Archive for the ‘art’ Tag

Birthday Trip   1 comment

I was in DC for a few days! I didn’t get to see a lot of people. But that’s okay! It was for my birthday, and for my birthday I wanted to see my family, especially my favorite twin sister.

I took the train up, and let me tell you: I love traveling via train. Like plane rides, someone else is driving (score one over cars). However, the seats are bigger, you have a little bit more legroom, and it’s easier/less annoying to fellow passengers if you get up and walk around. You also have somewhere to walk to! It’s the dining car. Which is great: you don’t have to sit and wait for a flight attendant. You are your own master.

Plus, for some reason the actual act of flying always leaves my body stressed. I can’t relax or sleep on a plane, no matter how comfortable I get or how much I read or distract myself. There’s something about the pressure your body is under that stresses me out. I remember going to Europe with Lacey and Beth. We were on an overnight flight from New York to Heathrow to Berlin. I was awake the whole time. As soon as we got on the train to go to Paris? I was out like a light. I remember another time, flying from London to New York to Dulles. I was absolutely, devastatingly exhausted, but I could not fall asleep on the plane. I started hallucinating.

Anyway! So I took the train to DC which was very convenient. I carried my sister’s present onto the train with me; the ticket person warned me that the conductor might not let me (it’s a painting with a glass cover, the ticket person was worried it would break in a crash and make things worse). I had already started texting Lacey about back-up plans in case I wasn’t able to bring her present with me, but the conductor didn’t even glance at it as I walked onto the train. Thankfully, because of the awkward size of the painting, absolutely no one sat next to me the entire trip. I tried to make room as best I could, but no one sat with me. I could spread out, leave my stuff on the extra seat, and stretch out my legs. I finished the first half of translations for Chapter Seven in my Latin textbook. After I had done all my translations, I carried my Julius Caesar biography (given to me by the handsome James Meyers) into the dining car to have lunch. Another passenger and I waited together while the dining car attendant worked with the microwave.

“Where are you heading?” we both asked, as is the usual opener on trains.

Then she asked, “What school do you go to?”

It was the first of…well of a few times that I was mistaken for a college student. I suppose it made sense. I look young for my age, I had been doing work out of a textbook, and I was carrying around a biography. All common signs of a college student.

Lacey met me at the train station, helped me get my bags, and lead me through the metro system to Ballston, where we met Mom and headed to Tysons. Lacey is more comfortable with the metro than I am. I was convinced that I hadn’t entered the system legally (perhaps jumping on her open entry?) but apparently I did enter legally. All was well.

The food at Tysons was excellent and the company was even better (the parents and the twin sister!). After dinner Dad headed home, but Mom, Lacey, and I explored Barnes and Noble. I bought two new biographies to add to my collection, and Mom bought a birthday present for me.

It’s called Wreck This Journal and look what I’ve done to it:

It’s not every day that you want to call up your mother and say “you know that present you got for me less than a week ago? I wiped my dirty shoes on it and broke it nearly in two.” I am so happy.

But of course I cannot call up my mother. Lacey drove over my phone. It was an accident, of course: I dropped my phone unknowingly by her car and so she drove over my cell phone with absolutely no idea that it was there. It is absolutely gone, dying alone and broken in the cold Arlington snow. It was a jerk anyway.

Moving on to Saturday, Lacey and I worked out for a bit. First we (probably) annoyed her neighbors by dancing to the music we were playing too loud (Uptown Funk, Shake It Off, Bie Mir Bist du Schoen, Come With Me Now), and then actually going to a gym and working out (featuring an attendant who laughed too hard at Lacey’s joke).

Then we went and got ourselves cultured like red wine and gruyere. First we attended Taffety Punk’s annual Riot Grrls. A few years ago, Shakespeare Theater Company in DC did an all-male version of Romeo and Juliet. Annoyed that women were once again being denied good acting roles, Taffety Punk threw together a quick all-female version of Romeo and Juliet, which turned out so successful that every year they do an all-female production of a Shakespeare show under the name Riot Grrrls.

This year’s flavor was the Tempest.

From Lacey’s facebook feed.

All but one of the principle actresses had been in last year’s Titus Andronicus, so it was interesting, this year, to see them play new roles. Only one of them (the woman playing Miranda) played a really similar role to last year. Last year’s Lavinia was this year’s Miranda. Both roles clearly are girly-girl types, but Lavinia is a mostly silent role dealing with death, despair, frustration, fear, anger, and sadness, while Miranda is a blithe spirit who loves everything all the time and is so happy. The actress was clearly more comfortable playing the sailor Trinculo, who was drunk and petty. Lacey, meanwhile, found it interesting to watch the quality of performances diverge between actors playing multiple roles: Ferdinand and Sebastian were played by the same person, which works with clever staging. She played Ferdinand straight and dull (to Lacey’s annoyance) but found her Sebastian to be sardonic and hilarious.

After The Tempest, we went and ate at Ted’s Bulletin, because it was right around the corner and obviously.

