Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Secretary of State James Baker scolds Congress

Former Secretary of State James Baker spoke at St. John's-Lafayette Square/Patricia Leslie

You know you're out of power when your limousine is yellow and your driver speaks Farsi, said former Secretary of State James Baker Sunday morning when addressing the Adult Forum at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square.
With apologies to his Farsi friends, he added.
Secretary Baker, 81, came to the church to talk about "Faith, Public Service, and Public Policy," and attending his presentation was his "very best friend in life," President George H.W. Bush, who sat in the President's Pew with Mrs. Bush.

President George H.W. Bush at St.John's-Lafayette Square/Patricia

Former First Lady Barbara Bush at St. John's-Lafayette Square/Patricia Leslie

Mr. Baker, tanned and relaxed, spoke and answered questions (nothing was off-limits, he said) for about 50 minutes and frequently interspersed his comments with praise for President Bush.
The secretary supports the nomination of Mitt Romney because Gov. Romney represents the best chance the Republicans have to defeat President Obama next November, he said.
"Governor Romney would be far and away the strongest candidate in the fall."
The election will be determined by independent voters in critical swing states [Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, and some say Nevada] since the coasts will go Democratic and the heartland will vote Republican.
"A contested primary is good for the candidate in the general election."

The 13-year Capitol Hill veteran who worked for President Gerald Ford, President Ronald Reagan, and President Bush said people everywhere desire affirmation, recognition, and fulfillment, not just D.C. power brokers. Power can be "intoxicating and addictive," but it alone does not "bring the fulfillment that many people think it does."

When asked about the possibility of American troops going into Yemen, Somalia, or other African nation, Mr. Baker said "our economy is in the tank, and we don't have the money to go" and "be the policeman of the world." He talked about "wars of choice" versus "wars of necessity." 

He commended President Obama, the Navy Seals, and the military for taking out Osama bin Laden, and he cited last week's successful rescue of an American in Somalia. He made no negative remarks about the president but he had a few for members of Congress.
Harmony is lacking in "the cynical world we live in today, especially in the city of Washington, D.C. ," and the blame rests with both parties. It is time to redevelop a bipartisan approach to government. "We all have to start to return some sense of comity." Washington gridlock is caused by one party wanting to increase spending, and the other party wanting to cut it.
"The parties must find a way to compromise" which "is not a dirty word..... We need to start focusing on the Number One Problem: we are broke."
Besides the economy, Mr. Baker said another major problem in the U.S. is the proliferation of media outlets and the "talking heads" who stimulate divisiveness that sells. "Comity does not sell." He mentioned cable channels and the Internet where anyone can put anything up, true or not.
Redistricting is another problem and another divider.
When one party gets in office, it redistricts to favor itself, and the reverse happens when the other party wins. Democrats tend to nominate candidates who are left of center, while the Republicans nominate candidates right of center, leaving out the center which is disappearing. Mr. Baker said he has no remedy since redistricting is constitutionally protected, and suggested it's easier if one party controls the House, the Senate, and the White House, then "maybe something can be done, but President Obama had that for two years."
Answering another question, he said he believes the Arabs and Israelis will reach a peace agreement, likely not this year, but later, but not too much later, since 80% of the Israelis want peace although the present Israeli government "is unwilling to lean forward for peace."

About the Iranians, he said he thought they were too smart to block the Strait of Hormuz since it would be an act of war and a violation of the international sea agreement which would likely compel the U.S. to act. He  has no insider information but thinks and hopes the Iranians are merely talking rhetoric and they "may be posturing a little bit."

Former Secretary of State James Baker at St. John's-Lafayette Square/Patricia Leslie

Mr. Baker spoke sincerely about his faith and friendship.
To "live a life of faith doesn't come easy" and "takes some serious hard work." Baker said he was not a saint unless a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.
Friends, friendships and lasting personal relationships that enrich lives and help individuals find their way are the most important ingredients to a satisfying life, he said, acknowledging several times the help his wife, Susan, has provided.
He quoted a favorite Biblical passage of his mother who lives "through the communion of saints": Proverb 3: 5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. "
"Faith and friends bind people," the secretary said.

