Wednesday, November 14, 2018


"Neither race had won, nor could win, the [First World] War.  The War had won, and would go on winning"--Paul Fussell, quoted in 1920:  The Year That Made the Decade Roar

"We're all trapped in our coffins"--Revolutionary Girl Utena

Friday night the History Meetup discussed Poland. There were ten people there! (One guy knew a lot about World War II aircraft.)

Sunday afternoon I visited Giuseppe, my former singing teacher, for the first time in ages.  I'd tried a few times recently, but this time he was actually in!

The other day I finished watching the series Revolutionary Girl Utena on Youtube.  It has a superb ending, reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. (Watch the clip above through to the end of the credits!) I have a feeling people will be talking about that show for centuries...

Today I went to Deer Park library and borrowed Eric Burns' 1920:  The Year That Made the Decade Roar. (It's a large print copy, like books for children.) The 1920s was a more complex time than people often assume.

The cold weather has arrived and I'm finally wearing my long johns and furry cap.

Thursday, November 08, 2018


Sunday afternoon was my opera group's fundraiser at the Columbus Center. (Tatiana had a cute purple thing in her hair!) On the way home I took the bus to Lawrence West station only to see signs saying that the subway along that line had been replaced by shuttle buses.  So I waited for a bus to come, but none did.  Finally I figured out that the subways were running again, and I got home rather late. (Should have gone home by the Dufferin bus...)

Monday night the Celtic Culture Meetup discussed William Butler Yeats' poetry.  We recited quite a few poems, and I sang "Down by the Sally Gardens" a cappella!

Tuesday I went to the Royal Winter Fair.  It's the closest I get to visiting the country.

Wednesday night I had dinner with Miriam's Meetup group. We were going to eat at Japango, but that place looked too small and crowded, so we went to Kimchi House instead.

I finished the Lincoln book and returned to the Lapham's Quarterly Discovery issue.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Abraham Lincoln: A Life

Abraham Lincoln (running for office): "If elected, I will be thankful.  If beaten, I can do as I have been doing, work for a living."

I finally finished that book of Polish history, but it turns out that the History Meetup is next Friday instead of today.  Oh well, better early than late! (It could have used better editing: I noticed some spelling mistakes.)

The subject of next month's History Meetup will be Lincoln's America, so I've started reading Thomas Keneally's Abraham Lincoln:  A Life.  That's another book in the Penguin Lives series--like Paul Johnson's book about Napoleon--by the Australian writer who did The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and Schindler's Ark.  It looks like another good read.

I'm always interested in reading about Lincoln.  I wish my mother were still with us so I could tell her how he "dropped a brick" when he came to someone's door and asked "Is Miss Rodney handy?" ("Handy" could mean at hand, but it could also mean a fast girl...) Or how he came to a party and said, "Oh boys, how clean those girls look!" Mother was interested in Lincoln too, and felt sorry for his unstable wife.

Last night at opera rehearsal we met our stage director for the first time.  She had each of us say his name and something interesting about him:  all I could think of at that moment was how good I am at Candy Crush Saga!  Then she divided us into four groups and had us do exercises like I've done in acting class, like throwing around an invisible ball.  We're going to be human maze rows in The Marriage of Figaro. (I have a feeling it won't be your normal opera production...)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Times change, and we change with them

"Americans can't be whipped!"--How the West Was Won

Today I used our Metropass for the second-last time, went to Shoppers Drug Mart and bought a Presto card. (The last time was later when I went to Ali Baba's and bought falafel wrap takeout.  I've been getting their Tuesday special so often that they're getting to know me there!) Now I'll be able to get an annual subscription and even get the ODSP discount.

While I was at Shoppers Drug Mart I also renewed my Cipralex prescription and had another 20-minute wait.  This time I went to Wells Hill Park and read more of the Polish history book.  I've finally got to the all too exciting 20th century part.

Saturday night I downstreamed the Cinerama western How the West Was Won, a guilty pleasure of mine.  The HD picture was so crisp that I could often see the seams between the picture's three sections! Gregory Peck is amusingly cast against type as the gambler.  George Peppard is so (uncharacteristically) good in the Civil War sequence John Ford directed, and so weak in the rest of the movie, that he's like two different actors! Great musical score by Alex North.  Of course, Jimmy Stewart was too old for Carroll Baker...

Sunday was the Classic Book Club, where we discussed Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I argued that Jekyll is actually worse than Hyde:  while Hyde acts evil because it's his nature, Jekyll makes a free choice to turn into someone he knows will do bad things, while maintaining "plausible deniability"!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Under the weather

"Nothing wrong with 'dead reckoning' navigation'--except for the name!"--The Spirit of St. Louis

"When grownups say something is "for your own good," don't trust them!"--Revolutionary Girl Utena

I have a bit of a cold, which has slowed me down. (I've been eating pomelo grapefruit for it.) I had to leave last night's opera rehearsal early, but before I did there was a fun bit where we walked around singing the Nabucco chorus, to get us used to singing and walking at the same time!  We've been rehearsing in the choir seats at St. Matthew's, but for this we walked among the pews.