Ted’s Bulletin liked this on instagram

Our super-serious discussion about Acting was interrupted when several people from Taffety Punk walked into the restaurant!!!!! I didn’t say anything but OH MAN.

Then we rushed off to E Street Cinema to watch the Oscar Nominated Shorts (both live-action and animated). Obviously the awards have been given out so we know who won, but here are my thoughts anyway.

You can skip them if you want, I noted in all-caps when it ends.

[in order of how they’re listed on the Oscar website]

Animated Shorts

The Bigger Picture


I absolutely loved the Bigger Picture, which is how I knew it wasn’t going to win. I always go for the animated shorts that have a unique or fanciful art style, while Oscars tend to be given to the animated short with the cutest or most comfortable story. That being said, I loved this film. I loved how simple the story was; I loved how the art style and fantasy sequences helped to tell the story, or rather the emotion. The emotion that two brothers feel as their mother is slowly dying. Their mother’s friend would insult the caretaker brother as he was filling her teacup; he would imagine the room filling up with water and drowning her. But despite his annoyance, he was ultimately able to keep his head up as his more-successful brother lost it, because he was able to focus on…the bigger picture I love this film you guys I love it.

The Dam Keeper


Neither Lacey nor I were particularly impressed by The Dam Keeper. In a city full of anthropomorphic creatures, a small pig is put in charge of the windmill that keeps the Darkness at bay (if a movie calls a vague thing to be feared “the Darkness” you know it’s going to be stupid). He also goes to school, where he is bullied frequently for being a pig. Then he makes a friend. Then that friends turns out to be false. So he decides to let the windmill wind down, which would kill everyone.

Here’s where Lacey and I disagree: I think they should have ended it there. Just let the pig sit there with his gas mask on and let the darkness come and kill everyone. The last shot should have just been the gas mask. Lacey disagreed. I don’t remember exactly where she thought the movie should have ended (or maybe she thought the story should have gone in a different direction?).

In any case, the pig saves everyone and it’s a happy ending for everyone, which doesn’t make sense, in the same way that Frozen’s ending doesn’t make sense. I’ll elaborate later. This entry is already pretty long.

Feast (winner)


Feast is a decent-looking piece with an easy-to-swallow story (hah!). Of course it was going to win. Unlike last time Disney won Animated Short, I’m not angry. I hated Paperman. Feast was good. There were better entries. But Feast was fine. It told a story from a unique perspective. It had a good metaphor. It made me want a Boston Terrier. All good things.

Me and my Moulton


This was Lacey’s pick for Best Animated Short, and I can’t say I blame her. It was probably my #2. It’s a story about a quirky family and accepting that family or happiness or normalcy or whatever is…what you make of it? What no one has? What looks weird from the outside is in fact normal? That supporting or loving someone takes a big effort? Don’t be embarrassed by your family? It didn’t have one, simple message, which is something that Lacey tends to go for. And certainly that was a big bonus. It was a slice-of-life about growing up, about accepting…maturity? I don’t really know what it was about, exactly. But it was funny and sweet and the art style was simple and quirky, and it tells a story that will stick with you. It’s a good film and it should have won, really.

A Single Life

It’s all on youtube guys! Go get yourselves some culture.

A Single Life starts with a woman sitting down to eat a delicious pizza in a comfortable apartment like it’s the only thing anyone would ever want. It is the most relatable thing ever. The art is really weird though. I don’t think it served the story very well at all. She looks like a giant white cucumber with a wig. Considering the theme of the story, she should have been more human-shaped, not less. It had a good punchline and excellent pacing, but overall it wasn’t a very good film.

Live Action Shorts



Look at those two. Look how happy they are. Look how thrilled they are to be alive, to enjoy all of life’s greatest splendors.

At 39 minutes, this film was the longest entry in the Live Action Shorts, and boy did it feel like it. The whole movie was filled with long, awkward pauses of silence. I joked to James that 30/39 minutes of the movie was awkward silence. The thing is, I’m not sure I was exaggerating.

Aya, the driver there, is at the airport to pick up someone (a lover, presumably) when through a weird series of circumstances she gets mistaken for a professional driver and she just goes along with it. It’s a good set-up…if the characters were interesting, if the final plot twist hadn’t been given away the first time we saw her hands on the wheel, if the characters had anything interesting to say, if the actors had had any chemistry, if there had been any sense of danger, if they had gotten lost and had to find their way, if they had talked about anything deeper than “what do you do for a living?” The film is actually about the car drive from the airport to the hotel.

Lacey visited the facilities in the middle of the film. When she came back, she asked if she had missed anything important. After giving it a moment’s thought, I realized that no, no she hadn’t. Absolutely nothing had happened in the five minutes or so she had been gone. That’s forgiveable in a feature-length film, but this is a short film. Every second should count. A few minutes after that, I went and bought a bottle of water (this is a relevant plot point for this entry — remember that I bought a bottle of water). When I came back, I asked Lacey if I had missed anything — and nope. Nada. The whole film was an exercise in patience.

