The Angelus

The Angelus, Jean-Francois Millet, 1859

Two peasants stop to say the Angelus prayer at dusk in response to the sound of the distant church bells. They are in the midst of the potato harvest, The woman devoutly worships, the man may be turning his hat, waiting for her to finish. The Catholic Angelus prayer, commemorating the incarnation of Jesus, is said three times a day, at dawn, noon and dusk. In the countryside, this praying was a way of regulating time in the days before wristwatches. This painting is probably Millets most famous. In France, the picture became a symbol of national pride and was widely revered and reproduced. It embodied a vision of piety and devotion, fruitful land and the dignity of labor.

Anne and I celebrated Valentine’s Day together. We didn’t go out or anything special like that, but instead, I fixed us a nice dinner at home. After dinner, we exchanged cards and a few gifts. We then ended up watching the newest episode of the Outlander TV series together. It is the initial episode of Season 5, The Fiery Cross, which was suppose to drop this Sunday, but instead Starz moved its release up a few days, making it available for watching on Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen all of the previous seasons, but have read none of the books. While Anne has read all of the books and has seen almost none of the TV show.

In the past, when I have read the book and then watched the movie, I’ve always felt that cinema had cheapened the story. Most of that has to do with the two medium’s confines. There is no way that any one motion picture could ever tell a story in the same level of detail as can be told in a book. At least not in a single sitting, but with the serialized story telling that’s available now, in these big production TV series, the two mediums are on a more level playing ground.

Game of Thrones is the arch-type for this TV genre. With it, I began with the books, but switched over to the TV and I am happy that I did so. TV concluded its version of that story last year, while the print version is still outstanding.

With Outlander, the books have all been written and the TV series is just trying to catch up, but I don’t think that I’ll ever switch over to the books. On the TV, the book’s characters are fleshed out by real life actors, who pronounce the Scottish dialects much more comprehensibly than I would have ever been capable of sounding out myself. A TV series with a dozen or more hours to tell a book’s story can more than adequately cover any plot, in my humble opinion. 

Millet and Modern Art

Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

Millet and Modern Art: From Van Gogh to Dalí is the full title for the new exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Produced in partnership with the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam, it celebrates the art and influence of French painter Jean-François Millet (1814–1875). This show opens to the general public on Sunday and runs until May. As these special art shows at the Saint Louis Art Museum go, this one was certainly one of the best that I’ve seen. It draws works from many different sources that comprise many different artists.

Millet is known as the father of Modern art and in his day was very famous. He attracted many disciples, who imitated his ideas. Now-a-days, their fame has come to eclipse that of Millet. No more ardent a disciple can be found than that of Vincent Van Gogh. This exhibit has multiple side-by-side examples of Millet’s original painting and a copy that Van Gogh made thirty years later. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and Van Gogh certainly wasn’t alone in this practice. Similar imitation is shown with many of the other artists too.

Pictured is a painting by Van Gogh called Starry Night. In this show it is displayed along side a somewhat similar looking painting by Millet, with an identical title. Unfortunately, my photo of the Millet painting did not turn out that well, so I cannot give you a side-by-side comparison. Like his fame, many of Millet’s artworks have not worn so well. Coincidently, Van Gogh has a much more famous version of Starry Night that hangs in New York and was painted the year after this one was made. The pictured Starry Night reminded Anne of our photos of the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. 

This morning was the coldest day of the winter. It was only four degrees when I got up. There was no school scheduled today, because otherwise it would have been cancelled. It was so cold… How cold was it? It was so cold that the water company workers took the day off. It was too cold for them to dig holes. 

School’s Out

The Country School, Winslow Homer, 1871

Yesterday, Anne completed her long term substitute teaching gig, in the first grade that she had begun in November and today, the woman who had been on maternity leave returned to school. Also today, Anne swung by the classroom one more time, to present the baby quilt that she had made for her. Word gets around about these baby quilts and I think that expecting teachers pick Anne, in part because of them. This trip seemed like it would be problematic, in that the water company had blocked both ends of the block, but she managed to evade their blockade. They were digging Toyota traps to stop her. I labored to get all of our water use out of the way for the day, since they have worked their way up the street to our water lateral and the possibility of a water shutoff seemed quite likely. Anne plans on taking some well deserved time off now, before resuming her regular day-to-day substitute teaching duties sometime in the future. In other news, we got our Federal income tax refund back. We still have to pay on the state. It’s not much, but that can wait until April 15th.

