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ClaryMarch2015
Clarycat last night — she stays with me, playing, sitting, resting …

Dear friends and readers,

This was to have been a week where I began teaching again, resumed the dance fusion and core classes at the Jewish community Center, and went to another of the Washington Area Print group’s lectures. Snow and ice have cancelled out the first two, my own lack of alertness led to my car’s battery dying so I ordered a tow truck which took my Prius to the Toyota dealership for fixing, and tonight it’s looking like there will be more ice, snow and cancellations on the way. I’ll be lucky if I can pick my car up before Saturday. I discover I have a high tax bill this year so going to an accountant is no panacea there.

Small beer I know, my deep deep loneliness, all that Jim lost in comparison to skies filled with helicopters and bombs elsewhere, paramilitary police and so on. In news affecting large numbers of people: Very bad things to many threatened: loss of health care through the supreme court, yet worse war with Iran: if the elected mass murderer Israeli Prime Minister has his way he’ll kill & destroy with impunity some more. Is there a word bad enough for this criminal type (More’s “pest” sounds too trivialzing) seeking an aggressive war against the Iranian people? Have they not suffered enough? They are trying to build their country again. Hilary Clinton a bad choice for the president; Jackson Lear on identity politics. The college which provided Yvette with the happiest four years of her adult life thus far, Sweet Briar, has announced it will shut down — heart-breaking that. It is said to be ceasing operations before it reaches a bankrupt crisis so it can provide pensions and severance pay for its teachers, help students find other places, be responsible. But does it have to close? It is such a rare fine school for anyone, not quite unique as yet (as there are still some others) as just for women. But important victories too: Net Neutrality was affirmed by the FCC so this vast communication network will be preserved for all of us to reach one another, to find out information, to enjoy communication across time and space, as a utility, a lifeline.

On that note I’ve almost finished another Future Learn Course: Film-making: from Script to Screen, from Exeter University, in the UK. It’s been highly uneven but enormously helpful to me as I write my paper.

The first week dismaying: the people in charge were showing off who they were, and what they were going to tell us. There was some discussion of writing scripts — how you have to visualize — and sound design, but nothing developed. The talk and questions in the “learners'” discussion spaces, made me think about how I came to want to study (or make) films and suddenly remembered years of watching Channel 9 in NYC and the old films endlessly replaying and how I was deeply moved by The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara — especially two haunting moments: her up on the scaffold about to be hung, ethereal, beautiful, and him siting on the cathedral next to a gargoyle as the movie ends, weeping weeping and asking why no one can love him.

The second week was all I had hoped for — explanatory and for me transformative talk about the process of film-making as one moves from script to filming, what does the director do, Tony Grisoni and David Peace’s and Destiny Ekaragha’s films (about English Nigerian people, the careless spiteful murder of a Kurdistan young man in London, Kingsland) — I felt ashamed I had not gone to see the film about the young nun, Ida and the mini-series about Yorkshire, Red Riding, which Jim downloaded for me.

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From Red Riding Trilogy — films by men are often about troubled young men

The third week the guide was Mike Figgis who talked about camera work in a concrete real way; he showed clips from one of his popular films, Leaving Las Vegas, and talked about what drove and shaped his decisions for where he filmed, how he visualized, when added sound; and then a powerful movie he had made: The Mass of Man. A man is 3 minutes late to his job center and is told by this merciless woman that he will be stopped from getting any money for a month unless he signs a form; if he signs it he will still be stopped for 2 weeks. He missed his bus. It is clear that the job center has no jobs to give out. This reminded me of what I saw in all the places said to be open to help disabled people find jobs. They are useless and the employees there punish the disabled people in order to shut them up and keep them cowed lest these employees lost their jobs. What happens is an infuriated person comes in and starts to shoot people with painful darts — we were meant to understand and feel for the infuriated man and see the cruelty of the whole arrangement, its hypocrisies. Figgis had his favorite producer there and we learned how a producer works with a film-director — funding his project. How to try to control what you write by asking yourself how much time each page will take to film. We were to try to see the distance from the script to visualizing the film

The fourth week was the worst Future Learn week I’ve experienced, the guide prurient without an ability to articulate anything about his (awful) film. There were two interviews worth watching: David Morrissey about his experience of acting in a film recently (in Georgia) and Martin Scorsese on the reaction to a film about a serial killer that offended people deeply in the 1950s (but today alas might pass without comment, much less anything adverse), Peeping Tom. Some film-makers have little intellectual understanding of what they are doing; they can understand how a camera works and what angles they could to produce certain effects. Often the actors understand more of their art as an art and its value than anyone else — I see this during interviews.

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Wright concentrated on scenes of Meryl Streep Margaret Thatcher neither all powerful nor in dementia, but inbetween

Week 5 the guide, Justine Wright, articulate and insightful. She began as a person editing commercials; went on to documentaries (where the script is minimal making them very arduous to do as the amount of material gathered is often enormous) and recently features. She showed the script is a central prescriptive text everyone follows, as they went might alter, but kept to more or less generally as the plan of the shoot. She talked a lot about time and space in a movie and how you must zero in on specifics to tell a story. She showed clips from a film she had edited about Thatcher, the Iron Lady, where the question was how to show her needing to shop for breakfast things, shopping, then coming home, then eating. Lewis Arnold was next with a short Caroline about a girl compulsively reliving her grief over her father’s death in a car accident — I would not have understood it without his explanations, sheer cutting and editing of images and sequences.

