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July 2017 Update

Blogging, Philadelphia PA, Photography, Reading

June ended with us visiting friends who were in New York City for a conference. The plan was for them to come down to Philadelphia at the end of their trip over the 4th of July weekend. They were going to spend the day doing the usual touristy things, and then we were going to meet them for dinner. Unfortunately, one of them was not feeling well, and they needed to return to NYC shortly after arriving.

Before we found out about the change in plans, Holly and I went out to breakfast at Hungry Pigeon. We had been there twice before: once over a year ago for breakfast, and again this past December for Holly’s birthday dinner. We really enjoyed it both those times and have been looking for an opportunity to go back and having the Monday off before the holiday seemed to be as good a reason as any to head back. We enjoyed it once again. We both had a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich. What really makes the sandwich special is their homemade English muffins. If we lived closer, I could see Hungry Pigeon being a routine place for us.

Back in the spring, I had purchased a Lomography Diana F+ camera to test out my interest level in film photography. I enjoyed it enough that I began researching other film cameras for sale on Etsy. The Diana is fun but a bit of a novelty camera. It was inexpensive and a good entry point, but even after just a couple rolls of film, I felt ready for a more sophisticated film camera.

I ended up buying a Canon EOS Rebel 35mm camera that came with a Canon EF 28 – 80 mm F/3.5-5.6 Zoom Lens from FStop Cameras.  The main reason I selected that one was because my digital camera is a Canon EOS Rebel T3, and I figured there would be less of a learning curve. I had tested the camera at home but used the walk back from Hungry Pigeon to give it a better trial. I quickly fell in love with my new old camera.

After we returned home, we found out about our canceled dinner plans. Since we decided to still go out and went to Audrey Claire, a nearby restaurant we had been to a few times before. I had actually been interested in Audrey Claire when I lived in Philadelphia before and never went there until only about two years ago. It has since become a comforting place for us to go. Going there early in the month seemed to set the tone for keeping things super local in July, due in part to the fact that it was a rather hot month, and we didn’t feel like going anywhere outside the neighborhood.

July marked our return on subsequent Sunday’s to Jet Wine Bar which has been a favorite place since we moved here. In fact, I had checked it out shortly after I had found our apartment but before we actually moved in. We have continuously liked Jet but fell out of the habit of regularly going there. After two very enjoyable, lazy Sunday afternoons there, I can see us making it part of our routine again.

Wine Flight at Jet Wine Bar
Wine Flight at Jet Wine Bar

We also made good use of our neighborhood by going to Plenty Cafe for after dinner Amari one night, and we also returned to Tria Fitler Square a couple of times, once for a friend’s birthday happy hour. We were very sad to hear that Tria Fitler Square will soon be closing but were glad we were able to get there at least a couple more times before it goes away.

Speaking of our friend’s birthday, after our drinks and snacks at Tria Fitler Square, she invited us back to her newly purchased home, and we hung out on her roof deck. I took a couple of pictures with my phone, but I would love to go back sometime with one of my real cameras.

Books Read

The big reading news from July is that we figured out how easy it is to check-out e-books from the Free Library of Philadelphia. Holly and I have both been enjoying out Kindles and were thrilled when we realized that getting library books onto our Kindles is a breeze. All three books I read this month were library books.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, by James Luceno, is a prequel to the Rogue One movie. I’ve been on a little kick with reading Star Wars books and graphic novels but may have reached a temporary saturation point after Catalyst. I loved Rogue One and was curious to read Catalyst. For the most part, I enjoyed it, but it really didn’t contribute much to an overall understanding of Rogue One. The relationship between Galen and Krennic is explored more deeply, but there really wasn’t much to the novel that wasn’t explained in the exposition of the movie.

I had read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces twice before: once while in college and once perhaps a decade or so later (which means it had been more than a decade since my last reading). It was better than I remembered it, which is saying something since I remember really enjoying it before. I think a few things played into my enjoying it more this time around. One is just going in knowing what to expect and reading less for plot and more for character and theme. The other is being older and wiser which led me to grasping the subtleties that were lost on me as a younger reader. The novel came across much more insightful and complex this time in addition to being funny.

Finally, I read W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. One of the interesting and perhaps somewhat frustrating things about getting the books from the library is that everything I wanted had a hold list which means the books get delivered to me whenever they are available. That means I don’t have much control over what I read when. Books just show up, and I have them for 3 weeks so I feel compelled to read them as they show up.

I had been wanted to read The Razor’s Edge for ages, ever since seeing the 1984 film version in the theater. So it only took me 33 years to get around to it. I have also since seen the 1946 version. It’s been years since I’ve seen either so I plan on rewatching them again sometime in the not so distant future.

I found The Razor’s Edge fascinating. It was interesting reading it after reading Lost Horizon last month. Both deal with Western people having life changing experiences with Eastern religions. However, Maugham’s book is much more sophisticated and thoughtful. Maugham explores the life of Larry Darrell after he returns from India rather than showing him in India whereas Hilton’s book portrays his characters in Tibet which reveal a lot of the stereotypes of the time. What I found really interesting reading The Razor’s Edge as opposed to what I remember from the movies is that there is a lot going with characters other than Larry Darrell. I recall the films focusing primarily on his adventures so it was rewarding to experience the bigger story. I’m curious how the films stand up now that I have finally read the book.

