When I was a teenager, I went through a period when I was addicted to murder mystery novels from the 1940's. Because these were readily available at used bookstores, I own quite a collection of them, including several by Charlotte Armstrong. One of these is The Unsuspected, written in 1945. It wasn't until sometime later that I realized there was a movie based on the novel, filmed in 1947 and starring Claude Rains, Audrey Totter, Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett, and Michael (Ted) North. I didn't get around to seeing the film until last year; while it's not my favourite film noir, it is definitely worth watching. One reason for this is the cinematography: this is a gorgeously shot movie, reminding me at times of The Naked City. It must be admitted that all of the acting isn't the best, especially that of Michael North. This was, I think, his first- and last- starring role in a film, and soon after this he left acting and became an agent. Audrey Totter as Althea is, however, delightfully catty and Claude Rains is amazing as Victor Grandison, the unsuspected one.
School is back in, and my sister who home schools her kids organized their first Finer Things Friday of the term. This time they were studying Claude Monet and trying to recreate some of his paintings. This is Monet's "Waterlilies":
And this is her nine-year-old's version of it:
And this is the seven-year-old's painting of it:
A favourite- Monet's "Bridge Over A Pond of Waterlilies":
The four-year-old's take on it:
They also did something called "Colour the Classics"... here they are colouring pictures of the 18th century composer Georg Philipp Telemann while listening to some of his harpsichord music. They apparently really liked it: my nine-year-old nephew said, "It sounds like music from some fantasy world!"
Here's a few minutes of one of Telemann's works, "Fantasia In G Minor":
Okay... with gritted teeth I return to this travesty of a movie. Having survived Mark's ghastly job interview, we now are forced to endure the grim spectacle of Joanne's and Maureen's engagement party at a country club, hosted- and no doubt paid for- by their respective parents. After the toast Maureen, who has been drinking like a fish, approaches one of the club's serving staff and puts the moves on her. Because this film would have us believe that Maureen is irresistible to everyone, both male and female, the server doesn't flee the scene and/or file a complaint. Instead she responds to the drunken lout, giggling and flirting. Personally, I find this slightly less believable than if aliens had suddenly materialized in the reception room and vapourized everyone with a death ray. Not that I fantasized about that happening, or anything... In any case, Joanne is aghast that her fiance of about five minutes is already on the make, and at their engagement party, no less. I can't see why she would be surprised by this, since Maureen has cheated on everyone she's been with including Joanne, and their relationship began by Maureen cheating on Mark. You'd think a lawyer would know the importance of precedents... oh yeah, I almost forgot: every person in this movie is an idiot. Joanne storms up to Maureen and demands that she behave herself... it's a little late for that, isn't it? Maureen sings "Take Me Or Leave Me," yet another song of moral inversion. In it, what I suggested sarcastically- that Maureen is irresistible to everyone- she states seriously. That's right, it's not her fault that she's a trollop: she's just been a sexual magnet to every man and woman in New York since she hit puberty. What else could she do but spread herself around as much as possible? It's a public service, really. She demands that Joanne accept her as she is: an amoral, unfaithful sex fiend. At the end of the scene, the two break up, unable to resolve their differences... Joanne thinks their relationship should be a private dinner for two, while Maureen thinks it should be a help yourself, all-you-can-eat buffet. It hardly needs to be said, but the movie sides with Maureen: Joanne is uptight and judgmental. Also, lest someone entertain a stray thought which is critical of Maureen, the camera swiftly pans to her mother, who is suggesting to a bemused Mark that perhaps now he and Maureen can get back together. We're invited to sneer at her parents who, though supportive of her decisions, obviously engage in wrong think: secretly they believe their daughter would be better off with a man... I guess Mark technically qualifies. But this is the real sin here, and not that Maureen is a dissolute floozy.
