Tag Archives: history

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey: Book Review

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Morning reading in Texas hill country.

Oh, boy.

Often my eyes are drawn to books with award stamps printed on the cover. This book was no exception but certainly surpassed my expectation. The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey won the Man Booker Prize in 2001 with a gripping story and well rounded characters described through the rough, honest voice of an Australian bushranger. Edward “Ned” Kelly writes to his daughter his life story revealing his true character and the oppressive circumstances he experienced since the beginning of childhood to being a reputed outlaw.

It is hard to try to condense the plot without giving anything away because of the book’s many memorable moments, but from the very first pages we know that there is death of at least one individual in this novel. And because the central theme is power abused by authority, the entire book can be seen as a battle between the police and the people. But that makes it sound so boring and this book is not, packed from start to end with adventure, humour, compassion, and characters that feel like they exist in real life.

Ned Kelly is by far my favourite character, partially because he is the protagonist and author as well. The reader grows up with him through trials and triumphs and gets a glimpse of a strong, loving, intelligent, and most unfortunate soul. Sympathy is found for the Kelly family and the small gang, especially Joe Byrne, who is tortured between his personal safety and his friendship with Ned. These two are the ones I found most empathy with as they faced adversity together and protected the two younger members of their “gang.”Other striking characters include the crude and fearless Harry Power, famous outlaw who took Ned as an apprentice; Ellen Kelly, beloved mother of Ned, a widow determined and headstrong to provide for her family; and Mary Hearn, a young and cunning woman only more loyal to her children than to her prince.

The ability to create such human characters comes from the raw voice of Ned Kelly, who although considers himself uneducated, actually writes with remarkable observance and conviction. At first it takes adjusting to read sentences with prominent slang and inconsistent punctuation, but the style merges with the character and becomes an endearing reflection of Ned Kelly himself. It is storytelling at its best, when you can hear the voice of the narrator, especially when it is formed in your head from printed words!

In fact, one of the themes found in this book is actually the power of the written word, as Ned Kelly tries to clear his name through letters. His quest to gain a national audience portrays one aspect of government control over the media and public perception. Like “V for Vendetta” or “Robin Hood,” the journal series sides with the proletariat and has a feel of folk/legend lore. This book is the most realistic out of this comparison because of its diverse content between daily mundane activities and horse-riding, gun-shooting action.

All in all, one of the most powerful points of this novel is that there are no “bad guys,” even though Australia’s police force is painted in a particularly bad light. Life isn’t fair and humans make mistakes. I looked up the real Ned Kelly on the internet and his history is full of controversy, either hailed as heroic or criminal. I am glad this novel has told a story of this man from a personal and justified point of view because it is beautiful, happy, sad, and piercing. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey lives up to its golden award stamp and is a book that will sit on my mind long after I’ve closed its pages.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Allegory in Short Film: Neighbours (1952)

Stop motion by Norman McLaren:

In the award-winning film “Neighbours”, concrete elements are used to powerfully express abstract ideas. The fence plays an important part as both a set and prop, and presents an allegory that is linked to the timeline of events in the film. The fence’s role and purpose change throughout the story, and its degradation can signify the transformation of the men’s relationship. Friendship between the two was found before the existence of the fence. The fence first appears as a territorial mark between the two properties as the two men claim their land. As the argument escalates, the pickets are used as a weapon as the men start a light duel. The fight worsens, and the blows hit by the wood get harsher and more deadly. As war is declared, the fence’s original purpose as a boundary is terminated and its destruction symbolizes the breaking of a barrier. The splintered wood decorates the coffins of the two men, portraying peace once more, and the end of a terrible fight. The fence’s state changes and each different stage can be related to the cycle of human relationships and the fomenting of war.

Published from November 25, 2010.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Meek (NaPoWriMo #29) *plus* an optional quiz

.A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.

