Let us ask ourselves hard questions
For this is the time for truth.
How much time did we waste
In the year that is now gone?
Did we fill our days with life
Or were they dull and empty?
Was there love inside our home
Or was the affectionate word left unsaid?
Was there a real companionship with our children
Or was there a living together and a growing apart?
Were we a help to our mates
Or did we take them for granted?
How was it with our friends:
Were we there when they needed us or not?
The kind deed: did we perform it or postpone it?
The unnecessary gibe: did we say it or hold it back?
Did we live by false values?
Did we deceive others?
Did we deceive ourselves?
Were we sensitive to the rights and feelings
Of those who worked for us?
Did we acquire only possessions
Or did we acquire new insights as well?
Did we fear what the crowd would say
And keep quiet when we should have spoken out?
Did we mind only our own business
Or did we feel the heartbreak of others?
Did we live right,
And if not,
Then have we learned, and will we change?
— An interpretation of Unetaneh Tokef by Jack Riemer
There is something thrilling about the sound of an orchestra tuning. It’s a sound that announces the beginning of something magical. It draws me in, somehow simultaneously settling my mind and making my heart race.
I have yet to find anyone who agrees with me on this, but I stand by it. The ritual of dimmed lights, applause for the conductor, and then the sound of first the strings finding their A, then the other instruments joining in – it’s beautiful and intoxicating.
On Saturday, I went to the Lamplighters Musical Theatre’s performance of their reworked “Mikado,” titled “The NEW Mikado,” at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. This production makes a valiant and largely successful attempt at retaining the musical and narrative structure of the original operetta while addressing the racial and ethnic aspects of the original that are uncomfortable and distasteful to a modern audience. Their solution? Remove the entire story from the setting of the fictional and highly stylized setting of the Japanese town of Titipu, and place it instead in a fictional and highly stylized town called Tirmisu in the fifteenth-century duchy of Milan.
And you know what? It works. It really, really works. I loved it.
But as I sat in the darkened theater, listening to the orchestra tune and then play the familiar melodies of the late Victorian operetta, my mind couldn’t stop wandering to my own past.
“The Mikado” is incredibly important to me. Every time I have seen it or been involved with a production of it in any way, it leaves ripples of impact in my life.
In 1997 or 1998, my mother took me to see a production of “The Mikado” put on at Stanford University by their Gilbert and Sullivan Society, The Stanford Savoyards. I remember sitting enthralled through it, and still have snapshot memories of the two act finales. After that, we went to several of the Savoyards’ productions until in early 2002, I decided to audition to join the chorus myself. I was fifteen at the time, and the production staff made it clear that I was an exception to their usual rules about the age of participants. But that audition, and then being in the production, introduced me to a new part of myself. It was the most daring thing I had ever done, I felt, and took me to a world of magic and camaraderie that opened my eyes.
I won’t deny that I enjoyed being the petted youngest member of the company. It’s always nice to feel special. But more than that, I was treated as an equal member of the effort to bring the show to the stage. And really, I was only two or three years younger than some of the others, who were freshmen at Stanford.
It’s hard for me to explain the impact of those few months of rehearsal and performance. Desperate for approval and encouragement in my singing attempts, longing to feel like a valued member of a community engaged in a shared endeavor, I really think that joining the Savoyards in 2002 was a pivotal moment for me. The weeks I spent in rehearsal, performance, and social interaction with the Stanford students in the company proved to me that even without a 4.0 GPA, I could keep up with these students I viewed with some awe.
Being in “Mikado” in 2002 (and “The Sorcerer” that fall, and “The Gondoliers” in the spring of 2003) gave me the courage to apply to Stanford.
As I listened to the familiar music on Saturday, my mind kept going back to May of 2002, as I’d wait backstage for the entrance of the women’s chorus. We’d all bustle about, putting finishing touches to wigs, makeup, and costumes, and occasionally pausing to listen intently to the faint strains of music and dialogue coming through the backstage PA system, praying that the tenor and the trumpet were both having good nights as they approached the high notes.
