Guggenheim's Works and Process series - Harlequinade - Balanchine

I love this Guggenheim series which promotes ballet.  My only quibble is that their stage is so small, it prohibits the full experience of the dance.


Dr. Seward's Diary - October 11th

Evening.—Jonathan Harker has asked me to note this, as he says he is hardly equal to the task, and he wants an exact record kept.
I think that none of us were surprised when we were asked to see Mrs. Harker a little before the time of sunset. We have of late come to understand that sunrise and sunset are to her times of peculiar freedom; when her old self can be manifest without any controlling force subduing or restraining her, or inciting her to action. This mood or condition begins some half hour or more before actual sunrise or sunset, and lasts till either the sun is high, or whilst the clouds are still aglow with the rays streaming above the horizon. At first there is a sort of negative condition, as if some tie were loosened, and then the absolute freedom quickly follows; when, however, the freedom ceases the change-back or relapse comes quickly, preceded only by a spell of warning silence.
To-night, when we met, she was somewhat constrained, and bore all the signs of an internal struggle. I put it down myself to her making a violent effort at the earliest instant she could do so. A very few minutes, however, gave her complete control of herself; then, motioning her husband to sit beside her on the sofa where she was half reclining, she made the rest of us bring chairs up close. Taking her husband’s hand in hers began:—
“We are all here together in freedom, for perhaps the last time! I know, dear; I know that you will always be with me to the end.” This was to her husband whose hand had, as we could see, tightened upon hers. “In the morning we go out upon our task, and God alone knows what may be in store for any of us. You are going to be so good to me as to take me with you. I know that all that brave earnest men can do for a poor weak woman, whose soul perhaps is lost—no, no, not yet, but is at any rate at stake—you will do. But you must remember that I am not as you are. There is a poison in my blood, in my soul, which may destroy me; which must destroy me, unless some relief comes to us. Oh, my friends, you know as well as I do, that my soul is at stake; and though I know there is one way out for me, you must not and I must not take it!” She looked appealingly to us all in turn, beginning and ending with her husband.
“What is that way?” asked Van Helsing in a hoarse voice. “What is that way, which we must not—may not—take?”
“That I may die now, either by my own hand or that of another, before the greater evil is entirely wrought. I know, and you know, that were I once dead you could and would set free my immortal spirit, even as you did my poor Lucy’s. Were death, or the fear of death, the only thing that stood in the way I would not shrink to die here, now, amidst the friends who love me. But death is not all. I cannot believe that to die in such a case, when there is hope before us and a bitter task to be done, is God’s will. Therefore, I, on my part, give up here the certainty of eternal rest, and go out into the dark where may be the blackest things that the world or the nether world holds!” We were all silent, for we knew instinctively that this was only a prelude. The faces of the others were set and Harker’s grew ashen grey; perhaps he guessed better than any of us what was coming. She continued:—
“This is what I can give into the hotch-pot.” I could not but note the quaint legal phrase which she used in such a place, and with all seriousness. “What will each of you give? Your lives I know,” she went on quickly, “that is easy for brave men. Your lives are God’s, and you can give them back to Him; but what will you give to me?” She looked again questioningly, but this time avoided her husband’s face. Quincey seemed to understand; he nodded, and her face lit up. “Then I shall tell you plainly what I want, for there must be no doubtful matter in this connection between us now. You must promise me, one and all—even you, my beloved husband—that, should the time come, you will kill me.”
“What is that time?” The voice was Quincey’s, but it was low and strained.
