Monday, June 30, 2008
Eiffel Tower at dusk (Image Credit: franz88 [Flickr])
This past Sunday's New York Times had a wonderful slide show of picturesque gardens in the City of Lights. While I'm sure like many of us this summer's economic situation may keep many of us at home those lucky enough to visit one of my favorite cities should take time to visit one or two of these spots. The Secret Gardens of Paris.
Last week in New York City the spigots were turned on and began an art exhibition, whose concept I love. Olafur Eliasson's "Waterfalls." Here is the main site for the exhibition. New York Waterfalls
As a native New Yorker, though now a resident of DC, I'm always envious that our big brother to the north can put on civic art works that DC seems to be incapable of doing. I must say that from my own perspective this puts Christo's "The Gates" to shame. NYC is a water town and this work of art says it all. I will admit that the sound of water falling has always put me in my zen zone.But the particular falls beneath the Brooklyn Bridge is sublime and I don't know why. For more information on the artist's work here, is his recent exhibition at MOMA.
Last summer while on a short few days in London I decided to try out what I thought would be a very touristy expedition and bought tickets to see Buckingham Palace. Now as an Irish-American there were pulls from beyond saying, "Your going where?"
While not a believer in royal status, I do believe in continuity and for the most part I have always admired Queen Elizabeth II. If ever there was a person who understands responsibility, I believe she does. And hey! Its Buckingham Palace.
As a short aside I have a favorite reader of this blog, whom I've known and loved since the day she was born. I'll never forget 1985 and this little blond girl whose dream was about to come true. Prince Charles and more importantly Princess Diana were coming to the White House for a lavish dinner. At the time my other lovely sister was working at the White House and arranged tickets for my mother and baby sister to go to Andrews Air Force Base for the welcoming ceremony. They had weeks of preparation time and seemed to need it. There were countless questions on what to wear and would they get to say hello. All I can remember was that famous sweater with the sheep on it being the instant preppy status accoutrement. At any rate, it was decided that this cute little girl, who was in love with Diana, would carry a small bouquet of blue posies. She even came up with her own idea that she would put a small note in the bouquet, which to this day remains a secret. To conclude this short story my sweet Lisa got to the front of the welcoming crowd and Diana stopped and took her bouquet and made one little girl's year.
Now back to the tour and the point of this post. Should you be in London at the end of July through the end of September do put this on you itinerary. Its so well done. You can buy and schedule your tour all online. The information and things to see are all accessed here at The Royal Collection.
I arrived at the scheduled time ( Don't be late ) and was very impressed at the way the whole show was run. Naturally it was raining and everyone had umbrellas and I was sure this meant you were naturally never going to get it back. Groups are allowed in, in fifteen minute intervals. The tour personnel were all wonderfully clad in blue with red piping outfits and couldn't be more gracious.
Having taken more than my share of guided tour experiences or more truthfully stood at the edge of a lecture trying to glean some free information, I was prepared for a herding atmosphere. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Once your through security an audio phone guide is placed in your hand and your free. I spent the next close to two hours wandering a well cordoned off palace, but was able to see all the important rooms. This summer they are having a special presentation in the Palace's Ballroom which will be set up for a State Banquet. You end the tour out on the back lawn of the Palace, with your umbrella in hand and a wonderful stroll through the grounds gardens. Never once was a rushed through. Finally you have the chance to buy a souvenir in tents placed on the grounds for these two months.
I've been to many places and was truly surprised at how much I enjoyed Buckingham Palace.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I loved "Finding Nemo," and am a huge Pixar fan. From the reviews this morning and now these numbers, I guess a muggy hot DC Sunday afternoon's plans are made.
WALL-E beats 'Nemo' first day record
Playing at approximately 4000 theaters across the United States and Canada, WALL-E has broken Finding Nemo's opening day record of 20.2 million dollars (set in 2003) by raking in between $23.1 and $23.2 million at the "domestic" box office on Friday, handing Pixar its best opening day ever.
