The City Sleeps

Featured

Another week is done. I have calendars in my apartment. Two in fact. One features puppies in silly outfits and poses to fit the month/season. The other is a New Yorker magazine cartoon-a-day.

The small things that went unnoticed are now prime pins in my mental machinery. They keep me safe. Taking an anti-depressant is the other component in this equation.

Here we are in New York without sitdown service in restaurants. One diner remains with delivery. It’s called Midnite Express after the drug trafficking movie from the 1970s.

Funny to think how the underbelly of society is operating now. Are they wearing masks too? Everyone is required to wear them now.

So with all this time on our hands we come up with projects. My latest was listening to the entire Bob Dylan catalog. I found out I could listen to 9 albums in one day. This infuriated my beloved husband but I was determined to finish in less than a week.

No theater. No baseball. No concerts. Summer will present a challenge. No day trips. May there be no heatwaves nor hurricanes. Oh, the city pools will not open. The last time that happened was the polio pandemic.

We should remind ourselves daily we must allow the health sector to do its best to curtail new illness. We should also keep in mind that all workers are valuable in any economy. Do not scapegoat.

At 7 each evening New Yorkers are banging pots and pans while cheering for nurses and doctors; food deliverers, store clerks; pharmacists, drugstore clerks. Hand in hand those with advanced educations and those with limited resources are working together to keep us all safe.

The city is quiet. You cannot help but feel how fragile society can become when faced with these unusual circumstances. New York pride was once about being open all the time. Things have changed.

Before the pandemic hit Manhattan the complaints to 311 (our city services number) over noise was hitting records. Subway ridership was bursting, and tourism was high.

Now those complaints are not happening and the subways are empty save essential workers. No tourists.

The past 2 administrations created a city for visitors. This has proved to be a shortsighted vision. Without their revenue now what do we do?

The city sleeps. Schools are closed. Life will not return to normal. Our lack of hindsight has proven to be our folly in 2020, funnily enough a year whose numbers literally mean healthy vision.

Last night at twelve Bob Dylan released another single, “I Contain Multitudes”, referencing Walt Whitman, Anne Frank, and the Rolling Stones! Mr. D is doing his part.

See you next week dear readers!

Motley Crue/Def Leppard/Poison

A famous band does everything in their power to close out their career. Then fans get restless. Reunion rumours are spread. Then comes the press release announcing a new tour.

Following reunion news of My Chemical Romance, Rage Against The Machine, and The Black Crowes comes official word of a three act line-up sure to fill stadiums from coast to coast.

Motley Crue will tour with Def Leppard and Poison. If you came of age during the 1980s you may have owned their records and seen them live.

MTV had their videos in heavy rotation in that era too. Perhaps you saw Def Leppard’s ‘Photograph’ or ‘Rock Of Ages’; Motley Crue’s ‘Looks That Kill’ or ‘Dr. Feelgood’; Poison’s ‘Unskinny Bop’ or ‘Nothin’ But A Good Time’ to name but a few of several clips to have come out in those days.

For Motley Crue it’s the fan demand that pushed them to blow up their no more tours contract. Cynics will cry foul. A well orchestrated money grab after their biopic succeeded on Netflix.

Adding the Crue to the list of rock giants who played official farewell shows only to return a few years later seems a matter of course.

I think we are seeing and hearing how much acts like Queen, The Who, Kiss, and Ozzy Osbourne mean to their listeners. They have crossed generations.

Their style of music is not saturating the ears of streamers. Perhaps, the big sound of these groups are missed by the mainstream.

Motley Crue and Poison still have all of their original members. Def Leppard also has their line-up mostly complete. Guitarist Steve Clark died.

Although there have not been any new albums in the last 4 years their catalogs continue to be mined.

Motley Crue: L-R: Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, and Tommy Lee

Fans know they will get a massive stage show backed with classic songs.

Poison L-R: C.C. DeVille, Bobby Dall, Brett Michaels, & Rikki Rockett.

Having toured with Def Leppard in the past was a sign of things to come. Over the past 20 years they have been a consistent draw.

