August 29th, 2006

wood cat

NYC in Review

Previously in Kate's life: Guster concert [*]; traumatic cooking experience (adding liquid to a cup of freshly-melted and caramelized sugar is even scarier than I expected); traumatic DSL experience (hooked up a new phone wrong and, all unknowing, toasted our connection for the best part of a weekend); traumatic dental experience ("Having heartburn lately? You have a cavity that needs a crown. Go tell your doctor that your dentist ordered to you have an upper GI."); miscellaneous work, insufficient reading, and not going to bed early enough.

[*] Chad's blog post lacks only a more detailed description of the dorky stage patter of the frontman, who first pointed out that the Saratoga Performing Arts Center looks like a UFO from the lawn, and that "SPAC is just one letter away from . . . space"; later said, "Okay, this next song is the end of our regular set, and we can just play right through to the encore or we can try something with you holding up your phones"; and after that song, had people hold up their phones as he pointed to their sections . . . in sync with the keyboardist doing the Close Encounters tones. He said "this is the most stoner-y thing I've ever done," and while I can't confirm that statement, it would not surprise me.

On to this past weekend in New York City:

An acquaintance had invited a mutual friend to his wedding, and I attended as the friend's guest. We decided to make a long weekend of it, as we hadn't seen each other for some time.

Friday, after travel hassles of varying degrees [**], we arrived in Central Park for the New York Classical Theater's production of The Comedy of Errors. This is the one with the two sets of identical twins with identical names, and is deeply, deeply silly. The comic relief twins were played by a single actor, who had a real gift for physical comedy. At one point he fought himself, passing behind a tree to signal his change from one twin to the other, and had the crowd about falling over with laughter. Chad and I had previously enjoyed their production of Winter's Tale, and I was glad that this one was also well-played.

(I am Not Thinking about the play's portrayal of the female characters.)

[**] Of principal note, my jay-walking abilities are intact, but my subway-riding abilities are gone. For instance, I forgot to check the endpoints of the lines and, when I had to make a split-second decision about which way we needed to be going, picked the wrong one—and then didn't notice until the second stop. Later in the weekend I got us on an express rather than a local, leading us about forty blocks total out of our way. I insist, however, that not all of it was my fault: one station had connections between two lines, but nothing warned me ahead of time that to go in the direction we wanted, we had to leave the station and cross the street. And of course there's no such thing as a transfer, so we had to pay twice. Grr.

Saturday we went to the the American Museum of Natural History and saw dinosaurs, a Fabergé menagerie in the Gems section (I want the lapis lazuli elephants), and an IMAX movie, Journey Into Amazing Caves, which was all very good. Then we headed to the New York Botanical Garden for the wedding, which was held on a gorgeous terrace under cloudy but rainless skies. Lovely wedding, great food, met some nice people, but the interspersing of courses with dancing does make for a very long night, especially for elderly relatives and those having to travel a good distance to get to their beds.

My friend decided on a leisurely morning Sunday, but I woke up around 9 and decided to go to the Met, even just for a couple of hours. I focused on the special exhibitions:

  • Girodet: Romantic Rebel: Apparently he was rebelling against his teacher, Jacques-Louis David. I was passing through pretty quickly, but I don't remember seeing any examples of what he was rebelling against, which would've been nice.

    A couple of striking portraits: Jean-Baptiste Belley, who was born a slave and made a passionate speech at the convention that banned slavery in the French colonies; the label said that it wasn't known why Girodet painted the picture, as he didn't seem to have any connection with Belley; and Jacques Cathelineau, who is absolutely fey—the whites of his eyes really pop in person—and whose Royalist self is posed in much the same way as Napoleon was in an earlier portrait. Girodet seems to have weathered political change fairly well.

  • Raphael at the Metropolitan: The Colonna Altarpiece: This exhibition reunites the three components of a very nice altarpiece by Raphael: the people look like actual people, and the colors are beautiful. It is a real pity that they couldn't put the exhibit in a larger space and have the three pieces arranged as they were intended, on top of each other, inside of side by side.

    Colorful people who owned parts of the altarpiece included Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689) and Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906); I was glad to be given a reason to look them up.

  • Treasures of the Sacred Maya Kings: This was interesting but the art was not really to my taste. I note that Mayan mythology is another with a world tree.
  • A Taste for Opulence: Sèvres Porcelain from the Collection: Too opulent for me. I was interested to learn that though true porcelain was produced in China since the Tang Dynasty, it wasn't known in Europe until 1708, and not in France until the 1770s. Thus, most of the pieces were made of soft paste porcelain, which is not as white or translucent.
  • A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Autumn and Winter: This occupies all of the Japanese galleries and makes me want to pick Genji back up, with its talk of layered symbolism: quails and their shrill cry conveying autumnal isolation; the remote plain of Musashino, that hardly anyone saw before the Edo period, but that everyone from the tenth century on associated with autumn; the celebratory mood of snow; the linguistic connection between "long rain" (naga'ame) and "to lose oneself in reverie" (nagameru), which led to numerous types of rain and their associated poetic responses—the rain of DOOM as in Saiyuki was not listed, but there were many, many prints of people in rain, some of whom were probably angsting.

    Maybe I will do one chapter of Genji and one chapter of LotR a week. (But probably not. Alas.)

  • But the best, the absolute best thing I saw, was not in a special exhibit. The Asian galleries had a particularly nice standing Ganesha, somewhat like this one, at the back of a corner room. From a distance, I could see that there was a lot more shiny than there ought to be; and as I approached, I realized that someone had made an offering to this Hindu controller of obstacles, just as the explanatory text said is done before undertaking a task: one penny on two of the four hands, the ones that offered flat surfaces; one penny between his feet; and 40-odd scattered on the pedestal where the statue rested.

    I admired this quietly for a while, wishing for a camera, and then notified a nearby security guard. He seemed befuddled by it, as did the couple other staff members he called over. I'm not sure why, as I could have removed all of the pennies without touching the statue (and I am a klutz), but half an hour later, the pennies were all still there.

    I wish I knew what the person made an offering for, and if they felt it was successful. But I really wish I'd had a camera.

After a quick lunch and the purchase of some cool Christmas ornaments, I left, as we were going to a show that afternoon, the Broadway musical adaptation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I will talk about that separately because I want to post spoilers. We had a leisurely dinner after, and though we were balked in our attempt to try a particular wine bar, it was still a good night.

Monday I went to the Strand, which is indeed now air-conditioned, yay, but is still a frustrating experience: it's so big that I expect it to be full of stuff I want, but, well, it isn't. And the paperbacks are just a jumble, while the meticulously-organized review copies no longer interest me (if I wanted it in hardcover, I'd have bought it already; and if I haven't, then I want to pay paperback prices that go to the author, not more-than-paperback prices that don't. Also, this is what libraries are for.). I did pick up a Year's Best Datlow-Link-Grant anthology and a couple of sequels to books I haven't read yet, but it wasn't really satisfying.

Fortunately, I had an appointment for a late lunch with coffeeandink, which was most satisfying. I am very nearly persuaded to read the new Swordspoint-verse book, which apparently has a sensible person who spends a lot of time wanting to kick Alec. Also, new Minekura soon, woo.

On another note, having flailed at coffeeandink at length about the failure of the second half of Angels in America, I am filled with fresh determination to actually write that post. Of course, I felt that way over a year ago, when I wrote up the HBO adapation. But this time I mean it, really!

But first, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with side musings on capers and morality. Tomorrow, that is. *falls over*