Friday, December 30, 2011

Andy Warhol and Chester Dale to leave the National Gallery of Art Monday

Andy Warhol Daily News 1962/ Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, formerly collection Karl Stroher, Darmstadt, 1981, copyright 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society, NY, Axel Schneider, Frankfurt am Main

Folks, you have this last weekend to check out Warhol: Headlines and the unparalleled Chester Dale collection From Impressionism to Modernism, both at the National Gallery of Art.  
The earlier in the day you get to the National Gallery, the smaller the crowds will be. Monday is the last day for both, and January 15 is the last day for Andy Warhol: Shadows at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The National Gallery's Warhol (1928-1987) show in the East Building (Dale is in the West) includes paintings, photographs, videos, and screenprints which demonstrate the artist's fascination with all things celebrity and the news. From Washington the exhibition moves to Frankfurt (Feb.11 - May 13), Rome (June 11-Sept. 9) and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh (Oct. 14 - Jan. 6, 2013).
On Wednesday afternoon, the East Building was packed with holiday visitors, many of whom came to see the phenomenal documentary about Warhol's friend, Brigid Berlin (b.1939), Pie in the Sky

Ms. Berlin is the daughter of the head of Hearst Publishing who grew up in luxury and bucked it all in the 1960s to join the Warhol conclave in New York and pal around with Warhol until his death. She was/is also an artist who, at times, used her body parts to dip into paint and give away the results. Central to the film is Ms. Berlin's relationship with her mother and the conflicting goals set by each. Can your relationship with your mother/daughter compare to theirs? It's a great film which asks many questions.
Other Warhol films scheduled for this final weekend, all to be screened at no charge in the East Building Auditorium, are:
Dec. 30, 12:30 p.m., Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling
Dec. 31, 12 p.m., Warhol: Velvet Underground and Nico
Dec. 31, 2 p.m., Orphee (Orpheus)
Dec. 31, 4 p.m., Donkey Skin (Peau d'Ane)
When: Doors open 30 minutes before show times and seating is "first come, first seated." The National Gallery of Art is open from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. every day except this Sunday when it is closed for New Year's Day.
Where: The National Gallery of Art, Fourth and Constitution
Admission: Always free at the National Gallery of Art
Metro stations: Judiciary Square, Navy Memorial-Archives, or the Smithsonian or ride the Circulator bus
For more information: 202-737-4215 or 202-842-6799 (for films)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movies: 'The Descendants' : Yes!

George Clooney with Shailene Woodley (center) and Amara Miller/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Academy Award nominations:
Best picture: Alexander Payne et al.
Best actor:  George Clooney
Best supporting actress:Shailene Woodley
Best supporting actress: Amara Miller
Another Clooney film without sex!  Aaaaauuuuuugggggggghhhh, but those eyelashes!  Do you think they are real?
This is a thoroughly enjoyable film, and as a matter of fact, I wish I had not seen it so I could see it for the first time.
It's a great story with "another man," a dad, an estranged and mute (?) wife, two daughters, and a boyfriend who adds tremendously to the enjoyment, and a grandpa whose lines are keen.  I wouldn't give it the highest rating, but it's close.  
A chick flick?  No!
A sleepy (at times) tempo match the Hawaiian lifestyle (the locale) so it's not a film for the action-oriented male kills everybody, except when it comes to words:  The lines for this film are some of the best heard anywhere. Including the obscenities which are mostly 85% gratuitous in all other movies, but not here.  They are part of the plot.
The Hawaiian scenery is nice on the eyes, especially at this time of year, and did the Hawaiian Tourism Bureau help produce it?
The only negatives:  the redundant music which lacks any pizzazz (no nomination), and the passionless title (sounds like one of those loooooong books by James Michener) which is too vapid for the contents.  Don't judge a movie by its title. 
Please go here (Rotten Tomatoes) if you want to know more about the plot but don't be turned off by what looks depressing.  It's not.  It's hilarious.
Suggested new title: "George Clooney's Got Eyelashes"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas party animal chat

African Sulcata Giant Tortoises at the Linton Zoological Gardens, Cambridge, England/