Coming up at St. John's:
February 1, 12:10 p.m. Cupid's Heart, a half-hour harp and organ concert by Rebecca Smith and Michael Lodico
February 12, 10 a.m. John Milton Cooper, Jr., author, history professor, and former fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, will talk about Wilson's presidency at the Adult Forum
February 19, 10 a.m. Kristie Miller, author of Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson's First Ladies, will speak at the Adult Forum
February 26, 10 a.m. Gigi Bradford, writer, editor, and chair of the Folger Shakespeare Library Poetry Board, will discuss similarities between faith and poetry at the Adult Forum

Monday, January 30, 2012

The National Gallery of Art opens 'triple header'

Pablo Picasso, Head of a Woman, 1921, pastel, Fondation Beyeler, Basil

Two new exhibitions and newly refurbished galleries were unveiled in the West Building at the National Gallery of Art over the weekend and its director, Earl A. Powell,III, called them "a triple play."
They are:
* The opening of the renovated 19th-century French galleries on the main floor
* Picasso's Drawings, 1890–1921: Reinventing Tradition through May 6, 2012 on the ground floor (near the 7th Street entrance)
* The Baroque Genius of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione prints and drawings through July 8, 2012 on the ground floor (also near the 7th Street entrance)
After a two-year makeover, the French impressionism and post-impressionism galleries are now open, and many of the masterpieces which hung in the Chester Dale Collection up for two years on the ground floor which recently ended and you feared you would never see them again are here: Manet, Cezanne, Courbet, Cassatt, Morisot, Renoir, van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, and finally, Picasso, are some of the artists. The way some of them are hung now, they can have "conversations" with each other, according to the Gallery's Mary Morton, head of French paintings.

The Monet gallery in the renovated French galleries at the National Gallery of Art.  It is the smallest of the new 14 galleries, good for "quiet contemplation," said Mary Morton, French painting curator and head/Patricia Leslie

On Sunday she spoke about the new show to several hundred people in the packed East Building auditorium.  Earlier in the week Dr. Morton called the Chester Dale Collection "one of the greatest of its kind in the country, if not the world."
Director Powell said the completion of the 14 French galleries ends 10 years of renovation at the West Building which is now "completely open again."
Gustave Caillebotte, Skiffs, 1877, collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

The 55 or so Picasso drawings, pastels, watercolors, and collages are much, much more than what visitors may expect.  The show is a history of early Picasso art including his earliest work, Hercules (age 9), and displays his first three decades of drawings in  chronological arrangement.
More than half the works come from private collections, most of which Gallery visitors will never see again. On an energetic flight through the exhibition, Curator Andrew Robison enthusiastically described them, pointing out one wall in the third gallery where three of four works are private. 
In the third gallery of the Picasso exhibition, three of these four paintings are from private collections/Patricia Leslie

The exhibition presages the Picasso masterpieces to come. Art education was important to the youthful Picasso whose father was a painter.
The 17th century drawings are detailed pen and ink scenes by the Italian baroque master, Castiglione, and his contemporaries and followers. Whether or not visitors are "churchy," the meticulous etchings and finest of pen strokes of many Biblical scenes will produce deep appreciation for this fine art where close-up inspection is permitted.
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, The Flight into Egypt, 1647/1649, etching, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
Pietro Testa, The Infant Christ at the Foot of the Cross, 1635/1637, etching,  National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund

The Frick Collection in New York and the National Gallery of Art organized the Picasso show for which the Hearst Foundation, Inc. is a major sponsor.
In celebration of the exhibitions, the National Gallery of Art is hosting talks, concerts and films. See the schedule here
When: Open daily from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m.- 6 p.m., Sunday
Where: The West Building of the National Gallery of Art between 4th and 7th streets along Constitution Avenue
How much: No charge
Metro station(s): Archives, Judiciary Square, Federal Triangle, or L'Enfant Plaza and/or ride the Circulator bus with stops at the West Building
For more information: 202-737-4215  or click here

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The National Symphony Orchestra mixes contemporary and classical

 Conductor James Gaffigan by Margaretta K. Mitchell

Not Mozart nor Schumann nor guest pianist Ingrid Fliter could outshine the contemporary music of Fluss ohne Ufer ("Shoreless River") by German composer Detlev Glanert, a piece co-commissioned* and played by the National Symphony Orchestra in its U.S. debut last weekend at the Kennedy Center.
It was a full night at the NSO.

