Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Molly Bawn, Film Critic

I'm not much of a movie buff. With the OC away, there are days I don't even turn on the television. But our local movie rental joint keeps wooing me, with phone messages to say they haven't seen me in a while, and they miss me, and if I come in soon they'll have a free rental for me. So, as a big- hearted gesture [wouldn't want them pining away], I went to see what was available last weekend.

Usually the new releases are wiped out. Usually I get in there and suffer instant "deer -in -the headlights" syndrome. Can't recall anything I've read, good, bad, or indifferent, about any of the films. Usually I walk out in desperation with duds, or nothing at all. Not this time though.

I got the last copy on the shelf of The Departed. I was vaguely aware that it was in the running for best Picture at the Oscars. And I got The Illusionist, just because it sounded interesting.


They won't be calling me to judge the Oscars any time soon. I was appalled to hear that The Departed won best picture. Boo. Hiss. It was horrible. Even if it did have a good story, as my son said. How can you pay attention to the story when you're gasping at the brutality, when people are getting their heads blown off, and you can't hear the dialogue for the gunfire and the cursing?

We get this kind of movie because it's supposedly what the American Public wants. Count me out as a member of the AP then. How can we hope to achieve world peace when violence is our favourite form of entertainment? How can we expect young people to sound civilised when cursing is so glorified? Call me a cantankerous old prune if you like, but I find it dismally depressing, and instead of taking a bow, Martin Scorsese should be ashamed of himself, and slink off into a corner.

The Illusionist, on the other hand, was the best few hours entertainment I've had in ages. I was mesmerised from start to finish. The king's English instead of cursing . Some violence, but so well woven into the story that it didn't make you leap out of your chair in horror. And such a clever, unexpected twist at the end! Add to all that, superb acting, beautiful music, stunning costumes and a little romance. Sigh. At least someone out there is still making movies for us old fashioned types.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Partial Place Setting ---On Hwy 19

After a particularly bad week recently, I was driving down our local main thoroughfare, en route to the in-laws for the daily visit. Minding my own business, observing the speed limit, watching the road. But for all the watching, I never saw it. Just suddenly heard a loud "Bang!" Momentary panic! Was that ME? A quick glance in my rear view mirror revealed nothing unusual . Nothing behind me had burst into flames. Other drivers seemed unconcerned. The universe seemed to be unfolding according to plan.

I slowed and made the turn into the filling station. My tank was low. Filled it up. Paid. Adjusted my mileage meter. And started her up again. Oh-Oh. Now what? Something was definitely amiss. Heart in mouth, I got out to have a look. But sometimes you just know. Even when you're as mechanically clueless as I. And sure enough, the tire on the back right side was looking pathetically soft, well on it's way to flat-as-a-pancake. Groan.

Sat back in and gingerly moved the car to the side. Tried to take some deep breaths and gather my few remaining, scattered wits. Life is such a bully. Let's kick her while she's down. And keep kicking. Thank God for AAA and cell phones. The OC may not be here, but he left some capable sitters on call. Endured the thousand questions from the AAA lady, including [my favourite!]---"Are you calling from a cell phone or your house phone?" Tempted to answer "Oh yes. I'm just relaxing here in my easy chair. Nothing interesting on the telly. Just finished the last chocolate in the box. Calling AAA just for grins seemed like as good a way as any to alleviate my boredom." But I didn't. I knew which side my bread was buttered on. This woman had my life in her hands. I didn't want to give her any reason to make it even more unpleasant. So I was excruciatingly polite, and bit back anything that might have been construed as sarcasm.

