In Which Pomegranates are not the only Fruit.

Post 31

Oh dearie, dearie me. Slav’s in a pickle folks. In fact that doesn’t begin to describe the doo doo in which my favourite football team currently reside. Not just Slav; from top to bottom and going by the embryonic league table, I’m afraid the emphasis is on the bottom. Don ponders this. But to take his mind off of it, he will also muse (without research or off button) whether Parsifal, far from/as well as being a Freudian wet dream, might actually be Wagner’s coping mechanism for having to go without his conjugal rights back at the ranch; Cosima having closed off that avenue of pleasure. And don’t even get Don started on pomegranate seeds.

Rock bottom, pointless, manager considered most likely to get the chop, needless sending offs, defensive shambolics, best defender injured in pre-match warm up, daft penalties…yes folks….you know it, we know it….can only be ….put your hands together for…… West Ham United.

The irony of course, is that it had been a pretty good summer. A week in Avignon with Mrs D followed by a lovely time outside of Dubrovnik again with Mrs Don, Little Don and one of the Little Donettes. There Don mused with Little Don over the challenge to come at Old Trafford; a tricky start of course but with our well received new quintet of Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic, Hernandez and Haksabanovic, we thought we were pretty well equipped; not to win at Man Utd of course, that would be silly, but not to be disgraced. And then to go into the Southampton and Newcastle games with justifiable hope. Added to this, very public talk of William Carvalho being when not if, Valencia gone, Snodgrass about to follow and we reasonably anticipated a winger and maybe one other addition to a good squad and a decent season.

Ok so we conveniently ignored pre-season form, or lack of. Also, various tittle-tattle  concerns re our training intensity, or lack of.

And so it came to pass. Not so much the defeats but the manner of them in the Man U and Newcastle games in which our effort levels doffed caps towards the insipid. Certainly, grit was on display against Southampton, its true; but having clambered to the life raft, we launch ourselves with gusto off of it and into the abyss.

Don’t get me wrong; Don is in the Slaven camp. There; said it and rightly so. It’s grossly unfair to judge after three games, even where tagged onto the ten at the back of last season. But there are very worrying signs. A talented defence looks shambolic. No protection in front. That’s no criticism of Declan Rice whose potential will surely soon be fulfilled and hopefully with us and to a lesser extent, the same applies to Fernandes but his natural instincts lie a little further forward. No, its the impression Slav gives that either Noble or Kouyate can protect a defence; they can’t. They may put in the odd gritty performance but both habitually get wrong side or don’t follow their man because they don’t think like defenders. Can’t remember which manager it was (maybe Curbishley?) that years ago took the young, attacking Mark Noble and said he could turn him into a defensive midfielder. He couldn’t and he isn’t.

Which all makes the William Carvalho debacle an even greater indictment on the numpties supposedly running the club. We thought they’d turned a corner in that some of the earlier transfers were done with comparatively little fanfare, whereas every moment of the early rounds of the Carvalho transfer bout were played out in Technicolor for all to see. And as the deadline approached, the one target so obviously needed, the one all signals from the club highlighted was Slaven’s main priority…. died. Dead. As dead as Frank Miller in High Noon; it took a while to kill him off but once done, he wasn’t coming back. Miller was a vicious outlaw, he had to die. But what had the Carvalho deal ever done to anyone? In these days of grossly inflated transfer fees there seemed little between the clubs though of course we only know what the clubs PR want us to know. Its like the Carrick sale to Spurs; the true details are so complex and obscure as to actually be beyond human comprehension. Like why does every salad now have to contain pomegranate seeds? But more of that later.

The overriding impression is that the board wouldn’t sanction it because rather than support the manager with £40 million, he was a dead man walking and they’d rather save the dosh for the next guy. Whatever one thinks of Bilic, that is shabby treatment because if that is how you feel, sack the guy. Either back him or sack him. Instead we have a half way house, where he hasn’t got the squad he wanted (albeit still one capable of avoiding relegation) and has to limp through to Christmas when he will no doubt be dispatched and the new guy will have some money to spend.

If Don’s analysis is even vaguely right, that is hopeless miss-management. This is supposed to be the second season where we settle into the new ground and assault some sort of challenge on the top half off the table.  I’m not even mentioning that we haven’t played at home yet. That’s unfortunate but we’ve known it from the off. One can only hope that UK wins no more major athletic events. But no, rock bottom, morale having to be built from scratch and the manager left to feebly persuade that he has the squad he needed despite losing the guy he was so desperate to sign.

Don’t get me wrong; there are two sides to every transfer, Sporting may be equally to blame. Also one player doesn’t make the squad. But nevertheless…

It would be wonderful if Slav could sign off with some memorable wins and whisper it, even a cup adventure but Don is in no doubt. He is signing off.

So we’re all in a pickle but this being West Ham, we’re quite used to that.

Is cucumber a fruit? Don’s not sure. Be that as it may, Don turns his roving eye to salad and a very worrying trend that no doubt has been praying on the minds of many readers. It may be a summer thing but why oh why oh why does every salad have to be covered in pomegranate seeds? It’s not just pomegranates, though they are the worst and most persistent offenders. Don feels mandated to speak on behalf of the traditional salad loving community and be in no doubt, we are a community, when he says…fruit belongs in a dessert bowl, not in the salad! Honorary non-fruits being tomatoes and cucumbers. We’ve seen the pickle the EU has got into by broadening its membership too far and we should beware that sorry tale.

