Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Greatest Story Endlessly Retold

The Tall Lady and I stayed home for Christmas this year. Because the holiday was so far off, we didn't bother planning anything. We kept putting things off and putting things off until suddenly, it was December 23, and we still didn't have a single decoration unpacked. Having four cats, two of them kittens and the others simply loopy, the Christmas tree was out of the question again. We tried it for about fifteen minutes two years ago, but our tree was packed up again after we caught Raja nibbling on the electrical cords, Darcy eating the sparkly songbirds and the Flying Fellini Sisters up at the top, trying to peek up the angel's dress.

This year, Sheral's family have gone up to The Cabin for a few days, and we have volunteered to feed a friend's cats while she is out of town. Our plan for the day finally comes down to roasting a chicken, popping the cap on a bottle of sparkling cider and spending a quiet day at home with our four little furry girls.

Shisan and Bianca, as the elected spokescats for the sorority, woke me at six o'clock to get their breakfast ready. All of our cats have a tendency to the workaholic, and have never taken a day off in their lives. The Tall Lady doesn't take many days off either, so the girls and I agreed that she had earned a bit of a lie-in this morning.

Sunday mornings, silence and I don't do terribly well together as a rule, so it wasn't too long before I'd turned on the TV, and was flipping through the higher channels. I stopped when I reached Turner Classic Movies. Today, they were showing a selection of big, epic, widescreen spectaculars featuring Birthday Boy, Jesus Christ. By the time Sheral had finished her shower, she discovered her five movie buffs well into the chariot race sequence of Ben Hur.

Next up was the magnificent, star-studded, technicolor theology of The Greatest Story Ever Told, starring Max von Sydow as a messiah who is only marginally less wooden, upright and rigid than his cross. We amused ourselves for three more hours, making up new dialogue that was just slightly sillier that the screenwriters themselves had written for the movie.

We had only made it through half of King of Kings when Sheral snapped. It may have been something that I said. It was just after my commentary about star Jeffery Hunter's sparse, blond beard which went something like: "It's Jesus the Nazarene, fer gawd's sake - not Jesus the Nectarine!"

"These are EASTER movies", she protested, "they're not Christmas films!" She pointed out that every single one of these pictures concluded with a pretty graphic and gory crucifixion. These were hardly an invitation to a Holly, Jolly Christmas, she harrumphed!

I realised that we were long past the point at which I could remind her that most of the movies that TCM airs on Lincoln's Birthday end with Honest Abe getting shot in the box seat. No, the moment, or rather, the nine hours had gone, and she prised the remote from my still warm hand to change channels to the Doctor Who marathon on Space.

Hollywood has been making biblical epics for as long as there has been a Hollywood. Ben Hur was first filmed in 1925 with Ramon Novarro in the title role, and King of Kings was made in 1927 with HB Warner as Jesus, the Christ. After all this time, you'd think they'd hit the mark just once.

Maybe next year, we'll just just watch The Life of Brian again.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and remember - the book is always better.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sometimes Silent Be a Crime

I consider myself lucky to have Ayda Aly as one of my FaceBook buddies. Because of the distance between our homes and our cultural differences, it's unlikely that she and I could have any other sort of contact. I live in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada, and Ayda lives in Alexandria, Egypt.

She is a young, devout, muslim woman, and I am none of those things. I have never met her, and I don't ever recall seeing her photograph, but she is my friend.

Ayda rescues cats. I don't know if she is the Egyptian Maria Soroski, or if Maria is the Canadian Ayda Aly, but I don't think that either would be offended by comparison with the other.

Yesterday, Ayda posted a photograph of the painting shown at the right of this post. She found it hanging in the window of a shop in Alexandria. It is by a renowned Lebanese artist, and Ayda was certainly impressed with its price tag. "How much?", she challenged her readers before answering her own question. It would be enough, she said, to spay, neuter and feed about two hundred of her street cats.

I like her priorities.

Mostly, Ayda posts stories and pictures of her rescued cats. Some of them have made me laugh until the tears run down my cheeks. Sometimes, her stories bring only the tears. She rescues sick cats as well as healthy ones, and lately, a number of her little ones have died in her care. She forgets that they would have died sooner without her, and is devastated by their loss.

Every day, she takes a long walk to feed her street cats, and she shares photos of them, some crowding close to her, hungry and grateful; others still keeping their distance, starving and suspicious. On her way, she takes pictures of her beautiful Alexandria, and she likes to share those too.

Egypt is unsettled these days. Demonstrators march in the streets, demanding that people have more say in the running of their country. That happens in Canada too, but here the police don't shoot them. The Egyptian government claims that forty people have died by violence in these protests; Ayda believes that it's over a thousand. She shares that news as well.

"Some times silent...", she explains, "be a crime..."

People are much the same the world over. I've never met anyone who is entirely good, and I don't think that anybody is completely evil. Most of us exist in the uneasy twilight between the two.We live our lives as best we can, and hope that we've made a difference.

People like Ayda are the difference. Thank you, my friend.

أنت نعمة.

To donate to Ayda's street cats