At a Sierra Club Christmas party I met a woman who told me that she and her boyfriend have a pet ... tortoise.
They've had him (it's a "he") three years, and he has increased his girth from a three inch circumference to about the size of a dinner plate. 
When he reaches adulthood, he'll be big enough to ride, she said.
To ride?  Where would you ride a tortoise?  To the Harris Teeter and back over the course of a week?  Would you carry along a mini-refrigerator to store cold items?
On the other side of me at the nicely decorated table was a woman who had just come from the zoo after a long, circuitous route into the Tysons Corner jungle which carried her over two hours to Annandale before she could figure out where she was, having left her GPS at home. 
"I'll never do that again," she said, "because once you're in a lane, you're in a lane forever, and there's no escape." 
Don't we all know it, the pitiful who live at Tysons Corner and have to endure the mess?  A dangerous mess. 
The zoo lady took canvases to the zoo, she said, to get "animal art." Animals with painted feet  walk on the canvases, and then she sells them to Sotheby's for $$$.  (Just kidding about the Sotheby's part, but it makes good fodder and it's believable, isn't it?  Modern art.)
What happens to their painted feet? "Oh, the paint just comes off," she said.
But back to the tortoise...his name is Livingstone (with emphasis on the last syllable (?), and yes, his name comes from the African explorer). 
The owners "absolutely adore" him.
Yes, I guess so, if they've got a tortoise under roof!
Livingstone has his own personality (!), his own table/room (?; unclear) and free roam of their apartment.  I didn't ask her, although I must say the thought occurred to me more than once, about uuuummmm, you know.  Does the pet store have tortoise diapers? (Try Googling that. They're there!)
(Since her fiancé was absent from the party, one assumed he was safely at home tortoisesitting which is not far from "torturesitting." Hahaha.)
Do they take Livingstone on trips?
No, her boyfriend's parents have a big house and a separate room all fixed up for Livingstone who is moody and loves to eat lettuce.  He is a vegetarian. 
Join the throngs! 
That's all I wanted for Christmas: another moody person/animal to live with.  (Do plants have moods?)
It pays to get out.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Inside the Christmas White House 2011

Like tall ballerinas dancing pirouettes in sparkling floor length gowns trying to capture the most attention from an awestruck audience, real Christmas trees grace every room, standing shimmering in lights and decorations, ready to receive admiring glances/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Cross Hall at the main White House entrance/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Not far from Aaron Shikler's 1970 portrait of President John F. Kennedy, members of the Shenandoah Valley Children's Choir in Harrisonburg, Virgina sing Christmas hymns in the Entrance Hall/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Hushed crowds are captured by the moment and the reality they are but fleeting visitors in the president's home (the People's House) where the unmistakable fragrance of Fraser fir greets them at every entrance. 

None of that fake stuff, if you please.  This is real.
In the East Room/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The East Room/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Garlands, real garlands, flow from door, window, and mirror tops to floors. Necklaces of the season decorate mirrors. 
Bulbs grow below a window in the East Room/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Tiny spotlights powered by smaller batteries, brighten the huge gingerbread White House in the State Dining Room/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The State Dining Room and a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln. The banners on the trees say "Shine, Give, Share," this year's White House Christmas theme/Photo by Patricia Leslie
In the Red Room with Henry Inman's 1842 portrait of Angelica Singleton Van Buren /Photo by Patricia Leslie
The biggest Christmas tree, the official White House tree, is found in the Blue Room, the focus of attention upon entering the main White House threshold. Stretching to the ceiling, it pays tribute to the troops whose children made the Christmas cards which hang with military medals from almost every branch of the special tree/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The official White House Christmas tree hung with military medals and Christmas cards made by children of servicemen and servicewomen/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the East Visitor Entrance is a table laden with postcards for visitors to inscribe messages to the troops to thank them for their service, and a few steps away is a mailbox for the deposits of gratitude.

Overhead in the Green Room were two guards chatting.  Said one, shaking his head:  "The question of the day has got to be: 'Is this the real White House?'"/Photo by Patricia Leslie
From the Green Room/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Parties, tours, and open houses galore.  The people are grateful for the opportunities to visit our house, the president's house.  What other nation permits it?
From the East Visitor Entrance Hall on the ground floor/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the East Visitor Entrance Hall decorated on the right with Christmas photos of American presidents and their families/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Just outside the Library on the ground floor is a poinsettia tree/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The China Room on the ground floor with Grace Coolidge presiding/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Seen on the ground floor without his Santa hat was Henry Clay/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wedding dresses extended at Hillwood through January 15, 2012

Have you seen that dumb show on cable (thank goodness I cannot identify the station or the night) about women selecting wedding gowns?
In fancy bridal shops the women come and go, talking with mothers and close friends who tell the brides-to-be how ravishing they look in wedding apparel.
The 60-year-old with the wrinkly arms?
"Darling, sleeveless is perfect for you!"
Who in their right mind would spend time watching such a show?
Velma and I love it.
If you haven't been out to Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens to see Marjorie Merriweather Post's four wedding dresses, you have until January 15, 2012 to see them. The show has been extended to satisfy the crowds bombarding the mansion for this very special exhibition. (Through last month Hillwood's attendance exceeded all of 2010 admittances which had already set a record.)

