I’m reading, I’m watching, I’m listening to . . .

I’m reading, I’m watching, I’m listening to . . . September 30, 2015

I’m reading . . .

Zorro by Isabel Allende.


Allende is definitely a guilty pleasure. Zorro is silly fun, very typical of Allende, with her contemptuous fondness for Catholicism, the silly sex scenes mashed naively in with a kind of lascivious clumsy feminism, a few plot turns that don’t make any sense and quietly get abandoned, and lots of running around, sailing, fighting, crying, eating, singing, being squalid, and more running around. I like the bouncy, tasty prose, and her characters are always memorable.  So sue me.

I’m watching . . .

The Sopranos for the first time.


image source

Damien is a few seasons ahead of me, but is watching along with me on Amazon Prime. This show blows my mind every single episode. It’s super violent, and we have to look away during the sex scenes, but the writing and acting are even more brilliant than everyone said. Probably the best TV I’ve ever seen in my life. Every episode leaves me something to think about, and funny, oh my gosh.


I’m listening to . . .

Jessye Norman singing Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.



By NoJin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I honestly thought I didn’t like Jessye Norman, but hoo boy. We were driving home from Philly and I dozed off in the back seat, and this came on the radio sometime during interminable Connecticut. That woke me up! Here is “Der Abschied” (“The Farewell”)

From Wikipedia:

Three personal disasters befell Mahler during the summer of 1907. Political maneuvering and anti-semitism forced him to resign his post as Director of the Vienna Court Opera, his eldest daughter Maria died from scarlet fever and diphtheria, and Mahler himself was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. “With one stroke,” he wrote to his friend Bruno Walter, “I have lost everything I have gained in terms of who I thought I was, and have to learn my first steps again like a newborn”.[3]

A translation of the words:

The sun departs behind the mountains.
In all the valleys the evening descends
with its shadow, full cooling.
O look! Like a silver boat sails
the moon in the watery blue heaven.
I sense the fine breeze stirring
behind the dark pines.
The brook sings out clear through the darkness.
The flowers pale in the twilight.
The earth breathes, in full rest and sleep.
All longing now becomes a dream.
Weary men traipse homeward
to sleep; forgotten happiness
and youth to rediscover.
The birds roost silent in their branches.
The world falls asleep.
It blows coolly in the shadows of my pines.
I stand here and wait for my friend;
I wait to bid him a last farewell.
I yearn, my friend, at your side
to enjoy the beauty of this evening.
Where are you? You leave me long alone!
I walk up and down with my lute
on paths swelling with soft grass.
O beauty! O eternal loving-and-life-bedrunken world!
He dismounted and handed him the drink
of Farewells. He asked him where
he would go and why must it be.
He spoke, his voice was quiet. Ah my friend,
Fortune was not kind to me in this world!
Where do I go? I go, I wander in the mountains.
I seek peace for my lonely heart.
I wander homeward, to my abode!
I’ll never wander far.
Still is my heart, awaiting its hour.
The dear earth everywhere blossoms in spring and grows green
anew! Everywhere and forever blue is the horizon!
Forever … Forever …

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Here’s my review of “Zorro”: http://www.skjam.com/2013/04/15/book-review-zorro/

    • ken


      Every retired nerd has a blog, whoopee.

      • Clare

        Why so rude? No one’s forcing you to read it.

        • It’s a troll that’s been following me around Patheos under several different handles–this is one of the less obnoxious comments.

  • Bridgette

    I’m not sure if you’re joking about looking away during the sex scenes. If not, why not look away during the violent scenes as well?

    • anna lisa

      Nobody can adequately explain that to me either. I don’t get it. The only sex scenes we turn off or avert our eyes from, are the ones that are awful/abusive, and only because we can’t take it, not because we feel like sinners. Shouldn’t a beautiful act of love, artfully depicted serve to inspire us?–Make us more human?

      A young priest once told me that nudity would “stain my soul”. I said “Nope! I don’t feel stained any more than if I admired a nude of either sex, masterfully painted and hanging on a museum wall. “

    • simchafisher

      Well, I turn my ways from violent scenes if they are upsetting to me, but I turn away from graphic sex scenes because I don’t want to become aroused by watching strangers have sex. It’s not a matter of refusing to watch sinful activity depicted (otherwise I’d also refuse to watch, for instance, robberies).

      I don’t believe that nudity stains anyone’s soul, but it is a fact that sex is both a private and a sacred thing, and it’s not something that we should be watching for entertainment. (People might be required to look away from violent scenes if they find themselves taking too much pleasure in it, or if they realize that it’s making them more accepting of violence; but that is not my situation at all.)

      I know that this will sound prudish to some people, and I’m willing to live with that! I am capable of looking at a nudity in a painting or sculpture without becoming aroused, but I’m not capable of watching two actors pretending to have sex without being aroused. (Anyway, if you’ve watched the Sopranos, you’ll know that there isn’t much in the way of “beautiful acts of lovely artfully depicted.” It’s all basically humping.)
      My sexual life has to do with me and my husband and God, not James Gandolfini.

      • Bridgette

        That makes sense. Thanks for taking the time to explain your view.

        What about the idea (as you mentioned) of “…refusing to watch a sinful activity depicted…” just for the sake of not exposing yourself to something sinful – even if you do not derive any pleasure from it?

        I don’t have an answer – or even a strong opinion about it – it’s just something I’ve been thinking about.

  • Blobee

    The Sopranos…I KNOW! I had not ever seen it and I was on a business trip and turned on the T.V. in the hotel one evening and a show came on the screen. I didn’t even know what it was, but it instantly captivated me. That had NEVER happened to me before or since. Of course I figured out later it was The Sopranos.

    When I got home I ended up renting the videos (long time ago – that was the technology then) from Season One, in order, and my dad and I would sit and watch a whole season in a couple of days. We didn’t have cable at home, so we would wait until the end of the year until the prior season came out, and do the same thing.

    You are so right. It is one of the best written and acted shows I’ve ever watched. I sometimes miss it and wonder what ever happened to everybody, fictionally speaking, I mean.

  • wineinthewater

    “interminable Connecticut” is something that could only be written by someone who has never driven across Nebraska or Kansas. 😉

  • Em

    Jessye Norman! Was there ever such a singer! Oh my goodness. Go listen to her sing “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Samson et Dalila. Or spirituals, any spiritual. Or just keep listening to the Mahler over and over. She’s so amazing.