Bibbity Dum-dum

A lovely simile linking the cinematic, literary, and pictorial worlds, from Anthony Lane’s review of P. T. Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice:

As a lyricist of California light, Pynchon is rivalled only by Richard Diebenkorn, who spent some twenty years painting his Ocean Park series in Santa Monica, and I doubt whether any director—dead or alive, Altman or Anderson—could really conjure a style to match the long surge of a Pynchon sentence as it rolls inexhaustibly onward.

Posted in Art and Architecture, Film, Prose Fiction
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Passings: 1

another one down: 1another one down: 2The ticky-tacky souvenir shops on F Street and in Chinatown give the neighborhood some lowrise, grotty street cred. One by one, however, they get redeveloped. Here’s the latest casualty, just up the block from Ford’s Theatre. Time was, the tourists stacked up outside the place were always a commuting obstacle, and made me resolve to stick to E Street.

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Some links: 71

Catching up on a lot of bookmarks, so this will be a bit of a link dump.

  • Reduced-meat or meatless diets (Mediterranean, pescetarian, vegetarian) are both better for your health and more sustainable for the environment, as David Tilman and Michael Clark find in a recent paper, and as Elke Stehfest summarizes.
  • I am loving Nature‘s new sharing tools. Susannah Locke explains the journal’s move toward more open access.
  • Emily Dreyfuss signed up to give Wikipedia six bucks a month.

    …Wikipedia is the best approximation of a complete account of knowledge we’ve ever seen.

    It’s also the most robust. The most easily accessed. And the safest. It exists on servers around the world so, unlike the library at Alexandria, it can’t be burned down.

    You should chip in, too.

  • The Biodiversity Heritage Library has opened an online exhibit dedicated to women in science who began working before 1922. Some of my recent subjects are there, including Florence Merriam Bailey and Mabel Osgood Wright.
Posted in Agriculture, Food and Cooking, Health and Medicine, History, Natural Sciences, Philanthropy
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State-of-the-art stormwater management—in Los Angeles? Yes, indeedy: Jacques Leslie explains.

Posted in Water Resources and Wetlands
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The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism…

The collisions of ideas and recriminations that highlight the first two acts of Tony Kushner’s Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide, multiple conversations/arguments taking place in the Brooklyn brownstone of Gus Marcantonio, are by turns invigorating and exhausting. Whereas OTC is fond of referring to the overlapping dialog in the second act of Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County as the “fugue of dysfunction,” in Kushner’s work there is no delicate counterpoint, but rather Ivesian clangor—albeit modulated deftly by director John Vreeke.

The house of Marcantonio (Gus’s three children, his sister, an ex-son-in-law, two same-sex partners, and a baby on the way) is replete with people of higher learning and the word: a former nurse, a lawyer, two theology Ph.D.’s, a historian ABD. As for Gus (the firm Tom Wiggin), he’s a mere autodidact, a retired longshoreman and radical labor organizer who taught himself Latin and translates Horace for recreation. It’s not surprising (and yet it’s very funny) when the two theologians bicker over a translation when one of them is going into labor.

Yet there is a hollowness in Gus’s soul (made perhaps too explicit by a subplot involving something hidden behind a broken plaster wall) that he can’t fill, a compromise made earlier in his life that he still regrets. And so he makes plans to make his quietus, to distribute his estate, thereby throwing his family into a tizzy.

A subplot centered on Gus’s son PierLuigi (known as “Pill”) explores the commodification of sex and some aspects of labor’s alienation that Karl Marx chose not to discuss. The love triangle involving Pill’s husband Paul and the weedy hustler Eli feels a bit labored, but is redeemed when Eli appears in the closing moments of the play to solve a problem for Gus.

In all this wordy maelstrom, the standouts are two women of quiet power: Jenifer Belle Deal as Shelle, a dockworker’s widow who matter-of-factly explains to Gus how a home suicide can be accomplished, and Rena Cherry Brown as Gus’s sister Clio (called “Zeeko”), a polytheist who left the convent to follow Mao and Mary Baker Eddy. Brown is at her most eloquent sitting calmly, with crossed arms, speaking when it is meet to speak.

Mashups of high-minded intellection and simple, sublime pleasures drive much of the humor in this piece. The payoff for one of Gus’s stories about the old country concerns an anarcho-communist choral society. Kushner swings from the nigglingly precise (as projections tell us, the play takes place in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood, in 2007, on such-and-such dates and at such-and-such times) to the sweepingly allegorical, as in Gus’s dream of the tragedians and the single audience member. The point of Gus’s parable is that the the tragedy takes place in the mind of the viewer. And so, as we watch Kushner’s play, we ask ourselves, where does this story of betrayal and collapse take place? There on the stage, or within each one of us?

  • The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, by Tony Kushner, directed by John Vreeke, Theater J, Washington
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Dewy pink

Two exquisite photographs of Stemonitis axifera at Botany POTD. I see that this genus has been featured there before.

Posted in Myxomycetes
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INTERVIEWER: Why did you want to make a book with no beginning or end?

