Summer Camp Series: The New Moon with the Old

Dodie Smith’s The New Moon with the Old has 5 parts with each part covering a different character’s story. To that end, here are some activities I think go along with each character 🙂


Jane

Design a mansion quiz – whose style matches yours best?

Arrange some flowers

Eat steak and kidney pudding

Have a tea or coffee service. Learn the difference between high tea and afternoon tea here. The prints below are available from the etsy stores of nancynikkodesign, RaahatIllustration, MyDreamWall, and MSaferillustration. Something about mugs is so darn cozy!


Merry

Read a play. Merry’s recommendations are The Seagull (Chekhov), Henry V (Shakespeare), The Rivals (Sheridan), The School for Scandal (Sheridan), or something by George Bernard Shaw.

Take a nap without setting an alarm

Find your stage name. I’m Alessandra Wild – not bad, right? 😉

Have a morning bath

Dye your hair (virtually). I have always wanted pastel pink or lavender hair, but I am too chicken to do it in real life.


Drew

Read some historical fiction (or watch a period piece) and find your true era.

Once you’ve found your era, research the fashion, furniture, and art of the time!

If possible, visit a sea front.

Have a music night at home. Play an instrument if you have one or just sing along to your favorites.

Meal prep for the week ahead. Some tasty ideas here!


Clare

Watercolor some flowers

Order a meal in

Read some Dumas

Go window shopping. Like actually go look at window displays! I like looking at displays built around a holiday or just the changing of the seasons. Looking at store websites doesn’t compare to specially prepared storefronts.


Richard

Go to the zoo (if/when it is safe to do so)

Watch Fantasia (trailer in link).

And then listen to a new classical piece and make up your own story to go along with it. Richard’s favorites are some Beethoven quartets.


Bonus: Burly (the dog)

Have a warm drink in front of the TV with your favorite people.

Summer Camp Series: Mr. Fox

I feel like Helen Oyeyemi‘s work is often described as playful, and Mr. Fox is certainly a collection of games tied in with fairy tales. Suggested related activities:


To Do

Following Mary Foxe, make a list of experiences that are memorable to you or that you still want to experience.

She wanted to experience things; she had a list. She planned to attend a big band concert, and she planned to walk through a field of yellow rapeseed, and she planned to get an injection, and anything else I might recommend.

Browse upscale dining restaurant menus. Maybe when the pandemic is over I will actually go to one of these restaurants for dinner, but until then… I do like a good menu.

Upscale dining near me: Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, Spago by Wolfgang Puck, Il Cielo, and Caulfield’s Bar and Dining Room

I wondered if we could go out to dinner together. Someplace fancy. And if I could wear a nice hat.

Make a paper cutting. I always associate these crafts with fairy tales; they feel whimsical and romantic in a similar way to me.

Sarah Trumbauer; image source here

To Read

For more foxes: “Reynard the Fox“, the epic poem written by Goethe, and the short story Fox 8: a story by George Saunders

For more fairy tales: Sur La Lune collection of fairy/folk tales – what I particularly like about this collection is that it includes stories from non-European origins.

For “hasty women” (the list given in the book): La Dame aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas, Therese Raquin by Emilie Zola, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Summer Camp Series: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a great summer book. It follows Kya who lives alone in the marshes along the coast of North Carolina. Here are some activities I thought would be fun for the book. Tell me if you’ve read the book and have any other things in mind.


To Do

Do a little painting. Grab a basic set of acrylics and follow along with “how to paint a swamp

Go birdwatching. Even if you can’t go anywhere, you can try to identify the birds in your neighborhood. Audobon has a phone app for this! Bonus points if you have binoculars.

Visit a marsh. If you can go to one, then pack a little picnic (see more below) and make a day of it. A friend and I put on our masks and visited the freshwater marsh of the Ballona Wetlands. If you live in west LA, I recommend going. We saw some cool birds (including a great egret!) and it was overall really nice and beautiful.


To Bake

Real Deal Southern Caramel Cake – an incredible three layer yellow cake with caramel icing!


Additional Reading

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: if you want more southern lit from a female author. Bonus, it also involves a courtroom scene.

The Bird Artist by Howard Norman: if you want another protagonist who lives in a remote place and paint birds

Bog Girl” by Karen Russell: another female author from the south. A short story set in similar environment, but that’s about where the similarities stop.