We went online to see if there was any explanation for why Aya scored a nomination, only to discover that the very things we hated about it were the things people loved about it. Critics raved about the “tense periods of sexual tension” or whatever. They loved the long silent pauses. They loved…the fact that no one said anything? They loved the “twist” at the end. They said that it was “a story exploring what would happen if you gave in to your impulses” (or something). Except that Aya did the opposite of that in the end. Also, one critic said that if you hate this movie you’re an anti-semite. I guess I’m an anti-semite now.

Boogaloo and Graham


Boogaloo and Graham was never going to win. Unlike the Animated Shorts’ tendency towards heart-warming stories, Live Action Shorts goes for art and Feelings. If it had been animated, Boogaloo and Graham would have had a chance to win. It’s about a Northern Irish family that adopts two chickens, set against the backdrop of the Troubles. It was adorable. I thought for a second the chickens were going to die. It toyed a bit with my emotions. It’s what you want in a kid-friendly film. The only thing Lacey and I didn’t like was that the one black character in the film was the one who killed a dude in the end? Was given scary framing and everything? What the double-hey racism?

Butter Lamp

Source Watch it here!

Butter Lamp was also never going to win, but you really, really wanted it to. It was a story about modernity forcing its way into a small Tibetan village and — back up, Hancher, back way way up. It’s about a whole bunch of Tibetan families getting their picture taken. Everyone is cute and charming and it tells each family’s story in its own way. The underlying theme is — stop it, Hancher. Watching the movie for the message takes away from the story.



This was Lacey’s choice. She has a weakness for stories about female friendship. It’s a story about unlikely friendship between an Iranian immigrant and a Swiss teenager. They beat up a dude. There’s casual racism. They bond. Unlike Aya, this film really did explore two characters dropping boundaries and seeing what happens next. Both Lacey and I loved this film. Lacey just loved it more than I did. I would have been happy if it had won.

The Phone Call (winner)


I absolutely adored The Phone Call. It follows a woman at a crisis center as she handles her first phone call of the shift. It is absolutely intense and nerve-wracking. The vast majority of the film is just a wide variety of angles of her sitting at her desk and talking and writing, but every single frame is filled to the brim with intensity as a man’s life is on the line. I could hear the sad voice of every old man I have ever met on the other end of that phone call. I cried along with Heather. I loved this movie and it absolutely deserved to win.

And it did! Yay!


After the movies we headed back to the car and mostly just bad-mouth Aya. We tried to shove as much praise for Parveneh and The Phone Call in as we could, but we just could not get our minds around how awful Aya was.

As we drove past the White House, Lacey made a left turn that may or may not have been legal, the lights were changing. So Lacey made a joke about President Obama coming out in his boxers to arrest her. I put on my best President Obama voice. Lacey and President Obama began discussing government-issued patriotic boxer shorts and laughing. I was only about halfway done with the water I had bought during Aya. I raised up the bottle to take a sip as Lacey was saying something funny.

The next thing I knew I couldn’t stop coughing. I could feel the water going down my throat and I was coughing, coughing, coughing, my whole world was just me and coughing. Suddenly there was banana milkshake and cole slaw all over my lap and I couldn’t stop it and it wasn’t enough and I couldn’t stop coughing and I couldn’t breathe, I realized I couldn’t breathe and everything was getting dark.

We drove all the way down Constitution Avenue before I could breathe again. It was the shallowest breath I had every managed. But it was new air, enough that my vision began clearing up. I still couldn’t stop coughing. But I could suddenly gasp. I realized that Lacey was freaking out next to me, shouting and screaming. We were well onto 66 before I was even able to get out a few words. Lacey asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said either “no” or “I don’t know”, I honestly don’t remember. She refused to take no for an answer. My brain was too addled to really say anything sensible, and I was still coughing a lot. Lacey finally pulled out her phone and called her insurance company’s 24-hour hotline and asked if she should take me to the hospital. The nurse said yes.

So we arrived at Virginia Hospital Center at midnight. I nearly slipped on the ice outside the emergency room. Lacey said that it was bad luck to break your leg outside the hospital. I said, “*cough* I woul *cough* wouldn’t have t *cough* to go very fa *cough* *cough*” I’m sure it was very annoying.

There was only one other person in the waiting area. The person at the desk took in my basic symptoms and gave me a bucket in case I vomited again. Lacey gave me a bunch of paper towels and I wiped off my jacket and coughed into the bucket.

The one other person waiting was there for his wife. We were shown in within ten minutes. A nurse took my vitals and I said that really my cough was a lot better than before. I’m pretty certain that my strained, weak voice combined with frequent cough breaks didn’t help. But I really was feeling better. I was literally no longer dying.

We were given a room to wait in. I changed into a hospital gown. The doctor and trainee doctor walked into the room and checked my breathing. They asked me a few other questions about how I felt. The doctor told me that the worst was over. I might still have some water in my lungs, but I would be coughing it out over the next few days. My chest was sore, but it was just inflamed from all the coughing. I could take some ibuprofen to help. It had been a good idea to come to the hospital, just to make sure the worst was over. I mean, I had just almost died.