The youthful and energetic guest conductor, James Gaffigan, briefed the audience about the composition's background: It is about a shipwreck, love, a battle, and two occupants, one of whom was not supposed to be onboard. And the boat sinks. Mr. Gaffigan compared parts of it to Debussy and said the timing juxtaposed to last week's ship catastrophe off the coast of Italy was coincidental.

With ominous sounds, the basses quietly forebode the calamity about to occur.  Faint notes suggest the tension might be coming from offstage rather than from the orchestra itself, adding to the mystery. The music gradually transforms to produce scary images of a monster rising from the water's depths, giving Hitchcockian warning about the eminent tragedy.
Momentum builds to vibrant clashing and roar of waves. Cannons to right of them, cannons to left of them are heard with dynamic contributions from strings and horns adding to the ferocious ending which gradually converts to tranquility as water covers the boat, it sinks, and the music subsides to match the starting notes.
Mr. Glanert, 51, a native of Hamburg, helped the orchestra rehearse "Shoreless," Mr. Gaffigan said, and the composer was present for the Friday evening performance as well. When the orchestra finished playing his work, Mr. Glanert, smiling broadly, enthusiastically bounded upon stage to receive multiple ovations from the standing audience.
Composer Detlev Glanert

Ms. Fliter, who has performed with NSO every other year since 2008, played an audience favorite, Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, her fingers flying like speedy spiders building webs back and forth across the keyboard. She bobbed up and down on the piano bench displaying vitality and enthusiasm one can only envy. 
Not to be overlooked, two of composer Mozart's works began and ended the evening: Divertimento in D major, K. 136 and Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, "Jupiter," which turned out to be Mozart's last symphony. Program notes said nineteenth century critics began calling it "Jupiter" after the god, rather than the planet, presumably because of its "fugal finale" and emphasis on "stately trumpets and timpani." Timpani, finale, or sonata, a symphony orchestra can do no wrong with Mozart.

*Other co-commissioners of "Shoreless River" were Germany’s WDR-Cologne, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and the BBC for the BBC Proms in London.
Coming up:
What: A program of classical and contemporary music featuring soloist Jörg Widmann with Christoph Eschenbach conducting.
WIDMANN - Armonica
MOZART - Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622
SCHUBERT - Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944 "The Great"
When: January 26-29, 2012
Where:  The Kennedy Center
Metro station: Foggy Bottom and ride the free shuttle (every 10 minutes) from there to KC (or walk it)
For more information and tickets: Click here or call 202-467-4600 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Mariinsky Ballet was ecstasy at the Kennedy Center

The Mariinsky Ballet's The Firebird/guardian.co.UK

If I had been able to find a ticket for a second consecutive performance of Les Saisons Russes, I would have snarfed it up, but all I could locate on the Web Friday were two $252 seats for the Sunday matinee. A bit out of my range.
The performance was that outstanding.
On stage and presented in almost three hours of dance were sex, passion, mayhem, music, magnificent costuming and perfect sets.
See what you are missing sans a ballet subscription?
Had there been no dancers on stage, the music by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra would have been enchanting enough.
The placement of Chopin's Chopiniana at the beginning was a smart spot since it would have been overwhelmed by the passion of Stravinsky's The Firebird and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade which followed. Michel Fokine crafted the choreography for all ballets about 100 years ago.
Chopiniana was a harmless romantic poem, without plot or much controversy, but nevertheless, vastly entertaining. The ballerinas wore cream-colored calf-length dresses with scooped necklines and danced in front of a Watteau-like landscape, an elegant backdrop to prepare the audience for what lay ahead.
The Mariinsky has danced The Firebird  for 18 years, and The Firebird (Alexandra Iosifidi) was spectacular in resplendent orange with yellow streaks and a red-feathered headdress (or, from the ceiling, that's what it looked like). Her resistance and fight with Ivan-Tsarevich (Alexander Romanchikov) were skillfully portrayed, but the stand-out, as least for costuming and horror, was the awful Kashchei the Immortal (Soslan Kulaev) and his minions. Not to demean the Russian artisans in any way, but it was Ballet on Broadway with all the theatrics.
For the third ballet, Scheherazade, the audience became peeping Toms, able to gaze stealthily inside a harem and learn what happens when body guards and gatekeepers depart. It was as wild a scene as one could hope.
Throughout the night, the cymbals, harp, horns and strings got a sound workout. After the performance, Russians were heard discussing the impossibility of obtaining Mariinsky tickets in the motherland.

