In Lingerie isn’t going to the Kentucky Oaks

After a roller-coaster couple of weeks, it was decided today that In Lingerie won’t be running in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday.  Although she has been training well and turning in good times, Todd Pletcher, our trainer, wasn’t entirely pleased with the way she finished this morning’s work.  Following a series of discussions between Todd and our managing partner, Aron Wellman, the best plan for our filly came down to taking her out of the Oaks and entering her in the Blackeyed Susan at Belmont before the Preakness.  They — and we — want her to have the best possible chance, and pitting her against a very strong field when she isn’t at the top of her game would have been unfair to her.  She is very lightly raced, never having run until she was three years old, and will have a better shot at success this spring in a less highly-contested race than the Oaks.

We’re a little disappointed, of course, because the Kentucky Oaks is the premier race for fillies in the country, and having a horse in that race is equivalent to having a Derby horse.  But Gerry and I are in this game for love of the horses and not for the money or prestige it can bring if you’re lucky (and we’ve been incredibly lucky over the past three years).  So whatever is best for our filly is fine with us.

Winning the Bourbonette Stakes

Meanwhile, here she is winning the Bourbonette Stakes last month, looking like the champion she is.  We’ll keep you up to date on her career as she matures and develops.


State of Play finishes a tepid third in the Transylvania

Well, phooey!  Breaking from the number one post position, staying on the rail and out of trouble (as far as we could tell from watching the race on TV), State of Play turned in a rather lackluster performance in Friday’s $100,000 Grade III Transylvania Stakes on the turf at Keeneland.  The winner of the race led from the first few yards out of the gate and really blew everyone else away in the stretch, but our colt stayed with him for most of the race, so we aren’t sure why State of Play ran out of gas.  He finished a non-threatening third, good for $10,000 in purse money.  Everything about this race pointed toward a good result for him: he prefers to run on the grass, and the distance (a mile and one-sixteenth) shouldn’t have posed a problem for him.  Oh, well, as they say, that’s horse racing.  And we’ve been incredibly lucky in our short career as partners in racing syndicates, not to mention the fact that we have a lot of fun in the process.

State of Play 2011

Here’s a good photo of State of Play as a two-year-old, before he started racing.  His sire is War Front, but he looks very much like his granddaddy, Danzig, the leading sire of the late twentieth century.  Our colt is only three now, and he still has plenty of time to prove himself.



Growing up Jewish in the 40’s

Yes, it is true that I found the play Yentel unsatisfactory. The characters were wooden, the dialogue stilted, the scenarios highly improbable. Did the mikvah lady really collect the marital sheet to check for blood? No matter. My argument with the play lay deeper.

I grew up Jewish in Louisville, a midwestern city with clearly Southern traditions, in the 40’s and 50’s. The Jewish community at that time numbered about 10,000 out of a population of about 350,000. There were several shules (synagogues), Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Keneseth Israel, where my parents belonged, considered themselves Orthodox, though by no means would it be considered such today. Perhaps a better appellation might be Southern Orthodox, or as I perceived it later, Conservative.

Nontheless, growing up there, we thought our synagogue was Orthodox. When I was very young, women sat in an upstairs gallery called a mehitzah, apart from the men. That was later liberalized so that the mehitzah became a curtain separating men and women downstairs, about 1950. Sometime later, the mehitzah was reduced to a small portion of the main floor, while everyone else sat together.

Women were never called to the Torah (to read from the scriptures in Hebrew).  Never at that time were women counted in the minyan (the requirement of ten men to pray), 140 years later than the Yentl play, and never were women called to the bimah for aliyas, or honors, such as dressing the Torah or opening the Ark.

I confess that this did not bother me at the time, and I continued to observe as I had been taught — albeit with more and more questions — until my daughter, Marcy, was to be Bat-Mitzvah. Sons Phil and Louis had been Bar-Mitzvah earlier, in traditional ceremonies. As Marcy approached her own Bat-Mitzvah, she asked me why she couldn’t do the traditional prayers on Shabbos morning (Saturday), as her brothers had. I arranged to ask the rabbi, at a meeting with Marcy and me. The rabbi’s answer was, “It isn’t discriminatory. Women just do not have the same religious obligation as men.” That marked the beginning of the end of my observant Judaism. The same dialogue was in the the play Yentl, set 100 years earlier, and struck me to the heart.

This personal anecdote only serves to mark the connection of my story to the traditions of the past several hundred years, in some cases a thousand or more, which continue today in the horrendous conduct of Orthodox Jews persecuting an innocent young girl walking to school in her own neighborhood in Israel, because her sleeves weren’t long enough. Or a Muslim woman scarred with acid because she dared to refuse an arranged marriage. Or a Catholic woman denied communion because she confessed using contraception to her priest.

I am more and more convinced that fundamentalist religion — Jewish, Christian, or Muslim — does more harm to women specifically and humanity in general than any perceived threat of “godlessness” that we hear about from our politicians today.  I continue to believe that reasonable people of faith can be both right and relevant, as long as they don’t infringe upon the beliefs, nonbeliefs, or practices of those who disagree.  In my view, there is no justification for trying to convince people who disagree with you on a religious basis to come to your point of view. And certainly no justification for imposing your own beliefs on them in the name of the law.



Our theatre weekend

One of the main attractions of Sarasota for us has always been its rich and varied array of cultural activities.  The first time we came to the city twenty years ago for a week-long stay, we bought tickets to the current production at Sarasota Opera, wandered through one of the arts and crafts fairs that occur nearly every weekend, and marveled at the number of professional theatre companies supported by a relatively small community.

