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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A tale of two cities: Shanghai and Jingdezhen

Carl and Joan
It's many years now since I went to China, and I know the changes are breathtakingly rapid and spectacular. I suspect that many people have the impression that life is little more than a vast array of factories in which people spend their lives eking out a living making consumer products that westerners snap up.

That's partly true, but it ignores other truths that make China what it is today.

Last night I received an email from our good friends Joan and Carl, who are in China gaining new skills and experiences in the arts that are their occupation. It was a quite long letter, and I found myself immersed in it, and thought I'd share a few of these observations, mostly made by Carl; just tiny snippets from the letter about life in two cities. I'm ignoring for now their comments about what they're learning in terms of their art and craft from this ancient porcelain specialty area.

It's a look out the window and on to the street. Joan introduced it with a few words and handed over to Carl, but she'll have much to say later on!

Source in Jingdezhen is very good. The food is far too good and fattening, and the street life reminds one of the guests of India, so for those of you who've been to India, you get the picture.

Lots going on on the street, and the usual traffic chaos and broken pavement, food smells, and other not so appetising odours.

Shanghai proved to be an experience that I believe will linger for many years...Shaun Tan's The Arrival will give you an excellent indication of what it is like to find oneself in a totally foreign place. Turkey, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand were about 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. Our first days in Shanghai were about 75.

Shanghai is like something out of Blade Runner...only a lot cleaner. Obsessive cleaning of streets keeps a huge complex system of bamboo broom makers, bicycle wheeled cart manufacturers, stainless steel garbage bin producers and blue uniform makers along with modern street scrubbers and water spraying equipment continually employed. I even saw one assiduously polishing the stainless steel with steel wool.

They haven't achieved the same success with air cleanliness and I can appreciate why so many people wear face masks.

The other startling thing about Shanghai is the number of expensive new cars on the road, parked on footpaths and up slum-like side alleys. There are new Audis, Bentleys, Porches, Buicks, Cadillacs and luxury models of Toyotas, VWs, Nissans, et al, that I've never seen in OZ. Probably also owned by developers.

The public transport system in contrast to Sydney is amazing. It's analogous to the communications explosion that has seen many Asian countries bipass copper wire and jump straight into fibre. The train service and infrastructure is an engineering marvel, fast, efficient and ultra modern, showing where you are at every stage of the journey. beard is still something of a conversation piece in this city of 23 million beardless souls. [NOTE: if you look at the picture of Carl at the top of this posting you will see why it might attract attention!] 

Food is interesting, ranging from McDonalds and Kentucky Fried to a vast variety of cooked animals, unusual vegetables, tofu, noodles and rice along with strange fruits served from hundreds of street stalls to very expensive restaurants.

Jingdezhen is something else.

Traditional artist-craftsman
'The Pottery Workshop - Sculpture Factory' is a huge complex of studios, shops, artists residences and craftspeople catering for every aspect of traditional Chinese and contemporary porcelain. Our accommodation is luxurious by Chinese standards and most comfortable by ours....

We work at our own bench in a well equipped and air-conditioned second floor studio with views of mountains that one sees in traditional Chinese paintings, across traditionally tiled Chinese roof-lines.

Surprisingly, half of the residents here are from Australia, three from America and latest arrival is Canadian....

Last night (Sunday) we went out with the American couple and for the first time in our lives we sat down to order a meal and discovered there was no menu. Fortunately the waitress had three or four words of English as we had none of Chinese which made it interesting to see what arrived. It turned out well and we dined on fish, beef, noodles and steamed dumpling - her vocabulary. The meals here - lunch and dinner served Monday to Saturday (Sunday we forage) are excellent and copious.
Cherryblossom teacup set
There is a coffee shop (9am/9pm) below our digs which besides real coffee also serves good red and white wines at affordable prices - 120 yuan (around $20 a bottle) and Tsing Tao beer at 20 yuan ($3.50) for 600ml.

A few quick impressions of China before I finish up until next time...The young people are confident, fashionable, smart and healthy. I believe they're the new vanguard that's going to make enormous changes by using communications technology. Most of the older people are ferocious smokers and that along with the abysmal pollution in the bigger cities will reduce their life expectancy and China's population.

