I’ve just finished griping on the internet about two of the holidays for today that tic me off. Aside from January 7th being designated “I’m not going to take it anymore Day” (probably from the 1976 movie Network), which inspires this rant, it’s also called “Pass Gas” Day and “Old Rock Day”. These “holidays” described on too many holiday websites as glorifications of flatulence and the igneous and sedimentary*, really derive from today being the day after 12th Night aka Bean Day (from the tradition of the 12th night cake containing a bean, and the one who got it in his portion becoming Lord of Misrule. Calling it Bean Day sort of made sense. (It was when looking that up years ago that I discovered what a “Bean Feast”, mentioned in Veruca Salt’s song in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, meant.) What can one expect from a world in which people only know the 12 days of Christmas from the old drinking song, and think that they describe the days preceding December 25th, not following it. (Advent was a time of fasting and preparation!) OK, I’m a curmudgeon. I suppose it’s unfair of me to assume that just because I enjoy history the rest of the world knows it too. Let’s face it, there seems to be a rule making history in school boring, which has to be hell for history teachers who probably all love it. Ah well.
* Days of the Year even claims to correct the misconception that it was originally about classic Rock and Roll, “but is, in fact, the day that Geologists and amateur rock enthusiasts take it upon themselves to show their appreciation of all things fossilised and stony.” Argh!
Every morning when I get up, I am so grateful that I have heat, and running water: nice clear tasty not frozen water, piped directly inside, and enough that I can shower if I want, and it’s heated. OMG, that alone makes my life better than 99% of humans who’ve ever lived! I have too many clothes, and too much food, and spend too much time on the computer. Wow. History teaches me how lucky I am. My first world problems are annoying but not damaging (OK, some of them are, let’s not forget the diseases of civilization like heart attacks and diabetes).
Baby, it’scold outside! The cats go to the door and if we open it for them look at us like we’re crazy. “Fix it!” I’m sure they’re thinking. After the usual pre-Christmas thaw, we’re getting back into winter. We’ve had a couple of dustings of snow, a couple of inches or less each time, but it’s gotten quite chilly. John even puts on his shoes when he goes out for the mail or to take out the compost! The hi-low thermometer read negative 20 the other day, and sadly, I believe it, and even expect it was lower if you got away from the house much. Actually inside the house we feel it- when you open the cupboard doors, cold air falls out and puddles around your feet. I don’t think the wall behind them is properly insulated. I’ve pushed the thermostat up to 68º because being chilled feels like being shocky, and I worried that that might be hard on the kids who are still fighting depression. (The girls are in Vermont today getting accupunctured.) Thank goodness as well for the woodstove and featherbeds and fur as well. A good mixture of old and new technologies. Lot’s of hot tea, soup and we’ve taken to wearing cute hats indoors just because they help. And I’m enjoying my new uggs, and hope Willow will find me another pair for my birthday (affordable). She’s found a pink pair on ebay for herself. She considers them incredibly ugly, which they are (hence the name), but warm feet are wonderful. And so is finding them half price on ebay!
Writing the letter today is significantly slowed down because I’m still getting used to the ergonomic keyboard which we finally set up just before going to the Recycling center (so I’d feel comfortable throwing away the packaging. Frankly, there are still letters I habitually hit incorrectly. The b, for example, is on the left side, and I apparently am in the habit of hitting it with my right forefinger, so I get ns where my bs should be. I learned to “touch type” simply by doing it, so I expect that with use, I’ll pick up the appropriate habits- until them, I’m doing a lot of going back to go fix typos that come from putting my hands in the wrong place. Oh well. At this point I haven’t seen any major improvements, nut (but- see what I mean?) it’s probably not going to hurt. It’s a lot bigger too, which they say is good.
