Friday, October 31, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I have crossed oceans of time to find you."

Gary Oldman as Dracula (1992).

Happy Halloween!

Bruce came into work in his costume to watch over the cauldron of choccies:

I finally got to wear my new hat as part of my Purple Witch costume:

After handing out to the kids, we watched Gary Oldman as Dracula (1992). Fascinating film: some of it is awful, some of it is wonderful, it's completely over the top but Oldman's performance is unforgettable.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Meet the Count

"No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be."

From Dracula, by Bram Stoker

As I was sifting through the box of fabric bits and pieces for Bruce's original costume idea (I'll save that for next year), The Horror of Dracula (1958) came on and that pretty much sealed the deal. I thought he ended up looking a bit like Eugene Onegin with his nifty top hat and his red sari silk-lined cape, but I was out-voted. He's Count Brucula. Now I have to sort myself out!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Flying Post

It's been a hectic few days. And then tonight when I came home, I discovered this sweet award! Protege, over at Life, Work and Pleasure - a most charming blog covering a wide range of topics - has bestowed it upon me. Thank you Protege!

Old Tibby is still managing to squeeze in about 23 hours a day of sleep. It's this time of year, with the shortening days and my bed being extra cosy and welcoming, that I envy him! You can watch him here as he spent an exciting hour last Sunday evening watching Nature, on PBS. I think he's especially attracted to F. Murray Abraham's voice over.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Question of the Day

I was surprised to receive an email asking what Bruce's Halloween costume was going to be! I had not given this any thought at all, as he is so proud of his new scarf and wears it all the time, indoors and out:

He was a very good boy at the recording studio, and here he is with my lunch burrito:

And here he is with the burrito bag:

So... I've decided to leave it to a vote for my blog readers. What costume should I make for Bruce this Halloween?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quote of the Day

"To learn to read is to light a fire;
every syllable that is spelled out is a spark."

Victor Hugo

Walking under the trees

Musings on Tristan, Iseult, Cornwall and Castle D'Or

A couple of weeks ago, after a long Sunday walk, we sat with a cup of tea and turned on the television... there is something so wonderfully indulgent in the feeling of turning on television in the day time.

PBS was showing the recent high-definition broadcast of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde from the Met, with Deborah Voigt and Robert Dean Smith as the lovers. We saw the last act. It was - as always - monumental and heartbreakingly intimate all at once. In that great, wonderful music, the agony and ecstacy of love is so beautifully expressed. It got me thinking and remembering, and, in particular, a novel called Castle d'Or.

I do know when I wasn't yet aware of the legend of the Cornish knight Tristan and the Irish Princess Iseult and that was well BC... Before-Cornwall. We moved to Cornwall when I was nine, after years in the Middle East, and the wild lushness of that part of the country seized me in its spell. I loved the tales I was told about the smugglers that had made use of the complex, cliffy shorelines; and the grim reports of the dreadful deaths of escaped convicts from Dartmoor prison, who - in the night - would get caught up in the bogs and mires of that land! And of course, the story of Tristan and Iseult.

I was hooked on Cornwall from day one, and when we left, just 18 months later, I was grief-stricken, as only a self-interested 10-year-old can be. (It must be said I had a rather melancholy and romantic view of all things; my teacher had recently commented that I had a morbid imagination. This was in reaction to my recent composition exercise. I had based it on the film Mrs. Miniver, 1942. I had no concept of plagiarism, but I wasn't too young to appreciate a mawkish plot line.)

From Cornwall I took with me my first kiss, my first "marriage" (complicated story), my first heart-break, and an ever-lasting obsession with the moors, the cliffy shores and the undulating mystery and rough legends of Cornwall.

Post-Cornwall, in my teens, I finally read for myself the 12th-century Romance of Tristan by the Norman poet, Béroul. Then I experienced a wonderful performance of Tristan und Isolde at L'Opéra de Montréal. Then came the discovery of the Pre-Raphaelites and their love of the Arthurian legends, Tristan and Iseult and other star-crossed lovers.

