Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Different Place on the Globe

On one of my recent Pinterest forays, I came across a really awesome website called The Best Travel Photos.  It is made up of viewer-submitted photos they took while traveling.  The type of photos range from so-so, cliche travel spots to high-quality expositions of color and culture.  Of course there are the overly-photoshopped ones, and ones that could use a little editing, but for the most part, going through this website has been like taking a trip around the world.  Here are some of my favorites (and I'm only on page 25!).

Chios, Greece

Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Gloucester Cathedral, England

Venice, Italy

Paris, France

Zakynthos, Greece


Shirakawa-go, Japan

Valley Village, Iceland

New Orleans, Louisiana

(photos collected from besttravelphotos)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Un Crwwahhhh-sahnn, S'il Vous Plaît

Happy National Croissant Day!  To celebrate, I got this beautiful fluffy chocolate croissant at Kaldi's, instead of my usual mocha muffin.  As you can see by the stack of books in the background, my morning snack will be accompanied by lots of reading, note-taking, and other class related activities.  Zut alors.

(photo by e.hunt)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

For being a very anti-Winter person, I sure do like cold weather activities.  I go out of my mind during Winter Olympics years (the next ones are in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018!), I absolutely love figure skating, and though I don't go very often, skiing is also one of my favorite sports.  Even with the surrounding snow, cold wind blowing in your face, and the occasional wipeout into the cold snow, skiing is one of those exhilarating, feel-like-you're-flying sports that also makes you appreciate the power of nature.  Like surfing, it is one sport that requires a very specific type of weather and landscape on which to do it.  There's nothing quite like standing at the top of a mountain after riding multiple ski lifts and gondolas, and then racing all the way to the bottom.

(photos collected from imgur, skicoupons, forbes, powdermag, bestsnowboardingblog, and travel.nationalgeographic)

Monday, January 26, 2015

We Only Know Things When We Live Them

Who wants to go wading?  Or skip rocks?  Or hike through the woods?  'Cause in my lumberjack shirt and duck boots, I'm ready to go.

(photos by e.hunt)

Movie Review: Dragon Sickness Is a Malady That Affects All of Us

As most of you readers know, I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan.  I just can't get enough of the vast detail and information about the world and history that Mr. Tolkien created, and the movies that Mr. Jackson and company built.  The original trilogy is incomparable; however, expectations seemed to decline when making The Hobbit trilogy.  The decision to turn it into three movies instead of just two was a huge mistake, as the content in the first two is excruciatingly stretched out, like butter spread over too much bread.  The Battle of Five Armies takes everything good from the first two and brings it all together for a neat finish, with many winks towards what is coming in about seventy years in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Taylor and Mom were gracious enough to join me in seeing it in the theater, and it's one of those movies that is best seen there.  As neither of them had seen the first two, I gave a brief filling-in of the plot.  Bilbo joins a company of Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin, to journey to The Lonely Mountain so the dwarves can reclaim their home and the vast treasure that lays there.  The only problem is, a mad dragon, voiced by the recently popular Benedict Cumberbatch, is currently inhabiting said treasure-filled peak.

Along the way, the company is attacked many times by an orc band who is tracking them, Bilbo comes into possession of The One Ring, in an excellently executed scene with Andy Serkis reprising his role as Gollum, they escape King Thranduil's Mirkwood palace in an epic fashion, riding barrels down the river as Legolas and the made-up-for-the-movie girl elf, Tauriel, run alongside fighting off orcs, and once they arrive at the mountain, Bilbo matches wits with the giant dragon himself.

Meanwhile, in other Middle Earth news, the Necromancer (an earlier incarnation of Sauron (the big eye from LOTR)) is organizing an orc army and planning his return.  Gandalf, Saruman, and Radagast, three of five total wizards, research this possibility, with the exquisite head elves, Galadriel and Elrond, putting in their wisdom.

The movie opens immediately following the end of film two, with Cumberbatch's dragon, Smaug, wreaking havoc on Lake Town while the dwarves watch helplessly from the mountain.  Bard, who looks like Orlando Bloom in Pirates of Caribbean (he actually looks more like Bloom in this film than Bloom does himself), saves the day when he hits Smaug in a very specific loose scale with a black arrow.

He then takes up the leadership of the people of Lake Town.  Now homeless, he leads them to the mountainside town of Dale, hoping that Thorin, who is King Under the Mountain now that Smaug is dead, will help them out.  King Thranduil (Legolas' dad) comes to the mountain as well to reclaim some ancient elven jewels.  Thorin rejects both, thus starting The Battle.

Once again, Jackson and his casting team hit it out of the park.  Martin Freeman is charmingly stubborn and brave as Bilbo, keeping everyone grounded and morally conscious throughout the journey.  Interestingly enough, his own morals come into question as he takes The Ring from Gollum as well as keeping the priceless Arkenstone from Thorin, who goes mad searching for it.  Ian McKellan returns as a more rough-around-the-edges Gandalf, joined by Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, who steal the whole movie in an epic showdown against the Nazgul and the Necromancer himself.  Also of note is Lee Pace's portrayal of the darker elf King Thranduil, who, like Arwen, has some faults and questions life and its meaning moreso than the other elves.