The huge apartment blocks we saw from the air are often half empty, built to create employment - many in Jingdezhen are empty and there is a paucity of real jobs here apart from more huge apartment tower construction. As one of the master ceramicists here advised as he pulled up beside me on his electric bike. "Don't try to make sense of it, just expect the unexpected". Interesting times indeed... That's it from Carl for now.

Oh yes, Denis, I am unable to access your blog or facebook. [Yes, we know why, Carl!] ..., so please keep in touch via email.
Much love to you all, Joan & Carl

Thanks to you both, Carl and Joan.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

An angry bird

Last Wednesday, this amazing thing happened.

I like that. It's a good start.

It comes courtesy of our friends Ros and Dave. Dave has MS, and if you don't know what that is, then you should find out. I reluctantly admit that I had very little knowledge of just how it worked its nastiness till after everything changed for me. Until then, illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and cancer were what other people got.

   Ros sent me this link to a story on an excellent blog. I admit that I don't know just who Wheelchair Kamakaze is, but gee, I like his style.

   I was totally blown away by this paragraph. The reason is that it could be describing, with clinical accuracy, just what the tumour in the left side motor centre of my brain is wreaking on my body, and the frustrations that come with it.
Not only am I sick, but I’m sick of being sick. I’m sick of dragging around a useless right side as if it were a carcass, even while my left side continues to weaken. I’m sick of relying on the kindness of others to cut my food, zipper my jacket, and button my pants. I’m sick of the prospect of taking a shower being as ominous as the prospect of taking a trip to the gallows. I'm sick of the fucking wheelchair. I’m sick of only being able to sleep in two-hour spurts because whatever position I’m finally able to fall asleep in invariably becomes so uncomfortable that it interrupts my dreams. I’m sick of muscle spasms that make my limbs shudder and shake as if possessed by demons. I’m sick of always being so goddamned fatigued that calling what I feel “fatigue” is like calling the Queen Mary a dinghy. I’m sick of the meds and I’m sick of the lack of meds. I’m sick of having to be brave, I’m sick of always seeking the peace within, and I’m sick of not having the freedom to let my mind wander, because it could very well wander into a real-life horror story too demented to be conjured up even by Edgar Allen Poe. I’m sick of watching my dwindling abilities turn into disabilities, of looking on helplessly as my world gets smaller, of watching the walls creep in. So much for my being an inspiration, I guess.
I haven't been subjected enough to the wheelchair to to summon up the adjectival expletive above, but even ours, smallest and lightest possible, is still an awkward creature to carry and use. Nearly everything else is right on the money.

   But the question raised in the article was an interesting one. It made me wonder how much the cool, calm appearance I project most of the time [not all; ask Tracey] hides much more repressed anger as well; anger that the blogger was releasing so eloquently in his entire posting. Please read it!

   Most of the time I just don't feel that angry. What is it that makes me angry? I guess the myriad of small things, and some big ones, that make me lash out at times. A lot of them are merely frustrations, but some are serious because, purely selfishly, they can lead to rash decisions on my part that could be fatal for me.

   I've said many times that I don't feel the 'injustice' of having this brain tumour when I consider the genuine injustice that plagues the globe. By any world comparison, I've had a dream run, so let me not go back down that well-worn track. I do get angry about the injustice, the cruelty, the selfishness and irrationality we see all around us, but as I said in my previous posting, there's usually precious little we can do about most of that.

   What makes me angry on the personal level is being disappointed in myself for some reason, and much more so if that comes out in an unjust criticism of anyone else - as it often does. This is especially true of anger seemingly directed at those on the spot, Tracey and Christian, who have shown nothing but continuous care and concern for me. That sort of ingratitude causes stress that rebounds on us all and keeps me awake at night when it happens.

   I see that I've managed to turn a vice into a near-virtue somehow. It's not. As my friend Joan says of me, taking her cue from The Life of Brian:
He's not the Messiah. He's just a very naughty boy.
 And I have no idea why Tracey should have thought the opening words of Mr Kamakaze's piece were so funny that she nearly choked. I ask you, what's so hysterical about this?
My wife attends a monthly caregiver support group, though I can’t imagine why, since I’m such a prince and always a tremendous pleasure to be around.*
*Wheelchair Kamikaze, "The Rants, Ruminations, and Reflections of a Mad MStery Patient"

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"A crowd of people stood and stared"

♬     ♫     ♪     ♬     ♫ 

I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph
He blew his mind out in a car
He didn't notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They'd seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords

 [The Beatles A day in the life]

"You won't believe what happened in the staff meeting today."