“When you shall be convinced that I am so changed that it is better that I die that I may live. When I am thus dead in the flesh, then you will, without a moment’s delay, drive a stake through me and cut off my head; or do whatever else may be wanting to give me rest!”
Quincey was the first to rise after the pause. He knelt down before her and taking her hand in his said solemnly:—
“I’m only a rough fellow, who hasn’t, perhaps, lived as a man should to win such a distinction, but I swear to you by all that I hold sacred and dear that, should the time ever come, I shall not flinch from the duty that you have set us. And I promise you, too, that I shall make all certain, for if I am only doubtful I shall take it that the time has come!”
“My true friend!” was all she could say amid her fast-falling tears, as, bending over, she kissed his hand.
“I swear the same, my dear Madam Mina!” said Van Helsing.
“And I!” said Lord Godalming, each of them in turn kneeling to her to take the oath. I followed, myself. Then her husband turned to her wan-eyed and with a greenish pallor which subdued the snowy whiteness of his hair, and asked:—
“And must I, too, make such a promise, oh, my wife?”
“You too, my dearest,” she said, with infinite yearning of pity in her voice and eyes. “You must not shrink. You are nearest and dearest and all the world to me; our souls are knit into one, for all life and all time. Think, dear, that there have been times when brave men have killed their wives and their womenkind, to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy. Their hands did not falter any the more because those that they loved implored them to slay them. It is men’s duty towards those whom they love, in such times of sore trial! And oh, my dear, if it is to be that I must meet death at any hand, let it be at the hand of him that loves me best. Dr. Van Helsing, I have not forgotten your mercy in poor Lucy’s case to him who loved”—she stopped with a flying blush, and changed her phrase—“to him who had best right to give her peace. If that time shall come again, I look to you to make it a happy memory of my husband’s life that it was his loving hand which set me free from the awful thrall upon me.”
“Again I swear!” came the Professor’s resonant voice. Mrs. Harker smiled, positively smiled, as with a sigh of relief she leaned back and said:—
“And now one word of warning, a warning which you must never forget: this time, if it ever come, may come quickly and unexpectedly, and in such case you must lose no time in using your opportunity. At such a time I myself might be—nay! if the time ever comes, shall be—leagued with your enemy against you.”
“One more request;” she became very solemn as she said this, “it is not vital and necessary like the other, but I want you to do one thing for me, if you will.” We all acquiesced, but no one spoke; there was no need to speak:—
“I want you to read the Burial Service.” She was interrupted by a deep groan from her husband; taking his hand in hers, she held it over her heart, and continued: “You must read it over me some day. Whatever may be the issue of all this fearful state of things, it will be a sweet thought to all or some of us. You, my dearest, will I hope read it, for then it will be in your voice in my memory for ever—come what may!”
“But oh, my dear one,” he pleaded, “death is afar off from you.”
“Nay,” she said, holding up a warning hand. “I am deeper in death at this moment than if the weight of an earthly grave lay heavy upon me!”
“Oh, my wife, must I read it?” he said, before he began.
“It would comfort me, my husband!” was all she said; and he began to read when she had got the book ready.
“How can I—how could any one—tell of that strange scene, its solemnity, its gloom, its sadness, its horror; and, withal, its sweetness. Even a sceptic, who can see nothing but a travesty of bitter truth in anything holy or emotional, would have been melted to the heart had he seen that little group of loving and devoted friends kneeling round that stricken and sorrowing lady; or heard the tender passion of her husband’s voice, as in tones so broken with emotion that often he had to pause, he read the simple and beautiful service from the Burial of the Dead. I—I cannot go on—words—and—v-voice—f-fail m-me!”