Since then, the number of local cultural organizations has expanded impressively, and the quality of the performances has improved by the year.  The Sarasota Opera, Sarasota Orchestra, and Sarasota Ballet are highly professional and well regarded.  The Florida Studio Theatre, the Asolo Repertory Theatre, and the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre present a full schedule of plays, and not just during the traditional winter tourist season.  Three very successful community theatres, The Players, the Venice Community Theatre, and the Manatee Players, regularly compete for — and win — national awards.  The Sarasota Music Festival in June attracts aspiring young artists from around the world, as does the Itzak Perlman program for young musicians in January.  Mikhail Baryshnikov partners with a local organization to present an international dance, art, theatre, and music festival each October.

So it’s not difficult for us to look at our calendar and discover that we have tickets to two or three events in a single week, which is what happened this past week: a matinee at the Asolo on Thursday, an orchestra concert on Friday evening, another Asolo matinee on Saturday, and a Florida Studio Theatre Cabaret show on Sunday afternoon.  All four performances were exceptional, but in this post I wanted to focus on the two plays we saw at the Asolo Rep: God of Carnage and Yentl.

God of Carnage was written in French and originally set in a Paris apartment, but it works beautifully in translation and relocated to New York City.  The play won a Tony award during its New York run (no surprises there) and is described as a dark comedy.  Two well-to-do couples arrange to meet at the apartment of one of them to discuss how to deal with the consequences of a playground fight between their eleven-year-old sons.  The play is short, just over an hour long, and is performed without intermission.  During the course of the play, the characters’ civilized veneer begins to fracture and flake away as they reveal more and more about their real agendas, fueled in part by the consumption of a bottle of very good rum.  The antagonisms build, both between the two couples and within each married pair, even while one of the women struggles desperately to hold onto what she views as proper behavior.  But, as one of the characters says, we are all still primitive, amoral creatures at the core, and the “God of Carnage” of the title is Tennyson’s “Nature, red in tooth and claw.”

Despite the very serious themes at the heart of the play, though, it is very, very funny.  The dialogue is clever and witty, and the physical comedy is laugh-out-loud hilarious.  If you’ve never seen the play and have the chance, give yourself a treat and buy a ticket.

One of the ways Gerry and I decide the merit of a play or a movie is how much we talk about it after we’ve seen it.  Sometimes we’ll leave the theatre saying we didn’t like it much, but we’ll find ourselves returning to it in conversation over the next few days and eventually decide that it was really worth seeing after all because it made us think.  That’s the way we felt about Yentl, which we saw at the Asolo Rep two days after God of Carnage.  Based on the short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, the play is not taken from the screenplay of the Barbra Streisand movie, but is a new script with the same roots.  It is centered on a young Jewish woman, Yentl, living in a Polish village in the late-nineteenth century, when Orthodox Judaism viewed the education of women to be contrary to the teachings of the Torah and the Talmud.  Yentl, however, refuses to settle for the life imposed on women in her culture.  She persuades her father to teach her after his (male, of course) students have left for the day, and she proves to be a brilliant scholar.  When her father dies and she has no options for survival other than marriage, she dresses in boys’ clothing, leaves her village, and goes to a yeshiva — a school for young men pursuing religious studies.  Her masquerade is successful, although it has some unintended consequences, and Yentl learns the hard way that being true to herself can be more painful than following the herd.

The production values of the play were excellent, as were the performances.  So we were both a bit perplexed by our not finding the story particularly compelling or most of the characters sympathetic.  This was not, for example, Fiddler on the Roof.  No soft and fuzzy philosophy, no uplifting hit songs (although there was some very interesting, if anachronistic, music).  But after we got home, and after dinner, Gerry said he was having second thoughts about the play.  At the heart of the story were the traditional views about women propounded by all orthodox religions over time, the imposition of rules intended to keep women in their place and to prevent them from exercising power outside the home.  Was it just that men were afraid if women were not tightly constrained, they might usurp men’s authority?  Or did they fear that women might actually question the rules created by men but propounded as God’s laws?  The vehemence with which the men in the play — young as well as old — rail against the educated woman is horrifying.  They call her an abomination, a monstrosity, all this as Yentl, in her men’s clothing, listens in silence.  She is afraid to speak out in defense of women when she is posing as a man, although she was quick to do so before her masquerade.  I see in this an analogy to the outrage expressed openly by millions of Catholic women when the bishops opposed the law requiring employers to offer — and insurers to provide — contraception to those employees who wanted it.  A Catholic woman posing as a man in order to serve as a priest would probably keep as silent as Yentl in her man’s garb.

In the interest of fairness, I must admit that I have a longstanding antipathy to all forms of organized religion.  But my antagonism toward religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism, at least, has a strong basis in fact.  I see Yentl as a woman starving for knowledge, and the food she craves is kept locked up for the use of men who may or may not even want it.  That, and not her love of learning, is the abomination.


Vapour Musing’s return to racing doesn’t go well

Entered in a confidence-building maiden race at Pimlico this past Saturday, Vapour Musing failed to get the memo. She finished a lackluster mid-pack, never threatening, while going off the favorite at 5-2.

While future plans are uncertain, TVI’s CEO Barry Irwin is known for quickly pulling the plug ( that is, selling the horse) on non-performers. We’ll keep you posted.