Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just the trees Johnny, just the trees.

Yes you're right - that is not a line from a song. Instead it's from a Seinfeld episode (when Kramer went to Los Angeles to be precise). But it's an appropriate title cos this post is all about trees! To give you all a break from mountain vistas, or me talking about movies, or me talking about poetry here are some snaps from home, in the mirk and rain of the weekend, of trees!

Love and peace - W

Sunday, June 28, 2009

And in the end on dreams we will depend

It's been a wet weekend. In preparation I hired out a stack of movies. Basically I went into the video store and got 11 movies I hadn't seen before as fast as I could. One was Cassandra's Dream. A Woody Allen movie from 2007. I love Woody and thought I'd watch it when Jacky was working or sleeping or out with the horses or...Basically Jacky HATES Woody.

Oddly we do have a Woody and Diane Keaton still from Annie Hall on the wall. Clay gave it to me years ago and it's survived Keegan's attempts to borrow it over the years. Jacky loves it. Go figure. But she won't watch a Woody movie. No way. No how.

So this morning, as she slept in, I started watching it. Not with a great deal of hope I'd have to say. The last few years since his last great film - The Mighty Aphrodite - have been very bad! Here's the list since then with him as writer/director, and he's nothing if not prolific: Everyone says I Love You; Deconstructing Harry; Celebrity; Sweet and Lowdown; Small Time Crooks; The Curse of the Jade Scorpion; Sounds from the Town I Love; Melinda and Melinda; Matchpoint; Scoop.

How many of those have you even seen? Did ANYONE see Sweet and Lowdown?? Okay - so not a rich field and I watched those last three through gritted teeth out of duty to the genius of Stardust Memories, Manhattan, Annie Hall, Bananas, Hannah and her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors and The Mighty Aphrodite.

The verdict? Cassandra's Dream is a film that you should see and think about. Now, as a rule, I'm also not crazy for Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor (here playing brothers) but Woody has finally stopped casting younger versions of himself and has given these two actors something memorable to chew on. The use of Cassandra in the title clues you in to the idea that warnings will not be heeded; that we're probably heading into tragedy territory so I won't be spoiling things for you if I reveal that, as in Crimes.. , the bad guy gets away with things and it's not a happy ending for the brothers.

Why should you think about it? Because it deals with some big issues - the choices made; their consequences and the moral decay of modern life. I found the movie a hopeful one and, while not a comedy, there are some comedic moments that tell us Woody isn't taking himself too seriously. The brothers each face their individual crisis after they've murdered someone and Woody's writing allows them to work through the consequences of this act well.

And there's a great shot of London Bridge!

Funnily enough, Jacky wandered into the lounge about an hour into the movie, sat down and watched. At the end I asked her if she liked it - and she did! I then revealed the fact that she'd watched a Woody movie and her comment was, "Yes but he wasn't in it!" Can't argue with that.

Love and peace - W

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums, should I leave them at your gate, or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

In this world that’s drowning in data, abstract written thought that represents a synthesis or a culmination of information into a digestible form is in short supply. That’s always been the prescription for poetry that matters.
I like this - it's from a post by a guy called Larry Sawyer. No, I don't know who he is either - probably like me, he enjoys the outlet of the blog. Larry uses his blog to publish his poetry. He's on the left if you want to read his stuff (under the blog title Me-Tronome). This post isn't about Larry though, or me. It's about poetry generally and Robert Bly in particular.

We are drowning in data aren't we. At school I look at data daily - suspension/ discipline data, achievement data, attendance data...and on and on. My English class teaching time is often the best part of my day. I can stretch myself a bit and think about things via that abstract written thought stuff Larry's on about.

I often think about poetry. moods and thoughts from all sorts of sources. Song lyrics make up a lot of thoughts. This post is titled from a Dylan song - Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. A love poem set to music for his wife Sara. Another example? I watched a movie today called Snow Cakes. Set in Canada the main character says he's on his way to Winnipeg and I immediately have the Neil Young lines in my head from his song Don't Be Denied -
When I was a young boy,
My mama said to me
Your daddy's leavin' home today,
I think he's gone to stay.
We packed up all our bags
And drove out to Winnipeg.

And so to Robert Bly. I often think about lines from his poem 'Six Winter Privacy Poems'.

About four, a few flakes.
I empty the teapot out in the snow,
feeling shoots of joy in the new cold.
By nightfall, wind,
curtains on the south sway softly.

My shack has two rooms, I use
The lamplight falls on my chair and table
and I fly into one of my
own poems -
I can't tell you where -
as if I appeared where I am now
in a wet field, snow falling.

More of the fathers are dying
each day.
It is time for the sons.
Bits of darkness are gathering around
The darkness appears as flakes of light.


There is a solitude like black mud!
Sitting in the
darkness singing,
I can't tell if this joy
is from the body, or the
soul, or a third place.

Listening to Bach

is someone inside this music
who is not well described by the names
Jesus, or Jehovah, or the Lord of Hosts!

When I woke, new snow had
I am alone, yet someone else is with me,
drinking coffee,
looking out at the new snow.

Many of Bly's recurring images/phrases/words are here - rebirth, snow, darkness, solitude, light...But, for me, the synthesis is pretty perfect in this poem. I love the simplicity of lines lines like, 'About four, a few flakes' and the Thoreau like idea of his shack having the luxury of two rooms but he only ever is in one!

