Alyx Dellamonica

Memories served cold…

Posted on July 8, 2010 by

As I write this it’s Wednesday afternoon, three-ish, and the living room thermometer claims it’s about 85 degrees indoors. I am alternating bursts of work with little forays into emptying out our fridge and packing away the perishables in temporary cool storage. All this because kelly-yoyoKelly and I bought a new fridge about a month ago; between one thing and another, it is only just arriving today… sometime between four in the afternoon and bedtime.

I am thus trying to find the perfect balance between having to empty an entire fridge if the guys arrive early with taking the food out and then having to wait so long that, even in coolers, it melts. All while keeping enough of the kitchen clean to accomplish dinner.

The new fridge is black, energy-efficient, and a hair bigger than its predecessor, a lowend GE model with no Energy star rating whatever, chipped paint, two decades of accumulated grime, busted crisper drawers and assorted condensation/mildew issues. Since I’m allergic to mold, I’m thrilled to be rid of the thing on that count alone!

I am pretty sure I have never cohabited with a fridge that wasn’t on the old and wheezy side. The Moldebeast is the only fridge I’ve even owned.

The landlords of my youth, not surprisingly, favored disastrously cheap appliances. I can remember a weeks-long battle to convince our first BC landlord that food was rotting in our fridge overnight. He’d have kept fake-fixing that one forever while we fought food poisoning, if I hadn’t taken advantage of its single working feature–beautiful, well-oiled casters. I slammed it into the wall repeatedly one afternoon, until the various non-working bits were too busted up to sustain the game of pretend. The guy then got us a reconditioned fridge which was large and flesh colored and heroic and functional; we named it Cyrano.

Shortly after that we moved on to Chez Frank, whose freezer was supposed to be self-defrosting. It wasn’t, and so we had Frank up every six months or so to pull it out from the wall and power-thaw the bits we couldn’t reach. Since Frank sincerely cared and kept it working, we lived with it.

The first fridge I remember was in the house in Bonnyville. These rocks lived on it–they are rocks my grandmother Maudie picked up in the Nevada desert. She then cut, polished and glued them to tragically weak magnets. I am sentimental about them; I think the three-toned one looks like a lake with ice on it, and I cannot tell you how many hours I spent watching them all lose the war with gravity, sliding down to the floor.

That fridge handle, in Bonnyville, had a wicked sharp edge; just a little rasp of metal that would reach out to snag clothes or your arm. One of those dumb things, a pain, but not worth doing anything about. We all scraped ourselves on it at one time or another.

Anyway, cruising toward a point, I swear: as a tween, I had the job of clearing the dishes after dinner, and one night I was multitasking, by which I mean putting away food and, simultaneously, scrapping with my sister. I have no idea what we were arguing about or what was said, but soon enough she was lunging at me. This I remember as M coming at me in a classic X-men Wolverine lunge: body canted, head low (and of course she didn’t have claws like that).

I was opening the fridge door anyway, but I gave it a bit more arm. Malice aforethought: it’s embasassing to admit to premeditation, all these years later. I figured she’d hit the flat part and bounce. Haha, argument over.

Or… not! Instead of bouncing like a wacky cartoon animal, poor Sib cracked her bean open on the sharp bit of the fridge door. Chaos ensued. The magnets probably all hit the floor, but between the spray of blood, the screaming, and the sudden mustering of a Trip to ER, I don’t remember that. Three stitches later, the wound was sufficient to leave a small vertical scar right in the center of her forehead. Did I mention that my father nigh faints at the sight of blood? Yeah, it was a fun night.

So. Not one of my shining childish moments of humanity. However, I am a better person now and as proof I will point out that I did not name this post, despite strong temptation, “Fridge over troubled daughters.” (And if you read this, M–Oh! Still damned sorry about that! I cringe when I think of it!)

Ahem. Grandma’s fridge was green and had its own collection of fridge-rocks. Plus it was magic! You could find Hostess Ding Dongs and kid-sized cans of sarsaparilla soda in it.

Naked Brunch

Posted on July 7, 2010 by

This past Sunday, after the usual coffee-and-cookie outing at Calabria, kelly-yoyoKelly and I hit the Vancouver Art Gallery to see The Modern Woman: Drawings by Degas, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Other Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

It wasn’t quite a hit and run visit, but we didn’t linger either. The point of having a VAG membership, for me, is to go often and to leave as soon as my brain fills up or my feet get sore. I’d say we took the first two-thirds of the exhibit in at a leisurely pace and the remainder at a brisk walk.

I had been prepared to be underwhelmed: travelling exhibits are a mixed bag, and the fact that this one was all drawings suggested, to me, wall after wall of tiny scribblings and little else. I want variety, and I like big stuff, with lots of color. I’m glad to report that I was wrong-so-wrong on this apprehension. There were sketches aplenty, of course, and some of them were indeed miniscule. But there were glorious big pastel pieces too, colorful, rich and satisfying. The overall mix had a good deal of variety.

As is often true, wherever you go, the most interest was to be had from the people. Early on, we came into a good-sized room and confronted the word NUDE, emblazoned on the wall, in letters one and a half feet high. NUDE was accompanied by a short paragraph which discussed how artists had moved from depicting their nude models as idealized Greek goddesses (and other babes of the Classics) to doing portraits of real women, with flesh and wrinkles and fat rolls. These subjects were, increasingly, engaged in bathing and dressing and other types of private, thoroughly unethereal activity.

The walls, of course, were covered in nude sketches. And about ten steps behind me, half-a-room ahead of their adult escort, were an eight and ten year old girl.

