Christmas Film Festival Concluded

After my blog entry on Christmas Day, I did exactly what I said I would. I drove out to this amazing lookoff BeeGoddessM and I “discovered” late last August in West Pennant. The sun was shining brightly over the water as the moon was rising behind me and a traditional Norwegian Christmas carol was playing on the radio. It was amazing — the kind of gorgeous moment you wish other people were with you so that they could be mesmorized by it, too.

I came back home between this drive and my night at the movies, and thankfully I did: Lonestar from Nashville returned my call a few minutes before I was to step out to go to the cinema. Life has become too busy for both of us and, as a result, we hardly keep in touch anymore. Everyone in his life seems to be doing well, except his son. He gave me a three-sentence précis of what is up with his “boy” (who’s in his mid-30s) and, obviously saddened and upset, concluded with “He’s seriously fucked up and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” We promised to try to keep in touch more in the coming year.

Whenever I go to the movies, I’m taken aback by how expensive it is. For two films plus popcorn and pop for the second flick, I dropped $30 on Christmas night. A lot of people were there — going to the movies has obviously become a Christmas tradition for many — but there were precisely five of us to watch Kinsey at 6:50 and eight for A Very Long Engagement at 9:30. Particularly the low attendance at the latter surprised me although maybe it shouldn’t have, this being Halifax and all.

I liked Kinsey. It’s remarkable that, more than 55 years after the publication of his first volume on male sexuality, the validity his work is still being debated. When it comes to human sexuality, it’s still okay to hold a discourse that is at odds with actual practice, as if repeating a falsehood over and over is going to turn that falsehood into an indisputable fact. Also fascinating to me is the continued collective obsession with what is “normal” and the desire to be “normal.” Of course, a “norm” (or statistical average) is arrived at by the summation of all variations divided by the number of samples, which usually leads to a bell curve where results in either extreme end are few and thus unusual. And if the “unusual” results in real harm, only then is it problematic. Equally problematic, however, is determining whose yardstick should be used to determine harm. To me the line is clear but, to others, my line would be deemed too permissive.

Meanwhile, what can I say about A Very Long Engagement! Despite having the same director and lead actor as Amélie, this film is not a variation on the same theme. I loved the whimsy of Amélie and a few scenes made me laugh so hard that I was crying. AVLE isn’t as whimsical and, dare I say, as a result, I liked it even more than Amélie. The depictions of WWI trench warfare are gruelling but, in the end, they all serve to advance the storyline; the violent scenes, while difficult to watch, aren’t gratuitous. Because I speak French, I probably have an advantage while viewing this film, as the characters’ accents matter (south of France/Corsica versus Brittany or Île-de-France). I don’t want to give any spoilers, but if you get a chance to see this film, do so!

Post-Christmas Surprise

Dec. 27/04 Blizzard

Thank you, Carolinas, for spawning and then sending our way this magnificent blizzard. At least it’s not quite as bad as last February’s White Juan, except that this one seems to have developed very suddenly. We’re to expect as much as 50 cm (20 in) of snow in the Halifax area and the wind is at its peak as I write (N74 km/h gusting to 98km/h, or N45 mi/h gusting to 61 mi/h), plus it’s very cold (currently -6C with wind chill of -21C, with an expected temperature drop to -15C tonight with continued high chill factor). The Cobequid Pass between Truro and Amherst — the road between Halifax and Moncton — is closed; all flights in and out of Halifax and Moncton are cancelled; shopping malls in Halifax closed by 1:00 pm today; the region’s police forces are warning people not to venture outside due to whiteout conditions. I can’t see the Macdonald Bridge from my apartment nor, for that matter, much further than the other side of the side street where my apartment building is situated.

I must say that, as a result of the Juans, the weather warnings are much better than they used to be. All regional TV stations were displaying a blizzard warning marquee all night from late afternoon yesterday. Although the big stores were closed yesterday due to it being a Sunday AND Boxing Day, most people had a chance to look around their home for missing supplies and go to the nearest convenience store to stock up. Having seen 50 cm turned to 95 cm less than a year ago, we now know that anything can happen.

Of course, I’m careful not to whine about what’s happening here right now given the unspeakable horror in South Asia. It’s hard to wrap your mind around a death toll of 22,000 (and climbing). There was no warning for them…

On Having a Cool Yule

First off, Merry Christmas everyone!

I am having a really, really pleasant and relaxing Christmas. Last night I gorged in watching four movies and eating forbidden foods (chips, cheesies [without a fork], chocolate, rum & egg nog, shrimps). The movie I chose deliberately for its cheese factor was The Day After Tomorrow, and it did deliver the cheese I expected and then some. Thankfully I expected very little from …And Then Came Summer, plucked from the GLBT section, so I wasn’t disappointed when it turned out to be the yawner that it is. I unexpectedly found Steam: The Turkish Bath (Hamam) outside the GLBT section although it belonged there, and that film turned out to be pretty good. But by far the gem of the night, which I kept for last, was Good Bye Lenin, which I highly recommend.

However, for that last film, I would stay away from the so-called reviews at the IMBd website if I were you, at least until after you’ve seen the film. The discussion completely misses the point of the movie, lapsing instead into a flame war on the “evils of Communism.” No one would dispute that the regime installed in East Germany was one of the most repressive behind the Iron Curtain. What matters in this film is trying to understand why the mother made the choices she made and the repercussions those choices had on her children. The discussion in the IMBd website will provide me fodder for another blog entry if ever I can gather my thoughts on them.

