Sunday, June 29, 2008

the story of trash

If you loved Toy Story and Ratatouille, you'll love WALL-E, too. The folks at Pixar® get better and better. The attention to detail in this one is astounding. It's a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen for the full effect, and probably more than once. The music by Thomas Newman is worth the price of admission. This is the Patient's once-a-year movie.

another brilliant performance

I watched Capote last night. Philip Seymore Hoffman gave, once again, a masterful performance. He was Capote. After watching Charlie Wilson's War a few days ago, I wanted to see Capote again just to spend more time in watching a genius do his work.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

recovering from art, art and more art

What a truly glorious day I had, riding up and down the Capitol Corridor thanks to Amtrak, then traipsing around San Francisco led by my friend Mary Ann, she of Nocommano, my first-in-the-morning daily blog read. But let's slow down here and take the day in tiny, rich bites.

The train service from Sacramento to San Jose is a real treat. It is also increasingly popular; it was full of commuters with laptops, newspapers, books and cell phones. Not to mention students headed for Berkeley with their bikes. I hopped on at 7:15 AM, did the NYT X-word, got a pretty good cup of coffee, and enjoyed the scenery. Tearing up and down I-80 you don't get to see the "back roads" along the way. There were acres of sunflowers holding their lovely heads up to the smoke-obscured sun, bright green fields of something edible for some creature, man or beast. Then down under the bridges, around the Richmond shoreline and into the Emeryville train station. You get off the train, walk through the station and get onto a bus that takes you across the Bay Bridge and deposits you at one of 7 possible stops. I got off at the Moscone Center, walked around the block and arrived in front of the SFMOMA at 9:45. I had finished the puzzle, had my coffee, enjoyed the scenery, and didn't have to drive or park. And 5 minutes later, there was Mary Ann, looking exactly as I remember her (it's been probably 20 years) except for the long red fingernails. We worked together lo those many years ago as copywriters for the long-gone Capwell's. Despite the years, it took all of 10 minutes to get caught up (have our lives been that uninteresting? No, it was just so easy and familiar.). After coffee it was up to see the Frida Kahlo show. The part I liked best were the old photos of Frida and her parents and sibs, and with hubby Diego Rivera. You can see her transformation from a beautiful but restrained young woman into a flamboyant member of the artistic and political avant garde in both Mexico and California. Her painting is interesting, but self-indulgent to the point where you ask whether she ever did anything except look in the mirror and paint what she saw. Although I would agree she is an artist in her own right, her partnership with Diego must have opened many doors to her. To her credit, however, she walked through them and made the most of it.

Next stop was the Cafe de la Presse for lunch. More catching up. Good lunch. Sat on the sidewalk. Almost Paris. Almost.

Then it was out to the De Young and the Dale Chihuly exhibit. If you can possibly arrange it, see this show. It is so astonishing what this man can do with glass. And when you do see it, you still can't believe it. It does what art should do; amaze the senses, confound our understanding, as in "How does he/she do that?" And give enormous pleasure to the eye. Here are a few pieces.

This green flower was one in a whole garden, in many different colors. This piece measures about 3 feet across with a wavy edge. The curating of the show must have been a nightmare. Each of these pieces is so delicate and fragile and worth a fortune.

There were two regular-sized row boats filled with glass pieces; this one has hundreds of glass balls of different sizes, colors and patterns. The work was inspired by the glass floaters used by Japanese fishermen up in the Puget Sound area to float their nets. There is another boat too, filled with a variety of shapes, sizes and colors of glass objects, but the pictures of it didn't come out well.

This resembles a fantastic garden of plants whose genetics just said, "To hell with it, let's have fun."

This thing looks alive. It's tendrils seem to wiggle and swirl as you walk around it. It is the last piece in the show and its bright colors and organic design make you stop and stare. Here's where the "How does he do that?" hits home.

Aside from the sheer beauty and mystery of the show, it is so well designed and laid out. Much of the work is displayed on black glass that mirrors what's on it. It appears to be floating on a dark sea. Very dramatic. There is also an eye-popping glass ceiling; we never did figure out how they put it together. The colors are so deep and rich and clear.

When we recovered from that experience we took the elevator up into the new tower. Spectacular 360º views of San Francisco. Across from the museum is the new Aquarium and Science museum, set to open in September.

By now it was time to head down to the Ferry Building so I could catch my east-bound train. Right on time the bus arrived, got to Emeryville without slowing down, the train pulled into the station only a bit late. I was home by 6 PM. Exhausted. But so happy at having had such a full, satisfying day. It's so easy. I should do it more often. And I will. There is still the women Impressionists at the Legion.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

art, art and more art

Tomorrow morning I get on the train to San Francisco to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the Frida Kahlo show. I have seen much of her work while in Mexico, but it is frequently displayed along with Diego Rivera's and, frankly, she is overwhelmed by his paintings. So it will be nice to see her in a stand-alone show.

