Here’s a quiet little haven you can escape to for a while. Beautiful photography. Interesting that rice farming in Japan has been going on for so long that the ecology has adapted to it.
When ugly, mean and stupid things are happening in the world, and you’ve done all you can do about it, find a calm, quiet place and contemplate beautiful things. Just in case you don’t have any beauty readily to hand, I’m happy to share this trio of little gems. The dancer is the wonderful Diana Vishneva. I suggest watching them full screen with your sound on.
One for me. The dancer here is “Kremushka” (Yana Kremneva).
And another one for good measure. Sting, who should need no introduction, and ballerina Alessandra Ferri, who shouldn’t need one either, getting Bach to basics with the Prelude from JSB’s Cello suite #1 in G major. Another one to watch full screen, with sound.
As much as I loath Walt Disney for the way he trivialized and sillified some of the great classics of children’s literature, his unrepentant commercialism and for his blatant and pervasive sexism, he had some amazingly talented people working for him over the years (not the least of them Walt Kelly*, whose amazing talent for drawing and caricature has brought me so much joy over the years). I call your attention to the challenge of animating ballet-dancing ostriches as they did here in Fantasia. Ostriches legs don’t bend the same way ours do, and yet the animators carefully and logically worked out all the moves — the classical ballet moves are all there, and recognizable to anybody who has even a passing knowledge of the art form. (The animators studied ballets on film and did life drawings from ballerinas who were brought into the studio for that purpose.) And the cherry on top is the inspired idea of tying those delicate little velvet ribbons around those very long ostrich necks. Putting hippos in tutus seems like an obvious absurdity, yet there’s a hidden message here — grace is every bit as much in the mind of the dancer as as it is in the eye of the beholder.** At the time (1940), these huge animals had yet to be filmed underwater, where their natural buoyancy supports their great bulk, and where they move every bit as gracefully as Disney’s animators imagined them to.
I might also point out to a younger generation that all the animation in Fantasia was done at a time (late 1930’s) when there was not only no computer animation, there were no computers. This was a very labor-intensive process and was all done by hand, by artists who used their own talents and knowledge of anatomy to make the drawings work, and by the cel painters who put that art onto celluloid to be filmed.
I was fortunate to be at the right age at the right time to be exposed to a “perfect storm” of animation art. My childhood and the childhood of television coincided. When our local television stations were starved for after-school content, they ran all those wonderful movie cartoons from the 1930’s and 1940’s — Popeye, Betty Boop, Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, Silly Symphonies — in the days before television, a night out at the movies included not just a feature film, but a news reel and a cartoon. Those movie cartoons were witty, sly, subversive and satirical — and targeted for adults — which is why I loved them. Like the best of children’s literature and art, they were not dumbed down for children. I had the great pleasure and delight of growing into them over the years. Jokes and allusions sailed over my head, until I became tall enough (and old enough) for them to finally hit me. Not only were they topical, but they had music — classical music as well as popular music of the day. Disney’s Silly Symphonies (most of them were quite silly) had all the clichés — Strauss, Bethoven, Mussorgsky, Saint-Saëns, Grieg, Wagner. But my favorites were the great Warner Brothers classics: Their complete overhaul of List and send up of the classical pianist in “Rhapsody Rabbit” and the utter skewering of Wagner in “What’s Opera, Doc?” Not even Mozart was safe. So many wonderfully creative talents were involved – Mel Blanc’s wonderful voices, Carl Stalling‘s mastery of the timely musical quote, Michael Maltese and the inimitable Chuck Jones for sheer storytelling moxie.
But this is Christmas Eve, and the Nutcracker season, and despite the fact that Tchaikovsky’s incomparable music is practically inescapable at this time of the year and is practically a seasonal cliché, I still love it. Tchaikovsky lived at a time when being gay was a criminal, and in some places a capital offense. Trapped in a rigidly conformist and stultifying society, and with his personal life slowly but surely coming apart at the seams. he poured his soul into his music, producing arguably some of the most lyrical and moving — and accessible — classical music ever written.
In Fantasia, Disney’s animators had a go at selected bits of Nutcracker. Here is my all time favorite bit — who would listen to Tchaikovsky’s Arabian Dance and think “fish”? And yet, somehow, it’s just right. Remember, as you watch it, that the animators not only had to keep up with all those diaphanous fins, this was all animated by hand:
And here’s the Moscow Ballet’s amazing interpretation of the same music:
Aw, nuts. It’s Christmas Eve. I might as well give you the whole schmear. Here’s Michail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland, both at the height of their powers, doing the deed. It’s an hour and 18 minutes of magic. Find a comfy chair, beverage of choice, snuggle back, put it on full screen and indulge yourself.