Removing-Pomegranate-Seeds-Has-Never-Been-This-Easy-And-This-Video-Will-Show-You-Why

Artists grapple with a difficult issue: how to know when the work of art is finished? How not to spoil it by keeping going? In the salad world, that conundrum is easily solved. It’s the moment before you put the fucking pomegranate seeds in!!

On to Wagner and his little pickle. Rather the little pickle he got into. Here was a man who enjoyed the company of women. We know this because due to his huge ego, he insisted on recording every aspect of his life, primarily in his autobiography Mein Leben which covers up to 1865. However, by nature, autobiographies tell the story the author wants us to hear. So it was with Wagner and although it hints at various dalliances it glosses over the less savoury adulterous and other aspects, largely one assumes because he was dictating it all to his then wife Cosima. However, due to his copious letter writing and above all to the Cosima’s diaries which record in detail his life from 1865 until his death in 1883, we have an insight into his life pretty much sans egal.

 

And we glean that Wagner found life quite tricky without a good women to organise his life as well as to tend to his various needs. His marriage to the long-suffering Minne is blighted with affairs; real or longed for. The most notable being Mathilde Wesendonck, his inspiration for Isolde, whose husband Otto, financed much of Wagner’s life through to middle age. Their dalliances, (possibly nay probably un-consummated) so embarrassed them and Minne, that various breakdowns in relationships ensued, leading to Wagner becoming estranged from Minne. Yet the on-off relationship endured and it was not merely one-sided. Mathilde’s feelings for Wagner were very real as some of her private poetry testifies and they both suffered the strain of deep affection that could not be fulfilled. Social convention prohibited but one also wonders at Wagner’s reluctance to truncate the husband’s financial succour.

7

Separation from Minne was a significant loss to RW. She was the stable hand on the rudder as well as the tiller. Without her he became increasingly penniless as well as rudderless.  Mathilde was not a realistic option and these years are characterised by a string of female companions from nobility to housemaids generous with their favours, Wagner needed a women.

 

Enter Cosima von Bulow. Daughter of Franz Liszt and young wife of Hans von Bulow, Cosima was many years Wagner’s junior. Hans was one of Wagner’s closest confidants and musical associates. He conducted many concerts and was, I think, intrinsically involved in the laborious Tristan rehearsals. in short he loved Wagner, realised and accepted he was losing his wife to the Maestro and remained devoted (to Wagner) even afterward.

Cosima was Wagner’s dream. She was prepared to subjugate her life to his genius and takes great credit for providing the backdrop for him to complete the later operas, particularly Die Meistersinger and Parsifal. But despite providing him with two children, she did not excel between the sheets. This aspect was taken up by Eva Rieger in last month’s Wagner Journal. Author of Richard Wagner’s Rebellious Granddaughter and Richard Wagner’s Women, Rieger took this aspect of Wagner’s life and considered how it affected the later operas, focussing on Parsifal.

Parsifal has been considered from almost every aspect, psychological – Freudian and Jungian; religious  – Christian, Pagan, anti-Jewish, mythological etc. But Don has not previously considered it from the perspective of a sex mad author who was having to cope without. For as Rieger says, Cosima declared fairly early on in their “marriage”, that she was ready for the convent and that must have put an awful strain on Wagner. At last he had the King of Bavaria and was not only financially secure but also had an opportunity to create a purpose-built auditorium to do justice to his Ring Cycle. He was in an established relationship with Liszt’s daughter no less, his operas were increasingly performed and he had become increasingly respectable.

banana-peel_wide-d9a03d2acf5f572ca6e6c2f5cb68055ce693a996-s900-c85

Yet his personal needs were not being attended to. A mistress?? Dare he risk all that he had achieved? Dare he risk losing Cosima, his rock and mother of his children? Rieger says not. Most commentators agree that Wagner operas are largely about Wagner and so it seems sensible, as Reiger asserts, to consider them against this personal backdrop that if true, one can expect to influence his thinking.

 

In this light, the ascetics of Schopenhauer refracts a little differently. Hans Sachs’ acceptance that Eva will choose the younger Walter, the grail community of Monsalvat being male only and the central theme that sex is destructive and to be feared, all make slightly different sense. Is this Wagner accepting that in his later years, his love life might take a bit of a knock but the prestige the wealth and giving him the benefit of the doubt, the opportunity to achieve his artistic dreams was a price worth paying.?

Eva Rieger cannot know such personal detail but it makes interesting food for thought. Just please leave the pomegranate seeds.

 

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI! 

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

 

 

In Which Lanzini Earns his Spurs, Tristan Sees the Light and its Top ‘alf Only

Post 27

Oh what a night! Late September back in ’63…

Sorry wrong record but what a night! We rocked, we rolled we twisted we shouted.

 

On what was no doubt Don’s first ever Friday night football match, the Olympic Stadium provided a dramatic setting to entertain our much-loved neighbours from up the road in N17. It’s always an event when Spurs are in town but this year the tension, the expectation and above all the apprehension was palpable. They arrived Cock-a hoop. Awesome is an over-used and oft inappropriate word but nine wins on the bounce indeed inspires awe. Don was afraid, very afraid. The pain of seeing Tottenham “coming for Chelsea” at our place would have been too much to bear.

