Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cumberbatch, Nuns, Peas and Yom Kippur

 For some reason I never published this article. It was probably to much a rehash of the past, but the point still applies, even though it is not Yom Kippur.


"Providing charity for poor and hungry people weighs as heavily as all the other commandments of the Torah combined." (Baba Batra 9a).

 I like being with people, and get my energy from being with people. Maybe that's why I like community rituals and look forward to gathering for Yom Kippur. As a performer, I also like the participatory, sometimes dramatic, and even symbolic nature of this holy day. At Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco  we even had the option of bowing completely down to the floor for prayer. It's a humbling but also comforting position - one of accepting your humanity but also forgiveness for being human.

  I've thought muchabout rituals lately, partially because it's my job to do so. I write about ritual and performance. When I get bored with writing,  take breaks by checking on some fun websites including "Sherlockolgy"- a site dedicated to covering news on the Masterpiece Theatre's  Sherlock.  It's a well-done show and the writers include entertainment, humor, and some thoughtful point into the scripts.

One of the more recent posts on Sherlockology was a link to an article about Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch. Apparently, he was in a testy mood or stardom is getting to him, as he constantly used the "f" word and made not so nice comments about fans. Specifically he said that
"....it’s a bit weird when people see you in the frozen pea section and start flipping out."  He also commented about requests for signatures, stating:

... what the f*ck is this need for proof we all have? Why do people need me to ruin the front page of a book with my terrible signature so that they can prove that they’ve met me? Will no one believe them otherwise? It’s f*cking weird, and you don’t question it until it happens to you
http://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/tv/benedict-cumberbatch

  Yes Benedict, it is weird to have someone ask you for a signature. It was amazingly weird to sign a copy at the book party for the book I wrote and published. In fact, I never  understood the need to get an actor's autograph, because usually they don't write a book. But I thought about this some, and the above comments. I have the following suggestions:

1.  Get back to Yoga - I've heard you did yoga in preparation for your role as Sherlock. Your rather surly comments indicate a need to center and ground yourself. You usually appear to have an amazing about of both qualities in interviews, so sorry if you were having a bad day. But think about it. Those people in the frozen veg section may be barely able to afford the frozen peas, and here they see someone who is making a fantastic amount of money doing exactly what he loves to do. Most of us don't get that chance, and many of us must settle at being happy to be able to afford peas and broccoli. Perhaps you could do the child's pose, which is a position Jews may do for prayer on Yom Kippur- a day of At-one-ment and humility. In fact, those of us who are lucky to receive a pay check and buy food might benefit from also taking on this practice.

2. You should meet the Nuns of the Bus (nunsonthebus.com).  The Nuns work for all of us, promoting community concern for the welfare of the entire community. They will recruit you to join in the cause to stand on the side of the poor, homeless, and hungry. You might be able to buy some people some frozen peas by donating the the nuns or some of the shelters they visit on their tour of the U.S. Maybe Brad Pitt would also recruit you to work on Habitat for Humanity, (but you'd need to clean up your language if you were around his kids.)

3. Ritual -  Ritual is so much like acting in many ways. It doesn't always make sense why people do either one, but there is something of play, entertainment, and soul speak going on in both. Asking a film star or even an author for a signature may very well be a ritual behavior used to honor success. I suspect it is also requested in hopes that some of the success will be transferred to the person receiving the signature.I'm sure it's annoying being successful and earning good money, with all the fans and paparazzi.  Perhaps you can join the Jewish community in a counter-ritual on Yom Kippur. with ritual fasting, making us all remember what it is like to be hungry, weak, and vulnerable. We learn at the end of the day of fasting that this is not enough and that we should "share" our "bread with the hungry"(Isaiah 58-6-7). That is, we should share our wealth and success with those in need. 

I know that we all have bad days and are annoyed by how we are treated by others. But a little meditation and ritual can do much to remember compassion. This is for your own benefit, as well as the welfare of others.
 

P.S. Please do check out assisting Nuns on the Bus, Habitat for Humanity, and other fine organization in the U.S. and U.K. that are working to aid those in need.

Into Darkness - not what you think.

