Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolve

It's what I decided a while back: To find a new trail.

Speaking of trails more literally, this photograph is from a walk I did in 2006 at 16-Mile Creek in Bronte, Ontario. Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Quote of the Day

"Mongo only pawn... in game of life."

Alex Karras as the simple but hulking Mongo in Blazing Saddles (1974).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Days are Lengthening

... and I'm looking forward to summer, the beach, the water...

Memory Kickstart

I love how powerful scent is to memory, especially my memory of childhood and family. Mothballs always make me think of my Italian grandparents... not that their home reeked of mothballs, but that's where I first encountered the scent. Lemon verbena makes me think of my English grandparents' bathroom, and I still love that scent so much. Buttered toast makes me think of my father. Certain perfumes remind me of my mother.

Music is so evocative too. When I first heard "Clair de Lune," I was intoxicated by it, and had to play it over and over, to such an extent that I called my mother, who informed me that she had played a recording of it endlessly when expecting me. Hmmm! Today I found some old tapes on my shelves that have not been replaced by CDs or downloads. So I was playing Roxy Music and Dire Straits. The tapes are old however, so there was a slightly muffled, hollow sound quality. I was immediately taken back to the 1980s, a house party, I was upstairs in this creaky old house, bad paint job... and the music pounding downstairs, coming up to me in that same hollow, distant way. The feelings I'd had at the time were brought back to me too: confusion, hope, optimism, romance... in that regard not much has changed and that's just fine.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Quote of the Day

Walt: I thought you were afraid of heights.
Travis: I'm not afraid of heights. I'm afraid of fallin'.

Dean Stockwell as Walt and Harry Dean Stanton as Travis in Paris, Texas (1984), directed by Wim Wenders, written by L.M. Kit Carson and Sam Shepard, with a soundtrack by Ry Cooder. What a line-up! What a movie... I remember living in London in the 1980s when the movie came out and - I can't remember who this is credited to - reading the first line of a movie review which stated (I paraphrase): "In the opening scene of Paris, Texas, Harry Dean Stanton stumbles out of the Mojave desert as only Harry Dean Stanton can." That made me go to see what they were talking about. Then it was one discovery after another: Sam Shepard, Wim Wenders, Ry Cooder... etc.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Films Seen Recently

I am Legend (2007)
I'm very easily frightened in a movie, particularly by the power of suggestion. The last film I saw that nearly did me in was The Grudge, (U.S. version). For at least two weeks afterwards I was nervous when alone at night. *SPOILER ALERT* And of course, for those of you that saw it, you'll know that it broke that unspoken pact between audience member and film maker, that no matter how frightening a scene is, when you are at last home in your bed you will be safe with the blankets pulled over your head. You know the scene I'm talking about. The bastards! How could they do that to me? So I had to be reassured that I am Legend wouldn't do me in too badly. The first half was fantastic. Will Smith was sympathetic and admirable as potentially the last human being left in the world after a devastating man-made virus is unleashed, with Will - so far as he knows - being the only human immune to its effects. *SPOILER ALERT* Not that everyone died. If you've seen the trailer you'll know that there are vampire-like survivors who he has to hide from at night, when they roam the streets of an abandoned Manhattan. Until we actually saw the creatures it was brilliant. The suspense was terrifying. I wasn't sure I could keep watching. As soon as I'd seen them, my reaction was "Meh..." What was such a great premise - what do you do if you might be the last person left on earth? How do you deal with the crushing loneliness? - became a ghoul flick, and they were CGI-created no less, so they were much less scary than they might have been. *SPOILER ALERT* Also, how where did the running water and electricity come from? An amusing touch was the female vampire that Will captures and has tied down on a gurney as he tries different antidotes on her. What in Sam Hill was with her breasts? I'd never seen anything like them! We had a good laugh over those. Hee hee.

Pat and Mike (1952)
A wonderful Garson Canin/Ruth Gordon script is brought to life by Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn under director George Cukor. This is one of my favourite movies ever. Hepburn's patrician, East-coast, California-based, very proper, professional lady athlete comes into the scoundrelly radius of Tracy's New York-Irish, not-entirely-legit, sports promoter. *SPOILER ALERT* The scene of the disarming of the thugs (featuring a very young Charles Bronson who is credited as Charles Buchinski) is wonderful. So is the scene where Pat and Mike realize that they have found themselves in an actual relationship with real feelings for each other. No kiss has yet been shared and he seals their decision with a firm handshake. I watch this one at least once a year, usually on a double bill with Adam's Rib (1949), which has the same creative team.

The Eye of the Needle (1981)
I remember this film coming out when I was very young and have wanted to see it ever since. Finally got a chance too. *SPOILER ALERT* Donald Sutherland is perfect as the lethal-yet-charming spy and Kate Nelligan heart-breaking and sympathetic as the lonely wife living on a remote Scottish island. Where is that island? I'd like to be stranded there too. Sigh. There's a slightly crazy soundtrack which seems to have been lifted out of a 1940s Hollywood melodrama and it's distracting. I'd like to read the book now.

Sweeney Todd (2007)
*SPOILER ALERT* I love this musical and I raced to see this film with much anticipation, but not sure entirely what to think. It's visually stunning. It has a fine cast (although Johnny Depp is altogether too handsome and young to play the part of this ravaged man.) The music isn't very well served when you consider the kind of voices that could have sung it. On some level this film never engaged me fully... especially towards the end, with all the blood. I mean, this looked like red paint, and there were gallons of it. GALLONS. Spewing forth every five minutes. It just got silly after a very short while. I think the stunning visual was part of the problem. It was distractingly stunning. And Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter were more like brother and sister with their matching cheekbones and coal-black eyes, than broken, older man and ravaged-yet-hopeful older woman. I think the photography didn't help either. I had the impression whoever was filming it wasn't used to musical form. Hmmmmmm. Well, those are my current thoughts. Part of me would like to see it again, as I think part of the problem might have been that I wasn't really in the mood for it.

The Shop Around the Corner
Last spring, when I first saw this, I figured it might have to be my new Christmas movie, and so it is. I bought the DVD last week and watched it on the weekend. It's a delight. One of the final scenes featuring Frank Morgan (famed as the Wizard of Oz) as Mr. Matuchek and the new delivery boy Rudy, is tear-inducing. A wonderful movie about friendship and not being alone on Christmas Eve.

Casino Royale (2006)
I got my mother the DVD for Christmas. We're both extreme fans - me of Bond in general - she of Daniel Craig as Bond. When it was released last year, December 2006, I ended up seeing it three times at the cinema, which is unique in my experience. Craig is a great Bond, playing him as he learns how to be a double O. He looks like a marine, like he could perform the stunts. Casting Judi Dench as M is perfect. She is so authentic and so classy. The locations are stunning, the casting is perfect, the editing is breathtaking, and - after a few listens - I love the theme tune. That same month I also saw Borat twice at the cinema. The first time I was not so much breathless with laughter as I passed that point fairly early on... it was more like I was going to be sick with laughter. In the intervening months, I had assumed that it probably wasn't as good as I remembered it. Then I saw part of it again, and fell about laughing like a nine-pin. Ow.

All This and Heaven too (1940)
What a premise! Charles Boyer as an unhappily-married French duke in the mid 1900s, and Bette Davis as the gentle governess who loves his children as though they were her own. And of course - in the manner of all great romances - his beautiful-yet-cruel wife being the bitch to end all bitches. But it's so indescribably one-sided... Bette is so long-suffering, such a perfect victim, and Charles Boyer is such a unmeaning cad... I couldnae take it lassie! But I did watch it all the way through, willing it to be a better film. The sets and costumes are wonderful. Sigh...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lovely, Undressed Day

2 p.m.... still in my dressing gown. Full of left-overs and warm feelings for dear friends who are like family and with whom we shared Christmas dinner last night.

As for the food portion of Christmas Day... the game pie was a success (i.e. the pastry worked), but I wouldn't bother with it again. It's a lot of work for something that didn't appeal to my taste buds. However I'd do my old game pie again in flash, which was pheasant-based and much juicier and more pleasing. Or a pork pie.... but these are all things I make once in a blue moon - they're very rich and designed to be consumed by people who work all day in the fields, not by sedentary city types. But you can see from the picture we got through about a half of it last night. The ham is in the background.