She was right in her instinct. Strange as it all was, bizarre as it may hereafter seem even to us who felt its potent influence at the time, it comforted us much; and the silence, which showed Mrs. Harker’s coming relapse from her freedom of soul, did not seem so full of despair to any of us as we had dreaded.


Step Reebok: The Video

I'm still on my aerobics only kick at the moment.  I'm not sure why but I can't stand the thought of isometric weight workouts or lifting light free weights.  I've read that kettlebell is a good work out and spans aerobic work plus weight lifting.  I will be looking into that soon.

The other day I was going to do my Jane Fonda program again.  But I felt I needed something a bit more strenuous.  Then I remembered my copy of the original Step Reebok created by Gin Miller.  I used to do that program regularly (before my knee problems) and I loved it.  It was one of the few aerobics programs that didn't bore me.  Plus it was known as one of the toughest workouts to complete in the early 90s.  If you could complete the program without feeling like dying afterwards, you were FIT!  I used to do this workout 3 to 4 times a week.  Heck, I must have been insane.  Well, I was young.

Now, I'm not so young.  But not so old that I can't do this workout anymore abet with some alterations.

1) First important alteration for older exercisers and people with bad knees - Don't use an aerobic Step.  Don't use it.  Simple.  You will still get a good workout doing ALL of the original program choreography in place just moving about your room.  In fact Miller advises this for people who are still building stamina in her training segment.

2) Vary the intensity if you are still getting back into shape.  Believe me no one will know if you decided to just march in place for awhile instead of completing some of the choreography.  You mustn't push yourself until you hyperventilate or collapse in exhaustion.  Be good to yourself.  You will gain strength to do more than you think possible.  But it won't occur over night.  There is no one out there policing your exercise habits or waiting to hand you the medal of valor for exercising beyond your limits.  In fact pushing yourself over your limits does nothing for you.  It in fact hurts you.  So if you just want to march for a few steps do it.  If you don't want to the incorporate hops or kicks in the program, do it.  One day you will be able to do it all.

3)  Take advantage of Miller's heart rate checks during the program.  It will give you a good idea for the base level of your fitness.  The area where you are still in the aerobic zone, where you are overworking or under working.  When you are in the proper zone, pay attention to how you feel.  You should feel invigorated not exhausted or just doing the motions.  Understanding this concept will carry over into other programs where you can better gauge if you are working, under working or over working your body.

4)  Have fun, enjoy the feeling of movement in your body.  Once this is over, stop.  Leave the program alone for awhile.  Life is too short to feel as if you are doing penance during exercise.  It is a sure way to make you stop exercising.

This program is a model for its time.  It straddles an aesthetic between the late 80's and early 90's.  So there is a lot of spiky hair and gothy looking 80's exercise clothing.  The exercisers in the video are all extremely fit and beautiful.  This isn't a slice of life we are watching here.  But more inspirational model types.  Don't let them intimidate you.  You are getting fit for the best look for YOUR body type and age.  Ignore the models if you must.  Gin Miller herself is a great role model.  She isn't an intimidating instructor.  So just relax and laugh at the MTV beautiful people look.

My one complaint about this video is that many times it is just too dark.  It really looks as if Miller and her exercise pals had to use an old set from Se7en for their production.  The background is industrial with strobe lights and underfloor lighting.  This looks great for the males in the group because it highlights their cut muscles.  But it does nothing for Miller and the rest of the gals.  Sometimes I wish I could turn on the lights and get rid of the discotheque in hell look.  The music in the video is great.  It will get you excited for the next step.

Those are my thoughts on one of my favorite aerobic workouts.  If you feel like exerting just a bit more, do this program, you won't regret it.


Walk it Out

I admit I'm having a hard time recently getting up the motivation to exercise.  But instead of giving in to sheer laziness and a depressive attitude, I try to work it out of my system.  That means I switch to workouts that don't require a lot of my time.  I will do a 15 minute T-Tapp or perhaps a 30 minute Lotte Berk program.  But currently I reach for Walk Out with Jane Fonda.  This is part of her Prime-Time series for older exercisers.

Please don't let the fact that this recent exercise video that was created for people over 50 and up deter you.  This is a good work out.  It is perfect for avid exercisers looking to relax a bit but still keep toning.  It is also great for exercisers of all ages who haven't been active for awhile and are looking to get back into exercise.

The first part of the program is a tone and stretch session.  Fonda uses lighter weights but the exercises are the common variety included in all weight workouts.  Unlike in her older videos, Fonda concentrates on stretching.  She includes nice, long stretches that lengthen muscles and releases knots.  This part of the video is for people just starting to exercise again and need toning before they move on to the tougher 2nd section.  If you are starting over, do concentrate on this section the most. Only when you can complete it without feeling exhausted and you can see that your muscles are more toned  will you move on to part 2.

Part 2 of the program is a low impact 18 minute aerobic walk out session (see example preview above).  Despite the low key atmosphere, you will break out into a nice sweat with this program.  If you are younger and in shape, you can add in more high impact moves such as small hops or more vigorous steps.  No matter if you keep it low impact or step it up, you will feel cheerful and accomplished at the end.  Fonda ends the session with more prolonged stretching.

