Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Simple pleasures

Snow has fallen here on the back 40, and the household dog is once again in poodle heaven, dashing furiously around in it on her outings, zig-zagging at her top speed. I often wonder what she thinks the stuff is, or why we don't provide it for her more often.

Naturally, with snow on the ground and a large further accumulation expected, tomorrow--when I'll have to drive through several inches depth of it on a gravel county road that I presume will still be unplowed--is the day I go into town to have the snow tires put on. Ha ha, what a knee-slapper. In what year, I wonder, will I remember to schedule it for before Thanksgiving?

Feeling all snug in our heavily insulated, near airtight solar home, I think I'll pass today on reciting ghastly notes from the news. Soon we'll put a few logs--well, loglets really, 16 inches long--in the masonry heater and settle in with a hot apple cider and a good book.

Owlcroft House under a rainbowHere's the house, as seen in milder weather. This was taken in late afternoon, so the sun is almost due west, leaving the windowed south side in shade--but you can still see the large triple-pane windows.

Winter outside...Here's about how things are now outside . . .

... and winter inside

. . . and inside.

Our typical winter heating "bill" is roughly one-fifth of a cord of wood, which works out, based on this year's wood prices, to $40 or less. Out in the garage we have room for a decade's worth of winter-heating wood, the supply at the moment being down to about 4 years' worth. Yes, it cost a lot of money to build the house properly--sprayed-in foam insulation and top-flight solar windows are not cheap--but it's worth it just for the satisfaction (probably in dollars, too, considering what energy costs are doing now).

The other day we watched the North American premier of the 2006 made-for-television movie version of Terry Pratchett's novel Hogfather. I wasn't expecting much; indeed, I was afraid I'd have to give up early on, knowing how screen adaptations of novels much of whose wit and charm lies in the author's descriptions of people and things too often go. Well, let me say it was a great success and a vast pleasure to view.

(If you're not familiar with Pratchett and his "Discworld" series of humorous fantasy novels, you have a great treat coming. Pratchett was for some years--those prior to J. K. Rowling's advent--the U.K.'s best-selling author, and has sold about 50 million books worldwide, so he's not exactly someone's pet obscure writer.)

While there have been previous screen adaptations of Pratchett works, this was the first live-action (that is, not animated) version, and it was brought off very well, as to the many effects required, the period settings (shot, I believe, somewhere in Romania), and the performances. It is an immensely funny tale, though--as always with Pratchett--with a dark and serious underside, and it would have been perilously easy to go way over the top with it. Not so: everyone played well within bounds, as if it were a simple comedy with nothing fantastic about it at all.

Aside from the mere nit of Corporal Nobbs looking rather too clean-cut, or just clean--"The only reason you couldn't say that Nobby was close to the animal kingdom was that the animal kingdom would get up and walk away"--was the portrayal of Death, who is a major character. The acting was satisfactory, but the effect--Death is a skeleton in a hooded robe--was rather mediocre, the skull-head being an all-too-obvious paper-mache (or some such) mask. And even the wonderfully plummy voice of Ian Richardson is, unaided, not sufficient for a character whose dialogue in the novels always appears ALL IN UPPERCASE LETTERS, which suggests that some sort of reverb or the like wanted adding.

But those are minor flaws. Otherwise, the thing was a beauty to behold. I do hope they make more Discworld movies (supposedly The Colour of Magic, the very first Discworld book, is now in production).

I think I'll make Hogfather the book with which I settle into my armchair by the fireside, to which place I am now bound. Good night and good luck.

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