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The end of a year usually gets folk looking back at how it went for them – good bad, indifferent, or just plain fugged. There are also those ‘top-ten’ lists that are put out by magazines, radio stations, television networks and others that give us an indication of what they consider to be the best of whatever-it-is, was during the past twelve months. More retrospection, and for some, resolutions for the coming year.

Java tells me he had a pretty decent year – and taking into consideration the number of trips he’s been on that ended swell, I would tend to believe him. He refuses, however, to get into the highlights, or even the ‘top-ten’ number – and I can’t say I blame him. For me too, looking back and assessing is rather a pointless exercise. What’s done is done, happenings happened and dwelling on what’s past has never really appealed.The only way, for me, the past applies, is when mistakes made are remembered in order never to repeat them.

There are so many areas in a life that get compartmentalized by most folk – work, play, social activities, personal matters, the country and others of varying degrees of import. Of these, I’m guessing that the one common to us in this country would be just that – our land. Like I said, neither Java nor I have done any major retrospection about how the country fared during the past twelve months, but it does seem to us both, that there’s been pretty much of a downward spiral in all aspects. And we suppose this is how everybody here sees it – except of course for the ones that are making hay while that sun shines down on their unsavory deals and the country slips faster down the tube – no matter what misery results to others.

The bright points of the year for some of us would have to be our cricketers – Mahela, Kumar, Murali, Sanath and Co., gave us all something to smile about and take pride in. There were also a few good attempts in the realm of theatre that raised our standards – The Devil and Billy Markham and Equus being among the best of them. But try as we may, it is difficult to find anything of substance that would make this a good year for the majority of folk in this country. And the reason must surely rest with the management, or leadership, shouldn’t it? Or should it?

Fuck dat sheet maan

Java obviously doesn’t want to get into this discussion and come to think of it, it does seem rather a pointless speculation that leads nowhere.

Hey maaan, waaz da point in wastin our time discussin dog-sheet. It will be a good year when peace arrive – not until den.

Java’s immersed in fixing himself up with all the right ingredients to make our New Year’s Eve party with friends a spacey, high-flying night and early morning. I often envy his ability to shine things on and let it be.

And so, in parting – for now – here’s wishing you a super and as peaceful a New Year as possible

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Dear Java

Your letter just arrived – thank you for the good wishes. You’re right about the nasty shock I got when I discovered that there was a no-fly zone over many parts of the island. Actually I heard about it from the elves assigned to recce work a week or two ago and had to figure out how to get the gifts to the children in the areas that had been blocked out by those anti-aircraft missiles. We did finally sus out a way to get things done, but there was also the risk factor concerning those dratted check-points – just imagine having to un-wrap all those gifts and then get them back in shape again so the little tykes won’t be disappointed! I’m not going to tell you here how we did it, in case that block-head in charge of matters over there tries to stymie our efforts again next year (that is in the likely event that he and his assorted gnomes and goblins are still in charge).

You were right about the depressing situation for the children and others in the north and east, and although we were reluctant to get too close in case the other side took shots at Dancer, Prancer and the others, we could see that there were no glimmer of festive lights – just the occasional searchlights’ arcs as they swung around now and again and the flashes of explosions as the rocket-launchers did their destructive bit. There were no letters from the children in those parts either – I’m guessing they don’t even know about Christmas, as all of them would have been born during the war.

We did, however, get loads of letters from the other parts of the country – and not all of them from children either. There was quite a crazy one from a chap named Mervyn, who wanted an invisible suit. He specified that it had to be the type you wear when you want to creep around without being seen. He said he wanted to surprise his near and dear with assorted gifts and scrumptious goodies and didn’t want them to know who was doing all these good deeds, as the last time he tried to reward the TV folk that were doing such a great job, they misunderstood his altruistic endeavours and, mistaking him for some unsavory thug, tried to assault him. There was also one from some nut who wanted a magic powder to sprinkle on what he called ‘peaceniks’ (and I don’t even know what a ‘peacenik is!), so that their views would immediately be opposite to what they are now. He also mentioned that his tunnel-vision is not as acute as it used to be, so could he have a ‘tunnel-vision’ pair of binoculars as well! Then a guy calling himself Basiliscus, who asked (quite a terse letter it was too) for a secret bank account that nobody except himself would know of – incredible, huh? Not even Santa can manage that one! Then there was another from a Ranil something-or-the-other, asking for some charisma because he had run out when he was about two years old and had only just discovered it.

