Friday, January 31, 2014

Loki Does Shakespeare

Last night I found myself in a line-up for a streamed performance (from the Donmar Warehouse in London) of Shakespeare's Coriolanus. Significant Other, who teaches Shakespeare for a living, was the reason I was there. Coriolanus, he has informed me more than once, is one of his favourite Shakespeare plays. He had prevailed upon me to accompany him, and I had prevailed upon our bank account so the offspring could accompany us, because, well, because I think that culture is a Good Thing to inflict upon one's children every so often. And this looked like a fairly serious bit of culture, judging from the price of the tickets.

And, as you might have noticed from the publicity still, the actor who plays Coriolanus is none other than Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki in Thor 1 & 2. We all like Loki here. So while Significant Other was looking forward to seeing a Serious Production in a Serious Theatre with Serious Actors, the kids and I were looking forward to seeing Loki Do Shakespeare. Not that we said as much, but there you are. We all have our motivations.

We were there an hour before the presentation was to start, to scout out the line-up because it was showing in a smaller theatre. I had insisted on this, given the cost of the tickets and the fact that we had a party of five. Significant Other thought this an indecently early arrival; he likes to swan into films long after the trailers have already shown, but as a veteran of many a movie premiere I knew we'd be hard pressed to get five seats in a row. Plus, I am one of those people who likes to sit in a certain place in the theatre. No lower front or upper right (or left) for me. I like it front and slightly upper centre. I am picky. So there we were, in the line-up. At that point there were only two people ahead of us, which encouraged Significant Other to roll his eyes a little at me. "Just wait," I told him, "just you wait."

The kids were wandering around, Max wondering which movie he could sneak into without anyone noticing, Dominic wishing he had an iPod because standing there doing NOTHING might actually cause him to DIE RIGHT THEN AND THERE, and FDPG was busy, as she always is, trying to find free wifi with her new iPod. This last activity may or may not have had everything to do with Dominic's imminent expiration: he, as we all are told frequently, does not have an iPod to pass the hours with but that's just because he's too cheap to buy his own

There was a vase of fake flowers and battery-operated candle on a table in front of the theatre entrance, along with a programme of sorts, so, in an effort to ignore Mr We Came Here Too Soon and Mr I Don't Have An iPod, I grabbed one and concentrated on it. The girl in front of me tapped my shoulder. "Where did you get that?" she asked. I pointed at the table. She grabbed one and scanned it swiftly. "I've had my ticket since December," she told me, rather breathlessly. We stared at each other for a few seconds. She looked slightly unhinged. I noticed that she was wearing a LEGO Loki necklace, a t-shirt with a picture of Tom Hiddleston's face on it, and a hoodie with Loki horns in the hood. It might have been at that point that Significant Other sidled away from the line-up slightly. Desperate Passions of the Celebrity Sort always make him uneasy, but I found her endearing. I asked her if she'd seen the Super Bowl Jaguar commercial with Loki Tom Hiddleston in it. She hadn't. She pulled out her phone. Her iPhone had a Loki cover AND a Loki screensaver on it. She even had Loki hair: slicked back from the forehead and in black curls on her shoulders. She was evidently there to see Loki. Surrounded by all that Loki-ness, it was hard not to feel excited.

Eventually we were allowed to file in, which we did politely, being Good Canadians. The place was packed. "Wow," said Max, "did everyone here pay as much as we did?" The glee in his voice was almost as embarrassing as the way in which his voice carried over the entire theatre.

Significant Other whispered that there was supposed to be a shower scene. "Oooh! Loki Girl will be thrilled," I whispered back. We both glanced down at her. She was sitting four rows below us, staring hungrily at the screen in between replaying the Jaguar commercial on her iPhone. "It's not gratuitous, according to the Guardian, it's apparently done quite well," S.O. whispered back, giving me what he hoped was a Quelling Look, no doubt worried that I was getting a case of Loki Fever myself.

It certainly was not gratuitous. Here's a shot I pulled off the internet. It was both alarming AND unnervingly thrilling. In fact, the whole production was alarming and unnervingly thrilling. I couldn't help but be impressed by Loki's Tom Hiddleston's charisma. When he's on stage it's hard to look away.