They were visibly discomfited to be standing in a big room full of adults–maybe six men and eight women–all in contemplation of womanly nakedness. They also seemed to know it wasn’t cool to be uncomfortable. So instead of shrieking with laughter and running for the door, they kind of gabbled inarticulately. Then they gravitated, all in a rush, to an image by Paul Albert Besnard, of a woman with a peacock feather fan. Her back is to the viewer, with no breast exposed, and the fan itself covers her butt crack. Very demure. Very lovely, too, by the way–I liked it.

“This one’s okay,” the older girl said; she seemed relieved.

sketch by Paul Albert Besnard

Right next to the Besnard was a sketch of a girl of seven or eight years, face on to the viewer. I’d been stopped by that one. Images of older-than-infant kids without their clothes on aren’t something I encounter much. My assumption is that today’s artists aren’t making many these days, especially if they need models, for fear of getting arrested for making porn. (Is that so? I don’t actually know.)

So I was processing this and waiting to see what the girls made of it, this image of a girl essentially their age, staring at the viewer, starkers. Then their adult turned up and swept them on to an image of a woman with a robe over her chest. End scene.

Two galleries on, a six-ish boy asked his male adult, “Where’s the Mona Lisa?”

“Not here,” was all the reply he got.

So… kids in museums. Eavesdropping on the girls left me with that sand in my oyster shell feeling, that tickle of Hmmm, what, exactly?

I am certainly not one to think kids shouldn’t be exposed to nudes in art, or that museums should rate shows–PG, PG13, R, can you imagine it! I would argue it’s impossible to ensure a young person won’t experience any number of moments of alienation from or disconnection with the adult world throughout their growing years. You can probably all remember times when you bumped up against realities that were inexplicably adult and alien, whether they were from the sexual realm or elsewhere.

But I felt for this particular pair of girls as they coped with that awkward moment.

The exhibit being all about women, the whole thing felt eerily meta, too. Here we had two young proto-women, taking in what a bunch of mostly male Euro-painters thought femininity was, a couple centuries ago. Meanwhile, a feminist blogger was spying on them.

I didn’t reach any useful conclusions. I’ll go back and look at the room again, and peoplewatch some more. At some point, maybe, the oyster-itch will find its way into a story or book. That’s part of how it works for me. In the meantime, I’d welcome your thoughts.

Speaking of VAG, localfolk, they are in the process of trying to get a new space–it has room to display a trifling 3% of its collection, and no lecture space. They have a site explaining the issues here, which goes on to say how we-all can support the move to the old bus parkade at Georgia and Cambie.

Review: Seize the Fire

Posted on July 6, 2010 by

On Saturday I finished up Adam Nicolson‘s SEIZE THE FIRE: HEROISM, DUTY, AND NELSON’S BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR. It is not at all a minute-by-minute account of the battle–about which I knew beans and still know almost nothing–and more an analysis of the cultural, economic and emotional context in which it took place.

Nicolson talks about the forces that shaped Navy culture in this century–the long tradition of deep aggression and violence embedded within British culture, the profit motive (many of the officers, particularly, were in the racket to make fortunes that would let them buy homes in the country and live the gentleman lifestyle), the disciplined maintenance rituals that kept the ships in good shape and the immense amounts of money borrowed by Parliament to keep them so. The spending supported the navy in both a direct and an indirect manner: they bought up so much of the world’s available supply of ship materiel that other countries were hard pressed to get their hands on things like wood, canvas and hemp.

His prose is precise and lovely to read aloud. Here, he uses Jane Austen to illustrate how the idea of masculinity had evolved between the 18th and 19th centuries:

By 1805, the femininity of the mid-18th century was being left behind. Exaggerated sensibility had started to look absurd. Clothes, for both men and women, had become sober and simple…. one can see dramatised the shift in values between the 18th and 19th centuries arranged around the two potential heroes of [Pride and Prejudice]: Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley is 18th-century man: handsome, young, agreeable, delightful, fond of dancing, gentlemanlike, pleasant, easy, unaffected and not entirely in control of his destiny. Darcy is fine, tall, handsome, noble, proud, forbidding, disagreeable, and subject to no control but his own. It is a strikingly schematic division. Darcy is like a craggy black mountainside–Mrs. Bennet calls him ‘horrid’, the word used to describe the pleasure to be derived from a harsh and sublime landscape; Mr. Bingley is a verdant park with bubbling rills. Darcy is 19th century man, manliness itself, uncompromising, dark and sexy.

SEIZE THE FIRE isn’t light reading, obviously, but it’s also not dense or in any way a grind. It’s mostly about emotion–how people felt about war, their attitude toward battle, the vital cultural differences between the British and French-Spanish fleets that led to the victory at Trafalgar, and the way the ideas of heroism and honor were shaped before the battle and, afterwards, by it. Nicolson’s analysis is intriguing but never ethereal. He’s writing about a slaughter, and you never forget that; this is a humane book, and a really interesting one. Not only do I recommend it, but I expect I’ll pick up his book about the translation of the King James bible, GOD’S SECRETARIES, in the not too distant.

Out chasing birds again…

Posted on July 5, 2010 by

Barb and I hit Burnaby Lake on Friday in pursuit of birds and had a five mile ramble along the northern path to Piper Spit and, from there, to the Cariboo dam. It was middling warm and cloudy. Glorious cartoony clouds: they made the light for bird chasing a little challenging, at times, but check this out:

DSCN3755

Light or no light, we had some good birder sightings: a downy woodpecker, cedar waxwings, this little common yellowthroat, singing his guts out in the not-actually-this-lightless gloom:
RSCN3812

I think my best score photographically, was a… song sparrow? Maybe a Lincoln’s sparrow? Anyway, he’s got bling. I know Wildlife Rescue has their shelter on the edge of the park; I shall have to ask Fearless if they tag all their rescuees before releasing them. It seems as though a lot of the animals at the lake have bracelets.

RSCN3827