Now the losers return to the apartment, where they are shocked to find that all their belongings are back. I'm shocked, too... this is disappointing. Benny is also there, and says that he wants to make peace. He explains that he had dinner with Mimi, who convinced him to see things from their perspective, and he's offering them the apartment rent-free, courtesy of CyberArts. No one is grateful; they accuse Benny of doing this for good public relations, and Mark writes a cheque for the rent they owe, paid out of his advance from Buzzline. He says that they don't need Benny's charity, although this is exactly what they've been demanding since the start of the movie- a free ride. Let this be a lesson to you: never expect gratitude from a bunch of entitled jerks, no matter what you do for them. Also, how low was their rent, that he could pay it all out of his first advance? This just makes Roger and Mark seem even more pathetic and useless. Finally, this means that Mark has had the funds to pay off his debts for a while and simply chose not to do so. What a hero. Despite being treated with rudeness and contempt, Benny remains civil and congratulates Mark on his job before leaving. The man who Rent tells us is the villain of this movie is, by any measurable standards, a better person than any of its supposed "good guys". Although Roger denies it, he's obviously miffed that Mimi had dinner with Benny, her former boyfriend. Whoa, whoa, mister. Didn't we just go through this with Maureen and Joanne? I think it's been made pretty clear that it's not your place to judge, even if Mimi had decided to sleep with every man- and woman- between Tampa Bay, Florida and Thorne Bay, Alaska. Remember "love is love"... or maybe that doesn't count if the guy in question is a dirty capitalist. After all, you have to draw the line somewhere. Roger and Mimi don't break up, but Mimi is so upset by their tiff that she goes out, finds her dealer, and gets back on the drugs. This leads me to think she was just waiting for an excuse, however minor, to do so. We're treated to a montage of her buying, injecting, and Mark alternately trying to stop her and care for her. Eventually, when he finds her with her drug dealer yet again, he walks away. Well, I think we can all see who is responsible for her downward spiral; why couldn't Roger just accept her the way she was? It's not as though she has any personal agency, after all.
Interspersed with the scenes of Mimi's descent into addiction, we see Angel getting progressively sicker from AIDS. He is eventually hospitalized and dies. This surprised me at first, because so far the major theme of Rent has been 'no judgement/ no consequences' and here we have some rather realistic consequences for life choices- disease and death. Then I realized that every social justice narrative needs a victim/martyr, and that's what Angel is in Rent. Too good to live in this cold, hard world, Angel has been sacrificed on the altar of a materialistic and moralizing society. My take on this is, however, that someone who chose to live for today and indulge every whim and appetite discovered too late that nothing is free in life, and that every choice has consequences. Looking back over the last two paragraphs, I can see that I probably sound completely unsympathetic about Mimi's addiction and Angel's death. Well, yes and no; I admit that I wasn't particularly moved by the demise of Angel and by Mimi's suffering. The fact is, I find both of them unlikable on a personal level, so have no emotional attachment to their characters. On an impersonal level, I think it's tragic when people die at a young age, especially from causes which are completely preventable. Also, I know that addiction is a terrible thing, though I'm not a fan of calling it a disease because this insinuates that it is something that just happens involuntarily. It divorces the addicts from any personal responsibility and this can only hamper them from pulling themselves out of their addictions. Alright- that's all I can take for today. Next on the agenda will be Angel's funeral; it will come as no shock by this time that these self-absorbed twits manage to make it into a grievance-mongering farce.
