Review Part 2: Disney’s Frozen

Now that it’s nearly two months since it came out, I went to see Frozen.  Twice.  It is still the season for it, after all, and it hasn’t left the theaters quite yet.  So it was my turn to be delighted by the magic of animation and music and storytelling.  Here are some thoughts about it, a few of them in response to Melpomene’s earlier post.  In no particular order:

The music is beautiful.  I particularly enjoyed “Frozen Heart,” the song of the ice harvesters at the start of the movie, as well as “Heimr Arnadalr,” the choral coronation piece which translates from Old Norse approximately as follows:

Worthy Queen of greatness
The heart of Gold shines
We crown thee with hope, love and faith.
Beautiful, stony land, home Arendelle
Follow the Queen of light/ the Queen’s light

Of course, it’s hard to sing a choral piece (or antiphonal yoiking) alone, so I’ve also had “Let it Go” and “Love is an Open Door” running through my head on repeat.  It’s lovely having a song of defiance against the Polar Vortex weather.

Hullo, unexpected poignancy.  “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” sounds so lighthearted, and then it struck me with feelings.  Even worse is the thought that Elsa and Anna didn’t need to spend so long isolated from each other; Anna trusted her sister all along, and the utter lack of communication didn’t protect either of them.

Pardon me while I go do some gross sobbing in the corner.

Pardon me while I go do some gross sobbing in the corner.

Nothing separates a guy from his reindeer.  Kristoff and Sven are precious, like a friendlier version of Flynn and Maximus from Tangled.  There were lots of moments that made me giggle, and those two probably accounted for most of them.

Someone finally said it.

Marry Prudently yallThank GOD.

Additional background would be groovy.  We don’t really need to know where Elsa’s power comes from, for the sake of the story, but I would love to know more about her as well as the erstwhile king and queen.  Is Elsa like a Muggle-born cryokinetic witch, or is Anna like a Squib who missed out on the elemental control?  Also, if I were a nerdier person, I would love to calculate how much energy is getting thrown around when, say, the entire fjord is frozen.  See a bit more commentary on that here.

Darlin’, I don’t know why you go to extremes.  My brother and I wondered if, perhaps, the well-intentioned Love Experts actually gave the worst advice: concealing the source of the problem and counseling Elsa to beware of fear in no way encouraged her toward the positive virtue of being more loving.  “Conceal, don’t feel” was never a viable option, and when Elsa does finally let it go, she swings to the other extreme so hard that editorials on the dangers of repression write themselves.  Thankfully things reach a sort of equilibrium; it’s fortunate (and kind of weird) that she is able to undo her enchanted winter quicker than Aslan brings spring to Narnia.

True love sacrifices.  Love is not summed up in kisses, but consists of all manner of heart-thawing actions.  Love forgives the pains one has suffered.  Love runs to the aid of the beloved, love throws itself between the beloved and the sword, and love binds people together whether they’re parents and children, siblings, romantic couples, or friends.

All in all, Frozen is a beautiful movie, and its depiction of sororal love the most beautiful thing about it.huggiiiiingNow, if only I could thaw the frozen wasteland outside with my own sororal love…

Seeking Song and Story

Once upon a time, I read this guest post by Briana of Pages Unbound.  I put in my two cents about sidekick protagonists, carried on with my reading, and proceeded not to think about it further for four months.  But that post has been bouncing about my mind of late, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that Briana sought something that might not have existed.  She wasn’t looking for help remembering that one book she read in seventh grade that focused on the sidekick for a change and also it involved the Brooklyn skyline somehow. Had none of us readers had any volume to suggest, we might have taken it as a request to create such a narrative for her.

The second reason I’ve been thinking about it is that this post highlights the benefit of human eyes and human minds when one is on the hunt.  Google and other search engines do their very best to help one find a particular item or passage, and there have often been times when I could use such tools to find a song, a movie, a book of which I only recalled the haziest details.  But if you don’t come up with the right search terms, or if your query gets too lengthy, it can impede rather than assist your progress.

Therefore, dear readers, I bring my concerns to you, and hope that you can help with one or the other of these things I seek.

I’m looking for…

…a piece of music. 

