Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Pinch of Salt

The Resident Fan Boy ordered a cappuccino for brunch at a fairly fancy restaurant which has recently opened down the block from us. I was having a very tart mango smoothie and he suggested that I also add a little sugar to it. So I did, a very little because the spoon that came with the bowl was so very tiny and the sugar was in minuscule crystallized blocks. The Resident Fan Boy took one sip and grimaced.
"It's salt," he announced. I pointed out the server to him.
"There," I said with just an edge of impatience. "He's just leaned down behind the counter."
Younger daughter, who is remarkably sensitive for someone on the spectrum, picked up my tone and protested.
"PLEASE don't be mad, Mom!"
"It's okay," I reassured her. "You don't have to shout."
"I'm not shouting!"
"Well, your voice is a little loud."
I watched an older group dressed in expensively casual clothes turn their heads. One woman got up slightly and leaned to get a good look at younger daughter.
The Resident Fan Boy returned from his conference with the server, and found me sitting in embarrassed silence and younger daughter looking somewhere between defiant and depressed.
"What's wrong?"
"It's fine."
"What happened?"
"Please. Just drop it."
Our server showed up minutes later with fresh drinks.
"You'd be surprised how often this happens." No, we wouldn't, I thought, as I surveyed the bowl of sugar which looked more like salt than the bowl of salt had.
That evening, younger daughter pulled on her boots as we prepared to go out to see the Boston Ballet at the National Arts Centre.
"Whew!" she said. "I'm glad I'm not angry anymore!"
Then she looked out the window.
"O-o-o-h! The moon is so beautiful!"
A full moon in Leo. That must be it.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Shame and indignation at the movies

Last night I dreamt I tried to board a bus with a hot iron. The bus driver turfed me off, and I gave her the finger. I awoke wrestling with feelings of shame and indignation, upset I'd been tossed off the bus and ashamed I'd been so churlish, after all, she had every right to refuse to let me ride. Which is a lot of unpleasant emotion, considering none of it really happened.

As I've mentioned before, my dreams seldom make any sense. Oh, I imagine they would, if I really settled down to analyze them, but dammit, I can't be bothered. I have a sneaking suspicion I wouldn't like the interpretation.

I like to think of myself as a pleasant and considerate person, but then, I imagine most people do. Even that woman at the ByTowne Cinema last Saturday. The Resident Fan Boy and I had scuttled away to take in a late matinée showing of A Single Man, partly because I wanted to see the film and partly because Colin Firth might get an Oscar nomination for his role in it, and mainly because we like to have seen at least a smattering of the nominated movies and performances before the Academy Awards broadcast.

The RFB headed off to find us a seat while I hit the concession for a small bag of popcorn and a headset. Bytowne Cinema now offers what they call an "FM audio assist" and since my hearing never has been fabulous, I've tried it for the last couple of movies there. I just plug in my own earphones and gee, I can hear most of the dialogue.

Balancing my trophies, I went in search of the Resident Fan Boy who was waving from a couple of nice seats. An older couple were seated in the aisle, and did not get up to let me pass, so I had a brief tussle disentangling my ankles from the bag the wife had left at her feet as I squeezed past her knees apologetically. At the time, I was feeling charitable enough to assume she had physical reasons to stay put.

I had decided to try a different set of headphones for the film, rather than my iPod ear buds which are mildly uncomfortable. This may have been a mistake. Early in this particular film, there's a flashback to a very rainy evening in LA when Colin Firth's character George first learns that his partner of sixteen years has died in a car crash. As the rain pelts down outside his study, George receives a phone call from someone connected to his lover's family who tells him (nearly two days later) about the accident and that the funeral will be "family only". George, obviously in shock, is detached and polite, until we see him running in a coat-less panic of grief through the storm to a friend's house for comfort.

"Would you stop making that noise?"

Startled, I turned from George's anguish to see non-rising woman who is seated two seats away from me.

"What noise?" I asked, in genuine bewilderment. She made an angry gesture and turned back to the screen. What's she going on about? I whispered to Resident Fan Boy, who shrugged. As I tried to re-focus on the movie, I wondered if she was bugged by my popcorn, but that had never seemed to have been an issue before. Then it gradually occurred to me that the scenes involving the rainstorm were over. Was it the hiss of the precipitation escaping from my headphones? I sneaked my iPod ear buds out of my coat pocket and put the other headphones away. I heard nothing else from old lady, but I caught her looking daggers at me later when I attempted to fold my popcorn bag away quietly. Oh dear. Am I becoming one of those people? Or is she already one of them? To tell you the truth, watching films at the ByTowne is a bit of a minefield, due to art-film-revering regulars who have strong views about where they should sit and how others should behave while they are sitting there. I'm not unsympathetic, but a bad-tempered growl doesn't help me rectify the situation. That's all I'm sayin'.

