Sunday, January 30, 2011

Broken Car, The Vikings, and an Art Gallery (One Post, 3 Topics)

I used to ramble, mentally peregrinate, on this blog, but I think readers want more topic in their blogs, so I have taken to being more topic orientated. So three things in mind now, and I will muster a course thru them…

First, or, to give it an 11 on style, firstly, our car got slammed by a truck. Beth parked in front of the UPS store. While Beth prepared her package, the proprietor said, That truck just hit that car. And Beth thought, Oh no! And so this adventure: a tanker at the gas station next door was being guided by two guys from the station. Only, they weren’t doing the job. The truckdriver backed into our car not once but twice, to the vast enjoyment of the supposed guides. The car sustained a fender dent. On later inspection, it looked like the wheel had been pushed to a cant. On the way to our mechanic we heard an inscrutable and unusual high pitched whistle or whine. Which made us think something really uh oh. On the lift, nothing looked obviously bad, and of course the mechanic didn’t hear any whine when he took it for a drive. It is probably out of alignment, and that will be on the list when the insurance claim is made. What a wearisome and tense morning that was.

After the calming effects of a Costco run we went to an art opening at a gallery we get mailings from. It’s a suburban gallery, in Acton (where Creeley grew up). Not edgy in any way, yet art is so beguiling that pleasures abound even from the merely technically competent. To me, poetry is a total drag unless done well. There are no guilty pleasures in poetry.

The gallery used to be in a strip mall done the road. Now it sits in an old house across from another strip mall. The town of Acton decided to become the capital of strip malls, all along the main road thru town. The house is a rambling farmhouse, much renovated. It’s a nice setting for art but may be a millstone round the neck of the owner. It must’ve cost a peach and a pear to buy then renovate, and this was done just as we swung into the downturn. Anyway.

A lot of work has local appeal, using, particularly, the charms of Concord as subject. Those charms include river scenes, Great Meadows, Walden, and grand houses of Colonial and Victorian vintage. Landscapes from elsewhere also abound. For the most part, well done. These images sanctify something that we recognize as impossible, yet remain earnest claims. Sunsets, autumnal visions, marsh quietude. I love it. Sometimes, the painters amp the colour, and you see the trick they play. For some reason, titles to the work seem largely to lack vigour, especially attempts at whimsy.

A couple of exquisite watercolours were technically exacting, to the degree that you look and look at the subject, as subject. This is when blatancy is withheld, and colours are musical notes, not promulgations.

I thought a lot of work owed Cezanne something. The sense of planes and colour fields brought forward. This is an autistic sort of vision, positively so.

A large painting of a cottage struck me. Beth recognized the cottage from Bramhall family pictures, the cottages on Corn Hill in Truro, Cape Cod. My family used to rent one of those cottages when I was young. Corn Hill is a 100 foot bluff maybe 40 yards from the sea. The family rode out a hurricane there when I was a toddler. Images bring drafts of memory.

Some abstract prints were really nifty, but that aint what sells. A ridiculously large painting of a concert cello player, dark and Degasesque. Even in a grand scale room, it would be oppressive. $18,000 worth of oppressive. On the other hand, some of the spritely whimsy to be seen was as good as Christmas cards. Now be honest.

After all that, what else but the movie The Vikings. I loved this movie when I was young. Broad vistas of fjords and castles. It really looks good.

My first encounter with the movie I did not remark upon the cast, it was the action and landscape that caught me. Later viewings, the Hollywoodiness comes thru. Yes, that’s Ernest Borgnine, McHale, as the Viking king. No missing Kirk Douglas. Both account themselves credibly. Douglas is so bluff yet tightly wired. And being a Viking, likewise Ernie, he’s all lusty and loud. Great fun.

Tony Curtis with his New Yorkish accent kinda sticks out. You know box office appeal made his selection. The same for ingenue Janet Leigh.

The story: in a raid, McHale kills the English king and rapes the queen. That’s assuming there really was an England of any clearcut political verity. Well anyway, the king’s cousin usurps the throne. He’s the epitome of all the King Johns in all versions of Robin Hood, and he has the sniveling goatee to prove it.

Okay, the queen gives birth, and this would be the rightful heir. Bairn is spirited away before the king can prevent. Years later, it’s Curtis. He’s a slave. An English lord recognizes him as the queen’s son. At the same time, Curtis and Douglas develop a rivalry. Then add the beautiful Leigh. Who will she choose? Well the English king is supposed to marry Leigh, so Curtis and Douglas effect a Viking raid on the castle. When the English are mopped up, D & C must throw down the gloves and finish things. At the last moment D hesitates, realizing that C is his brother. C finishes him. Time for a Viking funeral.

The battle scenes lack the zest you might see now, and those axes and swords never drip with blood. There are a lot of scenes of villagers running. To welcome returning Vikings, to flee attacking Vikings. It produces a comic effect. I cannot vouch for historical accuracy here.