Thursday, April 19, 2018

Banff Centre Film Festival

S got us tickets to the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity's Mountain Film Festival (there is also a book festival and photo contest, but they're not much to take on the road). The actual event takes place in Banff in the fall, and a selection of films are taken on the road.  In St. Louis, the festival was a two-night show at the Sheldon.

Note: I've linked to trailers and full films where I can find them.  Some of the films were edited for the Banff traveling show, so the link may not be exactly the same version we saw, but hopefully the feel for the movie is the same.

Day One

Where the Wild Things Play (trailer) (full film):
Loved by All: the Story of Apa Sherpa (trailer):
Johanna (trailer) (full film):
Into Twin Galaxies (trailer) (full film):
DreamRide 2 (trailer) (full film):
2.5 Million (trailer) (full film):
Edges (trailer) (full film):
Stumped (trailer):

Day Two

Surf the Line (trailer) (full film):
Tsirku (trailer) (full film):
Planet Earth II -- Nubian Ibex (partial film):
La Casita Wip (trailer):
Dugout (trailer):
Imagination: Tom Wallish (trailer) (full film):
Above the Sea (trailer):
There was one other movie to close out the night, but I fell asleep!  It was late, I was sick, excuses, excuses!

If you want to see a nearly-complete listing of all the Banff films, they're here.

This was a great way to spend two evenings, and really made me want to go see some of the crazy things in this world!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What I Read -- The Unspeakable

As part of our postal book club rotation, I read The Unspeakable. It's a collection of essays which are supposedly not autobiographical, though they sure seem that way.  Although at the end of it, I still don't have a very good picture of who Meghan Daum is, so maybe they're not autobiographical after all.

One thing they do seem is removed.  Daum has an almost eerie ability to review and explain either her own life or the imaginary life of some made-up character, in words that, though not simple, make so much sense.  They make all the strange emotions she explains seem so obvious and natural.

Taken as a whole, this is a good collection.  Though a lot of the subject matter is tough, it is readable.  I got through it quickly, although I would have been happy to spend more time with it than I did.  I may go back and check out her earlier collection, My Misspent Youth, when I feel the need for some more essays.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

SLSO - Shows #7 and 8

S and I attended our last two symphonies of the season.  The second-to-last was a strange combination of pieces that I still haven't quite sorted out.  Nevertheless, here are my thoughts on them:

First up was the Benjamin Britten piece, Sinfonia da Requim, op. 20.  It was an unusual piece, with military musicality, but lacking the celebratory fanfare of most such pieces.  The history of the piece explains a little bit of the mood; it was composed in 1940, on the eve of America's entry into World War II.  Britten had moved to America the year prior, after accepting a commission from an unknown government to honor "the reigning dynasty of a foreign power."  Only later did he learn that he was celebrating the 2,600th anniversary of the Japanese dynasty.  He had made the piece as anti-war as he felt it was possible for music to be, and it was rejected by the Japanese government (although he was allowed to keep the commission).  (Source for this info: the SLSO program.)

Second we heard Camille Saint-Saëns's Violin Concerto No. 3 in B Minor, op. 61.  It was a complete departure from the first and third pieces, but made for a lovely and melodic interlude.  I enjoy pieces that make use of the less popular instruments, and this one featured the bassoon, flute, and oboe (in addition to the obvious violin soloist). 

The final piece was Ralph Vaughn Williams's Symphony No. 4 in F. Minor.  Like the first piece, it had military overtones, with lots of horn and percussion.  The tempo and of the piece felt even more anti-war than the Britten piece -- so much so that the bass clarinetist had to take apart his instrument and clean it midway through -- although it was apparently never intended to be an anti-war piece at all. 

The final show, and possibly my last experience seeing David Robertson conducting, was a wonderful performance, although unfortunately we were five minutes late due to the crazy traffic as a consequence of the confluence of Hamilton, Circus Flora, and the Symphony all having performances at the same time.  As a consequence, we missed the first short piece, which was Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

The second piece was a stellar piano performance by Simon Trpčeski.  It was the three-movement Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, op. 18, composed by Serge Rachmaninoff.  It was a beautiful performance, capped off with an encore between Trpčeski and my favorite principal cellist, Daniel Lee.

After intermission, the final piece of the season was Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, op. 30.  It builds to an upbeat finale over the course of its three movements.  A lovely way to end the season, although it makes me quite sad that David Robertson will not be with us next year.  He has such an easy personality, that even the most traditional pieces seem accessible when conducted by his capable baton.

