From “Oh! What a Lovely War” made and released in 1969, these are songs soldiers sang in the field.
Despite the awfulness of our current political days, the endless years of World War 1 were at least — in their own way — as bad or worse. They probably didn’t “feel” as bad because they weren’t coming from “better times” to worse ones, which Americans (at least) are doing. But it was a filthy war that killed off an entire generation of European men. It took until World War 2 for there to be enough men to fight again — a statement that should make you shiver.
The war was hideous and rather than being “the war to end all wars” became the war that started all other wars, many of which we are still fighting.
It was the first movie David Attenborough directed and it’s brilliant. If you can get your hands on it, watch it. Then watch it again and maybe do a little reading.
The horrors of the past are just lurking around the next corner of the road.
This is “Whiter than the Whitewash on the Wall”
And finally, the ending sequence that to this day brings tears to my eyes.
This is what we seem to be trying to repeat, but from our next war, we might not have a world from which to emerge.
I started learning the piano when I was four. I was so tiny, I couldn’t reach the pedals. They had to add blocks — like on an old-fashioned bicycle — so I could use them.
By the time I was 10 or 11, I played pretty well. Not as well as I was supposed to play, but well enough to play complicated music, which, as it turns out, could be heard all over the neighborhood. It was amusing listening to all the neighbors humming whatever I was practicing.
The house I lived in was on top of a hill and the sound of the grand piano wafted with the breeze.
By the time I was 16 and starting college (I skipped 7th grade), I decided to be a music major. Not because I was a brilliant pianist. I wasn’t. But I really liked my piano teacher. Coming as I did from a dysfunctional family, she was the nicest adult person I knew and I adored her.
The problem was not that I didn’t play well. I played almost well enough to be a professional. In the music business, the difference between playing “almost well enough” and “well enough” is a gap the size of an ocean. It sounds like a minor thing, but in music, it isn’t small. It’s huge.
I remained a music major despite all hints to the contrary that said: “You aren’t going to make it.”
These hints included having very small hands, which meant a lot of “large” music was impossible for me. It included a number of teachers pointing out to me that doing well on exams wasn’t going to “do it” for me as a musician. I was okay, but I wasn’t great. I didn’t want to be a music teacher and I wasn’t a composer.
I didn’t see myself as a conductor either — and piano was the wrong instrument for me. Unfortunately, it was the only one I knew — other than a little bit of messing with a guitar or a ukulele. And even worse, I had a case of stage fright so severe I couldn’t play for my teacher, much less an audience. I should add that I never overcame it.
I was one credit away from finishing my music major when I realized there was no future for me in professional music. I switched to speech & drama (a combined major) which was the degree I eventually got.
It was even less useful than music. By the time I completed college, I realized what I really wanted to do, but I would need an extra year of school to make up for some of the basic courses I’d missed — like “economics,” and “political science,” et al. Somehow, without realizing it, I had actually finished my major as well as the required number of credits for graduation.
No matter how hard I begged — and my professors begged with me — they would not let me stay an extra year and complete a second B.A. These days, it would be no problem, but back then, schools were a lot more rigid than they are these days.
I didn’t have the basics for an M.A. in anything in which I was interested, so I said “screw it” and went off into the world where I did what I always wanted to do anyway: write.
Until a few years ago, though, I could still play. The only thing that stopped me was pain from arthritis in my hands. Unlike arthritis in the rest of my body, “hand” arthritis is the result of years of playing the piano. Almost every serious pianist retires by the time they hit their 60s because their hands no longer work. It’s the price you pay for pounding on the keyboard from age four.
My piano teacher had trouble playing for more than a few minutes and her older sister, who played brilliantly, could barely perform at all.
Everything comes with a price tag. The funny thing is I knew this, even when I was quite young. But “60” was a million years in my future … and now it’s a pretty long way in my past.
I finally sold my piano. I couldn’t play anymore and it killed me to see it waiting there and not be able to use it. I still have a ukulele, though. Just in case.
Tom and I are members of an audio theater company, VoiceScapes Audio Theater. We write most of the scripts for our live and recorded performances. We usually do our live performances in our area – within an hour or so from New York City, where most of the group members live (Tom and I live in CT).
But this weekend we did something different and special. A road trip! Or more accurately, an air trip. Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, invited us to perform a ninety-minute show for them in a beautiful theater that they rented for us.
They would pay all the travel expenses for all eight members of our group. On top of that, they would pay us a fee that was more than we’d ever been paid before. So accepting this gig was a no-brainer!
The planning of the trip turned out to be mind-boggling. Sande, our President, took care of the logistics. She said that it took 62 emails back and forth between our members, the university and the theater, just to come up with a date for the show! Kudos to Sande for her perseverance and stamina!
We’ve all been very excited about this trip. A week before we left, we had a rehearsal at our home studio of the pieces we would be performing. We felt good about our show. Now we just had to get to Ohio.
