House of Many Colors: Casa Vicens, Barcelona

Image source: Accessable

Barcelona is the city of Gaudí.

The first place we visited in Barcelona was Gaudi’s first project. Casa Vicens was designed and built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the Vicens family. Antoni Gaudi i Cornet (1852-1926) “is one of the most noteworthy figures in universal architecture.” The house is a marvel even before you enter, with its wrought iron palm leaf gates, ceramic tiled walls, and interesting doorways. The garden is planted in colors that coordinate with the house.

Gaudi was lauded for “his support for traditional architecture, along with his exceptionally ground-breaking genius both in terms of shapes and the building and structural systems of his projects.” He designed buildings where “the construction and ornamentation are integrated in such a way that one cannot be understood without the other.” Casa Vicens was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2005. ( https://casavicens.org/casa-vicens/)

Have you been to Barcelona? What did you think of the Gaudi architecture?

Palm leaf fence, ceramic-tiled walls, and unusually shaped doorway.

Wall of ceramic sunflowers and leaves.

Lantern with colorful disks in entranceway filled with texture, colors and patterns.

Vivid blue arched ceilings and stained glass windows.

Cool perspective and view of cherub sitting on a ledge.

Meaning and Miró , The Smallest Noise and Constellations of Sounds

Joan Miró, gouache, c.1934

Last in series of posts from Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.

I found many of Miró’s works intriguing for their artistry and for their meanings. As a writer whose Kidlit language is lyrical and seemingly simple, but actually layered with emotion and action, I appreciate knowing the thoughts that inspired the process.

When it comes to canvases saturated with one color, I have a harder time connecting to the work, but the meaning behind “Landscape” felt different–it’s like us as individuals in our lives or us as humans in the universe.

“Letters and Numbers Attracted by a Spark(V)” called out to me. Letters float in the sky and look down on water and earth. I wonder,

Do the letters which form sentences and tell stories that are derived from my imagination with the goal of resonating with children ever going to get a chance to come to life?

The depth of meaning in Joan Miró’s work springs from a desire to capture the essence of human existence. On a personal level, this desire also implied an affirmation of identity that arose from Miró’s strong connection with the land–with Mont-roig, the original source of his creativity. ‘It is the land, the land. It is stronger than I. The fantastic mountains have a very important role in my life, and so does the sky. It is the clash between these forms within my soul, rather than the vision itself. In Mont-roig it is the force that nurtures me, the force.’

Excerpts from Fundació Joan Miró

Landscape, c. 1968

“‘Silence is a denial of noise – but the smallest noise in the midst of silence becomes enormous,’ said Miró. As the only referential element, a blurry point acquires a powerful presence, but also makes the space around it resonate. Therefore the point reinforces the presence of the space while also emphasizing the weave, the material of the canvas.” (https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 2

Joan Miró

At the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I found the sculptures and enormous wall hangings as intriguing as the paintings. The museum has several outside areas as well as interactive art and a place for young children to explore and build. Kudos to including the kiddos! Just like the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, I’d return to the Foundation if I traveled to Barcelona again.

Miró insisted that art ought to be an extension of life and part of life itself…His increasing knowledge of ceramics and sculpture led him to cultivate some of these techniques using more weather-resistant materials…Beginning in the 1960’s he was particularly prolific sculpting in bronze. In Miró’s view, both sculpture and ceramics were closely bound to nature…Landscape claimed the last word: out in the open, his pieces interact with their surroundings and, to some extent, give back to the land that which has always belonged to it.

Excerpts from the Fundació Joan Miró

Hon, if you ever go, I highly recommend bringing headphones so that you can listen to explanations of pieces throughout the museum via your phone.

“Lovers playing with almond blossom,” resin, c.1975, These sculptures are models for the enormous sculptures displayed at La Defense, Paris.” Of the two people, “One is captured as a tall cyclinder with yellow and reddish regions, with a blue ball shape on top. The round blue shape is decorated with pre-historic style abstract shapes which would deliver symbolic meaning to this intriguing piece. There is then a second tall construction, with a pointed blue shape that leans away, though with a red claw-like feature which is placed around half way up. It could perhaps be a hand reaching out to catch the ball which sits on the other figure…” (joanmiropaitings.org)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 1

Joan Miró

Hon, I have lots to share from my trip to Spain. Our first stop was Madrid where our daughter is studying this semester. From Madrid, we took the high speed train to Barcelona. We saw so many different things from palaces to parks, churches to cobblestone street, and museums to mountains. So fun!