I sang it in June 2001, at the Illinois Summer Youth Music choir camp.  It is called “Canticle,” and I sang it as part of an all-girl ensemble led by some Canadian lady whose name eludes me.  Tragically, I supposed that remembering all the words and most all of the notes would help me to find it again.  I was mistaken.  The text is Psalm 89:1 (or Psalm 88:2 for the Douay-Rheims folk) in Latin: Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo; in generationem et generationem annuntiabo veritatem tuam in ore meo.  No idea who composed it.  No idea if it’s a setting of some earlier composer’s work or chant.  Someone, for the love of my sanity, tell me this rings a bell for you.

UPDATE: I ask, and Jenna delivers!!  Michael Levi’s Canticle!  MY HEART IS FULL OF SONG.

…an explanation for why “capital” should be different from “capitol.” 

Evidently I completely forgot this distinction in the years since my elementary spelling classes, but “capital” refers to the city or town which serves as the seat of government, while “capitol” refers to the building in which the legislature gathers.  Typically heterographs don’t bother me, but I just. don’t. understand.  Someone call the Inky Fool.

UPDATE: I have been informed that the legislative building was named, per Jefferson, for the Roman temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill.  Thus far I am satisfied that the difference stems from an existing difference between the words in Rome, but there has been no further illumination of the difference between Latin suffixes or whatnot.  Do feel free to ring up Inky anyway and see what capital he can make of it.

…a less-typical narrative. 

This one’s a bit tricky to explain.  Earlier today, I read this post (which, briefly, is the story of Susan Isaacs looking for love online, getting rejected from eHarmony because she didn’t fit into their algorithm, and eventually finding The Man on Christian Cafe).  I’m not 41, and my fortnight on OkCupid is nothing compared to Susan’s litany of dating site attempts.  When I reached the end, I was glad for her: she seems to have found what she was looking for, and it rounded out the story quite neatly.  But it also rang a bit hollow because it rounded out the story so neatly.

    "The artistic flaw is inaccuracy, specifically a violation of the canons of reality. Things don’t happen that neatly. It’s an upward slope, finally plateauing into a straight line. Which…when that happens on your heart monitor, it’s a bad thing." Oh, Dr. Whalen. How illuminating you are.

“The artistic flaw is inaccuracy, specifically a violation of the canons of reality. Things don’t happen that neatly. It’s an upward slope, finally plateauing into a straight line. Which…when that happens on your heart monitor, it’s a bad thing.” Oh, Dr. Whalen. How illuminating you are.

This isn’t normally a criticism I raise, because I appreciate both romance and happy, tidy endings.  I don’t recall ever complaining about the Prince marrying The Girl in any given fairy tale, or how relationships (and events more generally) shake out in Austen, Harry Potter, Stardust, or the Lord Peter stories.  I don’t whinge about Dune ending with “History will call us wives,” or the end of That Hideous Strength.  I don’t consider myself a feminist, and have never evaluated books on the basis of whether or not they pass the Bechdel Test.

But Susan’s story (and Hannah Coulter, and The Princess Bride, and any given article on Boundless) suggests that there is no other narrative, that no lady can ever be happy without The One, that the only ending possible is marriage.  This ground has been trod by a lot of women in tiresome family-vs-career arguments, but the fact remains that I want a story: a different story than my usual fare, something involving a woman who is content with a different sort of happy ending.  I’m looking for a female character who is content to live her life on her own, if only to show me that it is possible.

Surely one must exist; for all I know, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of such stories that I’ve completely missed.  And if not, my dears, please help me write one.

Marvels of Midsummer

Having been summoned from daydreaming, ruminating, and general gathering of wool, I have my own corner of aestival excellence to share.  Here are some facets of life that have loomed large of late in the kaleidoscope of my imagination:

Lawns.  Is it odd to have such affection for a big patch of grass?  Very well, I shall be odd.  My particular lawn has been carefully cropped, groomed like an Oxford quad, but without the threat of severe displeasure from some vexed gardener should any dare to set foot upon it.  It is rich, opulent, luxurious the way carpets wish they could be – particularly when combined with

Rain!  Nothing like rain to break the summertime swelter, drops pelting the parking lot at work, the road home, one arm flung out the window as I head back.  Nothing like luxuriating in soaking wet grass, wriggling my toes among the drenched blades.  Nothing like turning my face to the sky, though the drops fall too hard to keep my eyes open in the face of them.

