An Ugly Wagnerian Ring and Other Disasters

Diary 7/24 to 7/28/22: Free go set; Das Rheingold; Erda’s pole dance; Siegfried’s mechanical forge; the fleas are back; flat broke because I’m an idiot; Shakespeare’s Timon; Russell, Wolfram, Camus.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Erda’s pole dance

{7/24/22}

Since using Raid’s flea foggers yesterday, I haven’t seen a single flea.  Nor have I seen more than one.  No fleas at all.  Looks like the war is over.  Yay!

Better than mine

At the Hemlock Club meeting yesterday morning, I managed to score a go set.  Not impressive, though labeled “Deluxe,” but better than the defective set I bought at Barnes & Noble.  At least it won’t be an embarrassment if I ever get a chance to use it.  I taught the rules to Neil but put the set away when Portia showed up.  The set was a donation from Mikey, head of the game club that meets at Panera Bread on Saturdays, because he is cutting down on his games because he’s leaving soon for Utah to live.  Pablo was not at Panera, having decamped to San Jose.  “Decamp” is not the best choice to say that he went there, but it popped up in my noggin and I decided to use it.  He will be gone some weeks or months.

The Hemlock Club meeting was otherwise not memorable.  As Tim was giving me a ride home, he explained the plot of The Godfather, hoping to interest me in the movie.  I was not interested, however.

{7/25/22}

I realized this morning that on two occasions only in my life I have been unable to believe my eyes.  I remember the first occasion vividly, but I have been unable to recall the second occasion.  A search of my diaries back to 2019 failed to turn up any record.  This is disappointing.

Also disappointing this morning:  I found a flea.  I tried to catch him but missed.

Das Rheingold

Started watching Das Rheingold last night, a Bayreuth production conducted by Pierre Boulez.  The first act, Alberich and the Rhinemaidens, was tedious, cringey, and annoying, perhaps mostly because of the unconvincing physical “comedy.”  Act 2, Wotan and the giants, was okay though it dragged a bit—the giants were particularly effective heightwise, not so much otherwise—but Wotan seemed peevish and weak.  Loge came on hunchbacked, cringing, and whiny, impressing me more as “another Mime” than what I had expected (though I’d be unable to say what I expected).  The singing, of course, is thoroughly competent, but didn’t exactly raise hairs on the back of my neck.  The sets so far have been minimalist and dreary, though with more impressive sights in the background.  I’ll watch the rest of this least-favorite of Wagner’s Ring operas tonight and probably start Die Walküre as well.  I was lucky enough to get three of the four in the same Bayreuth-Boulez category; Götterdämmerung is with James Levine at the Met; fifty cents each!  I’ll keep an eye open for the last of the B-B collection, but have little chance, probably, of getting it.

{7/28/22}

Too much, or too little, to write about.

Erda and Wotan

First, I watched the rest of the three DVD sets of Der Ring des Nibelungen previously described.  Die Walküre was very good, with some problems.  That is, the singing was good (especially Donald McIntyre as Wotan, after Rheingold), the orchestra was good, but the action on stage and the sets were generally distracting and not a plus.  The action in particular amounted to the singers wrestling, flailing, groveling, and manhandling each other.  In Walküre Erda rolls around on the stage, wrapped in a sheet, briefly comes out to do a literal pole dance on Wotan’s spear, then goes back in her sheet.  One of the sets consisted of a large room with a kind of big Foucault pendulum like I saw as a kid in the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.  The pendulum swung and swung, slowing down, finally being stopped by Wotan, then subsequently swinging again.  Act One of Siegfried had Mime pulling a large canvas off a towering structure which turned out to be a giant mechanical forge, complete with blazing fire—it has been under the canvas for half an hour or more, impossibly.  Siegfried’s “Forging Song” mostly amounted to slow hammering by said forge, giving off sparks and making nonsense of his lyrics.  Siegfried finished off his laughably small sword (Notung) with a tiny hammer.  Unintentional humor abounded.  The final outrage, joke, or whatever it was, was Fafner, as mechanical dragon on wheels, being pushed about the stage by persons in black.  About half the sets, if not more, were partly obscured by gratuitous fog or smoke.

The mechanical forge, Act One of Siegfried

This abomination was apparently the brainchild of Patrice Chéreau for the centenary of the first exhibition of the full Ring cycle at Bayreuth.

I started watching an old Metropolitan Opera production of Götterdämmerung but gave it up during the Act One duet between Brünnhilde and Siegfried and haven’t gone back.  It’s possible that I’ve exceeded my appetite for Wagner, again.  It was highlights of Walküre on LP about sixty years ago that first gave me a taste for opera, so this music is very familiar.

Second, the fleas are back.  This is both distressing and potentially humiliating, since I may end up carrying the monsters with me out of the house to future Hemlock Club meetings and the like.

Finally, at least for the moment, I have no money.  I was supposed to get an automatic deposit of my Social Security payment, but it seems that I neglected—!—to inform them of my new account numbers.  It will take from four to thirteen days to get paid, and I am down to less than $10.  I called and left voice mails for Neil and Tim, requesting $20 on Saturday.

Weh ist mir!  And this was the month that I’d planned to save $200.

Of course, my woes are minimal compared to the old man outside looking for loot by the dumpster.  This does not cheer me up.

I finished reading Timon of Athens yesterday and immediately began on The TempestTempest has always been a puzzle to me because of its reputation as one of Shakespeare’s best; to me it’s generally of little interest, apart from Caliban.

Yesterday I pinched a flea off my left Achilles tendon and felt a sharp twinge in the area of my liver.  Of such things foot reflexology was born.  I do not believe in foot reflexology, or iridology, or even shiatsu (though I studied the last briefly).  It may be that I throw away baby and bathwater together, but I no longer have patience for much of anything, it seems, except sudoku.

The Bertrand Russell I was reading, Our Knowledge of the External World, has gotten so arid and seemingly wrongheaded that I’m sorely tempted to give it up.  The point, more or less, is to demonstrate that science can logically be based on sense impressions.  His definitions of “point” and “instant” as sets of overlapping perceptions I find thoroughly abstruse and counterintuitive.  Can I “understand” this book?  Possibly I can talk about it without making obvious, grotesque errors, but given that it’s never going to mean much to me, I’m sorely tempted to just say eff it.  And writing this is almost as good as saying “I’m done,” because that is sure to follow.

I have already abandoned Stephen WolframA New Kind of Science.  Cellular automata, chaos theory, etc., just isn’t going to matter to me, even if I could understand it.  I’m able to categorize it as “not useful to me,” and that’s enough.

I’m still reading volume 2 of Camus’s Notebooks.  I’m sort of losing interest because he’s going on and on about his novel, The Plague, which I found quite dull.  The Notebooks otherwise has occasional useful bits, so I hope to finish it.  Unfortunately, volume 3 is not available from my library system (it might be possible to get an interlibrary loan).

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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