   In the days when we went out to work for other people, we'd come home with a lot of things to talk about, even though they were not of great significance for the future of humankind. There was plenty to share and laugh at; to be amazed by the antics of my university students or other staff members, or courtroom tactics in a particular case where Tracey was trying to save some sad sod's job when caught .01 over the alcohol limit.

   When we were out filming in our business after The University and The Law, life also had that unexpected quality. There was plenty to discuss.

   Now I don't go out much. I like it that way, but it has disadvantages. Serious ones.

   One is that my conversation becomes painfully limited. If I talk about the things that are happening about me, then it zeroes in on seizures and headaches, injections and showers. The weather. Dogs barking outside and ah the serenity of the street with the comforting sound of three mowers and the garbage truck. Who Tracey met while pushing a grocery trolley in Coles. The quality of the pears.

   These, I must admit, are not the most exciting of subjects. Naturally Tracey and Christian pep it up with news of their other activities where they can.

   And yet, by 6 am on most days, I have read all the newspapers online that I wish to. I know more "news" than anyone in the house and probably in the town.

   There's tons to talk about really. The world is loaded with interesting things that are happening. So, my thought went, let me take note of some of them and we can talk about those if the conversation flags at dinnertime. Anything's better than whinging. In fact, nothing's better than whinging. Silence is better, that is. As in the Silence of the Lamb Chops and the clinking of cutlery.

    Just before dinner I glance down the list of things I've read about during the day, so I can bring up some discussion. Take today's (then 15 April 2013) most popular stories for example, from the ABC.  What have we here...?

   What of these will interest three people, one a twenty-year old?

   The one about the emu oil fixing the stomach lining of chemotherapy patients eaten away by the drugs has special relevance in this household, admittedly. It's good for one minute's worth, if that. But, apart from that, there's not a bit of that so-called news worth mulling over without upsetting or boring someone silly.

   This is hardly news, and the commercial outlets are far, far worse. They are 'grab' pieces with the newsworthiness of takeaway Thai – or, importantly, events none of us can do a thing about, except get cross or agitated.

   Not true, you protest. Some of them are worth exploring. Fine – if real exploring occurred. What has the good old BBC has on offer as most popular stories?

   Well look at that. Justin Bieber scored a double, ABC and BBC. That means it has to be important, doesn't it?

   Surprise! It isn't. It's part of the scrapfotainment served up as something relevant to our lives. It seduces us into reading a story in the mistaken belief that it adds value to our existence.

   The development of regenerated kidneys may be worth looking at, and the one on biofuels. Who cares if the Thatcher funeral is rehearsed? Or the price of a blingy gold shirt to a congenital idiot?

   Real news analyses things that matter. The real stories are the ones that get below the surface. What is the real story behind home invasions? What are rights of the homeowner in the light of attacks on octogenarians in their homes? If someone gets stabbed in the street, the story is really about why knives are omnipresent as weapons, the profiling of the knife-wielder and victims, why the law banning these weapons is totally ineffective.

   That's why when I go at 5 am to the BBC's home page on the Kindle, I skim the "news" to see if the earth is still on its axis, and skip down to the real journalism, to read the longer, reflective articles that have depth and quality.

   This isn't guaranteed to improve our dinner conversations, but it's start. That's if I can remember the story at all, but there's no certainty of this.

   And yet... some of these infoscraps are like the dots you need to connect in order to understand what's being fed to people today. This Korean business: I want to know, is the Fat Controller running the show in the Orwellian Democratic People's Republic of Korea? Is it a plan to extract money from the rest of the world like a protection racket? Well, we know it is, but how strong is that motive? What about behind the scenes? Are Beijing masters manipulating the puppets? Does the American military establishment love this and play its part in the orchestration of tension to get more money, more military toys, which helps Congress reps justify saving their state's defence industries and thus keep their electors happy?