I also discovered the novels of Daphne du Maurier, many of which were set in Cornwall, and every decade or so I turn to them again. And so I read Frenchman's Creek, Jamaica Inn, and yearned once more for that landscape. One day, in a second-hand bookstore, I was delighted to find Castle d'Or. This novel was begun by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, the Cornish writer and literary critic, but not finished before his death. His only child, a daughter named Foy, asked Daphne du Maurier (a family friend) to complete the story, and so she did. The result is a haunting and unforgettable tale of the legend of Tristan and Iseult, as experienced centuries later in an irrevocable reincarnation of the characters. What can I say? Romantics everywhere: I recommend this to you!

Picture: Tristan and Isolde Sharing the Love Potion (J. W. Waterhouse, 1916).

For the Teddy Lovers


The bear that sits above my bed
A doleful bear he is to see;
From out his drooping pear-shaped head
His woollen eyes look into me.
He has no mouth, but seems to say:
"They'll burn you on the Judgement Day."

Those woollen eyes, the things they've seen
Those flannel ears, the things they've heard -
Among horse-chestnut fans of green,
The fluting of an April bird,
And quarrelling downstairs until
Doors slammed at Thirty One West Hill.

The dreaded evening keyhole scratch
Announcing some return below
The nursery landing's lifted latch,
The punishment to undergo
Still I could smooth those half-moon ears
And wet that forehead with my tears.

Whatever rush to catch a train,
Whatever joy there was to share
Of sounding sea-board, rainbowed rain,
Or seaweed-scented Cornish air,
Sharing the laughs, you still were there,
You ugly, unrepentant bear.

When nine, I hid you in a loft
And dared not let you share my bed;
More aged now he is to see,
His woollen eyes have thinner thread,
But still he seems to say to me,
In double-doom notes, like a knell:
"You're half a century nearer Hell."

Self-pity shrouds me in a mist,
And drowns me in my self-esteem.
The freckled faces I have kissed
Float by me in a guilty dream.
The only constant, sitting there,
Patient and hairless, is a bear.

And if an analyst one day
Of school of Adler, Jung or Freud
Should take this aged bear away,
Then, oh my God, the dreadful void!
its draughty darkness could but be
Eternity, Eternity.

by John Betjeman

Archibald Ormsby-Gore, better known as Archie, was the teddy-bear of Sir John Betjeman, sometime British Poet Laureate. When he attended Oxford University in the 1920s, Betjeman brought Archie with him and, as a result, Archie became the model for Aloysius, Sebastian Flyte's bear in Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited. Archie and Jumbo (a stuffed elephant) were in Betjeman's arms when he died in 1984.

The picture is of one of my bears, Elgy (hard "g").


I've been tagged by Ms Willow!

This tag is titled the "Fourth of the Fourth". What you do is go to your fourth photo file on your computer and choose the fourth picture and post it on your blog.

Here's what's weird about mine... my fourth folder is 2004 Christmas. The fourth picture was taken decades before that, but I think I must have scanned it that holiday and kept it there. AND... I was four years old in the picture. We were living in Libya and our neighbours were really good friends of our family and often babysat me. They had this Russian nesting doll which I *loved* and was allowed to play with, carefully.

I'm inviting four bloggers to play: Bill, Coco, Dave, and Hilary. No pressure to play, but I hope you do! :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back from the Lake

There's a cold wind blowin' from the north
And the summer birds are leavin'
As the sun slips ever further south
The lakes will soon be freezin'
And the ice will claim the empty shores
Where the one's in love went walkin'
And the hard blue skies will shiver
As the winter clouds come stalkin'

Excerpted from Somewhere Tonight, words and music by Bob Seger

Last week, at the height of the colours, we headed north...

... found the trail...

... explored the Canadian Shield...

... explored the ground...

... explored the small things...

... looked way up... appreciated some clouds...

... basked in beautiful dusks...

... gazed at the most amazing sunsets...

... and one magical dawn...

... had some good drink...

... and some great meals, including a full Thanksgiving dinner, and several meals of turkey/stuffing/cranberry sangwiches... which I love!

I took lots of pictures, yes... but remembered to leave the camera behind as well sometimes, and not see nature through a lens.