As you gain strength and stamina (or are already in shape) you can turn this video into an hour long workout session by doing both programs.  When I'm in a more motivated mood, this is how I commonly use it.  But I'm in a bit of low energy like now,  I just do part 2 which lifts me up.

This program is available by VOD with Itunes and Amazon.  Check it out!


Jonathan Harker's Journal - October 6th

 morning.—Another surprise. Mina woke me early, about the same time as yesterday, and asked me to bring Dr. Van Helsing. I thought that it was another occasion for hypnotism, and without question went for the Professor. He had evidently expected some such call, for I found him dressed in his room. His door was ajar, so that he could hear the opening of the door of our room. He came at once; as he passed into the room, he asked Mina if the others might come, too.
“No,” she said quite simply, “it will not be necessary. You can tell them just as well. I must go with you on your journey.”
Dr. Van Helsing was as startled as I was. After a moment’s pause he asked:—
“But why?”
“You must take me with you. I am safer with you, and you shall be safer, too.”
“But why, dear Madam Mina? You know that your safety is our solemnest duty. We go into danger, to which you are, or may be, more liable than any of us from—from circumstances—things that have been.” He paused, embarrassed.
As she replied, she raised her finger and pointed to her forehead:—
“I know. That is why I must go. I can tell you now, whilst the sun is coming up; I may not be able again. I know that when the Count wills me I must go. I know that if he tells me to come in secret, I must come by wile; by any device to hoodwink—even Jonathan.” God saw the look that she turned on me as she spoke, and if there be indeed a Recording Angel that look is noted to her everlasting honour. I could only clasp her hand. I could not speak; my emotion was too great for even the relief of tears. She went on:—
“You men are brave and strong. You are strong in your numbers, for you can defy that which would break down the human endurance of one who had to guard alone. Besides, I may be of service, since you can hypnotise me and so learn that which even I myself do not know.” Dr. Van Helsing said very gravely:—
“Madam Mina, you are, as always, most wise. You shall with us come; and together we shall do that which we go forth to achieve.” When he had spoken, Mina’s long spell of silence made me look at her. She had fallen back on her pillow asleep; she did not even wake when I had pulled up the blind and let in the sunlight which flooded the room. Van Helsing motioned to me to come with him quietly. We went to his room, and within a minute Lord Godalming, Dr. Seward, and Mr. Morris were with us also. He told them what Mina had said, and went on:—
“In the morning we shall leave for Varna. We have now to deal with a new factor: Madam Mina. Oh, but her soul is true. It is to her an agony to tell us so much as she has done; but it is most right, and we are warned in time. There must be no chance lost, and in Varna we must be ready to act the instant when that ship arrives.”
“What shall we do exactly?” asked Mr. Morris laconically. The Professor paused before replying:—
“We shall at the first board that ship; then, when we have identified the box, we shall place a branch of the wild rose on it. This we shall fasten, for when it is there none can emerge; so at least says the superstition. And to superstition must we trust at the first; it was man’s faith in the early, and it have its root in faith still. Then, when we get the opportunity that we seek, when none are near to see, we shall open the box, and—and all will be well.”
“I shall not wait for any opportunity,” said Morris. “When I see the box I shall open it and destroy the monster, though there were a thousand men looking on, and if I am to be wiped out for it the next moment!” I grasped his hand instinctively and found it as firm as a piece of steel. I think he understood my look; I hope he did.
“Good boy,” said Dr. Van Helsing. “Brave boy. Quincey is all man. God bless him for it. My child, believe me none of us shall lag behind or pause from any fear. I do but say what we may do—what we must do. But, indeed, indeed we cannot say what we shall do. There are so many things which may happen, and their ways and their ends are so various that until the moment we may not say. We shall all be armed, in all ways; and when the time for the end has come, our effort shall not be lack. Now let us to-day put all our affairs in order. Let all things which touch on others dear to us, and who on us depend, be complete; for none of us can tell what, or when, or how, the end may be. As for me, my own affairs are regulate; and as I have nothing else to do, I shall go make arrangements for the travel. I shall have all tickets and so forth for our journey.”
There was nothing further to be said, and we parted. I shall now settle up all my affairs of earth, and be ready for whatever may come....

