Tag: music

I think we are officially dating.

Harry came to tea. He stayed for dinner. Then he stayed the night. It was our fourth date.

I think we have a relationship up and running. It is so nice and easy so far. No disconnects. N’est pas un problème.

He proved to be quite assertive over the course of the evening and I let him have the upper hand, within the mitigating and constraining circumstances of the upper hand actually being mine.

And now for a tune. Shut up.

Sin With Sebastian: Shut up And Sleep With Me (1995)

 

Starry Skies, Chapter 8: Ice

I was in the London Bridge area last night because I was on a second date with Chockney, who you may remember from Chapter 6.

In theory, Chockney is perfect. He is very attractive, despite his advanced years. He is sensitive and artistic, yet solvent (makes a nice change, usually if the people I date have any money it’s because they are still living off their parents). He is clever. He’s transparent and not secretive. He’s quite engaging and he’s a nice person. He’s sincere. He really likes me. He is my age. He is available for a relationship.

As you know, dear readers, I fall in love about twice a week, but as for being in a relationship, I would have to cast my mind all the way back to 2010, by which time that relationship was in a terrible state and had been for a couple of years, which is why I ended it and started this blog. The last seven years have been the happiest years of my life. I’m so glad I captured it all here.

Chockney talks about being in a relationship like it’s perfectly normal, which I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is normal. It’s common but not normal. He uses phrases like “being on my own” which make absolutely no sense to me, I have no idea at all what it means and I’m not very sympathetic to it. We’re all alone, all the time, from birth until death, and anything else is an illusion.

I can no longer remember what being in a relationship is like. The aspects I can remember aren’t very valuable to me. Honestly, I think I just hated the drudgery of parenting and being in a relationship made it slightly more bearable. But the parenting is over now, he’s grown up and gone to live in another city. There isn’t anything in my life that I don’t like except for doing my tax return and having to think about things like mortgages and pensions. In every other respect, my life is sweet and a work of art.

I don’t even know what I am doing with this guy. The last time I had real feelings for someone, it was the Person Who I Wasn’t Supposed To Be In Love With in 2015 and 2016. That was sincere love. I miss it a lot, I miss him a lot. I wish I could have that again but now I’ve found someone who basically ticks all the boxes and is offering a Real Relationship, I am horrified. I am a block of ice. I don’t mind having dinner and listening to myself make conversation, I am very engaging company. But I don’t want to be kissed and sex could not be any further from my mind. He takes for granted that I’m not seeing anyone else, because he’s not concentrating hard enough to ask the right questions. Am I ‘in a relationship’ with anyone else, definitely not, and have not been for 7 years. Are there people in my life who I am in some way involved with, yes, obviously, there always those people. All the time. Even if we don’t count Harry, there are two people in France who are excitedly waiting for me to come out there and join them in August. I’m spending a week in the south of France with the rich American lawyer and then I’m going straight from him to a games designer who I’ve known for a number of years who lives in the part of France that borders Switzerland. None of these things could correctly be described as ‘being in a relationship’ but they are very much real people and they are alive. They are what I have instead of a partner.

Chockney assumes that if we begin A Relationship (in fact, I think he thinks it has already begun), it will be monogamous. Again, because he thinks monogamy is normal and not merely common, he doesn’t ask me. He just assumes that monogamy is what people do, probably because he is old. If he asked me, he would discover that I haven’t been in a monogamous relationship since I was 16. That was the 1980s. That’s how long ago it was. If I tried something once in the 1980s and haven’t done it again since, that’s a reliable sign that I don’t want it and I am not interested.

I am a block of ice. I am a nuclear winter in a pretty frock and meticulous make-up. Don’t even try to hold my hand, I have never liked holding hands, I find it embarrassing, it makes me feel like I’m five. You can walk along next to me and that’s all you’re getting.

Why am I even seeing him, you may ask? Good question. I can identify two reasons.

(1) I have certain household repairs that need doing that are beyond the abilities of the 24-year-olds that I usually date. I could pay someone, but I don’t want to.

