Monthly Archives: December 2002

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I’ve been thinking about it for the past couple of days, and The Two Towers is growing on me. Listening to the magnificent soundtrack helps a lot. Shore has scored some wonderfully evocative themes for the new races and environments we see in the film. It’s sinking in slowly.

In thinking about the film, I’ve temporarily concluded that it felt too fast somehow, with not very much accomplished. Don’t get me wrong – it was a good film… but I just don’t yet know how to explain my vague feelings properly. Did it have less of a direction? In the book, there is plot – in the first half they have to convince both Rohan and Gondor that they’re not going to get out alive, and in the second there’s that whole Gollum-hobbit relationship and its evolution. There were what seemed like those plots in the film, but they felt – flat? I felt the terror and drive to save the world in the first installment, but the second film, where we should feel more desperate, I felt numb. Now, maybe I was feeling what the protagonists were feeling – rushed about by the end of the world rapidly approaching, driven by the Bad Guys determined to destroy the race of Men (in which case, woo-hoo, point made!) – but I’m not certain. I know we’re following several protagonist P.O.V. as well as a couple of antagonist P.O.V., but I wasn’t drawn into their personal anguish and drive to accomplish their various tasks. Drat. Well, I’m looking forward to seeing it again in order to further pin things down, and to experience the finer points which I might have missed.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to say that Gollum’s Song is just plain creepy. Coming from someone who likes the use of minor keys, that’s something. I know it’s the deliberate use of accidentals that creates the effect, but brrr!

In Which She Muses About Antique Shops

Antiques markets fascinate me.

There are several levels to this fascination. One has to do with the simple experience of walking through a collection of stuff, some of which is really nifty. It�s the other levels that interest me even more, though.

As I walk through an antiques shop I constantly wonder about who owned these items before they ended up here, on a shelf with a clutter of other (mostly) dissimilar objects. If it�s a piece of china or glass, obviously from a set, I wonder where the rest of the set might be � broken? Parcelled out among children, some of whom thrust their share to the back of a dark china cupboard and never think about them again; some of whom pass them lovingly down to grandchildren; some of whom die alone and friendless and whose possessions are sold via estate sale to a variety of dealers? The silent stories lying tucked in among the odd cups and saucers and gloves are legion.

Then there are the items that I recognise. We had a jug like that; isn�t that china pattern the same as so-and-so�s; who had flatware like this? Old tools; old cameras; strap-on ice skates.

And then, there are the people. They flow silently through the little dens created by shelves and walls, hands in pockets, or fingers flitting over bowls and umbrellas and memorabilia. They murmur to themselves, sigh almost soundlessly when they find something that arrests their attention, whisper to one another as they stalk sherry glasses. The face of an eleven-year-old as he rounds the corner and sees a well-kept Victrola with his own eyes for the very first time; the arch glance of the man who spies a butter mold and does not wish to betray his interest as he casually examines a wooden churn nearby; the woman who exclaims aloud with happiness at finding a piece of Depression glass that she had been searching for; all these are, to me, as interesting as the objects themselves. People hunch over collections of objects, shielding them from your eyes until they�ve had the opportunity to scan them ruthlessly first � you never know what might be there, after all, and if a bargain is to be found, they�re to be the ones to find it, by God. Unlike other shops, no one strikes up conversation with strangers; antiques hunting is a very defensive, solitary pursuit.

I saw a first edition of L.M.Montgomery�s Kilmeny of the Orchard priced at ninety-five dollars today. I saw a pewter inkwell desk set for one hundred and thirty five. I saw vintage wedding bands, slimmer than a penny�s width, their gold a warm coppery tone from age, incised with delicate elongated diamonds almost impossible to see. I saw cases of war medals, carefully labelled as to regiment, which saddened me; heirlooms like that should be preserved by family in pride, honour and love. Were they � and the full sets of silverware, and the vintage marquis emerald rings � sold by families reluctant to part with history, but bowing to the need for money and the knowledge that they will never in their lives use these things in a practical fashion?

It�s saddening. Yet, in amongst all the odd jars and empty milk bottles and brass mortars and pestles, does there wait the single cup to complete a tea set, a knife to complete a setting of flatware so that it can once again be used for a dinner party?

Antiques aren�t just to look at. They�re meant to be used, or at the least honoured and kept alive. History isn�t mean to be put on a shelf. It�s to be re-lived.

