Monday, February 29, 2016

Shenandoah and Oscars

Quickie -- we have spent the day in Virginia with Cheryl, starting at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, where we saw the last day of the costume and the cinema exhibit, which had fabric swatches for viewers to touch to stop us from groping the costumes themselves, which included Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow costume, Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes costume, Keira Knightley's The Duchess costumes, and a bunch of Phantom of the Opera costumes. We also visited the portrait collection, the miniature houses, and the history of the Shenandoah region. Then we drove to Skyline Drive, where we walked around the first visitor center and watched the sun drop low over the mountains from several of the overlooks.

Kate Winslet's costume from Sense and Sensibility

Waterfall on Skyline Drive

We got home just in time for the Academy Awards red carpet show, then the Oscars, which I really enjoyed this year, mostly because I'd seen almost all of the movies and no one I felt was undeserving had been winning at the previous events.


The only winners I really cared about were the writing awards, which turned out to be the first two presented -- much to my delight, by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, apparently in character from their upcoming movie The Nice Guys. Both adapted and original screenplay trophies went the way I thought they should, to Spotlight and The Big Short. I love Kate Winslet (see costume above) and if she'd never won before, I'd be aggravated she didn't tonight, but Alicia Vikander has had an incredible year -- I'd have nominated her for Ex Machina and The Danish Girl both, and she was also great in The Man From UNCLE and Testament of Youth which I just saw a few months ago. (I thought Tom Hardy should have won similarly for being extraordinary in so many movies in one year, but I think Mark Rylance is always great, so no complaints about supporting actor either.)

Mad Max winning costume, hair/makeup, set design, film editing, sound editing and mixing...YES YES YES! I'd have been thrilled if it won Best Picture as well, but I thought Spotlight was very well done if fairly traditional storytelling for a journalists-as-heroes film. I still think The Big Short was in many ways the most creative film of the year. Birdman deserved two cinematography Oscars and two Best Director awards, so I guess I can't complain if the same guys won for The Revenant, though I am very relieved that did not win Best Picture as I have no desire ever to see it. (Also, I'm not sorry Mad Max didn't win visual effects, because Ex Machina is an amazing film that more people should see and argue about.) I'm okay with Larsen and DiCaprio winning, but I didn't see either of their movies -- the former just looks so upsetting and there is nothing at all in the latter I want to see, not even Leo's performance. In Memoriam...weird song choice, thank you for letting Alan speak, thank you for ending with Nimoy. I didn't have strong opinions about the best song nominees other than that "Writing's on the Wall" is no "Skyfall," but I thought Lady Gaga should win an Oscar just for her performance at the Oscars.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Poem for Sunday and Brookside

By Alfred Kreymborg

When trees have lost remembrance of the leaves
that spring bequeaths to summer, autumn weaves
and loosens mournfully — this dirge, to whom
does it belong — who treads the hidden loom?

When peaks are overwhelmed with snow and ice,
and clouds with crepe bedeck and shroud the skies —
nor any sun or moon or star, it seems,
can wedge a path of light through such black dreams —

All motion cold, and dead all traces thereof:
What sudden shock below, or spark above,
starts torrents raging down till rivers surge —
that aid the first small crocus to emerge?

The earth will turn and spin and fairly soar,
that couldn’t move a tortoise-foot before —
and planets permeate the atmosphere
till misery depart and mystery clear! —

And yet, so insignificant a hearse? —
who gave it the endurance so to brave
such elements? — shove winter down a grave? —
and then lead on again the universe?


Saturday was beautiful -- brilliant sunshine, not too cold. We had a bunch of chores to do in the direction of Wheaton, so we went to Brookside Gardens, which had snowdrops, crocuses, and hellebores growing all around the outdoor garden beds, though there were more daffodil shoots emerging than anything else. There were geese, squirrels, and robins enjoying the sun. We also visited the conservatory, which had lots of color -- foxgloves, birds of paradise, orchids, even azaleas.

Then we stopped at Mom's Organic Market, Petco, and Michael's for various things we needed for us and our furry children. Among the things we bought was a vegan pepperoni pizza, which we had for dinner after watching the Terps' miserable loss to Purdue and the end of the UNC-Virginia game. Since there was no SNL, we listened to Hamilton while I was uploading photos, then we watched some Bones second season episodes.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Poem for Saturday, The Swarm, Mortdecai, Virginia Historical Society

