Monday, 31 March 2008

March goes out like a wombat

Winter is waddling out of Ottawa and taking its own sweet time. Woke up this morning with an iron-grey sky and black thoughts. Pep-talked myself, applied a little dab of the musk eau de cologne that my elder daughter brought back from Provençe. (Never mind the fact that Cologne is, in fact, in Germany; I was trying to cling to items of love and beauty to save myself from myself.) By the time younger daughter and I tackled the long hill to school, it was snowing outright, coating the filthy fossilized remains of old drifts with a creamy wrap, the muddy shards of ice poking through.

On the way home, still trying to stay high-minded, I took photographs of: frozen explosions in the park below younger daughter's school and:
deadly red former evergreens in the merciless grip of a winter's worth of snowplough droppings:

I was just angling myself to take a snap of piles of garbage bags against a backdrop of more frozen waste, when I felt my boot slide out inexorably sideways, and as I tried to regain balance, my other boot slid out in equal inexorability in the exact opposite direction. In agonizing slow motion, I made it to the ground in an ungainly split. I straightened out my legs and lay in the snow atop the black ice and wondered dispassionately if I would be able to get up. Two Russian women whose daughters attend younger daughter's school glanced in my direction from the corner where they were chatting, then resumed their conversation. I managed to regain my feet, figured my left knee, although throbbing painfully on the inside edge, would take my weight and hobbled home, cursing the posh apartment dwellers who never touch the sidewalk outside their building.

I'm now following the R.I.C.E. prescription (rest-ice-compress-elevate) and praying I'll be able to manage the trek to younger daughter's school to pick her up. So far, I'm managing stairs and have even done a load of laundry, gingerly picking my way down two flights, so I imagine I'll be alright, but am glaring sourly at the "to-do" list I'd optimistically posted on my brand-new iGoogle home page this morning.

Expletive deleted. Time for another Doctor Who video. This one, by exceedingly rare YouTube poster "HuaidanSam" combines an unlikely song ("I Wanna Talk About Me" by Toby Keith) with clever cuts and witty associations, resulting in a hilarious and rather sexy fanvid which tells Rose to get her head out of her navel:

There. I needed a good giggle. Time to get the gel pack from the freezer again...

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Another talented fanvid creator, this one with fiery finger bones...

Thank goodness, a kind soul (well, several, but I favour one) posted The Friday Night Project on the internet. I won't post a link because I understand that doing so will merely expose such benefactors to a greater likelihood of being shut down and suspended, but I was delighted to spend my morning listening to tasteless jokes and innuendo. My goodness, that David Tennant is charming.

"Jane Henry" a romantic author (well, I think she writes romance novels, but I'm sure she's a very romantic person herself) posted a fanvid to which I introduced her in the rigmarole of locating a song which had been driving her around the bend. This is a creation of a YouTube poster going by the handle of "Flaming Phalanges", who, somewhat like Thebigbluemeany is a rare poster of rather beautifully done fanvids. Inspired by enjoying Mr Tennant on The Friday Night Project, with a charming and all-too-brief appearance by last year's Doctor Who companion Freema Agyeman, I would like to draw your attention to my favourite "Flaming Phalanges" fanvid. It's set to a song by Maroon 5 in their former incarnation as Kara's Flowers, and while I can't claim to be a fan of Maroon 5, this song is charming, and the tribute is a rather apt distillation of the relationship between Martha and the Doctor (which I rather preferred to the smug mugging of the Rose/Doctor partnership). "Flaming Phalanges" made this fanvid midway through the last series of Doctor Who, which is why there are only scenes up to the seventh episode of that season:

Now, I'll settle in to wait for kindly illegal posters of Doctor Who episodes. CBC, despite being a coproducer of Doctor Who, will sit on the new episodes until the bloody Stanley Cup is over sometime in June, and while I plan to watch legally and purchase the DVD when the time comes, I can't bear to avoid my usual cyber-grazing areas during the dreariness that is Ottawa in April while lucky British and American viewers happily argue over canon and subtext. Fortunately, we have a list of the usual suspects...

