Category Archives: Other than literary days….

My all-time favorite Halloween movie, and why (without spoilers)–“An American Werewolf in London”

Now it’s time, my readers, for my nearly annual Halloween post, and though I would like to cast a few shivers down your spines myself, for the sheer glory of being able to say that I could write almost anything and get by with it, I’m not talented in several directions, and that’s one of them.  As well, it may sound funny to say that a particular film is my “favorite” scary film, when I have not made a habit in even the slightest way of either watching scary films or posting on them.  Nevertheless, to my way of thinking (and when I was young I did have a penchant both for scary films and television shows, when I could sneak them past the household censor), this is the film to which no other scary  film I’ve seen trailers of quite manages up, and the standard by which I measure all chills and thrills of that kind:  “An American Werewolf in London.”  Here’s why:

There is a strong human emotional response to being frightened, and that is to giggle nervously, as if hoping that it is all a joke, and not true.  Films and fictions which play off that reaction are usually more successful simply because (for example) a dessert which has both sugar and a little salt in it tastes better than a dessert would just with sugar:  the “salt” of the successful horror film is the comic moment (as in, “I’m taking this with a grain of salt,” indicating only partial belief, hence the tendency to giggle, as if being teased).  This moment seems to reassure us that all is not as bad as it would seem.  But of course, in a true horror film, once that comic moment has passed, a truly horrific scene follows, and if done correctly, scares us even more.  Some films have played on this, but none I’ve encountered do it quite as well as this by now venerable movie.

For example, this movie has not one but two stock or stereotypical kinds of situations to play off of, both of which it uses to both comic and horrific advantage:  the horror film’s moments of heightened activity, such as the witches’ den and the warning given there, the original werewolf’s initial attack, complete with only partial visuals of slavering jaws and reddish eyes, the results of the first attack along with the discounting of the werewolf story by local police, and so on and so forth.  The second strain of stereotype is a play on the by-now-familiar ruefully comic routine concerning the naïve or innocent American in the Old World, of which London is the example in this case, though of course the story must begin on the moors, as is only appropriate and conceivable, playing on both American and British urban suspicions of rural settings and the people there.  Though there are also moments of gore, they are not in the forefront as much as in more recent films (or at least, in the trailers I have seen, and yes, ignored), as this movie is quite intelligent and doesn’t depend entirely on the “oh, gross!” factor for its success.  Of course, there must be a love interest, which in this film is played by the lovely and extremely talented Jenny Agutter, as a nurse in love with the young American.

Without spoiling it for you (and believe me, I haven’t begun to tell you about all the scary and funny moments of this film), I cannot do more to persuade you to see this film for the first time, or if you’ve already seen it, to see it again.  So, have a happy, scary, safe and funny Halloween, and don’t eat too much candy (you never know when you might need to run from a monster or visiting American on the loose)!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under A prose flourish, Articles/reviews, Other than literary days....

A Non-Literary Summer, and Other Matters

Once again, I have been away from posting, and indeed nearly from reading altogether, except for the occasional easy read or book of short pieces.  I had it in mind to do a post on one of Jonathan Safran Foer’s recent books, but I left off reading it and my library online site has taken it back for a while, so that I have to wait for a few days to finish it up.  Never fear, a post will be forthcoming, for whatever it’s worth.

Actually, I’ve been spending the summer finishing up crochet projects from the spring, and just ordered my crochet supplies for the fall, so even if I get back to posting more regularly again, my second vocation, making gifts for my family and friends, will still eat up a lot of my time.

My companion, friend, and housemate Lucie-Minou has in fact been covering the literary angle of things around here for the last few months.  In an effort to get me back to some form of literary endeavor, she has walked around quoting from the works she knows, though due to her peculiar accent, I’ve not been able to understand all of it.  I did get one portion, though.  She has a particular fondness for one of her favorites, “Romeow and Mewliet,” and looks at me significantly as she makes this comment a visible fact:  “Do you wash your paw at me, sir?”  “No, sir.  But I do wash my paw, sir.”  I think she is threatening to wash her paws of me, literature-wise, if I don’t post again soon.  She herself is wrapped up in plans for a cloak-and-dagger piece (or as she would have it, a fur-and-claw piece) which she apparently plans to call “The Mer-Wow Factor,” or “The Mer-Wow Conspiracy,” or something like that.  Again, I’m not sure which it is, or that she has made up her mind firmly, but she constantly tests out the lines of dialogue as she walks around the house, the key one being that which appears in her title:  “Mer-wow?  Mer-wow?”  I don’t think she’s entirely satisfied with it, somehow.