I've finished two seasons of Dragon Ball and the first two-thirds of Revolutionary Girl Utena that I'd seen before.  But now I'm going to take a break before seeing the rest, and focus on finishing that book of Polish history before the Meetup a week from now.

Tuesday night I saw The Wife with Anne.  It's about a Nobel Prize-winning writer whose wife (spoiler alert!) has always been rewriting his drafts.  Seems to me they should do that more often:  two literary heads can be better than one.  I was thinking that I'd be good at the wife's job! Christian Slater has a good role as a nosy biographer.

Tonight I watched Billy Wilder's The Spirit of St. Louis for maybe the fourth time.  I streamed it through Google Play for just $5.00, and used Chromecast to watch it on our downstairs set in high-def, in all its Cinemascope glory! (Earlier versions I recall seeing with the sides cut off.)

Granted that the movie's uncharacteristic of Wilder, lacking most of his usual acerbic wit. And of course James Stewart was a lot older than the real Lindbergh.  It's more Lindbergh as Stewart than Stewart as Lindbergh, like Lisztomania was Franz Liszt as Roger Daltrey.  (That's a rather understandable choice, considering that the real Lindbergh wasn't big on personality:  as someone with Asperger's Syndrome, I think he had it too.) But I still greatly enjoy the movie, whose second half is mostly a Stewart monologue during his flight.  High adventure, with a striking musical score by the great Franz Waxman.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Don't go in the woods!

Today was the latest Reading Out Loud Meetup, and the topic was scary writing:  the event title was "Don't go in the woods!"  We ended up going on for a full two hours!

I read the chapter in Huckleberry Finn where they find a corpse in a floating house and the one in Tom Sawyer where they're digging for buried treasure; Hemingway's "On the Quai in Smyrna" (about Greek refugees leaving Turkey); Robert Louis Stevenson explaining how Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came out of his dreams; Christina Rosetti's poem "Goblin Market"; and T. Coreghessan Boyle's "Greasy Lake." (About which, remind me not to move to the U.S.!) The others were reading Poe poems, part of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," and some Kafka.

We used Chromecast to watch a Youtube video of Pacific Overtures on our downstairs TV.  That's a 1976 kabuki-style Stephen Sondheim musical about Japan being opened to the west in 1853, and this video is of the original production!  We saw the first part, but couldn't make the Chromecast thing work later on.

Thursday at the opera rehearsal we were getting measured for costumes amid much confusion.  This year they're giving The Marriage of Figaro a Pop Art look, with everyone wearing wigs that are black on one side and white on the other, and it looks like I'll be the Andy Warhol type! We've been learning our few numbers from that show, along with the opening number from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, for the fundraising show the week after next.

We got the DVD miniseries The Night of... from the library, but couldn't get past the first episode!  It's about an Arab student in New York City who meets a fast girl and ends up getting charged with murder. Reminded me of the New York movie A Most Violent Year, which I couldn't sit through either: we get to watch things get worse and worse... (Remind me too not to move to New York.)

I've finally quit those Vikings and Throne games, and started another town-building game called Golden Valley.  And I finally gave up on getting past Level 1880 in Candy Crush Saga and went back to playing the early levels. (I see myself as the Son Goku of Candy Crush Saga--that's the young martial-arts prodigy in Dragon Ball.)

Thursday, October 18, 2018


This evening the History Meetup screened The Blue Max, a mid-'60s movie about German pilots in World War I. (Once again, Malcolm provided the DVD.) The flying scenes were realistic, but George Peppard was a hopelessly lightweight lead!

I've started putting some compost on the garden.  It's pretty dry.  John's planning a big expansion of the garden next year!

A few days ago I saw some episodes of Dragon Ball where Goku visited Penguin Island, setting of the earlier Akira Toriyama anime Dr. Slump.  A couple of the characters looked familiar, and I found the intro of the show's second version on Youtube.  (For the record, Dr. Slump is a comedy about a scientist inventing a robot that looks like a little girl, like that low-budget '80s sitcom Small Wonder with the ear-worm theme song.) I'd seen this intro before.

Back in 1999, I came over to brother Donald's house to print out a draft of my Ph.D. thesis on his computer.  It took a long time to print, and to pass the time Donald showed me some anime videos he had. (He compared them to the "chaser" acts they put on at the end of vaudeville shows, encouraging the audience to leave.) One of them was that Dr. Slump intro, one of the stranger things I've seen in my 56 years.
Now you've seen it too, o reader!