This one also resonates for me:

After Long Busyness

I start out for a walk at last after weeks
at the desk.
Moon gone, plowing underfoot, no stars; not a trace of
Suppose a horse were galloping toward me in this open field?
Every day I
did not spend in solitude was wasted.
It's almost haiku like. Again the simplicity and clarity of expression make him
stand out for me. Did I mention haikus? Ok - so, here's one of mine to
off this post:

The door is half closed,
dividing the dark and light,
'till morning comes again.
Love and peace and solitude - W

Monday, June 22, 2009

They're gonna put me in the movies...we'll make a film about a man that's sad and lonely.

This post is a twin to one I did on my music blog http://googoogarjoob.blogspot.com/ . Samantha and Jesse on their recent visit went out to hire some movies. They came back with Across The Universe and two others - The Kite Runner and Stranger than fiction. They were good choices - three out of three! This post is about Stranger Than Fiction. Here's what it's about so that you're in the loop -

Warning - this next bit will ruin the film for you. If you haven't seen the film but want to (it has Maggie Gyllenhaal in it so of course you want to see it!) - stop reading. Now. Okay...but you've been warned. Last chance...

The conundrum at the end of the film is whether to kill off Harold or not. The 'book' being 'written' in the film has been leading up to this event. Harold has met the Maggie character and fallen big time, so we as audience have something (a little thing) invested in their future and therefore - his survival. But everyone agrees Harold HAS to die. Everyone? Well the university English professor - played by Dustin Hoffman, and Harold both do. Yes Harold! Having read the 'book' of his life, he agrees the story needs to end with his tragic death. However, the 'writer' of Harold's life, played by Emma Thompson, has second thoughts and questions killing her hero.

And this is the conundrum. And this is what the writers of this film had to work through. Do they have a tragic end? Do they have a Hollywood, happy, end? And you know in your heart, don't you, what they went with (this is not Hamlet after all). And it was a giant mistake (a lot of 'Ands' I know). Yes at the time I was semi-hoping for a happy ending, but also hoping for a ending that did justice to a very good film. Alas - twas not to be.

It did get me thinking about films with great endings - happy or otherwise. About a Boy springs to mind - all gathered for a cathartic Christmas but open ended as well. Zabriskie Point with the blowing up of a luxury house is also memorable. My two favourite endings though, are Lost in Translation and Pelle The Conqueror. Both do the films justice and are not happy in any Hollywood style. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) walks away from Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a Japanese street scene after mumbling something in her ear. WHAT WAS IT???? This is a great ending. He will return to his wife and his American life? Maybe. The greatest ending of all belongs to Pelle. Not only my favourite film ever! But the best ending. Pelle and his father (Lasse - played by Max von Sydow) have gone through hell together. Pelle's mother has died, he is treated as a virtual slave and has Lasse, who likes to drink, as his only companion. Lasse is an old man and Pelle's life is all about getting out into the big world finally. And so they part at the end of the film. Pelle and Lasse embrace and then Pelle turns and walks off in the snow, along a seashore into...who knows what.

Wow. What an ending! Perfect. And how often can you say that?

Friday, June 19, 2009

People say I'm cool, Ya - I'm a cool, chick baby

Highlights of the week that was - Jesse and Samantha stayed during the week and were mugged by the animals at every turn.

Jade had a mufti day at school. The theme for the day was the letter S. I dressed as a soccer star (wore my Rochdale shirt very proudly) and Jade went as Samantha. her friends thought it WAS Samantha so I guess she did well.

Apart from that it's been trying to keep warm! Jade and her boyfriend helped me put away the wood last weekend that we had delivered and we've been steadily working through it with 24/7 fires. Apparently it's the shortest day tomorrow.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Don't go jumping waterfalls, please keep to the lake, people who jump waterfalls, sometimes can make mistakes

Jacky and I went for a walk in the woods yesterday after I'd spent time chopping up a tree that had fallen in a recent storm. It was a reasonably big tree and pretty much fell outside our bedroom window (taking a load of branches with it), yet we heard nothing!! We think it must have fallen a week or so ago when we had a massive blast of southerly air come through. Jacky discovered it snapped off about three metres up the trunk and so I got to with my trusty axe. It was tricky being so far up and Jacky was worried I'd endanger myself. But it's the Henry David Thoreau in me - I love this sort of stuff. Anyway, after comprehensively bloodying my hands against the tree-bark we ventured up the mountain. During the summer I enjoy taking some students for a two hour walk from Dawson Falls to the plateau carpark. Along the way there are some great scenic views of waterfalls and a view across to the central plateau mountains - Tongariro (pronounced Ton-gar-rear-row), Ngauruhoe (Nar-rue-hoe-ee) and Ruapehu (Rue-ar-pay-who). If you want to learn more - try http://www.visitruapehu.com/ for details. There's a good map on that site so that you can see we (Stratford) live in a more-or-less direct line between those three mountains and Mount Taranaki.

We had a lovely walk to a waterfall about 20 mins from the plateau carpark. Here are those views:

This is from the plateau carpark looking east towards Mount Ruapehu (top left). Stratford is the settlement to the right and our place is in between the treeline and the township.

The views as we walked along the track to the waterfall.

Said waterfall. As you can see it's pretty cold in the shadows - ice and snow feed the little streams coming down from the mountain.
When we returned to our little farm cottage the animals had beaten us to the fireplace to warm up.

Love and peace - W