Who is this Wimala Weera-something? He (or is it a she?) wanted a whole slew of stuff, including a crown and sceptre – for when he gets his kingdom, an inflatable doll, a year’s supply of hair-gel and some girl that gave him a hard time in the past. One from someone calling him self ‘Thon – the man’ actually wanted some ‘snow to blow’ – as he put it. How on earth he would do this in Colombo beats me, as the snow would melt before he could try blowing it away. Crazy!

There were a whole lot more too – too many to detail here, but suffice it to say, you guys sure have your share of crazies over there. I’m not even mentioning the more outrageous requests I got from Sri Lanka, as I don’t want to put a damper on your festive season. All I can say is that if your folk don’t get their act together, it doesn’t look like there will be much of a future for Santa and my trusty reindeer over there, as in all probability if things go the way they are, no one will even remember Christmas, leave alone Santa and the reindeer!

By the way, I did have a word with ‘The Boss’ as you requested, and all he had to say was that ‘peace and harmony’ don’t come as presents – they have to be earned by good will, good-cheer and respect between whoever it is that lacks those qualities. ‘Live and let live’ would be a good way to start – the ‘loving thy neighbour’ bit can come as things ease off, right?

Anyway, the busy time for me and my reindeer and elves is now done, and we can relax until about September next year, when things will start to get going again in preparation for next Christmas. So that’s it from the North Pole for now, Java – the blasted ice is melting pretty fast here, so summer should be a scorcher!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours (fingers crossed!)

Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

Thanks so much for doing your best to deliver gifts to the children here in Sri Lanka last night but, as I’m sure you found out to your amazement, the ‘no-fly- zone’ declared over many parts of the country would have been most effective in keeping you, along with your trusty reindeer Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen away from the range of the anti-aircraft guns and other assorted missiles that were focused on blasting any suspicious flying object to smithereens. Besides that, providing the gunners with venison for Christmas lunch would have been unthinkable, so although thousands of children had to do without your visit this year, we do understand and can only hope that next year will be different.

Having said all that, you will be glad to hear that many folk here still do try to keep that fast- disappearing spirit of Christmas alive. Many of our friends got themselves Christmas trees and although some of them were rather stressed with having to decorate them in time and get all the presents wrapped and stashed under the trees, the excitement that never fails to generate that ‘Christmas feeling’ in the children, made it all worthwhile – for some.

For the others, who also celebrate Christmas but who live under the constant threat of death and destruction, the spirit of Christmas is virtually dead. No Christmas trees for them – in fact, the children in those parts would be lucky to even get a faint whiff of that ‘spirit of Christmas’. And as the fighting continues in those parts, the steady stream of the sound of ambulance sirens cuts through the Christmas carols and other festive music in many of the homes in Colombo. There must be many casualties on both sides, so ‘Christmas’ must surely be the last thing on the minds of their families. Too bad you can’t fly out of range of those guns and heat-seeking missiles and bombard them with gifts – get their minds off the killing and destruction.

Anyways, be that as it may – we’re keeping fingers crossed that you will not give up on us and will give it another try next year so that the children will keep your spirit alive and well. And if you do have a direct line of communication with The Boss, do put in a word for all of us, particularly for the children, that all the darkness and evil elements will be banished from this land and the rest of us peace-loving folk can get on with our lives.

Maybe you will be able to manage a miracle and give us the greatest gift of all for next year – the gift of love and peace and harmony that will pervade the very fabric of this beautiful land. Do give it a try – for the sake of the children.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Those of us who have celebrated Christmases in this country over the years with the traditional fare that includes Christmas Trees, Santa Claus, Christmas Cake, the Yule Log, Breudher, Christmas Pudding, Milk Wine, Christmas Carols and the like from childhood, do sense a distinct loss of that special Christmas vibe that pervaded the atmosphere in them days not too long past. Sure, the trimmings will still be there – and even with all the ingredients mentioned being included, it somehow seems that something special is missing.