The Two Towers, Panto, And Relaxing

So I saw The Two Towers yesterday.

Maybe it was the crowded theatre with the bimbo in front of us; maybe it was the killer headache that slowly crept up on me throughout the three and a half hours of total viewing time; maybe it was any combination of things.

I didn’t enjoy it very much.

Wonderful cinema, oh yes; spectacular battle sequences; epic; stunning design work, too. Smeagol was a triumph; the Ents were perfect. And yet… and yet. There was something missing. And I’m not talking about the first chapter of the book version, covered in the first film, or the last few chapters, which Jackson appears to be delegating to the third film.

I know it’s all about war; I know it’s about the Fellowship divided; I know it’s all about despair and loss of hope and the darkest before dawn, etcetera. I found the pacing irregular, and the editing extremely choppy. I thought I went in with decent expectations. I mean, I don’t aggrandize much any more; I’m very good at remaining immune to hype, and not working something up on my own, however much I might play at doing so.

I readily admit that I intend to give it another chance, mainly because I can’t believe I didn’t enjoy myself. It must have been a fluke, a freak alignment of stars or something.

Amusing side note: my parents saved the last full-page ad for The Two Towers in the Toronto Star for me, a lovely full-front shot of Miranda Otto as Eowyn. At least, I think it was for me. I’m not sure; my husband thought she was rather attractive.

My disappointment in holiday spectacle did not carry through to the incredibly hilarious pantomime version of Robin Hood that we saw today in Toronto, thank goodness. Live comic theatre is in short supply, and live comic theatre done by theatrical professionals from the Shaw and Stratford Festivals is a real treat. Any show where the audience consists of fifty percent children, who are encouraged to cheer the hero and boo the villain, is a fun show in my books. My parents used to take me to see such shows when I was a child, and this year my mother gave my husband and I tickets to see the latest in Ross Petty’s annual fractured fairy tales.

Damn, I miss performing. I miss attending quality live theatre, but having been on both sides of the curtain, I can say that this show, out of all the live shows I’ve seen in the past couple of years, induced vivid pangs of envy that I didn’t think I could feel. I wanted to be up there. I wanted to be singing, dancing, and making people laugh. Having spent the last three days reading one of my Stratford fiftieth anniversary books from cover to cover, I was ripe for the homesick feeling; I set myself up, really.

After dinner tonight I’ll settle down with the soundtrack to The Two Towers (which is brilliant, and which stood out even through my vague feelings of disappointment) and a nice lavender bath. It’s time to relax again. Which means, of course, that I can’t pick up yet another Stratford book, or I’ll just mope some more.

Christmas At Home

Well, we woke up on Christmas morning to over ten centimeters of snow, so I feel right at home. The drive from Montreal to Toronto was surprisingly good, which should have alerted us right off the bat that a bad storm was looming. (The drive was made infinitely more exciting by four or five unmarked mix tapes donated by Tass, including a seasonal compilation marked only ‘Here I am — Rock Me Like A Candy Cane’, which featured the inimitable juxtaposition of the thrash metal rendition of Silent Night with the innocent Christmas Scat from The Muppet Christmas Carol.) After a dull brown December, though, seeing drifts of white everywhere on Christmas morning is rather aesthetically pleasing. The Weather Channel assures us that the 8 degrees C on Monday and Tuesday will take care of things, much to the grim pleasure of the Torontonians.

I love Christmas with my family; there’s always what amounts to a library under the tree, hidden by pretty paper and sparkly ribbon. The tree this year is a surprisingly effective six foot tall fig tree, wrapped with a single strand of white fairy lights, since their seven-month-old Maine Coon Cat is still at the shiny-things stage. (Despite this clever attempt to protect all things Christmas-y, he tried to climb the fig on Christmas morning, because he could see his new foam rubber ball nestled in the leaves.) As for what kind of library was under said tree, my parents each received three or four books, and this year my husband tore the wrapping off The Art of The Fellowship of the Ring, the hardcover volume of developmental art that he discovered in a bookshop not long ago, which kept him busy for well over an hour. I received both books written on the fiftieth anniversary of the Stratford Festival that I had wanted, as well as the recently released Glenn Gould: A Life in Pictures and the new Anne Rice in hardcover, to offset all of that high-brow Canadian culture. Plenty of chocolate and a new polar fleece dressing gown rounded out my major gains. I’m set for the rest of the winter, now.