This from Radiant Spirit Gallery is something that actually happens, but even so, it has a fairly high weirdness of image score.
Friday night, after my VA appointment at 2 p.m., and getting mom switched to a new cellphone carrier (at half the price she was paying), and the two of us having dinner at IHOP, I went by my BFF’s apartment to give her a plate hanger dodad. She had gotten this really nice Royal Doulton dinner-size plate with giraffes on. It had come with a little stand, but she didn’t really have a place to put it, hence the plate hanger, of which I have many, left over from a divestment of over half my blue and white ceramics collection because downsizing. (The living room in the old duplex was approximately the same size as half of my current apartment.) I have started her on the Foreigner series. She’s at book two. (I’m about to finish book #16, after which I’ll have to wait for book #17 to be published in April.) We got in a big discussion about things Atevi and it was after 9:30 when I left.
The level of her apartment building and the level of the parking lot are different by about two feet. There’s a retaining wall all around it and periodically there are these wonky concrete paver steps to get down from the apartment level to the parking lot. The footing of the steps is tricky, the pavers forming the steps are not level or straight, and they are not lighted either. I am always very hesitant about climbing them, with good reason. My BFF has fallen in the parking lot several times due to those steps, so I am twice careful.
Last night, as I was going down to my car, I lost my footing and fell off the last step. I broke part of my fall against the hood of my car with my right hand, but I landed on my left hip and outstretched left arm hard enough to get a small abrasion on the heel of my left hand from the pavement. I don’t even have a bruise on my hip. I didn’t land on my hip hard at all, but I jammed the bones of my left arm and shoulder together right sharply and today my elbow is sore, and the muscles in my forearm are sore, and it is painful to move my arms in certain ways. That’s the only part of me that hurts, but it hurts right smartly.
As long-time readers may remember, I had rotator cuff repair on that left shoulder in 2009, and in 2013, I injured my neck, left shoulder and left arm trying to upend a 40-pound bottle of water onto a water dispenser and ended up with, among other things, a pinched spinal nerve and a small herniation of a vertebral disk in my neck. Those issues have since resolved, thankfully and I have not had any trouble from that quarter for at least a year now. But, what is concerning at the moment is when I move my arm in certain ways, I suddenly have no strength in my left hand, or I have give-way weakness in my hand and arm. Part of it is due to muscle pain, as certain movements are rather sharply painful, but part of it is due to a sudden muscle weakness to the point where I can’t even manipulate my hand, and that means nerves are involved somewhere. Big red flag. I’m taking Aleve, some gabapentin that I had left over from when I tapered off it last year, and a liberal slathering of tincture of time, mostly because I can’t let the VA know until Monday and unless I want to go to the emergency room, that will be the soonest I can look for any medical treatment. Knowing the VA, it’ll still be weeks before I can see anybody anyway. So, I’ll see how I feel Monday.
The most disheartening thing about the situation is that nothing short of a lawsuit is going to get the apartment complex to do anything about those steps, which are really and truly a hazard. I am going to call the apartment office and complaint on Monday, not mentioning any names. I doubt it will do any good except allow me to vent. Thank goodness for Aleve gelcaps.
“Reflections from Uyuni” is a Time-lapse short film by Enrique Pacheco that shows the intrinsic beauty of the salt flat of Uyuni and the province of Potosí in Bolivia. The reflections produced by the water flooding the area in the rainy season, are the main protagonist of Pacheco´s camera. The salt flat of Uyuni is the largest in the world at over 10,000 km2/3900 sq.miles. It is located in the province of Potosí, Bolivia, near the Andes, at an altitude of 3,656 m/12,000 feet.
What got me to thinking about this — what always gets me to thinking about this — is my BFF. She is an eye person. No big surprise that she did graphic art for a living for most of her working life. Eye people are visual. It’s all about shapes and colors and patterns for them. My BFF is an inveterate film and TV watcher. She watches way more films and TV programs than I do. Her downtime is spent watching films and TV; she goes nuts over the visual images in them. I will grant you that she is as into “story” as I am, but she sees storytelling in terms of visual imagery. I am much more ear oriented, (and, by extension, word oriented) than she is. I see a film, and if it is based on a book or short story, I immediately want to read the source material. (I read way more books than she does.) She, on the other hand, will want the DVD and watch it eleventy twenty times, microfocusing on this and that, and could care less about the book. I just don’t react to visuals the same way she does, especially if it’s based on something readable.
For example, she went nuts over Avatar. She’s got the video and has watched it twenty eleven times. I have yet to watch it, partly because of the plot. She gets utterly lost in the visual imagery to the point that the plot doesn’t have the same impact on her that it would on me. I’m more sensitive to certain plot lines and to certain kinds of imagery than she is. I deliberately won’t watch things because I don’t care to go to the places the plot goes, and/or I don’t want certain images in my head, thank you very much. But then, I will occasionally go to a film with her because it’s something we both want to see (for different reasons, of course).
