Thursday, December 31, 2020

Once in a Life 

2020 has been
The worst of times
The best of times
But mostly maybe the time of times

We wring our hands
While they wring our necks
For counting coins from government cheques
And banging pots from our decks

Upon grieving the dead
Our gums bleed into bread
Made from sour dough starters and salt of tears
It feels like it’s been a year of years

There’s no joy for hoi polloi
And it seems there are only memes
For evil doers and fomenting brewers
For finger pointers and casket joiners

There’s pitter patter
Next year will be better
Within our homes we hoard plenty of stuff
Yet once in a life is plenty enough

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Seen in November 

On the road again, McGregor and Boorman in The Long Way Up

Hey, isn't it late to be talking about what you saw in November? Yes. That is true but it was a busy month full of pandemics and American elections and any other excuse I can make up. Here's what I saw. Here's what I have to say about it.

The Long Way Up
Apple TV+
A continuation of Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s motorcycling adventures. In this series they ride from the southern tip of South America to Los Angeles with a small crew filming them along the way. The difference this time is they are using and evangelizing electric vehicles. McGregor and Boorman are riding two prototype Harley-Davidson touring motorcycles while their producers are following in two prototype Rivian electric trucks. There are more than a few challenges enroute but for the most part this is just a fun travel adventure at a time when most of us are commandeering our couches rather than being kings of the road.

Fargo S02
The second season of this anthology series lives up to the quality of its cinematic parent from which the show was spawned. The original Coen brothers film continues to act as a type of spirit guide to the series. Season two is set at the end of the 70s when a big time Kansas City mob wants to move in on the profitable but small time family-run Gerhard trucking and criminal operation. These events coincide with the youngest Gerhard brother’s disappearance and a beautician’s attempt to cover a hit-and-run accident. The season is also a sort of prequel to season one, which was a nice surprise and a satisfying endnote to a satisfying season.

Connery and Hedren in Marnie. Image via The Movie Db.
Sean Connery plays Mark, a wealthy man who becomes fascinated with a woman named Marnie, played by Tippi Hedren, after she steals from his family business. He marries her and then attempts to cure her of her psychological problems through rape. After that triumph of masculine intuition he saves her from a weirdly failed attempt at suicide. If that sounds rough, I’m afraid to tell you, it is also pretty accurate. Marnie is a woman scarred by her past and can see a future no further than stealing and moving on. Yet, her new husband is determined to unravel her past to discover why she is so averse to sexual abuse. OK, I’m being facetious, but it is a weird and uncomfortable film to watch now and I’m sure it wasn’t that much easier to watch when Alfred Hitchcock made it in 1954. What I find interesting is how eager Hitchcock is to dig deeply into some shallow pop psychology of a difficult subject but isn’t the least bit interested in his own fascination with blonde hair starlets and their waves of peroxide swirls.

Billi and family in The Farewell. Image via The Movie Db.
The Farewell
Amazon Prime
This is the amazing story of family and tradition that is both joyful, celebratory and bittersweet. Awkafina plays, Billi, a young Asian American woman living both the in the US where she grew up and the world of her fairly conservative Chinese family. When the family discovers their beloved matron, Billi’s grandmother, is seriously ill with cancer, they invent a ruse, a family wedding, to visit her as their last goodbye without telling her how sick she is. Many traditional and conservative cultures believe in this practice, by the way. It’s more common than you may think to intentionally withhold information about a serious illness particularly from an elderly family member, presumably so that they may live out their remaining days without worry. Billi is torn between telling her grandmother the truth and respecting her family’s wishes. Many more relationship quandaries within the family are exposed by this dilemma but it’s in seeing these difficulties we see the value of family. As they say, the hard stuff is hard, but it’s what makes us who we are.

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Like the Ones I Used to Know 

I’m passed the age of dreaming of snow for Christmas or presents under the tree or chocolates in a sock (OK, if I find a sock full of chocolates, it would probably cheer me up. C’mon… chocolate!) but I’ll never be passed the age of missing family. So many people are lamenting not being able to be with family for Christmas this year but I’m sure a few are more than happy not to deal with the stress of travel, the expense and stress of gift giving or the inevitable drunken Uncle Phil with a less than modern view of race relations and gender fluidity (“Fluids?! Don’t mention fluids at the dinner table!”)

Last year, I voluntarily removed all the stress of the holidays by staying at home alone. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day entirely alone. In my solitude I slept, ate, watched TV and movies, snacked and napped my way into a state of bliss. Of course, this was possibly one of the loveliest holidays ever because I was still able to see friends, visit galleries and I wasn’t really missing family as I had spent a lovely summer vacation with them when Newfoundland is at its best (“When summer spreads her hand” as the Ode to Newfoundland says).

This year is different. I won’t be spending the holidays alone, but I won’t be with family either. Now, almost a year and half since seeing family, including my ailing mother, and there is a bitter tang to this pandemic pill. (Pill? Is there a pill?! No, Uncle Phil, go back to sleep.) We can never seemingly get what we truly desire, unless you live in a Hallmark Christmas movie, which is to have everyone we love be together at the same place, at the same time, and still have control of the television remote. So pardon my nostalgia, back to a time when I was so small that my world was so small that everyone I loved fit on a single couch and could squeeze into a single photo. My world is bigger now but I still want that feeling. Hopefully, a slice of marzipan covered pound cake, a chocolate (or two), an old tune and some familiar voices will do just that.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Join Us and Be Alone Together 

As the rest of Ontario joins Toronto in the post Boxing Day lockdown, I would just like to assure them that everything is going to be alright. In fact, life may not really be that different at all. We're all used to being unemployed, stuck at home, going nowhere by now, right? A little while ago I went into the office to retrieve some equipment and the lockdown was a lot more evident in an emtpy office building. Here's a clip of what it was like.

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