Wednesday, 19 October 2016

"They treated him like vermin"

Years ago, I was watching The Elephant Man, the 1980 film starring John Hurt, when it was broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies network.  Younger daughter, who was waiting to go up to bed, was sitting quietly in a corner of the couch, and informed me gravely, after a scene when John Merrick is pursued by a panicky crowd:  "They treated him like vermin."

I stifled my astonishment - younger daughter didn't say much beyond what was concrete and present in those days - and managed a calm agreement.  She had adapted the words from Dobby the Elf of the Harry Potter books and movies, when he's explaining his plight as a house elf.  It was an early indication to us of just how much she understood and perceived.

You see, in the early "aughties", when younger daughter was a newcomer to the public school system, she "scripted" a great deal to express stronger emotions.  Among her sources were the Harry Potter movies.  I remember her confronting me from the top of the stairs to convey some powerful disappointment when she was about six, using Hermione's despairing cry near the climax of the giant magic chess game in the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:  "But you cawn't!  There has to be some other way!"

Another favourite came from the ghostly Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:  "I don't know!!! I was distraught!!!"  This was delivered complete with Received Pronunciation vowels. The scripting eventually diminished, and younger daughter now relies on texts, emails, and indignant Word documents when spoken words fail her.

Anyway, when the opportunity came for viewing Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in IMAX, you'll understand why I had to take younger daughter, despite having seen this film on DVD scores of times.

In 2001, younger daughter was five and not quite ready for feature-length films.  I took nine-year-old elder daughter to the rather grubby Rideau Centre Cinema, which closed about three or four years ago.  The film was slightly out of focus, so you couldn't quite make out details such as what was going on in the magical moving portraits at Hogwarts Castle.  The cinema staff were unable to fix it, so I scored a couple of free passes by complaining online.

In this IMAX presentation - which marks the fifteen-year anniversary of HP and the PS, and promotes the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - every detail was crystal clear, as was the soundtrack which enveloped us, so I rather enjoyed the show and the memories that came with it.

Back in 2001, I marvelled at how closely the visuals matched my mental imagery of the books, especially Diagon Alley, the wizards' market concealed behind the streets of London.  In 2016, I smiled at the not-quite-convincing performances of the three beginning actors in the lead roles, the rather clunky special effects (by today's exacting standards), and how Daniel Radcliffe, as Harry, switches from small boy to pre-adolescent and back from scene to scene.  Clearly, the episode in Ollivander's Wand Shop, plus the Quidditch match, were filmed last, when Radcliffe was nearly a year older.

The next day, we moved from memories stemming from 2001 to those from 2005, when we went to catch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - all the films have been showing at Cineplex this week, all in IMAX format. The Goblet of Fire is the first HP film that I recall being available in IMAX, but eleven years ago, the only IMAX theatre in Hades was at the Museum of Civilization, and an evening trip to what was then Hull and is now Gatineau was too challenging.

GoF is quite possibly younger daughter's favourite Harry Potter movie; she loves the Yule Ball and the musical score. It's one of my least favourite of the series, possibly mainly because GoF is my favourite Potter book, and there is no way that the film could properly capture both the complicated plot and the sly humour of the original writing. (Let's not get into the uncharacteristically clunky acting, even by the seasoned pros of the cast - which I suspect is the director's fault.)

However, the special effects, by 2005, were stunning. In 2016, younger daughter lingered until the end of the lengthy credits, drinking in Patrick Doyle's wistful music.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Why Persephone shouldn't be allowed near bookshops

This past summer, I made a pilgrim's stop at the one of the Holy Four Bookshops of Victoria. Then I came back a few times, for I had spotted my heart's desire.

The bookshop was Ivy's in Oak Bay*, conveniently close to one of my house-sits and perilously close for someone like me, who strives and fails to keep her luggage light for increasingly stringent airline requirements.

