I slept the sleep of the tortured: fitful, broken, and too short. And when I awoke, I knew that not enough time had passed, and so I tried to sleep more, but it never came. ~ L. Liwag

Flower Shop in Paris 

  

“The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.” ~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

On Saturday, I finally made it into the pool. The dogs have been swimming for a few days, but I wanted sun. The air was filled with the sweet smell of my gardenia bush in bloom, and there was just enough breeze to fool me into thinking that it wasn’t that hot. I was lulled into a wonderful feeling of comfort, arms flung wide, staring up into the clear blue sky, just a few cumulus puffs dotting the sky here and there. 

Silly me. I didn’t even think about putting on sunscreen except for my face. I really don’t know what I was thinking. I stayed out for hours, just enjoying the water, the breeze, the dogs . . . I got sunburned on my arms and chest. 

Beh. 

I never used to get sunburned. Ever. I would give my friends a hard time whenever they burned, taunting them with my olive skin. I suppose this is payback. The other thing that I got from the sun was a migraine, a killer migraine, one that has only this afternoon subsided into a tightness in my forehead. Poor, poor, pitiful me. 

I remember endless summer days spent in the sun, lying on the beach with my friends, or on the catamaran with my friend John, or water skiing with the guys. Good times. Never burned, just browned. When I worked at the newspaper, I finished at 3:30, still early enough to catch some afternoon rays. The summer before I got married to my ex, I worked and sunned. Last summer of my life in which I was able to be carefree and careless with time and money.

an orchid’s scent
its incense perfuming
a butterfly’s wings ~ Basho
Flower Shop in Kuala Lumpur

So today, it’s 75 degrees, almost 20 degrees cooler than this weekend. There were a few thunder boomers last night, but nothing major. 

Last night I watched the movie Memento, with Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, and Carrie-Ann Moss. Wow. What a puzzle, but very deftly done. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie combined two different timelines, one ongoing and one flashback. Lots of visual clues, riddles, a few red herrings. The plot revolved around memory, what is real, what is thought to be real, what is imagined. The main character, Leonard (Pearce), suffers from anterograde amnesia: he cannot make new memories. 

I would highly recommend this movie if you liked The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense. That being said, Memento is not as easy to discern as either of those two, not that either of those films were straightforward in any way. Nolan directed the movie in 2000, followed by a few movies with which you may be familiar: the two new Batman movies, The Prestige. If you are interested in an analysis of the movie, Andy Klein wrote a thorough deconstruction for Salon.com. 

Memento had been on my list of movies to see, and I find it very rewarding when I finally see something I’ve had on that list and it turns out to be worthwhile. The other movie that I watched was Valkyrie, with Tom Cruise. This was another one that has been on my list, and unlike many people, I liked it. No, Cruise does not attempt a German accent, but that didn’t bother me, better no accent than a poorly executed accent. 

The plot, in case you don’t know, is based on the July 20 plot to kill Adolf Hitler and real-life Operation Valkryie, which was a plan to call up the German reserve army to maintain order in the case of an emergency. The historical drama depicts the plot, led by Claus von Stauffenberg, the last of 15 failed plots to assassinate Hitler.   

The 2008 movie had quite a cast; aside from Cruise as von Stauffenberg, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp, and Tom Wilkinson all had roles in the Bryan Singer (X-Men) film. I remember that there was a big controversy in casting Cruise because of his scientology beliefs. 

“Life is like Sanskrit read to a pony.” ~ Lou Reed

 


Flower Shop in Bath, England 

 

Alexis came by on her way home from work today. I helped her to find some information on patient assistance with some of the medications that she takes. Having filled out numerous forms for myself, I am fairly familiar with the process. She will not be able to get health insurance at the thrift store as they do not offer it to their employees, even the full-time people. Yet another reason to hope for some kind of healthcare reform. 

I know that I’ve been featuring more political posts than usual, but it seems that every time I sit down to read the daily news, I come across yet more inanity, something that I find very hard to ignore. Ignorance, racism, sexism, hate-mongering—it’s all so disconcerting. 

