Thursday, February 28, 2008

What I'm Reading

Joseph Volpe's account of his rise to the top at the Met is told in The Toughest Show on Earth: My Rise and Reign at the Metropolitan Opera. I've just started reading it, but doing so brings to mind the two autobiographical volumes by Sir Rudolf Bing: 5000 Nights at the Opera (1972) and A Knight at the Opera (1981). These are wonderful, wonderful reads. They take you from his young life in Austria, his marriage, his time spent in England helping to found the Glyndebourne Festival and the Edinburgh Festival, to the U.S. where he was general manager at the Met for 22 years. These books are chock-full of wonderful anecdotes (several of which involve the unforgettable Franco Corelli) and they, alone, are worth the reading.

Quote of the Day

"Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness nor despair. Not even life lasts very long. They'll come a time in the future when I shan't mind about this anymore. But I can look back and say quite peacefully and cheerfully how silly I was. No, no I don't want that time to come either. I want to remember every minute, always... always to the end of my days."

Officially my favourite quote / tear-enducing moment of all time. Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson, as she leaves behind the love of her life in Brief Encounter, 1945. What can I say... I agree. There's not a heart-ache that in some way I don't treasure. Not because I have a particularly neurotic need for misery, but because I feel so blessed that I have been loved - yes - but, more importantly that I have loved. When I am not looking forward, sometimes I have to look back, and its these memories, in their different forms, that are a very imporant part of what make my life worth living. I'm a romantic, I'm a devotee of Love and the love we feel as humans is what sets us apart, and what we spend so much energy in trying to express in art. I've talked about this scene before... the fading of her companion's voice and the light dimming around her and focussing on Celia Johnson's great, sad eyes, and that perfect voice-over coming in. This scene is in the first ten minutes of the film and I am swept away with the most satisfying tears. Thank you for sharing my chick moment.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Only Chickens Wearing Birkenstock Sandals Permitted

A couple of weeks ago I caught The River Cottage Treatment on Food Network Canada. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is the host... a back-to-nature chef with a mission to convert the ready-made meals and convenience junkies out there. I've seen two episodes now and I was so impressed with his delivery, his firm, gentle way of illustrating the cruelty of factory farming and the important of really knowing your food... that I decided right there that the only meat coming into my home from now on will be organic. And I mean grain-fed and free-range. As much food as I can find that is organic will also be on the shopping list.

Tonight I had some organic chicken (roasted with fresh tarragon, butter, olive oil, and flamed in brandy, in the Elizabeth David manner) and it was divinely good. This is what real chicken tastes like. There's no looking back!

Song of the Day

Since I met you Baby
(Words and Music by Ivory Joe Hunter)

Since I met you baby
My whole life has changed
Since I met you baby
My whole life has changed
All my friends tell me I'm not the same.

I don't need nobody
To tell my troubles to
I don't need nobody
To tell my troubles to
Oh, 'cause since I met you baby
All I need is you.

Since I met you baby,
I'm a happy man
Since I met you baby,
I'm a happy man
I'm gonna try and please you
In every way that I can.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quote of the Day

[In this scene, Mr. Pickwick - spending a splendid Christmas at Manor Farm - has fallen through the ice while skating, and is rushed home and put to bed...]

Mr. Pickwick paused not an instant until he was snug in bed. Sam Weller lighted a blazing fire in the room, and took up his dinner; a bowl of punch was carried up afterwards, and a grand carouse held in honour of his safety. Old Wardle would not hear of his rising, so they made the bed the chair, and Mr. Pickwick presided. A second and third bowl were ordered in; and when Mr. Pickwick awoke next morning, there was not a symptom of rheumatism about him: which proves, as Mr. Bob Sawyer justly observed, that there is nothing like hot punch in such cases: and that if ever hot punch did fail to act as a preventative, it was merely because the patient fell into the vulgar error of not taking enough of it.

From The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

I love Dickens' generous use of colons and semi-colons. So does John Irving, and that's good enough for me. When I first joined my book group, they very kindly let me pick the book for the second meeting I attended. I seemed to recall that Pickwick Papers had some good Christmassy stuff in it, and this was November, so I suggested it. When I went to purchase my copy the next day I was horrified to find it was 900 pages long. However, once esconced in the world of Pickwick and his friends and nemeses, and the magical Sam Weller, I was hooked forever. I still read the Christmas chapters every year, from Mr. Pickwick being ambushed with kisses to the last mince tart.