Recently, I turned her on to the sound track to the Journey video game. (I’m the one who will wait through the closing credits to find out the what/who of someone on the soundtrack.) I showed her the YouTube video with the song lyrics and translations, and predictably she went nuts over the visuals. I will grant you, the visuals are captivating, but the English major responds to them so differently than the applied arts major does. (We could both so easily get sucked deep into the game, but for such totally different reasons.) Although we come at things from different directions, we’ve been friends for over 50 years (since 7th grade) because our attention has pretty consistently been attracted by the same things. Even though I’m an owl and she’s a scarlet macaw, we’re still birds of a feather.
So what brought this on? I saw this video on Twisted Sifter, and it’s an OK video — parts of it are even pretty cool, in fact, (the wall mural starting at 3:45, particularly), but the sound track — the soundtrack!
Predictably, I watched the credits to see where the sound track came from, managed to find an album by him on Rhapsody and have ordered the CD based on listening to it. The song on the video is not on the album, unfortunately, but that’s OK. There are fifteen other songs on the album equally as nice.
As I was writing this post, I got to thinking, if my BFF and I were 14 today, what with digital everything and the world more open to women than it was when we met 50 years ago, where would we end up 50 years from now?
The long-running sketch comedy television show Saturday Night Live has a reputation for sketch comedy and satire, and for giving an amazing list of guests the chance to showcase their comedic chops. This clip leaves that reputation pretty much intact.
It also reinforces my belief that I like Chris Hemsworth better clean shaven and with normal muscles than when he’s got a weeks’ worth of carefully-groomed* beard and is all bulked up for his role as Thor. The sketch would have been even funnier with a bird more in keeping with the spirit of Shatner’s and Pine‘s performances in the role of Starfleet starship captain, but I can see why they went with the chicken. A turkey would have been much more problematic in front of a live audience.
Hemsworth’s actual hair color is brunette (the eyebrows are always a dead giveaway), but I like him better as a vintage blonde* (– as opposed to a suicide blonde+). Still, let’s face it, whatever color it is, that widow’s peak is to die for.
Well, not entirely wasted. I found this in one of the blogs I follow.
Too beautiful not to share.
I got two twin-size microfleece blankets on sale at Walmart. One is a dusky steely blue that matches the drapes in the living room. The other is a leopard print. I got them intending to turn them into lap robes by folding them in half lengthwise, sewing around the sides except for just a bit so I can turn the result inside out, then sew about an inch in from the edge around all four edges to make a border. They make wonderful lap robes. They are so soft and you can just toss them in the washing machine. I made my dad’s “Blankies” this way, except I used king sized blankets to get the length I needed as he was 6’2″ and wanted one that would cover him from chin to toe. The blue one is for the living room, and the leopard one is for the office. I intended to do this today. Instead, I finished reading “Dark Lord of Derkholm” by Diane Wynn Jones, and then sat at the computer reading blogs, dozed off, woke up and kept on reading blogs.
The grey one is sleeping on my chest at the moment. She likes the Laxatone gel I got at the vet’s that’s supposed to “ease things along.” Unfortunately, the white one is wild about it. He nearly bit my finger trying to get the blob of it off. I got some white water dishes for them – ramekins, actually, but they’re just the right size, and white like the vet recommended — they match the smaller ramekins I got for food dishes for them. I had been using one of my big white soup mugs, but will start using the ramekins once I’ve used the dishwasher again. I talked to the vet this afternoon about how to fatten the grey one up. She needs something with lots of good, clean “carnivore” protein and he suggested feeding her canned chicken or cooked lean hamburger meat. The canned chicken is what I think I’ll go with. I’ve got to think of a place where I can feed her that the other two can’t get to. She’s a climber so a high place seems best. Unfortunately, the only place I can think of is the kitchen counter, which is not a place I want her on. Another problem is that of jealousy. The black one is very jealous and tends to be rather mean to whoever I show any affection toward.
My BFF bought me a shower curtain that has a rendering of the Eiffel Tower on. It was supposed to be a British phone box, but they sent her the wrong thing. Actually, the Eiffel tower fits my color scheme better. I’m thinking of taking down the bifold doors that cover my washer and dryer, and use this shower curtain instead. I have a curtain rod I got to do that. The bifold doors don’t quite cover the opening, anyway. There’s about a half-inch gap. If I take the doors down and just use the curtains, I could feed her on top of the dryer. She can jump that high, but the white one is not a jumper, and never has been. The black one is just too fat to make it that high. He’s never been much of a jumper either. I could put her a bowl of water up there, too. I might can put the doors on the floor of my bedroom closet. My shoes are on a rack on the wall, rather than on the floor, so that’s no problem, or else under my bed up toward the head end. I’d like the handyman to come take them away. Don’t know if he will, though.