What is happening to us, to American society? Has the election of a man of color caused so much unrest among those who oppose him—or liberals, or Democrats, or blacks, or whatever it is—that seeing conspiracies and promoting fear have become the societal norm? Has the so-called American way-0f-life been imperiled by putting a black man in the Oval Office, in the same way that electing a Catholic in the 1960s threatened the very fiber of our being? 

I see a lot of similarities to the 1960s, and that’s not a good thing. Yes, the unrest of the 1960s caused major social changes, changes that were desperately needed. But the 60’s also saw discord elevated to levels unparalleled, discord that morphed into senseless violence (race riots, Ohio State), attempts at oppression (Hoover’s FBI). Chillingly, the war in Iraq has now surpassed the Viet Nam War as the longest American war (eight years, eight months, and counting). And the country had a young, idealistic president who many feared just because of who and what he was. 

Remember, the 60’s led to the election of Richard Nixon, gave power to men of questionable scruples, such as Henry Kissinger, and led to a political climate that fostered the events of Watergate. Remember?

“Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash, your picture in the paper nor money in the bank, neither. Just refuse to bear them.” ~ William Faulkner
Flower Shop in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

I know. I am still a starry-eyed idealist in many ways, but that is balanced by my stark realist side. I believe in equality for all peoples, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or creed. I don’t understand why that is such a hard concept. I also believe that children should not die of hunger or dysentery, that there is no difference in the capabilities of the sexes, and that there is no such thing as a good war. At the same time, I know that people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Steve Blair—who thrive on discontent, who cultivate a fear of otherness, who opine loudly as if the tone and timber of a voice is all that is needed to make it right—people such as these have millions of followers. 

And quite frankly, that scares the hell out of me. It also frightens me that I sometimes self-censor on this blog because I do not want the crazies to find me. In essence, I am allowing myself to be repressed out of my own unwillingness to cater to confrontation. Bearing that in mind, I do not apologize for my political posts, even though this is not a political blog. I do not apologize for who I am, for what I believe, or for where I stand on the issues that are important to me. 

I’m certain that I will continue to have political posts because people will continue to amaze me with their brazen bigotry. People will continue to astound me with their asinine declarations. As long as events continue to occur that make me stop and say WTF, I will continue to opine, and if you find my posts offensive, then exercise your Constitutional freedom not to read me. 

I won’t hold it against you. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Mazzy Star, “Take Everything” 

“Mi sopragiunse uno soave sonno” (Sweet sleep overcame me) ~ From Dante’s La Vita Nuova

Korean War Memorial in Snow, Washington, DC (image by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Vide cor tuum (See your heart)
E d’esto core ardendo (And of this burning heart)
Cor tuum (Your heart) ~ From Vide Cor Meum from Dante’s La Vita Nuova

U.S. Capitol in Snow (image by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Well, the snow has left the area, melted, gone, no more. We were lucky. Not much accumulation, but we did get icy roads on Saturday night. Apparently, those to the north of us in the state were hammered. Pretty much everything in the DC metropolitan area is closed today—federal agencies, local governments, schools, and forecasters are predicting more snow tomorrow. Flights have resumed at National Airport, where people have been stranded for days, and tens of thousands of people are without power, with no predictions as to when power might be restored. Amtrak has resumed train travel, which means long lines at Union Station filled with people who cannot get out of the area any other way. 

Cross country skiers made their way through the snow, while others were left digging out vehicles that were completely covered by the storm. I’m including pictures of DC/Northern Virginia to give you an idea of what it’s like there. Thankfully, none of that for our area. In fact, today it’s a whopping 39° F. That’s almost 20 degrees warmer than yesterday. I spent most of yesterday wrapped up in the blankets trying to keep my nose warm. Ah life. Always an adventure. 

So yesterday was the Super Bowl. I did not watch as I am completely uninterested in the NFL. That doesn’t make me un-American, just not interested in football. I did, however, peruse the Super Bowl commercials earlier today as these commercials tend to be a little more creative than most mainstream commercials. I’m including my two favorites, KGB’s I Surrender, and E-Trade’s Milkawhat. 