They left and an administrator immediately came in, saying that everything had been cleared by my insurance company. I wouldn’t have to pay a dime. Lacey commented on how amazing it was — we had been cleared to leave before the insurance paperwork had even finished processing! Modern technology!

In the car ride back Lacey told me how relieved she was that I hadn’t died. If I had died in her car, Mom would have killed her. She asked me several times if I was feeling okay. If I died on her couch, Mom would kill her.

I discovered going up the stairs that I could not handle stairs anymore. I had to stop twice, but only briefly. I tried to make sure Lacey didn’t notice.

On the hill waiting for Dad to pick us up the next day, I noticed that I couldn’t handle hills very well either. I lagged behind Lacey. Apparently five minutes of coughing completely destroyed my lung capacity. I’ll have to work on cardio…when the weather gets better.

At brunch, Dad teased me about the fact that I was drinking water. Even though twelve hours had gone by, my body was still reeling from the whole thing. By evening, I would feel completely over it, except for the very rare hacking cough (and even that has gone away). But during brunch, my body still felt like it was processing what had happened. I feel like I didn’t say much; I feel like I couldn’t be as involved in the conversation as I normally was. Maybe it was in my head.

But still. I left Cary Station in one piece. When I came back, I had a broken toe, no cell phone, and had nearly died. One heck of a weekend.

Posted February 25, 2015 by agentksilver in Personal

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Random thought of the day   Leave a comment

I had a random thought coming home. I recently reread Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art, a book about the philosophy and science of storytelling through comics. It’s told in graphic novel format, and it’s a really good read, if you’re interested in expression, art, or philosophy. Anyway, I specifically read the part about “closure.”

Even today, as I write and draw this panel, I have no guarantee that anything exists outside of what my five sense report to me. I’ve never been to Morocco, but I take it on faith that there is a Morocco!…All of us perceive the world as a whole through the experience of our senses. Yet our sense can only reveal a world that is fragmented and incomplete. Even the most widely travelled mind can only see so much of the world in the course of a life. Our perception of “reality” is an act of faith, based on mere fragments. As infants, we’re unable to commit that act of faith. If we can’t see it, hear it, smell it, taste it or touch it, it isn’t there! The game “Peek-A-Boo” plays on this idea. Gradually, we all learn that even though the sight of Mommy comes and goes, Mommy remains. This phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole has a name. It’s called closure.

…Comics panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments. But closure allows us to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality.

…Every act committed to paper by the comics artist is aided and abetted by a silent accomplice. An equal partner in crime known as The Reader. I may have drawn an axe being raised in this example, but I’m not the one who let it drop or decided how hard the blow, or who screamed, or why. That, dear reader, was your special crime, each of you committing it in your own style.


This particular part about closure blows my mind every time I read this book. I found myself pondering it on my way home from Petsmart today. I parked, got out of my car, walked up to my front door, put my keys in the lock, turn the key/lock, opened the door, walked inside, and closed the door. I then wondered how much of that sequence would I need to show, in, say, a comic, for a reader to understand what I was doing. My exact thought was “how much would a movie show?” which was not at all in the mood of where I learned this concept, but whatever. It’s what I thought.

Driving–>hand on car doorhandle–>open car door–>step out of car–>car door close–>walk up front walk–>keys out–>key in lock–>turn key/lock–>open door–>–>retrieve keys (an easy step to miss)–>step into doorway–>close door

driving–>car door close–>walk up front walk–>key in lock–>open door–>step into doorway–>close door

Okay, but can I make it shorter?

driving–>walk up front walk–>step into doorway–>close door

What is the shortest I can make this without completely losing the meaning?

driving–>step into doorway


*McCloud, Scott, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, pg 61-68, HarperCollins, New York: NY, 1993

Posted November 25, 2014 by agentksilver in animation

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I don’t think I planned this entry very well before I started writing it   Leave a comment

Today’s drawing class took us to Tiber Island (an island on the Tiber whodathunk), where we learned about Roman medicine and how to ink wash.


Needless to say I am not quitting my day job anytime soon. But still it was a nice morning. We walked along the river and learned about Asclepius. The professor showed me the wild caper plants growing off of the flood walls. When I said that my mom loves capers, she plucked some of the seeds and told me how to make them so that my mom would love them. She, Elly, and I wandered behind the group back to the bridge where most of our lesson was taking place. I asked Elly where she goes to school and what part of China she’s from (Wuhan). I said, “That’s in central China, right?” She said yes. I felt proud of myself for remembering some Chinese geography.

The professor asked me where I go to school. I said George Mason University, right outside of DC. She asked me what sort of scholarship I was on.

“I’m not on a scholarship,” I said, completely surprised by the direction this conversation was taking.

“Oh really?” she also sounded surprised. “You’re just so smart, I thought you were on a scholarship.”

I’m not entirely sure what it is about me that makes everyone think I’m smart. And they all say “smart” too, not “intelligent” or any other synonym. I guess I should be pleased, but I honestly feel incredibly stupid all of the time, and the contrast is genuinely startling. There’s other things that make the topic uncomfortable for me — missed opportunities, ostracization, etc. — so I just don’t like talking about my intelligence or perceived intelligence.