Oak Lake

Would anyone like to guess how tall this inukshuk is?

//UPDATE!// The answer is... 4" tall!

19.17%... and counting

Well, it was an indulgent time at the cottage, but at least the trend is downward. Will try to kick things into a higher gear for the next two weeks. Grrrr...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere

Fast Car (Tracy Chapman)

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Monday here in Canada. I certainly find myself still thankful again this year for what I was thankful for last year. But there's so much more.

I'm thankful for the whole world, what a place, our big round blue planet... do alien life forms look down and envy us? Or maybe they have something to show us, if they exist at all...

... for the unbelieveable privilege of getting to live a life, no matter how long I might have to experience it...

... for the sky, the sun, the clouds, the rain, the desert, the mountains, the soft rolling hills, the wind, the moon, the stars...

... the soil, the grass, the rocks, the lakes, the shells, the fish, the flowers, the fossils...

... being vertigo-free...

... music, words, books, films, theatre, dance

... the differences between us...

... our similarities...

... creative people...

... kind people...

... shy people...

... bold people...

... funny people...

... amazing, wonderful, different, eccentric people...

... long, close hugs...

... those who lead...

... those who follow...

... spiders, cats, birds, dogs and all other furry, feathered things... Tibby!

... my family; and how lucky I am to still have my dad as well as my mother after we thought we'd lost him two years ago; we try and make every day count... they are the most amazing parents...

... my friends who - I don't tell often enough - mean the world to me with their friendship and support and wonderful, wacky ways...

... friends who teach me...

... friends who listen...

... good food

... my home which I love to come back to...

I suppose the thing I am most grateful for is love. It's not just about receiving it, it's the giving of it, and the feeling of it, when your heart expands and you know the blessing of it. Without love, there is nothing. Nothing matters. I'm talking all kinds of love: for friends, family, planets, stars, flowers, the loved one... And I'm reminded of a friend who told me philosophically this week, in her lovely Russian accent...

"Love ees eternal. Only object changes."

And one more favourite quote:

"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.
Photo borrowed respectfully from NASA

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Scarf Update: The Scintillation Continues

Readers may recall my panic last October, when I had taken on scarves that required too many stitches with very fine wool (that's my excuse anyway).

This year I got smarter. Relatively speaking.

And today? Triumph! Five scarves done, ends stitched in, ready for washing and storing for Christmas presents!


A World-Without-End Bargain

Princess: We have receiv'd your letters full of
Your favours, the embassadors of love;
And, in our maiden council, rated them
At courtship, pleasant jest, and courtesy,
As bombast and as lining to the time.
But more devout than this in our respects
Have we not been; and therefore met your loves
In their own fashion, like a merriment.

Dumaine: Our letters, madam, show'd much more
than jest.

Longaville: So did our looks.

Rosaline: We did not quote them so.

King: Now, at the latest minute of the hour,
Grant us your loves.

Princess: A time, methinks, too short
To make a world-without-end bargain in.
No, no, my lord, your Grace is perjur'd much,
Full of dear guiltiness; and therefore this:
If for my love,—as there is no such cause,—
You will do aught, this shall you do for me:
Your oath I will not trust; but go with speed
To some forlorn and naked hermitage,
Remote from all the pleasures of the world;
There stay, until the twelve celestial signs
Have brought about their annual reckoning.
If this austere insociable life
Change not your offer made in heat of blood;
If frosts and fasts, hard lodging and thin weeds,
Nip not the gaudy blossoms of your love,
But that it bear this trial and last love;
Then, at the expiration of the year,
Come challenge me, challenge me by these deserts,
And, by this virgin palm now kissing thine,
I will be thine;

From Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost (c. 1594)

One mark of my ingrained optimism is my regular attendance of live theatre. It is so very rare that I experience a performance that exceeds expectation, but - when it happens - the pay off is very powerful. If I was forced to come up with a ratio, I'd say that 1 in 10 performances delights me, and more like 1 in 20 that really moves me or inspires me. Maybe 1 in 20 is too generous. Whatever it is, I keep attending and I keep hoping.

