Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hunger Games Review

The Hunger Games

Well,  yesterday a couple of friends text me and suggested I should join them at the movies to see the Hunger Games.   I have not heard anything about the movie being out of the country, but said yes and afterwards I asked my friend Craig about the film.  I understand that expectations for this new release are high as it opens today.  He tells me the movie is based on the book by Suzanne Collins and also shares the basic story of film.  Since killing and gore are not necessarily my theme of choice in movies,  I begin to get ready to join my friends with expectations that the movie may no be terribly enjoyable for me.
The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world where civilization is broken up into 12 districts.  Every year in remembrance of an uprising, the government holds "Hunger Games"  where two youth from each district are randomly chosen to compete in an wilderness arena where only one victor emerges and all the others die.
The story begins with district 12 preparing for their selection process where Jennifer Lawrence's character Katniss Everdeen volunteers to participate in the games when her younger sister Primerose is the random chose as this years female participant (tributes) from the district.  She is joined by the male tribute from district 12 Peeta played by Josh Hutchenson.   They are soon taken away from the poverty stricken district to the capital city where they are given guidance and all the luxuries that they had not seen or fathomed prior.  Soon the games begin with the 24 youth standing on platforms in a large meadow surrounded by forest.  In the middle of the meadow is a pile of supplies and weapons available to the youth when the game begins.  If they can manage collecting them and not getting killed by the others.  The game begins and the first blood is shed.  My fears of a gore fest were put to easy as the killing was done with most of it left to the imagination.  Signified by a canon shot,  each of the 24 young people are killed by either each other or the elements.  Manipulated by the adults in the control room, each move is monitored and if something is moving in a direction that is not favorable,  the adults add an element to the arena to change the course of direction.  Katniss,  something of the American frontiersman, finds her way to survive several near death experiences with the help her abilities and some of the other youth.
The movie definitely has it's evil group of teens who band together to eliminate the others and this is where Peeta ends up first.  For me there seemed to be a lapse in event sequences where I am not sure how Peeta gets away from this group who are using him to find Katniss before they plan to kill him too.  Somehow he gets away and meets up with Katniss and the "love story" begins as he shares his long time crush on his co-tribute.  After a while the adults realize the power of a love story and the rules of the game are changed.  They have decided that a pair of tributes from the same district can win the game together.  The two district 12 tributes team up and are the final two remaining alive.  As they stand there waiting for the end of the game,  the adults once again change the rules and make it so that there can only be one winner.  Peeta tells Katniss to kill him and in a Romeo and Juliette  moment,  Katniss suggest that they both eat poison berries together.  This is unacceptable for the adults so they change the rules again and both tributes are winners but the adults are not happy with this.   They story ends with the two tributes returning to district 12 and their families and friends.
I would have to say the movie met and exceeded my expectations.  I was expecting more killing and gore and it was more of a killing game in the mind.  I left the theater telling my friends that I liked it.   I would not tell everyone it was a must see because for me a lot of it was predictable and typical but then again it was a nice story.  I will give it 4 stars out of five (****0)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fall At The Garden

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year at the Atlanta Botanical Garden because of their annual Scarecrows in the Garden exhibit.  This year was no exception and I was happy to be in town a couple of days so I could swing by for a visit.  Every year the Atlanta Botanical Garden invites local companies, groups and individuals to bring their creative juices and add crazy and wild characters to lurch in corners and along the walkways throughout the garden.   This year was the 11th annual event which attracted over 100 entries. Participants are encouraged to come up with a theme for their human like figures which ranged from witty and whimsical to bold and bizarre.  Their final creations are displayed throughout the garden for visitors to admire and imagine.
As I walked through the garden,  I wonder what the story of the scarecrow is. Where and how these creatures came about? Today they are primarily cosmetic but traditionally,  these characters where employed (of course without pay) by farmers to guard their fields and keep birds such as crows and sparrows away.  The human like figures date back to 712 where a scarecrow who sees all and knows all shows up in the oldest Japanese book known to be in existence Kojiki.  At that time,  Japanese farmers created kakashi (meaning smells badly) by hanging clothes, bones and even meat on bamboo poles to protect their rice crops.  These kakashi were a distant relative of today's more ornamental version.
In Egypt along the Nile,  farmers acted like living scarecrows to keep quail and other birds from eating their fields.  Waiving their arms as they ran towards any birds that dare invade their crops.  Greek farmers would carve a frightening figure based on the mythological figure Priapus to put in their fields and ward off both the seen and unseen pests.  In Britain and Europe scarecrows were lives boys who would patrol fields carrying stones ready to toss them at any crow or other bird that landed in the field.  After the Great Plague of 1666,  many farmers had to stuff sacks with straw, carve faces on turnips or gourds, and make scarecrows that stood against poles as there were not enough children to protect the fields since a large number of them had perished due to disease.   Shortly after this time, the industrial revolution all but ended this occupation as children were attracted to higher paying jobs in factories and farmers had to rely on these hand crafted scarecrows to take over the roll of crop protector.
 Native Americans in both South and North America would spend hours and take turns protecting their crops from the birds. Often dressing up as human scarecrows and finding other creative ways to keep these birds from devastating their harvest.  When the pilgrims came to the America's they brought their version of the scarecrow with them to protect their fields.  Each region of European immigrant brought their customs to the new world and it blended with those of other regions.  Scarecrows commonly protected fields until just after World War II when farmers replaced them with chemicals to control pests.
Over the years scarecrows have graced the silver screen in movies such as "Wizard of Oz" and "Children of the Corn". They have inspired music, comics and festivals such as Scarecrows in the Garden with their wobbly arms and life like figures.  The journey through the exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden this day was sure filled with a ton of creativity celebrating this craft of historic proportion.  Hope you enjoy the photos below and if you are in the area during October or November, I suggest you swing in for a visit.

