Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wowsa, Wowsa!

I had a conversation today about how the postmodern Western world was catching up to the African experience of art. In traditional African art (the distinction must be made), an object was made to be used and transformed by the owner. It could be transformed by the adding of color, using the object in a ceremonial function, or performing with the object. But, the art was not made with the idea of being stuck to a wall and gazed upon by a walking stream of observers. Too many Westerners believe art appreciation is passively receiving the message contained in the art object. Standing and looking at a painting at the wall. Walking around with a headphone listening to some disembodied voice tell you about the painting on the wall. Sitting at a music hall or theater: listening to classical music or watching the ballet. There is applause expected from the audience. It is a strictly battened down "call and response" form of performance.

There has been a proliferation of venues, including 'respectable' museums, that provide a place to conduct time-based art, performance art, and installations which demand the audience do more than sit on their behinds or gaze with wide eyes. All of this contemporary art is not hidden in seedy alleys or off the mainstream map. It's right there to be sampled by anybody, educated or not. Is it because so much of popular culture is interactive? Blogging about ANTM, creating your own iMix, podcasting about hated celebrities...you can easily insert your opinion/experience into the ether. Why not expect the same from high culture when you enter that arena? Anyway, that was my hunch. I hadn't done any follow up research or exploration. Tripping through the 'internets,' I found this article on www.nytimes.com. Read it!!! The topic is in the same vein of my conversation and hunch, but comes up with a different reason. It's written by Natalie Angier, the author of one of my fave quotes: "If you are or ever have been a girl, you know that girls are aggressive. This is news the way the Code of Hammurabi is news."



If you enjoyed the Mahler post, check out this blog/website that's devoted to classical composers, musicians, and performers of African descent.

AfriClassical the Blog

It's very interesting, especially finding out that Beethoven composed a piece for a black violinist. Except they had a falling out and Beethoven renamed it and gave it to someone else. Juicy!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Strange Thing Is...

I'm reading this review of various vegetarian/vegan restaurants in San Francisco (because of the Bean & FGN). I'm very tempted to try Millennium. I love evoo, which is always pushing the balls against the wall with the myriad ingredients in their dishes. When they pull it off, the food sings and I'm having Sally-fits and declaring my undying love. As some of you have witnessed, I'm pledged to the chicken at Sel de le Terre...but possibly running off with the spaghetti bolognese at The Grotto. Seriously, I'm leading two entrees on. Possibly it's indicative of my commitment issues, but dammit! what if there's something better out there?

If you haven't guessed, I'm not a vegetarian...not even a 90% one. But, the food description of Millennium is so veddy, veddy tempting. Plus, I like fruits and vegetables...as long as they haven't been dried up to look like animal fetuses. I once bought a bag of nutritious, healthy fruit for snacking purposes. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and felt like I had just entered Gil Grissom's office. Yuck. Anyway, doesn't this sound delish?

"Such is Mr. Tucker's skill that the food at Millennium attains a gustatory cohesion not suggested by the eclectic ingredients. The shredded Indian Red peach salad ($8.95) — which, besides tender peaches, included baby heirloom lettuce, green papaya, chili-dusted peanuts, and the sweet zing of a light Thai lime leaf dressing — blossoms on the tongue like a bouquet."
So, Mr. Gregory Dicum has me completely dug in and drooling, and then he hits me with a slap to the face. He describes the experience that is Cafe Gratitude, possibly the most touchy-feely, let's-love-one-another-right-now place outside of Oprah's television studio.

"The restaurant's décor is derived from a board game developed by the owners and built into each table. It encourages diners to express gratitude for one another and for the bounty the universe has bestowed upon anyone likely to walk in the door. After seating us, the hostess looked in our eyes and asked, 'What's great about today?'"

Plus, dishes are named things like "I Am Succulent" and "I Am Rich." Ugh. I would so vomit. Normally, this kind of attitude would cause spitting and violence on my part. The strange thing is...the food sounds like it might be worth enduring this disgusting display of "goodness." Almond hummus with raw garlic? Yumm. The juices sound fantastic, too. If I'm in San Francisco, I might try this place. But, I'm going to act crazier than a rabid dog. Tin foil hat to keep out alien transmissions, barking like a dog, and a necklace of fingers. And, they'll have to accept it because they're such loving hippies.