But, oh! It was Matthew Green's London: A Travel Guide Through Time, for which I'd longed since seeing it promoted on the London Historians Facebook page, and for which I'd been waiting to appear in paperback. I'm a sucker for the time-travel approach to history, having loved Ian Mortimer's A Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England and A Time
Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England

What excited me about Matthew Green's book is that the focus is on London. I adore London Walks; I bullied elder daughter into taking several during her two recent trips to England. These six tours are a little bit like London Walks, except that they involve overnight stays in ancient London inns, and begin with a step through a wormhole in time -- Green starts each tour with the traveller standing at a point in modern London before moving through the layers of time to: 1603 London where Shakespeare's plays - and neighbouring bear fights - are packing 'em in on the South Bank; a relatively tiny London of 1390 where Richard II reigns; plague-ridden London of 1665, before the Great Fire; the many contradictory worlds of Victorian London in 1884, post-Blitz and pre-Cool 1957 London; and the coffee-house London of 1716.

If you love London and history (and gawd knows, I do), this is bliss. Matthew Green carefully immerses your senses, supplying not only visual details, but what you will hear, smell, feel, and taste - heaven help you. He also gives practical survival tips: best not to appear alien or foreign in Shakespearean London; find a white stick, and you will be given a wide berth by 17th century Londoners fearing the plague; and if you're a woman visiting an eighteenth century London coffee house, disguise yourself as a man, or be taken for a prostitute.

This is a book I will want to re-read several times - preferably with a map, as the maps provided aren't that helpful for anyone not intimately familiar with the city. I will also want to pick up the many details I missed the first time around, not to mention examine the end-notes and check out the recommended reading list.  And I will be thinking of the members of both my family and that of the Resident Fan Boy who made London their home in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

So, as you may have gathered, I snapped in the book shop, and gave into temptation.  And I didn't even get charged for overweight luggage.

 I put the book in my carry-on bag.

*The other three are Munro's Books, Russell Books, and Bolen Books.  Look them up!

Monday, 17 October 2016

There she go-oh

Ran out of day again.

When this song comes up on my iPod, I never press the "skip" button.  Jeremy Fisher recorded this in 2007, but I probably heard it a year or so later.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Failing to peak at the cemetery

When the Resident Fan Boy and I took the Accent Snob for his first walk of the day early Saturday morning, the sun was reflecting brightly off the trees and we saw several of our neighbours packing the backs of their SUVs and/or hatchbacks. It was then we knew the autumn colours were peaking. Demeter has a friend in Victoria who would wait for the annual phone-call of her brother in Hades, telling her to book the earliest flight for that fleeting moment when the leaves reach their highest dazzle.

That moment wasn't last Wednesday, but it was the only time I had available to take the twenty-minute walk from our front door to Beechwood Cemetery. I took a few dozen photographs to compare my trusty Nikon with the camera in my iPhone. Here are a few of them:
My first truly successful panorama shot taken with my phone. Click to enlarge.

The Slater family - and some neighbours (digital SLR)

Taken with my phone

Taken with my single lens reflex. All of these can be enlarged by clicking on them.

A final phone shot before heading home. 

Saturday, 15 October 2016


Almost a year ago, I was writing about the connection between Madonna's music video of her 1984 hit "Material Girl" and the 1954 movie version of the 1949 musical version of the 1925 series of stories "Gentlemen Prefer Blonds".

So it seemed to provide a symmetry of some sort when I came across this new Postmodern Jukebox video which features a gal who can sing a 1920s hot jazz rendition of "Material Girl" in addition to playing trombone, tap-dancing, and doing a mean Charleston.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Are potatoes actually vegetables?

"I haven't seen potatoes like that in years!" the man says.

He's walking behind me and I think he's talking to younger daughter who's always a couple of paces to my rear. Maybe I should just re-name her Euridyce for this blog.

"I used to deliver them to the First Nations depot up north," he continues. Younger daughter has caught up with me at the light. I catch her eye, and she grins.