When I found out about the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I added it to my itinerary. Miró, a Catalan painter who combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy, wanted to create an international, interdisciplinary center that made art available to the public. He created the Foundation by donating the majority of his work which is supplemented by donations from his wife Pilar Juncosa, artist Joan Prats, and collector Kazumasa Katsutas.

The Joan Miró Foundation reminded me of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice because the artwork is housed in a smaller, interesting building set away from the center of the city. Whereas the Peggy Guggenheim Collection faces Venice’s Grand Canal, the Joan Miró Foundation, located in Parc de Montjuïc, sits on a hill with a gorgeous view of Barcelona.

The Fundació Joan Miró was created by Miró himself, at first principally with works from his own private collection, with a desire to set up an internationally recognised centre in Barcelona for Miró scholarship and contemporary art research, and to disseminate the collection. The Fundació opened to the public on 10 June 1975 and has since become a dynamic centre in which Joan Miró’s work coexists with cutting-edge contemporary art.

https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/foundation/

“Figure in front of the sun,” acrylics, c.1968
In this diptych, the figure in each painting appears in a celestial landscape accompanied by the moon in one and the sun in the other.
View of Barcelona from museum terrace, “Sun, moon and one star,” bronze and painted cement, c.1968
Image source: Fundació Joan Miró

Missing our Matriarch, Poem on Grief

We can’t avoid the saddest part of our humanity and though we know we’ll have to deal with it, as my husband’s Aunt Pauline said, “It never gets easier.”

I haven’t posted in awhile because Cecile Gruer, my 86 year-old mother-in-law and matriarch of our family, passed away last week. There’s so much to say about her decline, measures that were taken to try to restore her health, and the month she spent under hospice care. The last time she celebrated a happy occasion with the family was her granddaughter’s wedding in September 2021. Even then, she wasn’t truly herself.

There’s much more to say about Cecile, who as a young girl in Poland, ran with her parents and siblings from the Nazi’s during WWII. She spent years in Siberia, freezing and starving. After the war ended, she was a teenager in an Austrian displaced persons camp. Her immediate family eventually moved to America, first to St. Louis and then to New York. She met Morris, another Holocaust survivor, in Brooklyn, NY and they married and built a home and family. So much to say…

The outpouring of sympathy from family and friends illustrates the importance of community. It may sound cliche, but it’s crucial to support each other when a life starts and when it ends.

Hubby and I are exhausted from the many months of Cecile’s decline, reeling from witnessing her personality change, saddened by her loss of communication, and grieving her passing. A tribute post will have to wait. Though Cecile didn’t die young, Jon Pineda’s poem on grief strikes a chord.

My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task was published in The New York Times Magazine January 16, 2022 with commentary by Victoria Chang. She said, “I first read this poem on Twitter, and even though it’s a simple poem about grief, it stayed with me. I’m fascinated by the way that it discloses so much in its title, showing how a title can get important information out of the way so that the poem can breathe on its own. Yet the reader doesn’t know what the ‘task’ is until the third stanza. The poem is an example of how abundant emotions can be conveyed by stripping language down to the bone.”

My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task

A basket of apples brown in our kitchen,

their warm scent is the scent of ripening,

and my sister, entering the room quietly,

takes a seat at the table, takes up the task

of peeling slowly away the blemished skins,

even half-rotten ones are salvaged carefully.

She makes sure to carve out the mealy flesh.

For this, I am grateful. I explain, this elegy

would love to save everything. She smiles at me,

and before long, the empty bowl she uses fills,

domed with thin slices she brushes into

the mouth of a steaming pot on the stove.

What can I do? I ask finally. Nothing,

she says, let me finish this one thing alone.

Winter’s End, Poem by Howard Moss

Magnolia Monday

Sharing a poem that acts as a salve to this winter’s bleakness.

I found “Winter’s End” by Howard Moss on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. My father used to tune in to Garrison Keillor’s radio show, so I have memories of listening to Keillor tell stories. This poem was published by © Atheneum in New Selected Poems. Spring starts March 20.

Winter’s End

Once in a wood at winter’s end,
The withered sun, becoming young,
Turned the white silence into sound:
Bird after bird rose up in song.
The skeletons of snow-blocked trees
Linked thinning shadows here and there,
And those made mummy by the freeze
Spangled their mirrors on cold air.
Whether they moved — perhaps they spun,
Caught in a new but known delight —
Was hard to tell, since shade and sun
Mingled to hear the birds recite.
No body of this sound I saw,
So glassed and shining was the world
That swung on a sun-and-ice seesaw
And fought to have its leaves unfurled.
Hanging its harvest in between
Two worlds, one lost, one yet to come,
The wood’s remoteness, like a drum,
Beat the oncoming season in.
Then every snow bird on white wings
Became its tropic counterpart,
And, in a renaissance of rings,
I saw the heart of summer start.

