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.

1 comment:

bonnie-ann black said...

thanks for the comments on DW (i have emailed my comments separately to you)... and thanks for a lovely christmas countdown. we had our Little Christmas celebration on saturday and at midnight i sadly turned off the christmas tree and next day started to dismantle it. i have some wintery decorations to put up (though i've often wondered why we don't put up sort of springy decorations -- days are getting *longer* after all) to try and cheer me, and some blue and white lights to get me through robert burns day. and then onto whatever spring might bring.

your thoughs on christmas with demeter have made me feel rather blue as my mom is here visitng and has pretty much declared it will be the last time she visits the northeast after september. i haven't been down to the homestead for a few years for christmas since my nieces and nephews have all grown and gotten jobs, homes and sweethearts of their own... it's not quite the same for me. if i make it down one more year and my parents are in good health, the kids manage to come for christmas dinner, and all is well, i'll consider myself lucky.