Details 2: Spring and Summer 2016

Discover the intimate details of something unexpected.

— Jen H., The Daily Post

Self’s go-to summer sandal: low heel, super-comfy, and bright orange. Summer’s all about comfort and freedom: her feet are happy.

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This is New York City, May 2016, during an unexpected lull in a frantic week:

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Park Avenue Nocturne: Self only just noticed the little squares of lighted windows from the buildings across the street. The view is from her brother-in-law’s apartment in Manhattan.

Finally, self was able to visit Bletchley Park, just outside London, in early June. It was an overcast day, self got to the park early, before the crowds arrived. In fact, self was the only person walking from the train station that morning.

She hasn’t seen The Imitation Game, the movie about the codebreakers of Bletchley Park, but there’s an exhibit of costumes used during the filming, and Benedict Cumberbatch is on the audio guide.

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Whatever self expected when she visited Bletchley Park in June, she never expected the grounds to be so lovely. There was a lake full of ducks and very approachable swans.

Highly recommend a visit to Bletchley Park. The exhibits include an actual Enigma machine. The history is just palpable.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Look Up: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 8 July 2016

For this week’s challenge, take a moment to look up. Whether it’s the fan above your head at work, your bedroom ceiling, or the night sky, what do you see?

— Nancy Thanki, The Daily Post

First Photo: The British Museum’s Antiquities Gallery, April 2016

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Self held the camera high over her head for the shot. The Rosetta Stone is in the glass case just to the left (where all the people are looking)

Second Photo: The figure below is on the roof of the building that formerly housed the Oxford University Press, in Oxford, UK.

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Oxford, UK: May 2016

Third Photo: The Garden of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

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Outdoor Art Installation, Victoria & Albert Museum, London: June 2016 (Cool canopy, that, don’t you agree?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

July in Books

July is a season all its own. Below, a list of the books self has read in July:

July 2016 (Currently Reading): Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart

  • How a feisty young woman shepherds her younger sisters to a life of independence, in 1914 rural America

July 2015

The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson

  • How an author self never read before introduced her to the splendid pleasures of The Wallace Collection in London

July 2014

The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry

  • Again, this Irish writer breaks her heart (The first time he did was in A Long, Long Way)

July 2013

The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

  • Sicily, as you’ve never seen it before

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • So meh

The Quiet American, by Graham Greene

  • Greatness

 

Pure 2: New York and London

  • “I love finding beauty in the mundane, and purity in the midst of our chaotic, over-connected world.”

— Jen H., Daily Post Photo Challenge (Theme: PURE)

Examples: a city-scape; a museum

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New York skyline, June 2016: The “purity” of early morning, the day not yet begun

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Classical Elegance: The British Museum, early June 2016

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Classical Elegance, The British Museum, June 2016

New York looks peaceful in the early morning light.

The venerable British Museum opened up its interior with classically simple lines.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Numbers 4: Exhibits, Museum of the History of Science (Oxford) and the British Museum

Self-explanatory!

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Oxford, England: May 2016

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Assyrian Gallery, British Museum, London: May 2016

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Another Caption from the Assyrian Gallery in the British Museum: May 2016

Sylvain Landry – Week 47: BLUE

The Sylvain Landry Week 47 theme is BLUE.

He always comes up with the most interesting prompts.

Self knows the picture is not entirely blue. But the blue that’s there is pretty obvious.

This is the Chihuly that’s in the lobby of the Victoria & Albert Museum. It’s a huge sculpture, jaw-dropping.

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In the lobby of the Victoria & Albert Museum, last week (May 2016)

Isn’t it gorgeous? Stunning?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Elena Ferrante, pp. 112 – 113

Self went to the Victoria & Albert this morning.

About the V & A: apart from the gorgeous Chihuly in the lobby, she is not enthused over their special exhibits. Last year, she went to one on shoes, and the shoes were the kind she has seen in Manhattan, in shop windows. So why would she pay extra just to see those very same shoes in a museum?

This morning, she went to a special exhibit on Re-imagining Botticelli. Alas, the exhibit seemed rather gimmick-y. Honestly, why waste time seeing how other people interpret Botticelli when one should so clearly be looking at Botticellis themselves! She did, however, learn that after the Renaissance, Botticelli fell into obscurity and was only “rediscovered” sometime in the late 19th century, by art dealers. Also, his first name was Sandro. It got to the point where self began wondering who this Sandro Botticelli was. And only figured out later that Sandro was Botticelli. Because all these years, self has only ever heard Botticelli referred to as Botticelli. Not as Sandro Botticelli. Naturally, it had to be a British museum that referred to him by first and last name!

Anyhoo, enough of this useless prattle!

She’s back in her room reading My Brilliant Friend.

Because of the stately cadence of Ferrante’s prose, self finds herself, while reading, being lulled into a hazy, dream-like state. She thinks she is reading Remembrance of Things Past, the Italian version. Only to be confronted with the brutality of — society!  Especially, of men! For instance:

SPOILERS! HEY HO, SPOILERS!

Don Achille was murdered.