All these e-books mean that my reading update pictures remain unchanged from last month.

Books Read in July

  • Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • The Razor’s Edge

Books Read in 2017

  • A Gambler’s Anatomy (library book)
  • The Princess Diarist (library book)
  • The Best American Essays 2016
  • Moonglow (library book)
  • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell (ebook)
  • Ploughshares Winter 2017-2018
  • The Good Soldier (ebook)
  • Lost Stars (ebook)
  • Binti (ebook)
  • In Farleigh Field (ebook)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Thrawn Trilogy (ebook)
  • Ploughshares Spring 2017
  • Every Day Is for the Thief (library book)
  • Star Wars, Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes (ebook)
  • Madame Bovary (library book)
  • Saga, Volume 7
  • Henry and June (ebook)
  • Star Wars, Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (ebook)
  • The Golden Secrets of Lettering
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader (ebook)
  • Lost Horizon (ebook)
  • Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel (ebook)
  • A Confederacy of Dunces (ebook)
  • The Razor’s Edge (ebook)

Movies Watched

My desire to watch all the films on Film Comment’s list of the best films of 2016 has been thwarted by the lack of availability of some of the films. I’m still waiting to see Certain Women, No Home Movie, Kaili Blues, and Neruda. I believe Neruda recently came to Netflix streams so I hope to get to that soon.

I watched two movies from Ki-duk Kim. I had seen Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring when it first came out on DVD and remember really liking it. Holly had long been a fan of 3-Iron, and I only recently realized they are both by the same director so we had a mini Ki-duk Kim festival at home. 3-Iron is about a man who breaks into people’s homes while they are on vacation not to steal anything but just to have a place to stay. In one house which he thinks is empty, he meets a woman who is beaten by her husband and they begin a relationship. Complicating the storytelling is the fact that the main character does not speak throughout the entire film. For the most part, this is effective but the film strains to maintain it which became distracting.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring is a quite different film focusing on a monk who raises a small boy on a house floating in the middle of the lake. The film follows the young boy as he grows into adulthood. While I still found this to be a good film, it did not live up to my fond memory as some of the scenes were a bit overwrought and the music and some of the editing feel like they are from the 1980’s despite the film being from 2003.

After going to the Guggenheim Museum last month, I decided to share Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, with Holly. I had seen it at the 2015 Philadelphia Film Festival and loved it. I am happy to say that this documentary lived up to my memory and enjoyed it as much if not more on a second viewing.

The Film Comment Podcast, which has been a good source for discovering and re-discovering films, led me to watch two movies this month. One was The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, the first Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film I have ever seen. This wasn’t a focal point of any of the podcasts but was mentioned in passing in such a way that I was curious. The film making and epic scale were engaging as was the aging process of Roger Livesey who played the main character. But overall I found the film to be a bit slow and, well, a little too British for my taste.

The podcast about locations led me to revisit Brian DePalma’s Blow Out which I had seen a long time ago. I remembered that it was set in Philadelphia but had forgotten how much of my hometown was on display. It was fun watching it for the settings, but it is one of DePalma’s great Hitchcockian films.

The highlight of the month was Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom about the controversial marriage between the new King of Botswana and a white British woman. The story is intense, the chemistry between David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike is palpable, and the visuals are beautiful. Since I’ve been working through the Film Comment list of the best 20 films of last year, I have to say I’m a little disappointed to see that A United Kingdom is not on the list. I would have much preferred to see this on the list rather than either Right Now, Wrong Then, or Elle.

Movies Watched in July

  • 3-Iron
  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring
  • Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  • A United Kingdom
  • Safety Last
  • Blow Out

Movies Watched in 2017

  • Hell or High Water
  • 13th
  • Mountains May Depart
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut
  • The Long Good Friday
  • The Witch
  • Patterson (in theater)
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The World of Jacques Demy
  • A Bigger Splash
  • Decline of Western Civilization
  • In the Mood for Love
  • La La Land (in theater)
  • Wayne’s World (in theater)
  • Hail, Caesar
  • Stranger than Paradise
  • Down by Law
  • Mystery Train
  • Night on Earth
  • The World of Henry Orient
  • The Heartbreak Kid
  • Hidden Figures (in theater)
  • Girlfriends
  • I Am Not Your Negro (in theater)
  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Arrival
  • Something Wild
  • Stop Making Sense (in theater)
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Singles (in theater)
  • The Fits
  • Toni Erdmann
  • Paterson
  • Swingers
  • Elle
  • The Trip
  • The Trip to Italy
  • Puzzle of a Downfall Child
  • Cemetery of Splendor
  • A Woman Under the Influence
  • Right Now Wrong Then
  • The Handmaiden
  • Good Neighbor Sam
  • Things to Come
  • Wonder Woman (in theater)
  • Most Dangerous Game
  • I Vitteloni
  • Cameraperson
  • A Face in the Crowd
  • 3-Iron
  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring
  • Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  • A United Kingdom
  • Safety Last
  • Blow Out

Blog Posts

On Being and Formulating in July

On Being and Formulating in 2017

On Educational Media Reviews Online in 2017

On SuperPlus Eats in 2017

Photos in the Wild

Photos in the Wild in 2017