Three Weeks Down – Summer Solstice Edition

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Today found us on our newly named Sky Deck watching the sun come up over the Cascades and Lake Washington. Buster loves it up there as now he can make sure there are no kitties lurking around the neighborhood, and he has a view of all the neighbor dogs. Coffee on the deck on a gorgeous day is sublime.

It’s week three and we’re trying to mitigate the dust and debris. We finally gave up on our contractor managing our site and spent 4 hours yesterday cleaning up the yard and vacuuming areas in the house to remove the debris left behind by Ivan who is working on repairing the dry rot. His brother, Eddie, has come in from Chihuaha, Mexico to help, and is doing what he can, but he’s not really into construction as much as Ivan, who has been doing a great job with very little support. But Eddie and I worked together to remove the kitchen tile and fireplace landing. We also worked to remove debris from the house. Both brothers are great guys and hard workers.

John is at the end of his rope with the debris falling into the basement through the vent holes created when we removed all of the ductwork. While we asked that the holes be plugged, they were not, and both of us have spent a lot of time cleaning that up. John is going to Florida and will have a break from the mess for a week, which I’m sure he’ll enjoy. Buster and myself will hold down the fort. 

We’ve made lots of decisions this week on bathroom fixtures and some lighting, doors and tile, but we still have many more to go. The Airstream is performing like a trooper, but there is one major design flaw to them and this is the horizontal blinds, particularly the one over the bed, which keeps popping out of the pins that hold them to the wall. The pull down blinds on other models are far superior as they lock in place, and I think we are close to replacing some of the key blinds with those so we don’t have to keep putting them back in their pins. John made delicious breakfast biscuits today from the biscuits we bought at Biscuit Bitch in Belltown (they are wonderful biscuits) on our way back from Le Pichet where we always go after the Symphony for Chocolate Chaud. Last night, the Seattle Symphony performed an extraordinary version of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite for the Untuxed crowd. It was quite moving.

Buster is doing great, though he’s a bit tired from making sure everyone is doing their thing. He’s constantly on alert for changes. We’ve been giving a bunch of tours to the neighbors, but those will end this week when the roof structure is removed and we can no longer get up on the sky deck until all is re-framed.

Today is a beautiful day for Solstice, and as we head into the next week, we’ll be curious to see if our contractors reappear, and if the roof removal and reframing goes smoothly without the threat of rain.

We are beginning to believe that the demo process is nothing like you see on HGTV. You have to live it to believe it. Their remodels are done in an hour.  : )

August: Osage County and This Year’s Top 10

August-Osage-County-movie-poster-2013-best-picture-oscarI’m somewhat baffled by the  response that August: Osage County has received by the critics. For me, it was the best film of the year, hands down. Better than Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and several great films that were released. August: Osage County is electric with extraordinary dialogue rendered by actors who understood every fiber of their characters. Not a single person in this film felt false. While I wish I’d seen the stage play – as I heard it was extraordinary – of course some things would be lost from paring down a 3 hour play to a 2 hour film. But Tracy Letts, the writer for both, won a Pulitzer for this work, and rightly so. His mix of deep pain, wry moments and comic asides is masterful throughout, and I found myself deeply moved.

The dinner scene in this film is far more scary and tense than any horror film, because we are watching people tear at each other without mercy with words rather than any sort of bludgeoning tool.

Indeed, the dialogue and sentences in this film sparkle with intelligence and wit. The claustrophobic nature of the farmhouse is expertly crafted given that it’s surrounded by acres of nothingness. It’s one of the only films this year that I’d like to see twice.

So, here goes my 2013 Top Ten Films:

1. August: Osage County

2. The Place Beyond The Pines, The Dallas Buyers Club – The follies of men, and their need for redemption are expertly captured in these two films.

3. The Way Way Back

4. 12 Years A Slave – A very difficult film to watch that was undone slightly by the late cameo appearance of Brad Pitt.

5. The Kings of Summer – The three boys in the film are wonderful to watch as they navigate their summer away from responsibility only to find how responsible they must be to each other.

