The Happiest of Rothbarts

Fools always dance really well.

A few days ago I saw the broadcast of Bolshoi‘s Swan Lake, the most Rothbart-lovin’ production ever.

January was a bust, with heavy snow, B-cat’s injuries, and my cold and flu keeping us indoors. My blood pressure did return to normal (about 80/54)… soon after this phone conversation with the blood clinic:

Blood worker: Are you and B-cat planning to give blood in January?

B-cat: I’m planning to go when Monica does.

Me: Your website says I can’t donate again ’til mid-February.

Blood worker: Are you planning to donate again?

Me: Yeah, though I’ve been dizzy for more than a month and my blood pressure dropped to ##/##, so I’m not really looking forward to it.

Blood worker: Why don’t we delay yours ’til March? But is there any way to have B-cat come sooner?

Me: I could just go with him and watch.

Blood worker: That’d be great! You could even come in April, but we really need his blood type.

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Somehow this intermission photo managed to make the host, the translator, and Rothbart all look glum

It’s okay. No one needs Prince Siegfried, either.

In this production featuring Yuri Grigorovich‘s 2001 choreography, Denis Rodkin‘s Siegfried doesn’t get to dress or dance like a prince, and he knows it. He can only do so much with the boring choreo, it’s no wonder his emoti-meter is stuck at “fairly pleased”. Also, everyone in his court looks grim.

Ballet Friend S argues Svetlana Zakharova‘s Odette is as bland as her prince. I think Odette is tearful and not excessively bird-like, and Odile is lots of fun, with black swan friends who mingle with the white flock to form interesting patterns on stage. S and I bicker over the set design (I think it’s Impressionistic and cool; she thinks it’s bizarrely gothic and sloppy), but agree the costumes are lovely: goldleaf and silverleaf on romantic tutus and an all-silver pancake tutu with a silver filigree standing collar. Never mind the Fool’s cap is so tiny it makes him look like a bumblebee.

Me: “The Fool (Igor Tsvirko) dances really well!”

S: “Fools always dance really well.”

Pssht. Clearly I’m no fool.

Regardless, it’s Artemy Belyakov‘s Baron von Rothbart — here, “Evil Genius” — who’s the star in the eyes of Grigorovich and the costume designer. His choreo is more effective, his outfit more dashing. Even his pas de deux (!) with Siegfried is sexier than the prince’s dance with either swan. Of course the story ends with Belyakov getting his way. This means the audience doesn’t get the happy-ending bit of Tchaikovsky, but who can refuse such a handsome Rothbart?

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The Bolshoi will broadcast A Hero of Our Time live in cinemas on April 9.

Last Writing Update for the Blah-est of Years

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My short story with Okey-Panky (Electric Literature) is out.

I was excited for exactly one day; now I’m imagining that the editor regretted accepting the story months ago, that reader response to this piece is at a historic low, etc.

Torquere Press has reverted the rights to my story, but hasn’t paid anyone yet. Thankfully B-cat’s family will be feeding me for Christmas, because I’ve misplaced my credit card and, either way, I’ll be broke ’til the reimbursement comes for the car accident.

Speaking of which… The second poem I wrote about B-cat’s nephew Spencer, who passed away this year, apparently got into the Yamadera Basho Museum 2016 haiku contest collection. I had forgotten about the contest completely because, you know, car accident.

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My poem (grafted onto the cover)

It forms a matching pair with my “Spencer” haiku, which won an award. This poem didn’t win anything, but being published by a museum commemorating Basho — arguably the greatest of haiku poets — is kind of cool.

Isn’t a downer the perfect way to end 2016? Happy Holidays!

PC Nutcracker

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S (the best dancer at one of the schools I go to… or went to, before the car accident) took me to Ballet BC & Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s last Nutcracker (on tour) of the season.

There’s lots to like about the production:

  1. RWB is a little different each year. This year’s Nutcracker takes place in 1910s Canada and includes hockey, people falling on icy sidewalks, and polar bears. So Canadian;
  2. Soft colours and fine painted details make lovely, realistic costumes and storybook backdrops;
  3. Makeup & costumes look good on the non-white dancers, too, and the “multicultural” bits are more balletic and less racist than most! (Incidentally, the Arabian costumes should’ve been First Nations);
  4. No more bear baiting or obvious favouritism among the kids. A bear comes into the house for food. So, so Canadian.