A Single Man is great, by the way. A dream-like sepia-view of a rather more innocent Los Angeles about to be hit hard by flower power. Colin Firth should get an Academy Award nomination at least for a performance of heart-breaking dignity.

I'll go do that ironing now.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Kicking off (and trying not to skin my toes)

Earlier this week, we left the house in the silvery grey half-light of the early January dawn and noticed that the Christmas lights up and down our street have diminished. Many Ottawans spent the weekend dismantling their Christmas trappings -- including us. I averted my eyes from the black forms of the Christmas trees on their snowy biers awaiting the chipper truck. When I returned home a couple of hours later, there were only scatterings of dull green needles showing where the trees had been, which means only one thing:

Lots of vacuuming. Oh yes, and high time I drop-kicked the blog into the new year (and not the new decade, you clods, that's next year). By way of a feeble excuse, it's been damned difficult to get to the computer at all because elder daughter is frantically finishing "summatives" (major term-end projects, essays, and presentations). Since January is named for the two-faced god Janus, who looks both forward and backward, I thought I'd give a quick rundown of our Hadean Christmas. Last year, I focused on the Twelve Days of Christmas, and this year, I'm focusing on a slightly different twelve:

Twelve Days of Demeter: My mother's visit was dictated by the availability of seat sales, so she arrived December 16th and departed December 28th. I managed to shove out of my consciousness the fact that this is her final Christmas visit to Hades. She has declared that after five Ottawa Christmases, she's had enough, and, as she has also survived the first nine Edmontonian Christmases of my childhood and at least five Prince George Christmases with my sister, who can blame her? However, on the eve of her departure, I went to bed and unsuccessfully wrestled the unpleasant notions that a) this may be our last Christmas together ever, as getting out to British Columbia for two weeks in the winter is prohibitively expensive and complicated; and b) elder daughter will in all likelihood be at university in another city, province, or even country....

Eleven Doses of David Tennant: Or thereabouts. I know that a rabid British DT fan with absolutely nothing else to do or consider could have treated herself to David Tennant something like seventy-five times over the holidays. That's a bit rich even for my blood, but thanks to the BBC Radio web site, YouTube, Bit Torrents, and the fact that the Space Channel had a marathon showing of all five most recent Doctor Who specials, we got close to satiation. Our Region Two copy of Hamlet from should land on our doorstep sometime this week; I am not waiting until April...

As a bit of an aside, I understand that at least one person wants to know what I thought of the Doctor Who finale. Elder daughter downloaded each part after it transmitted in the UK (yes, we could have waited until January 2nd for the marathon, but that was with commercials, people, and parts usually get edited out to make room for them --- we've ordered the DVDs, Auntie Beeb...)

Fan wank, I thought, while watching the first part of the finale. As both my husband and elder daughter glanced at me in startlement, I then thought: Whoops. Did I say that out loud?

As of this writing, I have seen all five of the past year's specials at least twice. I never thought I would say this, but I'm rather relieved to see both Russell T Davies and David Tennant go. The specials were not awful, but none of them came anywhere near the quality of the best of the New Who regular seasons.

Now, let this be understood: RTD is a remarkable writer. Bob and Rose is one of the best things I've ever seen on television; Casanova was a great deal of fun, and above all, Davies regenerated Doctor Who from oblivion. However. He tries to do too much with each episode, leaving loose ends and inconsistencies strewn everywhere. Paraphrasing the very words he gave Donna in the closing moments of The Runaway Bride (which, you may be surprised to learn, I liked), he needs someone to stop him. Or at least edit him.

Case in point: What's wrong with this picture? This is a man (okay, a regenerating-type alien) who has fallen many many feet from a diving spacecraft, through a glass dome, landing face down on a marble floor. This has resulted in a half dozen sores evenly distributed across his handsome mug and artfully torn shoulders on his suit. He has been able to struggle to his feet and aim a gun (let's not get into whether this incarnation of the Time Lord would use a gun) at a whole bunch of presumably able-to-regenerate Time Lords and each time he dramatically whirls to point it, he somehow needs to cock the pistol with a loud "click". Just before the mad and doomed Time Lord behind him drives the quintet of power-hungry and melodramatic Time Lords back into the hell of the Time War (again, let's not get into the utter ridiculousness and repetitiveness of Gallifrey closing in on Earth), the Doctor spots his mother (RTD has confirmed this). When the one who "will knock four times" is revealed to be Wilf (which wasn't that much of a surprise to me), the Doctor has recovered sufficiently from the shock of seeing his long-lost mother pushed into Hell by the Master to spend a few minutes wailing about his own demise at the expense of Wilf's life.

