Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Definitely not my favorite holdiay, and my plans aren't exciting of anything, but I hope you all have a good one.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Astraction, Color, and Light at the Albright-Knox

Whenever I'm visiting my parents I try to get to the Albright-Knox and see whatever exhibits they're showing. When I was younger they used to have these blockbuster touring exhibitions: Monet, Tissot, The Triumph of French Painting, etc. In more recent years they haven't done that, or haven't really seemed to do that, but some of my very favorite shows were dedicated to artists I'd never heard of before. My favorite show dedicated to an individual artist was the Frank Moore retrospective, Green Thumb in a Dark Eden, followed by Andrea Zittel's Critical Space. So I have no problem going to exhibits when I'm not really sure what I'm going to see. The exhibition I liked best, though, was called Fresh: Recent Acquisitions and showed off the pieces that the museum had collected in the previous four years. In some ways it might be telling that their most enjoyable exhibit was not a touring show but artworks from their own collection. Certainly it is true that their permanent collection outshined the exhibit I saw when I went yesterday.

They've been doing a project of late called REMIX the Collection. Upstairs they have the visiting exhibit and downstairs they have a display of works from the permanent collection that is in some way related. The current exhibit of permanent works is called REMIX Color and Light and it's showing in conjunction with The Panza Collection: An Experiment in Color and Light, which was probably my least favorite show I've seen here. It's not that I dislike abstraction, abstract expressionism, single-color canvases, etc. but I do kind of feel like there's a very fine line there between brilliance and crap. For the most part I found the Panza Collection mind-numbingly boring. In a succession of rooms I saw David Simpson with his huge, single color, opalescent canvases, Phil Sims with his huge, single color matte canvases that had more in the way of visible brush strokes and texture than the Simpson canvases, the smaller, canvases of Freudenthal in different dull tones, and the quite small canvases of Bianchi, all but one yellow one done in red and blue. Kill me now. I mean, there were parts of the collection that I found interesting, but for the most part I thought it was pretty bland. It's that sort of art that you're supposed to appreciate if you're intellectual and dismiss if you're too stupid to understand abstract ideas in art. Or at least that's always been my feeling about it. Anyway, the collection as a whole wasn't very interesting to me.

This was made even more problematic by just how much better the work they're currently showing from the permanent collection is. Rothko's Orange and Yellow alone is more interesting than anything in the Panza show.

They have one (or two) of Rudolf de Crignis's blue canvases that are fascinating. He uses layered colors and layers glazes of paint in orange, blue, green, and white to form a blue that's positively vibrating with light. It's actually difficult to look at and I found myself squinting. I took a photo--on the flash free museum setting, of course--but in it the painting did not appear to be a vibrant blue at all but a rather drab gray.

They show artists experimenting with light and in a great variety of other ways as well: using neon lighting, shadows, reflection, etc. If I were a particularly good blogger, I would talk about the artists or their artwork in a somewhat educated, but I'm not, so I'm just going to post some pictures of pieces I think are interesting. I didn't even think to write down names at the gallery. But they're all at the Albright-Knox, so should you find yourself in the fair city of Buffalo go check them out.
And a closeup...

This picture above is of the mirror room. Usually you can go in it but today it was cordoned off. Inside there is a table and chair which are also mirrored and thus hard to see in this picture. The picture below gives a somewhat better idea of what it feels like inside.

After leaving, I walked around to the back, which I think must have once been the front. The door there enters onto the second floor and is sometimes open. In the summer they have music at the bottom of the steps on certain days.

From there I walked across the street and into an icy Delaware Park, where I walked around a bit before going back to my car and heading back to the suburbs.

Note: The Frank Moore painting and the Rothko painting were found using google image search. The other pictures I took today. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

These foxy folks...

...and these rather elderly elves...
...would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas filled with only the best sorts of things.

Even if you do spend Christmas eating Chinese food...