The epic fight scenes are where Jackson excels most, and this film does not disappoint.  After all, it is between five different armies!  One of my favorite elements was the surrounding snowy landscape the battle takes place in.  The delicate white contrasts nicely with the rough battle sequences happening above and within it, and once the double army of orcs arrives, both the dwarves' and the elves' motives shift.  The snow also adds a bit of differentiation from all the other giant Middle Earth battles we've seen before.

Jackson takes the story to a more advanced level than expected from the original, children's bedtime story text by Tolkien, and the final scene is more perfect an ending than in Return of the King.  It blends a mix of nostalgia, detail, old friendship, understanding, and empathy, while also including a little menace in what is to come.

After not expecting much, I was happily pleased with this final chapter and the direction it took to close up Jackson's view of Middle Earth.  Though not as stunning or compelling as The Lord of the Rings story, this earlier trilogy definitely has its moments of rich storytelling, immense detail, gripping action moments, and an amount of character depth that can only come with a man's lifetime of imagination and dedication to this world.

(photos collected from technologytell, stevelensman, lotr.wikia, thehobbit.tumblr,  and insidemovies.ew)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Far From What I Once Was But Not Yet What I'm Going to Be

I started semester two of grad school this week, but the difference is, I'm not only taking education classes, but content area requirement classes as well.  I've already crossed off several credits from random history classes I took out of interest in college, as well as AP classes I took way back in high school!  How awesome is that?!  There are about five or six classes still required, but I'm knocking two of them off this semester by taking US History:1865-Present and Intro to Sociology.

So, once again I'm thinking of the day that I will have my own history or art classroom and will have to dress the part.  Cold weather can be quite beneficial to professional wear; layers are always a good thing, and little cardigans and button-ups definitely have a scholarly feel to them, while leggings and tights keep skirts and dresses still on the table.  Keeping things simple is key, while throwing in a quiet print now and then is a good way to switch things up.

(photos collected from theseams, stylescrapbook, lovely-pepa, theclassycubicle, fabsugar, and cuteandlittle)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Even the Trees Knew

I came across this intriguing picture of mountain goats on Pinterest the other day,

and as I've mentioned before, one of my favorite elements of the website is the fact that is pulls similar pictures up as well, so I found quite a few mountain goat-laden landscapes.

This made me curious.  How do they stand on a wall of rock like that?  What are they eating (smelling?  licking? something else?) off the rocks?  How do they fearlessly leap over a schism of death?

So I opened wikipedia in a new window and typed in mountain goat.  Turns out, they are a subalpine to alpine species only found in North America.  Their horns can grow almost a foot tall, and have yearly growth rings.  They have a double layer of white wooly coats to sustain -50' winters, then shed the outer layer in the spring by rubbing against rocks and trees.  Their feet have inner pads that provide traction, cloven hooves that can spread apart, and sharp dewclaws that help reduce slipping.  They are herbivores, spending most of the time grazing on grasses and other small plants, while also migrating seasonally to follow salt and mineral licks.

And there you have it!  Next time someone asks you about your knowledge of mountain goats, you can impress them with a few of these fun facts.

(photos collected from nowandthan,, flickr, wallshark, and besttravelphotos)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Worlds We Can Only Dream Of

On my only day off last week, and one of Taylor's last days in town, we decided to have an activity day.  We spent about an hour the night before discussing possible cultural pursuits, and settled upon two options: going to a matinee showing of The Imitation Game or heading down to Forrest Park to peruse more of The Art Museum.  We woke up early the next morning and convened at Kaldis to start the day.  It was there that we decided we were not in the mood to go sit in a theater for two+ hours right in the middle of the day, so The Art Museum it was!  (We ended up going to see American Sniper the next night; review post definitely forthcoming.)

Having wandered through the European sections last time, we made our way upstairs to the American art, starting with collections from the Native Americans.  There were some beautiful beaded textiles and other functional, day-to-day items.  The hide painting below is thought to be a first-person account of The Battle of Little Bighorn of 1876.

The following few rooms were filled with some beautiful landscapes.  This first one, titled The Hudson at Piermont, by Jasper F. Cropsey, 1852, had many layers of content, starting with the two towering trees.  If you look closer, you see a serene grouping of cows and a couple sitting on the bank.  And further beyond that, you see a steamboat docked at the pier and a train heading into the town.

The next painting, In the Roman Campagne by George Inness, 1873, also features some pastoral elements, but there is one thing that stands out as not really belonging; the turbine-like structure on the upper left side.  Taylor and I decided that this is the planet Hoth from Star Wars after many years of global warming, the questionable structure being the shield generator.

And then we came upon the pièce de résistance, the day's winner: Road Down the Palisades by Ernest Lawson, c.1911.  Look at the bright patches of colors and contrasting directions of brushstrokes!  And the little bit of water the road leads to with the matching sky is the perfect contrast to the heavier landmass.

There were a few other highlights, including some very art nouveau fireplace tiles, an excellence use of light in a snowy naval landscape, a few architecturally interesting interior elements of the art museum itself, and the massive contemporary art paintings by Gerhard Richter.

After that, our adventure day led us to lunch at a sports bar in Clayton called Lester's, which was quite good, and a quick stop at Schnucks on the way home to pick up a dairy-free brownie mix, which was also quite good.  All in all, I'd say a successful and fun day it was.

(photos by e.hunt, and collected from googleimages)