   If a real story comes along, this missile one is a dud. But what sort of reporter do we need to research that properly? There are probably no dedicated Watergate type newshounds collaborating on such projects. The resources are no longer there for genuine investigative reporting no matter how good the reporter. That's why we in Australia so desperately need our news analysis programmes like AM and PM, and Four Corners.

   And what do I do otherwise? I can save two hours a day ignoring the "news" and I have volumes to read, but I don't mind a bit of infomercial entertainment once a week (called the Channel 9 News). Do I like the cute little baby zoo panda at the end of the "news" on TV? Gotta keep a sense of proportion about all this. Life is a bit of froth and bubble occasionally. There are some seriously dull people around.

   Coincidentally, I came across this piece – a somewhat reflective piece, in an online newspaper. I expected it to be dodgy, but I was wrong. Although it makes assertions that aren't documented and may be questioned, it has a lot of truth in it, if my own experience has any meaning. Read the excerpts at the end of this before going to it – if indeed you feel persuaded to go anywhere.

   Bear in mind that these comments relate to what is classed as news these days, but isn't. It's not the stuff of which real news is made. But if what's above, called news, is the best two great institutions can do, then heaven help those who only read or view "news" from commercial rubbish-gatherers and pay TV. 

   How painfully apt the lyrics of the Beatles' song are. Maybe that's what we'll do for dinner – play Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, followed by OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA.

   STOP PRESS: And then we have this. By the time you read this, you'll be so sick of it you'll want to throw up, even though it surely is a genuine news story, and my deep sympathies to those affected (along with the dozens of innocents killed this week in a series of bombings in Iraq. Rather different treatment of a terrorist attack, yes?) There's some serious research needed here, though will it be aired if ever it is done? What we'll really need are journalists and a place to put their findings. That means real newshounds with knowledge and experience, not ones selling their souls to grab a "new" angle because that's what they're ordered to do. 

Excerpts from News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier Please read the whole article, if you find any of the excerpts below of interest. I stress, it accepts a loose definition of what news is.

Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.

News misleads.

News is irrelevant.

Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you.

News has no explanatory power.

The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists' radar but have a transforming effect.

News is toxic to your body.
...your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress.

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you.

News makes us shallow thinkers.

...comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases.

News works like a drug. As stories develop, we want to know how they continue.

The more news we consume, the more we exercise the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading deeply and thinking with profound focus. Most news consumers – even if they used to be avid book readers – have lost the ability to absorb lengthy articles or books. It's because the physical structure of their brains has changed. News wastes time.

Information is no longer a scarce commodity. But attention is. You are not that irresponsible with your money, reputation or health. Why give away your mind? News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic.

News kills creativity. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don't.
Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers truth. But important findings don't have to arrive in the form of news. Long journal articles and in-depth books are good, too.

I have now gone without news for four years, so I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It's not easy, but it's worth it.
That's what the man said. I'm willing to bed that you'll still be reading or listening to the ephemera, or what you can't change, as I do.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Les Mis et nous 2

   A funny thing happened on the way to this second (and final!) part of this posting. You may remember I mentioned that a reviewer (Emma Gosnell) walked out of the movie 37 minutes before the end.

   The reason I knew that was a google search had shown there were many reviews, and I'd vowed not to read any before writing this, but the first few lines said this:
There were only 37 minutes to go. Surely we could make it to the end? But having spent the last two hours hoping vainly that things must get better, I gave in. “Let’s get out of here,” I said.
   That was where I stopped. I didn't want to know why. All I did was use the amazing little Push-to-Kindle app on Firefox to send the article to my little Kindle Reader, so I could read it in bed after I'd written this part of the piece.

   But in the warmth of my bed next morning, there it was, tormenting me. No, I hadn't written this part.

   I read the review. And once I had, I couldn't un-read it. She's fiercer than I am by far, but then, she's a real live critic with some real arrows to fire. I'm just me.

   I was thrown into a quandary, because the criticisms she made were so nearly mine – except that hers is better written by far, her emphases were different and there's no way I'd walk out at the end-minus-37th minute and miss the final numbers, because on stage they're very powerful.

   Yet it would almost look like plagiarism – as if I hadn't come up with these things myself. I wished momentarily that I hadn't succumbed, but figured it might yet look a bit like it anyway. I have other things to say, but still....

