Peace

Kid, stretched out on parental bed face-down:

-I am inner peace

Me, checking uterus:

-No, you’re outer peace.

Kid, reeling in both parents:

-I am centerpiece!

Kid talk

“This morning was like sticking tomatoes in a blender before you stick your hand in, so no one notices the blood” (it was a pretty cough-heavy morning indeed)

“Rub my belly, I am not dead!”

“It is I, your greatest achievement!”

Friend: I don’t know whether I look up at you or down at you. Kid2: I look west at you and see the ancient dragons that King Arthur fought.

Whales

Today was a beautiful day – unusually sunny and warm. We all stayed home for various reasons, although it’s a Friday. We hugged. I biked. Older Kid made another miniature book and some amazing fairies for their library. Younger Kid made a cool battle shield. We went to the beach together and it was warm enough to really enjoy wave running. And we saw whales! This is the first time, although we’ve been looking for seven years. There were three, and they kept jumping, showing their backs. One jumped half-way out of the water, and another spent a couple of minutes just flipping his tail.

Life is good.

Life, still good

I extraverted for 2 full days (3-9, 8-9, 8-10:30=20.5 hours). I was friendly and interested. I was vulnerable and open about my emotions. I was invested in the outcome and forthcoming with my opinions. I praised, listened supportively, and gave credit. I participated actively in a loud game show and had prolonged conversations with multiple people in loud restaurants. I came home nearly dead, but satisfied.

Everyone was unusually solicitous of me, which, after talking to B, I put down to

1. A combination of feminine dresses (the potential future personalities dressed me for this one. They are way more extraverted than I am, and more body-confident)

2. Hurt feet (I wore something other than Birkenstock sandals for the first time in over two years. It hurt. Got bloody welts before I reached the plane.)

3. General projection of clumsiness that, apparently, sometimes just happens to me, especially when meeting new people. B says it’s not actual clumsiness.

4. The whole open and vulnerable about emotions thing

I came home to a cleaned bathroom, happy kids, an evening watching The Great Dictator with B, and a morning with matcha made exactly to my taste (sheer luck) by Younger Kid and flower eggs by Older Kid. “Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good” πŸ™‚

Coming next- Il Ducato, the updated Lamplighters take on Mikado, with amazing kids πŸ™‚

Life is very good.

Life is good

I went to a party yesterday.

I extraverted.

I danced salsa and Bollywood, as part of a small group, a large group, and a pair (as usual, I looked around and invited the shyest woman. She liked it.)

I ate the most exciting meal in my life to date (https://www.tastemade.com/shiven)

I woke up dead (extraversion is not my thing), and spent the day doing light crafting, school supply shopping, and random browsing while Awesome Spouse cleaned the room with kids, took them shopping, and brought me flowers and an eclair.

And now, at a strong suggestion from Awesome Spouse I’m going to go take the bath Youngest Kid set up for me.

Life is very good.

Tudors

Took the kids to see The Tudors today. My mental images of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Edward VI are based on a very limited number of portraits, and every single one of those portraits was there, as was pretty much every other artwork I would name if anyone asked me to make a list of Tudor artwork. The few that were not there were used in explanatory texts. Most artworks were so immediately familiar that seeing them feels like unexpectedly seeing an old friend. They did not look anything like I would’ve expected.

In person they are very real and alive, to an extent that I never guessed from the photos. Despite the overall flatness of the background. Despite the unrealistic proportions of the furniture. Despite the costumes and the make-up. “They could almost step out of the frames” is a clichΓ©, but alas – an inescapable one.

Crafts were new to me, and amazing.

The detail is overwhelming. There was some blackwork embroidery with patterns so tiny and complicated I could barely distinguish them, and suits of armor covered in patterns on patterns, dizzy-making.

Incidentally, this particular suit of armor is supposed to be blue (based on the explanatory text). I generally think of this shade as brown. Another odd thing about this suit of armor is that the breathing holes are only on the right side of the helmet.

