March 2008


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I just pulled into my parallel park upon my arrival at work when my cell phone rang. It was John: a co-worker of his offered him tickets to the LA Phil. I’m hesitant. I’m thinking: it’s a “school night”, I’ll have to leave work early, what about the commute?, what am I going to wear? We ended the call with a few “well-if-then…s” and a promise to report back. We both took a few minutes to meditate, look up the program online, and come to our senses: “uh – YEAH!” (hey, I’m not a morning person).

And so we went (Wednesday, March 26). I have to admit that an evening out on a weekday does not have the same ‘vibe’ as the weekend. It carries that pall of having to report to work the next day and lacks that sense of relief and celebration that goes with “WEE!”-kend.

Despite traffic warnings (for a concurrent event at Staples Center), we made it in time with a small margin of elbow room. The amuse-bouche for the evening was Franz Hasenohl’s riff on Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel: Till Eulenspiegel – einmal anders! It was familiar but I couldn’t place it for its Gerschwin-esque play on the piece. It was delightfully comical and I eased back into my seat (3rd row orchestra – just to brag) for the rest.

Next came Mozart’s String Quartet in C major, K. 515. From where I sat, the cello was a little strong, functionally, however, the performance set the scale: tuned the audience for the intimate acoustical scale (and demand: no coughs or candy wrappers) required for chamber performances. The audience, despite a gracious pre-concert address and plea (by Martin Chalifour) not to applaud between movements, applauded between movements (I think he may have given a mixed message). I could see the ensemble players exchange grimaced-smiles as they endured the well-meaninged assault on their performance.

Intermission came. I wasn’t feeling so good. My tummy was gurgling for having a quick bite instead of dinner and “I hear” the acoustics at Disney Hall are ace. I was considering sitting out the second half and wait for John until the end of the performance so as not to compete with the ensemble. I decided to persevere – a worthy decision. The performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major, K.581 left me spellbound. There was a noticeable chemistry among the players (Michele Zukovsky, Martin Chalifour, Gustavo Dudamel, Dale Hikawa Silverman, Peter Stumpf). Michele Zukovsky’s virtuosity (clarinet) was intoxicating and her interludes were well-balanced by the rest of the ensemble (one minor, squeeky critique: some phrasing in the Larghetto seemed to exceed breathing scale and distracted-in an impressive way- just a hint). The Larghetto, especially, was phenomenal. It closed, spinning itself (and me along with it) into that silence and pause between movements. I was suspended and there for a brief, quiet moment I wished and prayed: “…please, no applause…” …and the audience applauded. I sighed and the Quintent proceeded. Overall, the performance was exquisite. I left with the feeling of having seen a really good movie: the story and the plot were focused, the characters were fleshed-out, the acting drew you in. Bravo! What’s more, is, I heard the Larghetto again the next day on KUSC for the “anti-road rage” piece at 5:00 pm. The performance I attended was recorded and I’m pleased to report: you canNOT hear my stomach grumbling (did I mention the 3rd-row orchestra seating?).

Thank you Simon and De-Ling!

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…so we went back. “We” (now, in this case, meaning John) got the dates mixed up for the Brewry open-studio gig, so after spending about 1-1/2 hour commuting across town then backtracking to salvage our Saturday afternoon, we ended up at LACMA to pick up where we left off from the BCAM opening: the Ahmanson.

We already had that washed-out feeling: that feeling you get, that I’m sure most Angelenos know but haven’t yet found a term for, equivalent to that feeling you have after sitting in a darkened movie theatre for 1-1/2+ hours and walk into the day again (or the night) having absorbed too much of something; that psychic saturation or psychic “bloat” of having seen too many movie special effects or freeway green-and-white-letter signs and billboards – whichever the case, we had to shore up. We got our free tickets (members) and headed for the commissary. We split the grilled chicken-pizza-something and P.S.: no chicken on our pizza (should have shown our member card?), but I delighted in the abundance of artichoke hearts.

