Sunday, November 30, 2014

"So Here We Are" by Bloc Party

Touching, buoyant: "So Here We Are" by Bloc Party.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Musical Recordings From the Realm of the Dead"

"Musical Recordings From the Realm of the Dead." A thought provoking short film by artist and animator Troy Morgan.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Just watched...

...a 2014 film adaptation of the book WINTER'S TALE starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, and Russell Crowe.

Years ago, I read Mark Helprin's strange, magical, and complex story WINTER'S TALE. It's a long book at 750 pages, but it held me with its shifting story lines and perspectives. It spans centuries and locations and the action in the book has profound metaphysical implications. And for this reason, I thought a film version would never be made much less attempted. But I have been proven wrong as director Akiva Goldsman tried his hand at not only directing but writing as well. He removed all but the central plot line in an effort to streamline the action and, I am sure, to make the ponderous tale more palatable to a wider audience. While he may have left some of the magic realism, and the 1895 backdrop, as well as our main hero Peter Lake, the script certainly suffers. And it especially suffers with Goldman's unfortunate and ridiculous additional character of "Lucifer" played incongruously by Will Smith dressed in 21st century clothing. It seems that Goldman felt he had to somehow explain the magic in the story, to force it to make sense to the lowest common denominator, but he chose the worst cliché to dumb it down for the masses. And the thing that really irks me is that the point of the entire journey of the book is completely missing because it is intertwined with the other missing plot lines. So instead of a huge, epic, thought provoking dénouement, we get a near-Hallmark Channel love story. Oh well...

I would be remiss if I failed to mention what a splendid job the cast does. Colin Farrell is great as Peter Lake, Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil from "Downton Abbey") is luminous as Beverly Penn (the camera adores Findlay and she brings a wonderful gravitas to the screen), Russell Crowe is appropriately evil, and Jennifer Connelly, precisely because she is excellent at what she does, is wasted as Virginia Gamely, a much smaller role in the film than the book.

I am aware that stories from novels must generally be altered to fit within the confines of a 90 or 120 minute run time and I accept that, but "Winter's Tale" either should not have been attempted, or should have been made as a two or three part saga.

Recommend? If you have read the book, not really, but if you must, then forewarned is forearmed. If you have not read the book, it might be worth a look. The art direction is quite lovely and there are some gorgeous visuals in it...and the story, however amputated, does stand on its own.

BEAUTY: Mixed Media--Kendal Murray

The miniature worlds Kendal Murray creates on top of old purses, old-fashioned compact mirrors, and in second-hand bowls and found bottles are engrossing. I catch myself leaning in to study each inch, to discover each hidden character, and unearth the narrative she presents...

And take a look at the abstract rhyming titles of each piece (listed at the bottom of this post): they add to the understanding or mystique of each tableau.

Top to bottom: Breakfast Time, Just In Time; Come Around, Lost Or Found; Conflate, Restate, Real Estate; Discreet, Sweet Deceit; Disguise, Surprise; Fade, Persuade, Shade; Flower Sellers, Glass House Dwellers; Humming, Forthcoming; Pond, Respond, Abscond; Sublime Climb, Eye Rhyme

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

"I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude."
--Brené Brown

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First Photographs of a Human Being

In 1893, Robert Cornelius, a handsome man with tousled hair, stood outside of his family's lamp business in Philadelphia, took the lens cap off of a camera, and jumped in front for a minute of still posing. This created the first clear, recognizable picture of a human being ever taken. On the back of the developed photograph he wrote, “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”

But a few months earlier, Louis Daguerre, inventor of the Daguerretype, took a photo of Boulevard du Temple in Paris. The street, also known as Boulevard du Crime for the many crime dramas playing at its many theaters (and used as a setting for the legendary French film "Les Enfants du Paradis" which I wrote about here), was bustling with people and traffic. But because the exposure was necessarily so long--up to ten minutes is the general guess of historians--only those items that were immobile showed up. And in the bottom left corner, one can make out the silhouette of a man standing upright, having his boots shined.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Just watched...

...Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar."

My busy life usually only allows for films to be seen via Netflix or on cable (DVRs are a miracle invention, I tell ya), but every now and then, a film comes along that requires a trip to the theater. My husband had heard that the epic visuals in "Interstellar" should be seen on a big screen, so off we went last night to see this nearly three hour sci-fi adventure. And it was certainly worth it.