   Then I realised she'd done me a favour. All I needed to do was talk about the things that mattered to me in the light of her published comments, and people could read her review up to the minute she stomped out. It wasn't how I planned it,  but it's better than an accusation of unoriginal thought.

   It was, she said, "...a melodrama with a grand, historical sweep, in which people would be doing – and doing it with incredible passion and grit – the thing I love most of all: singing."

   And that's the nub of it. The singing. That's what has to be right or it fails. Or if it doesn't fail, it surely detracts in direct proportion to how unsatisfying the songs are for the audience.
Les Misérables is about poverty, pain, isolation, frustration, suffering. The songs are, in every way, “big”. And that’s where, for me, it fell so woefully short. Where Hugh Jackman, as the long-suffering central character Jean Valjean, imprisoned for 17 years for stealing a loaf of bread, should have soared in moments of anger or pain, his vocals died. Instead of following through on the long, sustained notes – of which there are many in Les Mis – he cut them off with a weak, nasal vibrato. It was as if Jackman was afraid to go for it.
   It was a bit like that, but I didn't feel unkindly towards Jackman. The songs should have sounded a bit bigger, but they weren't. He had to stay within his competence.

   But that's it. This show, the music, is too big for that. Way too big. It's operatic.

   So why cast actors who can sing a bit, and not singers who can act?

   Box office, that's why. Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, and Helena Bonham Carter will bring in a hundred million people, unlike Colm Wilkinson, Philip Quast, Michael Ball and Jenny Galloway, whose names mean nothing to the average movie audience. Yet they sing the songs the way they were meant to be sung. Real singers. But – they're an unknown brand to an unfamiliar audience – even though they've all done Broadway, NY and the West End, London.

   It was the same with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in the film version of Sweeney Todd. That was a disappointment for exactly the same reason: beautiful in just about every other way except for gratuitous bloodletting, but some pitifully massacred songs. Sondheim must have hated it.

   Let me not get on to that.
Hathaway sang her anguished soul out in I Dreamed a Dream. I loved Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Marius, the earnest revolutionary. And the long-suffering Éponine, played by Samantha Barks, was not just technically adept but completely credible. You felt her pain.
   She gives much-deserved credit to the female singers. In the movie, they wisely cast Samantha Barks as Éponine. They chose her, and Eddie Redmayne as Marius, because they needed real singers to give quality to the leads. They were great. Full marks. 

   Yes, some brand recognition there. And let's give full recognition to the excellent but comparatively unknown singers who played the revolutionaries and their lady friends.

   And what about Russell Crowe, much maligned, even ridiculed? Look, he did his best, okay? He's playing a plodder cop (Javert) with a sad background and a determination to uphold the law no matter what. It's what gives all meaning to his life and he rather die than fail. In the end that failure ends his life in a pitiful suicide – but with a magnificent song. 

   That's the problem. Russell is an accidental metaphor for Javert, giving it his all but not quite making it. I have a soft spot for him for that reason – the unintended parody of the character he played. But oh! We deserved for our tolerance the full force of that last splendid painful song, and we didn't get it. Still, he tried.

   Now, the great disappointment – the Thénadiers in the comic song and scene that should have brought the house down: Master of the House. It fell flat. It had little fire. Helena Bonham Carter was too pretty. Still too Goth – to use Tracey's words, which hit the nail on the head – from her dangerously-close-to-typecasting after Harry Potter and Sweeney Todd; nastiness aplenty but too classy-looking. If you want to see a genuine Mme Thénadier, then look at this (at the 42 min 40 mark – yes, you get the whole deal!) Even though it's just a concert version, the audience has the impact it's supposed to.

   That's the critical difference between a movie version of a story and a stage one. There's no audience for the cast to react to. No-one's out there, cheering and weeping and whistling. They may be doing that at times in the movie theatre if they know the musical well (many who have gone to see just Hugh and Anne won't) but the performance of stage actors feeds off the audience response.

   Look at that concert on youtube and you'll see how a live audience changes everything. Les Mis and Sweeney Todd need that. We need to hear the audience response, and we don't get it.

   Would I see it again if it came to town? Sure, if I were able. I can forgive its failings and appreciate the many good things about it. 