And that goes for the entire cast, although it took me a bit before I got used to Mark Gatiss as Menenius. His first speech was riddled with awkward rhythms, but once that was over he gave one of the strongest performances. As did Deborah Findlay as Volumnia. 

Here's another clip, of Coriolanus in all his bloody, war-torn glory.
The kids loved it, even though it went on for close to three hours, and even though it was an odd sort of way to watch a play. We all filed out of the theatre bathed with the glow that comes after a particularly riveting experience.

Now all we have to do is hope they put it on DVD, which, given the legions of Loki fans out there, just might happen.

UPDATED: Someone just mentioned to me that their blog feed shows photos but no words. I went to Feedly, my blog reader, and it too has no words. Not sure what's going on there, but let me know what you see. I'm viewing the faulty version on Safari, which is always a PITA. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

In Which Sheila Goes On Another Rant

This time about branding. I'm going to spare you my thoughts on Beyonce at last night's Grammy awards, because you already know what I think about singing pole dancers who think they are strong female role models but in actuality enjoy playing into male porn fantasies because they know that's where the money is plus it makes them feel really hot but jeez already let's be honest here about what we're doing because I don't think they have the slightest CLUE how hard they make it for regular girls.

Ahem. Moving on...

Cast your eyes up to the photo. I took this photo a few weeks ago at a store I happened to be in with Eldest Son, who had just had a birthday. For his gift I had promised him access to my credit cards for a limited time frame, and he was taking advantage of this in a local mall. As is usual with these sorts of expeditions, he was in the change room while I hunted for things for him to try on. Why he can't find the stuff himself perplexes me greatly, but he refuses to admit that he actually DOES this, even when I point it out rather, err, pointedly, so we remain at a vaguely pleasant, if somewhat odd, familial impasse.

Then I happened upon this table. It was covered with items of every day clothing that resembled pajamas, and when I looked closely I discovered that they were in fact pajamas, but pajamas that were meant to be worn not in the privacy of one's bedroom, but outside. On the bus. At school. In the coffee bar. They were outside pajamas. My Jane Austen soul quailed a bit but I soldiered on, until, that is, I glanced up and saw that red sweatshirt. In case you can't read it, I'll tell you what it says: BOOBIES MAKE ME SMILE. Yes, that IS what that says. And yes, that item of clothing IS meant for an adult. A grown up person. If the mannequin is anything to go by, this is a man's sweatshirt. I must have stood there gaping for a few minutes, because a clerk sidled up to me and asked if I wanted one of them for my son to try on. "He'd rather die than wear that," I said incredulously, "what grown up uses the word BOOBIES?" The clerk looked uneasy. "Umm, someone must, I guess," he said. We regarded each other for a second or two, me thinking about the vagaries of bad advertising and getting sucked into said bad advertising, and him no doubt wondering how to avoid me while I remained in the store, asking awkward questions.

So I did what I thought most appropriate in the situation. I took a photo of the offending item with my iPad mini and showed it to Eldest Son when he emerged from his cubicle. He too was suitably repulsed, but had the good sense to tell me to google it for further information. "These people are nice," he remarked, "but they're pretty clueless. Look at the t-shirt that guy showed me." He showed me a t-shirt that had SEX AND GUNS AND ROCKNROLL MAKE ME HORNY on it. Granted, it was a charming shade of green, but I didn't feel either of us could do justice to the slogan. I returned it to the rack, while Eldest Son made his purchases.

Then I went home and googled the slogan. To my shock (and dismay), it was not simply a puerile, infantile, stupid, juvenile, cringeworthy OR creepy slogan with little thought and intent behind it. Nope, it referred to a Facebook page in support of cancer. The site was selling rubber bracelets with slogans like F*CK CANCER on them, too. People said things like "these are insanely funny." I'm not going to link to the site. You can do that on your own. I AM going to say that I think this is, while likely done with good intentions, a Really Bad Idea. It's never good to use anger to fuel a movement of this sort. Anger has its place, but it's not here. At least, I don't think it is.

