dual personalities

Month: January, 2020

Today is beautiful

Thinking positive!

I don’t know about you, but we have hardly seen the sun in January here in flyover country. They are saying it may come out on Sunday…That would be nice. It will be February!

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I guess the Super Bowl is coming up, and I guess I’ll root for the Chiefs since they are a Missouri team.

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The boy thinks that is sacrilegious or something. But he has still not gotten over the Rams moving to L.A. I probably won’t watch either.

It was Crazy Hair day at the wee babes’ school…

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The wee laddie wins I think.

Yesterday at work we had cake to celebrate the end of my cancer treatments!

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Wasn’t that  nice?

Do you have plans for the weekend? I am going on a retreat with the vestry at my church. I am the newest member since I was elected at the annual meeting last Sunday.

I know. I said I would never again after I went off the vestry 11 years ago. But never say never. It’ll be fine.

I thought this was good. I like Chris Stapleton, don’t you?

And, oh…

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Thursday meme

Have you come across the #dollypartonchallenge? As we’ve discussed before, Dolly Parton is very cool right now, and her Instagram presence in particular is thriving. After she posted a version of the below (representing herself), celebrities followed suit in droves.

DN sent me the T. S. Eliot version this morning. “Is there is anything more blog-appropriate than Dolly Parton x T. S. Eliot content?” he asked. Hmm, not really. So there you have it — a slice of meme culture for your Thursday morning!

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“How about another bottle around? Jolly good idea.”

Well, I had plans to write a blog post about how I don’t understand the amount of alcohol consumed by characters in books and movies, but I couldn’t find the quotes I wanted. I’m reading The Sun Also Rises, so booze consumption is on the mind. I mean, I had two glasses of wine at a party ten years ago and I’m still described as so fun. We all know that is latin for lush.

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Pardon my french. 

That screengrab is making me laugh too hard. But I digress.

Jake Barnes aside, I’m also thinking about Jane and Dagobert in Delano Ames mysteries. And Nick and Nora in The Thin Man. I do not understand how these characters function, let alone function the next day. I mean just watching this montage makes me want a drink and gives me a headache. Regardless, Nick and Nora are the ultimate in style and over-drinking. They make me wish I drank martinis.

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I’ll have to remember this trick at work.

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And speaking of over-drinking, on Monday, I coerced my co-workers into crashing the photo op in the Governor’s Office with the Stanley Cup. It turned out our invitation had been lost in the mail. I was impressed because they said the trophy visited Springfield (I’m assuming at the Bass Prop Shop) and 6,000 people came. That’s a lot of non-St. Louisans!

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I think it is so nice when everyone in the picture is looking at a different camera.

Of course, I shudder to think of the inelegant drinking associated with that 37 pound trophy.

 

*The Sun Also Rises

“Go not to the Elves for counsel”*

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A good name is better than precious ointment;
and the day of death, than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting;
    for this is the end of all men,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning;
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.
Surely oppression makes the wise man foolish,
and a bribe corrupts the mind.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning;
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not quick to anger,
for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money;
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God;
who can make straight what he has made crooked?

(Ecclesiastes 7: 1-13)

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“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

“Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.” –Bob Dylan

“Mark it, nuncle.
Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest,
Set less than thou throwest,
Leave thy drink and thy whore
And keep in-a-door,
And thou shalt have more
Than two tens to a score.”
― William Shakespeare, The Fool in King Lear (Act 1, scene 4)

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Be prepared.

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*J.R.R. Tolkien

Keeping it simple

Boy did I need a weekend. Even though last week was a short work week, it did me in. I spent all of Thursday in staff retreat workshops, and on Friday had to fix an HR fiasco that involved hours on the phone and lots of hand wringing. In the past, it would have been a real recipe for “let’s get margaritas immediately,” but these days I am just taking a lot of restorative hot baths.

We are still chipping away at getting the guest room in order. I made a lot of progress organizing the closet and my desk, though I also managed to drop something on a pile of frames and make a huge mess of broken glass. You win some, you lose some…

60167892697__C16DD2D9-D433-416D-87B0-626F0C21DB45… and then you try on glasses! I went into DC to hang out with a friend who lives around the corner from the Warby Parker store. My optometrist told me I was overdue for a new pair and I don’t disagree. I ended up with a pair suspiciously similar to my father’s. (Not the overly-large ones above.) My father also gave me the “blanket coat” I’m wearing — clearly I was channeling the OM.

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DC rooftop sunset

Going into DC is not my favorite — I’m really much happier in my little neighborhood. Cue a Sunday of sleeping in, perusing the farmer’s market, taking a walk, and cleaning up a bit. I’m OK with a quiet life!

Stairway to heaven?

As you know, I like to look at houses — houses for sale in obscure places; historic homes to visit, and photos of houses that, for better or worse, their owners proudly display on the Internet for the world to see. For some reason, staircases have been catching my eye lately and I’ve been struck by how wildly they vary. There are the over-the-top palatial monstrosities designed to signal wealth and power.

This is absurdly ornate and not at all aesthetically pleasing, especially with that color scheme.