In less than twenty minutes a tow truck arrived and a cheerful young man removed the offending tire and mounted the spare, and I was on my way. To the garage. Where the cause of the flat was discovered. The mechanic showed me a glint of metal. Morbid curiousity. I asked if he could pull it out to see what it was, since they were telling me it had caused enough damage that I'd need a new tire. He got some pliers and pulled. One inch, two inches, three inches, four inches. At four and a half inches it was finally out. The handle of a piece of sturdy cutlery. A tablespoon maybe, or a fork. Must have fallen off the back of a redneckmobile. Wish they'd keep their *#!#!%! cutlery in their kitchens!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Scrotum ist Verboten

Somewhere in these United States there is a group of school librarians who don't have enough to worry about. So, they have decided to worry about this: the word "scrotum" in a book aimed at the 9-12 year old crowd. Because? Because, dontcha know, that is a scandalous word, and the youth of the country should be shielded from it.

I myself have never been scandalised by this particular word. In my opinion, it is a mildly comical word for a definitely comical body part. A body part I'm glad I do not have. I mean, have you seen one lately? Proof positive that God has a sense of humour. No scrotum envy here. I'm sure it has an important function for that segment of the population who were born with one. I wonder if they know they're supposed to be ashamed of it? Mental pictures forming of a group of tight-lipped librarians wagging their fingers at the male half of the population, and saying , all together now, "shame on you guys!" Then turning their eyes heavenwards and wagging those same fingers at God and saying "and shame on You too!" These librarians do not think that 9-12 year old children should be allowed to read a book that mentions such a scandalous body part. That, in the book, belongs to a dog.

For those of you still in the dark, I am referring to the book "The Higher Power of Lucky" by Susan Patron, which was voted, by a more rational segment of the population, obviously, best children's book published last year.

My dictionary defines scrotum as "the external pouch that in most mammals contains the testes." As I said before, glad I don't have one. But I don't hold it against the unfortunates who do.

Certainly wouldn't wish for them to get bitten thereon by a rattlesnake, which is how the word comes into discussion in the first place.

Certainly wouldn't prevent 9-12 year olds of my acquaintance from reading this book based on the fact that it mentions this word.

Certainly wouldn't be getting my knickers in a twist over it.

If they're so desperate for a life,I have one that's up for grabs. Call me. We can negotiate.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Alphabet Meme

Isabelle tagged me for this a few days ago, so, jumping right in.....

Available/single? No, married thirty seven years this summer. The OC's comment? "Seems like a lifetime!" He's not much for the gushing....

Best friend? First I'd have to define "best" friend. I'd say it was someone with whom you are totally at ease, and who unconditionally accepts you, warts, smelly feet, paranoia and all. I have several dear friends from all the places we've lived, including here. But my best friend, hands down, is my sister. The OC is always in awe of how much she and I talk, and talk and talk, when we're together....

Cake or pie? My daughter's Brown Bag Apple Pie. It's actually sealed inside a paper bag as it bakes! Best ever. Followed closely by French Silk and Chocolate Pecan.

Drink of Choice? Tea, preferably Barry's, with milk and sugar please.

Essential item I use every day? Electric tea kettle. Car.

Favourite color? Blues and greens, especially together. I also like lavender and related shades....BUT! Once, when we lived in Belgium, I had a good friend, Julia. We used to meet once a week and explore different parts of the city. One day we strayed into the red light district, and somehow it came up, that in her country, Bulgaria, purple is the colour for prostitutes! So, when in Bulgaria, do not wear purple, unless of course, you're looking for some action.....

Gummy bears or worms? Neither. I'll have a heath bar or some spearmint mentos, thank you.

Hometown? Limerick, Ireland.

Indulgence? Soaking in a warm bath while reading a book or doing sudoku.

January or February? February. Sweater weather. Best time of the year in Florida.

Kids and their names? Five. They probably wouldn't want me putting them out here.

  • Liz is the oldest, no secret there, since she uses her name on her blog. We, her family, are probably the only people she knows who still call her Elizabeth. It was my grandmother's name, and is my middle name . I always thought it would have been much more satisfactory if they'd given me that as my first name. She also answers to the name of a ferocious striped animal, generally found in a zoo. Even though she is very feminine and dainty, back in infancy she had a fearsome roar.
  • If you rooted around in the British royal family, you'd find our oldest son's name.
  • Second son was named after the OC. He wanted his own identity though, so, in his teens, choose the other end of the name [it's a long one] and goes by that, for short. Which makes him sound like a Russian space station.
  • When our California Girl was born she had tiny little ears, pink and soft, folded in against her head like flower petals. Her name sounds like a flower.
  • And last, but not least [he's the tallest], our youngest son has a name like a Russian tzar.

