Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I, Claude Monet - film

The documentary, I, Claude Monet, was shown in February and sold out, so the wonderful Cape Cinema did encore showings, one yesterday and another tonight. I skipped the first showing thinking I'm so familiar with his Impressionist paintings, I had little to learn.  WRONG! of course.

Yes, I have seen, in museums and in books, a large selection of the many, many paintings he did. I actually knew very little about his life.  Especially I was touched that he not only wrote constant begging letters for money to a variety of people during his first  20 or  so years. He was impoverished to the point that his wife died from lack of medical care and perhaps a baby as well  -- the movie was unclear as it was almost all a voice reading from his letters.

As a documentary it was repetitious in the sense of being one letter after another with pictures of the places he was living and the paintings he did of those places.  There were photographs of him and his family -- he eventually had a second wife and a total of 8 children and was financially well off. There was no discussions, really about his style which I found alright because I've read a lot about the Impressionists' use of light and I think no one did it more effectively than Monet. The sound track was a sometimes tiresome piano score, occasionally with a cello -- the credits told me it was composed specifically for this film.  I would have liked more variety. But it was beautiful to see.  One had been to Giverney when it was in full flower -- I envy her that experience, the shots the were magnificent.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Not all documentaries are equal

I saw two documentary films yesterday, each well over an hour long, each on important subjects. One was magnificent, although hard to watch at times; the other one was so boring I could hardly sit still.

Sharkwater, a documentary by Rob Stewart, told our roomful of documentary aficionados far more than we knew about sharks and entirely won us over to the enormous, pressing need to protect these very endangered animals (90% of their population has be destroyed in the last 10 years).  The movie was the story of Rob Stewart's love of sharks and then his joining the fearless SEA SHEPHERD, with it's magnificent captain, Sam, whose full name I do not know, which patrols the open seas trying to protect endangered sea animals -- sharks in this case (apparently whales in other cases).  Sharks are not vicious, they are shy about people, they are highly intelligent, they are the top predators in the ocean and without them the ecology of the ocean (which is not well understood) would be out of balance and could result in a lessening of the amount of oxygen generated by the ocean -- an amount absolutely necessary to life on the solid parts of Earth.  Those are only a few of the facts I learned from the film. 

Most disturbing is the huge predation of sharks simply for their fins for the market for shark fin soup in China.  Once again (as with elephants an rhinocerses) that vast population of insecure people is wrecking havoc for the financial gain of a mafia-like business.  There were extremely painful scenes in the movie.  And it included an action novel like run in with the "bad guys" an the way they had paid off government officials who actually charge the Sea Shepherd and its crew, who (spoiler alert!) who found a time to make a run for freedom.  As a documentary it was beautiful, highly informative, had highly admirable real life people. When the film was over the woman showing it was nearly in tears as she told us that Rob Steward has died.

The second film was Food Choices about, of course, the many compelling reasons to eat a plant-based diet. It presented some new information with one talking head after another, some of whom had boring voices, some not even very clearly enunciated, although I was gently reminded by my companion that only the speaker on the right side of the room was playing and that music obscured some of the voices. Yes, my hearing is not entirely perfect, but indeed I think the several experts who sat, unmoving in their various chairs, spoke unclearly.  It was just plain boring.  A long Q&A afterwards with the area's foremost MD-nutritionist was a little helpful and somewwhat repetitious

By the time I put my head down on a pillow I was overwhelmed with information and visuals and happy to turn off the brain entirely for a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring? yes, no, maybe

It's definitely time to get rid of the snow picdture. Spring may be here -- I was able to walk on the beach for a while yesterday but the wind off the ocean was very chilly.  The ocean was far calmer than this photo of the surf which is higher than any that we have in Hyannis -- this was at Nauset Beach in Orleans which my daughter calls "the real ocean". We are protected from  such surf and from the way it eats at dunes by the fat blob of land just at our horizon called Martha's Vineyard. 