I remember the movements backstage as a sort of dance, as we knew exactly when to step aside for Ed’s manic sprint offstage at one side and re-entrance on the other side for the next verse, or to make our way to the exact spots for our entrance. At times I remember some people quietly dancing in the wings, compelled to move by music and adrenaline.
In 1997, “Mikado” planted a spark of interest in trying the stage for myself. In 2002, it showed me that I could, in fact, belong at Stanford and find a community there. In 2005, it woke me up to the fact that I was no longer enjoying the theater experience.
And now, in 2016? I have only rarely gone near Gilbert & Sullivan in the past eleven years. The memory of the overwhelming and frightening rage and loss I felt as I saw my time with the Savoyards ending has to some extent tainted the memories of the magic and passionate love I had for the experience. I’ve even flinched away from the music itself.
Perhaps it’s been long enough now that I can start reclaiming that music. I feel no desire to get back onstage, and the only thing I regret about my decision to leave the Savoyards is how long it took me to accept the end of the era for me. It was a life lesson in “leave before you hate it.”
Except for those moments when I hear an orchestra tune. During those moments, as the lights dim and the familiar combination of instruments all seek harmony on their A, I find myself briefly in the velvet darkness of the wings, or the yellow light of the cramped, crowded dressing rooms in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. And for a moment, I miss it. But just for a moment. Then I let myself float away into the magic of theater.
It’s been over a month since my last post. Normally I’d prefer to post weekly, but I don’t much like posting for the sake of posting. Anyway, here are some photos from the past month.
So yeah. It’s been quite a month, mostly full of stuff I prefer to keep off-blog, at least for now. Looks like 2015 will end better than it started.
So this happened on Twitter the other day…
#okcupid guys, structuring your creepy message as if Yoda said it does not cancel out the creepy.
Friend 1: adds to the creepy, imho.
Friend 2: depends on if it’s intentional….ha
Friend 2: Hot, you are. Message me, you should.
Friend 1: I’M IN
Me: dorks. 🙂
Friend 2: these are not the dorks you are looking for…*waves Jedi hand*
Friend 1: Powerful we have become. The dork side I sense in us.
Friend 2: Never underestimate the power of the DORK SIDE!
Friend 1: FEEL THE DORKS!
Me: I have so much love for you guys right now.
Friend 1: Last one, I promise: When you look at the dork side, careful you must be. For the dork side looks back!
Friend 2: Once you start down the dork path, forever it will dominate your destiny….
Friend 3: Come to the dork side.. we have cookies 😉
In the process of pursuing the online dating thing, I keep finding myself confronted by the questions of why I’m interested in history and why I’m interested in English history in particular.
It’s hard to answer that. It’s even harder to answer it without going off onto massive, rambling tangents.
I suspect that most of us don’t have clear explanations of why we’re interested in what we’re interested in. Some lucky people may have good stories of a moment in which they discovered the interest, but is that the same thing as an explanation of WHY it interests you? Probably not.
When asked, I start by saying I’m not really sure why I’m interested in English history more than, say, Argentinian or Nigerian or Vietnamese history. It’s just what draws me.
Then I tell about my first trip to England, when I was ten. That was the first time I remember encountering museum audio guides, which proved invaluable in navigating (and maintaining a ten-year-old’s interest in) London’s National Portrait Gallery. I loved learning the tidbits of information and context surrounding each piece of artwork.
This trip isn’t when I discovered an interest in history. I really couldn’t say when that started. But I think it may be the moment when I started turning to English history more often than any other nation’s history.
It’s been nearly twenty years, but I still remember that first trip to Hampton Court Palace. I initially wanted to go there because they have a hedge maze. The maze proved anticlimactic, but I found the strange hodgepodge of three architectural and landscaping styles fascinating.