Virginia Evening
By Michael Pettit

Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg,
cluster of lights sharpening
as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge
darkened. Not stars
but blue-black mountains rose
before me, rose like sleep
after hours of driving, hundreds of miles
blurred behind me. My eyelids
were so heavy but I could see
far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing,
lightning sparking from cloud
to mountaintop. I drove toward it,
into the pass at Ironto, the dark
now deeper in the long steep grades,
heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted
with evergreens, with spruce, pine,
and cedar. How I wished to sleep
in that sweet air, which filled--
suddenly over a rise--with the small
lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere
they drifted, sweeping from the trees
down to the highway my headlights lit.
Fireflies blinked in the distance
and before my eyes, just before
the windshield struck them and they died.
Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass
their bodies clung like buds bursting
the clean line of a branch in spring.
How long it lasted, how many struck
and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic
stare fixed on the road ahead, I can’t say.
Beyond them, beyond their swarming
bright deaths came the rain, a shower
which fell like some dark blessing.
Imagine when I flicked the windshield wipers on
what an eerie glowing beauty faced me.
In that smeared, streaked light
diminished sweep by sweep you could have seen
my face. It was weary, shocked, awakened,
alive with wonder far after the blades and rain
swept clean the light of those lives
passed, like stars rolling over
the earth, now into other lives.


It was much colder on Friday than the rest of the week but it didn't rain, so no complaints here (and we saw four color Lenten roses and three bunnies). I spent the morning finishing my retro review of Voyager's "The Swarm", which is still not as good as it should have been, mostly because it has too much swarm and not enough Robert Picardo interacting with the rest of the cast. Then Paul and I had lunch and went to get haircuts together because we were both really overdue and I was out of conditioner, which is cheaper at The Hair Cuttery than Ulta no matter what Ulta advertises.

We had dinner with my parents, discussed the depressing state of American politics, then came home for Sleepy Hollow, which needs more history and less monsters. Afterward we watched Mortdecai, which I expected to be pretty terrible based on the reviews, but although Depp was trying too hard and there were too many repeated jokes, it had enjoyable performances from McGregor and Bettany, pretty scenery, and even Paltrow was entertaining -- it's a very white boys' comedy but it has its moments. From the Virginia Historical Society, the good, the bad, and the ugly:

A quadrant from the CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimack, one of the ironclads that fought in the Battle of Hampton Roads, the most famous naval confrontation of the Civil War.

John Smith's General History of Virginia, published in London in 1624.

Glasses that belonged to Revolutionary orator Patrick Henry, the Virginian who declared, "Give me liberty or give me death!"

A Virginia pro-secession cockade.

Imprint of the Great Seal of the Confederacy, a reminder that George Washington was a Virginian.

Golden spike, mallet, and trophy cup marking the completion of Virginia's Seaboard Air Line Railway.

A 1920s-era Klan hood, when postwar Klansmen in Virginia were responsible for floggings and abductions against Catholics, Jews, and immigrants as well as African-Americans, who also faced violent assault and lynchings.

Virginia's Equal Suffrage League in 1909.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Poem for Friday and Longwood Flowers

To Pimp A Butterfly: Mortal Man Outro
By Kendrick Lamar Duckworth with Mark Anthony Spears, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Stephen Bruner

"The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it
Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it, in order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness, and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak and figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city the caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He's trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas take roots, such as going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
The result?
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations that the caterpillar never considered, ending the internal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different, they are one and the same."


I had a not-fun Thursday morning in that I needed to have routine blood tests before my annual physical next week but the earliest appointment I could get was at 10:45 (and of course they didn't get me back till 11), so I had to fast for way too many hours and was quite cranky with a headache by the time they were finished. Then, after lunch, we had to pick up the car, which like me has to go back to the doctor next week, because they did the regular maintenance and fixed the fuse for the charger but the part to repair the broken seat belt is back-ordered.

I watched "The Swarm," the Voyager episode I need to review this week, somewhat woozily over lunch -- the main plot is still not memorable, it's all about the Doctor. After dinner (feta and hazelnut ravioli!), it was time for The 100 (kiss Marcus FOR REAL Abby) and Elementary (it's EVERYONE who wants to kill Morland Holmes after what he did to Faramir and Ichabod). We saw snowdrops and lenten roses while we were out walking this evening, but I'm feeling the need for more color, so here are some flowers from Longwood Gardens' conservatory a few seasons back:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Poem for Thursday, The Dressmaker, Downton Abbey Costumes

The Red Dress
By Dorothy Parker

I always saw, I always said
If I were grown and free,
I'd have a gown of reddest red
As fine as you could see,

To wear out walking, sleek and slow,
Upon a Summer day,
And there'd be one to see me so
And flip the world away.

And he would be a gallant one,
With stars behind his eyes,
And hair like metal in the sun,
And lips too warm for lies.

I always saw us, gay and good,
High honored in the town.
Now I am grown to womanhood....
I have the silly gown.


