Monday, November 28, 2005
Tell me now, you Muses who have your homes on Olympos.
For you, who are goddesses, are there, and you know all things,
and we have heard only the rumour of it and know nothing.
Who then were the guests who came to my house for Thanksgiving?
I could not tell over the multitude of them nor name them,
not if I had ten tongues and ten mouths, not if I had
a voice never to be broken and a heart of bronze within me,
not unless the Muses of Olympia, daughters
of Zeus of the aegis, remembered all those who came to Pennsylvania.
I will tell the drivers of the automobiles, and their passengers.
Oh, to hell with the dactylic hexameter. It doesn’t work in English, anyway. The point is that we had seventeen people in this house for Thanksgiving, starting with the first arrival last Tuesday and ending with the final departure Sunday afternoon. It was the March of the Lyons. Janet’s mother, three sisters, one brother, and many Significant Others, along with Janet’s best friend Gail, her brother-in-law, and two teenage children. And, of course, Nick came home from college. I used to tell people I’d married into a large and powerful family, sort of like the Habsburgs. Now, for two Thanksgivings in a row, I’ve hosted the Habsburgs in my humble abode. Not everyone stayed in our house—just ten of our guests, plus the four of us.
How do we do it? Volume!
Seriously, if you’ve ever had fourteen people living in a medium-sized house for four days, you know what it’s like. And if you haven’t, you’re about to find out!
The most critical thing, of course, is plumbing. Our house is about eighty years old, and its plumbing leaves something to be desired—like, for example, water pressure. Water doesn’t flow out of our shower heads so much as ooze, and that can be a problem when large families want to take showers one person at a time. The “indoor plumbing” thing was further complicated, this year, by the fact that one toilet had come loose from its moorings (oh, don’t ask), one shower stall was leaking to the floor below, and another shower/ bathtub had lost much of its caulking. Fortunately, Todd’s boyfriend Hayward knows everything in the world about How Things Work, and better still, everything in the world about How to Fix Them. So while Hayward replaced the toilet, recaulked two showers, weatherstripped a doorway and repaired a door, fixed an air vent behind the stove, and placed a jack under our bowing porch, I did what I do best, namely, sitting around making remarks about stuff.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I also distinguished myself in the Eating and Drinking department, as the Lyons and Corbins arrived with chili, bacon, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, salads, cakes, cookies, more cakes, and forty-five cases of wine, to which we added the stuffing, potatoes, and pair of turkeys we’d ordered from Wegmans, along with twenty more cases of wine. Through fortitude and perseverance, I managed to gain thirty-five pounds in four days, while making salient contributions to the nightly games of “names,” poker, and charades. (In Texas Hold ‘Em, Nick, with three of a kind, saw me and raised a couple of times, believing that (a) I was bluffing and (b) no one could make anything of the Q-2-8-A-4 on the table. Imagine his surprise when I turned over a 3 and a 5! On the very next hand, Gail’s son Brendan kept raising me with a flush, not realizing that I was capable of complementing the 9-9-4 on the board with a 9 and a 4 of my own. Thanks, kids!)
At one point during the food preparation rituals on Thursday, I realized that there were nine or ten people in the kitchen, and at least five things being baked, boiled, or warmed. So I decided to go on a garbage/ recycling run, filling the Subaru with bags and bottles. That’s right: I couldn’t stand the heat, so I got out of the kitchen! Who knew that could really happen? I always thought it was a metaphor of some kind. Next thing you know, I’ll be lying down with dogs and getting up with fleas! But the garbage/ recycling run was great, because the recycling bin required me to take the bottles one by one and sort them into clear, brown, and green before tossing them into a nearly-empty dumpster. Much noise, and much fun! I love the sound of breaking clear, brown, and green glass.
Then on Friday and Saturday, it was off to the movies with Jamie and the crew. I’ll file my review of Walk the Line tomorrow; today I have to add to my long-running Harry Potter commentary. By the way, did you know that there are only two functioning sectors of the American economy now? Housing sales and Harry Potter films. That’s it.
But the Potter bubble won’t burst anytime soon, at least, because Goblet of Fire is the best of the series so far, better even than Azkaban. Brendan Gleeson is inspired as Mad-Eye Moody, and we approve of Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort (though I know that some people say Voldemort should be more heavy-set and sclerotic). The Triwizard competition is terrific, and—most unexpectedly—the moments of humor are brilliant. The first time through, I didn’t care for the maze scene, thinking I’d already seen it in The Shining, except with less fog. But on second viewing, it was . . . adequate. Though still too foggy, in a couple of ways.
It’s a shame, though, that Mike Newell ran out of film at the very end. How else to explain Dumbledore’s incomprehensible scene at Harry’s bedside, and then the flubbed final exchange among Harry, Hermione, and Ron? Yes, I know the movie couldn’t have ended with ten minutes of “As you know, Harry” exposition from Dumbledore, but honestly, when Michael Gambon mutters “prior incantatem” and then tells Harry that no spell can reawaken the dead, that’s not a useful gloss on Harry’s duel with Voldemort—it’s just muttering. If you’re not going to explain the “prior incantatem” phenomenon, then don’t bother mentioning it. It’s like the moment earlier in the film when Barty Crouch is discovered unconscious in the forest—it simply doesn’t work in the film, because everything that explains it in the book has been excised; it winds up looking like a stray visual footnote to the book and nothing else. (Though David Tennant’s snakelike tongue thing worked well as a tipoff to Crouch’s reaction to Mad-Eye.) And what’s with Dumbledore’s line about how we must choose between what’s easy and what’s right? That makes no damn sense at all. As if Voldemort and the Death Eaters represent the “easy” path? Finally, who advised Emma Watson to laugh through her closing line about how everything will be different now? That was just weird.
Probably most important, however, is the scene of the Quidditch World Cup. I didn’t notice this on first viewing, but the second time it was unmistakable: when the Irish National Team swoops onto the field, there is no hint of orange in their jerseys. The same is true of Fred and George Weasley: they have painted their bodies and faces green and white for Ireland, and there’s no orange to be seen. The obvious question poses itself: WHY DOES HOLLYWOOD HATE PROTESTANTS? As if it’s not bad enough that Hollywood has banned all mention of Christmas in the United States and the ACLU is putting fluoride in our eggnog!! Now we have to deal with Harry Potter rewriting history?!?
I hope Michael Medved says something about this, and soon. Because you sure can’t expect the MSM to sit up and take notice. They’re completely in the tank with the Papists, and have been ever since JFK = Joe For King stole the Presidency in 1960.