At any rate, I will post again soon, and hope my readers haven’t entirely given up on me, as Lucie-Minou has been threatening they might.  Fare you well until then.

2 Comments

Filed under Full of literary ambitions!, Other than literary days....

Is it “out of sight, out of mind,” or “absence makes the heart grow fonder”? My readers and I.

Dear readers,

I still and continually this fall owe you my sincere apologies for being somewhat absent from the blogging world. The last time I posted something partially on a personal note, I had also to offer my excuses too (and yes, sometimes an excuse is a reason).  The explanation now is the same as it was then:  I am still crafting away busily (mainly doing crochet gifts) for Hannukah and Christmas, both fast approaching.

But there are those of us who have not been derelict in our attentions, and I have to thank those of my readers who continue to read along and wait, I assume fairly patiently, since stats have been good, for my return to the blogging scene.  I hope to have something to say on literary matters again soon, and until then, know that I have you all in my thoughts as I occasionally stop to read some bloggable material, and try to prepare a post that won’t be too lazy or offhand for your attention.  I would also like to thank those newcomers who pop up now and then for their attendance at my site, and hope they keep coming back.  As the cold winds blow up a nor’easter here in the States, I am also thankful not only for the readers who come to my site from the U.S. but also for those who read from other parts of the world.  You are all welcome, and I am always thrilled by the stats which show your countries of origin.  I’ll try not to disappoint when I do return.  In the meantime, enjoy the comforts of the season, such as warm blankets, cozy fires, falling leaves to watch, and hot drinks inside away from the elements.  And if you have to be out in the weather a lot for work (or even play), I hope you are well wrapped up and as sanguine as possible about it–spring will come again!

Thank you for your readership, and farewell for now.  Shadowoperator

3 Comments

Filed under Other than literary days....

In Favor of Wool-gathering: A Crocheter’s Meditations Upon Both the Craft and Life

Though I begin by entitling this post “In favor of,” in actual fact it might more accurately be termed “for and against,” or “pro and con” due to the fact that nothing in life is perfect and all things have their down sides.  But beginning that way would lack the literary resonance of “in favor of,” which precedes other essays on life of more worth and importance than my modest effort, so I lay what claims for it I can, to belong to that fellowship.  Also, I am taking poetic license by calling it “wool-gathering,” because while this is a noteworthy pun in the case, in actual fact for a lot of people including me, it’s more like “acrylic-gathering,” since I often work in the less soft and more resilient acrylic yarns which are cheaper and bulkier both.  These caveats aside, I can justifiably refer to myself by the crafter’s jolly appellation “a happy hooker” (a bit of a hokey punning cognomen in use since the madam Xaviera Hollander’s bestseller came out in the 1970’s, a name supposedly adding more dash to crochet’s use of a single hook as opposed to the milder knitter’s pun of “knit-wit” for the use of two needles).

And now to begin, actually.  Crochet, like knitting, is a craft which abounds in opportunities for error, because in order to render even the simplest pattern, one must count stitches, so that I can see it being excellent homeopathic therapy for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say it is probably a good way to acquire a roaring case of said disorder.  One thing’s for sure, unless one has crocheted a good long while and is only doing a simple single crochet or double crochet pattern (two of the basic stitches), it is nearly impossible to carry on an intelligent conversation or watch an exciting television program at the same time.  Such frivolity of approach brings on dropped stitches (missed stitches) and other unintentional and erroneous embellishments of one’s work.  The down side is that one is often working merrily along on a complicated and repetitive pattern, sure that because the repetition has become second nature that one is “sitting pretty” in one’s rocker or easy chair, so to speak, when suddenly two rows from where one made the original error, one discovers a flaw that necessitates the intervening work being pulled out and reworked, with more humility this time.  Probably the best secondary activity is to listen to music of a non-controversial or balmy nature, which is better than Muzak but doesn’t require singing along while muttering to oneself over and over again “one, two, three, four, five, three stitches in that one, one, two, three, four, five, skip two, one, two, three, four, five, three stitches,” etc.  Even classical music could become too disruptive, especially if it is a stirring piece that one feels compelled to hum or utter “ta-da-da” along with.  Many things in life, occupation-wise, call for tedious and unwavering attention to a specific thing, but crocheters (and knitters too) are among the crafters who most needlessly and relentlessly punish themselves with this form of self-abuse as a hobby.