We met at our gate at La Guardia airport for our 5:15 flight on Friday, November 2, 2018. There was lots of schmoozing and chatting before we boarded the plane. The flight itself was quite choppy but otherwise uneventful.
We landed, rented our two vehicles, piled in and headed to the hotel. By the time we met for dinner, it was late. But we were stoked that we had started our thespian adventure. So dinner at the hotel restaurant was loud and lots of fun. And also quite good. I had beef bone stock Vietnamese Pho soup for the first time and loved it. We shared a Banana Custard Pie with a pistachio nut crust for dessert and it was truly delicious. It was close to midnight when we got back to our rooms.
We were supposed to get into the theater at 9:00 AM on Saturday so we would have all day to set up and rehearse. At the last minute, there was a scheduling problem and we couldn’t get into the theater until noon.
After that, it took three hours for the technical set-up. That’s because our show involves lots of microphones, wires, sound mixers, computers as well as live and recorded sound effects.
We usually have to do this set-up ourselves, meaning Tom has to do most of it on his own. But in Youngstown, Tom had a union crew of three professionals to help him. Tom was in pig heaven! The guys were nice, accommodating — extremely competent and knowledgeable.
I particularly enjoyed watching the sound effects guy, Tony (a friend who drove six hours from Indiana to perform with us) set up his live sound effects table. He is awesome! One of our scripts calls for a gun to cock. So Tony brought several guns to choose from because they all make different sounds.
Sound effects table
Tony setting up sound effects
More sound effects equipment
Schmoozing before rehearsal
Soundcheck of mikes
Actors checking scripts
We didn’t start to rehearse till 3:30 and kept going until 7:30. We still had time to repeat pieces or parts of pieces that required extra work or choreography.
The choreography comes in when actors have to switch mikes, handoff telephones, or cross behind another actor. We also realized that we had never rehearsed taking bows – which requires coordination and timing.
Dinner Saturday night was at a recommended Barbecue place that looked like a real dive. The front room had two pool tables and old arcade video games.
The back room had a tacky bar, wood tables, and generic chairs. But the barbecue pit master is an award-winner from Austin, Texas. The food, which you bought by the pound, was terrific. So was the beer. I usually don’t like beer, but I ordered my own beer and drank most of it!
Sunday, the day of the show, we met for breakfast at the hotel and headed over to the theater at noon, the earliest we were allowed in. The performance was at 2:00 so we didn’t have much time. All we could do was a quick run through of the beginnings and ends of the pieces and the transitions to the next piece.
We had to put carpets down on the stage to minimize feedback. One of the stagehands got out a vacuum cleaner and actually vacuumed the oriental carpet for us. Now that’s service!
The cast went back to the Green Room (the waiting area for actors backstage) to wait for their cue to go on stage.
We got a wonderful introduction from the Dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communications. And it was SHOWTIME!
We sailed through the show with our usual enthusiasm, skill, and professionalism. The audience laughed at all the right places and seemed to love us. The applause was prolonged and gratifying.
After the show, we had time for a quick toast before we had to head to the airport for our flight home.
Overall, it was a smooth and successful weekend. It was good to spread our wings professionally. We traveled together to a gig for the first time and we performed a ninety minute show for the first time in a while (our shows have generally been one hour). It was also a unique opportunity to hang out and socialize as a group over a two day period. And everyone had lots of fun.
When I was little, I had imaginary playmates. I talked to them. They followed me around. I was never bored because I had friends who really understood me.
After I started school, my shadow friends left, never to return. Instead, I got a narrator who has been my lifetime companion. Whatever has gone wrong in my life, I suggest you blame it on the narrator.
It’s all his fault.
“Narrator?” you ask. Before you decide I’m schizophrenic, a lot of writers have one or more narrators. I understand the narrator is my voice. He has just one story to tell. Mine.
My job is to live. His is to tell the tale. His is the eye that sees all but isn’t involved. He witnesses — but causes nothing, changes nothing, makes no suggestions except to correct grammar. I wish he were a better proofreader.
My narrator does not instruct, chastise, or judge. He records events, remembers the background, and fills in the story. I’m in charge except I can’t get him to shut up. He gives me a third person perspective on my life. I’m so used to hearing the running commentary, I don’t know how else I could see the world. I’ve grown fond of him. And yes, it is always a male narrator. No idea why.
There are narrators and then, there are narrators. You can get into serious trouble if you forget the narrator is you, not an “other” entity. Should you find yourself listening to a narrator who is telling you to blow things up or kill someone, you might want to drop by a doctor’s office for a little chat. Just saying.
Of course, if you know it’s God talking to you, who am I to interfere?
Through the years, the narrator has filled the holes in my life story, adding “He said, she said,” describing action and scenery, “novelizing” my reality. I have grown fond of my narrator and wish he could type. It would save me so much work.
A couple of years ago, the narrator left for a while. It was a particularly turbulent period, so maybe the noise in my head was too loud and I couldn’t hear him. Eventually, he came back. There a correlation between when I’m writing and the voice of the narrator. If he’s gone, so is my creativity.