While we’re on the subject of handymen, I’d also like the track on the closet doors in the office fixed. That one side does not want to move, and has a tendency to jump the track if I try forcing it to move. It’s a pain in the rear because that’s the side of the closet my sewing machine is on. It’s on the shelf above the rod. I need to get the step ladder out and look at the track to see if I can discover what the problem is. I may be able to fix it myself. But not right this now.
Part of the problem is that I missed some doses of the N-acetylcisteine (NAC) I’ve been taking. It helps me in a number of very subtle ways and I really notice a change in my mood when I miss a dose.
It’s supposed to snow tomorrow. My weather widget says it’s raining now. I haven’t looked out the window to see if it’s actually raining on me . . . If it snows tomorrow I hope it’s just the kind that doesn’t stick on the pavement, or that melts off the pavement. We can always use the moisture, but the way the people in this town drive, any weather phenomenon that affects the road surfaces is like a sign that reads “Demolition Derby Day” to them. Anyway, I hope the roads are clear Friday and Saturday, because my mom goes to the “beauty saloon” on Friday morning and she has one of her clubs meeting on Saturday. I’m not worried about my mom’s driving, it’s everybody else’s.
One of the joys of using two monitors is that while I’m using one, I can “empty” the other one and look at the pictures in my wallpaper program. I’ve got a bunch of stuff in it — photographs of landscapes, a bunch of paintings by Andrew Wyeth (whose work and style I adore), and one thing and another that I’ve run across and like looking at — eye candy. Each picture stays on for 10 minutes.
I think here in a minute I’ll get something to eat and take my evening dose of NAC, and I may start a hat, or I may create that knitting blog as a place to put my knitting patterns like I’ve been thinking about. When I do, I’ll link it to this blog, of course. It just occurred to me I needed to take the garbage out — three trash cans full, plus the kitty “waste” and if it was going to snow tomorrow, I’d better do it just now. Guess what. It has already snowed. Not sticking to the pavement, though.
Or something like that. The interwebs. Except instead of physical objects, it’s sights, sounds, thoughts, ideas. You might rummage about through some miscellaneous babble and turn up something profound, something beautiful, something strange. You never know. Amid the vacation snaps, the videos of the baby, the kitty, the dog, and people doing stupid stuff, you could find something amazing, beautiful, moving. You just never know. In terms of content, the internet has the same fascination as a yard sale, a flea market, the roadside stand. You have to go look because you just never know what you might find.
The case in point du jour. One of the feeds I follow on my feed reader along with the blogs, Tumblr blogs, cartoons, and webcomics I follow is the Astronomy Picture of the Day, a NASA website which describes itself thusly: “Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.” Today, the Picture of the Day was this:
The reason for this particular picture appearing in APOD is the atmospheric phenomenon called a light pillar, an effect produced by ice crystals in the atmosphere. What struck me about the picture actually, had nothing to do with the atmospheric effects. The picture was taken in a town in Finland named Oulu, which has the distinction of being the fifth largest city in Finland and has an average annual temperature of 2 °C (36 °F). What captured my attention was how disconcertingly similar these houses, which are located a stone’s throw away from the Arctic Circle, are to the houses in my hometown in Texas, which is at the same latitude as Casablanca, Morocco. In fact, this picture (except for the birch trees) could have been taken on the street my parents live on. The guy who took the picture had gone to the grocery store to get cat food. In -18 C/-0.4 F degree weather. Going outside. To the store.
Now, I’m an inveterate link follower*, so naturally I follow the link to the Wikipedia article on Oulu and learn that it hosts a number of music festivals, including an Irish Festival, and that its two major claims to fame are also (somewhat) musically related: The Air Guitar World Championships and Mieskuoro Huutajat, which is an internationally famous shouting choir. Of men. Shouting. There’s been a film made about them. (This is the trailer for the film. Watch the whole thing. It’s only 1:38 minutes long. Mind blowing.)
The world is a strange and wondrous place.
Crowd-funded Steampunk videos. It was only a matter of time, actually. I was aimed at this by the renowned Coffeem and even if you’re not into Steampunk, this little gem is worth watching anyway for the clockwork lady, who gives a brilliant performance, BTW. The World of Steam is the name of the outfit. The people behind it have ties to the TV and motion picture world, — Buffy, Star Trek, Futurama, to drop but a few names — and the production values are very high. I will be watching the website for future episodes.