  This blog was originally meant to supplement classes I teach on religion and culture, allowing students to apply what they were learning to current life. Well, a few students joined in the discussion, but mainly the Sherlock posts took over.  I thought there was much in the original stories that deal with culture, ethics, and even spirituality, and the whole concept of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Biblical Detective worked quite well for teaching the historical-critical method of biblical study to undergraduates (save for a few young men who have an intense dislike for Benedict Cumberbatch - he's too popular with some young women).  The results were that by the end of the semester, students were able to dig through the text of Revelations, examine details, and act out the story.

Last September, I went Into Darkness after receiving a last-minute appointment to teach online classes. My focus needed to be on writing online lectures, and not blog posts. That, and more performance dates prevented me from posting anything at all. Currently, I am preparing for in International Federation on Theatre Research conference in Barcelona, and occupied with writing the paper for the Religion and Theatre working group.

 and finding out that in the past performing dramas were part University training. This isn't totally new history for me, having taught classes on medieval University eduction, but makes me wonder about stale and utilitarian approaches to modern college education. The study of Religion and Theatre is degraded, and dance considered even worse, as these subjects seemingly have nothing to do with the modern workplace - they are too human, and too much about inter-personal communications, ethics, values, and self-reflection as individuals and a culture. In reality, this is the "software" of the workplace; a society that does not promote this type of learning fails for lack of attention to people, and too much concern for technology. Films are a perhaps a more modern way of disguising learning of culture and humanity, and the Star Trek series is particularly good at raising these issue - Into Darkness is brilliant in raising this point, though there is a lot of movie kitsch to go along with the story.

   Films are great, but attending a movie is simply not the same as being in a theatre with live performers who respond to the audience. Live performance is lab time, where a film is like watching a video - no hands on, active involvement; you aren't part of the show. You don't relate as well in your muscles and bones, and actions on screen become just action sequences to thrill.

 That said, I probably will see a movie this weekend to take a break from writing the following paper. It's very academic, but it is really about why theatre and dance were and are important.



Religion, Ethics, and Culture in The Christmas Prince: The Case of Philomela



 

  This paper examines how theatre aids in exploring religion and ethics, by focusing on English university plays in the early modern period. The schools were allowed to present dramas with religious themes, but inclusion of dissenting religious views carried risk. Works based on classical Latin drama offered an opportunity to present productions that embodied alternative ethical views, while avoiding theological debate. Philomela is an especially intriguing example of such a play, as it involves brutal royal abuse, silencing of a female victim, and appeals for divine justice.



 For my study, I employ Jewish scholar Martin Buber’s perspective on theatre, involving the relationship between words and actions. He thought it one of ethical exploration, which looks “simultaneously back to the written drama and forward to” the ‘theater’ of life.” [1] This view seems to echo statements of scholars from the early modern period regarding the benefits of Latin drama. However, historical context is also vital to examining the neo-Latin drama, which I maintain was a means of discussing religious ethics, while allowing for subversive dissent. With this in mind, the paper will focus the play Philomela through: 



·       A general overview of the use of Latin drama for the teaching of Humanist and Protestant Ethics in university plays.

·      A brief comparison with Jewish theatre in Italy during the period.

·      Specific consideration of ritualistic actions of Philomela’s characters, especially Philomela and the Bacchantes.




[1] From Friedman, Maurice, “Martin Buber's Mystery Play Elijah,” Modern Judaism 16.2 (1996) 135-146 in review of Buber’s essays on Theatre and Drama.




      





Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Smart men, not so bright choices: Why Benedict Cumberbatch can't get a date, part 2

  In my current writing resistance, I decided it was time to complete this post - a little writing exercise before slogging through quotations on sacred and secular in early modern drama ( which I'd rather be performing, but that is another story).

 So, given that "Smart Man" in a former post is inexplicably not finding a Smart Woman that can keep up with him, I wondered about local smart men. (Yes, post on B.C. - it does get you reading my blogs) I called a dating service to research the type of clients they have. I was told that they have a lot of many well-educated, creative men. The woman I talked with then went on to describe a new client, a physician who likes the outdoors.

I guess I was suppose to go ga-ga about a doctor, but I am not the camper-girl type and lately I've had to stay inside because of allergies. I wasn't impressed. I was even less impressed when the woman at the dating agency told me the cost of - over $2000 for 6 months! 