Conversely:

  1. S feels the 1930s opening is pointless if the Kingdom of Sweets is just business as usual;
  2. Smallest mice look like clones of Disney’s Goofy (same face and colour and all) while the Mouse King looks like a dog-headed man;
  3. Chinese/tea dancer still has double buns, arms forming permanent Ls, and hands fused in gesturing “1”s. At this point she may as well be using those fingers to push up the corners of her eyes, she’s such a stereotype;
  4. All the angels are blonde!… you want me to say. Actually, the wigs are so metallic gold I don’t give a damn.

No one was spectacularly good or bad, which perhaps makes for better holiday viewing than placing awesome virtuoso dancers alongside people who fall out of jumps. The choreography was too safe, though, wasn’t it?

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Photo from RWB, since my curtain call photo failed

On a side note, we sat dead centre in the lower balcony (as mentioned before, S has high standards for everything ballet). The view would’ve been perfect if the mother and child in front and two women another row down didn’t lean forward the entire time. Behind them, to S’s left, a man with a wedge-shaped head started playing with his little phone in the middle of Act I. After I asked him to turn it off, he squirmed and rustled wrappers for over an hour. S says she was afraid he was going to attack me, but he merely threw a fit from a safe distance at the end before running away.

If you think not being racist is being too PC, you wouldn’t like this production. Otherwise, you can still catch the RWB Nutcracker in Winnipeg later in December.

Yukon Trail

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Near Takhini River

You have died of dysentry.

I’ve just gotten back from the Yukon. My mother took me and my cousin J up to see the Aurora Borealis, and B-cat came along, too, for a distraction from being injured and cooped up with me in a basement.

I enjoyed going north in 2010 and am grateful to revisit the museums, huskies, outdoors, etc., but this has been a terribly stressful trip. The group dynamic is as follows:

  • My mother stops speaking English or eating meals whenever we go on trips (all three of which, excluding childhood ones, took place this year). She tries to dissuade me and J from eating, saying we’re too fat;
  • J is not fat. He is shy? grumpy? and only speaks to my mother when she speaks first and to me when the others aren’t around. He rarely talks to English speakers;
  • B-cat is an English speaker who makes occasional remarks to J and my mother, but mainly wants to chat up strangers;
  • I am the worst travel buddy.

 

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J and a Little Free Library by the half-frozen Yukon River

We do end up eating real food, but don’t see much of the Northern Lights through the clouds. During this time I’m still receiving rejection letters, an integral and awful part of writing fiction, and sending demand letters to Torquere Press, a publisher whose owners — Kristi Boulware-Talbot and Joanna Talbot — have now decided neither to pay its authors nor to return the rights to their work.

Then Trump talks to the president of Taiwan, and suddenly both pro-Trump and anti-Trump Americans are spouting strong opinions about Taiwan, whose very name confuses them because they’ve only skimmed through the Wiki:history article.

But I did see two red foxes, a dozen red squirrels, and a lot of nice people, so I guess this is just one of those trips that improve upon ending. If you like small, snowy towns, visit the Yukon — besides the lights, I recommend Mount McIntyre for the vigorous hike to the peak.

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J, me, and B-cat

Writing Writing Updates

Green Hills Literary Lantern has nominated my story, “Glass Tank“, for the Pushcart Prize. It is the second story I’ve written as an adult and the first I believed in, so much that with each rejection I grew a little more bewildered and desperate.

My favourite part about the whole experience is how, just before submitting it the last couple of times, I had slightly altered the last sentence, and when the editor of GHLL — professor & PhD in English and everything — sent me edits and suggestions, he changed it to the original wording.

And my poem about Spencer, B-cat’s nephew, won a Sakura Award in the VCBF Haiku Invitational.

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We met Spencer when he was a few days old, just before he went back to the hospital with a heart infection. He passed away four weeks later.