Besides, who in their right mind would wear a sweatshirt that has the word BOOBIES on it? Wait, do I really want to know?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Dawn Chorus

 I woke up with Coldplay's Viva La Vida blaring in my head. And no, it wasn't Eldest Son's radio alarm, although that too was heard in the wee hours, loud enough that it woke people up. Not, I hasten to add, Eldest Son. No, sadly, he required a firm paternal hand banging on his door. A firm and rather irritable paternal hand. After which he denied that the clock alarm had ever gone off. He went to school labouring under the delusion that we were teasing him. Yet again. Anyone would think that we live to tease him. Sigh.

Ahhh, such is youth.

Now I'm going to break out into a little number called Silver and Gold...

Luckily there was a highly distracting sunrise to take our minds off the idea of Loud Teenager Music invading our private waking moments.

It changed by the minute, causing FDPG to enthuse about the amazing camera her BRAND NEW iPod has. And how many filters it has. And how Dominic should buy one JUST LIKE IT.

Which caused Dominic to gnash his teeth and wish he'd spent less money on candy and LEGO at Christmas because he might actually have enough to silence that irritating sister of his. Instead he told her sharply that he was going to buy a laptop instead. So there.

And while all this was swirling around me, front doors slamming, cat skittering around the corner in panic, Viva La Vida blasting in my head, FDPG gazing adoringly at her new piece of electronica, Dominic dribbling cereal milk as he too gazed adoringly at FDPG's new iPod, I continued to look out the window and watch the sky change.

The big sky. Ruling the world.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Week That Was

It's been seriously, wildly, balmy this week. Light jacket weather. Flimsy shoe weather. Perfect gardening weather. Hard to believe it's January. Usually it's blustery, cold, windy, frosty, icy, thunderous, rainy, misty, or very very gray and wet. Take your pick. But now - it's like being in the eye of a giant storm: clear, calm, sunny. So of course I had to take advantage of it and get out into the garden. Like any good PNWer. 

Of course! There's always something to do in the garden. Or greenhouse. (Sheila coughs politely and ignores the mess that is the interior of her house)

So without further ado, I present to you:

January in the Pacific North West

(I sound entirely too optimistic, don't I?)

Almost time to take the Squirrel Baffles off the pots of bulbs, although watch, I'll remove them and the little squirrel buggers will go mad, digging and flinging and chewing and shredding.

Ugh. Squirrels have taken top spot in my Compendium Of Irritating Things In The Yard, dislodging Bishops Weed for the first time in 4 years. As a result we are now the possessors of a Squirrel Trap. I am planning on catching them and releasing them on a nearby mountain. Someone I know drowns them. We tried that with a rat; it seemed to take bloody forever before we knew for certain it was dead and we both felt ill after the experience. I don't think I could drown a squirrel. Those lovely, wavy, furry tails. Oops. Must. Remain. Detached. Remember destruction of garden. Digging of beds. Shredding of shade fabric. Chewing of pumpkins, tomatoes, apples, peaches, and lemons. Argh.
Abeliophylum buds. Look at them - they look ready to burst. This otherwise unremarkable shrub has a magnificently light, sweet, scent when it blooms in early spring, although judging by this photo I think it thinks it IS early spring. It is as beguiled by our January as I am.

Someone at a garden centre talked me into this when I said I didn't want to spend $80 on a witch hazel. Initially I put it in the bed by the front door, where the winter box is (another fabulous plant for winter scent), so we could smell it as we come and go, but it crowded the fuchsias so it's on the move again. Right now it's in a pot in the back yard, ready to migrate to the deck, where it will likely appreciate the longer period of sunlight the deck receives.
 This corner edge of the vegetable garden has been re-done at least eight times, the last one occurring two days ago. If you look bottom left you'll see the chunk of rail metal I use as a hose guide. A heavy, unmoveable hose guide is something that comes in handy if you're like me and you tend to drag your hose all over the yard but don't stop to make sure the hose isn't knocking over bricks, shallow ledges, walls, and breaking pretty terracotta pots.

You can see the chunk that one of those moments of inattention took out of the pot in the front, housing a hugely forgiving sedum "Autumn Joy." Directly behind that is one of the most beautiful blues you've ever seen in a flower, the sometimes tender but always impressive agapanthus.
 This arbor was purchased in a rather rash moment at a garden centre sale. It was greatly discounted at this sale, too, and I was unable to resist. That's what I said to Richard, and while he agreed $20 WAS cheap, he added that that might not be such a good thing, terms of longevity and/or stalwartness.

