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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Bravo! 'Pavarotti'!

It's one of the finest documentaries I've seen.

Pavarotti delivers his life from beginning to end with stills, videos, clips, and interviews with his ex-wife, his wife, his protege, his daughters, partners, critics, agents, other singers, lovers, and, of course, the star.

Many performances and the change in his focus from opera to rock star to charities (especially after his friendship with Princess Di develops) are included.

The editors leave in enough of his songs to avoid audience frustration when they are cut too short

Playing an important role in the film is a long interview (shown in segments) with Placido Domingo, 78, in the news this month charged with harassment by nine females. Domingo's planned performances in San Francisco and Philadelphia have been canceled, and investigations are underway in New York, where he's set to sing next month, and Los Angeles, where he serves as the opera's general director, but "no cancellations in Europe" say the headlines.

Had the charges surfaced earlier, I wondered if the producers would have left him in. Domingo's contributions are significant to the movie's success, adding depth and perspective, and, despite his supposed assaults, I am glad he's there
Bono is also interviewed extensively, especially about the humorous blossoming of his relationship with Pavarotti which led to Pavarotti's rock star concert appearances, stirring criticism from opera buffs.
Pavarotti was all glee and smiles, at least, that was his public persona. He was nervous before each performance and always thought he had room to improve.

Watching the film I sadly waited for the advent of the younger, lovely woman to displace Wife #1, Adua Veroni (married 39 years) which inevitably happens. More than once. 

As famous, wealthy men are wont to say and do as they leave their spouses and children: "Who cares?  It's all about me and my happiness." 

Pavarotti died in 2007 at age 71 of pancreatic cancer but given his weight and the burden his heart carried, he lived a long life and still brings us joy. At the end of the film I was glad to have Three Tenors on my shelf at home.

One minor film flaw I found was the repeated (though infrequent) omission of the names of the interviewees to refresh them for viewers like me who asked myself: "Is she the oldest daughter?" and "Which soprano is she?" 

Except for the first two rows in the theater where I went, every seat in the screening was taken.

A great, great doc!  Enjoy!

Ron Howard directs.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Halloween comes early to the National Gallery of Art

Murakami Takashi, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, Heisel period, 2014, the Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles. Murakami adopted the practice of 18th century Japanese artists who spread their art over long canvases. Here, Murakami used 82 feet to answer the destruction and turmoil in Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. So many elements compete for attention, eyes run from one end of the canvas to the other, making it difficult to focus on just one part/Photo by Patricia Leslie

To accommodate the throngs and to make up for lost hours due to the government shutdown a few months ago, the National Gallery of Art has extended viewing hours of The Life of Animals in Japanese Art until 8 p.m. every night until the show closes August 18.
Detail of Kirukara Dragon, Kamakura period, 12th-13th century, by an unknown artist. Made of wood, iron, and crystal. Myooji, Okayama Prefecture. The catalog says this is Fudd Mydd as a "dragon-coiled jeweled weapon" devouring an iron blade which is powerful enough to end disease and bring rain. This reminds me of having to eat prunes my mother gave me every morning for breakfast. See the full work below/Photo by Patricia Leslie. Please pardon the reflections in the protective glass coverings.
Unknown artist, Kirukara Dragon, Kamakura period, 12th-13th century/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Mokujiki Byakudo, Ugajin with Snake, Edo period, 18th-19th century, wood, Shingen'in, Tokyo. Rather than the snake squeezing this man to death, the figure is the snake, Ugajin, a deity the "common people" believed would bring good fortune. Snakes were considered positive omens (!), like dragons which brought rain, so Ugajin was stationed at river sources and other holy water places. The artist was a monk who carved his wood to look like snake skin.  He succeeded!/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The Japanese animals exhibition covers 18,000 square feet in the National Gallery's East Building and has more than 300 objects on display. Almost 100 lenders sent their works for the show which extends from the fifth century to present day.  

Most works are not the "scary" kind shown here, but include lobsters, fish, butterflies, insects, rare birds, a camel, parrot, hawks, horses, and more, including sex with two octopuses (in the catalog.  On view at NGA? Loaned by the British Museum).