I think I’ll be continuing my little film festival later today. I’ve looked up what’s playing in town this evening and I think I’ve settled on Kinsey, to be followed by A Very Long Engagement. Right now it is cool outside (-3C) but the sun is radiant, so a little drive in Junior might be fun after I have a little something to eat.

My building’s super has fulfilled my Christmas wish: When I woke up this morning, the Fan from Hell wasn’t running. I told him a few weeks ago that I would be home alone for Christmas and was looking forward to it, but what would make the day even better is if the fan “mysteriously” didn’t go off that morning. And it didn’t. Thus able to recall how quiet it could be in this apartment in the daytime, I am now more convinced than ever of my need to leave this otherwise pleasant apartment. A new tenant might not notice it because it would be normal; however, sitting here in the quiet, with no sound other than the fan on my computer and my fingers on the keyboard, I know what’s been lost and won’t ever be found again. It’s a pity.

The first thing I did this morning when I woke up around 11:00 is notice that lack of noise. The second thing was to make myself a pot of coffee and look up the phone numbers I needed to call family and friends. I placed half a dozen calls, starting with my sister and Mom, then my older brother, BeeGoddessM, and BeeGoddessC. I was only able to leave a message with RCP in Toronto and Lonestar in Nashville. Pouponne is at Bar Hopper‘s parents in Ottawa and I don’t have the number, so I’ll be in touch with them later this week. I’ll also try reaching The Quad later this week to see if he’s still planning on going to Moncton, in which case Indiana Jones and I might go up with Beau, BeeGoddessM’s cat, which we are keeping fed and watered in her absence.

Now that I’ve blogged about what I’ve been up to for the last 24 hours, I’m going to figure out what I feel like eating and go on that little nowhere with Junior. Part of me feels I should stay home this afternoon to take advantage of the silence, but then I think the bit I did get to enjoy has been enough to remove any doubt I might have had about what I need to do in 2005. Besides, the wintry blue sky is begging to be appreciated, too…

Self-Fulfilling

Yesterday on ATV’s suppertime news/lifestyle magazine Live at 5, the lead segment was all about those who were either unable to go home for Christmas or without family and friends to celebrate. One kernel of so-called wisdom that was offered was that no matter what, don’t spend the day alone. The underlying assumption is that it’s impossible not to feel sorry for yourself if you find yourself alone on December 25, and that it is a day you simply cannot choose to be anti-social unless there’s something terribly wrong in your head. You have to have a good time on that day. You can’t just spend that day like any other. But to me it begs the question, “Why the hell not?”

People go on and on about how horrible peer pressure is among teenagers. But when it comes to Christmas, societal pressure to conform is many times worse and, moreover, not called out for what it is. This year I’ll be calling family because Christmas still matters to them, but I’ve already assured them that I’ve chosen to have a super-low-key Christmas this year and no one is to feel sorry for me because I’m actually looking forward to it.

It sure beats the crap out of the year when my brother tried to calm his kids anxious to open their gifts by leading them into singing “Happy birthday, Jesus.” At that point I just didn’t know if I should shoot myself or go bowling.

Am I cranky? bitter? the new Schrooge? Not at all! What bugs me is how systemic the hype is.

Mind you, I do recall how horrified I was as a kid when a friend of the family declared that, to him, “Christmas is just another day on the calendar.” The kid that I was simply couldn’t comprehend holding such an attitude. But the adult in me does.

The “Merry Christmas” Tempest in a Teapot

This isn’t the first year that we’ve been hearing people bemoaning the gradual disappearance of “Merry Christmas,” but this year it seems the issue has been magnified by several degrees. I particularly enjoyed reading Mac‘s take at Pesky’Apostrophe. I, for sure, would be among the first to sport a “Pope Julius I is the reason for the season” T-shirt if one existed and I could put my hands on one. Given the dubious origins of “Christ’s mass,” I would think Christians ought to be reminded that Easter is without a doubt the highest holiday in their calendar.

Indeed, as Mac points out, “Christians do not have a lock on celebrating holidays in December.” But also telling and interesting, I think, is how in another culture that had strong religious leanings until recently (i.e., French Canadian), the notion of a “Holiday Season” has been widely accepted — to wit, Le Temps des Fêtes — since there were three major celebrations (two of which Christian, I might add) in a two-week period: Dec. 24/25, Dec. 31/Jan. 1, and Jan. 6. Thus, by wishing someone a “Joyeux Temps des Fêtes,” you’re covering all the bases so that if you’re extending those wishes after Dec. 25, it’s implied that you’re hoping that the person has had a “Merry Christmas.” Also interesting to recall is how in my parents’ generation, le Jour de l’An (New Year’s) was the biggest event of the three. That would be when they would receive a gift: an orange — a rare delicacy in Depression-era Québec.

Zealots of either stripes — the religious and the politically correct types — have blown this thing out of proportion. I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore, but it would be pretty dumb of me to get offended by someone who wishes me a “Merry Christmas.” If the wish had turned to “Hope you dumbass heathen die slowly and painfully on December 25th,” then I would have reason to be offended. Ditto for the Christians to whom one wishes “Happy Holidays.”