Next week: sound and music, added on last. All for free.

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PytorKonchalovskyRussia1876to956PoetsWindow
Idyllic drawing: The Poet’s Window by Pytor Konchalovsky (Russian, 1875-1956) – again from a Net-friend, Camille, on face-book, to cheer herself and others

I work away on my paper due for the coming ASECS conference at LA (Screenplays and Shooting Scripts into Films), genuinely begun and read with understanding some new or old books (Maria Edgeworth’s The Absentee, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Chapter I) and others I was kidding myself I was managing (Philip Marsden’s Rising Ground on Cornwall); I’ve been mesmerized by movies by Victor Nunez, the older Poldark Series (the last 4 powerful episodes of the first season, 1975-76), watched yet more Downton Abbey, most precious of all good letters from and to friends, talk about art and politics and just anything and everything (visiting Godolphin House in Cornwall, large topiary cats) with acquaintances too on the Net, even spent time with my daughters, ate, slept, sat by my real sweet Clarycat and played with nudging pressing Ian. They seek companionship too.

On Marsden: What he’s exploring is why some people become mythic – and Cornwall has been one of these, the capacity of a place to create mythologies about them too. I just loved Wilkie Collins’s book on his time in Cornwall. It has to do with topography, with the distinctive space of the area, what it looks like and has enabled its history to be — and he had just gotten to the neolithic objects and stones and King Arthur when I left off. Cornwall is a place with many neolithic stones, and like elsewhere they are found in formations which suggest people moved them. Marsden meditates this too. Marsden shows how Cornwall can depress some people – not him, a friend who came with him. David Craig’s review in the LRB emphasizes Marsden’s use of previous writers from and on Cornwall from the 17th century on. This is an 18th century topic — as modern archealogy takes off then. I’ve read a couple of excellent books on Stonehenge and this review fits in there too — about theorizing these stones. Political geography can explain something of what happens in areas so “gifted” and returned to and written about — books and people who were there count too I should think as well as some literal history. Another great travel book of this type is Orphan Pamuk’s Istanbul — I’ve longed to go there and see the great sea by it.

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View of Estuary from Fowey and Bodinnick — I dipped into DuMaurier’s Enchanted Cornwall too

On Nunez: A Flash of Green, which may be watched whole through 5 YouTube sites. The 1980s film is about reporter who is partly seduced into operating as a mole on behalf of his friend, a corrupt politician, and destroying the individuals part of a movement to stop a corporation from turning a lake, woodlands into a development of expensive housing and malls. It’s the lack of sensationalism that is so striking.

I can see how Ruby in Paradise is an Austen adaptation: in comparison while deeply and truthfully seen, it is a simple coming of age story about a decent young girl, surrounded by mostly well-meaning people — in a rotten society (not explained how it got that way).

Ulee’s Gold (I rented a DVD from Netflix) — powerful and real. There is uplift towards the end; I see Nunez practices this for all his films I’ve seen thus far (including Gal Young’un, where a young man deludes an older woman into marrying him, mortifies her [“slack face”], takes her money, brings home a stupid sexy woman but she wins through threatening to kill him with a rifle, and the poor girl chooses to stay with her) The endings arenot tacked on and is believable. In Ulee’s Gold, what’s startling is the frank portrayal without any holding back of family relationships and especially drug addiction – without overdoing it (what Breaking Bad does about addiction, it’s too melodramatic, too crass awful).. There is a violent subplot where two of the grandfather’s (Peter Fonda)’s son’s buddies in crime threaten to and then come back to wrest a huge amount of money hidden away — they threaten to kill him, his daughter-in-law and grandchildren and they are rescued by a nurse across the way (who is becoming the grandfather’s half girl-friend by the end, she’s been divorced twice, no children). I can see how the story could have been presented so melodramatically and it’s not. Things emerge naturally — as every day life. This is like his other films. Beautiful shots of northern Florida and beekeeping.

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Peter Fonda and Vanessa Zima as grandfather and daughter from a typical scene in Ulee’s Gold

Miss Drake

A Chaise Lounge snow day

Remembering New Year’s Eve, 2013, our last:

Snow day by Chaise Lounge

Sylvia

JohnNashTheGardenUnderSnow1924
John Nash, Garden under Snow (1924)

Talk of all eternity?

    I think it sounds too vast
And overwhelming just for you and me,
    Two pagan lovers; we should be aghast
And shiver at its cold immensity
I’d rather be
    Back in our little past —
Transient, perhaps, but we
    Found it sweet …
     — Jan Anstruther (Mrs Miniver)

Dear friends and readers,

A new turn. I have an inexorable conflict on Mondays starting next week: I begin teaching my planned course, The Poldark Novels in Context at 1 pm. I hope also to go to the JCC for Dance Fusion at 8:30 to 9:45 am. Charlie’s one day at the Haven is Monday. So our at first weekly, then twice a month and now monthly meeting must come to an end. We exchanged email addresses a couple of months ago and will keep in contact this way, and at the end of 10 weeks the course will be over. But it’s almost a symbol. My neighbor who lives across the street and is a widow like me, her husband in his sixties a victim of this cancer plague (he died of pancreatic cancer) told me she feels like her past and future have been taken from her. Like so many people in the US she and he moved around a lot, they could make few ties except the ones she had originally as a girl and young woman in Germany, so her past was shared with him, and now he’s gone; the future they planned was for them together. He died 5 years ago. I’ve an idea like other widows she tells no one of this — but me or perhaps another sympathetic friend who can understand. Few want to acknowledge the widow’s reality (or the older divorcee).