I can’t explain WHY English history draws me, just as I can’t explain why I’m interested in the time periods that draw me. Luckily I can distract people from their original question with my Hampton Court Palace anecdote. It’s a more appropriate response in a social situation than a twenty-minute philosophical ramble through the nature of intellectual interest, anyway.
As for a general interest in history… I find something reassuring about the past. I can joke that I find it comforting because I know how it turns out, which is partly true (quiet, you philosopher types). I think it’s also that having a familiarity with the past makes me feel like I’m more firmly rooted.
And now, on an unrelated but sad note, French actor Louis Jourdan has died at age 93. His role in GIGI as the wealthy, bored Gaston is still one of my favorites. He’s obviously not going to win any singing competitions, but I like his voice. It sounds like a normal person putting their thoughts into music. And boy, is he nice to look at. Classic mid-century Hollywood male beauty.
And God said: No longer shall your name be Ya’akov, “Heel,”
But Yisrael, “Godwrestler,” for with Me and with humanity have you battled, and You have won!”
And thus, night after night, God, You come to me.
Not with favors do You come, but to try my strength.
And when, by morning, I prevail against You once again, again I find myself alone:
A poor and hapless traveler, limping on a twisted thigh.
“With God and with humanity have you battled, and You have won!”
Is this Your blessing for me, Great Mystery?
Then heaven help me! For though against all I may prevail,
Against one there is no victory. Against me!
Your blessings rest heavy, God. I cannot bear them.
I limp, and I’m alone on every road, wherever I go.
Defeat me, just this once, that I might find some rest by morning,
The rest that all the vanquished know.
Again it’s night. Again alone. And once again God comes seeking.
Yisrael! Where are you?
Here, God, over here — somehow I moan.
But why? Why, night after night, do You battle with me;
And, with the rising of the dawn, forsake me once again,
And leave me limping, limping and alone?
It’s that time again! I know you’ve all been waiting for another round of “Phrases That Led People to Blue Castle.” Let’s check the WordPress stats archives…
By far the most popular route to my blog, though the exact search terms take many forms, is through Jack Prelutsky’s poem, “Homework! Oh, Homework!” While I can see why this works, I’m rather puzzled that searching for this leads to my blog, as opposed to the many other sources for poetry online. In the last three months alone, my WordPress stats show 42 separate searches of various kinds for this poem that led to Blue Castle. And that’s not counting people who have security settings preventing WordPress from keeping track of search terms!
Here are some of the odder ones of the past three months:
socks blue castle
What? Is this CASTLE socks that are blue? Are these socks themed for my blog? Are these blue socks that have castles on them? Please be more specific.
shortest hour and a half long movies
I’m not sure how to answer this, because I’m hoping you’re speaking metaphorically about movies that are an hour and a half but seem shorter because they’re engrossing. Otherwise, I have to break it to you that no matter how short or long, a movie that lasts an hour and a half will always last an hour and a half.
y silence of the lambs references are in criminal minds
Because it’s a show about FBI agents catching serial killers by creating psychological profiles. And guess what? SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is about FBI agents catching a serial killer. By using a psychological profile. Doofus.
did the hurt locker tie with “slum dog” millionaire for best picture
That’s easy. No. For the simple reason that they were IN DIFFERENT YEARS. Yeesh.
jonathan rhys meyers views on darker skinned women
Whoever you are, I am looking disapprovingly in your direction. Seriously. No matter how you interpret this, you have problems.
kerfuffle of death mask
I so want the backstory on this one.
www down load vides of blue films
You are in for SUCH a disappointment.
Thanks to all of you for finally listening to my pleas to leave Melissa Rauch alone. Or if you can’t, at least you’re leaving Blue Castle out of it.
There’s a lot of talk about the Affordable Care Act right now. The ACA, colloquially referred to as “Obamacare,” is a major overhaul of the American health insurance system.