Wedding Dress, 1905  Worn by Marjorie Merriweather Post for wedding to Edward Bennett Close, December 5, 1905  Hitchins& Balcom, New York  Silk satin, silk organza, open cut lace, rhinestones
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens
Bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973

The show includes not only Mrs. Post's four wedding dresses (none alike), but those of her three daughters, her mother, bridesmaids, mother of the bride, and Dina Merrill's dress she wore as a flower girl (piped in white fox?) in her sister's 1927 wedding.  Ms. Merrill (b. 1925) was the youngest of Mrs. Post's three daughters and the only one extant. Like mother, like daughters: Adelaide, the oldest, was married three times; Eleanor, the middle daughter, six times, and Dina Merrill, three times. It might take an airport hangar to show all of the wedding dresses which may explain why they are not all in the show. Nevertheless...) A 2.5 minute film of scenes from Adelaide's 1927 wedding is included.

Wedding Dress and Bridesmaid Dress, 1935
Worn by Marjorie Merriweather Post and bridesmaid dress worn by Dina Merrill for Post’s 1935 wedding to Joseph E. Davies, photographed in the pavilion at Hillwood. Photo by Ed Owen

Wedding Dress, 1946
Worn by Dina Merrill for her wedding to Stanley M. Rumbough, Jr., March 23, 1946
Saks Fifth Avenue, New York
Satin, tulle, pearls
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens
Gift of Dina Hartley; photo by Ed Owen

The dresses are in superb condition. And accompanying them are hats, shoes, purses, jewelry. (Do not dare miss, as I almost did on first go-round, Dina Merrill's wedding bag with diamonds and pearls.) Without a doubt, Mrs. Post's most elegant dress was her first one.
The costumes are all quite complete and originate from Hillwood's collection of 175 gowns Mrs. Post (1887-1973) left to her estate.

The Adirondack at Hillwood, home of "Wedding Belles"/Patricia Leslie

The exhibition is in a small gallery, the Adirondack, a few steps from the mansion which is also included in the admission price. Hillwood is stunning with holiday decorations up and docents galore to happily answer questions.

Hillwood Estate/Patricia Leslie

If you should wonder why Hillwood is not open every Sunday, it's because the neighbors prohibit it via zoning, a docent told me. Likely, they abhor the traffic which reminds me...
Parking is available on-site, however, the Sunday I went, the only parking was in an employees lot, but, not to worry, friendly parking lot attendants will take care of you.
The $15 admission is well worth it, and do take advantage of the beautiful grounds. I didn't believe the website which advised planning a stay of three hours, but it is true. The café offerings were magnificent and reasonably priced.  An attendant told me large brunch crowds come on Sundays (when open).
What: "Wedding Belles: Bridal Fashions From the Marjorie Merriweather Post Family 1874-1958"
When: Now through January 15, 2012, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and two Sundays, January 1 and January 15, 2012, 1 - 5 p.m.
Where: Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW
"Suggested donation": $15 (adults), $12 (age 65 +), $10 (college students), $5 (6-18 years), no suggested donations for younger than 6 or members
Metro station: Van Ness-UDC and walk a short mile up a hill through a pretty neighborhood (or take a taxi). To shorten your walk or skip the taxi, ride the L1 or L2 bus and walk a half mile from Connecticut and Tilden.
For more information: 202-686-5807

A portrait of Marjorie Merriweather Post at Hillwood

Dina Merrill's bedroom at Hillwood/Patricia Leslie

      The Breakfast Room at Hillwood/Patricia Leslie

A portrait of Catherine the Great of Russia hangs on the stairway at the mansion.  Mrs Post's marriage to Joseph E. Davies took them to Russia in 1937 and 1938 when he was U.S. Ambassador, and there Mrs. Post developed a love of Russian decorative arts.  A docent said Hillwood owns the largest collection of Russian decorative arts in the U.S.
1-800-PetMeds Private Label