Song of the Day

Lonely Town
(From On the Town, lyrics Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Leonard Bernstein)

A town's a lonely town,
When you pass through
And there is no one waiting there for you,
Then it's a lonely town.
You wander up and down,
The crowds rush by,
A million faces pass before your eye,
Still it's a lonely town.

Unless there's love,
A love that's shining like a harbor light,
You're lost in the night;
Unless there's love,
The world's an empty place
And every town's a lonely town.

The week Leonard Bernstein died, I saw Jessye Norman in recital. For an encore she sang this and it was incredibly moving.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Rare Subject Indeed

Believe it or not there are some foods that I have disliked and / or do now.

As a kid I couldn't stand savoury foods with bits of real ginger in them. I think I had bitten down on a very large, potent piece of it once and it put me off for a long time. I don't mind it now.

I hated beetroot. And for some reason to do with English school dinners, I had the idea that what it was I couldn't stand was tinned peaches. My mother, who wouldn't have let a piece of tinned fruit in the house, nonetheless was confused as to why I hated peaches in any form. It took literally years for me to figure out that beetroot were not peaches, or vice versa. Definitely one of my "not the shiniest penny in the fountain" moments. I don't mind it now, especially in borscht. Mmmmm... borscht. And I love peaches. What's not to love there... mmmmmmm.

I also couldn't stand carroway seeds in bread or anything pickled and I still don't eat these things. That includes olives. My mother despairs!

I've never drunk coffee! But I do love my tea. Here's another silly party game: go around the group and have everyone write down how they feel about coffee. Then, before you read out all the comments, tell them it's how they feel about sex. It's quite funny to the puerile (my) mind. You get remarks like "I can't start the day without it" or "I have to have it three times a day" or "I really like to take my time and savour it" or "I just grab it on the run" or "I only have it at home." When I was tricked into playing it, I got quite a round of laughter for my response: "I love the smell but I don't like the taste." Dagnabit!

As for the previous post, I do like anchovies and I love Marmite but I really don't like cilantro.

Boy, turns out I'm more of a fusspot than originally I suspected. Well, I make up for my dislikes with VAST QUANTITIES of likes. :)

Okay, time to 'fess up. I've been babbling on here in an attempt to avoid working on my resumé. I'm going back to it right... (consults second hand on watch)... NOW.

Foods You Either Love... or Hate (Question of the Day)

I've just come up with:

cilantro / coriander

Can anyone think of any more? I mean food that universally divide people.

His Dark Materials

I got up this morning, fed the cat, made a cup of tea and got back into bed with a couple of pieces of dark chocolate. Of course that's a promising start to any day. But I had a purpose, and that was to finish reading the last part of Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy.

I didn't expect it would make me cry as hard and thoroughly as it did. I can't go into details (way too many spoilers), but anyone who has read it will most likely know what I am talking about. The only thing to do now is go for a walk. The sun is shining and I will just let my feet take me where they will... and let my thoughts and feelings eddy and flow and settle like... Dust. :)

This is one story I'll be reading again.

Song of the Day

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
(Words by Friedrich Rückert, Music by Gustav Mahler)

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
Sie hat so lange nichts von mir vernommen,
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben!

Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.

Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel,
Und ruh' in einem stillen Gebiet!
Ich leb' allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied!

English translation by Emily Ezust:

I am lost to the world
with which I used to waste so much time,
It has heard nothing from me for so long
that it may very well believe that I am dead!

It is of no consequence to me
Whether it thinks me dead;
I cannot deny it,
for I really am dead to the world.

I am dead to the world's tumult,
And I rest in a quiet realm!
I live alone in my heaven,
In my love and in my song!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Song of the Day

William Walton's one-act opera The Bear features a libretto by Paul Dehn, based on a play by Anton Chekov. The young widow's main aria is very funny and the lyrics are Cole Porter-worthy.

