Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Worth of Walls

Walls have always been the standard fare for protection along the narrow land bridge called Canaan/Palestine/Israel. Often they kept invaders at bay. At other times walls were of little worth.

 King David's men were able to circumvent the walls of the Jebusite city and conquer Jerusalem by climbing up through the water access tunnels into the city.

This Assyrian relief on display in the British Museum documents how the troops of Sennacherib were able to breach the walls of Lachish.

 A century latter the Babylonians were also able to conquer a re-built Lachish and other fortified cities of Judea. The Lachish letters found written on potsherds in this gate house tell that the hilltop fortified town of Azekah to the north had fallen (its signal light had gone out) and it looked like Lachish was next. It was.

The crusaders breached the walls of Jerusalem from the north where there was less challenging topography.

Jordanian troops held on to the old city from atop its walls from 1948-1967 only to then fall to Israeli forces.

 Israel-Lebanon border 1989

Israel-Jordan border along the Yarmuk River 2010

Modern day Israel has long fortified its state borders to fend off invaders from surrounding Arab states. This chain of electric fences, razor wire, patrol roads and land mines has certainly helped keep armies and terrorists out.

 Palestinian side of the Bethlehem-Jerusalem wall. 2010

That border fence in many ways forced the Palestinians to fight the battle for control of territory from within. When suicide bombers from the occupied territories threatened Israelis on their buses, in their discos and at their hotel Passover Seders, Israel sought the security of another wall.

Israeli side of the wall in Northeast Jerusaelm between Anata and Pisgat Ze'ev, 2010

For more than a decade that wall has helped to keep terrorists from the West Bank and Gaza out of Israel proper and brought relative peace to the every day lives of Israelis.
Recent terrorist attacks in Jerusalem including the horrific attack yesterday in a Synagogue as well as driving cars into bus and tram stops raises the question of whether or not walls are leading to greater security. They may be of worth in keeping most attackers out, but what if those attackers come from within? The two attackers in the Har Nof synagogue were native Jerusalemites from the East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Jebel Mukaber. The terrorist who two weeks ago drove into a street car stop killing two people, one an infant, was also from an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem on the Israeli side of the wall.    

The Har Nof neighborhood (lower middle of photo) of Jerusalem is on the far west side of the city just north of Mt. Herzel and the holocaust museum of Yad Vashem (right lower center). To its north is a huge hilltop Jewish cemetery that rises above the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road. This cemetery mirrors the large Mt of Olives cemetery far to the east on the Mt. of Olives (topmost center). Har Nof is home to orthodox Jews from all over the world. The four stabbing victims were immigrants to Israel from the United States and England. They were certainly aware of the insecurity of fellow Israelis who live near the tunnels and missiles of Gaza or the settlers in the West Bank whose daily movements must always consider security, but I doubt on this day of morning prayer that any of them ever thought that their isolated neighborhood far from the border fences and Jerusalem's security wall would be attacked. In retaliation Israel can choose to demolish homes or beef up Jerusalem's police force or build more ghettoizing walls, but there will never be peace in Jerusalem's neighborhoods as long as one part of its population lives in such a frustrating situation that doing crazy, horrible things seems to make sense in their minds.

In my opinion the fences of Israel and the security wall of Jerusalem and the West Bank will never be of worth in this tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye, they hit me first stupidity. Unless there is a change in the staus quo of doing nothing to make peace work, these two intertwined peoples will never know peace. Either declare two states, put up a fence and choose to live side by side in peace or tear down all of the internal walls and establish one state where every Palestinian and Israeli is an equal citizen with the same rights of movement and access to holy sites, and the same rights to participate in governance.

Side note:

Har Nof is located on the same hill as the one time Palestinian village of Deir Yesin/ Deir Yassin (upper left) where on April 9, 1947, over 100 unarmed Palestinian villagers (women and children included) were murdered by Jewish terrorists. The cycle continues.

For more on my views please see this previous blog post:

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Mikado

Sarah here! My father was struggling with the complicated Mikado story line and asked me for assistance with his precious blog. How could I possibly turn down the opportunity to write for such a distinguished publication? (Where did my lovely talented daughter learn to be such a smart alec?)