2018 image of Def Leppard band members: Phil CollenVivian CampbellJoe ElliottRick SavageRick Allen.
Their “Hysteria” is the biggest selling hard rock album. Last year they were inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame.

Part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in 1979, Def Leppard forged a new style of melodic metal music.

The number of fan favorites from all three of these groups should find healthy ticket sales.

Deservedly so. AC/DC are also expected to tour. It seems we music fans just can’t let go of our passion for hard rock in the pop vain. A renewed injection every few years keeps us going.

The Handmaid’s Tale/ Opinion

This week Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited novel, “The Testaments”, arrives in print. A continuation of her 1985 speculative fiction, “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

The new book takes place fifteen years after and serves as a conclusion to this story. The Handmaid’s Tale struck a nerve with millions of readers.

Ms. Atwood has published several novels, children’s books, and poetry. The narrative poses a reality that has happened in other social orders around this world.

This discussion is only my opinion; interested in the political science of this story; it can happen here.

The title is meant to evoke Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”. The total invisibility of women from the medieval record allowed us to reach this dangerous time.

A strong affirmation that men willingly blind themselves from the idea of women as human. Although America did not exist in Chaucer’s day, nobody even imagined a place like our USA.

In this tale women are solely vessels for reproduction. Nothing more. The terms used are fruitful or barren. A return to simpler days. Deceptively simple. A literal interpretation of The Bible.

The United States government is violently overthrown by a sect calling themselves the “Sons Of Jacob”. A new order based upon the books of Genesis in the Old Testament is imposed.

The University was a place of learning. Now the campus is confinement. The former Library is now the Headquarters of “The Eyes”—a secret police force. The dorms are still housing.

Strict caste groupings place women as servants to man. They are no longer able to vote, hold position, read nor write, and must procreate. Accept for brothels, drinking and smoking are off limits too.

The new Republic of Gilead is inspired by American Puritanism of the 19th century. Divorce has been outlawed. All women are considered adulteresses whom now must repent with their assigned “Commanders”.

All men no matter their rank wear some type of paramilitary uniform. They must serve in wars to expand Gilead as well as defend her from all enemies.

The women are Handmaids who take the names of their men. The central narrative follows Offred, “Of fred”, a pun on the word offered.

Their uniform is a red gown with white habit that restricts their peripheral view. They wear black boots and carry baskets.

Women can only travel in pairs. They are expected to police each other. Speaking of anything but the proscribed edicts may result in exile to the ‘colonies’ or death.

The outside colonies are toxic due to environmental disaster. Once in exile the life expectancy is three years.

The Aunts are akin to a religious order. They do not marry. Their position is considered a calling. They have limited reading privileges—the rules of Gilead; Handmaid etiquette.

The sequel novel pivots from the Handmaids to the Aunts’ power. We see Gilead from the outside.

The “Aunts” wear brown uniforms. They train the handmaids. Instilling in their charges how they can redeem their sinful ways. If a Handmaid breaks a rule an Aunt may beat them.

The new society is walled in by brick and barbed wire. Every Handmaid lives in utalitarian quarters. The image of the all seeing eye is inscribed in the ceiling of every room.

The “Eyes” are the secret police. Anyone who breaks the fundamental codes of Gilead are punished. The “Salvaging” is a communal ritual that features mass executions of law breakers.

Handmaid’s main function is to bear children for their Commander’s infertile “Wives”.

The “Marthas” are old infertile women of lower rank. They are domestic servants and wear green.

“Econowives” are non-elite maidens expected to be companions, child bearers and domestic servants. They wear all three colors to represent this status: green, blue, and red.

If women cannot bear children, are gay, dissident, nuns, and anything else deemed unworthy of the power structure of Gilead they are cast away into the polluted colonies. Forever known as “Unwomen”. Any child born unhealthy is an unbaby.

The chosen few, especially Wives of Commanders, can become “Jezebels” in the government sanctioned brothels.

Men who are not commanders are “Angels”, mostly young and old; mentally disabled. When they come of age they can become “Soldiers” to fight and die in battle.