Time, sadly, has proved him correct. It's required a lot of attention on my part, usually after a wind.

Here it is after my latest ministrations. Interestingly, it looks better than it's looked for a few years. I used the long, relatively straight, water shoots I pruned off the Granny Smith as my new arches. I bundled them together, snipped the ends even, used electrical tape to secure them in the middle, then wired each piece to the old, broken struts and eventually wired the entire thing back together.
 At times I felt as though I were doing Horticultural Dentistry of a sort, wiring the broken jaw of my poor abused arbor, restoring it to its former glory, although perhaps glory is too strong a word.
 Here I had to tape the pencil post as the sledge hammer shattered it a bit. I'll let you know how weatherproof electrical tape is. I'm sure I'll be disappointed, but I had no other tape to hand.

Plus, I ran out of wire, so tape had to suffice.

Tip: when commencing Garden Chores make sure you have sufficient supplies. Of everything.

Or you might end up using electrical tape.

And regretting it later.
 The south side of the greenhouse now has two heat mats set up. They are the big, square, heat mats, which can accommodate two trays of seedlings each, but right now I'm using guttering as my seedling trays: kale ('Red Russian'), lettuces ('Esmeralda' 'Conquistador' 'Early Baby Mix') and peas ('Sugar Daddy').

Guttering is incredibly handy for growing small batches of greens. You don't need much soil, the interface between the heat mat and the plastic container is minimal, and it's super easy to transplant: simply slide the length of soil off the tray into the prepared bed (tip: prepare the bed FIRST). The only trick is keeping the soil moist. Let it dry out and your seedlings will be, as they say, toast.

I'm hoping to have a regular variety of lettuces this year, which sounds nice in theory but requires a certain amount of mathematical plotting and planting so one has a constant supply of seedlings to pop into those empty spots.

 Here's a row of peas. As you can see, there isn't much soil in the gutter yet the peas are thriving. I use Sunshine Mix #2 as my soil, amended with a few scoops each of bone meal, rock phosphate, and eggshell. I use a spray bottle to water. I'm pretty miserly with it, to minimize rot and mildew.

This is my favourite garden tool. It's a Japanese pick thingie I bought at Lee Valley, for what, at the time, I thought was an ungawdly amount of money: in hindsight it's been worth every penny.

As long as Richard sharpens it regularly.

Otherwise it's guaranteed to make you swear a fair bit as you hack futilely at the roots of some stupid spurge or the holly bush that keeps reproducing itself all over the garden.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Watching The Sun Rise

Someone on the local homeschool list here posted a link to Journey North's Mystery Class (link here) and while I've seen a lot of homeschool bloggers post about it, we've never tried it. That said, I remember when Dominic and I had our year of morning walks and how much pleasure we took in seeing how the 7am sky changed over the seasons. Then I tore my Achilles tendon and we had to stop. It took almost 14 months for that tendon to be solid enough to walk vigorously on, and by then we'd both lost of thrill of getting up and outside before 7am.

Wispy view across the valley
Now we peer outside the kitchen windows in the morning and look at the sunrise that way.

It's a perfectly charming experience, but I do miss those early morning ramblings, because I'm sure they'd remind me that the sunrise is coming earlier and earlier. Right now I find myself saying the same thing every morning at the same time: "It's SO DARK!" The kids have taken to reminding me that I say this over and over again, too, which is always thrilling.

Squabbling pleasantly over Commander Bly
 I will try to post a bit about our progress, try being the operative word here: my Clean Sock Resolution isn't a resounding success at the moment, mostly because the accompanying Constant Mopping Requirement is such a chore. What with the days being so dry and clear, I'd much rather be in the garden in the mornings, as opposed to looking at the cluttered heap that is my Post-Christmas kitchen.

Friday, January 10, 2014

If Only It Were So

Attn: Please,

We wish to notify you Again that you were listed as a lawful Heir/Beneficiary to the total sum of  (Three Million Six Hundred Thousand British Pounds).

A regular mail was dispatched to you but no response from you. We request you to kindly acknowledge this email to enable us process your inheritance.

Yours truly.
Admin Staff.
QServices Uk.


 Dear Yours truly.

