Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Have Lived for Art...

I haven't really, but I like the idea.

I like the idea that instead of spending my days in an unkempt living room in an old house in the middle of nowhere, trying to keep my feet warm in grey wool socks, I might still have a chance to spend them at a small cafe table in Italy, existing on very small cups of very strong coffee.

Instead of a faded T-shirt and pants with an elastic waistband, I will wear a small black dress. I will replace my skewed four-year-old thick glasses, (apparently inspired by the safety glasses of 1960s NASA engineers), with enormous round sunglasses. I will cover my carefully arranged hair with a silk scarf, loosely tied, to keep the wind from tousling my curls too much (and also because I know the scarf looks fetching as it flutters, and because it sets off my diamond earrings so nicely).

In this other life, I will be able to navigate cobblestones and dodge paparazzi in three-inch red high heels. My lightweight trench coat will be tightly cinched around my sylph's waist. I will drive a tiny 1963 Fiat two-seater to meet my agent, Giancarlo, at my publisher's office in the old city. I will sometimes feel bad about keeping Giancarlo waiting, as I always do, and in such a state of constant anxiety. I will tell him he must stop smoking, and he will blame me every time for his failure to quit. Oh Giancarlo! In one breath you threaten to leave me forever, I am such a torment, but in the next breath you say you couldn't possibly and beg forgiveness. I might forgive you. I might.

Oh. That was a fun and a bit therapeutic. Maybe I won't stop for a Filet o'Fish on the way to pick up the kids afterall.

As you can see I am having a useless sort of a day. Periodically, the desire to create a T-Shirt overwhelms me and I spend a happy hour or so putting one together. Today, my inspiration was this slight mistranslation of a famous line from Tosca which often repeats in my head. Here's my version on a T-shirt.

In the original Italian, the line is: Vissi d'Arte, Vissi D'amore.

It is much better that way, isn't it? But no one in Vermont would know what I was trying to tell them. Maybe it would be better that way...

Well, next time I have an idle hour I am doing another one the way Puccini wrote it. I suppose it's really more headstone material than T-Shirt material but my deeply trapped inner Maria Callas needs to advertise - as you already know.

I am mentally blowing you all kisses, with very grand gestures, from the balcony of my imagination. Ciao, my darlings! Ciao!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

You Are Repressed, But You're Remarkably Dressed

I didn't get any takers on the little challenge I set out at the end of the last post (from whence did I steal the title of that last post?) So, rather than keep you all in suspense for another minute, I am just going to tell you. It was from the Morrissey song on the Bona Drag album, "Hairdresser on Fire." This post title is another bit of lyric that sticks...

"Hairdresser on Fire" comes from the mid-career, post-Smiths, Morrissey ouevre, when he was still young and tormented. (I understand that lately he has settled a bit and might even have taken a stab at some form of romance).

There are a couple of live versions on Youtube, but I prefer to listen again to the one that plays in my head, from the days when Bona Drag was a regular in my car's CD rotation. Some fan painstakingly collected all these views of M and overlayed them on that familiar track, if you want to hear it for yourself.

Remember me to Sloane Square.

A little more follow up on the last post, keeping with our U.K. theme, I did make it to the British Invasion Car Show in Stowe last weekend. The best part of it was listening to the Beatles tribute band, "Britishmania" (not to be confused with Beatlesmania (TM)). They played at a block party on Stowe's lovely Main Street on Friday night. The kids danced. I bobbed my head and sang along and watched the other people in the audience - New England types who did not want to get too close to the stage and who also limited their display of interest to headbobbing and singing along. Late in the evening (like, 8:30) a few people migrated out of the beer cage (it was a very well-regulated event and beer was sold only in a small area enclosed by snow fencing) and some of those people moved their legs and arms a bit and shouted requests. We all sang "Yellow Submarine" together and bonded.

Adding to the festive atmosphere were all these fabulous old Jaguars and MGs and Minis and Sprites and even a Rolls or two that were parked up and down the street which was otherwise closed to traffic.

On Sunday, the Understudy and I went up to the show field and caught the tail end of the main show. Well, mostly we shopped feverishly in the goods tent as the vendors were packing up all around us. You'll be relieved to hear, I am sure, that we we were able to buy a bunch of things emblazoned with Union Jacks, albeit under pressure. We also got to see at least a few cars and I managed a few photos (above and below). These pictures don't do the cars justice because we had to hurry and also because it was too sunny and bright to get the romance of the things. Still, here ya go.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Summer was cold and soggy here on the US/Canadian border, but September has been beautiful. I managed to take the camera out a few times lately to record the fabulousness of it all.

Today, behind the Last House. Fun on the tire swing.

The flying pig was an auction find. I added him to the broken down manure spreader behind the barn, ooops, I mean, "in the sculpture garden." Move over Marcel Duchamp.

Barn roof with bird.

What could Monet have accomplished if he'd had a digital camera?

Jay Peak, waiting for snow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Giddy London

An English Car show held in Stowe, Vermont called the British Invasion is on this weekend. Lots of wee MGs were tooling down Main Street this evening and Union Jacks are fluttering from the light poles and at every retail establishment.

I have also been struggling with my Great Fiction Project (henceforth "GFP") some of which takes place in England of yesteryear. I have been researching various elements of daily life in the provinces and in the capital. I like that part. I have always loved reading about any kind of English history. I never have known why. It makes me wonder about reincarnation.