After lunch at what I know will be a great place it will be off to the De Young Museum for the Dale Chihuly show. I am meeting my very old friend (the friendship is old; we, on the other hand, are still deliciously young) whom I have not seen in many years. We got in touch again through our mutual blogs.

I will report here on the events of the day. I am very much looking forward to both the joy of the art and the delight of renewing a precious friendship.

Monday, June 23, 2008

the $50 drink

I has been about 6 weeks since I had to fill up the trusty Toyota Camray wagon. I decided that since the red light had been on for several days, today was the day to give the old girl a nice long drink. Running on fumes, I rolled into the CostCo gas station and 11.38 gallons later $50.67 was sucked out of my bank account. What's going on here? It's time to head back to Mexico where gas is $2.56 a gallon. Somebody's got to get this under control. Whom do you think that should be?

Picked up this movie at the library yesterday (free). Got through the first disk without any problem. Lots of action, lots of clever dialogue (Judi Dench, esp., as M). Then a brief pause while I went out to a lovely dinner with two friends. Back home for Disc 2. It won't play. I tried it on both the DVD player and the computer. Arrgghh! Now I have to go to the video store and find it. Can't wait for the Flix®. Gotta know what happens.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

mange* among the vines

A lovely day in St. Helena yesterday. It was very, very hot ~ 100º+. First stop, as always, at the Napa Valley Oil Company for a big jug of olive oil.

This funky little store is located at the end of Charter Oak Street. It is chock-full of Italian goodies like dried salami, tinned and bottled delicacies, about 50 different dried pastas, all sorts of herbs, cheeses and, of course, three different grades of olive oil. It's all found in this old frame building with wooden floors and an air redolent of years of housing good things to eat.

Then it was on to Tra Vigne. The first time I went there was probably 15+ years ago, when it was among the first of its kind in the Valley, but soon to be followed by many imitators. Olive oil in a dish on the table into which you sop bread? Who would have thought. Ravioli stuffed with goat cheese? What a brilliant idea. A big open kitchen where you can see what's cooking? Great theater. So there we were, amidst the bustle of a weekend lunch, tossing back luscious wine and carefully prepared food. I opted for a lamb dish with pasta and arugula with a sprinkling of peccorino cheese on top. (It was such a generous serving that I brought the remains home for the Patient's dinner. I'm always looking for ways to enlarge his waistline!) Others ordered the above-mentioned ravioli stuffed with goat cheese, a beautiful shrimp salad with romaine instead of the dandelion greens as advertised (2 orders). Iced espresso for dessert. I was hoping we could eat in the garden but, as you can see, it was not set up because of the heat.

I got back home about 5 and it was still mighty hot here. I paid a "sick room" call on my neighbor who has just had knee replacement surgery and is doing nicely, thanks. Quick, cool dinner of salmon salad for me, then into the pool for an evening cool-off. The sky darkened to the most beautiful shade of deep blue velvet, the stars came out, and I marveled ~ yet again ~ on my great good fortune.
*I just realized when reading the headline that it sounds like a disease (mange) instead of the Italian word for Eat! (man-jay). But you probably figured that out already.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

almost Arles

Here in the valley we are blessed with rich, fertile soil (except in my garden!). Along with the Imperial Valley we produce much of the fruits and vegetables for California and beyond. I wasn't here to see the fruit blossoms in the Capay Valley and along I-80 west, but I did catch sight of these sunflower fields just north of our town. A splendid vision.

Here, for your edification, some 5-second movie reviews of what I have seen during the last week. Charlie Wilson's War: Philip Seymore Hoffman is brilliant. Otherwise, just OK. I think Tom Hanks was badly mis-cast. Dogville: V. avant garde. Nicole Kidman is excellent but it's w-a-y too long. The Pursuit of Happyness: keep the Kleenex® handy. Out of the Past: old (1947) film noir that made Robert Mitchum a BIG star.

The days have been hot here; it was 100º yesterday and will be the same today. Good pool weather, but so enervating all I want to do is nap and read. I did manage to pull myself together for a lovely out-to-dinner with Babz. We ate locally, sat outside in the warm night, ordered big salads and got all caught up.

