowing what year could be the last.
video

They left this morning from our dock on their way to the Abacos -- this screen shot from their GPS FindMeSpot system earlier this morning.  Indeed, an anniversary of sorts!