One is also given a lesson about memory.  For example, try to repeat an afghan or piece of clothing that you have done before, and without a written set of instructions with exact stitches recorded (and books of patterns are surprisingly expensive for what they are), you are doomed to hours of frustration.  I have recently learned even more about the faults of memory, the necessity for patience, and the occasional failings of expert advice.  Taking down an afghan that I wanted to repeat but no longer have a pattern for, I looked at the pattern intently and tried to remember just what I’d done.  But memory could only take me so far:  I kept making things that just didn’t resemble what I was looking at.  So, I had to keep trying (patience, jackass, patience).  Then, to my great joy and regret (joy because I found a store pattern which was like part of what I was trying to accomplish, regret that I had to pay so much for it), I noticed after putting in the first row that the pattern writers weren’t perfect either (the limits of experts).  True, they were only a stitch off, but it left me trying to think up clever ways of coming up with the extra needed stitch at the end of the row.  I fudged it, and am proud to say that the gods sometimes aid the diligent and well-intentioned (and sheerly stubborn, or as a British friend of mine used to say, “bloody-minded”–so much more poetic!)

And now, I’m well on my way to accomplishing my goal of figuring out the (as it turns out) quite complicated pattern I once did blithely  in my foolish youth, when success was only a few stitches away, and I had plenty of time and patience, excellent memory and ingenuity.  Creativity, it turns out, can take many forms, and is often made up of these things almost exclusively.  What one realizes with this craft at least is that time is finite, patience and memory often decrease with age, and ingenuity is called upon more frequently to make up for the shortages of the other three.  As one of my favorite refrigerator magnets has it, “Age and guile always overcome youth and skill.”  So now you have it, my completed post.  Last but not least:  this post was inspired by the reflection which visited me this morning that I have obligations willingly incurred to my readers and blogging buddies as well, and it was high time I produced another post.  As to those of you who are waiting for me to respond to their posts, take it as read that i will do so very soon.  Right now, I’m still wool-gathering, and have to finish a bit more in order to be satisfied!

2 Comments

Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days....

All ready for Christmas, and in the eye of the storm….

What, my readers may ask, has possessed me to go two weeks without posting a single word on my WordPress.com blog?  Why do I think that people will just wait around and tolerate being neglected?  Have I been sitting around twiddling my thumbs, picking my nose, staring at nothing?  Well, no.  Truth to tell, I’ve been getting ready for Christmas.  And I’ve been getting ready for Christmas for several weeks now, and now have only two gifts left to buy, a huge bone (4 1/2 foot long) for my brother’s hound and something more potable for my brother (shhhh!  don’t anyone tell them–they don’t read my blog).  It has just seemed that every time I think I’m done, I get another great gift idea, and I persuade myself that I can spare the money, and so I do, and there we go.

My adventure started near the end of October, when the first catalogs advertising Christmas items came out.  Forewarned is forearmed, and I had been told that ordering either online or on the phone was going to be drastically slowed this year, and so I looked up interesting gifts in the catalogs in October.  But I didn’t actually buy many gifts in October, because the catalogs hadn’t got the lower or lowest prices yet.  I ordered a few things that might take till forever to come in, and then I waited for the next catalogs to come out, so that I could order from them in November.  Of course, I had some independent ideas which I researched on Amazon.com, and a very few items that I waited until this past week to pick up at the stores in person.  But the predominance of my gifts I was able to order online or on the phone, and I had that done well within the month of November.  Then all I had to do was wait for stuff to come in.