Friday night I went to a documentary shown at the Unity Church which houses an EarthCare Ministry team. In April (Earth month), they show a film each Friday, free and open to the public, about an ecological subject. Last year I went to two that were about whales; beautiful films from which I learned a lot. This past Friday it was a film called One Big Home, about, really not one, but many, an almost staggering number of big homes that have been build in the last ten years on that once quaint and rather modest island. The filmmaker, Thomas Bena was present; he talked and answered questions afterward. These are called Trophy Houses, a phenonmenon that aggrivates almost all of Cape Cod's towns as well as Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Not only are they far larger than the homes that were previously there (many of which have been torn down by the builders of these sturctures) but they are used, in most cases far less than 6 months of the year.

Bene spent ten years making this film, in the course of which he married, had a child, bought a small old home that was beyond repair (though he tired diligently to do so). He built a larger home than he ever expected to have. He filmed many locals, many town meetings, a very verbal architect, and did a good documentary job.  He is going around to gatherings like this speaking about the rampant ostentatious and ecologically destructive habits of the very wealth and how the less affluent residents can come together to at last enact regulations that put some brakes on the destruction of their way of tlife.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Not yet spring

Trying to be a little arty, I took this picture of a fence during our snowfall last weekend.  I hope it was the last snowfall of the year but predictions for the coming weekend are a bit iffy.

I was walking over to my daughter's to see to their cat while they were away a couple of days. It was early morning and the snow was falling quietly.   I'd never have been out except for that errand although I know -- in my head at least -- that early morning walks are a great time for getting pictures.  They are, of course, great exercise, too.

However, I prefer my exercise in the early sun of a nice warm day beside the ocean and those days aren't going to be here for a while yet. Spring is an iffy season on Cape Cod. This particular snow covered brave little upshoots of crocuses, snow drops and a few green fingeringly of daffodils.  They get that shock every year and most survive.  I'm waiting for them.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Preview of Spring

All of last week and mostly so far this week, has been a preview of spring -- or possible an affirmation that the earth is getting hotter, earlier and seasons are shifting their parameters. Thursday was so warm Rachel and I did some errands that us took as far as  Orleans -- and, once in Orleans it would have been a shame not to go to Nauset Beach which, as Rachel says, is "real ocean", not the relatively tame "ocean" off Hyannis beaches because the islands, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard protect us from the bigger waves.  We were not the only ones who could not resist walking on the same barefoot.  Someone was surfboarding (in a body suit! of course) and many people were wandering around just plain enjoying the weather.  The new header picture is Nauset Beach which has reasonably serious dunes, much bigger than we have.

The early flowers are up, crocuses and snowdrops and the daffodils are pushing up shoots. In the laundry room a short while ago a neighbor reported that she had "a lovely crop of snow drops but "had" is the important word. This morning all the flowers were gone -- all the plants cropped at exactly the same level.  "Rabbits," said she.

"They're hungry," said I, "and they haven't had any nice fresh greens for a long, long time." Most of us look at the lovely sun and mutter to one another that there will be at least one more snow.  I think that's probably true ... but then, as I began, the seasons are changing.  We usually have iffy springs,  warm, cool, rain, spitting snow.  But let's see.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Turkeys are Taking Over

The wild turkeys are taking over the west end of Hyannis ... probably other parts too ... probably many other places on Cape Cod. 

I stepped out on my tiny patio to go to my car, saw the mob -- errrr, flock -- quickly grabbed my camera.  They took their time marching away but I couldn't get in front of them for the photo I wanted. That's probably the alpha male flaring his fanny at me. I counted 14 and I think they're all in this picture.

My daughter, who lives only a couple of blocks away, said that when she went out early in the morning to drive to her gym they were completely blocking Main Street. When she inched slowly forward she discovered how loudly they could gobble their assertion that the road was theirs and they'd move no faster than they wished.

In my picture they are definitely moving away, but until just a few seconds before I took this picdture the majority were busy pecking in the grass. Here at the beginning of February with small remnants from a snow storm last week, you can see the grass is brown and dry. I can't imagine any bugs were out to nibble on. As I think about it, this must be a hungry time for them.  They are big birds and they need quite a lot of calories to stay warm in the near or sub-freezing temperature. I don't know what they find to eat.  And I suppose many other wild things are also hungry. We have coyotes (I'm told they're abundant but I haven't seen any) which probably prey on the turkeys. Foxes might be their only other enemy but the foxes are said to be small, perhaps not a danger to such big birds.  