The film is now on its way to challenge Finding Nemo's opening weekend record of $70.4 million, which is, to date, Pixar's best opening weekend success
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I recently came across a new travel website highlighting the town of Ravello in Italy. The Amalfi coast ranks in the top spots on the planet in Homer's humble opinion. I match this with a recent interview by one of its most famous former residents,Gore Vidal.While I swoon over thoughts of glorious days on the Amalfi, I finished reading the interview with this man of letters. Both are worth a look. Take a look at Globorati, its a nice site and here is the interview with Gore Vidal.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Thanks to the great design blogger and fellow Washingtonian,My Notting Hill, who alerted me to the new website for Maison Living. It's an eclectic but fun store here in Georgetown that is well worth a visit. The owner Jean Pierre is a most entertaining character. Here is the link to his new website, Maison Living.
Traveling the world gives me great joy but I must tip my hat to Dancing Matt. There is very little to explain how and what Matt has accomplished except to say well done!! He's created a great piece of entertainment and a message to us all that only traveling the planet teaches a person. I think you'll get the message. Enjoy Dancing Matt
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Last year I was visiting my friend Steve McKinally in Southampton, UK, on a beautiful late summer weekend. He kindly offered to drive me around the countryside and see some of what makes that part of England so pretty. As an aside he mentioned that we weren't all that far from Stonehenge and would I like to go take a look? As a Yank, I've always had a fascination for the place, always wondering along with the experts, of what the site was used for, was it built by the ancients or perhaps by someone else. Was it mathematically perfect? Did it announce and celebrate the Summer Solstice? Like the pyramids at Giza or the Mayan temples or even later, the beautiful site at Ephesus how did the ancients build these places?
I'll never forget sitting high atop this Roman amphitheater at Ephesus looking down upon the magnificent marble stage. It was a very hot afternoon and while sipping warm water from a well used plastic bottle, an old man with a bushel of white scraggly hair and beard sat down next to me. Now, there were 2000 plus places else where he could have sat, but he chose the seat next to mine and started to chat. It was one of those moments where you knew he was simply a chatterer looking for a friendly ear and here I was minding my own business, sitting high up in a thousand plus year old amphitheater.
It reminded me of that scene from the movie, "Goodbye Mr. Chips," when Peter O'Toole met Petula Clark, ( sorry youngsters look it up); and we didn't marry! At any rate Joseph, as he introduced himself, asked me right off the bat, “So how did they do that?" "Do what?" I asked. "Build that,” he said.
He went on to explain that the marble before our eyes didn't come from the ground in Ephesus and that the nearest place it could have come from was over sixty miles away. Then he mentioned the perfectly round columns on the stage that still stood. "How did they do that? There were no machines to cut the marble much less erect those columns that have stood the test of time. I had no idea where he was going and was actually suffering a bit from the heat in that full sun. "Well he said, I think the ancients had powers that we have lost." He explained that this was a simple theory because man had forgotten processes and skills throughout history. Let's not forget the Dark Ages. I listened. He went on to say something I already knew, “we only use ten percent of our brain power...what if the ancients used more?" I looked quizzically and he just raised his finger and pretended to move objects. Well, who am I to argue about that. It was a moment.
So here we were at Stonehenge, at the presumed Summer Solstice Epicenter and I'm driving down this wide modern road. I thought we'd drive out into nowhere and then have to hike further to find this ancient place. Not the case. There it was, three hundred yards from the road, sitting on a treeless sight for all to see. Turning off the road into the visitor's parking lot were twenty buses and even more cars and people. Steve turned to me and said, "Shall we park?" To which I said "No way, I've seen it, let's go." and the old friend that he is said, “I knew you'd never get out of the car!" If I'm going to see an ancient's sacred place, I want it to be a trek. I've been to Borobudur for god's sake!
