Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cold Weather

I won't say it's really cold, but the fleece I put in the dryer to tumble without heat froze solid once it stopped. Our vent is a mere 6" to the outdoors, and the louvers may be frozen open for all I know. I'm not going outside to look.

On the way back from the neighbors’ house, having traded borrowed corn meal and a misdelivered tax notice for thirty minutes of good company and a six pack of freshly baked cookies, a jet flew low overhead and the sky seemed to CRACK open. I had forgotten, but once you're well below zero there's less humidity to absorb sound waves - or what's there is too solid - and the sound of an aircraft is enough to make you duck.

We've had a 50 degree temperature swing in 24 hours, from over 40 degrees yesterday to about ten below zero now at 9pm. Ann found the drive home from work harrowing, though at least we've been spared the true blizzard in southern Minnesota. No new snow here, but things like oil and transmission fluid forget they're supposed to be fluid when it gets this cold.

On Sunday we drove to Red Wing and visited Meta and Mark. This is a hard period for Meta due to a convergence of health problems, from cancer and chemo to an uncommonly bad cold, but she spent what energy she had being very present and funny. Mark led Ann and me on a snowshoe hike up to their eastern ridge, which gives a wonderful view. There was a blue sky and the temps were around 30, and we saw many deer tracks in a field below (whose owner plants grain for the deer and harvests shed antlers in return), as well as coyote tracks, vole tracks and tunnels, and, I believe, dog scat.

Meta has a new CaringBridge journal address. We get an email whenever they update it. link

Ann and I took Crystel to the St Paul Winter Carnival's ice sculpture exhibit yesterday, in the 40 degree weather I mentioned. The tooth fairy had lost a wing but we caught most of the sculptures before serious melting occurred. We then visited the Landmark Center across the street and watched a dramatic demonstration of cryogenics, thanks to a scientist from the Science Museum and a bucket of liquid nitrogen. On a night like tonight you can throw hot water into the air and it freezes and blows away dramatically, which I just went out to test. It's safer than liquid nitrogen as long as you don't lock yourself out or touch the doorknob with a wet hand.

Our friends Ethan and Sherry are stranded in China during the worst winter storm in 50 years, which has pretty well shut their part of the country down (link). They have two daughters from China, Rui Rui, who's four and a friend of ours, and Ava LiXing, age one. They have custody of Ava in China but she doesn't have a US visa yet - and the weather has shut them down mid-process. If they're not out by Chinese New Year they'll be there until after the celebrations. Their travel blog, which is a lot more interesting than this one, is here. We're glad they're based in a hotel rather than a train station at this point.

Ann went to school today and found the Vulcans outside the Principal's office (link here, complicated but worth it). They're essentially a terrorist organization sanctioned by the city of St Paul, known for scaring children and groping non-consenting women during the Winter Carnival (although the groping got them into legal trouble three years ago and they're supposedly now Vulcans, Reformed).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Julie Taymor

Tonight Ann and I walked two blocks and spent three bucks to see Across the Universe, a Mobius strip of a film that creates characters from Beatles songs who express their lives in part through Beatles songs. I was skeptical of the whole thing, except for the popcorn, but I ended up being very impressed. I'll tell you up front I would have enjoyed it under any circumstance just for the glimpse of Joe Cocker as a bum and a pimp singing Come Together - he hasn't lost the body English - but I was impressed with everything - casting, editing, choreography, everything having to do with the music (which took some getting used to, ironically enough), and the psychedelic effects, which went beyond Warhol and Kesey references to succeed nicely. The production of Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite alone was worth the price of admission.

As the credits began to run I wondered who had managed to bring the movie together so well and promptly saw Julie Taymor's name as director.

I am slow, I am generally culturally illiterate, and I don't pay attention very well, but third time's the charm and this is the third of Ms. Taymor's many-more-than-three great accomplishments I am now familiar with. She directed The Lion King (the world premier of which was in Minneapolis - did I mention that, Robin?) and she directed the film Frida. Frida Kahlo's visage has gradually replaced Kirby Puckett's in the Twin Cities thanks to the exhibit of her work at the Walker Art Center and their lavish advertising budget (think bus stop posters).

We thoroughly enjoyed the Walker show, which included previously undisplayed photographs, and like most people we were floored by The Lion King.

We enjoyed Frida, the film, before the Walker show began but had some questions as to where reality ended and magical realism began; but the PBS special The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo, with its wealth of archival video, demonstrated the movie's magic was in how well it portrayed the reality of Frida's life and vision rather than in the application of artistic license.

On the "other features" disk of Frida there's a Bill Moyer interview with Julie Taymor, and I suspect someone will be making a film of her life one day (and good luck at doing it justice). She's an upstanding Oberlin grad, by the way. She also has directed more Shakespeare plays than you can shake a skull at, but that's a bit over my head.