   One thing's for sure, I wouldn't be walking out with 37 minutes to go, though I am probably one of the minority who saw the movie who can understand why Gosnell did.

   Our ADMS stage production was richer and more vibrant – in the ways that count.
“If you’re making a musical, you should hire singers,” she tells me. “Singers who can act. In a musical, you want singing that’s technically good. It’s cruel to make people who can’t sing, sing.” [Marni Nixon, speaking to Emma Gosnell]
   And if you're making a film about a stage show with the presence of Les Mis, then film it on stage, with an audience, using all the genius that modern video-making can offer a stage production.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the contribution by Tracey to our long discussion of Les Mis after coming home. We agreed on every point, but if there are changes of emphasis you don't like, they're probably mine.

Les Mis 1 | Les Mis 2  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Les Mis et nous 1

...which is to say, this is about a big movie, a stage production, and Tracey and me.
"It was magic. Just as well I came prepared – with tissues."

"I was bored out of my mind with it." 

"Fantastic! Wonderful casting." 

"Not a word of dialogue. All they did was sing." 

"That's three hours I will never get back." 

"The acting was wonderful. A pity they aren't singers." 

"Hey, it's a movie. It's not meant to look like a concert."

   And so it goes on. And on.

   Is Les Mis, the movie based on the stage musical, any good?

   Les Misérables. I'll just call it what most people do – Les Mis. That's what it should be called, because it bears little resemblance to the brooding film (1998) of the same name, much less the Victor Hugo tale.

   Let me nail my colours to the mast.

   In 2002, the Armidale Drama and Musical Society (ADMS) performed a production of the show. It was a tremendous hit and played to full houses every night of a three week season.

   It was the finest cast of singers and chorus ever assembled in Armidale up to that time for a musical, and, backed by a wonderful orchestra and crew, has got to rank with the best ever produced in the city.

   In 2002, I had barely come into the world of musical theatre. Only the fact that Tracey was a stage performer had given me an interest. Until then, for me, the songs just interrupted the story. If it were a choice between Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, I'd have spurned the latter and stuck to good old GBS.

   Tracey was still new to town and was happy to take a place in the Ensemble.

   I decided, out of curiosity, to go to the rehearsals and see what the attraction of this form of drama was. The first evening I was there, they started with a warmup; Do you hear the people sing?

   I can't describe the effect of hearing the melding of these beautiful voices from bass to soprano in this soul-stirring song, except for the thrill up and down my spine. 

   No, I wasn't hooked – not yet. The opening sequence didn't grab me, nor was I used to the concept that from start to finish, this had no straight dialogue. All singing! Was this opera or what?

   Of course it's not all about the music. The complexity of the elements that combine to create a stage production you can barely imagine if you didn't do Drama 101 (I didn't) or haven't watched them unfold before your eyes (I did). 

   It's easy enough to understand the Director's role, though direction's no easy task. I learned what a Producer actually does (you have to be special to do that well) – or a Stage Manager. The subtleties of Lighting. The agony of Sound. Sight lines. The critical role of a good crew toiling away out the back. How it all comes together.

   Laugh if you will at my ignorance. I don't mind. I can pan for gold and write backwards. Can you? Hmm?

   What fascinated me was to watch others involved in the show, no matter what their role, as the rehearsals went on, week after week. As I got to appreciate the beauty of the musical numbers and the lyrics, word for word, and to wince when a singer was a fraction sharp or flat or was straining for that high note, I came to understand their passion.

   Very often I'd see them in the wings, watching with great intensity as Eponine poured out her heart and soul with On My Own, tears and sniffles with the really soppy bits even though they'd heard them – maybe sung them – a hundred times. The sheer delight of the bawdy Thénardier establishment, the stirring Red and Black evoking images of the Marseillaise a half-century before, and the pathos of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.

   Of all the shows I might have begun with, I'd stumbled on the very one that the performers love most of all, or so they've said to me many times over.

   So, what am I doing here? Establishing my creds, I guess. I'm just a nobody, with a blog. I'm not one of the scores of critics who write for influential newspapers, but I have my views about this 2012 film. I think I'm reasonably fair-minded. Unlike one critic, I didn't walk out 37 minutes from the end, but I do know this musical intimately. So here's what I think.

   Damn. I've run out of words before I got started. Next time it's all about this movie, I swear.