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Learning About Lapland

Image source: Orange Smile

The first time I posted about Lapland was when my daughter Morgan contributed animation to a very cool six-and-a-half-minute video. Available on Vimeo, “Santa is a Psychedelic Mushroom” explores Laplandic folklore surrounding the origin of Santa.

Another daughter, who is currently studying abroad, spent the weekend in Lapland. She flew from Madrid to Helsinki and from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, with the goal of seeing the Northern Lights. She and her friends crossed into the Arctic Circle by riding on a giant sled pulled by a snowmobile! Fun!

Cool Lapland Facts:

  • Arctic Circle “The Arctic Circle is a circle of latitude that runs 66°33′45.9″ north of the Equator. It marks the southernmost latitude where the sun can stay continuously below or above the horizon for 24 hours–these phenomena are known as the Midnight Sun in the summer and the Polar Night (“Kaamos”) in the winter.” https://www.visitrovaniemi.fi/love/arctic-circle/
  • Midnight Sun “Because almost all of Lapland lies above the Arctic Circle, summer means that the sun (or more accurately daylight) doesn’t go away for between two and four months, depending on how north you venture. In northernmost Finland, the sun just circles in the sky all day and all night. Farther south, the sun may dip behind the fells or trees, but the sky remains bright.” https://www.lapland.fi/visit/only-in-lapland/land-of-the-midnight-sun/

  • Polar Night “Polar night happens only in the far north and south, and only during the magnificent Arctic winter. Sometime around late November, the northernmost reaches of Lapland get their first taste of polar night when the sun struggles more and more every day to rise. Until one day it doesn’t. Instead, the horizon simply glows for a few hours at midday. Virtually all of Lapland sees polar night by the solstice, December 21. As the snow piles up, January and February offer stunning polar night and polar twilight vistas, as the blank white landscape reflects the deep warm colors of midday. In late January, the sun finally returns for a few minutes above the northern border, marking the end of true polar night in Lapland.” https://www.lapland.fi/visit/only-in-lapland/polar-night-colors-magical-time/

Unfortunately, there was too much cloud cover so my daughter didn’t see the Northern Lights. Maybe another time. And maybe I can come!

Hon, have you seen the Northern Lights? Where did you travel?

Traveling to see the Northern Lights on a giant sled pulled by a snowmobile.

Campfire in the Arctic Circle.

Don’t Look Up, Movie Review

I miss many pre-pandemic things, especially going to the movies. The big screen, the popcorn, the Raisinets, the Twizzlers, the not-doing-ten-other-things-at-the-same-time…

Theaters have re-opened but Hubby and I have not yet take advantage of that fact, mainly because our small, local movie theaters shut down for good. Sad. Our family room is now where we determine if a film passes the “watch test.” Not familiar with term? It’s Hubby’s way of asking, “Was the movie engaging or did I look at my watch to see when it ends?”

We hadn’t heard much about Don’t Look Up and thought it sounded interesting. We were in for an enormous surprise! Not only did it pass the watch test, Don’t Look Up was in turns alarming, hilarious, disturbing, outrageous, scathing and sad. We were glued to the screen! Later I learned it had received mixed reviews and, by mixed reviews, I mean scathing reviews. Why?

Hon, have you seen Don’t Look Up? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Here’s the opinion of The Arts Fuse’s Daniel Gewertz. (review has been edited)

Don’t Look Up, directed by Adam McKay. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett. On Netflix

Don’t Look Up is a clever, unapologetically brash satire about a future America so consumed with celebrity worship, brain-numbing infotainment, social media popularity, and political gamesmanship that it refuses to take the impending destruction of planet Earth seriously. We’re not talking climate change here, though the parallel is obvious. Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) has irrefutable evidence that an unprecedentedly gigantic comet will wipe out Earth in precisely six months, 14 days. The chances of “planet extinction” are set at 99.78%.

“Call it 70% and let’s just move on,” says President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), who’s more bothered by the upcoming midterms and the unearthing of nude pics of her sexy boyfriend, a Supreme Court nominee.