Friday, April 13, 2018

How Can That Be?

I recently heard Richard Blumenthal being interviewed on Morning Edition.  The subject was the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica “scandal” (which I put in quotation marks because no one should be surprised about what happened).  Steve Inskeep asked the Senator if the Senate was considering any comprehensive digital privacy regulation.  Blumenthal touted his own proposed measures, and then commented that “Europe is ahead of us on protecting privacy.  How can that be?”

How can that be?

Well, Senator, here’s how: we are not the only first-world country on this planet.  The horror!  It’s true.  We would probably all do well to at least consider the possibility that other countries and governments just might be able to do one or two things better than we do.

Upon realizing that, let us act like successful businessmen for a moment.  Instead of “deny, deny, deny,” we might try to spend a little time figuring out what they’re doing better than we are, and then stealing that idea and putting it to work for us.  We will all be a little bit improved if we do that.

That is all.  Good day, Senator.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

What I Watched -- Pitch Perfect

I have been wanting to see Pitch Perfect for some time, and S indulged me and we watched it a week ago.

This may be a thing you don't know about me, but I love a cappella.  How did I go so many years without seeing this movie?  Another thing I love besides a cappella?  Anna Kendrick.  She's hilarious; I find her Twitter feed particularly amusing.  This movie was pretty much made for me. 

It's a better version of Glee, about collegiate a cappella competition instead of high schoolers.  You can pretty much guess how it goes.

Bottom line: if it's in your wheelhouse, it's excellent.  If not, you will hate it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


S and I headed to Phoenix not too long ago, to pay visits to L&T and E&A.  We had a lovely trip, though the weather was cooler than I would have liked -- I was hoping for a break from this never-ending St. Louis winter.  We, of course, hit Phoenix during a cold spell.  Just my luck!

Our first day we mostly bummed around L&T's house, enjoying not being at work.  S did a lot of handyman type jobs -- hung shelving in the garage, wired up some speakers, that sort of thing.  We did take a mid-day break to head down to the local farmer's market, where I got some delicious cheese curds and there was a pretty good guitarist entertaining the crowd.

The next day we headed out to explore some of the off-roading on the trails north of Phoenix.  We learned the difference between and ATV and a UTV, at least according to the . . . Phoenicians?  Is that what people in Phoenix are called?  Anyway, the difference is apparently that an ATV holds one or two people, while a UTV holds more.  We needed a UTV, because T took the day off work to go cruising with us.

You might think that our Saturday activity was inspired by Friday, but it was really just a happy coincidence.  We took an off-road driving recovery course!  Hopefully we will never need to know how to turn a car back over, but just in case we need to, we are now trained.  We also learned some skills that might be useful, like using a winch and a Hi-Lift jack.  Still things I hope I don't have to do, but more likely (I think...) than having to be turned right-side up.

We capped off that day with a happy hour and dinner.

Sunday was our day with E&A.  We started out with a lovely bike ride to yoga, on the four bikes they have.  I'm not sure A's mountain bike has a name, but the other three are named Peppy, Gladys, and Sammy Davis Junior Junior Junior.  They were enjoyable companions.  Also, this series of canals and bike trails that runs through Phoenix is pretty cool!  After yoga we went to La Grande Orange for some delicious pizza and beer.  We probably didn't need to each get our own pizzas, but we were feeling virtuous and also hungry after yoga and biking, so we did.  And we loved every bite!

After riding home and taking a quick shower, we headed up to see Taliesin West, one of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the Phoenix area, and one of his most famous pieces of construction anywhere in the country.  The tour was a wonderfully entertaining experience, mostly as a consequence of our delightful tour guide.  She drank all the Kool-Aid, and was a total FLW devotee despite her many comments (intended as compliments . . . I think?) about how he was not actually a great architect, he was a bit of a misogynist, etc. It was, nevertheless, a neat place to see, and provided a lovely view of the valley.

After a few afternoon beers back and E&A's house, we headed out for dinner at The Cornish Pasty.  They were out of a lot (it was the day after St. Paddy's Day), but we were all able to find something delicious on the menu.