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Russian trade and human rights on Capitol Hill

  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California)/Patricia Leslie

Rep. Dana  Rohrabacher (R-California) rebuked statements from members of a panel at the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday for their criticism of human rights violations in Russia when conditions in China are much worse, he said. "The nerve to attack Russia" and ignore what is happening in China is a travesty.  "We talk about Russia meddling in Georgia," he said, but look at what's going on in China which "is a threat to us."
Rep. Rohrabacher was speaking from the audience at a gathering of about 50 mostly congressional aides who came to hear a presentation, "Jackson-Vanik after Russia's Accession to the WTO," sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Russia is expected to be admitted to the World Trade Organization this month which will have enormous trade benefits for the U.S. if it permanently waives provisions of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment. It was originally designed to pressure "non-market economies," including the Soviet Union, to improve human rights and permit trade advantages.  The law has succeeded with Russia since it no longer restricts emigration, one of the key component of the legislation.  (However, Cuba and North Korea are other targets of the amendment since they do block emigration, said speaker Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute.)
Jackson-Vanik is "the single most important human rights legislation passed by Congress," Perle said.  It was "cold war legislation" and its repeal, favored by no one speaking, is desired by Russian leader Vladimir Putin because the "KGB despises" it. Repeal would be a "huge concession" to Russia, Mr. Perle said. The President of the United States can single handedly waive provisions of the law annually, a benefit enjoyed for many years by Russia, China, and Vietnam.

   Randi Levinas of the U.S.-Russia Business Council/Patricia Leslie

Also up  for discussion at the lunchtime session was U.S. trade with Russia. Speaker Randi Levinas of the U.S.-Russia Business Council was happy to make her pitch: Only four percent of Russia's imports come from the U.S., and the opportunities for growth are huge.  Last year California's trade with Russia grew by 40 percent, and New York's, by 75 percent.  Top exported American goods to Russia, she said,  are machinery, spacecraft, cars and parts, and computers. (? Hewlett-Packard says most computers in the U.S. come from China.)
One-third of Russia's citizens are middle-class, 99% are literate, and about half the population has university degrees (about 20% more than found in the U.S.).
Russia's economy will be the ninth largest in the world by the end of this year, Ms. Levinas said.  Forty percent of its imports come from Europe, and 16 percent, from China.
Joining the WTO will mean Russia has to follow the rules, Ms. Levinas said.

 Lara Iglitzin of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation/Patricia Leslie

Lara Iglitzin of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation said human rights violations over the last ten years demonstrate "a culture of impunity in Putin's Russia...We are gravely concerned about the direction of human rights" there, urging that U.S. leaders continue to speak out against human rights violations by the Russian government.
William Pomeranz of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center was moderator of the event, also co-sponsored by Kennan and the Jackson Foundation.  Next year will be the centennial celebration of the birth of Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (1912-1983) who, in addition to many causes, was particularly devoted to human rights for all. Jackson-Vanik was named for him and for Rep. Charles Vanik.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blair House is lovelier than the White House


It is much lovelier than the White House.


It is bigger than the White House.
 One butler said it is prettier than the White House at Christmas.

And you thought it was "just" that three story standing behind the "Blair House" plaque at 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue. Au contraire, messieurs et madames: It stretches from the Lafayette Square corner all the way to the Renwick Gallery, encompassing all the buildings in-between, including the Lee House.   It is lots more than the cream-colored building with the flag.  It is all the buildings around it.

One butler said it had 14 bedrooms (17 beds). Another butler said it had 15 bedrooms (17 beds). One butler said, "bathrooms? Oh, my...50?"

They vacuum and dust every day.

Even when visitors are not present?

Even when visitors are not present.

The downstairs walls (we were not invited upstairs where I was hoping to glimpse a shirtless Vladimir Putin ) are painted Williamsburg light yellow and peach. Centuries old wallpaper from China stretches from floor to ceiling in one of many parlours.

In another room General Robert E. Lee faces a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln.

Blair House is much more than just this (photo) with the flag.

Paintings of George Washington hang on several walls. In one of four (!) dining rooms (the Lee House dining room was off-limits due to water damage; now under repair) is a memorials mural which covers all the walls from the chair rail up and includes, but is not limited to, depictions of Mount Vernon, the U.S. Supreme Court building, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Washington Monument, and there in a corner, St. John's Episcopal Church, the president's church, on Lafayette Square. (Painted by Robert Jackson in 1988.)