Given that I know so, so many smart women, I was shocked. I'd arrange a meeting with the doctor and some of my very bright, beautiful, well-educated single friends for free. All the guy needs to do is SHOW UP! GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! PUT IN SOME EFFORT! If you want a relationship that is worthwhile and lasting, you need to put the effort into it now. Besides, think of all the Smart Girls out there. You need to come to one of our meetings.

Guys - go to MEET UP groups. There are so many of us smart, creative women that joined these group in order to meet men. I've met a lot of women there, and too many men with little education or social skills. If you do have these assets you will quickly have dates.

Guys - go to a yoga class. Stay afterward and talk to the women. You'll find a single, bright woman easily. 

Guys - go to creative spirituality groups. Not the dull church or synagogue service but the fun small communities where people talk to one another. You'll meet good and kind women, who are often bright and smart.WARNING - Some communities do have dreary unfriendly meditation groups (such as those found in Minneapolis. Try another one. ). Again, yoga is your better option, especially for music events nights.

Guys - Don't spend $2000+ dollars for a dating service that doesn't understand relationships. The women I talked to couldn't even understand the difference between spirituality and religion. If someone doesn't care about who you are on the inside, they aren't going to find you a good partner.

I care, so contact me. Contact one of the women I know. But, understand if you want a relationship you need to start relating!


Friday, August 31, 2012

Nuns , Cumberbatch, Frozen Peas, and Rituals

 I am an extrovert, getting my energy by being with people. So it is difficult for me to be writing all day. I take breaks by checking on some fun websites for me, including Sherlockolgy- a site dedicated to covering news on the Master Piece Theatre show Sherlock. That's why so much Sherlock material is appearing on my blog, but the articles are providing terrific fodder and search engine hits.

One of the more recent posts on Sherlockology was a link to an article about Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch. Apparently, he was in a testy mood or stardom is getting to him, as he constantly used the "f" word and made not so nice comments about fans. Specifically he said that
"....it’s a bit weird when people see you in the frozen pea section and start flipping out."  He also commented about requests for signatures, stating:

... what the f*ck is this need for proof we all have? Why do people need me to ruin the front page of a book with my terrible signature so that they can prove that they’ve met me? Will no one believe them otherwise? It’s f*cking weird, and you don’t question it until it happens to you
http://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/tv/benedict-cumberbatch

  Yes Benedict, it is weird to have someone ask you for a signature. At the book party for my book - for the book I wrote and published - it was still amazingly weird to sign a copy. I never have understood the need to get an actor's autograph, because usually they don't write a book. But I thought about this some, and the above comments.

1.  Get back to Yoga - Your rather surly comments indicate a need to center and ground yourself. You usually appear to have an amazing about of both qualities in interviews, so sorry if you were having a bad day. But think about it. Those people in the frozen veg section may be barely able to afford the frozen peas, and here they see someone who is making a fantastic amount of money doing exactly what he loves to do. Most of us don't get that chance, and many of us must settle at being happy to be able to afford peas and broccoli.

2. You should meet the Nuns of the Bus (nunsonthebus.com).  They will recruit you to join in the cause to stand on the side of the poor, homeless, and hungry. You might be able to buy some people some frozen peas by donating the the nuns or some of the shelters they visit on their tour of the U.S. Maybe Brad Pitt would also recruit you to work on Habitat for Humanity, (but you'd need to clean up your language if you were around his kids.)

3. Ritual - You should know about ritual from the monks in Tibet. Ritual is so much like acting in many ways. It doesn't always make sense why people do either one, but there is something of play, entertainment, and soul speak going on in both. Asking a star or even an author for a signature may very well be a ritual behavior used to honor success. I suspect it is also requested in hopes that some of the success will be transferred to the person receiving the signature.

 I'm sure it's annoying being successful and earning good money, will all the fans and paparazzi. I promise that is I ever meet you I will not ask for your signature, but I would be very happy to sign a copy of my book for you.

P.S. Please do check out assisting Nuns on the Bus, Habitat for Humanity, and other fine organization in the U.S. and U.K. that are working to aid those in need.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Another amusing search term day

   I am glad to see I'm getting readers for the Nuns of the Bus post. The wonderful Nuns deserve ample attention. However.....

 Once again, I found that while the majority of readers are reading about the Nuns, the major search terms people are using to get to the blog are: 

benedict cumberbatch misogyny comm  


 This is just a good guess, but I don't think Cumberbatch has anything against the Nun's or thinks about them in any misogynistic manner.         

