Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Lonely Gate

Something I saw on a walk a few mornings ago - a gate who has lost his fence. If you've seen his fence, please tell her that her gate is lonely and misses her. Tell the fence that the gate is sorry.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


[Possible-Spoiler alert]

After having heard an interview by my favorite interviewer in the world, Terry Gross of Fresh Air, I had to see this movie. I don't, for the most part, watch movies. And, it is odd that I would choose to see a movie about lesbian love. (I'm of the gender that does not have ovaries.) I am, however, quite impressionable and Terry and the people she interviewed (Todd Haynes, the director, and Phyllis Nagy, the screenplay writer) made it seem so fascinating with their stories about the making of the movie, the novel that it was based on (The Price of Salt, originally) and the author of that novel. It was irresistible, even. I thought about the movie constantly before I saw it. I carried it around in my heart for days, like an amulet.

Cate Blanchett is incredible. She is not a classic beauty. Her eyes seem to close from the bottom up. Her cheekbones are pronounced and her mouth always seems like she's about to cry – not in a pouty French way, but in a way that kept me on edge. Is she going to smile? Is she going to laugh? Is she going to cry? She played the part of Carol Aird to the point that I believe this is what she's really like – a severe, intelligent, determined (wealthy) housewife and mother in the 1950's who is an agent of her own destiny and perfectly capable of making her own life given the resources available to women in 1950's United States. In scenes involving men she is 100% in control of the situation (at least in appearances). She has grace and composure that people naturally respond to. With Therese Belivet she is always more focussed. But, she also lets her guard down so that Therese sees emotions and insecurities that men would not be privy to.

I don't know that I've seen Rooney Mara before. She plays Therese, a timid yet competent young woman in New York City who falls in love with Carol, a customer she sees at the department store where she works. She reminds me very much of the character Am̩lie in the movie by the same name. Her dark hair and timid personality are reminiscent of that character. Therese knows she wants to be a photographer, but it takes some prodding from others to convince her to pursue it. She's subservient in the roll of a department store clerk in a rather abusive environment and she loves to hang out with the guys. She's at an age where she can, and does, accept whatever adventures life throws at her. So, falling in love with a another woman, while it may not be what she expected, she is predisposed to go along with it, without resistance. She does, however, intercede meekly in destiny. For example, when Carol Рaccidentally or not Рleaves her gloves on the display counter Therese mails them to her using the address from the order she placed for her. From there Carol invites her to lunch.

There were a couple of scenes that stuck out to me. In one, Therese's boyfriend is walking her home. He has declared that he loves her and wants to marry her, and as they walk she talks about her photography. When she says she is thinking about putting together a portfolio, he abruptly changes the subject to their trip to Europe (which he's paying for.) He is a 1950's man and her world is supposed to revolve around him. She can have her little hobbies, but he's there to keep priorities straight. Compare that to the scene in which a friend gets her a job at the newspaper where he works, almost insisting that she pursue photography. Also, compare it to a scene in which Carol buys her a nice camera.

In another scene early in the movie Carol is brushing her daughter's dark hair in front of a vanity mirror and teaching her to count by counting the brush strokes. Later, in a motel, Therese is sitting in front of a vanity mirror and her dark hair is so like Carol's 4-year-old daughter that the similarities in the scenes cannot be an accident. Carol is much older than Therese, and sophisticated. Carol has experience and Therese is learning her way in this different world.

The cinematography in the movie is incredible. I don't even know where to begin to analyze that because I know nothing about the art. But, I can say that it is captivating, it is beautiful and it makes me happy that there are people making movies like this, (as opposed to blockbuster films.) If you didn't speak English I would still recommend seeing the movie, and without subtitles or dubbing (*shudders*). It would still be a captivating movie, and I'm not certain how much you'd miss without understanding the dialogue. (I wouldn't recommend turning the sound off and watching, because the ambient noise is very much a part of the experience.)

Somebody heard me talking about the movie and asked if she should go see it. That's a tricky one to answer, but my thought is that if you find yourself asking that question, then yes, you should see it. As for everybody else... well, it is not a blockbuster movie, it is not action-packed, it's more or less an artsy movie. But, it is such a good movie that I couldn't stop thinking about it for days after I saw it. The passion is still there when I think about it even a week later.

So, do consider seeing the movie, either at the theater or at home. Terry Gross didn't let me down on this one. It is amazing.

Thank you for reading. Do come back.


e A r n i e

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Spiral Bound Rant

So, spiral bound notebooks. If the spiral is on top, then you can push the paper up and continue writing on the surface of the tablet. If the spiral is on the side, then your hand is off the tablet when you write on the last few lines of the page. The thicker the notebook, the more noticeable this is.