Going Postal

Iron Mailbox

Yesterday, I went to our local post office, to mail a package. It is only a pale shadow, of its former self. Tucked away in the corner of the building that it once had all to itself. It is just one small store front in the mini strip mall that its building has been transformed into now.

When I got there, there was only one postal worker in attendance. The other one having called in sick. The line was almost out the door. Ahead of me in line was a mother with her young son. He must have been about three or four. He was both loud and very squirmy. Clinging all over his mom, when he wasn’t rolling on the floor at her feet. He seemed to be enjoying himself, while she stood there stoically and tried to ignore him. I had lots of time to observe him and came to wonder if he was developmentally challenged. He seemed too old for the level of baby talk that he spoke, which seemed to dwell on the word poopie. I found him annoying, but my annoyance was also tempered with sympathy for the mother. After the post office, this boy and I would go our separate ways, but there would be no such easy escape for her, but such is the calling of motherhood.

The little boy wasn’t the only annoyance in line. Several of the other customers had misaddressed their packages. When the postal worker typed in the package’s recipient address, her computer told her that that address didn’t exist. This inevitably led to some discussion as the customer and worker tried to solve this problem. Once or twice wouldn’t have been so bad, but it just kept occurring and usually with people with multiple packages. The man just ahead of me in line was one of those who had this problem. Then to make matters worse, after his addressing problems were straightened out, the cash register tape ran out and the postal worker had problems getting it working again.

At this point, I was really steamed. It had literally been an hour that I had been standing in line. My internal monologue was dominated with a recitation of the mantra, “Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be an asshole.” Which, I managed, mostly. Although I did get a knowing glance from another one of the customers who was still standing in line. At least I was quick.

I Knead to Getaway

Key Largo Resort

OK, it’s official. I am officially done with winter. Unfortunately, winter is not quite done with me. Fortunately, a respite is in the offing. All I need to do is bear down and make it there. When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping and that’s what I’ve been doing. In preparation for more southerly climes, I’ve been acquiring sun and swimwear. In particular, I’ve bought a pair of rashies. A rashie or rash guard is a top that was first developed for surfers. They were worn to prevent body rashes caused by their surf boards. Not that I am going surfing, but they also offer excellent UV protection and I do plan on being out in the sun. I don’t want to get burned, but I also don’t want to look like the great white whale, as I frolic with the sharks on the high sodium seas.

Closer to home, this will be Anne’s final week in the first grade. The teacher that she has been subbing for comes back to school. I don’t know which of us will be most glad that this gig is finally done, but I suspect that it will be me. I believe that Anne plans on taking the rest of the month off, before returning to day-to-day work, which would be fine with me.

We were going to take a class this week, on applying for Social Security. Even though there are fewer options now than there were just a few years ago, it would be good to know all of our options. Taking a Medicare class last year, paid great dividends. We were going to take this class last Wednesday, but bad weather caused its cancellation. It was a shame, because we had more activities available on Wednesday than we could have done and ended up doing nothing. 

We don’t have much snow, but it has been snowing fairly regularly for the past week, turning our street into a muddy mess. The water company has installed a new water main. In doing so, they trenched the length of the block, which evenly distributed mud everywhere. To ensure a thorough distribution, the water company has a street sweeper regularly come by. It doesn’t clean anything up, but it does make sure that the mud is spread everywhere. This was phase one. That crew has since departed, making way for the next. The new crew began work this week and will hookup everyone’s laterals to the new main. Some neighbors will have to have whole new laterals put in, because they are currently using lead pipes. I don’t think that we need to do this. Still, it will mean service interruptions and more mud. A third and final crew will come last, to put everything back together again and hopefully clean up all the Missouri mud.

Finally, we’ve been invited to a potluck this weekend. I was a little slow in claiming a type of dish and all of the ones that I’m familiar with have been already taken. Our hostess suggested that we bring bread. I’m not a baker, so making bread seems too much of a stretch for me. Instead, we’re heading off to  check out Knead, supposedly one of the better bakeries in town. It’s near Knitorius, a yarn shop that Anne has frequented, but is now going out of business. I hope that it lives up to its reputation and is a hit at the party.