The albinos sit  huddled together in the cafeteria
Picking at bits of rice drowned again since the paddies
In shy angst, they watch plates topped with hamburgers pass
As owners chow down on ketchup dipped fries
In quiet murmurs they sip fruit juice at their table
Watching with curious eyes, but no words.
———————————————————————————-

THE QUIZ:
In each line except the last, there is at least one “loan word” used in the English language that originates from another country. See if you can match a word to each of these languages and post your answer in the comments below!
Chinese, French, German, Bahasa (Indonesian), Spanish

———————————————————————————
So it’s a bit of a variation on the prompt, but that’s alright, I think. This one was inspired by the group of young dancers from Denmark who are very sweet but extremely shy. They are a wonderful addition to the international cast of the dance festival, and are dearly loved by everyone. So this one’s for the Bournonville dancers!

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

PS: I know I am late on this NapoWriMo business, but I’m doing my best to finish it ASAP with the time that I have.

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Asbestos: Mini Research

File:Asbestos with muscovite.jpg

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Asbestos is a mineral of fibrous crystals that absorbs sound, has textile strength, and a resistance to heat, chemical, and electrical damage. Its fibers can be woven into yarn or rope, and are easily added to a variety of materials such as cotton and cement, making it a versatile substance. The inhalation of these fibers has been proved to cause illnesses including cancer and asbestosis. Asbestos is used in many products from drywall roofing tars, to shoes and stage curtains, because of its fireproofing and insulating qualities. It became popularly used by manufacturers and builders in the 19th century as a common insulator and propelled the Industrial Revolution; however, asbestos has been used for as long as 4500 years in Ancient Greece when it was used in oil lamp wicks and ceremonial table cloths. The extraction, manufacturing, and processing of asbestos has been banned in whole or in part by over 60 countries in the world, including those in the European Union. Even though today, far less products in the home contain asbestos, it is still used because of new ways of containing escaping fibers. Canada has yet to ban asbestos and is currently the largest player in the global asbestos industry; over 40% of the world’s asbestos is found in a narrow belt of rocks in Quebec and over 300,000 tons of it can be exported annually to developing countries. The banning of asbestos is a difficult balance for Canada between saving jobs and economic profit or relieving the health hazards placed on workers and consumers from this multi-purpose material.

Written 2009. Since then, Canada’s asbestos industry has been winding down. For anyone who wonders what asbestos is…

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Les Précieuses Ridicules by Molière: Essay en français

Les Précieuses Ridicules

            La pièce Les Précieuses Ridicules est un comedie du 17ème siècle écrit par le grand dramaturge Molière. Il raconte l’histoire de deux femmes, Magdelon et Cathos, qui suivent le mouvement féministe de la preciosité et qui, à cause de leurs attitudes arrogantes, deviennent les victimes d’une farce magnifique. Le faux marquis de Mascarille, l’étoile théâtral, a toujours amusé l’audience. Les personnages principaux sont des caricatures qui présentent des aspets de la préciosité comme la littérature et la mode avec beaucoup d’exagération. ll y a quelques éléments de comique qui sont mélangés dans le langage et le maniérisme dans cette pièce ; tous les éléments présents sont là pour se moquer des conventions de la préciosité. Dans le cadre de la théatre, le comportement qui est consideré approprié et correcte dans un salon précieux est perçu plutôt avec humeur.

Le comique de parole est trouvé dans le style du langage précieux et le contenu des conversations. Les filles imitent des expressions précieuses qu’elles apprennent des textes et elles discutent avec esprit et précision. Il y a des périphrases qui sont utilisées comme termes des objets commun. Les chaises sont des « commodités de la conversation » et un miroir est appelé « le conseiller des grâces ». Un autre exemple est l’emploi des adverbes comme des adjectifs. Par exemple, Magdelon a dit « …je suis furieusement pour les portraits… ». Molière a accentué le style précieux pour créer l’humeur en tout ce que Magdelon et Cathos disent. Elles sont vaniteuses et elles croient qu’elles savent tout pour devenir à la haute société. Ses caractères sont reflétées dans le dialogue quand les femmes expliquent les règles d’amour et ses changes des noms de « Polixène » et « Aminte » á Gorgibus. Le comique de parole existe dans la façon dont les femmes parlent, et aussi les sujets dont elles parlent dans leurs conversations.