The kids claim they enjoyed the exhibition, but it was obviously too much for them. They saw all four rooms in the time it took me to get to the middle of the second room, and after that followed behind me, holding my hands, leaning on me, and generally being cute and tired. But they were good about it, and got their dose of shopping, food, and beach afterward. It was a perfect sunny day, and West Beach was almost entirely empty. Much wave running got runned.

Washington, DC 8

On our last day we missed seeing the International Spy Museum and the National Air and Space Museum for the same reason – it was a Saturday and I didn’t think to get tickets in advance. Kids, fortunately, were stoic (like Zeus) and patient. I gave them a choice between the National Portrait Gallery and National Building Museum and they picked the latter.

The Building Museum is located in an enormous magnificent empty building. It’s surrounded by a frieze by Casper Buberl detailing the units of the Union Army that deserves a separate exhibition on its own. There are photos on the museum site: https://www.nbm.org/about/historic-home/

The middle of the central hall normally has a fountain which is currently covered by a sculpture, Look Here by Suchi Reddy. The point of the sculpture is for the viewer to see themeselves reflected in photos of historical acts of protest printed on the reflective forms and to consider that they, the viewer, as well as architecture, are both parts of shaping our society for the better. The small grey squares you can barely see in the middle are bed-sized pillows and rocking chairs on which tired parents recline while their children take part in the LEGO build on the second floor. It is a beautiful and restful spot, which qualities distract from the message of protest and activism.

Besides the LEGO build there’s an empty room with posters about the life of the founder, General Meigs, a room with a collection of animals in sculpture (very beautiful, but insufficiently explained), some great doll houses and scale models of historical homes , and a really cool exhibit showing different ways of framing a house.

There are also a lot of empty rooms and a general feeling that we should’ve come during an event or performance. Totally worth it for the beauty and the LEGO break, but next time I’m looking at their calendar before visiting.

Traveling with kids means that there’s only a short window to see things, and it’s approximately 9 am to 3 pm. After that it’s food and physical activity time. Younger Kid requires 3 hours of physical activity per day plus bed-flopping breaks.

Overall, it was a great trip – much easier and less stressful than I expected. We saw completely different things than I thought we’d see, ate different foods than I thought we’d eat, and spent far more time at the gym with more enjoyment than I would have believed.

Washington, DC 7

As much as National Children’s Museum was a disappointment Planet Word was an unexpected delight. My expectations of it were low, 3/5 – but Younger Kid put it as a 5 and Older Kid as a 4, besides it was two blocks away from the hotel. I feel very lucky that we went there and will come back again if I can. Planet Word is a museum dedicated to words and language, and it’s absolutely beautiful inside and outside.

One enters through a courtyard with a lit tree and a statue of someone that seems to be trying to pull themselves together out of letters. I’m not sure whether this is what the sculptor intended, but it’s an image that I can really identify with (yes, the dangling participle just here is ironic).

The tree was not lit when we came, but as we were leaving we saw the first few lamps turned on.

Inside there are three floors and one starts at the top. The first room contains a lit globe surrounded by tablets, each containing short videos by language carriers about their language. I must have been very tired, because I became a bit teary-eyed at the explanation of how to say some simple thing in Amharic.

The most interesting things I learned are that Miriwoong (one of the 250ish Native Australian languages) has not words for hello and good bye, but only “How are you”, that Wolof speakers in Senegal do not refer to anything as “mine” if they can plausibly call it “ours”, and that Senegalese in general are so reluctant to talk about their accomplishments that each family has a designated praise giver, whose job it is to bring up the achievements of family members as needed.