The ham was really good, the best I've had. It'll be the first left-over to disappear. The glaze was intoxicating. The butternut was so creamy and it's crumble just golden and crunchy. Along with the ham, the trifle was the star of the show. My mother makes it something like this (the recipe is - of course - not written down anywhere):

The bowl is layered with sponge cake, sprinkled LIBERALLY with raspberry wine and Amaretto di Saronno. Subsequent layers are: raspberry jam, crushed amaretti biscuits, fresh raspberries and custard. Then an hour or two before serving, a thick layer of freshly whipped cream is smeared over the top and crushed amaretti biscuits and fresh raspberries decorate the top. I cannot tell you how creamy, cool and heavenly this is, with the perfect balance of booze and sweetness. Well, with that list of ingredients, how wrong can it go?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Everyone!

It's 12:08 a.m.

I hope you're all safe and sound and warm with your loved ones... at least one loved one.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Dinner, Part Deux

Update on Christmas day menu:

Butternut squash soup with wild mushroom sauté - READY
Cheddar-sage biscuits - READY


Maple-glazed Berkshire ham - BAKED TOMORROW
Raised hot water-crust game pie - IN THE OVEN (I'm calling it the Bambi/Thumper pie as it's - you guessed it - venison and rabbit)
Green beans with Shiitake mushrooms - PREPPED TOMORROW
Glazed baby carrots - PREPPED TOMORROW
Butternut squash crumble - WORKING ON IT NOW
Cranberry/orange relish - READY


Raspberry-amaretto trifle - READY, just waiting for it's whipping cream topping
Single-malt scotch chocolate truffles - UH OH, better get melting!

However, gift cakes are made and decorated:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Preparations for Christmas Dinner is Underway

We decided to give turkey a rest this year. I've started cooking today (pictures to follow). This is the menu as planned (always ready for something to change!):

Butternut squash soup with wild mushroom sauté
Cheddar-sage biscuits


Maple-glazed Berkshire ham
Raised hot water-crust game pie
Green beans with Shiitake mushrooms
Glazed baby carrots
Butternut squash crumble
Cranberry/orange relish


Raspberry-amaretto trifle
Single-malt scotch chocolate truffles

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tagline of the Day

"Mysterious City of Sin and Intrigue!"

from Casablanca (1942). Why do I love taglines of old movies? Answer: the shameless use of exclamation marks!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Damn, this Place Smells Good

I wish I could bottle the delicious aromas wafting about me just now. The first batch of three cakes is nearly done. The raisins and fruit for the second batch is soaking in sherry. And the gingerbread is just decorated, so that spicy smell and the sugary perfume of all the icing sugar is in the air. Some of them go on the tree, others are given as presents.

A big snowflake, ready for some raffia strung through the little hole on the top so I can hang it on the tree:

Snowflakes, Christmas trees and little people, naked... but with buttons. Hey... something doesn't make sense.

These make sense. A tradition for me: anatomically-correct gingerbread people, ready to be hung on the tree.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quotes of the Day

"Seth, drain the well. There's a neighbor missing."

Ian McKellen as Amos Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm (1995).

"Highly sexed young men living on farms are always called Seth or Reuben."

Kate Beckinsale (lovely and pre-boob job and pre-dye job) as Flora Poste in the same movie.

"You're all damned! Damned! Do you ever stop to think what that word means? No, you don't. It means endless, horrifying torment! It means your poor, sinful bodies stretched out on red-hot gridirons, in the nethermost, fiery pit of hell and those demons mocking ye while they waves cooling jellies in front of ye. You know what it's like when you burn your hand, taking a cake out of the oven, or lighting one of them godless cigarettes? And it stings with a fearful pain, aye? And you run to clap a bit of butter on it to take the pain away, aye? Well, I'll tell ye, there'll be no butter in hell!"

Ian McKellen, yet again, as Amos.

This is a very funny movie based on Stella Gibbons' novel about a polished, orphaned young woman (Beckinsale) in 1920s London, who goes to live with an eccentric branch of her family, the Starkadders. Begrimed farm people with an opera-worthy collection of emotional baggage, they speak in over-the-top rural accents, scattered liberally with a made-up country vocabulary. Cold Comfort Farm was written as a take-off of the sort of novels Mary Webb, Thomas Hardy and the Brontes wrote. The film is played straight, as it should be, which makes the over-wrought emotions so funny. The cast is rounded out with Rufus Sewell (as Seth), Eileen Atkins and Stephen Fry. But the whole cast is perfect!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Update on the Ginger Shedding Machine

How is this comfortable? I have no idea, but he maintains this position for hours.

However Tibby's favourite new spot (when he slips by me and into the bedroom) is in my cupboard, next to my biggest suitcase, on top of an old bedside table I keep in there to store things.

He's loving the season, especially the visitors, being a very social guy.

It's still snowing horizontally, hard to tell how much of it is settling as it is blowing around so much. The gingerbread is baking. The recipe as I listed it here is correct. But with my own batch I made the mistake of consulting the original (unmarked up by me) version. I used 7 cups of flour instead of 6. The new batch today is silky and highly workable. Yum yum!

Quote(s) of the Day

"Playing it safe is about the most dangerous thing a woman like you can do."

"Everything seems like nothing to me now, 'cause I want you in my bed. I don't care if I burn in hell. I don't care if you burn in hell. The past and the future is a joke to me now. I see that they're nothing. I see they ain't here. The only thing that's here is you - and me. Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die! The storybooks are bullshit! Now I want you to come upstairs with me and get in my bed!"

Nicolas Cage as Ronny Cammareri. You either hate or love this movie. It's operatically indulgent, full of quotable quotes, Cher looked like a goddess in it and I love it for the massive heart it wears on its over-sized sleeve. I'm talking, of course, about Moonstruck (1987.)

Lost in Scarlett Johansson's Ear


In the final moment of Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003), Bill Murray whispers something in Scarlett Johansson's ear. The audience never heard what it was. Someone on has played around with the soundtrack and has determined that what he said was:

"I have to be leaving, but I won't let that come between us, okay?"

It's not proven yet, but I don't really mind one way or another. I loved the movie.

The Everyman

In London, in the 1980s, my favourite cinema was The Everyman, the world's first repertoire cinema and where I saw - for the first time - such films as La Belle et la Bête (1946), Days of Heaven (1978), Umberto D (1952), Barry Lyndon (1975), Betty Blue (1986), One from the Heart (1982), The Right Stuff (1983), Les enfants du Paradis (1945), Paris, Texas (1984) and - in one epic afternoon and evening - Bicycle Thieves (1948), Miracle in Milan (1951) and La Strada (1954).

I remember the Everyman as being a bit shabby but they sold good tea and very healthy sandwiches (handy when you're doing a four- or five-hour film marathon.) Now I see it's been tarted up into a more upscale venue, the Everyman Cinema Club. I'll have to visit it when next I visit London.

One day (on the double-bill with La Belle et la Bête) I saw a 40-minute film Partie de campagne (1936) by Jean Renoir. It's apparently part of a longer film he never completed. It tells the story of a Parisian shop-owner who comes to the country for a day's holiday with his flirtatious wife, shy daughter and unfortunate shop clerk. The daughter feels an intense attraction for a local man, while her mother flirts outrageously with the man's friend. But she is meant for the shop clerk. And so it goes... it's about missed chances, family duty, and regret. It's funny, moving, and truly tragic. The dreamy shots along the river and the river bank still come to my mind over 20 years later.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fast Cars

There's a cute story in the news today about Formula One racing star Michael Schumacher. He was being driven by a cab-driver in Germany who star struck by his passenger and became confused, making several driving errors. In frustration, Schumacher asked the cabbie if he could take the wheel. Apparently - taking the turns at full speed - he left the driver further gobsmacked by giving him 100 euros on a 60 euro fare.

I used to love Formula One years ago, until the death of the death of Elio de Angelis cured me of it permanently. That was May 1986. De Angelis, who had fared so well on the Lotus team, was now on the Brabham team, and died unneccessarily during a test run in his car. When it caught fire, a lack of officials and stand-by aid was blamed for his death as it took apparently took a very long time to free him from his smoke-filled car. The Roman-born De Angelis (below) was an elegant man, dubbed the last gentleman player of the sport, and a very talented, classically-trained pianist.

It was John Frankenheimer's movie Grand Prix (1966) that got me hooked on racing. I saw it one summer in my teens on tv. Great cast, including the old French smoothie, Yves Montand. I think it's time to see it again.

Monday, December 10, 2007

View from my Window

I love the lantern and the bench, surrounded by snow and bare trees. This is at dusk and it was snowing, so there are snowflakes kind of breaking up the scene.