I can’t help thinking that these are less likely to inspire admiration than the rebellion of the proletariat!

Castel Peles, a 19th century Romanian conceit.

Call me bourgeoise, but I much prefer the clean, restrained lines of Georgian and Federal architecture.

This is the Silas Deane house in Westerfield, CT. To be honest, I had a hard time finding a photo that I liked well enough to use. This house needs some better wall art and an oriental rug, and I’d have preferred blue paint, but the point is that the stairs are as utilitarian as they are beautiful. The style is tastefully reserved — just what we need in this era of wild abandon!

Stairs also make me think of Shirley Temple,

and Christopher Robin.

A. A. Milne understood how attractive stairs are to children. I would have included his wonderful poem Halfway Down but I could not get it to format correctly, so a link will have to do.

Of course, a staircase can also be dark and mysterious,

Dorothy McGuire in The Spiral Staircase (1946)

and very, very dramatic. Think of the baby carriage plunging down the monumental stairs in Odessa in the famous massacre scene in The Battleship Potemkin (1925),

or the climax of Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Clearly, staircases do more than help us  move from one floor to another; they reflect our values and often project how we want others to see us, though admittedly we can’t always choose our staircase style. In my home the staircase is enclosed and has a door at the bottom. I now realize that although the arrangement would not have been my first choice, it suits my intensely introverted family perfectly. What does your staircase say about you?

 

Is it Friday yet?

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And the robin flew

Into the air, the air,

The white mist through;

And small and rare

The night-frost fell

Into the calm and misty dell.

 

And the dusk gathered low,

And the silver moon and stars

On the frozen snow

Drew taper bars,

Kindled winking fires In the hooded briers.

 

And the sprawling Bear

Growled deep in the sky;

And Orion’s hair

Streamed sparkling by:

But the North sighed low,

“Snow, snow, more snow!”              –Walter de la Mare

Do you have plans for the weekend? We are going to the annual Elegant Italian Dinner at our church, which, you will recall, is the fundraiser for the youth mission trip. Big Doings. The boy and daughter # 3 are going with us. The wee babes will be in the nursery. If the weather cooperates, daughter #1 will drive in from mid-MO and join us. Since it is an Episcopal church, there will be a cash bar. Good times predicted and one of my first social “outings” in a long time.

In other news, Lottiebelle has continued to build towers…

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“The biggest in the world!” with a little help from Daddy

…and the wee laddie continues to improve his driving skills…

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And here’s some news you can use:

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Plus, I thought that this was real good.

Have a good weekend!

The intimate poetry of everyday life

I mentioned that this past weekend we saw an exhibit at The Phillips Collection, “Bonnard to Vuillard: The Intimate Poetry of Everyday Life.” The Phillips Collection has always been a favorite museum of mine — appealingly small, it makes for a manageable outing, and its collection is largely made up of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century works. Since our university partnered with the museum, we even get free admission!

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A selfie from a couple years ago — probably our last visit

Pierre Bonnard is one of my favorite artists and someone I discovered at the Phillips. My favorite painting,


“The Open Window” (1921), shows you what I like about Bonnard: his colors, domestic scenes, generally relaxing subjects, and windows. Nearly all of his paintings have them!

I always figured it was kind of unsophisticated of me to favor the Impressionists (with whom I had always lumped Bonnard), since what I like above all are paintings that are, basically, pretty. One thing I learned at this new exhibit is that Bonnard wasn’t technically an Impressionist, he was part of a group called the “Nabis,” who came after Impressionism.

In late fall of 1888 in Paris, a group of young, like-minded art students banded together after seeing a small abstract landscape by Paul Sérusier that he had made under the guidance of Paul Gauguin. Serusier’s boldly-colored composition, built up from broad patches of greens, yellows, blues, and reds arranged decoratively on the flat surface of a cigar box lid, marked a radical break from the naturalistic palette and broken brushwork of the Impressionists.

By the time of their first exhibition in 1891, the group had assumed the moniker “The Nabis,” a transliteration of the Hebrew navi meaning “prophet.” Their visionary approach asserted the primacy of form and color as abstract equivalents of human feeling. The Nabis’ emphasis on an artistic language of suggestion was in sympathy with the ideals of Symbolist writers, poets, and musicians, with whom the Nabis closely collaborated.

(from the exhibit description linked above)

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Lots of kitchen tables…

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and doorways…

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and mother-child pairs…

Among the paintings by Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, Bonnard and others, there were plenty of wonderfully colorful domestic scenes and natural landscapes. But in addition to something like this…

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…we also saw some more abstract works, like this:

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Large-scale faces! Ink pen mixed with oils!

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A 4-color lithograph

I hadn’t ever seen Bonnard’s work in other mediums. Over time, the Nabis took on more urban subjects and ventured to street scenes as they also experimented with new formats like the lithograph. The placard for the above piece by Bonnard quotes him explaining that the limitations of printmaking, particularly limitations in color, taught him more about palette than paint — contrast becomes more important when working with fewer colors.