Q: "What's great about today?"
A: "I peed without blood."

Catch the rest of the article, "Expanding the Frontiers of the Vegetarian Plate," on http://www.nytimes/. It's brought to you by American Express.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Biting Into Mahler

While riding the T, I have often made room for the crowds emptying out of Symphony Hall after a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Thursday night, I finally became one of the chattering throng pushing their way home via the “E” Line.

To be honest, the thought of sitting and listening to orchestral music unaccompanied by a vocal or dance performance had never appealed to me. I’d rather crank up a CD at home where I can dance to it. Intuition tells me rising from one’s seat and doing grand jetés and impersonating a dying swan is outside the pale when attending the symphony. Most of the people I surveyed for “Who and What They Know” agreed with me. They’d rather go to a ballet performance than a classical music performance because the stimulus of a symphony was very hard to imagine.

They’ve obviously never encountered Prof. Gregory Slowik. An image of what was to come at Symphony Hall came to life as I listened to Prof. Slowik introduce and expound on the music that we would hear the following evening. Learning the history of the music and the featured composers was essential to creating anticipation for what was to follow.

As the distance between centuries grows, their history and customs can desiccate to irrelevant dust. Sustaining the arts means keeping its long dead creators fleshy and full of juice to quicken the new audience’s appetite. My favorite historical tidbit was learning of Mahler’s Judaic faith and how it hindered his inclusion in a Roman Catholic patronage system. Prof. Slowik’s asserted that the tweaking of “Frére Jacques,” and the presence of klezmer and gypsy glissandos constituted a grand thumbing of the nose to the powers that be. Immediately, my imagination was piqued and I began to consider how these sounds might be realized by a live orchestra.

The BSO performs at Symphony Hall, “one of the two or three finest concert halls in the world.1” The space seems smaller than the Wang Theater, which might explain why all the seats were filled for the BSO and there were notable gaps at the Boston Ballet. However, it did seem like the same crowd was in attendance—older, Caucasian and seemingly affluent. More foreign tongues were heard and there were no children present at the BSO.

Three pieces were performed in this order: Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 in D, “London;” Elliott Carter’s Horn Concerto (2006), and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D. The music’s order was confusing at first. Haydn’s music seemed more accessible for enjoyment, but it was first in line. The Boston Ballet put its crowd-pleaser at the end and the more esoteric piece up front. I wondered if it was my general ignorance of classical music traditions, or if the BSO has the influence to demand more of its audiences.

The Haydn piece would be the one that would cause me to drop my overcoat to reveal my tutu and ballet superpowers. The melody was so lively and irrepressible. The Haydn really started the night with an energetic bounce. Being forced to sit still during music that so beckons movement in response is a challenge. James Levine, the conductor, is the luckiest man in the room because he has the right to move along with the music.

Despite Haydn’s sprightly tempo, Levine managed to fit the “minimalist” mold that Prof. Slowik described in his pre-performance lecture. His movements were circumscribed and didn’t distract from the wonderful music being played. The second piece by Elliott Carter was a distinct departure from the Haydn. Carter’s music was more of a tone poem. His music inspired my mind to paint blocks of color marred by contrasting trickles, depicting an urban scene in broad, impressionistic strokes. The performance was a world debut, and Carter was on hand to hear it and come on stage to accept a standing ovation.

The evening concluded with a delicious performance of Mahler. Levine threw off his minimalist cloak and exhorted his orchestra with every inch of his body including his hair. At times, I thought he might fall off his chair. The conducting style was so different from the first half, I wondered if Levine was so passionate because of his love of Mahler, or did the piece demand the conductor to physically communicate the strength and commitment needed to perform the piece? The charged music seemed to create a magnetic force pulling everyone towards center stage.

The long standing ovation left my hands tingling and tender. After Levine and the musicians took their last bows, I streamed out with the excited crowd into the street and down into the Green Line tunnels. I understood the program’s order only after feasting on the night’s music. Haydn’s composition was a refreshing surprise to whet the appetite. Carter’s Horn Concerto (2006) served up a nourishing slice of introspection. The succulent Mahler performance was meant to be ravished and I fell on the music with pleasure. As I crowded onto the subway, I hoped no one noticed the juice dribbling down my chin.