Friday, 28 March 2008

In praise of a big blue sweetie

Okay, another not-so-stellar day. I may blog on it when I've gained some perspective and retrieved my sense of humour and thus am able push on through to wisdom.

But for now, it's retreat-and-bury-myself-in-favourite-obsessions time. Today, I'd like to sing the praises of my favourite fan-vid creator at YouTube: Thebigbluemeany. This woman is a genius. She doesn't make many videos, but what she does produce is "cherse". For example, today, I would desperately love to cheer myself up by watching David Tennant's latest appearance on The Friday Night Project. However, I don't live in Britain, and must wait for some kind soul to post the show illegally. In the meantime, I can console myself with Thebigbluemeany's "David Tennant Commiseration Video":

See? Wit,rhythm, and impeccable editing. Obviously, this woman is, ahem, somewhat obsessed with David Tennant, as in her lyrical take on the "Human Nature" episode of Doctor Who:

She's also somewhat into the use of video for "fan-fic", as in this interpretation of Rose's memories of both her Doctors while trapped in the parallel Earth. Now, there are squillions of Doctor/Rose fanvids on YouTube, some very good, most just the same darn images cobbled together to "this song which I just love and is PERFECT for Rose..." (Girls, please, no more videos to My Heart Will Go On and can we please, please leave Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson out of it?) Here, Thebigbluemeany takes things to a whole new level. You might not want to watch this if you have epilepsy. Or a pacemaker:

While it was Thebigbluemeany's interest in things Doctorish that got me watching her videos, it's her timing, taste, and imagination that make me rejoice when I see she's posted something new. Here's her latest, a humourous and affectionate "slash" take on The Man From UNCLE. This was a show I never really watched, but it doesn't matter; the video is perfectly entertaining on its own:

I could go on, but she's got a channel at YouTube; go check it out! That woman's going places. Thanks tbbm, you've pulled me out of so many big blue funks; I suspect you're not a meany at all.

Monday, 24 March 2008

This might help (a post-script to the previous post)

Originally uploaded by kevin.boyd
This is apparently what Victoria looked like five days ago. It's five blocks from where we used to live. Cue the Barenaked Ladies singing "The Old Apartment" (And yes, I want them back...)

A year without Easter

Easter at our house has always been a bit of a conundrum. Our marriage consists of a practising Anglican son-of-an-archdeacon (the only man who could evah reach me) and a theistic life-long Unitarian (believe me, we're rare birds indeed). Elder daughter teaches Anglican Sunday School (for the volunteer hours requirement for high school graduation) and attends Anglican youth group (for the social aspect and the promise of a trip to Scotland next year). She decided she was agnostic two years ago. Younger daughter loves church, presumably for the music and comforting predictability. Easter, with the emphasis on horrible death and glorious rebirth, has never been an easy holiday, but taking place in spring, one can emphasize the latter idea.
Not this year. This is what Easter looks like in Ottawa:

That's a lamp-post, people.
I've baked the hot cross buns, had younger daughter colour eggs, and consumed a rather disturbing chocolate koala bear with staring eyes that popped out, leaving gaping brown sockets. (Purdy's, our favourite BC-based chocolatier, let the Resident Fan Boy down. We presume we will take delivery of the best chocolate in the world later this week.) I've yet to drag out my favourite Easter flicks Jesus de Montreal and The Life of Brian, but it doesn't feel much like Easter, and this is rather ironic because I've always shaken my head at Ottawans and their seasonal-driven ways: the fact they wear wool in October even in a 28 humidex because it's autumn, dammit; their insistence on wearing open-toed shoes and even sandals in late March even in ice and slush because it's spring, dammit.  The RFB took younger daughter to church yesterday and spent the freezing service in his winter coat, looking in bemusement at his fellow-parishioners clad in light-weight pastels. It's Easter, dammit.

BBC Canada seems equally at a loss. Their Good Friday programming consisted of the two-hour 2006 Vicar of Dibley Christmas special, followed by 3 episodes of Jam and Jerusalem. It took me a while to figure out that they'd decided "Heck, here's two comedies connected to churches: let's put it on at Easter."