“I looked at scholarships,” I said, just to keep the conversation going. “But all the scholarships for girls were for math and science, and I’m a history major.”

This led the professor to go on a rant about forcing girls to do boy things. I wasn’t really too sure about how to respond, so I didn’t say anything.

I sat on the bridge with Chelsea while we waited for the class to continue.

I complimented her camera, and she explained to me that she’s a photography major. I asked her how she got into photography, which led her into a rant about how important political photography is. She snapped a picture of the homeless man here. I also tried to take a picture of the homeless man (as you can see).

When we got up and followed the rest of the class to the other end of the bridge, she said, “You’re like my friend back home.”

“Oh,” I said.

“That’s a good thing,” she said.

“Oh good,” I said.

I got lost trying to find my way back to the apartment. This is where I learned an odd thing about Rome. I was lost, so I ducked into a church to see if I could get directions. It was an ordinary neighborhood, right next to a big parking lot. The outside was just ordinary orange stucco, the kind you see everywhere in the Jewish ghetto. But I forgot I was in Rome.

Rome to Augustus was, for once, a much less perplexing class than drawing. It was more exhausting, though. I ended up walking 8 kilometers (5 miles) over the course of four hours for that class. Then there was yoga. Then there was walking back to the apartment, another 1.5 kilometers (1 mile).

The Ara Pacis is an altar that Augustus had built. It was a votive (temple built in honor of a victory). It was built in honor of Pax, the god of peace. On September 1 (his birthday), Rome would make a sacrifice on the altar to Peace. The Ara Pacis was built right next to the main road going into and out of Rome, so everyone who went in and out of Rome got a gander at this fancy white altar, covered in propaganda for Augustus.

The museum housing the Ara Pacis was built in the 1990s. It’s as much a museum for the architect as it is a museum for the Ara Pacis. It’s a very small, minimal museum. It was built pretty much because the then-mayor of Rome was a major Richard Meier fanboy. So the museum is mostly the Ara Pacis and a few extra displays like this to justify the museum’s existence to tourists, because locals don’t really visit the museum.

I however geeked out over the miniatures terrain because apparently that part of me hasn’t died. Which surprises me, because I was never able to indulge in my love of miniatures terrain to begin with.

This is the ruins of Augustus’ tomb. Archeologists think that ancient burial practices involved walking the corpse in a circle around the grave before burial. A round tomb would facilitate that practice.

I think that’s Augustus?

Hey, you want some more street art, don’t you?

Yeah we’re ending this entry on a classy note.

(get it?)

And now we’re all caught up with what I’ve been doing in Italy   Leave a comment

Yesterday was a much slower day in comparison to the last few days. I got up slowly, ate breakfast, read some more of the webcomic Freefall, and then went out and did homework.

What I tried to draw:

What I drew:

Ugh, that is terrible. I’m going to go out and find a naked statue and draw that instead. Guh.

On my way back I went grocery shopping. The roommates had all stopped at the store at some point to get groceries for themselves, but for some reason once they came back from the store they were all like “Oh by the way Kelsey we need saran wrap”. So I went shopping for saran wrap, because none of my roommates are capable of buying saran wrap for themselves. I also bought toilet paper because my bathroom is out of toilet paper. And now I can’t find the toilet paper I bought just yesterday, what the heck.

Sarah and I went out and got Mexican food. It was amazing. Italians know even less than we do about Mexico and Mexican food. The cheese was sitting outside of the burrito. All the decorations were Peruvian and Aztec(ian?). The chicken was cooked in gentle but flavorful Italian spices rather than hot Mexican spices, and it was dry (but good). It was just amazing.

Sarah and I were sitting at the end of a table for six. At one point a couple sat down at the other end of the table from us. The woman in the couple was having a rough time of it. She was crying for the first part of their meal. He was obviously trying to make her feel better, trying to say positive things, and kept leaving across the table to kiss her noisily and murmur in her ear. It was really sweet.

We ordered Coppa gelato con frutta fresca, which I translated into “a cup of ice cream with fresh fruit.” Which turned out to be accurate, but the ice cream turned out to be chocolate. So I took out the strawberries and offered my ice cream to the couple sitting next to us. They turned it down.

They left before we did. They made sure to say goodbye to us as they left. I watched them go (I was facing the same way they were going, what else was I going to do). Like half a block away he got down on one knee and said something. I wondered if he was proposing or what the heck was going on, why was he stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to get down on one knee like that. But why would he propose if she was obviously upset? None of my business, but still.

Welcome to the Vatican   2 comments

Okay, so it’s taken me two days to get this post going because Holy Crap did I take a lot of pictures of the Vatican. (did you see what I did there? Ahaha) Anyway I’ve uploaded all the pictures to imgur, which took a very, very long time, so after it was all done I went to bed rather than make this post. And now I’m making this post. Congratulations! You are now up to date on the goings-on in my blogging career.