This post is in memory of my good friend Patti Thomas who passed away November 16, 2011.  Patti had a passion for plants and gardening and I am blessed to have shared a few years with her. I loved to spend time at the Atlanta Botanical Garden with her where her love of plants naturally shined through.  
Patti, you will be missed! 

Please let me know if you would like a personal tour of Atlanta-I would be happy to share this beautiful city with you! All inclusive packages available--
See my about me page for contact information or leave a comment.


(( thanks again wikipedia for the information)) 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Brasilia! Part 3

Oh wow,  where do we go from here?  Definitely the National Cathedral, Eixo Monumental and the Praca do Tres are some of the most visited tourist sites in Brasilia,  but there is much more to see so let's continue around the Eixo Monumental.  When the planners laid out
the streets for the city and began construction,  they placed the majority                                                              of the buildings which house Brazil's governmental offices along the edges of the great lawn.  Most of these buildings are your basic office rectangular multiplied in a row.  However, two of them caught my eye as we drove by because of their architectural differences.  Yes they both have glass fronts with wave like facades made of concrete Oscar Niemeyer is known for.  But the first building that caught my eye did so not because of these features but because of the staggering curved cement slabs protruding from the front glass windows. From these slabs of concrete water flows over its curved edges and plummets to the reflecting pool below creating a ripple in the reflection.  If you look at it from the right angle, the clouds in the sky reflecting in the glass building front look as if they are tossing rain to the earth below.
The second building to catch my eye was another regular office building with Oscar Niemeyers trademark front, but this one had a small row boat perched on the edge of the reflecting pool.  The boat seemed so out of place but yet was so inviting in the partly sunny afternoon skies,  one could imagine taking it out to do some fishing or just close your eyes for a short nap.  The rustic boat was contrasted by a lovely white origami looking piece of modern art which added the perfect exclamation mark to the reflecting pool.  We of course stopped in front of each of these buildings in order to get photos to remember our visit.
Before we leave the Eixo Monumental for our next destination, it is important to point out another unique decision made by the city planners.  As you drive around the large green space - the rest of the edges are segregated into specific areas or districts.  For instance,  there is an area where all the hotels can be found, another where all the financial district is and finally a retail district finding its home on the edge of the Eixo Monumental.  The whole city is laid out like this with pockets of residential and commercial and not very much mixing of the two.
Before continuing with our most recent tour,  I want to mention one more stop we made in 2010 on my first visit to Brasilia.  Located in a small neighborhood in the city lies the catholic cathedral Dom Bosco Brasilia. I bet you were surprised when I said Catholic in Brazil.   From the outside the building does not look like much but as I pulled on the massive dove handles to open the oversize doors,  a blue calmness came over me.  I walked into the sanctuary  with the sunlight streaking through blue crystal stain glass windows.  Music could be heard coming from the bell tower and the chandelier hanging from the ceiling in the center of the church was striking.  Since the switch for the light was in the off position, I would need to imagine what it would look like
if it were on.  I remember spending a little time there in thought and upon leaving finding flowers sitting on the ground out front.  There was a group of people beginning to decorate for a wedding ceremony scheduled for later in the evening.  I had wondered how it would look with fresh white flowers ready to greet the guests.  I guess I will have to wait until an invitation to attend a wedding ceremony here arrives in the mail someday.
It think that pretty much covers the places we visited in 2010 that I wanted to make sure I shared with you.  Now back to our present day journey as we head towards Lake Paranoa and the JK bridge which spans across the lake to the southern shore.  Finished in 2002 the bridge was built in honor of Juscelino Kubitschek (President who had Brasilia built) and truly fits into the cities majestic scale with its structural design complexity.  The landmark is known as one of Brasilia's most beautiful night destinations.  We stop at a small park at the north end of the bridge and spend a little time on the walkway across, not traveling the whole distance but just far
enough to get some good photos despite the afternoon sun.  The bridge is wonderful as it twists from one side to the other and back.  It is a massive structure and I can only imagine what a wonderful sight it is all lit up at night.  After our short visit to the park we drive around some of the neighborhoods on the south shore of the lake.  Known as one of the wealthier areas of the city, we have hopes of seeing some grand homes.  However, like other Brazilian cities,  the houses have walls almost all the way around them and we are not able to see many.  There are a few who have installed glass instead of concrete allowing us to get a glimpse of what we need to do in order to keep up with the Jones.
The time driving around is enjoyable and after about forty five minutes we leave the neighborhoods and stop at another park along the lake which has recently been renovated in anticipation of the World Cup in 2014.  With a grand new entrance welcoming us it is easy to imagine the park being a destination for visitors in 2014.  The afternoon is wonderful as we quietly stroll down the revitalized paths past the lovely restaurant, bar, and beautiful plants just beginning to bloom.  As the sun begins to set and the day ends, so does our journey in Brasilia.  I am sure we will be back again someday to see more of the details in the surrounding areas.  For now,  I am left with a good impression of a city built to be the center of Brazil literally and politically.