The narrator can be distracting. I have had to learn to not let him derail me. He does not respect the moment. A running commentary in one’s head during sex makes it difficult to focus. Men take this personally and trying to explain always makes it worse. They then think you are not merely disinterested, but also nuts.
A narrator can also take the fun out of parties. You have to make an effort to participate, not just observe. With the narrator describing the surroundings and each individual you meet, while occasionally arguing with other narrators (sometimes I have more than one), it’s tricky to connect with people. When narrators argue, I have to step in, settle the dispute, tell all but one to shut up.
Problem is, there’s more than one way to see stuff and when a lot of points of view clamor for attention, it gets noisy in the brain-space. It can keep you up at night. It can keep your partner awake too
I’ve learned a lot from my narrator. I’ve learned to see life as an endless story with chapters, back stories, weird incidental characters, tragedy, romance, hope, and despair.
My job is to live it, not forget to write it down — and fix the typos.
I have been interested in the balance between work life and personal life since the days of my first husband’s 60 plus hour work weeks at his New York City law firm. Working so much wreaked havoc with our home life and left me, effectively, a single parent most of the time.
The issue has been magnified with the advent of the 24/7 access to work via the internet. Employers can expect their employees to be available at all hours on all days. But there is some soul searching in the corporate world over how to reasonably limit employee’s accessibility and responsibility to the office.
To manage work stress, some companies provide massages, yoga classes, nap venues, and other wellness services during the workday. This is clearly not enough. There is a horror story out of Japan where a 31-year-old worker logged 159 hours of overtime in one month and worked herself to death.
France is concerned about workers becoming more and more connected to work, online, outside of the office and outside of office hours. France also seems to be taking the lead in legislating to correct the balance between work and life. The French believe that if you limit the amount of overwork, you also limit the amount of burnout and in the process, increase productivity on the job.
France takes the forward-looking position that it is beneficial for people to have downtime away from work. The French believe that workers have the right to draw a line when employers demands interfere with evenings or weekends at home and even vacation time.
So France passed a new provision in the Labor Law that requires companies with over 50 employees, to negotiate new rules to limit work and keep it from spilling into days off and after work hours. Labor consultants have suggested that one way to limit after-hours work is to avoid the ‘reply all’ function on group emails. That way, only one person, not everyone, has to read and respond to each email.
Another suggestion to achieve better work/life balance is to set a time limit for work communications. Some firms have designated the hours from 9 PM to 7 AM or 7 PM to 7 AM as off-limits to employers.
This makes sense to me and is easy to enforce.
In Germany, in 2013, The Labor Ministry ordered its supervisors not to contact employees outside of office hours. In 2011, Volkswagen shut off their BlackBerry servers at the end of the workday.
In Britain, they are studying the use of commuting time for work by employees with long train rides twice a day. They are looking to include commuting time as hours worked since employees are still accessible to employers online on their way to and from work.
Several other European countries are proposing changes in work rules that take long commutes into account. A European Tribunal last year decided a court case that could change how work hours are calculated across the continent. It ruled that in Norway, some employees can count their commutes as work time. The ruling acknowledged that as long as you are at the disposal of your employer, you are technically at work.
Recently, France’s highest court ordered a British company to pay an employee $70,000 after the company required employees to have their phones on at all times. They were expected to answer questions from clients and subordinates at any time, day or night.
The right to disconnect is becoming a battle cry for workers all over the world. We have to learn to balance the new technologies with human values and reasonable lifestyle choices. Permanent access doesn’t mean people should have to work all the time.
It will be interesting to see how these issues get resolved in the years to come.
No, the prez didn’t put me on his list. Not the contact list or the “kill her before she writes something else” list. I’m not sure there really IS such a list, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Instead, I got this note from Twitter. So now, if you want your stuff to show up on Facebook, it’s going to be entirely cut and paste. Mind you, that’s not all that difficult or time-consuming. It’s the way I did it for at least four years of blogging. It’s just one more thing to bug me.
It has been a very buggy sort of week and keeping my mind right has not been easy. I feel like the world — the entire corporate entity we call the world — is out to get me on some level or other.
Maybe I should reconsider Instagram.
Posting Tweets to Facebook
A recent update to the Facebook Platform Policies ended the ability to automatically post Tweets to your Facebook profile or page, so your Tweets will no longer show up there. For more details, take a look at our Help Center.
So there you have it.
I’m not really sure what the point of all of this is unless it’s yet another outcome of how much the various social media outlets dislike each other and don’t give a fig about us.
These corporations are always telling us how much we matter, but I’ve never seen anything which proves that they care about us at all, one way or the other. All they want is money. More and more of it. And, apparently, it doesn’t matter how much because there’s no limit to how much they will try and squeeze out of us.
If I could think of any other way to publicize the blog, I’d do it. Unfortunately, I can’t.
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