Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Teddy Roosevelt went to his first football game as a freshman at Harvard, in 1876,the spectators had to wait for the game to start while the two teams, Harvard and Yale, worked out the rules for this particular instance of football game.

When Teddy Roosevelt went to his first football game, US-style football didn't exist in a standardized form, but was being worked out, from rugby and soccervarious local opinions and customs. Harvard favored something soccerish; Yale liked more rugby style, meaning a player could pick up the ball and run with it.

For this particular game, they decided a touchdown would not create any score, but would create a scoring opportunity.

Now, in US-style football, a touchdown--when a player in the end zone has the ball by carrying it there or catching it there--scores six points and creates a scoring opportunity for one more point, if the team that made the touchdown successfully kicks the ball over the goalpost.

For this game, the one point post-touchdown kick was the only way to score, but you could only do it if you first made a touchdown.

This created low scores, reminiscent of scores now of non-US football, futball, soccer.

It also created ambiguity, as at the end of the1876 Harvard-Yale game. Very close to the end, Yale was ahead 1-0. Harvard made a touchdown and time ran out. Harvard said they should be allowed to go for the point attempt the touchdown allowed them. The ref said no, time was up, that was it. So Yale won 1-0 with no point attempt Harvard, and lots for these young scholars to discuss.

Now, and then, the way to get a touchdown was to have the ball legally in your possession in the correct end zone. Now, one way to do that, beloved and dramatic, is for a player to run into the end zone and catch a throw from the quarterback.

In 1876 and for a good while thereafter, that wasn't a possibility because a forward pass was illegal. The ball could only be thrown across, laterally, or back.

Wimpy liberals helped make the forward pass legal, as did Teddy Roosevelt, long after his student days, as presidents.

Progessives, liberals, those folks, my kind of people, said, as football became more and more prominent, that it was too violent. At this point, college football was what mattered, and broken leges and big gashes on youth were routine.

So some said football should be outlawed. Teddy Roosevelt was president andl iked football and thought the rules should be changed to make it somewhat less violent. He had no direct power over football rules, but one thing a president can do is make a lot of noise and strongly encourage people to talk to each other and come up with a new course of action.

.--facts from "The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football" by John Miller.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yiddish theatre was a fairly big deal in the US and then died. Some of the reasons were heavily death related--all those Yiddish speakers and understanders killed by the Hitler gang in Europe.

But before that Yiddish theatre was hurting because in the early 1920's the US heavily restricted all immigration, so Yiddish speakers couldn't get in. Of course, a lot of those who couldn't get in were killed by Hitler, so the death of Yiddish theatre in the US is not so big.

However, the death of Yiddish theatre,though not big in mass atrocity context, is still something. It was unnecessary, which is important. It created moments to help people working really hard and living really poor, as new immigrant often do, to get through the next day and the next week.

And even without it's big problems, Yiddish theatre was hurting itself and reducing the quality of those helpful moments.

The union of Yiddish theatre actors successfully made it so producers couldn't hire young people to be in Yiddish plays. So producers had to hire 50-year-olds to play 20-year-olds. Which meant young people couldn't get work in Yiddish theatre. Which meant that the plays often looked ridiculous in their casting.

Which fed into another way Yiddish theatre hurt itself--it seemed more and more old-fashioned and out of it. If young people had been working in Yiddish theatre in numbers, they very likely would have brought it up to date, because that's what young artists do.

A good Yiddish theatre in the US with lots of young people working, and then thinking, "I could do better than this" and then trying to and sometimes succeeding--this is a twentieth century mythical creature.

What was missing was some quality and surprising moments for the tired workers in the audience--something better than the could imagine that was not presented. But that kind of surprise, art better than you thought of hoping for, closer to your life and heart than you thought possible--is a reason art exists, because it gives people a little more reason to exist.

So don't be petty and self-serving if you can help it. The missing moments from the last years of Yiddish theatre in the US, which would have been the last years anyway, because of large historyical awfulness, could have helped and changed people's hearts. And could have led, through artists seeing each other's art and getting ideas from it, to amazing saving moments that could be happening today, but don't, because the young people weren't riffing on what Yiddish theatre could be and the old people in the union, in terms of jobs for them, short term,won.

--facts from the book "The Yiddish Theatre in America" by David S. Lifson

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I don't have any wisdom about what's happening here, but I could improvise some stupidity. Or I could match my activity level to my insight level, and be still

Sunday, November 13, 2011

They are trying to slip me some of that gosh darn healing tea.

If I drink it, and it works, I might have to notice the world in general instead of just my crummy feelings, which are local, which I'm used to, and which are mine.

