Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you all the happiest and safest of Thanksgiving Holidays!

The header image above is a mural being painted outside Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, across from the Forest Hill station.

If you didn’t receive a separate email from me already, please check out my web page for the Children’s Council of San Francisco at https://giveto.childrenscouncil.org/fundraise?fcid=562263. You can cut and paste the link if it doesn’t connect directly.

And for the opera fans: curtain call for the Meistersinger after a thrilling 5 1/2 hours at the SF opera:

Last night I saw “Die Meistersinger”, a pop opera that was created by Wagner to help him get some income after a number of attempted operas left him impoverished. It was a slow start of a 5 1/2 hour saga, but turned out to be one of my favorite operas. It embodied all the German characteristics I love about the culture: appreciation of art, philosophy, politics, defiance, intelligence, and history.

This was indeed one of the hairiest marathon performances I had ever attended. In the back of my mind I was reminiscing about the Chinese opera double-headers (2×3 hours=6 hours!) I used to go to with my mother in San Francisco Chinatown as a child. We used to stake out a good string of empty seats where I could sprawl out comfortably. Although the SF Opera orchestra seating was 3/4 full, there were still a few rows at the edges that tempted me to drape myself across a pair of seats for the sake of claiming territory.

Aside from a few momentary drifts I indeed did myself proud. I perked up at the beginning of the second act, just in time for the grand drama that ramped up at Scene 1 of the Third. The dramatic build-up was so effective, you could hear a pin drop. I was glad that I had studied German to savor a word here and there. In the end, I rushed home to read the entire program head to toe. Being well past Midnite, it’s an indication that I must have enjoyed the performance.

It was a huge production, with a big chorus and a beautiful stage set. There were so many performers on stage at the end that the soloists’ voices were suddenly drowned out by the absorption of clothing and bodies whenever they turned on stage and away from the audience.

Here are just a few photos of the curtain call, from my seat at the edge of the orchestra floor 1/3 of the way back:

The featured image above shows a benefit performance on Sunday by Jazz prodigy Esperanza Spaulding at the SF Jazz Center for Links SF, compliments of friend and member Farris Page.

The Silk Road: in light of recent conflicts in Europe, read this article on Russia, China, and the new Silk Road. I just finished a fascinating book, “To the Edge of the World: the story of the Trans-Siberian Express, the World’s Greatest Railway” that puts perspective on our recent trip. This article provides another view on the future of collaboration between these two superpowers and the future of Central Asia, that isn’t even on the radar for the US:

Despite the recent world events and unthinkable attacks in Paris and elsewhere, life goes on. We become more understanding, yet we should allow our own good judgment and thinking to direct us to carry out our lives and living in the future.

Japanese Art, the Western World and Bonus Video

In a current exhibition at the Asian Art Museum, you can view some interesting comparative paintings between the Hiroshige woodblock prints and famous Impressionists like Van Gogh, Matisse, and Monet. Europeans were fascinated by Japanese artists and emulated these new discoveries. While the pieces by well-known Western painters are limited in number, the exhibition certainly provided a good case for the Japanese inspiration from which the Europeans drew.

Many of the wood blocks by Hiroshige, although small scale and delicate, had very intriguing themes. At the upper left photo, the woodblock depicts a lively scene with trees swaying in the wind and someone chasing after his hat. This scene is one of a series of woodblocks that recorded towns and villages between two major cities. Each one was unique so villagers could distinguish their town from others.

The close-ups close to the picture plane of portraits were also imitated by Westerners eager to draw from sources little known at the time. See the portrait of a Japanese Female Princess character in middle photo above. Japanese decorative arts were also widely copied and emulated, as seen in the photo, above right. While imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I wondered what the Japanese artists thought of Westerners’ borrowing of original ideas. There certainly weren’t copyright infringement laws in place at the time, so it was anyone’s game.

Regardless of the historical backdrop and lingering questions, the exhibition was very enlightening and presented much food for thought. Here are a few comparisons, that show the early precedents of Japanese art followed by paintings of Western artists:

Both the Jugenstijl movement (see my post on Mucha in Prague from May, 2015) and the Art Nouveau style in Europe (see St. Petersburg posts in September 2015), as well as the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, were heavily influenced by Japanese prints and decorative arts. Similarly, Frank Lloyd Wright was heavily affected by Japanese design (see FLW in Chicago post, October 2015).

See the inspiration for the graphic designs for Tiffany and other poster art here:

You can learn more about this exhibition and details of the exhibition, on display until Feb. 7, 2016 at: http://www.asianart.org/exhibitions_index/looking-east

Note: My apologies for not recording the titles or names of the Japanese pieces. While many of the woodblocks in the exhibition were attributed to Hiroshige, there may be other artists whose names I did not note.

For a video on the Goethe Institute at Schwäbisch Hall, where I took a German class for two weeks on language and culture, see here:

A One-Minute Survey and Index for 2015 Tour-80 days around the world

Your responses to the attached survey will help me to improve your reading experience! Please answer the following quick questions:

Thank you for your time and comments! This will greatly help me in future posts.

And, as promised, see the attached index for this year’s 80 Days Around the World. You can also use the “search” function on this website to find specific dates or countries.

2015 Index

Other summaries from this year that you may find of interest are:

Day 79: A recap of 80 Days Around the World
Day 71: An Unscientific Analysis of Two Land Voyages
Day 58: Pause to Refresh

For the 2014 version, please search for the September 27, 2014 Post Index.