(2) More seriously, everything was changed by The Person Who I Wasn’t Supposed To Be In Love With, who haunted my life like a beautiful, insubstantial ghost in 2015 and 2016. I loved the Person with all my heart. I was swept away. I would have spent the rest of my life trying to make him happy. I haven’t seen him in six months and I still miss him so much. It makes me teary if I think about how much I loved him and how we used to romantically gaze at each other. I miss that. I would love to have that again. But apparently I can only love ghosts. I can’t deal with it in real life. Real-life chances of love, like this one, turn me into stone. I am the Ice Queen. I will break his heart.

He needs to go. Right after he’s mended a few things around my house.

Let’s have a tune. Church.

M.O.P. – Cold As Ice

Year of the Console, May Review. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. It’s the end of Month 5 already. I’ve been quite busy this month, what with all the romance and going on holiday and I feel like I’ve barely spent enough time with this month’s game, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. I had to be quite dedicated about playing it last weekend to log enough hours to get a feel for the game (I managed to play 9% of Black Flag before running out of time). On the plus side, the fact that I feel like I haven’t spent enough time with it is a good thing, and a sign that I want more. We’ve now played 5 of 14 games and this is my second favourite game so far, after Ark: Survival Evolved (February).

As you know, we are following an historical trajectory throughout the year. This month was the 18th century. AC 4: Black Flag takes place in the Bahamas and Cuba and the Caribbean sea in between. Pirates plunder each other’s ships, attack the British Navy and run around Nassau and Havana, assassinating local bosses and recruiting more pirates. I was hoping for sunshine, glittering blue seas and to sail my own ship, and all this was granted. Here are some screenshots.

Assassin's Creed® IV Black Flag_20170528235950

Black Flag takes a while to get moving, as these games often do. The USP of the game is that you will spend as much time at sea as on land, but this only becomes true when you’re about seven per cent of the way through the game, by which time you’ve spent quite a few hours on dry land, running around Havana and trying to assassinate the military. This is a little bit frustrating when you bought the game because you wanted some seafaring action but the game design does a pretty good job of ensuring that you know how to climb buildings and rigging with the agility of a monkey, and fight competently with swords and pistols before you are allowed out on the sea firing cannons at other ships, which you will then have to loot.

Once you are finally seaborne, you feel the open-ended aspects of the game. Yes, there’s a prescriptive sequence of quests that you still have to follow, but around that structure there’s a lot of opportunity to pick and choose various naval combat, assassination and other types of missions, sail around, plunder mats and gradually do up your own ship. It was quite thrilling when I managed to get behind the wheel of my own ship for the first time, sail around the sea and start attacking things.

The NPCs are well animated and well acted. The dialogue isn’t too painful. The story is engaging without being overbearing. This month’s psychopathic hero, Edward Kenway, is a lot easier to like than last month’s Geralt of Witcher 3. Geralt was a horrible man who would rob the homes of dying families and step over their children on his way out of the door with pockets full of stolen loot. Edward has better morals. Yes, he kills a lot of people, often for not very good reasons, but he restricts himself to the Navy and other legitimate enemies. He doesn’t kill civilians, esp not kids. When he was practising with his pistol and shot a chicken, he felt bad about it because it was some kind of domestic pet. So as you can see, as psychopathic killers go, Edward is a lot nicer. This really helps with immersion and emotional engagement; so important for satisfying game play.

Combat is not very difficult, esp on land, which is good, as you don’t want to be wasting your time there. At sea, it’s just difficult enough to be challenging without becoming frustrating. The controls are somewhat automated, quite intuitive and well sign-posted, making gameplay easier because you’re not effortfully trying to remember what combination of buttons to use.

The scenery is gorgeous and everything I’d hoped for. The weather is fantastic. It occasionally rains but never for very long. Mostly it’s blue skies, white sandy beaches, lush green foliage, glittering sea, brilliant sunshine, birds, tropical flowers, the white sails of ships and the architecture of 18th century Cuba, expressed as little churches, courtyards and inns. Glorious. So nice to have gameplay in a pleasant environment. Steering a boat is masses of fun and I want to spend more time on the sea, exploring and going to different islands. It looks like a large map so there should be plenty to do. I will definitely come back to this game; after finally getting my own ship and taking to the sea, I’m a happy customer.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Ubisoft (2013), PS4. A single-player, third-person, action-adventure game set in the 18th-century Caribbean.

