Labatt’s, the Dead and the 1990s …

Bob and Lara

 

Boogie’s daughter, Kim, texted me this photo she found among her mother’s things. I’m thinking this is early ‘90s, after we moved to Albuquerque. That’s a Labatt’s in my grimy paw and some sort of Grateful Dead homage.

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General Logan in the snow

Logan Circle in snow

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Hey, that dog has condoms on his feet

Ozzy's bootsLast winter, Ozzy became anxious about walking on ice and snow. I think the real issue was the salt. So Lara did what any irrational pet owner would do. She went out and bought him boots, which I faithfully (and patiently) put on him for winter walks.

Yesterday, we were walking up 14th Street and came upon a group of young women who clearly had been taking full advantage of the spontaneous boozy brunch deals that erupted across the District in honor of  the snow day. As soon as they spotted Ozzy, one of them said, “It looks like he’s wearing condoms on his feet.”

Amid the laughter from everyone except poor, chagrined Ozzy, she asked if it was tough to put the boots on.

“Yup,” I deadpanned. “Just as hard as putting on condoms.”

 

 

 

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SnoBama at the Dupont Circle ice sculpture competition

SnoBama

Lara and I took advantage of the snow day in D.C. to grab lunch at Annie’s and then go over to the Dupont Circle Snow Sculpture competition, where SnoBama (above) and the Snow Hipster (below) were two of the cooler efforts we saw.

Snow Hipster

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Missoula’s Circle Square will buy anything … of value

Circle Square in MissoulaThe Missoulian newspaper did a nice profile on my buddy John Baker’s business in Missoula. I’ve been to the store several times and it’s a treasure trove. If you’re ever in town, drop by to say hi to John. Bonus points if you tell him Paul McCartney sucks.

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Diego Rivera, Vladimir Lenin and Rockefeller Center

Man at the Crossroads

When Nelson Rockefeller commissioned Diego Rivera to create a mural for Rockefeller Center, he wasn’t expecting Vladimir Lenin to make the scene. And when Rivera included Lenin in the work, Rockefeller came unglued, demanding that Lenin be excluded. Rivera offered to add Abe Lincoln as a compromise. When that didn’t appease Rockefeller, the mural was covered and eventually destroyed.

Diego did another version (above) at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico city, which I got to see last time I was there. Diego enhanced the new version, adding other famous Communists and Nelson’s father, John. Very amusing dig at his capitalist nemesis.

Lara at the Mexican Cultural Institute with Talavera tile in background.

Lara at the Mexican Cultural Institute with Talavera tile in background.

The Mexican Cultural Institute here in D.C. has an exhibit called “Diego Rivera’s Man at the Crossroads.” It’s a fascinating history of the work and the controversy. There aren ‘t many original documents here. It’s mostly facsimiles and copies. There isn’t even a color photo of the original. All that’s left are black and white images that Lucienne Bloch managed to shoot before the destruction. But it’s a fascinating look at the controversy, and it also served as an introduction the cultural institute itself, which features a sprawling, three story mural by Roberto Cueva del Rio and a room done in beautiful Talavera tile.

I particularly liked the historic photos in the exhibit and enjoyed the inclusion of correspondence related to the controversy. The poem “I Paint What I See” by E.B. White also was very amusing …

‘I paint what I paint, I paint what I see,
‘I paint what I think,’ said Rivera,
‘And the thing that is dearest in life to me
‘In a bourgeois hall is Integrity;
‘However . . .
‘I’ll take out a couple of people drinkin’
‘And put in a picture of Abraham Lincoln;
‘I could even give you McCormick’s reaper
‘And still not make my art much cheaper.
‘But the head of Lenin has got to stay
‘Or my friends will give the bird today,
‘The bird, the bird, forever.’

Definitely stop by to see this if you have time. There will be a lecture on Thursday, Feb. 20 that I hope to attend, and the exhibit runs until May 17.

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Joan of Arc at Meridian Hill Park

Ozzy and I talked up to Meridian Hill Park yesterday, where we found Joan of Arc looking down on the District from the top of the hill. Wikipedia alleges this is the only statue of a woman on horseback in D.C. Meridian Hill Park also has a great Dante statue and a tribute to James Buchanan.

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Isabel Allende dazzles D.C.

Isabel AllendeWhen Isabel Allende asked how many Latinos were in the audience last night during her interview/book signing at the Washington Post, more than half the audience answered with raised hands. Very impressive. Almost as impressive as the interview. Allende was hilarious, mixing self-deprecating humor with broadsides against the patriarchy, smart women who refuse to identify as feminists and violence against women. At 71, she appears to be just hitting high gear.

