By Robert Hayden
Today the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
I come again to see
the serene great picture that I love.
Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
that was not, was, forever is.
O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.
From Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch in the Sunday Washington Post Book World. "There is always some transgression in writing about the visual arts, in approaching in words the work of a painter, sculptor or photographer," states Hirsch. "A border is crossed, a boundary breached, as the writer enters into the spatial realm. Works of art initiate and provoke other works of art. They brave the mystery dividing the seen from the unseen, image from text. They teach us to look more closely. They dramatize with great intensity the actual experience of encounter." The poet then writes about growing up in Chicago and visiting the Art Institute, with which I am intimately familiar from living in the city for four years as a grad student. He cites some paintings I love, like "George Seurat's monumental rendering of a bourgeois afternoon on the Seine" and Picasso's "Old Guitarist." Hayden's hiding from the news in Monet's "Water Lilies" feels particularly relevant to Hirsch this Christmas.
Someone has written me an absolutely wonderful fic for the shacking_up secret santa exchange, "Culmination Of A Vague Idea". If you are reading this, Anonymous, thank you so very much! Those of you who listen to me talking about Harry Potter probably know that I often have issues with post-POA Remus/Sirius, because I often don't see how they can be together and be truly happy, yet I just can't bear any more angst for them; this story has angst and humor and an absolutely beautiful ending and may just be my perfect Remus/Sirius story. I can't decide whether I hope the writer is someone I know, because that would probably mean that person had been paying attention to all the stuff I've said about the pairing, or whether I hope it's someone I hardly know who simply managed to read my mind, because it's so wonderful when that happens in fandom.
I usually sign up for fic exchanges much more for the writing than the reading. Often the exchange is disappointing in that the writer drops out or does a self-confessed half-assed job -- I'm still waiting for my LOTR fic from last year -- but if I write something I'm happy with that fits within the parameters given me by the person I'm writing for, particularly if the reader really likes it, that more than makes up for whatever I get in the exchange. Lest I sound like one of those "it is better to give than to receive" holiday cliches, this is entirely selfish: if I've written something I'm pleased with, the sense of accomplishment in its creation usually outweighs the pleasure of any fic-as-gift I've been given. In this case, however, while I still have some issues with my own shackinup_sesa fic (will tell you all which one it is on New Year's Day though you are welcome to write me privately and guess, heh), I am utterly thrilled with the story I received and am really proud that someone wrote this for me.
As previously reported, we celebrated Jewish Christmas, meaning a movie and Chinese food. The Phantom of the Opera was superb, and I enjoyed every minute of it, though I do have some odd curiosity about whether I would be so pleased with it had the exact same film been made back during my serious passion for the musical in 1988-90. apaulled and I saw it on Broadway during its first couple of months while I was still in college, with the original cast from the CD, and wonderful as they were, we saw it again on our honeymoon in Toronto with Colm Wilkinson playing the Phantom and it was even better than with Crawford et al. The staging wasn't quite as elaborate but Wilkinson is just a wonderful actor as well as a very powerful singer; I'd known who he was since the original London album of Evita, and I'd seen him in Les Miserables at the Kennedy Center on its way to New York, and had been a gibbering fangirl of his ever since. During all the years when it was taken for granted that Crawford would get the film role, I was secretly hoping for Wilkinson, and by the time it was apparent that they were both too old to be considered, I had a lot less passion for the topic of who should play the role.
I think it was worth the decade-long delay, just as I ultimately thought Evita was worth the wait, but it's possible that I am just so happy to have a well-done film that I no longer have an ideal movie version of either. Visually Phantom is amazing: the opening, set decades after the ruin of the opera house, is in black and white like The Wizard of Oz, and then as Raoul remembers, the color comes up as the dust, damage and cobwebs are swept away. The Phantom's lair looks a lot like my impression of it from the stage musical, the same burgundy and gold and black everywhere and the music and instruments and gorgeous fabrics and that eerie underground lake that glows greenish...in general the costumes, makeup, lighting, etc. are brilliant and I love getting the glimpses backstage at the popular opera, even the garish over the top bits, in which regard it reminds me somewhat of Moulin Rouge. The scenes in the cemetery are well-done (somewhat unnecessary lengthy swordfight but they had to give Raoul something manly to do, I suppose) and the filming of the opera scenes themselves made me think of Amadeus (one of my favorite movies, so that is a high compliment).
