Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day 178/365 - Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

Today was the parade kicking off the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. I'd never seen this parade before, so today I forced myself to get out of bed earlier than I wanted to and went to check it out. It was a pretty good parade. It's sort of a smaller scale version of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC. There are marching bands and floats and usually there are balloons as well, but the high winds today grounded the balloons.

And at the end of the parade, instead of Santa in a sleigh, we have the Easter Bunny in a carriage. Apart from the wind the weather was perfect -- sunny and warm. It was a great day to be standing on the corner watching a parade go by.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Day 177/365 - Everlasting Moments

A few days back my friend Pia invited me to go see the foreign film "Everlasting Moments" with her and tonight we both finally had a free night to go. The movie chronicles the experiences of a Swedish family in the early 1900s. The style of the movie is similar to the realist movement in literature in that it doesn't feature a strong central plot that drives the narrative, but instead focuses on the ordinary details of the ordinary lives of an ordinary family. As such, it proceeds at a very leisurely pace and meanders a bit in spots, but it is a journey worth taking.

One of the central themes of the movie is the search for fulfillment and happiness. For the coarse, abusive brute that is the family's husband/father, this search initially leads to the illusory joys of alcohol and adultery, and later to caring for an injured horse. For the eldest daughter, it's her desire to become a teacher. For the eldest son, his desire to become a scholar. But the movie's primary focus is on the wife/mother of the family's quest for happiness, a search which leads her to discover photography.

Photography is in many ways the deus ex machina in this movie, working to push and pull the characters in various ways. At the beginning of the movie, the eldest daughter who narrates the film recounts how her mother won a camera in a raffle with a ticket purchased by her eventual husband. When he said the camera should be his given that he paid for the ticket, she said he could only have if he married her, which he then did. The camera, however (a portable Contessa with a collapsible bellows), is quickly packed away and forgotten, only to be rediscovered many years later when the women is cleaning house. She takes it to a local photography studio to sell it, but the proprietor of the studio convinces her that she should at least try the camera before she sells it.

She does, and quickly discovers that she has both a passion and a skill for photography. Her talent for photography eventually leads to her selling a photo to the local newspaper, taking portraits for her neighbors and later for merchants and more well-to-do clients, and also serves as the seed for her unconsummated affair of the heart with the studio owner.

From the end credits, it appears that the movie is not a work of pure fiction but is instead based on the lives of an actual family as recounted in the reminiscences of the eldest daughter. The movie is interesting and compelling, if a bit long-ish, but don't expect slam bang action or neat resolutions to difficult questions. In the end it's a realistic portrait of people's lives, much in the way that a photograph is, and real life is seldom sensational or tidy. But, just the same, life is worth living and this movie is worth seeing.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 176/365 - Elizabeth Rex

Another evening at the theater for me. This time the theater in question was the Keegan Theatre in the Dupont Circle section of Washington, DC, where they were staging a production of the play "Elizabeth Rex." Before the play, I stopped by Nage, a sexy little bar and restaurant a few blocks away from the theater, for dinner.

Nage is a cozy, red-tinted, snug, sensual little nook of a place that shares space with a Courtyard Marriott hotel. A big chalkboard by the entrance lists the daily specials and the options for the $35 three-course, prix fixe meal. The service and cocktails are excellent and the food was pretty good. I started things off with a cantaloupe martini that was particularly luscious. Instead of the standard bread and butter Nage serves bread and hummus, which was a nice switch. For my three courses, I opted for a wedge salad, pork chops with risotto, and rhubarb upside down cake. The salad was good, although they went a little heavy on the dressing. The pork chop and risotto were well-prepared, but a bit bland. Then again, unless you drench it in jerk seasoning or drown it in mustard sauce, it's hard to get much pizzazz out of a pork chop. The rhubarb cake was quite yummy.

I probably should've have gone with my first inclination and ordered the goat cheese baklava appetizer and grilled scallops entree from the regular menu instead of deciding to be thrifty and take advantage of the prix fixe. I'd likely have enjoyed those dishes more. Still, I'd say Nage is worth taking a flyer on. It's an ideal spot for drinks and a pretty good option for a meal.

After I got my belly stuffed, it was off to the play. This was my first visit to the Keegan Theatre. It's in the middle of a quiet residential street and is housed in a small brick building that was originally the gymnasium of a private school. Although it is purely a work of fiction, "Elizabeth Rex" is based on a historical incident. On the night before the scheduled execution of her lover, the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth I of England engaged William Shakespeare and his band of players to distract her from her grief over having had to sentence the Earl to death for his part in a conspiracy against the crown.

"Elizabeth Rex" takes place in the barn of the Queen's estate just outside London. Due to a curfew imposed until after the execution in order to prevent a civil disturbance, Shakespeare and several members of his company are forced to spend the night after their command performance in the barn. Unable to sleep, the Queen joins the players in the barn and has them keep her company to further distract her from her sorrows. The discourse between the Queen and the actors hits on the play's core themes of love and loss, gender roles, and the dichotomy between the people we are in private and the parts we play in public.

It's a excellent piece, well-written and powerfully performed. The set design and costumes are quite good and the cast is admirable, with the exception of the actors portraying Shakespeare and the Queen's counselor. In the case of the latter, given the minor nature of the role the casting of a weak actor is insignificant. However, placing a poor performer in the part of Shakespeare, one of the central characters, is another matter. The producers did strike gold though with the casting of the actors portraying the Queen and the dying actor Ned, who square off against each other in several scenes. Both performers invest their parts with a great degree of power and pathos without being hammy or overwrought. It's almost enough to make up for the miscast Shakespeare.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 175/365 - I'm on TV!

April Fool's!

This week's self-portrait is a shot of me playing the part of a private detective in an old movie on tv. Thankfully, it's no April Fool's Day joke that my cable is working again at last. After a week and a half with no tv, I'm finally able to resume rotting my brain out with vulgar tripe. Bring on the bread and circuses!

(Taken with my Nikon D80 and manipulated using Microsoft Publisher)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 174/365 - Cherry Blossom Time in DC

The cherry blossom trees have started to bloom in Washington, DC. The blossoms will only last for about another week, so I decided to make the most of the clear skies and warm weather today and walk home. My path home takes me right along the edge of the Tidal Basin and through the main grove of cherry blossom trees. The trees were a gift from Japan to the United States and, although they don't actually produce any cherries, they do put on a beautiful display each year in early Spring.

If you've never seen the cherry blossoms before they are an amazing sight. I've been here ten years and they still astound me. The day I get so jaded that they stop astounding me is the day I need to turn my eyes back in and let them give them to someone else who will make better use of them. Most of the cherry blossoms are a brilliant white, but some are a light pink. They make the trees look like they're full of snow or cotton candy and then when the wind blows some of the petals pull loose and tumble and flutter along on the breeze like snowflakes made of satin.

As someone I know said: "thanks, Japan, for the trees."

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 173/365 - Happy 30th B'day, Des!

Today was my friend Desiree's 30th birthday. Some of us got together at her place to eat, drink, and laugh ourselves silly. It's a great way to spend an evening, even if it isn't anyone's birthday.

Happy birthday dear Desiree, happy birthday to you!

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Car vs. Train

This week's bonus photo from my archives is a shot of a mural on the side of a building in Bethesda. I really love this mural and I keep meaning to drag a friend there with me so I can have my portrait taken in front of it.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 172/365 - Abercrombie

This is my old teddy bear. His name is Abercrombie and I've had him for years and years. Friends and lovers come and go and even families have falling outs, but teddy bears are forever.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)