And remember, this should not be a metaphor for your holiday season... be sure to enjoy yourself. :)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Back Home

I don't get to Buffalo often--generally about once a year--but it's always nice when I do get up here. So in the spirit of holiday cheer, here's a partial ist of things I love about my parents' home:
  • The totally fantastic mattress in my bedroom
  • Home-cooked food that I didn't have to cook for myself (my mother made an awesome Apple Blueberry Pie for my sister's college grad party)
  • The best dog in the whole wide world (even if she does try to hog my bed)
  • Actually having people to drink wine with while standing around the kitchen
  • A living environment that, unlike my apartment, isn't 80 degrees
  • free washer and dryer
  • driving a car
  • not having to always lock the door and carry keys around
  • board games
  • the ability to steal other people's clothing
I know this is less than interesting, but I've just been content and lazy these last couple days so I haven't had that much to write about. I doubt anyone really has time to read blogs right around now anyway.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Which Meg Goes to a Hockey Game

I went out to the Island with friends to see the Sabres game last night. Three Sabres fans and an Islanders fan who was really a very good sport about it. Nassau Coliseum is a pain in the ass to get to from my work--really from the city in general--and we got there just in time for the national anthem.

It was pretty empty when we got there and I figured it would fill up as people managed to get out there. I was wrong though. People did kind of filter in as the game progressed but it never filled up much more than half way. Too bad really, as it was largely pretty quiet. The only time the crowd came alive was the one time the Islanders scored to tie the game and then it quickly went quiet again. Toward the end, with the Sabres up by one, the guy behind us muttered, "Anytime you want to start skating, Guerin," and that was about all we heard of the Islander fans' opinions. Well that, and the occasional "shoot," on the power play.

We had nice seats--just a few rows into the 200s to the left of the goalie. Since we were on the end where the Islanders shot twice we had ample opportunity to watch Miller's brilliance--and he was pretty damn brilliant. The rest of the team? Not so much. Although it figures that both of the Sabres goals happened on the other side of the ice where we really couldn't see what was going on. Still, though it wasn't the most exciting of games, it was fun to see the team play and fun to see a win.

I'd have more to say but am too busy and overwhelmed by everything I need to do to write any more tonight. Once I get up to Buffalo (Saturday) I suspect I'll have a lot more free time and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Decorations Everywhere

So while my Christmas shopping has rather stalled--I like giving people gifts but hate the actually shopping which I'm no good at--but I have been wandering about trying. Today, after leaving work, I walked up 5th Avenue wandering among the tourists. Now I realize that tourists are supposed to drive New Yorkers up the wall at this time of year, and I admit that I avoid Times Square like the plague--although I pretty much do that the rest of the year as well--but I totally get where the tourists are coming from in December. New York City is pretty much the best place in the world at Christmas time. Yes, it's super-commercialized, but it's also beautiful and there's music and dancing and magic everywhere. It was like a wonderland when I was a kid.

So anyway, I walked up past Saks, and while I wasn't interested in waiting in line to see their fabulous windows, I did get few photos.

And one of my favorite decorations, the star hanging over the center of 5th Avenue.

Needless to say, the decorations in my house are a little less flashy. Several of the ornaments on the tree were gifts from my mother, and I love them because they remind me of my family's tree. Also, my roommate and I have somewhat different taste in ornaments--hers being flashier than mine--so I'm glad to have a few homier ornaments.
Made with volcanic ash from Mt. St. Helen's--gift from my sister
One of a couple yarn cat ornaments--they have to go up high because Bonnie thinks they're toys.
Snowmen are a big Christmas theme in my parents' house.

And just to end with something totally unrelated, here is Pyramus happily hanging out in a rather too small shoe box that happened to be close to the radiator.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Nutcracker

Wendy and I went to see the Nutcracker yesterday evening. Six o'clock start times are so not my favorite thing in the world, particularly since they mean I can't eat first. I mean, I understand that a lot of children go to see Nutcracker so they don't want it running too late, but honestly, if it's hard for me to get from work to Lincoln Center by six, I can only imagine that it's even harder for the many working parents who want to bring their kids to the ballet. I just don't get it. On the bright side, it does mean we got to watch Project Runway yesterday.

