Monday, June 26, 2006


Thanks for the birthday wishes!

We started off the weekend in Portsmouth Friday night seeing Rodrigo Garcia's film "Nine Lives." I thought I didn't know Garcia's work, but I've since done a little digging. He directed five episodes of "Six Feet Under," five of "Carnivale," and one of "The Sopranos," among other TV work, and he's directed a couple of movies, including "Ten Tiny Love Stories" that's also a collection of short films like "Nine Lives." Garcia seems to specialize in the psychology of women in transition or moments of crisis. One critic indicated that his reputation rests especially on the film "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her."

Technically, the main feature of "Nine Lives" is that each of the individual stories (they average 15 to 16 minutes in length) is shot in one continuous take without any edits. The camera follows characters into and out of rooms, zooming in and out, but the action never stops from beginning to end. It's an interesting achievement that occasionally calls attention to itself but that really captures honest, sustained acting in a medium that usually relies on cuts, some of them extremely short with a great deal of jumping around, to tell a story.

I was reminded of a shot early in Robert Altman's "The Player" that goes on uninterruptedly for something like two and a half minutes as the camera travels through a building complex eavesdropping on snatches of conversation here and there through doors and windows. The effect in Garcia's series of short movies is the same, but writ large. It's not just a gimmick. In "Diana," that features a stunning performance by Robin Wright Penn, the camera restlessly follows her through the aisles of a grocery store as the married and pregnant Diana alternately flees and hopes to encounter a former lover (Jason Isaacs). He too is married but insists on reviving memories of their affair to shattering effect before disappearing and leaving her in turmoil. The endless shot creates a sense of claustrophobia and pitiless, obsessive observation of the event.

A character in one story will turn up in another, revealing a very different side of his or her personality, as with Lisa Gay Hamilton's Holly who is a severely troubled young woman when returning to the family home to confront her father, but a consummate professional in her nursing job when confronted by a panic-stricken breast cancer pre-op. The cast in other stories includes Any Brenneman, Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Joe Mantegna, Mary Kay Place, Sissy Spacek, Aiden Quinn, and William Fichter.

Garcia doesn't tie up all the loose ends in these people's lives. Clearly, we meet them in the middle of their problems and leave them with many issues still on the table, just as we do with people who pass briefly through our own lives.

Saturday afternoon Fritz decided to make and can a batch of spiced rhubarb. It works particularly as an accompaniment to roast meats and chicken and is also great on ice cream. He has old established plants that grow to four feet in diameter or more, so there's an almost unlimited supply. Whenever I preserve, I usually freeze but I'm learning that with mason jars and a few simple sterilizing procedures, canning is easy and not too long a process.

So we set up the kitchen counter, my job being to follow instructions and get the lids on the jars properly as Fritz filled them.
I had a flash back to those 1950s sit-com shows where the perfectly turned out white middle-class TV mom (the only kind they showed in those days) in her perfect hair-do, apron and pearls, worked joyously in the kitchen teaching her perfectly mannered daughter to cook so that when her husband came home to their spotless home in the beautiful suburb, everything would be ready for dinner.

Well, neither of us is perfect, neither of us has a spotless house and we're a couple of GUYS--but together we got sixteen jars of spiced rhubarb put up with the promise that Fritz is going to do a batch of rhubarb and ginger preserves before the season goes on too long and the rhubarb's past its prime

The crazed cardinal is back. This is not a "Prince of the Church" but a bird, one of a couple of generations of cardinals who've occupied themselves attacking the windows of Fritz's house. This time, for the first time, it's a female. Her mate sometimes accompanies her but only to watch. Like the male cardinals who've crashed against the windows in former years, she will go at it for five to ten minutes at a time, although her technique is different as she hits the window more often per minute than they ever did.
The attacks start early in the day, at or just after dawn, and they're likely to repeat at odd intervals during the day.