Well, we had our first choir practice of the season last night and it seemed slightly weird to be singing Christmas music when it's 20 degrees Celsius outside. It was fun, though, and good to be back with all my choir buddies. Since this season falls within Canada's 150th birthday year, our director picked out pieces that were all composed and/or arranged by Canadians. One of these is Taladh Chriosda ("the Christ Child's Lullaby") a traditional Gaelic carol arranged by Canadian composer Mark Sirett. It's quite pretty, but I'm struggling with the pronunciation of the Gaelic, because none of the words seem to be pronounced the way they're spelled. This is particularly lowering for me: of Scottish descent, with a grandfather from Cape Breton who spoke Gaelic, and lover of all things Scottish; I've even visited the auld sod on two occasions- the second time spending three weeks hiking in the Highlands. And I'm struggling to sing a Gaelic lullaby. How embarrassing... I'm thinking that I should perhaps take an online Gaelic course, if I can find the time. In any case, this is the arrangement we're doing, except with mixed choir instead of all women:
Taladh Chriosda Mo ghaol mo gradg is m'edudail thu Gur m'iuntas ur is m'eibneas thu! Mo mhacan alainn, ceutach thu! Chan fhui fhein a bhi ad dhal. Mo ghaol an tsuil a sheallas tla! Mo ghaol an cridh tha liont le gradh! Ged is leaneabh thu gun chal Is lion mhor buidh tha ort tafas. Alleluia (Translation) My joy, my love, my pride you are! My new treasure, my pleasure you are! My lovely beautiful son, I am unworthy to bear you. Alleluia. Pure son of hope and light you are! Of love the heart and eye you are! Though you are but a tender baby I bow in adoration to you. Alleluia.
While working on my review of A Damsel In Distress last week, I used the expression "three sheets to the wind" in reference to Percy. Of course, this means 'extremely drunk' and I've always known that it was a nautical expression, but I found myself wondering what exactly it meant and where it originated. I had rather assumed that the "sheets" in question were the sails, but as it turns out, I was wrong. They are actually the ropes that hold the sails. It is a shortened form of an old English word sceatline or "sheet-line" which has the root word sceata, which means the lower part or corner of a sail.
If one line- sheet- comes loose, the ship will lose wind power. If two or three sheets are off and "in the wind," the sails will flap wildly and the ship may become hard to control. Sailors apparently started at sometime to use this as a scale to determine exactly how drunk someone was: one sheet to the wind is a little tipsy and three sheets to the wind means reeling and falling down drunk. The earliest written mention we have of this expression is in the journal of Rev. Francis Asbury. Asbury was a British Methodist who, in 1771, went to America and spent the next 45 years traveling about the frontier preaching. He kept a journal which was later published- along with his letters- in a three volume set. One entry from 1813 describes an incident in Kentucky:
You may notice that he wrote "in the wind" rather than "to the wind"... it appears that this was the original expression, which over time was changed slightly. Pierce Egan, an English journalist from around the same time period as Asbury, included this version of the expression in his journal Real Life In London in 1821, writing: "Old Wax and Bristles is about three sheets in the wind." The earliest use of the idiom in a novel that is known of is found in Scottish writer Catherine George Ward's 1824 book The Fisher's Daughter: "Wolf replenished his glass at the request of Mr. Blust, who, instead of being one sheet in the wind, was likely to get to three before his departure."
In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1883 novel Treasure Island, the character Long John Silver uses a slightly modified version of the expression: "Maybe you think we were all a sheet in the wind's eye. But I'll tell you I was sober." So this is the origin of the idiom "three sheets to the wind"; it's nautical in origin, but not quite the way I originally thought.
This image is taken from the book The Magician's Nephew, which is the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia. In it, thanks to the scheming of young Digory Kirke's criminally stupid Uncle Andrew (the titular magician) Digory and his friend Polly are sent to another world and inadvertently loose the mad Queen Jadis of Charn upon ours. This is an illustration of her caroming through the streets of London atop a hansom cab, causing destruction and disruption about the city, intent on becoming supreme ruler. Unfortunately for her, the phlegm of Londoners in 1900 was not so easily disturbed; they assume that she is drunk and/ or crazy and merely call for a bobby. To her enraged incredulity, her threats of death and total annihilation are met with jeers and mocking laughter. When I was a child, our family had quite an elderly set of The Chronicles of Narnia, which were ordered in the sequence in which they were written. This meant that it was sixth out of the seventh books. As it is actually a prequel to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, I remember having quite a few "aha!" moments as I realized who certain characters were, or would become, and how certain things came about in the previous books. In newer sets, the books are in Narnian chronological order, so The Magician's Nephew is now the first book in the series.