The major adventure of the week was going to the dump. After unloading the glass and cans at one end, I thought I spotted a space closer to the incinerator and started to move to it, but the van stalled and wouldn’t start again. It was late morning Saturday, so traffic into the dump was heavy. The fellow behind offered to help Willow push me to the side so everyone else could get in, but then they noticed fluid coming out the bottom. I called Triple A, and while I was on the phone with them, one of the workers from the dump who was wearing a fire department cap came over looking under the car and was on his cell phone as well, calling the fire department. He told me it was because I was an “environmental hazard” dripping gas so close to a stream. The stream to which he pointed was the gutter, and I really doubt it doesn’t get a lot of dripping from the many cars that go through- the pavement is covered with stains, still, no, one doesn’t want to dump a lot of fuel into the groundwater. When they came they put what looked like incontinence pads under the car to catch the drips, and spread kitty litter (and sprayed some purple stuff) on the spilled gas. Apparently it was a gas-line leak.
This was the start of a brief comedy of errors. Our old neighbor Rob Smith was there and offered us a ride. We’d been planning on going in the truck from AAA, but the fire department had also called another tow company, and canceled our call to AAA. I was trying to get in touch with Winkles, since if it was dripping, I didn’t want to have it contaminate Winkles yard for several days before they got there and found it Monday morning. So Willow took Rob’s offer, and went home where she would have her car and phone. (She hadn’t taken it for a quick trip to the dump. Sadly, we didn’t realize that my phone was almost out of charge until I called AAA.) The new truck driver got the van up on his truck, but wanted to take it to our place, since “there’s a storm coming in” (and it is a bitch to have to plow around a vehicle that won’t move on it’s own). I tried calling Winkle’s from the phone in the recycling center office, and not surprisingly got no answer. I called home but Kat said Willow had already left to pick me up. I told the tow guy that we should take it to his place since he at least knew that there was a leak and so would be able to put a catch basin under it. Sent him off and waited for Willow. And waited. Finally called home again (and worried Kat). Called Willow’s cell- she was waiting at Winkles. That finally settled, she came and picked me up. We stopped at the store to re-up supplies (“Storms coming! Must get milk and bread!“) we WERE out of them. Then we settled in to have a quiet weekend at home. (If you haven’t watched that 28 second clip, do! It’s funny to us old New Englanders who see the transplants go nuts every time there’s a snow warning!)
I made stew and biscuits, and at Willow’s request a cherry cobbler. After all, as she pointed out, we have plenty of Bakewell Creme at the moment. That recipe calls for baking for five minutes at 475º then turning it off and finishing baking as the oven cools down. But when I tried to turn the oven off, the buttons wouldn’t respond- the readout had series of 7s chasing each other across the window. (It’s more impressive looking when it’s moving.) I was concerned because I was trying to turn it off, and if it wasn’t going to respond, the answers are to either un plug it- (requiring us to pull the very hot oven out from the wall- and it is between two cabinets) or throw the kitchen breaker. Since we were wondering if the van was going to need replacing, and knew that the last time the appliance guy came out to check the malfunctioning thermostat he couldn’t even tell it was broken, I was depressed. Do you know that they don’t even make gas stoves with pilot lights any more? The newest gas stoves are so electronically dependent you can’t even use the burners during a power outage! Feh! And I’d spent days trying to find a stove where the surface- the grill over the burner is contiguous. Most are simple round things that raise the pot above the surface of the stove, if you try to balance a large (canning) pot on it, it tips. My stove has two grills that each cover half and meet in the middle so you can slide the pots over (balance a canning pan over two).
Luckily, the stove cooled down, (I finished the cobbler in the woodstove, but badly, because it doesn’t go up to 475º) and the appliance place is sending for a new “board” which I’m assuming is the electronic part. I’m remembering the replacement of something of the sort in the washer when the pantry froze last year…. (that reminds me, I should watch it carefully so it doesn’t go below freezing!) So that’s good. Still on stovetop cooking until it comes in, but I can deal with that. We’ve got a family tradition of Pizza night when I’m doing a show, but John has located the electric Pizza oven Dad had from when he was selling pizzas, so we’re good. (Tonight I’ll be talking about the problem of the way embracing how our thoughts create our reality comes off like “blaming the victim” too often. I sure hope someone calls in! It’s a good topic but I hate talking all by myself for an hour!)