Scenes from ADMS production of Les Mis [2002]

Les Mis 1 | Les Mis 2

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A-Doré-ble images 2

This isn't an attempt to convert anyone, although I suspect some of you need it nearly as much as I do – perhaps not so quickly. To understand why it's here, you need to look at the first part.

   This continues my conversion of the faded Doré images into ones that I believe are truer to the original. The temptation to make them exactly the colour they would have been as pencil drawings is strong, but I'll resist. There's some colour in the originals as printed I should retain now that I've brought it back.

   I have found the stories accompanying them fascinating, although the language is difficult in places and the names confusing, especially to one such as I, incapable or retaining a short-term memory for any longer than the second it is in my mind.

   I could do a précis of each story, but some are well-known. Maybe I'll let you figure it out, or simply enjoy the pictures.

   So here's series 2. Stories of joy in bloody victory, of heavenly-ordained slaughter in return for a vow, youthful strength, ill-judged passion, generosity from a rich man, jealousy of an old man, and wisdom by a shrewd judge of human nature.


Then sang Deborah and Barak, the son of Abinoam on that day, saying: 

Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, When the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel. Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, When thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, The earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, Even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel.


Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be;
Blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked water, and she gave him milk;
She brought forth butter in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer;
And with the hammer she smote Sisera, She smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down:
At her feet he bowed, he fell:
Where he bowed, there he fell down dead. The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots? Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself, Have they not sped? Have they not divided the prey;
To every man a damsel or two; 

To Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, Of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?
So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: But let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.
Judges v, 2-5, 24-31


Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.

So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. Judges xi, 29-34.


 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath; and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand; but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. Judges xiv, 5-6.


 And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.

And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.

And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire. So his strength was not known.

And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound. And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with clew ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And there were liers in wait abiding in the chamber. And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.

And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound. And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web. And she fastened it with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam and with the web.

And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth. And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; that he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.

And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath showed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand. And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him. Judges xvi, 4-20. 


 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.

And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.

And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: and she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house.

Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn.

Then she fell on her face and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?

And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

Then she said, Let me find favor in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens.

And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left. And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: and let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them and rebuke her not.

So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley. – Ruth ii, 1-17. 


 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house.

Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

And David went out withersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants.

And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.

And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, "They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?"  And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice. – 1 Samuel xviii, I-II. 


 Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.

And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.

And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son.

And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and, the living is my son.

Thus they spake before the king.

Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead – and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword.

And they brought a sword before the king.

And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.

Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.

But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.

Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it she is the mother thereof.

And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment. 1 Kings iii, 16-28. 

dore1 | dore2

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A-Doré-ble images 1

'Before and after' images. It's all explained below
 Granny had a Bible. Not just any Bible. I was little and it was big. And it was richly illustrated with these dark, sepia drawings, which both fascinated and horrified me.

   I couldn't be bothered to read much of the text, which was strange and abstruse, although it pleased me that I could understand it – as text I mean. I found extraordinary some of the passages, like "And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter."

   This is where the word "testament" comes from. Look, if you want to promise me something is true, you don't need to do it quite like that. You don't really need a testicular connection. Okay?

   The Old Testament puzzled me mightily. Who were these people? How could they be so cruel to each other? How could babies be killed by the thousand? How could you sell off a brother for twenty pieces of silver, even if he was his Dad's favourite and insulted eleven other brothers with his dreams? How could...? A million questions.

   But there the images were. These often-apocalyptic themes were translated faithfully in the drawings in Granny's Bible. (Not that we've become any kinder. All my childhood questions could and should be asked of the photos on the TV news nightly.)

   I never gave a thought to the origin of these images until quite recently, when I came across an absolute gem. 

   For no good reason except personal satisfaction, I curate a website that I don't have enough time to make what I intended of it. But one thing I do, every month, is to place on it a link to every new and updated book in English on the wondrous, freely downloadable site.

    One of the books I came across was this, and when I opened the electronic edition with images, yea, lo and behold, the scales fell from mine eyes.

   This was the origin of the vivid images in Granny's Bible. Now I could re-live all the torments and wonders of my childhood Biblical experiences.