An it don take no rocket scientist to figger dat one out maaan.

I’m not going to encourage Java’s take on this as I have a distinct impression of where he will be coming from and don’t want to go down that path. Suffice it to say, all Java wants is to be around his near and dear and celebrate in a spirit of conviviality that transcends the crap that tends to put a damper on the spirits. And who’s to blame him for that?

But what I’m getting at is that very special feeling that originated in childhood with visions of the glitter, baubles and gifts that adorned the tree, the Christmas visits and exchange of gifts and the ultimate apprehension of Santa’s presents to be discovered on Christmas morning. I’m not entirely sure that today’s children in this country have that sense of wonder and joy and of course the causes for this are apparent.

In the years gone by it seemed that ours was a much more tolerant society in all respects – particularly where religious beliefs and rituals were concerned. There wasn’t the ‘in your face’ competitive element that is exemplified by the ‘loud-speaker’ syndrome that was probably begun by the Mosques and that infected the Temples in due course and that have now reached absurd proportions with scant respect for anyone. Nor were there the attacks by goons on Churches that became a nasty habit a few years ago. There was a spirit of ‘live and let live’ and even a tendency to enjoy each-others celebrations. Now however, with all the baggage that has accumulated since the policies that led to a sense of insecurity and injustice being felt by the minorities, things have taken a gradual downward spiral that is gathering momentum and that will end in disaster for the society that we knew and loved, unless some miracle occurs and sanity prevails.

The war, of course, compounded it all, and the past two years in particular have brought untold miseries to the great majority of folk in the country. There will be no Christmas Trees for the Christians that used to have them in years gone by in Jaffna and it is unlikely that the generation that have known nothing but war all their lives will even think about Santa Claus and presents. The ‘blame-game’ is not an option – there’s no point in that exercise – the solution must be found and this is what those who gain by the war and by the instability it brings with it do not want. So what do the rest of us, who love peace and stability, do?

Sheeet maaan, like I bin tryin to tell yo ass……

The doorbell rings, so the rest of Java’s thoughts don’t get through. I get to the gate to find the garbage guys with a list asking for their annual donation – Christmas donation that is – they do the same for all the other celebratory events as well, and who’s to blame them? The guy with the list thanks me and even says ‘Merry Christmas’ (in Sinhala) and I return the compliment.

Back inside it seems like Java has lost his train of thought – he has Diana Krall doing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and has got that Christmas bud in his pipe. He looks up as I settle down to listen and share:

Tis the season to be jolly, maaan, so lighten up.

Yeah, tra la la la la – Merry Christmas all!

This is what Java was mulling over almost immediately after we posted the piece about a panel discussion scheduled at the Galle Literary Festival on whether Bloggers can be taken seriously. Checking out the Festival schedule at Bareass Boulevard this morning we were struck by the variety of subjects and the impressive list of well-known authors, journalists and others who are involved in the panel discussions and other assorted events planned for the duration of the Festival. And from what I understood from Zaney, who is very much a guiding force of the event, tickets are going fast, there is a dearth of accommodation in and around Galle, and it all looks very promising for all concerned.

The guest authors are an impressive bunch that includes Gore Vidal, Vikram Seth, Alexander McCall Smith, Yasmine Gunaratne and Shyam Selvadurai among other well known writers, so the discussions and debates should be more than a little interesting. The panel discussions should also be appealing, as interesting and articulate individuals have been selected to analyse and elucidate on their areas of expertise. So it looks like the sessions will be well attended and from the choice of subjects selected for discussion, it does appear that interesting interactions could result.

But back to that ‘serious’ aspect: Can the panels be taken seriously? Well, I guess that would depend entirely on the quality of individuals that are on the respective panels. Pretty much like the blogger scene? The difference here, though, is that some selective process was used to determine the panelists and care must have been given to ensure that the desired quality was achieved. In view of this, can we safely assume that the panels can be taken ‘seriously’?