To Eat

I saved this section for last because it is the longest. All the food in the book sounds dang good! Here is the menu I would put together from all the dishes mentioned. Choose one or two items from each category for a great picnic!

Basket of breads
cracklin cornbread
hush puppies (serve with honey butter)
yeast rolls
sour cream biscuits (add bacon or jam)

Sides
beans: red, butter, or baked
grits
hoe cakes
deviled eggs
chicken salad
mashed potatoes with red eye gravy
black eyed peas

Veggies
corn fritters
stewed turnips
collard greens
peas in butter
sliced red tomato
mustard greens
coleslaw
summer squash casserole

Entree
pimento cheese sandwich
backbone soup + biscuits
chicken pie
chicken and dumplings
cold fried chicken
chicken fried steak
fried pork chops
fried shrimp
fried fish with black pepper crust
grilled flounder stuffed with shrimp
seafood medley: mussels, oysters
ham trio: salt-cured, molasses, and fried
hot pork sausage

Dessert
banana pudding
peach cobbler
blackberry pie
blackberry cobber
pecan pie
4-layer cake
top any with a scoop of ice cream or hard cream


Summer Camp Series: A Brief History of Seven Killings in Jamaica

By the time you finish “A Brief History of Seven Killings in Jamaica” by Marlon James, you will feel like you have really gone on a journey. This book is not really an easy summer camp kind of book, but it is the book I was reading when I thought to myself, well, I have two more months of summer (school doesn’t start until October on the quarter system) and ??? more months of social distancing. Am I revisiting old hobbies and thinking fondly of better times during Covid times? Yes.

Here are the additional activities I did along/after reading the novel. Comment if you have any ideas to add 🙂


To Eat

Jerk chicken! I ordered from a local restaurant (Janga) and got jerk chicken and an appetizer combo (fried zucchini, jerk wings, plantains, and fried shrimp).

Accompany all this good food with an iced hibiscus tea.


To Read

A Massacre in Jamaica (Mattathias Schwartz, The New Yorker, 2011)
The actual events that occurred after a certain Jamaican drug lord was extradited. It’s a good read.

Tracing Jamaica’s bloody history via A Brief History of Seven Killings (Scott Carey, Medium, 2016)
More on the actual events/people that are incorporated into the novel.

Dark Alliance (Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury News, 1996)
The OG expose linking the CIA to the crack epidemic of the ’80s. Publishing these articles ruined his life.


Consider Watching

I haven’t actually watched either (very short attention span when it comes to TV and movies) but they are related, and I did, ya know, consider it.

Kill the Messenger: (link to trailer) available on Netflix. Jeremy Renner stars as Gary Webb as he researches, writes, and publishes the Dark Alliance articles.

Snowfall: (link to trailer) available on FX and Hulu. Follows the lives of characters living through the crack epidemic in Los Angeles.

Far from the Madding Crowd: Bathsheba’s Bower

Thomas Hardy created a fictional land called Wessex based on much of his observations of south-western England, particularly from around his home town. Far from the Madding Crowd mostly takes place in the fictional town, Weatherbury, which is based on Puddletown, Dorset. Hardy drew on much of the real-world for his setting, and Bathsheba’s house is no exception. He styled it after the Waterston Manor in Dorchester. The house is first described in the passage below, and the editor notes that due to Hardy’s architectural knowledge, the description is “professionally correct.”