When I was small I thought wild turkeys were extinct.  What a come back they have made.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Rereading The Glass Bead Game

So many wonderful books to read! I've made it a practice to never reread something unless for a specific purpose.  In the '70s the books of Herman Hesse were very popular. I started with Siddartha as I think most readers did.  I read nearly all of them and finally, I read his last big book, The Glass Bead Game. So much for Hesse, I moved on.

 The Glass Bead Game was given to me for Christmas, it's been a LONG time since I read it; I quickly got into the 300+ dense pages of the utopian world set sometime in the future in some attractive part of Europe, one supposes, and followed the surely brilliant and intellectual Joseph Knecht from school boy as he was trained by the all wise masters of a subcountry that exists to be entirely intellectual to become master of their raison d'etre The Glass Bead Game. 

I noticed quickly, as the much younger me did not, that there were no women in this world.  None!  Not even mention of mothers. Chinese  philosophy is an aside and history was mainly the realm of a throw back Benedictine abbot. So much about this world makes no sense at all although it's Knecht's training in the highest thought of the time. Yes, I was seeing the story quite differently.

At the end Knecht is drawn to resign his grand office and go out into the world (where an elite still runs things although the one example is shown to be a very unhappy man). Knecht wishes to tutor a single young man -- and yes, I cannot help but see homosexual attractions although there is not a hint that any of these intellectuals have a sexual body. Within two days, we see that Knecht is incapable of caring for himself, physically. He and the young man go to a cabin some 9,000 feet above sea level. Knecht suffers altitude sickness that he does not recognize, and then, perhaps to win affection of the student, perhaps to prove his own prowess, dives into a frigid lake and drowns. He cannot survive in the "real" world -- it upsets his body, muddles his mind, is visually beautiful but cold and fatal.

Hesse was a brilliant man, but seems to have been blind to anything other than intellectual pursuits. I think I'll look for some biographical material about him.  I'm amazed that in the mid-20th century a writer (of any national origin) could posit such an organization and such a protagonist in such a world. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ballet - Balm for the Battered Brain

The picture is the original cast in costume for Sleeping Beauty, the ballet with music by Tchaikowsky and choreography by Marius Petipa.  Yesterday's simulcast performance from the Bolshoi Ballet claimed it as a Bolshoi speciality but it was first performed by the Marinsky Ballet.  Never mind.  The costumes were equally ornate although the women dancers all wore very short tutus; the many mostly stationary members of the count were ornately dressed similarly to  these. That's all icing on the cake.

I'm very, very happy we are able to see these simulcasts. The dancing of the company is absolutely magnificent. I have seen four of their simulcasts and am stunned each time by the brilliant dancing, especially the danseurs. I saw Sleeping Beauty at the New York City Ballet and loved it. New York's dancers are (arguably, I suppose) the best in the United States. They are wonderful. But these dancers take my breath away. It's a long ballet, made up mostly of set pieces to show off individuals and couples, the story is very scant. But we all know the story and cannot help feeling the power of the curse of the bad fairy, the young princess's long sleep and her awakening. Tchaikowsky is never better than in his ballet music. I become bored listening to his symphonies, but when his music accompanies the dancing, pageantry, sets and lights on a stage, it becomes the perfect additional sensory completion. I look forward to seeing Swan Lake next month.

I begin with the background because I did not like the ornate set, and especially did not like the design on the floor. The NYC production was much simpler.  The busy design distracted from all the important dancing, especially as the video was all done from above looking down. 

However, the afternoon was, as my title says, balm for the battered brain.  This inauguration week has been an emotionally trying time. My heart is with all the women marchers. Of course I did not watch the mockery of an inauguration.  How wonderful to be in a fairy tale presented so beautifully!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Tomorrow is Here Today

This picture is only metaphorically related to the scene that's on my mind.  I realize I've lived through a lot of dawns but now I'm inthe middle of an amazing dawn of technology that I would never have imagined even five years ago.

Yesterday a group of women were sitting in my living room talking about books we've read. Two people had read the same book and agreed it was excellent. Others wanted to know who wrote it. The speakers couldn't remember.  One person pulled a smart phone from her purse and began typing. At almost the same time another woman pulled out her smart phone, pushed an icon and asked in a slow, clear voice, "Siri, who wrote....?" She got no answer immediately, possibly because other people were talking at the same time. So she asked again, in the same tone of voice, addressing "Siri." Then she read from the little screen, "Anthony Doerr."