By the first of December, I was ready to wrap, and so I started wrapping.  We put up our tree, and now all of my gifts except the two I mentioned are under the tree, awaiting their inevitable unveiling on Christmas morning.  But there were still cards to do, and I always bake for some people here where I live, and that still needed to be done.  Of course, the cards went by in a flash in one blitz of an evening, and I started doing my bread baking yesterday and stayed up all night finishing it last night (when I get motivated, I get motivated!).  It was made easier (and cheaper) this year because so many people had told me they didn’t want cookies this year.  Usually, I make four kinds, about 24 dozen cookies in all, but this year I settled on loaves of sourdough bread.  This was convenient, as I was already planning to wake up my sourdough starter from its sleep in the fridge in order to take it up to my brother’s for Christmas so that we could make sourdough English muffins.

Since yesterday, I have finished the main part of my baking.  The only people I have still to bake for are the ladies at the local charity shop, for whom we usually do a cookie tray.  I think this year I will do a tray of sourdough bites with cheeses for them, by way of a change for the both of us.  So now, I’m sitting looking at dirty dishes, feeling like I need a good nap after my all-nighter up baking, but still too wired to sleep.  And of course starting last night late or early this morning really, we began to have a nor’easter (a storm off the ocean, full of rain and high winds, with some threats of flooding).  The storm is going to last probably until tomorrow noon, so I have to be ready with towels and things to dry out the windows and sop up water, which is a fortune most people who are anywhere near a coast are familiar with.  But I’m not really complaining; I’m done with so many things, and now I’m just very excited and can’t wait for Christmas to come.

That’s really the way of it, isn’t it?  When you’re young, you generally think of Christmas as a time when you get things from indulgent family members and friends, and it’s a rare child who appreciates the sheer fun of giving.  But once you get to be an adult, the fun is in surprising someone else with something bought or made that they will enjoy or profit from.  So, here I sit, two weeks and two days before Christmas, waiting and waiting and waiting for the big day to come, so that I can celebrate with people I care about.  And all this fooferall of my post is just to assure my readers that they are people I care about too, toward whom I feel I have a responsibility to post regularly and as interestingly as possible, even if I don’t know their names and they never comment.  I hope this posting finds you well and deep in your own plans for whatever winter or December holiday you observe, and waiting eagerly for the next real literary post to come along.  I promise to do one soon, as soon as I have recuperated from my own holiday efforts and have a chance to sit down and read again.  Until then, cheers!

10 Comments

Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days....

Just a quick word….

Hello, readers!  It’s not that I’m getting lazy, just that I have been busy with many other things, including reading things to post about.  I will be back when I have something else read, I hope another post for Halloween.  Until then, feel free to browse back posts if they interest or motivate you–I’ll be glad to hear from you.

3 Comments

Filed under Other than literary days....

The Tale of a Journey, and Its Ending (Back at Home)

Well, folks, I’ve recently returned from a trip with my immediate family to my and my brother’s undergraduate institution for fun, merriment, and one of those notable trips down Memory Lane, and though we had a great time going there, I have to report that Cornell University and the environs have changed considerably.  A lot of businesses which one thought would be there forever are no longer, and ones which remain have changed almost out of recognition, though sometimes for the better.  We eschewed the formal reunions and the organized trips and went where we remembered things being the best, the most interesting, or sometimes the most grueling (because of course since we had my young nephew with us, we had to impress him with tales of just how horrific things could be, as well as reassuring him that should he go there later, he would be able to surmount difficulties as well).  We started out the trip with breakfast near the beginning of our trip, and then met a good friend in another town later for lunch at a Belgian restaurant, which was a new cuisine for us.  Suffice it to say, it was excellent.  Then, we headed straight for Ithaca.  We got to our motel, and then went to an exceptional Thai restaurant down on The Commons (what the level ground is called downtown, which is not on one of the two mountainsides where Cornell University and Ithaca College are respectively located).  It was called Thai Basil, and was one of the best restaurants around of any kind.  Not only did they make special room for us on a very crowded night when we somewhat inconsiderately came by without a reservation, but the food and the ambience were outstanding.  The waitstaff was accomodating and very polite, coming by the table quite frequently to see what else we needed even though they were filled to capacity and clearly expecting many more.  It was a happy, happy time to end the first leg of our trip.