Le comique de geste est un élément classique utilisé premièrement dans le temps du Commedia dell’Arte. Les blagues visuelles dans les gestes des acteurs, spécifiquement Mascarille, et de tournage a évoquer beacoup des rires partout la piéce. Un exemple du comique de la situation est l’arrivée du marquis avec les porteurs. L’entrée d’une grande chaise et pieds boueux dans un salon est inappropriée et elle crée une scène drôle. Suivant ça est un exemple du comique tarte à la crème avec des bâtons et les coups. Les porteurs demandent un salaire et ils sont répondus par un soufflet et une menace d’une bastonnade. Il y a des autres instances de ses farces ensuite comme les deux valets et les violons sont bastonnés aussi. La chanson de Mascarille est encore un autre exemple du comique de geste. On peut imagine ses actions quand il crie « Au voleur ! au voleur ! »  et les réactions intenses des filles admirantes. Aussi, le comique de geste anime plus loin les mots et sujets dans le comique de parole. Molière a appliqué ces techniques traditionnelles au contexte de la préciosité pour créer une pièce tout nouvelle.

Une autre partie de cette pièce est l’élément de la surprise. Depuis le début, le costume incroyable du marquis avec une abondance hideux des rubans et fanfreluches nous choquent et ravissent. Ses bouffonneries imprévisibles sont toujours étonnantes ; son caractère fou apporte continuellement des surprises. A la fin, la grande surprise est quand les deux hommes bourgeois arrivent et bâtonnent ses valets, révélant l’identité fausse de Mascarille. Les deux filles découvrent qu’elles étaient dupées et que tout était une farce tout le long.

Avec ces éléments, Molière a reflété la culture du temps dans le théâtre et il a causé des nobles pour se rire de sa société. Les interprétations et images mémorables et les techniques de comédie qui sont utilisés dans Les Précieuses Ridicules créaient un divertissement ultime.

Published from 2011.

*A Little Note*
So I have been republishing some of my earlier assignments and essays to build up the content of the blog and to share ideas with other students who may be learning the same. I came across some pieces I have written for French class, and thought it interesting to see what response I would get publishing it. Who knows how many français speakers this can reach?

Thanks for reading/ Merci de lire,
thebookybunhead

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Oedipus Rex Essay

OEDIPUS REX: Tragedy in Drama and Dance

                Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles, tells the story of a man from Thebes who kills his father and marries his mother despite valiant efforts to escape this horrible fate. The play is a Greek tragedy in which fate is predestined and controlled absolutely by greater forces. Oedipus, our protagonist, was doomed by Apollo’s oracle to commit sins of murder and incest from his birth:

And to Laius and his wife Jocasta a son was born.

Before even a name had been give to this infant…

His life was clouded with the presage if disaster…

He was destined one day to kill his father,

And to become his own mother’s husband. (23)

The story is a struggle between Oedipus and his destiny as he attempts to flee from the path that had been placed before him. He leaves Corinth, the home of his adopted parents, to thwart the predicted events from occurring, but in doing so walks closer to the very fate he is trying to avoid. Three terms of tragedy reflect the tragic irony and imminent destiny that is the core of a classical tragedy.  The devastation of a hero obliviously trapped in the hands of the gods can be explained through the terms hubris, irony of fate, and catastrophe. These elements present in the script are also found in Martha Graham’s modern expressionist ballet, Night Journey, which expresses the play from Jocasta’s point of view.

Hubris is the fatal flaw of pride that gives Oedipus the bravery to fight the oracle’s prophecy but also blinds him from seeing the truth, therefore eventually leading to his downfall. Oedipus’ pride in defying the gods creates false assurance of his success in evading his fate, and this security allows Oedipus to seek his identity with confidence. Despite warnings from Teresias, Creon and his own mother, Oedipus continues his search, ignoring and insulting those who are essentially trying to protect him. Because of his pride, he fails to understand the intent of their warnings and assumes other reasons for their guarded behaviour:

(To Creon): “Have you the face to stand before my door,

Proved plotter against my life, thief of my crown?” (40)

(Regarding Jocasta): “Go, someone; fetch the shepherd. Leave the lady

To enjoy her pride of birth.” (55)

