Tuesday, 30 June 2015

You know it's been a bad month when….

What can I say about this past month?
Oh, plenty went on, but I don't want to discuss it.  We're halfway through the year, and I don't like the way it's going.
One bit.

So, let's talk Game of Thrones.
I don't watch Game of Thrones.
Because I'm squeamish.
However, I know enough about it to find the following extremely funny.  It's from the first American version of Red Nose Day, which I tried to watch, but there were way, way, way too many commercials.  So I missed this, but found it later on social media.

I'm going to bed now.  I'll be taking several Sleep-Relax and pray that the year starts taking a turn.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Now how am I going to get any work done?

Some months back, a cousin who is also Facebook pal shared a charming 1940's style rendition of "All About That Bass" -- with an actual bass. 

However, seeing as I'm not that swift, I didn't realize that there was more where that came from.  The Postmodern Jukebox is a group of talented musicians who take songs from the 1980s to the present-day and set them in styles ranging from 1912 to 1970s - sometimes veering into bluegrass, or even mariachi.

Suppose you take a ditty like "Stacy's Mom", and drag it back to the 1930s?  Would it sound something  like this? 
(And doesn't that girl on the bar have an expressive back?)

Some of my favourites are the songs set in Motown-style -- partially because of the amazing vocals, and largely because of the antics of a maniac called "Tambourine Guy".  Listen to these guys "Roar": 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Chalk shock

When I was in Grade Five, we had a Welshman called Mr Jones for Math. When you raised your hand, he would query, "What is it, vach?" If your answer was wrong, he would scoff, "No, that's not it, you silly girl!"  Somehow, this was not wounding, couched in his Welsh accent.

In fact, his aura was a happy combination of gentleness and sternness; I don't recall anyone acting out in his classroom.  If you weren't paying attention, he'd pelt you with a piece of chalk, a bit of a shock to his Canadian students.

He also clearly loved math, and a teacher who loves his/her subject has won half the battle. My mother enjoyed hearing tales of Mr Jones.  Growing up in British schools, she'd been pelted with her share of chalk, and she passed along a multiplication trick from my grandfather (another Welshman): If you're stymied when the 11x sequence gets past 9, simply add the two digits of the number to be multiplied and put it in the centre. So, for example, 11x23: 2+3=5, put it between the digits of 2 and 3 that make up "23", and you get 253. Try it with a double digit number times eleven.

Mr Jones was incredulous when I told him, then openly delighted when he found it worked.  It takes a Welshman to astonish another Welshman.

The school year rolled around to spring, and some bright spark came up for the perfect April Fool's trick to play on Mr Jones.  His class was after morning recess, which afforded the opportunity for every one of the thirty students in his class to locate and pocket a piece of chalk. The ringleaders set up a lookout at each door at the end of the cloakroom, then ran to take their places.

The instant Mr Jones appeared, he had to duck out under a hail of chalk.  When he came back in, he was laughing, saying it was the best trick ever played on him.

Our principal, an ex-military man who had us march in PE and addressed us by our last names, was not so pleased.  The next day, two students were appointed to make a public apology at the beginning of math class.  Mr Jones listened politely, in some bewilderment:  "It was a splendid joke," he protested.

My math progress varied widely with the teachers I encountered over the years.  If I had had a teacher like Mr Jones every year, I do think I would have made steady, if unspectacular, progress.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

You banga da hell outa dis (another story from Demeter)

When I was little, Demeter worked at a clinic for kids with cerebral palsy in South Edmonton, on the opposite side of the North Saskatchewan River. One day, she was on her lunch break, trying to get some errands done, but held up by an endless stream of midday traffic and a light that refused to change.

Out of nowhere, a little man appeared at her side.
"You wanta cross the street, lady?  You banga da hell outa dis," he declared, demonstrating energetically on the crosswalk button to my startled mother.  "Just banga da hell!"

Monday, 30 March 2015

You're welcome

I feel guilty for not saying anything about St David's Day this year.  (It was March 1st, but you knew that, didn't you?) To make up for it, I'm offering Ioan Gruffudd, who has been on my mind because I was watching Forever this evening. Speaking Welsh. About Taliesin the bard.   I think this may have been filmed in Cardiff in 2000.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Another wrinkle

Yesterday morning I woke early, after a late night, unwilling to get up and dress just yet, but not wanting to wake my husband.  I padded down to the living room to retrieve my laptop, because I've been deliberately keeping it downstairs to discourage myself from going online before the day has properly begun.