The next morning and day were the heart of our trip, as we toured around the campus and saw what had changed.  After taking the car around to show my nephew all the places my brother and I had lived (he came through 6 years after me), we parked it (though so booming and hearty, Ithaca is still a city where even up around the university it’s possible to find parking fairly quickly).  Then, I went (like a city dweller) to sit on the corner of College Ave. at Collegetown Bagels.  This is a place with a rich history, and one of the places that has changed much since our first exposure to it.  In the old days, there was no seating; you went into a large room and up to a counter where there were bins of numerous different kinds of bagels, and the man or woman behind the counter took your order and slathered whatever you’d chosen onto your bagel.  Someone rang you up at the register and you left.  Because I didn’t come from a bagel-conscious area, and I got to Ithaca back in the 1970’s, before bagels were popular all over the U.S., I’d never tasted one before; it was a real novelty, one which I hastened to introduce my family to when they came up to visit.  When my mother first tasted them years ago, she wasn’t impressed, being used to the softer bread products of our own hometown.  But in about six months or so, she was strangely longing to have one again.  And thus another cuisine touched our family.  Still, Collegetown Bagels has vastly expanded its operations in the time since even my brother was there after me.  The whole corner of College Ave. is now Collegetown Bagels, and they have tons of outdoor seating.  As well, the counter space is totally new (at least to me) with a complicated “filing-past” procedure of ordering, and beer choices, and a very innovative and ornate menu of items, as well as additional food and juice items of every sort that you could want.  So, I chose to sit and take in the pedestrian traffic and watch the crowds (and incidentally, save a table) for my mother, brother, and nephew, who were planning to hike down one of the several gorges–the motto?  “Ithaca is Gorges”–before having a late breakfast.  I had chosen a plain whole wheat bagel with butter, a bit of yoghurt, and a juice to wait for them with, and soon got into conversation with someone who’d been there when I was and had been in the town since.  He was able to tell me that sadly, some campus traditions no longer prevailed.  For example, dogs are no longer allowed to roam free on the Cornell campus (into the classrooms and etc., where before they were always good for a diversion from our studies); students no longer “borrow” lunch trays from the main dining halls to slide down the steep slope behind Uris Library in the snow anymore; and other such sad passings.  But when I queried as to why there were now such big nets underneath the bridges, he was able to reassure me that at least one unenviable tradition had changed for the better:  despairing students have been prevented from “gorging out” (jumping into the gorges in mostly successful and regrettable suicide attempts).  As well, when my family rejoined me for a late breakfast (and like a hobbit, I had a little something else to help fill up the spaces), they had to report that the gorge they had hiked up was perhaps a bit less scenic than before, because it had had to be paved along the side and reinforced due to a recent flood, which had washed some trees away.  We ate then moved on to tour the campus.

There were people waving to us from the bell tower of the library as the carillon concert began.  As if just to please my nephew (who had at his first sight of the campus up on the hill from a distance said that it reminded him of Harry Potter’s school Hogwarts), students were playing a non-levitational form of quidditch when we got to the Arts Quad.  We watched for a while, and then went round looking at the old buildings, noticing as well places where new constructions had been added (nothing’s ever totally the same way you left it, and I suppose that’s as it should be).  Nevertheless, I was dismayed to learn that the coffeehouse “The Temple of Zeus” in the English building of Goldwin Smith Hall is no longer there or perhaps not what it was, and I saw no happy outpouring of students from “The Green Dragon” in the Architecture and Fine Arts building of Sibley Hall, though that’s not to say they weren’t there at least lurking in spirit somewhere.  I was nostalgic for this area because it’s where I spent most of my time, as an English major in Goldwin Smith and as a dual Theatre major in Lincoln Hall.  But I have to be happy for the English majors that they are getting a new Humanities Building right next door, and the Theatre students now have a grand new performing arts center in Schwarz, which I saw when I was sitting having breakfast in the morning, as it was centrally located.