I Was a Constant Faithful Wife

I was a constant faithful wife
Every temptation scorning
And shall be constant all my life
In mourning, mourning, mourning.

Defend my husband if you can
What words could you praise him in?
A woman loves one man,
My man loved... women, women, women.

The dark, the fair, the slim, the stout
Tall, middle-sized and small
With brains - and frequently without -
He loved them all, all, all.

How should a loyal wife react
Who in his desk discovers
One hundred letters (neatly stacked)
From lovers, lovers, lovers?

What could a poor weak woman do
But humour his caprices
When acts more suited to a zoo
Took place with neighbours' nieces.

I smiled, I turned the other cheek
I never once a grouse made
Except the day he tried to wreak
His will upon my housemaid, housemaid, housemaid!

I was a constant faithful wife
Every temptation scorning
And shall be constant all my life
In mourning, mourning, mourning.


She doesn't remain constant OR in mourning. Yay!

The Incomparable José van Dam

My favourite singer, if I have to pick one, is an easy choice... unlike other matters where I need top ten lists and that sort of thing.

For a start my favourite voice type would have to be bass-baritone. I can't intellectualize it, I just know that when my ears prick up at the sound of a classically-trained singer, it's invariably a bass-baritone. Just as when my ears prick up at the sound of a classically-played instrument, and it turns out to be an oboe - every time.

My favourite singer of all is the Belgian-born, bass-baritone, José van Dam, 67. I first came across him in Joseph Losey's brilliant location-shot film of Mozart's Don Giovanni (1979), my desert island opera if I HAD to choose one. It's a strange film in some ways, but I never got over it and have seen it many times. Van Dam is one of the main reasons I love it. He's a wonderful actor with beautiful blue eyes, and - of course - that expressive voice.

I've never seen him live in opera and have seen him only once in recital. It was a magical day. The George Weston Recital Hall in the north of the city holds just over 1,000 and is acoustically wonderful. It was a matinee performance and when Van Dam walked on stage he was wearing a regular, albeit beautifully-cut, suit. He looked very still and serious and was, in my opinion, more bank manager than artist. And then... he started to sing. Now, in my experience a lot of recitalists start a little more vivacious, with the faster, more shortly-phrased music being kinder to their nerves and their breath. And then they move towards the more profound pieces later. I know I'm generalizing... But Van Dam started with Wolf and Brahms and by the intermission I needed a cognac. I was in heaven. I can't begin to describe his voice. There is just a dark and unmistakeable sound that could only belong to him.

In the second part, he sang songs by Duparc, Ibert and then lightened the tone comically with the bawdy songs by Poulenc, an example of which is "L'Offrande" ("The Offering").

A virgin offered one day a candle
to the god of Love, in order to find a lover.

The god smiled at her request and
said to her: Lovely one, while you are waiting
make use of the candle for yourself.

The Ibert Chansons de Don Quichotte were wonderful... and I left my friends after the concert to rush into a music store to buy up the CD of it. I also picked up a CD of him singing Mahler: Kindertotenlieder, Rückert Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn. It's a joy from beginning to end, and my most-often-listened-to song from it has to be "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen". But more on that in the next post.

He was booked to sing the following year in the same venue, which - unfortunately - seemed to have fallen apart administratively. No marketing was done, few tickets were sold and the recital was cancelled. To this day I can't believe that an artist of his stature couldn't sell out that hall pretty damn quickly.

The picture is from his agent's site.

New Spot

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Champagne is automatically chilled when I am near it. Camembert and chocolate melt. Men and fires spontaneously ignite. It's exhausting, but it's my reality."

From The Honeytrap Files, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wonderful Find

Tonight I watched A Story of Three Loves (1953) on Turner Classic Movies. Why haven't I heard of this movie before?


I sat spellbound as three different passengers aboard an ocean liner recall the one great love story of their lives. The first segment starred the beautiful Moira Shearer as a ballerina who - despite having a trick heart - inspires and melts the heart of grumpy choreographer and impresario James Mason at his most sullenly handsome and tempestuous. There were definite shades of The Red Shoes (1948).