I adapted to Christmases without snow; my family moved to Vancouver Island when I was nine, but Christmas tends to overcome things. Easter, by its very nature, should, but it doesn't. Not for me. Not this year.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Peter Sellers, followed by his biggest fans

I'm seeing if I can get a video into my post. Oooh, I think I did! I found this at YouTube via Facebook, if you please! I've heard audio recordings of Peter Sellers doing Laurence Olivier doing Richard III doing A Hard Day's Night, but I've never actually seen him doing it, and this clip affords that pleasure, followed by another pleasure: the Beatles themselves miming to one of my very favourites: We Can Work It Out. Lovely!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Thank God for Tommy Douglas

What do you do if you don't have the resources or will to flee Ottawa during March Break? And snow and slush is piled to record levels? And younger daughter has a barking cough which makes her sound more like a Great Dane than a relatively small person should?

This week we rented 3 movies that we've been meaning to see for ages. (Two of them we really wanted to see before the Oscars, but let that pass.) The first was Miss Potter with Renée Zellwegger and Ewan McGregor which was a lovely little confection and I'm rather glad I didn't spend money to see it in a cinema. The second was Michael Clayton with George Clooney, an absorbing thriller which made me realize how pointless the Academy Awards are. (I mean, Atonement, Juno, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood and this? That's like getting an apple, orange, banana, fig, and tomato together and saying: "Right, which is the best fruit?")

Finally, Sicko. Now, I like Michael Moore. He's manipulative and opinionated, but I think on the whole he's on the side of the angels. Bowling for Columbine was an inspired bit of propaganda, and mostly true. Except about Toronto. Believe me, people do lock their doors in Toronto and probably always have. Sicko wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know about the American healthcare system; it just sort of re-horrified me.

Once again, in Sicko, Michael Moore has a bit of a starry-eyed notion about the situation in Canada. Short waits in Emergency? Oh, come on! Just this past week, there was a piece in the paper about a Canadian woman who went to the States for life-saving surgery because she couldn't get the clearance for it up here. My mother has been waiting for cataract surgery for months, and it's really detrimental to her quality of life. Others wait years for hip replacements, and other kinds of so-called "elective surgery".

However, Michael Moore is right in this respect: if I or my loved ones need medical care, we don't have to clear it with an insurance company. What we get may not be perfect (the nightmarish time I spent driving around Ottawa in a cab in search of an arm sling to support a broken clavicle with my daughter vomiting from the pain [the hospital didn't provide slings] springs to mind), but we don't end up in debt up to our eyeballs or being refused care altogether.

The above picture is one I took last October from the vantage point of Tommy Douglas's tomb in Beechwood Cemetery which is about a twenty-minute trot from my front door. Tommy Douglas is considered the father of socialized medicine in Canada, and he was just voted "The Greatest Canadian" in a CBC special last year. I just may make the stroll up to the cemetery again. With a very large bouquet of flowers.

Friday, 14 March 2008

A glimmer of hope

The week-long break from school in the term after Christmas is called "Spring Break" in Victoria. The crocuses are past their peak, but a different street breaks out in cherry blossoms each week between February and April, and the daffodils make their appearance, followed quickly by the tulips.

However, I live in Ottawa.

It's called "March Break" here, and during this particular March Break, we're apparently about to surpass the winter of 1970-71 for total snow accumulation.
I'm not all that upset. The week before, younger daughter and I managed to pussy-foot our way to the bus-stop midway up the hill, and paused to watch pedestrians hurtle past us rather like that scene in Titanic when the vessel is preparing to take her final plunge. It was an unusually mild day after a day of freezing rain, and many had blithely ventured out in street shoes. The carnage... Snow --- well, that you can at least walk in, provided you have Mountain Equipment parkas and Sorel boots.

Elder daughter is currently in Barcelona on a class trip which managed to depart Ottawa between two record-breaking snowstorms. She called a couple a days ago from Provençe after a day's cruise around the calanques near the village of Cassis. But this way madness lies.

