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Archive for September, 2014

Here’s a little story about being careful about what you sign. About a year ago, I took a Persian dance workshop which was a lot of fun. Afterwards, a couple of us wanted to continue learning and practicing on our own with an eye to actually performing some of the group dances. A statewide organization was being formed at the time and I was soon presented with a contract and encouraged to sign on. If you’ve spent your life doing Middle Eastern dance as I have, just the sight of a several page contract spelling out dos and don’ts for members was unusual in and of itself. Most dancer organizations are very informal and, unless they turn themselves into a nonprofit corporation, never have any kind of contract documentation at all. However, nothing in the contract struck me at the time as either ominous or onerous, so I was quick to sign on.

Fast forward now to close to a year later. Persian dance practice has been delayed over and over and over again due to scheduling conflicts among the dancers. I had begun to believe that Persian dance was as doomed in our town as the Persian army was in the movie 300.  Finally, a compromise time had been set and we met together for our first practice. Our first meeting was devoted to picking out the group dances we would do and, in the process, I was informed for the first time that I would need to pay a fee to the original dance teacher in order to learn this choreography since I had not been at the workshop where it was taught.

I was shocked. Horrified. Flabbergasted. Filled with righteous indignation. I had never, in all my 3o plus years as a dancer, heard of anything like this.  Dancers are typically free to re-teach anything that they learn in a class or workshop. This was censorship! An infringement on the free flow of information between dancers!

I spent the weekend seething and then I received an e-mail this morning that abruptly cooled me off. Remember the contract I spoke of earlier? Right in the very first section of that contract, it mentioned that dancers with this particular organization agreed to pay a fee to learn second hand choreography. Dancers who had taken the workshop, but hadn’t signed on with the organization were free to pass on what they learned to whom they liked and credit the choreographer as is traditional amongst the Middle Eastern dance community in the U.S. But by signing this contract, I had inadvertently given up my free speech rights where the transmission of dance knowledge is concerned.

I don’t know why I didn’t catch that deal-breaking paragraph right away–maybe it was because I had never seen such a fee system in use before or maybe it was because I was too eager to sign on the dotted line.  Regardless, I wasted no time in immediately sending in my resignation which was promptly accepted.

Asking artists to choose between their art and their right of free speech is a false choice. Artists need both and should never, ever let it go.

 

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I dropped by the local Spirit Halloween store over the weekend and had the unusual experience of being in a retail shop that was actually scarier than the props it was selling. Spirit Halloween is a seasonal outfit in Hobbiton and they usually occupy one storefront or another for about two months until Halloween is over. Last year, they were in an innocuous location. This year, however, they moved and the new digs are half-lit, unfinished, and give every impression of being the deserted warehouse that the hero is lured into before the horrible monster is set on him. The staff seem to be feeling the vibe as well because they had put a Spirit Halloween apron on one of the little girl zombies from the The Walking Dead.

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only-lovers-left-alive-poster

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as vampires in Only Lovers Left Alive.

“Gosh, Miss Method,” you say. “Is Jim Jarmusch’s new film, Only Lovers Left Alive, really as awesome as the trailers make it out to be?” After having waited FOREVER to see this flick (and me not an immortal), I can finally give you a verdict: yes, it is.

Lovers is a difficult film to describe without giving away the plot. Briefly, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a reclusive musician living in Detroit whose increasing depression inspires his intellectual and more upbeat wife, Eve (Tilda Swinton), to fly in from Tangiers to visit him.  Their reunion  is interrupted by Eve’s wild younger sister, Ada (Mia Wasikowska), who turns up unexpectedly and things rapidly go downhill from there.

Jarmusch doesn’t dwell on the vampire lore aspects of his characters, but he does scatter intriguing little hints throughout the movie.  His vampires seem very sensitive to touch (they all wear gloves) and Eve, especially, is able to sense how old an object is just by handling it. They seem able to communicate by dreams as Eve, Kit, and Adam all have dreams about Ada before she arrives. While they need blood to survive, the blood they drink must be pure. Contaminated blood can make them sick or kill them just as food poisoning does to humans. When necessary, they can move with lightning speed and while it considered polite to be invited in first, they can cross thresholds without harm. Although Adam and Eve are sophisticated artist types, they have a feral, dangerous edge to them.

The movie is artsy, but well-paced and intriguing with a building sense of suspense and a surprise ending. John Hurt co-stars as Christopher Marlowe (yes, that Kit Marlowe) and Anton Yelchin plays (Ian), Adam’s go-fer and fixer in Detroit. There’s also a very nice cameo by Lebanese singer, Yasmine Hamdan, whose songs appear on the film’s soundtrack.

 

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Re: Tyr’s Day Music

Now that we are getting closer to winter, I thought this Icelandic folk song about a raven (“Krummavisur”) would be appropriate. I particularly like the “krunk, krunk” sound in the song which is a very good approximation of a raven’s croak. Below are the approximate lyrics and their translation by Jon Thoroddsen (found on Lyric Wikia):

Icelandic:

Krummi svaf í kletta gjá, –
kaldri vetrar nóttu á,
verður margt að meini;
verður margt að meini;
fyrr en dagur fagur rann
freðið nefið dregur hann
undan stórum steini.
undan stórum steini.

Allt er frosið úti gor,
ekkert fæst við ströndu mor,
svengd er metti mína;
svengd er metti mína;
ef að húsum heim ég fer,
heimafrakkur bannar mér
seppi´ úr sorpi´ að tína.
seppi´ úr sorpi´ að tína.

Öll er þakin ísi jörð,
ekki séð á holta börð
fleygir fuglar geta;
fleygir fuglar geta;
en þó leiti út um mó,
auða hvergi lítur tó;
hvað á hrafn að éta?
hvað á hrafn að éta?

Sálaður á síðu lá
sauður feitur garði hjá,
fyrrum frár á velli.
fyrrum frár á velli.
‘Krúnk, krúnk! nafnar, komið hér!
krúnk, krúnk! því oss búin er
krás á köldu svelli.
krás á köldu svelli.’

English:

The raven slept in a rock-rift
On a cold winters night
There are many things that can hurt him
Many things that can hurt him
Before a beautiful day came
He pulls his frozen nose
From underneath a big rock
Underneath a big rock

Everything is frozen outside
You can’t get anything at the beach
I’m so hungry
I’m so hungry
If I go to a house
Fat at home (a nickname for The dog) forbids me
To pluck from the garbage
To pluck from the garbage

The earth is covered in ice
There is nowhere to “set the table” (to sit and eat)
Full-fledged birds can fly far.
Full-fledged birds can fly far.
But even though I look everywhere
There’s just one color
What can a raven eat
What can a raven eat?

Dead, lying on its side is
A fat mutton near a fence,
Who once was fast.
Once was fast.
‘Caw, caw! Namesakes (Ravens), come here!
Caw, caw! cos’ ready for us is,
a feast on cold ice.
a feast on cold ice.’

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Children's Books Not to Write

Personally, I think that No. 2, “The Boy Who Died From Eating All His Vegetables”, would be a big hit ….. 🙂

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