I talked of this with Charlie. I feel my past has not been taken from me because Jim and I had such a rich intellectual life together and I carry it within me; I put out onto blogs all I remember of him; I am surrounded by the things we bought and made together. I can though see why my neighbor said what she did about her future. I have a much much diminished future. Money and troubled effort assembled a team to replace practical things Jim used to do. Mrs Thatcher was wrong: there is such a thing as society. Much I used to do is no longer fun, much I did was from his planning, his know-how, his driving. We would have gone to London for Trollope’s birthday and I would have, with him, tried to join in on Trollope Society events. He probably would have been planning this for months, and bought tickets for us to go to theater or other places too. Now none of this will occur. Ironically the activities I have available to me are the ones that kept me from him for a good deal of the time: time here on the Net with others; my reading, writing, watching movies. For me to go to LA in March is hard enough, and there’s the cost. Each day I make a small plan and follow it. I am doing things I would never have done had he lived — like teaching in these OLLIs. I need to go out and be with people, but doing this precludes say trying to write a book (not that I am keen on that any more at all) or say a series of essays for periodicals (I must be mad to go back to that); it’s more than the teaching itself is problematic for me. Charlie and I talked of how hard it is to make new friends at this age. A few friends I had thought would become closer moved off very quickly (months ago); a few (Net-friends) stayed; I now have two local friends I have met with for lunch, gone to a movie with, walk, but for the most part my life is that of a lone person with her books, films, cats and a few Net-friends.

Charlie and I will still keep in touch by email, if desired by phone, we can try to meet during the week on another day, and I can come again when the ten weeks are over.

Last week during one of the sieges of snow where everything was closed and the temperatures cause my skin to burn, not to omit black frozen ice-and-snow on roads, Charlie sent me the following sweet YouTube about a cat house, very cheering:

The cats make the house feel alive. I am become closer to my cats than ever. I feel they are there with me, and am alive to their ways of communicating with me. Ian, the boy, likes to keep two of his toys (a string toy, and a flat blue stuffed sock) in the back bathroom and will not tolerate my making the bathroom rugs neat. That is his spot to wrestle. He used to spend his morning under Jim and my bed; since Jim died he began to spend it amid Yvette’s shoes, in the back of her closet; now he lies down on the front living room couch with occasional trips to the grate. He has arrived chez lui . He is larger than Clarycat, and manifests a kangaroo-like spurt (from the back it looks so awkward) when he trots, ambles, hops, runs, skids, dances, plays with string, springs up to the heights of bookcases and tables about the house, watching and waiting for one of us to come home, sometimes jumps on poor Clarycat demanding play and wrestling with her …. she takes a bit, doesn’t mind when he licks her and will playbite back, but then growls (she’s had enough) and gets out from under. She’s doesn’t quite look kangaroo-like from behind because she’s slenderer … She spends her days near me, is right now clutched tight on my lap.

**********************

Julianne Moore won an Oscar for Best Actress for Still Alice, a movie which puts before the viewer a woman left alone whose illness takes from her her future, and her past. One of the friends I mentioned went with me to see it. She lives alone, aged nearly 60, and fears what will happen to her. She cried intensely twice as she watched. Unexpectedly I didn’t cry but I certainly saw this movie and the novel it’s based are about more than Alzheimer’s.

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Julianne Moore as a woman with early on-set Alzheimer’s

It is an unusually close and truthful depiction of deterioration. Yes she’s upper middle class, privileged, and has great doctors, but the film shows us that families are not this loving panacea. We see how Alice’s deterioration brings out real conflicts, and towards the end her husband goes off to another city because he’s still young and wants to further his career, and she gets in the way. He doesn’t exactly leave her, as one of her daughters comes to live with her. The curtain is brought down before the harrowing end which is pictured half-way through when Alice, still well enough, goes to visit a nursing home where elderly people who have lost their ability to take care of themselves are put. Julianne Moore’s performance was utterly believable.

It appears to be leaving the movie-houses soon (on hardly any screens, only twice a day, small auditoriums, small audiences in them), so this is a recommendation to hurry out. It is directed and written by the same two people — a good sign for the screenplay and independently produced — or you’d not have the ending it has. In comparison, The Theory of Everything was about Hawking’s wife’s romance and skidded along a distanced untenuous upbeat surface (some improbabilities stared you in the face). That The Imitation Game and Birdman won for screenplays show just how little any certain criteria are used for films.