Normally I keep my personal life out of this blog. Normally I prefer to keep my politics out of social media entirely, as I do not find the medium conducive for such discussions. This, however, is an exception to my rule. I don’t pretend to be an expert, nor can I answer questions about the ACA. But I want to tell you something personal about myself to explain why the prospect of the ACA coming into effect in January is a source of relief for me.
Those of you with Y-chromosomes should be warned – what follows has to do with women-problems, and while I’ll try not to get into too much graphic detail, I’ve found that you man-creatures get a little squicked out by stories of gynecological issues.
In October 2011, my cycle progressed as normal, until I found myself suddenly overwhelmed by severe abdominal cramps, worse than any I’d had before. I chalked it up to the stress of moving to a new country and starting a new graduate school program. I’ve sometimes found that stress and anxiety can exacerbate the symptoms associated with menstruation. When things went back to normal for a few months, I didn’t obsess, but set it aside as a one-time aberration.
In February 2012, however, the pain was back, and it was even worse. One day I was out running an errand, pretty much as far from campus as I could get and still be in the main part of Vancouver’s downtown area. I was suddenly overwhelmed by waves of pain. I managed to get to the store’s restroom, at which point I collapsed on the floor, breathing rapidly and shallowly. The only thought that made it through the haze of pain was a faint wondering if that’s what being in labor feels like. I managed to get up off the floor and out of the store, the only thought in my mind being to get back to my apartment as soon as possible. It was as though I couldn’t keep still. Even as I walked, my hands fisted and unfisted, and my toes did much the same inside my shoes. I don’t know if there was any logic to it. It just seemed like if I stopped moving, the pain might get worse.
I managed to find a cab and get back to my dorm.
Every month thereafter was like that. Eventually the student health center referred me off-campus for an ultrasound, which showed a small mass in the uterine wall.
It’s estimated by some sources that as much as 80% of the female population have at least one uterine fibroid. In most cases, they experience no symptoms and it may never be diagnosed. One in four, however, experience symptoms severe enough to require treatment. Symptoms include dysmenorrhea (unusually painful periods), menorrhagia (unusually heavy periods), painful intercourse, and even infertility. In pregnant women, fibroids can cause miscarriage, bleeding, premature labor, or problems with the position of the fetus.
Fibroids are considered benign smooth muscle tumors. They are benign in the sense that they are non-cancerous, but that word implies they are harmless. For me and the 25% I fall into, they are not harmless.
The pain is excruciating. Several months I found myself spending hours curled up on the floor of my shower, hoping the hot water would help. The blood loss is frightening to see, and can lead to serious iron deficiency. At this point last year, my hemoglobin levels were scraping the bottom edge of the normal range, and ferritin was at 9% of where it should have been. Most women don’t seem to get enough iron with normal periods – when the blood loss is two or three times what it was supposed to be, how can we possibly keep up? Iron deficiency means you’re always cold and always exhausted and always short of breath. When even walking around the block can trigger bleeding, you become afraid to exercise. Not to mention the body’s natural anticoagulants produced for menstruation can’t keep up, so you start passing massive blood clots – painful, again, and frightening.
My natural cycle inverted itself. Instead of one week of period to every three-four weeks off from it, I had periods lasting as much as 16 days, with only a week off between them. I’ve been unable to plan ahead, since I never know if I’ll be able to go more than 30 seconds from a bathroom. I can’t exercise, or even take gentle walks. Sometimes just standing long enough to cook a meal has started the bleeding again.
There is a procedure to the treatment of fibroids. First you try hormones – you go on the pill. It regulates your cycle, and for many women, this is enough. The pill didn’t really work for me. It didn’t stop the breakthrough bleeding, but it did help a little. Not enough, though. Then we tried a shot of something called Lupron, which is supposed to drop the patient into three months of temporary, reversible menopause. Again, didn’t really work – while it wasn’t the heavy bleeding, it was a steady, slow trickle for three months straight. Better, but insufficient. And it’s only a temporary stopgap anyways – it screws with your hormones and it can have adverse effects on bone density.