Run, if you can, and sign up for a ballet subscription next year, and do not miss another Mariinsky which should leave you days later with beautiful imagery of its majesty.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

'Iron Lady' wins Oscar for 'Dullest Movie'

Darling, the critics are right: It is not worth seeing unless you:
1. Adore Meryl Streep who puts out another stellar performance
2. Are a makeup artist (incredible. Kudos to Marese Langan)
3. Write historical fiction

In the audience at Tysons Corner was no one under age 45, and there is reason for their absence: b o r i n g.

Really, if you must see it, save your neck and take a pillow. Or, save your cash and take a nap (at home).

Factually, it appears to be accurate for about half the show but about one-third of it occurs in dementia victim Margaret Thatcher's head as she talks with her dead husband, Denis Thatcher, played by Jim Broadbent who does a right jolly good job. (Mrs. Thatcher, 86, is still living.)

By means of mental flashbacks while the prime minister suffers the vagaries of dementia, the movie tells Mrs. Thatcher's life story from later childhood (admirably played by Alexandra Roach) through her reign as the only female (and longest serving? Wikipedia is dark (save the Internet) and I cannot verify) British prime minister in the 20th century.

Actual footage of British riots inflamed by Mrs. Thatcher's "let them eat cake" attitude are included.

David Gritten at the Telegraph says Ms. Streep's performance overshadows the movie, and who can deny it?

What else is there to say?

Except, darling, I have grown rather weary of Meryl Streep, and respectfully request, please, someone else in a starring role.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dancing talk at Glen Echo

A Saturday "swing" night at Glen Echo where the crowd danced to the music of Blue Sky 5 + 2, sponsored by Flying Feet Enterprises/Patricia Leslie

Act I
Overheard at the unheated dance hall (where it doesn't take much to warm up), a conversation and an offer between two 60-somethings.
"Susan," dressed in black dancing shoes, black tights, black "swing" skirt and a decidedly unsexy fleece zipped to her neck, stands next to a column waiting for the 8 p.m. swing lesson to begin.
"Dave," dressed in an all-black suit with orange tie and wearing a woolen knit cap with his name stitched across the forehead (which he never removes), approaches Susan and once they engage in conversation, takes aim with a fox's stare, never taking his eyes from hers.  He has targeted more prey.
Dave: Hi.
Susan: Hi.
Dave: My name's Dave.
Susan (smiling): I am Susan.
Dave: You look familiar.
Susan: (? and rolls her eyes)
Dave: I know you! Do you work at the ______________ ?
Susan: Yes, I do! I don't recall seeing you there.
Dave: That's because my business ________________.
Susan: Oh, well, I work in a nearby building.
Dave: Oh.
Dave: I am looking for a wife.
Susan: I am not material.
Dave: How come?
Susan: (?) Been there, done that.
Dave: And?
Susan: (?) And?
Dave: And?
Susan: It's too confining and ....
Dave interrupts: But I have a lot of money!
Susan: (And?)
Dave: I own my own business which I am going to sell for $___ million. I know Stevie Wonder.
Susan: (Wondering how Stevie Wonder has crept into the conversation) I just saw him on TMZ.
Dave: TMZ? What's that?
Susan: A trashy TV show
Dave: Where do you live?
Susan: Northern Virginia
Dave winces.
Susan: Where do you live?
Dave: Northern Virginia (pause): I got an offer on my house last week for $1.6 million, and I bought it for $100,000 20 years ago.
Susan (Fancy that): Did you accept the offer?
Dave: No, I'm gonna wait for something higher.
Dave: Don't you ever get lonely?
Susan: Sometimes.
Dave: I lived with someone for 18 years.
Susan (Congratulations): Where is she?
Dave: I dunno
Dave: I have a place in Key West, too.
Dave: I am going to dance with you.
The scene ends as the dance class begins.
Act II
An hour later on the dance floor with 400 people dancing swing to an orchestra. After several dances, Dave finds Susan.
Dave: Let's dance. I know the steps; follow me.
(Turns out he is a very good dancer.)
Dave (emphatically): Put your arm here! (On his)
Susan: Well, if you know the steps, why did you come to the class?
Dave: This is the Fox Trot (as he glides her along backwards on the floor where her foot is crushed three times by men weighing 200+ lbs.).
Susan: I thought we were supposed to be doing "the swing."
Dave: This is what we are doing...the Fox Trot.  Just don't think about it.
Susan (As they dance): I was wondering (pause)... if this is called the Fox Trot, is it because... this is the way foxes trot?
Dave: (?)
After three numbers together, Susan takes a water break where she spots an obnoxious neighbor across the dance floor. Fearful of an invitation (or not) to dance,  she makes a break and escapes into that good night.
It pays to get out.
What: Dancing to live music
When: Thursday - Sunday nights, some Sunday afternoons
Where: 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, MD 20812
How much: $15 or $16
For more information: Call 301-634-2222 or email info@glenechopark.org