Shoring up was a GREAT strategy. I was overwhelmed. After the gift shop and the SoCal exhibit, we headed for the Ahmanson. I didn’t anticipate the scale. As I proceeded from one gallery to the next only to find another parallel series of galleries I had to backtrack and re-orient myself to make sense of the scale of this place relative to my initial understanding of the floor plan. I stopped my march of art ogling to remind myself of my entry. I must have looked out of place looking to distant rooms rather than the kaleidoscope of paintings immediately in front of me. A security guard leaned in as I looked further along at the floor to see where it changed from hardwood to carpet…”Can I help you?” I suddenly became conscious of the bewildered look I projected and laughed: “oh…no…I’m just trying to read the floor plan!” – then, realizing, that such a comment wasn’t helping my case at all. However I think my tone came off as relatively coherent enough. He nodded his head and went back to his post. Then after losing track of John [whom I rely upon to direct my museum-humor relief to: “I don’t see a price tag!” “…have the guard open up the case, I want to try them on first!” (the ancient Egyptian earrings)] I was sufficiently distracted enough to resign myself to making it an inventory-and-map visit as opposed to immerse-and-enjoy.

But something glimmered at me. After an eyeful of Mannerist paintings with their brilliant, jewel- tone colors, heroic proportions, and emotional exuberance (pathos in some, saucy grins in others) carrying a bristling secularist undercurrent, I forged ahead to a gallery of fin de siecle works where my eyes perched upon “Snowy Rooftops” by Peter Severin Kroyer and I was enamored. It whispers. kroyer.jpgIt whispers with a controlled palette of sepia, snow, and dark, with the subtlest, even-more-quiet-than-subtle cast of rose; with its transcendent subject – framing the quiet rooftops of an architecture that suggests a density and industry and a “busy” below; and with the painting’s modest proportion of (8 x 10?). It’s a minimalist composition, which prefigures Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park works, and frames a meditative, atmospheric quality equal to a Rothko yet the Kroyer painting is representational. I risk the “tut-tut” of modernists when I dare say, that when I see this painting, I can’t help but think the “non-representational” of 20th c. art is a crutch. To be able to look at the real world and interpret it and render it – and capture the interpretation visually and successfully evoke something ‘other’ and even transcend, all within the confines of recognizing a subject and offering familiarity – is rather magical.

So I found this painting and I paused. I breathed. I went and found John – resting on a bench in the Mannerist gallery – to share it with him. He liked it too.

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The democratic primary IS the general election. McCain doesn’t stand a chance. All this twittering we’re hearing over Obama having a better chance to beat McCain than Clinton presumes McCain is viable and it’s a media ploy to hold the democratic primary and the “election in general” in a state of tension. Although such projection is based on exit polls, remember that exit polls cast John Kerry as winning the last general election before W’s team fixed that crisis. Exit polls are irrelevant.

What I feel is driving this is the MAN: the white-male controlled media and the older white-male vote. The media’s interest in holding the political scale steady between Obama and Clinton is they’re gaining audience – it keeps us tuned in as viewers, listeners, readers, to glean the language and the argument as to why our favored candidate is viable. And let’s face it, THIS is the real power structure: the white-male owned media: audience pays the MAN. Older white males in this country are not evolved enough to accept women in positions of seniority. This is still a glass-ceiling nation. Case in point, David Geffen debriefs to Maureen Dowd: “…I think that America was better served when the candidates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms.” There’s no doubt in my mind he’s picturing cigar smoke (…and sometimes a cigar is NOT a cigar). And so, with a similar bristling as Geffen, the tendency of the older white male voter is to keep Clinton out of the presidency. Additionally, the fear tactic used is: Obama can carry the vote in the general election against McCain, Hillary can’t – why? because of the older white-male vote. Despite this, Hillary is holding her own in the primary.

rosie.jpgUltimately, if you ignore the vapid, double standard by which Clinton is criticised (“shrill”, “wrinkled”, “I can’t stand her” (do you live with her?)) She really is the more seasoned of the candidates. She knows the playing field (which has carried her in the primary) and she’s not campaigning on the youthful idealism of “change” when stability hasn’t even been achieved yet. With America at war and entrenched in recession, W is once again the “decider”: “it’s the economy, stupid” and the Clintons know how to fix it.

