Opus – Let’s Think About It (Опус – Надо Подумать)

I’m going through a wonderful stage of recalling my earlier years (that’s early 1980s), all thanks to a song “Let’s Think About It” (Надо подумать) by the Latvian group, Opus. Before 1978 the group was headed by Raimonds Pauls who was changed by Zigmars Liepiņš, and the group was renamed from Modo into Opus.

In 1984 the group produced their opus magnum (it’s hard to resist a pun here), Let’s Think About It. The singers Mirdza Zīvere and Imants Vanzovičs brilliantly acted out the first courtship. The girl is first being very modest and hesitant, explaining that she’s afraid of the ants and mosquitos, and that her parents wouldn’t approve of her seeing a young man. The young man is obviously ready to fight away the smallest mosquito… then there comes a change of heart, and now it’s the girl’s turn to promise to drive away the ants from her beloved. The song was awarded a top prize at the Song of the Year contest in 1984, and the catchy tune is likely to stay in your head for some time. 

The group dissolved in 1988. Mirdza went on to become a producer and currently leads the advertising department at the Latvian radio SWH, headed by her husband Zigmars Liepiņš. She was awarded the Order of Three Stars.

Imants’s birthday was on April 19, so happy birthday! After an attempt of a comeback as a singer in 1990s, he’s moved to showbusiness and now directs a series of aqua-musical performances, being the head of Imishow International Ltd and an official representative of the French Aquatique show international.

Have you heard of Opus before now? Did you like the song/tune?

All About Eve: Expressing the Mood In Sculpture

The character of Eve, the second woman created (successfully) by God who was supposed to be a good wife to Adam but ended up expelling both herself and her husband from Paradise, has long been popular in the realm of the fine arts. The sculptors in this post very differently conveyed the mood and expressions of Eve, both prior and after the Fall.

The English sculptor Edward Hodges Baily (1788-1867) presented Eve at the moment she was listening to Satan. She makes a warning gesture, while her face expresses attention and interest. Apparently the composition was inspired by a passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and a very similar sculpture, carved in 1822, can be seen at the Bristol City Art Gallery. The 1842 sculpture (below) is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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Edward Hodges Baily, Eve listening to the voice (1842, V&A Museum, London)

 

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Edward Hodges Baily, Eve by the water (1822, Bristol City Art Gallery)

Another English sculptor Thomas Brock depicted Eve after the Fall. Her left hand is covering a shoulder in a somewhat protective gesture (and, since this is a left hand, we’re again reminded of Baily’s Eve), but the whole figure produces a strange blend of sensuality, submission, and shame. A life-size plaster figure was showcased by Brock at the Royal Academy in 1898, and the marble sculpture was shown at the Paris Exhibition. The marble sculpture can be seen at the +Tate Gallery in London.

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Sir Thomas Brock, Eve (1900, a copy, V&A Museum, London)

Finally, Auguste Rodin, whose black Eve is on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, was originally making this sculpture for the Gates of Hell, his large-scale project, on which he began to work in 1881. He did not finish the sculpture because his sitter was getting heavier and heavier with child, and this is reflected in the rough ending of the original bronze model.

But the figure he created must have held tight on his own imagination: a year later, in 1882, he produced a smaller, smooth statue, repeating the original Eve’s protective gesture. This became a hit both with the critics and the public and was reproduced in bronze, marble, and terracota.

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Auguste Rodin, Eve (after 1882, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery)

William Shakespeare Sonnets Recited And Filmed Throughout New York

To celebrate another of William Shakespeare’s “round dates” in 2014, NY Shakespeare Exchange has called on directors and actors to participate in a ground-breaking project. The Sonnet Project fuses urban settings of New York’s five boroughs with new technology and approach to film making and Shakespeare’s verse.
More from organisers:
Each sonnet video will be filmed in a unique location throughout the five boroughs of New York City, the birthplace of American cinema. From the iconic to the forgotten, we’ve chosen locations with deep cultural significance. In this way, we juxtapose the poetry of the city with the poetry of the Bard, and find a deep contemporary relevance for Shakespeare’s sometimes elusive language.
The project will span one full year, launching on Shakespeare’s 449th birthday and culminating on his 450th. Throughout the year we will release a new sonnet video every 2-3 days. The videos and all supporting materials will be available free of charge to anyone in any sector of the population and foster an unprecedented level of access to Shakespearean performance.
So, if you live in the U.S. or may be able to travel to America, grab yourself a sonnet (those untaken are currently in black) and move on to submitting a form.

CREATIVE PARAMETERS FOR THE SONNET PROJECT:

  • The “starring roles” in each video are Shakespeare’s language, the specific NYC location, and the director’s interpretation.
  • Director is responsible for equipment needs.
  • New York Shakespeare Exchange will assign the sonnet location.
  • Each film should contain only one actor. A highly skilled classical actor from the files of NYSX will be cast based on each particular sonnet. Director requests for basic actor type (e.g., gender, age-range, etc.) will be taken into consideration when possible. Requests to work with a specific actor will be taken on a case-by-case basis.
  • An NYSX text coach will work with each actor on interpreting the language, and will be present “on set” to assist with rhetorical technique and clarity of Shakespearean thought. The text coach will also be available to the director for any textual analysis questions.
  • Video length must be 120 seconds or less.
  • Submitted footage must be fully edited and in an “audience ready” form. NY Shakespeare Exchange will provide logos and specifications for titles and credits.
  • The delivery format is 1080 HD 23.98P with sync sound.
  • Video must be delivered no later than April 30, 2013.*
A director may take on a secondary video, having submitted the first one. The deadline for the secondary video is July 31, 2013.
A submission form asks you to list the filming and editing software you intend to use, and whatever qualifications, links, and the names of collaborators you would like to share. If your application is successful, a formal Work for Hire Agreement will be signed between you as a director and the NY Shakespeare Exchange.
If you decide to participate, having read the information on Shakespeare in Translation, please kindly consider mentioning us as a source of information. Thanks!