Next is an interactive video played against a wall of 1,000 most common English words, talking about where they came from (1/3 each Saxon, Norman, and borrowed apparently, I assume not enough remains of the Celtic languages to count). An interesting factoid from the video is that teenage girls have been the most active new word inventors since the 15th century at least, and are responsible for introducing “you” instead of “thou” and “does” instead of “doth”. It’s a relatively simple video – a disembodied voice talks, audience shouts answers into microphones, the voice either says “yes, the answer is” or “no, the answer is”, visuals are spare (fire, water, animal silhouettes) but the whole is very beautiful. In fact “simple and beautiful” really defines Planet Word.

Another fun fact – apparently there’s no agreement on how many words English has, because there’s no agreement on how to count words like “run”, which has 345ish definitions

The second floor is where I’d stay forever. It starts with a quiet library – color-coordinated books, mirrors in the ceiling, a table for coloring and a center table on which one can place a book from the shelf and see played out on top of it a short video explaining the book or telling some interesting story about how it came to be written. One of the library walls is actually a secret door, leading to a small quiet room with a couch where one can sit and listen to poetry being read out loud and shown on a screen. Here is that door seen from the inside.

Walls of the library are inset with large mirrors in gilded frames. Underneath each one is a quote from a book that, when said out loud by someone without an accent (I drafted Younger Kid) temporarily transforms the mirror into a diorama from the book while another disembodied voice continues the quote. Each diorama is in a different style and range of material (e. g. The Little Prince is an all-white globe with paper cut-outs inside), all are remarkably beautiful, and many quite realistic, but it’s very hard to make a good photograph of a mirror, so, unfortunately, I can only show two.

Besides the beautiful library there is a purple room devoted to karaoke, a yellow room (I want a yellow room. Preferably one where I can drink tea in the morning) all about jokes and how to tell them, and a green room in which kids can dip brushes into adjective pails and alter a virtual landscape on the wall by painting over it. For instance “autumnal” turned the leaves yellow and “crepuscular” introduced twilight.

The bottom floor had a spiral exhibition on ads and the techniques they use, stories of language and a room to record one’s own story, and a gift shop where I was surprised to learn that Older Kid prefers Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter (yes, that same HP that they’ve been reading non-stop for the last 4 years), and the Phantom Tollbooth to both. I read the Phantom Tollbooth in either Odessa or Moscow as a kid, and remember almost nothing except that I liked it and the word “cacophony”. Will have to re-read.

Younger Kid requested and received a manual on writing jokes for kids and a book about the history of punctuation marks. Can’t wait to see whether he’ll read these. Right now he’s reading a biography of Michael Jordan, acquired as part of his search for gifts for Older Kid (they got a cupcake cookbook in that particular store).

Washington, DC 6

Wednesday was a lovely and relaxed day. We strolled Georgetown at random using my favorite process – picked something to look for, in this case a playground. We found three playgrounds, all of which were really cool. One was locked, the other was occupied by a camp, and the third devoted solely to toddlers. We stopped there anyway, because it had fountains. Younger Kid now wants a balance bike and a red Radio Flyer tricycle.

Georgetown is full of very similar houses, all of which have big enticing balconies, towers, and ornate cast-iron front steps. It seems very cohesive and I would’ve enjoyed walking there more.

Strangely, DC seems to have very few homeless people, and passerby seem sober and friendly. The streets overall seem safe, clean, and populated. I’ve yet to smell cannabis anywhere, but that may be because we’re more or less staying in the same small area.

It was really great that Younger Kid was into strolling and discovering a neighborhood with me and seemed to understand why it’s fun. I wish I knew how the day was for him.

Once we got tired of walking I gave Younger Kid a choice of another museum, historical house, or an aquatic park. Once it became clear that the aquatic park is a boardwalk hike in a swamp with lotuses he picked the historical house. Specifically, Tudor House, inhabited by descendants of Martha Washington for six generations. She did not have children with George Washington, but he raised her kids from a prior marriage and this is the house where they lived.

The house is surrounded by a beautiful garden. We kept getting lost at it, because we expected the scale to be similar to Filoli. It’s actually (being a city and not a county house) a lot smaller, so we’d constantly look for paths that we’ve passed awhile ago. Younger Kid was somewhat disappointed at not being allowed to touch those lead dogs, but I really liked it that he came up with the prohibition himself, all I had to do was to confirm it.