 Your letter showed up in my Junk Mail box this morning. I don't want to sound patronizing, but the worryingly bad punctuation (surely you have someone who can fix this for you?), odd language (am I a "lawful Heir" OR a "Beneficiary" and why don't you seem sure?), and the fact that the sum itself is in brackets makes me kind of suspicious.

What sort of response do you want from me? If you tell me you need my bank account information you and I will have to cease all correspondence. I might live in eternal hope but I'm not a complete idiot, although the fact that I'm actually responding to you makes my point slightly suspect.


Attn: Please,

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year Revelations

I'm not the sort of person who usually makes New Year resolutions, to be honest. If I do, I generally try to think of something philosophical or uplifting, like being nicer and less potty-mouthed when I'm behind a car wheel, or being (marginally) more patient with fractious offspring in Trying Moments, but these things never last much past January. A brief spasm of remorse might hit me in late spring, but like most resolutions when viewed from a distance of time, the guilt never lasts long: too many other things are claiming my attention by then. 

The garden, for one thing. 

The back yard in December

Anyhow, this week I had a bit of a revelation about why my New Year's resolutions never come to much. It's this: I don't make the right sorts of resolutions. My resolutions are predicated on certain failure. I need to focus on resolutions that have a higher success rate. 

Take swearing while driving - a useless resolution if there ever were one. Swearing is the single most satisfying method to cope with the stupid behaviours and idiotic driving patterns of one's fellow drivers. Not swearing, by contrast, would be hazardous to my health, I feel quite sure. Besides, it gives the kids a useful compendium of flowery yet articulate expressions from which to draw once they're over 18, the age at which I've deemed it Okay To Swear In Mum's Hearing (although I reserve the right to cringe, wince, or roll my eyes).

Then there was that resolution about being Nice Mummy, as opposed to Mostly Nice But Sometimes Very Shouty Mummy. To illustrate how extra futile that one was, I'll tell you a story: once upon a time Eldest Son was in a rush, and got himself into a state of extra special, no good, simply terrible irrationality while trying to simultaneously burn a CD (for a gift he was very late giving), study for a chemistry test (which was the next day), and write up a 4-H report, all the while finishing his supper. He was doing all this in the Family Room (where we never eat meals, where I have banned all food and drink, and where we have some expensive electronic items on tables). If this were a game of Clue, we'd have the Kid in the Family Room with the Food, trying to kill the Computer, because that's what happened. The moment, such as it was, ended with butter smeared all over my optical drive, many poorly burned CDs, and some choice expressions uttered in the heat of the moment. Another epic failure of resolution. I know, I know, there are contexts and there are contexts, but that scenario made me realize the pointlessness of being someone I'm not, just for the heck of a New Year Resolution.

This week, as I said, I had a revelation. It centred around my new socks. See photo below. These are my new Highly Favoured Household Footwear. I call them sockette thingies. I love wearing my sockette thingies, but they're white, and white is not a colour that lasts long in this house. After a few days of wear that lovely white was gray and brown (and sometimes black). Washing helped a little, but only a little. I resorted to soaking them overnight in Pink Solution before washing, which amused Husband greatly: "What are these things doing in this bucket?" he asked me, in between the odd snicker. "That's not like you."

No, it isn't. I hate doing laundry. Like bed-making, it seems to exist simply so I can do it over and over again. I feel as though I'm in an Escher sketch, doing the Munch Man scream.
 But then I realized why my cherished sockettes were getting so dirty. See next photo, below, of floor. Nice uncovered wood floor. Ignore cat tail. He just wants you all to know what a lemur tail he is in possession of. It wends its way into many a photo.

Anyhow, it occurred to me that the reason my sockette thingies were so dirty was because of these lovely wood floors. In addition to rarely making a bed, or doing laundry, I also never mop these floors. I do know people who mop, but let's just say that I'm not one of them.

So I mopped the entire top floor. All seven rooms. I concentrated on where the feet spend most time. I ended up mopping it twice in one week, prompting some odd looks from FDPG and her twin, who had never seen me mop the wood floors before. "Are you sure you're supposed to do that to them?" FDPG asked me, uneasily. "It might not be good for them!" echoed Dominic.

Never mind, I thought, it will be good for my sockette thingies. Finally, a resolution worth making. I'll keep you posted on the success rate of this one.