Obama? My vote is yours in 2016! Hail to the Chieftress! says me!

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Low-profile weekend: no travel, no events, but that’s the point. It occurred to me many years ago that people take pictures of themselves on vacation and visiting the sites as if their daily lives aren’t anything to look at. So when I set out Sunday afternoon to walk to my neighborhood stores for some retail entertainment and groceries, I brought my camera. Unfortunately I got out late in the day and was feeling a little too rushed to take as many pictures as I would have liked. Nevertheless I snapped a photo at the fence between Target and Studio Village in Culver City where everyone hops – because the parking is too crowded at Target, or they need to shop one of the stores at Studio Village too and only want to park once, or, like me, they choose to walk.

It’s so absurd, when you attempt your errands by foot, how many obstacles there are in connecting from place to place. Sidewalks generally frame shopping centers rather than connect into them. There are townhouses across the street from our neighborhood Ralph’s with a signal crossing at the traffic light, but no sidewalks to lead you in. You walk on the asphalt along with the other cars driving in and nipping at your ankles. Landscaping and plantings are installed as well with the intent to control circulation and enforce pedestrian movement off-premises. Nevertheless, despite the cost of gas and despite the obesity epidemic and, probably because of any liability issues that go along with owning a parking lot or a crosswalk, we live in an urban environment that keeps us in our cars.

fence2_300.jpgSo anyway, I like this patch of fence. The ground is path-worn here and the fence’s paint is worn off from the repeated hurdle-overs to reveal its pewter-toned steel. I’ve even spotted small pieces of wood sheathing placed here to assist one’s step when the ground muddies from rain. I have, on a number of occasions, waited for others to make their way over before my turn over the barrier. I feel like I’m participating in a collective small choice: amidst these loomingly large corporate stores fencing off their big parking lots there is this pinhole leak of rogue pedestrians subtly creating (and polishing) new networks and connections. It’s just a small act of freedom in this car-encapsulated, calorie conscious, litigious world we live in.

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Did you know that Evelyn Wood, “speed reading” guru, was from Logan, Utah? I just learned this ‘googling’ trying to glean some poesis from our trip to this small town in northern Utah. We were there for a family gathering and for a seminar at Utah State University which made it worth while (many thanks to those bright and wise individuals who contributed and from whom I learned). Over and beyond that however, due to weather and schedule demands, I didn’t get a chance to walk a neighborhood or see their art museum (@ USU) or even see, what appeared to be, dscn9724a.jpgthe imposing mountains that embrace this town. So the richness, which I’m sure is there, that those who live there know, was not apparent to me. And so I’m reminded of one of Woody Allen’s quotable’s: “I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”

Here’s the “Russia” (Rush-“uh?”) on Logan:
Saturday evening? Hmmmm…LDS temple or Logan Lanes (bowling)? The LDS temple is prominent and competes with the surrounding mountains (kind of like this). I know cathedrals and temples, in general, dominate their settings, but what I saw lacked a sense of proportion. It looked more like the fly tower to the auditorium of a theatre but, architecturally (formally), there was no auditorium. The LDS fly tower’s twin towers are lighted hauntingly at night likedscn9702a.jpg ojo de dios as if to pose the question: are you sure you want to go bowling? As for the bowling, the parking lot looked as crowded as an after-Christmas sale at any-mall USA. Which brings me to my third observation, once again, based on my marginalized experience of the place: after “information overload” (an Evelyn Wood term) of a full-day’s seminar I was ready for my spirit of choice – a white wine spritzer of pinot grigio (aka “peanut gringo”) and lime-flavored sparkling water. I went to an Albertson’s and then to a Smith’s and found the same scenario: no liquor (no prob.) but no wine either. There is, however, an aisle for beer. Beer aisle and no wine?…I suddenly have the urge to ‘google’ the results of the democratic primary in Utah. The results were just what I suspected.