Almost 180 works are called "masterpieces" which rarely leave Japan, and seven are deemed "Important Cultural Property."
The artist, Fukase Masahisa (1934-2012) may have been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe who wrote The Raven in 1845. This is one of the artist's Series Ravens from the Showa period, 1975, loaned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The catalog says these 62 photographs are mislabeled, possibly due to an error in translation since Japan has no ravens, but it's got crows which can be harbingers of calamity or serve as messengers from heaven.  In this case, the birds were bad omens for the artist, an alcoholic beset by personal woes who lay in a coma for 20 years before he died as a result of a fall. Beware, crows!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Detail of Articulated Dragon, Edo period, 1713, by Myochin Muneaki, iron, Tokyo National Museum which reminds me of an articulated relative I have/Photo by Patricia Leslie
You see, the Articulated Dragon is really not so big and scary, after all, when his real size is juxtaposed below Morita Shiryu's Dragon but still, I would not want to meet him on a dark and stormy night. Or anywhere. Especially since he's four feet long. Shiryu's Dragon is a four panel screen from the Showa period, 1965, loaned by Lucia R. Henderson and D. Clay Ackerly, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie
Gan Ku, one of his Ferocious Tigers from a six-panel screen, Edo period, 1822. Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo. Tigers are not native to Japan, so the artists modeled their cats on Chinese renderings and their own artistic expressions. In this case, however, Gan Ku had an actual tiger skull which he used for his tiger art. I've never been a cat fan and this explains why. Another cat hisses below/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Munekazu, Snake, Edo-Meiji periods, mid to late 19th century, Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum, Kyoto. Yeekers!  Yikers!  This handsome fellow is all iron, folks, and stronger than you. The catalog has him coiled up and ready to strike! Just six feet long/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Utagawa Kuniyoshi, The Origin Story of the Cat Stone at Okabe, Representing One of the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road, Edo period, 1847, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A ferocious cat, one of the monsters in Japanese folklore which assumes magical powers in its old age which can eat humans and then become a shape of the human it eats! So the office pill you complain about?  Maybe, he was at one time a nekomata, a real monster, after all. Talk about sources for science fiction! (Or, maybe not.) Come to the National Gallery of Art!  Yikes!  The catalog has nekomata spread over two pages. You can almost feel those teeth sinking in your skin! CATalogue buyers, beware/Photo by Patricia Leslie
This unusual specimen is Utagawa Yoshitora's Picture of the Twelve Animals to Protect the Safety of the Home, Edo period, 1858, woodblock print, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Can you find 12 animals? Come to the show and read the label copy or buy a catalog.  (See below.)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A National Gallery art historian leads a "pop-up" tour at the evening show and describes Fugen's Elephant, Kamakura period, 13th century, private collection. Wood with pigments, crystal eyes, by an unknown artist. "Important Cultural Property." The elephant has six tusks and because its back legs bend at the knees, unlike elephant's legs, the artist may have modeled her sculpture using a horse.  According to the catalog editors, she may never have seen an elephant/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Unknown artist, Pair of Dogs, Edo period, 19th century, made of paper mâché, gold leaf, and pigment. Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo.  These were typically given to girls for their birthdays as prayers or good luck finding a mate.  The upper half is removable.  The figures are covered with lucky charms: a crane, turtle, bamboo, and pines. But, dogs?  Dogs?  These are dogs? They look like kitty-cats to me, but, maybe dogs were made differently in the 19th century. Do you think the label copy got mixed up with all the cats in the show? Not/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Various artists, Suit of Armor Shaped Like a Tengu, Edo period, 1854.  The Ann & Gabriel Barbier Mueller Museum, Dallas. The catalog says this is half man, half crow with a "deviant nature." /Photo by Patricia Leslie
Gusoku Armor with Dragon, Edo period, 19th century, Tokyo National Museum. (Please forgive the reflections which appear in the glass.)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Unknown artist, Horse Mask, Edo period, 1603-1868, The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Museum, Dallas.  The Edo period was "relatively peaceful" says the catalog, and this mask shows off the owner's wealth. It was used in military parades. Mr. Ed, he's not/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Unknown artist, Eboshi-Shaped Helmet with Deer Antlers and Half Mask, Momayama periods, late 16th century, Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Museum, Dallas. The label says real deer antlers were added later in gold lacquer, perhaps because deer were associated with long life.  It's enough to scare the dear out of me/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Unknown artist, Helmet Shaped Like a Shachihoko, Edo period, 17th-18th century, Kozu Kobunka Museum, Kyoto. Wear this on your blind date and see what kind of sense of humor he has.  Yikers!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Takamura Kōun, Aged Monkey, Meiji period, 1893, wood, Tokyo National Museum. To make this sculpture, the artist studied a real monkey in a tea shop, the label notes. The piece went on to win a gold medal at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and designation as an "Important Cultural Property" by the Japanese government/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Miyagawa Kōzan I, Footed Bowl with Applied Crabs, Meiji period, 1881, stoneware with brown glaze, Tokyo National Museum; "Important Cultural Property."  This may be my favorite of the whole show.  Why? Crabs climbing on china? Get out of here.  It's fabulous!  The colors.   Look closely, there are two crabs "in union." Kozan's talents earned him appointment to the Imperial Household. (Forsoothe! Crabs for the kettle?  To be boiled and eaten? Monsieur and Madame Crab! Yonder! Go and flee!)/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The purpose of the show is to promote Japanese culture in the U.S. and is part of Japan, 2019. 