I like to write; I write mostly every day. I prefer top bound notebooks. I tried to buy one yesterday and the only one I could find was $6 for 70 pages, whereas a similar notebook that was side bound was $2. I used to be able to buy one brand that I liked, that had decent paper at a reasonable price. But, yesterday I could not find it. Apparently, it wasn't popular enough to keep it in stock.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Home Is a Black Hole of Need

This last couple of weeks have been different in the Cat House because it's Christmas vacation and Nameless doesn't work his day job, therefore he doesn't set his alarm clock. When I get to the kitchen in the morning to make my coffee I am faced with a Very Distressed and Neglected Clarice, who vocalizes her opinion of Christmas break and how the lack of alarm clocks is affecting her life. Without the alarm, she doesn't know when it's time to sit on top of Nameless so that he can pet her, and this throws her entire schedule off. Heartbroken, she is barely able to squeak out a pitiful meow, hoping beyond hope that somebody will find her in her loneliness, scoop her into their arms and rescue her from the despair that has engulfed her life. It takes quite a bit of cooing and cuddling to console a heartbroken, neglected cat. Butterbean is more relaxed about it and simply wants her face brushed, and Charlotte can't really be bothered to get down from the bed. (Getting down from that height is actually quite a bit of work for Charlotte.) As I make my coffee I feel eyes on me from the dining room. Richella is waiting to hear the clink of the ceramic cat dish indicating that it's time for gravy, while Clarice is more vocal about breakfast and an insistent Thump Thump Thump comes from Butterbean rubbing her face against her favorite brush on the kitchen table.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Christmas Sculpture

It's nearly Christmas. My younger brother, my older sister and I have had an online conversation going on for a couple of years now. In it we were talking recently about Christmas and family and how hectic and overwhelming the whole thing can be. (I think we all save quite a bit of money on therapists by talking with each other this way.) Naturally, we thought about our childhood, because Christmas is 90% about children, childhood and memories. It's easy to think about a simpler time, but the biggest difference between now and then is the fact that we were children then and we are now adults with the attendant responsibilities that we didn't comprehend before. Of eight siblings, the three of us were the only ones left living in our mother's home. There is an age gap between us for one thing. Also, the first five have a different father with whom some of them were living at that time, and some had already moved out to begin their own lives. So, it was just the three of us for a quite few years with our mother and father. And, as in so many stories of the simpler times, we were very, very poor.

One year our father told us that there wasn't enough money for a Christmas tree, and judging from the way he was talking it seemed that we might skip Christmas altogether. I remember listening to him talk – much the way in old Charlie Brown movies adults speech is represented by a "Whah-WHAH-whaaaaaah". My father had a way of lecturing that tended to be rather long-winded and the tiniest bit imperious, as if he were explaining something to a bunch of hammerheads who had been arguing with him for an hour, when actually we had yet to say a word. The gist of it was that Christmas is about materialism anyway, and there wasn't extra money, so we were going to have to do without a Christmas tree this year. We didn't dare ask about presents. What will be will be; there wasn't much we could do about it anyway, and asking would only make him angry. (In his defence, this can't have been an easy conversation to have with children who were between twelve and four years old.)

There wasn't much we could do about Santa Claus bringing us presents, but we could do something about the tree. We were no strangers to walking to the park. If we had nothing else, we had time on our hands and it was an age in which children weren't expected to remain indoors and/or in constant contact with their parents. So, the three of us bundled up against the cold and set off on foot for the park where we knew there were evergreen shrubs. Wind biting the skin on your face was a way of life in the Panhandle of Texas and crunching through snow was as fun as anything else we could have been doing. We laid out our plan all the way there. We would gather up limbs from the evergreen shrubs, take them back home and build our own tree. I imagined in my mind using baling wire, because this was before duct tape became a common household item, and baling wire was how you held things together then. (Those simpler times had some limitations.)

On the way back home my sister and I were chatting about how we could put it together. My little brother, almost five years younger than me and probably only four years old at the time, was just happy to be along and part of things. We were not exceptional children with regards to bickering; we certainly had our arguments and screaming matches. Our parents' favorite way to put a stop to the fighting was to make us sit on the sofa holding hands. (The giggling inevitably started in less than three minutes.) But, carrying Christmas Tree limbs through the cold, back to our home, we had our heads together and we just tossed around ideas about how to build a tree.

I don't remember exactly how many limbs we managed to get or who carried what, but we got home and showed our mother what we had brought and told her about our plan to make a Christmas tree, since we weren't going to be able to buy one this year. She looked at the limbs and considered. I still wasn't sure how all of it was going to be held together, but mothers are magical creatures who know everything, and, as if she had been expecting us to come home bearing evergreen boughs, she almost immediately began putting them together. She had a trunk that she kept fabric in (still keeps fabric in, as far as I know.) This she covered with a sheet and she laid the boughs across the trunk, creating a bush right there in our living room – not really a bush, but more than a stack of limbs. Truly, what she made was a sculpture with our found objects. She used one string of Christmas Tree lights, winding them through the limbs and we put a few baubles on it. Then we all stood back.

