Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d begin by saying that it’s been rainier than usual here, but I don’t mind much. It’s also been rather cool and as I’m not one for sunbathing, it’s fine. You don’t need bulky layers to go out and about so I’m happy.

Saturday I went on a walking tour with a friend around Chicago’s Streeterville. Streeterville has an interesting origin. In the 1880s riverboat pilot Captain George Streeter ran aground in Lake Michigan. He left the boat there and soon the sandbar grew and grew. He declared this land a separate country called the District of Michigan. Squatters and ne’er-do-wells moved in, much to the displeasure of the elites. Legal battles lasted up until 1908.

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Our tour through the Driehaus Museum not only introduced us to the colorful Cap’n Streeter and his wife Ma, but took us around much of this district that in the 19th century was desolate and now is home to a thriving commercial and residential area. We saw significant buildings, some huge like the American Furniture Mart that I never noticed before. We also learned of some hidden gems that are open to the public and make wonderful quite spots to view the lake or skyline. Sorry, I’m not printing those addresses.

We were so lucky in terms of the rain on Saturday. It poured before and after our tour, but nothing during it. Also we lucked into street parking in a very popular shopping area.

Yesterday my brothers and their families that are in the area came for a Fathers’ Day barbecue, which was fun.

I started and gave up on the book Southern Lady Code. It was too snarky for me. The author seemed to need a Copernican Revelation. I expected some warm-hearted jabs at Southern culture like Jeanne Robertson is so good at, but the author seemed embarrassed of her Southern past and clueless about how her demands of her husband and family were quite selfish. She just seemed clueless and after a few chapters, I figured enough is enough. There are plenty of good books on my reading list.

For today’s book club, we read and discussed Antigone. It’s a solid play that illustrates Aristotle’s principles of tragedy well, but despite its strengths, I wasn’t as enthralled as some. The state and family life have changed so much that I didn’t think it was relevant. Others loved it and said it’s one of their favorites of all time. Different strokes.

I watched a very challenging, very long (3 hours 25 minutes) Russian film called Andrei Rublev. If you’re up for a challenge, go for it. I’d say the story’s more confusing than The Human Condition, another marathon film, but there’s some beautiful parts and it did make me think differently about filmmaking. I’ll be watching shorter, more fluffy films for the next couple of weeks.

 

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Andrei Rublev

At 3 hours 25 minutes long, Andrei Tarkovsky’s (The Passion of) Andrei Rublev is a challenging movie with a narrative structure that’s as far from a Hollywood film as can be. I don’t think I’d say I liked the film, but I will say it impressed me and challenged me. I found it powerful and challenging.

Divided into eight parts, Andrei Rublev sheds light, rather than chronicles as biopics usually do, on the foremost Medieval Russian icon painter. First we see a prologue when a 15th century Russian peasant struggles to fly in a hot air balloon. He’s a true explorer, a risk taker, a visionary. Yet his experiment takes strength and sweat to get off the ground. A mob of peasants curses this endeavor and tries to thwart it by fighting with the ballooner’s assistants who’re steadying the ropes holding the balloon and then trying to blind an assistant by assaulting him with a firebrand into “his mug.” (Thankfully, that took place off camera.)

Yet where was Rublev? Not in the prologue. In fact there are long sequences when we don’t see the painter/monk much or even at all. Tarkovsky preferred poetry and themes to plot points and explication. That’s what makes him interesting and also hard to follow. I’m used to directors who spell things out so at the beginning I was especially unmoored.

Rublev lived in a tough time. His times had Tatar and Slavic marauders were a threat. Poverty and famine were too. On top of this, the pensive Rublev was plagued with big theological questions and the question of pure art. Nothing was easy. His fellow monks and disciples/apprentices questioned him and rebelled. His mentor challenged his motives and ideas. The Tsar would have your head if the commission wasn’t done. Nothing was easy.

The film is a marathon and I admit I watched this 3 hour 25 minute film in chunks over a course of days. It drained me, but that was okay as the masterful cinematography and this look at a time in history was fresh for me. While Andrei Rublev doesn’t purport to be a biography or historical film, since much of the story is fiction, it did rid me of any stereotypes. For example there’s a peasant girl who is rescued by Rublev, but when she meets the marauding Tatars and one of them want to take her to be wife #7 or 8, this simple Russian girl is willing to up and leave with the tribe that teases her. Rublev tries to save her, but she won’t have it. No, she wants to go off with the Tatars who treat her like a toy. Huh. You just wouldn’t see that in most films.

The film ends with a sequence of scenes where a boy*, whose homeland is a wasteland and whose family — parents, sister, uncles, aunts, etc — have died from the plague, convinces the monks that his father passed on the secret to bell making. He can cast the church bell the Grand Prince wants. It’s a testament to filmmaking that I found the mission of casting a bell so fascinating. It helped that the mission was a life or death endeavor. The prince made it clear that if the bell didn’t ring, the boy would be beheaded.