Oedipus accuses Creon of plotting to steal his throne and dismisses Jocasta as an arrogant noble, scared of discovering her husband as slave-born. In the ballet, Oedipus’ superiority is presented as he climbs the steps made by the sculptures to stand magnificently at the summit. His high status of king is established when he stands above Jocasta, putting his leg over her shoulder, and by the draping robe that displays a powerful stature. The dramatic length and folds that serve this purpose ironically also represents Oedipus’ tangled situation as he pulls and wraps the circular fabric around his arms to find the material overwhelmingly twisted. His difficulty in collecting the infinite fabric of the robe that represents his royalty is also a foreshadowing of a dark, underlying secret. Ultimately, the flaw of pride in Oedipus’ character causes his insistence in proving the stars wrong as well as his ignorance in refusing to realize the truth, until it is too late.

The fact that Oedipus is completely unaware of the implications of his search and that other characters, the chorus, and the audience or reader comprehend more of his fate than he creates irony. After determining that capturing Laius’ murderer would absolve the nation, Oedipus states the punishment that awaits him:

No matter who he may be, he is forbidden

Shelter or intercourse with any man

In all this country over which I rule…

Expelled from every house, unclean, accursed,

In accordance with the Pythian oracle. (32)

Pronouncing this sentence of banishment, Oedipus seals his own future; he enforces the will of the gods yet he himself is the one who defies them. By capturing his enemy, he unknowingly captures himself. In Night Journey, irony of fate is found in the use of a prop that symbolizes the relationship between the king and queen, and its curse. In slow and precise movements, Oedipus and Jocasta use a rope to entwine themselves in poses of affection and sensuality, signifying their union in marriage. In contrast to their dance is chaos presented simultaneously in the music and the choreography of the corps, or chorus. The women jump to crashing chords, perform series of sharp rolls and contractions, and cover their eyes as if to shield themselves from the horror of the contemporary pas de deux. The interlacing rope is an interpretation of another relationship: that of mother and child, connected by an umbilical cord. This same cord is later the tool used to commit Jocasta’s suicide; the double bond between her and Oedipus proved fatal. When perceived differently from reality, certain actions and situations gain significance as they can cause a change of fortune and reversal of fate when the truth is revealed.

The weakness of pride and dramatic irony in both play and ballet lead to the catastrophe, the devastating defeat of the hero. In fighting destiny, Oedipus ends up completing it. This unconscious self-condemnation is also performed by the character Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. The two protagonists possessed hubris, were influenced by supernatural forces, and believed in their abilities to change their fates – Oedipus denies the oracle’s prophecy while Macbeth follows the witches’ predictions. However, despite these similarities, their circumstances differ: Macbeth deliberately chooses to commit murder against his conscience but Oedipus has no idea of the true consequences of his actions. While Macbeth is therefore responsible for his terrible conclusion, in a Classical tragedy, the hero is powerless and will meet his destiny regardless of his choices. With no chance of exonerating himself, Oedipus accepts his misfortune and in a final act of desperation punishes himself to a most awful death, destroying his own eyes to forever wander the earth.

Where is there any beauty for me to see?

Where loveliness of sight and sound? Away!

Lead me quickly away

Out of this land. I am lost,

Hated of gods, no man so damned. (63)

The classical tragedy of Oedipus Rex portrays the impossible battle between man and his destiny. Time is inevitable, and so is the fate that with all certainty will be fulfilled. In Night Journey, Teresias, the blind prophet, is the last character to be seen, crossing the stage with his staff. The steady pounding of his stick demands authority in the complete silence following Jocasta’s death. It is the last, echoing sound, symbolizing the advance of time, sealing of the prophecy, and continuing power of fate.

Published from June 14, 2012.

(To my email followers: I’m sorry if you receive duplicate emails; I had publish this earlier but something happened that caused it to be turned into a draft again. Sorry for the hassle.)