It was beautiful. It was the most beautiful Christmas Sculpture I could imagine, much better than a tree. And, we did it together, the three of us and our mother. Warming up indoors after walking through cold wind, our fingers tingled, but there was a more subtle feeling of security that came from being warm when the wind was still blowing outside and the windows were fogged. Having our Christmas Sculpture there in the living room and feeling all warm, happy and excited, we decided together that it didn't matter if we had presents. It didn't matter at all because we already had the most beautiful Christmas Sculpture ever. We couldn't wait to show our father when he got home.

Santa did come that year. Christmas morning brought gifts for the three of us and for our parents. I don't remember what Santa brought me that year, but the thing about Christmas gifts is that seeing them wrapped first thing in the morning is the most exciting part. Lately I've been trying not to think about the past at all, to look only ahead. But, talking with my brother and sister this year, I very much remember the Sculpture and the three of us taking it upon ourselves to make sure that we had a Christmas.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pagan Spring, by G.M. Malliet

Pagan SpringPagan Spring by G.M. Malliet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have begun reading the two series by G.M. Malliet: St. Just and Max Tudor, both set in England. It's a little strange that I should pick this book to write a review of, the third book in the second series of hers that I've read. But, the spirit catches you and you fall down. (Wait, that's a different book.)

I love mystery novels. I've read all of the Agatha Christie books I could get my hands on. I have thought about it and I believe that there are three aspects that I love: Characters, plot and the puzzle. In that order. I know a lot of mystery readers try to figure out whodunit before the end. I won't say that I don't do this, but it has never been the main attraction for me.

So, Pagan Spring, the third book in the Max Tudor series. We have an ex-spy (Max Tudor) who has decided to become an Anglican priest and ends up in a delightful village called Nether Monkslip. (I am always a sucker for delightful villages.) The first book in the series, Wicked Autumn, did a wonderful job of introducing the main characters in the village. So, when in Pagan Spring I read a tiny snippet about Lily Iverson, I was already familiar with her as a person from having read Wicked Autumn. This made me happy, made me feel a bit like an insider. With Max you don't get a James Bond sort of feeling. He's not brooding or arrogant. Along the same lines, he's not a cocky Poirot. Max is real, has very real feelings of self-doubt, regrets and love. It's convenient for him (usually) that he is a beautiful man who draws record attendance to his small St. Edwold's Parish church.

Not many of the people who live in the village are from the village, but they all seem to come together to make it whole. Gabby Crew is a relative newcomer and an intriguing character who adds an epistolary touch to the story with the emails she sends to a recipient – known only to her for most of the book. Even Suzanna Winship, who seems to be chomping at the bit for a bigger and better social life, has a place here, because what village doesn't have somebody who longs for just that? After three books in this series, I long to taste Elka Garth's pastries; I dream about them when I should be working. And, what village would be complete without a witch? Except that Awena Owens isn't a witch, she just has a new-age/quasi-pagan approach to life, love and spirituality. I feel that the "Writers' Square" adds to this feeling of family; it is a sort of embodiment of the sentiment. How else to describe people who come together to get on each others' nerves and defend each other to their dying breath?

I found myself trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together in my head, to figure it all out before the ending chapter revealed all. I had this desire much more in Pagan Spring than in any other of the Malliet books that I've read. It started with the opening - the Prologue. I had to go back and read it several times, trying to tease from it a clue and/or its place in the overall book. I had to reread several parts of the book, trying to pick up on the stray sentence that I had overlooked, the phrase in the dinner scene that could tip me off.

Rereading these parts was not a burden. The prose is beautiful here. Some of it I have been tempted to transcribe onto a canvas and embellish with other images and found pieces to make a literary collage. Malliet has placed me off the beaten path, in a tucked away village in South West England. I feel that I know these people. When I finally did finish reading it, I had to sit for a couple of days and ponder the story before reading anything else. Some books are that way; you have to savour them for a little bit before moving on.


View all my reviews

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alejandra Almuelle

A more complete exploration into the artist herself is warranted, but I haven't had the opportunity to interview her yet. I have known Alejandra Almuelle for years and I've watched her art grow. Her truly fascinating personality is reflected in her work, as she explores subjects that interest her. And, in her life she never stops exploring – exploring her own life, the world around her, traveling and people. Her mind seems always to be working, and when I see her it's as if I've stepped into whatever she's contemplating at that particular moment.

I haven't been able to figure out if the emotional response that I get from looking at her work is what she intends. I always feel that it has a dreamlike quality. It's not a pleasant, sugarplums-dancing-through-my-head kind of dream, but the kind of dream that leaves me wondering – later, when I think about and try to understand them – what my mind was doing.

Here are some pictures that I've taken recently. I encourage you to visit her on Facebook. As far as I know, she doesn't have any other web presence at the moment. www.facebook.com/alejandra.almuelle