Monday when we called the garage they’d fixed the van (it was a fuel line problem), they didn’t even have to drain the tank (I’d just filled it Friday), and while I will have to submit their bill to AAA for reimbursement for the tow, that should go through. So we’re feeling pretty good. Saturday evening it was looking like a pretty crappy way for the year to begin, but if all the problems we have are as easily fixable, it’s a pretty good pattern for the year.
Saturday was also fun for Kat who went to a Dr. Who party in Nashua with her friends Doug and Mackensie. They picked her up and dropped her off (sometime after midnight). We were eager to go upstairs to bed, but waited to see if they got away alright, and we did have to go out and give them a bit of a push. The predicted storm had come and there was a thick coating of ice on everything. When I put my hands on the front of their car and shoved, a huge sheet of ice, more than a centimeter thick, slid off. (after that, pushing was more effective). I love those kids!
The score for this week has been provided by Sondheim. On Friday Kat and I went to see Into the Woods. (John went with us but he watched Big Hero 6 instead.) I spent Thursday listening to the music after finding out that it was out, and I also listened over the weekend. We have the 2014 movie score, the original Broadway score from 1987, and the 2002 revival. One of the discs came with words, so I discovered that originally there had been two wolves- one of whom went after the three pigs, which probably accounts for the eating proclivities of Red Riding Hood. In the stage shows the wolf is played by the prince, which makes a point of how predatory the princes are. I think we all recognize that, even without the double roles. Frankly, I think this is one of the greatest musical shows of all time, probably because of what you can do with fairy tales, they’re so archetypal.
Cinderella explores the issue of the hard choice between home where everything was wrong, versus at the ball, where although everything was wonderful, she wasn’t able to be herself, and what she really wanted was to know what she wanted. Red learns “although scary is exciting, nice is different than good”. Jack learns ambition; the baker’s wife gets educated (disillusioned) about royalty and romance, she goes from wanting to be virtuous, but learns to compromise. (I was VERY disappointed that they left out the line “the ends justify the beans” in the movie.) The witch and Cinderella’s mother (and Jack’s) show how parents can screw up their kids without meaning to; the baker has to deal with his conflicts about fatherhood. I also wish they’d left in his father (the mysterious old man) in the movie. The witch had issues with her mother too. The show has a lot to say about relationships between parents and children. But then fairy tales are about growing up, and that’s about learning to start making your own decisions without your parents, but building on their teachings. I think a main point is how many mistakes we make because we think we’re alone, and how remembering that we’re part of a bigger interactive world helps us make decisions. The whole structure is how all the stories are interwoven with each other. Another big point is the traditional “Be careful what you wish for” issue. One of the final choruses goes: “Careful the wish you make: wishes are children, careful the path they take, wishes come true, not free.” That one is pretty powerful. Wishes don’t come free. “Careful the spell you cast, not just on children. Sometime the spell may last, past what you can see, and turn back on you. Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell. Children will listen.” Children seem not to listen, but they do learn from their parents. Another is “People make mistakes, Mothers, Fathers, Everyone makes mistakes, honor their mistakes”. I think “the woods” are a metaphor for the scary parts of life, that sometimes you have to decide to deal with what you’re afraid of in order to get what you want. “Everything you learn there will help when you return there.” Maybe I’ve gone on too long, but I will heartily recommend it to anyone. I was worried that Disney would have messed it up, bowdlerized it too much, but while they did change it some, it’s got a lot of it’s power still. They did take out the reprise of the Princes Agony song. It explains how they are “always in thrall most to anything ‘almost’ or something asleep “, “tasks unachievable, mountains un-scaleable, if it’s conceivable but unavailable,… what unbearable bliss”. These guys are brought up to go for the impossible “I was brought up to be charming, not sincere.” (We agree that it must have been horrible to be the governess to these two bozos.) But the Agony song in the movie with Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen is worth the price of the ticket all by itself! Wonderful film!
