February 18, 2004
Weather or Not!
| February 18, 2004
As I walked out of my house yesterday morning, I was prepared for the normal bombardment of cold air as I ventured out the door. But, as I pushed it open, I was pleasantly surprised by a very unusual warm wind. Being from Long Island, I am used to feeling on shore breezes at home, but this was the first time I had felt such a wind in Ithaca. Thanks to a comfortable south wind, Ithaca was warmed nicely yesterday morning, especially between the hours of 5 and 6 a.m., when temperatures jumped almost 10 degrees. Today, we will continue that trend. Under sunny blue skies, Cornell students can expect highs to finally cross the freezing mark and hit 35 on campus. Tonight, some clouds can be expected to move in and a flurry is expected late, as lows dip to around 20. Tomorrow is a bit of a toss up. Although temperatures will be the warmest in recent days, with a high around 40, snow showers will be a threat. The sun will reemerge for Friday, but the weekend is looking kind of cloudy right now. Check back tomorrow for a more accurate forecast and enjoy the sun while it’s out.
These are clouds which appear as if they are a series of breaking
ocean waves. They are produced by the interaction of a saturated
stable air layer, usually an inversion, and a pattern of vertical wind shear, which results in somewhat evenly spaced zones of updraft (where cloud tops crest in a wave-like pattern) and subsidence (where cloud droplets evaporate as they descind back to the stable layer). The height of the billows may vary from tens-to-hundreds of feet and they may be spaced hundreds to thousands of feet apart horizontally.
Some classic pictures of billows and other cloud formations are
available on the Internet at nature photographer Kay Ekwall’s web site: http://www.shastahome.com/kee/
(Source: Dr. Mark Seeley, of the University of Minnesota)
Archived article by Adam Daum
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February 19, 2004
The art of eroticism is flat lining. Nothing about sex is sacred or mysterious anymore. For most of the R-rated fanfare, bare breasts and gratuitous, obdurate fucking are commonplace. Perhaps that’s why I sat wide-eyed, heart pounding when Griet (Scarlett Johansson), a demure servant, turned her head and looked back over her shoulder, a solitary pearl dangling from her ear, as the famed painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) traced her form with gentle brush strokes. Girl With a Pearl Earring may be the most sensuous examination of the erotic in art in years. While the film is dressed in both puritanical peasant garb and stiff, aristocratic vestments, underneath these it holds something wildly carnal. The film follows Griet as she becomes a maid in Vermeer’s home. One day, while cleaning a window, Vermeer catches sight of her, and suddenly she is wrapped into Vermeer’s consciousness. Subsequently, Griet serves as Vermeer’s silent muse, gradually becoming drawn to him while being courted by the local butcher’s apprentice Pieter (Cillian Murphy) and drawing the enmity of Vermeer’s wife (Judy Parfitt). It’s world, owing much to the auspicious direction by Peter Weber, is one of facades — its homes, artwork, and women glossed in ornaments, with the latter often treated as such. The result, like Vermeer’s works, is Baroque in tone. The imagery takes credence over a plot which is, for the most part, unbearably bourgeoise and undramatic. The only intense moments are those between Griet and Vermeer, their fascination with each other threating to shatter the divide between them. And while some images are sophomorically obvious in their meaning, others are so luminous and mysterious that they conjure up an eroticism that cannot be seen, only sensed. At one point, Pieter asks Griet what her hair looks like. Late in the film, Griet sheds her puritan cap to reveal gorgeous auburn locks while Vermeer watches. The scene is so intensely sexual that it’s like an electrode charge fired directly int the brain. While unremarkable, Johansson is just right, keeping Griet perpetually mysterious. She rarely talks, but her coy eyes speak verses. Firth lends darkness to the ambiguous Vermeer, and Tom Wilkinson makes a great turn as Vermeer’s seedy patron. However, the performances cannot overcome the towering visuals. What sustains the film is Weber’s ability to transform the film into a Baroque work itself. There are several shots, frozen in time, where the line between film and painting is blurred, making it impossible to distinguish a constructed shot from the actual work itself. But, like any painting, Webber’s film exists only on a canvas. The movie refuses to wade into the psyche. We know little about Griet and Vermeer, and are left to interpret them purely by their poses or facial expressions. This is a dangerous line to tow, as at times, the characters seem cold and distant. Yet there are moments, such as when Griet and Vermeer peer into a camera obscur
February 19, 2004