6. Gravity – The first 17 minutes and the ambiguous ending elevated this film over the rest of the film, which was merely exciting from the first frame to the last.

7. Her, Before Midnight – two important films about relationships, love, letting go, and the future.

8. Captain Phillips – the last 45 minutes of this film is harrowing stuff and brilliantly acted by Tom Hanks, whom I’d given up on.

9. Fruitvale Station

10. Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis

So I really have a top 14 since there were ties and I didn’t want to leave them off the list. Caveat: I haven’t seen Nebraska or Short Term 12 yet, which are definitely on my to see list.

Worst film of the Year: The Wolf of Wall Street – an execrable waste of talent, money and time.

5 Photographs in the Big Little Show at Columbia City Gallery

Fort Ebby BeachThis photograph (Fort Ebey State Beach) and four others will be in the Columbia City Gallery’s “Big Little Show.” A show centered on art that measures less than 12 x 12 inches.

Each of my images measures no more than 8in x 8in. with a frame size of 12in x 12in. All images are printed as shot except for Cactus, which was manipulated in photoshop. 

Here’s why (from my Artist’s Statement): Photography feeds into my writing and writing feeds into photography. I strive for simple, unadorned images and sentences. In fact, none of the images here have been manipulated in any way, except for Cactus, CA. Every once in awhile you have to throw in an effect in writing as in photography to achieve what you need for the whole.

Please stop by between now and the middle of January to see my photography and the work of many other fine artists.

12 Years a Slave

12-years-a-slave-posterTonight, we saw Steve McQeen’s film 12 Years a Slave. It was extraordinary. Everyone involved must have gone on an extremely difficult emotional journey in making this film. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to play these characters, these real life human beings who brought evil, and suffered evil for so many years.

I imagine it will be hard to receive honors for this film that are sure to come. How can you celebrate a time in our history such as this film portrays.

One must believe that Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o’s portrayals of Solomon Northrup and Patsey will forever be a benchmark for all actors.

12 Years a Slave drives home that there is no place in our nation for racism, and yet there is evidence in the news for it every single day.

This film should be required viewing, and those queued through the lobby to see Ender’s Game in the same cineplex, written by a celebrated homophobe, should be made to see a double feature.

Blue Jasmine

Blue-JasmineIt’s very rare that I see a performance in a film that absolutely takes my breath away. While elements of the film, and there are minor quibbles here, I wish were improved, Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Jasmine is nothing short of brilliant. It’s such a naked performance, that, in its final moments, surpasses anything she has ever done since her first role in Oscar and Lucinda.

Not often does an actor go so far out on a limb to reach the core of a human being unraveling and yet grasping at the shreds of life before succumbing. It’s fascinating to watch. I’m reminded of Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice or One True Thing where she must carry the film and everyone with her so that the film is elevated to high art.

Ms. Blanchett and the supporting cast of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which includes, most memorably, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale takes a story that combines both Bernie Madoff and elements of A Streetcar Named Desire, and makes you care about people on the edge of life, despair and delusion.

Go see her performance and be amazed.

Volcano Choir – Repave

f30d71739522f955027111f738cef64dSomeone once said of New Yorker stories, that the chief editor said they must leave the reader with a handle to carry the story with them when they are finished. I’ve always thought this was a terrific analogy to leaving the reader with something to feel, see, reflect, love, hate, weep, laugh.

I’ve just finished my first listen to Volcano Choir’s new effort – Repave. It was like my first experience with Bon Iver’s For Emma Forever Ago. I am speechless and moved. It is filled with such grace and passion that it’s impossible to not start it immediately all over again to delve deeper into the cadences and beauty.

Music this extraordinary rarely happens. My expectations for Repave were extremely high based on Justin Vernon’s previous efforts and it delivers more than I had hoped. It simply is astonishing.

And like all great short stories, it leaves you wanting more, but gives you a handle to hold on to – and this handle contains a world of emotion.

Stream the entire album here: http://www.npr.org/2013/08/18/210220081/first-listen-volcano-choir-repave