Plot and setting: Pirate Edward Kenway sails a ship around the islands of the Caribbean, firing cannons, plundering other ships and carrying out assassination quests around Nassau and Havana.

General remarks: A happy and cheerful game. There are no depressed mediaeval villages that are being terrorised by ghouls. Rather, there are bright and lively cities where the sun shines all the time, people sing and dance and drink rum and pirates cheerfully plan their next outing.

Thumbs up: Easy to learn and play. Glorious scenery. Naval combat really offers something new and it’s super fun being at sea in a decent-sized ship that can go fast, take on big waves, and defend itself.

Thumbs down: The seafaring action took a while to get started but once you are past the first few quests and out at sea in your own boat at last, it’s no longer a problem.

Return to?  Yes, definitely. The mood, like the weather, is sunny and the chance to be at sea in a ship is different and appealing.

Let’s have a tune. I quite loved this game. I didn’t love it as much as Ark: Survival Evolved because Ark doesn’t have any quests at all to constrain the player and also because I felt a huge amount of ownership of the flimsy little houses that I’d managed to build. In contrast, I wasn’t quite as emotionally invested in my ship, the Jackdaw. But this might change with a bit more gameplay, as the ship is gradually upgraded. Now let’s sing along with this traditional sea shanty by Cypress Hill.

Cypress Hill: When The Ship Goes Down

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Year of the Console as we move on to a new game and a new era of history, starting on 1 June.

Saraghina, la rumba!

It’s Friday evening at 7pm, and I have actually finished work, for a change. I am doing no work this weekend. The next several days are going to feature cute boys, arts & culture and exotic locations. Stay tuned for more news.

I would like to celebrate this situation with a clip from Fellini’s 1963 film 8 1/2.  There are many things one could say about this important film but I will be concise. One of the most memorable figures in the film is La Saraghina, a woman who lives in a hut on the beach. In exchange for a coin, she dances. She is – well, I will let you decide.

Saraghina, la rumba! La rumba!

The Magic Flute

OMG. That was possibly the best thing I have EVER seen.

OK, so I am an opera aficionado now. I have been to many official, impressive and very expensive venues such as the English National Opera and the Royal Opera House to see world-class performances. Everything has been magnificent. The singing, the orchestras, the set design, everything. It’s all been the very pinnacle of refined culture.

Today, I went to see Mozart’s Magic Flute, an opera I knew nothing about. I went to see it at the King’s Head Theatre, a theatre that I had never heard of.

OMG. It was AWESOME. I was BLOWN AWAY.

First, the theatre. When they say ‘theatre’, what they mean is ‘back room of a pub in Islington’.

Pub exterior. A typical London pub.

kings head ext

Inside the pub.

kings head interior

Where’s the theatre? Oh, it must be back here.

kings head entrance

It is a miniature theatre! It is amazing! It seats maybe 120 people, at full capacity. It is a real theatre, it has proper lighting and everything, but is tiny. 120 people might sound like quite a few, but let’s take into account that the Royal Opera House seats 2,500 people and that means you are going to pay £200 to sit approximately 8 miles away from the stage. At the King’s Head Theatre, you pay £30 and you have actual Mozart performed by people who are less than three feet away. It was absolutely unbelievable. It was like having a private performance. The Magic Flute was performed in the round, which is to say, in the middle of the room, with the audience no more than four rows deep around the perimeter. Here’s a cheeky photo that I took during the interval so you can see the tiny scale of the place. I’m sitting at one end of the room, facing the scenery on the back wall, and then there are more seats and audience members to the left and right. As you can see, one is basically on the stage with the performers.