The second story is about a young boy, Ricky Nelson, who scorns his governess, Leslie Caron, but learns a valuable lesson about growing up, aging and seizing life, with the help of a "witch", played by Ethel Barrymore. There were definite overtones of the movie Big (1988).

The last segment dealt with a jaw-grindingly haunted aerial artist, Kirk Douglas, who finds possible redemption in a suicidal Pier Angeli. The long, relatively silent sequences where he teaches her how to be an aerialist are wonderful.

The first and third segments are directed by Gottfried Reinhardt and the middle one was directed by Vincente Minelli.

In this whole film there is a sort of languor, a bold confidence in not filling the screen with music and freneticism, but just letting a story unfold. It's 1950s melodrama, deeply romantic, and very suspenseful. It gets my two thumbs up!

Just Now...

Tibby and I sat together this evening when I had come in from a long day, and Laila Biali was singing "The Nearness of You", on CBC Radio Two. I think he knew I was feeling a bit out of sorts. He chewed on my top button and shed all over me and I stroked him under the chin and tried to avoid thinking about my itchy eyes and skin (I am still experiencing allergic symptoms from contact with him, but hoping that with enough exposure they might fade).

Anyway, we made a pact that - dependent on his mood of course - we would try and do this as often as possible. It was deeply relaxing and very soothing, in only the way a warm, fluffy, 20-pound cat sitting on your chest can be.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Top Ten Things I Have Learned from Non-American Movies

10. My car will be impossibly small.
9. If my phone rings, I will just turn and watch it until it stops, as I lean against the window jam, smoking a gauloise.
8. I won't ever spend time grocery-shopping. Instead, I will be seen spending most of my time cooking in my impossibly small kitchen and then having endless, graphic, all-nekkid sex among the leeks and baguettes.
7. Family? What family?
6. Jean Reno will terrorize me, seduce me, and then buy me a black leather coat, by which time we will have forgotten which evil nemesis we are fighting.
5. When I fall in love with Colin Firth, we will hurl affectionate profanities at each other and eat fish and chips after the concert, gazing at each other in the unflattering light of a naked lightbulb.
4. Children? What children?
3. My flat will be impossibly small and in need of a good paint job.
2. Knickers on the floor (especially granny pants) will never be a deterrent for my lover (Colin Firth).


1. If the police have just left saying "There's nothing to worry about now miss", I should proceed to take a shower... with Colin Firth.

Top Ten Things I Have Learned from American Movies

10. My car will always appear freshly-washed.
9. If I pick up a ringing phone and no-one says anything, I should probably not spend half an hour saying "Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?" (k... that sounded a bit sarcy!)
8. My grocery purchases of the day will all fit into one fairly light, brown paper bag.
7. Apparently it's cool to drop everything and dance around with inter-generational family members to 50's rock classics.
6. No matter how long it takes me and my fellow FBI agent to save the world, we'll never have to stop to pee, sleep or have a snack. Oh - we might have to sleep, as long as the evil guy is on roof, about to sneak in with the machete.
5. When I fall in love, I will suddenly spend an inordinate amount of time with my new mate roller-blading, walking along a beach, jogging, washing his dog, cycling, and having pillow fights.
4. My children will appear to be channelling smart-mouthed, stand-up comedians.
3. That if I have suffered an affliction and need to retreat from the world for a while, that I shouldn't rent a magnificent house on the shores of a lake, especially just after fall leaves have gone and before the snow arrives... oh, and especially one in which something a tad disturbing recently happened.
2. A spontaneous bonking session with my impossibly-handsome new boyfriend will never be marred by thoughts, of "Fuck, I didn't shave my legs... plus I think there are knickers on the bathroom floor."


1. If the police have just left saying "There's nothing to worry about now ma'am", I should not proceed to take a shower.

The Cheek!

A non-Marmite-eating friend of mine was reading my blog and got to my review of Guinness Marmite.

"How can you tell if Marmite has gone off?"

"Well, I suppose it's - Hey....................!"

The cheek!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Mmmmmmmmm... forbidden donut..." [Drooling sounds]

Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson in The Simpsons ("Treehouse of Horror IV", 1993)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Song for Valentine's Day

It's a funny song this one, but one guaranteed at the drop of a hat to make me cry. It's not the words - which are funny, saucy and endearing - but the melody that gets me every time. It's the only song I've ever requested, and that was from a very talented jazz pianist, Richard Whiteman.