For our viewing pleasure, I include pictures of the current Waterston Manor as well as the houses used as Bathsheba’s manor for the 1967 movie and the 2015 movie. All three are located in Dorset.
By daylight, the bower of Oak’s new-found mistress, Bathsheba Everdene, presented itself as a hoary building, of the early stage of Classic Renaissance as regards its architecture, and of a proportion which told at a glance that, as is so frequently the case, it had once been the manorial hall upon a small estate around it, now altogether effaced as a distinct property, and merged in the vast tract of a non-resident landlord, which comprised several such modest demesnes.
Fluted pilasters, worked from the solid stone, decorated its front, and above the roof the chimneys were panelled or columnar, some coped gables with finials and like features still retaining traces of their Gothic extraction. Soft brown mosses, like faded velveteen, formed cushions upon the stone tiling, and tufts of the houseleek or sengreen sprouted from the eaves of the low surrounding buildings. A gravel walk leading from the door to the road in front was encrusted at the sides with more moss – here it was a silver-green variety, the nut-brown of the gravel being visible to the width of only a foot or two in the centre. This circumstance, and the generally sleepy air of the whole prospect here, together with the animated and contrasting state of the reverse facade, suggested to the imagination that on the adaptation of the building for farming purposes the vital principles of the house had turned round inside its body to face the other way.
  • Classic Renaissance architecture: the Renaissance architectural period (14th to 17th century roughly) followed the Greek architecture movement in Europe (hence the “Gothic extraction” still noted in the house). It draws from classical architecture, think ancient Greeks and Romans, and generally emphasizes symmetry, regularity, order, and well-proportioned, geometric parts. Also common are
    semi-circular arches, half-domes, and the like.
  • Fluted pilasters: pilasters are decorative details meant to look like a supporting column but do not actually offer bear weight. (A little confusingly, they can be extrusions from columns which actually are bearing weight.) Fluted refers to the ridges along the length of the pilaster.
  • Coped gables: Gable roofs (shaped like an inverted letter V) appear in both Gothic and Greek architecture. Coped means covered.
  • Finials: Finials are decorative elements placed at the top or end (many curtain rods can have finials) of something.

    coped gable with finial and fluted Corinthian pilasters

  • Gothic architecture: Elements of Gothic architecture include flying buttresses, a strong emphasis on verticality (pointed arches, spires, and towers all draw the eye upward), abundance of interior light, and symbology embedded within the ornamental details. Gothic architecture was typically applied to important, formal buildings, such as cathedrals, and thus implies a sort of grandeur and gravity must have existed in Bathsheba’s estate.

The Waterston Manor: original inspiration

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The Bloxworth House: 1967 film

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The Mapperton House: 2015 film

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Which do you like best? How do the film locations compare to the original description?

  • More on the Waterston house here. Images are sourced from this blog.
  • Bloxworth real estate info (and picture source) is here, though will likely be taken down sooner rather than later. The house sold in 2014 for four million euros.
  • The Mapperton House website is here. They have house tours and garden access, a shop and cafe, and can host your wedding.

Artists in Far from the Madding Crowd

Thomas Hardy references a few artists in Far From the Madding Crowd and seems particularly influenced by those in the Dutch Golden age. The Golden age, which spanned the 17th century, paralleled the Baroque movement going on around much of Europe but favored realistic details over idealistic styling. In this time, many believed there was a hierarchy to paintings, listed here in descending order:

  • history paintings
  • portrait paintings
  • genre paintings
  • landscape paintings
  • still life paintings

The Dutch Golden Age saw numerous paintings produced in the “lower” groups. It is fitting that Hardy, who spends much of the novel describing the natural world surrounding his characters and developing his land of Wessex, would mostly reference the landscape artists of this time.

“but the grey, after years of sun and rain, had been scorched and washed out of the more prominent locks, leaving them of a reddish-brown, as if the blue component of the grey had faded, like the indigo from the same kind of colour in Turner’s pictures.”

J M W Turner (1775 – 1851) is an English Romanticist landscape painter. Like Hardy, he had a beginning in architecture. Turner is called “the painter of light” and is well known for his maritime scenes. He is also credited with elevating landscape paintings to the same status of historical paintings in his time. Despite the fact that more durable pigments existed at the time, Turner used paint materials that looked pleasing when freshly applied but faded very quickly, which Hardy may have been alluding to in the quote above.

Goldau and Fishermen at Sea

“The beauty her features might have lacked in form was amply made up for by perfection of hue, which at this winter-time was the softened ruddiness on a surface of high rotundity that we meet with in a Terburg or a Gerard Douw; and, like the presentations of those great colourists, it was a face which kept well back from the boundary between comeliness and the ideal.”

Gerard Terburg (also ter Borch) (1617 – 81) is a Dutch painter in Dutch Golden age known for his genre scenes and work with cloth textures. Gerard Douw (also Gerrit Dou) (1613 – 75) is another Dutch painter who lived in the Dutch Golden age. He was a pupil of the renowned Rembrandt and is known for his genre scenes and use of trompe l’oeil and strong chiaroscuro to create 3D forms. (For non-art people like myself, trompe l’oeil is French for “deceive the eye” and refers to creating the optical illusion that the subjects painted exist in 3D by using perspective. Chiaroscuro refers to the technique of using strong contrasts between light and dark tones to create 3D forms via highlights and shadows).