Are you an unabashed pessimist about 21st-century America? Do you believe that we’ve reached a point that — to quote W.B. Yeats — “the center cannot hold”? And, most of all, are you in the apparent minority who understands that true satire is a purposeful exaggeration of reality? If so, I say just give this liberating, appropriately cynical, fitfully hilarious film a look.

Despite an abundance of cinematic virtues, Don’t Look Up has been met with more negative reviews than raves, and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 55%. Critics from all political segments of the mainstream media have joined the surprisingly ferocious attack on this expertly made comedy. TheWall Street Journal and Britain’s Guardian exhibited outright loathing; The Guardian‘s Charles Bramesco went so far as to complain that the movie might “drive away any [anti-science] partisans who still need to be won over,” as if the film were some sadly tone-deaf BBC News Hour segment.

The newspapers and websites most joined at the hip to the movie industry — from Variety to the Hollywood Reporter — were so venomous, it’s as if they believe this film is a danger to the American dynasty and their own jobs. The word smug crops up in nearly every pan. Is it a mere matter of blaming the messenger? And yet, this movie is hardest on political elites, tech billionaires, and mass and social media — not your average American. Perhaps the underlying belief is that rich movie actors have no right to rock their gravy boat.

The National Board of Review, meanwhile, named Don’t Look Up one of the top movies of 2021. The Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Movie Awards gave it best picture nominations.

Don’t Look Up‘s bitterly satiric stance threatens a middle-of-the road political complacency. It intimidates the reviewers’ apparent bedrock belief that our centrist, big-business establishment — be it left-leaning or right — will solve our real-life apocalypse movie: the global-warming disaster. That “profits over planet” mindset is a smugness that is killing us.

Admittedly, the satiric volume here — to use a Spinal Tap reference — is set at 11. But despite this volume, and a slightly excessive 2-1/4 hour length, Don’t Look Up is one of the best-executed comic movies in years. Its script bristles with witty, incisive details; its dramatic arc is effective.

The first few scenes — depicting the discovery of the comet’s size and destructive course — are not played for laughs. Dr. Randall Mindy, a Michigan State University astronomy professor (DiCaprio), and his assistant, doctoral candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), discover a comet of mind-blowing size that, according to repeated calculations, is headed straight for Earth. Their certainty and shock are well dramatized. The two scientists are soon whisked off to DC, and by the time we see them waiting outside the Oval Office, anxious to see the president of the United States, the film has set up a tension that is palpable.

And then, the satire hits. We’ve seen Streep portray quiet, dignified power before. This isn’t it. She plays this future POTUS as a shallow monster of self-satisfaction, surrounded by photos of herself arm-in-arm with Hollywood celebrities. In the Oval Office, her smug smile is ever ready to turn to bored irritation. What she pulls off here is a letter-perfect encapsulation of the rotting soul of America. But still, she’s funny. Her own son is her chief-of-staff, Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill).

As Dr. Mindy tries to tell the world of its impending destruction, DiCaprio portrays, at first, a collapse of composure — something that is seemingly the most deplorable sin in a media-ready society where a confident outer shell has vanquished our deeper understandings.

Dr. Mindy: “It will have the power of a billion Hiroshima bombs.”

Jason: “You’re breathing weird. It’s making me uncomfortable.”

DiCaprio’s character travels a plausible arc here: first, he devolves into panic; then, with media coaching, transforms into a smooth, fatherly TV science-guy while simultaneously entering the sexy highlife as the adulterous lover of America’s most watched news-magazine host (an astonishing Cate Blanchett.) And then, by film’s end, he has believably revivified his humanity. Lawrence’s Kate Dibiasky’s reactions to her plight — from tense to tumultuous to totally checked out — make similar sense. Despite the bigger-than-life satiric thrust, one is emotionally tied to the two main characters.

Blanchett’s part isn’t huge, but she’s still able to dig beneath the shell of a shallow media star. Brie is the sex-hungry host of The Daily Rip, a meretricious Good Morning, America–type show that has either replaced newscasts, or just murdered them in the ratings. She’s a slick, sinuous over-achiever, highly educated, utterly amoral. When faced with a potentially emotional situation Brie simply looks bored and asks if it is really necessary to “do” this part of the routine. Yet Blanchett is so alive to the moment she can perceptively mine a hidden ore of humanity, a long buried nugget. When Dr. Mindy and Brie part ways — and the doctor tells her he’d been close to feeling love for her — Blanchett’s Brie is visibly startled by the word “love”: a look of shocked wistfulness flits over her glossy countenance, as if she’d just remembered love as a concept hidden away in a childhood memory. And then her eyes dismiss the idea as sadly irrelevant, and she’s gone. It is the kind of subtlety that humanizes a wicked satire, but doesn’t defang it.