So my roommates made it home safe the night before. They got in at about 4:30, when I was already asleep. The bar the Italian guys had been taken them to turned out to be closed, so they just went to a touristy karaoke bar they knew was overpriced but good. Nicole was, ah, “not feeling well” so she didn’t go. It was just Ayan, Sarah, Deanna, and me then. Our tickets were scheduled for 1:00, but due to everyone being out late the night before, we showed up at the Vatican around 1:30.

Here is a picture I took on the way to the Vatican, near Argentina, which has a lot of bus stops on it. The street art in Rome is amazing.

First we wandered through St. Peter’s Square. I wanted to stop and take more touristy pictures, but we were On A Mission. I will probably try to go back there at some point and take pictures, but not today. Not Sunday. Not in St. Peter’s Square.

So there isn’t really an obvious route that you’re supposed to take. You walk out into a terrace area and you try to figure out for yourself where to go. I wanted to see the Pigna, so we went to the Cortile della Pigna first. Once upon a time, there was a fountain built in a section of Rome that was made to look like a pinecone. It gave water to the whole district, and so the area was named “pinecone district.” Eventually one of the popes was adding to the Vatican. He realized that the people at the Vatican needed to drink, so he took the foutain from the district and made it the fountain of the Vatican.

Historically, that was a good move. Had there been a chunk of bronze just hanging out, it would have been torn down anyway during the many invasions of Rome in the middle ages. But it was in the Vatican. No one wanted to take from the Vatican. Nowadays the area is still known as “pinecone district” even though there is no pinecone, it’s weird.

Here’s something that I learned fairly quickly. I was excited to go to the Vatican because I wanted to learn about the Popes. I wanted to learn about the Borgia and the historical political institution known as the Papacy. But the Vatican is an art museum. Lots of art has been contributed to the Vatican, they gotta do something with it. That makes sense. But the Vatican museum is a gigantic collection of art. You don’t go to the Vatican museum to learn about the Vatican.

As you can see, there are a lot of statues. So many that instead of taking serious pictures of statues, I just took pictures of the few that amused me.

Haha, check out this guy’s moobs.


I took this picture to make a joke about “ahaha she’s going to take your soul” but now I’m looking at it. I know the dark spots are holes in the eyes. What was there before? Was it gems or precious metals? Was this statue looted, the body tossed aside? Now looking at this statue makes me sad.

I forget why this statue amused me. Maybe because it looks like it’s snapping? I don’t know, but look at that hand. That is some fine detail work.

This baby frightened Ayan.

Speaking of frightening children.

Okay we’re done with phantom childen.

This statue is all “LAD-AYS.”

I have to tell you that there were a lot of statues like this one, based around the story of Ganymede and Zeus. Ganymede was a beautiful boy. Zeus was Zeus. He turned himself into an eagle and stole Ganymede away for some, ah, Zeusing.

A lot of these statues were damaged in some way. This picture was weird to me, because either the statue head was completely reconstructed (horribly) or the head is all mildewy. Eww.

You could say that the sculptors had some phantom limb syndrome. Actually for serious, this one is shown with an arm around its shoulder and I liked that.

We’re done with the statues now by the way.

Okay, this struck me as weird about the Vatican. Absolutely none of the statues that hung over doorways looked happy to be there.


It was around this time that Ayan and I realized that we had lost Deanna and Sarah. So we decided to just hang out for a bit and wait to see if they would find us. You see, we were in part of a loop, so we hoped that they just hadn’t exited the loop yet.

So we waited. Eventually Sarah found us. We didn’t find Deanna for a while; she had wandered off completely on her own. She got to see the Borgia apartments and I didn’t.

What is going on with these statues, I don’t even.

“So I says to Mabel, I says”
“Dude you’re not even hitting the plate with your water jug.”
“Haters gonna hate.”


I guess even the great art preservationists have to use tape.

I’m not entirely sure why, but imagery of dudes kissing baby Jesus’ feet always amuses me. Generally speaking, the person doing the kissing is the guy who commissioned the art, which is I’m sure are important things to note, but mostly I just think it’s funny that old dudes are always kissing a baby’s foot.

2000 years before CGI, there was Jesus, doing the Dreamworks face.

(yes I know the tapestry is like 400-600 years old, not 2000, but I was making a joke)

Anyway look at this foot.

Anyway look at this ceiling.

It is a very pretty ceiling.

I took this picture because haha, dudes kissing. But Ayan turned out to be really interested in this tapestry. I looked at the tapestry more closely, and I realized that it was depicting Holy Thursday. It was separated into three panels, represented by the walls of the building that the Last Supper took place in. I pointed out what about the second panel indicated that it was the Last Supper — Jesus with a ring of holy light, the apostles blatantly getting drunk and falling asleep. Then in the third panel, I explained why St. Peter was holding a sword and a dude’s ear was falling off, and why it was significant that Jesus was kissing Peter. I felt bad about secretly taking a terrible picture because it was funny, because this is an important piece of early sequential art.