But some optimism was justified. This time last year, their circumstances were similar (ours weren’t) and we’d stopped them in their tracks. Moreover, our form had improved recently, no goals but a solid defence. The return of Reid into a back three brings dependability and positional awareness that inspires confidence. One may say Adrian has also contributed but his jury is still hovering near the door.

Three clean sheets in the previous four games is excellent. Yes two nil-nils but sometimes Nil-Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, as they say around Everton. Our back three had Lukaku in their pocket so why not the far inferior Harry Kane? The phrase knocking around after the Everton game was that we “out Everton’d” them; meaning pre-Koeman Everton with the high pressing, hunting in packs and the style that has become a watchword of this season, personified by Spurs though ironically Everton have since been slightly more refined.

EvertonStroke

Against Stoke we were expressive but couldn’t finish off the chances we created.

So Spurs was maybe not the foregone conclusion it initially appeared…though probably would be.

But first a philosophical question: why does Don dislike Spurs with such vigour? He is envious of Chelsea so at least there’s some logic to that hatred and Arsenal do not raise the hackles with any real spirit. Brother Don (he of the dodgy Incest Post 7 ) supports them, could that be it? Not really. He only started supporting them 40 years ago to pinch that nerve. And it’s not as if they’ve had any real success to cause upset.

No, I think the issue runs deeper, in something neither Spurs or anyone can help. There was a Dr Who episode from 2006 in which miners have developed technology to dig very deep beneath the earth. Much deeper than any respecter of nature and unknown forces, should go. It’s the Wahn taking hold. Eventually, they discover why they should not have been drilling, for it is Beelzebub, the Devil himself that resides there; he has been disturbed and is not best pleased. Well that of course is fiction but sorry to report folks but I have it on pretty reliable authority that in actual fact the Devil resides deep beneath White Hart Lane and nothing good will come of the deep piling currently underway. Not Spurs’ fault; just the way it is and no team of the Devil will curry favour with Don.

the-devil

(sorry to rip whoever has copyright of this. I’m guessing BBC)

Don sincerely tries to warn his several Spursey friends (especially the three with whom he shared delightful pre-match Riojas at Enrique Tomas) but they won’t listen.

To the game! One may report that Don was really up for the fight but with 30 seconds gone he remembers looking at the clock, willing it to be over and we’d take the nil-nil.

But we swiftly grew into something resembling ok. Letting them have the ball in non-dangerous areas and closing down vociferously when needed. Noble of course had read the Julian Dicks pre-match relaxation routine and nearly permanently crippled Dyer. Mark, we all hark back to 1992 but this is 2017 and we’d quite like to keep 11 players on the field. Little Don remarked early on that their defenders were playing very high up, especially Walker and we could easily expose that with the right ball. Both Ayew and Calleri had chances to slot people in but didn’t quite have the guile but Noble and then Ayew did manage it, both times for Lanzini. We were not only holding them quite comfortably at the back (the Adrian flick over the bar aside), we showed signs of hurting them. The atmosphere began to cackle.

A word about Calleri. Its been hard to fathom why he is consistently preferred to Fletcher but no-one can argue with the shift he put in, as he did against Everton and Sunderland.  He single-handedly more than occupied Alderweireld and Vertonghen allowing opportunities for Ayew and especially Lanzini. It’s a shame we won’t keep him (which is probably correct to allow room for Fletcher and Martinez to bloom) but he will have learned a lot from his time with us and there’s a decent player somewhere in there. Somewhere.

In the second half we went up a gear and it surprised Tottenham, who looked increasingly ruffled, even before the goal. I thought Slaven’s tactics were spot on. We have four players; Byram, Creswell, Noble and Kouyate who are all decent but very capable of ill-discipline and getting wrong side. But they all stuck to the task manfully and both this and the back three formation allowed centre backs to attack the ball quite high up knowing someone had their back should it not work out. It invariably worked out. The rest of the ream replicated this attitude.

The passage of play just before the goal was an example. Ayew, without much hope of getting the ball put Vertonghen (was it?) under pressure into making a poor clearance. We collected possession and the rest is history. Don has seen precious few goals from his seat in the East Lower and no others (even Payet v Boro) resulted in him dancing in the aisle.  It was a wonderful moment as his Cha-Cha-Cha is indeed a sight to behold. And what can we say about Lanzini? The cliche is that was everywhere. Except he wasn’t; he focused on doing what he does best in positions where it could hurt them and often that was drifting into the space Walker had just vacated. He has emerged admirably from beneath the rock that was last season’s supporting role to being the main attraction. He deserves the plaudits and he will win goal of the season.

Considering what was at stake for them, the Hammers coped with the Spuds quite comfortably because we were simply pretty good. The fact is that our defence and midfield (even without Don’s favourite Obiang), is capable of competing with top 6 sides. It is up front that we are woefully short and surely that will be addressed in a few weeks. (Deja vu).

At the final whistle the place was rocking and it was a night no West Ham fan will forget. Maybe this spectacular stadium that contrives to be a monstrosity of a football ground, can feel like home. What choice do we have?