As a result, old England is on my mind and on my computer. I found a great website I wanted to share. "Twentieth Century London" is an Internet archive of objects and information from a dozen London-based museums all regarding life in London during, you guessed it, the 20th Century. (Some of us remember large swaths of that century and it was not without interest). The site has lots of great images (see above and below) and historical odds and ends. There's a cool feature for kids, a kind of animated London story book, and a London quiz (I got 8 out of 10 - and would have had 9 out of 10 if I had been paying closer attention, it was that easy).

I'll let you know how it goes (the British Invasion - maybe more later on the GFP).

Points for anyone who can tell me the name of the song, and the artist, from whom I filched the title of this post. I might even send you a bit of tat if you guess it right.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fun With Free Association

The kids are, of course, back in school. The Understudy is in sixth grade now and her "language arts" (formerly known as "English") teacher recommended a Scrabble-type game called "Bananagrams." The Understudy told me about it yesterday and, since it was pay day and sunny and I was in an oddly generous mood, I went to the sweet little toy shop in Stowe and, (you may want to buckle on a helmet here if you're prone to fainting), I paid retail for it ($17 and change).

Well, I guess now that we have played it a few times it may be worth it. It has the beauty of simplicity. Essentially, the game is just a little banana-shaped bag of tiles with letters on them. The goal is to make words out of them. There is no board and no scoring, you just have to use up the tiles in your hand to win. Oh, the pleasures of middle age. (This is what we're doing for fun on a Friday night).

As if this wasn't thrilling and reward enough on its own, the name of the game (for those with short attention spans, it's "Bananagrams") put me in mind of that great old Saturday Night Live skit, the Land Shark.

Comedy doesn't generally age very well, and something this stupid really shouldn't be funny, and yet... So, for those of you of a certain age, here they are again for your viewing pleasure: Gilda Radner and Lorraine Newman as the victims of the Land Shark - the cleverest species of them all (as per a Richard Dreyfusesque John Belushi).

Sorry about the commercial they shoved into this video. It's worth sitting through it if only to see our dearly beloved Gilda again.

Have a nice weekend. I am off to challenge Whusband for Bgrams supremacy.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Toff or Tart?

“I saw you talking to the captain just now”
“An unapproachable old bastard. He’ll talk only to the toffs.” The word had an antique flavour: this time his dictionary had certainly failed him.
“I wouldn’t call myself a toff.”
“You mustn’t mind me saying that. Toff has a special sense for me. I divide the world into two parts – the toffs and the tarts. The toffs can do without the tarts, but the tarts can’t do without the toffs. I’m a tart.”
“What exactly is your idea of a tart? It seems to be a bit special too.”
“The toffs have a settled job or a good income. They have a stake somehwhere like you have in your hotel. The tarts – well, we pick a living here and there – in saloon bars. We keep ours ears open and our eyes skinned.”
“You live on your wits, is that it?”
“Or we die on them often enough.”
“And the toffs – haven’t they any wits?”
“They don’t need wits. They have reason, intelligence, character. We tarts – we sometimes go too fast for our own good.”
“And the other passengers – are the tarts or toffs?”
“I can’t make out Mr Fenandez. He might be either. And the chemist chap, he’s given us no opportunity to judge. But Mr. Smith – he’s a real toff if ever there was one.
“You sound as though you admire the toffs.”
“We’d all like to be toffs, and aren’t there moments –admit it old man – when you envy the tarts? Sometimes when you don’t want to sit down with your accountant and see too far ahead?”
“Yes, I suppose there are moments like that.”
“You think to yourself ‘We have the responsibility, but they have all the fun.’”
“I hope you’ll find some fun where you are going. It’s a country of tarts all right – from the President downwards.
“That’s one danger more for me. A tart can spot a tart. Perhaps I’ll have to play a toff and put them off their guard.”

Graham Greene, The Comedians (1966)

I bought The Comedians at a library book sale this summer. Here's a neat summary of the story from Wikipedia:

The Comedians is a novel by Graham Greene, first published in 1966. Set in Haiti under the rule of Fran├žois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his secret police, the Tonton Macoute, The Comedians tells the story of a tired hotel owner, Brown, and his increasing fatalism as he watches Haiti descend into barbarism. The story begins as three men: Brown, Smith the innocent American, and Major H. O. Jones the confidence man meet on a ship bound for Haiti. Brown, Smith, and Jones, their names suggesting a curious facelessness, are the “comedians” of Greene’s title. Complications include Brown’s friendship with a rebel leader, politically charged hotel guests, the manipulations of a British arms dealer, and an affair with Martha Pineda, the wife of a South American ambassador. The setting for much of the novel, the Hotel Trianon, was inspired by the Hotel Oloffson in central Port-au-Prince.

The novel was made into a motion picture in 1967 with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, David Niven and Lillian Gish.

I have been reading it in fits and starts (I have a bunch of books going these last few weeks) and now I seem to have mislaid it. This passage, however, a critical bit of dialog between the aforementioned "tired hotel owner, Brown, and the confidence man Jones, has been stuck in my head since I read it last month.

Could you read it without wondering which you were: toff or tart? I think I am, in essence, a tart, but doing a reasonable imitation most of the time of a toff. (Under Jones' definition, of course).

How about you?

(Thanks for the cover and the chance to look inside this book. The toff pictured above came from and that tart from