Younger daughter had carefully planned out the week on the large calendar in her bedroom: "exsperimental farm - firt day; movie time at silver city -second day; lunchtime at diner eat at restaurant - third day; home watch television - fourth day; disney film - last day". Now, once it's on her calendar, it's sacrosanct, so even though I thought she felt warm on Monday, we braved OC Transpo and the now single lane streets with snow-plough shovings obliterating the sidewalks to make it out to the Experimental Farm which younger daughter adores. (I don't, so I prefer to go in winter when there are no flies, muffled smells, and on this particular day, not so many kids --- the smell still follows you for the rest of the day...) Then, we went to see (yet again) Enchanted at the Rainbow Cinema, a second-run movie house operated by gay cinephiles, because there wasn't anything younger daughter wanted to see at Silver City. However, by this time, even younger daughter's Taurean sense of will couldn't fight off the virus that she'd evidently had for at least two days, and we hustled her home into bed, from whence, despite fever and wracking cough, she has joyously watched PBS kids' shows and videos and DVDs nonstop.

The Resident Fan Boy returned to work yesterday, and the prison doors slammed shut. But there's good news: acquaintances in Victoria for whom we have house-sat before are off to Europe for five weeks this summer. Persephone will be out of Hades briefly again --- and she won't have to stay with Demeter the entire time....

Monday, 3 March 2008

Dreams and nightmares

Freezing rain ("freezing bane" is more like it) fell early this morning. The Resident Fan Boy had been worshipping at the altar of Environment Canada throughout Sunday, so I really hadn't bothered to fix younger daughter's school lunch. When word came that the school buses had been cancelled, we knew there was little point tackling the treacherous sidewalks for slightly-less-than-one kilometre uphill to school. I phone the school's absence line and tuned the television to Sesame Street. (Elder daughter and the RFB must brave the elements for the sake of marks and money.)

While I've given up going outside in freezing rain (don't; not if you can help it), I have been making an attempt to do other things I've been nervous about. One of these is taking younger daughter to an evening ballet performance. Elder daughter, despite my best brain-washing attempts, has sworn off ballet, and Ottawa only offers matinées of The Nutcracker. Since younger daughter had made it quite happily through an evening performance of a musical review put on by a local theatre company over the Christmas holidays, I thought I'd finally make a stab at it when Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo showed up in town with their production of Le Songe. Ah, A Midsummer Night's Dream, I thought: slapstick, fairies, Mendelssohn.... perfect for younger daughter.

Well, it wasn't a total disaster. This was very, very French, that is, heavy on whimsy, preciousness, and what the Resident Fan Boy called "A-a-a-a-a-rt!" (as in Gonzo the Great playing Mozart in a vat of oatmeal with bagpipes). Younger daughter, whom we'd carefully prepared, sat between us with Ballerina, the stuffed chocolate-coloured lab and Jeffrey her dog-puppet. She enjoyed training her opera glasses on the members of the audience waiting for the curtain. I was seated next to Mr. Elbows, and the RFB was seated next to Monsieur Appreciator of French Art who was a dead ringer for Mick Fleetwood (down to his build and wardrobe) and chuckled appreciatively throughout the performance. The ballet was a mixture of sort of Commedia dell'Arte (the band of mechanicals), traditional ballet (the lovers, conveniently labelled in large letters), and modern ballet (scary fairies). Of the last, these were probably rather Shakespearean fairies: not fluffy and ethereal, but earthy and erotic, all "holes and poles". Titania's white body stocking was decorated with aqueous circles emphasizing her breasts, belly and pudenda, while Oberon sported a sort of pearl saddle horn on his belt (and yeeowtch! what a physical hazard for his dancing partners!). All of this innuendo would go flying over younger daughter's head, and truth to tell, the choreography of the fairy section was by far the most interesting of the ballet, which spent rather too much time on the story of the four lovers (which, let's face it, is usually the most tedious part of the play). Three quarters of the way through the first act, younger daughter was asleep.  The Resident Fan Boy and I exchanged glances as the lights came up for intermission and gathered up our coats. While waiting for a taxi in the lobby, we saw a family with a four-year-old boy making an exit and, so help me, we heard a baby crying in the orchestra section at the beginning of the ballet...