Butler's range is perhaps not quite as impressive as others I've heard sing the part, but his physical performance is quite good -- we have to be able to read the Phantom's moods even when his mask-covered face is turned toward us, and we have to be able to pity him somewhat even after he's committing atrocities, and he does the tortured soul bit quite well. If I had been directing the movie, I would have told him not to stand so straight, not to emphasize what good shape his body's in; he seems a little too healthy and robust, not like someone who's been twisting himself into the shadows for all these years, but Schumacher must have known what he was getting when he hired an authentic hunk for the role and must have made a conscious decision not to make him look a little more Hunchback of Notre Dame-ish, so that's not really a criticism of Butler per se. Other than the facial scarring, which is "ugly" but not much worse than some pictures of people I've seen who've had smallpox and other diseases that probably weren't unknown in the late 1800s, there doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong with him, so his hatred of his face seems much more a psychological issue from his childhood than a reason he would really have been shunned everywhere -- shunned from high society, sure, but that was true of a lot of people, including the carpenters and most of the chorus girls he would have seen at the opera.
Rossum I knew only from that Jason Isaacs movie, Passionada, in which Sofia Milos rather than Rossum sang, though Rossum was very memorable and held her own as a fifteen-year-old onscreen with those two actors whom I like very much. So I was predisposed to like her, and she really made the movie for me; she's the first actress who's been able to make me believe in Christine as a full-blooded character, and I wasn't nearly as frustrated with the girl's passivity and self-delusion in part because I really bought her as a girl (the other actresses I saw were all obviously grown women, even if they were also good singers and doing their damndest to play ingenues). For the psycho-sexual story to work, she has to be believable as an innocent and yet aware of her own erotic power, first onstage, then off, and Rossum really pulls off that development.
I'd have preferred not to know that she eventually married Raoul and became a countess; what would be really interesting is if, after choosing the Phantom, she realized that for all his money and prettiness, Raoul is not really what she wants. Considering that the film and play both start with him buying her artifacts years later, it would be so easy simply never to tell us how her story ended. It's annoying that the Phantom and Raoul take turns making her decisions for her and all she can do is sing about it, but one gets the distinct impression that she's come into her own in the end...that she knows which choice she'd make before she is actually forced to make it and in some ways it's a relief for her to say aloud, yes, I understand this and I want this. What is it with Lloyd Webber that he can make me root for the Phantom, Eva Peron and Judas? Should I be afraid?
After the movie we went to an Asian fusion restaurant and ate a shocking amount (soup, spicy and saucy shrimp, panang curry, drunken noodles, sate...). It was absolutely mobbed and we only got a table because I'd made a reservation the night before, which enabled the management to tell a group of rude, pushy people just arrived from Meet the Fockers like a total stereotype that sorry but they were holding the table for us first. My kids were a little cranky because they got so little runaround time today but they ate well and then we had long phone conversations when we came home with a multitude of west coast in-laws. I also talked to perkypaduan, who is at home and reasonably well but somewhat drained and anyone who has her e-mail, please drop her a line if you have a chance because the holidays are an incredibly sucky time to be tired and uncomfortable.
One of the highlights of my day was seeing a pair of hawks right in my neighborhood, shrieking and cawing at each other from trees a little distance from one another. Here are a few photos. Hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas or just a lovely Saturday!
...and another in an evergreen at the edge of the woods.
Here I've put arrows in so you can see the relative positions of the birds, probably ten yards from my house. I've seen turkey vultures in this part of the neighborhood, but never a pair of hawks like these.
My uncle got me to take this quiz. Since I don't watch The O.C., is this good?
You are Adam Brody! You're adorable dorkiness is
absolutely contagious, not to mention you're
super cute! You're a bit more reserved than
most, and find it harded to open up, but you're
always there when it counts. What's behind you
doesn't really matter, because you're all about
the future, and the people there with you.
Which OC Cast Member Are You?
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