The tour is built around the day Marquis de Lafayette came to visit in 1824. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the house and its inhabitants and history, good and bad. It was more the idea of learning things about the past than what those things were – so she was equally enthusiastic about Lafayette, General Lee (who also visited, being a near connection by marriage), the gardener whose name unfortunately I’ve forgotten, and Martha Washington’s punch bowl (very beautiful, Chinese, made for export to Britain).

Younger Kid requested souvenirs, and got a hat (he’s been begging for a natty hat for awhile now) and lemon balm tea, which he said Older Kid will love. I need to figure out how to resist this particular sales approach.

Just outside, on the same street we found (and lightly sampled) a neighborhood herb garden. Younger kid also noted the rainbow and Ukrainian flags and concluded that these must be very good people. I’m inclined to agree.

Next, we went along the Georgetown Heritage Canal. Unfortunately, we were too late to get a boat tour, but we did examine the locks in detail. The next day we missed the same tour because of bad luck with Uber πŸ™ It was a beautiful area and I hope Older Kid feels well enough Friday that we can attempt the tour again.

Sunday, and Monday we finished the day at the pool. Tuesday we were very tired and the pool was, according to Younger Kid, too full of people. That is why Wednesday we went to the gym. The gym at this hotel (Hilton Embassy on 10th) is well hidden – it’s on a lower floor accessible by only one of four elevators and unmarked. But it’s big, and well-equipped, and we spent an hour and a half there. Would’ve been more, but we forgot water bottles and there were no cups.

Thursday, unfortunately, was almost a complete loss as far as touristing goes – we went to the National Children’s Museum, which is an indoor playground.

There’s a cool climbing structure with a slide, but the one in San Diego is much more interesting.

There are some exhibits pretending to be scientific, but after Exploratorium they look weak.

Younger Kid enjoyed building a swing from wooden blocks and tackle (we tried to fit in a pulley, but there was no rational place for it), using an air stream to lift balls into a basket, and doing baseball practice hits. I was really impressed at how organized the line for the baseball was – kids intuitively, without discussion, agreed on the length of turns and kept to it politely and without fuss.

Afterward we walked back to the hotel, did another hour and a half of gym, and three hours at the pool. I barely pulled Younger Kid away by telling him the hotel restaurant will close. Fortunately, he really loves this restaurant.

He’s being quite adventurous with food – ordered a quinoa salad for breakfast (ate out pomegranate seeds and raisins and left the rest, but still) and an apple and cheddar salad for dinner (ate all the apples and cheddar and half the arugula, the waitress even commented on how much he ate – it was a very big bowl). Even more strikingly he followed up the salad with an “exotic mushroom” pizza, as opposed to his normal extra cheese. I’m becoming more and more optimistic about foreign travel.

Washington, DC 4

Monday we went to the Hirshhorn Modern Art museum. This is one Younger Kid specifically asked for. I was surprised, but went in with no expectations.

We started at the sculpture garden outside – sat next to creepy headless people, and ate ice cream. They watched us.

We also really liked these three:

Pretty awesome spider made out of strings or wires, thus less scary than a normal spider.

Miro, because of the amazing textures. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the box is corrugated cardboard.

Typewriter eraser. Younger kid felt betrayed – both parents told him there’s no such thing.

White tree of Gondor (Younger Kid recognized it)

The Thinker – reminded me of the Black Rabbit from Watership Down

But our favorite was House I, by Lichtenstein. We did not make it spin, but the moment of going from thinking “it’s flat, but the illusion is that it’s 3D” to realizing that it is 3D was really great.

Hirshhorn was dark. Like an avalanche of gloom and terror.