Suddenly albeit temporarily we are ninth. Top half eh? That takes me back but its the least we are entitled to expect. Tomorrow Don is going to see one of his favourite films, Brassed Off at the Albert Hall complimented live by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. What an absolute bloody treat. Should my Dear Reader have the impeccable taste to have seen the film, he/she will recall the quote from the lovely, nay gorgeous, Tara Fitzgerald, in recalling pubescent playground experimentation. “Top ‘alf Only!” Listen up Daves and think on…Top ‘alf Only!

gallery-1476463454-brassed-off-2.jpg

(apologies to whoever has copyright – don’t worry, only Don’s Mum reads this.)

Last week Don went to a Wagner Society lecture on Tristan and Isolde given by wonderful Anthony Negus and the equally wonderful Carmen Jakobi. Both of Longborough Festival Opera and its production of Tristan and Isolde next month, to be conducted by Anthony and directed by Carmen. Don can’t wait. An amazing opera and starring Lee Bisset who first came to Don’s attention as Sieglinde way back here and its fair to say she stormed that Ring Cycle in Nottingham.

In stark contrast to the forgettable pre-Meistersinger study day (which was just a run through of the synopsis – no questions allowed), this focused on a particular episode (Act ll/3 &4) and was wonderfully interactive. Two pre-prepped members of the audience read through the scene trying to make sense of quite mystical and tricky concepts and saying what it meant to them. It is the dialogue between Tristan and Isolde after the signal torch has been switched off and seemingly unfathomable dialogue concerning Day and Night. It all sets up the famous Love Duet in scene 5. Carmen explained that this is how she starts rehearsals with the cast and how important it is for the singers to understand the meaning of not only what they are singing but also what others on stage are singing.  But what depth of understanding is necessary? The torch is the signal to Tristan that it is safe to come to Isolde. Not when it is on but when it is extinguished. This is fitting because it is the illuminated Day that keeps the lovers apart while the secret unlit Night allows them to play out their time together without real world responsibilities.

What was of interest to Don was that it became apparent that the singers were not expected to have any understanding of Schopenhauer. Fair enough, at face value, it would surely be preposterous to suggest one needed a philosophy grounding to sing an operatic role. And yet Wagner’s head was so full of Schopenhauer when writing Tristan that it guided his thinking and one can see it in almost every line, particularly the considered scene.  It begs the question of whether detailed knowledge of the author’s thoughts can improve performance. To momentarily switch operas, what are the credentials for singing the Wahn Monologue in Die Meistersinger? Simply learn the lines, belt it out and head for the pub? Don is not musical and so ill-equipped to know but it is weird (at least to Don) to think that a singer can give a stellar performance without really understanding what Wagner was getting at with all the Day/Night material.

If one reads through scenes 3 and 4 without any broader background, one will get the gist that Day is bad and Night is good. One doesn’t need to understand Schopenhauer to see that the night is for illicit lovers and that the day is real, it carries responsibilities such as being loyal to King Mark, whereas at night one can escape into a dream and live out alternative realities. That much is clear and pretty obvious.

But take the line; “The spiteful day, filled with envy, could part us with its deceptions, but no longer mislead us with its lies!” It’s as though the Day is a character and has force and compulsion in its own right. That surely is Schopenhauerian Wille. Does not knowing that detract from performance? Probably not.

A little naive pondering doesn’t hurt every now and then,

Remember Daves, top ‘arf only!.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

In which Don considers the real point of the Ring Cycle, spouses and the West Ham family

Post 9.

Hello Peeps.

Don is at his happiest with Mrs Don at his side. Its true she is a bit of a control freak, doesn’t really relate to Don’s mantra of idle mess being next to godliness, her knowledge of Wagner does not extend beyond X Factor and she cares even less. Yet Don doesn’t mind what the others say, he insists that in her own way Mrs Don is lovely and after 26 years, she is still Don’s bird. Imagine then, the unbridled joy at Don Towers, that Mrs Don was to make her final trek (of three in twenty six years) to Upton Park for Mark Noble’s testimonial.

Some say Wotan wasn’t as fortunate with his choice of spouse, Fricka but the opposite also arguably applies. More of that happy couple anon..

So off we trot on a lovely early spring day for a unique West Ham experience. One doesn’t see too many testimonials in these days of enthusiastic agents and signing-on bonuses. So it was pleasant indeed to celebrate Mark’s 10 years at the club and raise a chunk of change for the worthy charities.  And a unique day it was….there were even less away fans than the last time we entertained Wigan and what really appealed to Don, was that it being a bank holiday, the Controlled Parking Zones, the little darlings, sportingly ushered us through and invited us to make ourselves at home. If Carling did testimonials…

I vaguely remember testimonials in the 70’s. Bobby’s maybe was Celtic and Geoff’s was (was it?) some sort of All Star affair. Though my memory of that night is blighted by a dodgy burger sending my pubescent gills a diarrhoea shade of green and throwing up over the steps of the old west stand. Block C if you must know.