Anyway, the Nutcracker is lovely and all. Our tickets, as they were last year, were way up in the 5th ring, which is an odd almost vertigo inducing perspective (there's a picture below that might give you an idea). You have to lean forward against the railing in order to see the whole stage, and my hands kept falling asleep. Teach me to try and get cheap--aka within my budget--tickets long after they've gone on sale.

I tend to find myself a bit bored during the first bits. I mean, it's a lovely Christmas party with the dancing and the children and the toys, etc. but once you've seen it once, it kind of feels like a prelude to the real magic which is to come. For me, the delight of the ballet comes when the tree starts growing upward--although the 5th ring does ruin that particular magic a bit since you can see the hole from which the tree grows.

For the most part the ballet was delightful, and I actually felt, watching it, like I was seeing it differently than I had in the past. I felt like I actually have been learning something about watching in the past year. So that was nice too. Anyway, I particularly liked Alina Dronova as Marzipan and Megan Fairchild as Dewdrop. Dronova was full of vivacity and delight while Fairchild seemed to have the kind of clarity that a dewdrop would have. I also always particularly the candy canes with their hoops. Although I imagine most do. The only performance I was disappointed by, and unfortunately it was a big one, was that of the Sugarplum Fairy.

I'm sure that Teresa Reichlen, who danced the role, is usually a lovely dancer--I've never seen her before--but she wasn't good yesterday. While I was at a weird angle so it's sometimes hard to say, she appeared to be very unsteady at times. On at least one occasion it seemed like her cavalier, Stephen Hanna, had to catch her to prevent her from doing a face plant, and there were wobbly arms all over the place when she had to balance (I think I'm describing this correctly). Setting aside such obvious things though, I felt like her dancing lacked the authority, sureness, and grandeur that the role and music seem to call for. Well, I confident that she's been much better in the past and will be much better in the future. I sure don't do my job brilliantly every day. I mean, my boss walked up yesterday and I was totally watching the Gary Robert-Ben Eager fight on YouTube. So I can't point fingers.

Still, it was a nice night and we left the New York State Theater very satisfied. It was quite a bit colder when we left than it had been earlier that day and we rushed home feeling decidedly chillier than we would have hoped. It probably would have helped if either of us would have remembered to wear our hats that morning. Live and learn? Pay for your mistakes? Some other cliche? Oh well, unsurprisingly we survived.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Playing Santa

(More cellphone pictures today. I suck. I really must just keep my camera in my purse during the holidays.)

So my office does that thing where we get together in groups and buy gifts for a child who otherwise wouldn't get much of anything and my group is wrapping tomorrow so I made a run to FAO Schwarz today.
I'm not a big shopper, Christmas or otherwise, but I love going to FAO Schwarz. Even though they have a lot of the typical toys and a lot of things that are overpriced, I think they also appreciate the wonder of toys in a way that Toys 'R Us with their bargain bins doesn't. Their collections of classic toys show that, as do the too expensive for most to buy displays, which are often works of great imagination and craftsmanship.

And then there's the piano that you play by walking on it. If I'd had a child with me I'd so have waited on line for that.
Anyway, the child had asked for cars and, more generally, toys, and the other people in my group had taken care of the cars. So I wandered aimlessly, not quite sure what I would get. I found one toy that I was happy with, but wanted to get another as well and was having trouble finding just the right thing. And then I stumbled on a corner of the store devoted to Playmobil.

Now, in case you're not familiar with Playmobil, let me just say that their toys are totally awesome. They're well made, they encourage imagination, and they're just plain fun. One of my very favorite toys when I was little was my Playmobil Eskimo set, since discontinued and apparently rather difficult to find.
Our kayak wound up being rather interesting looking after I left it up against the radiator, melting a series of thin holes into its side. But we had the set for years and my sister and I certainly played with it a great deal. Of course we lost all the pieces eventually but it's still the toy I remember most fondly.