The next step is surgery. Sometimes an entire hysterectomy is necessary. In my case, it looks like a procedure called a hysteroscopic myomectomy will work to remove the fibroid in pieces without needing to make an incision. I won’t go into details here – if you’re interested, try Google.
The procedure I’m looking at is a simple one-hour procedure. However, this fibroid, this condition that affects up to 80% of the female population, is a reason for automatic denial by health insurance companies under the current system. They don’t ask you how big the fibroid is, or whether it’s controlled with the pill. They see that you have one, and you’re automatically denied. Without insurance, the pill I take is about $200 for a three-month packet. Without insurance, a hysteroscopic myomectomy costs some $12,000. That’s about twice what I have in total, since I have as yet been unable to find a job.
With the ACA, the health insurance companies can’t deny me coverage because I have an easily-fixed pre-existing condition. They can’t charge me more for the pre-existing condition of being female. If the ACA coverage had gone into effect this year, I’d have had the surgery months ago and be well into reversing the physical problems that have cropped up as a result of inactivity, pain, and blood loss.
With the ACA, I hope for more preventive care, so fewer women have to face hysterectomies to deal with fibroids. I hope that more can find the tumors early and get the less-invasive procedures. I hope that more feel they can go to the doctor when their body starts putting them through monthly hell.
With the ACA, you have coverage for mental health as well as physical health. You have help paying for maternity care. Your child can’t be denied coverage because he has asthma, or because she went to therapy in high school.
I’m lucky to have found a doctor that listens to me and goes to bat for me. Because of her advocacy on my behalf, I have a probable surgery date for November 13, and admission to a financial aid program from a local clinic that will cover most, if not all, of the cost. But there are lots of women out there who don’t have that kind of help. Many don’t think they can afford to go to the doctor to find out why the pain and blood have increased so suddenly.
The ACA is not perfect. There are lots of issues still to be resolved, both with the law itself and with the websites set up to implement it. But it’s better than what we have now. We might one day be a healthier nation because of it.
I love birthdays. Not in the sense of wanting to be treated as queen-for-a-day, but in the sense that I love the idea of celebrating the completion of another year. I learned pretty early on that life is unpredictable and fragile, so I believe in birthdays. They’re important. Each year is an accomplishment.
Of course, the way I’ve experienced birthdays has changed as I’ve gotten older. I remember getting out of bed on birthday mornings when I was in elementary school. I’d stand in my pajamas, bare feet on the floor, and I’d literally feel taller. Older and wiser, too, of course, but mostly I remember the feeling of gained height.
As a teenager I don’t remember that sensation of being taller, but I do remember a feeling of increasing maturity. I wasn’t one of those kids who thought only of that “someday” in the future when I’d be a grownup. Rather, I tried to enjoy each age as it came. Birthdays were still exciting because they were another step.
These days, I still love birthdays. I try to remember to acknowledge my friends’ birthdays (I admit, I rely on Facebook as a crutch for this, a fact which bugs me) and I look forward to my own. Giving presents is as much fun as getting them, and I like the attention that birthdays naturally bring.
The last few years, my actual birthdays have been relatively quiet. I go to class or I do some work. For my 25th I went to the Vancouver Aquarium with some new friends from the grad program I’d just started. It was fun, but not as much as I’d hoped – the group was of an unwieldy size for the venue, and by the end of the day I was actually relieved to go back to my single-occupant apartment and have scrambled eggs for dinner.
I didn’t feel taller when I woke up this morning, though I suppose at 27 I can’t expect to be growing vertically anymore. I didn’t feel older or wiser either. Perhaps this is the next stage in birthdays. I read somewhere that Socrates is supposed to have said something along the lines of “wisest is he who knows he does not know.”
So maybe not feeling wiser is a sign of maturity. While you ponder that, I’m going to go over here and ponder what I’d like to get myself as a birthday present.