The payoff recently has been pretty satisfying and ultimately most impressive. First off was the double-bill of The Real Inspector Hound and Black Comedy at Soulpepper Theatre, which was silly and fun (although the patchy British accents were really distracting; why do they bother? Just go au naturel!)

Then I spent last weekend in Stratford and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Michael Langham-directed Love's Labours Lost was better than I expected. This was cast using the young company members of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre (the in-house apprentice program). They're not the usual rubber-stamped, good-looking, dullards of seasons past (in my opinion), but a real range of types, physiques and personalities. Senior members of the company completed most of the older roles. Peter Donaldson (as Don Adriano) and the 11-year-old Abigail Winter-Culliford (as Moth, his page) were reunited after their moving performances last summer in To Kill A Mockingbird (he as Atticus, she as Scout) and they were easily the best part of the show. I've looked back through my blog and am amazed I didn't mention To Kill a Mockingbird last year. I must have started a post and never completed it; it was easily the best thing from the 2007 season: another of those rare experiences in the theatre. And young Abigail is eerily talented, without any ghastly precociousness that you sometimes find in young performers; unlike them, she is not 11 going on 30, but very firmly 11, just remarkably talented. This was the last performance of LLL for the season and we repaired afterwards to the Down the Street pub to eat and drink and congratulate the artists who gathered there to decompress.

I hadn't seen Love's Labours Lost in over 20 years, and that Royal Shakespeare Company production was in London at the Barbican. Roger Rees was Berowne, and Kenneth Branagh was the King of Navarre and I remember him doing the most fantastic fall backwards onto the stage. I saw them that same summer together again: Rees as Hamlet, Branagh as Laertes with some great sword-fighting; and then Branagh again as Henry V, a few years before he made his movie. What a summer that was.

The next day, still in Stratford, after a morning walk around Lake Victoria, we watched Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968) on television (lazy Sunday... mmmm) and were gobsmacked to realize that this film is 40 years old. Such were Zeffirelli's designers, that the film hasn't dated. No beehives or heavy eyeliner to place the film when it was made. Good stuff! I reminded my companion that Bruce Robinson (Benvolio in the film, and my secret boyfriend... sigh) reports in his wonderful book Smoking in Bed that Zeffirelli made such a big play for him, that he became nicknamed (by fellow castmembers) as Bendrovio. I never noticed before that Zeffirelli's set dresser was Christine Edzard. Must do a post on her and my thoughts there very soon! So much to blog about and so little time! ARGH!!!

I ended this particular run of theatre with a wonderful experience: the Canadian Opera Company's War and Peace. Enough said: buy a ticket if there are any left!

Quote of the Day

"The curve of those shoulders has been sculpted
by the stares of men."

From the libretto of Prokofiev's opera, War and Peace, based on Tolstoy's novel.

If you live in Toronto and get a chance to see this opera, now playing at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, please do. It's a great night of theatre, a theatrical triumph for the creative team, led by director Tim Albery. And don't make the awful mistake of arriving late and missing the first half as the first 10 minutes alone is worth the price of admission. Prokofiev was forced to bolster up the war bits for propoganda purposes by the Soviets, but despite that, this is theatre first, opera second and it's a thrill. Russell Braun as Andrei, Elena Semenova as Natasha, and Mikhail Agafanov as Pierre, are heart-breaking and wonderful.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quote of the Day

"What woman can put off the international love-making of Rossano Brazzi?"

I'm not kidding... this was a line I heard on tv tonight on TCM, from the original film trailer for Light in the Piazza (1962). Not that they're hearing any arguments from me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

September Trip Highlights

I've changed this post. It became apparent there were way too many pics and I'd be here for days. So instead of a day-by-day, here are the highlights of our nine-day tour of Frank Lloyd Wright (FLLW) architecture and other Arts and Crafts-related sites.

The "Craft in America" exhibit was taking place at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. What a stunning campus of gardens and magnificent buildings.