*The boy in this sequence was played by the same actor who starred in Ivan’s Childhood.

If you’re up for a big challenge, do watch Andrei Rublev. Know that you’re in for a beautiful film, but it’s long and somewhat confusing. If you aren’t, well this week I’m taking it easy with an old W.C. Fields film and that might be the way you’d like to go.

By the way,

  • You can find a detailed description of the plot on Wikipedia;
  • I found the commentary after I saw the film and wished I had watched with that turned on;
  • The film, as you might imagine, was banned in Russia for a number of years. It was shown in France and had to be shown outside the Cannes Competition at 4am.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d say it was a quiet week with some interesting discoveries. I discovered a masterful filmmaker from Russia, Andrei Tarkovsky, who’s Ivan’s Childhood was challenging, but forceful and well worth watching if you’re up for some intensity. I’m also discovering Eudora Welty’s writing by reading The Age of Innocence. It’s the first novel I’ve read by her. I’m also using Creative Bug via my library to gain craft skills. So far I’ve viewed short videos on sewing, cleaning sewing machines, and embroidery. Creative Bug’s quality is top notch.

A few weeks ago I attended a class on photography for eCommerce. I used the light box at my town’s library to take some higher quality photos of a few things I’d like to sell. Lighting makes a huge difference. I’ve seen more views, but we’ll see if I make more from the better photos. It can’t hurt.

I sent out a query about my play to a local theater. My fingers are crossed that they ask to see the whole play.

My colleague’s funeral was Tuesday and it was a beautiful ceremony. The family had a lot of support from friends and family as the church was full and many had to stand in the back and along the sides. I pray that the support continues as the family’s grief will no doubt be long lasting. I was impressed by the eulogy the oldest daughter, who’s about 22 gave. While she did break down a few times, she gave an eloquent speech at a time when she’s coping with tragedy.

I learned a lot about D-Day due to the 75th Anniversary of this event. I knew a little about it, but my knowledge was greatly deepened to see the speeches and interviews that honored the brave.

 

 

Ivan’s Childhood

I hadn’t heard of director Andrei Tarkovsky before. Nor had I ever heard of actor Nikolay Burlyaev. I haven’t seen many Russian films and I wasn’t particularly looking for a difficult film but something about Tarkovsky’s WWII film Ivan’s Childhood (1962) grabbed me though it took a while.

Around 12 years old, Ivan dreams of his idyllic childhood playing at the beach, chatting with his young mother, running freely. Then he wakes up. He’s in a dark, war-torn, God-forsaken landscape. He trudges through a murky river (which looks like a marsh, but it’s a degenerated river and a symbol the effects of war) before he’s captured by Russian soldiers. Back at the soldiers’ post, Ivan is fierce and orders the soldiers about. He orders the soldiers to call “Number 51 at HQ.” They try to put him in his place, but you’ve never seen a fiercer 12 year old. Played by Nikolay Burlyaev, Ivan is like no character you’ve ever seen. In the dream sequences he’s pure and innocence; once he’s orphaned and becomes an army scout Ivan’s transformed to a force of nature on par with a hurricane.

Ivan prevails in convincing his comrades in arms that he should continue his reconnaissance work and not get shipped off to the much safer military school. Viewing the film, I knew that the soldiers should not have agreed, but that’s where the suspense comes in.

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Tarkovsky gives us amazing images like none I’ve ever seen. He believed in using the environment like the murky river, a bombed peasant farm house and a white birch forest speak volumes. I’ll never forget the dream sequence when Ivan and a little girl are riding in a pick up truck filled with apples. The sky and trees are shown in the negative, which was mind-blowing.

There’s a lot of intense emotion. One example is a scene with an officer flirting with a female junior officer who’s very tentative. He wants her; it’s not clear what she wants. Without graphic nudity or direct language Tarkovsky gives us a powerful scene of cat and mouse in the birch forest that goes on forever.

The Criterion Collection DVD comes with fascinating extras including an interview with the now grown (i.e. middle aged) Nickolay Burlyaev, who recalls how hard Tarkovsky made him work to get the part and then how kind and sensitive the director was during the filming of this emotionally intense story.

I found the film challenging to watch. It’s no day at the beach, which is fitting for a war film. Yet Ivan’s Childhood is well worth watching.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I finished revising my play. Now I’ve got to market it more. I did send an email to a theater in Chicago where I have submitted the summary and other requested information last July. They say they need 6 months to consider whether they want to read the whole thing and I just wanted to cordially remind them in a that it’s been over 6 months. I also want to send this revised version to the theater that already asked for the full play. This version has fewer characters which makes a play more cost effective.

I volunteered as an Election Judge for last Tuesday’s Consolidated Election, i.e. the election for local jobs like village trustee. We had to help with the Monday evening set up, finish the set up on Tuesday at 5 a.m., manage the polling place and shut down. I was up at 3:45 a.m. and got home after 9. The team was great, very cooperative and friendly so that during our many lulls we could chat easily. We only had 53 voters all day (from 6 a.to 7 p.m.). There were just 19 early voters in our precinct of 703 registered voters. What a pity.

