Company

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 1.31.43 PMI had no idea when I went to Northwestern’s production of Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, that the story was famous. I actually thought that the musical would be about corporate America. I wasn’t adverse to different subject matter though.

The performers were remarkable, which is usually the case at Northwestern. They got the songs pitch perfect and every step of each dance was on the money.

However, the story itself seemed dated. I couldn’t put my finger on which decade the story was from, but I guessed the 80’s. (I was just off by a decade it was the 70s). Company is about Bobby, a man, who’s just turned 35 and he’s still single, while all his friends are married. These couples are devoted to Bobby and inviting him to their homes seems to be the peak of their social lives. I couldn’t get over how much they cared about Bobby and how much they worried that he was still single. At a certain point, I’d expect people to move on. It wasn’t like Bobby had cancer or a family tragedy that meant people should focus on him so much.

Bobby wasn’t an especially interesting person. He didn’t have an interesting job. In fact we didn’t know what work he did. He wasn’t hilariously funny, or especially generous or active. He had no special expertise. He was just a guy. He had three girls whom he dated, but he didn’t have a particular interest in one. He didn’t criticize these women, but he was lukewarm about them, just as he was lukewarm about every other facet of life.

The friends follow what I call the “Little Women” characterization model. Each person has their own talent, problem or outlook that defines them. One woman’s neurotically afraid of getting married to her live in boyfriend. That boyfriend is very patient. One woman controls her husband’s drinking and does judo. That husband has been caught driving drunk. We don’t know much of anything about these stereotypical characters. I suppose that’s the case with musicals and often opera, little or no character complexity or change, but great music.

I have a hard time with plays or books where the hero is indecisive start to finish, where he or she is wishy washy or noncommittal. I realize that’s a very modern attitude, but I don’t need to spend two hours putting my life on hold and watching someone who’s a wet noodle.

The ending was particularly disappointing. It’s hard to fathom how this play won seven Tony Awards, except that it came out in the 1970s and then it might have been innovative. Now, even with updates like cell phone use, it’s ho hum. Marriage, while on the decrease, is still a big part of life and debates on its merits are nothing new.

So I can’t recommend this show, which plays through Nov. 19th.

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Poor Dwight and Morwenna

clowrance

Sunday’s Poldark episode began by showing the villagers poorer and starving. Yet, and this should come as no surprise, George had no mercy or compassion for them. He rounded up those he could and sentenced them to 15 years in prison.

Also, the program included the fastest, no fuss, birth I’ve ever seen on television. In one scene Demelza’s digging potatoes and a bit later she’s got her new daughter Clowance  in her hands.  I didn’t actually mind the abbreviated birth because the episode was packed with other events.

Dwight is stuck in a dank, dark, decrepit prison which rivaled the Les Misérables Paris sewers for hygiene. Yet despite the starvation and mental anguish of his imprisonment, heroic Dwight manages to perform surgery in his cell.

carpe diem morwenna

Carpe diem, Morwenna

Morwenna and Drake, both reserved by nature, tentatively get closer. Yet as Morwenna’s charge Geoffrey speaks up to George and is found to have gone to Clowance’s baptism on the sly, George and Elizabeth feel it’s time for her to marry. Poor Morwenna. The Warleggan’s don’t bother to find anyone at all suitable. They settle for the first slimy widower to come along, a much older and very greasy Rev. Osborne Whitworth. Morwenna should run for the hills! But there’s no one who can rescue her. It’s out of the question socially that she could marry Dwight who lives in a dark, old building with a dirt floor with his brother. Even Demelza thinks Morwenna could never marry down.

George doesn’t brook opposition, no matter how wise or how true. Thus he’s exiling Aunt Agatha to the dungeon of the coldest, darkest part of the house. He makes sure that she gets no letters, including Ross’ invitation to Clowance’s christening.

As so many people are starving Caroline and Demelza team up to get them grain. Ross finds a way to trick George so that he’s fooled into thinking the villages stole when in fact they were given grain through donations. Ross’ trick backfires as it prompts George to get even by closing his mine, which was once a Poldark mine just out of spite. The result is 70 breadwinners will be out of work and their families may starve, but George has no compassion and he doesn’t care. Be careful George, look what the French did to their upper class.

The episode was brisk and moved a long with lots of emotion and action. The hour whipped by and I didn’t want the show to end. We’re left hanging to see what will become of Dwight, Morwenna and all the others in this splendid cast. I find I like Geoffrey Charles more and more.

Job Hunting

Since I always try to keep my eyes open for new opportunities, I don’t feel like it’s been ages since I’ve looked for a job, but this fall it sure feels like I’ve entered a new era.