 

 

Io sono in pace (I am in peace)
Cor meum (My heart)
Io sono in pace (I am in peace)
Vide cor meum (See my heart) ~ From Vide Cor Meum from Dante’s La Vita Nuova

Downed Tree Branch in Alexandria, VA (Cliff Owen/AP)

I told Corey earlier that I didn’t really have any idea on what to post today. I mean, there are things going on: In Washington state, a 17-year-old boy crashed his parents’ car into his school and drove down the hall . . . In New York, a 61-year-old woman was cited for driving in the Plus-One lane with a mannequin, decked out in wig and sunglasses . . . And in tech news, Dante’s Inferno has been turned into a video game. 

You might think that with my background in literature I would be offended by gamers taking this classic and turning it into video fare, but I’m not. I’m all for anything that introduces the classics to people who might otherwise be uninterested, even if it is but a glimpse of the original. I don’t kid myself that the game will delve too deeply into the original, but if playing the game causes even one person to turn to the book, then something has been accomplished. 

The movie version of Beowulf that came out a few years ago took liberties with the Medieval tale, yet many of the original aspects were there. Of course, Grendel’s mother in the original did not look like a shimmering Angelina Jolie, but the original storyline of the warrior Beowulf slaying Grendel was kept, albeit embellished. 

The movie 1980s movie Excalibur still remains one of the best retellings of the Arthurian legend, including the betrayal of Lancelot and Guinevere and the search for the grail. Clive Owen’s King Arthur added new dimensions to the tale by incorporating the battle of Baden Hill, which is believed to be the actual battle fought by the Arthur on whom the legend is based.  

Robin in Snow (Jewel Samad/AFP Getty Images)

I’m not saying that I think that our youth should be getting their history lessons from games and movies; however, when a game or movie does present a relatively accurate depiction of history or a literary classic, I view it as a good thing, yet another way in which to teach those who under different circumstances, might never hear of Dante’s Inferno or be interested in reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. 

I mean, think of all of the movies that have given viewers glimpses into actual events: Saving Private Ryan (veterans praised the accuracy of the beach-storming scene); Schindler’s List (Shoa survivors were gratified by Spielberg’s honest retelling of the Holocaust); Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 (depicted the fateful flight that almost didn’t make it home); Enemy at the Gates (the battle of Stalingrad); Mississippi Burning (the 1964 slaying of civil rights activists); The Killing Fields (Viet Nam under Pol Pot after the Americans pulled out). 

Of course, the list could be much longer. I just chose the ones that came to mind readily, those films that have stayed with me through the years, some of which my own children have seen and from which they have taken away pieces of history. 

Digging Out in Maryland (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

For every boatload of garbage that Hollywood produces, there is one gem. The same could be said of any medium—music, literature, television. So much is rehashed, redone, retooled, and not towards making something better but usually for lack of original thought. But those few that stand out are the ones from which we take away a sense of time or place or person. The ones that, at the end of the day, we gleaned something from and were made better because of it. 

Consider the movie version of Hannibal, based on the book by Thomas Harris. No. I’m not holding the movie up as a substitute history lesson. Rather, I am pointing out that even in the midst of one of the goriest movies around, great beauty exists—this time in the form of the aria “Vide Cor Meum,” which was written specifically for the movie by Patrick Cassidy. The aria is based on a sonnet from Dante’s La Vita Nuova, in which Dante professes his love for Beatrice. Of course, I could do an entire post on the use of classical music in movies, television, even Loony Tunes, but that’s for another time. 

More later. Peace. 

  

Katherine Jenkins performing “Vide Cor Meum.” Sublime. 

“. . . Accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” ~ Snow Falling on Cedars movie

  

Cardinal in the Snow, New Hampshire

“The snowfall, which he witnessed out of the corners of his eye . . . struck him as infinitely beautiful.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Bare Limbs on Snow by L. Liwag

Well, I was wrong. Put one down for the record books. Apparently the meteorologists called this one accurately: Hampton Roads got snow—a lot of snow. And it’s still coming down. Actually, at the moment, ice is coming down, but another band of snow is right behind the ice.  

We haven’t had snow like this for many years, and just think, it’s even more snow than what we saw in Ohio in December, but not more snow than we saw on that fateful trip to Ohio in the December blizzard.  