The Jewish people are permitted to leave. Many board ships bound for Israel. Although the Mayday resistance reports many are thrown overboard.

People of color are sent away to their ‘homelands’.

In this new order everyone is a victim. Men die if they are unable to perform their roles, despite being in positions of power. The novel’s main focus, however, is on the loss of power women inherit.

Before the coup, women had been gaining power. This is no longer the case. The modern city state has been dissolved. Men describe the women as having a ‘witch odor’. Misogyny has enabled this fall.

Offred slowly becomes a dissident in the making. Serena Joy, a former television Evangelist cannot have children. She offers her driver, Nick, to Offred.

Her former husband is Luke, whereabouts unknown. Her best friend from college, Moira, is a lesbian who winds up serving in a brothel.

I felt like an outsider since the novel uses unreliable narrators to tell its tale. This reinforced for me how impenetrable Gilead was to those on the outside.

Walls are not just built to keep others out; it’s to keep its subjects in as defacto prisoners of a new order.

Oppressive regimes are real. All over the world we see the rise of Authoritarian leaders. The current U.S. is in the grips of a grinding crisis in its politics.

Speculating on the methods in which power preserves itself the book illustrates what can happen to those who deviate from their expected roles.

Offred on one of her walks with her required company sees bodies hanging from hooks on the wall. An example. You may not run.

The resistance is known as Mayday. Offred cannot be sure who is on the right side. Will she be found out? Scholars have placed this book next to Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ for its depiction of a dystopian social order.

The ‘Eyes’ certainly evoke Big Brother and the castes are similar to “Brave New World’s” vision. However, this is a woman’s unique point of view. I think centuries of ignorance has allowed us to lose a much needed female perspective.

The book concentrates on how this society operates. There are public gatherings. “The Ceremony” is a ritual in which Handmaidens and Wives copulate with their Commanders.

The two non-human female bodies act as one to redeem their Commander. This is one of the passages in the book that many groups in the U.S. object to reading.

For myself, this is a much warranted idea. Expressed in graphic terms, this ritual provides a terrible window into this awful new world. A caution to us all.

On her journey we see the allowance of shopping. Offred is taken to the Brothel. Dressed in clothes thought to have been burned.

The clothes of ‘showbiz’ with feathers and sparkle. Some of the women are dressed in the iconic Playboy Bunny uniform.

This objectification of the female form is now a function of government. A relief from her new reality only because vice is permitted. She knows only that escape must be possible; she hordes hope.

At the later portion of the story, Offred has been able to communicate furthur with resistance figures. Following this we get a glimpse into the systemic penalties inflicted upon men who fail to meet the new edicts of Gilead.

The ritual called ‘Particicution’ takes place inside of a yard at recess. The Handmaids are like school kids, waiting for the Aunt’s whistle.

The accused is a former Commander who has raped his maid. At the blow of the whistle the women are expected to tear him limb from limb. Offred does her part. Reluctant, she knows to not take part would lead to punishment.

T0 act or not to act; To Be or Not To Be. This becomes Offred’s existential dilemma. At the end of the story we do not know her future. It is left up to the reader.

The questions raised by this book I think are great political science topics. Groups that attempt to censor are missing the point.

We need ideas to be presented in the public square. If not the public square may disappear. And then we may find ourselves all living as victims inside the walls of our own Gilead.

  • “The Handmaid’s Tale”, originally published in 1985.
  • “The Testaments”, published September 10, 2019.
  • Author of both novels, Margaret Atwood.
  • A graphic novel treatment, adapted by Renee Nault, is also available.

In 2016, streaming service Hulu premiered a serial based upon the now classic novel. Starring Elisabeth Moss as June Osbourne (L); Samira Wiley as Moira Strand (Middle). (R) A scene from the series.

June 2019 the third season appeared on Hulu.

 In July 2019, the television series was renewed for a fourth season.

 In September 2019, it was announced that Hulu and MGM were developing a sequel series, to be based on Atwood’s 2019 novel The Testaments.