Allende provided considerable insight into her artistic process, noting that she writes in Spanish and works in intense, focused stretches to craft her books. Equally impressive was how gracefully she handled the obligatory “magic realism” questions. Her latest book, Ripper, is a murder/mystery, and she’s bravely explored various genres during her prolific writing career. I have to admit, I expected her to answer a few quick questions and get on with the book signing. But she genuinely seemed to enjoy taking questions and engaging with her fans. It left me thinking that it’s time to pick up another one of her novels …

(An amusing aside: Before the event, Lara stood in front of the table where they were selling copies of Ripper, unable to bring herself to betray her “digital only” approach to book consumption. She didn’t break down and buy a copy, but I suspect it will show up on her Kindle any day now …)

 

 

 

 

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The marvels of ancient Angkor

Buddhist monks and other Cambodians protest at the White House on MLK day. They had dictator Hun Sen firmly in their sites. The former Khmer Rouge official now is prime minister.

Buddhist monks and other Cambodians protest at the White House on MLK day. They had dictator Hun Sen firmly in their sights. The former Khmer Rouge official now is prime minister.

My obsession with Cambodia began in the early ’90s in a stack of books at the Birmingham Post-Herald. I was ferreting through the review copies looking for something to read when I spotted To Destroy You Is No Loss, which details Teeda Butt Mam’s struggle to survive Pol Pot’s rein of terror in Cambodia. I’d been vaguely aware of the Khmer Rouge’s Holocaust, but this made it so human, so flesh and blood.

I think I came across the late, great Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia around the same time.

My Cambodia obsession snowballed from there as I devoured survivor accounts, histories (including Elizabeth Becker’s When the War Was Over) and a biography of Pol Pot. I also grew fascinated with ancient Khmer history and the incredible architecture of Angkor Wat.

That’s what landed me in a subterranean lecture hall at the Smithsonian in D.C. earlier this week listening to historian Robert DeCaroli’s Urban Architecture in Ancient Angkor: Old Temples and New Findings. While D.C. was shivering in a Polar Vortex up at street level, I was reviving my dream of going to tropical Cambodia to explore these ruins. It’s been on my list for a long time. Perhaps 2014 is the time …

Several interesting tidbits I picked up …

  • Ancient Angkor was the Dallas/Fort Worth of its day, boasting urban sprawl and low density development around a series of urban centers. DeCaroli said a professor of his once compared the development pattern to pot of boiling oatmeal where bubbles (urban centers) rise and fall.
  • The audience (me included) gasped when DeCaroli projected the image of a footless Hindu warrior and then the image below, showing the feet of pilfered statues that still remain at the original site.  The looted,  footless staLooted statue's feettue was put up for sale at Sotheby’s until international outrage prompted them to pull it and return it to Cambodia.
  • Drought is believed to have been a key cause of the decline of Khmer society, reminding me of a similar fate the Anasazi met in the American Southwest. It also explains the obsession with water — retention, management, irrigation, transportation — in Angkor.
  • Varman (armor or protector) is a suffix on the rulers’ names. For some reason, knowing that is making it easier for me to get my head around the individual rulers who built the temples.
  • Buddhism really didn’t enter Khmer architecture in a major way until Jayavarman VII built the Bayon temple, mashing up HIndu and Buddhist themes. But this was toward the end of the Khmer empire.
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Carrie Rodriquez at the Artisphere

Carrie Rodriguez
Three things I learned Saturday night at the Artisphere in Arlington:

  1. Carrie Rodriquez and Luke Jacobs are incredible. If you don’t already own one of her CDs, go download one. Now. If you already own one, order another. If she comes to your town, go see her.
  2. The DC Circulator can be a savior from Metro’s muddled weekends. Things were a mess on every line Saturday, prompting me to look for an alternative way to get to the show over in Arlington. The Circulator came to the rescue. For a buck each way (cheaper than Metro buses or rail), it’s a great deal and it functions more like an express bus. We boarded at 19th and N in Dupont Circle after having amazing mussels at St. Arnold’s and were at the Rossyln Metro station in about 15 minutes, leaving plenty of time for a few glasses of wine before Rodriquez took the stage.
  3. The Artisphere is an overlooked treasure. I had seen Beckett’s Happy Days there a few years ago and was impressed. (I also remember visiting way back when it was the Newseum, before they moved to the District.) But I never found a reason to go back. Carrie Rodriquez gave me that reason. I’m now looking at their upcoming calendar and plan to hit a few more performances at this venue. We’ll definitely be going to see their showing of Amelie in February. I’ve been wanting to see that film for a while since it features one of my favorite artworks, Renoir’s The Luncheon of the Boating Party. And even though it looks creepy strange, I might have to go see The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik, Deep Sea Explorer.

(Here’s the Washington Post’s review of Carrie Rodriquez …)

 

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