The Phillips Collection


We visited the Phillips Collection the other day because, as it turns out, Tuesdays Through Fridays during the day, it’s free to visit the permanent collection (though not the special/temporary exhibits). While the little fragments we got to see of the exhibit of works by the Cuban artist, Zilia Sánchez, seemed very exciting, the permanent collection also seemed quite enough for the little one.

Like another favorite private museum in DC, the Kreeger, the Phillips Collection has some truly fantastic pieces, including a monumental Renoir that you probably saw in your  college art history text book. I used to go once a year because I used to have a subscription to the Folger’s poetry series and one reading per season would take place there.

While I have my favorite painting there (a smallish de Kooning), there were the little one’s. And the Richard Serra (you can guess which one that is) is fantastic, as is the Rothko room which also functions a secular chapel, a la… the Rothko Chapel in Texas.

‘Fear’ By Bob Woodward


I almost never read this kind of book, the sort generally classified as ‘current events.’ I read the newspaper and follow the news pretty carefully, so I have never felt reading six month old news to be very interesting.

But these feel like… different times, don’t they.

Fear reads very weirdly. Woodward is necessarily very diligent in his use of quoted and language, which means you have a conversation where half of someone’s sentence is in quotes (meaning that he feels 100% confident of the exactitude) and the other half is not.

The book roughly covers Bannon taking over the campaign through Down quitting the president’s legal team. Trump is not actually portrayed very much at all, but the portrait emerges through the chaos around him.

But it feels weird. Rob Porter of wife beating accusation fame comes across as the almost hero of the book. When he quits over (multiple) accusation of physical abuse, it gets short shrift, possibly because Woodward wasn’t covering that story. And the people who he goes gently on – was it because he decided that Porter, Lindsey Graham, and Rex Tillerson truly were comparative heroes or because they were his best sources and he doesn’t want to burn them?

I don’t know and it taints the reading.

Corot: Women


Even if the National Gallery of Art were not closed due a government shutdown (thank you, Trump), you couldn’t see this exhibition because it closed just before the shutdown. So you can feel… better about it?

Anyway, here are some cool pics from Corot: Women

Women Reading in the Country

The Repose

Reading, Interrupted

The Poppy War


This book got a lot of attention and good press and I was genuinely excited to read it. To add some extra the spice, the author is from right here (Washington, DC; though I guess she has since moved). It lauded as a move away from western-centric fantasy and through some interesting, drug based ‘magic.’

But… aside from the Asian names, it did not actually feel that different from a traditional fantasy (poor girl goes to super school, turns out to be even more super than most, becomes a great shaman, which is to say, a sort of wizard). There were some references to the Journey to the West and other allusions to more classical Chinese culture, but even more thinly disguised references to the 20th century wars between Japan and China, as well as the Opium Wars (the name was barely changed) – so thinly disguised that they felt heavy handed rather than allusive; cheap rather than enlightening.

Just because it’s what I do, I may read the second book when it comes out, but I can’t deny that this one was a disappointment.

Acid Rain


We went to the National Museum if Women in the Arts the other day. I won’t lie. I picked the day because it’s free on the first Sunday of the month.

The little one was mostly unimpressed and distracted until she saw Acid Rain. She responded to it immediately. Her first reaction was to believe it was made of bones, which also feels like an emotional reaction rather than strictly perception. We spoke about it later and she told me it made her feel sad. Which, in one way, is bad, but she was having a reaction to contemporary art, which is more than most people ever have.

Difficult Topics


Our little girl is adopted. More than that, she was adopted recently and was not a baby, so she comes to America with little understanding of her new home’s culture and history.

Living in Washington, DC, there are so many reminders of how problematic that history can be.

We visited Mount Vernon, the home of our first president, George Washington. Having been on a bit of a Jefferson kick lately, my recent reading has focused on the Revolutionary  War and early days of the United States – all of which has served to reinforce how vital he was to our founding. No, he was not a particularly good general, but his gravitas and dedication to some of the best ideals of our founding made this country possible. And then we talked by the slave quarters. How do you talk about these aspects of the man to a young child who knows little English and even less about our national origins? If she were younger, we might ignore it or gloss over it, but she is old enough, that you cannot.

More recently, her mother showed her the 14,000 shoes made into a temporary monument to the child shot since Sandy Hook.

There are so many things like this, that need talking about, but which are hard to talk about. I want her to know this a great country, founded on groundbreaking ideas emerging from the fermentations of the Enlightenment. But I can’t ignore slavery, Jim Crow, school shootings, nor the genocidal treatment and effect of Europeans on Native Americans.

And Lord knows, I have fallen down on these conversations, because they are so hard. They are hard in practical terms, because of the language barrier, but also in finding ways to talk about them with a young, but not so young, child.

So I end with no solutions, but feeling overwhelmed by all that we have to teach her about and the need to be honest, but not despairing.

Gun, Candle, School


Leaving aside, if you will, the incongruity of my little girl posing before this starkly disturbing site piece, the work by Krzysztof Wodiczko was created for the Hirshhorn Museum thirty years (after another school shooting, I believe). The Parkland massacre resulted in its (re)projection being delayed, but there’s no doubt it remains incredibly offputting.

The little details, like the wedding ring on the left hand and the four different styles of microphone and the ‘Dirty Harry’ style of the silvery revolver, are powerful and disconcerting.

My girl, of course, understood none of that, but I want her to see contemporary art as part of her life and environment and something worth making into a special trip. But not as much as I want Congress to do something so we don’t have to worry about an enraged white man with a gun marching into her school with something capable of firing fifteen or more rounds without reloading.