My commute.  I keep wanting to post about this and then stop because it Roundaboutseems bizarre and hypocritical; if I could, I’d teleport to and from work to save myself some time.  But then I’d miss passing the farms on Ann Arbor Road, with their cows and horses and hay bales.  I’d miss the fields and foliage down Prospect.  I’d miss my favorite roundabout (…yep, I’ve got a favorite roundabout) on Geddes, that takes me down a two-lane road so shadowed by trees that it feels like a secret.  Pairs well with…

Driving with the windows down.  Instead of being packed like a lemming in my shiny metal box, I like to let the wind blow my hair around, thrust my hand out into the buffeting air, and feel the bite of rain showers.  It reminds me that I’m real.  It also helps me appreciate another fact about the summer: there’s no better time of year to listen to some good old country songs (which means, evidently, songs that aren’t quite as old as I am…).  Maybe it’s me, but there’s something summery these songs capture that newer tunes just don’t quite catch…a quiet drawl of slower days, perhaps, or a lack of pretension.

Clouds.  Storms.  Melpomene’s right on: clouds are a thing fantastic, rippling and shifting as if alive.  The light that glimmers upon them, or the shadows looming within them, is marvelous.  Add in flashes of lightning and the distant rumbling of thunder and you have my idea of summer, right there.  My co-workers all wonder why I run outside precisely when they run in…

Fireflies.  For those less fond of lightning itself, there’s always the lightning bug.  The back lawn is a haven for them; for hours every evening, they flicker on and off, little green will-o-the-wisps, a creature of faerie my camera cannot capture.  A friend caught one, but it’s just as fun to watch them fly about without pursuing them.


[These fireflies were captured by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu.]

Crepes.  Turns out that they’re much easier to make than I had thought.  Keep the batter thin and the pan hot, and voila!  You have yourself a lovely little vehicle for all manner of cheese, meats, fruits, jam, or (of course) Nutella.

Adventures.  This is an awfully big umbrella.  New films, drinks, sushi, and chocolatiers fit under it.  The heptacycle and all seven people riding fit under it.  A lovely old quadrangle with selections from Brideshead Revisited fits under it.  So does Neil Gaiman and the theater waiting to hear him.  So does the art gallery in need of a good mocking.  So do Shakespeare, grass stains, and six-hour road trips.  So does the process of meeting a friend through a friend, and thus meeting more friends, and suddenly having more friends and three jars of homemade jam.  Get out your adventure umbrella, y’all, because that’s what summer’s for!

Using Beefcake to Sell Milk

Over the weekend, I was reminded that some brilliant person decided to award the best television advertisements in the British isles with fama gloriaque.  The British Arrows celebrate the imagination, craft, and wit found in British ads, and the shortlist of the winners gets sent to various museums and art centers.

It’s basically like the Super Bowl, except without any American football being involved, and the ads themselves are better.

There were some surreal lager ads, poignant John Lewis (whatever that is) ads, even more surreal T-mobile ads, truly distressing anti-knife PSAs, and this beautiful (if utterly unrealistic) little gem that I figured y’all might appreciate:

Runner-up favorite: the Aldi shopper whose husband enjoys both the £3.99 and the £2.49 tea.  “But I don’t like tea,” she says.  “I like gin.”


Words, and Otherwords

I am doing some preliminary preparation for teaching a segment on poetry to my fifth graders.

The segment begins on Monday.

It will be a busy weekend.

But since my first goal is to teach them to enjoy poetry, I am scrambling to find a copy of Richard Wilbur’s Words Inside Words collection. Understandably – albeit sadly – no version is available online.

Instead, I did find a reading and animation of a few snippets, put forth by that eternally – entertaining TV station, PBS.

It is actually rather unnerving, but you can see what kind of fun things Wilbur did with words.  And poems.





Is your appetite whetted? For the sake of fostering Beauty and Truth, I give you . . . .

Richard Wilbur reading and commenting on “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”!!!!!!


I pine.

I long.

My heart aches to find such expression of truth.

Travelogue: The Miraculous Staircase

As part of the Epic Father-Daughter Road Trip, my Dad an I made several carefully selected detours.

The first stop was Santa Fe, for the sole, select purpose of seeing the Miraculous Staircase.

This staircase is something I first read about in Willa Cather’s gorgeous novelization of the first Bishop and eventual Archbishop of Santa Fe, Death Comes for the Archbishop.

For all the fictionalization in Cather’s book, (albeit sensitive, beautiful and poignant fictionalization,) her history was pretty exact.

The Bishop requested that missionary Nuns come build a convent and a girl’s school in Santa Fe; in 1852 the Sisters of Loretto responded, and by the 1870s their school had grown to house, feed, and educate 300 girls.

