Monthly Archives: December 2019

Washington, DC’s Christmas Market

There are some delightful Christmas Markets in the US, but they’ve never become A Thing here, the way they are in Europe.

In Germany and Eastern Europe, which have some of the best Christmas Markets, the party sometimes runs from mid-November through early January, and attracts serious crowds. For the past few years, I’ve arranged my schedule so that I can sample them.

But not this year. Post-flood uncertainties and other after-effects of the Memorial Day Flood* have kept me stuck in Washington since June.

DC does have a tiny Christmas Market at Gallery place, though, and I decided to check it out.

Washington, DC’s Christmas Market is only two blocks long. It runs from 7th Street to 9th Street, in front of the American Art Museum.


Some of the Vendors



The Sentry


Nothing says "Christmas" like a nice filled churro.

Nothing says “Christmas” like a nice filled churro.

All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend 20 minutes on a cool winter afternoon.


* Which I may have mentioned earlier here, and here, and here, and…oh, never mind.  I mentioned them a lot. For me, The Flood was the defining event of 2019.

And it looks like post-flood restoration will be the defining event of 2020.

Frozen Medley by Oxford’s Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue is Oxford University’s award-winning all-male a cappella group. At Christmas every year, the group releases a charity single for the benefit of Helen & Douglas House, the world’s first children’s hospice. It provides end-of-life and bereavement care to children and young adults, and to their families.

The 2019 single is a medley  of songs from Frozen and Frozen 2.

You can download the single from Bandcamp. The list price is £1.50 ($1.94), but you can pay more if you’d like to increase your contribution to the hospice.


Minor note: Good medley, but why on earth did they chop off the end of “Let It Go” without singing that final killer line: “The cold never bothered me anyway “?

Pho 14 — Lunch on 24 December 2019

Pho 14

Pho 14

I hadn’t planned to go out for lunch on the day before Christmas.

When I started to review my “Xmas To-Do” list, though, I realised that I had to make a final run to Giant to pick up a few ingredients that I’d somehow overlooked. And I had to do it now, because I was planning a high-end elegant gourmet tres-fancy meal, and those Gorton’s Breaded Seafood Fishsticks take all night to defrost.

I’d heard good things about Pho 14, the little Vietnamese restaurant about a block from the supermarket, and decided to give it a try. There was a time when I practically lived on Vietnamese food, but over the past few years, without really thinking about it, I’ve become more likely to opt for Thai. Pho 14 would remind me of what I’d been missing.

Combination Platter

Combination Platter

I had the Combination Platter, with stir-fried beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp. Nicely done, very filling, and much better than fishsticks.

Little Women — Official Trailer

The 8th? 15th? 147th? film version of Little Women is headed right at us on Christmas Day, and can there be any doubt that this will be a hugely successful movie? From the trailer, it sounds as if Greta Gerwig has brought this staging of Louisa May Alcott’s mid-19th century novel into the 21st century, for better or worse. Probably for better.

Like (almost) all the previous film versions of Little Women, this one benefits from the talents of its superlative female cast, including Florence Pugh (English) as Amy, Saoirse Ronan (Irish) as Jo,  Eliza Scanlen (Australian) as Beth and Emma Watson (English, but born in Paris) as Meg. Laura Dern plays and Marmee and Meryl Streep plays Aunt March, because of course she does.

The male cast is equally impressive, with James Norton (English) as John Brooke,  and Louis Garrel (French) as Professor Bhaer, and Timothée Chalamet  (USA! USA!) as Laurie. It will be interesting to see what Bob Odenkirk, Saul Goodman himself, does with the role of Mr. March.


Out of the Past  —  Some Earlier Versions


Many people consider the 1933 version of Little Women the best.

The Little Women

Joan Bennett as Amy
Katharine Hepburn as Jo
Jean Parker as Beth
Frances Dee as Meg

Notes

Aunt March was played by the great Edna May Oliver who steals every scene she’s in, as she inevitably did in all her movies.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Paul Lukas, who was Hungarian.
Joan Bennet was 23 and pregnant when she signed on to play 12-year-old Amy.


The next version came out in 1949, 16 years and one World War later.

The Little Women

Elizabeth Taylor (in a blonde wig) as Amy
June Allyson as Jo
Margaret O’Brien as Beth
Janet Leigh as Meg

Notes

Peter Lawford was Laurie.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Rossano Brazzi, who was Italian.
Mary Astor played Marmee, but she’ll always be Brigid O’Shaughnessy to me.
June Allyson, 31 and pregnant, played 15-year-old Jo.


The 1978 miniseries was bad beyond belief. Oh, was it awful!

The Little Women

Ann Dusenberry as Amy
Susan Dey as Jo
Eve Plumb as Beth
Meredith Baxter as Meg

Notes

The senior roles were played by movie stars from the 1940s: Dorothy McGuire as Marmee, Greer Garson as “Aunt Kathryn March”, and Robert Young as “Grandpa James Laurence”.
None of the actresses playing the March girls was known to be pregnant while production was underway.
The sisters were played by television actresses who were TV-famous at the time, but are now largely forgotten. Their line readings were pure 1978 California-contemporary and their acting would have been just fine in a community theatre production, if the community was home to fewer than 500 people.
It’s impossible to ignore the cast’s ridiculous wigs.
The whole miniseries looked cheap. The sets, the costumes, and the mediocre performances all but shouted out “Low Budget”.

