Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve 2006 - North Troy

The Woolfoot Family has spent New Year's Eve (so far at least) here at the Last House. Just around 3:30 as the sun was headed down on 2006 I snapped this picture (with a telephoto lens, then edited it a bit to tighten the shot) of Owl's Head mountain over in Canada.

The kids had a great time sledding down one of the hills here at the farm today. If I could post a video I would. I got a funny one of Kid 2 tumling off at the bottom while Kid 1 laughed and screamed and yelled "Wicked." I even made a few runs down with Kid 1. It was fun.

Spent early morning yesterday at Jay. I was going to take a walk on the golf course (as per my usual) but found it had become impassable - or at least not pleasantly passable - without snow shoes. I had all my ski gear with me, so I took one run down the mountain. It wasn't as great up there as I had thought it would be, based on the snow down lower. Dinner last night with our Canadian Friends, Vitali and Brenda, whose kids are bookends with ours (same ages as ours, sexes flipped).

Happy 2007 to all and sundry.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"The Subtle Thief "- Hello!

How soon hath time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three and twentieth year (or first and fortieth)

(John Milton)

Boxing Day 2006

Highlights of the holiday season this year: iDogs for both kids - definitely the hit for Christmas giving in our house; the drive from Albany, New York to North Troy, Vermont on Christmas Eve - all sun, no snow and the Adirondacks never looked more magical; the Charlie Brown Christmas CD.

Woolfoot made it to Church (sans kids, which turned out to be a good decision from a stress management point of view) on Christmas Eve. I was in Voorheesville, the pleasant old village in Albany County where my Dad and his wife live. I went to the Voorheesville United Methodist Church. They are my tribe, as Woody Allen's sister said of the Jews in Deconstructing Harry while scanning the list of names of dead passengers in a plane crash. (Woody's answer - "They're all your tribe"). The Vville church is a a turn-of-the-century number, white and steepled and with the usual dedications on the stained glass windows; beautiful brass chandelier. Friendly and not too showy. The Methodist way.

From my point of view, however, (and this is going to make me sound like an ingrate), the service suffered from that unfortunate tendency to make church friendly and accessible (i.e., hold the solemnity and any difficult St-James-version vocabulary). (See my previous post from about a year ago "Softly and Tenderly" for more can't miss opinions on modern protestant church services and my churchgoing background).

Only one actual Carol was on the menu for Christmas Eve, "Joy to the World" at the very end. I stumbled politely through a number called "Star Child" from the supplemental hymnal- never heard of it? Well, it's not likely to challenge "Joy to the World" anytime soon ("Star Child" includes the verse "street child, beat child", you get the picture). Minutes into the service we were directed to exchange "the peace of Christ" which is code for stop contemplating and go and shake hands and kiss cheeks. People, can't we save this for coffee afterwards?

The minister was a nice-seeming youngish man who made a couple of jokes and generally beamed at everyone. He had a fine loud voice and a trimmed beard. I confess (I give with one hand and take away with the other - I told you this was going to make me sound like an ingrate)to being put off by his wardrobe choice, which included a sport coat and did not include a collar. The ensemble was set off by a medallion of unknown symbolism mid-chest. The whole style-package reminded me of Dr. Zayuss (sp?) the chief intellectual orangutan in the Planet of the Apes. During the sermon, I started drifting through the said hymnal supplement, which I had not seen before. It included the expected additions of hymns in Spanish and generally reflective of the crunchy-granola branch of modern Methodism. The piece of the Sermon that I did catch involved how all of us could be wombs for God - including six-year-old children who don't know what wombs are and 85 year old men. I think I get the drift but this is not exactly one for the ages. John Milton may rest easy in his grave.

Sorry all you nice peace-kissing Methodists. Really, I was glad to have gone despite all this mean-spirited carping. Everyone was nice.

In other news:

Latest deep thinking has me considering the effects of time on us all. I will be 42 in a few weeks and feel like I am coming apart like a cheap suit. Belly expanding, joints aching. I clutch at bannisters when the wheather is changing to rain (my right knee and ankle protesting). I spent a day in November shampooing rugs at the Burlington condo and my forearm and wrist have not recovered from the day's squeezing of the trigger on the carpet cleaner. I looked around at the old people in church realizing - those people are not "other" those people are me - if I live long enough. I am half deaf, slightly incontinent, name it and its starting to give out.

And so, if we are lucky to live to be old, time will beat us down into a creaking, failing disaster of the flesh. Then, of course, eventually the flesh will fail altogether and we will be nothing but an assemblage of molecules. These will fall apart into dust. Just like it says in the Bible. Someday it will all be incinerated when the sun goes red dwarf, then what's left of these bodies of ours will be space dust. Talk about a downer.