For Mark, the West Ham family were out in force and on best behaviour. It had such an end of term feel one worried for our next game (with reason as it transpired). How fantastic it was to see old favourites back on the hallowed turf (back to its resplendent best with recent bald patches having been given comb-overs). But as exciting as it was to see the Paolos and Rios, Don’s fuzzier feelings were derived from seeing the lesser celebrated folk back in claret and blue. Daly, Etherington, Bishop, Lomas, Moncur… I could go on. Not yer tip-top heroes but part of the glue that makes our club so special. There was a palpable feel of the players being excited to be there. Of course they would be. Imagine five, ten years after careers are ended, they have a final opportunity to play at the old ground in front of 35,000 adoring fans. And for us, a chance to say goodbye to players that just sort of drifted off. The game itself was pretty irrelevant, the 6-5 scoreline being only just off-script but chapeau to Deano for that most unscripted touch of genius. Seriously, Harry Kane is the poor man’s Dean Ashton. Oh what might have been….

More than I can remember perhaps ever, there is a feeling that we, the club, the players, the board the fans, are all pulling in the same direction.

All in all what a day. I don’t think Mrs Don and I will ever forget that parking space.

a chunk of Wagner and more footie below..

Regular viewers will recall our occasional musing of the divine. So for our next God in The Ring Cycle, I give you Fricka. Fricka is the Goddess of marriage and fidelity in the Ring Cycle. She is married to Wotan the King of the Gods. Not your ideal husband, he fathers a dozen or so kids, some human, some semi divine; none however with Fricka who is sadly barren.

We get to know her in three scenes; two in Rhinegold and one in Valkyrie. In each she challenges, nay scolds her husband, two scenes are a private dialogue and one is in the company of the other gods. She is a women scorned and does not pass up an opportunity to let him know.

So what does Fricka offer us?

To consider this, we have to consider her husband and his true aspirations because make no mistake, to understand the Ring Cycle, one must understand Wotan.

Superficially, the Cycle is a story of recovery of the stolen gold and its return to the Rhinemaidens. But Wotan was a troubled God on a mission, well before he heard that the gold had been stolen. Why and what was the mission?

Through snippets in the libretto; the riddle dialogue with Mime, the singing and spinning of the Norns, we get clues as to the timeless pre-history to the first opera. From his supping at the stream of knowledge and the stripping of the branch of the tree of the World Ash, Wotan has ruled the world through contracts and the rule of law. But he has become fallible, he has made bad and unfair contracts and through this fallibility he has pre (or early in)-Das Rhinegold, concluded that unless he can change course, the reign of the Gods is morally vacuous and in terminal decline. He had intended Valhalla to be both a symbol of the rule of law and a physical stronghold against challenges to that authority but instead it is a symbol of a bad contract in which he was prepared either to pawn his sister-in-law (goddess of love by the way), or to dupe the giants. Either way, his governance lacks authority and he knows it. This backdrop illuminates for me what the Ring Cycle is really all about and its relevance to all of us.

For our lives to have meaning, whether we are the governors or the governed, there needs to be a moral structure. If we cheat, are dishonest or immoral, ultimately it is us that is the poorer. The riches that life offers do not lie in hidden treasure but rather in being decent to ones fellows. 

There you have it. Just saved you 18 hours.

For Wotan, at the helm of a ruling elite that lacks moral authority, his choices are either to somehow inject such morality or to hand over power to something more fitting. Either way he has recognised that the current crop of Gods has to go. This is a slight simplification and throw a fair bit of Wotan complacency into the mix. Anyway, at this point, we start Das Rhinegold (actually he still pretty complacent at scene 2) and fairly soon, Wotan learns that Alberich is in possession of the gold and has created the Ring. Suddenly lofty ideals give way to urgent practical expedience because Alberich in control of the Ring gives rise to another outcome; control of the world by an all-powerful amoral bunch of thugs.

So back to Fricka..

Das Rhinegold scene 2. She admonishes Wotan for contracting to pay the giants with the human trafficking of Fricka’s sister Freia, goddess of youth/love as payment to the giants for building Valhalla. She has no appreciation of the big issues with which Wotan has been grappling but she is (naturally) shocked and appalled at the bargaining of her sister. Beyond this, she has the myopic and vain hope that with a fine new palace, her husband is more likely to stay home with his wife and the myopic and vain concern that it will stand testament to the shame to the Gods .

Whether Wotan was really prepared to pay the giants with Freia is moot but we have to think probably not. If he didn’t need Fricka to tell him this she certainly brings the problem into sharp focus.

Next scene and Loge tells the assembled Gods about Alberich, gold etc. But whilst Wotan realises he and Loge need to “retrieve” the gold from Alberich for selfless as well as selfish reasons, Fricka is all to easily swept from sisterly concern to superficial vanity as to what power the gold will bring to the gods and in particular whether the gold might adorn certain female Gods to better keep their husbands loyal. She is oblivious to the real threat.

By the time, Wotan has retrieved the gold, traded it with the giants to release Freia, thought (sword motif) of his Big Idea (Project Siegmund) and led the Gods to Valhalla, Fricka is disappointed to have lost the gold but is generally a satisfied women, blissfully unaware of the tectonic movements that have been set in motion.

What is Wotan’s Big Idea? The gold (inconsequential) including the Ring (very consequential) is now held by Fafner the giant who has used the Tarnhelm to transform himself into a dragon, better to guard it. Wotan knows the Ring must be recovered. Alberich may not have it but Fafner is only marginally better. His overriding issue is to find a suitably moral ending to the Gods reign, so he can’t simply take it by force but Fafner will not relinquish it by other means. The big idea is for a third party, his son Siegmund (by an unnamed women) to become the hero that will take the Ring from the dragon. It is not spelt out but presumably Wotan trusts Siegmund to then give the Ring to Wotan.

