As purposefully noted here, the latest enticing show at Washington's National Gallery of Art is a gem - not only because of its play on words and the fine representation on museum walls of a dying tradition. Recall the playful slogan of yesterday, "What's black and white and read all over?" - the old phrase linked to, of course, the habit of reading ( holding in one's two hands a folded bundle) a newspaper. The exhibit is a take-off and send-up as well as a sentimental recollection of a time when newspapers mattered. "Just chimney soot on chopped up trees" is the adage posted above artists' interpretations, or, rather, "manifestations" of the newspaper phenomenon from 1909 to 2009, in curatorial words on the flyleaf of the handsome book accompanying the show.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Can a city offer too much - to the point of making its citizens immune? Joys of an early autumn weekend brought this sober, unquantifiable thought to mind in inner city Washington. Not only were the two 'red' sport teams in full flower on their respectively well endowed turfs but the Library of Congress and other Congressionally-endorsed institutions were sponsoring shows of note. The seldom heralded Washington Navy Yard keeps its museum open on a regular basis, so it isn't correct to call their permanent installation a 'show.' But it is a spectacularly well endowed history (and hagiography) of the U.S. Navy. Beyond its doors is the scenic walk - the Yards Park and beyond - along the Anacostia River. The boardwalk stretches from the Nationals door to the 11th St. bridge, past several water works (all notably free of much signage except for the usual legalese, although thankfully under cover). Several long tendon-tingling blocks away northward lay the LOC's annual Book Fair. Long live the oral tradition! But before that came the appeal of coffee and croissants in the Paul Cafe (801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW ) while viewing the tumultuous marvels of a Latino heritage parade celebration, as colorful a sight as any that could ever be seen on that avenue of presidents. Banging clashing drums and cymbals, horns and high heels.The spoken words of authors standing at podiums under high white tents calmed itchy minds and cellphone fingers: this was a celebration of civility. With so many citizens engrossed in literacy, it was easy to slip away underground into the blessed cover of silence at the Smithonian's Museum of African Art full of mosaics, photography, and sculpture. All worlds covered in a few miles distance from home.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
The reference, of course, is to the city in southern France, almost a kingdom unto itself: special history, special food, and certainly special seafront. That Nicoise je ne sais pas salad coming foremost to mind and stomach. Can it really be universal, and what really is its origin? I tried in a few days recent stay in several Riviera towns (though, come to think of it, I'm not really sure about the correct geographical terms for that long lovely coastline between Spain and Italy) to understand the recipe. It's a grand melange...with canned tuna of distinction at the core, along with the cornucopia of fresh Provencal provisions. One restaurant - the cafe at the Rothchild Efrussi palace on Cap Ferrat - felt compelled to give it a fancy name, after the artist Tiepolo who was on show there. But I suspect more humble associations apply. At a seaside table in Villefranche, a Nicoise salad appeared in a charming edible basket. A real cornucopia.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Try to claim miles for a flight and you might find yourself talking in the ether to an anonymous gent in Cincinnati saying, sorry (after the best part of an hour) but Air France doesn't allow a customer to use those miles for flights 'over water.' This is Air France that flies from the US over, presumably, several waters and nowhere else in this land. So what if Delta, KLM, Air France are merged, accumulated miles supposedly shared; there is no mercy for the disenfranchised. A nice young man tried his best, and admitted he was at odds with his employer in more ways than one. Because he never has flown and never intends to. He is scared of flying.