Next, we went to show my nephew where my brother and I had lived in our respective dorms on North Campus, and the North Campus Union, and other sights.  I, of course, was mournful to observe that the Pancake House–scene of many an early and riotous breakfast after a night of heavy carousing for me and my undergraduate friends–was no longer above the power house along another waterway, but we were rewarded with the sight of a baby blue egret perched on the dam fishing, so it wasn’t all bad.  Finally, we went back to the car and once again my nephew was rewarded in his hopes and ambitions:  earlier, when we had been driving past a sign on the road that said “Deer Crossing,” he had hoped to be able to see a deer.  Now, however, as we were parked just by someone’s backyard in hillside Ithaca, we saw a deer, an older female, standing quietly feeding on someone’s flower bed.  My brother pointed out the tumor which had unfortunately formed on her back knee joint.  She was not really afraid of us, but just kept a watchful eye out as we quietly started the car and pulled out.  We had our last group touring session of the day by going down to Lake Cayuga and sitting there in Stewart Park, under the willows.  It was very warm and yet breezy in a pleasant way; we in fact had good weather the entire weekend.  Next, my brother wanted to take my mother to see the falls at Taughhannock Park, so we went there.  I, however, had worn my weary legs out, so while the three of them hiked five miles in and five miles back out, I sat in the car park under a shade tree and watched all the young families and their kids and dogs coming to enjoy the lawns and water.  Finally, it was time to go out to dinner again, and man! were we ready for it this day!

My brother found us a wonderful Indian restaurant up on the hill on Eddy St., where though I was very sad to see that the magnificent Cabbagetown Café of vegetarian fame and excellence was no longer on a corner, I was amply requited with a fine Indian dinner.  I wish I could remember the exact name of the restaurant, but there were two Indian restaurants side by side, and my brother left us to choose one, and as they both looked very inviting and hospitable, I cannot recall which one we visited.  But both had a five-star rating, so if you happen to be visiting, we went to the one a little further down the hill of Eddy Street toward Martin Luther King St., and if you can’t find room there, maybe the one a little further just up the hill will have room for you.  Again, we were welcomed without a reservation, which was excellent, and the dinner moreover was absolutely first-rate.  We ended the evening by driving downtown to Purity Ice Cream, a favorite haunt of my brother’s in the old days, and my nephew was rendered replete with good fare and happy memories.

The next morning, we had to go, but we started out in a leisurely fashion and went to see some more falls at the bottom of another gorge (my brother is clearly training my nephew to be a vigorous fellow).  Then, we went to another fine restaurant (I know, it sounds like all we did was walk and eat!).  We had our breakfast at the Sunset Grill, which was up on one of the high hills of Ithaca, and from which we could see Cornell University sitting on another mountaintop at a distance.  It was several notches up from the average diner food, everything was pristine and clean and bright and cheery, they had an “endless cup of coffee,” and we got to eat out on their porch area, in the gorgeous morning air.  Now, it really was time to go.  We gassed up the car and headed back, stopping in the evening to have dinner at a restaurant just an hour from my brother’s house, where we were not let down either from all the fine fare we had already been served.  It was a “country style” restaurant, but though I’d had premonitions of everything being covered in cheap gravy and being served overboiled vegetables, that’s not what it was about at all.  It was instead just as fine a dining experience as all the rest, and concluded our trip in a perfect manner.

We drove to my brother’s house full of our experiences and adventures, and busy discussing the traditions which still seemed to be observed, and the things that had changed for the better or worse.  One thing is certain:  as one might expect (though older people like us never quite seem to get the gist of this the first time they encounter it, and need repeated exposures to this awareness to “get the picture”), the torch has been passed to a new generation, and they are happy with what they have in the main, just as we were happy with what we had, mostly.  And that’s all as it should be!  Heaven only knows what my nephew will see if and when he goes to Ithaca.  Or maybe he will break tradition and go somewhere else, where he will likely discover his own favorite things to expose his family to.  Only time will tell!  In the meantime, we had a great family outing, and yet another good experience of family bonding.  And after all, that’s what it was all about!

Leave a comment

Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days...., What is literature for?