Please let me know if you would like a personal tour of Brazilia -I would be happy to share this beautiful city with you! All inclusive packages available--
See my about me page for contact information or leave a comment.

Read Brasilia Part 2 - click here
Read Brasilia Part 1 - click here
Flowers at Park 
Central Bank of Brazil - 

Dom Bosco Cathedral 

JK Bridge 

Lovely house entrance in Southern Neighborhood 

Path along lake 

JK Bridge 

Dom Bosco Doors

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Brasilia! Part 2

Brasilia is definitely a city full of politics, people and passion.  Everywhere you look there is wonderful architecture surrounded by interesting vegetation and it is all full of life like the Brazilian people.  This post will be a mixture of my most recent visit and my first visit to the capital city of Brasilia.  I visited some of the main tourist areas in 2010 so they did not get revisited today but I feel they must still be include in my blog.
As I mentioned in part 1 - Brasilia is a planned city located in the middle of the country on the central highlands of Brazil.  It has a subtropical climate so there is a long dry season followed by months of heavy rain.  I only state this as my visit now is during the dry season and in 2010 it was during the rainy season so I believe you will notice the vast difference in the photos included.  In "Brasilia Part 1" I compared the central part of the city to Washington DC with a large
grassy green space running down the middle of lanes of traffic moving vehicles in both directions.    This grassy area (the Eixo Monumental) is where I will start my adventure and our first stop in 2010 was the National Cathedral.  Designed by Oscar Niemeyer,  it is truly a wonderful structure with large white columns curving as they open towards heaven.  The cathedral has seen limited use since its completion in 1970 due to poor acoustics and a ventilation system that does not offset the natural heat produced by the sun.   Recently renovations have been underway to fix these flaws and allow it to function in accordance with its grandeur. 

When we visited in 2010 these renovations were underway as construction trailers surrounded the base of the building and we had to park the car on a make shift grass lot a short distance away.  The beautiful white house of worship lacks curb appeal as the front lawn consists of six foot wide slabs of cement with one foot strips of grass separating each slab.  I would expect something different in a city so rich with green space. We exited the car and as we approached the cathedral we were greeted by four statues.  On one side stood three statues representing the synoptics, Matthew, Mark, and Luke while the stature of John stands alone facing them on the other side.  They were like soldiers with spiritual weapons guarding the front of the religious palace.  After passing them,  we continue down into the dimly lit tunnel entrance almost like going into a culvert or man made cave.

Approximately fifteen feet into the tunnel my ears perked up as I began to hear angelical music and soon my eyes were treated to glorious light.  It was the stunning sanctuary where the local congregation was singing homilies during a traditional Catholic Mass.   Above the alter in the middle of the congregation, three angles floated in the natural blue sky and white clouds from outside.  This transparent natural beauty was accented by waves of blue and green stain glass all bringing your eyes to the alter and crucifix.  I remember, standing there in awe of the beauty complimented by the sounds of the wonderful singing.  How majestic and inspiring it was and I wanted to stay a little longer but the time to leave came and we quietly exited to continue our journey.