CHRIS WARE: When we meet someone for the first time, we don’t hear their entire life story. We learn bits and pieces and start to put together a sense of that person by mortaring in the cracks and holes around their anecdotes and personality quirks with our assumptions and guesses. Later, we’re able to think of that person more or less as an entity, from all sides and all times, and maybe even to imitate or make fun of them. But everything we think of as real is still always our own fiction. We’re all fiction writers.

The Paris Review 210, The Art of Comics No. 2
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A trio of stories from the current issue of Audubon, celebrating three generations of researchers leveraging citizen science at Patuxent Research Refuge: Chandler Robbins, Sam Droege, and Jessica Zelt.

Posted in Birds and Birding, Citizen Science
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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 8

My report to the class on my patch of woods in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park is turned in and archived.

Posted in In the Field
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Yet more shoebox emptying

The first project that I set for myself on the web was a series of photographs to be made along Interstate 66, which runs from an interchange with I-81 in the vicinity of Strasburg, Va. and follows an eastbound track through the exurbs and suburbs into the West End of Washington. (Wow, it looks like I didn’t preserve that project online in the course of my ISP migrations.) In 1997 and therebouts, I took hard photos, printed from film, and scanned them.

prestonMost of what I have in the shoebox is so-so, but there are a few snaps that are worth rescanning and uploading. I like the contrast between the sharp focus and the motion blur in this picture from the neighborhood of Thorofare Gap in Prince William County.

East Falls Church in the rainthistlesTwo images from the East Falls Church Metro station. Notice that the lead car of the train is one of the old cars with a non-illuminated line designation sign; rather, it’s one of the old school cars sporting a cardboard sign in the window.

Custis TrailI was impressed that there are sections of the Martha Custis Trail that run right next to 66, with nothing but a wire fence separating bikes and cars. I’m still impressed.

I-66 rampI-66′s final interchange in the District was originally built to tie the expressway into the (unbuilt) North Leg of the Inner Loop Freeway and (unbuilt) I-266. The ramp was demolished and the interchange reconfigured a few years after I took the picture.

I-66 entranceThe outbound access to I-66 hasn’t changed much in 17 years. Drivers leaving the Kennedy Center still have an awkward left turn across Virginia Avenue, N.W. into a rump section of I St., N.W. to get to the onramp.

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In honor of the opening of Washington Dulles International Airport 52 years ago: a stunning gallery of images of the Eero Saarinen-designed airport under construction, photographed by Balthazar Korab, and donated to the Library of Congress.

Posted in Art and Architecture, Engineering, Happy Birthday, Photography
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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 7

chicken doneSunday was my last visit to Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, at least for the purposes of the class project. I pulled off a couple of sections of the dessicated fruiting body of my Chicken of the Woods specimen to see the remnants of the pore surfaces underneath.

One of the tools we used in the course of the class was a rough-and-ready estimate of a tree’s age, given a measurement of its diameter at breast height (DBH). Now, it’s pretty clear from the landscape (as well as what we know about the general history of the region) that the park was once a farm. I don’t have enough information to determine whether this 40 acres or so that I’ve been studying was cleared for pasture, row crops, or what have you—no matter. But we can read some of the history of the land in its current trees.

StonyAlong the stone fence line, I found the oldest trees in the patch, White Oaks about 150 years old. Away from the fence, I found Black Cherry and Red Maple trees not much younger, maybe 135 years old. So these trees germinated during the period 1864 to 1871, give or take. And this observation fits with the historical record: Centreville, Virginia was a crossroads of fighting and encampment during the Civil War, especially 1862-1862. In the first half of the 1860s, every tree on the old Walney farm would have been cut down: you’ll find nothing older here.

We can go further. I see another cohort of trees: an American Sycamore about 78 years old, a Black Walnut of 80, a Tuliptree a bit older at 89 years old. These trees would have been seedlings about 1930, sprouting in old fields ready to undergo succession. The brief history provided by the FCPA web site admits that information about when the fields were abandoned is sketchy, but it would have been some time before 1935, when the farm was sold to Ellanor Campbell Lawrence for a summer place.

Posted in In the Field
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Upcoming: 38

Book me a motel in the Berkshires: Mass MoCA is set to announce a long-term partnership with James Turrell, setting aside 35,000 square feet of new exhibition space for several of his works.


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Five things I had to look up/check that I came across in Roz Chast’s marvelous, hyper-specific Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?:

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Carol Vogel reports on the restoration of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Adam, a 15th-century marble by Tullio Lombardo, which is again on display. The sculpture was smashed into dozens of pieces when its supporting pedestal gave way, in 2002. Vogel notes “a new attitude adopted by museums around the world to share such innovative work not just professionally but with the public,” although concerns had been expressed (as reported by Randy Kennedy in 2010) about the slowness of the reconstruction as well as lack of media access. In any event, now that the sculpture is back, the museum has produced an impressive suite of videos summarizing the story.

Related: Restoration of a Mark Rothko.

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