In 1873 the Sisters commissioned their own chapel, modeled after the famous Sainte Chappell in Paris. When it was finished in 1878 it was the first Gothic architecture built west of the Mississippi River, but it had a problem.

The builder had neglected to an account for staircase into the choir loft twenty-two feet above.

The chapel was too small to build a traditional staircase without decreasing the amount pew space by a third.

And a ladder was not a feasible option for Nuns. (With the whole seeing up skirts modesty issue.)

No carpenter, not even those brought from France, could find a solution.

Finally the Sisters began a novena, (a nine-day long prayer,) to St. Joseph. St. Joseph, in addition to being the foster-father of Jesus, is the patron saint of carpenters.

On the last day of the novena, a man appeared leading a donkey burdened with only a saw, a T-square, and tubs in which to soak the wood. He told the sister that he could solve their staircase problem.

For three months he locked himself in the chapel, and then, with the staircase having been finished, mysteriously disappeared without seeking payment.

The stair he built was in a spiral with two complete 360 turns.

He had not used any nails.

But most amazingly, the staircase has no support. The full weight of it rests upon the last step into the choir loft.



Given the helix shape and lack of connection to anything other than the slim piece of wood attached to the choir loft, the whole staircae ought to spring like a slinky. But it does not.

The stair was originally built without a banister, which was, as a sign said, “a daily act of faith” for the sisters and students. Ten years after construction the sisters hired a local carpenter to add the handrail.

Later years also added the support of that metal coil attached to the pillar. Otherwise the stairs are untouched.



Seen it up close, it looks as though the spiral should be built around a pole; there is space for a pole at the center. But there is no pole.

The wood bent around the interior of the spiral is thought to be the main support, because of the tight radius. But no modern replica can be made.

It is a feat of both engineering and carpentry, particularly given the simple tools that the mysterious carpenter used.



Most modern evaluations are skeptical not simply of the staircase’s maker, but of the safety of such a construction. They claim that by definition the structure is unsound.

As they will attempt to prove otherwise, we must look at the historical usage of the stair.



Hmm. What say you all now, oh scientists of skepticism?

The staircase and chapel are very beautiful, even if sadly no longer in the possession of the Church. In the wake of Vatican II the chapel was sold to a private family, and is now simply a tourist attraction.

It was painful to watch the tourists meander in and snap photos without seeming to notice anything anomalous about the staircase.

Even if one is suspicious of the origin or “miraculousness” of the staircase, the marvel of its design and construction ought to elicit some awe.

So if you are ever near Santa Fe, it is certainly worth a detour!

Epic Meme Saturday: A Fairy-Tale Honeymoon

A book that I would bring on my honeymoon. Oye jehmoie! I don’t know if I would bring a book on my honeymoon. At least, not any of the books that changed or formed my life. Those books are so very important that I would either read them with my beloved before we married, or take longer over them than a honeymoon would give (for reading at least). Books of such importance should not be kept waiting.

If I ever get married any and all books on my honeymoon would have to be of the sort that are meant to be read by a fire and under the stars, so that would include …. Patrick McManus books!

Though those are not quite as romantic as I might want. So maybe not…maybe G.K Chesterton’s Fr. Brown mysteries, they are thrilling and enchanting; perfect for snuggling up before a fire! However, there is one drawback to those stories; they are never shallow (not the drawback, I am coming to that…) and some times they are quite deep! That is the draw back! Although it is a requirement to think deep thought and have deep discussions with my new spouse, I think not right before bed (which is when you have fires) because I would be too busy being comfy. So perhaps that would be a better travel-book.

Arra, this is harder than it seems!

Alright, last possibility is fairy-tales! But not just any fairy tales, because I can only listen to so many of Andrew Lang’s stories without going to sleep (though that might not be a bad thing), so they must be special and exciting! That leaves me with Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories! They are witty and charming, just right to right to read and giggle over and rambunctiously enjoy!


Mel’s Meme: Oh, Prisons of Finitude!

In my defence, I did not mean these memes to be quite as romantic as they sound. (Also, no one would help me make them up! You guys do it next time!)