The man catches up with us as well. He's wearing a backpack over a sleeveless shirt on this brisk October morning. He doesn't appear to be looking at us, but his sunglasses make it hard to tell. I surreptitiously check for a blue-tooth or earbuds, but no, we seem to be his audience. When I hesitate, trying to decide whether to cross the street now or a block later, he also halts, turning his back on us.

There's the fruit and vegetable delivery truck we've just passed; he's still talking about it: "I was up north, with the First Nations. It was years ago."

Abruptly, he starts talking to the traffic signal.

"C'mon, change! You've been red too long!"

I guess we're off the hook.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

In October 2007, I took the twenty-minute stroll from my house to Beechwood Cemetery and, facing west from the Tommy Douglas monument, took this snap:
Not quite nine years later, I went to the same spot:
The trees that have flourished in the past decade just about hide the luxury condo that was completed about a year ago, whose tenants now enjoy the view of Parliament Hill that used to be available from the cemetery.

You can click on the photos to enlarge them. If you want.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Screen teens (write of passage number forty-two)

On a beautiful afternoon of what was probably the last warm Saturday of the year, I suggested lunch at a restaurant on the Rideau Canal, one which I've been meaning to try for years. This involved a hefty bus ride, lengthened by a re-routed crawl around the War Memorial, as Hades scrambles to get ready for Canada's sesquicentennial next year.

About half a dozen teenaged girls boarded the bus at the Rideau Centre, and artfully arranged themselves in the seats just ahead of us. They looked as if they'd been cast by an agency: willowy, various shades of blond - except for an Afro-Canadian, an Asian Canadian, and a prettily plump dark-haired girl who was reading the protest signs at Parliament Hill:

"'Stop execlutions in Iran... What's that?"

One of the willowy blonds looked down on her witheringly from her perch in the sideway seats.
"Executions.  There's no 'l' in 'execution'."

The subject was quickly dropped for gossip, continuing the length of Bank Street into the Glebe.

"Don't invite Max -- we hate him, remember?"
"So invite him and then we can all ignore him."

"Cassidy? I hate her!"
"So do I!"
"So do I!"
"I really hate her --- wait --- I don't think I know her..."

My phone tapped.  It was a text notification from elder daughter, seated next to me:

I wouldn't go back to high school if someone paid me.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

In which Persephone remembers how to baby-wrangle

Rees is a tall tall fellow who runs the local organic store with his family. I usually spot him running errands along the main street, but this morning he has shown up at one of the local coffee shops with a muffin and his son Rowan, who is probably about nine months old. (My baby-dating skills are a little rusty.)

Rowan has one of those infant alien heads -- a high dome with wispy tufts of blond hair which is, no doubt, chockfull of brains. As his dad parks his stroller and takes his seat at the neighbouring table, Rowan gazes at me with a faintly uncertain air, but he's young enough to be amused by my removing and replacing my reading glasses, before we graduate to napkin-passing and balled-up-paper-bag-tossing. He adds an ethereal air of mystery to the proceedings by periodically pointing with religious awe to the skylights - until he remembers his father's blueberry muffin.

My mission is to distract him long enough so his dad can eat, but he scores a few pincers of muffin, which he consumes, giving me the grin of someone who has won the round.

I'll concede his victories, but I think the whole thing is a draw.

Monday, 10 October 2016

It's Thanksgiving in Canada

As Canada's short growing season comes to a close, the farmers' markets have their final sales and close up their booths -- except for the pumpkin purveyors.

This morning, for the first time since last spring, I wanted to huddle under the duvet rather than get up and ferry my summer tunics to the basement in exchange for the warm winter tops which have slept away the summer in the plastic storage tub.

Younger daughter prepared dinner rolls for the very first time -- from scratch. I spent the morning making my pumpkin pies -- also from scratch. Elder daughter roasted the organic chicken, and the Resident Fan Boy took care of the vegetables.

Time to feast and try to ignore what's going on south of the border and the oncoming winter.