Cherry Blossoms

I had rather a good weekend. I doubt one could expect a better one. Maybe if it had more hours, so that I could have fitted more of the stuff I enjoy into it.

Starting on Friday, the dude who runs the conference center wheeled a trolley around, with leftover donuts and turkey wraps. Free donuts are always welcome. I ate one and took one for the road. One of the things I was hoping to get to was eating that donut, but whenever food was on my mind, I was either about to eat something better, or the donut was out of reach. After work, the weather was good enough for us to have an inaugural glass of wine on the patio at the local bistro.

Saturday, Cameron and I went to see the cherry blossoms at the DC tidal basin. It also happened to be the national kite festival, and a gorgeous, 70-degree, sunny day. We ate ice cream from a greasy truck and took a bunch of photos and only got nearly clothes-lined by a kite string once. We were also very clever in getting in two separate lines for ice cream (there were two trucks) because the lines for both of them were absurdly long, and the man inside was running credit cards through the Square app on a cellphone, which can be tricky even not in gigantic crowds of everyone trying to instagram their photos of tree flowers at the same time. As Cameron mentioned, around 1,000,000 people come into DC specifically to look at these sakura trees, and with the peak timed for April 1st, today was probably people’s first choice. It certainly had the weather. There were lines for couples to lean against a railing that happened to offer the perfect combination of sakura bough, tidal basin, and Jefferson Memorial over the shoulder. I think I blinked in 90% of the photos taken, but still, she persists.

Sunday was our deferred date day, since I had freelance deadlines running up through Friday, so I planned out a day of tacos, movies, and noodles. first, though, Cameron went off to church, while I ate cereal and drew my comic. If I can keep on it, I will be on track to finish before the summer, and can start shopping it around to publishers as proof of concept. When church was over, we went to what the Washington Post called one of the 10 best taquerias in the region. Most, annoyingly, are outside the city, I suppose as that’s where most of the actual Mexicans can afford to live, and I can’t fault them for wanting to open restaurants where rent is cheap. The place we went is called Taco Bamba, and it’s as hipster as all hell. Steel chairs, exposed brick walls, employees wearing black t-shirts, and items on the menu named things like “The Sid Vicious” (fried cod) and “The Drunken Master” (shrimp and peanuts). And, like all hipster food joints, the food was surprisingly good, though I’m glad we got there when it wasn’t yet half-full. Those places get loud so quickly.

Then we looked at orchids in the Kogod courtyard in the National Portrait Gallery. They had an orchid exhibit on display.

Then we went to see Us, Jordan Peele’s latest horror movie. Neither of us are incredible horror fans, but I have never seen a horror movie in a theater, and the vocal anxiety that rumbled around whenever things on screen got tense was most satisfying. The movie was scarier in the first half, when everything was a complete mystery, than in the second half, when everything was still a complete mystery, but more in a “huh?” way than an “aggh!” way.

We capped the day off with a trip to the hottest ramen restaurant in town: Daikaya. It is a wee place that seats less than 30, and we got placed right up next to the bar. We got to see the over-worked staff simmering the broths, scooping in the tare seasonings, pack fresh balls of noodles into each bowl, and layer in vegetables and seasonings right next to us. The wait time when we first walked in around 6:00 was 40 minutes (enough time for a drink at the neighboring sports bar) and when we left sated, the wait time for a table was 90. So. I would recommend the Spicy miso, which Cameron got, just because otherwise the broth is a little flat. I got the Shoyu (pork bone) flavor, which is how I know.

I can’t remember the last time a weekend has been so satisfyingly entertaining. The only thing we didn’t get in was a book store. So, taking that into consideration, the weekend was an abject failure, over which a dark cloud shat lightning and acid rain all over our futile attempts at cheer.

Sitty folk have come for pinkertrees

Sitty folk have come for pinkertrees

A buzzlebub inspecting the florifications

A buzzlebub inspecting the florifications

The National Wongo, with some flutter-sheets

The National Wongo, with some flutter-sheets

The Favourites

I have seen 3 movies recently, and all of them are good. I made sure, because I read the reviews beforehand. The first movie is the Favourite, a period drama about two ladies jockeying for the Queen of England’s favor (or favour) through saucy insults, frequent swearing, and lesbianism. The second is Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse, which is the exact opposite movie, being about a kid who gets spider powers and is coached in using them by different other heroes who also have spider powers who are all shuttled together due to a rip in time and space across different dimensions. The third is Mandy, an surrealist action horror film starring Nic Cage as a man whose wife is assaulted by an evil cult, and goes insane seeking bloody revenge against them.

One of these movies has been nominated for 10 Oscars, one for 1 Oscar, and one was disqualified from entry, and I’ll leave you to figure out which one is which.

All three movies are made by people who know exactly what they want to put on screen, exactly the story they want to tell, and exactly how they want the audience to react, and all three succeed in all three categories. I mean, the Favourite is a dark movie about political and sexual intrigue, which I usually find boring, butt it’s also very funny, all the way through. It tosses in everything, and makes the very, very topical point, I think, that the rich and powerful are not to be trusted. Even while there’s a war going on, they’ll hire a fat guy to strip naked and wear a pink wig in order to throw tomatoes at him for fun. They’ll gamble on duck races. Even those who work their way up from the muck (literally) will happily embrace a life of ordering their social lessers around and kicking bunnies, and engage in all sorts of skullduggery and “harmless” violence to keep their position.

Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse was no doubt rewritten a hundred times by a small crew of screenwriters, but they must have been very good, because the story and characters are perfect, and they hit every single emotional beat out of the park. It’s probably incomprehensible to anyone unfamiliar with Spider-Man, but how many people does that count these days anyway? What drew my wallet to the box office, though, was the animation. This movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, in blending 2- and 3-D animation, erasing backgrounds, and flipping between filmic and comic-book-style imagery. Nearly every frame looks like a picture from a comic book, with the amount of color, detail, and action crammed in. Sound effects show up on screen as bouncing words! At one point, Spider-Man throws a bagel, and it hits a guy on the head with a tiny “BAGEL!” noise. It’s inventive, and strange, and a little hard to understand how a major studio threw $200,000,000 at it, but all of that money is visible in the final product.

Mandy also grabbed me for its visual style. I usually don’t pick up B-movies unless they’re very stylish. Otherwise, what’s the point? Nearly every single B-movie is a rehash of some very old tale, and in Mandy’s case, that’s a revenge story. The first half of the movie is dedicated to Mandy and Nic Cage’s home life, and is set to a soft-focus, dreamy, floaty sort of camerawork. It makes me want to move to the Pacific Northwest and built my own cabin and sleep under a giant stained glass skylight discussing my favorite planets with my wife. The second half is set in a sort of nightmare world. Half the time the screen is completely red, and all movements leaves aftertrails. One scene involves Mandy being drugged with LSD and mutant wasp venom (?) by the evil cult, and everything is shot in a blown-out, saturated, slow-motion hallucinatory daze. It either makes you really want to try LSD, or never ever touch LSD with less that a 40-foot pole, and I’m not saying which camp I fell into.

The point is, movies for the rest of the year have a high bar to cross.