Quote of the Day... and two Young Lovers

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn,
Is just to love and be loved in return."

From the song "Nature Boy" with words and music by Eden Abhez.

This picture is of my paternal grandparents in - I am estimating - 1929. He was 23 and she was 18. I miss all my grandparents. Just when you get old enough to realize you want to really know them, it's too late.

This is such a romantic picture. I'm so happy for them.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Quote of the Day

Charlotte: Well, I'm not going to struggle with you.

Jerry: That's right. No telling what sort of primitive instincts that might arouse.

Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale and Paul Henreid as Jerry Durrance in Now Voyager (1942).

The Golden Compass - UPDATED

Finally I got to see The Golden Compass tonight. It was really well done! I think the consensus was that we'd have loved it to last another 1/2 hour or so, so we could have had more detail from the book included. Dakota Blue Richards was perfect as the young heroine Lyra: feisty and endearing. The cast was scattered with cameos from wonderful actors such as Derek Jacobi and Christopher Plummer. Ian McKellan voiced Iorek Byrnison, the armed bear, and Eva Green was ravishingly beautiful as the witch Serafina Pekkala. Nicole Kidman was a creepily beautiful and ice-cold Mrs. Coulter and Daniel "rrrrRRRRRrrrr" Craig just wasn't present enough on screen as Lord Asriel. I have it on good authority he'll be around a lot more in the second film, hoping there is one. Although I've just finished the book, I'm tempted to read it again. I certainly need to read the rest of the trilogy - stat.

*SPOILER ALERT!* There was also this feeling that they might have done some chopping around of the story line at the last minute. In fact, if you see the full-length trailer, there are definitely scenes filmed that belong to the end of the novel that do not appear in the final movie. Unlike the novel, Lyra visits the bear's palace before Bolvangar and Iorek takes her there. But... as he's already become King of the bears, why doesn't he bring his army with him? It just doesn't make sense. The very last scene of the movie felt added on too... as though they had decided to suddenly cut it short but needed to wrap things up. I'm sure that's what happened. I still enjoyed it and recommend it. And I'll probably see it again at the theatre some time.

I did my daemon test on the official Golden Compass site, and his name is Thalius and he's a tiger. Tibby got a bit jealous I think.

Here's one of my favourite Christmas tree ornaments, it's a little sparkly as you can see. And... not only am I a human hot water bottle, but I'm also a human magpie... just love things that sparkle!

The Tibmeister continues to sleep...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Tree - Dressed

... and still shameless in its twinkliness.

We couldn't wait and decorated today. Hee hee.

Tibby at His Post

My Favourite Season Takes Hold

I have The Visit by Loreena McKennit on the CD player, a naked and shameless Christmas tree (6'5" Fraser fir) dominating the living room, and the intoxicating scent of just-made gingerbread dough in the air. My favourite track on this CD is "Greensleeves". According to the liner notes, she sings it the way she imagines Tom Waits might sing it. It's haunting and always present on my mp3 player.

Tomorrow is the real start of the Christmas season for me - with a visit to Trinity College Chapel for the Service of Lessons and Carols, followed by eggnog and sherry in Seely Hall afterwards. Once back home, we'll decorate the tree, watch Raymond Briggs' magical The Snowman, eat sausage rolls and bake gingerbread.

In the picture you see the naked tree. I think it's lovely just as it is. Under the drinks cabinet you see a bit of Tibby's sheepskin. On top of the cabinet are four little wooden rounds. When I bought my tree yesterday, I asked the young guy to let me have the little trimmed bit off the bottom when he cut it. I get so intoxicated by the scent. When he realized this he very sweetly went around getting other trimmed bits and recutting them for me.

Here is my gingerbread recipe, culled years ago from Gourmet magazine, and slightly amended by me. It's a very forgiving, easy-going, lovely, silky dough that is sturdy enough to make houses, and tasty enough to nibble on. I make lots of gingerbread people (anatomically correct, kind of like fertility symbols) for the tree. Sometimes I ice, sometimes I don't, depending on how rushed I am. I don't like to get too busy. If stress rears its ugly head at Christmas, I back off - that is not what it is about for me.

This dough is good for a gingerbread house, gingerbread people, or any other shapes you fancy.

6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. ground ginger
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups soft butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup fancy molasses

To make the dough:
In a bowl, sift together flour, spices and soda. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar together until well blended. Add molasses and continue to beat until smooth. Stir in flour/spice mixture a cup at a time, blending well after each addition, until a stiff dough forms - not all the flour may be needed. Do not let the dough get dry. Roll the dough into manageable balls and keep it in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap until needed.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350F. Roll out a dough ball onto a lightly-floured surface, to a 1/4" to 1/3" thickness. This is a matter of preference. Cut out shapes, transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes until the gingerbread is just firm to touch and lightly browned. Watch it closely, as it tends to brown very quickly during the last few minutes. Again, this is a matter of personal preference - depending on how crisp you like them. I suggest baking them in small batches to experiment with timing, the first time you make them. Let the cookies cool for a minute on the baking sheet once it is out of the oven, as they are quite fragile at first, but quickly harden. Transfer onto racks to cool completely before icing or assembling into a house. Store in an airtight tin. Enough for one gingerbread house or 12 to 18 large gingerbread men.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Quote of the Day

Chazz: The night is a very dark time for me.

Jimmy: It's dark for everyone, moron!

Chazz: Not for Alaskans or dudes with night-vision goggles.

Will Ferrell as Chazz and Jon "Napoleon Dynamite" Heder as Jimmy in Blades of Glory (2007). We just watched it tonight. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard.

Quote of the Day

Vivian: So you do get up. I was beginning to think you worked in bed like Marcel Proust.

Marlowe: Who's he?

Vivian: You wouldn't know him, a French writer.

Marlowe: Come into my boudoir.

Lauren Bacall as Vivian Sternwood Rutledge and Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946). Great movie, with a sharp script and an incomprehensible plotline.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Eagle has Landed

Tibbles has endured what most cats hate: a move. He was given a little sedating pill in his breakfast on Wednesday morning in Stratford. That was successful in keeping him calm during the two-hour car journey. That soon wore off when he arrived in Toronto and he spent the rest of the day sniffing around, disovering my place. He and my parents are temporary guests of mine while they wait to move into their new place (April or so is the current estimate).

After a busy night miaowing in annoyance at being kept out of my bedroom, he is gradually making his way around all the chairs, deciding which is best for his wide frame.

I think he's looking pretty relaxed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tagline of the Day

"Theirs was the great sin that even the great rains could not wash away!"

From The Rains of Ranchipur (1955), directed by Jean Negulesco. Richard Burton as a self-sacrificing, noble, blue-eyed, heavily eyelined Sikh doctor, and Lana Turner as a spoilt and selfish heiress, who falls for him on a visit to India with her embittered English lord husband, played by Michael Rennie. If you get a kick out of over-dressed, over-the-top 1950s melodrama, this is your next watch!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Poem of the Day

Each Scar I'll keep for Him
Instead I'll say of Gem
In His long Absence worn
A Costlier one

But every Tear I bore
Were He to count them o'er
His own would fall so more
I'll mis sum them.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tagline of the Day

"For the young in heart! And romantic oldsters, too!"

State Fair (1945) Great film! Dreadful tagline! Oldsters will agree as well I am tingkink!

Poem of the Day

My dad sent me this:

A Twelve Months Rhyme:

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy

George Ellis (1753 - 1815)

Cocooning Continues

One hand upon my bosom, I proclaimed out loud this morning that nothing would induce me to step outside today.

I heard no argument.

Chemistry and Cranberry Relish

I was watching a bit of Out of Sight (1998) last night. It's a great example of on-screen chemisty, which is really so rare. I've heard theories that it helps if the actors don't like each other much, or that it's best between off-screen lovers. Watching the movie last night, I realized how important it is that it is photographed well. There was a scene (in the bar) with the camera going back and forth between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, just seeing one face at a time. They could have been talking to anyone, but - with the camera's loving eye very close up - they both looked enrapt. When the shot finally showed them together, leaning towards each other over the table, the sense of attaction was intensified. These are two actors who work with their whole bodies, not just talking heads. It makes a change from the dullness in so many other movies.

As a complete contrast, I watched Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) on Friday. This had to be one of the worst examples of screen chemistry ever. Okay, the movie is not particularly a love story, but this couple is supposed to be in love. Myrna Loy and Cary Grant had about as much chemistry as two mismatched salt and pepper shakers. I wish I could watch The Thin Man (1934) right now, see how it worked (the machinations I mean) with her and William Powell. And think of Cary Grant and his on-screen chemistries. He had plenty of those, and one of the best was with Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest (1959). Cary as Roger, Eva Marie as Eve:

Roger Thornhill: The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her.