Anyway on to the Sistine Chapel. I took pictures inside the Sistine Chapel, because you’re not allowed to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel. I understand why they don’t want pictures taken (actually I don’t, I can only guess it has to do with copyright). I just wanted to break the rules. So I won’t post pictures of the Sistine Chapel.

Here, have a picture of a cow instead.

We actually found Deanna at the Sistine Chapel. It was funny. We were worried about her, but after waiting around we decided to just go ahead to the Sistine Chapel. And there she was. And the first thing she said was, “I found your friend!” It turned out that Sarah’s friend who was supposed to join us yesterday was in the Vatican eating a pastry at the little cafe just off of the Sistine Chapel. Life is full of surprises.

I took this photo because hahaha buff babies, but actually this is a pretty vase.

In the Vatican, even the exit is pretty.

I was a little disappointed though. I know nothing more about the Papacy than when I went to the Vatican. I was hoping to buy a book on the history of the Papacy in the bookstore at least, but no dice. Nothing but books on the Sistine Chapel and Botticelli and Michelangelo. I did buy stuff — their price for prints was really reasonable — but it was all art history.

We were all starving so we went to a cafe close to St. Peter’s Square to eat, and who should join us but Sarah’s friend? I am seated away from the crowd because after about forty minutes of sitting in direct sunlight your neck starts to get hot and you start to worry about getting burned.

This is one of the few times I can legitimately say that I walked to Argentina.   Leave a comment

I am sunburnt. My forearms are going to be a toasty brown, as will my chest. If I don’t burn too hard, then it develops into a tan. Fortunately I realized what was happening and started hiding in the shade. The worst is actually the tops of my feet. They are actually a little sensitive, but they’re already looking better. It’s kind of funny, I have sandal lines on my feet.



Were my sunburns worth it?

After all that sunbathing, I headed down to the Area Sacra Largo di Torre Argentina (hereafter referred to as “Argentina”), where my next class was meeting.


I didn’t see these guys all of last week, and now suddenly they’re at every touristy/historical spot I visit. I have no idea who they are or what organization they belong to. It has to be more than just begging, right? I mean, what’s the point?


Something about Heracles here made me laugh. He looks like a kid whose mom is forcing him to take a bath.



Rome is just really pretty.


I also bought some souvenirs. I have a pewter gladiator at home, and when I saw these bronze gladiators I knew I wanted one. However, they were expensive, so instead I bought a bobblehead to add to my bobblehead collection. I stopped at another souvenir stand to see if there were any less expensive ones there, and the person said, “You want one?” I said, “Yes, but it’s too expensive.” He said, “Ten euro.” Well okay then. I bought it for 10€ instead of 35€.

I tried to get them to look like they were fighting but it didn’t work out.

After walking to the Colosseum, walking all around the Colosseum looking for my class, and then spending several hours in the sunshine drawing, then walking to Argentina, I was very, very tired. I actually took a nap. Like, on the streets of Rome. I bought some grapes and sat in the alley and read my homework for class. I don’t want you to think I was sitting among the dumpsters. I just don’t have a better word for it than “alley”. It was more of like a little street where cars couldn’t go, but it had motorcycles and lots of visibility. I fell asleep in an alley. Yup.

My next class was Rome to Augustus. We started at Argentina and wandered around the Area Sacra, where the teacher gave us some basics in Roman archeology. Did you know that temples were considered the houses of the Gods? Like, literally, their houses, so only priests and priestesses were allowed in. Sacrifices were performed on the temple steps.


Here is a picture that I posted last week of the Area Sacra Largo di Torre Argentina. It hasn’t changed much from when Mussolini had his architects dig through the area, way back in the 1920s. This is the Sacra part of Area Sacra. There are four temples on this site. Most likely, they were what my professor called “Victory Temples” — generals would pledge to build temples in their patron deity’s honor if they won the battle, either as a personal pledge or as a pledge to their troops. It also had the added bonus of making them look good politically back home.

The streets behind this area — to the left of this picture — used to be Pompey’s Theater. It was the first of its kind, since Romans considered actors to be like prostitutes and theaters to be like whorehouses. Also, theaters were places of gathering and a place for the spread of ideas; they were like little riot factories. Romans did build theaters, but they were temporary theaters, made of wood and built solely for festivals. It was a love/hate relationship, though, because Greeks thought that theaters were awesome and the Romans thought the Greeks were awesome. Pompey justified the theater by putting a temple to his patron at the very top of the theater. He also had a gigantic campus for the theater, which included these four temples that you see in the picture.

Senators were only able to meet in consecrated areas, and because there were so many temples in this area, there was a consecrated area for Senators to meet here. It’s a little off-panel; there’s two white buildings next to that red building. Underneath those areas is where the consecrated Senatorial area was. The main Senatorial area was under renovation in 44 BC, so the Senators were meeting at this consecrated area. Therefore, this is the area where the Senators lured Julius Caesar to his death.

Along our walk we also learned about the Pigna — Pinecone — that served as a fountain for an area of Rome. We learned about the brief popularity of following Egyptian gods rather than Roman gods (after Julius Caesar’s conquest until Octavian’s defeat of Mark Antony).