My Wednesday was planned around thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods, all of which were in the forecast (and all of which arrived in the area, though thankfully the latter two didn't affect us in my neighborhood). Rather than risking having to drive in any of the above, I stuck around the house and worked and caught up on Limitless, whose pop culture reference this week was historic film directors. Though it rained pretty much all day, I took a walk in the drizzle before the worst of the storm arrived. There was steam rising off what was left of the snow, and bunnies getting in some last minute munching before the thunder and the reports of floods.

After dinner we watched The Dressmaker, which was pitched to me as a revenge comedy with Kate Winslet, Hugo Weaving, and Liam Hemsworth. This movie is about as much a comedy as Joy (which is to say, it's a comedy only if stories of cruelty strike you as funny), but it's very well acted and I'm always impressed at how Australian movies are so much more interested in the private lives of women, their interests and their sexuality  without judgment, than Hollywood movies. I still have a bunch of pics from Richmond last weekend but since Downton Abbey is about to end here, some pics from a previous trip to the Richmond Historical Society:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Poem for Wednesday and Rodin Sculpture

Archaic Torso of Apollo
By Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Jessie Lemont

We cannot fathom his mysterious head,
Through the veiled eyes no flickering ray is sent;
But from his torso gleaming light is shed
As from a candelabrum; inward bent
His glance there glows and lingers. Otherwise
The round breast would not blind you with its grace,
Nor could the soft-curved circle of the thighs
Steal to the arc whence issues a new race.
Nor could this stark and stunted stone display
Vibrance beneath the shoulders' heavy bar,
Nor shine like fur upon a beast of prey,
Nor break forth from its lines like a great star—
Each spot is like an eye that fixed on you
With kindling magic makes you live anew.

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.


I have nothing exciting to report from my Tuesday. I did work, I did chores, I started to put jewelry away and ended up pulling out a bunch of things to give away, I tried to take a walk in the rain but I had a kitten snuggled against my hip and how could I force her to get up? At lunchtime we caught up on Supergirl, which has gone from being so delightful to painful to watch, and Billions, which has always been painful to watch!

We had ravioli for dinner and I mistakenly put marmalade on a muffin not knowing it already had garlic powder on it -- not a combination I recommend. We watched The Flash, which was okay but an episode with a giant shark really should be one of the funny ones, not a deadly serious one, and Agent Carter, which in some ways was the best of the season but in others was as frustrating as a lot of the season. More from the VMFA's Rodin exhibit:

Eternal Spring

Large Clenched Hand

La France, modeled by Rodin's student and fellow sculptor Camille Claudel


The Forlorn Jester a.k.a. The Man With Bells

The Old Tree (Assemblage: Mercury and Fauness)

The Minotaur, assembled with a young woman

Me being The Thinker.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Poem for Tuesday and VMFA Rodin

The Walking Man of Rodin
By Carl Sandburg

Legs hold a torso away from the earth.
And a regular high poem of legs is here.
Powers of bone and cord raise a belly and lungs
Out of ooze and over the loam where eyes look and ears hear
And arms have a chance to hammer and shoot and run motors.
        You make us
        Proud of our legs, old man.

And you left off the head here,
The skull found always crumbling neighbor of the ankles.


Monday was entirely a chore day, though the weather was lovely and I got out to enjoy it a couple of times before I was hit with a pre-rain headache that has made my evening aggravating. It was so warm that we had chipmunks on the deck as well as juncos, and a big bunny was happily munching our neighbor's yard when we took a walk around sunset. I caught up on some editing, got three loads of laundry finished and folded, got some photos framed, and got couch protectors for the cats who still want to claw the couches but are currently very happy about the box the covers came in. Plus my neighbor Rose visited them.

At lunchtime we caught up on Madam Secretary (which continues to be excellent, though I thought radiation victims were shaved and given enemas ASAP), and we watched what may be the last-ever episode of The X-Files, though it will be extremely frustrating if so; I've had some serious disappointments with this brief season, I didn't care if the entire alien mythology was jettisoned in favor of monsters of the week, I just wanted some good Mulder-Scully stories, and a cliffhanger is just not fair. Meanwhile, some photos from the VMFA's Rodin exhibit, including a noble Victor Hugo and a nude Balzac:

Two versions of The Kiss in bronze

The Apotheosis of Victor Hugo

A huge plaster version of The Thinker

Several different sculptures designed for a Balzac monument

The Cathedral with a photo of The Gates of Hell

Les Bourgeois de Calais, the burghers who saved the city by offering to sacrifice themselves

A composite composition with a young woman and a lustful man... a room full of such sculptures.