However,  I had gone to sleep with the briefly glimpsed corner of a mystery on my mind.  It seems that the Disney corporation will be attempting to bring A Wrinkle in Time to the big screen.  There have been attempts before, including an adaptation to the small screen, an unsatisfactory televised version.  I'm wondering if a satisfactory version is possible, but I have a daughter living on the autistic spectrum, and thus have acquired an appreciation for movies, television specials, and graphic novels based on classics, so I tried to find out a little bit more.

In doing so, I noticed a sentence fragment in a Google search just before I went to bed, something about her son's, Bion Franklin, death in 1999.  Madeleine L'Engle herself died in 2007, but I do not ever recall her writing about Bion's death; she devoted nearly a whole book to the final year of her husband Hugh. It was late, and I was working on something else, so I set my puzzlement aside for the morning.

With the covers over my head to block the dimmed light from the screen from the sleeping Resident Fan Boy,  I went back to the link --- and learned that Bion Franklin had died in his forties from the effects of alcoholism.  Bion?  The little boy who was the model for Charles Wallace Murry and Rob Austin?  I entered a few more search terms and stumbled on a 2004 New Yorker article, which said, among many other things, that Bion and his adopted sister Maria loathed the cycle of books about the Austin family, and that L'Engle's children and grandchildren alike detest L'Engle's Crosswick Journals series, especially Two-Part Invention which was L'Engle's memoir about her marriage to actor Hugh Franklin. Hugh Franklin drank quite a bit and had at least two extra-marital affairs.
Their eldest child Josephine read it and apparently thought: Who the hell is she talking about?

The New Yorker article, which has become quite notorious amongst L'Engle fans and which somehow I'd managed to miss, is not a hatchet-job.  It also reflects the love L'Engle's family had for her along with the exasperation.  But I, huddled under the covers with my glowing laptop, was fighting back my shock and a sense of loss.  I've read everything L'Engle wrote, with the possible exception of her poetry.  I grew up with the four books that begin with A Wrinkle in Time, and of course, I loved the Austin books which were about the sort of family I'd never had.  It turns out that L'Engle may not have have had that sort of family either.  The Crosswick Journals were the sort of books to which I'd turn again and again for comfort, wisdom and perspective.

As the shock wore off, an odd sense of relief took over.  I felt consoled by all this dysfunction somehow, and besides, I recognized something about her children's feelings -- anger, bewilderment, and the sense of having no say in the story.  It was the same feeling I had when I read the biographical essay featured in my father's order of service.  I wonder if they too had the cold sweat when they read the matriarch's version of their family?  Coincidentally, Alan Jones, L'Engle's ex-son-in-law, was the dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco when my dad's service was held there.  Possibly he still is.  Speaking of L'Engle, he refers to the "confirmed construction of the self by means of narrative" which could also be a charitable way of describing the legend my father built up to support his life in California.

I don't know what I'll find now when I revisit L'Engle's books, particularly the Crosswick Journals, but I've been rereading many of my favourite books this past year (no L'Engle ones, as it happens), and I'm rediscovering that no book will ever be the same, anyway. That's probably true of most things.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Some Canadian content for bedtime

This has been been an ear worm for me.  G'night. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Wandering Hands Society (more tales from Demeter)

The purse
Younger daughter elected to sit by herself on the bus yesterday. I didn't mind; she wasn't mad at me, and she is going to have to navigate the transit system by herself at some point.  Besides, I had a seat where, for most of the forty-minute ride, I had a reasonably clear view of her. I spent the time doing four things: noting who sat next to my daughter (three different women);  watching the Ottawa River, this day a mottled grey as the ice along it thins; fighting off thoughts of an unpleasant incident that happened on a Winnipeg bus last October; and remembering my mother's tales of defending herself against various pervs in London and Paris.

Demeter was a lovely young women - not that being plain exempts you from unwanted male attention; I can attest to that - and by her early twenties, was an expert in discouraging all sorts of nonsense, mostly from the members of what she called "The Wandering Hands Society". Her experience as a nursing student was somewhat of a crash course in sexual harassment in those far-off days when it was a little more run-of-the-mill and not the subject of public service campaigns.