I was happy that this exhibit taught me something new about one of my favorite artists. The placard I just mentioned is a good example of another of The Phillips Collection’s strengths: exhibits like this tend to be well curated. Informative without being too much or too condescending. Taking the time to read the material throughout the exhibit means navigating the other visitors who often have no regard for personal space, but it’s generally worth it.

Museum shops are a different story though, huh? They rarely stock postcards of the paintings I liked best. I almost purchased a set of Bonnard notecards, until I realized the selection only included two paintings, and they weren’t ones that I like! I did, however, appreciate the inscription inside the box:

Pierre Bonnard painted what he found enjoyable–the comforts of the middle class, the intimacy of the kitchen, pets, children, pretty women, flowering fruit trees, bountiful tables, luxuriant gardens–and his art evokes pure happiness with its vibrant colors.”

What a guy.

“Early Spring” (1905)

“The wind blows where it wills…”

Instagram reminds me that six years ago, I walked home from work in the snow. Now, that particular image was not from the night that all of New York City was under a curfew (they shut the subway down at like 8p) because of an impending “snowpacalypse” and ABC booked hotel rooms for everyone who didn’t live within walking distance of the office. Of course, the logistics desk didn’t plan how to transport people from the office to the Times Square hotels after midnight, so the show anchor forced the shuttle they kept on duty just for her (naturally) to drop everyone off. The whole thing was made even more ridiculous because the snow only reached about four inches. My instagram from that night is below.

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Here I am in the middle of Columbus Avenue at 1:30 a.m. I’ve had those boots longer than I thought.

I mention this because for the third week in a row, the weather people in Missouri are calling for rain, freezing rain, or snow and calling it a “three-day weather event.” No one knows for sure what we will get and where. But we better get prepared. And we should probably cancel anything we have planned because we can’t trust people to make their own decisions about whether or not to venture out in the weather. 

On Friday, all of St. Louis and Mid-MO canceled school (and probably Kansas City, too) for some cold rain. On Monday, what was forecast to be “flurries” in the weather app–and only around 3 p.m.–turned out to be an all-day snowfest resulting in untreated roads and numerous accidents. Including one that shut down westbound traffic on I-70 for several hours. I can’t decide if the weather people have gotten worse or the news people are more apt to dramatize the weather to gin up drama and ratings. I’m sure it’s a combination. Because we know weather is still weather.

And in the year of our Lord 2020, the inability to accurately predict the weather really gives new meaning to one of my favorite bible verses, “The wind blows where it wills; you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from, or where it is going. So with everyone who is born of the spirit.” (John 3.8)

 

 

What are you reading (and watching)?

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I received some good books for Christmas and have picked up a few since then. I just finished The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard, which won the National Book award in 1980. I like her and it is a joy to read her prose and this story, which takes place in the Far East right after WWII, is thought-provoking. I am also reading the story of Elihu Washburne, who was the U.S. minister to France during the siege of Paris in 1871. It is an amazing story–which I had all but forgotten (if I ever actually knew). Washburne stayed at his post while the Prussians laid siege to Paris and afterward when the revolutionaries of the Commune embarked on a reign of terror that filled the streets with blood. Zut alors!

I didn’t do much over my long weekend. I vacuumed and straightened and drove some flattened boxes to the recycling center. I went to church.

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (I Corinthians 1:2-9)

The OM and I watched some movies–Tall in the Saddle (1944)–which has a witty script and lots of action, not to mention a very appealing John Wayne.

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We also watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) directed by Quentin Tarantino. This movie is two hours and 40 minutes long and full of problems, but I have to say I enjoyed it. And it wasn’t all that violent, at least until the end.

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The director has indulged himself–he could have (and should have) tightened it up, but most of the PC criticisms are groundless. The New Yorker called it “obscenely regressive”–please, it takes place in 1969 in Hollywood, what do  you expect? As if looking back and portraying a moment in history as he saw it is obscene. I guess the obscene part is reveling in it, rather than condemning it, right? I’m not sure what Tarantino’s ultimate point was, but my takeaway is (spoiler alert), if the Manson crew had broken into the house next door to Sharon Tate’s and instead attacked a stuntman, a fading western actor, a pitt bull, and an Italian actress, the outcome would indeed have been different. If this is glorifying white men, so be it.

We also re-watched Ford vs. Ferrari (2019) because it is the OM’s new favorite movie. I enjoyed it too. Matt Damon and Christian Bale were definitely overlooked by the Academy, but Big Surprise.

The wee babes were both sick so they missed taco night on Sunday, but the boy came over and talked about movies and other grown up stuff, which was a treat for me.

By the way, do you know how Martin Luther King got his name? I didn’t either. (I just assumed his parents gave him the name as an infant.)

Perhaps you know the story: In 1934 the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta sent its pastor Michael King, Sr. to attend a Baptist World Alliance Meeting in Berlin. The trip included a whirlwind visit to a number of other sites, but apparently the time in Germany (just as the National Socialists were starting their rise) had such an impact on Michael that he decided to rename himself and his 5-year-old son after the Great Reformer. Thus, father and son became Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr.

That is cool and I thought this was interesting.

Today I am scheduled to have my last radiation treatment. So picture me ringing that bell for a second time. Praise Jesus.