Lion King and assorted comments

Yesterday we went to Chicago and saw Lion King. This was one of those musicals that I meant to see some years ago. I was going to take my granddaughter when we went to New York, but she wanted to see Spamalot instead. When she saw that Clay Aiken was in it, her mind was made up. It was the third time I’d seen it, but that is one that I could enjoy several times. Back to Lion King. The story line has a good message and the songs are neat, but what makes this musical so great are the costumes and sets. It is always amazing to me how creative and talented the set designers are. It is really impossible to do it justice with words. Those of you who have seen Lion King know what I am talking about, and if you haven’t seen it, you should.
Last Wednesday we went to a Dinner Theatre and saw a production about Patsy Cline. Janet and I both enjoyed it. I’m sure we were prejudiced as we both like her music.
Both of my classes are going well. I did well on both German tests we have had so far. I was disapppointed that the trip to Germany in January got cancelled. Not enough people signed up. The letter press class is also going well. We have had two projects so far. The last one was to create a post card and then mail ten of them to friends and relatives. So far I have received favorable comments from those who received it. I was pleased with the way it turned out.  The image was done with linoleum block.  I am putting it on my blog.

Post card made on letter press

Our final project is to be another artist’s book which we will do on the letter press.  I am thinking about ideas as I want to begin soon so I am not rushed at the last moment.  I am thinking about using linoleum blocks for my images, but we may learn other methods so I’m not going to start for a while.

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Book Talk

Janet and I are currently reading a novel by an Indian author, Bharati Mukherjee.  The title is Desirable Daughter.  We both thought it got off to a slow start (the first twenty pages or so), but we are really enjoying it now.  We are about a third of the way through it.  I always hesitate to tell very much about the plot or what has happened as it could ruin the reading for someone else.  A lot of Indian culture is woven into the plot in such a way that makes it very interesting and informative.   The heroine of the story is an Indian woman in her mid-thirties, a single mother, who lives in San Francisco.  Her ex-husband is very successful so money is not a problem.  She faces the same problems as most single parents -raising her son, starting a new relationship.  In addition, she is torn between her past (the whole Indian culture) and living in 20st Century America.  To make matters more complicated, a young Indian man shows up and causes her great problems.  I would definitely recommend this novel to others.   This book is part of a trilogy and we intend to read the other two as well.

Ms. Mukherhjee is coming to the Quad Cities in November to speak.  The talk is organized and sponsored by The Women’s Connection.  Each year The Women’s Connection sponsors an author.  In the past, they have had Anchee Min, Firuzoozeh Dumas (an Iranian author of humor), and Alexandra Fuller.  They have been from China, Iran, and Africa respectively although they live in the United States now.  The evening is a dinner and then the talk.  The three that we have seen and heard have been great!

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Michigan Trip

Last week Janet and I went to Michigan on a four-day trip with the Master Gardeners Group and toured gardens and nurseries in the Holland, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City areas.  We had a great time and saw many beautiful gardens.  In addition to the gardens and nurseries, we took a boat cruise on the Grand River, saw Sleeping Dunes National Park, and explored the many shops in downtown Holland.

Rather than write a lengthy description of our trip, I decided to include pictures that will tell the story better than words.

Our first stop was Windmill Island in Holland, Michigan.  We had a very interesting tour and visit.  We were surprised to learn that they treat tulips as annuals and plant thousands each spring.

Our second stop and the highlight of our tour was the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Garden in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Mr. and Mrs. Meijer had amassed a large collection of sculptures and  they wanted a place to display it.  They donated 160 acres of land and, with the help of the Grand Rapids Horticulture Society and over seven hundred volunteers, developed and currently maintain this Garden.   The sculptures are set in a beautiful natural setting.  There is also a large children’s area and a conservatory.  Thousands of visitors come each year.   We were fortunate as a quite extensive Dale Chihuly glass exhibition was on display.  I have included some pictures of his creations.  Also, there is a Deborah Butterfield horse, a Rodin, and works by other famous sculptors.

On the third day after visiting a lighthouse, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Glen Arbor, we visited Sunnybank, the home and gardens of Dee Blair in Traverse City.  She and her husband have restored a Victorian House and created a magnificent garden.

On the fourth day, on the way home we stopped at Wavecrest Nursery near Fennville, Michigan.  They did all their grafting of trees and raised their plants on site.  Their home was just across the road and in a beautiful setting with a Lake Michigan coastline.

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The Fall Semester Begins

Today someone e-mailed me a website of ways that one can tell he/she is old.  My two favorites are “You can live without sex, but not your glasses” and “Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.”  Today I thought of another one.  You can tell you’re old when you’re glad classes start in again.  Not too many years ago I was counting the days til classes started with dread; now I was counting the days with anticipation.  I am still taking classes at St. Ambrose University.  This semester I am taking an art class, letter press, and third-semester German.  We have now had two weeks of class and I am enjoying them both.  I have the same instructors and since I enjoyed them last semester, I am pleased to be working with them again.

