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Beginning in 1908, Sears started selling entire houses. They sold 75,000 DIY mail order homes between 1908 and 1939.

The approximately 25-ton kits were transported by railroad. They had 30,000 pre-cut parts, plumbing and electrical fixtures, and up to 750 pounds of nails.

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log-fireplace-pixa

I see that the Yule Log at Douglass College celebrates its 100th anniversary tomorrow.  This is a non-sectarian event, but this marking of the advent of winter falls on the first Sunday of the Christian Advent and the first night of Hanukkah. The Douglass College event embraces the diversity of seasonal celebrations with candles, which play a role in many observations during this time.

I attended the Yule Log celebration there my freshman year at neighboring Rutgers College and sang songs, and listened to students reading passages about the winter season.

Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a festival historically observed by Germanic peoples. It went through some remixes and later was, as many other pagan holidays, Christianised as Christmastide.

As a child, my family incorporated some of our the Austro-Hungarian traditions of our ancestors. We considered Yuletide to be a 12-day celebration (as with the more modern Twelve Days of Christmas).

“Officially” Yule 2018 will begin on the Winter Solstice on December 21 (at 5:23 PM ET for the Northern Hemisphere if you want to be Druid precise) and it will end on January 1, 2019. So, today’s post is early, but it gives you lots of time to prepare.

The most common present day custom is probably the Yule log, but there are also a Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing and other pagan Yule symbols.

Much earlier references to Yule are made in the Germanic month names Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule).

We also associate this time with the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht. But you can mark the Yuletide and the winter season inside and outside your home with a variety of traditions.

I forgot this year when the first snow fell, to collect some of it for snow water – a kind of Pagan “holy” water.

I know that some people leave out birdseed ornaments and halved oranges as winter offerings to attract and aid the birds who remain for winter.

wassail

If you make some wassail, you can gather friends and go wassailing and after the sun has gone down, Sure, go ahead and burn a yule log in a bonfire, if you can.

Inside, you can make stovetop potpourri as an alternative to incense.

As the winter solstice comes upon us, get out the tarot cards and do a spread for you and your friends and see what is to come.

Hang mistletoe for protection, and also for consensual kisses. In the Christian era, mistletoe in the Western world became associated with Christmas as a decoration under which lovers are expected to kiss. It had also been considered protection from witches and demons. Mistletoe continued to be associated with fertility and vitality through the Middle Ages, and by the 18th century it had also become incorporated into Christmas celebrations around the world.

st-lucia-saffron-buns-vertical

In a cultural sense, I would be quite happy if someone decided to make me some Swedish Lussekatter rolls, or a loaf of cardamom-scented, studded with raisins and candied citron Norwegian Julekake bread. The smell of any baking in the house in winter always warms me and feels like the holiday season.

You can have a ritual bath with fresh orange slices and winter spices, such as frankincense and myrrh, or essential oils which is supposed to ensure future prosperity.

On a Winter Solstice or Yule altar you might find colors like reds, greens, whites, and metallic colors, but some holly, pine, ivy, mistletoe, juniper, or cedar greenery. The harvest can be represented by oranges, pears, nuts and berries.  Snowflake obsidian, clear quartz, or bloodstone may be found there too.

Neopaganism – and holiday rituals – can vary widely and also share similarities, having come from similar origins. Some may try to celebrate in a way as close as possible to how they believe Ancient Germanic pagans observed the tradition. Neopagan sects may celebrate Yule with a special meal and gift giving.

No matter how you treat this time of year, there are probably some roots back to the original Yuletide.

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Camus

I noted on a blustery November 7th that it was the birthday of French writer Albert Camus.  I think a lot of people think of him as an existentialist based on his books, but he said that did not describe him. Actually, in an interview, he rejected any ideological associations.

I find Camus more optimistic than some people. I like a few quotes of his in that spirit.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

His novels include L’étranger (1942, The Stranger), La Peste (1947, The Plague), and La Chute (1956, The Fall). All of them have their grim moments.  When I read Camus, I was only in my teens and I think the sadness in his writing played into some Romantic notions I foolishly had then about being depressed.

In his book, The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus did deal with a big topic of existentialism – suicide. Camus wrote that “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”

In Camus’ view, suicide was a natural solution to the absurdity of life. But in The Myth of Sisyphus, he also tries to identify the kinds of life that could be worth living.

This weekend while I am away from the early winter of Paradelle in summerish weather, I’m thinking a lot about how season and location affect our attitude and mood. Though I have been rereading some Camus this past week, I am not feeling the inherent meaninglessness that seemed to overcome him at times.

In 1957, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. On January 4, 1960, Camus died in a car crash.

“I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t,
than live as if there isn’t and to die to find out that there is.”

 

classroom

I met a woman this past week who had been my student 30 years ago. She recognized me and (as I had always told students at the end of the school year) she introduced herself wisely – “I’m Lisa and you were my eighth grade English teacher.” Some synapses fired enough that I did recall her by her student last name. She is now married with two children, one in 8th grade, and she is a teacher.

I have reconnected in person or in Facebook with a surprising number of former students who went into teaching. I’m not presumptuous enough to believe that I had something to do with their career choice, but I’d like to think that I at least modeled some good lessons and behaviors.

She was nice enough to say that she loved my class and still remembered certain lessons and books we read and even a few things I had told them that didn’t really have to do with our classwork. She asked me, “What do you think is the secret to being a good teacher?”

That is a difficult question to answer. I gave her too many possible answers (enthusiasm, willingness to experiment and fail, love of your subject…) but when I got home I thought of a poem to answer her.

The poem is one I occasionally used in class, though I’m not sure it is as good a selection for students as it is for teachers.