The snow was still flying out there when we went to bed, and weatherpersons were predicting a final day’s total accumulation of around twenty-five centimeters. I’m glad; there’s something just odd about a Christmas with no snow. Oh, sure, I’ve had my share of snowstorms in Montreal this fall, throughout November and the early part of December, but I don’t think I could ever live somewhere where it doesn’t actually snow at Christmas. I know, I know, there will be plenty of the stuff throughout January and February. I will be thoroughly sick of it by the time March rolls around. Just think, though, about the quality of light that snow creates. One of the reasons November is usually so dull is because it’s overcast and the bright green of the leaves and grass has faded through rusts to browns. The overall effect is rather depressing. As soon as it snows, though, the light is brighter, refracting through millions of individual snowflakes, bouncing around and creating a warmer, clearer glow.

We still have to brush it off cars, and wade through it to get to the bus stop, and jam hats down over our hair to protect our ears from blowing ice and wind. I know. Overall, though, it’s not so bad. It’s the dampness that creeps into your bones and makes you miserable. There’s a difference, after all. If it would just snow for a week leading up to Christmas, then stop, I’d be happy…

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The Solstice came and went without my educational post on Yule, so, a day or so late, here it is!

Yule is also known as the Winter Solstice, Midwinter, and Christmas. It usually falls between December 20-23.

Ever since Midsummer, the longest day of the year, the nights have been growing longer, until finally in December the sun sets mid-afternoon here in North America. What sun we do see is watery and cold. To the ancient Celts, whose worldview has inspired much of modern Paganism, it must have seemed on Midwinter Night, the longest night of the year, as if the sun would never rise again. When it did rise the next dawn, the rejoicing and festivities began in welcome, for from this moment onwards the sun would gain in strength and light. The sun is traditionally perceived as the symbol of the sacrificed God, reborn of the Goddess once again to light the land.

Modern Pagans enact similar traditions. On Midwinter Night, at sunset, candles are lit in a sympathetic act to encourage the sun to return to the cold and darkened land. An all-night vigil follows until the first light of dawn, when the candles are extinguished and the celebrating begins!

Apart from feasting, a common part of the festivities includes the Yule log. Traditionally, this is a piece of wood that will burn for twelve nights, a small piece of which is reserved to burn with the next year’s log to provide a sense of continuity. In modern times we do not often have access to a fireplace, and so an excellent alternative is a grouping of candles encircled by an evergreen wreath, or a small log with holes bored into it to serve as a candleholder, decorated with seasonal colours. A candle-end is saved to light the candles of the Yule log the following December.

For centuries people have sought some evidence of life during the barren season of winter, and have brought boughs of evergreen into their homes. For Pagan folk, these evergreen trees symbolise the ever-living Goddess, present even during cold unwelcoming days of hardship. The modern tradition of raising and decorating a tree indoors echoes this belief, as well as recalling the trans-cultural myth of the World Tree or the Tree of Life, which serves as the axis upon which the world turns.

Central concepts: Rebirth; family and celebration; generosity and charity to those who suffer; new beginnings; life in death.

Yule Party!

Woo!

Just back from the office Yule party. If I’d known that red wine would make me feel this good, I’d have started drinking it at eleven o’clock this morning when I started feeling really ill.

Seriously, though, my short Christmas Special Return to Retail — For A Limited Time Only! — was made a lot easier by my stellar boss and coworkers. (Okay, the easy-going clients were a significant factor as well. No one was freaking out this Christmas, which was good to see. I was worried; after all, part of the reason I burned out after eleven years of retail had to do with the needy clients, who were in remarkable scarcity this past week, thank goodness.) Tonight’s party, spent in the company of my colleagues, was incredibly enjoyable, even taking my rebellious stomach into account. My only regret is that I didn’t dare eat anything for fear it wouldn’t stay down; the buffet looked amazing, especially the desserts. Denied the solid food, I started off by drinking 7-Up, and flung caution to the wind after my second glass. If I was going to be sick anyway, I might as well choose to be sick in style. Oddly enough, the wine seems to have settled my stomach. It has also, however, gone right to my head, since I’ve had nothing to eat today.

Oh, well. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

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Oooh.

Kind of hard to think about having fun when you’re battling sudden nausea, though.

No, no, no… I refuse to be sick now. I’m so close! I’ll be sick in January, honest, just please, not now, not three days before Christmas, with two parties to go to today…