I am following a Future Learn course on film-making (from Exeter this one), and the weeks are wildly disparate in quality. Two have been superb, and two awful — it seems the people making movies, have no idea how to judge the material they present; they take this supposed practical approach. It is pretended the people following are going to make movies, the way many many books on screenplays are based on the idea the reader is going to try to write a screenplay. I now see why: many of these people don’t have an intellectual understanding of what they are doing; they can understand how a camera works and what angles they could to produce certain effects. Often the actors understand more of their art as an art and its value than anyone else — I see this during interviews. Film studies scholars have little respect outside of their own circles; these movie-making people accept popular critics as a form of advertisement; when the critics are intelligent their work crosses over and is used by film scholars.

As to the Oscars ceremony, the whole thing now that I have paid some attention to it for the last two years (when Jim was alive he never did nor did I), most of it is absurd, from the attention paid to what the actresses wear, to gossip about the show. This year the talk about it included talk about the politics of some of the movies and speeches. These appeared to do no good if you look at who won the prizes for the most part (an exception to this is CitizenFour for best documentary, not that it was anywhere near as good as Laura Poitras’s first film). I gather at the core of all admiration this is envy — especially for the “after Oscars party.” People want to be included and inside exclusive coteries.

*********************

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Joan Rivers (undated)

I was surprised that I didn’t cry at Still Alice because I’ve been crying more easily. Indeed I worry a little about this as if I’m in public people will become uncomfortable if suddenly tears run down my face. Jim’s permanent absence, his non-existence are more real to me than ever — even if I have him in memories, artefacts, my daughters, the very way of quiet comfortable enough life his years of work with mine make possible to me. I should not be surprised at the denial of the reality of widows and widowers’ feelings by most people who have not experienced this loss, and how many who have are afraid to speak of it lest they offend or lose whatever connections or friends they have. It is not even that surprising to me anymore that books about widowhood end with an upbeat idea of the building a new life that genuinely replaces the old so the person no longer misses the old. I have experienced myself how very hard it is to get anyone to publish life-writing which does not end with an upbeat moral, an exemplary typology that the reader can gain (false often) hope from. It may be that were I to read the more academic writing on grief I would find that Kubler-Ross’s cant was recognized as such; through the thicket of jargon and distanced intimidating writing there might be a genuine engagement with human emotion at the loss of a beloved life partner. Here and there over this past two years I have seen poems acknowledge it, a couple of novels, a couple of memoirs. I’ve recorded these in this blog.

When Joan Rivers was widowed from the most painful kind of death, a spouse’s suicide, she quipped: “she scattered his ashes at Neiman Marcus, so she could visit 5 times a week …. ” There’s an insightful informative essay on her in this week’s New Yorker by Emily Nussbaum. Nussbaum sees Rivers as surviving by consciously buying into all the most outrageous norms of our society, the anti-feminist ones too. So at the Oscars she went around saying “Who are you wearing tonight?” Nussbaum sees her act as reinforcing what hurts many women badly; myself I never heard some of the attacks on other women Nussbaum cites or alludes to. I found her jokes genuinely funny: when a man wants anal intercourse, this gives you the chance to read or do some paper work, so don’t knock it. And you won’t get pregnant this way either. My blog-review of Rivers’s movie, A Piece of Work has been most of the most read (reblogged) and popular pieces I’ve ever written; there I see her as “activating her anger, sublimating it and reaching others where they live. And the way she confronts our cultural hypocrisies defies them and through her act, she mocks our false norms.:

Note on the table in the photo beside her all those pills. She is very young and vulnerable — this looks like her face before surgery. She lasted until 82 when she died at the hands of doctors in a hospital during an operation that should not have killed her. She was probably not expecting this, given all the operations she had voluntarily undergone.

Caroline gave her cat, Mitzi, a necessary operation, to remove cysts from one of her paws. Both her legs were shaved, the one with the cysts and one for an IV. The poor creature did not understand what was being done to her, was terrified probably, felt pain, and at first looked exhausted and in need of much affection and reassurance. After a couple of days, she perked up, and managed to get her neck cone off. After it was put back, she looks longing out the window (where it’s still freezing cold) because she is a cat who likes to go outdoors — basically to a small fenced-in garden at the back of Caroline’s house. The latest photo suggests recovery on the way. Her life is saved again (she is 14 and was in effect a rescue cat) and she can carry on too. What else is there?

Call this Mitzi gets all better:

EmpressMitzi
Mitzi when well — Empress before the operation

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Mitzi convalescing at home (Jim denied cancer patients were allowed to convalesce at Kaiser)

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Mitzi perking up; observing the snow and freezing rain?

Recovering
Mitzi recovering

Sylvia

ellenandjim:

On this snowed, and iced-in morning Yvette (Izzy) singing and playing on the piano.

Originally posted on We Need More Fruit:

I look kind of silly, I suppose, but I still like how the song came out.

View original

The best thing all those years was sleeping with him
side-by-side. Falling into peace, warmth.
I started in April ’68. I’d go
into his room, unheated but for that
smelly black box one fed shillings into.
There he’d be, fell asleep so easily.
I’d lie next to him, and fall asleep too.
Except for rare times, a few days, weeks,
that’s what I did each night for forty
six years. I occupy half a bed now.
(Prompted by Mandel’s “Sleeping in Half a Bed,” for which see below)

… it’s the loneliness … the lack of a person, a partner … Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark, from Graham’s Warleggan

Dear friends and readers,

Monday early morning at the Dance Fusion class: for the last three weeks we ended on this song and music, with a difference, we do not dance to it as performed by these exquisite musicians, The Piano Guys:

And so time passes.

