Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Partial End of the Decade 

Not to be one of those guys, but I think we're generally pushing this whole "end of the decade" thing too much (isn't 2020 still the same decade as 2011?) This is especially true when Spotify tells you this is your music of the last decade, when you've only been paying for the service since 2015. I'm not sure why we're so interested in this kind of year/decade end round up thing but here we are at the end of the year. All the clocks and calendars are set to roll over and I guess everyone feels it's an opportunity to press the reset button. So if you have a button you want pushed, push it now.

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Everything is Special 


Snow is extra special at this special time of year.

Everything is so special at this time of year. Light snowfall on a sunny morning is pretty, not worrying. The twinkly shop lights and window displays in the dim afternoon light seems extra lovely. The darkest and longest night of the year isn’t a day of dread but of Solstice celebration. Coffee is sold with peppermint, chocolate and whipped cream, which is special. When it’s cold enough for the ice rinks to open, it’s so special to see crowds of people circling in a small rink.

Even laundry. I did Christmas laundry this morning and it was so special! There was a momentary streak of sun which lit the tiniest crystalline flakes of snow in the air. Very special. Cleaning is special when you’re tidying up the house to prepare for visitors. Why can’t I keep the house this tidy all year long? Because the rest of the year isn’t special, that’s why. What is dreary every other time of year is less dreary at this time of year. Cooking a big meal with all of the special ingredients is especially special. Eating, something we do every day of our lives (if you’re lucky) is super special when it’s a special meal downed with a special drink. Doing the dishes after a special meal doesn’t seem special until you realize your head is bopping to the special music of this special time of year.

This time of year is so special that people will nearly ruin themselves to spend quality time with the special people in their lives. They will take special care to get to the airport early to catch the special flight with the extra special price. Or they will drive for hours through dangerous weather just to get to that special feeling of being surrounded by loved ones.

This year I did something super special. I took out the not-so-special part of Christmas and simply stayed home. I didn’t just “stay at home”, I stayed at home, in the house on the couch. Of course, I did eventually leave the house and see people I know in friendly environs but on Christmas Day itself, I was alone. I was alone with the TV shows I loved, the music I loved, the books, movies and food I loved. Via technology I saw family face-to-face with only a pane of glass and thousands of kilometres between us. Alexander Graham Bell would’ve wept. It was lovely. It was not lonely. Now I’m not saying I would do this every year nor would I recommend it to those who require familial support. I might be unique or this year may be unique but I am rolling around in my solitude the way a mountain dog rolls in fluffy snow. I’m watching beloved movies. I’m reading on the couch which leads to napping on the couch. I’m eating chocolate, liquorice, cake, chips and clementines. I’m wearing what I call “house jamas” (not really pyjamas per say, but light loose and shabby clothing nonetheless) and loving it. My health hasn’t been super this year (an ongoing skin condition that would have made Job an atheist) and travelling like this would have been my end. Rather than fight line-ups, security checks, other travellers, weather, fate and lastly sitting in this skin I’m in on airplanes and in airports, I’d rather be left at home to my own devices. Sometimes to appreciate what makes this time of year special, you may have to sacrifice some of what makes it special to preserve its specialness.

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Words I've Learned Recently 


Apricate

To bask in the sun
Blunderbuss
A short, muzzle-loading shoulder weapon, usually a flintlock, with a wide smooth bore flared at the muzzle to a maximum width of about 4 inches (10 centimetres).

Ardency

adj. 1. Expressing or characterized by warmth of feeling; passionate: an ardent lover. 2. Displaying or characterized by strong enthusiasm or devotion; fervent: "an impassioned age, so ardent and serious in its pursuit of art".

Begum

A Muslim woman of high rank.
(Begum) the title of a married Muslim woman, equivalent to Mrs.

Faffing

Spending time in ineffectual activity: we can’t faff around forever. Noun: an unusual amount of ineffectual activity: There was the usual faff getting back onboard the plane.

Quiddities

The inherent nature or essence of someone or something; a distinctive feature, peculiarities: his quirks and quiddities.

