Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Month That Was - May 2006: I spent a few days in Sarasota early in the month -- family issues, and so forth. Sarasota has grown out and up over the years. It's really a hot spot -- a very underrated Florida destination. It's no longer just a place where the white belts and blue hairs go to get the early bird special -- although that element in still in evidence. Fine restaurants (especially seafood) abound, and it has become quite a focal point for the arts in the South.

Along the quite lovely bay shoreline the city has been holding an ongoing outdoor sculpture exhibition featuring a remarkable, and enormous, sculptural rendition of the famous Life magazine cover from the WWII or the sailor kissing a girl in celebration of victory. It's a great piece with a fresh energy and youthfulness to it -- a solid contrast to the old, stogy Sarasota I remember from years past. People swarm below it for pictures. To their credit, the city elders are trying to put together enough money to purchase it and keep it on display. They should, it's the sort of landmark that would readily become identified with the city -- like the arches in St. Louis or the Hollywood sign in LA.

While in Sarasota I stayed at the Hyatt which you can read about over at Hotel Chatter.


Of course, I rarely get through a trip without some bizzare occurance. In this case it was on the flight back from Sarasota where I sat next to a guy we'll just call Freak Show.

Freak Show was all nerves and twitches. He recited every action he was going to take out loud and chuckled nervously after each sentence. "I'll just look at this magazine. Heh, heh." "Guess I'll turn on the overhead light. Heh, heh." "Might as well inhale and exhale again. Heh, heh." (OK, I made that last one up.) He had a portable CD player on which he played what sounded like a some early eighties head banger crap, loudly enough to be thoroughly annoying to those around him, even though the ear buds were stuck in his ears. I can only imagine what was happening to his eardrums. Didn't bother him, he just twitched his head up and down ever so slightly with the beat. You know, maybe he was so deaf from keeping it cranked to eleven that he just didn't realize he was narrating the minutae of his life. I would have taken issue with these annoyances but I was mortified at the thought that he would take that as an invitation for conversation.

And let me just say Freak Show was particularly unselfconscious about belching.


I also managed a brief weekend in DC and once again, you can read about my local digs, the delightful Hotel Monaco, over at Hotel Chatter. But here are some extra bonus scenes from The Mall.

* Instead of Nordstrom's, this mall is anchored by The Capitol ~400k
* The Smithsonian Castle, which actually doesn't hold much of anything anymore ~500k
* Another angle on the Castle ~540k* *
* The opposite mall anchor is the Washington Monument ~480k
* In the Freer Gallery, this evil looking dude is the bouncer ~420k
* The Hirshhorn, which contains mostly modern and contemporary art, is basically a big ugly cement cylinder but with interesting sculptures surrounding it such as the lively brushstroke in front, and... ~230k
* ...the eerie empty suit, and... ~470k
* favorite, the gossiping weeble dudes ~380k
* A panorama of the east (?) side of the mall ~720k
* Not on the mall, this painting of the Mandarin Princess lives in the Mandarin Oriental ~530k


My main reason for going to DC was to catch an exhibit at the Sackler Gallery, which is primarily devoted to Asian art, that was ending that weekend. You may be familiar with a painting (actually a woodcut) known colloquially as The Great Wave (actually "In the Hollow of a Wave off the Coast at Kanagawa"), and if you're not, you'd still probably recognize it. It is fairly iconic. It usually resides at the Met in New York, I believe.

The Sackler Gallery (part of the Smithsonian) managed to gather it and a good deal more of the enormous output of the artist, Katsushika Hokusai. Hokusai was an unimaginably prolific artist from the late-18th through mid-19th centuries. He worked in many mediums and went through various periods of success and deprivation, remarkably becoming even more prolfic after the age of 60. He had a very strong influence on many subsequent Western painters including Whistler, Monet, Gauguin and Van Gogh.

The presentation was not the best, it seemed a little chaotic, and the crowd was troublesome; since some many of his works were small-ish there was a bit of competition for viewing space.

Whatever the space issues, there is no denying the striking character of his work. The subject matter was all over the place: landscapes, portraits, imaginary monsters, historical and religious depictions -- you name it. There is little deferrence to visual realism; the colors are often unsubtle and the shading and perspective is not always spot on, nor it is it intended to be. But in stradling the line between stylistic reverence and cartoonish frivolity he presages much of the playfulness of form and style that was to come in the art world, especially the commercial art world. If you cannot see a connection between Hokusai and manga or anime, you might want to look into Lasik.


The other interesting exhibit I saw was over at the Hirshhorn. A collection from photgrapher Hiroshi Sugimoto. Definitely a guy who does not look at the world like the rest of us. Most impressive were his sharp black and white studies of museum exhibits. Specifically, some of the exhibits you would see at the Natural Science Museum on the Upper West Side, or photo portatis of historical characters from Madame Tussauds wax museum. The remarkable things about these works is how the stiff, fake-looking exhibits can seem completely life-like when rendered in 2-D. Clever stuff.


Becasue I know you were worried about this, my new plan for the site is to continue to use Blogger after all. I came to the conclusion that, even though I am only going to post monthly, it might be beneficial to have individual links to the different little topics I post on. That doesn't work with one long post (like this one); for example, if someone wanted to highlight my comments reagrding Hokusai, that person would have to link to the entire post and tell readers to scroll down to the fourth item -- inconvenient. So I'm back to considering hanging on to blogger for a bit longer, but with a simplifying redesign. At least, that's the plan until I change my mind again; like when I remember that nobody has linked to any of my blog entires in eons.


More 'Phins (sorry if this is boring you).

The Dolphins signed documented leg stomper Marcus Vick to a contract as a "Receiver Specialist" by which they mean someone like Antwan Randal-El, who lines up at receiver but is just as likely to take a lateral and wing a pass downfield. Nobody likes Marcus Vick because he is a stupendous jerk. Let's face it, he didn't get kicked out of Virginia Tech for throwing spit wads in the team meetings. Let's see: Wreckless driving, serving alochol to teenage girls, driving on a suspended license, ganja, and the Gator Bowl leg stompping. In deference to his older brother, he is already being referred to as "New Mexico."

I'm really having trouble remaining a fan of the Dolphins. I realize this is a low risk contract, and that Vick came cheap and Nick Saban can dump him instantly if he doesn't turn out to be worth the trouble, but I'm still struggling with the possibility of having to be happy if he makes a key play.

Their top running back is playing north of the border, where the weed is not illegal. Their big name quarterback has a dubious career to go with his dubious knee. Their back up quarterback is, well, Joey Harrington. And now they take a flyer on this notorious asswipe. None of these seem like solid, purposeful moves for a team that was on the brink of the elite. I'm afraid Belichick has put "keep up on the Dolphins" way down on his to do list.

Still keeping that open mind...


Hopefully I will have more to report on my writing efforts next month.