Yes, I know, they sound ridiculously mushy. But I was trying to find specific, earthy examples of abstract, philosophical questions. And the questions that I do tend to lean on the side of are usually things like;

“Literature, the sharing of words, stories, and experience, presupposes a community in which to do the sharing. So, what role do books have in creating, fostering, and renewing community? What – if anything – do books have to do with being  Human? Being Human in a community? Love, or the need for another person, is the basic instinct that draws human being together into a community. Can books facilitate that function? How? Why? Which books?” ~Melpomene, Musings in the Witching Hour*

Ahem. Et cetera.

In this instance, what I was trying to question was not so much a problem of romantic love. Rather, I wanted to know if there were books so dear, so crucial, so formative to my own Being and understanding of the world that it would be impossible to share a life with another person without likewise sharing this work of literature.

Le sigh.

As usual, my scope is too wide and my example too narrow.

My sad choice of phrasing does place some practical limitations on this week’s challenge. I am quite sure there will be other things I will want to be doing on my Honeymoon. But as it is, I must carefully select a work that fosters this very select community of two, preferably with the opportunity for discussions, enjoyment of the words and story, and probably give some of the epic, sacramental scope of matrimonial love.

Heart of the World:
by Hans Urs Von Balthasar

This is a very beautiful, delicate, odd little book. (It is short, sweet, and can be picked up and put down easily. The reading it aloud only increases the delight. The perfect honeymoon book!) Von Balthasar is known as a theologian, but this book – even in translation! – marks him as a poet. Oh, it is written in prose form, but the exquisite sentences, graceful imagery, and meandering unfolding of ideas marks this a work of Poetry.

It feels like an old man musing on the nature of the world and the meaning of living (emphasis on the act of living, as well as the more abstract concept of life) and allowing his ideas to flow forth in the sweetest, most beautiful expressions possible. It is a work which invites the readers into contemplation, stillness, beauty, grace, and, (most deeply) love. This work has been describes as the ” pure serenity of a volcano under snow”. And as poetry, it shares the experience between souls, the most hidden and holy expressions of the Heart.

He begins by describing the drift in the River of Time, gently opening with the idea of the Self and the Other, the precious individuality that as yet leaves us each alone; ideas I have thought about, but for which I have never been able to find the proper articulation.

“Prisons of finitude!

Like every other being, man is born in many prison. Soul, body, thought, intuition, endeavor: everything about him has a limit, is itself tangible limitation; everything is a This and a That, different from other things and shunned by them. From  the grilled windows of the senses each person looks out to the alien things which he will never be . . .  How far it is from one being to its closest neighbor! And even if they love each other and wave to one another from island to island, even if they attempt to exchange solitudes and pretend they have unity, how much more painfully does disappointment then fall upon them when they touch invisible bars . . . Being are alien to one another, even if they do stand beautifully by one another and complement one another colors, like water and stone, like sun and fog: even if they do communally perfect the resounding harmony of the universe. Variegation pays the price of separation . . . The limpid mirror has been shattered . . . but every single splinter remains precious, and from each fragment there flashes a ray of the mystery of its origin.” ~ Chapter One: The Flowing Stream

And so he continues on, finding words fit to picture, at least in part, a mystery of the World. And the main image centering, (anchoring, cohering,) the book is the image of the cross as an embrace. The world as full of significance and meaning and tremendous splendor. The unity of beings is only possible in the Union of Christ to His bride, the Church. And this the example we have on which to model out marriages.

The second half of the book shifts slightly to address the church as the beloved bride, at the same time gracefully makes it clear that reader who has been addressed from the start of the book is the church, the bride. And despite all flaws, failures, mistakes and stumbles, is still greatly loved. The entire book is, essentially, a love letter from Christ to each person in the world. It is a wild, wild, love.

And so after all, it is a romantic book. It celebrates the highest Romance in the history of the World. Hopefully, it should remind this newly married couple of their place in echoing, entering, and living this Great Mystery.

“Everything hearkens back to your throbbing Heart. Time and the seasons still hammer away and create, and your Heart still drives the world and all its happenings forward with great, painful blows. It is the unrest of the clock and your Heart is restless until we rest in you, once time and eternity have become interfused. But: be at peace! I have overcome the world. The torment of sin had already been submerged in the stillness of love. The experience of what the world is has made love darker, more fiery, more ardent. The shallower abyss of rebellion has been swallowed up in unfathomable mercy, and throbbing majestically reigns serene the Heart of God.” ~ Chapter 13: Love – A Wilderness

Christ as Bridegroom

* “The Witching Hour” is three in the morning, when daimons prefer to visit their mortal instruments.