I don't know if the evening would have been better if I hadn't been battling a persistant headache resulting from a 3+ hour shopping expedition to seek out a "dressy" outfit for elder daughter's European class trip next week. First off, I am not, in any sense of the term, a fashion consultant (that would be eldest daughter's best friend who was sick this weekend). Secondly, my limit for shopping malls is just under 90 minutes. Thirdly, elder daughter had no idea what she wanted, being a jeans-and-tee girl herself. So it was my worst nightmare: 90 minutes in boutiques and waiting outside and inside fitting rooms, followed by 90 minutes of bloody Payless Shoes where I've never been and I never wish to revisit. Then she said she needed a bag. What did I think? I carry everything in cloth book bags, I told her, slumping off to sit on a shoe-fitting bench while she quizzed the salesgirl....

Next attempt: Broadway Across Canada season tickets. I'm praying there are matinées. And no dress code.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!

It's March 1st, it's St David's Day, so the Resident Fan Boy brought me a lovely small bunch of mini-daffs to offset the piles of new snow outside, and it's time to crank up Bryn Terfel and haul out my favourite Welsh song parodies.

We start with Land of My Fathers, of course which you can sing phonetically with the aid of YouTube:

Or you can always substitute the words by Swansea poet Nigel Jenkins which one can sing at rugby matches to make it look as though one knows the Welsh national anthem (stole this from the informative and entertaining blog Eine Kleine Nichtmusik) :

My hen laid a haddock, one hand oiled a flea,
Glad farts and centurions threw dogs in the sea,
I could stew a hare here and brandish Dan's flan,
Don's ruddy bog's blocked up with sand.
Dad! Dad! Why don't you oil Auntie Glad?
Can whores appear in beer bottle pies,
O butter the hens as they fly!

This probably only works if you're surrounded by people singing the right words....

Next the wistful song The Ash Grove...
....which you can cheer up with the following lyrics:

Welsh History 101
by Heather Rose Jones filk: The Ash Grove

If ever you wander out by the Welsh border, come stop by and see me and all of my kin.
I'm Morgan ap Dafydd ap Gwion ap Hywell ap Ifor ap Madoc ap Rhodri ap Gwyn.
We'll feast you on mutton and harp for your pleasure and give you a place to sleep out of the cold
Or maybe we'll meet you out on the dark roadway, and rob you of horses and weapons and gold.

My neighbour from England has come across raiding, slain six of my kinsmen and burned down my hall.
It cannot be borne, this offense, this injustice! I've only killed four of his, last I recall.
I'll send for my neighbors, Llewellyn and Owain; we'll cut him down as for the border he rides!
But yesterday Owain stole three of my cattle, so first I'll retake them and three more besides.

We need a strong prince to direct our resistance: heroic, impartial, of noble degree.
My brother's wife's fourth cousin's foster son Gruffydd is best for the job, as I'm sure you'll agree.
What matter that Rhys is the old prince's nephew? He's sailed off to Ireland and will not return.
I know this for every time boats he is building, I send my spies money to see that they burn.

Yes, we are just plain folk who mind our own business, honest and loyal and full of good cheer
If ever you wander out by the Welsh border, come stop by and see all the friendly folk here.

And finally Men of Harlech (to which my husband insists on singing "Men of Harlech smell like garlic"). Far wittier is the ancient and revered Woad Song:

What's the use of wearing braces, hats or spats or shoes with laces
Vest and pants you buy in places down on Brompton Road?
What's the use of shirts of cotton, studs that always get forgotten
These affairs are simply rotten, Better far is woad!

Woad's the stuff to show men; woad to scare your foemen!
Boil it to a brilliant blue and rub it on your legs and your abdomen!
Ancient Britons never hit on anything like woad to fit on
Necks or knees or where you sit on. Nothing's good as woad!

Romans came across the Channel, all dressed up in tin and flannel
Half a pint of woad per man'll clothe us more than these!
Saxons, you may save your stitches building beds for bugs in britches.
We have woad to clothe us which is not a nest for fleas.

Romans, keep your armors, Saxons, your pajamas!
Hairy coats were made for goats, gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas!
March on Snowdon with your woad on, even if you're rained or snowed on
Never need a button sewed on, when you're wearing woad!