Eve Kendall: What makes you think you have to conceal it?

Roger Thornhill: She might find the idea objectionable.

Eve Kendall: Then again, she might not.

Now, I'm back to writing up menus and shopping lists for Christmas. The baking list is quite manageable as I tend to forage for and store baking supplies like an over-grown, chocolate-obsessed squirrel all year. For Christmas dinner itself, we are forgoing turkey and having a ham and a raised game pie instead. For the latter, I'm using Delia Smith's recipe. It's quite mouth watering. And also, making her cranberry-orange relish, which is good with many different meats. The whole meal will be basically served at room temperature (another departure). We'll see how it goes. All I have to prepare this week is the gingerbread (anatomically correct ones for the tree and all sorts for eating) and also the Christmas cakes (which are not the really dark ones you make months in advance, but a much lighter, sherried fruit cake that is really moist - a fruit cake for people who don't like fruit cake.)

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


The cold in Canada can never just build up slowly, gradually, so you can acclimatize. Instead, I would describe it rather like a ninja, but one in a sort of ice-blue shiny jumpsuit... lurking round the corner of your front door. You step outside, believing yourself to be well dressed for the situation and... KERBLAM! - a swift kick to the head of mind-numbing cold. Of course you are compelled to inhale and your lungs - and soon after all other bits and pieces - start the freezing process.


I am safely home, the DVD fireplace is crackling in the DVD hearth, and I am cocooning for the next 36 hours at least.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Poem of the Day, and then a lot of Rambling...

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solomnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth -

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1866

The reason I bought this anthology to begin with (The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson), was in response to a wonderful recital I attended by the incomparable Marilyn Horne. She sang the song cycle "I will Breathe a Mountain", by William Bolcom, and I read somewhere that it was at her request that he set Dickinson's poem as part of this cycle. Ms Horne had read the poem at her brother's funeral. She sang it so beautifully that evening, that I sought to read more of the wonderful poet who wrote the words. I love to dip into this anthology from time to time. I really know nothing about Emily Dickinson's life, so I shall have to get a biography of her. In Sophie's Choice (William Styron), this poem is quoted:

Ample make this Bed -
Make this Bed with Awe -
In it wait till Judgment break
Excellent and Fair.

Be its Mattress straight -
Be its Pillow round -
Let no Sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this Ground -

c. 1864

While I mention Sophie's Choice... this was one of the rare books I have read in my life (granted I was 21 at the time) where I felt bereft at the end for the selfish fact that I missed the characters. I'm not sure how I'd feel about them now, some years on. I have the book somewhere, and I shall re-read it one day. D'oh! It is this half-baked idea that I will re-read everything one day that makes it impossible for me to get rid of books. And this is why they are - in my otherwise relatively streamlined home - double- and triple-stacked at times. I don't even know what I have any more and they are all out of order. I don't mind the latter problem at all, as there is nothing like going on a hunt for a book, only to be distracted by another. And before I know it several hours have passed under the spell of an unexpected seduction. However the former problem of not knowing what I have, means that I often purchase a book, not realizing that I purchased another copy 15 years back.

That night at the Marilyn Horne recital, I remember she sang "I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" as her final piece, an a capella encore. Someone told me she always finishes her recitals with this piece. It was so beautiful, I never forgot it, and of course I went on a hunt for the composer Stephen Foster, another brilliant, sensitive American of Victorian times.

And, for the record, my place, though basically clean, is upside down with poetry, drying watercolours, lists of Christmas baking supplies, and piles of not-quite-addressed Christmas cards and newsletters. It's quite cheery with the DVD fireplace crackling away. I do feel this huge need to hibernate. Seriously. I would like nothing more than to make a fortress with the bedclothes and hide away with a bottle of scotch and a supply of dark chocolate for the next four months.

SPEAKING OF WHICH... (the ramble continues)... Lindt (those out and out rotters!) have release a new chocolate ball in Canada. Well, I assume it's new, I mean, I haven't seen it before. It's really dark, 60% cocoa content, and comes wrapped in black, shiny paper. Well. What can I tell you? I bought out the supply from the local Dominion, and they are all poured into a tall glass jar sitting atop my china cabinet. And this is how I suggest enjoying them: Unwrap the Lindt ball. Admire the dark chocolate. Place it in your mouth before the melting process starts. Let the ball sit cradled on your tongue, then lightly press the ball into the roof of your mouth. Gently does it. A bit more... the melting is in process, and then suddenly... magic! A little fissure in the chocolate shell breaks and... mmmmmmm... that flowing dark chocolate centre lavas its way over your tongue, sending all the little taste buds into paroxysms of ecstacy.

And now I'm off to bed with a Lindt ball and the Virago Book of Wicked Verse. Among all the erotic naughtiness is... another Emily Dickinson! And an awful lot of exclamation marks. Mmmmm... I wonder what Yankee charmer inspired this in her?

Wild Nights - Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the Winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah, the Sea!
Might I but moor - Tonight -
In Thee!

c. 1861

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Another Poem

Had I not seen the Sun
I could have borne the shade
But Light a new Wilderness
My Wilderness has made -

Emily Dickinson, c.1872

I'm feeling languid and pleasantly useless, with my study scattered with half-finished water colours and my bed lumpy with poetry anthologies. I made my tea this morning and got back into that warm, welcoming nest, only to stub my toe against Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens. Ow.

Poem of the Day

How happy I was if I could forget
To remember how sad I am
Would be an easy adversity
But the recollecting of Bloom

Keeps making November difficult
Till I who was almost bold
Lose my way like a little Child
And perish of the cold.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Quote of the Day

"Whatever I feel like I wanna do. Gosh!"

Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite (2004) upon being asked what he is going to day. I love his philosophy and his general sense of outrage.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Desert Island Discs

This was (and still is) the name of a radio show on the BBC I used to listen to growing up. On the show each week, a celebrity would be interviewed and required to list 10 recordings they would take to a desert island. And as they were led through their list (with excerpts being played), they would tell why this record meant something to them. It was usually some connection with a memory of their life and usually fairly eclectic for that reason. It was also not necessarily a list of their 10 most favourite recordings, just ones they would feel compelled to take, knowing this might be it for life. At the end of the program they would have to pick the one recording they would take if they only had one choice. Also, they would be asked what one book they would bring, and what one single item they would take, that had to be of absolutely no practical purpose.

I thought about this for a while today. Here is my current list of 10 desert island recordings (in no particular order) without the personal explanations:

- John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
- Don Carlo (Domingo, Caballe, conductor: Giulini, Royal Opera Orchestra)
- J. J. Cale: Gold
- Concerts a deux violes esgales du Sieur de Sainte Colombe, Tome II (Jordi Savall, Wieland Kuikjen)
- Moby: 18
- Marcello Oboe Concerto in D Minor (Jozsef Kiss, Ferenc Erkel Chamber Orchestra)
- Cesar Franck Symphony in D Minor (conductor: Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra)
- Sarah Vaughan Collection
- Lone Star (movie soundtrack)
- Don Giovanni (Raimondi, van Dam, conductor: Maazel, Paris Opera Orchestra)

If I could only pick one? Getting my list down to 10 was hard. But if were just one, I guess it would have to be the Don Giovanni. And historically, on Desert Island Discs, if Mozart was in the top 10, he was often the final solo pick.

My one book (it's in one volume!) would be the collected works of Shakespeare. And my one impractical item would have to be a group picture of my loved ones.

UPDATE: Nah, it's not going to work. I've already thought of at least three CDs that would have to knock three of these listed off the top 10. Argh!! I guess I'll just have to put off going to a desert island. Unless of course I get to take a musician with me, who can play a lot of the music... so then... hold it... hmmm, I've got some ideas already.

The Straight Story

Tonight I watched David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999) for the first time. The soundtrack has been one of my most-played CDs for years. It was given to me a while ago by someone who knew that I'm a fan of Angelo Badalamenti.

Richard Farnsworth is - as usual - understated and brilliant as the aging and frail Alvin Straight. Estranged from his brother for 10 years he decides, on hearing his brother is ill, that he must see him and make amends. Not well enough to drive a car, he decides to drive his John Deere lawn mower about 350 miles, hauling a makeshift trailer behind him. Along the way he meets an assortment of characters and you hear more of his story, and some of their stories. The photography is stunning and the camera travels slowly over the beautiful fall Iowa scenery. It's a pace that feels comfortable for an old man whose eye sight is fading and for whom every movement is painful.