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Neumeier’s Nijinsky: Ballet Review

Last Saturday I watched the Canadian premiere of John Neumeier’s Nijinsky, a biographical ballet about the famous Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who eventually spirals into madness. It is an ambitious, dramatic production that overflows with ideas and high physical and emotional demands for the entire company. From my experience with The Seagull, the other Neumeier ballet that I’ve seen live, I thought this ballet might be equally confusing and long; however, though at times it is overwhelming, I found myself enjoying this ballet quite a lot. Here’s why:
Firstly, an homage to one of the greatest male dancers of all time hits a sentimental chord with all of us in the ballet world. It consists of a mixture of classical and modern styles with so many references to ballet history that give us pride in being a part of that legacy. But besides that, Nijinsky’s life is told through flashbacks and hallucinations that meander between the past and the present, in a way that is visually appealing and intriguing for all audiences.

(Photo courtesy of russianballethistory.com)

The beginning of a synopsis in the program written by Neumeier himself:

On January 19, 1919 at five o’clock in the afternoon in a ballroom of the Suvretta House Hotel in St Moritz, Switzerland, Vaslav Nijinsky danced publicly for the last time. He called this performance his Wedding with God.

My ballet Nijinsky begins with a realistic recreation of this situation. The choreography which follows however, visualises his thoughts, memories and hallucinations during this last performance.

One of my favourite parts is the boat pas de deux in which Nijinsky remembers meeting his wife. It is actually more of a pas de trois because a vision of himself dancing the role of a faun who fell in love with a nymph joins in the dance and mirrors Nijinsky’s realization of his love for a woman. It it beautifully choreographed to beautiful music, really filling you up with warm feelings. Another part that has imprinted itself in my mind is the scene pf internal madness in which the corps, dressed in army jackets, move to quite harsh music as Nijinsky yells counts at the top of his lungs on a chair. In the same section, dancers are told to laugh maniacally in shrieks and hoots, creating a truly scary, chaotic atmosphere for Nijinsky, and for us. The emotional states that this work asks its performers to reach and is able to stir inside us, the audience, is something that is truly special and touching in my opinion.

So the choreography was great, as was the set and costumes, all designed by Neumeier (not to mention the music as well). But what about the dancing? Is is great to see The National Ballet of Canada take on a neoclassical work of such a large scale; the energy was infectious. Especially in the second act, the dancers matched the intensity of the orchestra impressively and were a solid ensemble. There were a few noticeable slips in the first, but these are easily forgiven in the abandoned interpretations of several dancers that left us breathless. As this ballet is new to the company’s repertoire, I think it will be exciting to trace how the interpretations develop as it is performed through the coming years.

Painting by Vaslav Nijinsky. The theme of circles in his art inspired the set.
(Courtesy of dancelines.com.au)

I feel I have more to read and learn to fully appreciate the underlying themes of this work and until today am freshly fascinated by the creativity of its concept. It’s a presentation of ballet history, a dramatic tragedy, and a celebration of dance and the capacities of its artists all rolled into one. The depth of thought in Nijinsky makes it a ballet that is so rich that you cannot see everything in one show, and probably will not ever see the same things twice. I’m glad it was brought to Toronto and look forward to seeing it again.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

(All images of the Hamburg Ballet.
Courtesy of Holger Badekow otherwise noted.)

EXTRAS:
Link to NBoC’s production:
http://national.ballet.ca/performances/season1213/Nijinsky/

Excerpt from an autobiography of Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950):
http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/n/nijinsky-diary.html

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Filed under Dance, The happenings

Interest on a cellular level

BiologyBiology.Biology.

What is life, where did we come from? The ongoing search for the origin of humans offers so many enlightening answers and even more challenging questions to students – questions about the essence of life and our very existence. It is the story behind human history; everything from ancient Egyptian and Greek, medieval to monarchies to war times – it all happened in such a short period of time, relatively, to the billions of years of accumulated diversity since Earth was formed.

So many people want to go into science, to become a doctor; it’s a concept taught to us at a young age for a good, secure future. But I think it is hard to continue on any study that you are not truly passionate about: the effort required to pursue the study of biological sciences as we have learned is tedious and,

because after reading or watching a bit into the subject, it is very hard not to become fascinated in the discoveries of humans, our species, ourselves, as I have this year.

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Filed under Idle Thoughts, Just another person, Life