That said, I enjoyed myself for the most part. Even got a bit choked up during the long goodbyes. (Elder daughter watched the finale for the first time by herself at 3am in front of the computer and reports that she wept copiously.) However, I'm ready for Matt Smith now, and even more ready for Steven Moffat.

Now. Where was I? (Geez. Maybe somebody needs to stop me...)

Ten So-Called Christmas "Letters": Well, twelve actually, because one person sent me her Christmas newsletters from the past three years, presumably because she's only got around to completing them this year and thinks I want to actually read them. Four years ago, she sent me four years' worth. I write this in the full confidence that she will never read this nor hear of this: No one's life is that interesting. (And yes, I realize this is an ironic statement, coming from a blogger.)

On the up-side, we got fewer newsletters than usual because everyone wants to save on stamps and so are sending mass email mailings of their newsletters which are easily deleted. I repeat these immortal words of wisdom on the subject from cartoonist Sandra Boyton: "If you, too, are contemplating writing fiction for a hostile public..."

Nine Bags of Chocolate: Sent as separate gifts to all four of us. Yet somehow, I consumed more than my share. I plead Purdy's.

Eight Deli Shifts: Elder daughter graduated from babysitting to working at our local supermarket this fall. Although she got four days off (Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the third and fourth days of Christmas), she actually had to ask us to turn off CBC Radio's Christmas music on Christmas morning because she has been Musak'ed into the ground. Retailers crank up the Christmas-related fare even before Remembrance Day and her place of work kept playing "Last Christmas" by George Michaels over and over and over...

Seven Ways of Using an IPod: My big Christmas surprise from my family this year, meant to mitigate some of the 4½ hours (minimum) I spend on OC Transpo each day. I was stunned. (So was Resident Fan Boy, who was convinced Demeter would let the cat out of the bag -- never involve her in the planning of surprise parties.) As I'm dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, I'm slowly figuring out how to work this thing. So far, I can watch videos on it, use it as a camcorder, listen to several CD's either as albums or in shuffle, listen to CBC Radio Two (much better signal than my Walkman), tell time, use it as a pedometer, and record memos to myself. When it unplugs the toilet, I'll be really impressed.

Six Pounds Gained: I suspect this may have something to do with the nine bags of chocolate. And the egg nog. And the mince tarts. And the taking Demeter out to lunch. And the extremely large bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. And...

♪Five Tourtières♫: We tripled the recipe because elder daughter wanted to do these for her French presentation. Five is too many, even when two go to school and one goes to the office Christmas Eve party.

Four Christmas Carols: In addition to Alistair Sim and Mr Magoo (neither of which we would be without), the Ottawa theatre community (and beyond) offered several versions of Dicken's best-known novella. We took in the National Arts Centre English Theatre's version starring Stephen Ouimette (the ghost in Slings and Arrows, if you're familiar with that gem) which featured narrative devices similar to the RSC's 1980's version of Nicholas Nickleby, along with some fabulous singing. Demeter thought it was amazing. Less amazing was The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Town Women's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of A Christmas Carol
at the Gladstone Theatre. The acting (and quite possibly the writing) wasn't quite up to it. What can we say? Comedy is hard.

Three Bags of Popcorn: We also saw three movies. We took in the HD "live" version of the Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker
which is actually quite wonderful. We took younger daughter to see the latest Disney flick The Princess and the Frog which returns to "traditional animation" to re-tell the fairy tale in an oddly desegregated New Orleans of the 1920s. However, as far as younger daughter was concerned, it was a cartoon; there was jazz music; what's not to like? Finally, our New Year's Day film this year was Young Victoria. The only issues I really had with it were a) the film-makers' need to bloody up Prince Albert in the assassination attempt on his wife (yes, he did fling himself over her; no, he didn't get shot, but apparently that wasn't dramatic or cinematic enough); and b) that gosh-awful pop song playing under the closing credits. I've included the link, but really, only if you're curious. Oh yes, and Prince Albert didn't attend Victoria's coronation. (I've been reading Elizabeth Longford's biography of Victoria. Could you tell?)

Two Days of Freezing Rain:As pretty as freezing rain is, it is a pain in the butt, and I'll take a -35 wind chill over freezing rain any time. Okay, not in May.

One Christmas a Year: Which should be enough, shouldn't it? I always thought so, until younger daughter's challenges became apparent. Oh darling. If I could keep Christmas the year round, you know I would. All we can do is try to keep the Christmas spirit burning feebly into this cold new year, especially in the face of distressing news coming from places like Haiti. That is my wish for her, and for you.