Friday, January 13, 2012

National Symphony Orchestra tickets on sale for $11 each

Christopher Eschenbach is the National Symphony Orchestra conductor, and Michelle DeYoung is a mezzo-soprano who will sing March 8, 2012/The Kennedy Center

Stephen Hough will play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1 April 19 and April 20, 2012/The Kennedy Center

It's true!
According to a mailing I received from the Kennedy Center: Pick any three concerts (certain dates and times) from remaining programs for $33 total, or six concerts for $66 (better seats), or nine concerts for $99 (premium orchestra seats).

No handling charge!  And no Saturday nights, but there are some Friday nights: Jan. 20, Feb. 3, Feb. 10, Mar. 9, Mar. 23, May 18, and June 8, in addition to Thursday nights and several Friday matinees and a couple of Sunday matinees (Jan. 29 and Feb. 19).

I don't have to list all the performances, do I? Good! Get'em while they are hot.

Log on to nationalsymphony.org/tripleplay and choose the Triple Play Subscription under NSO Classical. Make your selections and check out and look for your tickets in the mail, or call 202-416-8500 to speak with a human. Three's the minimum.

Offer ends February 29, 2012, and it can be withdrawn at any time so you better get to clickin'.

While $11 is higher than what you may pay for the Wizards (30 cents), members of the National Symphony Orchestra are true team players who put out a solid performance and win every time.

'Sonia Sotomayor: The True American Dream'

Last summer it was reported that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has received an advance of  $1.2 million for her upcoming autobiography. 

It is doubtful that "New York Times bestselling author" Antonia Felix received an advance like that for her book, Sonia Sotomayor:  The True American Dream, but she beat the justice to the bookstores, at least, with her "yes" biography of the first Hispanic member appointed to the Supreme Court. 

("Yes" books are those which essentially affirm everything about the subject and make for rather dour, uneventful reading and information since very little negative is included. And if this title doesn't confirm it, what does? Note to Justice Sotomayor:  If your book is still in the draft stages, please make it as objective as you can if you want to sell more copies and include at least some negatives. "Yes" books generally fail at the bookstore but your intent may be, unlike 99.9% of celebrities taking pen to paper, non-profit-motivated.)

Anyway, back to the book:  If you have any curiosity about Justice Sotomayor's background, Ms. Felix's book for information is worth a read, and it's the only one (for adults) out of the gate at this time.

For a middle-school reading level, it is well written, although in "chop chop" style (like Wikipedia or an encyclopedia) and documented with references, an index, and a list of cases.  It may be a
publisher's "author for hire" book.

Like so many books published now, the editors have gone missing.  Folks, the machines can't do it all.
 And since it's a "yes" book, it is not "fair and balanced."

Ms. Felix describes Ms. Sotomayor's life from childhood to present with as much public information the biographer could find. 

A few highlights: 
Sonia Sotomayor's father died when he was only 42, and Sonia tried to escape her sadness with books, lots and lots of them, including Nancy Drews (but not enough books to overcome her ignorance of the "classics" where, at Princeton, she was handed the wonderful self-assignment to read many of them, and she did.) (An associate professor at Virginia Tech, a high school valedictorian like the justice, with several books and articles in her repertoire, told me her (the professor's) writing suffered from a lack of reading good fiction, i.e. classics, when she was growing up, more reason to read more of them.)

Anyway, Justice Sotomayor adored the television show, "Perry Mason" which helped shape her desire at age 10 to become a lawyer, and instilled her with an appreciation for the prosecution side. 

Not until she went off to Princeton had she ever visited a bookstore, but her family had a set of encyclopedias.   (After high school, a condescending Harvard counselor's attitude led the future justice to reject Harvard. )   

When Sonia Sotomayor was only a college sophomore, she filed a successful complaint with the federal government about the dearth of Latinos on the Princeton staff.  

She attended law school at Yale and worked for five years in the New York's District Attorney's office which she left for private practice. A study of her judgeship from 1993-1998 revealed her sentences were harsher than most. Her 1994 injunction, which essentially ended the baseball strike, endeared her eternally to baseball fans everywhere, and her diabetes and gender make her work harder than men.

For her swearing in to the Supreme Court, she wore an off-the-rack suit.  

Her "distance marriage" to Kevin Noonan, whom she had dated since high school and married after she graduated from Princeton, lasted seven years. The divorce was amicable.

The book is nicely designed with a catchy cover (a photo of the justice), but some of the text is too dry for us non-lawyers.

P.S. If you, dear reader, are unhappy with President Obama in any way, just consider his choices for the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and be thankful he was in office to make them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tunisians celebrate their revolution at the Kennedy Center

Jaloul Ayed, composer, at the Kennedy Center/World Leadership Forum

Hannibal Barca

Composer and Tunisia Minister of Finance, Jaloul Ayed

Tunisia's revolution/Wikimedia Commons/Rais67

To pay tribute to the first anniversary of the January, 2011 uprising in Tunisia which ultimately cascaded into Arab Spring triggering the people's revolts against harsh regimes in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen, the Embassy of Tunisia with the Tunisian Ministry of Culture hosted a gala concert Monday evening at the Kennedy Center, composed for the occasion by none other than Tunisia's minister of finance, Jaloul Ayed.
Premiering in the U.S., Hannibal Barca, the Symphony commemorates composer Ayed's longtime hero, Hannibal Barca, who in the third century B.C., marched with 40 elephants and 80,000 warriors across the Pyrenees and Alps Mountains from Carthage into Rome, defeating an army twice the size and capturing Italy for 15 years. 
With resounding clashes and horns heard gloriously throughout the hall, Conductor Jean-Charles Biondi enthusiastically led the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, augmented by many Tunisian musicians who joined in making triumphal music for the audience of 2,000 which excitedly applauded at the end of the three movements,  The Pride of Carthage, The Long Crossing, and The Glorious March.
Ayed composed the music to honor not only the feats of Hannibal Barca but to link his victories with that of a young fruit vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, who, in December, 2010, set himself aflame, so frustrated by despicable acts of the Tunisian government.  The cause for Bouazizi's action enraged the Tunisian people who, one month later, took down their government, laying the foundation for other nations to follow.
Said one listener afterwards, "I heard a lot of Arabic influences," but others disagreed, hearing only the powerful sounds of victory.
Beginning the evening's performance were the Tunisian and the American anthems followed by Verdi's Overture to La forza del destino which the Opera House Orchestra played with the vigor and polish of the expertise it owns.
Question:  Does Timothy Geithner make music?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Harry Callahan photographs at the National Gallery of Art

Harry Callahan
Detroit, 1943
gelatin silver print
overall (sheet, trimmed to image): 8.3 x 11 cm (3 1/4 x 4 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

Harry Callahan
Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago, 1953
gelatin silver print
overall (image): 19.5 x 24.45 cm (7 11/16 x 9 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Promised Gift of Susan and Peter MacGill
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

Harry Callahan
Atlanta, 1985
dye imbibition print
overall (image): 24.4 x 36.7 cm (9 5/8 x 14 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

Not far from DC's core is a photography show which is capable of soothing a busy mind by means of a mental massage.

On the ground floor of the West Building, near the Seventh Avenue entrance at the National Gallery of Art, it is the exhibition of 100+ photographs spread over five galleries in celebration of the 100th birthday of the artist, Harry Callahan (1912-1999), "one of the most innovative artists of the 20th century" who produced "highly experimental, visually daring and elegant photographs," the National Gallery says.

Much like staring at the ocean and its horizon, the still, linear portraits allow the mind to wander aimlessly about a city, along a shore, beneath stark, wintry trees. Scenes of urban life, a captivating 1965 shot of pedestrians on a town sidewalk moving in two directions, a 1956 collage, and "Cutouts" (1956) carry the viewer from romantic influences "back down to earth."

Callahan was fond of lines and undecorated designs without much detail, able to skillfully convey haunting images of nature, city life, and his wife, Eleanor.

Five galleries of his photos are arranged chronologically and thematically, according to his life.

Hanging in the first gallery of the exhibition are black and white 1940 scenes of Detroit where he was born. Like today, Detroit looks rather bleak and bare (although word on the street says a revival in Motor City is presently underway). Found also in this gallery is an unusual self-portrait, a shadowy silhouette of Callahan's face superimposed on his shoes in multiple images which he made in 1942 in homage to Albert Stieglitz.  It is one of 45 photographs given to the National Gallery by Eleanor and their daughter, Barbara, in honor of the exhibition.

Those he loved most dearly, Eleanor and Barbara, are subjects in the second gallery, notably Eleanor, a classy nude in many whispery, unpretentious black and whites. The head of the National Gallery's photography department and senior curator, Sarah Greenough who consulted with Callahan, said Mrs. Callahan posed for her husband at any time and place he asked. (Some husbands might want to know his secrets.)

In the third gallery is Chicago from the 1940s and 1950s, and color appears in the fourth gallery with pictures of Providence and Cape Cod where mass culture's effects are observed.
The last gallery, "Later Works," depict places Callahan and Eleanor visited before his death: Atlanta, Ireland, Morocco.
Without any formal training in the medium, Callahan's artistic talent was recognized early on, and he was invited to teach at the Institute of Design in Chicago and the Rhode Island School of Design where hundreds of students enjoyed his lessons over the years.

The Trellis Fund is a major sponsor of the exhibition.

What: 100 photographs for Harry Callahan's Centennial Celebration
When: Now through March 4. The National Gallery of Art is open seven days a week from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday
Where: The West Building of the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall between Fourth and Seventh streets, NW along Constitution Avenue
How much: Admission is always free at the National Gallery of Art
Metro stations: Smithsonian, Navy-Memorial/Archives, Judiciary Square, China Town/Gallery Place, or ride the Circulator bus
For more information: 202-737-4215

And if you visit this weekend, you cannot dare miss the magnificent Gothic tapestries exhibition from Spain, set to close January 8 (East Building).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Second City at Woolly Mammoth was ?

Peter Marks must have seen another Second City performance from the one at Woolly Mammoth I saw which only referenced Chicago in political scenes;  Barack Obama is not local. 
Do WE care that much about Chicago? No.
Do WE care what Chicago eats?  No.
Do WE care about television furniture ads in Chicago?  No.

Its baseball teams' rivalry? No.
Was I expecting some political comedy?  Yes.
Really, is coarse language the de rigueur of contemporary theater? It grows tiresome. I guess to be hip with the younger set, it's a requirement. (But it was not a younger audience at the performance I attended.)
Years ago when I saw the troupe in Chicago on two occasions, they were much funnier, and years ago, I was much younger and don't recall constant, explicit "f's" and "s's" every 30 seconds.  But those were the days, my friend, when things and language were not frequently vulgar and base which are contributing factors to the erosion of today's society.
Anyway, the acting in Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies was superb (Jessica Frances Dukes and Aaron Bliden are Woolly Company members who participated), and the music (Matthew Loren Cohen), spot-on. The props were minimal, and they (accessories, chairs) worked well with solitary lighting  (Colin Bills and Jennifer Sheetz). 
Audience participation was the best scene (sic; sorry) anywhere and quite effective.  Do you think it is going to become an award since it grows more frequent?   
Was the production worth $50? (Saturday's matinee prices.) Probably not. If you're looking for political comedy, the Capitol Steps are much better.
What:  Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies

When: Now through January 8, 2012
Where: Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D Street NW
Tickets: 202-393-3939
Metro stations: Gallery Place-China Town, Archives-Navy Memorial, or a short walk from Metro Center or ride the Circulator bus up 7th Street, NW