Free audio tours are available, and during the evening hours, Japanese art historians lead free 15-minute "pop-up" talks.

My little children (all grown up now) would love this show and, like their mama, would adore walking through the still zoo filled with all the sounds an imagination can make.
Nawa Kohei, PixCell-Bambi #14, Heisei period, 2015, mixed media, Collection of Ms. Stefany Wang. This may be the most innocent of any of the art forms shown here, but the artist used an actual deer (!) preserved by a taxidermist to make exquisite forms she surrounds with resin and clear glass beads and a "shell of light." That's a cloud which holds Frozen Bambi/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The exhibition is not all scary (just the works I like the best). Beautifully made gowns featuring animal designs are included like Kosode with the Twelve Zodiac Animals, Edo period, 19th century by an unknown artist. Silk damask, embroidery. Museum of Japanese History. The catalog says this is an "extremely rare example of all 12 zodiac animals depicted on a single kosode" with each animal "paired with its specific flower or tree."
/Photo by Patricia Leslie
An unknown artist made these wooden (!) and bamboo (!) Pair of Pillows with Baku, Edo period, c. 1800, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. These "wedding pillows" (what kind of honeymoon?) lifted heads from the floor where the lucky (?) couple slept. (Did they ever have any children?) Since the "baku" ate nightmares, more sleep was possible. (Were these actually used?) They remind me of my book bag "pillow" in Seattle, and about as comfortable/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Some of the gowns in the exhibition which is not all scary animals but also includes scrolls, screens, and china/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Mannequins wearing animal designs by Issey Miyake of the Showa-Heisei periods, 1989-1999,  share the last gallery with Murakami Takashi's In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, Heisel period, 2014, which runs along two walls/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A portion of Murakami Takashi's In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, Heisel period, 2014, the Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Mannequins wearing animal designs by Issey Miyake of the Showa-Heisei periods, 1989-1999,  share the last gallery with Murakami Takashi's In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, Heisel period, 2014 /Photo by Patricia Leslie
Here is a link to a National Gallery three-minute video and introduction to the exhibition, narrated by curator Robert Singer, head of Japanese art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In the video Mr. Singer says the exhibition was "11 years in preparation" and "is the largest show ever devoted to the love the Japanese have for animals," and it features women artists. 

Last month, light sensitivity required 50 objects to be rotated out, but others were brought in to take their places. 

Animals in Japanese Art next opens at LACMA September 22, 2019 and closes December 8, 2019.

Organizers of the exhibition were the LACMA and the National Gallery of Art with significant assistance from the Japan Foundation and "special cooperation" of the Tokyo National Museum. 