Lady at her Toilette (Terburg) and Girl Chopping Onions (Douw).

“The rain had quite ceased, and the sun was shining through the green, brown, and yellow leaves, now sparkling and varnished by the raindrops to the brightness of similar effects in the landscapes of Ruysdael and Hobbema, and full of all those infinite beauties that arise from the union of water and colour with high lights.”

Jacob van Ruisdael (Ruysdael) (1628 – 82) and Meyndert Hobbema (also Meindert) (1639 – 1709) are both Dutch landscape painters in the Golden age. Hobbema was actually a pupil of Ruisdael, who was considered the landscapist of his time. Ruisdael comes from a family of painters (his father, uncle, and cousin were painters as well). Nearly 700 paintings have been attributed to Ruisdael (though it is difficult to be sure when he and his family all signed using their last names), and his works went on to influence many following movements including the American Hudson River School. Both Ruisdael and Hobbema are known for their extraordinarily detailed portrayals of natural forms.

Landscape with Dune and Small Waterfall (Ruisdael) and Marshy Wood (Hobbema)

“The strange luminous semi-opacities of fine autumn afternoons and eves intensified into Rembrandt effects; the few yellow sunbeams which came through holes and divisions in the canvas, and spirted like jets of gold-dust across the dusky blue atmosphere of haze pervading the tent, until they alighted on inner surfaces of cloth opposite, and shone like little lamps suspended there.”

Rembrandt (1606 – 1669) (also a Dutch painter in the golden age) is the most well known artist that Hardy references. Unlike the other painters on this list, Rembrandt’s works span across all types of paintings, not only landscapes. Known for his use of chiaroscuro, he is sometimes called the King of Shadows.

Philosopher in Meditation and Landscape with a Stone Bridge

Book Review: The Dim Sum Field Guide

bookcover

Dim sum is the Chinese version of small plates and offer a large variety of food types. The Dim Sum Field Guide: a taxonomy of dumplings, buns, meats, sweets, and other specialties of the Chinese teahouse by Carolyn Phillips covers about 150 different types of foods that may be found on the trolleys in a dim sum restaurant. Each entry has is two pages – one with a black and white illustration, also done by author Phillips, and the second page a playful description following the field guide style with “genus” (name of the dish in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese), “identification”, “sauce or dip” that is usually paired with the dish, “nesting habits” (how you are likely going to see the food arranged), “origins”, and “species” (similar dishes). Phillips, who has written a recipe book on Chinese food called All Under Heaven, lived in Taiwan for eight years and worked as a Mandarin interpreter back in the states before retiring to work on her food writing. (Explore her writing here.)

The illustrations are charming, though color would probably be helpful for a few of the dishes with complicated linework, and include a cross-section view of the food to give an idea of dimensions and proportions. They also indicate what type of meats are associated with each dish as well as which dishes are vegetarian and vegan, which is very helpful. The book is broadly categorized into savory versus sweet with a few subcategories.

Overall, the book is a lot of fun to flip through and informative, and I would recommend looking over it before going to dim sum to feel more familiar or after if you wanted to learn more about particular dishes. I would only take it to the restaurant with a patient group of friends. Dim sum is a pretty fast-paced environment, and I can’t imagine a waiter being particularly patient if you stop the trolley to flip through the book for each dish before ordering.

While reading the book, I found myself not thinking so much about dumplings and taro root but about the complicated relationship between exposure vs ownership of cultural foods. Something in Phillips’s writing makes me a little hesitant, uncomfortable, and un-trusting (when she writes of “the Chinese people,” I cannot help reading your people). She has a post listing the twelve points she believes Chinese restaurants must follow “in hopes of an epicurean Reformation” that is silly bordering absurd. I understand it must be difficult to devote oneself to another culture’s cuisine (is there a right way to do it?). Beyond the language barrier and geographical barriers, there will be those calling you a fraud from both sides. To publish anything, really, is to open yourself to scrutiny. All in all, I do believe that Phillips’s love for Chinese food is honest and without ulterior motive.

So to address my personal discomforts, I hope to continue having conversations with patient friends and people more thoughtful than myself about what it means that a white woman is publishing only Chinese cookbooks, why are there so many white people writing about Asian food (and conversely why shouldn’t there be?), what does it mean for food to be authentic anyway, why do Asian foods seem so vulnerable to becoming trends recently (from pho to matcha to poke bowls), and what is the right? best? appropriate? way to appreciate food with particularly strong cultural ties.