The resplendent and abundant chandeliers!

Andrew Jackson here; Andrew Jackson there, Andrew Jackson was everywhere...on the wall in several places. In a dining room, sculpted in miniature on a bronze horse (a la the Lafayette Square statue). A visitor from the National Portrait Gallery explained that President Jackson had many connections to the Blairs and thus is omnipresent in the house. (She also highly recommended the CSPAN story of Blair House.)

Yes! (Photo) Blair House(s) is all this, down to Renwick Gallery at the far left.

But, alas, ...fake trees! They are in a large, expanded reception area at the back of Blair House which was originally part of the garden. Real trunks, and that is all, the butler told me. Their small pots gave them away. (Size matters.)

The butler said the State Department has jurisdiction over Blair House which is exclusively reserved for heads of state on "official," "state," or "working" visits. Who pays for their food? State works it out with the governments, the butler said.   (The website calls it "the President's guest house.")

The staff we met came from several nations; Spain and Brazil were two. And they have long tenures at Blair House. Of course. 

Some of its famous guests have included President Charles de Gaulle, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Boris Yeltsin, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Vladimir Putin, Pervez Musharraf, and Muhammed VI.  (Check out the guestbook for more names and nations.)

Does anything mar Blair House?

Oh, yes.

Eyesorish telephones. Really. They sit on various tables in stark contrast to the period furnishings and elegance, rather like slugs atop wrought-iron white furniture beside a swimming pool. That's how much they stand out, and quite ugly things they are.

And, pul-leazz, would someone  cover up the ugly back of that unsightly red thing at the corner of H and 17th which forms the back wall to the Blair House garden interrupting its serenity? (It's like putting a decrepit red devil on stage with Margot Fonteyn, when she was living.) You know the building that looks like it went up in the 1960s and hurts your eyes to look at it, it is so awful? (Like the slugs above.) As a matter of fact, if the entire building could be removed or permanently covered up on all sides, that would be a bonus. Where is Christo when you need him? (At the National Gallery of Art! Or he was.) 

Is Blair House on FB?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The new bishop visits St. John's Church, Lafayette Square

At St. John's Church, Lafayette Square, Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde addressed the Adult Forum/Patricia Leslie

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde at St. John's, Lafayette Square/Patricia Leslie

 The processional at St. John's, Lafayette Square with Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde at the end in red/Patricia Leslie

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde carried her crozier at St. John's, but where was her mitre? Preceding the bishop is the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, rector at St. John's/Patricia Leslie

The newly elected Episcopal bishop for the Washington, D.C. diocese,
Mariann Edgar Budde, visited St. John's at Lafayette Square Sunday where she preached at four services and spoke to a packed sanctuary at the Adult Forum.

Energetic, animated, and smiling aplenty, the first woman elected bishop for the Washington diocese, said she firmly believes she was chosen to help the church grow and develop. She said Washington was fortunate to have a healthy economy, especially when compared with the rest of the nation, and she is not worried about financial difficulties at the Washington National Cathedral.  She is "blown away by [Washington's] resources."
The area is a dynamic place for 18 to 34 year olds, she said, but the fastest growing age segment is people over 80, presenting the Episcopal Church with
opportunities to serve persons on "both sides of the spectrum." The difference between a 60-year-old and an 80-year-old is the difference between a 12-year-old and a 19-year-old, she said.

Answering a question from church member Togo West, Bishop Budde said the Episcopal Church is always open to all: "We believe that everyone is chosen."
She quoted from a favorite book, Always We Begin Again by John McQuiston: "'Treat each hour as the greatest of gifts....When we rise from
sleep, let us greet each day with joy and cheer each other
gentle with this life...and live fully within your time.'"

Bishop Budde, 52, comes from Minneapolis where, under her 18-year leadership, St. John's in Minneapolis grew from 100 to 400 members. Last June at the Washington Cathedral, laypersons and clergy elected her the ninth bishop for the diocese.  She was installed last month.

Coming up at St. John's:

December 7 at 12:10 p.m.: Music of the Season with the Madrigal
Singers from St. Albans and National Cathedral schools under the
direction of Benjamin Hutto, director of music ministry and organist
at St. John's

December 18: The Festival of Lessons and Carols

Where: St. John's Church, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW

For more information: 202-347-8766

Metro station:  McPherson Square