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nuns on the Bus

  I usually write of the "spiritual" or ethical in popular culture. Too many of us think of spirituality and religion as stuff of "the church" or loony New Agers.

If you read my post, you know that the purpose of my blog is about revealing how our values play a part in all of life - and yes, how this is portrayed in disturbing or helpful ways in films and television stories. Sherlock does have a play with the spiritual development of a genius, or in one case, a gross forgetting of the underlying important values in the original stories.

What you value most is very much about what perspective you tie yourself to. In the best and basic view of organized religion, we have long-standing spiritual traditions that offer ritual, meditative, and service practices that aid us in creating a better world. Catholic Nuns aren't always thought of as models of these methods. Especially among older people I've heard too many stories of angry, repressed Nuns beating them up at school. They weren't the very cool Benedictine Sisters I met. They taught meditation, danced, and generously gave service to the homeless.  Some were young and beautiful, and some old and deeply beautiful.

Recently, I saw Bill Moyer's show about Nuns of the Bus, who in there own word are:
"Catholic Sisters" who "are missioned to stand with people in need and to be witnesses for economic justice."  On their website nunsonthebus.com, they explain that:

As Catholic Sisters, we must speak out against the current House Republican budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). We do so because it harms people who are already suffering....

 Beyond issues of big or small government, or assumptions that aid to those in need is developing dependency on hand-outs, they deal with the bigger picture of setting policies that aid everyone.
They oppose trickle-down theory as a hierarchical discrimination against the poor and needy. The reason they do so is the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.   This is an exerpt about them from the Washington Post, also found on their website:

Catholic nuns’ bus tour concludes in nation’s capital

(Washington PostA group of Catholic nuns ended its nine-state bus tour here Monday (July 2), speaking out against a Republican federal budget proposal they say favors wealthy Americans at the expense of poor families.

Led by Sister Simone Campbell, the “Nuns on the Bus” rejected the budget proposal of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which it called “immoral” and “unpatriotic.”
Ryan’s budget “rejects church teaching about solidarity, inequality, the choice for the poor, and the common good. That’s wrong,” said Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby.Nuns on the Bus claims that the Ryan budget would raise taxes on low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and corporations, push families into poverty, and kick 8 million people off of food stamps.
 What ever your political view, the point the Nuns bring out is such an important value - we are all in this together.  If the poor get more, it doesn't mean the rest of us get less. In fact, Sister Simone Campbell pointed out that when the minimum wage was raised in California, it injected more money into the economy, and it improved !

  Gross national economies are tricky things, for sure. But some of the fans of the Nuns greet their bus as it travels the country, holding up signs saying "Question Austerity."  It's a good point - you can't just starve people of income and food. It's not just and it doesn't improve matters. We do need to pay attention to legitimate economists on how to improve the economy, for sure. But in all cases, policies based on fear are wrong. Policy that aims to improve the lot of us all isn't big government verses small government, Republican or Democrat, but a valuing of all people. Such policy is not based on fear or simple political jingoism, but historical economic realities. 

 I think the Nuns on the Bus are providing us with a great lesson - use reason, consider the whole. Think of the welfare of all. Do you have these values?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Steven Moffatt is a what? On a difficult week in Minnesota for a Smart Girl

  This had been a difficult, horrible, almost hopeless week for me. Almost no one is returning calls, email, facebook prompts, etc. Given that I already feel so isolated in Minnesota, it's extremely difficult for me to be in this situation. Being hopeless isn't a great value, so I try to get out of it. but the high allergen count isn't helping.

   I did have a day-brightener that made me laugh though, when I checked the statistics on this blog. Readership is up, and the search terms are wild and crazy.

The top terms were:
  • Irene Adler Lesbian (so much for her being Jewish)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch - my unintentional numbers booster
  • Violet Hunter - I'm glad people are ready the wonderful little story of Sherlock's "sister" in The Copper Beaches. Here we find that Sherlock likes art and adventurous teachers.
And the one that is totally amusing.........Steven Moffat Jewish!

Even I wouldn't have thought of that one.

Good words to remember for the day, and not as silly: The one who acts out of love cannot be compared to the one who acts out of fear.