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
(from the musical Pal Joey)
lyrics by Lorenz Hart, music by Richard Rodgers

After one whole quart of brandy
Like a daisy I awake
With no Bromo Seltzer handy,
I don't even shake.

Men are not a new sensation;
I've done pretty well, I think.
But this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink

I'm wild again
Beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

Couldn't sleep
And wouldn't sleep
Until I could sleep where I shouldn't sleep
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

Lost my heart but what of it?
My mistake I agree.
he's a laugh, but I like it
because the laugh's on me.

A pill he is
But still he is
All mine and I'll keep him until he is
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered Like me.

Seen a lot
I mean I lot
But now I'm like sweet seventeen a lot
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

I'll sing to him
Each spring to him
And worship the trousers that cling to him
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

When he talks he is seeking
Words to get off his chest.
Horizontally speaking
He's at his very best.

Vexed again
Perplexed again
Thank God I can't be over-sexed again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

(Refrain at end of show)
Wise at last
My eyes at last
Are cutting you down to your size at last
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more

Burned a lot
But learned a lot
And now you are broke, though you earned a lot
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more

Couldn't eat
Was dyspeptic
Life was so hard to bear;
Now my heart's antiseptic
Since you moved out of there

Your chance-finis
Those ants that invaded my pants-finis
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Jack Russell's the smartest dog in the world."

Gene Hackman as Captain Jack Ramsey in Crimson Tide (1995). He said it and he was right. This was Bruno (below).

Song of the Day

The Nearness of You

It's not the pale moon that excites me
That thrills and delights me, oh no
It's just the nearness of you

It isn't your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation, oh no
It's just the nearness of you

When you're in my arms and I feel you so close to me
All my wildest dreams came true

I need no soft lights to enchant me
If you'll only grant me the right
To hold you ever so tight
And to feel in the night the nearness of you

Music by Hoagy Carmichael
Lyrics by Ned Jones

Ian Fleming referred to Hoagy Carmichael in the Bond books, when describing 007's looks. Interesting...

Speaking of singing, I had a bad contact lens reaction one day, my eyes were red and not pretty. To make me feel better, a very good friend of mine sang Dark Eyes to me in the original Russian. In a very lovely baritone. Sigh. My eyes needed a rest after that - aching from all the eyelash flapping I was doing. (Inadvertently. Honest.)

The Search for a Thriller

The search for a recent good thriller some years ago had a friend and I seeing a host of bad movies at the cinema, and then going through some pretty ghastly videos. Then we picked up Jennifer 8 (1992). We watched it together that night, and then I saw it again the next day, I was that taken. It's written and directed by Bruce Robinson... what more can I say? I'm a fan.

Andy Garcia, as the recovering alcholic policeman was vulnerable and strong at the same time. Uma Thurman was lovely as the blind musician he is trying to protect. It's very cool, as well, that no-one is bothered that she is several inches taller than him. I read an article years ago about Garcia's hair, about how sometimes it flops sadly in his eyes in two bracket shapes around his forehead... other times it's kind of perkily and insouciantly flows back from his brow. I'd not thought about actors' hair reflecting their moods and characters, but I see it on occasion. Bill Pullman has it too. That and the wonderful eyebrow lift he does so well, so subtley. Where was I? Oh yes, the hunt for the good thriller.

Well, that hunt was sated this weekend when I saw Michael Clayton (2007), a real, old-fashioned, no-huge-surprises, corporate thriller, with the main difference from every other example of this genre being a totally magnificent cast: George Clooney (aging well and - more importantly - letting himself age), Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack and the eerily beautiful and intelligent Tilda Swinton. Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, responsible for writing the Bourne trilogy. Blimey! Can I clone some little grey cells?

Crimson Tide is on tonight. That's one I have to get on DVD. What more can a girl ask for?