Between the one spiky and beautiful globe of rainbows by Eliasson and the glorious prisms by Mary Bauermeister (above) was

  1. A funereal purple installation about consumerism killing the world https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/john-akomfrah-purple/
  2. A deadly green film about the jungle (I wish I had photographed the leaves dripping paint) and the actor’s need to be constantly seen (a very sad and cynical riff on Socrates, but gloriously green, wet, and liquid)
  3. An exhibition of modern Chinese photography. I was most struck by a series of portraits of the artist’s parents (from revolution to old age, sickness, and death), a collage of hundreds of identical 3-people family photos, and a version of the traditional four seasons paintings (circle in a square with a branch and a bird) in which all birds have been messily killed. Keep in mind that I steered away from the scarier walls. https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/a-window-suddenly-opens-contemporary-photography-in-china/
  4. A floor dedicated to an abstract Pickett’s Charge – chaos and violence in torn paper. https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/mark-bradford-picketts-charge/
  5. An overwhelming, chaotic, complex and screaming black and white room about ravens, flood, absurdity, and inevitable destruction of the world, which may be a dream anyway.
  6. An exhibition centered on the pains and troubles of being a non-male artist
  7. A red white and black room about current politics and the world in general https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/barbara-kruger-beliefdoubt/
  8. A desert-colored meditation by Dana Awartani about impermanence of home and memory. There was a mosaic tile, re-created with sand, on the floor, and a movie about the destruction of the same in an abandoned home in the village where her grandparents used to live before history happened, as it does. She made an immensely complicated pattern with colored sand in order to sweep it up, a melancholy mandala.

Therefore it’s not surprising that we went straight home afterwards, pausing only to admire a small enclosed and fragrant garden. What is surprising although it probably shouldn’t be is that Younger Kid paid careful attention to all of the above (esp. Dana Awartani’s film) and seemed to be thinking about it.

Washington, DC 3

On Sunday we started at the Beauvoir Playground, which is big, and lovely, and which I mainly did not see because I was sitting at the top guarding our luggage.

The playground is right next to the National Cathedral, lucky for me. Kids were a bit aghast at the idea of visiting a working church, but I managed to convince them.

The cathedral was just as beautiful as expected. I particularly enjoyed the carving of hell fire above the main entrance and the space window.

That done, we dropped off Older Kid in their first-ever strangers-only sleepaway camp (Animal Sciences+Leadership) and went on a tour of all Washington DC souvenir shops because Younger Kid wanted to buy a gift for Older Kid.

We made it through approximately 8, and bought a rubber duck and sunglasses. There is MAGA merchandise everywhere, and it’s really unpleasant. My compromise was buying from a store that had both kinds of merch.

