Thursday, January 30, 2014

LIght and fluffy

Yesterday's snow was so light and fluffy (2-1/2 inches or so, all before noon when the sun came out) one man said he cleared his driveway with his leaf blower!  Brushing it off my car was a snap. I think I might have huffed and puffed and blew it all away.  But the cold persists.  I really don't mind temperatures in the 20s when there is a blue sky. 

This is going to be a winter to remember, I think.  I'm hoping for  no snow the early part of the second week of February as I'm planning a launch party for the anthology from the Academy of Livelong Learning called Reflections. I've worked as chairman of a committee since last June. As of Monday of this week the final version is at the printer. Until one is in my position, the myriad details that go into such a very simple publication are unknown.  I'm learning as I go.  This is my second year.  I've had a very helpful and thoughtful committee.  Some 50 people are represented in the book with prose, poetry and photography.  It's not professional quality, neither in production elements nor in material.  But it's good and mature and, I tend to think, the best one so far.  Last year I instituted a launch party  which was a success -- though it nearly wasn't because we had a snow storm which nearly set the delivery of the book back by 24 hours.  But the printer went out of his way to make it happened.  I'm hoping that this year we won't have a snow storm.  It's such an unpredictable winter I can hold hold my breath and hope.  More later about this subject.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cape Cinema, Dennis, Mass

The Cape Cinema, almost the only movie theatre I ever go to, is a landmark although you wouldn't know if from this dignified but fairly typical Cape Cod building.  I have gone Google-searching for a good photo of the interior but found only the small hint below.

Explanation:  The vaulted ceiling in this longer than wide theatre  as a little sense of the quonset hut but it is far different. The ceiling was painted by well know painter Rockwell Kent. I have never seen it in the brilliant colors in the photo because I've always been there when the lights are pre-movie low. But I have sat many times waiting for a movie and marveling at the painting of Greek gods and goddesses among stars and comets and other heavenly bodies on the ceiling. This is the largest indoor mural in the United States. I never get tired of looking up at it. The photo shows only about a tenth of the entire mural.

My Google search also told me that "Eric" who runs the theatre is actually a long time owner, a 15th generation Cape Codder -- descended from the Brewsters who arrived on the Mayflower. He shows art movies or the movies that are not going to make it in the big mall cineplexes. There is only one screen; the seats are chairs with canvas covers, there are home made cookies at the snack counter and mulled cider in the winter, as well as coffee and soft drinks and popcorn. 

Sometimes Erick shows special movies, usually documentaries but sometimes showings of films made by local film makers in a smaller theatre in the Cape Cod Art Museum which is next door and shares the parking lot.  I feel tremendously lucky to live a 20 minute drive from this theater. He also shows the simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera and from the National Theatre in London. To me this is an artistic treasure I would never have guessed I'd enjoy when I was thinking of moving to Cape Cod.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I went searching for these photos because of a recent post by Barbara whose post, Folkways Notebook I read regularly. You can find it in my sidebar.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Blizzard #2 for this winter

Snow blew beginning Tuesday afernoon, through yesterday until about 2:30. It was called a blizzard. I don't know the specific definition but, as a former upstate New York resident, to me it was just a lot of cold, blowing snow.  This morning there was no snow on my car -- it had all blown off. The lot had been plowed but the pile behind my car was barely 3 inches deep.  Not my idea of a blizzard.

However, a new Academy of Lifelong Learning semester starts next week and I realized I need a poem so I'm working on one.  This may or may not be the final version. I describe the last 48 hours using a self-conscious metaphor.  The photo taken last year actually if very much like this morning's dawn except the cars in the lot have snow on them.

 Unconventional War               

Yesterday the winter warriors, camouflaged
In chiffon veils of snowflakes and wind, nothing more,
sprite-like in gauzy white flying gowns advanced
Spinning, whirling, leaping, as they danced
Rushing randomly across the lawn. They left
Their tattered flounces in graceful drifts.
The artful army secretly seeded the battlefield
With its hidden weapon: freezing cold.

Dawn arrived today, rosy-fingers giving way
to glowing gold above and glittering silver below,
colorful peacemakers promising liberation
from the aftermath of Operation Ice Invasion.                            

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Small town restaurant on a slow Monday

M's husband is away on for a week so she suggested she and I and MJ meet for lunch at a local cafe.  I don't do this often.  The cliche of "ladies lunching" has never been a part of my life. The restaurant is airy and the food is a bit more imaginative than ordinary diner food.  Few people were there  and they chose tables separated from others. 