Top Ten Reasons I Love Crimson Tide

10. Take one claustrophobiac and add a great submarine thriller... it makes me a very clingy date (take notes please)
9. The pre-boarding soundtrack with "To Those in Peril on the Sea" used to haunting effect
8. The Jack Russell terrier
7. Viggo "rrrrrrRRRRRrrrrrr" Mortensen
6. The way they're always shouting "Defcon!" I bounce up and down on my chair. Defcon! Defcon!
5. The spoof Mad TV did on Crimson Tide... Crimson Tide 2: a submarine full of women, a locked safe of chocolate, a locked safe of Midol, and a battle to the death over those keys. Very funny stuff.
4. That red glow all the submarine thrillers have... it's very flattering in an eery way.
3. Those back shots where the camera is following the powerfully muscled back of Weps or Defcon or whatever their names are as they charge along those pipe-lined narrow passages of the submarine.
2. Gene Hackman: this man is an acting GOD

and... I give you the number one reason I love Crimson Tide:

1. Denzel Washington

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Video Proof

Tibby learning how to use his new treat ball.

Tibby really getting the hang of it:

And now... exhausted from all the learning, the excitement, the treats... having been awake for half an hour.

Quote of the Day

Lucius Vorenus: Do you think of NOTHING but women?
Titus Pullo: What else is there? [he thinks] Food, I s'pose.

Kevin McKidd as Vorenus and Ray Stevenson as Pullo in the television series Rome (2005).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tandem Tale No More...

Unfortunately, we are unable to continue the current tandem tale... in case you were reading it. :)

Oysters, Champagne and Vertigo... Oh My!

They don't mix.

Well, the first two do. Then you add a hangover... then you add my faithful companion, the vertigo (hopefully temporary inner ear situation) and you have a doozy of a situation. Or rather, a dizzy of a situation.

No, apparently I wasn't ready to lurch myself into madcap socializing again. Which is a shame... I miss certain forms of indulgence. I remember the first time I had oysters - this was at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. They're not my favourite food, I mean - I never think: "Gosh, I wish I had a plate of oysters," but... if they're put in front of me, I'm always thrilled to see them. Well, to be honest, there are not many foods I'm not thrilled to see in front of me. I was delighted to see them this time, shucked, laying open and saucy on their half shells, atop a bed of ice, a squeeze of lemon at hand. Slurp, slurp, chew, chew, down the hatch. Mmmmmm. The second time I had them was in Malpeque, Prince Edward Island. Just a simple little fishing village with an oyster shack on the wharf. There we ate oysters and a pile of mussels, with a small bucket beside us on the rough, wooden floor of the shack, into which we hurled our shells. That was a great food memory. I had no idea until later how esteemed Malpeque oysters are... we just stumbled across the village as we drove lazily around, eating fresh strawberries from a farm stand. Sigh... I do long for summer.

I met a lovely man I met some time ago, who had also had vertigo (this was when I was first suffering from it.) If we had both been single at the time we would have definitely got together. The joke was, with both of us having vertigo, and each of us tending to "list" in a different direction, at least we'd be able to prop each other up. (He had other wonderful qualities too.)

Actually I'm feeling a lot better now. So I shall brave the cold and wend my way in a wavy fashion along the city streets to do some shopping.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Let it Snow? Try Stopping It!

It certainly is a picture postcard out there... and it's lovely walking in it, soft snowflakes coming down, the streets all mounded on either side with piles of the white stuff. The city is quieter and what sounds there are are muffled. What an unusual winter so far. It's like five different winters all chopped up into small pieces and tossed together like a salad and you have no idea what you are going to get next.

What the hell am I talking about? I'm off to bed.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Don't tell him it's for Dogs

Well, it seemed to me of late that ole Tibby might be getting bored and understimulated. So I went out today to a pet shop and got him a dog toy I had heard about on a tv program.

This gizmo is basically a rubber ball. In one end you feed small treats and once inside they sort of fall around in a maze of rubber before falling out the other end. This only happens if the ball is rolled around. I got the small version for small dogs. I put some treats in and showed it to Tibby. I rolled it around the floor and let him smell his treats. Finally one dropped out. That got him quite excited. But then he just sort of sat there and looked at it. I gave him quite the training program, but to no avail.

I figured there were about 10 treats in this thing. We'd got rid of one. I went into the kitchen and started cooking. Half an hour later I came out and the ball was empty! Tibby was gently patting it around the dining-room floor like a pro!