By Die Valkyrie Act 2, circumstances have prevailed so that Siegmund is a hero warrior, he has met, saved, loved and impregnated his long lost twin sister Sieglinde see Post 7 , recovered the “special” sword Nothung and is about to duel with Sieglinde’s barbaric husband Hunding. Wotan has sent Brunhilde to protect Siegmund and is confident he will be soon be ready to seek Fafner and regain the Ring. Plan on track.

Enter Fricka. Remember she is Goddess of marriage and fidelity. Not only is she appalled that her adulterous husband’s son has broken up a marriage but has committed incest to boot! This is whom Wotan wants to protect? Houston, we have a problem and no way Jose.

Lets dispense with the superficiality. The infidelity objections really underscore her own humiliation at the hands of her stay away husband and serial adulterer, so arguably she is not so pro-marriage as pro her own marriage. She fails to see the big issues. For example for Fricka, marriage (loveless or otherwise), is the contract on which a contract based society is based. So she sides with Hunding, an oaf who has forced his wife into marriage and effectual slavery. She cares not one wit for the extra-marital love between Sieglinde and Siegmund. More significantly, she has completely failed to grasp the serious issues weighing on Wotan. It’s about Fricka’s marriage, Fricka’s sister, Fricka’s humiliation. The decline of the Gods is not on her radar.

But for all her inadequacy, she spots something that has not occurred to Wotan and when it does, changes the course of the tetralogy. The Big Idea requires an independent agent. Wotan cannot recover or command the recovery of the Ring because the means shape the end. Siegmund is the free and independent agent that will do so.

Fricka observes that he is neither free or independent. His warrior training, his meeting with Sieglinde, his procurement of the sword and even his success in duel with Hunding is all engineered by Wotan. Siegmund is a proxy and no more.

“in ihm treff ich nur dich” In him I find only you.

Wotan sees this for what it is and is devastated. His Big Idea has no moral authority and therefore must fail. Musically Fricka moves in for the kill; she now sings with a sweeping majesty and he increasingly the opposite.

Fricka exits leaving him in a tailspin of nihilistic depression. His Big Idea is in tatters and he longs for a precipitous end to the reign of the Gods. Dignified and fitting if possible but not essential.

“nur Eines will ich noch: das Ende..das Ende!”  only one thing do I still want:the end..the end!

We don’t get the end for around another thirteen hours. Good stuff.

More footie..

And on this happy note, a quick review of the Arsenal game. We’re up there with the best teams in the country. Thus far, no big Premier League club has beaten us this season. Simply amazing. The place rocked. Referees decisions go against us. Another normal day at The Boleyn. What a blinding season. Little Don, season ticket holder (missed just two home league games) and veteran of several away games this season has yet to see us lose! Effing unbelievable!

So few games left and they are all going to be crackers. Bring on Man U in the week. Check out all the Andy Carroll videos you want LVG, he’s unstoppable!

Next season in the magnificent xxxx Stadium, we in the East Stand Super Chicken Run or whatever it is, will have to sing our hearts out to get close to our unique Boleyn.

COYI!!

 

©DonnertheHammer.com 2016

In which Don just doesn’t think he understands

Post 8

So my whole life I supported this ok but fairly crappy team (note to self – mention brilliant quote about Spurs from In Bruges). Some good times, some amazing times but there were months, years, even decades in between.

Chelsea could say the same but they can point to a clear obvious factor that changed their fortune. We can’t.

Lets imagine for one perverted moment that we go on to become a mega club. Envious people in five years time, will say its because we got the Olympic Stadium for next to nothing. But in the here and now we know the new stadium is not a meaningful factor in our transition from relegation form in the last half of last season to pushing for Champions League, this. We have transformed into a great team, a great squad, a settled and seemingly united board and out of nowhere, more fans than you can shake a stick at.

What has happened? How have we come good so quickly? Will it last or are we simply being teased? I don’t know but hazard some guesses.

First and obvious; the owners. Looking back, in these (and those) days of mega rich foreign owners, I was very pleased proper local people bought the club for what seemed the right reasons. Of course they saw the potential opportunity of the Olympic Stadium from the outset and whilst that was a fair bet it was also replete with risk and a potential black hole for their not inexhaustible fortunes.

I felt they dispensed with Zola too quickly and questioned their judgement with the appointment of Uncle Avram. But since the appointment of Sam they have not put a foot wrong (give or take the odd errant tweet). If Sullivan really was responsible for Sakho and one or two others, that is remarkable and @dg has via twitter engaged with fans in a brave move that has endeared him to many.

They have also had some luck. Top of the list is the appointment of the manager. Clearly not first choice, Bilic has been a perfect fit and in him we may well have struck gold. He is tactically aware and seems equally comfortable handling squad and media. Open and friendly it is also clear who is in charge. His knowledge and reputation secured Payet and Lanzini while other richer suitors missed their chance.

The announcement of the increased stadium  capacity to an amazing 60,000 is a testament to the hitherto untapped power of the club. We are going places and uncharacteristically, it is not via the relegation trap door.