Today I'm off to a lunch party at Tra Vigne in St. Helena. My most favorite eatery in the valley. I'll report in later with, I hope, photos.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

don't watch this movie

The Patient brought this movie home because of the title ~ we loved the Gaudi stuff in Barcelona. But it is a total waste of time. Too much story, no plot, not enough architecture. Judy Davis, whom I have loved in all sorts of roles, esp. as George Sand in "Impromptu" with Hugh Grant as Chopin (!), seems to be trying to figure out what she's doing here. And to think I have "Charlie Wilson's War" available for my viewing pleasure instead!

Friday, June 13, 2008

he was just a boy . . .

I am a huge fan of Tim Russert. He was one of those talking heads who actually had something IN his head. He did his homework, treated his guests with infinite patience, respect and humor. I didn't always agree, but I was never disappointed. Only 58. A mere lad.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

the delight of Juno

Another date at the movies last night, this time the quirky Juno, Diablo Cody's sweet, funny, and smart little masterpiece. I especially liked J. K. Simmons who played Mac McGuff, Juno's father. A wise, witty and loving portrait.

More wind and high heat for us in the valley. Fire weather.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

pumping arnold

Last night we watched Pumping Iron, the movie about our dear gov's competition for yet another Mr. Universe title (he retired from the business after this tournament). It was filmed in 1977 and shows Arnold in all his swaggering, mischievous, egotistical glory. There's even a shot of him smoking a big, fat joint to celebrate his win. However, to watch him charm, strategize and intimidate his opponents - including the "incredible" Lou Ferrigno - is to understand how this seemingly boyish Austrian body builder became somebody (no pun intended).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

the luxury of sloth

I have accomplished almost nothing since I returned from the great reunion weekend on Tuesday. Total exhaustion has taken over. I have managed to do a little laundry, visit my doc (A+), watch the rest of the Masterpiece Theatre presentation of The Pallisers (thank God that's over), and read a few pages in various books/magazines before falling asleep. As Satchel Paige is reputed to have said, "The social ramble ain't restful." Indeed. It has taken me a week to recover. Early to bed, late to rise, expending as little energy as I can or have. But it was worth every calorie spent. And to think I was hesitant about going; having been away for 7 months I just didn't want to leave home again. The entire weekend was one long, joyous party, much of it held in my hotel room.

I had two great walks along the La Jolla shore. On Sunday I walked along the cliffs to The Cave. First you go into the Cave Store, buy a ticket, and take a long, rickety stairway down the interior walls of the cave down to a platform just inside its opening to the swirling sea. This little expedition was strictly forbidden to us innocent schoolgirls, which made it, of course, all the more enticing.

We walked up along the cliffs and got a spectacular view of the La Jolla shoreline all the way north to the UCSD campus. Then up to the main street past the v. expensive shops lining both sides to the La Valencia. We stopped in to have a look around; that lovely doyenne of gracious hospitality hasn't changed in 50 years.

The furnishings are as luxe as ever, huge vases of fresh flowers, thick Oriental rugs on the polished tile floors, to-die-for views (and prices). I remember having lunch with my parents and sister in the dining room after graduation.

The last hurrah of the weekend was a yummy brunch at the lovely home of one of my classmates. Not only is the interior filled with delightful things to look at ~ including these two beauties ~ but her garden has been lovingly transformed into a green and white retreat complete with this sensational wall fountain. I believe she found it in Italy many years ago and had it shipped home. The reunion-saturated guests feasted on delicious food, drank Bloody Marys and Mimosas, snapped 1,000 more pictures, and made plans for the next get-together, probably NOT in 50 more years. In fact, we have decided to make the next gathering in Dallas in October 2009. Make your reservations now!

My other excuse for exhaustion is probably Primary Fatigue. I am sick of all the political wrangling. I'm taking a hiatus from all of it until I get over my candidate's loss. I'll revive eventually, but just not yet. I don't write about politics here but Clinton's loss was a huge disappointment. As I say, I'll get over it and she will, too. I do not find Obama ~ who seems to be running for American Idol instead of president ~ a credible candidate. However, the options are limited and the alternative is even scarier. I was hoping this year to be able to vote for someone instead of against someone else.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

do you know about Pandora?

There is a nifty web site, that plays any type of music you want through your computer. You open the main page, make a list of all your favorite music/artists, click Listen Now and you can have music for hours. I tried it during one of the impromptu cocktail parties in my tiny hotel room last weekend. The place was filled with a mix of Paul McCartny (just for old time's sake), Pavarotti (to bring a little kultcha to the gathering), Norah Jones, and more. Try it!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

only 40 years ago

It was 40 years ago tonight when Bobby Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It was a moment of stunned disbelief. With his death my generation lost the last member of it's triumvirate of political hope.

I remember this too.