Alvin tells a young hitchhiker this story about his kids when they were young:

"I'd give each one of 'em a stick and, one for each one of 'em, then I'd say, 'You break that.' Course they could real easy. Then I'd say, 'Tie them sticks in a bundle and try to break that.' Course they couldn't. Then I'd say, 'That bundle... that's family.'"

A dear friend lost a brother last night and so this film takes on a special meaning with its themes of aging, loss, love, and family.

Quote of the Day

Mr. Mackenzie: Look at the size of that boy's head.
Tony: Shhh!
Mr. Mackenzie: I'm not kidding, it's like an orange on a toothpick.
Tony: Shhh, you're going to give the boy a complex.
Mr. Mackenzie: Well, that's a huge noggin. That's a virtual planetoid.
Tony: Shh!
Mr. Mackenzie: Has it's own weather system.
Tony: Shh, shh.
Mr. Mackenzie: HEAD! MOVE! I'm not kidding, that boy's head is like Sputnik; spherical but quite pointy at parts! Now that was offsides, wasn't it? He'll be crying himself to sleep tonight, on his huge pillow.

Mike Myers playing his character's dad, Mr. Mackenzie (which he played with a thick Scottish accent) and Anthony Lapaglia as Tony in So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993.) It's as funny a film as when I first saw it at the movies. "Head" was Mr. Mackenzie's younger son, and played by a very young Matt Doherty, who took his father's abuse with good-natured patience.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Poem of the Day

Each season of the year I will be forgetting you
all over. Each season, every year.
I will need to forget you each summer, spring... autumn and winter.


I will be forgetting you each day and every hour.
Each night and day, each hour something
wonderful and dear of you will ring my heart and knock upon my mind.


I will be forgetting you in silence and in song... in silence will I
dream dreams of you too wonderful to dare aloud -
and of words I shall not use for anyone but you I shall make poems.

When a star falls, I shall wish for you.
When the moon is new, I shall wish for you.
When a bird looks into my window, when a leaf falls before me, when I find
a fern in flower - I shall wish for you.

Except from "Entry August 9", This is My Beloved by Walter Benton (1943).

I fell asleep at 8 p.m. like a twit. Now it's 2 a.m. and I'm recalling melancholy love poetry. Shall take my anthology of e.e. cummings and head back to bed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

For the last few years I have put together a family Christmas newsletter. It's an interesting experience, going back over the previous year. It's not one of those annoying lists of magnificent accomplishments... primarily because there are no magnificent accomplishments. Which reminds me of a great quote from a friend whose mantra in life was "Dare to be average." She took a different path from many... but wow, what a gorgeous, fulfilled woman she is.

Anyway, I'm collecting some photographs for this newsletter and I came across this from a trail walk in the summer. It was so hot, we had pause under every tree we came to. What a lovely day it was.

I usually don't make New Year's resolutions, but I am this year. And it's "Find a new trail."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How in Sam Hill....?

How in Sam Hill do I run out of olive oil???

It happened, but... there was just enough to do the pork last night, with the added help of some butter, and that was a treat indeed.

So I softened some onions in the remnants of the olive oil and a little bit of butter. Removed, and added the pork tenderloin (studded with garlic spears) and seared it well. Removed and deglazed the pan with some red wine. Everything went back into the pan including salt, pepper, sage and marjoram and some water. It was really just the way I do my lamb shanks, but with my favourite s. and m. instead of rosemary. I let it cook for ages. The scent was heavenly... sweet, porky, buttery... sheer heaven. I removed the loin, sliced it on a diagonal and put the slices back into the pan to cook a bit more and soak up more of the juices. It was melt in the mouth when at last I got to eat dinner, with a beautiful sauce.

Darlinks, I am highly recommendink!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tibbles Says "Hello"


I realized with delight that it is well past cold enough to start taking baths instead of showers. I love bathtime - immersing myself in juniper-scented bubbles with a glass of wine and a book of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, each story being just long enough for one bath. In the right mood, I fall asleep there, just waking occasionally to add some hot water using my toes on the taps.

My other option is to turn on the red heat lamp in the ceiling, play my water-sounds CD, and imagine I am in a red grotto. It can really feel that way. The CD is wonderful... ocean waves, river sounds, a thunderstorm... There is almost no better way to send me to bed and into the most heavy-limbed, delicious sleep. I could certainly never have one on a weekday morning as I'd never get anywhere... which in itself is a lovely idea.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Apologies (and Hopeful That I Don't Wake up Tomorrow with a Mouthful of Plush and Batting)

Apparently I might have worried some teddy bear lovers out there, who thought I might be serious about putting the bears away in a cupboard. Of course I could never do such a thing. I speak sternly sometimes to keep them in line. It doesn't work.

But for more explanation on the bears... you see the the one in the pink dress, the only one actually clothed? Well that little dress was made for me by my grandma when I was a baby. It's the softest pink brushed cotton with tiny white polka dots. She was a trained seamstress and made a lot of clothes for everyone in the family. I love the detail of the smocking which you can see in this picture of the bear wearing it. I think he quite likes it too. Click on the picture for a larger view of the delicate work.

And as for other teddies, I took this picture a while ago of some teddies on the move through Stratford. They were temporarily parked at the time, but obviously ready to roar off on another road trip. I love the huge aviator kind of shades on the big one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Scotch and Sparklies...

Host: Can I top up your scotch?

Me: No thank you. I can't drink much. This will probably last me the evening.

Host: Wow, you must be a pretty cheap date.

Me: Well, the cost of the jewelry adds up.

Point taken I trust? From a past party.

Two Things that Start with T: Teddies and Trouble

So, in preparation for my long-term house guests, I've been moving things around in my place. And one of the smaller moves was taking the teddy bears from the spare bedroom and putting them on the little sofa under the window in my bedroom. Every morning now I wake up to five sets of curious eyes. I'm not sure this is going to work. They might end up on the top shelf of my cupboard. Either that or I really have to start sleeping - and waking - on my right side. Yes, yes, they're cute. But they're trouble too. I mean... look at the size of their paws. Huge.

Quote of the Day

"A cat held a little piece of bony fish tentatively between its sharp teeth. He was afraid to swallow it, but he couldn't bring himself to spit it out either."

from Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Whipoorwill's singing
Soft summer breeze
Makes me think of my baby
I left down in New Orleans

Magnolia, you sweet thing
You're driving me mad
Got to get back to you, babe
You're the best I ever had

You whisper "Good morning"
So gently in my ear
I'm coming home to you, babe
I'll soon be there

"Magnolia", by J. J. Cale

Monday, November 12, 2007


I lit all the candles tonight (including the four floor-length candlesticks), turned on the DVD fireplace, opened a bottle of red wine and set two small lamb shanks to braising. To the strains of Marcello's oboe concerto, I searched for my copy of Speak, Memory, to no avail. Picked up Suite Francaise, and was plunged into despair over the human race. Then Elegy for Iris by John Bayley. More despair. Finally turned to my old Tin Tin comic books, a stand by from childhood for when I want to retreat to bed and be comforted. Full of lamb and wine (with enough lamb for dinner tomorrow), I let myself dissolve into the world of that ace boy reporter Tin Tin, his faithful terrier Snowy and all their sidekicks. I love those books, especially those drawn in the 30s and 40s. Not sure what my favourite is... The Seven Crystal Balls (the first one I ever read)?... King Ottokar's Sceptre?... Red Rackham's Treasure?

Quote of the Day

Concerning Quince:

"It has the perfume of a loved woman and the same hardness of heart... it had a cloak of ash-covered down hovering over its smooth golden body and when it lay naked in my hand, with nothing more than its daffodil-coloured shift, it made me think of her I cannot mention."

by the Caliph of Cordoba (10th century), and printed on a tag by a friend, afixed to a jar of home-made quince jelly. It was completely delicious.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dennis Yates

When I was 13, we moved to the High Park area. Our neighbour was an 79-year-old man called Dennis Yates. He became a friend, not really a surrogate grandad at all, just a good friend. Most days after school, I dropped in for a cup of tea. I can still remember the smell of his kitchen which had not been renovated for a long time. He kept his home nicely, considering he'd been widowed for quite a few years at that point.