Out there, healed and whole, I could have my moods attacked by spates of beauty that come from God knows where and I don't.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Handel was much more known for operas than oratorios when he was alive.

For a long time after he died, he was most known for one of his oratorios, "Messiah," and his operas were considered unperformable.

Now his operas are frequently performed, and "Messiah" continues to be a very popular Christmas season piece in the US and Lent and Easter piece elsewhere. By content, it is more Lent and Easter than Christmas. The "Hallelujah Chorus"--"and he shall reign for ever and ever" is about a period in Christ's life considerably post-birth.

Handel got into oratorios, which made his music performed a lot during the centuries when his operas were performed almost never, when the government in England banned opera performances during Lent--too frivolous, too not religious.

Handel started writing oratorios on religious subjects to be performed in theatres where opera was performed during Lent, so all the theatre workers from opera had work--singers, ticket takers, the lot.

Why did people think for a long time that Handel's operas, very popular couldn't be performed now?

Basically, because they were in the mood to think that, and for quite a while. The mood of impossibility was catching over a considerable period of time.

Impossible now because they had parts written for castrati--men castrated so they could sing high as adutls.

Impossible because they are mostly arias, which is to say solos, without ensembles singing, trios and duets which people are now used to.

Impossible because they demanded stages not like stages we have now.

Impossible because the plots were even more convoluted and unlikely than other plots opera goers of post-Handel times were used to.

Well, Xerxes, by Handel is part of the San Francisco Opera's 2011 season, and that is not unusual. The performance of Handel's operas has been going on for a bit.

You tell people the opera is aria heavy, and they accept that, especially is you get particularly awesome singers to be in the opera and sing all those operas.

You cast a counter tenor, a man who sings high, in the castrati part, that's one way.l

In the current SF production of Xerxes they take advantage of being in San Francisod, where people don't have cement walls around genders.

As writen by Handel, Xerxes, the part, is to be sung by a castrati, and the part of Xerxes brother is to be sung by a woman of fairly low voice--what's called a trousers part--a male part written for a woman.

However, in this production, Xerxes, written for a castrati, is sung by a fairly low voiced and famous and popular woman, Susan Graham and the brother, written for a woman is sung by a famous and popular counter tenor, David Daniels, a man.

The big stage question, stages used to be bigger or something, which was one reason given for the unperformabiliyt of Handel, doesn't seen to relate to this opera.

In a candid piece about building an opera season in an artistically and financially good way, a piece printed in the program for every opera of the season, the manager of the San Francisco Opera says a good thing about Xerxes is it has a small cast. He doesn't quite say that that helps him afford to get great singers in the fairly few roles, but it's implied.

A splendid time is had by all, including the audience. The main characters are brought out at the beginning and playfully introduced, helping people move lightly into the plot of a opera with a light tone.

There are different kinds of impossible. Handel's operas have moved from very popular in his lifetime to impossible to perform to a place where people who make opera think about how to make them work as well as possible.
Making it real by paying attention to it. On its own, it isn't all that real.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Peace me together, good old God. Help me get enough inner calm going that I won't make this situation that I'm in, that I don't like, worse by snarling at it.
Surely if this were as beautiful as it seems to me to be, I would have been notified in advance.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Maybe God started existing just a bit after the Big Bang and has been racing ever since to catch up and hasn't quite made it, so bad stuff happens.
Many social gatherings large and small fill the first beginning of "War and Peace."

It's peace so far, and people are wondering if there will be war and sharing opinions about that. Whatever their opinion, they don't talk like war is something that could hurt or kill someone they know.

At one party, a young man in the infantry explains to people who aren't interested in his words but indulgent because he's young, enthusiastic and good-looking why being in the infantry is better that being in the cavalry.

First, it's cheaper to get in the infantry. Second, infantry officers get paid more than cavalry officers. Third, and most important, it's much easier for an infantry officer to be promoted to being a commander of a unit than a cavalry officer because infantry commanders are killed more frequently than cavalry commanders.

His reasoning stops there.
How to be alive while alive

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I'm reading a science fiction book in which the author is more interested in the world than the plot. He keeps layering on interlocking details about the world, and the plot just sits there.

That works for me because I share his interest and disinterest.

Maybe I could live like that. Let the news plots and local-to-me plots go, and get amazed at the world right here, giving thanks on the planet of science fact.
The golden light of late afternoons when days are getting shorter radiates nostalgia for itself.
Circle. Circle. Rectangle. Tall, rectangular solid. A day in the city can be notice shapely.
In October, the display window of the Goodwill Store at Mission and Van Ness had a costume and a costume suggestion: Dress as Little Red Riding Hood and wear a wolf mask.
Sunrise today: black to deep blue to grey.
Wet, juicy, alive, inconvenient.