A note of caution; we are West Ham and maintain a noble tradition of teasing defeat from the jaws of victory.  I don’t discount that this could be a life size version of 3-0 up against Wimbledon 1998. But for now, we are a happy ship and the outlook is clear, calm and sunny.

Looking forward to the Mark Noble testimonial tomorrow. Richly deserved and a full house means he can make a meaningful difference to his chosen charities. Will be so good to see some old favourites. Trevor, Billy, Paolo, Rio etc. Mrs Don will be making a rare and final appearance at The Boleyn. We have gone for Bobby Moore Lower to experience all parts of the ground in this final year. I don’t think I’ve “sat” there more that once or twice since the north bank. Then its on to three home games that will define our season. Can’t wait and more anticipation of that next week.

Regular viewers will know I am not over familiar with either Lohengrin or Tannhäuser. The David Alden 1995 Tannhäuser blue-ray was available at a pretty good price so I gave it a go. The reviews weren’t great, the general theme being that Rene Kollo’s voice had all but gone. I’m not so technically aware and hoped that wouldn’t detract too much. I had heard a little of Alden’s political edginess and was looking forward to that.

For a production over 20 years old, the opening scene certainly packs a punch and one can only imagine the impact on opening night. Tannhäuser is in Venusberg in an endless orgy but to prove one can have too much of a good thing, somehow yearns for simple rural bliss where the birds and bees are just birds and bees.  He pleads with Venus to let him escape and eventually she relents. Will life on the outside match up? Can Christianity cut the mustard now he’s dabbled with Pagan fun? That’s for Acts 2 and 3. For now, the erotically charged power of Waltraud Meier’s Venus was overwhelming; her singing powerful and evocative. Throw in the post apocalypse set, the Freudian imagery and the Pilgrim’s Chorus and one has an opening couple of scenes that must be up there with the best in all opera. Don recommends it to those new to Wagner and of a liberal disposition.

Finally to the Spurs quote from one of Don’s favourite films, In Bruges  (this is going to look a little silly if those swine go on to win the league. Come on Leicester!)

Ken: Yeah. And what’s the other place?

Ray: Purgatory.

Ken: Purgatory… what’s that?

Ray: Purgatory’s kind of like the in-betweeny one. You weren’t really shit, but you weren’t all that great either. Like Tottenham.

coyi!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2016

In which Don tiptoes around the touchy subject of incest

Post 7

Don’s brother (Brother Don) has a Spurs season ticket; worse yet, he uses it to go and watch them. This notwithstanding (seamlessly assumes the first person), I am relatively fond of him but I can honestly say in the 50 plus years in which we have both been around, not once have I thought of jumping into bed with him.

Tricky Dickie Wagner on the other hand, seems to have a more cavalier approach to the treacherous waters of incestuous relations. Do join me in a poorly researched romp through some musings as to why that might be.

[For West Ham scroll down but why not hang around here for a bit…?]

The scene was set in last week’s Post 6 . In Act 1 Die Valkyrie, there is a rapturous love scene between the twins Siegmund and Seiglinde set to some of the most glorious and uplifting music in the tetralogy. What is the point of it?

In the first opera, Das Rhinegold, Wotan has made a bad contract which he resolves by paying the giants with the stolen gold, including the Ring. This however, presents a much greater problem and everything depends on the retrieval of the Ring. He can’t do it himself because it will take violent coercion and that goes against his own rule of law. So his big idea (last scene, Rhinegold), is to find/create someone to do the job for him. A hero, Siegmund. The tension between the independence of the hero and Wotan’s hidden guidance feeds into the next couple of operas.

The main narrative thrust of Act 1 Valkyrie is to ensure Siegmund gains the powerful sword, Nothung, that Wotan thrust into an ash tree years before. Wagner didn’t need a love affair with a married women to achieve that, let alone for the married women to be the hero’s twin sister Sieglinde. He found certain hints in the mythology but nothing essential. So I wonder why Wagner felt this was necessary.

Freud

The Freudians would have us believe that all us little boys, latently lust after our mothers and resent our fathers as rivals. We spend our lives trying to escape that guilt and punish ourselves with castration fantasies (this literally occurs in Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal).  Can’t say this really strikes a chord with me but that seems to be the theory.

In The Wagner Complex, Tom Artin talks of the sword representing the father’s penis and the tree the mother’s vagina. The thrusting of the sword into the tree is therefore the intercourse of the hero’s parents. In the absence of the father, the incest guilt wains and the mother being displaced by the sister, the incest occurs with her. Sieglinde, product of same parents is comparatively passive in this theory but lets leave that.

Before Mr Artin gets annoyed, I am not a scholar of psychoanalysis and may have got the wrong end of the sword but that’s the gist as I took it.

Wagner’s parentage is ambiguous. He did not know his natural father, Carl Friederich Wagner, who died shortly after he was born. His mother took her young family from Leipzig to Dresden and into the arms of the journeyman actor Ludwig Geyer whom she married and whom the young Wagner considered his father. Geyer is rumoured to be the natural father and so the journey might have occurred pre-Carl Frederich’s death and because he discovered the boy was not his. Wagner would have no first hand memory of this but he would hear the rumours and know he is the product of an unsuccessful marriage.