Dennis had moved to Canada from England when he was 12, in 1910. He'd had to go out to work almost immediately, and remembered seeing - in a very Orange city - signs saying "No Jews or English need apply." He got work somewhere, I can't remember what it was.

When the war broke out, Canada - still part of the Empire - of course went to war on the side of the British. Only 15 years old, Dennis thought it might be a lark, and went to sign up. He lied and told the recruiting officer that he was 16. He knew by the look in the officer's eyes that he was aware of the lie, but he was accepted anyway. When Dennis returned home in his new uniform, his mother burst into tears. So he went to train, then he shipped out and went to fight. He celebrated his 16th birthday in a trench, where he was given his first drink.

At Passchendale, he was in a trench built for nine with just one other man. He remembers, kneeling in the mud at night, hearing the "whizz-bangs" coming over, and his friend (an older married man) cursing up a storm. In the next instant his friend just disappeared, completely annihalated by what had come over. Dennis had taken some shrapnel in the back of his thigh, and he was shipped out. In a make-shift Oxford hospital, he had the large piece of shrapnel removed. Out of anesthesia, the nurse gave him a piece of rubber to bite down before they performed the procedure, and said to him, "You go ahead love and swear all you want!" When he told me this story, his eyes got big and he said, "So, I did. I swore! I said 'Jesus Christ!'"

So Dennis survived the war, as did his brother Walter. During the depression he worked as a farm labourer during harvest time, all over Canada. He got three big, square meals a day and worked extremely hard. The way he saw it, he was doing a lot better than many at that time. In his late 30s (I think), he met his wife. I was always so moved when Dennis spoke of his wife. I could kick myself for not remembering her name, but he loved her so much and would tear up sometimes remembering her. I gather she was a strong woman, which helped the courtship process as Dennis was quite shy. They married and had two children, a boy and a girl. Dennis worked for O'Keefe brewers and they attended the premiere of Camelot in Toronto, in the early 60s, to celebrate the opening of the O'Keefe Centre. They saved over the years, for a magnificent European vacation. Before they left, Dennis's wife was diagnosed with cancer. They took the tour with two friends, another couple, and Dennis showed me the lovely holiday diary his wife kept. It was the first time he'd crossed the Atlantic since WWI. The tour went well, but then she got quite ill and was in pain, and so they came home, where she passed away.

Dennis railed against war. He also believed that if it had to happen again, they should send old men like him out, and save the young. He saw a generation destroyed. And then - of course - twenty years later, it happened again. I don't think it will ever end, this need to go to war, for whatever reason.

A few years later, on my return to Canada, I dropped in on him. It was apparent that he had some memory loss, as he didn't recognize me at first. He thought he did towards the end of our brief conversation. A few months later, I heard that he'd passed away. Knowing Dennis was a lot more interesting than the truly dreadful history classes I had at school. He was living history and a good friend.

I'm lucky to be when and where I am. And I'm so grateful to people like Dennis who fought so that I could live how I do.

Top Ten Things That Make Me Wander WHY???

10. Lunchables: Let's destroy the environment AND our kids's digestive systems!
9. Meg Ryan's career: hammily aware of the camera, she's just so damned awful in everything she's ever done. I don't get it.
8. People who flap their fingers at their eyes when the risk of tears appears. As though they might undo the eyelid job or something. Why?
7. The celebrity industry. I just don't even know what to say. I mean, even when there's really not even a guilty pleasure involved in following them, when they are so achingly boring that I... I can't even finish this thought.
6. Cocktail parties: no thanks, I'll stay home and re-sort my socks.
5. Keanu Reeves' career. I don't care if he has symmetrical features or whatever. They make him even duller than he might be otherwise, say if he had Owen Wilson's nose or something. And I'm including Speed. In comparison, the bus gave an Oscar-winning performance.
4. Scrapbooking: why? WHY????
3. Pop-classic "artists". Oooh... they're not quite pop, they're not classic. They could try to do one or the other really well, but no... they're just MORONICALLY DULL IN EVERY RESPECT.
2. Concious cruelty.
1. Bearing in mind the fact that war makes a pile of people a pile of money and so economically I sort of understand, I still have to ask WHY???

Quote of the Day... and Books and Operas

"The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness."

This is the wonderful first line from Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, by Vladimir Nabakov. This was recommended to me a while back by a friend, and it's what I'm reading now. Nabakov is one of his favourites.

Then we found an interesting connection as I started babbling on about Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky's opera, which happens to be one of my absolute favourites. I've seen it live in Toronto several times. But the best ever was at the Met in NY (courtesy of Dave) in the then-new production directed by Robert Carsen and designed by the brilliant Michael Levine. It was remounted last year with Fleming and Hvorostovsky and broadcast by the Met as part of the live-to-cinemas project. I taped it off the tv when it was later broadcast on PBS. It truly is a great production. But, back to my Nabakov-recommending friend: We've both read Pushkin's poem Eugene Onegin (on which the opera was based) but what I didn't know is that Nabakov's four-volume translation and notes on Onegin was a major achievement, and what he didn't know is that Onegin (the opera) must be seen and heard (in my passionate opinion). He picked up the DG recording I recommended (with Thomas Allen, Mirella Freni and Levine conducting, from 1987), and I'm searching for Nabakov's four-volume set. One of the elements of friendships I treasure is where there is always something new and exciting to discuss, and things to learn.

And, lucky girl, another friend (the same one who treated me to the Zimerman last week) sent me an early Christmas present: a DVD of a film of the opera Onegin, filmed on location with actors dubbed by singers (Bernd Weikl in the title role - yay!). I'm dying to see it. Makes me wish I had two tv screens, so I could have my DVD fireplace playing on one, and a movie on the other. Okay, that would look stupid. You get my point though? As for adaptations of the original poem, there is a lovely movie of Eugene Onegin (1999) by Martha Fiennes (Ralph's sister, what a talented family - and there's a brother who's a gamekeeper... how very Lady Chatterly's Lover). It stars Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler. The ballet, too, is wonderful, and it uses Tchaikovsky's music. I saw Patricia Ruanne dance it in 1984, and she won the Olivier award that year for it. So yes, you can tell I love this story, in all its versions.

I finished The Golden Compass yesterday afternoon and I"m champing at the bit to get the other two in the trilogy. So much to read! I love this time of year, it's a perfect time to read, to bake, to sigh... and this year I'm making time to do all of them. Dusting will wait till I'm ready for it. Ooh, time for lunch. My weekly marmite sandwich awaits!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

"The idea hovered and shimmered delicately, like a soap bubble, and she dared not even look at it directly in case it burst. But she was familiar with the way of ideas, and she let it shimmer, looking away, thinking about something else."

From The Golden Compass (the original title is Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Wallace: Won't you come in? We were just about to have some cheese.

Wendolene: Oh no, not cheese. Sorry. Brings me out in a rash. Can't stand the stuff.

Wallace: [gulp] Not even Wensleydale?"

Peter Sallis (voice-over) as Wallace and Anne Reid (voice-over) as Wendolene Ramsbottom in Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave (1995).

I think this is my favourite of the series, closely followed by The Wrong Trousers (1993). In A Close Shave, Wallace finds love and loses it, and not just because Wendolene's dad had created an evil cyber-dog, but also - and let's not downplay the seriousness of the issue - because of her loathing of cheese.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Quote of the Day

"That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks: but that I will have a recheat winded in my forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me. Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust none; and the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor."

Benedick (before the fall) in Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever.
One foot in sea and one on shore,
to one thing constant never."

Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare... who knew banter.

Shakespeare certainly knows his banter, and the war of the sexes between Beatrice and Benedick, and their mutual defeat, is so wonderful. I'm going to quote it for a few days. Blimey, I could just transcribe the whole play bit by bit.

(And I'm feeling fine this morning, just a bit sore all over from the jolt!)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Safe in Bed

So I was coming home, dark out (first work night of Daylight Savings), pouring rain, and I get hit - NOT SERIOUSLY - by a car! Sore, shaken up, cheesed off, I came home, I got ready to take to my bed, and - checking emails and YouTube, I saw this baby laughing and laughing as he rips paper. He's 100 proof, Grade A enchantment.

I'm going to bed and ripping some paper. Then I'm going to read The Golden Compass.

Nigella Lawson said "The answer to almost any question invariably is trifle." I'm sort of with her there, especially as she was referring to her chocolate cherry trifle which - even with my not-very-sweet tooth - is my favourite food in the world.

But here is my variation: The answer to almost any of life's questions, invariably, is "bed".