That long, long Tuesday threw my week off. Wednesday I slept late and had little energy. Still it’s a bit of extra money and it’s rewarding to help. The county has a hard time finding people to work the election.

One of my co-election judges works at a big garden center. I was interested to learn that they sell a special soil for marijuana. In Illinois, they’re considering legalizing pot, but now it’s just legal for medical usage. So it’s funny that this garden store, which caters to consumers sells this special soil.

My aunt had knee replacement surgery on Monday and I did visit her on Wednesday just before she was released. She was heading home, which is tough with the stairs at her house. A lot of people go to a rehab center for a few weeks. She’ll have in home therapy and nursing. I hope the therapy comes daily.

I’ve started watching the film Blow Up, but the main character’s so blasé and jaded that it’s hard to stay interested.

How was your week? Share highlights or links to your blog post below.

 

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I have gotten about 40% of the editing done on my play and I sent an email to the theater that I submitted the summary to in July. You’re supposed to hear if they want to read more within 6 months and there’s been no word. I should also see if there’s a contest for plays coming up.

I had coffee with a friend who just returned from visiting her sister in Arizona for 5 weeks. Her plan was t substitute teach there for a month. It was good to be with her sister, but the subbing was mostly one day gigs and she much prefers longer term assignments. We caught up on family and friends’ activities.

This Jussie Smollett situation really blew me away. I can’t believe the case was dropped and as a long time Chicago area native and Chicago history buff, I’ll say that there’s something fishy afoot and I hope that comes out. Kim Foxx has little courtroom experience and yet is managing those that do. She’s never tried a felony case, but got to be in charge of that system. It’s all connections. Now I regret agreeing to go take care of someone’s dog at noon, because I’d like to have gone down to the protest against these shenanigans. I’m not saying Smollett should go to jail, but he should either plead guilty or have presented his side while the State presents theirs and a judge or jury decides. What we have here is special, secretive treatment.

We’re in a cold snap. A lot of people are tired of winter. I’m not exactly. A couple years ago I realized that contrary to what I was told in kindergarten in these parts the seasons aren’t divided into quarters. Our spring is rather short. It sure doesn’t start in March, and often it doesn’t warm up till mid-April. So I don’t start wearing my spring jacket till the temperature’s get to the 60°s. I know I’ll get sick if I start going out underdressed. I’d rather peel off some layers than be too cold.

I started planning for next month’s book displays. A colleague invited me to help out with them. So I’ve picked a couple themes and am checking on which books fit the theme. My first idea was Microhistories, i.e. the history of just one thing, and I found we own a lot. We’ve got micro histories on salt, the number zero, color, bananas, Genghis Khan and many more. Now I’m searching for titles of books and films about rivalry. I’ve gotten (pairs of) books on Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox, Matisse and Picasso, the film Amadeus. I’m looking for more rivals. Can you think of any? Fiction or non-fiction works.

I found Lucky Partners entertaining and fun. I saw Unplanned and that was hard to take. It’s not a pretty subject and it was a true story, but I didn’t need so much blood to get the point. I’m half way through Harold Lloyd’s talkie Cat’s Paw and while parts are outdated, it’s a delight.

How was your week? Can you think of any rivalries?

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that the more I read Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale, the more I love his writing. Bennett is a 19th century novelist that I’ve never heard of, yet he should definitely be on par with say Elizabeth Gaskell. This is the story of two sisters who grow up in the same small town. Each one’s life is full of challenges, though Constance takes the familiar route of staying in her town, marrying and raising her son, while her wilder sister elopes and runs off to Paris with a cad. I’ll definitely look for more of Bennett’s books.

I was sorry, but not surprised that the Hanoi Summit between the US and North Korea did not result in a deal. I do hope that in a few years these efforts bear fruit. My heart goes out to the people who live under the DPRK regime.

My good friend Kristi is in town from France, where she lives with her husband and son. She and Max, her son, are here during his spring break to help with her step dad who’s in the hospital. I saw them on Wednesday when I picked them up at the airport and hope to have time for a good long chat this week.

We’ve had cold and ugly weather this week. We’ve got some sunshine, but often gray skies and a lot of the snow’s melted so it’s patches of snow, often dirty, mixed with patches of brown and greenish grass. I’d be fine with a few more inches of snow. It’s really too early for spring in these parts.

I’m sad that the Masterpiece/BBC Victoria series has concluded for the season. I long for the times when such a series would have more episodes. PBS doesn’t have much on the docket for Sunday nights in March.

Work on my play is proceeding slowly. I lost the latest revision. Somehow it got deleted. I do have a PDF version so I’m using that to recreate this latest draft. The loss could be worse, but it’s a pain to go back like I’m playing Chutes and Ladders.

I had high hopes for the film Shoplifters, but the ending left a lot to be desired and the characters’ lives were quite depressing. A lot of their troubles could have been avoided.