Director Nolan (who also wrote and directed "Inception," previously here, as well as the astounding films "Memento," "Insomnia," and the horrific, effective nightmare that was "The Dark Knight Rises") based the meat of this film starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, and Ellen Burstyn on the scientific theories of renowned theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. Without giving too much away, I will say that the film starts with a dying earth and an intergalactic space mission to find another suitable planet for human beings. When I first started reading press about "Interstellar" just before it was released, there were some snarky comments from reviewers and talking heads about how this is the first "cli-fi" film, meaning a film about "climate change" and a future dealing with its effects. Of course I wouldn't mind a bit if that is what the film turned out to be since climate change is--or should be--one of the top concerns of the entire globe right now, but I was pleased to discover that there was no heavy-handed commentary, à la the simplistic and clunky "Avatar." Instead, climate change was simply presented as a fait accompli. We see it, and we move forward with the plot.

I was also very impressed with how Nolan manages to make such an epic spectacle into such an intimate experience, psychologically speaking, both for the characters and us. It was also quite anxiety-laden which served the story line quite well. There is a long sequence about half way through that cuts back and forth between two very different scenes in a supremely effective manner. And every actor displays their respective talents at capturing and rendering raw emotion. There are some spectacular moments from McConaughey and Chastain in particular. But what is worth noting is that there was no back and forth between big sci-fi scenes and small emotional scenes: often the emotion was about the sci-fi plotlines we were witness to, which is a marvel of script writing. We see the bonds of love but also the type of disappointing behavior, born of fear, that threatens lives.

But the most delightful, incredibly engrossing part of "Interstellar" is the science fiction, which it turns out, is closer to science fact. Worm holes, time dilation, black holes, and relativity are addressed, based in the actuality of astrophysics. Neil de Grasse Tyson even commented on the veracity of the many scientific premises at work in the film.

The special effects were truly remarkable in that they are not noticeable. They blend in seamlessly with the story. And that must have something to do with the fact that Nolan did not use green screen effects but chose instead to use projection, and miniatures to achieve the perfect reality of the film. The unmistakable homages to past science fiction are also present, particularly Kubrick's masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Recommend? Yes, enthusiastically, with the caveat that you really should be familiar with some of these basic physics principles before you see the film, so you are not adrift.

A Color Thesaurus

At a loss as to how to describe a color?

Parent hue is in the top left corner of each chart, created by Ingrid Sundberg.

Since I am an interior designer, I have seen many couples face the "color conundrum" in which women seem to see more tints, tones, and shades than men, illustrated below. I am not sure if it is an actual physiological difference in the eye itself (I know color blindness exists almost exclusively in men) or just a stubbornly-adopted, false gender affectation in men. Think I am exaggerating? Just try to get an average heterosexual man to wear a pink shirt...he will act like it is kryptonite that will sap him of all his energy and end his life.

Monday, November 24, 2014

BEAUTY: Painting--Gill Rocca

This is the time of year here in Northern California where we get socked in with fog...and I love it. Of course parts of the Bay Area have fog year round, but it spreads to the valleys here in the autumn and winter. And London-based artist Gill Rocca certainly knows how to capture the ephemeral, elusive, luminous nature of fog in a landscape.

Rocca says, "The Near to Nowhere Series of small paintings on wood feature anonymous scenes - placeless places, suggestive but hard to locate. Intimate in scale, the painted scenes appear familiar yet have a lingering sense of ambiguity. Always uninhabited, the glow of artificial streetlights, head lights or road markings are the only hint at human presence. I see these elements as traces in the paintings, often disappearing off into the distance, merging again into empty space."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Can you please stop at the store on the way home?

We need milk, bread, cat food, salted caramels, truffles in honey, a Cavaillon melon, wasabi tobiko, some Wensleydale cheese (aged at least 12 months), lavender ice cream, and a dozen rose-flavored macarons, thanks!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Autumn On The Porch

We finally have some autumn weather here in Northern California! Cool, wet (a very welcome sight after our drought!)... I spent the morning in the rain stacking firewood that was delivered yesterday. Time for a hot shower and a cozy fire.

BEAUTY: Photography--James Mollison

I have seen James Mollison's extraordinary portraits of primates for a while but have not posted them until now. He captures the dignity and ultimate cosmic essence of each living being, the life force that connects and flows through us all. Look at their faces, look in their could anyone destroy one of these creatures without destroying a part of themselves?

Mollison's statement:
"While watching a nature program on primates I was struck by their facial similarity to our own. Humans are clearly different to animals, but the great apes inhabit that grey area between man and animal. I thought it would be interesting to try to photograph gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans using the aesthetic of the passport photograph- its ubiquitous style inferring the idea of identity.

I decided against photographing in zoos or using ‘animal actors’ but traveled to Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia to meet orphans of the bush meat trade and live pet trade."

These stunning, awe-inspiring photos are from Mollison's book JAMES & OTHER APES, available from his website. Take a look at his other incredible photo books, especially the heartbreaking WHERE CHILDREN SLEEP.