How About a Dallowday Party This Weekend?

In 1925, Virginia Woolf’ published her novel, Mrs Dalloway. It is about a woman, Clarissa Dalloway, who is hosting a June party in London. It doesn’t sound like much of a plot, but the novel was partially an experiment. She set the novel on a single day and used stream-of-consciousness storytelling.

Virginia Woolf was a big fan of James Joyce’s Ulysses which had been published earlier (1922). Ulysses is also set on a single day in June and is a early and powerful example of stream-of-consciousness storytelling techniques.

Mrs Dalloway marks a break from Woolf’s more traditional earlier writing. Clarissa’s thoughts and her impressions on that day are mixed with interior monologues of others.  Some her day parallels the life of Septimus Warren Smith who fall into a madness ending in suicide.

Woolf’s novel is not clear about the day we follow Clarissa. Using a 1923 calendar, some people have suggested that June 13 is the most likely date.

As far as I could find, the date of her party is only described a Wednesday “in the middle of June, ” so this year the 12th or 19th would have been appropriate.

Joyce set his novel on June 16, and that day has become knowns as Bloomsday. Fans of the novel have made that day a way to celebrate the book by trying to reenact the actions of Leopold Bloom in the plot. There are Bloomsday celebrations around the world and some that sound quite outrageous in the Dublin of the novel.

But people aren’t celebrating what might be called “Dallowday.” But why not? Why can’t at least London celebrate the day?

It is a great excuse for readings, exhibitions, maybe some performances and, of course, a party.

If London doesn’t want a party, I think it is up to you to get things started. This weekend is just fine.

Film version starring Vanessa Redgrave.

If you need some ideas and don’t want to read the novel (Honestly, I didn’t like the novel), there is a film version of Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway, starring Vanessa Redgrave.

There is also a film version that uses Woolf’s working title for her novel as its title – The Hours. That film is the story of how Woolf’s novel affects three generations of women. What they share is that they have all had to deal with suicide in their lives, and their lives connect to Mrs. Dalloway’s lfe and that June day.

The Hours is a novel by Michael Cunningham. He takes Virginia Woolf’s life and particularly her last days before her suicide and uses it. Her story particularly connects with the character Samuel, a famous poet in the shadow of his talented and troubled mother. He has a lifelong friend, Clarissa.

All of them and all of that can be at your party. Sure, someone gets to dress up as Clarissa.

             

Your Best Day, Worst Day and Finding That One Thing

I watched the movie City Slickers again recently. It’s a movie I watched multiple times with my sons when they were much younger. It’s a comedy with lots of jokes, gags and sight comedy. But it also has some really serious moments and, for a comedy, it has its share of lessons. Some of the dialogue has become part of the Ronkowitz family vernacular.

One scene (below) that really gets me is when the three city slickers talk about the best and worst days in their lives.

I can identify with Mitch’s (Billy Crystal) best and worst memories. I have had both experiences.  I’m glad that Phil’s (Daniel Stern) worst story is one I haven’t lived. But is the two stories by Ed (Bruno Kirby) that really get me. His are also things I didn’t have to live through. That one day is both his best and worst day of his life.

I have written here about the “secret of life” before. People do search for it. Most people never find it. Some people say it doesn’t exist. I have heard people say that the secret of life is realizing that there is no secret.  James Taylor sings about “The Secret of Life” and says it is simply “enjoying the passage of time.” To do that, I suppose you do have stop pursuing the secret in your life.

I believe in the secret as explained by Mitch and Curly (Jack Palance)  in the film. This clip of that scene below is again set up with some laughs, and then comes the moment. Curly does tell us the secret, so pay attention.

Have you found that one thing? Let the rest of know with a comment.

I still plan to do that City Slickers cattle drive with my sons one day.  But I don’t need to go find my smile.  I found it. And I already know that one thing.  I hope the same is true for you.

Spring Will Come

There is snow on the ground in Paradelle and the Polar Vortex visited us this past week. The ground is rock-hard. Nothing is budding. But I saw my first robin today.

robin

There are a lot of things that are supposed to indicate that the spring season is near. That silly groundhog in Pennsylvania who was pulled out of his home, saw no shadow (Duh, it was cloudy) and so it is supposed to be an early spring. NOAA says Phil the Groundhog has a 40% accuracy rate over 133 years – about as good as a coin toss.

It is a sure sign of spring when I once again watch the film Groundhog Day, and whatever the weather might be, I get into the Zen of that film.

Animals pay no attention to calendars, but those that hibernate or spend more time  inside than outside (like most of us) during winter do sense a warming climate. There are also internal clocks that will signal that it is time for them to emerge.