Three hours at the pool, and that’s Sunday πŸ™‚

Books Read

  1. Emma – Emotional Load and Mental Load. These two books were exactly as I expected based on reading the comics online – unpleasantly on-point when it comes to gender and disturbingly at variance with my assumptions and beliefs when it comes to economics (she’s very socialist). That, of course, makes them very worth reading and thinking about. The biggest surprise was that Youngest Kid read both with apparent interest, which is not what one would expect of a boy his age. My future DIL has much to be grateful for (not that I’d tell her, of course). Here’s Emma’s best-known comic
  2. Chinelo Anyadiegwu – Igbo Mythology For Kids. Probably the nicest mythology book I’ve ever read and the only one that can be given to children without parental supervision. The author believes that mythology is alive and that telling it in their own way is ok. I don’t really believe that traditional Igbo mythology is all that tolerant towards non-cis-hetero people, but it’s nice to have a mythology book that is. Mythology books don’t normally have parents that are good within my definition of good parenting – it’s nice to have one that does. It’s also nice to have a mythology book that successfully tries to give an idea of the society to which the myths belong. For instance, the characters don’t just “go to market” – they start at a specific time for an explained reason, walk along a specific path with an explained group of other people, see detailed and explained things along the way… my favorite! I wouldn’t say I know anything about life in Southeastern Nigeria based on this book, but I know slightly less nothing, and there’s a solid basis there for enriching exploration. I’m really happy I bought this and signed up for author alerts.
  3. Dave Eggers – Eyes and the Impossible. Another lovely book. Can be given to kids with no supervision, can be used as relaxation reading, can just be held and admired because it’s published with an excessive gorgeousness that’s sensual verging on sexual. It was particularly pleasant to slowly realize the action happens in Golden Gate park but during a decade when I was nearby but entirely unaware of it. It is really tempting to compare Eyes and the Impossible to Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, which is why I almost didn’t buy it – but the wood! the liquid gold edge! the smooth creamy paper! the illustrations! It’s not at all like that. It even has a foreword that says it isn’t like that. It’s more like Seton Thompson or Bianki, but without the hopelessness and cruelty. Signed up for author alerts and updated the library list.
  4. Richard C. Morais – The Hundred-Foot Journey. It’s… a book. About cooking and immigration from India, written by someone who neither cooked, nor immigrated, nor spent time in India. It carefully hits all the right buttons. It adds nothing whatsoever to my knowledge of either India or haute cuisine, probably because the author read all the same books as me. I got it because of an endorsement on the back by Anthony Bourdain, and I can definitely see why he liked it – Morais repeats many of his opinions.
  5. Caimh McDonnell – McGarry Stateside. So far the author is a few books ahead of me, but I’m gaining steadily. Definitely re-readable from any point in the series, and I really look forward to watching the TV series

Another awesome day

Woke up to a hot breakfast (two dishes! fancy eggs and sandwich), tea, cleaned counter, unloaded dishwasher, cute notes, and a pom-pom on my spot courtesy of the kids.

Took a nice relaxing bath with a fun book (Disaster Inc, Caimh McDonnell) and bubbles in a cleaned bathroom.

Arranged and hang two more memories frames, in that blank spot over the couch that’s been annoying me ever since last October-ish when the construction stopped and I started doing Zoom meetings on the couch (really Skype and Telegram, but who’s counting).

Put some stickers onto the cat shelf over my head because taking it down and covering it in wall paper is more work than I feel like doing.

Got a light crafting project going – exciting.

Am listening to a fascinating class by Linor Goralik on costume and just heard a great story: Apparently during the Meiji period Japan started electrifying far-off regions. The effect was about the same as it is for cell towers – people got worried in inverse proportion to education levels. There were stories that electrical wires must be painted with the blood of virgins. As a direct response unmarried women all over rural Japan started to blacken their teeth, at great expense, to look married in case an electrician comes by (before electricity only married women blackened their teeth).

Life is good.

Another wonderful day

Today started well – I slept in, and woke up just in time to go to the neighbor’s garage sale. Kids got LEGO and cool crafting stuff. and I got some socialization in. Then we went to see Wizard of Oz at ACT which I picked because of the director, Sam Pinkleton of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.

It turned out to be great fun, if much more traditional than I expected. Disney all the way, with allowances for local SF color. It was also more interactive than I expected, but in a good way – we all got to wave yellow napkins to signify the Yellow Brick Road, and the kids got Oreos and lollipops. I’m going to always buy front row seats for children’s plays now – that was a nice touch.

Having subtitles was a good thing, even though they were not conveniently located to our seats. I only had to use them two or three times, but just knowing they were there felt great.

And then I came back home to ginger and turmeric with marmalade, a clean house, a drawn bath with a good book to read (I’m on part 8ish? I think? of the Dublin Trilogy by Caimh McDonnell), and one of my favorite teas.

Life is definitely very good.

This week in YA

Just finished three YAish books (1 and 2 because the Older Kid said so, 3 voluntarily, because I liked the Old Chosen One idea). It’s really refreshing to read about characters that are very much not like myself (i. e. not city people, not Jewish) and at the same time are not fantasy characters, so even though I didn’t love-love any of the three the first two were, at least, interesting.