But there’s really only one thing you need to know to comprehend what a disaster this production was:
The German Professor Bhaer was played by—wait for it—William Shatner.
He’s Canadian, I think.


With its first-rate cast, the 1994 remake is right up there with the version made 61 years earlier, in 1933.


The Little Women

Kirsten Dunst as Younger Amy
Samantha Mathis as Older Amy
Winona Ryder as Jo
Claire Danes as Beth
Trini Alvarado as Meg

Notes

Susan Sarandon played Mrs. March and Christian Bale played Laurie.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Gabriel Byrne, who is Irish.

More Christmas at Château de Vaux le Vicomte

It was probably obvious from my earlier post that I’m fascinated by Château de Vaux le Vicomte and its uber-celebration of Christmas. Since that posting, I’ve found a few more images and videos from the château.

First, there’s this beautiful short video from the Travel with Kat YouTube channel, which, btw, overflows with equally wonderful stuff.

View fullscreen. of course.

Then there are these pictures from the château’s website.

 

Finally, a revision of the official Christmas video, which is a mix of new footage and shots from the version I posted earlier.

Joyeux Noël!

The Return of “The Far Side”

“The Far Side” website, which will post a “Daily Dose” of Gary Larson’s classic cartoons, launched yesterday. The site includes weekly sets of themed strips and doodles from Larson’s sketchbooks.

Best of all, Larson told the New York Times that “I’m looking forward to slipping in some new things every so often.”

If you’re familiar with Larson and “The Far Side”, I don’t need to say anything more.

If you’re not, click that link right now! You won’t be disappointed.


You may be wondering why this post isn’t loaded with examples of Gary Larson’s brilliant art. It’s because I’m honouring the artist’s wishes, which he explains in A Letter From Gary Larson on the new website.

Wedding Picture of the Year

I think the word you’re looking for is “Epic”. Or maybe “Fierce”.

When the owner of the @soysaucetime Twitter account posted an image from “the lesbian wedding I went to back in September”, it went viral.

The brides themselves later posted a few more pictures from the wedding.

Christmas at Château de Vaux le Vicomte

My Mother, who usually started decorating for Christmas sometime around Columbus Day, would have loved Christmas at Château de Vaux le Vicomte, although she might have found it a bit too restrained and understated. During the Christmas season, roughly mid-November through mid-January, she left no space untouched by toys and trees, tinsel and glitter.

I didn’t go home for Christmas as an adult. My painfully extreme introversion makes things like that simply impossible for me. But I saw the pictures, and, later, the videotape of what she’d created, and I heard the awed descriptions from one of my nieces: “It’s amazing! It’s like being in a toy store!”

Here’s a sampling of Christmas at Château de Vaux le Vicomte.


The Château is about an hour southeast of Paris. You can get there by public transit, using a train and shuttle, on those days when they’re not on strike.


This year’s “Vaux-le-Vicomte Celebrates Christmas” festivities began on 23 November and will be open from Wednesday to Sunday until 22 December. From 23 December until 5 January 2020, the celebration will be open every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day.


While the Chrstmas season is the most popular time to visit Château de Vaux le Vicomte, the estate is open to the public between mid-March and early November.

Well, maybe next year. The closest I’ll get to France this Christmas is having the $13 lunch special at Le Café Descartes, the cafeteria at the French Embassy.


Château de Vaux le Vicomte

This video begins with two or three minutes of superb drone views of the Château’s grounds, followed by some appropriately spectacular images from the Château’s appropriately spectacular interior. I have no idea why they decided to use what sounds like an Irish jig for the soundtrack, but you can always mute it if it gets too irritating. I sure did.

Need I remind you to view in full screen for the best results?

The Guardian Calls It the “Best Christmas Ad This Year”

The ad is for Hafod Hardware, a little family-run hardware store in the Welsh market town of Rhayader, population 2,088. The shop opened in 1895 and has been in the same extended family for most of the time since then. The ad’s star is two-year-old Arthur Lewis Jones, the youngest member of the family, and the man at the end of the video is Thomas Lewis Jones, father of the adorable Arthur.

Total cost of producing the ad:  £100, which was used to pay for the recording of the soundtrack. The ad was posted to YouTube on 1 December 2019, and has been viewed almost two million times in its first week online.

Thomas Lewis Jones with his son Arthur, the star of the ad, in Hafod Hardware store. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/The Guardian

Thomas Lewis Jones with his son Arthur, the star of the ad, in Hafod Hardware store. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/The Guardian


Bonus

On the “History” page of Hafod Hardware website, the owners note that: “Many visitors comment on the interior of the shop – particularly quoting the Two Ronnies’ sketch – and they always remark that there is a particular “smell” in ironmongers or hardware stores. We like to think it is meant as a compliment rather than a criticism!”

Here’s what they’re talking about: