Monday, December 29, 2008

Harold Pinter: Death may be ageing, but he still has clout

Pinter did what Auden said a poet should do. He cleaned the gutters of the English language, so that it ever afterwards flowed more easily and more cleanly. We can also say that over his work and over his person hovers a sort of leonine, predatory spirit which is all the more powerful for being held under in a rigid discipline of form, or in a black suit...The essence of his singular appeal is that you sit down to every play he writes in certain expectation of the unexpected. In sum, this tribute from one writer to another: you never know what the hell's coming next.
-- David Hare in Harold Pinter: A Celebration

My first experience with Harold Pinter’s work was in college when I took a Theatre of the Absurd course. It was one of my favorite classes while I was in college. It actually made me think ... and, it was a small class (some of my classes had 400+ students in them) so you could participate in some interesting discussions. I admired him from the first.

As Carey Perloff says about him:
Pinter had immense respect for the mystery, the privacy, the "unknowingness," of the people in his plays. This is rare in a writer. Pinter knew that his characters were hidden, silent, often lying, always evading. His job was to listen acutely to what they were willing to say, and wait for the moment when their masks would drop.
I loved that about his plays. I often didn't know exactly what was going on ... but I was feeling something intense anyway. His words were tapping into something core without explaining things to death.

Later, I got to know more about his politics and I admired him for that too. He was so outspoken when so many other writers, actors, and artists do nothing. From the article about him in Wikipedia:
In accepting an honorary degree at the University of Turin (27 November 2002), he stated: "I believe that [the United States] will [attack Iraq] not only to take control of Iraqi oil, but also because the American administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal. Bombs are its only vocabulary." Distinguishing between "the American administration" and American citizens, he added the following qualification: "Many Americans, we know, are horrified by the posture of their government but seem to be helpless."

We mourn the loss of another great soul. May he be at rest.

Death May Be Ageing

Death may be ageing
But he still has clout

But death disarms you
With his limpid light

And he's so crafty
That you don't know at all

Where he awaits you
To seduce your will
And to strip you naked
As you dress to kill

But death permits you
To arrange your hours

While he sucks the honey
From your lovely flowers
Harold Pinter
April 2005

Another poem by Harold Pinter:


Laughter dies out but is never dead

Laughter lies out the back of its head

Laughter laughs at what is never said

It trills and squeals and swills in your head

It trills and squeals in the heads of the dead

And so all the lies remain laughingly spread

Sucked in by the laughter of the severed head

Sucked in by the mouths of the laughing dead.

To see an interview of Harold Pinter on Charlie Rose's show, go here. If you'd like to see Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture upon accepting his Nobel award, go here.

And, in today's San Francisco Chronicle, there is a wonderful piece by Carey Perloff, artistic director of San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater (ACT). She quotes him in the article: "When you can't write, you feel as if you've been banished from yourself." If you'd like to read the entire article, please click here.

Eartha Friendly: RIP Eartha Kitt

My, my. There are so many wonderful things about getting older ... but the hardest thing is when people you admire or love ... pass on. The hardest.

Sorry this is late ... meant no disrespect, Ms. Kitt. PolCat and I have been having our troubles with our knees -- that’s why these entries/memorials are a few days late. We co-write this blog and the sister blog The Political Cat. Although I must say, PolCat does most of the writing for The Political Cat. I’m recovering from a total knee joint replacement operation on Dec 1st. Part of that recovery is catching up on my sleep and doing killer therapy exercises for my knee. Killer. But they must be done. I wrote in my journal the other day: “ I feel like the Tinman ... my knee, thirsty for oil.” It gets stiff so quickly. I have to keep bending it then straightening it. And lots of other goody exercises to build up strength. I don’t have quite the oomph some days to do anything productive.

Eartha Kitt. I have always always been attracted to her. Yes, she’s incredibly sexy. She knows [damn it! “knew” ... still in denial] how to use her voice and entire body to get attention. But, not to be a prude -- no one has ever accused Ms. Manitoba of being a prude -- I was always drawn to her intelligence and mischievous wit too. She was always interesting and you never knew what she was going to say. Tangent alert!! I was just reading a biography about Jane Austen by the Manitoban writer and Pulitzer Prize winner, Carol Shields. It’s part of the Penguin Lives series. Shields was talking about how in Austen’s day and milieu intelligence was considered a negative factor when men were courting a woman. Sigh. Why is that? I’ve never understood that. Jamais! Intelligence has always always been a turn-on for me.

And isn’t “Santa, Baby” one of the all-time sexiest songs you have ever heard? Her voice is so wonderful.

Also ... she was a brave woman who followed her beliefs and principles. I will always remember how she spoke up at the luncheon given by the First Lady of the time, Lady Bird Johnson. Ms. Kitt spoke up against the war and how President Johnson was sending young men to their deaths -- for what? That took courage. She paid for it too. She lost a lot of jobs after that.

We mourn. It is those of us left behind who suffer. To Ms. Kitt’s family, we send our warm regards. She will be greatly missed.

Some quotes by Ms. Eartha Kitt ...

Having my animals or my children with me exorcises that feeling of not being wanted.

I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.

I punish myself more than anybody else does if I am stupid about my actions, and I suffer, really suffer.

I was given away. If your mother gives you away, you think everybody who comes into your life is going to give you away.

I've always said to my men friends, If you really care for me, darling, you will give me territory. Give me land, give me land.

Let's take care of the necessities first: give people jobs, and find a way to get us out of poverty.

My house was bugged. They couldn't find any information on me being a subversive because I happen to love America; I just don't like some of the things the government is doing.

My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions.

The public has become my fairy godmother.

The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it's going to go and where you'll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don't let anyone deter you from that.

When the people who are responsible for our country ask you a direct question, I expect them to accept a direct answer, not to be blackballed because you are telling the truth.

When we want to have our own style of living, it is nobody's business but ours. What we do in private is our private business.
To read an obiturary about Eartha Kitt, please go here. You must register -- but it is free. And there's more about her on Wikipedia ... go here for that.

Peace and rest.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Scene in My Head ...

"I wasn't put on this Earth to make you feel like a man."
-- Franz Kafka

I imagine a scene. George W. Bush is standing on the ground somewhere ... a square, green, or plaza. Every child, woman, and man who feels like doing so can walk right up to him and say:

"I wasn't put on this Earth to make you feel like a man."

[By the way, 37 days left.]