The character of Sir Peter Isherwell, the billionaire tech guru and essentially the world’s most powerful man, is also a gem. Mark Rylance plays him as a robotic Elon Musk/Mark Zuckerberg type. His god-like algorhythmic control is so great that he knows more about every human than they do about themselves — and also can predict the exact date and cause of each human’s eventual death. (That tidbit is used to hilarious effect in the closing scene featuring President Orlean.) When Dr. Mindy criticizes Isherwell’s plan to monetize the looming catastrophe — calling it the thinking of “a businessman” — the mogul goes berserk at the perceived mega-insult.

Ariana Grande, Timothée Chalamet, Rob Morgan, and Melanie Lynskey are all excellent in this beautifully cast comedy.

In the end, the knee-jerk, hateful reviews of Don’t Look Up possess comments so outsized, and so beside the point, that they bear a resemblance to the oblivious thinking of the movie’s anti-science ostriches.

True satire is often deadly at the box office. Hollywood’s most common version — satire lite (a lightly scathing comedy with a happy ending) — is a far easier sell. It suggests to the viewer that heaven exists. But if the characters aren’t likable, the details not standard movie realism, the ending not cheery, the charges are often: How smug! How unrealistic! Don’t Look Up is intended as an active spin on reality, and not a charitable one. True satire is anti-romantic. It should come with a warning: cynicism, in the service of truth, is no sin. Is it possible, in 2022, to be cheered up by a good film about the bad end of the world? The thought that society sucks and then you die isn’t uplifting, true, but a smart film such as Don’t Look Up proves to the pessimists that we have company! We are not alone! We are not crazy! There are others like us on this Earth.

Daniel Gewertz for The Arts Fuse

Turkey Chili with Sweet Potatoes

Image source: Kalyn’s Kitchen

When the temperature dips below 20 degrees F and we’re covering our faces not because of a virus, but because our cheeks may freeze, hot comfort food is in order! I’ve posted recipes for Vegetarian Chili and Beef Chili, but Turkey Chili with Sweet Potatoes is my new favorite warm-up-in-cold-weather recipe. I made this Turkey Chili in a crockpot, but it can be cooked on a stove. Have extra? Freeze it for another-ummm–chilly day. Do you make Turkey Chili? Do you add sweet potatoes? Have suggestions for other ingredients to add?

Stay warm, hon.

Turkey Chili with Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans tomatoes (I used one can diced tomatoes and one can crushed tomotoes)
  • 1 (16-ounce) can red kidney beans
  • 1 cup water or 1/2 cup beef broth and 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder (adjust if you like things more or less spicy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder (yup–cocoa powder)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Directions:

1.  Brown ground turkey.

2.  Place browned turkey and remaining ingredients in crock pot, stirring to blend.

3.  Cover and cook on low setting 6 hours.

Don’t have a crock pot?  Don’t worry.

1.  In a frying pan, saute ground beef and onions until soft.

2.  Drain off fat.

3.  Transfer mixture to a large pot.

4.  Add remaining ingredients.

5.  Bring to a boil, them simmer, covered, approx. 45 minutes. Chili’s ready when sweet potatoes can be sliced easily.

Yield:  Approx. 8-10 servings.

Serene Scenes, Santa Cruz Wharf

Hannah and Morgan on the Santa Cruz Wharf

The Barking Was Not From Dogs!

If it hadn’t been rainy and chilly, I’m sure the Santa Cruz Wharf in California would have been teeming with people. Since it was practically deserted, we got great views of the beach, amusement park, and Monterey Bay. Hannah heard barking and guess what, hon? Sea lions were resting under the wharf. Cool!

Extending a half mile into the Monterey Bay, situated between the colorful Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the surfer-filled waves of Steamer Lane, the Santa Cruz Wharf offers some of most thrilling views along the California coast. At 2,745 feet, it’s the longest wooden pier in the United States, resting on over 4,400 Douglas-fir pilings. Built in 1914, the timber centenarian continues to offer a timeless Santa Cruz experience. Stroll its wooden walkways-ideally with a cup of clam chowder in hand-and discover fresh-seafood eateries, local gift shops, nature and history displays, fun seasonal events, and of course, those famous barking sea lions.

Santacruz.org

Have you been to Santa Cruz? What did you do you there?

Santa Cruz Wharf, Image source: City of Santa Cruz

Looking back at the beach.

Sea lions under the wharf.

Image source: Santa Cruz Sentinel