Monday, with everyone back at work, S and I rented a couple of mountain bikes and headed off to the FINS at Estrella Mountains.  It's a neat series of trails that twist and turn and climb and descend all through a relatively small patch of mountains southwest of Phoenix.  Some of the climbs were too much for me, so I did a bit of walking, but it was a great way to spend a day.

Our last day was another low-key day around L&T's house.  S built a work bench, I figured out how to work the very complicated oven.  Then we headed home and back to work.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What I Watched -- Meru

On our flight to Phoenix, we watched Meru.  It's a documentary about a group of high alpine climbers who set out to climb the Shark's Fin on Mount Meru, in India.

The climbers are Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk.  Conrad and Jimmy were long-time climbing partners, but needed a third to undertake the Shark's Fin.  As you would probably expect, things don't go as expected; I won't say more than that.

For the most part, the film is well made.  I could have done with a little more documentary footage and a little less talking in front of a front backdrop, but that's a minor complaint.  And mostly I make it because so much of the outdoor footage was either (1) stunningly beautiful, or (2) nuts.

Bottom line: check it out.

Friday, April 6, 2018

What I'm Reading Now -- The Stranger in the Woods

Imagine disappearing into the Maine woods and living there for 27 years, nearly undetected.  Such is the odd story of Christopher Knight, as recorded in The Stranger in the Woods.

Known in nearby towns as "the Hermit," Knight lived for nearly three decades, through the winters, by stealing what he needed from summer cottages and a nearby camp.  The book opens with him being arrested during one of his break-ins, and now seems to be backtracking to explore his reclusive life.

Fascinating and entertaining so far!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Goals 2018 -- April Edition

It's supposed to be spring, but it's snowing today.  Not an auspicious beginning to the month.

I have, though, had a couple of lovely weekends at home recently, which have allowed me to do a fair amount of cooking.  Just yesterday, I roasted Brussels sprouts, seared duck breasts with a port-cherry sauce, baked bread, slow-cooked a batch of French onion soup, made spaghetti from scratch, and tried out a new cocktail called the Breakfast of Champions (needed less milk and more bourbon, but those are fixable).

So, how does all this cooking relate to my April goal?  It doesn't.  I was just proud of all the things I made and wanted to tell you about them.

My April goals:
  - Do my mending;
  - Tidy up my craft area;
  - Use the newly-cleaned space to make patterns for the curtains we will need in our camper;
  - Compile a materials list for said curtains.

Yesterday, while I was doing all the aforementioned cooking, S was out in the camper installing the bike tray and the sound deadening panels.  It's nice to see some things happening, and it's time for me to do my part!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Goals 2018 -- March Recap

My March goal was two pronged: (a) ride bike, or (b) read books.  I'm disappointed to let you know that it basically has not stopped raining for the last three weeks of March.  So that's a bummer.

However, S and I managed to get in some good bike rides (and other fitness) anyway!  Our most epic was a 17.6-mile mountain bike ride covering about 2/3 of the Berryman Loop, part of the Ozark Trail.  That was also our first night sleeping in our new camper (which really isn't a camper yet -- but that meant I also got to test out my new sleeping bag!).  It was a cold night, and other than my feet being a little chilly and some ice falling on my face (the product of my exhaled breath condensing on the outside of my sleeping bag and freezing, then falling back down onto me when I moved), it was quite toasty.

We also did the Matson Hill Loop on a lovely, sunny Saturday.  The trailhead for the Matson Hill Loop is at the top of Matson Hill, which means that the first half of the ride is a fun downhill bash over rocks and roots, but the return trip leaves a little something to be desired.

Then we went to Phoenix to visit E/A and L/T.  We did some recreational riding with E/A to and from yoga, which totaled about 16 miles, and we rented mountain bikes and did 8.7 miles in the FINS at the Estrella Mountains.

On top of that, to blow off some steam after a particularly lengthy and frustrating series of admin-BS telephone calls, I went for a 7.8-mile run.  And I am not a runner!  But after nearly 4 miles (when I was finally no longer angry), I then had to turn around and get home again.  So there's that.

In addition to all the great fitness activities, I also met my reading goal!  I finished both The Secret Battle and The Sense of an Ending.  I made some progress on Truman as well, but then the library took it back so I am waiting for my turn again.  I do have the paper book, but since it's not mine, I don't want to carry it around with me and beat it up too badly.  Finally, I am also most of the way through another book I haven't even posted about yet, called The Unspeakable.  More on that to come.

All in all, a successful month!