Shuurre maan, all dem folk buyin up dose tickets an sheet be wantin to check out dat scene, meet up wit som of dere favorite authors, get into dem debates and get dere asses seeriass bout dis number. An den dere be dose soschul events were dey be lookin to have som fun an sturff wit dem literary groupies hangin aroun getting into da experience. Shuurre dey be takin dis sheet seeriass. Seeriass fun too, fo som.

Have to admit, I do agree with Java. The whole thing looks like a very good idea, and what’s more, is creating a niche for itself and putting Galle on the ‘Literary Festival’ map of the Asian (and some say ‘World’) literary scene in the bargain.

In conclusion then, it does look that we can take those panels seriously. What do you think?

The Galle Literary Festival is to have a panel discussion on ‘Bloggers – can they be taken seriously’. Ravana blurted it out to his mum that he was to be on the panel and RD has already put out some thoughts on it. At first glance it seemed to be rather a nebulous topic, so I checked on the definition of ‘seriously’ and got this: Badly – In a great, bad, dangerous, harmful, or problematic way: Gravely – in a grave and thoughtful way, without being light-hearted or dismissive: Truly – in a true or literal way, without exaggeration or deceit:

Applying any of these definitions and proceeding with the question of whether bloggers can be taken seriously seemed to me to be a bit absurd. We are all aware that the variety of content in blogs is virtually innumerable and the attraction they have to their readers is equal to the interest those readers have in the specific content. Whether this is to do with the style of writing, the subject, or whatever, is purely subjective and who is it among us qualified to assess a ‘value’ to a particular blog and whether the author is to be ‘taken seriously’ or not? We all have our individual ‘serious’ indicators based on our mental makeup and it will, in the end, be the individual that determines whether a particular blog could be ‘taken seriously’ or not.

Be that as it may, bloggers are out there to put their thoughts down for whatever reason it is that turns them on to the medium of expression and it would seem that all of us get some personal satisfaction from our efforts. Comments add to the fun and generate all sorts of relationships that sometimes break through cyber-reality into real-life experiences.

Java put it another way:

Heeey maaan, what’s da big deal here? Bloggers blog for want of bloggin, an we be siftin tru dat stuurrf to check out what be turnin us on – we be takin some of dem seeriassly an some we diss, some make us laff an some make us tink a bit an respond, so what’s dere to be ‘taken seeriassly’ bout?

An who cares anyways?

Truly, it was nothing all that special. Java has this thing about karma, cause and effect, call it what you will, that gets him backtracking on specific events and trying to figure out how the event originated. Or, to put it another way, at which point in time did the root cause of the result occur? And what specifically was it? Follow where I’m coming from?

For instance,  a couple of weeks ago we were winding down after a concert at Bareass Boulevard, brews in hand and nicely poised in those ephemeral spaces when this nice looking chick comes over and introduces herself. She says she’s a friend of Mr. Zip and that she had met us once some time ago at his pad, but as she had to leave early that night she couldn’t get to get to know us better. Cool. Java didn’t seem to mind her company and I really couldn’t care less – being in just the right space at the time – so we ordered her a glass of red wine that comes in a styrofoam cup (Bareass does this at concerts – for all the obvious reasons, of course) and told her to sit. She looked good – in an Amy Winehouse sorta way – real nice, but oh so spaced out!

She called herself Moonbeam, although she said that she was christened Chandra, and told us her parents used to be hippies in the bay-area of Northern California in the seventies. Java was intrigued and proceeded to tell her about some of our adventures in those parts. They hit it off like a house on fire, Java and Moonbeam, and before I knew it they made a move – where to, I wasn’t aware of at the time.

It was the next morning when Java floated in – pretty perky, considering all that breaking rest and imbibing all sorts of intoxicants during the past several hours. I had my steaming cuppa together, and some very easy Baroque coming out of the sound-system accompanied my perusal of sites on kottu. Java gets his coffee and rolls himself a doob. He sits down and gets into the music. I keep perusing.