And speaking of animals, I found another picture of Owen the baby hippo and Mzee the giant tortoise and couldn't resist it. The plan is to get Owen gradually accustomed to life in the wild again and eventually place him in a herd of hippos out on the plains, but I'm going to bet he and Mzee have a rough time without each other for quite a while after they're separated.

Saturday night we had a Sweat Lodge gathering. Given the heat, obsessive humidity and constant rain of the past month, it might seem strange to go into a confined space with red hot rocks and steam, but the effect was quite relaxing. When we finally came out of the lodge, several of us sat outside in silence for a considerable period of time in the calm evening air with no particular need to rush back to the center.

We were a dozen men all together and there was another birthday besides mine, so there were two cakes. In addition one of the men had brought a pile of some of the best baklava I've ever had and another had made "fruit pizzas," croissant pastry topped with a cream cheese mixture and cut fresh fruits in various combinations. The night before, Fritz had gave me my birthday gifts: a reproduction brass Victorian-era turn bell for my front door, a t-shirt that says "Check out my Blog" and gives the URL, and a tea cozy he'd made for my new tea pot in a handsome bargello pattern done in several shades of blue and white.

Sunday morning we had little to do. We both wake up early, so we stayed cuddled in bed for an extended time, talking about the coming year of transition as I wind up the MIT phase of my life and prepare for the construction of the new house. After breakfast and watching Charles Osgood's Sunday morning program, we got dressed and sprayed against the clouds of mosquitoes that are breeding in all the water left by the incessant rain, and ventured up into the woods. Having cut a road last fall from his driveway to the gate in the old New England stone wall that’s the entrance to my part of the property, he wanted to cut a wide path further uphill to the proposed home site.

In about forty five minutes we cleared a five foot swath with buck saws and a pair of high-torque clippers. Some larger trees will be felled with his chain saw later. Whenever the rain stops for at least a day we're also spraying the poison ivy that's all over the place and a fixture of southern New Hampshire. The new path, that will eventually become a driveway, curves gently as it rises, right around a lovely stand of field pines to a relatively flat area at the foot of the final slope up to the top of the hill. I snapped apart the trunk of a fallen birch and made a circle of its pieces on the ground to mark the place Fritz thinks the new big main room of the house will be. In eighteen months if all goes well, we'll be living right on that spot.

Sounds like a wonderful weekend to me! I'm so excited about the progress that's starting to unfold on this transition of yours.

I was downtown on Friday and was considering popping into the MH to see if I could find you guys, but I really didn't want to intrude on your time together. It would be nice to get together one of these times your're up here, since Fritz it only 15 minutes or so from me, and I'd really like to meet him.
You guys have a life full of cultural events! Sounds like a wonderful birthday weekend.

I've been divebombed by nesting birds but not experienced kamakaze birds yet.

I keeping hearing on the news about all that rain on the east coast. Stay dry and have a great week.
Happy belated Birthday! Sounds like you had a wonderful weekend. I've canned dill and bread and butter pickles before and also spagetti sauce. I love it and the stuff lasts practically forever.
Chris--I wish you had "intruded"--it wouldn't have been an intrusion at all. We love running into friends when we're out and about.

We'll be in Portsmouth a lot this summer as we're going to several more movies at the Music Hall--I'll write and let you know when.

Michael (Sangroncito)--we had a very beautiful (inside and out) Brazilian man join us last weekend. He brought a large drum and drummed to prepare us before going into the Sweat. we're hoping he'll visit us again soon.

Michael (Blurt)--I grow a lot of tomatoes in the summer, so putting up various tomato sauces is something I always do. I'll try canning instead of freezing this summer.
I guess I'm the one who should be spanked because it never fails that I'm always several days late for birthday wishes. Poo!

I hope this year is divine for you!
It sounds like a wonderful celebration! Happy belated birthday, Will!
Wow, you sure write super, happy birth day no matter the date. And whenever the house warming comes up do let me know, I wish you all the best.
another belated birthday greeting! sounds lovely. especially the baklava. hmmm... sweaty men and baklava. you sure you weren't in greece??
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