  1. This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowell – it is a very model of the modern YA romance. Everyone is Battling Something. Misunderstandings are Conquered Through Open Discussion. Everyone is Actually a Good Person. Bonus points because I got to listen to country music I’d never have come across otherwise and for the author’s obvious love for Lake Powell which is in Arizona and very beautiful. I visited it once, I believe, and have the fondest memories.
  2. Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw – it is an illustrated novel in my least favorite format (busy black-and-white) about Teenagers Facing Difficult Facts, Testing Friendships, and Discovering Themselves. There’s a lot of angst. The comics are charming (even to me – and I’m very much not a comic person) every character a pleasure to see, and add significantly to the story (in one important passage the picture directly contradicts the text – a really powerful move). Imo the main heroine’s relationship with her mother is insufficiently explored and the change feels unrealistic. I also have a hard time believing that a lawyer’s widow has to wait tables for a living or that, if she does, she can easily spare $30K or that teens brought up to strict Catholicism will not so much as think about Jesus in 300 pages.
  3. The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher by E. M. Anderson – it’s a book about the Chosen One, except the Chosen One is an old lady. Otherwise it’s about par for the course – Edna Fisher Makes Unexpected Friends Along The Way, discovers a surprising ability to wield weapons (badly, but well enough to last more than seconds against a well-trained military man less than half her age), has disabilities that disappear when the plot needs it etc. There are plenty of convenient coincidences -literally everywhere Mrs. Fisher goes there’s a bush with a symphony orchestra concealed inside. She is Chosen to stop mass dragon attacks by wizards that apparently couldn’t care less whether the attacks actually get stopped. It turns out that the attacks are led by former Knights (Knights are a military body that fights Dragons somewhere Out There) that object to what seems to be a level of hazing standard for the Russian army. Their objections include attacking both Knight bases and civilian towns indiscriminately because their Leader has Angst. Of course, when everyone reveals the levels of hazing the Good Leaders are Abhorred. That’s not how hazing was in Their Day. It’s Shameful. That said, approximately 90% of the way into the book the idea that killing unnamed characters is not quite nice begins to be thoroughly explored and the ending has a slight barely-there tint of realism that, unfortunately, prevents it from being fully satisfying to any of the characters. There’s a general feeling of a richer, fascinating world around the characters that the author probably expands in other books.

Pierre, Natasha, and the Great Comet of 1812

I’ve been wanting to see this musical for the longest time, and lucked out – a friend told me it’s on Friday. There were only a few dates left, and only one that I could actually make in this overscheduled month (seriously – it’s more of a social whirl than I’ve had in years, including pre-COVID years).

So, me and Younger Kid went the very next day.

It was awesome. Totally worth the hour drive.

The 3Below theater was new to me – intimate, well laid-out, and located inside a parking lot. There was no parking, due to the FanimeCon, but that’s ok, because we got to see the convention-goers, and they were beautiful. There were also no fancy desserts, despite a really cool ice-cream concoction being listed in the online menu, but we made do with popcorn.

The play itself was everything I wanted – energetic, with light, cheerful, and memorable music and a good-faith approach to War and Peace. The opera scene was particularly good – the opera was exactly the way Tolstoy described it (that is, completely removed from the usual opera experience and seen with deliberately naive eyes.). Natasha was beautiful and innocent. Sonia’s song brought me to tears. Anatole was perfect for his role and looked (per kid) like Elon Musk. Andrey looked like the Best Marriage Party In Russia and was hilarious as Old Bolkonsky.

Everyone moved in and out of multiple parts with graceful ease, rarely even changing costume. They just showed distinct personalities and functions with a slight change in posture and facial expression because that’s just how good they are. Each performer got a main singing role with at least one good song, a part in the ensemble, a part as one of the musicans, and a part as furniture so that Helene also played the violin, while Princess Mary portrayed an opera singer, a dancer, and a maid. Kuragin, Dolohov, and Balaga moved furniture and offered hands as needed. Everyone delivered letters.