She was (and always has been) resourceful. To avoid being groped by strange men in dark theatres, she would declare in the loudest, plummiest voice she could manage, "If you do not stop that, sir, I will be forced to call the manager!" Alternatively, she could sit between "canoodling couples", and enjoy a show unmolested. Returning home on dark streets and sensing she was being followed, she'd approach a patrolling London bobbie who would accompany her along his beat, passing her on to the next policeman's territory, and so she continued, chatting genially, until she reached her front door.  When she tried that in France, she was startled by the gendarme's response:  "If I were not on duty, I would follow you myself!"  She further discovered that the strategy of sitting between kissing couples didn't work in Paris, either. Frenchmen turned out to be ambidextrous.

One of my favourite stories concerned another cinema visit with her younger sister, recently arrived from Kenya to train as a nurse herself.  Not long into the feature, my aunt whispered in alarm: "A man is fondling my knee!"
Demeter whispered back, grimly: "Switch seats."
She had a clutch bag with a sturdy metal edge.  When the wandering hand began to encroach, she brought the edge down with a satisfying crunch.  There was a muffled whimper, and her neighbour found someplace else to sit, but perhaps not to grope.

Things didn't change much when she came to Canada.  She was walking down a corridor in her first workplace, a clinic in downtown Edmonton, when someone gave her rear end a hard pinch.  Turning, she found a small group of seated patients grinning at each other.  She strode back.
"Which one of you did that?" she snapped.
The men lost their smirks and the ability to look at her, nor at each other.
"Which one of you pinched me?"
No reply.
But they didn't try it again.

Sitting on a bus many years later, I watched my daughter furtively, so she wouldn't suspect.  She felt my gaze anyway,and shook her head at me with a grimace.  As someone living on the spectrum, she usually objects quite loudly if anyone crosses her boundaries.  I can only hope fervently that this will be a good talisman against those hands that wander.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Give me your answer do

Almost every day, for the past three years or so, younger daughter and I have been able to see this poster across the street from our bus stop as we wait to catch our final bus home.

Almost every day, for the past three years or so, I have wondered: Exactly what trend is being set here?

Incredibly dangerous, to say nothing of uncomfortable, ways to double someone on a bike?

And while we're at it, where the hell is her left leg? Are her legs crossed? What is she wearing on her feet? It looks like she's got very large, very blocky, high-heel boots on. And how did she get on? And how did he get going with her on the handle-bars throwing off his balance and blocking his view?

In short, would you want these twits as neighbours? One comfort, I suppose, is that they'd been unlikely to be your neighbours for long before they win the Darwin Award - most likely posthumously.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

All my trials, Lord

One thing they don't tell you before you have kids: you will relive the school experience for as many times as you have kids - the embarrassment, the cliques, the bullying… and the homework.

Younger daughter is studying The Crucible this year, so I have to remind myself how it goes. It just so happens that the recent Old Vic production starring Richard Armitage has just become available for download on Digital Theatre.

It's long - almost three-and-a-half hours - so I've only watched the first half so far, but, my goodness, it's good! There's a sequence featuring the minister John Hale and the slave Tituba which is particularly memorable. No clip available of that, of course. Hale is played by Adrian Schiller, who looked familiar to me (well, most of the actors do, that's why they're playing the West End, they have the experience). It turns out Schiller was the creepy Uncle in "The Doctor's Wife", one of the better Matt Smith Doctor Who episodes. Anyway, Hale starts out as the epitome of reason and mercy and without losing that persona, soon has Tituba and the other young girls swearing that they have dabbled in witchcraft and naming names. It's stunning and disturbing.

The following clip shows the crucial moment in The Crucible, when Elizabeth Proctor, not knowing what her husband has told the judges, is called to testify about the real reason for the dismissal of their former servant Abigal Williams. The actors use a kind of northern English accent (Armitage describes it as Lancastrian/Colonial) which makes sense as American accents would not have emerged yet.

The real Abigail Williams was an eleven-year-old, but Arthur Miller's play was never meant to be historically accurate; it's a parable about the post-World-War-Two anti-Communism hysteria in the United States. A more accurate dramatization of the 1692 witch trials in Salem and the surrounding area is possibly the 1985 television mini-series Three Sovereigns for Sarah which still takes artistic license, but sticks a bit closer to actual events.

I'll finish watching The Crucible tomorrow, so I can devise a plan for helping the Resident Fan Boy steer younger daughter through her assignment. She'll accept help from him, but not from me, possibly because she thinks I resemble a witch these days.