Siege Diaries 11/30/2020

Above:  Furiosa stalking a Spitfire-shaped lump in the bed.

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: Am I ready to accept the pull of the universe?

Here’s a prompt with some poetry to it that particularly speaks to me:  “the pull of the universe”! For me, the pull of the universe means being open to exploring rabbit holes of knowledge, being open to opportunity and being ready to flex should it arise.  That’s the positive side.  It also means, of course, knowing that events larger than myself will pull me in directions I don’t necessarily want.   But so long as I still live, there are always other opportunities–again, maybe not the ones I’d hoped for.  Sometimes the opportunities are “better”, sometimes not as good–but perhaps the best word for them is to simply not use a comparative qualifier.  The opportunities (and the challenges) are what they are for any given point in time.  

I am definitely in that liminal space between large projects right now, the space where I often take on multiple smaller, quick-hit projects as I gradually ramp up towards the next big thing.  On the big-project prep side, I now have the pattern for the waistcoat printed on paper and pieced together into a single large sheet.  The next step will be to trim it, then make a quick muslin to make sure I have a good fit before cutting it out of my good fabric.  Then I will have to put the front darts in before I can transfer the patterns, which I also have to work out sizes for before I can do that.  

Smaller projects include the annual batch of buckeyes, now chilling in the fridge–smaller than usual, given fewer occasions to give them out.  I finished proofing my friend’s paper this evening, and tomorrow I will scan it and send it back.  I now have three fiction books queued up, since my copy of Ghost Variations showed up today.  I would have started that one first, but the other order lapped it, so instead I am 89 pages into A Gentleman in Moscow.   I also watched the 1966 film Katerina Izmailova, the filmed version of Shostakovich’s revised Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, for my weekly Reddit DSCH Deep Cuts post, along with the following commentary: 

The opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, or its revised version, Katerina Izmailova, are, of course, in no way “deep cuts”—but the filmed version is a little more obscure, but happily, available (with subtitles) in this recording. This was filmed in 1966, a few years after Katerina Izmailova finally made its long-awaited emergence from hiding. Shostakovich was said to have preferred the revised version, freed as it was from some of the more blatantly sexual situations (you can likely chalk that up to a combination of his 57-year-old-self no longer being charmed with what was amusing in his 20s, as well as the still-remaining sting of the entire opera being derided for its “muddle” of sounds). It’s still considered one of the best filmed operas (as opposed to a film of an actual performance). The film features Shostakovich’s good friend Galina Vishnevskaya in the title role; she both acts and sings (the other actors do not sing their parts). Shostakovich was said to have not been pleased with the sound quality of the resulting film (and it is definitely a bit on the screechy side, with the orchestra somewhat muffled–purposely so, according to Vishnevskaya, who says it was done that way to make the words more audible) but Vishnevskaya’s voice is spectacular—and she has the acting chops to match. Her face is fascinating to watch, as she can switch emotions on a dime, and the same woman can look at one moment like a giddy, lovestruck young woman and in the next, a nearly-catatonic old woman. Her voice is able to match these situations, sounding almost like a different singer depending on whether she’s bored, in love, angry, or broken. And apparently, she did most of her own stunts, including the final drowning scene—which was shot in the Gulf of Finland in 46F degree water and took 40 minutes, after which she consumed a lot of vodka. The cinematography is outstanding, particularly those bleak final act sequences (although the film quality is not the best) and the way the score is cut for length serves to highlight some of the tragicomic (and near-horror—watch out for the ghost scene!) moments in the opera.

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Vishnevskaya’s memoir Galina. She’s definitely a typical operatic soprano (with an ego to match), but she (and her husband Rostropovich) definitely had a deep friendships, with Shostakovich, invoking a special kind of loyalty that seems to have been common among his closest friends.