What: The Life of Animals in Japanese Art 

When: Now through August 18, 2019

Where: The National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall. The National Gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.

How much: No charge. 

Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215

Catalog: The Life of Animals in Japanese Art: Exhibition Catalog. About 350 pages with 425 color illustrations, available soft ($39.95) or hard ($65) cover. $20 discount for purchases of more than $100.

The eye of the octopus at the Sitka (Alaska) Sound Science Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The eye of the octopus at the Sitka (Alaska) Sound Science Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Sleeping in Seattle

Sleeping at SEA-TAC/Photo by Patricia Leslie
On the floor at 4 a.m. at SEA-TAC , but at least they had pillows.  If they had taken a right turn off Concourse C, they would have found sleeping pads (sans armrests) on couches. They missed the website/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Sleeping at SEA-TAC with what looks like a baby blanket, but where's the baby?/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Remind you of anything?  These were sea lions we saw (later, after the airport) from a catamaran on our way to Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay Basin, Alaska. The National Park Service Ranger on board the ship said the big one with his nose in the air was the King of the Lions. Thank goodness there were none of those at the Seattle airport (nor snorers) because from the boat we could hear this fellow bellowing.  I must say he was louder that all the security noise at check-in/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Remind you of We are all one big happy family anyway, just a bunch of mammals getting necessary rejuvenation. These are sea lions in Glacier Bay Basin, Alaska/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Day breaks at SEA-TAC/Photo by Patricia Leslie
From the airport, the Seattle landmark known as the Great Pyramid of the West?/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Day break is so purdy at SEA-TAC, I had to throw in this one, too/Photo by Patricia Leslie

To sleep or not to sleep in the Seattle airport?

I had a six-hour layover and rather than go to a motel and spend all that money and time, I thought I'd check it out, sleeping at the airport.

Was that possible?  Would "they" let me sleep at their airport?

I went online and found a handy site for sleeping at airports, called (strangely enough) "Sleeping in Airports" with SEA-TAC included, and off I went! 
Saving money?


The website listed the best places for shuteye at SEA-TAC with sleeping “couches” and places to eat which stay open 24/7. 

I followed its suggestions for Concourse C but actually found more comfortable sleeping pads beyond C (exiting to the right at the end of the concourse) which wasn’t the quietest place to sleep (right beyond a 24/7 Security check-in) but given “security,” I figured I was pretty well covered and didn't have to worry about "security" all night with the cameras everywhere, and the passengers and crews checking in all night, darn them. 

(And nearby was a 24/7 restaurant.)

Bang! Bang! Clang! Clang! Thud! Thud Like at a train station, it was hard to sleep with all the security racket.

But now I lay me down to sleep and did cat-nap a while, waking every hour or so to check on my surroundings and to make sure I didn't oversleep (hardly) and miss my connection to Sitka.

Throughout the night, other sleepers joined me (where room permitted on the couches), and the population continued to change.

My worst complaint was my “pillow” made of my carry-on book bag and let me tell you, hard edges and corners of books do not make good bedfellows.  

To replace the travel pillow I lost last year (grrrr....Finn Air), I bought an American Tourister travel pillow this year, and it was so bad, I didn't care if I lost it, too, and so I did. ("Travel" pillows are not pillow pillows, if you catch my drift.)

The noise around me rose considerably around 4 a.m. when I made my final rising, feeling a little bit "scrunchy," but considering all that money I saved, "scrunchy" quickly disappeared. 

As I ambled down the concourse to my connection, I found sleepers on the floor, hugging the walls of the walkway in crooked positions, who, obviously, had not found the website, but they had pillows, at least, and there lay a person covered head to toe by a sheet and a pillow stretched out on one of those curving padded couches, I declare.

To my new friends on a tour of Alaska, sleeping in Seattle was a subject I mentioned more than once since I spent the “saved” hotel money about ten times over, chirping with every purchase:  “I’m buying this with the money I saved at SEA-TAC!” 

Before you know it, SEA-TAC may start a “sleeping fee” but, sshhhhh…not to mention ....

But, how about some pillow rentals? I'd pay for that!

Thank you, SEA-TAC, for letting me stay over!