Hey maan, know what? Dat Moonbeam chick be too muckin fuch – she be into mangroves, of all tings! She be rattlin off dem mangrove names in Latin dat yo be familiar wit – Rhizophora apiculata, mucronata, an sheet like dat. She bin all over da Pacific an in Asia checkin out mangroves an now she be gettin ready to do a project here on da east coast. She say she love dose beaches an da forest and dats her trip. An she like to get high too, an music. She be far out maan – dis chick be right up yo street.

Don’t know what The Dancer would have to say about that, but I was amazed – mangroves! I thought that Java was close to being smitten, but I guess I was wrong – the mind pretty much boggled!

See maan, dis is what I be tryin to tell yo ass – all dat investigatin I be doin into dat cause and effect sheet, Moonbeam be bringin it all back home. She be tellin me bout dat night at Mr. Z’s an den I remember dat chain of events dat get us dere dat night. An what be knockin me out is dat now yo could get dat mangrove idea yo be havin fo dose tsunami hit areas goin wit Moonbeam. She be havin dose funds an everyting, yo know dem spots in dose lagoons an all dat odder environmental an scientific sheet bout da benefits of mangroves, so now get yo sheet togedder an co-la-bo-rate yo ass.  

I was blown away. The concatenation of circumstances that led to the moment was a mystery to me, although Java appeared to have sussed it all out. It took a few moments for all this information and its implications to sink in. Meanwhile Java had Lennon on the sound.

Know what maan, all dis shheeet dat be goin down, we gotta go wit dat flow. Like ma maan John be sayin, nuttin is reeeal maaan, an nuttin to get yo ass hung about.

Right, nothing to get hung about – not quite Strawberry Fields – but mangroves are quite another reality – really!

Here’s another one of those amusing, semantically-intriguing things that crop up ever so often. It was sent by e-mail and I thought there would be a few out there in Bloggsville who would get turned-on. Kinda like those ‘New words for 2007’  (https://javajones.wordpress.com/2007/07/24/new-words-for-2007/ ) that I posted a while ago – and who knows, maybe one of those bloggers mentioned earlier will manage to use all these terms in one post!

This is how the mail went:

Due to the climate of political correctness pervading America, Kentuckians, Tennesseans and West Virginians will no longer be referred to as ‘HILLBILLIES.’ You must now refer to them as APPALACHIAN-AMERICANS.

And furthermore: HOW TO SPEAK ABOUT WOMEN AND BE POLITICALLY CORRECT:
She is not a ‘BABE’ or a ‘CHICK’ – She is a ‘ BREASTED AMERICAN.’
She is not ‘EASY’ – She is ‘HORIZONTALLY ACCESSIBLE.’
She is not a ‘DUMB BLONDE’ – She is a ‘LIGHT-HAIRED DETOUR OFF THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY.’
She has not ‘BEEN AROUND’ – She is a ‘PREVIOUSLY-ENJOYED COMPANION.’
She does not ‘NAG’ you – She becomes ‘ VERBALLY REPETITIVE.’
She is not a ‘TWO-BIT HOOKER’ – She is a ‘ LOW COST PROVIDER.’

And now here’s: HOW TO SPEAK ABOUT MEN AND BE POLITICALLY CORRECT:
He does not have a ‘BEER GUT’ – He has developed a ‘LIQUID GRAIN STORAGE FACILITY.’
He is not a ‘BAD DANCER’ – He is ‘ OVERLY CAUCASIAN.’
He does not ‘GET LOST ALL THE TIME’ – He ‘ INVESTIGATES ALTERNATIVE DESTINATIONS.’
He is not ‘BALDING’ – He is in ‘FOLLICLE REGRESSION.’
He does not act like a ‘TOTAL ASS’ – He develops a case of RECTAL-CRANIAL INVERSION.’
It’s not his ‘CRACK’ you see hanging out of his pants – It’s ‘REAR CLEAVAGE.’

Well, there you have it – new terms for the New Year. And just watch your language, just so you don’t get mistaken for being down with a severe case of rectal-cranial inversion.