But - but - when you run this scenario in reverse, you have to stop and think - from whence did we come? It's all part of the same picture, right? Here is the brighter aspect. From this same dust, these inert molecules, we have been assembled - almost ex nihilo (Water, dust, electricty, DNA a fabulous elegance - life). I remember seeing a documentary or maybe a 60 minutes piece as a kid where they were interviewing some European eminence - perhaps Franco Zefferelli?- and whoever it was was talking about the achievements of the artists of the Italian Renaissance. He said that their art was the product of their knowledge that they were a part of God. When I think in these terms I understand what he meant. What can be done by a human person with the confidence of being a part of the God that made him? See: Italian Renaissance; Bach, etc. All the glories of our species have their roots somehow in this fact.

In the movie, The Hours, I recall a scene where Virginia Woolf is asked by her little niece "where do we go when we die" and Virgina's answer is "from where we came." I have no way of knowing if this exchange ever took place, of course, but I think it is true - if you know what I mean.

Snow today

We had a green Christmas here at the last house, but this morning a light snow has covered the grass. Hurray! The Green Christmas was nice but this seems more like it should be. Boxing Day blessings on your heads and mine.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Raves for "The Queen" - The Movie and The Person

I gave myself a Christmas present this weekend. I stayed in Burlington on Friday while Woolfoot Kid 1 and Woolfoot Kid 2 were up in the country with Woolfoot Husband. This gave me a clear evening to have dinner out with a colleague, shop a bit (Borders for the Charlie Brown Christmas CD) and go see The Queen.

Everytime I say "brilliant" now I hear those cut-out cartoon characters from the Guinness ads. But, the movie is brilliant. I recently wrote here that, based on the recent John Lahr profile of Helen Mirren in the New Yorker she came off as a lightweight. I'll have to pin that on Lahr and my own faulty judgment. I knew Mirren was great even when I wrote that. We've all been witnesses to her brilliance before - but her performance as Elizabeth II in this move was - well, words fail. Plus royaliste que le roy? If the Queen is not as portrayed by Helen Mirren, she should be.

This brings me to a point I have been thinking of and wanting to write about for a long time. Given my general and somewhat unaccountable anglophilia, I have been a distant and somewhat vague admirer of ER for years. Part of what impressed me so much about this movie is that Stephen Frears (director) and the writer (Stephen Morgan?)and all these wonderful actors (there are no throw-aways) managed to dramatize the dilemma of Queen of England in the modern world. A Queen from the "greatest generation" (like my own grandmother) who is now stuck now in the Oprah generation and having to cope. A Queen alone - in an institution whose venerability is matched perhaps only by the Vatican. Singular and nearly ridiculous. In the public mind, esp. in the yobbish untutored mind, nothing but ridiculous. The movie does not seek to praise her, only to represent her. In doing so, in what feels like such an honest depiction, the truth comes out. She is worthy to be Queen.

Despite my general sense of admiration for her, I have the American distaste for hereditary privilege. (I read the rules once for who gets titles in Englahd and how and why, and could see why our founding fathers wisely tossed the whole invidious mischievous business). And yet, it seems to me that ER has justified herself and her position to the world.

The movie also reminds us that Elizabeth 2 can't go on forever. It got me thinking about how the world will react when she goes. Even the Sex Pistols and Elvis Costello and Morrisey and others who have trashed the whole show and HRH may feel a twinge when she goes. For us general admirers, I think there will be a genuine sense of loss. She has been like an oak tree on the horizon for our whole lives (most of us). All that documentary footage we have seen - the girl Elizabeth playing blind man's bluff on the deck of a ship, the young woman pledging her service upon the death of her father; sitting on a throne at coronation; standing outside Windsor Castle as it burned during that annus horribilis; the hat, the handbag, the queenly wave; we have assimilated them all. With this movie, Mirren has fooled me into thinking I actually know her, and it will make the loss more real. For the great mass of British people, I expect millions will be devastated. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal some years ago about how it is a common phenomenon for English people to have ER show up in their dreams. One woman told about a dream she had of finding the Queen in her bathroom washing the dreamer's underwear and scolding her. She is theirs, they are hers. Whatever constitutional limitations there may be on her, the Queen has power.

It was bold to make this movie. All the real life principals are still here - false notes and false moves would be easy to spot. It also seemed to me like a stupid idea for one, frankly. But here I am Mirren and Frears and all involved should take their bows. I bow to them and, with all due respect, to their subject.