I'm so pleased. I think having to work just a bit for his treats will do him good.

It's also a good thing his stay is temporary. I might start collecting cat figurines... NOT.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I talked to a friend tonight who has fathered two children for a lesbian friend and her partner. We were talking about what makes a family, about what a child needs to grow.

I think a family in its ideal form is a place where you are loved and welcome, where you are told the truth, where you are allowed to grow and learn and make mistakes, and to whom you can return and find a haven. It can be made of up many computations. I think it's important that there are men and women involved, but in no particular pattern or sexual preference. I think a range of ages is important too, as the generations always have so much to learn from each other.

What a wonderful ideal that is (in my opinion) and yet how many people truly have this? I have no idea. I know I have it with my parents and my friends. And I know the two children of these women and their biological dad were very wanted and are very loved by their large, extended family. And that's about as good as it gets.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Him

It's not easy being Tibbles. Today, I was vacuuming, and he hates that. He gives me this look as though to say, "Why? Why do you bother? I shall continue successfully shedding and I - for one - am alright with that."

He can barely drag himself away from the wicker Chair That Now Belongs to Tibbles 24/7 to avoid the noise, or - failing that - he hides his face under his paw so as not to have to deal with the dreadful sight of cleaning in process.

To make matters worse, I trimmed his nails. No matter how many kisses and cuddles I applied to him between each nail... he still felt quite martyred by the process, only to be mollified by his special tuna treats afterwards.

The poor darling boy. I'm back at work tomorrow after having worked yesterday and cleaned today, but with the comforting knowledge that Tibbles' routine of sleeping for 23 hours and playing for 1 hour will continue undisturbed without any stress or bother. I'd hate to think of him worrying. By the way, I try to keep the sarcasm out of my voice when talking to him. They can tell, I'm sure. Note to self: come back in next life as well-loved cat in comfortable home.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Thank Heaven... for Minelli, Lerner, Lowe, Beaton, Caron, Jourdan, Chevalier, etc.

"One has to be as rich as you are, Gaston, to be bored at Monte Carlo."

Hermione Gingold as Madame Alvarez in Gigi (1958).

In real life Gingold was a wonderful story teller and was quoted, when comparing Laurence Olivier's Richard III with Donald Wolfit's: "Olivier is a tour-de-force, and Wolfit is forced to tour".

I'd forgotten how much I loved Gigi and it was on TCM this afternoon, so I caught bits of it. I don't think I'd appreciated what a very beautiful film it is. The colours, the lighting, the allusion to great artists of the period, the wonderful actors, Cecil Beaton's designs, and of course Lerner, Lowe and Minelli. GULP. What a pedigree! It's so good to hear the authentic French accents of the two leads (and Chevalier) and Leslie Caron is convincing both as a young girl and a young woman. I always thought Gigi's final dress was inspired by Sargent's Lady X, but now, looking at Sargent's painting beside Cecil Beaton's portrait of Leslie Caron, I realize it was the pose that did it for me. They complement each other well.

Apparently, when Sargent first showed the painting at the Paris Salon in 1884, one of her straps was shown as having slipped off her shoulder. That, her saucily turned wrist and the strangely lilac-hue of her skin, all screamed decadence and it was a deeply scandalous business. He ended up removing it from exhibition. He changed the shoulder strap and later sold it the Metropolitan Museum.

The Guinness-flavoured Marmite has been opened and tested. Very interesting: three of us tasted it, and we had different responses: one thought it was saltier, one thought it was tangier, and I thought it was sweeter, than the original Marmite. It isn't that Guinness has been used in the Marmite, but that the yeast extract in the Marmite has been enhanced by Guinness yeast extract. Either way I like it a LOT - thanks Dr. M. for my Christmas pressie!

Last week we watched a movie called The Seagull's Laughter (2001), Mávahlátur in the original Icelandic. It's set in 1950s Iceland. A woman returns home to Iceland, her American husband having died. She returns more glamorous and slimmer than when she left, and soon has a potent impact on her small community. Most of this is seen through the eyes of her half-worshipping, half-resentful young niece. It gets my thumbs up!