We ended at the Pantheon.



One of the few remaining parts left of Agrippa’s bathhouse, yyyyeahhhh (another part is in the Via del Ciambatta, or “Donut Street”, where the bathhouse’s donut-shaped roof still remains.)



Despite the name — Pantheon, Greek for “all gods”, the Pantheon isn’t really built as a temple. This is a picture of my class standing in the ruins of the original temple. The Pantheon has been lost twice due to fire, and the Romans put high priority into rebuilding it for some reason. The current Pantheon has been around since Emperor Hadrian, who is rumored to have designed the current Pantheon himself.

If you look at the picture, you’ll notice that there are only four steps leading from the foundation to the porch of the Pantheon. This indicates that, for some reason, despite the theological name, this was not a temple in the proper sense. People can look into the temple. People can enter the temple — always could, even when it was first built. Very mysterious.

It is now a Catholic Church, because Rome.





The interior is gorgeous. I’ll have to revisit it when I’m not in such a rush. The marble is all-original. The Romans have always put a high priority into preserving the Parthenon. Two walls’ marble facades have been removed to get at the metal bolts that keep it in place, but most of the marble is still there. Gorgeous marble, from all over the territories of Rome. Definitely check this place out if you like pretty things.


There is something in Rome that is making me obsessed with birds.

All that sunshine and walking around made me exhausted. I spent most of today still feeling exhausted. I took my first yoga class this evening, feeling headachey and just achey all over. Some stretching, some painkillers, and a hamburger from a tourist trap later, and I’m feeling much better.

Time for bed though.

Mantenete Italia strana   1 comment

A correction: I can wear my sandals and my boots. I cannot wear the blue tennis shoes Mom bought for me. They still hurt my ankle. I’m considering figuring out my European shoe size and going shoe shopping. (I’m a 37-37.5, apparently)

Anyway, the last 24 hours have been interesting. At around this time last night, we heard a whole bunch of popping outside our windows. It lasted for what felt like a really long time. Finally I stood up, walked into the living room, and asked Sarah and Deanna, “Is that gunfire?”

“We were wondering the same thing,” Sarah said.

Deanna and I speculated while Sarah was proactive and did research. Meanwhile, the popping sounds continued.

“It’s their independence day,” she reported. “It’s fireworks.”

We all rushed to get our shoes on. Sarah and I were rushing to the door while Deanna struggled with her shoes. Just as the door opened and Deanna finally had her shoes on, the noises




Disappointed, we all went back to doing what we had been doing before.

I got an email around midnight that said that public transportation workers would be holding a strike on the 3rd, so I should plan to leave early. This became: I arrived right on time. Although that’s more because I got lost. The tram was working, so I was able to get to the Largo di Argentino (the cat shelter) no problem. Then I turned right rather than walking straight. I almost got to the Palantine Hill before I realized my mistake.



…Oh, darn.

I turned around and went back to the square, and then figured out the right way to get to the Piazza Navona, where I was supposed to meet my drawing class. Fortunately, it wasn’t far from where the train had dropped us off.


I’ve decided that Rome is prettiest in the early morning.

The Piazza Novona, according to my professor, used to be a racetrack for pre-Roman civilizations. The Piazza still has the same shape, but various popes and other city leaders have had it filled it and have had fountains put in there. Now it’s a place where artists go and hang out, much the same way that writers hang out in Starbucks.


It’s also a place where immigrants sell mass-produced artwork to tourists.

Our assignment for the day was to make gesture drawings with sanguine pencils.




There were rings around all of the fountains. While we drew the fountains, several of us sat on the rings. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was easier than having to hold all of our stuff as we drew. While I was drawing the foot, some police officers came by and kicked everyone off of the rings. There were people sitting on the edge of the fountains, having their pictures taken. They were asked to leave the fountains, even without the pictures taken. They shooed a two-year-old away.

The girl I was next to told me that last week some drunk Americans had bathed in the fountain and even tried to climb the fountain. They were probably just trying to crack down on tourists messing around the fountains.

I got better at the gesture drawing as time wore on. Probably my best gesture drawing was the one that the teacher pointed out in front of the class, the picture of Elly from behind. It’s in the second picture, second from the right. Although the teacher described my technique as “chalky”, she said that I “make it work” and that it “has my unique handwriting.” I dunno I just do gesture drawings like this and so far no one has bothered to correct me. Last time I took a drawing class, I struggled with it until finally I started doing this, and then that teacher stopped complaining, so I just did it again for this class.

After I did the picture of the foot, I was able to leave, and I really needed to because I needed to finish my presentation for my Rome to Augustus class. So with some sadness I left the Piazza Navona.






Keep it classy, Piazza Novona.

On my walk to school from the Piazza:




I was nowhere near as prepared for my presentation as I thought I was, but after class I ran home, changed into more suuitable exercise gear, and then ran back to school for exercise class. I ran up to the fourth-floor terrace, and look what I found.




I never did find my exercise class, but this was worth it.