Life is incomplete without? The OC, the human hot water bottle.

Marriage date? 22 nd. August, 1970.

Number of siblings? Two. A brother and a sister.

Oranges or apples? Apples. In pie, as is, applesauce on potato pancakes.....

Phobias or fears? None really, but I wouldn't like to be caught in an earthquake.That would freak me out for sure.

Quotes--favourite? How much time do we have? Because I couldn't possibly limit it to one ....Confucius say "Better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness." "Treat your friends like family, and your family like friends." "People will forget what you said, they'll forget what you did, but they'll never forget how you made them feel." "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you will help them to become what they are capable of being." And my all time favourite, Kahlil Gibran On Children

Reason to smile? Grandchildren. Favourite songs. Blog comments.

Season? Growing up?---Summer. Here?---Spring.

Tag people? Liz and Kelli.

Unknown fact about me? In my last year of high school I was school captain. My most important duty was the ringing of the clangy old bell--such fun to make so much noise and get away with it!

Vegetable you dislike? Eggplant. Yuk.

Worst habit? Where is the OC when you need him? I have a habit of burning food. Even as I was writing this, I paused to put some eggs on to boil, to make some egg salad, set the timer for five minutes, then came back to this. Totally missed the beep, and now the house stinks---of burned.boiled.eggs. Even I have trouble believing I could do this. Who burns boiled eggs? I'm sure there are more, and worse, but this is the one assailing my nostrils at the moment.

X-rays you've had? Chest, neck and dental; mri of wrists and ankles.

Your favourite food? Potatoes. How cliche is that? I love mashed potatoes, baked potatoes [with butter, no sour cream], potato pancakes, potato soup, pierogies, potato salad, croquettes----but small servings. I don't have a big appetite.

Zodiac sign? Gemini

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Music Hath Charms....

Friday night found me sitting, for the second time in one week, in a church. Faced with the choice of looking at the four walls for the evening, or going to a concert I'd read about in the local rag, I opted for the latter.

The musicians were three:

  • the pianist, a young man whose grandparents attend the church where the concert was held, which was probably the sole reason such accomplished performers found their way to our little rural Florida backwater;
  • the cello player, a young woman from Germany;
  • and the violinist, a young Asian-American woman.

Between them, they had impressive credentials, and had performed all over the world. I can look at the four walls any night of the week.

I have no pretentions about classical music. I either love it, or it makes me yawn. I have neither a trained nor an educated ear. The Radio Eireann Light Orchestra spilled regularly into our kitchen from the radio, when I was young, and the background music on many of the best Disney cartoons is classical. In our earnest, newly married quest for grownup culture, the OC and I bought records of all the popular composers. And who doesn't love Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops?

I do know that, without understanding why, classical music can go in through my garden variety ears and summon a sob from my soul; or, just as unexpectedly, fill me with wild exuberance.

And so it was, Friday night. I'm sure I did not fully appreciate the pieces they played. I know they played them excellently. But a live performance is as much a treat for the eyes as the ears. The constantly changing expression on the cellist's face, as she coaxed heavenly notes from her instrument; her shy smile as she looked out at the audience between pieces, and rapt concentration when the music started again; the graceful curve of the violinist's neck; the delicate and expert movements of her wrist; the pianist's effortlessly flying fingers; the sheer physical energy all three put into making the music...... Sigh. I was in the presence of angels. Talented, hardworking, dedicated and disciplined angels.

How many of us ever develop our talents to this level? Such perfection, such harmony, does not just happen. Our children tried a variety of instruments: french horn, accordian, trombone , saxophone, violin and cello. They all loved music, but music was not their passion.