Yesterday was Avalon’s birthday, and Willow took her out for sushi. Apparently there’s a sushi place that has a half price sushi for lunch special in Milford. I thought they’d had to go to Nashua. I watched Bianca so they could go, since she’d had to come home from school. (It’s hard to be a single parent who works outside the home!) While I watched her I worked on a new “thneed” (what I’m calling the loose, knit loop that can be a hat/ neck or face warmer/ scarf/ muff. Mostly it’s to keep my hands busy when I’m not doing something else. And use up tail ends of yarn. I think it came out pretty well, my first one was made by my grandmother with rainbow yarn, and I still remember it fondly.
It’s beginning to look like I’m not going to get the tree down today or the holly dinner ware switched out for the snowflake dinnerware, if not tonight, tomorrow.
Yesterday I finished reading The Martian, it was really good. The most “straight science fiction” book I’ve read recently, but it was so well written I had a hard time putting it down. It certainly raised the bar for whatever books I read for the rest of the year! The characters were compelling, especially Mark Watney, the poor protagonist who got left behind on Mars, and had to survive on his wits and sense of humor. Apparently the writer is a space geek, which would explain why the characters are so similar to stories I’ve read about the guys at NASA. Read this book, whether you like SF or not, it’s funny, exciting like a mystery, just a what you want in a book. And apparently the science works (like I’d know). I continue reading The Heathen School, and Hercules my Shipmate, by Robert Graves. I WILL go back and re-read his Greek Myths. I love the way he points out how the different versions of the myths come from misinterpretations and the filters people have on them. I also noticed that I like to look forward to the next step. I have started using stickies as bookmarks (they don’t fall out as much) and like to put it at the next chapter when I start reading. So I looked at my life to see if there are other ways I look to the next step and found that I do that sort of thing in almost everything I do- I’m not sure what it means or if it’s useful information, but there’s one bit of information. Meanwhile, while cooking I re-watched Jason and the Argonauts (a made-for-TV miniseries with Frank Langela, Derek Javoni, and Dennis Hopper. Now that one DID play fast and loose with the basic facts of the story! (I did like that Medea said “no” to Zeus, though. I prefer happy endings.)
I started thinking about the great fantasy films that have been such a part of my life, and I think I’ll be re-watching them when I’m working. I’ve started with Time Bandits, Willow, and the Last Unicorn, there are so many: The Princess Bride, Dragon Slayer, Krull, Ladyhawke, Legend, Labyrinth, Pan’s Labyrinth, Stardust, Inkheart, Wizards, the Never Ending Story, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, the Hobbit, the 10th Kingdom, Voyage of the Unicorn, The Narnia, LoTR, Harry Potter, Robin Hood, Hellboy movies,… The fantasy, science fiction, horror lines blur, I’d call Van Helsing and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Mummy, John Carter of Mars, and the Brothers Grimm as fantasy movies, also Ever After, & Snow White, Shrek; clearly Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan & Willy Wonka, (Return to Oz, Hook) are fantasy (if not “modern myth”- it can be easily argued that Oz, Wonderland, and Neverland are our modern mythologies, as shown by the number of interpretations that have been done of them, whether Tolkien and Rowlings worlds will do the same in another century remains to be seen), so Percy Jackson, the Haryhausen movies like Clash of the Titans, Troy, and maybe the Pirates of the Caribbean, Rise of the Guardians, Wizard of Earthsea, Rats of NIMH, and the Adventures of Baron Munchausen…. These are the movies that I grew up on and formed my world-view. These are my people, my roots.
“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” ― G.K. Chesterton