Mid-morning back from Dance Fusion: Listening to Timothy West read aloud Framley Parsonage as I drive about. This is the 4th Barsetshire novel I’ve listened to in a row. I have to admit West is just inimitable. I haven’t been able to listen to Case in such a long while it may be I’m forgetting his exquisite control of tone (especially the sardonic and the gentle) but West seems beautifully suited for this book. It was David Shaw-Parker I was listening to for The Warden and while he was good, he was not quite as good Simon Vance in conveying nuances and depths of emotions (for Dr Thorne), and at moments S-P lost lines of ironic comedy (became too bland). West manages to imitate tones of real life in this novel. It seems to me ordered to write another Barsetshire book, knowing his career could be made or lost on this text, Trollope moved to do strongly and thoroughly what he does best — how it feels to be alive in everyday life. He slowly builds a picture of each character lovingly in this minute context as well as the map of the place. I find myself thinking were there a film adaptation that had this kind of conversation with voice-over remarks for a narrator, it would indeed never go off the air. The illustration below is by J.W. North, idyllic 1860s style, good for the outward ambiance of Gaskell’s novels too …

JWNorth2

I got “my” letter from the Folio Society offering to sell me one of a limited printing of DC (1980 copies) for $295. I would bring it up on the Trollope face-book page but I’m often all at sea there. I don’t know what is socially acceptable to say or not. In fact no one replied when I mentioned it, cowards all, shamed?: how money is the great measure of people and they dread admitting some costs comes hard. When a publisher prints a limited run, does that mean there will be no more printed just now? surely not for quite a while. That’s part of such an extortionist scheme.

The price gives me pause even though it’s a beautiful book, has a side book about it, took the individual doing it so many years, and so on. I know that it was hard to find a publisher (I would not have thought it would be but it was) for this new text by Trollope. I can buy it on the installment plan. At least make them wait for their money.

A friend replies:

I’m damned if I’ll pay GPB 175.00 plus GPB 27.50 delivery for what should be a $40-$50 book, no matter how elegant. The GPB 200 total is about as much as I paid for my total collection of 47 Trollopes.

I once spent $300 for a set of 6 volumes, an autobiography of an 18th century actress, the actual 18th century rare book. I put the first two volumes on the Net — scanned them in and annotated. I stopped because ECCO at that point put onto institutional databases a huge number of 18th century books printed in the UK including that one. Of course you have to belong to an institution to reach it, but the work was too much and I left the first two volumes there for public readers at any rate.
Except for that one I’ve never spent anything like this for a book buy.

I know that Prof Armanick did all he could to interest Broadview and other academic-style presses in this project but each time got nowhere. The truth is there is no good edition of Jane Austen’s letters – the one sold is bad, just take it from me — so these supposedly super-respected authors are not valued when it comes to anything in the money world it seems. My friend was suggested the Oxford paperbacks might pick this up eventually or quicker, say two years, The Trollope Society. And I saw it. John Letts told me (long ago) how the two publishing ventures are closely tied. I have some Folio Society editions of Trollope that I bought used — modern illustrations in them and have read the Trollope Society has a vested interest in this new text.

****************

Next morning, the 17th, around 9am:

I look out at the world from my eyes and wonder at their power. Here are my hands, there my body, and the pussycat snuggled into my shoulder.

It’s been about 8 inches of snow here in Alexandria, but since no one has plowed even a little I’ll never get the car out today. The weather not to go above 20. No sign of any movement either. JCC and Fed gov’t closed — the two places Izzy and I go to. The consensus in this area now is if we have snow and ice, do nothing, close everything, it costs less and we all get to stay home with our cats (or dogs or books … at our computers).

I write because just now man who lives in a super-architecturally built house (it looks like some glass place meant for a cliff only it’s surrounded by bushes and a brick wall) is walking through our blocks with his super-expensive snow plow plowing the sidewalks. what has come over him?

But Aaron, the friendly young black man from the low-cost housing on the side of the hill, is here again, come to the door, and offering to shovel the snow from my sidewalk, from stoop to all around the car, and then sweeping feathery remnants off the car. I have the usual $20 for him. I may agree to let him do some useful jobs this spring as a handyman. I used to have two Irish guys who would show up regularly a few years ago. Went back to Ireland before its economy collapsed again. A parable somewhere here of US life.

From my Net-friend, Camilla on facebook, a dreaming image of an idyllic moment: but the window, flower, snow outside, the woman a silent presence within, all characteristics of women’s paintings

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Carole Rabe, Red Lily (contemporary painting)

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2/18/15, around 5 pm

I have a great hate for the violent. The violent are the sick of the world — Watch on the Rhine, Dashiell Hammett & Lillian Hellman

So now the sick and corrupt movie-makers have added to American Sniper, Fifty Shades of Grey, or how lure a lonely child into accepting physical and emotional sexual abuse, reviewed here by Gail Dines. Is US society one where we can assume a worship of US male violence and is deeply suspicious of all social good?