Another instance: Shortly after she enters adolescence, the narrator finds herself beset by male attention. At one point some boys in a car follow her along a street, and the boys keep inviting her to get in the car with them. Self read this scene in an absolute stupor, she didn’t realize it was dangerous, until she read this:

  • I said no because if my father found out that I had gone in that car, even though he was a good and loving man, even though he loved me very much, he would have beat me to death, while at the same time my little brothers, Peppe and Gianni, young as they were, would feel obliged, now and in the future, to try and kill the Solara brothers.

What? What? What?

From the sedate to the overwrought. There are just no rules, with regards to Ferrante’s writing.

Stay tuned.

 

Spare 5: More From London and Oxford

Self is thinking of “spare” as in “simple.” Below, three more examples.

First picture: 6th floor, Tate Modern in Banksea.

The view. It’s all about the view.

The meat pie isn’t bad, either.

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The Tate Modern is housed in what used to be the Battersea Power Station. In keeping with its industrial spirit, everything in the Tate Modern has that utilitarian feel. Even the restaurant, on the 6th floor. It’s called The Kitchen.

2nd: A few days ago, self was in Oxford. Her host, Jenny Lewis, took self (and Abigail, whose 9th birthday is coming up! And Abigail’s dad, Tom) on a boat ride.

Oxford is 120 miles from London. She vaguely remembers the guide saying it took about three days to go by boat from there to Oxford (This was probably in the era of the Tudors)

Here’s the view at the start of the boat trip:

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Boating in Oxford: Sunday, 29 May 2016

Final picture: When self is in London, she stays in a very simple hotel. She loves to walk, and explore bookstores and museums. Though she never ends up straying very far from Great Russell Street.

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Those slash marks in self’s half-broke camera turned out to be a plus! Especially in taking pictures like this, that have a very “still” quality.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Spare 4: Tate Modern, Banksea

On the fourth floor of the Tate is a huge neon sign:

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Tate Modern, 4th Floor

What self loves about the Tate Modern is that it captures the essence of the old Battersea Power Station, keeping the cavernous spaces and giving them a very industrial feel.

Here’s an installation by Magdalena Abakanowicz. It consists of cocoon-like objects wrapped in burlap. Self neglected to write down the name of the work, alas! The caption says the artist’s work reflects “her interest in biological systems.”

To self’s way of thinking, SPARE is not the same thing as “sparse.”

Not even a little bit.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

X-Men: Apocalypse and the Egyptian Mummies in the British Museum

Self took this post down for a while but then she decided to put it back up because she just went and saw X-Men: Apocalypse for the second time and — Evan Peters, hell yeah!

BTW, the movie improves on repeat viewing. But why Mystique keeps carrying a torch for Magneto is really, really frustrating. Every time she talks about him, with tears in her eyes — aaargh! That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to have Quicksilver around: imagine, a man who feels no subliminal attraction for any of the female characters, whatsoever!

Below, her original post:

_____________________________

About a week ago, in London, self walked all the way to Shaftesbury Avenue after spending three hours in the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum just to watch X-Men: Apocalypse in the Odeon in Covent Garden.

She also thought it would be a good excuse to check out the Covent Garden area. See? Like killing two birds with one stone.

That turned out to be an excellent idea. Because the movie began with — ancient Egypt! Some dude was harnessing the power of the sacred pyramids — or something — to give himself eternal life! Of course, self had no idea that Egyptian leatherface was actually the beautiful Oscar Isaac.

Anyhoo, watching the movie was like entering a zone, where everything happening had a connection to ancient Egypt (mind-blowing, right?). Of course, it also reminded her — when all the Egyptian stuff was done — that there was an actor named Evan Peters who plays Quicksilver.

Honest-to-God, how could she have forgotten this guy? She loved his scene from the earlier X-men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, so much. But there were just so many X-Men crowding her thoughts, not to mention James McAvoy. In almost every scene. James McAvoy. And there was Nightcrawler. And the Archangel. And Jean Grey (looking exactly like Sansa Stark; self almost expected Littlefinger or Ramsay Bolton to put in an appearance). Not to mention Fassbender emoting and singing to his daughter. And J-Law being very capricious about when she wanted to be blue or not. So, finally. EVAN PETERS! She nearly jumped out of her seat. She was so happy to see him again.

Anyhoo, the point of all this. The point of all this is that she also has a short story that involves Egyptian hieroglyphics. It appeared in a fabulous magazine called Isotope, and was edited by Chris Cokinos. Isotope was a magazine that featured both science writing and  creative writing. Self’s essay, “The Lost Language,” appeared in Isotope in 2007. A year or two later, it went defunct. And now, nobody can read that story anymore! WAAAAH! (She does have extra copies of the particular issue with her essay. It’s back in her house in Redwood City, CA. Which is a long way away — across an ocean, in fact. Across a continent, even — from where self is currently: Oxford, UK. But if anyone wants to get a copy, she can promise that, as soon as she arrives back in California, she will get her hands on those issues and mail it to whoever wants one. Because it seems such a terrible waste to keep those issues mouldering in her closet, taking up space and being useless)

Here’s how it begins:

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The rest of the essay is very digressive and is actually pretty funny. There was a time when all of self’s short stories were so filled with angst and pain that she actually rejoiced when she wrote “The Lost Language.” At last! She was capable of showing a little more range!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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