BEST PICTURE From the tense drama Mystic River to the sincere work of art Lost In Translation, this year’s nominees are among the strongest in years. Though the nominees’ styles are decidedly diverse, they share a rousing theme of embracing hope that actually might not exist. The long shot is, ironically, Seabiscuit, and despite being inspiring and often poignant, I wouldn’t bet on it to win. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was engrossing, but its formulaic and detached nature will leave it sailing home without the Oscar. Clint Eastwood’s masterfully directed Mystic River, a thrilling and insightful tale examining wrath and vengeance, is carried completely by the superb acting performances of Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. Nevertheless, the real race is between The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Lost in Translation. Return of the King is my hesitant pick to win, but it shouldn’t. It may be an epic and is certainly the most visually dazzling of the nominees, but the fact that it’s the retelling of a rather simple story, and lacks first-rate acting, should allow Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, a tale tinged with sadness and humor simultaneously, to achieve the honor of Best Picture. This sophisticated film shines with artistically shot vignettes that subtly but penetratingly depict the emotional development of the story’s two forlorn characters. The dialogue seems effortless, and the scenes are naturally graceful and poised. The third main character of the film is the city of Tokyo, and the audience is allowed to share in the sensory experiences of the characters in this unfamiliar land. Shots of the skyline at night become symbolically hallucinatory, fitting because the characters are awfully sleep-deprived. The film uses humor to describe problems with relationships and the joys of forming new ones. Bill Murray is brilliant, and the most touching scene of the year is at the bittersweet end, when Murray’s character, Bob Harris, whispers in Charlotte’s ear, but we don’t hear or know what he says. Perhaps he said, “I love you,” or perhaps, “I won’t forget you.” Or maybe he said, “We’re going to win the Oscar.” BEST DIRECTOR Clint Eastwood should wrangle this one, but his wins for 1992’s Unforgiven will prohibit another victory. In the absence of the stoic aged director reaping rewards for his entire career, it’s going to be between Peter Jackson and Sofia Coppola. Jackson is incredibly ugly. Also, he’s made some of the worst movies in all of recorded human history. Luckily, these qualities appeal to Oscar voters who replaced their critical minds with caviar cocaine. Sofia has an advantage with the whole only-American-female ever nominated. Being a member of an elite film family doesn’t hurt either. These two seem especially promising in the company of a director who made a film about killing children for drugs. Also, they would never give an Oscar to someone named Fernando Meirelles. And then there’s Peter Weir for Master & Commander. I liked that movie the first time when Russell Crowe was saving the Roman Empire and avenging his family’s death. Oh wait, that was Gladiator, L.A. Confidential, Romper Stomper, and every Russell Crowe movie ever. Worst director of the year: Russell Crowe. BEST ACTRESS Nothing spells Oscar like gaining thirty pounds, rolling around in mud, killing johns, dating a professional skateboarder, being the most attractive woman in the country, and six little letters. Charlize Theron accomplished all this, and still managed to visit every single talk show on television and blackmail the Academy into voting for her. All this would lead one to believe Theron basically has this category all wrapped up in her expensive Gucci hair conditioner. Almost supernaturally, she actually deserves it. The Best Actress nominations were rather lackluster this year. Diane Keaton and Samantha Morton seem to have been voted in more for their prior work than their actual performances, and they nominated a little kid for Whale Rider. She carries on the proud tradition of rewarding small children for doing summersaults and wanting to be a boy. In the midst of this nomination catastrophe, they left out Scarlett Johansson for Lost in Translation, a performance that was the perfect foil to Bill Murray’s wry malaise. And never mind that Uma Thurman actually managed to escape Quentin Tarantino’s rabid stick-figure kung fu with her integrity, mysteriousness, and sincerity intact. Anyone can pretend to be an immigrant mom in New York City; it takes skill to play someone choking on their own blood in a sword hurricane. BEST ACTOR Johnny Depp, Ben Kingsley, and Jude Law were superb in their films this year but this year’s race is a toss-up between Bill Murray, for Lost in Translation, and Sean Penn, for Mystic River. I’m going to cheat here and say that they both deserve it equally. Penn displays the dark side that we saw in Dead Man Walking and is able to evoke the emotion of losing a daughter in a raw, tender way that almost makes you forget he is just acting. Murray’s radiant performance is authentic and heartfelt, merging humor and misery. Great acting performances stem from great scripts, and these two characters were exceptionally well-conceived. Who will win? I’ll go with Murray, only because he seemed more natural. His apathetic yet sentimental facial expression manages, somehow, to add depth to his character and to the film in a truly breathtaking and consistently amusing way. BEST SUPPORTING ROLES Alright, let’s be practical and let’s be logical. Tim Robbins is going to win. Don’t even try to convince me otherwise because I’ve heard all your protests before. What about Ken Watanabe, the dark horse who stole the show in The Last Samurai? What about Djimon Hounsou, who gave new meaning to the word “tortured artist”? Alas, do not try to fight it because Tim Robbins, actor, director, and wife of Susan Sarandon, has had this one a long time coming. In this day and age, “unattractive” might as well be a synonym for “Oscar winner” because only a true actor, committed to their craft would shirk the trappings of Hollywood hotness to play, God forbid, ordinary looking people. Does this mean that Ren