When looking for jobs teaching English I rely on my network and two websites, tesol.org and chroniclevitae.com. These two sites have the better jobs. Dave’s ESL Café tends to have poor search filters and worse yet any fly-by-night English school can and does place ads there. I found the dreadful job at KNUE in Miho, South Korea on Dave’s.

This time around I’m branching out. I’m looking for jobs on library websites, which has been straightforward and I’m also using new services like Ziprecruiter.com. So far Ziprecruiter has been the best of the new internet services. Once you set up an account, you get suggested jobs that align with your skills, interests, education and experience. It’s quite tailored and several jobs have “One-Click” applications. Once you’ve applied, you receive emails about when the employer looks at your application and if they look two or three times. Each time the email tells you something like “only 17% of resumes are looked at three times,” which is encouraging.

I’m also testing out Handshake, which University of Illinois offers. Those jobs are relevant to my degree in Library Science. Handshake offers posts on other professions too.

Some other sites like Localwise.com clog your email with lots of unrelated jobs. For example I’ve gotten jobs connected to engineering or physics, areas I have no expertise in at all. Even worse, they sell your email address to anyone so I’ve gotten emails about “opportunities” to sell life insurance. So you have to be leery unless you want to spend your days unsubscribing to spam.

The Collection

I gave Masterpiece’s The Collection a try when it premiered on Sunday. It didn’t take long for me to grow tired of a program where the characters all seemed dark, greedy and selfish. I confess after 10 minutes or so I changed the channel.

The show is about a struggling fashion house in Paris after WWII. The man in the center of the video’s first frame is the jaded, selfish owner of a fashion house is asked by a government official to help France’s fashion industry rise again to its former zenith.  To his left is his reprobate brother who’s a talented designer who’s got substance abuse problems.

I’d much rather PBS brought back The Paradise, where the characters were flawed and faced obstacles, but the heroine was good, though not at all boring. Dark characters like those in House of Cards or The Collection aren’t necessarily fascinating.

If I got the show wrong, and should give it a chance by catching up online, let me know.

Neruda

Until I saw Neruda, I had no idea what a selfish jerk poet cum senator Pablo Neruda was. I just thought he wrote beautiful romantic poetry. He was also a senator for the Communist party and gave a controversial speech against the Chilean president. In response, the president orders Neruda’s arrest and the libertine churl goes underground.

The film isn’t exactly a biopic as it’s told completely from the point of view of  Oscar Peluchonneau, a police officer played by Gael García Bernal, who’s the Ahab to Neruda’s white whale. This police officer imagined that his real father was a legendary police officer and he wants to prove himself by capturing Neruda. Throughout the film the officer narrates and comments on Neruda and waxes eloquently on the pursuit’s significance.

I had no interest in Neruda who had no concern for his friends who were risking their lives to keep him safe. If he felt like a walk to the local brothel, he’d go no matter how that might expose both him and his friends.

I found the central character obnoxious and the voice overs were soon annoying. I so disliked Neruda, who was full of hot air in his political career, with little real concern for the poor people he grew up with that I’m not sure anything could make me like the film. However, it did win the 2017 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film so some writers did like it.

Taiwan

I had hoped to visit Taiwan this October since we have a week off, but because of the visa delay, and the further need to enjoy the Immigration services on offer in China where it takes about 4 months to get your visa done. Immigration has our passports for three weeks! So I’m not going to Taiwan, but can experience it on YouTube through Simon and Martina’s eyes and palettes.

I wonder what my friend Debbie, who’s from Taiwan thinks of this.

Hot Yoga?

On Monday Tara and I went to a yoga class down the street. Tara, who’s a big yoga practitioner and even does Acro-Yoga, had gone on the first Friday we were here.  Then she said the room was quite hot and the teacher was something of a task master, so I had no interest in a Friday class. However, she’d been told that the Monday teacher spoke better English so I figured I try this Monday.

“Hot” was an understatement. While this wasn’t called “Hot Yoga,” the teacher immediately shut all the windows in the fan-less room with no air conditioning. She was cheerful in her greeting and when we started there were 4 students. Later the class number doubled. In the next room loud rock music blared.

The start was fine, but soon I realized that the cycle of downward dog – cobra – warrior pose would just repeat more or less for an hour. Soon I was drenched in sweat and having no fun at all. I thought of just leaving and after 35 or 40 minutes I just stopped and sat with my legs crossed.

I rejoined the participants at the end for the “relaxation” when the quiet New Age music was drowned out by the rock.