Tuesday, 25 October 2016

To all the people I'm not speaking to

I heard this song on the radio while I was in the shower this morning. It's by an American band named Dawes, because the band used to be called Simon Dawes. So there you go.

They're from Los Angeles, which is evident from the video for this song which, naturally, is about a year old, because I'm just that on top of things.

I could go on talking or I could stop
Wring out each memory til' I get every drop
Sift through the details of the others involved
The true crime would be thinking it's just one person's fault

Like an honest signature on a fake ID
Like the guilty conscience with the innocent plea
You can just ignore it, put it out of mind
But ain't it funny how the past won't ever let something lie

Let's make a list of all the things the world has put you through
Let's raise a glass to all the people you're not speaking to
I don't know what else you wanted me to say to you
Things happen, that's all they ever do

In a different time, on a different floor
I might mourn the loss of who I'm not anymore
So I'm driving up to Oakland for a good look back
And a few revisions to my plan of attack

I think I'll see Lily, see where she stands
I can't help how I feel, I don't think anyone can
Sometimes we're lovers, sometimes we're friends
Behold the magnetism between two dead ends

Let's make a list of all the things the world has put you through (we can qualify the spirit guides we listen to)
Let's raise a glass to all the people you're not speaking to (or why are moms compelled to bronze your baby shoes)
I don't know what else that you wanted me to say to you
Things happen, that's all they ever do

Monday, 24 October 2016

Multi-level journalling

Last October, I couldn't for the life of me remember what younger daughter had worn for Hallowe'en in 2006.

I've kept journals since I was ten - not particularly consistently, mind - and ever since 1990, in the aftermath of one of my "used years", I've done rundowns of individual years, which involves a quick précis of each month in a given year.

Recently, I got four years behind, but I'm stubborn, if nothing else, and spent the past spring and summer catching up.

Why do I do this?

Ira Progoff was the creator of the "Intensive Journal method" in 1966 and about twenty or thirty years ago, "Journal workshops" seemed to be all the rage.  I never attended one -- they're kinda expensive -- but we were going through a rather dreadful period in our lives, beginning with The Resident Fan Boy losing his mother and his job in the same week, a few months after we had taken on a mortgage.

I heard about Progoff from the Volunteer Coordinator at Victoria Hospice where I was myself a volunteer. I took any part-time job or contract I could muster, finished with my master's programme, then purchased the book, working through the exercises of dream recording, meditations, and micro/macro journalling.

Did it help?  Sort of.  It gave me a focus in the maelstrom of continually dashed hopes.  After nine months of agony, the RFB got a job with the federal government and our long inexorable path to Hades began.

But I can't blame Progoff for that.

To oversimplify the process, you don't really keep a linear sort of journal.  Your writing sessions become a sort of lens:  sometimes you write about the minutiae of the day; sometimes you skip waaaaaay back and look at a year, or sequence of years, looking for patterns.

The only Progroff practice I have really stuck with is my "yearly rundowns", which I'm not sure is even a Progoff practice, but it's based on those months of journalling his way.

Some years - the "used years" - are torture to write down.  I recently did a "decade rundown" of the years from 2001 to 2010, and was astonished at how much I'd forgotten, and how painful it was to remember some of it.  I have to wonder sometimes if I'm not simply re-injuring myself.

However,  I can't just let my life and my memories of the early lives of my children slip away into a blank, and that means the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. Lately, remembering that the  Progoff journalling  process involves several levels of journalling, I've been carting around between three to five journals:  one for daily "free writes", one for keeping track of my time, one for my genealogy scribblings, one for dreams, and, oh yes, a separate journal for the yearly rundowns.

It turns out that the "rundowns" are proving to be really handy way of figuring out when something happened.  On a prosaic note, the RFB recently wanted to know when we had the roof re-done, for the insurance records.

And younger daughter's 2006 Hallowe'en costume?  I hadn't written it in the rundown, nor had I written it in my regular journals, nor had I taken a photograph at the time or mentioned it in my correspondence.

It occurred to me, months later, that I could try asking her.  She's living on the spectrum and has severe memory issues, but not for everything.  She told me, clearly appalled that I'd forgotten, that she had been Peter Pan.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Avoiding the issue

You may have noticed that I haven't said anything about the American election.  It's not just because I'm Canadian.  It's also because what has been going on for the past few months has been as scary as all get-out.

One thing the American election has over other scary things such as ISIS, North Korea, and global warming:  there has been a helluva lot of satire.  In fact, the only way I've been able to bear finding out about what happened in each presidential debate is by tuning into John Oliver or Samantha Bee.

Or by searching out viral videos.

The following give pretty good synopses of the first and third debates.

For you Mary Poppins fans:

And you Weird Al Yankovic aficionados:

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm just going to dig a large hole and hide in it.  Will you come get me after November 8th?  (If Trump gets in, don't bother…)

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Hasty haiku

A couple of weeks ago, I was leaving the park with the Accent Snob, using the wooded path that leads past someone's fairy-lit backyard. I suddenly saw what seemed to be a tiny invisible blind being drawn to the ground just to the right of where my foot was striking the dirt. It took me a baffled second to realize that two maple seed-pods had helicoptered down at the exact same time, resulting in this unearthly illusion. Impossible to film or photograph of course -- not that easy to describe, either.

So I'm resorting to haiku.

Helicopter blades
Maple tree pair feathers down
Invisible blind

Nope. Still doesn't work.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Beautiful Scars

It is my habit to listen to the CBC Radio Two Morning show as I get up, and during this October, this song is the one that makes me stop what I'm doing.

I've posted about Blackie and the Rodeo Kings before and have explained that they're a kind of super-group, comprised of three highly-respected Canadian singer/songwriters:  Stephen Fearing, Tom Wilson, and Colin Lindon.  This is from a compilation of collaborations with male artists (hence the Kings and Kings - they did a Kings and Queens a few years back), and the collaborator in this case is Dallas Green aka City and Colour, joining in on Tom Wilson's haunting song based on a 2014 novel by Miriam Toews called All My Puny Sorrows,  loosely based on what led up to her sister's suicide.

(Coincidentally, Toews got a degree in journalism at University of King's College -- like elder daughter, though obviously about a quarter of a century earlier.)

About a year and a half ago, Wilson premiered the song on the CBC Radio show "q", with Toews listening.  You should listen, too.  It sounds like a completely different song. Wilson starts performing about four minutes in: 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Art appreciation

"I never understood the Group of Seven," sighs the barista at Planet Coffee.
"Until I travelled from Toronto to Ottawa in October."

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.