OnfiftyshadesofGrey

Today I read 2 great screenplays:

Dashiell Hammet’s Watch on the Rhine (1943-44), out of Lillian Hellman’s stageplay of the same name. It’s sometimes said the screenplay is really by her too, and not much different; not so, the screenplay because it moves outward to depict the Nazis in the US not far from the Farrelly home has a sharper political context, and much dialogue that goes much further about what has led to the rise of fascism. The stageplay remains on the level of personal integrity; the screenplay turns a story of ambivalent integrity into a larger political parable about how the sickness of violence and (a side issue, small but there), sexual exploitation is a part of that.

Train
Yes that’s Bette Davis and Paul Lukas

The last time a movie like Watch on the Rhine could probably have been made is the 1980s; since then this kind of decent feeling and this kind of analysis (first intensely discouraged as speeches at the end of movie, once commonplace) would be laughed at, derided, dismissed. It was nominated for Best Screenplay by the Academy Awards, but was beat out by the success of the exotic romantic Casablanca.

The truth though is these are “doctored” scripts: Gassner and Dudley have themselves written out and supplied, elaborated upon what is seen and what the actors enacted, and offered further thoughts as part of description. Nonetheless, it is a screenplay: concentrated, freed of time and space, assuming visualization, moving in on captured shots, and close ups — intimate relationships with characters one can never have on the stage.

Frederick Raphael’s Darling, described as a depiction of a woman who rises in life, procures wealth and status by selling sex, and at the end finds the life she’s obtained hollow. It’s a kind of exposure of the myth of Dolce Vita, from the outlook of Room at the Top and Saturday night and Sunday morning, direct British realism about the working class. I chose it because it not only won the Best Screenplay Award at the Academy in 1965, but as I looked through my volumes of scripts, I remembered when I first met Jim he said he was enamoured of Julie Christie, thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and named Darling as his favorite movie.

I’ve discovered it’s about an amoral young woman who is promiscuous on her own terms, sees ugly things going on among the exploitative upper class and shrugs, and takes advantage of a young man, Robert, who she leaves her husband for; she aborts a pregnancy and keeps returning to him, keeping having affairs as she moves “higher” and “higher” in films until she marries an Italian count and has children by him. Meanwhile Robert, the male protagonist is deeply hurt and embittered but takes the punishment until near the end. Here the script is not doctored but what was probably the final shooting script before the cut and it must be said that one shot of Julie Christie’s hard face, her unacknowledged driving ambition makes the meaning of the film. I found myself revulsed by the character; Raphael has written a powerful screenplay.

JulieChristie-Darling
Very later 1960s hairdo

I now wonder who Jim identified with. He was 20 years old. Did he then triumph in her supposed success? As I read I discover as a screenplay it has an unusual number of setting, camera angle, and editoral-actor directions, because what’s wanted is a film with a certain pizzazz of style, of mood and I suppose savage ironies.

I did discover something interesting — to me. There are more screenplays in my collection by women than I had expected; at the same time often a woman will write one screenplay and then no more, while individual men are called upon to write a screenplay again and again. Also it’s not uncommon to find that among the few screenplays by women they are of books by women — like for example, Buck’s The Good Earth. Both genders equally write screenplays out of their own books, one I mean to read today is Jan Struther’s Mrs Miniver — though she was cut out of the screenplay which was revised over and over again, by among others William Wyler. Finally in general American films come out of popular present books while English overall still turn to 19th century books and classics much much more …

My collection thus far; the fat books to get are by Gassner and Dudley, and by Garrett & co.

IanFebruary2015
Ever nearby my unambitious Ian

***************
Late at night, Wednesday still:

Freezing cold, going down to single digits Fahrenheit, with high winds. I feel for the homeless and hope they are all in shelters — Alexandria I know has two and a sort of bus that goes round picking people up if they will permit it.

A poem by Charlotte Mandel from Life Work which seems to record her early widowhood.

Sleeping in Half a Bed

The one at home had sunk a central niche
after decades, and besides, we had room
for luxury of queen-size level-pitched
space to drift creating separate dreams.
A dozen brass-railed beds, tufted mattress
shown on each, sanitarily zipped plastic.
To bed ourselves in public embarrassed.
The smart saleswoman left us breathing-space.
Horizontal side by side, shoes pointed
to the ceiling, we tried them all in turn.
Too hard-too soft-until at last joindy
knew-just right, bought it even when we learned
the high price. We slept enfolded, or side
by side, our comfort true, until you died.

Miss Drake

When I first wake up
is the worst time of day.
There’s nothing to temper
my awareness. The best time
is usually mid-day.
I have felt the thought
that I could be happy
or be said to feel cheer
were he not dead. He is,
the feeling passes.

Small things make up each
life. They feel like so
much in the aggregate.
1 year 4 months 5 days
it’s piling up. None
of them can he know
about, share. They mount.
I cannot stop time
I am more parted from him
as each day goes by.
The distance hurts.

Rowlandsonteeth
Thomas Rowlandson, dentistry in the 18th century — I was at the dentist’s this week (to have my 10 living or real teeth cleaned)

Dear friends and readers,

Cyberspace life is changing for me. I get very few or no letters privately any more. I understand. What more is there to say. Vedova parlando.

