Monday, August 15, 2011

Monarch Caterpillars Pupating

We planted two different kinds of milkweed in our backyard to attempt to attract Monarch butterflies.   It worked.  Now Michael has transformed the dining room into a Monarch nursery and has begun taking lots of pictures and making little films.  The video is of two Monarch caterpillars becoming pupae.  The pupae are so beautiful, a light green with a golden rim and highlights in a deeper gold.  They would make fabulous earrings.

On to the movies watched in July 2011:

1. Cimarron, Anthony Mann
2. You and Me and Everyone We Know, Miranda July
3. White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Steven Okazaki
4. Helvetica, Gary Hustwit
5. 2 O'Clock Courage, Anthony Mann
6. Pick Up on South Street, Sam Fuller
7. Burden of Dreams, Les Blank
8. Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh
9. Another Year, Mike Leigh
10. The Searchers, John Ford
11. Whip It, Drew Barrymore
12. E.T., Steven Speilberg
13. Spartacus, Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Mann (uncredited)
14. Laurence of Arabia, David Lean
15. The Lincoln Lawyer, Brad Furman

This was quite a delightful movie-watching month.

The clear highlight was three days watching two epics, absolutely stoned.

Well, on Benadryl.

Mulan came back from camp and told us how everyone had gotten sick, just before the end.  She proudly announced that she did not feel sick.  I immediately did feel sick.  I don't know if that's how I got it, but that's the story that makes sense. In any case, I got a terrible cold in the middle of a horrid heat wave.  I was delirious and had trouble sleeping and had trouble not sleeping.  I was in a daze.  I took a lot of Benadryl and drank a lot of tea.  Somehow it seemed right the right moment to watch "Spartacus," which I had never seen, and "Lawrence of Arabia,"which I had seen so long ago that I only had a dim memory of it.

I loved "Spartacus" so much, it moved right to the top of my list of epics made about Rome.  Kirk Douglas was so good, I forgave him for his shameless appearance on the most recent Academy Awards.  (Actually I blame others, it felt like a creepy form of elder-abuse.) In any case, here Douglas was, in his glory, at his height of physical beauty and a damn good actor in a movie he really made happen from the start to finish.

Then, on to "Lawrence of Arabia," which I watched over two days, and then on the third day watched all the making-of extras on the DVD.  I also spent my time, while not watching the actual movie, googling the history of this time, and the man on which the story is based, and reading all about the production.  I loved this movie too - so hypnotic.  I appreciated that we have a home theater in the basement like never before.  I don't know how you'd watch "Lawrence of Arabia" on a television set and get any sense of it's grandeur.  It was so dark in the basement, and the desert was so big and all- encompassing.  I felt like I had been on another planet afterwards.

I think - seriously - that watching those two movies in that state of mind and body were one of my life's greatest movie watching extravaganzas and experiences.   See, getting sick can pay off.

Another great epic I watched during July was "The Searchers." I have probably seen this movie five to eight times before, but as I get older, I just appreciate it even more.  Also, just having read, in June, the book about Cynthia Parker's abduction, (Empire of the Summer Moon) on which the story for the film is based, my appreciation for "The Searchers" was enhanced.  Even though it doesn't matter if the story is true or not - it just works.  I wonder if there is a more perfect film.  Seriously, I do.

Other wonderful film experiences included "Pick Up on South Street" - another movie I've seen a few times, but probably over twenty years ago.  My god, it is terrific. Better than I remembered.  Richard Widmark and Jean Peters are so good. There are extras on the DVD which are fabulous, including an interview with Richard Widmark about doing the film.

On the documentary side of things, Okazaki's "Bright Light, Black Rain" stays with me still, the images of people who survived the atomic bombs.  Let me just say, you think you know what happened, but really you probably don't.  This film takes you a long way towards understanding the real effect those bombs had on people who survived.  Chilling. And really well made.

I loved both Mike Leigh films, especially "Topsy Turvy."

On the sad side of things, I felt "Cimarron" was nearly unwatchable.  It was so terrible.  I felt for Anthony Mann.  I read he walked off the film when it was nearly over because of disputes with the studio.  It's so awful.  I was embarrassed for him to have his name on that movie.

