Miscellaneous

All Is True

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Last night I went to see All Is True, the new Kenneth Branagh movie written by Ben Elton.  I was motivated by curiosity more than expectation, wondering where the creator of the hilarious and erudite “Upstart Crow”  BBC sitcom series would go in revisiting the life and works of Shakespeare.

During the first fifteen minutes I found the somber lighting, lugubrious pace and bleak expressions of the familiar sprightly characters alienating, but at a certain point I got oriented to the genre and recognized Elton’s earlier constructions of Will, Anne, Judith and Hamnet presented behind tragic instead of comic masks.

By the scene of the encounter between Ian McKellen’s Southhampton and Branagh’s Shakespeare that concludes with the double recitation of sonnet 29, “When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes,” my tears flowed along with theirs. I was stirred by its enactment of a “marriage of true minds” for whom the approach to immortality brought human limitations into highest relief.

By the end of the film this seemed its central tone and idea, brought home by the titles that followed the happy ending insisted upon by the Ben Jonson character–titles stating that the three sons of Judith, who seemed to fulfill Will’s obsessive wish for a male heir, all died as children, and by the song from Cymbeline behind the final credits:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!

As I left the theatre I felt that “All is True” achieved the aspiration uttered by its protagonist: with a patent fiction to express reality–in this case the notoriously elusive reality of the author’s personality. It did that by combining the few known facts with astute readings of his work to imagine the inner and outer life of his last silent years. In the words of Jonson’s tribute, it made “My Shakespeare rise!”

Albert Drive

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

The mockingbird returned
on Spring’s first day
filling the silence
left by students
gone on break.
Its bebop warbles
replaced their hiphop grunts
with a memory of hope.

The Better End? Euthanasia and Buddhist Values

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

A talk to the White Heron Sangha
February 3 2018

As a child, I grew up in a small family consisting of my mother, Lise, my father, Henry, and my grandmother, Elise, all refugees from Hitler’s Germany who arrived in New York in 1938. Elise and I adored one another all through my childhood and youth. Though she spoke little English, she was vibrant and irreverent and eloquent in expression and gesture.  She was also adored by the customers for whom she worked as a seamstress and to whose homes all over the City she travelled by subway until well into her eighties.

After my first year in graduate school in California, I returned to New York for the summer of 1964, spent nights in Greenwich Village with a friend and days in upper Manhattan studying for my Latin qualifying exams at Elise’s small apartment. She’d make me sumptuous hot lunches and watch admiringly as I practiced my conjugations.

A couple of months after I returned to California my parents wrote me that Elise had suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed her left side and left her unable to walk or speak. They had no choice but to place her in a nursing home and expected it would be over soon. But by the time I came back for a visit at Christmas, it wasn’t. (more…)

Year-End Progress Report on City Farm San Luis Obispo

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

For the last four years the core mission of our non-profit has been to fulfill the terms of our 20-year lease with the City of San Luis Obispo: to manage the 15 acres of arable land at the Calle Joaquin Agricultural Reserve so as to 1) facilitate production of crops by small commercial organic farmers and 2) to provide educational programs about local agriculture to students and the general public.

During 2017 the City Farm School Project has continued for the fourth year to provide innovative instruction for academic credit to students in the “Farm” class at Pacific Beach Continuation High School with the enthusiastic support of students, teachers and administration.  Throughout the year and during summer school, students walk to the farm with their instructors from their nearby campus twice a week to engage in hands-on learning about soil, irrigation, planting, cultivating, harvesting, cooking and eating the food they grow. (more…)