Routines (routs) remain central to sanity for me. For companionship with people I rely on exchanging emails and messages on face-book or my listservs, occasionally blogs.

WindintheWillows
A face-book friend puts lovely images on the Net daily: this is for Jim’s favorite book from boyhood, The Wind in the Willows; Yvette remembered going to see Alan Bennett’s adapted play in London with Jim and I, and the audience having many more older people than younger, like Jim remembering their idyllic comic dreams; the actor playing Toad was said to be dying of cancer …

I go about my various self-scheduled activities, and pleasant exchanges sometimes happen as I have regular habits and so do others. I talk to more people over the course of the day than perhaps I ever did before. Hard to say since I’ve ever been talkative; maybe it’s that I’ve taken over all the outside tasks Jim used to do. I talk to so many acquaintances that I can no longer remember who said something to me that has stayed in my mind. We danced to this one at the close of our dance-fusion routine the last three weeks: ColdPlay they are called and this one, Clocks:

I move my whole body from the core outward as I dance and when the music permits express what I feel about losing Jim, about his terrible loss too. Now I realize he was trembling those last moments as I held him.

I remember some individuals: yesterday after “core” (an exercise class that is tough at the JCC) I talked to a friendly Englishwoman once again (we began by exchanging memories of Yorkshire) and discovered she is a journalist, a translator, writing a novel with her brother, and I told her what I do: she told me about herself because she will probably not be in the class after this and felt she ought say adieu, not just vanish. Other women who are congenial people I remember better: the widow I first saw this past summer when she was still in a stunned state; another woman I think of as German who seems so frail and kind and alone and whenever she is in one of the two gym-dance-exercise classes I now go to makes an attempt to talk with me, and I reciprocate. Some of the people I encounter will talk of their luxurious doings in places where cruel things happen (or are associated with right now): cruises for example, not far from some devastated place in Latin America — or Egypt. I wonder at the indifference of women who stand in circles not acknowledging they are however indirectly referring to terrible everyday events. If I hint ever so allusively at these realities, though, they are immediately denied.

I read of Hattie Morahan playing Beatrice-Joanna in Middleton’s Changeling so greatly that she and her fellows have changed the apprehension of the play’s meaning for those who saw and heard it and understood. I imagined and enjoyed it vicariously. Perhaps someday there will be a DVD. This was at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London. The sort of play event Jim would try to go to: were he alive, and we go to London, he’d look out to go to this theater. The TLS reviewer, Lucy Munro, said Morahan’s incomprehension of what was happening as she submitted to DeFlores was “genuinely disturbing,” as it was not his sexual services that held her, but his capacity to manipulate events to suit her. This is not simply a warped love story.

HattieMorahan

Munro: ‘Written for an indoor playhouse, The Changeling appears perfectly suited to the Wanamaker, where asides, facial expressions and gestures appear almost as if in close-up even if one sits in the furthest balcony. When Beatrice-Joanna touches De Flores’s face as part of an attempt to ingratiate herself with the man she loathes, an audible shiver goes round the auditorium, and the flicker in MacRae’s face when Isabella is propositioned by Antonio, and her ambivalent reception of his kisses, underlines the pressures to which she is subjected. Morahan’s facial expressions in fact do much to deconstruct the standard account of the play that treats Beatrice-Joanna – in the words of Roberta Barker and David Nicol’s important critique of such readings – “as a spoilt child whose amoral decision to murder her detested fiance is only a precursor to her slow realization of her repressed, subtextual desire for De Flores”. The great scene of mutual incomprehension, during which DeFlores eventually makes Beatrice-Joanna believe that she has no choice but to submit to his lust, was authentically disturbing, and beautifully played by Morahan and Gravelle. Further, Beatrice-Joanna’s “love” for DeFlores in the later scenes of the play was based less on the quality of his sexual service than on his capacity to arrange events to suit her. This
was something finer and more complex than the “warped love story” that many have seen in the play, and more true to its multilayered ironies.’

As will be seen, the sub-plot usually cut as an excrescence because wildly comic about a coerced marriage (and thus marital rape) and outright mad people (mentally defective for our society) in an asylum was kept. In a version I saw on PBS years ago he subplot was cut and the play impoverished: it had Elizabeth McGovern who seems since to have forgotten how to act or been told not to in Downton Abbey was the Elizabeth, Hugh Grant the young Duke husband before he retreated to his easier comic stereotypes, Bob Hoskins as DeFlores only staying truly in the real acting profession in later years. Here’s a review of this one from The Guardian.

I now have a decent accountant, an apparently jolly Irish-American man who by the end of our hour and one half together was telling me I should go out and “have fun,” enjoy life. “By myself?” I asked, smiling. He told me about the cancer he had: “the best kind” (if you must have cancer), “thyroid,” which was surgically removed and is responsible for one of several prescription pills he takes a day. His father died at 60 of Lou Gerig’s disease, his mother at 71. I will pay him a lot for what he’s doing, but I need no longer worry about my income tax (or rely on anyone else’s good will and free time) and he will give me advice when and if I sell my house or do anything having to do with money numbers. He told me if I sold this house within the next two years, I’d pay hardly any tax and “make a lot of money.” “Not that he was telling me to sell my comfortable home.” I got his name, firm, phone number, from the lawyer who helped me get my right to drive back. Another place that I could not possibly reach without a car: I had to drive round and round in circles using google maps and the garmin before I located it.

