Yes, I am aware that it is March 5th and that I am almost a week late at posting this. But better late than never so here is last week’s Weekly Roundup.
Love, Fiercely by Jean Zimmerman
This book purported to be a love story of two prominent New Yorkers during the Gilded Age. In 1897 John Singer Sargent painted Edith Minturn Stokes and her husband, Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes in a stunning double portrait, which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both individuals were remarkable and contributed much to society, while loving each other far greater than most of their contemporaries, but I would not call this a love story. They fall in love, but this is much more about what they created. Apart from the acclaimed Sargent, Edith was also the model for Daniel Chester French’s Statue of the Republic at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893; her face gazed upon by 27,3000,000 visitors. Stokes is the author of an astounding six volume iconography of Manhattan. Also detailed was their day to day life, slices of a lost era that was known for it’s over the top decadence. Which, is probably my favorite era.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
For months my dad pestered me about reading this book. Every time I saw him he would somehow ask me if I had read it. I had nothing against it… really, but my pile is often very large and this is narrated by a dog. A dog that’s into race cars. I am a cat person. Blah. But, when one’s father is continually asking about a book and insisting it’s good then it’s time to read a book about a dog and race cars. Luckily, this book isn’t really about either of those things. This was the poignant story of a family. It’s plot isn’t the typical family story, but it’s not anything we haven’t heard before. Without the narration gimmick this book would not have worked. Enzo (the dog in question) was a pretty great character who hoped for more but worked with his limitations. A lot of the plot was easy to see coming, but, like Enzo, the reader is helpless to do anything but sit and watch. I’m glad I finally got to read this. And I will admit, at the end, I couldn’t help but cry.
Watching: Sleepy Hollow
Well, this could be the last time I am actually able to talk about this show in the present tense. A year ago I wrote a whole post about how this show was so fun and that it shouldn’t work but really does. I never quite finished writing and never posted it.
I don’t even know how this show got past the development stage. I can’t imagine anyone being pitched this concept; Icabod Crane from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleep Hollow wakes up some 200 years after battling the headless horseman (who, in this version, is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse), and thenceforth exists to battle the forces of evil in modern times, would think this was a good idea. Sleepy Hollow uses different mythology but sets it against a brand name that’s recognizable. It’s a silly show, to be sure, where anything, from demons emerging into this world to holograms of founding fathers that can speak and interact with the characters, can happen and quite frequently does.
But I have never been one to shy away from the fantastical, as Buffy and Lost are two of my all time favorite shows, both of which went to some very strange places. I love battling the forces of evil, and since I can’t do it personally I have to watch characters do it for me.
I was very hopeful about season two, especially after the pretty epic season finale last year, but… it really fucked it up. The lead character’s witch wife emerged from Purgatory where she had been trapped for over two hundred years and became a major character. Unfortunately, her powers were boringly limited and her character did very little but exhibit angst over various plot points that I wont recount here. A new, roguish, character appeared who traded in mystical items and inexplicably had the hots for both the lead actress and her sister, depending on the episode, and really didn’t fit in at all. To be honest the shift of focus onto both these new leads (Katrina, the wife, was in season one but she didn’t have a large role) seemed to a lot of viewers as an attempt to shift attention from the established cast, which included three black actors in lead roles, to new lily white characters that no one cared about. The writing was, frankly, all over the place and everything that worked in season one ceased to in this mess of a sophomore season. I didn’t hate it as some did, but it certainly lost it’s magic. Still, I hope it gets its chance to fix itself in a season three because right at the end it seemed to show signs that it could redeem itself.
Marina and the Diamonds, FROOT
Marina is probably my favorite singer; the pop I love with a little more substance. She writes about all things of life, from romance and that backstabbing bitch, which we hear about from so many pop artists, to dealing with neuroses, all with the additional aid of a great hook. I’ve loved her since her first CD, The Family Jewels, dropped in 2010. FROOT is her latest and reminds me more of the first album than her second, concept, album, Electra Heart.
I’m writing about this for posterity. There are certain cultural things that just take people by the throat. I don’t care about sports at all but I watched the Superbowl half time show because I love Katy Perry and was amused as anyone by her dancing sharks. I didn’t care one way or another about the lack of dance skills from left shark, I just liked those ridiculous costumes. The next day the website Shirt Punch unveiled a shirt featuring an imagine of the shark with the slogan “You the real MVP”. Couldn’t agree more, Shirt Punch, but as my friend tried to convince me to buy the thing I just had to refuse. How long, really, would that be funny? Such is with this dress:
Last week this picture of this dress caused quite a stir on the internet when it became clear that some people saw completely different colors in it than other people. Some saw the dress as white and gold and others saw it as black and blue [which, ew, black and blue together is not cute, and actually the dress was pretty ugly in general]. This phenomenon apparently caused rifts between family and friends. The ones who saw blue and gold felt marginalized and people booked eye appointments for fear of color blindness. Many have told me they started seeing one combo and then switched to the other.
I went to a hockey game last Friday and they showed a picture of the dress and had the crowd cheer for which they saw. The man behind me started screaming “Black and blue” like a mad man and even started in again when I pulled the picture up on my phone and started discussing it with my friend. He was so sure of his opinion that he became belligerent. I found this interesting. Others insisted that it was stupid to care at all. I could not disagree more. I found this fascinating. I saw white and gold and nothing else ever, except a brief glimpse from the corner of my eye that I might have called black and blue. I saw several people post, the next day, a page of optical illusions that are “more interesting than that damned dress”. I had seen all of them before and have always been able to separate the illusion from what is there. Not so with the “damned dress”. What I find interesting here is something that I have always wondered; How can we possibly know that the colors we preceive are the same colors that others see. I know what red is because I have been told red while pointing at a color, but there is no way to know if other people see the same color. I am sure there is something scientific that I don’t understand to answer that question, but on a “what does it all mean” scale it’s a question I think about. This dress was like the whole world asking a similar question all at the same time. Yes, I know the dress is black and blue, but my inability to see it as black and blue is astounding to me. I can understand how a light colored dress could look darker because of shadows but I have seen blue in terrible backlighting before and it has never looked white before. But more puzzling; I can see how something could look the wrong color in a photo, but the fact that two people can look at the same photo and see two different colors is amazing. It’s amazing.