Monday, October 24, 2005

L.A. trip pictures, take 2: The Huntington

Before I forget, I'd like to revisit the previous post and tell you all about Crash. I really recommend renting this movie. It is not necessarily a pleasant movie to watch, but it is a really good movie to watch. I realize that sounds contradictory, but if you watch it, I think you'll understand what I mean.

Crash features a very large ensemble cast of characters, and the movie basically lets us follow them along through their daily lives to watch their interactions with each other, which are very racially charged because the cast is so diverse (in addition to "white" people, we have Chinese-, Hispanic-, Iranian-, and African-Americans). Really, the script and the director do a frighteningly and distressingly good job of showing some of the ugliness inherent in our perceptions and stereotypes of certain kinds of races and certain kinds of people. At the same time, though, the movie manages to balance that ugliness with a nuanced look at the characters as real human beings, with human faults and motivations. This means that you can't help empathizing with them, even as you recoil from how harshly and unfeelingly they seem to treat each other because of their racial assumptions and prejudices. Like I said above, not really a pleasant movie to watch, since both the humanity and the ugliness will resonate personally with you, but nevertheless a very well-done, and very good, movie.

And now, on to the second installment of L.A. pictures, before I fall asleep on my feet!

On the Saturday while I was in L.A., I went to Pasadena to visit the original Trader Joe's. I stocked up on a bunch of goodies (and nearly broke my back trying to schlep them all back to Austin). Then, after dropping a bunch of cash at TJ, I decided to check out the Huntington, which is basically botanical-gardens-cum-art-museum-cum-archive-slash-manuscript-library. Fortunately for me, the weather was beautiful that day and I spent a fair amount of time walking through the botanical gardens in a tour. The tour was super--I don't think I would have appreciated all the plants as much if I hadn't done it--but it also did take up a fair amount of time, right around noon, which didn't leave me too much time or inclination to take in the rest of the grounds and collections properly. I will have to go back and look at everything some more next summer.

So, because I spent most of the time outside in the gardens, and because they don't allow photography in the art and manuscript collections, all the pictures below are of plants. Unfortunately, I can't identify any of them for you because I am certainly no botanist, but I offer the pictures as just a glimpse of how cool the Huntington is. It's just a shame that I couldn't also show you pictures of the Gutenberg Bible and the first-edition prints of Shakespeare plays and Leviathan and Paradise Lost that they have in the manuscript collection. Stunning, I tell you. Go check it out yourself!

Here is a beautiful cactus with blossoms that I saw on the way. I wanted to get nice and close to capture both the blossoms and the prickles.

And here is a shot of part of the cactus section of the gardens. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of succulents in the world.

I have no idea what the plant below is, but I thought it was neat because the garden staff broke open one of the huge pine-cone-like things to show you the red flesh and the seeds on the inside.

Here are some pretty blossoms. Again, no idea what plant.

Some more cool plants.

And some pretty blossoms. Notice how beautiful the weather is? It was super.

And here is the highly qualified tour guide who showed us around. She was a 15-year veteran docent and a feisty grandmotherly lady who probably had a ton of interesting stories to tell. I'm sorry that the tour was over as quickly as it was, because she was a very cool woman.

That's it. I accidentally deleted one of the pictures, so I'll try to post it when I'm back in Houston over the weekend again. Before then, two more installments: more Huntington plants, and the Knit Cafe!


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