Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A thought for a busy time...

Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them.

-Thomas Merton

Monday, November 27, 2006

Paolo Nutini

While in Scotland, the Argyll Hotel usually had CDs softly playing in the background. There was one I kept hearing, and I liked it more everytime I heard it. Paolo Nutini's These Streets was the CD. He is a young Scotsman (inspite of the Italian name) who is a singer/songwriter. I found the CD while journeying through Oban, and I have absolutely driven Sonny Boy bonkers by playing it so much. (Hey, I suffered not only through Hilary Duff CDs constantly being played - I even took him to see her in concert!)

Check out Paolo - he's really great. Hope some big time music person in the States finds him soon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Prestige

Well, what does Thanksgiving mean in our world today? It could mean pumpkin pies (made with Splenda to fool my brother), cranberry relish, giving thanks. It could mean shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Or it could mean the best movies of the year are finally coming out and it's time to hit the theatres again.

I chose the final option yesterday. It's rare that I don't see a Hugh Jackman movie, so The Prestige certainly fit the bill. It also stars other quite gifted actors - Christian Bale (I still tear up everytime I remember The Empire of the Sun), Michael Caine and Scarlett Johannson. It is set around 1900 in London. Two young magicians become rivals to the fullest over a terrible accident. Jackman portrays Angiers, the dashing showman. Bale is Borden, the lowerclass magicial genius. It is a story of how they hope to best the other, or really, to destroy the other. The movie is well-plotted, with twists and turns and all sorts of interesting facets in the story. It was a relief to see a movie that is not so dreadfully predictable. Some things were predictable, but just when we think we figured something out - something else would happen to turn things around.

The acting was superb. David Bowie even makes an appearance as a mad genius (appropriately so - and did I really think he was that hot in 1985? Lunar, did we really? Well, at least it was better than when I was soooo in LUV with scrawny Shaun Cassidy in 1980.)

Yet, something was lacking in the movie for me. It was certainly a good movie and I would recommend seeing it. As I have been thinking over it, I wondered if my inability to see this as a really great movie was my old standby criticism - a redemptive quality. Obsession does not often allow room for redemption. But that lack of redemption didn't bother me in Brokeback Mountain (still the best movie I have seen in years). I think what was lacking was an identification with the characters. They were fascinating and even sympathetic at times, especially Angiers. Yet, as the movie came to its conclusion and the final face-off with these two magicians, I was unsure for whom I should pull. Angiers seemed obvious, and his words on why he was a magician were powerful - but the words did not match the actions. Actions do speak louder than words.

It was a well done and well crafted movie. Yet, more time was spent trying to make this a clever movie than making this one where the audience was truly invested with the characters. I think that was the flaw - the reason I wasn't sure what I wanted to happen in the movie. My grade - B

Friday, November 17, 2006

Like a Sheep

Here are some of the countless sheep who populate the island of Iona. I heard a rather interesting story about how the backsides became marked, but as this is family oriented blog, I won't go into said theory or its possible veracity.

The sheep were everywhere - many more sheep than people. And they were hysterical. They NEVER stopped eating. Everywhere we went, there they were - moving those lips.

I am lacking a picture of my favorite sheep. She was of the average variety. She was in one of those lush fields, totally collapsed on her side. From her hooves to her ear, every part of her body was fully relaxed on the grass. I thought she was asleep. Then I saw her lips moving - still eating. I've felt like that on occasion - can't move anything at all but my mouth to put food in it. I'm sure I'll feel that way next Thursday.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cool 13th century nuns

The religious community on Iona has focused around the Celtic religious community founded by Columba in the late 500s. The Abbey (see Thursday's post for a picture) was built in the 13th century on the site of the original Columban community. As Roman Christianity was spreading to the further reaches of Western Europe (and continuing to usurp Celtic Christianity), the Columban community became a Benedictine monastery.

It was not uncommon for a women's religious community to exist near a monastery. In 1200, the Nunnery construction on Iona was begun. It is the most intact ruins of a nunnery in Scotland. Whereas the Abbey was repaired and reconstructed in the late 19th century, the Nunnery has been left in ruins (although quite beautiful ruins). Very little is known about the Nunnery, and very little was written in any of the Iona books I read. However, while perusing the wonderfully written guest book at the Argyll Hotel, it was mentioned that the Nunnery has a She-la-na-gig (a pagan fertility goddess, or vagina dentata/"vagina with teeth") on its prominent South wall.

A pagan fertility goddess on a prominent wall of a Nunnery built in 1200? We do know that a woman named Beathag was the first abbess. We'll never know why the She-la-na-gig is there, and practically no one who writes about Iona seems to care about this, but I can only imagine that Beathag and the nuns must have been women who honored other women and God's gift in Creation.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Iona, Scotland continued

Iona is a tiny island in the Inner Hebrides (1 1/2 miles by 3 1/2 miles). It is one of the more beautiful places have ever been. The waters are blue (like the Carribean), the sand is white, the grass is unbelievably green, and the rocky terrain is lots of fun and provides some really good exercise (hopefully to counteract that great food from the Argyll Hotel). People have lived on the island since ancient times, and a religious community has been there since the late 500s. Here are some more pics of the Island.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Long Hair is Cool, pt. 2

I am interrupting my pictures and recollections of my recent trip to Scotland for an update on Sonny Boy. The avid reader might remember a post not too long ago about Sonny Boy's quest for long, beautiful hair (and not to be a nerd). His school pictures just came back, as you can see. At least he had combed his hair. It is a shame that his best feature (those big, beautiful blue eyes) were hidden behind the veil of very straight hair. But at least his hair was clean.

Sonny Boy has had a hair cut since, but this picture will be around for many, many years to come.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More from Scotland

I'll have a number of ongoing posts about my pilgrimage to Iona (in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland), but here is the beginning. I thought I would start with food. As I anticipated the trip, I actually wasn't too thrilled about Scottish food - the only thing that stood out in my mind was Haggis. Yes, that is a picture of me taking a bite of Haggis - reminded me of those little tins of potted meat which I have avoided like the plague over these past 20 years (and then when Hubby bought some last year for a camping trip - I threw them out - inspite of what I might say sometimes, I do love him and want him to be around for many years :)

The other two pics are of our residence on Iona - the Argyll Hotel - and our group of pilgrims in the dining room (after we have yet again stuffed ourselves silly - please note the mostly full plate of wonderful apple and berry crumble in front of me - I really did try my best for 20 minutes to eat more). The Argyll is absolutely wonderful. The staff is welcoming and extremely helpful. It is warm and cozy and quiet, and the food is absolutely worldclass. One doesn't normally think of gaining weight on a pilgrimage, but it was a real challenge for each one of us not to explode from the incredible food. I think my favorite entree was the Vegan Haggis (yes, that is correct) and my favorite dessert was lemon cheesecake. If you ever travel to Iona, the Argyll is the place to stay.

More to come...