We know each other from the adult ed group so talked about the recent film series and related matters.  Then the talk turned to books and movies.  I believe we could have stayed for two weeks sharing our information about what we've seen recently, read, authors we know something about, what we hope to read and so on and on and on.   Because it was a slow Monday we were in no way taking up space needed by other customers; and because the other customers were across the room we didn't disturb them or they us.  It was an ideal situation. We were not in a hurry to go home; we had delicious lunches and more than enough coffee and tea. Such a break in the routine was really delightful.  This is what many think their "retirement" years will be like. We are all so involved in teaching, taking courses, our home life and grandchilren, and our other interests, this was a rare little midwinter break.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Six and a half movies in three days

On occasion I see two movies in a week, but that is rare.  This week the Academy for Lifelong Learning had a midwinter movie festival.  It was well planned and well attended. The first day three documentaries were shown. I had seen Gasland before and felt as angry and helpless and despairing as the first time as I watched how the natural gas companies are polluting the waterways, deep wells and probably aquifers of about a third of the United States and injecting carinogens without being called to task.  The movement was begun by Halliburton, lead by then CEO Cheney who saw to it that gas companies' "fraking" was  not subject to any EPA oversight at all. I can't say more. I am too upset just remembering this much and thinking of the probably thousands of people who are going to suffer cancer and other diseases because of the pollution. They will suffer, our healthcare system will be further burdened and the gas companies get richer and richer and tell us it's "the clean fuel". 

After that we had a  breather and watched September Issue, about Vogue magazine, especially about editor Anna Winter and her "assistant" Grace Coddington. I had seen it before too, but it was delightful to watch skinny Anna in her graceful print dresses and perfect makeup and Grace (once just a beautiful) without makeup, her red hair a firestorm around her face, mostly wearing the same black dress and squishy sandals.  A third documentary was shown which I had also seen and I was totally overcome after two movies.

The second day concentrated on Grapes of Wrath which I wrote about a couple of days ago,

The third day we saw three Australian movies beginning with the mysterious and beautifully photographed Picnic at Hanging Rock. The photo above is from it --it's a 1900 finishing school for young ladies. Three girls disappear along with a teacher on that picnic. A true story, true mystery never solved. Lightening the whole event, the after lunch movie was Babe, the pig who wanted to be a sheep dog. I had never seen it and was delighted to be taken into an animated animal morality play.  Finally the festival ended with Shine which I had seen and would see again and again for the performance of the Rach 3 (and other music). This is a story with many psychological layers. I become angry that a father can so (unwittingly) abuse a child and drive him really to psychosis.  But it's a deep and wonderful movie.

I'm movied out ... for a couple of weeks.  I don't know how other people can watch many movies a week. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

What a great splash in the world the book and then the movie made!  Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and cited ( 20 years later) as a primary reason for the Nobel Prize. The movie was a great hit a couple of years later.  Steinbeck could do no wrong.  He was for the poor people, the little man, etc.   Instead of concentrating on big business he wrung the hearts of late Depression Americans with his heroic family struggling for a better life when their Dust Bowl farm when kaput.

Frankly, by my generation (well, at least to me) Steinbeck cloyed with his sentimentality, his black and white, the good people struggling to get along. I have never read the novel and had not seen the movie until today. A good film -- yes. Of course. But SOOOO long and so sentimental with the big speeches from Ma Joad and then even longer and harder to bear, Tom's big siloquey at the end. 

We have come through another depression -- well, they call it a recession -- brought on by another Wall Street bubble. This seems timely to some decision makers at the college. We're very good at looking back and seeing the  insanity of plowing up the prairie. We would rather look back at that which has been (heroically?) overcome than look at the destruction of perhaps half the water supply in America by natural gas fracking. That is too close to now, and too many people use natural gas to heat or cook. 

Gasland, the documentary, was shown yesterday.  I saw it some time ago.  I have been horrified ever since. It fueled my hatred of Halliburton and especially of its past CEO, Dick Cheney. As with the Joads and most of the Okies, the fracking companies have taken advantage of poor people who are not sophisticated enough to understand that they have allowed these companies to poison them and their animals and to ruin the water supply of large percentages of America. Perhaps big agriculture learned some lessons from the Dust Bowl (but not many!!). Will thousands of people have to die prematurely of various kinds of cancers and other diseases before what is happening now is attacked? And will it be too late for the water supply?

It has not been a happy week, not at all.  Our three-day film fest ends tomorrow with a three more films, non-docuementary. It will be a relief. I hope. It's not that I don't want to know about the ugliness and the constancy of greed as the pervasive evil, but that the examples hurt so much.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis

Another black and white movie -- also an unsuccessful "quest".  Llewyn Davis is a folk singer in the the early 1960s. He is homeless and sleeps on various friends' couches. During a week in winter, nothing goes right, and his attitude doesn't help. He sings as well as anyone (and there's quite a bit of music) but there are a lot of anyones and he's lost in time and place and rootless.  He's responsible enough to care for a cat and to pay for an abortion of a girl who doesn't know if the baby is his or her husband's. He has the idea that he can make it as a singer and chases small chances, had misjudged a manager and seems mostly a lost soul.a 