   It's a treasure trove. These images, no doubt affected in their execution by the great Renaissance artists, but still very much the unique work of Gustave Doré, have practically defined western imagery of the Christian vision for more than a century.

   As I inspected them, one thing that disappointed me was the pallidness of the drawings. The faintness. This wasn't how I remembered them.

   Take this one, for instance.

   It displeased me, even though I couldn't be sure just much contrast and sharpness were in the originals. I thought I'd have a go at restoring them to how I remembered them. This is how it ended up.

   Then I thought I'd like to have a go at restoring a few more, and so this project started.

   My next line of thought was to check on the remarkable artist who produced these drawings, because there might be clues there to his state of mind. That was very rewarding. There's a fair biography of him prefacing the hundred images in the collection. But I learned something even more important.

   These are pencil drawings, so that softness of the images is not accidental.

   Still, when I did my electronic restoration, I was able then to detect tiny details quite lost in the downloadable reproductions – ones I'm certain were clear in those in Granny's Bible. Now I find that they were etchings prepared from the original drawings. So I'm not departing too far from the artist's vision or the Biblical reproduction, I'm sure. The printers made a slight compromise. There are tricks to knowing for certain how much fading is due to time, and I know them.

   Here are some of the more spectacular ones. I decided to give you some of the text as well, so you might enjoy the context. What's here are the first few. Wait – there's more. Next time.

   This is an artistic, historical and aesthetic exploration, not a religious one, even if there are religious implications for some who might view them.

   I taught Comparative Religion at university for many years, but I was called in mainly to help with the Asian religions, and Islam, and learned only enough of Judaism and Christianity to make fair comparisons. We had fine scholars in the Old Testament/Biblical studies area – I left that to them. I was very familiar with many of the Old Testament tales from early childhood, but that's another story.

   This might be a trip down memory lane for some, or a new experience for you. It may have not the faintest interest for others, in which case, give it a miss, but I may post some more "reconditioned" images later if there seems to be any interest. 

   I doubt if anyone else will ever bother to revitalise these images, so let this be my tiny contribution to Biblical history. As I said, there's nothing proselytising about the exercise. Very possibly, the images may scare some away. I hope not. This is a lesson picture by picture in humanity's often inhuman past.


 "And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helpmeet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept, and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." Genesis ii, 18, 21-24.

In these few words the Scriptures narrate the creation of the first mother of our race. In "Paradise Lost," the poetic genius of Milton, going more into detail, describes how Eve awoke to consciousness, and found herself reposing under a shade of flowers, much wondering what she was and whence she came. Wandering by the margin of a small lake, she sees her own form mirrored in the clear waters, at which she wonders more. But a voice is heard, leading her to him for whom she was made, who lies sleeping under a grateful shade. It is at this point the artist comes to interpret the poet's dream. Amid the varied and luxurious foliage of Eden, in the vague light of the early dawn, Eve is presented, coy and graceful, gazing on her sleeping Lord, while in the background is faintly outlined the mystic form of Him in whose image they were created.


 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: Therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. – Genesis iii, 22-24

They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld Of Paradise, so late their happy seat, Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate, With dreadful forces thronged, and fiery arms Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon; The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide; They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way.

Paradise Lost, Book XII.


 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, – when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not Am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. – Genesis iv, 1-16


 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.

And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made his camels to kneel down, without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw: water: and let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

And it came to pass before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher and came up. And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. And she said, Drink, my lord; and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. And she hasted and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.

And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.

And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold: and said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee; is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in? And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor. She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.

And the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren.

And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things. – Genesis xxiv, 9-28. 


 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a coat of many colors. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed. For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams and for his words.

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father and to his brethren; and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth. And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.

And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now, therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands to deliver him to his father again.

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him; and they took him and cast him into a pit; and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread; and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver; and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard. – Genesis xxxvii, 2 – 12, 17-28, 36 


 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.

And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children. Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child and nursed it.

And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water. – Exodus ii, 1-10. 


 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.

And they shewed Sisera that Barak, the son of Abinoam, was gone up to Mount Tabor. And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.

And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.

And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.

Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. Then Jael, Heber's wife, took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. Judges iv, 2-22.

So she drives a nail into his brain. Some tough stories, aren't there? Would you like me to continue? I've rejuvenated quite a few more.

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