I saw an interesting reply to why, despite this being the astronomical centre of summer (Midsummer's Day, etc.), it's regarded as the beginning of summer. It's because of the oceans, really; they hold over the temperature for about six weeks, so the actual heat of summer peaks around Lammas (variable according to location, of course).
(There's a note from NASA included in this article about Google's version of a solstice celebration; National Geographic's is here.)
I thought that as a commemoration of summer, I'd mention one of the great modern traditions - blockbuster action movies. Yes, I have actually seen movies, in a cinema and everything, lately!
First, Debbie treated me to X-Men: First Class which had very strong character writing, beautiful periodicity and an amazing cast. It's also like a 2-hour+ resumé for Michael Fassbender, and might do for him what the first X-Movie did for Hugh Jackman off Broadway - now that the teeming masses have seen him, they'll likely want more. Kevin Bacon makes for a magnificent psychopathic villain (and his German and Russian sounded quite polished to my ear). I was amused to see Georgia standing in for Miami, but at least they had mangroves nearby. For all that it plays fast and loose with Mystique's background, and adds a canon-recent mutation to the White Queen all the way back in '62, the story and relationships are the stars here, not the SFX and the superpowers.
Speaking of the SFX, there's some surprising in-camera flying going on - it's usually all composite and digital now - and a familiar bit of BAMF. I looked it up and yes, that's his father. Howard Tayler has it currently at his personal #3 position. I like Howard's standards.
I went to see Thor alone as Debbie had already seen it. I really hope will be nominated for an Academy Award for Art Direction and/or Costuming. It was Jack Kirby as reinterpreted through Streamline Moderne all in a golden palette. It managed to be grand without ever being gaudy. The Kirby elements were not as prominent as I might have hoped, but Loki's horned helmet was Perfectly Kirby.
For all that I'm not a Marvelite, I realise that they changed some basic relationships and such for the sake of the story - never mind the whole 'Donald Blake' part - but especially for stories which will extend past the one movie, there's some cosmic aspects that won't play easily when you've got to be quick on your symbolic feet. Debbie agreed with me that the writers did a fairly brilliant re-synthesis of mythology and science, making one fit with the other like two sides of a well-designed coin.
It's not a generally funny movie, but does have a few laugh-out-loud moments (wait for the SHIELD MiBs on the roof), a very nice character arc where the hero actually learns quickly and does not get passed the Idiot Ball, and an entirely complex villain who isn't really a bad guy for the most part.
This is Howard's #9, partly because he had sub-optimal viewing conditions. I'm avoiding 3D myself, since I can; I hate wearing glasses over glasses, and it makes things too dark for too little return.
Most recently, I got to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which is Howard's #1 movie so far. (See, you don't have to read just my opinion here.) Yes, it's loosely based on Tim Power's novel of the same (sub)title but don't try to compare the two. It was more of a structural borrowing than anything like an adaptation, from what I've read.
I had fun - familiar characters, less emphasis on the whole romance subplot (while it remains a gracenote), far subtler SFX than the massive spectacle of At the World's End. Mind you, the SFX there were appropriate for the story, just as the less obvious work here is appropriate for this one. The mermaids are beautiful without being fanboy bait, and have a nicely creepy touch added; good revamp. Angelica is brave and bold, and has her own sidekick. Could we be lucky enough for a female pirate movie? And... c'mon, Ian McShane. He needs no modifiers.
I didn't get to see Green Lantern yet. Ryan Reynolds really did well at ComiCon with the oath, and my friends (and Howard) have said generally good things about it. I'm jazzed over Tomar Re being RENDERED ABSOLUTELY CORRECTLY SQUEEE, as well as other faces like Kilowog showing up completely recognisably. Hopefully Saturday!
(Oh, incidentally - look at this. It has nothing to do with either the solstice or movies. It's just really pretty.)
Have a blessed holy-day, however you might celebrate it.