Now, books read during July 2011:

1.) The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough.  I read this book slowly. Savoring each chapter.  Allowing myself the time to look up this painter and that, this doctor and that, this politician and that.  There are pictures in this book, but they are limited.  I was enthralled with the story of Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph and the Morse Code.   My imagination was ignited by John Singer Sargent, and I had to look up this portrait and that online, over and over again.   In fact, I was into Sargent, that the next book I read was an art book, but with very good text.

2.) John Singer Sargent, by Carter Ratcliff. I read every word, like it was a novel.  Sargent's life is a feast of the imagination.  He was the child of middle income, American, but European smitten parents who never lived in one place too long.  He had the kind of childhood I think most of us wish we'd had - no formal schooling, tutors in Italy, England, Spain, etc.  A mother taking him to museums and hiring art teachers.  Friends who were equally loose-footed.  He lived the best life, although he was never concerned with the poverty on the edges of his life.  Never stirred by the politics which raged with extremity during his time in Europe.  Great book with a great overview.

3.) The Stein's Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the French Avant-Garde by Janet Bishop, Cecile Debray, Rebecca A. Rabinow, Emily Braun, Gary Tinterow, Martha Lucy, Claudine Grammont, Carrie Pilto, Helene Klein, Isabel Alfandary, Edward M. Burns, and McD Robert Parker.    Whilst in San Francisco... (I've just read Russell Brand's fabulous commentary on the London riots in The Guardian and can't get "whilst" out of my vocabulary, read it for yourself at: UK riots: Big Brother isn't watching you | UK news | The Guardian)

Anyhoo - whilst in San Francisco, I went to a really wonderful exhibit on the Stein family, including Gertrude - and their art collections. The exhibit was at the SFMOMA.  I was so overwhelmed by the delightful nature of this exhibit that I couldn't take it all in in one visit.  Even though I was only in San Francisco for four days, I had to go again.  It was even better the second time.  The exhibit moves from San Francisco to New York, (to the MET,)  and then to Paris.  If you have a chance to go, I recommend it.  I fell into the Stein world and couldn't get myself out.  The book that goes along with the exhibition is very good.  I got it at SFMOMA, but I see it is on Amazon for half the price I paid.  No matter, it is a great book that I'm already very happy to own.  Included in the exhibition are not only the story of this remarkable family and their collections, but pieces of furniture that were in their homes.  I wouldn't have guessed that this would make me so happy - to see old desks and dressers, but it did.  It felt like you could touch history.  My biggest surprise: realizing that I probably would  have preferred the company of Michael and Sarah Stein to Gertrude and Alice. And realizing that I preferred the Matisses to the Picassos.  Great art book, in my humble opinion.

4.)   A Planet of Viruses, by Carl Zimmer.  I love Carl Zimmer so much.  I devoured Parasite Rex, and Evolution: the Triumph of an Idea.  I hope Carl Zimmer lives a long, long time so we can get more and more books from him.  Viruses; they are scary, it's debatable whether they are truly alive or if they could be defined as an animal, they are terrifying and will take over the planet in bad ways - surely they will - even while we are just acknowledging how they participated mightily in the instigation of life itself and that viruses, partly, made human beings human beings.  It's a short read - under 100 pages, but intense and well explained.

Now I have started E.O. Wilson's "Anthill." his only book of fiction.  It's good. But I'm not done yet.  More on it next month.

This last month I really got derailed, the trip to San Francisco, then got sick, then we went camping in Door County, Wisconsin (want to go again, it was so beautiful - Cape Cod right in the mid-west!) and then house guests and then a short trip to New York - but now I'm getting into August.  So, I will wait and post again at the end of the month, properly - and not two weeks late.  Thanks of the comments on last month's post.  I really appreciated them.

As for Arden, thanks for those who expressed concern over him (my dog, who has a tumor, who has an unspecified amount of time to live.)  He seems pretty much okay! He still goes on his long 3 mile walk, he still chases rabbits and squirrels.  The truth is, that tumor (which is between his lungs and heart) could have been there, growing very slowly, for a long time.  On the other hand, he has a weird and getting-weirder cough.  It's odd to spend so much time around a being who is terminally ill and has no idea.  For now,  his morning walks are moving to a first place on my daily to-do list.  And I'm letting him stop on our walks, and smell the pee for a longer amount of time.  Also, where we walk: down this block or that, crossing this way and that - well, I give him more say, it's more serendipitous all around.

I shoulda been that way a lot earlier with him.