Geyer also dies too soon with RW aged 8, so marriage and fathers have disappointed twice. Wagner’s own first marriage was a disaster and he was brazenly adulterous. There are no successful marriages in The Ring Cycle.

It is safe to say that Wagner’s relationship with his mother was complex. He yearned in vain for her love but she was often distant emotionally and physically and Wagner transferred his (the Freudians may say Oedipul), affections and needs to his elder sister Rosalie.

Free love. Queue this side only.

As a young man, Wagner was attracted to the Young Germany movement of the 1830’s. Influenced by utopian socialists, it rejected the church dominated, restricted society of the post-industrial revolution German principalities. It encouraged free thinking, separation of church and state, feminism and the incorporation of some Romantic ideas into practical society. It advocated free love; marriage and the nuclear family being artificial church imposed mores.

Wagner was a student of philosophy, if no philosopher. Prior to his discovery of Schopenhauer in his mid forties his prime philosophical influence was Feuerbach, “the breathlessly optimistic apostle of secular humanism”1.   Feuerbach rejected Christianity and other God centred religion. He considered that reference to the divine was a convenient means of dealing with abstract and elevated human qualities. ” Feuerbach maintained that when we speak of the nature and existence of God, we are confusedly trying to imagine certain admirable qualities in substantial form. So, for example, to say that “God is loving” or “God is love” is really just an indirect (and muddled) way of saying that “love is God”—which in turn simply is to say that love is divine, or of transcendent worth and importance.”2

For Feuerbach, there was no limit to human achievement when driven by the most elevated and purest of human emotion- love. Whilst he wasn’t so naively optimistic to say All You Need is Love, he felt we are at our best as a result of loving interaction with others and  society should be configured so that love may flourish unrestrained.

As if to appeal particularly to Wagner, music held special appeal for Feuerbach, (as Wagner would also discover with Schopenhauer), who thought that through music, man could elevate to a higher transcendental plane.

So philosophically and if we believe the Freudians, psychologically, Wagner was not wedded to wedlock, nor to “unnatural” fetters upon love in its various forms.

Plot

Lets hastily return to safer ground; the plot. Das Rhinegold we recall was about strong but fallible men, weak women and rules. Bad things happen if you break the rules. Alberich and Wotan both separately steal the gold, Wotan creates his powerful stronghold, Valhalla , built by male giants. The clever male Loge is expected to think of a solution to the big problem.

In the female camp, the Rhinemaidens are passive and superficial. Freia, goddess of either youth or love (Don says both), is traded like a pawn in a male contract. Love literally being traded for power. I conveniently ignore Erda as whilst passive (and certainly so in Götterdammering), she doesn’t quite fit the type

Which brings us to Fricka. Her role seems to be to complain from stage left to little effect, to be barren and to be shallow in her thinking. Not only is she the wife of the Wotan the most significant character but she is the ineffectual goddess and protector of marriage and fidelity. Wotan meantime, wanders off for trysts with other women, with whom we later learn he has begot a dozen or so children.

Then we come to Die Valkure. We are no longer in the heavens but on earth, with real people. The coal face so to speak. From the off we relate to Siegmund and Sieglinde. We don’t yet know they are twins and neither do they. We learn that her marriage is forced and wrong.

Love sweeps in. Mere rules evaporate in its white heat. It cares little for marriage; incest is just another bourgeois rule. There’s no analysis of right and wrong, there’s just Love.

And I think therein lies the point. If power is not the answer to the big question, might love be? The tetralogy continues that exploration.

the Hammers

A linesman’s lack of attention is all that stood between us and five wins on the bounce. Was so proud of my team and the magnificent travelling army. Much to Little Don’s frustration, I have curtailed the away day travel in his gcse year, especially (whisper it) as we are hoping for additional Wembley day(s) out.

As we prepare for Chelsea we look in such good shape. The best second goalie around. Ogbonna looks to have completely settled. I expect Reid to join him against Chelsea. Solid. Antonio will move back into midfield to scare them witless. The rest of midfield speaks for itself. Up front, whilst I don’t see a champions league grade natural goal scorer, there’s lots of good options.

Mrs Don and I were at Stamford Bridge last time we won in 2003 and there’s been precious little hope since. I don’t expect to win today or even get a draw but I love our attitude that we are in every game to win it; home and away. That attitude will take us far and in style. I am confident we will score every game so we have to concede at least two to lose and we don’t do that too often and when we do, we still quite often get a result.

The Don is sanguine about Noble’s non-selection for England. Of course he deserves his chance but one could argue the same for Drinkwater had it gone the other way. Even with claret and blue glasses, Noble is not a shoe-in for England. Beginning of the season I thought he may struggle to get into WHU midfield. He’s been brilliant for us; long may that continue and that’s enough for Don. Apologies for that balanced view.

Am getting increasingly unsettled at how few games left at Boleyn. The brilliance of the football is in direct contrast to how I feel inside. I am excited about the shiny new stadium but this feeling is not great. My consolation is we could not have wished for a better last season.

Looking forward to Chelsea. They will need to score at least twice to beat us and I am optimistic of at least a point.

COYI!!

Don

  1. Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s Ring
    Philip Kitcher, Richard Schacht
  2. ditto.

©DonnertheHammer.com 2016