Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is why I bought cross country skis.


The Tables Turned


Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I had a conversation the other day concerning what heaven must be like. I won't get into details, as they are neither exciting, nor relevant.
In any case, My reading habits, having shifted for the time being away from kid's lit, have fallen back on old-school science fiction. This afternoon, reading a Ray Bradbury story in which the forst men to land on Mars discover that it is, in fact, Heaven (and peopled with their loved ones) I came across this line:

"You could hear the tinkle of ice rattling in a lemonade pitcher. In a distant kitchen, because of the day, someone was preparing a soft, lemon drink."
-Mars is Heaven!, Ray Bradbury.

Because of the day. The day is so perfect, that it demands that lemonade be made. because. The day causes lemonade to be made. Indeed.
Et voila. Perhaps my heaven would be made up of days so perfect that they required lemonade. And nights that needed hot chocolate, perhaps.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


William Shakespeare. 1564–1616
Sonnet 57
BEING your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour  
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save, where you are how happy you make those!
  So true a fool is love, that in your Will,
  Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Movies.

Movies constitute a ritual for me, and, as my last post suggests, have for quite sometime. Certain films, especially, function not only as movies, but as ritual objects, to be viewed at certain times, or in certain circumstances.
The Goonies, subject of the last post, is not such a movie. Cool Hand Luke, on the other hand, is. Last year, when I needed to mark a substancial turning point in my life, all I could think to do was to draw the blinds, and watch Paul Newman buck the system, smiling that smile. Cool Hand Luke has always been an important film in my later years. I discovered it late.
The Princess Bride is older, more powerful than that. I first saw it displayed for the children as part of a winter carnival in my ancestral home. It made a lasting impression, quite rightly, as it is the most perfect movie ever made by the hands of man or God. I have seen it, since then, since that day in my youth, several dozen times. It never fails to please me, to amuse me, and to make me feel as young as the day I first saw it.
Of late, for a variety of reasons, The Princess Bride came to stand in as an example of a paradigm of a certain type of love in an ongoing discussion with both myself and a few other key players. Willow, an other childhood favourite was championed by some as an alternative model, with or without hot chocolate (my most recent viewing was with, and I do suggest it). In the process, The Princess Bride acquired a certain negative connotation, related to an ongoing situation at the time. I turned my back on it, and the paradigm it came to stand for.
But this afternoon, I thought about it. It dawned on my that these recent associations, these new, negative qualities, could not stand against the weight of the years that The Princess Bride had been mine to love. I had history with this movie, and these new ideas were not going to change that.
And so, Gentle Reader, tonight, I watched The Princess Bride. It is, as it always was, a wonderful tale of adventure, with fencing, and giants, torture, chases, escapes and wizards. Yes, it sucks as a paradigm of love. But it is one hell of a good movie. And its mine again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shakespeare and Frost: Stay Gold

From the Poetry Foundation:

Sonnet LXV: Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea


Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
   O, none, unless this miracle have might,
   That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

This one reminded me of a Frost poem I hadn't read until just recently (U of T):

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Nothing Gold can Stay

              Nature's first green is gold,
              Her hardest hue to hold.
              Her early leaf's a flower;
              But only so an hour.
              Then leaf subsides to leaf.
              So Eden sank to grief,
              So dawn goes down to day.
              Nothing gold can stay.

I suppose this means I shall have to read The Outsiders.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"May you stay forever young"

I saw a video today, on the internet, with a caption "You're going to nostalgia so hard, you have no idea."
Verbing nostalgia aside, the caption was correct. If you're interested, the video can be found here.
This set off a chain reaction that began with me googling every John Hughes movie ever made, and culminated in my watching The Goonies again, some 20 or so years after the first time.
It is still as awesome as it ever was. I nostalgied quite hard.
I cannot remember the first time I watched The Goonies. I want it to be in the summer of '86 or '87, maybe. I want it to have been in the club house of the Cascade Golf and Tennis Club, where, every Thursday, they would project, on a ratty pull-down screen, a movie.  As soon as it was dark enough (it was never really dark enough in the summer) they would pull the blinds, shrouding the wood paneled hall in half light, that magical, early evening half light of the northern latitudes summer, and open the golf course cantine, purveyor of one-cent Swedish berries and soda pops, Mr. Freeze, and potato chips. The goal, for us kiddies, was to purchase a dollar's worth of Swedish berries, and consume all one hundred of them without vomiting. Not so easily done. To manage this was to pass a rite of sorts, to become one of the big kids, a precursor to more solemn rites of manhood to come later, most involving matches, or perhaps firecrackers, and swear words in French.
However, the real magic started when the projector, its two reels cutting an iconic silhouette in the gloom, was turned on. A beam of light cut the dusty air, and the soft ratchetting ch-ch-ch of the film in the sprockets filled the anticipation laden silence.
This is how I want to have seen The Goonies for the first time. And there stands a good chance that it is how I saw it for the first time. I'm certain I've seen it many times after, on VHS, on lazy summer afternoons, filled with pirates and fat kids, adventure and Italian counterfeiters.
I still, to this day, cannot walk into a movie theatre without hearing the soft noise of a projector in my head, without seeing the half-light of the Cascade Golf and Tennis Club house, and without wanting one hundred Swedish berries, to prove that I am almost a man.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On Sneakers in College Hallways...

A day late, and a dollar short...
In any case, my dry spell is over. I have, once again, Dear Reader, found my muse. Inspiration floods me, threatens to overflow my banks, pour forth in veritable torrents, soaking the carpets of my borrowed office, generally making a mess, and leaving me drained, weakened, but satisfied.
Well, maybe not. However, I am writing again, after a week long hiatus punctuated by only the most painful 100-word spurts, spurred by deadlines more than by desire.
This new found inspiration has gotten me thinking, though, of the good things in life. The little moments, the instances of pure, child like joy that hopefully punctuate the day. Like getting just the right knot on your wool tie, knowing no one but you will notice, or care if they did. Like eating ribs, alone, standing over the pot they were cooked in, too consumed in consuming to bother with the niceties of table manners, or civilization in general. The accidental naps in the afternoon sun, awash in the red light behind your eyelids, sound and reality fading slowly. Discovering the ability to make brown sugar fudge with one's sister. Skiing, in slow curves, down the easy trails in the last light of the setting sun. Realizing, with no small joy, that someone has reached out, and is holding your hand. These sorts of moments.
I am, these days, so busy that I have begun to take these moments for granted. This is dangerous ground, Gentle Reader, as I am not convinced that having lost these moments, I would be able to consider myself, well, human. Surely, it is the appreciation of these moments that help define what it is to be a part of this human endeavour, culture, society, the arts, scientific progress, life. I am busy because I have a plan, and I want to work towards that end. But not to the detriment of my soul. Not to the point that I lose the value attached to these quiet moments of sublime happiness. Not to the point of inhumanity. Stay gold.