Both Bezuhoffs were made up to look too old for their roles, and seemed more contemporaries of Ahrosimova than of Andrey, let alone Natasha, but Helene had a Bosom that fully conformed with my imagination, a wanton red dress, and a beautiful voice.

Quotes were used appropriately and often. Stereotypes were amusing and not mean-spirited. Costumes were period-accurate-enough without being distracting or overdone. Dancing was enthusiastic and good (especially Balaga’s). Scene design was clever – particularly all the staircases, and the way decorations suddenly changed color from light wood to gold when a mood called for it.

Despite the sad subject matter (there’s Lost Love, Attempted Suicide, and Ethical Struggles) Pierre, Natasha, and the Great Comet of 1812 was just sheer exhilarating fun, a pleasure to remember. I wish I had the time to see it again.

Hobbit

Realized that I forgot to note finishing The Hobbit with kids. It was amazing. This time no one was traumatized, and everyone had fun. To celebrate, here’s my favorite poem on the subject, by Elena Mikhalkova.

Good Things This Week

  • I have a really comfortable reading place on the veranda again
  • Victoria Goddard published yet another novella and it’s NOT about making Cliopher Mdang OR Jemis Greenwing Even More Happy And Victorious (not that I’m not eager to find out what amazing things will happen to Cliopher Mdang next)
  • Saw the Anselm Kiefer retrospective at SF MOMA again, this time without kids, with a good friend, and using their audio guide. It’s really hard to look away from his paintings, I keep coming back to them and seeing them in my mind’s eye.
  • Saw Gerhard Richter again (because it’s the same exhibition, yes) – the way he makes oils look like pastels is uncannily beautiful and absolutely mind-blowing in all of the very diverse ways he painted.
  • Had a really good conversation
  • Got started on the craft station. Turns out it’s a whole-family project, which somehow makes it less stressful and more fun. Also, there’s that warm and fuzzy feeling of being supported πŸ™‚
  • Started watching Fall of Civilizations: Han Dynasty by Older Kid’s request. They took notes! It’s really interesting. Will probably listen to the other episodes on Spotify – the video is nice, but I’m a text person.
  • Have I mentioned SF MOMA? Really amazing exhibit on furniture (mainly chairs, a few lamps, very few peculiar objects).
  • Made a super-quick chicken soup that Older Kid actually ate, which is great, because they were sick and didn’t want to eat. Feeling Parentally Accomplished.
  • Singing teacher claims I have a wide and unexplored range. This is going to be fun. Turns out learning things is my hobby – who knew I even had one?
  • Showed kids Oscar. They laughed.

Richmond

Turns out to be so much lovelier than I thought it would be. It’s weird how many prejudices one has without realizing that one has them.

Today was a perfect day

Saw the Gregangelo museum for the first time (and will definitely come back). It’s an overpoweringly beautiful place, there’s so much color, texture, detail, so many reflections and little surprises, so many hidden meanings and references. We spent 1.5 hours there and saw what Gregangelo Herrera (whom we were super lucky to have as a guide) says is approximately 1/3 of the rooms/installations.

It was infinitely better than I expected, and is now firmly on my list of favorite places in the US.

It’s odd how many things lately turn out to be even better than I expect them to be. Perhaps I need to raise my expectations.

We were additionally lucky to have the kids with us – originally we planned an outing without them, but this is exactly the kind of thing I’d want to share with them.
That being so we followed with games and snacks, and then I got a half-hour to meditate looking at one of my favorite views.

Sunny Town

This is another CoolKatz Craft book nook, the Traditional Christmas Intrigue. I’m not a Christmas person.

What made this one special is the kids participating. E made the person in the window (intended to represent them) and decided that their best friend lives in the white house. Y made the gondola and decided that the person to live in the magic-and-books house must be E. They themselves, obviously, occupy the cat house on the right.