VHDL CODE for the 16 bit serial adder1

The Washington Area Print Group was pleasant last week — the talk and dining out afterwards. The talk was by a young man who spends his life studying digital texts to “strip the veil” (he apologized for this sexist imagery) and discover the human doings underneath, the digital codes that make them appear the way they do on a vanilla (or other colored) screen. So as with printed and manuscript texts you can see the labor and occasionally conversations and motives, and decisions that brought about what you see without them. He did bring up as a topic the problems of impermanence in digital texts. Texts have ever rotted, gone bad, been burnt, thrown away; he denied that digital texts were more fragile, but did concede the problems of operating systems that when you upgrade them or new operating systems that when you replace the older with them, whose software won’t read or produce a hard-worked upon text, or illustration, or play a movie or music. He spoke as if these problems were usually overcome: the maker of the new operating system alters it so as to take into account this older material; or people figure out how to overcome it by going deeper into the system, and re-configuring it &c&c. Still there was this Alice in Wonderland text he had been working on that he could no longer produce on his ipad.

I wanted to ask him if he was really sure such problems are temporary, but did not get the chance during the lecture. I did ask over dinner, and indeed he was not at all sure. It would have seemed odd to me that he should spend such years on digital codes and himself express complacency about how upgrades render digital work obsolete, were it not that I know he is pretending complacency as he knows he can do little about these upgrades. He said to me he tries hard never to upgrade anything, or, if he finds himself forced, tries to discover what will be the changes before he proceeds to click.

I watch some PBS TV daily (Woodruff/Ifill and their crew especially) — once in a while a special program, like the Shakespeare Uncovered 2 hours on Friday night “Great Performances” series on the local WETA, which are entertaining and intelligent enough. I admit the best moments in all the hours I’ve seen has been Jonathan Bate’s talk. I have his Mind and Art of Shakespeare and should probably put all projects down and just read that.

JonathanBae

I’m working on my paper on the centrality of screenplays and shooting scripts in understanding a film, and reading towards the two courses I’m to start teaching (the first 3 Poldark novels and the first three Barsetshire novels): Timothy West reading aloud Framley Parsonage is inimitable (I have to write a separate blog on this), and I’ve been reading great essays on the Poldark films and books and Cornwall, social history (usable pasts for progressive thought), and rape narratives, and reading with others on listservs — more 18th century women novelists. Watching DVDs of mini-series at night: Bletchley Circle, Parade’s End. It’s hard to find time to blog about these latter TV novels and novellas as well as all the other books I’m reading in (several at a time) — for Future Learn’s British Imperialism and (separate one) film-making (must get self to watch all of Red Riding which Jim downloaded for me weeks before he was diagnosed). Blogging is tiring and now I have far far less context: part of what impelled my blogs were relationships with people on-line, their deeper writing selves, ineracting with them — and Jim.

All in service of not paying attention to his absence — I couldn’t save him would begin the train of thought, did he die “stupidly?,” meaning didn’t have to had he done the fierce chemotherapy with the famous doctor he wouldn’t see? I would stop eating supper were it not for Yvette. I have no desire to cook. I have found a kind of cookie I can endure, even like and a few choices for breakfast/lunch I can bring myself to eat. Salty pitt chips is what I like best, washed down by dry inexpensive thin wines (paisano in a jug with screwcap). I eat lest I get low blood sugar, force sleep with a pill lest I conk out in my car. No words for the sadness of what happened to him and now to me.

Caroline comes over once in a while and is ever vivacious. She was ill, at home, and watched the older delightful Antique Roadshows from England — charming is for once an accurate epithet. One was done at Highclere Castle before it became famous as Downton Abbey. She said she thought of emailing me to tell me it was on. I wished she had. The tone of the show is what is so pleasing, somehow self-deprecating and yet taking real life and personal art found among us seriously: Angela Rippon also owes a lot to many unnamed writers:

Tone
I like especially the ending tune with the old car trundling over British roads and a knight’s suit of armor fitting awkwardly in the back seat

More self-destructive actresses destroying part of their gifts by botoxing their faces: Uma Thurman, Renee Zellweger and now Kate Winslett (also starving herself with rigorous gym exercise lest any wrinkles on her body size manifest themselves):

Winslett
Hard as nails — my face is so old, awful, but it has real expression — Winslett has given over dreams of acting Joanna-Beatrice if she ever had them

Cats don’t do this to themselves. My Clarycat is a demanding little creature; she nudges my fingers away from the keyboard, and holds tight to me, goes where I go, is my good companion. Ian is become deeply affectionate, and wants endlessly to play, brings me string, and then climbs up, presses his body against mine, his head bushing the side of my head.

ClaryCat2
Clarycat

IanTurning (1)
Ian

How do others live has been a puzzle before.

Miss Sylvia Drake

Rain Light

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning

You will learn about W.S. Merwin’s life just now and hear him read the poem aloud if you click here.

For the rain, it raineth every day.

RussianPark
Described as a Russian Park

Sylvia

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