As it was a hot late summer day, Steve suggested a cool libation at a wonderful old estate turned hotel and restaurant which I highly recommend if you have the chance to visit. It is a beautiful place and I’m told a favorite of George Bush Senior’s when he visits Hampshire to go fishing. It is called Lainstone House and has this magnificent back porch,as we yanks would call it, overlooking a huge valley/lawn ending in the distance with a a wonderful architectural folly. A perfect place to enjoy a Pimms in true English style. My thanks to Mr. McKinally for his great taste and touring abilities.
Some more facts about the longest day..below.
By Matt Rosenberg, About.com
Jun 17 2007
On or around June 21 each year, the rays of the sun will be perpendicular to the Tropic of Cancer at 23°30' North latitude. This day is the summer solstice1 in the Northern Hemisphere.
On this day, the earth's "circle of illumination" will be from the Arctic Circle on the far side of the earth (in relation to the sun) to the Antarctic Circle on the near side of the earth. The equator receives twelve hours of daylight, there's 24 hours of daylight at the North Pole and areas north of 66°30' N, and there's 24 hours of darkness at the South Pole and areas south of 66°30' S.
June 20-21 is start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere but simultaneously the start of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. It's also the longest day of sunlight for places in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest day for cities south of the equator.
However, June 20-21 is not the day when the sun rises earliest in the morning nor when it sets latest at night.
Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations in the northern areas have for centuries celebrated the Summer Solstice, otherwise known as Midsummer (see Shakespeare), the Christian St. John's Day, or the Wiccan Litha.
The Celts & Slavs celebrated with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun's energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.
Perhaps the most enduring modern ties with Summer Solstice were the Druids' celebration of the day as the "wedding of Heaven and Earth", resulting in the present day belief of a "lucky" wedding in June.
Today, the day is still celebrated around the world - most notably in England at Stonehenge and Avebury, where thousands still gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I don't normally link to such pieces, but with Father's Day just behind us, and having noted the sad passing of Tim Russert, I can only think how proud he and his wife Maureen must be of their son Luke. His thoughts and words on the passing of his father, before a room of a great many people, was splendid. If there are many more of his generation like him, and I know a few just like him, then us old folk can sleep well tonight. Luke talking about his Father. God Bless
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Important artists do important work. They are lauded for their expertise and contributions to world culture. People in their spheres of influence applaud and wine and dine them. It must be a heady experience. But what if the Emperor Has No Clothes.
I think, of all the greatest artists in the last 100 years, Warhol understood and used this knowledge to his advantage. Of course in my amateur opinion Warhol was draped in Ermine. At any rate, the point here is to show you two videos of men of true accomplishment who had the courage and the sense of humor/humility to put themselves literally on the street with his common man.They put themselves out there to see if they'd be recognized for the giant talents that they are. It takes a big man to understand that we are all important and have a great deal on our busy minds just trying to do the right thing.
The first video is about Luc Tuymans, a Belgian, and one of the most important painters today. He painted a piece on the wall of a busy pedestrian street and set camera's up to see if anyone would notice. The second video is of the great violinist Joshua Bell playing in the Washington Metro for change. Both videos are worth your while and will take ten minutes out of your busy important day. Emperor's, like the last King of Nepal just learned this lesson.
Luc Tuymans on the street.
Joshua Bell in the Washington DC Metro playing for change.
Monday, June 16, 2008
1 East 70th Street, to any aficionado of the New York layout is simply a splendid address. As many a reader here will know it was a home, now a Museum, and a reminder of what Fifth Avenue used to look like. It is The Frick. A timeless gift of Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), the Pittsburgh coke and steel industrialist.
It is a uniquely American attribute; a curse to some, life to others, that Fifth Avenue in New York looks almost completely different today from 100 years ago. Financial concerns, a growing population and the introduction of the Internal Revenue Service brought down a long avenue of great houses. But the Frick Collection remains and it is has been and will always be my favorite museum in New York City.
I admire that the many masterpieces and rooms are shown as they were when this was a private home. For such an important place, I love it all the more because so many of my visits have been almost always solitary, something I've never understood. The Frick is for some reason, or on purpose, been under the radar of must sees in New York. The collection, aside from the building itself is worth many return visits. It must be that the entrance to Central Park is two blocks north and the Metropolitan just a few blocks further,that tourists just overlook this treasure.