I hear a few brave souls outside, and earlier, before the ice, a few of the younger neighborhood kids were rollicking, but funnily enough, Tillie, the Lab, wouldn’t set foot outside until Brett bundled himself in layers and went outside with her. A couple of times, she stuck her snout outside the door, and then brought it back in and looked at me balefully as if to say, “you’re kidding, right?” The only dog brave enough to go outside by himself initially was Alfie, the smallest Jack Russell, who promptly sank and became covered in snow up to his flanks. The fat one went out a few steps and then turned around and came back inside. Now that Tillie has braved the unknown, she wants to go back out, but no one is up for playing in the ice.  

“The heart of any other, because it had a will, would remain forever mysterious.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Fosso Innevato (Snowy Ditch), Italy

Another benefit of the snow is that I slept, really slept. That wonderful muffling effect that a heavy snowfall has on all ambient noise must have allowed my body to achieve a state of complete restfulness, because I got a great night’s sleep, even though I didn’t fall asleep until about 4:45 a.m. My body feels cold but not tired.  

Corey is about to build a fire in the fireplace so that we can contribute to the Greenhouse Effect. Unfortunately, it’s that or walk around the house in coats because it’s damned cold in here, but at least we haven’t lost electricity as so many others affected by the storm have. So we take the bad with the good, but hey, I slept . . .  

I’ve had a few new readers stop by and leave comments, which is always nice. Just wanted to take a minute to express my thanks as comments let me know that someone is reading.  

Last night, I dreamt of hats, straw hats, straw hats with big brims specifically. I was trying them on in some kind of rest stop store, kind of like the old Stuckey’s restaurants that used to dot the highways. I also dreamt of bow ties, Jack Nicholson as a military officer, and learning that Corey had spoken to his commanding officer in French.  

Strange, most strange. In another part of the dream, I was speaking to a woman who was putting together the program for the Opera House, and I was giving her printing tips. I told her that I used to do this kind of thing for the Museum. Also most strange. I don’t discern any great meaning behind these snippets, just found them interesting.  

“When they looked out into the whiteness of the world the wind flung it sharply at their narrowed eyes and foreshortened their view of everything.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Kiosque du Jardin de Ville (Kiosk in City Garden), France

I plan to spend the rest of the day wrapped up in a blanket, reading a book. It’s the perfect day for it.  

Since I began this post, the wind has begun to blow quite hard outside, making the wind chimes clang repeatedly. It’s kind of haunting, actually: just the wind and the chimes. No sounds of traffic, people, dogs. Nothing. I guess everyone who was feeling adventurous has had enough of the snow and ice and gone inside. That and the fact that it is darkening rather quickly may be the reason for the seeming silence.  

When I saw the snow in the middle of the night, I began to think of songs that would be appropriate. Oddly enough, Samuel Barber’s “Adagio in G” popped into my head, but it’s such a solemn song that I don’t want to use it with today’s post. I think that I thought of that particular song because of a movie that I saw years ago starring a younger Ethan Hawke. Barber’s Adagio was featured in the movie previews, but not in the movie itself.  

The film, A Midnight Clear, was the story about two WWII units stranded in a snowstorm, one American and one German. The units reach an unspoken truce, but ultimately, the film ends tragically. I don’t think that the movie was very popular, but I remember seeing it with my friend Mari during one of our regular weekend movie outings.  

If I remember correctly, Hawke also starred in Snow Falling on Cedars, a weak adaptation of David Guterson’s beautiful novel of the same. I really don’t remember that much about the movie, but I vividly remember the cover of the book, which was a black and white picture of fog draping the cliffs surrounding Puget Sound. Odd how memory serves us.  

The book was beautiful, almost lyrical, in its portrayal of the complexities of the human heart, love, betrayal, and truth. The movie was beautiful in its cinematography, but hard-placed to convey the depth of the novel’s characters. However, with few exceptions, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings being a prime example, that is almost always what happens when adapting a book to a movie.  

Today’s post feature photographs of snowy images from different places: Italy, France, New Hampshire, and Ohio.  

More later. Peace.  

Annie Lennox’s version of “Whiter Shade of Pale” seemed like a good fit.