We traveled down the "Eixo Monumental" to the northwest end which is called the Praca dos Tres Poderes (Three Powers Square).  This large concrete square is where the three highest authorities in the country can be found -  - Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and right  across the street is the National Congress.   Let's start our journey with these three buildings.  Each of the buildings were designed by Oscar Niemyer and symbolize the future of Brazil.  The "Palacio do Planalto" (Presidential Palace) is where the President of Brazil and many other major
Palacio do Planalto 
governmental officials have offices and work from.  A large reflecting pool zig zags along the front of the building.  In the middle a ramp connects the square and the front door of the Palace.  This entrance is only used on special occasions or when the president addresses the citizens of Brazil.  Members of the Presidential Guard Battalion and 1st Guards Cavalry of the Brazilian Army take turns standing guard at the entrance.  I
Presidential Guard Battlaion
Guarding the Palacio do Planalto
understand tours are available but not offered today so another "must come back to see" added to the list.  The architecture is very simple and modern using fine lines and waves to create columns along the exterior of the building brushing up against the reflecting pools.  The buildings architecture is very similar to that of the Palacio da Alvorada, where the President and his family lives.  The Palacio da Alvorada lies on a peninsula at the edge of Lake Paranoa a few miles away which we will journey to later on this visit.
The Supreme Court Building

Back to the square and our next building the Supreme Court which houses the highest court of the country.  This building was designed by Mr. Niemeyer as well and has the same glass surrounded by white curved concrete columns and lies adjacent to the Palace.   There is not a whole lot more to say about this building as it blends with the rest and probably has less significance then the other things on the square.  I did find the large parking area in front a little distracting to the details of the architecture.

 The final building considered part of the square is the National Congress and it actually lies across the avenue in the Eixo Monumental.  Another wonderful design by Oscar Niemeyer,  it consists of a semi-sphere opening to the earth and a semi-sphere opening to the sky with two vertical office buildings towering in unison dividing them.  These buildings as well as several others around the edge of the eixo monumental house the Congressional offices of Brazil.  All the office are connected to the two main towers by tunnels under the city.  Brazil's Congress consists of the Senate
(the upper house) and the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house). On the opposite side of the building lies another great reflection pool and the large lawn.  When I read a little about their politics,  I found it interesting that there are 27 political parties in Brazil.  In 2010, 22 of them were able to elect at least one representative in the Chamber, while fifteen of them were able to elect at least one in the Senate.  Much different then the 2 political party system found in the United States (thanks again Wikipedia)
View of Palacio do Planalto
from the square

To talk a little about The Praca does Tres Poderes is to talk about Brazil's commitment to democracy and freedom after years of military rule.  Besides these three powerhouse buildings, the square is full of unique sculptures celebrating Brazilian artists.  Many of which were inspired by this theme with literal and abstract reference to doves, traditionally a symbol of peace and democracy.  Before I continue discussing what other finds are located on the square, I want to share my first impressions of it.  Like a lot of Brasilia's main attractions, the use of concrete seems overbearing to me.  I know it is a medium that Oscar Niemeyer uses quite often but a nice green lawn in front of the cathedral would be more inviting then the vast slabs of concrete.  The "Praca does Tres Poderes"  has no grass and the concrete radiates heat in the south of the equator sun.  It is just not very welcoming to me without some vegetation.
City Museum  in the middle - designed in the shape of a dove
on the right you see the "Dovecote" 
 For a city with a huge rectangular lawn down the middle in a country with such a diversity of plant life,  it seems like these areas would be filled with more natural beauty and not just concrete.  OK, just my first impression and now back to the square.  Tourist can visit the large glass and concrete visitors center which is filled with tourist information about the country.  There is a large tower designed my Mr. Niemeyer referred to as "Dovecote".   The tower is filled with holes to house doves which were an important part of western European history and as stated above the dove is a symbol of peace.  Today it is more referred to as "The Pigeons Towers" as they have  moved into the holes designed for the doves.  As you move along the square towards the Supreme Court building there is a sculpture called "Justice" by Alfredo Ceschiatti.   A women sitting blind folded in a chair with something in her lap.  I
honestly did not get close enough to give more details then this so I encourage you to share with me more about this beautiful piece of history or go and visit it yourself.   Several museums find their home on the square as well as a monument in honor of politician Israel Pinheiro and the UNESCO monument honoring accomplishments of the city.  My favorite monument is two bronze statues of abstract figures named Os Condangos.     This monument represents the pioneering spirit of those who built Brasilia and for me it is simply grand and a great place to stop for this post.  Brasilia has a lot more to see so I will continue with Part 3 soon.  Until then feel free to leave a comment or go and read some of my other entries.

Go back and read Brasilia Part 1 by clicking here

Historic Museum of Brasilia 

The Brazilian Flag that flies in the Eixo Monumental
One of the worlds largest continuous flying flags

Brazil National Congress Building 

One of the three synoptics statue -
National Cathedral

Part of Historic Museum of Brazil