Goodbye, Maggie! The End of a Lady Politician

I don’t remember much of the early 1980s TV, but when Gorbachev came to power in 1985 he was rather quickly drawn into the global political arena, and we began to regularly hear the names of Helmut Kohl, Ronald Reagan, and, of course, Margaret Thatcher. Only much later did it emerge that this triumvirate somehow managed to lead Gorbachev into a deal that effectively dissolved Socialist Europe and ran the final nail into the USSR’s coffin. However, Thatcher’s policy being totally unknown to me at the time, she nonetheless looked proper, beautiful, immaculate – every inch a lady.

I shared one of her sayings here some time ago: Being powerful is like being a lady: if you have to tell people that you are then you aren’t.

Years followed; I came to specialise in British History, and although not in the 20th c., I still had to delve deeper into Thatcher’s three ministeries. Then I went to live in England, in Manchester of all places, which was severely affected by the various measures brought about by her cabinets. In all 7 years in the UK I met dozens of people who were waiting to dance on her grave.

Last week they finally rejoiced: Baroness Thatcher died from a stroke. Somebody on Twitter made “the best typo ever”, substituting “stroke” with “strike”. The Ding Dong song climbed to no.2 on iTunes. Tributes, insults, and analyses all followed.

The possession of power suggests that it should be delegated, and delegated it is – but not always to those who are ready to follow the course. Whether it is corruption or a mere inability to do things, both start with a specific person involved. It is in the nature of the leader to take responsibility for the course of action, even if the implementation does not rest entirely with him. And in this respect Thatcher’s many actions were good as ideas, yet in practice they did not yield the expected results.

As ruthless as she was, she was right in one simple thing – every person is a leader of their own life, and it rests with them what they do to attain the life they want. These adages are now printed in zillions of books, and more people are willing to try, but back in 1970s-80s this was quite implausible. The situation is similar in Russia today. Many people believe there are only two ways of doing business or offering a good service, both by avoiding the law. Either you work single-handedly and break the law, or you find people who break the law for you. I am continuously being told that there is no way to be a law-abiding leader in Russia. Psychopathy is served in place of psychotherapy. You come to a psychotherapist as an ill person and together you study other ill people so you can get better. In case with Russia, you come to a psychopath as a healthy person, and he teaches you that in this country you should not, and should never be, healthy. Still many more people believe the State must look after all its subjects.

I know this will sound strange but in this particular climate I would certainly want to have Margaret Thatcher, or one of her kind, to rule Russia now. When the majority prefer to scold every initiative while sitting on the backbench, the only thing to do is to destroy the backbench. In a way this is precisely what happened in late 1980s-early 1990s when everyone was given a carte-blanche at business and other ventures, while being thrown in the open waters of market economy. Most people who bit the bullet had many twists and turns, but they were never bored. Out of pocket, or exiled, but never the victims of the bourgeois ennui that has marked the faces of many Russians since the Noughties.

Many words will be said about the good and bad traits of this remarkable woman, of successes and failures of her policy. But one thing she did not lack was the ability to make a decision and to stand by it. It could be an unpopular decision, but she still remained firm. Take all bad overtones away, and we’re left with an amazing quality of taking responsibility for the chosen course. Today’s leaders have turned into celebrities who depend on the electorate, like a pop star depends on her fans. Before Thatcher was betrayed by her own Party she’d won the General Elections three times! How does that sit together with the growing disdain for her policy? And given the mark she’s left on the Tories, how does this explain the willingness of young Brits from Labour families to vote for David Cameron in 2010? It is this power that emanated from her in all years since she’d become the Prime Minister, and it remained strong even when she was suffering from dementia.

Strictly speaking, there was no need to celebrate the news of her death. Suffering from dementia in the last 10 years of her life, Margaret Thatcher was gradually losing the power of mind that brought her from a rather modest background to the forefront of the world politics. Forgetting the dearest moments of her life could be the worst punishment, if she had to be punished. As for me, since I cannot change the course of events since 1985, I decide to learn the best she could teach me. We can all choose a different course, but will we be able to stick to it?

Below is my favourite photo of Baroness Thatcher. I own this copy of The Sunday Times Magazine from 2004 where her photographs by Lord Snowdon featured.

Margaret Thatcher by Lord Snowdon (The Sunday Times Magazine)

I previously mentioned Margaret Thatcher in this post: Who’s On Top? A New Look At the Body Politic.

(And just for those who want to vent their splin at the now late Baroness, there’s that famous story about Joan Crawford and Betty Davis who were famous rivals. When Crawford died in 1977, Davis said: “You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”)