That poem is “The Secret” by Denise Levertov. The two girls in that poem remind me of Lisa (not her real name) and others who would come in after school sometimes to talk. At times, they had a question about an assignment or something we read or talked about in class, but once and awhile I knew that their initial question was a pretense to ask or talk about something not really part of the curriculum.

In Levertov’s poem:

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.

I’d like to imagine that Levertov actually did have two girls come to her like in the poem. As a poet, I would love to have someone come to me to say that a line of my poetry did that.

Levertov continues:

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was.

You read a line or someone says something in class and it is a revelation in that moment.

No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them

Lisa, what is the secret? I know that it is not just one thing, but I know that an important part of it is:

they may
discover it again, in other
lines

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
for

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

 

I am so happy for Lisa and for any of my students or any teacher who want to know the secret, and for assuming there is such a secret. Yes, for that most of all.

I finally saw Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind now that it has “debuted” on Netflix. After all these years – shooting on the film began in 1970 and was not finished when Welles died in 1985 – others have finished the editing.

The film is pretty messy. Right off, it is a film-within-a-film. There is the black and white documentary a crew is shooting about the director at the center of the movie. John Huston, a real director, plays Jake Hannaford, an aging director trying for one last successful film. And there is the color footage for the movie Hannaford is trying to finish, The Other Side of the Wind. 

Welles started the film after his return to Hollywood after 22 years of being an self-imposed ex-pat in Europe. Of course, Hannaford will be seen as Welles. (Welles said later he regretted not taking the part himself.) The film within the film is a satire of the avant-garde films of the New Hollywood of the 1970s. It reminds me of Zabriskie Point, a 1970 film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. The Arizona house where Welles shot the party scenes looks like the house Antonioni blew up in his film.

The film often seems improvised, and Welles did like magical accidents that occur on a set. But it was scripted. That party has a bunch of directors (Paul Mazursky, Henry Jaglom, Curtis Harrington, Claude Chabrol and Dennis Hopper) appearing as themselves.

After many stops and starts, principal photography ended in 1976. Welles did some editing in the 1980s but all kinds of things stopped him from finishing, including, I suspect, some of his own confusion on how to shape it into a coherent film.

Now, 137 million Netflix subscribers in 190 countries can see the film. Would Welles be happy to have a shot at that mass audience? Probably, yes. But I doubt it will get that many viewers. It is most appealing to Welles fans like myself who are curious. There are a good number of us who check out sites like wellesnet.com. But I wouldn’t even ask my wife to watch it. Like many people, she would bail out after 15 minutes.

I watched the film and then I watched Morgan Neville’s the companion feature-length documentary by Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor) called They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead and then I watched Ryan Suffern’s 38-minute documentary short “A Final Cut for Orson: 40 Years in the Making.”

Oja Kodor was Welles’ lover and collaborator in the last part of his life. She is the actress in the film-within-the-film and she worked on the script. She said that in later years she thought the best thing to do with the footage was to make a documentary about it rather than try to complete the film Orson intended to make. She might have been correct. She also got the self-admitted prude Welles to add some nudity and sex into the film. (She is the nudity.)

 

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

The movie is full of cameos and it was fun to try spotting them. For younger viewers, it would be a trivia challenge to identify most of them, such as vaudevillian George Jessel. He toasts Hannaford as “the Ernest Hemingway of the cinema, the Murnau of the American motion picture. Who Murnau is, I don’t remember.” (The film is supposed to take place on July 2, 1961, the day Hemingway committed suicide.)  Susan Strasberg plays a tough critic who is probably based on Pauline Kael. She says about Hannaford that “What he creates, he has to wreck, it’s a compulsion.”  Critic Kael’s wrote an article called “Raising Kane” in The New Yorker in 1971 which pissed Welles off bigtime. Lilli Palmer is an aging Marlene Dietrich type and Orson’s buddies Mercedes McCambridge and Paul Stewart pop in and out.

Director Peter Bogdanovich played a “cineaste” in the early shooting and then became a young director in later shoots. Of course, Peter was a young director in real life. His own very successful first film was The Last Picture Show in 1971.  Bogdanovich was also a friend of Welles for many years and wrote and made films about him.

Netflix doesn’t like theatrical releases, but it will appear in a dozen cinemas in eight states. Welles probably wouldn’t be into people watching his film on TV screens, tablets, laptops and smartphones. He would have been happy that before Netflix it played in about 20 cities worldwide at special screenings following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in August.

Charles Frazier was told a story by his father about an ancestor named Inman who was wounded in the Confederate Army. Inman deserted, and walked across North Carolina, to his small hometown at the foot of Cold Mountain.

Frazier thought it would be a good basis for a novel, but he couldn’t find much more information about the real Inman. So, he wrote from his imagination, and from letters and diaries from the Civil War.

But he wasn’t sure he wanted to write a “war novel.”

“I didn’t want to write a novel of the battles and the generals and those famous personalities. There have been a lot of books written about that — good ones and bad ones — and I didn’t want to add to the bulk of that literature.’

I like how Frazier divides those novels into two categories.

“I realized that there are two kinds of books about a war: there’s an Iliad, about fighting the war, and about the battles and generals, and there’s an Odyssey, about a warrior who has decided that home and peace are the things he wants. Once I decided that I was writing an Odyssey kind of book instead of an Iliad kind of book, I could move forward with it with some sense of happiness.”

Inman is a Civil War Odysseus on a journey back to, Ada, the woman he loves,

He published Cold Mountain in 1997. It was on The New York Times best-seller list for months, and was also made into a film with the same title.

 

Source: garrisonkeillor.com

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