Related:

Why Hunting Down ‘Authentic Ethnic Food’ Is A Loaded Proposition

How it feels when white people shame your culture’s food — then make it trendy

An Eater’s Manifesto For Chinese Restaurants

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

Far from the Madding Crowd – what’s in a name

The protagonist of Thomas Hardy’s classic, Far from the Madding Crowd, is the beautiful and sharp Bathsheba Everdene.

She is named after Bathsheba from the Bible – the wife of first Uriah and then of King David, and mother of Solomon the wise. The story of David and Bathsheba is one of sin and repentance. One night King David saw Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop and “coveted her”. He got her pregnant and schemed to have her husband, one of his soldiers, brought back home, thinking that with a bit of luck in timing, her husband would assume he is the father. The plan failed, and David ordered Uriah to the front lines of battle, ensuring his death. After the mourning period, David and Bathsheba married. God struck down their first child to show his displeasure with their actions, which pained both David and Bathsheba greatly. David thoroughly repented and was eventually forgiven. We assume the same for Bathsheba, but less is written on her account.

Hardy references this relationship again through Sergeant Troy, Everdene’s first and very fickle husband. When Troy is still courting her, Bathsheba reprimands him for speaking to her inappropriately. He responds by saying:

… you take away the one little ewe-lamb of pleasure that I have in this dull life of mine.

The one little ewe-lamb refers to the when the prophet Nathan tells David a story of a rich man with a flock and a poor man with but one lamb, whom he raised with love and great care. When a traveler came through the city, the rich man offered him a meal made not of the sheep in his own flock but of the poor man’s lamb instead. David is outraged and misses the parallels between the story and his actions. Nathan clarifies that David, a king with many wives, is the rich man stealing from poor Uriah. It is also in this passage that David learns his first child has died. Troy is, of course, trying to guilt Bathsheba for his own reasons.

The story of David and Bathsheba is also the subject of Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered Hallelujah.

The surname, Everdene, is taken from a Dorset village named Evershot. Dorset is one of the locations that inspired much of the geography in Hardy’s novels. (See: Thomas Hardy’s Wessex.) Those who read or watched The Hunger Games may recognize the last name since Katniss Everdeen owes her last name to Hardy’s character. Suzanne Collins has said of the two women,

The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.

Related: Literature’s feistiest feminists: How Thomas Hardy paved the way for The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen

1Q84 – brief cult comparisons

Aomame, one of Murkami’s protagonists in 1Q84, notices slight differences between the world she is in and the world she knew; one of those differences is the existence of a religious cult, Sakigake (“pioneer” or “pathfinder”). We learn that Sakigake began as a peaceful commune of about 30 members founded in 1974. However, some members with more radical ideology and split, forming the Akebono (meaning “dawn” or “daybreak”) commune. The Akebono commune was destroyed in 1981 after a shootout with Tokyo police. The Sakigake commune carried on but retreated from public eye and grew increasing private and guarded.

Murakami has also written a book (Underground: the Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche) about the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist attack. The religious cult was founded in 1984 but grew to notoriety after they released sarin gas in the Tokyo subways as a coordinated act of terrorism in 1995. This attack killed 13, injured 50, and caused temporary poisoning in over 5,000 others. Afterwards, the Aum Shinrikyo cult split into two factions, with the Hikari no Wa (“Circle of Rainbow Light”) group disavowing the violent actions of Aum Shinrikyo, instead focusing on their spirituality. Regardless, both groups (with Aum Shinrikyo since renamed “Aleph”) are on terrorist watch lists to this day.

A pairing: 1Q84 and today’s supermoon

Expedition 50 Supermoon

There was just one moon. That familiar, yellow, solitary moon. The same moon that silently floated over fields of pampas grass, the moon that rose–a gleaming, round saucer–over the calm surface of lakes, that tranquilly beamed down on the rooftops of fast-asleep houses. The same moon that brought the high tide to shore, that softly shone on the fur of animals and enveloped and protected travelers at night. The moon that, as a crescent, shaved slivers from the soul–or, as a new moon, silently bathed the earth in its own loneliness. — Murakami, 1Q84

Photo credit: NASA