Fen

A low and marshy or frequently flooded area of land: a native species of fens and damp meadows

Naphtha

A flammable oil containing various hydrocarbons, obtained by the dry distillation of organic substances such as coal, shale, or petroleum.

Quiddities

The inherent nature or essence of someone or something; a distinctive feature, peculiarities: his quirks and quiddities.

Thrum

A continuous rhythmic humming sound: the steady thrum of rain on the windows.

Tor

A hill or rocky peak

Zarf

a holder, usually of ornamental metal, for a coffee cup without a handle.



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Friday, December 27, 2019

Seen in November… 


Still from film Akira. Image from The Verge

I can't believe it's almost the end of December and I'm just posting this now. Oddly, it feels like I've been re-watching a lot of old stuff lately. Comfortable stuff. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps it's just the time of year when we like to look back with a filter of nostalgia that casts a colour over everything we do. This list itself also has some old stuff on it. Maybe some of the new stuff will be the old nostalgic stuff of my future.


A very famous image from a very famous movie. Image from The Movie Db

Psycho

Classic Hitch. I had intended a whole “fright fest” for Halloween but meh… scary movies, like Christmas movies, play year round now. The story should be well known at this point. A secretary played by Vivian Leigh, is having an affair with a married man when she decides stealing $40,000 from her employer might be the answer to her problems. She hightails it out of town without much of a plan and runs into bad weather on the highway so she pulls over to the only motel in sight, the Bates Motel. There she meets young Norman Bates who we think may be under the heel of his demanding mother only to discover there’s more to this classic Freudian thriller than we know. This classic still holds up despite the plot and outcomes being part of popular culture. How many times have we seen the black humour of Bates disposing of his victim’s car being replayed in other films? Too many to count, though it’d be fun to try.

Hitchcock

Apparently, bio-pics are very difficult to make interesting. Not even the star power of Anthony Hopkins as Hitch, or the talent of Helen Mirren as his wife, Alma, can enliven this much. The film focuses on the year that Hitchcock, despite recent spectacular success can’t get his next project Psycho made by a studio so he mortgages his home and produces, writes and directs the film himself. Despite the dullness of the film, some intriguing points are raised, such as Hitchcock’s own creepy obsession with his blonde starlets (including a peep hole into Leigh’s change room) or Alma’s own frustration with the lack of credit she received as her husband’s collaborator. At one point when Hitchcock took ill and had to recover during filming, Alma took over direction and came up with one of the innovative overhead shots, of the private detective’s death on the stairs, that influenced directors for years afterward. Another fun fact from the film: Psycho was the first film to show a flushing toilet which defied Hollywood’s silly decency guidelines of the day.


Julie Christie as a grieving, unmoored mother. Image from The Movie Db

Don’t Look Now

This 1973 film scared the life out of me as a kid. I don’t even know how I would’ve seen it. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland play John and Laura, a couple whose young daughter has recently drowned. To help them put the incident behind them, they place their son in a private boarding school (um? Flash forward 20 years, “Yes, it was very traumatic that my overly protective parents sent me to a boarding school after my sister’s death.”) and move to Venice while John works on restoring a church. This is not the bustling sunny, touristy Venice, nor a flooded Venice, but a foggy, wintery Venice being empty of visitors, feels abandoned and decrepit. In other words, creepy. During their stay they encounter two English ladies, one of whom is psychic and claims to see their daughter in her little red raincoat. This being a Nicholas Roeg film it also has a slightly disturbed and famous sex scene between Sutherland and Christie which is edited to show them before, during and after their lovemaking (which is very reminiscent of how Steven Soderbergh edited a scene in Outta Sight). The overall effect of this film is a very 70s eeriness or weirdness rather than anything really scary.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Very Cheery Messmas to All 


I often think of Christmas as a very messy time of year. It's a hot mess from top to bottom. Gifts, travel, unpredictable weather, illness, expenses, deadlines and line-ups can all seem crushing. Yet this year I elected to not travel and "go it alone" despite causing my mother worry, I'm embracing the complete and utter relaxed chill of it all. Maybe it would be better to nickname this Christmas, Chillmas. I hope you get the Christmas and holiday you want and need.

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