magic flute stage

The Magic Flute is a fantastical tale set in “a distant land”, according to Wikipedia. The highly imaginative Charles Court Opera production that I saw today transplanted the action to a South American jungle. Mozart wrote it for a full orchestra, with the original libretto in German; today’s slightly abridged production was sung in English with the accompaniment of a single piano. Mozart intended it to be a comic opera – if you’ve ever seen any opera you’ll know that the comedy element can be a little bit elusive. There were no such problems here. The Charles Court version of The Magic Flute that I saw today was hysterical. I absolutely laughed my head off. It has hand puppets! It has singing birds and snakes! It has the most glorious, over the top costumes! It has hammy acting and joyfully camp dancing! It was by far the most fun of any opera that I’ve ever seen and indeed the best time I’ve ever had at the theatre in my adult life. I split my sides laughing. I clapped my hands over my mouth because I couldn’t bear the moments of suspense. It was a riot. I didn’t know opera could be like that.

If you are within reach of London, you really must go, I cannot say enough good things about it. I have already raved about it to a bunch of people and persuaded them to buy tickets immediately.

Links.

Charles Court Opera: The Magic Flute

A review of this same, fabulous production when it first appeared in 2016.

Go here to buy tickets: Kings Head Theatre

The show is on until 3 June.

Here is a larger, more traditional and serious production that was at the Royal Opera House in London in 2003, with a full orchestra and everything. I will go and see this type of version of The Magic Flute at some time, but nothing will ever take away from my first experience of that intimate production in that tiny little place. It was magical. Mozart would have approved.

Jewels

I may not be able to retire, but no-one can say I didn’t go out and enjoy London.

I was at the Royal Opera House again tonight, for the second time this week.

roh3

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It was ballet this evening, I felt extremely fortunate to see George Balanchine’s Jewels, which is now 50 years old, just like me (sigh).

Here’s the official trailer for the version I saw tonight.

It goes without saying that the dancing was amazing, this is the Royal Ballet, they are world famous.

Thanks to my mother I saw many 19th century classical and romantic ballets when I was a kid. Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Coppelia, La Fille Mal Gardee. It was a treat for a little girl. The last time I saw a ballet performed could have been 30 years ago. So it was a very interesting experience going to this 1960s ballet (in fact, 1967) as a mature adult.

Jewels is an abstract ballet in three acts; there is no story-telling. It is divided into three sections: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. Dancers, performing solo or in groups as large as 35, are elegantly arranged on the stage in geometric configurations. The effect, especially in their sparkly and bejewelled costumes, is kaleidoscopic. Each dancer is a jewel and they form chains and make squares and triangles on the stage. Music by Fauré (emeralds), Stravinsky (rubies) and Tchaikovsky (diamonds).

I also want to remark on the set design, which is gloriously 1960s. There are ostentatious chandeliers and pillars that make the stage look like a grand American hotel.

Royal Ballet dancers and members of the creative team who worked on this 2017 production discuss why it is a special ballet.

See the whole thing in this Russian production broadcast by Euro Arts Channel:

Mahler 5

I was so relieved when they let me out of that horrifyingly awful hospital, you can imagine. That was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. As predicted, I missed the opera on Sunday evening but I did make it to Royal Festival Hall last night to hear Mahler’s 5th Symphony, which went SOME way towards redressing the horrible sense of injustice that distressed and hurt me more than my actual illness. My face is going down, by the way, so I’m not worried about that, the infection is retreating almost as fast as it arrived. I’m more inclined to cry about the secondary injuries that they inflicted on my arm when they forced in a cannula that was too large.

ANYWAY, you can imagine how deeply glad I was to be back in the world of the living, away from that screaming house of horrors. I am never going to hospital again, I will just let myself die next time. I will put on some Mahler and die with dignity. Here is Mahler’s 5th, being performed in Switzerland in 2004, and here is Mahler’s annotated conducting score. Apparently he was utterly obsessive about detail, authoritarian and prone to anger and so he was “regarded with respect, if not affection” by the orchestra, according to the concert programme. I have a lot of sympathy for him. I’m not interested in being popular, I just want everything and everybody working to a high standard. Do your bloody job bloody correctly or go home.

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