I don't have a smart phone and don't feel a need for all that computing power and various sorts of information at my finger tips. I have a 'Siri" function now on my computer that I have used once, with success and a second time with no success. I have no understanding of the technology of any computer search. I have accepted that a complex of connections exist somewhere -- in my primitive imagination I see something like a room full of encyclopedia although I know there's no such thing. But my imagination is that of a mid-20th century person.  These wonders of the early 21st century are beyond my ability to comprehend.  How one can speak a question to a handheld little instrument which I realize is equipped to "hear" voices, nevertheless become a digital impulse to search for answers to questions like who wrote a certain book?

That was a "today" event here in my living room. The woman's phone was not attached to anything visible. Somewhere in the atmosphere were impulses that connected to her little phone. I am astonished. In an even simpler way, I think quite often, when I hold my car key in my hand as I approach the car, I push an icon on the key's top of an open padlock.  What kind of impulse goes through my hand to something in the car so that the lights flash and I usually hear the click of the car door unlocking. Long ago -- way back in that bygone 20th century-- I would think about the little radio that I took to bed with me so that, under the covers, I could listen to Frank Sinatra very softy crooning into my ear. The radio had a cord that was plugged into an electric outlet, that connection to the larger world was obvious. But beyond that HOW did that sound come to me?  Someone knew, someone understood those things.  And today someone, I think, understands how "Siri" can understand a question and provide an answer.  Meanwhile, I am astounded... This feels like the dawn of an age I could never, never, never have imagined back when I was listening to Sinatra and Siri was not even a flicker in anybody's imagination.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

And so it begins ....

This snow-capped mail box and rail was taken early this morning after yesterday afternoon and the overnight blizzard, as it was called by newscasters.  Maybe 10 inches of very fluffy and light white stuff.  The photographer was a fellow poet and email friend from Falmouth which is at the  western end of Cape Cod, Jack De  Benedetto.  We exchange poems and political commiserations, often with a third like-minded friends included in the messages. 

Yesterday was all gray, blowing snow. Rachel andI chose the option of going to a later showing (via video) of the simulcast of Verdi's opera, Nabucco, simulcast from the Met yesterday. Today proved to be brightly sunny.  Much of the snow piled on my car melted and I didn't go out to brush if off until afternoon. As usual with the newspaper delivery when there's snow I did not receive my NYTimes and sloshed over to the convenience store and bought one.  I cannot understand why the paper delivery person didn't get it all day long when the roads and weather were just fine.

The video of Nabucso is an example of the thoughtfulness and general good sense that I find living here on Cape Cod. The small art theatre that shows the simulcasts, sells tickets on line for these events as well as at the door. Hearing the dire forecasts for yesterday afternoon they made the decision to schedule the video, knowing that a large portion of their audience for these showing is older people who do no like to drive in bad weather. They sent an email to everyone who had purchased tickets online offering the opportunity to change dates.  This does not happen in cities. I was looking forward to seeing the opera but was happy not to have to brave the weather. Time and again, I find my heart warmed by the society of the place I've chosen to live.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day, 2017

"Dawn comes up like thunder ..." wrote Kipling.
Most mornings dawn comes up as I eat breakfast,
breakfasts are much the same
the dawns are different every day.
Today's dawn valiantly took possesion
of the cloudy sky. I do not believe in omens.
An hour later as I write the clouds sit
on a dove breast soft gray at the horizon
while the sun is climbing over the dove's
back and into a clear blue sky.
But I do not believe in omens.
I will not see this as a promise,
I fear for what the year will bring,
not to me personally, I am OK in many ways,
but for our country, for the wreckage
of the good that has begun,
the tearing down of individual rights
the danger to our environment
and the tormoil likely to increase
in among nations under a leader the majority
did not vote for, a leader so unstable
so ignorant and arrogant I fear nothing good
can come when he takes office.  Thunder!
His thundering voice brings lightening, hail,
limb tearing wind, torrential rains.
I do not believe in omens,
but I believe in metaphors. Thunder ...
the voice that would shout down an opponent
that would spew hatred and fear
the ugly smugness on the face in yesterday's news.