So when I saw that corner, I had to get him something from the company. I toyed with getting a few sets of knights, complete with cannons, prisoners, and flame throwers, but eventually decided to go with the transportation theme and bought the medical helicopter.

I'm so incredibly excited about the idea of the kid playing with this toy. I only hope he loves it as much as I loved my Eskimo set.

I then walked past the giant menorah lit up for the last night of Chanukah on my way back home, feeling about as good about the holidays as I've felt in a long time.
I'm not entirely sure what that says about me--I think nothing particularly good or bad--but still, it was a very good day.

Stardust Revisited

(Quick note: I don't own a scanner so the images here are photos of the pages. Obviously that distorts them somewhat and there are shiny spots from the flash. Sorry.)

I wrote about Stardust months back when I saw the movie and only now finished with the novel, which my mother sent me as a present. The movie altered the plot of the novel in various ways to make it more exciting of course. That didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was the fact that the problems present in the movie are all there in the novel as well; the lack of magical feeling, the pallid characters, the dullness of it, are all problems that the movie was simply replicating. In fact, even the entertaining supporting characters from the movie are, well, less than entertaining here.

I realize that this might not be a popular opinion but I don't think characterization is particularly Gaiman's strong point. Oh, he's got some very appealing characters in the Sandman comics and in Good Omens, but for the most part his people tend to be a bit . . . flat. And that particularly hurts this story because the intermittent moments of inventiveness are so glossed over. There are clever bits as well:
Scaithe's Ebb is a small seaport town built on granite, a town a chandlers and carpenters and sailmakers; of old sailors with missing fingers and limbs who have opened their own grog-houses or spend their days in them, what is left in their hair still tarred into long queues, though the stubble on their chins has long-since dusted to white. There are no whore in Scaithe's Ebb, or none that consider themselves as such, although there have always been many women who, if pressed, would describe themselves as much-married, with one husband on this ship here every six months, and another husband on that ship, back in port for a month or so every nine months.
Unfortunately those clever bits are separated by periods of blandness. All in all, a disappointment.

The saving grace is the illustration work. They're not all wonderful illustrations, but there are many that contain the beauty and magic that the text is sorely missing. They possess a sense of otherworldliness. In short, what the illustrations do is what good storytelling should do: they create a sense of a completely-realized world in which the events can take place. If only the text could rise up to meet this.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cavorting Santas

I'm not sure what's going on, but I really wish I'd had my real camera as opposed to just my cell on me today because there were Santas all over the place today, including a Jack Sparrow Santa and a Wonder Woman Santa (no pictures of those--sorry). I first saw them walking down 14th Street in Union Square, but on my way home I walked down St. Marks and they were all over the place.

My favorite group, though, was on Second, between 8th and 9th. They were standing in a circle singing, dancing, and hooping.

New York is so the best place in the world in December.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tree Envy

So, until I had my own apartment I never once had a fake tree. My family always has carefully selected--and usually self-cut--real trees. To me a beautiful tree--and in my family's case a massively fat tree--pretty much is Christmas. But my roommate thought the cats and a real tree would cause problems and neither of us are actually home for Christmas so we figured it would die. Not having a real tree has made me a little sad the last couple years, but since I head up to Buffalo to spend the actual holiday with my family it was tolerable.

But this morning we woke up to fake tree needle filled vomit courtesy of the little genius on the left. So we figured maybe a spiky real tree would be a better eating deterrent than the not-so-spiky fake one. And besides, if she's going to eat the damn thing anyway, we might as well have the pleasure of a real one. Particularly since Wendy is only going to be away for three or so days this year. So off we went this morning and bought ourselves a real tree. It's tall and narrow but quite full and smells absolutely lovely. I am a happy girl.