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fall Food

I love the cool days and nights of Fall. It's got me all juiced to start cooking again in earnest. I started gently today, with triple-chocolate chip cookies. Tonight I am making pork sausages with mushrooms, sweet peppers, marjoram, sage and - for the alcohol portion of the dish - ice cider from Quebec. I figured the appley taste would go perfectly with the pork... how wrong can it go? I'll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE: The sausages worked perfectly with the ice cider. Possibly a little too perfectly. D'oh! They were supposed to last longer than they are going to last but I have already eaten.... well, four. D'OH!

Quote of the Day

"This is the most uncomfortable coffin I've ever been in. You are wasting my time."

Martin Landau, in an Oscar-winning performance (Best Supporting Actor) as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994).

This is one of my favourite movies. I had a rather intense crush on Bela Lugosi when I was 13 (strange kid!) and I first saw the real Ed Wood's movies in a series on BBC television in the 1980s, of the worst movies of all time... and believe it or not, not all of them are Ed's movies. Of course, Plan 9 from Outer Space took the top honour, but there were other classics like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Mars Needs Women!

Johnny Depp is brilliant as Ed Wood, and according to the trivia page on, he played it as a combination of "the blind optimism of Ronald Reagan, the enthusiasm of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Casey Kasem."

How one of the most beautiful men in the history of the world can pull off such a dorkily likeable oddball as Ed says a lot about Johnny Depp's talent. I love how he and his real-life partner, Vanessa Paradis, have matching cheekbones. You could cut diamonds on either set.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dagnabit, Another Post

Okay, okay, after this I will go and tackle the store room, honest guv.

So here is a picture of Herr Fafner, my incense-holding dragon, except now he has a feather in his mouth. This is a swan feather, left on the grass last weekend when I was in Stratford. The downy bits at the base are so soft, that if you stroke them, you can't even feel them. I think it looks like a plume of smoke... kind of.

Okay, okay, here I go... storeroom, look out, you are about to be organized! Grrrrrr... here I am, a daughter of Boudicca, a child of Nature, a quaffer of Guinness, a hay-sniffing fondler of feathers, a consumer of chocolate... stand back and be tamed!!!

UPDATE: The store room door is shut and that is the most that can be said for it. AND I had a Guinness. And honestly (here comes another swing of the pendulum) I feel quite triumphant over my attempt to be disciplined. All this work will be there for another day.

Dream of Wheat

Instead of cut flowers, I decided last week to buy some wheat. Yes, a kind of sheaf of it I suppose. Of course it turned out to be more than I had anticipated when I actually unrolled the bundle. Now I have two large vases of it in my home and if I hover near them, there is a lovely scent of mown hay. I can lay on my sofa, one arm over my head, the other toying with a frond of wheat, imagining I am lounging in my very own barn, on a break in the countryside between international book-signing tours. It certainly does smell barn-like... without the concomitant crudities of the livestock.

Why did I post this? Because I'm procrastinating. There is something I must do and I don't want to do it. I have bribed myself with chocolate, but I ate it already without completing my task. Whatever discipline I possess completely disappears on the weekend, which is how it should be I suppose. I think I'll go and inhale the wheat again.

Saturday Soundtrack

The cleaning, the cooking, etc. is of no consequence. Not with this music in the background: Krystian Zimerman playing the Chopin piano concertos 1 and 2 AND the Debussy preludes. I was the lucky recipient of a courier package of two CDs from a friend. Gosh... DOUBLE GOSH. I'm in heaven!!

That reminds me of the only time I saw Zimerman in concert. I leaned over to my companion during the applause after the ecstatic experience of the Rachmaninov piano concerto no. 2 and whispered... "Wish I smoked," and he said "Why?" and I said, "Because I need a cigarette," and he replied "I'll join you."

If you're reading this Signor Professore W, as a son of Poland, a musician and an appreciater of the finer things, you'll understand I'm sure. :)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Quote of the Day

"If I ever forget my lines in Shakespeare, I always say 'Crouch we here awhile and lurk!' That seems to do the trick."

Gerard Horan as Carnforth Greville in In the Bleak Midwinter (1995), as it was known in the UK... here it was known as A Midwinter's Tale.

Moi? A Saucepot? Why yes... yes I am!

Friend: "You know - you're a saucepot. You're going to have to work on that."

Me: "I have worked on it my whole life. I have dedicated my existence to the honing and refining of my saucepottishness."

Point taken, I trust?

Quote of the Day

"He stirs my sluggish pulse like wine,
He melts me like the wind of spice"

from Christina Rossetti's poem Sit Down in the Lowest Room (1864).

The poem itself is quite long, but well worth the reading, as is all her poetry. I believe the title of the poem is from the bible, the book of Luke, chapter 14. Christina Rossetti was one interesting woman, as were her family, her fellow artists and friends, leading us (oh Mark, here's a surprise for you) to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and William Morris. (Mark claims no conversation with me ends without me mentioning William Morris. Of course, the other side is that none of our conversations end without a reference to The Simpsons and that usually comes from Mark. UPDATE: Hey, maybe Marge might have quoted Rossetti when she developed the crush on the French bowling instructor. Remember what a smoothie he was? "Margggggge... meet me for bronche... eet ees not breakfast... eet ees not lonche... but eet ees feeling and you get a slice of canteloupe on the side"... or words to that effect.)

Anyway, I always liked the way John Fowles described her (Rossetti) in The French Lieutenant's Woman: "the hysterical high priestess of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood."

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Does this city have one good jazz bar left in the downtown core? I don't care for any outside the downtown core as (a) I live downtown and (b) jazz in the suburbs doesn't make sense.

Top of the Senator - gone
Montreal Bistro - gone (SOB!!! This was my local!)
Courthouse - gone

Tell me... what in Sam Hill is going on?

Outlandishly Good

So, a few years back, a certain Jen convinced me (it took a few tries) to read Outlander (known as Cross Stitch in the UK) by Diana Gabaldon. And was I ever pleased she did. It's only part one of a series of fat, small-print books (hovering around 1,000 pages each on average) that now number six... with at least two more volumes to come apparently!

Diana Gabaldon is a very smart, very attractive 50-ish American who has won the hearts of women around the world... women grateful for the most irresistibly gorgeous hero ever written, Jamie Fraser... but more on him in a minute.

Outlander, the first novel in the series, starts with Claire Beauchamp, a clever, forthright English nurse, taking a second honeymoon with Frank, her historian husband, in the highlands of Scotland, Inverness to be precise.

Long story short, Claire is whooshed 200 years back in time and stumbles upon a whole lot of adventure, most of it wrapped up in the tall, red/auburn/cinnamon/ginger-haired, strapping figure of the lusty young Jamie Fraser.

At this point, my post might become an illiterate, drooling lust-fest of Jamie-fever, but I shall attempt to control myself and tell you this: you have a strong, admirable heroine; a gorgeous, manly, kilted, brave, haunted, succulent hero; the highlands of Scotland (and other parts of the world) magnificently described (I'm sure Gabaldon has boosted Scottish tourism); a sweeping saga of unforgettable personalities and in-depth depictions of historic events; violence a-plenty and good dollops of lusty sex (these are novels that men can enjoy as much as women, don't be fooled otherwise); fantastically detailed accounts of social history; the challenging and irresistible idea of time travel... all set to the hypnotic sounds of thick Scottish accents. AND you have six volumes of it to enjoy so far! Yes, book #5 does take a while to get going... but who cares? Pah! - not me!

So... my point is - don't even pause to think. If you have yet to succumb to Gabaldon's world, I urge you to give it a go.

Quote of the Day

"We should never have come. I never know how to dress in this bloody country. It is so easy to dress in England. You just put on warm clothing."

Maggie Smith as Diana Barrie in California Suite (1978).

The story line with her and Michael Caine was beautifully played, full of humour and pathos. As for the quote, it applies to right here, right now.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quote of the Day

"You know, I don't think I could take a mellow evening because I - I don't respond well to mellow. You know what I mean? I have a tendency to - if I get too mellow, I - I ripen and then rot, you know."

Woody Allen as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall (1977).

Hard to pick a single line from such a juicy script. This film is 30 years old. GULP.

The Following Post Contains Language that Some Readers Might Find Objectionable

I love cooking shows, no two ways about it. But the shows I'm drawn to more and more are not the Food Network ones, but those homey PBS ones, with quiet hosts who don't seem entirely at home in front of the camera, who are obviously fine chefs, with soft voices. They're full of wisdom and great cooking tips and have no special theme tunes, soundtracks, crazy camera angles or personalities that get in the way of the food. Like the sort of waiters I like: informative, there, but not in your face.