My German instructor will be taking a group to Germany in January for two weeks.  I have signed up and made my deposit.  I am really excited about this as I have never been to Germany.  We still need one more person to sign up.  I hope someone does as I would be disappointed if it were cancelled (you grammarians should be impressed that I used the subjunctive mood here).  German grammar seems more complicated than English.   For example:  Some prepositions take the accusative, some the dative, some both accusative and dative, and a few even take genitive.  It seems like every rule has exceptions and it seems like every sentence has a ja, noch, doch, gern, aber or some other “flavoring words” that aren’t really translatable.  I wonder who came up with something so complicated.  However, I know English has several inconsistencies and I’m sure those learning English as a second language think our language is really complicated.  But, all is going well and I’m pleased with my progress.

Our first letter press project is due in a week.  We have to come up with something creative, then set the type, and then print it.  We have to make an edition of thirty and place ten of them in a public place.  I’ve decided I am going to do mine on user names and passwords.  The gist of my message is that we have far too many and they clutter up our minds.  There is no way that I can remember all of mine.  After I have printed this assignment, I am going to see if I can photograph it and put it in this blog.

I think it’s time to wrap this up as I’ve rambled more than I intended.

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Manhattan Walk

This is a collection of pictures I took as I walked the length of Manhattan.  I spread the walk out over four days as I wanted to experience the flavor of the city and explore certain areas.

Day 1 – Bowling Green Park to 50th Street.

Day 2 – 50th Street to 86th Street after a long day at Ocean Beach on Fire Island.  I got off Broadway at Columbus Circle and walked along Central Park West to 86th Street.

Day 3 – 86th Street to 168th Street.  I began by walking through Morningside Park and then walked through Columbia University’s Campus and bought a suitcase from a street vendor which I then pulled for several blocks.

Day 4 – The day began with my forgetting the battery for my camera so I had to buy a disposable one.  I walked past the George Washington Bridge, through Fort Tryon Park, and across the Harlem River Bridge to 225th Street, Marble Hill.

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Leisure-time reading

I have been reading Linda Fairstein’s novels.  I have currently read nine of her Alexandra Cooper novels and am reading another right now.  I find them very interesting as the setting is in New York City and each novel deals with a different section and a different aspect of New York’s life and history.   She gives lots of interesting information.  In one of her novels she discussed the world beneath the city, the subway tunnels, the aquaducts, the cables and sewer system.  In others she discussed the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lincoln Center, the Main Library and Bryant Park, and Governors’ Island.  She has a nice style that makes her novels interesting and easy to read.  She does use some clichés which becomes annoying after a while.  Examples would be the rogue cop, the Feds and the NYPD not working together effectively, and the heroine who at times can be unbelievable.

Janet and I read together My Sister’s Continent by Gina Frangello.   This is a psychological novel that definitely needs to be discussed with someone as you are reading it.  The story is about twins and their relationship with one another and with others.  The author is very adept at describing the  masochistic behaviors of the characters and the dysfunctional family relationships.  All the characters lead troubled lives and are in need of psychiatric help.  My wife and I both agreed that there is not one character, the twins, their lovers, their parents,  in the book who is likeable.  This book is definitely interesting and thought-provoking, and I would recommend it, but it is not a book one would read for entertainment and/or light reading.

We are currently reading A Stranger Among Us which is a collection of short stories that deal with “cross cultural collision and connection.”  The authors are from several different countries.  We have enjoyed and found interesting the stories we have read so far.

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Feminism in art

Two years ago I took a contemporary art class at St. Ambrose University.  One area we studied was the feminist movement.  The work that fascinated me the most was Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party.”  During the class I had the opportunity to go to New York City.  While there I went to the Brooklyn Museum and saw the installation.  It was truly awe-inspiring.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to New York City, that is an art work that all who are interested in art should see.  It is a permanent installation so it will be there.

Historically women have had difficulty having their art work displayed in museums.  I think that it is really a tragedy that in our modern age so few works by women are on display at most museums.  This is the case from major museums in large cities to smaller ones in smaller communities.

I paint and I decided to do a triptych showing the difficulty women have had and are still having.  I am including them here with an explanation for each panel.

In the first panel woman’s creative and artisitic talents are contained.  Her dreams of being an artist whose works are displayed have been crushed and she has resigned herself to her fate.  Perhaps being an art teacher, a docent explaining male artists’ works.  Even though she is very talented, she does not have the opportunity to share her works with others. The bottle is actually a metaphor for middle upper class to upper class white males who for years have prevented women from exhibiting their art.  She is nude to emphasize the fact that men see women as objects to be painted rather than artists themselves.

In the second panel we see the woman struggling to escape.  She is still nude because she has not made it, is still not accepted and recognized as an artist.  Her hips are larger than the opening of the bottle signifying the almost impossible obstacles that she must overcome to become a recognized and exhibited artist.  There is a chance that she will make it although it will not be easy.

In the third panel we see one of the very few women who through tremendous effort and dedication and belief in herself has made it.  She is now a recognized artist and is creating an installation in a major art museum.  She is one of the very few women artists who has made it.  Way to go!

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