After two offline weeks at Michele’s family cabin in Olympic Valley – which everybody calls Squaw Valley, but is officially Olympic Valley because the Squaw Valley name was already taken by a small town in Fresno County where one can buy 5.6 acres with a well for $65,000 – we are back home. We had a good time, hosting family for Christmas and friends for New Years, but it is always good to be back in home (for Precious Mae, it is great to be back home as she spent most of her time hiding from visitors by sleeping under our bed at the cabin). We went to Reno to see a couple of movies, Star Wars in a packed house, of course, and The Big Short, in an almost empty theater, did some walking, Michele did some skiing, I did some photoing, and we both did alot of watching it snow. We also went to the Nevada Museum of Art to see a superb show on Tahoe.
Starting at the end, Michele, at the suggestion of her sister, Claudia, campaigned for a visit to the Nevada Museum of Art. It is just down the street from an Adult Fantasy Store – crazy sexy hot – in a Reno neighborhood that is an up and coming art/restaurant area. The museum was new to us and we both loved it. It had us at the Deborah Butterfield bronze horse outside.
Inside, the show was terrific (no pictures allowed), ranging from a huge 1865 Albert Bierstadt painting to Frank Lloyd Wright drawings for unbuilt – fortunately – houses on Emerald Bay. From several Maynard Dixons, including a stellar portrait of a pine, to a luminous, Thiebaud-esque, painting of Emerald Bay by Gregory Kondos, to fabulous Washoe Indian – Native American? Indigenous People? – baskets, to a collection of postcards (with a backdrop of a window overlooking the neighborhood).On the day that Michele went skiing, I wandered over to the east side of Lake Tahoe to photograph the boulders at Sand Harbor, the view from the Mt. Rose Highway, and the gloaming twilight in Martis Valley.We were at the cabin just a day short of two weeks and one of the things that sort of surprised me was the logistics of getting around. Several days the temp was in the single digits at night and in the teens during the
hottest least cold part of the day, definitely parka over light fleece weather. The problem, though, is that most places seem to keep their thermostats set at about 80° which translates to about 107° under a parka and fleece; and where does one put the gloves, and what about the hat? Watching Star Wars, I had a sizable pile of winter clothing on my lap. We fared better in The Big Short because the seats were strangely wide and the theater was almost empty. That is a pity because the movie is terrific, a perfect example of Steve Allen’s observation that comedy is tragedy plus time.
The Big Short is based on the book of the same name, written by Michael Lewis, and I thought the movie – by Adam McKay, a director whose previously best movie was Anchorman – is about the roots of the 2007-08 meltdown and several of the people who saw it coming and bet against, essentially, us. The Big Short is funny – very funny – and more informative than I expected. I was especially dazzled by Christian Bale who plays Michael Burry, a savant who sees that the numbers don’t add up. He is so different from Bruce Wayne or Irving Rosenfeld, the con man in American Hustle, that I didn’t recognize him.
As an aside, there are several scenes in The Big Short in which the camera cuts away from the action to have celebrities explain various arcane financial instruments such as Selena Gomez explaining Synthetic CDOs (collateralized debt obligations). It was brilliant and got me thinking how hard it must be to make an aside like that work. Quentin Tarantino made it work in inglorious Basterds in which he broke the action to explain how nitrate film is flammable, but I can’t remember another example. End aside.