I’m Still In Thailand; This Is Bridge Street Books (It’s in DC, Not Thailand)


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Mentally Stuck In The Library


civic-center-library-01The Scottsdale, Arizona library has a justly famous sculpture outside. My mother’s most vivid memories of me in Arizona are of me climbing on the pieces that make it up (it was allowed, I gather; and by the way, I am not talking about the ‘LOVE’ sculpture because that wasn’t there during my early childhood days in the southwest).

My most prominent memory of that library is actually of what felt like a terrible failure.

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‘Ex Machina’ & Ted Lieu


Ex Machina is an excellent, creepy, and faintly problematic movie. Ted Lieu is a congressman from Southern California. As a just meaningless side note and, arguably, a moment of pointless name dropping, I met him a dozen years ago when I canvassed for him when he ran in a special election for an open seat in the California General Assembly.

This was part of a series by a nonprofit called Future Tense. It’s one of many semi-political, semi-advocacy, vaguely but not quite thinktank-y orgs that exist all around DC.

Lieu spoke well and amusingly and amazingly non-partisanly about technology legislation around the hacking of driverless cars, cells, etc. But I’ve always liked him. He even mentioned universal basic income or UBI as something worth attaining.

This was the second time I’d seen Ex Machina and I was able to better appreciate parts of the performance, script, and direction better. Like watching a surprising mystery, it can be fun to go back and re-see things again, knowing what one knows. The manipulations of the sparse cast.

But… the nudity seems problematic. There’s not a lot, except, towards the very end, there is a scene with great deal of extended nudity (there was an earlier nude scene which felt less problematic, as well), all of women (and all, my better half noted, women of a certain body type). I can understand why the director did it, in one sense, and I can outline why, I expect, he felt needed and why he felt it was okay. The gaze was female, for example. It was about becoming a woman (and a human). More reasons, too. But even though it probably wasn’t more than a minute or two, it felt like it lingered and it’s hard to fully explain away voyeurism. I won’t truly condemn voyeurism (I’m a man who’s used the internet, so it would be disingenuous), but maybe this movie didn’t need it.

 

The Kreeger Museum


The Kreeger Museum

I first read about the Kreeger in an article about dubious private museums. Two DC area institutions were mentioned: the Kreeger Museum in DC proper and the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland (which, if you only from the Real Housewives of  Potomac, you will not realize is actually rich, white, and equestrian). The dubiousness came from the possibility that the museums mainly existed as vehicles for tax mitigation.

Naturally, I had to visit them. Eventually.

Several years after reading the article, we finally made it to the Kreeger, in the Palisades neighborhood of DC. A low slung building of elegant, off white stone, the museum itself was designed by my favorite architect, Philip Johnson. It rather resembles a building wide expansion of the wing he designed for another DC museum, Dumbarton Oaks, to hold its Pre-Columbian collection.

The Kreeger, despite some excellent Southeast Asian sculptures, is primarily about pre-WWII European art. But darn, if it doesn’t have some great pieces.

Seven or eight Picassos. One from the sixties, but the rest from his early days through his peak in the thirties. Seven or eight Monets (a mixture of Giverny landscapes and marine paintings). Two Van Goghs. A Chagall. Two Gorkys. Some excellent, small Rodins. A couple of Miros. A Kandinsky. A Pissaro. There were even two very early Mondrians, which were deeply confusing because they were fairly straightforward, representationalist pieces.

All of them, really excellent.

The outside of building, once you got beyond a terrace filled with at least one Jean Arp and other pieces that looked relatively contemporary to him (they were poorly identified, if I have a criticism of the museum), with the rest of the grounds scattered with contemporary pieces.

It’s shameless, rich man exceptionalism at its worst. But well worth seeing.

The nearest one is called “Quill” and is part of a whole courtyard devoted to DC artist, John Dreyfuss

Monet, of course

Monet

Rather creepy, but cool

What a great Picasso, right?

Rainer Lagemann’s “Sean, Sara, Jess”

A Kandinsky, believe it or not, partly done with sand!