Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm Too Outta' Shape For This

It snowed overnight last night, accumulating about three inches. Then it rained this morning. I worked with my male staff to clear the sidewalks and driveway at work. I shoveled the heavy, wet snow for about 1.5 hours. I've really got to keep in better shape, 'cause now I'm sore and tired. Winter confinement without much exercise is a drag. I've got a treadmill in the basement, but I don't use it much because (1) it's really boring (even with my iPod in my ear) and (2) I tend to overdue it on the treadmill, so my bum right knee hurts the next day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sunset and Sweetgum

Another winter sunset, this time on Tuesday evening, January 13. Actually, the sky was even more spectacular a few minutes earlier--pink, salmon and mauve against shades of gray--but I didn't get the camera until the light was more faded. Nevertheless, it was still impressive even then. The image below includes the silhouette of a sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) that's still holding its fruits--and shedding them sporadically with each windstorm.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lar Lubovitch Dance

I went to a performance by the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company on Saturday afternoon (January 10). My subscription is for Saturday evening performances, but snowy, sleety weather was forecast for Saturday evening, and a friend asked if I was free on Saturday evening. So, I changed my tickets to the matinee performance. (Alas, the weather never got bad, and my friend reneged on his evening invitation.) Nevertheless, going in the afternoon felt like a special treat, so I didn't regret my decision to change my plans.

Lar Lubovitch had never previously performed as part of this dance series, so I had no idea what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised. While I wouldn't want a steady diet of his work, Lubovitch's superb dancers performed three works--including his classic Concerto Six Twenty-Two set to Mozat's Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (K. #622). This dance includes a justifiably famous male duet during the second movement written in response to the AIDS crisis in 1986.

The other two dances were Little Rhapsodies set to Schumann's Symphonic Etudes, and Dvorak Serenade set to Serenade in E Major.

After the performance, Lubovitch came onstage for a question and answer period. Usually, I dislike such sessions, but after a few ringers, the audience asked thoguhtful questions, and Lubovitch gave thoughtful answers. He said that he usually sets his dances to classical music, and that his dances are "lyrical." I agree with him. He also said that it's difficult to talk about dance--a medium that conveys expression in terms other than words--and, again, I agree with him.

Lubovitch's male dancers were all attractive. Unlike some companies that expose a lot of flesh, Lubovitch's dancers stayed dressed. But, the guys' pants were tight, so there was still plenty of eye candy to enjoy in addition to the wonderful dances.

After the performance, on my way bck to my car, I ran across a new store called Naked Chocolate that sells high-end chocolates, coffee, and hot chocolate drinks. I picked up a pyramidal chocolate dessert and a truffle called Orinoco filled with chocolate ganache and swirled with color on the outside. Both were great--a real treat to end a good day!

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Night Walk in the Winter Woods

Last night, I went for a walk in the forest preserve near my home. It was cold and clear, but the moon was four-fifths full and the landscape was bathed in moonlight. My favorite walk in the nighttime winter woods is to a 7-acre beech forest growing adjacent to the stream that flows through the preserve.

En route to the woods, I walked through fields of native Indian-grass (Sorghastrum nutans). The stalks were dead and dry, but still erect despite lots of wind and rain earlier this winter (the coming snows will finally mat them down). The strong, steady wind from the northwest sighed through the grasses; otherwise, the night would have been silent.

Approaching the beech forest is like entering a sanctuary. At the edge of the forest, a sizable 150-year-old black oak tree fell across the trail many years ago. The preserve managers cut out the portion of the bole blocking the trail, but left the remainder in place. Now, walking between the pieces of the trunk is like passing through a portal. To the left flowed the stream-- quicksilver riffles alternating with inky, black pools of unfathomable depth. To the right, on a step, rocky slope, stood the trees--mostly American beeches (Fagus grandifolia) [surely one of my favorite trees], but accompanied by many black and red oaks (Quercus velutina [I don't know the origin of velutina, but I always imagine it related to black velvet] and Q. rubra, respectively). The beeches are the reason to come to this ancient forest, though, standing luminously against the night-black hillside. Just at the top of the slope, the sky was visible and Jupiter shone between the branches.

Before I left the forest, I faced the stream and carefully positioned myself so that the trees along the bank blocked out all the lights from the few residences ringing the preserve. For one blessed moment, I imagined myself alone in the the wilderness.

The images accompanying this post are from the beech forest in the fall--and during daylight.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still

I went to see The Day the Earth Stood Still this weekend. I give it a big "thumbs down." The special effects are not that special, and the story has not changed significantly from the 1951 original. In fact, as I sat in the theater (the IMAX version, for $3 extra, no less), completely unengaged in the movie, I thought, "What a wasted opportunity to re-imagine the original film." This one's a stinker, so don't waste your money on it.

After the film, I thought about the movies I had seen during 2008. There weren't a lot of high points. The best film I saw last year probably was a French noir thriller called Tell No One. Slumdog Millionare was also really good. I loved Mamma Mia! but, of course, it's not high art. Wasting my time and money on Day the Earth Stood Still, and reconsidering the relatively poor quality of last year's fare, has made me think twice about going to the movies.