I headed off to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington with my family last weekend, amidst my usual flurried cacophony of activity: nonstop Olympics-watching, course prep for next semester and worrying about being behind in my course prep for next semester, practicing driving in preparation for acquiring my license. You might very well wonder how I got to a doctorate-getting age without ever earning the legal right to drive. The answer is a potent combination of circumstances: living in cities that are very pedestrian friendly, having very kindly friends who are willing to help on the relatively infrequent occasions when I need a ride, and the keen awareness of the fragility of my own mortality that hits me like an anvil whenever I get behind the wheel of a car.
Luckily I am beginning to get over that.
At any rate, I practice-drove out to Kenilworth with my parents and our friends - my first visit, and a stunner.
The lotuses were out, and according to our friend, just ever so slightly past their peak.
This meant that there was a marvelous array of buds, full blooms, explosively full blooms, and "shower heads" on stalks.
The blooms were endlessly fascinating, each its own unique intricate sculpture.
You could understand how easy it would be to fall into artistic absorption with them, O'Keefe-like.
The gardens were also filled with different varieties of birds and butterflies (slightly more difficult to photograph, and thus not in evidence here): herons, ducks, geese. A few monarchs were even making their gleaming way through.
In fact, they are apparently having quite the problem with a non-migratory and highly aggressive flock of geese that has taken up residence here and are driving everything else off. The solution? An NGO is oiling their eggs, so they never hatch. Who would have thunk it?
If you are in the DC area, take a gander at the gardens: they are in an unexpected neighborhood for tourists and even residents, but as a result they rate high on the "haven" meter. Also, like so many of the best things in Washington, they are part of the National Park Service and free to enter.
Additional links and tidbits? Mais oui!
- Harold Meyerson has an interesting opinion piece in today's Washington Post about the Olympics. In it, he makes a number of the same observations about the opening ceremonies that I did in my last post, but is rather more alarmed and skeptical about their implications:
If ever there was a display of affable collectivism, it was filmmaker Zhang Yimou's opening ceremonies, which in their reduction of humans to a mass precision abstraction seemed to derive in equal measure from Busby Berkeley and Leni Riefenstahl.
- In the LA Times, about a month ago (I am still working through the back list of interesting tidbits I have noted during the busyness of the summer), Charles McNulty talks about the perils of critical deadlines, and the impulsive writing they can produce:
Harder for a critic to cope with are the failures of language that are an inevitable byproduct of rapid-fire daily journalism. In a morning skirmish with adjectives, as my review of "Curtains" at the Ahmanson Theatre was already past deadline, I concluded by saying that for all its faults, the musical has a delirious showbiz quality that's "irresistible." That final word, blurbed as it inevitably was in newspaper ads, overstated my feelings. What I meant to say was "hard to resist" -- and the distinction, hairsplitting though it may sound, was a source of purgatorial torment to me.
- In the Times of London, Neil Fischer recounts his experience with the phenomenon of the "complaints choir":
In Finland, where the movement began, valituskuoro, or chorus of complaints, was what angry schoolteachers called recalcitrant pupils, until Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen and his wife Tellervo decided to take the expression at literal value. In the UK, they naturally drifted to Birmingham first (“the city with most complaints about the people themselves”, Kochta-Kalleinen says). It got its first complaints choir in 2005, at around the same time as Helsinki and St Petersburg. The simple formula - meet, moan, set it to (mostly original) music - proved wildly popular and easily exportable. There are now complaints choirs from Jerusalem to Buenos Aires, Budapest to Toronto. Some take requests from their local communities for complaints; others simply draw on their own miseries.