Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Anniversaire de Brel

By Tracy

Since today, had he lived, would have been Jacques Brel's 79th birthday, I'll merely post a quote from him:

Ce qui compte dans la vie, c'est l'intensité d'une vie, pas la durée d'une vie.

(What counts in a life is its intensity, not its duration.)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Join the dots...

By Tracy

It's a scary picture. To some, the next generation is just so much cannon-wielding cannon fodder. This weekend's Guardian carries the headline: “Brown backs army cadet corps plan for schools”, a plan that looks to me like a desperate attempt by the State to widen the net of its killing machine.

The Guardian tells us that a "government-commissioned review of civil and military relations, led by Quentin Davies, the Labour MP, was 'alarmed' at the number of schoolchildren who had no idea of military life. Davies wants secondary school pupils to receive basic military training as a means of developing greater affiliation with the armed forces."

No prizes then for guessing they need a troop top-up. (How these people must love children...)

It comes hot on the heels of a rancid debate (rancid because actually not that new, and because it stinks) about letting boys play with toy guns in school, a debate which should be insulting to the moral intelligence of all males, and which certainly offends me as the mother of a boy. (Not to mention the wife of a pacifist husband.)

As if boys' needs can only be met and their abilities fostered by even deeper indoctrination into aggression, over and above what the adults around them already practise.

People who encourage this sort of play can't seem to hear the absurdities in what they say. Someone quoted in the article, for instance, claimed that banning toy guns was “unnecessary as long as staff helped boys understand and respect the rights of other children”.

What about the rights of other children not to have to witness that sort of play? Do not guns by their very existence compromise "the rights of others"? It's astonishing how desensitised people have become to what a gun actually is, what it is for.

I am sick of the opposition to toy guns being blamed on "feminisation" and "feminism" too, as if only some sort of feminist p.c. puritanism would wish to see children grow up free from violence.

Such ideas are far more derogatory in their view of boys and men than I, as a feminist, ever would be. They assume that being male automatically means a certain model of aggression, one that would be rejected by plenty of males I know. They assume that moral "softening", as they perceive it, pertains to the female (still "the angel in the house"?)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Alive and well despite hiatus in posting

By Tracy

It's ages since we've posted. Work, travel, family commitments... I need to start making shorter, more regular entries.

Electrical storms permitting, since we've had a few of those, including today.

Speaking of electrical storms, and the man once referred to as the "magnetic hurricane" -- last month we went to see a local production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. It was done by Yellow Glass Theatre Company at the Subiaco Arts Centre, and was much better than I expected, given that some of the English translations are weak, or if not weak, just not Brel.

The cast were terrific, though -- just the right kind of energy, and a dynamic contrast in voices. Well staged, and with a piano accompaniment that really let the material stand out.

The political thrust of some of the songs did not, however, stand out -- the anti-military or anti-war stance -- which was a shame. It was almost as if their import had not been absorbed by those involved.

But it was a good night out, and an appropriate way to mark 30 years since Brel's death.

Speaking of which, the city of Cannes is making him Man of the Year 2008 and having a special celebration over a few days this (northern) summer, with all sorts of things going on, including a writing competition (in French) and a quiz.

Our preschooler and I have been watching lots of old Brel footage on DVD, and it's quite addictive. A little Brel gets me through the day -- disturbing when you think he once dismissed what he did as more or less "aspirin" for the public, three minutes at a time.

(But not forgotten by all of us...)

I recently wrote a poem about watching these Brel performances, which is being published in Jacket. My way of marking those 30 years...