1 http://www.bostonsymphonyhall.org/bso/mods/toc_01_gen_images.jsp?id=bcat11630155

I'm lost in the supermarket...

I would like to thank The Clash for picking me up off the floor. I also have to thank that bag of Ritz Cheese Sandwich Snacks. And, I can't forget the woman who fluffed up my hot chocolate. I want to thank my mom for believing in me when others wouldn't. That's why I had the courage to add three packets of sugar, Domino's sugar, to my chocolate drink. Before long I was munching and bobbing while describing a night with Mahler...my train wasn't in vain.

Thank you, America! God bless the love of sugar and utterly unnatural orange food!

I now have a reason to visit Toronto. Toronto seemed like the most American-like city in Canada, and I don't know why I would obtain a passport to tour a place just like home. But! My hometown doesn't have an awesome hotel plugged into the art scene like Toronto has the Gladstone Hotel. The rooms are designed by artists; the bar looks amazing; and the history of the place deserves a cascade of snaps, y'all.


Check out the link above, and tell me you don't want to learn more about Toronto. Plus, FGN is from there. She actually might be from some dinky town way off the stake, but Toronto is something we all know.

I might be spending a month in New York during the summer. I'm applying to a program that immerses students in the New York art world. Lodging is at the 92nd St. Y, which is well known for its art and lecture programming. It would also necessitate me getting a cell phone. So, I might be leashed electronically by the New Year. iPhone or nothing, baby.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Seen" during first half of November

Leaving the marble counter one night.
Dark street, nearly deserted.
Me, dim light, and a swirling mass of fluff.
On the sidewalk.

Were they alive?
What happened here?
Tip toe. Tip toe.
Preserve life when you can.

Pretty magic in the dark.

Approaching the marble counter this morning.
Aaahh. This path must be taken.
Sunlight and yellow leaves beckon.
Can't tell where branches end, and ground begins.

Head swivels for best vantage.
No camera with me, just my eye.
What's that!

Mirrored discs hang in the branches.
I didn't do it.
Climb down the bank for close-up.
Veteran's Day Miracle.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Coffee tongue

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. in the morning with the sweats and hot flashes. If it had been a cold sweat, I would have known it was the ancestors telling me the world was out of balance. Because the icky feeling had heat, I knew it was either my health or my environment. I stumbled out of bed (weird thing: my dog was crotchety, too, and couldn't settle down) and made it to the kitchen. Clutching the counter, I proceeded to make two slapdash hummus and tabbouleh sammiches. The tabbouleh was a bit heavy on the red onion and I had to have some sweet to counter it. With a big glass of water and a jar of cinnamon-raisin swirl peanut butter (yum!), I flopped down on the couch to watch late night TV with my pooch. She got some peanut butter, too. Must of done the trick. As soon as she licked her dollop off my finger, she was stretched out and dreaming on a burgundy fleece cloud. I was feeling much better, too, but needed some Serenity action to help me drift back to sleep around 5:00 a.m.

Next meal time was sometime during the morning while manning the marble counter. Swallowed a banana and hot water. Started feeling weird again. Grabbed pizza and black coffee for lunch, which has left me with a coffee tongue. I lived with it for about 40 minutes. Someone started using the Turtle, and I was afraid I'd be breathing beany breath over their shoulder. So, a stick of spearmint just sacrificed itself for my minty well-being.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Albino Frog

It's cold enough now for me to stuff a knit cap on my head and wrap a scarf around my neck. The effect squashes my features and I look like an albino frog (at least in the reflections on a moving T). I debated using "frog" versus "toad." I decided on frog because I resemble a genteel and intellectual creature. Not that toads aren't intellectual but I doubt they appreciate fine porcelain. My feeble frog possesses exquisite manners and enjoys Earl Grey tea and history tomes by a warm fire most nights. His weakened constitution demands a diet of thin gruel and wilted lettuce. However, he does occasionally indulge with a bit of strawberry Kookaburra licorice. One piece keeps him occupied through 200 pages of The Complete Works of Tacitus.