Our Orchestra at Springville High School is quite good, even if the director is a little severe.

In the opening of the musical all of the citizens of Titipu sing: "If you want to know who we are, we are citizens of this land." The original line was "gentleman of Japan," but we had to change the refrain to be more inclusive of our predominantly female cast, and to also incorporate our alternate setting. The Mikado was originally written about Japan, but was supposed to be a farce on English politics. To avoid any controversy, my director decided to re-set the show in late Victorian England.

Here, Nanki-Poo, the romantic hero sings to the townspeople about his role as a Wandering Minstrel.

Gilbert and Sullivan seemed to only write for tenors, so finding male leads was quite a job. Despite the difficulty of the music, I am constantly impressed by our boys.

Here Pish-Tush sings about "Our Great Mikado, Virtuous Man," and how, by the Mikado's law, anyone who flirts can be condemned to death by beheading. The song also tells the tale of how Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor, was raised from being a convict, to the Lord High Executioner.

Here, Ko-Ko sings about his "little list," which includes all the people he wouldn't mind beheading, given the chance. It is a tradition for every Ko-Ko to rewrite his song to include more modern options for execution. Our song included people, such as; Miley Cyrus, Maple Mountain fans, people who never stop singing Frozen songs, and audience members who text during performances. Andrew Hoffman, who plays Ko-Ko has excellent comedic timing, so his song is always a hit,

Watch this on YouTube by clicking on this link:

Here, Ko-Ko discusses his upcoming wedding to Yum-Yum, his ward, with Pooh-Bah, a local official. When Ko-Ko was named Lord High Executioner all of the officers of state resigned, save Pooh-Bah, who is always looking for a chance to mortify his family pride. To further his humiliation, Pooh-Bah also took every position left over from the mass resignation of all the leaders of Titipu.

In this scene, the girls of Titipu sing about coming home from school.

This is where the play gets good, seeing as I finally enter as Pitti-Sing. I am in the green box and have yet to pop out the way I'm supposed to in this picture..

At last!

Getting out of moving trunks made out of flimsy, splintery plywood is always a little difficult, but we try to maintain our dignity.

Here, we begin to sing our most recognizable song, "Three Little Maids From School Are We."

I've been told that the three of us look similar to the Power Puff Girls, or the Fairy Godmothers from Sleeping Beauty.

Our final pose.

Watch a YouTube video by clicking on this link:

Ko-Ko greets his bride to be with a kiss. She is very happy to oblige.

Here, Yum-Yum sees Nanki-Poo, who she fell in love with the year before. Ko-Ko sends Nanki-Poo away, much to Yum-Yum's dismay.

Here, Pitti-Sing (myself) and Peep-Bo hide behind a fountain to spy on the lovers, who have just secretly been reunited.

Nanki-Poo reveals himself to be son of the Mikado. He fled his father's court to escape an elderly woman, Katisha, who hoped to marry him.

Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum flirt, despite the law, and then sing a song "Were You Not To Ko-Ko Plighted," all about how they are in love and they wish that Yum-Yum wasn't engaged to Ko-Ko.

Yum-Yum is angry at her sisters for spying on her and her love.

Ko-Ko, Pish-Tush, and Pooh-Bah sing about their fear of being beheaded. The song is preceded by a letter from the Mikado, stating that an execution is required within a month or the city will be reduced to a village. Pish-Tush and Pooh-Bah are in agreement that Ko-Ko should be executed, since he was already convicted of a crime. Just as Ko-Ko is about to give in, he sees Nanki-Poo about to hang himself, because he can't endure life without Yum-Yum. Ko-Ko and Nanki-Poor strike a deal, in which Nanki-Poo will marry Yum-Yum for a month, and then be beheaded, at which point Yum-Yum will be returned to her previous fiance (Note the obvious disregard for Yum-Yum's feeling's. Gotta love the 1890s.).

Ko-Ko sings about how he loves his life more than Yum-Yum.

The entire casts sings about they are happy that everything will turn out well... sort of.