This being a Coen Brothers movie (written, produced, directed) the dark, quirky story is at least told with an integrity that I didn't see in Nebraska. Here all the casting is spot on, from the various people whose houses he crashes in to the ride he gets to Chicago to the incidental people on the NY subway. The black comic lines are appropriate.  I left feeling neither up nor entirely down and reasonably convinced that not having a strong taste for folk music, either in the '60s or now, is a good choice on my part.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


At a gathering last night, cocktail conversation: talking with two other women one said she had recently read an article by a psychologist who defines adolescence as the period between 12 and 25 because recent brain studies show that the brain is not fully mature until that time (on average). Before 25, said the article, various parts of the brain grow rapidly accumulating many neurons in areas that are stimulated by education and all the life experience of young people.

At about 25 some of these areas actually shrink and mylin which is the tissue that connects various areas of the brain to one another grows rather rapidly so that sometime after the age of 25 the human brain becomes an integrated whole.  The second woman and I were surprised that the age was 25 and not something like 18 or even 20. And, of course, it seems brain studies redefine the activities of the brain every time a new book comes out.

However the other woman said. "Just think of all we did before we were 25.

I agreed, "Falling in love, getting married, having children."  We all nodded.

Said the woman, "I could have made such different decisions and my life would have been very different."

We all agreed.  Nodding and thinking of first marriages all ending in divorce. But then we said, and totally agreed, "But then I wouldn't have the children I have.  And they are wonderful people (all adults). I'd never wish them to not exist."

We were of a generation of women that married soon after college and immediately had children. Yes, we made decisions and choices then that now we know were ill informed, impulsive, hormone-driven, societally driven and sometimes just plain ignornat.  We only came into being who we are later. We had pain and caused pain because of our "adolescent" decisions.  But we learned much and the most tangible proof that it was not all a big, big mistake are the men and women (and the children they have had -- our grandchildren) who are fine people and a responsible members of their communities.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter Dandelion

A poem, in the public domain, recevied from the which sends me a poem every day -- with links to a grat many more.  This one was especially moving. 

George Marion McClellan was an education black man (1866-19036).  I'm very glad found his poem and shared it today -- the sunny, cold, but beautiful day after a two day blizzard filled the air with gusts of small snowflakes and spread a meringue topping over the lawn outside my window. That lawn sprouts these  unlikely dandelions every month of the year I've noticed.  Now when I see them I will think of McClellan's poem,

A January Dandelion
by George Marion McClellan

All Nashville is a chill. And everywhere 
Like desert sand, when the winds blow, 
There is each moment sifted through the air,
A powdered blast of January snow. 
O! thoughtless Dandelion, to be misled 
By a few warm days to leave thy natural bed, 
Was folly growth and blooming over soon. 
And yet, thou blasted yellow-coated gem, 
Full many a heart has but a common boon 
With thee, now freezing on thy slender stem. 
When the heart has bloomed by the touch of love's warm breath
Then left and chilling snow is sifted in, 
It still may beat but there is blast and death 
To all that blooming life that might have been.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Nebraska, the film

Bruce Dern is the perfect center of this movie as Woody, a partly demented old man who may have simply become the person he has always been. (I have a theory that that happens to many people who live long enough). He is counterweighted by Will Forte as his kind son David who finally gives in to the old man's belief that a Publisher's Clearning house "You have won $1,000,000" is a statment of fact, not the gimmack everyone else knows it is. Their road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska could be a straight shot on mostly straight highways  but that wouldn't be a movie ... and therein lie the problems.

The movie is in black and white, a heavy handed statement of the mental state and the dullness of the place. It's winter, the trees are bare, for all we know the skies are always overcast. The "filler" of the move is problemmatic for me.  Woody's wife is a rusty pitchfork of nasty comments spiced with constant sexual allusions. She has only one tender moment with her husband and is given good things to say about others only when it plays into an onscreen joke.  Woody's family in his former home town seem to me parodies of narrow, gullible, venal people with only rare moments of tenderness -- just enough to hint that Woody was actually a sweet guy much as David is, always willing to help others. Woody's two jobless nephews are ugly Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dees, as mean and stupid a picture of down and out Midwesterners as could possibly have been filmed. I was repulsed.

I am confused about what this filmmaker was trying to tell us. Is this what he thinks "fly over" land is like? It certainly looks authentic) although endless brown fields and blue skies would have been easier to look at. Does he think people are so utterly repressed and generally uninteresting?  Or did he have one wonderful actor to showcase and let the screen writer and casting director loose to come up with cartoons that would make the audience laugh now and then so they wouldn't be too pained at what old age might bring to those with failing memories, inchoate longings and no real sophistication?  I would like to say that the several movies that have come out in the last year and a half about older people are a good trend, but only the insightful The Last Quartet (not to be confused with The Quartet) has been a truly honest movie.