I’ve never been much into Opera, but watching the video production of Giulio Cesare, an Opera by Georg Friderick Handel, changed all that. And what really sold me on the whole thing was Danielle de Niese, who is of Sri Lankan origin. Playing the demanding role of Cleopatra in David McVicar’s directorial masterpiece, Danielle blew a lot of folk away with her charismatic and brilliant performance at Glyndebourne in 2005 and garnered rave reviews in the process. Since then she has repeated the performance in Glyndebourne in 2006 and also at the Lyric Opera of Chicago this year.

David McVicar’s Giulio Cesare is an Opera with a difference, in that it is not the ‘classical’ production that can be torturous as, for one thing, if one doesn’t understand the language – usually Italian – and if the story itself is not all that clear, the usually ponderous plot development can be a major mystery and a crushing bore. Programme notes help, but not too terribly much in deciphering the details and appreciating the minutiae. McVicar, however, infuses his production with all manner of facets, usually alien to classical Opera. He has, for instance, combined Bollywood dance movements in some of the sequences and the humorous element is never far away. He has been known to be a director of Opera ‘with a difference’ and I’m waiting for a chance to watch more of his productions. And, of course, the advantage of watching on video is that the subtitles make everything that much clearer – although a second viewing does help to appreciate everything more fully.

But back to Danielle: A combination of beauty with an abundance of talent, Danielle sings brilliantly and dances equally well. Her acting is spot on and her interpretation of the role has a certain element of ‘cheekiness’ to it that is irresistable. She has also appeared in a small role in Hannibal the movie, starring Anthony Hopkins.

Here’s a short extract from Wikipedia on her: Danielle de Niese (b. 1980) is an Australian-born soprano now residing in the United States, of Sri Lankan and Dutch heritage.
After winning a number of singing competitions at an early age in her native Australia, de Niese moved with her family to Los Angeles where she made her professional operatic debut at the age of 15 with Los Angeles Opera. She became the youngest singer ever to participate in the Young Artists Studio at the Metropolitan Opera, where she debuted at the age of 19 as Barbarina in a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro directed by Jonathan Miller and conducted by James Levine. She was subsequently asked to perform the title role in the Met’s production of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges.
De Niese’s still growing career has ranged through early Baroque music (Poppea in L’incoronazione di Poppea), via Handel, Mozart and contemporary opera premieres[citation needed] at major opera houses around the world, to Broadway (Les Misérables) and film (the 2001 Hannibal movie) roles.
She has recently appeared in productions of a number of baroque operas on stage and on DVD, for example the Les Arts Florissants production of Les Indes Galantes by Jean-Philippe Rameau, and as Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare, directed by David McVicar, at Glyndebourne in 2005 and 2006, and in the same production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2007.
At the end of 2006, when the Nederlandse Opera staged the three Mozart/Da Ponte operas directed by Ingo Metzmacher, de Niese sang Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and Despina in Cosi fan tutte.
She has signed an exclusive recording deal with the Decca Music Group . Her debut album, with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, is entitled Handel Arias.

The video, for those of you interested, is a ‘3 DVD set’ and is put out by Opus Arts and also contains ‘..an informal portrait of Danielle de Niese in her first Glyndebourne season’. The few of you I know who are interested in theatre, music, song and dance of high quality will find this a visual and audial treat, for others of who I may not be aware, check this opera out – or any other performance by Danielle – guaranteed to satisfy – or even knock you out.

For those of you that are into photography, there’s this site that’s a must – particularly if you are also into surrealism and humour. But first a bit of background information about the photographer:

I first met Joel Singer when he visited Sri Lanka with his companion James Broughton – film-maker and poet, in the late seventies. They sourjourned at ‘Brief’ in between trips all over the country and their experiences have been documented in James’ writings, with Joel making a short film on Bevis Bawa and ‘Brief’ called ‘The Gardener of Eden’. We kept in sporadic touch through the ensuing years and then just this morning I hear from Joel that he has finally launched his site. Checking it out immediately, I was absorbed for the next space of timelessness until I was brought back to the here and now by this crazy piano riff coming out of WorldSpace to look up and see the muted sunlight straining to pierce the clouds.

Magic is afoot’ is the title of one of the more quirky pieces in the collection and you can check it, and all the other far out works at http://www.joelasinger.com/main.html  .

Enjoy!