Construction of the building began in 1913 at the then competitive price of of five million dollars. Remember, the Astor's and Rockefeller's were neighbors, and was executed by the famous firm of Carrère and Hastings. Mr. Frick died in 1919. In his will, he left the house and all of the works of art in it together with the furnishings (“subject to occupancy by Mrs. Frick during her lifetime”) to become a gallery called The Frick Collection. He provided an endowment of $15,000,000 to be used for the maintenance of the Collection and for improvements and additions
The mindbogglingly collection of masterpieces range from Rembrandt and Hans Holbein the Younger to Monet. Other than paintings, the museum has sculptures, drawings, pieces of furniture, and porcelain. This was a home.
The Frick and its governing board hold a few fund raising events throughout the year that show that while there might not be the original 400 left around town to show up, a new generation has risen to the occasion to keep this jewel in pristine shape. Here are few pictures that conjure up the dowager Mrs. Astor's crowd at a recent event. These pictures come from last year's Young Member's Ball, courtesy of New York Social Diary.
To our gratitude, The Frick sits quietly and elegantly right on Fifth and I think many people just don't realize what they are looking upon. One of its true treasures is a particular room and one of my favorite places, "The Fragonard Room," commissioned by Madame de Barry. It is very French; a love of which I gained from my very Irish grandmother. Here is a video from Monumental Adventure of the Museum that tells the whole story just right. Next time your in New York City don't miss this jewel of La Grande Pomme . Here is the video, please enjoy it. The Frick.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
A Great Irish American and an important voice in the media , Tim Russert, met an untimely end today here in DC. My prayers and thoughts go to his family and friends. We met once and as everyone says, he was a gentleman. From one Irishman to another, the famous prayer from the old sod.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there... I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow...
I am the diamond glints on snow...
I am the sunlight on ripened grain...
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight...
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry—
I am not there... I did not die...
The 2008 BP Annual Portrait competition and exhibition opened yesterday at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The winners will be announced on Monday. As I have written previously, I love this competition and genre.
Now in its 29th year, anyone over the age of 18 can enter their work. This year 1,750 artists from around the world submitted their pieces and 55 are on display now through September 14th. Four works ,which you will see below, have already been shortlisted as finalists. While the competition is not without critics from the poobahs of the art world, it has been great fun for us who simply have always loved portraiture.
During the course of the exhibition visitors to the gallery are encouraged to vote for their favorites. I wish we, who can't visit the museum could do the same online, hint, hint, you PR guys. In the meantime we can at least see the 55 finalists here. I'm not surprised that of my top three only one made the shortlist, but then I have an amateur eye. My top three follow the four finalists. I'd love to hear about your top pick. I'll remind myself to tell you about the public's picks in September.
Now from the Gallery's panel of judges here are the four shortlisted finalists.
Amanda Smith at Vincent Avenue
by Simon Davis
by Robert O'Brien
by Craig Wylie
by Peiyuan Jiang
And here are my top three choices.
by Craig Wylie
by Benita Stone
Hamzah: The silver penny
by Paul Lisak
by Josep Joaquim Santilari Perarnau
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I enjoyed both tonight. The weather cleared, the air was fresh, the candles flickered, and the fountain ran clear. The veal chop was perfect and the light music was sublime. It reminded me of this interview between Charlie Rose the the GREAT Sophia Loren. Its a full hour conversation but one of the greatest interviews I ever saw, so if you have the time or like me you want to see it again here she is with Charlie, hardly able to contain himself. Charlie Rose and Sophia Loren. Put it on full screen.
It's almost summer and the Art Fairs abound. This week we jump from Buenos Aries to the Basel Art Fair in Switzerland. Here are a few pictures of works currently on display thanks to super touch art. My, I'd love to visit these fairs someday. Here is the link to the entire fair. Basel 2008.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
There's buzz in the air about the recent exhibitions at ArteBA Contemporary Art Fair in Buenos Aires. It is a city I have on my destination wish list and will get there sooner than later. Isn't nice though that this new technology can take us there for a visit. Careful you can spend some time here. ArteBA.