Nanki-Poo's elderly admirer Katisha arrives, attempting to claim him in marriage.

Pitti-Sing sings about how Yum-Yum and Ko-Ko will get married, no matter what Katisha says, and that there are "lots of good fish in the sea" left for Katisha.

Katisha's makeup is quite intimidating, due to a uni-brow and massive mole.

Watch a selection on YouTube by clicking on this link:

Katisha attempts to tell the villagers about Nanki-Poo's identity as the son of the Mikado. They respond with loud singing in Japanese jibberish to overpower her crucial-to-the-plot information.

Here, at the beginning of Act II, Yum-Yum's sisters explain to her how to be a good bride.

The key is "modesty," according to Peep-Bo.

The girls of Titipu join in the song.

Yum-Yum disregards her sister's advice of modesty, and sings an entire song about how she is as beautiful as the son and the moon.

The entire cast was in agreement that Yum-Yum's song was too boring, so we added in a dream ballet featuring Ko-Ko as the moon, and Pooh-Bah as the sun.

Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo remind Yum-Yum that her husband is to be beheaded in a month, so she should stop being so happy. We came up with a lot of great puns to insert. "Yum-Yum's married happiness is to be cut short, butchered, terminated, and axed."

Yum-Yum, Nanki-Poo, Pish-Tush, and Peep-Bo sing about how they are happy for the wedding day to come, but sad (hence the many tissues to wipe their tears) about Nanki-Poo's looming beheading.

Ko-Ko enters and is pained at the sight of the couple's affection.

Here, Ko-Ko breaks awful news to the couple. Under the Mikado's law, when a man is beheaded his wife must be buried alive. The couple comes to the consensus that they will no longer be married, so as to spare Yum-Yum's life. Ko-Ko decides to take pity on the lovers and merely create an affidavit proving the death of Nanki-Poo, and lets the couple run away and become married,

The Mikado arrives and sings all about his various punishments.

Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah present the affidavit to the Mikado.

Ko-Ko sings of the execution.

Pitti-Sing sings of her role in the execution, and the comfort she provided to the condemned.

Following my verse in the song, Pooh-Bah sings all about how the severed head bowed to him, post-execution.

Katisha is angered when Ko-Ko attempts to flatter her. She knows she is ugly, but claims that people come miles to see her beautiful left-elbow.

The Mikado reveals that he did not come to check-up on the executioner, but came looking for his son, who is supposedly beheaded. Katisha grieves at the "loss" of her betrothed.

Pooh-Bah, Pitti-Sing, and Ko-Ko apologize profusely for "beheading" the heir to the throne, not wanting to confess their lies.

The Mikado says he is not angry, but the execution will take place anyway.

Pitti-Sing claims she "hadn't the least of notions" as to who Nanki-Poo really was. She actually knew all along.

 The conspirators argue among themselves over whose fault their sentence is.

Here, everyone tries to convince Ko-Ko to marry Katisha, in an attempt to calm her anger and win her favor in the case of no one being beheaded. Once Katisha is married, Nanki-Poo will be able to reveal his alive-ness and solve everyone's problems.

Ko-Ko attempts to woo the hideous Katisha, claiming that he will die of a broken heart if she does not consent to marry him.

Katisha forgives Ko-Ko for "killing" her betrothed. They are married promptly.

The conspirators plead for mercy.

Nanki-Poo enters with his new bride, Yum-Yum.

Katisha attacks Ko-Ko, angry at his deception

Ko-Ko flatters the Mikado, saying that he only claimed that he beheaded someone because he knew that the Mikado's word is law, and that, because the Mikado's word is law, the execution would have eventually taken place--so why not say so?

The Mikado is pleased by the excuse.

Pitti-Sing begins the finale. Everyone is happy except for Katisha and Ko-Ko, who are stuck with each other.

Everyone sings.

Our final pose.

The leads take their bows.

We sing the refrain from the finale.

We wave as the curtain descends.

My brothers and me..

Four members of the 18th ward. Rachel, on the right, is on the tech crew and built the set.

Some of my friends and me. I am always the shortest.