Later.—It is all done; my will is made, and all complete. Mina if she survive is my sole heir. If it should not be so, then the others who have been so good to us shall have remainder.
It is now drawing towards the sunset; Mina’s uneasiness calls my attention to it. I am sure that there is something on her mind which the time of exact sunset will reveal. These occasions are becoming harrowing times for us all, for each sunrise and sunset opens up some new danger—some new pain, which, however, may in God’s will be means to a good end. I write all these things in the diary since my darling must not hear them now; but if it may be that she can see them again, they shall be ready.
She is calling to me.

Set Design Hijinks

It is established now by many theorists, most notably Rob Ager, that Stanley Kubrick purposely designed the set of The Shining to be confusing.  I don't believe he would take credit for this technique.  It was done in plenty of other horror films, in fact it seems to be a technique used in all the best horror films.  You can see set anomalies used in the early silent film era horrors such Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu.  Shirley Jackson wrote her Hill House to be all bad angles and Robert Wise designed the set the same way.  So Kubrick did not set a precedent.

Another film that used set anomalies was Rosemary's Baby.  The Bramford set was purposely designed to disorientate and confuse not only the viewers but the actors themselves.

Watch at time mark 10:33 in which Mia Farrow states that The Bramford set had tape marks and map directions for the actors to use.  Otherwise THEY WOULD NOT KNOW WHERE THEY WERE HEADING!  She even admits she never understood the spatial layout of the apartment set.

It is amazing to me that a simple thing as wacky set design can cause us so much unease, fear and confusion.  It really highlights how our brains are hardwired to deal with certain assumptions about geometrical spaces.

My commentary on Rosemary's Baby can be read HERE.


Jonathan Harker's Journal - October 5th

afternoon.—For some time after our meeting this morning I could not think. The new phases of things leave my mind in a state of wonder which allows no room for active thought. Mina’s determination not to take any part in the discussion set me thinking; and as I could not argue the matter with her, I could only guess. I am as far as ever from a solution now. The way the others received it, too, puzzled me; the last time we talked of the subject we agreed that there was to be no more concealment of anything amongst us. Mina is sleeping now, calmly and sweetly like a little child. Her lips are curved and her face beams with happiness. Thank God, there are such moments still for her.

Later.—How strange it all is. I sat watching Mina’s happy sleep, and came as near to being happy myself as I suppose I shall ever be. As the evening drew on, and the earth took its shadows from the sun sinking lower, the silence of the room grew more and more solemn to me. All at once Mina opened her eyes, and looking at me tenderly, said:—
“Jonathan, I want you to promise me something on your word of honour. A promise made to me, but made holily in God’s hearing, and not to be broken though I should go down on my knees and implore you with bitter tears. Quick, you must make it to me at once.”
“Mina,” I said, “a promise like that, I cannot make at once. I may have no right to make it.”
“But, dear one,” she said, with such spiritual intensity that her eyes were like pole stars, “it is I who wish it; and it is not for myself. You can ask Dr. Van Helsing if I am not right; if he disagrees you may do as you will. Nay, more, if you all agree, later, you are absolved from the promise.”
“I promise!” I said, and for a moment she looked supremely happy; though to me all happiness for her was denied by the red scar on her forehead. She said:—
“Promise me that you will not tell me anything of the plans formed for the campaign against the Count. Not by word, or inference, or implication; not at any time whilst this remains to me!” and she solemnly pointed to the scar. I saw that she was in earnest, and said solemnly:—
“I promise!” and as I said it I felt that from that instant a door had been shut between us.

Later, midnight.—Mina has been bright and cheerful all the evening. So much so that all the rest seemed to take courage, as if infected somewhat with her gaiety; as a result even I myself felt as if the pall of gloom which weighs us down were somewhat lifted. We all retired early. Mina is now sleeping like a little child; it is a wonderful thing that her faculty of sleep remains to her in the midst of her terrible trouble. Thank God for it, for then at least she can forget her care. Perhaps her example may affect me as her gaiety did to-night. I shall try it. Oh! for a dreamless sleep.