It made a kind of sense to people at one time that if they observed an animal (bears in France, badgers in Germany, groundhogs in America) emerging but then heading back inside, it must “know” something about the weather ahead.

You can also be a sky watcher like the ancients, who paid more careful attention to things up there. The movements of the Sun and Moon were very important and today is a “cross-quarter” day in the solar calendar. Today falls exactly between a solstice and an equinox.

Though it might not feel like it, consider that winter is halfway over and spring is on the celestial horizon – whether it looks and feels like it outside. I have definitely noticed that there was a longer day(light) the past week.

Many nature and garden folks look to the plants in their neighborhood for signs of spring. But I can’t say that I have found them to be much more accurate than groundhogs. I saw some bulbs poking above ground back in December, but they stopped their progress. I have a patch of crocuses that get full sun all day in front of my home that always bloom a week or more before the others.


Take the snowdrops I have outside. When they bloom, it might be snowy and they add some white (and green) to the landscape. But Galanthus nivalis will bloom when they are ready no matter what the weather happens to be. They are early bloomers.  Mine are not poking out, but we have a warming week ahead, so they might break through.

Cultures and religions all have some type of seasonal celebrations. The Celtic holiday of Imbolc is an ancient one that honored Brigid (or Brigit), goddess of fire, poetry, healing, and childbirth. February first is Saint Brigid’s feast day.

The ancient Imbolc (from the Old Irish imbolg, meaning “in the belly”) is thought to have come from his time being when ewes became pregnant. Those would be the spring lambs. As February started, Saint Brigid was thought to bring the healing power of the sun back to the world.

Christians took the pagan holiday and repurposed February 2 as Candlemas Day (Candelora in Italy).  Though it is to mark the presentation of Jesus at the temple 40 days after her birth, the ceremony is to bring candles (and Brigid’s crosses) to church to be blessed.  So it offers the elements of fire and a birth.

 

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks its portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

 

What made that robin return to this cold northern place now? Birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere tend to migrate northward in the spring to take advantage of emerging insect populations, budding plants and an abundance of nesting locations.

Though the vast majority of robins do move south in the winter, some remain and move around in northern locations. Robins migrate more in response to food than to temperature and fruit is the robin’s winter food source. I haven’t seen any robins in my area since autumn, so I assume they went south.

American Robins eat large numbers of both invertebrates and fruit. In spring and summer, they prefer earthworms, insects and some snails. they also eat a wide variety of fruits, including chokecherries, hawthorn, dogwood, sumac fruits and juniper berries. One study suggested that robins may try to round out their diet by selectively eating fruits that have bugs in them.

Another Journey to Watership Down

I read a review of the new animated series on Netflix based on the novel, Watership Down. The review’s title, “Plenty of Rabbits, None Cuddly”, tells you something about the filmmakers’ approach to the novel.

Watership Down is sometimes mistakenly taken to be a children’s story. Previous animated versions may have encouraged that view, and I suppose almost all animated films are viewed at first as being for a younger audience. But Richard Adams’ book, and this new animated series, is very adult in its language, plot and themes.

I wrote in an previous post that though my wife and I both loved the book, we didn’t read it to our sons. We stuck to Peter Rabbit (who turns out to also have some pretty violent experiences).

I made up my own rabbit tales for my sons to supplement Peter’s adventures and aligned them closely with the lives of my boys. Watership‘s author, Richard Adams, apparently did the same with his children.

The down where Hazel and prophet Fiver live, Sandleford Warren, is not a wonderful place to live. When Fiver has a vision of something terrible coming for their home, he tries to get the others to believe him and leave.

The vision comes true in the form of men and construction that destroys the warren and its occupants.

Hazel, Fiver and only a few others escape. They journey to find a new place and establish their own warren. Their Watership Down is to be a fairer, kinder society than the one they left. But they will need to quite literally fight a battle with the neighboring totalitarian state run by the rabbit tyrant, General Woundwort.

Rabbits fighting battles is not Peter Rabbit and not the other English land of anthropomorphic lovable animals, the Hundred Acre Wood.

Adams denied that he had loftier goals than to tell a rabbit story, but readers and critics have called the tale an allegory and found all kinds of symbols and metaphors for our human world from war to government to religion.

Because Adams created a rabbit language (Lapine), culture, history and mythology, some compare it to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It is not that extensive and does not spread over multiple volumes. I have read studies on the novel that like the rabbits’ journey to The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. The review I read of the new animated series describes Woundwort’s camp as looking like  Auschwitz:.It is no wonder that Adams shrugged off the comparisons.

Adams’ book is not trying to be those other books. But it is trying to be more than just a story about rabbits.