This was the last blue sky we'd see for a few days:

In Grand Rapids we saw the Meyer May house, designed by FLLW and latterly bought and restored by Steelcase. They've done an admirable job. This was the only major home we didn't get to see inside during the trip. I hadn't seen one of FLLW's homes "in person" in a while. I am always amazed at how radical they must have been for the time, and was reminded once again of his trademarks: shallow roofs (which had a habit of leaking), cantilevers, art-glass windows, horizontal lines, almost-hidden front doors, and oppressive entrance halls that opened up into welcoming living areas.

As we drove across Michigan into Illinois, and towards Chicago, Hurricane Ike was moving north to meet us.

I've wanted to visit Chicago for years, ever since reading the V. I. Warshawski novels by Sara Paretsky. And here I was! We walked down the Magnificent Mile and came across this 20-foot-or-so-tall statue of King Lear, by J. Seward Johnson. He's located in Pioneer Court, next to the Tribune Tower, and seemed braced to withstand the blustery wind and rain about us. We were lucky. So many in the area and elsewhere got flooded out and battered very badly due to Ike.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!

King Lear, Act III (Shakespeare)

Seeing Chicago first in the rain and mist was quite wonderful. It seemed a gentle introduction to this magnificent city, which has become another item on my list of life experiences which exceeded expectation. I was lucky to meet the charming and glamah-rous Coco and also to be toured around by a dear friend.

Just south of King Lear was this famous cluster of skyscrapers and I was quite dazzled. My camera just doesn't begin to do them justice. The dark green tower with the golden top, second from the left, is the Carbon and Carbide building, now home to the Hard Rock Hotel, and the subject of a future post.

Then, finally, the same scene in the sun, as Ike passed over:

Damn, I loved these skyscrapers!

Sometimes I remembered to look down, too:

Bruce met some friends at the very cool Puppet Bike. He looked more startled than usual at their friendly embraces.

We visited the Robie House (FLLW) and were impressed - again - by the determination of those who save and restore these precious buildings. They fight such an uphill battle...

I love how the different colour mortar creates the horizontal lines in the brick work, not to mention the art-glass windows:

We visited the Charnley-Persky House and had fun determining which bits were designed by Louis Sullivan (the official architect) and which by FLLW (who was Sullivan's chief draughtsman at the time).

A stunner turned out to be the 2nd Presbyterian Church at 1936 S. Michigan Avenue. The church has been untouched for decades, which - on the one hand - means it retains its treasures, but they are now in dire need of repair. Those treasures in include nine stunning stained-glass windows by Tiffany, and two designed by Burne-Jones and executed by Morris and Company. Once on the church's site, pleace click on "Art and History", then "Windows" to see those treasures, and on "Angels Fund" if you feel you can help in some way.

Here's Bruce at a corner of Millenium Park, past which you can see the old Chicago Public Library which is now the Chicago Cultural Center. There we enjoyed an extensive exhibit of Marilyn Monroe as interpreted by artists in photograph and illustration.

In the Cultural Center, under the recently-restored Tiffany dome, we heard a noon-hour chamber recital of Ferenc and Schikele.

The mosaic-inlaid walls and ceilings shimmer slightly. BPG is also a bit of a magpie so I was dazzled and somewhat hypnotized by all of it.

Cloud Gate (more fondly known as The Bean):

The beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, among many other lovely homes:

We then headed out of the city into Wisconsin. Dawn in Spring Green, from our hotel room balcony:

FLLW's home, studio and school at Taliesin:

Hillcrest School, which is part of the Taliesin complex:

Macro time:

Bruce hanging out at the Taliesin visitor centre, formerly a FLLW-designed restaurant. Part of it still is so we ate and also... shopped. Yikes... so many souvenirs!

We visited the S.C. Johnson Wax Building (FLLW-designed) but no photography allowed. We also visited Johnson's FLLW-designed home, Wingspread, my favourite house of the lot.

Some wacko tree-hugger at Wingspread:

Bruce enjoyed hanging out from the grape vines.

A Usonian house in Milwaukee. FLLW-designed for the everyman. :)

Macro shot in Wisconsin:

The view from our hotel room in Racine. This was a good way to wind down the vacation.

And of course, we remembered International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day AND scored some drink and watches at Duty Free. Arr...