And passion is what you need to achieve excellence. Passion, and maybe a little bit of deprivation. We are much too comfortable. Maybe we need sparser cupboards and harder chairs.

The nuns did not encourage passion, and warned us against having notions about ourselves, or getting too big for our britches. We were cautioned constantly against the sin of pride. Humility was the virtue to be cultivated. Ireland in the fifties was in tradition's stranglehold. Looking back, I think of all the things I could have been. I was a good student. I would love to have been an architect, but that was unheard of for a woman, and never even entered my head. I would like to have gone to art school. But that would have put me cheek by jowl with beatniks and teddy boys, artsy-fartsy fringe elements, definitely not to be encouraged. Journalism---did I even know the definition of that word? Better to stick with something traditional, something safe. Girls became teachers, nurses, secretaries, joined the civil service, became air hostesses for the national airline [although this, being new, was eyed with suspicion, as possibly bordering on the flighty], or worked in a bank. Inevitably, you'd marry and have children, and all that time and expense [they'd have you believe] would have been for naught.

The final piece was by Mendelssohn, cheerful and lively. The piano, the violin and the cello melded together in one glorious sound. The crowd rose to its feet. The musicians beamed and bowed. There was hootin' and hollerin' from the back [this is rural Florida, not Carnegie Hall!] As people milled about, I slipped out into the dark, and home, humming all the way.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Walk by the Gulf

life Has its momentsA doctor's appointment took me south today, and after being poked and prodded and declared sound, of body at least, I was free to go. Having come so far, it seemed a waste to just turn around and head home, so I didn't.

First, to a quilt shop. It's one of the nicer ones, and I felt like I'd stepped into the middle of a rainbow. Such beautiful, vibrant colors! Didn't need anything special, but did find, way at the back, a bin of clearance priced fat quarters at fifty cents each! AND there were even some pretty ones, not just rejects....

Came out into the blue and breezy sunshine, and spotted a leafy green lane, right across the street from the quilt shop, at the end of which lane the waters of the gulf glistened invitingly. I'm a sucker for leafy green lanes. Add some water, and how can I resist? I set off, on foot, down said leafy green lane to see what I would see. It wound along between the gulf and the big sprawling gardens of some lovely old houses. There were lazy swings in some, suspended from big gnarly, old Florida trees. A small dog yapped at me from a porch. The woman sitting on the porch with him smiled and waved.

"He's just saying hello," she called out.

I smiled and waved back.

On the gulf side of the path there were small docks with a variety of boats tied up to them. One little pier, in particular, caught my eye. Squadrons of gulls were standing on it , all facing into the brisk breeze. They looked so military. I wondered if their commander had issued the order "beaks south, gentlemen," and that was how they ended up, to a man, I mean bird, all facing in exactly the same direction.

As I retraced my steps towards the car, I stopped to talk to another woman who was weeding in her lovely garden, in front of her lovely house. I wondered if she knew why the birds all faced in the same direction? She believed they faced into the wind so as not to get their feathers ruffled. Sensible birds. I also like to do things in a way that won't get my feathers ruffled. In spite of my best efforts though, I often seem to ruffle other feathers.

As we chatted, in civilised fashion, my Inner Beachcomber was making a pain of herself inside my head.

"Go on, ask her! Ask her if you can move into a small room in her attic! Tell her you'll be no bother, she won't even know you're there! Then we can walk along by the water every day, and gaze out on it from our attic window every night. Go on, ask her!"

I managed to squelch the beachcomber, and making a last complimentary comment about the lady's lovely garden, I went on my way.

"Rats!" said the beachcomber. "You're no fun!"

And so we wended our way slowly homeward, stopping at this shop and that, and most importantly, the nice bakery along the way. The beachcomber sulked, but her spirits lifted when I promised that on the next trip to the doc, we'd bring more sensible shoes and go a little further, to a really nice beach and have a really long walk.