Begone huge personality chefs! I'm tired of you! I'm tired of being warned that the following cooking program contains language that some viewers might find objectionable. This is a cooking show you morons! FUCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Poem of the Day

Sonnet 61

Is it thy will, thy image should keep open
My heavy eyelids to the weary night?
Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,
While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?

Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee
So far from home into my deeds to pry,
To find out shames and idle hours in me,
The scope and tenure of thy jealousy?

O no, thy love though much, is not so great,
It is my love that keeps mine eye awake,
Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,
To play the watchman ever for thy sake.

For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,
From me far off, with others all too near.

William Shakespeare

Quote of the Day

"How do I define history? Well it's just one fucking thing after another."

Russell Tovey as Rudge in The History Boys (2006).

Smiling in a Dopey Fashion

My post was going to be titled "Smiling Dopily" but then I thought, I'm not sure that I've spelt "dopily" right. Dopeily? Dopily? This is what happens when you look too hard at a word. It just looks odd anyway you spell it.

I'm smiling in a dopey way because I have just had a few days off work after a long stretch of stupidly-long days. And it feels so good!

But now for some updates:

First up is The Breakup (2006). A whole lot of talent gone to waste on a film that doesn't know what it wants to be when - if - it ever grows up. SPOILER ALERT: So, pre-credits, we have Vince Vaughn not at his funniest, attempting to pick up Jennifer Aniston, doing what she does least effectively, which is to be kind of uptight and unfriendly. During the credits, they turn into the sort of annoying people who have to photograph every social event they partake in and document thusly their process of falling in love. Post-credits they have moved into their gorgeous condo and are throwing their first meet-the-families dinner party.

BUCKET OF COLD WATER ALERT: OMG! Vince has turned out to be Neanderthal man #1 and refuses to help Jennifer do anything as he spends every waking minute playing video games. OMG! Jennifer has turned into a shrewish, misunderstood home-maker who collects injustices like they are going out of style and just wants Vince to want to be the man she wants him to be.

At no point in this movie do you understand how or why these people got together. At no point is there a shred of evidence to show they were ever attracted to each other on any level or enjoyed each other's company, other than the strained collection of opening credit photography.

HEAPS O' TALENT GONE TO WASTE: Judy Davis as Jennifer's art-gallery boss, a character who deserves a movie all her own - what an actress! Vincent D'Onofrio as Vince's earnest older brother, wonderful except for a weird moment where you think they might have been cracking up each time they tried the scene... he seriously looks like he's about to start laughing right when he shouldn't. Justin Long as the art gallery receptionist - almost unrecognizeable with a dreadful hairdo but I always love him. Two words: Ann Margaret! And finally, the surprise of the night: Peter Billingsley all grown up from A Christmas Story (1983) as Jennifer's brother-in-law. You can see Ralphie in him, but he's playing a dad now. A Christmas Story is so timeless I forget it was made over 20 years ago.

Things got way better with Breach (2006), with Chris Cooper as real-life renegade FBI spy Robert Hanssen, Ryan Phillippe as the FBI man who helped to bring him down, and Laura Linney as an FBI special agent who masterminds the bring-down. The cast is rounded out by such great actors as Kathleen Quinlan, Dennis Haysbert and Bruce Davison. It's earnest and surprising, and only predictable in that the wonderful Chris Cooper manages to be completely wonderful. I will see any movie with this man in it. In fact, after a conversation about him, we decided the next movie to see (DVD conveniently always at hand) would be Lone Star (1996)... one of my top eleven movies of all time, as you know. We watched it, yet again, and yet again I got more out of it, noted some new subtlety. When a script is this dense, and this rich, and this true to every character, it never fails to teach you something. It's like Hamlet for crying out loud! John Sayles is a film god.

The History Boys (2006) is based on Alan Bennett's Tony-award winning play, set in 1983, about a small group of English school boys being groomed by a trio of teachers to be accepted into Oxford or Cambridge. The film is directed by Nicholas Hytner and the script is adapted by Alan Bennett himself. The actors are perfectly cast: Richard Griffiths as Hector, a lonely, married homosexual whose passion for learning and teaching is so eloquently expressed. There is so much to discuss here just about one character. Frances de la Tour is Mrs. Lintott, another devoted teacher, which leaves me gasping with the question: where were these teachers when I was growing up? I seem to recall an endless line of burnt-out, embittered child-loathing, original-thought despising old farts. Stephen Campbell-Moore is perfect as Irwin, the younger teacher brought in by the ambitious headmaster to put the finishing polish on the boys as they prep for the entrance exams and interviews. He is exasperatingly and perfectly wishy-washy. All the actors, including the excellent young guys who play the students, played the same roles on stage at the National Theatre in London. I don't know the path by which it came to NY, but I gather that both Griffiths and de la Tour won Tonys for their performances there. What an opportunity... to play those roles on stage, then to film them. And what performances you get then, when actors have lived with those characters for so long. It's a rich experience.

I celebrated the slight drop of temperature this weekend by making some chocolate chip cookies using the Callebaut chips. Someone help me! HELP ME!!! Can't... stop... eating... It's soup season too, so made heaps of chicken stock in preparation for the soups to come. The fridge and freezer are stocked and ready. And now I have some free evenings to bash and crash about in the kitchen. Not food-related, but have to report that instead of cut flowers this week, I bought a sheaf (I guess) of wheat and stuck it in two vases. My place is now redolent of a barn full of hay (and no other smells thank goodness). Just lovely hay. It's quite fragrant and surprising.

On the long-time recommendation of L and J, I have finally taken to reading The Golden Compass, (known in the UK as Northern Lights) which has been made into a movie. This is just part one of three. It's already infiltrated my imagination and Lyra is a wonderful young heroine. I'm just a third of my way into the book and it has proved a powerful distraction from knitting, hee hee. I suspect I shall be buying the other two parts of the complete trilogy before the week is out.

Mad Men finally ended it's 13-episode run. It's such good television in all respects - production values, casting, writing, acting, editing, music - it seems flawless. I can't wait for season two which - I believe - will be aired next summer. The last episode was a great finale, with more of the now-expected twists that turn any possible cliche into a surprise.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Quote of the Day

"We were born thousands of miles apart, but we were made for each other."

David Niven as Peter Carter in A Matter of Life and Death (1946).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Early to Bed on a Saturday Night... This too will Change ere long

Well done boys. World champions four years ago, and second place this time. First again in four years.

So busy of late, I've not really cooked anything for myself. I've taken solace in the brand of Amy's Organics. The cream of tomato soup and the cream of mushroom soup are very yummy. My recycling bag has more cans in it than I care to admit to. Tonight I had a bowl of vegetarian chile with some cheddar cheese grated on top and a pint of Guinness. That's two more cans for the recycling. Gor blimey. And me, so proud to do things from scratch usually.

Anyway, my late dinner was very comforting, especially in light of the rugby. Off to bed early as I worked a long day and will work again tomorrow.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

"You smell like a real man."

Jean Simmons as Sister Sharon to Burt Lancaster as the title role of Elmer Gantry (1960).

I finally saw this movie on PBS tonight, after reading about it for years. It tells the story of Elmer Gantry, a fast-talking, self-indulgent salesman who becomes a revival preacher in the 1920s. I was spellbound from the first moment. Burt Lancaster is his usual brilliant self: magnetic, larger-than-life, with such range, such manly grace, and able to successfully play the role of an irresistible rotter, a truly likeable rogue. I think Shirley Jones won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the hooker Lulu Baines. I'd had no idea Jean Simmons was in it at all and she was wonderful as Sharon Falconer.

And yes, I finished the first scarf.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What the ~ ?!

How did it get to October 16 and I have half a scarf knitted for Christmas???? What in Sam Hill is going on? I have one and a half scarves to go and I have... just over two months!!! All I have done is work the last little while and this is what happens! My favourite time of the year (Christmas) is jeopardized! ARGH!

OK OK OK. No panicking. Here's the deal. I get to post no more blogs until I have finished at least one scarf. That's it. I mean it. Seriously.

And by the way, all I've ever knitted is scarves. That's as far as I got. Scarves!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Yes, it's a cold one tonight. Got the DVD fireplace going... nice and toasty now. Heh heh heh.

Ahhh... the power of suggestion. I am so susceptible. A waggish friend of mine declared that my X-Men name should be "Sway" and my nemesis would be Dr. Convince-o.

Hmmmm... okay!