There was (perhaps still is in some form) a real Watership Down that the author knew. It was a hill, or down, in Hampshire, England. He knew and learned a lot about rabbits in writing the book, and a reader will also learn a lot. The animated version does not have the book’s extensive rabbit facts (which I would compare to the inter-chapters on whales that Melville includes in Moby-Dick).

I enjoyed this new version. I like that it is allowed to stretch over four episodes. I appreciate the adult approach to the content. And now that my sons are both grown with children of their own on the horizon, they can watch Hazel and Fiver and then adapt the tales to tell their own children.

My rabbit stories always began as Peter’s story began: “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.” And when I put the boys to bed, it was with that and maybe some bread and milk, blackberries and chamomile tea. No battles for our rabbits.

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to the Internet

The title “A Beginner’s Guide to the Internet” is going to make some readers move on because they figure “I know all about the Internet. I’m no beginner.” Of course you are.

This is 1999. To a viewer who is under 20 years old, this may seem like a film from the 1950s. This is the World Wide Web. You know, the www is a web address. No social media, no streaming video, no blogs. Your web browser was Netscape Navigator or Opera or Mozilla or maybe the Internet Explorer that was pre-installed on your Windows computer.

Google was launched the year before, but no Chrome browsers, just a search page. And a competitor to guiding you along the information superhighway was the Internet portal company Lycos who made this film with John Turturro.

John Turturro was no unknown. The year before we saw in the cultish film The Big Lebowski. In this short film (38 minutes), he plays a history teacher (aspiring comedian) whose car breaks down in Tick Neck, Pennsylvania on his way cross-country to Las Vegas.

While he is stuck there, he stops in a diner, connects his laptop modem to the phone there and dials up his internet service provider’s number.

1999 was the end of the 20th century and just before the Internet (we used to capitalize it) exploded.

Where did you see this film? Definitely not online. A film of that length would have eaten up all my data for a month, and probably wouldn’t have loaded anyway on my dial-up connection. But you get a free rental VHS videotape copy of it at your friendly Blockbuster, West Coast Video stores, or a public school library. It was probably shown in some classrooms.

The film, funded by Lycos, was a good promotional tool and it might have help educate the public about the World Wide Web. Lycos was in 1999 the most visited online destination in the world. In 2000, Telefónica acquired it for $12.5 billion.

There are some now-funny lines in the film. A kid tells Turturro “My family doesn’t own a computer, and my dad doesn’t like ’em. He says facts are facts.” His dad was probably quite happy with the 2016 election result.

The Other Side of the Wind

I wrote earlier about Orson Welles unfinished last film, The Other Side of the Wind, and attempts to finish it by others since his death.

Orson Welles has been gone for more than 30 years and his last feature film (F for Fake) was released 15 years before that. It has been a long time since we had a new Welles film.

I have had mixed feelings about this “new” film release since it was hot in bits and pieces over the years whenever Welles had some money to proceed. Now, it has been completed by others.

Orson probably would have loved streaming services like Netflix producing films – especially with their generally hands-off approach.

The Other Side of the Wind debuted at the Venice Film Festival in advance of its November 2nd release. Bruno Ghetti of Brazil’s Fohla de S.Paulo wrote, “It’s a film with clearly a beginning, a middle and end. And given the complication of production, surprisingly it does not appear to have been completed by someone other than the one who started the assembly four decades ago. The Other Side of the Wind may even be a mess, but it’s a pretty consistent mess. And fascinating in its madness.”

The film was shot by Welles between 1970 and 1976. The making of the film is the subject of at least one book and a documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Netflix). The film went into a kind of editing limbo at one point because of the Iranian Revolution! (Some of its financing had come from the Shah’s brother-in-law.)

“The Other Side of the Wind” is also a film-within-the-film. That faux film is an artsy “New Hollywood” kind of movie that was in vogue while Welles was shooting which he seems to dismiss..

As the trailer shows in bits, the film has a documentary style shooting, quick cutting, and switches back and forth between color and black and white (probably as much for financial reasons as artistic ones.). I suspect the styles also vary based on when Welles was shooting and under what conditions. And we can’t ignore the impact of those who have completed the film without his involvement.

There are plenty of film references and appearances by other directors. The film’s star is John Huston and Welles’ good friend Peter Bogdanovich plays a filmmaker. Other filmmakers include Norman Foster, Claude Chabrol and Dennis Hopper. Those three directors span a lot of world cinema history.

Will I watch the film? Of course.  Welles told Huston when they were shooting: “It’s a film about a bastard director. It’s about us, John. It’s a film about us.”  (Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind)