Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ceiling is tops at Verizon for Caps' games

The Capitals celebrate another goal in their 4-1 victory over Montreal at Verizon Center/Patricia Leslie

 Okay, we splurged and bought (at the Ticket Exchange) “ice” seats (that is, not far from) to see what it was like after my pals, Christine and Catherine, raved about them, and the night they went, Troy Brouwer scored a hat trick, and Christine and Catherine didn’t even know what a hat trick was. The nerve.

Anyway, for the Montreal game Claire and I sat in Row P in the “horseshoe” or “end zone” or behind the goalie, whatever you want to call it. We paid $140 each vs. what we usually pay (about $55) for ceiling seats, or approximately one-third the cost of ice, in case you are not a mathematician. (By the way, every time we go, the Caps win, and that's no foolin'! For three years now. Take that, Pittsburgh.)

I declare you can see better from the ceiling than in Row P behind the goalie. Okay, yes, as Claire said, you can see the players’ faces, but what good is that when you can’t see the puck? 

Where's the puck?  Oh, there's the puck/Patricia Leslie

Attention, Mr. Leonsis: It is terrific that you give tickets to the troops and they are recognized at every game, but Mr. Leonsis, have you sat in the horseshoe and do you know how bad the visibility is there? Mr. Leonsis, for our troops, I think you can do better and give our guys and girls seats on the 50-yard line, if you please. Thank you. Consider what they are giving up for us!
(Also, Mr. Leonsis, I would like to request, please, that "kiss-cam" be mandatory at every game. Everyone just loves it to pieces!)
Anyway, back to the ground floor seats: The food offerings at this level vis a vis the skylights are outasite. Really. The choices compare to the menu at the Inn at Little Washington vs. Church’s Fried Chicken, but I don’t think they’ve got fried chicken upstairs. That bunch is chiefly a ‘dogs and chili with onions crowd. Throw on some mustard.
On the ground the beer selections are far better, too, with a bar and a neo-wooden décor which sells mixed drinks! 


Plus, upon entry to the ground floor, a photographer takes your picture and posts it somewhere the next morning, but I forgot to look.  Claire, did you remember to check us out?

George told me that to sit on the ground level, I would need one of those pricey ($150) jerseys vs. the cheap ($20) #8 Ovechkin t-shirt from Modell’s I bought last month, and he was right. Everyone in our ground section wore a jersey. I felt rather poorly in my worn-one-time-t-shirt and kept my coat on, but Claire's got a red, feathery boa she had wrapped around her neck and kept slinging it around which none of those people could match. But not to boast.
There goes my shirt's namesake, #8 Ovechkin, who had another great night and scored his Goal #25 for the season/Patricia Leslie

I would also like to note that you get real cheerleaders the size of hockey sticks in the stands for your ground level seats which, by the way, are roomier, comfier, and are they leather? Either that or the cheerleaders the size of hockey sticks sprayed leather fragrance on the seats before we arrived.

Take it away, Caps/Patricia Leslie

But not to complain: Claire and I have ceiling seats for the Winnepeg game, and there we feel more at home. It’s the difference between Palm Beach and Panama City, Florida, if you have ever been to either. Panama City is preferable. Palm Beach is so stuffy and highbrow, and besides, I doubt they drink beer or eat fried chicken in Palm Beach. Now how in the world did we jump from the Caps to fried chicken in Palm Beach? There are similarities.

Where is it?/Patricia Leslie

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ice skate at the Sculpture Garden

Ice skaters at the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden Ice Rink at 7th and Constitution, seen under the legs of Alexander Calder's (American, 1898-1976) Cheval Rouge (Red Horse) 1974.  Painted sheet metal.  Courtesy, Calder Foundation, NY. 2002 Estate of Alexander Calder. Artists Rights Society, NY/Patricia Leslie

“Weather permitting,” the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden ice rink will be open through mid-March unless the daffodils and blades of grass burst through warm ice and interfere.
On three visits (lunchtime, one weekday evening, a weekend), there was plenty of room to “bust a few,” enjoy laughs and outdoor winter exercise, while gliding effortlessly across the ice to music. (Not all glide “effortlessly." Some rail-huggers never let go of their support and hug the rail constantly. Oh, dear.  How boooorrring.  Rink guards ensure that speed demons do not plow down those less dedicated.)

At the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden Ice Rink looking towards the dome of the Gallery's West Building.  Can you find the full moon just over the tree tops?/Patricia Leslie

Cameras are not allowed on the rink (because it would require stopping?), however, rail-huggers do stop, of course, but there are no fines.  Oh, and the backward skaters and fancy flingers?  Forgetabutit.  On a weekday with fewer skaters, one may be able to take flight (?).  Here are the rules.

The skater is about to take flight.  Seen through the legs of Louise Bourgeois's (American, 1911-2010) Spider, 1996. Cast, 1997.  Gift of Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation/Patricia Leslie

Ice skating is great fun for all ages and skill levels, and there are plenty of skates for rent at the ice rink. Visitors will find warm and cold refreshments available for purchase in a nearby heated tent which has chairs and tables so skaters may sit, rest a spell and massage broken limbs.

Taking off between the legs of Louise Bourgeois's (American, 1911-2010) Spider, 1996. Cast, 1997. Gift of Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation/Patricia Leslie

A totally delightful experience!

What: Ice skating

When: Now through mid-March, Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Where: The National Gallery's Sculpture Garden at 7th Avenue and Constitution

How much: Skate for two hours on the hour for $7 (children and seniors) to $8 (adults). Skate rentals are $3, and lockers are 50 cents.

Metro: Federal Triangle, Smithsonian, or Archives-Navy Memorial

For more information: 202-216-9397 and/or ngaicerink@guestservices.com


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ringo comes to Baltimore June 24

Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band are coming to Baltimore Sunday, June 24, and advance tickets are on sale now through Friday night at 10 p.m. to subscribers of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. (Another reason to join!)
The band will perform at BSO’s Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (unaccompanied by the BSO) where the Beatles drummer and his entourage are expected to play Yellow Submarine, With a Little Help from My Friends, Wings, It Don’t Come Easy, Rosanna, Broken Wings, Hello It’s Me, and Black Magic Woman and many more.
Ringo has just released a new album Ringo 2012 with new versions of Wings and Step Lightly.
Members of Ringo's All Starr Band are Steve Lukather, Gregg Rolie, Richard Page, Todd Rundgren, Mark Rivera, and Gregg Bissonette.
Baltimore is one stop on the group's national tour, and the closest site to D.C.  Click here for tickets (starting at $136 or $105 or $102, up to $999, depending upon which site you land + the service fee) or call 1-800-282-8495.  (Do not buy at the first site.  Just keep clickin' and watch the prices change.) 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Free Oscar screenings at National Archives start Wednesday

Entrance to The U.S. National Archives for free Oscar screenings is on Constitution Avenue at Seventh/Patricia Leslie

For the eighth consecutive year, Oscar nominees in four film categories will be screened at no charge at National Archives from Wednesday through Sunday.

The categories are Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Live Action Short Film, and Animated Short Film, however, the acclaimed Pina documentary feature will not be shown on February 24 as previously announced.

The screenings will be presented in the William G. McGowan Theater by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in partnership with the Charles Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film and the Foundation for the National Archives, located across the street from the ice-skating rink at the National Gallery of Art at the corner of Seventh and Constitution.  (Metro station:  Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter.)

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, and no reservations are permitted. All must be present to receive tickets which shall be distributed at the Special Events entrance on Constitution Avenue, 60 minutes before start time, and doors will open 30 minutes after that.  (I have seen lines form two hours before showtime.)  

Some films may be inappropriate for general audiences.

The hole left by Pina's cut from Friday night will be filled by another screening of the Live Action Short Film Nominees (100 minutes) which will also be shown on Saturday at noon.

Screening schedule (subject to availability)
Documentary Feature Nominees
Wednesday, February 22, 7:00 p.m.

Hell and Back Again
Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
(88 minutes; unrated)

Thursday, February 23, 7:00 p.m.
TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas
(113 minutes; unrated)

Friday, February 24, 7:00 p.m.
Live Action Short Film Nominees (100 minutes) in place of Pina

Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane
(11 minutes; unrated)

Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
(24 minutes; unrated)

The Shore
Terry George and Oorlagh George
(30 minutes; unrated)

Time Freak
Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
(10 minutes; unrated)

Tuba Atlantic
Hallvar Witzø
(25 minutes; unrated)

Documentary Feature Nominees, continued
Saturday, February 25, 7:00 p.m.

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
(105 minutes; unrated)

Sunday, February 26, 4:00 p.m.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
(85 minutes; unrated)

Live Action Short Film Nominees
Saturday, February 25, noon.

Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane
(11 minutes; unrated)

Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
(24 minutes; unrated)

The Shore
Terry George and Oorlagh George
(30 minutes; unrated)

Time Freak
Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
(10 minutes; unrated)

Tuba Atlantic
Hallvar Witzø
(25 minutes; unrated)
Total running time: 100 minutes

Animated Short Film Nominees
Saturday, February 25, 3:30 p.m.

Patrick Doyon
9 minutes; unrated)

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
(15 minutes; unrated)

La Luna
Enrico Casarosa
(7 minutes; rated G)

A Morning Stroll
Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
(7 minutes; unrated)

Wild Life
Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
(14 minutes; unrated)

Total Running Time: 52 minutes.

Documentary Short Subject Nominees
Sunday, February 26, 11:30 a.m.

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
(25 minutes; unrated)

God Is the Bigger Elvis
Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
(37 minutes; unrated)

Incident in New Baghdad
James Spione
(22 minutes; unrated)

Saving Face
Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
(40 minutes; unrated)

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen
(40 minutes; unrated)

Total Running Time: 164 minutes

The Blue Brothers take 'em high at George Mason

The Blue Brothers Show at George Mason University/Patricia Leslie
The best party in town Saturday night wasn't in D.C., it was in Fairfax, Virginia at the Center for the Arts at George Mason University where a Blue Brothers' revival carried the audience up, up and away for a solid two hours of pure showtime.
Singing, dancing, and partying in the aisles with the performers was the almost-sold-out, mixed-aged crowd who adored Jake (Brad Henshaw, writer and director) and Elwood (Daniel Fletcher) Blues. The "brothers'" cartwheeled across the stage and wowed the audience with the synchronicity of their steps, matching heels backwards in mid-air at one point.  Martha Graham would have been proud of the choreography by Debbie Jenner.
The Blues Brothers Show at George Mason University/Patricia Leslie
The shimmering Bluettes (Jocasta Almgill, Victoria Ekanoye, and Victoria Goddard) in multiple glittery costumes sang strong backup and gyrated right along with the leads, to the delight of the throng, some of whom dressed the part.
On sax was Derek "Ricky" Mian and playing trumpet, David Mian (relationship?) who showed their stuff all through the night, but especially in the Theme from Dragnet which started Act 2.   
The best crowd pleasers seemed to beee King Bee, Riot in Cell Block #9, and Joe Cocker's With a Little Help from My Friends.
Jake Blues (Brad Henshaw) and Rufus Ruffell on guitar perform Joe Cocker's With a Little Help from My Friends/Patricia Leslie
Blues and soul numbers excelled, but the audience's response to every single number, including an unimaginative arrangement of  Under the Boardwalk, was enthusiastic and loud.  Yes, everyone was happy.
The lighting designer (Tjeerd Hendriks) and technician (Aoife Hendriks, relationship?) were outasite.
The Blues Brothers Show in blue at George Mason University/Patricia Leslie
The Blues Brothers Show at George Mason University/Patricia Leslie
It was a memorable and fantastic show with big bang for the bucks necessary for the tickets, priced much lower and with cheaper (free) parking than a concertgoer finds in the District.
The Blues Brothers Show at George Mason University/Patricia Leslie

The Blues Brothers Show at George Mason University/Patricia Leslie

He (?) did Cab Calloway's Minnie the Moocher/Patricia Leslie

Some members of the Blues Brothers audience came dressed to kill/Patricia Leslie

Their looks are deceiving for they were having a very good time inviting attention outside before the Blues Brothers Show began/Patricia Leslie


Monday, February 20, 2012

National Gallery of Art unveils rare painting by African-American artist

Robert Seldon Duncanson, American, 1821-1872 Still Life with Fruit and Nuts, 1848, oil on board
National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of Ann and Mark Kington/The Kington Foundation and the Avalon Fund

Just in time for Black History Month is the first painting at the National Gallery of Art by Robert Seldon Duncanson (1821-1872), often called the first African-American artist to enjoy international acclaim.

The painting is Still Life with Fruit and Nuts, a pyramidal design of fruit with smooth surfaces which contrasts with textured nutshells.  It is one of about 12 Duncanson still-lifes known to exist. 

In a statement, Earl A. Powell III, the National Gallery's director, said that the National Gallery of Art had long been searching for one of Duncanson's renderings, and it continues its quest to find one of his landscapes. The National Gallery has a collection of almost 400 works by African-American artists. 

Duncanson, descended from freed Virginia slaves, was born in Seneca County, New York and lived with his father in Canada until he moved to his mother's home near Cincinnati when he was about 20 years old. He painted portraits, copied prints and taught himself the craft. 

 A year after arriving at his mother's, he had three portraits accepted for a Cincinnati exhibition which his family was prohibited from attending because of their ethnicity.

In 1848, the year he painted the National Gallery's new work, Duncanson received a significant commission from a Methodist minister, Charles Avery, the first of several abolitionist patrons who sustained Duncanson throughout his career and helped re-direct the artist to landscape art.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Duncanson moved to Canada and later to the United Kingdom where his art was well received. During the last years of his life, after he returned to Cincinnati in 1866, he painted some of his greatest pieces. He died in Detroit, and his art was largely forgotten until an exhibition in 1943 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York jump-started his name and works at major American museums, the last show at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2009.

Associated with the Hudson River School, Duncanson copied the style of Thomas Cole who painted allegorical landscapes. The National Gallery says a Cincinnati exhibition of Cole's famous series of four paintings, The Voyage of Life (1842) likely inspired the black artist. (Cole's are in Gallery 60 and Duncanson's not far away in Gallery 69, both on the Main Floor near the Fourth Street entrance to the Gallery's West Building.) 

The Cole series is hypnotic and raises cascading thoughts: Where have I been and where am I going? And why am I doing it? The series of four paintings can create a fair amount of discomfort as viewers travel their own journeys of life and wonder about their paths, chosen and unchosen. Did it have this effect on Duncanson?
Thomas Cole, American, 1801 - 1848, The Voyage of Life: Childhood, 1842
oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
Thomas Cole, 1801-1848, The Voyage of Life: Youth, 1842, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
Thomas Cole, 1801 - 1848 The Voyage of Life: Manhood, 1842
oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
Thomas Cole, 1801 - 1848, The Voyage of Life: Old Age, 1842, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art,Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund

The Duncanson acquisition was made possible by Ann and Mark Kington/The Kington Foundation and the Avalon Fund.

What: Still Live with Fruit and Nuts (1848) by Robert Seldon Duncanson

When: The National Gallery of Art is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday

Where: Gallery 69 at the West Building of the National Gallery of Art between 4th and 7th streets along Constitution Avenue
How much: No charge

Metro stations: Archives, Judiciary Square, Federal Triangle, L'Enfant Plaza and/or ride the Circulator bus with stops at the West Building

For more information: 202-737-4215


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Lincoln-Douglass debate at Ford's Theatre

Craig Wallace is Frederick Douglass in Necessary Sacrifices at Ford's Theatre/Laura Keene

A serious "conversation" between two American heroes, President Abraham Lincoln (David Selby) and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (Craig Wallace), is occurring nightly through Saturday at Ford's Theatre in a play called Necessary Sacrifices.

It is a world's premiere, written by Richard Hellesen who was commissioned by Ford's to create a play for the celebration of this month's opening of the Center for Education and Leadership located across the street.

Hellesen based his drama on two documented sessions between Lincoln and Douglass.
 David Selby is Abraham Lincoln in Necessary Sacrifices/Laura Keene

Everyone knows who President Lincoln was, but how many are familiar with Mr. Douglass? Not only did he work to abolish slavery, but he was an early supporter of women's rights and in 1848, the only African-American present at the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York.  (The Frederick Douglass home is at 1411 W Street SE in Washington.)
The specific Civil War period in focus for Sacrifices is chiefly August, 1863 and August, 1864. Mr. Douglass is disappointed by the president's policies and tries to convince him that not only is emancipation critical to national health, but the new role of blacks in the U.S. is vital, too.
In dialogue in two acts, the two converse, and the president explains to Douglass the political process and the evolution of public opinion.  Selby's and Wallace's looks, demeanor, and superb acting give undeniable credence to their characters who truly make American history come alive on stage.

Jennifer L. Nelson, the director, writes in program notes that the two Civil War leaders discovered a "common vision" in each other, sharing a "belief in the potential of human beings to be generous of spirit in spite of profound differences." Would that words of yesteryear rang on Capitol Hill today.

Adding to the play's aura is Civil War music and a sad melody composed by John Gromada which is sprinkled throughout the production and expertly played on violin by Thomas Booker or Tony Donaldson, Jr. (depending upon the night of the performance).
The lighting is dramatic (Dan Covey), and the backdrop is a tranquil floor-to-ceiling landscape painting of clouds and sky in heavenly peach, lavender and blue which creates a dichotomy in a time of radical upheaval, where gunfire is sporadically heard in the background to remind all present of war's death and destruction.
Once a portion of the stage with the president's desk and chair move forward, and large white rectangular windows drop, the stage is set (by James Kronzer) for conversation between the two in the president's office.

Makeup by Anne Nesmith is worthy of a Helen Hayes nomination.

It is eerie and remarkable at the same time to sit in Ford's Theatre, to look up at the box where the president and Mrs. Lincoln sat April 14, 1865 the night of his assassination, and realize you are there watching a play about him.
The play is recommended for ages 13 and up. Hurry! On a Monday night, the theatre was packed.  It is easy to see how this play will travel for hundreds of performances.

What: Necessary Sacrifices
When: Every night at 7:30 p.m. now through February 18, 2012
Where: Ford's Theatre, 511 Tenth St, NW, Washington, DC 20004
Admission: Prices begin at $32.20. Check here for possible discounts.
For more information: 202-347-4833
Metro station: Metro Center, Gallery Place, or Archives-Navy Memorial

Friday, February 10, 2012

'Van Gogh' opens in Philadelphia, the only U.S. venue

Now through May 6, 2012.

Undergrowth with Two Figures, 1890. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 ‑ 1890. Oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 39 1/4 inches (49.5 x 99.7 cm). Cincinnati Art Museum, Bequest of Mary E. Johnston

For art museums, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) is a magnet, comparable to The Nutcracker for ballet companies. Expect thousands.
For anyone with the slightest interest in this most famous artist who died at age 37, the Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition is absolutely “must see.” It stunningly illustrates how the mysterious painter changed the course of modern art.
The show focuses on van Gogh's last four years (1886-1890) beginning with his residency in Paris where he met impressionists whose works affected him so acutely, he changed his brushstrokes and moved to bold colors from the greys and somber hues of paintings he created in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Iris, 1889. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 ‑ 1890. Oil on thinned cardboard, mounted on canvas, 24 1/2 x 19 inches (62.2 x 48.3 cm). National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

In the first gallery visitors will certainly find a cure for the wintertime blues: Portraits of poppies, irises, roses, zinnias, and sunflowers in bright, happy colors are the theme. (After all, said the museum's senior curator, Joseph J. Rishel, van Gogh was a Dutchman who knew a lot about flowers.) 

From there, guests are introduced to the "Blades of Grass" gallery which focuses on the world under van Gogh's feet, and nature which comforted the artist amidst turmoil. ("I...am always obliged to go and gaze at a blade of grass, a pine-tree branch, an ear of wheat, to calm myself," he wrote his sister in 1889.)

Rain, 1889. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 ‑ 1890. Oil on canvas, 28 7/8 x 36 3/8 inches (73.3 x 92.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny

Landscapes of Arles, Saint-Remy, and Auvers and their horizons figure prominently in another gallery, followed by hidden forests and sunlit dappled scenes.

Undergrowth, 1887. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 ‑ 1890. Oil on canvas, 13 x 18 1/8 inches (33 x 46 cm); Framed: 20 1/4 x 25 3/8 inches (51.5 x 64.5 cm). Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands

The infrequent inclusion of people are seen at a distance, none close enough to have facial features for they are not so important here.

One side gallery includes examples of prints from Japan, identical to the hundreds owned by van Gogh and his brother, Theo, pieces which influenced Vincent and show up in his paintings, including the last one in the show, Almond Blossom, created to celebrate the arrival of Theo's son, Vincent's namesake, born January 31, 1890, only a half year before his uncle died.
Philadelphia Museum of Art's Senior Curator of European Painting Before 1900, Joseph J. Rishel, in front of van Gogh's Almond Blossom (1890)/Patricia Leslie

It seems like the show includes more than 40 works, perhaps because of the smart layout.   Many are uncommon paintings, borrowed from private collectors and museums around the world: the Art Institute of Chicago, Baltimore Museum of Art, Basel, Carnegie Museum of Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Copenhagen, Dallas, Dresden, Geneva, Honolulu, London, Madrid, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musee d’Orsay, St. Louis Art Museum, Stockholm, The Hague, the National Gallery of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, Tokyo, Utrecht, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Zurich, the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the joint co-organizer of the five-year project, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

Sun Life Financial and GlaxoSmithKline were major underwriters.

The press preview drew far more representatives than any recent press event, said museum director, Timothy Rub, which leads to expectations of greater than the 300,000 who came for the last van Gogh show at the museum about 10 years ago, and the one before that in the 1970s when 200,000 visited.

Philadelphia will be the season's national art destination, boasted Mr. Rub and Gail Harrity, museum president.
An audio tour included with the entry price expands the van Gogh experience, and movies about van Gogh and lectures complement the presentation on various dates. (Check the schedule here.)
It’s an easy and comfortable day trip to Philadelphia from Union Station on Amtrak (made more pleasant by a 15% van Gogh discount), and early train reservations reduce costs. (For those who have not traveled recently on Amtrak, there is plenty of leg room, no restrictions on taking food and beverages on board, free Wi-Fi, and the best benefit of all: no security checks, hassles, or long line waits.)
Amtrak stops at Philadelphia's 30th Street station where a short taxi ride of less than $10 can carry passengers to the museum. Hotel discount packages are available, too.

Go before crowds make viewing difficult. Or travel to Ottawa beginning May 25 through September 3 where the exhibition moves to the National Gallery of Canada.

A Pair of Shoes, 1887. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 ‑ 1890. oil on canvas, 12 7/8 x 16 5/16 inches (32.7 x 41.5 cm). The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection

What: Van Gogh Up Close

When: Now through May 6, 2012, every day except Monday (exceptions: February 20 and April 30), open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. – 8:45 p.m., Friday, and 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (until 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday beginning April 7 through May 6)

Where: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia 19130

Admission: $25 (adults); $22 (seniors; age not specified); $20 (students and youth, ages 13-18); $12 (children, 5-12); and under age 5 and members, no charge.

Getting there from Washington: Amtrak (please see above) or take a bus (not the Chinatown!), car, or plane

Tickets: 215-235-7469 (service charge added) or online
For more information:  215-763-8100 or visitorservices@philamuseum.org.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Aznar's reign in Spain at GWU

Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar/Patricia Leslie

Maybe it was a long plane ride.

Or he had just landed at Dulles and had jet lag.

Or had eaten Italian and was drowsy from dinner.

Whatever it was or is, the former prime minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar who spoke at George Washington University last week, had little life in him when he addressed a group of mostly 150 students to talk about Iraq and terrorism at an event sponsored by the International Affairs Society and the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs.

Maybe that’s the way he always is: lethargic. He would not make it as a candidate here.

But he is not a candidate here.

Okay, he was a candidate in Spain, a successful candidate, and perhaps flash is not important to Spanish voters. Whatever...
Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar/Patricia Leslie

“Politics is about making things happen…not sitting…,” Aznar said.

“The world is not a perfect place.” Leadership is exercising power with imperfect information. Making decisions, taking action.  “Leadership and popularity rarely go together.”

It’s “essential to know what you believe in.” 

Iraq is now “a working nation, self-sufficient with pluralistic institutions that perform well.” (?)

“Islam can be and should be made compatible with Democratic practices.”

America is not looking at Europe any more. Europe has good relations with the U.S., but Europe is no longer a U.S priority, he said.
 Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar/Patricia Leslie

Aznar served as prime minister of Spain from 1996-2004 and elected not to seek a third term. He strongly supported the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq against the will of the majority (92%, Wikipedia) of Spanish citizens and many Spanish politicians. Wikipedia says Aznar told the Spanish people in a television interview that he had evidence of "weapons of mass destruction," and they should trust him.   (Spain pulled all its troops from Iraq in 2004.  Eleven Spanish soldiers died in Iraq including seven on the same day, November 29, 2003.)
 Aznar was the subject of a car bomb attack in 1995.

The euro? (Aznar steered Spain to the EU's single currency in 1999.)
The financial crisis? (Spain has the highest unemployment rate, almost 23%, of any of the 17 euro zone countries.)
The downgrading of Spanish debt? (Announced five days before he spoke)

These subjects were not on the agenda. Nor asked by the polite audience in the Q and A which followed his talk.

Prime Minister Aznar seemed to be stuck in the last decade, but not to belittle the threat of terrorism which is very real to Spain and which cost the nation 191 citizens when terrorists bombed the railroad in Madrid in 2004.
He talked about the unpopularity of making unpopular decision. (See Iraq.) And he spent several minutes on the widespread use of Spanish which is found in major American airports, he said.

He asked how many in the room spoke French. One "girl" raised her hand. And he may have said (his voice was soft spoken and the words, frequently hard to understand) that he had put Spanish vs. French on the table with the French president and, and, ?  I believe the point was Spanish is more prevalent worldwide than French.

Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar/Patricia Leslie

He is 58, looks 48, is drop-dead handsome, and although his gloomy mood, grey words, and lack of enthusiasm would not make nice on the political stage here, Hollywood may want to get him on contract.

Aznar serves on the board of directors for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.  Wikipedia says Aznar has expressed doubt that climate change is a global problem, calling it "scientifically questionable' theory.