I just came across a new travel site that employs some impressive interaction. Its called Everywhere.com and if your searching for spots in the country to visit and looking for a good beach or historic site to visit, you pop in your request and destination and a mapquest like map appears. It looks relatively new and its content driven by us, the travel like minded. I like the idea and concept behind it. Here is the link to Everywhere.com
Monday, June 9, 2008
J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter book series, delivers her Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Some years ago I was sitting on a rather lonely but pretty beach on the island of Langkawai in the Andamen Sea. It was a hot afternoon when I made acquaintance with a British lady and we got to chatting. We were both staying in this German owned ten room hotel out there in the middle of nowhere. She was very attractive and a great conversationalist and obviously very smart. One thing led to another and I invited her to join me for dinner in the meager thatched covered dining room, lit by Chinese lanterns and a bit of electricity on this equatorial island just south of Burma. Without digging deep I came to understand they she either currently or in the recent past had been a member of a religious community in England. She was fascinating. Somehow the conversation turned to Darwin and his theory of evolution and I mentioned how it seemed probable that we human beings had evolved from the apes. She smiled knowingly and crinkled her eyes, made a small laugh and touched my hand. " Oh my dear," she said, " we've been here for so much longer."
She went on to explain that we are all souls who are very very old. She didn't use the term reincarnation and she didn't go into details. But she was emphatic that apes and human beings are completely different. This was not an attack on the theory of evolution but a sincere belief and an understanding of things that certainly go over my head and I have never forgotten that conversation over a good glass of wine under the stars on a unfamiliar Sea. We parted with a sweet kiss knowing that we'd never meet again..on this lonely island.
It's a true story and the reason I link to this BBC report, which is a bit mind boggling to comprehend. But then isn't all of it. Time Before the Big Bang.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Did they throw the race? I can't say. It was a hot day for horse racing and also for all of us in DC waiting for the gates to crash open. Big Brown looked good for a good minute there and then disappeared from sight. As an Irishman who loves the harses and who wishes the Great Jim McKay everlasting peace here's his sterling look back at the greatest athlete on four legs. SECRETARIAT.
I remember seeing close to a decade ago, while coming over the hills and through the heat from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the then two tallest buildings in the world. I was astonished by the sight of the Twin Petronas Towers. They were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004. When I saw them they were almost brand new and I wondered just how high skyscrapers would go. The intervening years have proved that they can still go higher. This week the Burj Dubai will reach the newest height and its not even finished. When it is it will be over a half mile high. Thanks to OutNext for this amazing picture. It looks like something out of the Lord of The Rings.
Friday, June 6, 2008
After a cold and wet, wet May, June has brought our Nation's Capital a true August heatwave for the weekend. They are calling for 100 degree like weather. For those of you who know what that is like in Washington you know that being outside for too long just isn't right. Thus, thoughts of cool movie theaters enter our heads. While I have always loved the interaction of the audience, the dark and a large screen I refuse to pay $4.00 for a bag of popcorn. With that in mind I came across this story about a nice flat panel TV that doesn't have to be a big black void on your wall while not on. I actually saw this at the DC Design Showhouse last year and was an instant fan. I think I want this. Stay cool everyone. Here is a link to the manufacturer. Vision Art Galleries.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Another form of Haute Couture in honor of YSL. A previous post from the start of Homer's Odd Isn't He. Incredible images. These are pictures from The Surma and Mursi tribes of East Africa's Omo Valley as photographed by Hans Silvester in his book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
PARIS (AFP) — French fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent, widely hailed as one of the greatest designers of the 20th century, died Sunday in Paris. He was 71. I was struck by the references to how lonely a life he lived and cruel stories about his family life and many problems. However something triumphed. To see how well a life he created for himself click here to the blog The House of Beauty and Culture for an interesting and eye popping view on how this genius but heavily burdened man lived.