Tag Archives: Museum artwork

Days 69-70: The Sweet Spot, Cantonese Food

You may have noticed a considerable shift in cultural emphasis from museums and concerts in Europe to other topics in Asia. These are developing and of growing interest here, as exemplified by Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House and the vacuous Guangzhou Modern Art Museum.  I didn’t go there this time, but if you are interested you can see them in the September 2014 archives from my very first world trip.

We did find one exception this week, however. A spontaneous decision to visit the Overseas Chinese Museum proved to be an interesting discovery of Sun Yet Sen and the Uprising around 1910:

The museum contained many historical relics of first overseas Chinese emigrants. They are still considered Chinese compatriots and their contributions are honored here. Bruce Lee was among the notables. Unfortunately, the exhibits are not translated into English, so you need to bring a Chinese friend who speaks English with you to make it worthwhile.

It would be unconscionable to visit Guangdong and not highlight the food. Famous throughout the world, Cantonese food can never be ignored for its freshness, simplicity and sheer elegance. While these are the trademarks of excellent Cantonese cooking, many foreigners and even Chinese Americans miss one of the key factors.

When I think about traditional Chinese cooking, I think of the glommy sauce added to the quick stir-fry dishes. A tablespoon of corn start in a cup of water, some soy sauce splashed on top, and you have the finishing touch for any dish. We seldom used this method and opted out for watery vegetables and meat instead.

However, what the sauce does do for me, is to provide the “slime factor” or glutinous means used to make eating food more pleasurable. The food is intentionally slippery, so it slides down and lubricates your throat.

The word “wat” in Cantonese describes smoothness in a dish. This characteristic is often a criteria for the quality of the dish. I have seldom heard this description in Western cooking as anything perceptible, desirable or necessary. It is a sensual experience for Chinese. That’s my two cents worth about Chinese cuisine and my “China’s Test Kitchen” analysis.

We were invited to the 80th birthday of the wife of my mother’s first cousin in Zhongshan, China. The festive dishes demonstrate what I attempted to describe about Chinese food above. The dishes were straightforward, with minimal additive flavorings or spices, but promote the freshness of ingredients and the natural sweetness of meat, fish, seafood, eel (not shown), fruit and vegetables. By the way, no rice at banquets, but long life noodles at the end for major birthdays like this celebration.

The traditional dessert of steamed bread stuffed with melon paste and a salted egg is just the opposite of Western desserts:  sugar is used as little as possible. The Western-style cake can blow it all, but it too, had only a modest amount of sugar in it. A dab of red wine at each place was used for toasting only. In addition to tea, plenty of fruit juices including coconut milk was served.

A more typical meal on the street consisted of meat and veggies over rice. These fast food joints are everywhere, unfranchised, and gives any Chinese a person to be his own boss. Not bad, considering you can make or break your own fate, your way.

This is close to the end of my fourth world travels with myself and others! It has been a fascinating experience for me, and I hope it has been for you as well!! Thanks to all of you who have traveled aling and sent comments. They were particularly appreciated during my month in Germany.

Of course the highlight was going to Morocco. I experienced Islamic culture, met a great group of people, made some new friends, and overcame my fear of drawing!! It was a life-changing event!

Please write and let me know which parts you found the most interesting. I’ll be sending a teeny weeny survey to get your feedback, so please reply!!

中 国 的 朋友们, 谢谢 你们的 客气,我们 很 高兴 有机会 看到 你们!快 来 美国 见 我们!

Day 46-47 Last Dance in Düsseldorf

IMG_7951
Inscription at Entrance to the Art Academy: ‘For our Students: Only the Best’

Art has been elusive in Düsseldorf, until I made a point to seek it out. Works by Luther promoter Cranach and German Expressionist Otto Dix were in town but hard to get to even though they were only a stone’s throw from where I lived. I discovered the Kunst (Art) Academy, where Gerhard Richter, one of my daughter’s favorite artists, studied and taught. The sobering words carved at the entrance seem daunting, for both student and teacher.

I originally came to the area seeking art supplies, and was delighted to find a tidy art store complete with what I needed for my sketching class in Morocco. It’s scheduled to begin at the end of the week, and I hadn’t stocked my bag yet. I sent all my German books  home so I could fit and replace the new materials in my carry-on.

IMG_7969

I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to lay everything out for you. Just like ingredients for a soup, these are going to be the base and the flavor for my upcoming sketches. I loved all the quality German-made sketch paper, colored pencils, pastels, graphite pencils and holder, and even the UHU glue stick. After further inspection, however, I discovered that the gray pliable art eraser (in a plastic case) came from Malaysia and the markers from Korea. Oh well.

And just so you know I have my priorities straight, I stopped at the German bakery Heinemann’s for a kirsch cake over a Chocolate sponge and chocolate biscuit. They even packed the whipped cream with tender care “to go”.

Over the weekend, friend Vladimir was visiting and we made a stop at the Neanderthal Museum. Not one of my favorites, but here’s a tiny description of the 2,500,000 years of Migration, described as a “river”, with ebbs and flows”:

The burial discovery of a family of 14 showed how they were hacked by axes, where blows to the head were visible. The museum is the site for a discovery of Neanderthal man that was dated to 40,000 years ago, but earlier discoveries of Neanderthal man were made in Belgium before then. A number of artifacts and copies of archaeological finding were duplicates used to explain the evolution of man.

tmp_30199-DSC_06991044469968

We made it back in time to see an innovative and clever version of the “Magic Flute”. The Germans are experimenting with new ways to present and appreciate the classic operas. In this one, they used the Buster Keaton silent film era graphics and period style as the backdrop for the beautifully enduring music. It worked well, the graphics and animated portions were original, creative, and thoroughly enjoyable. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing more of these interpretations as opera becomes more widespread and appealing to younger audiences.

tmp_27244-DSC_0742360256924For those interested, here’s a clip of the performance at the Opera on the Rhine in Dusseldorf:

http://www.operamrhein.de/de_DE/termin/die-zauberfloete.13972906

As I close this month’s visit to Dusseldorf, I am sorry to leave. The attention to art, music and culture is clearly evident, albeit subtle at times. In addition to promoting fashion, media, and trade fairs, the city has a bright and forward-thinking approach that will continue to make it a leader in these industries.

Addendum: a preliminary sketch of a static and well-behaved model that served as prep for my sketching class (photo was taken after the sketch!)

And the music legacy lives on as well…here’s the parting music and dance that took place on a casual 90 degree afternoon on Konigsallee around the corner from my apartment:

In Düsseldorf, you can hear year-end recitals by students at the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule free of charge. The piano recital I attended had a dozen or so students. Watch for these world-beaters in the upcoming years. The majority were Asian students. It will be interesting to see how they can influence Western music in their own countries.

I’m off to Morocco tomorrow, to meet with a sketch group organized by an art teacher at City College of San Francisco. Join me for some first-hand, and first-time experiences and adventures! I probably will post around the end of the week after getting acclimated, so stay tuned!

Day 44-45: Lost Schlosses of Barbarossa and Benrath

Kaiserwerth, just north of Dusseldorf on the Rhine, is the site of the legendary medieval Barbarossa castle. As Emperor, he built these fortifications to control the Rhine River. The town is just a small suburb of Dusseldorf. It’s easy enough for weekend party goers to get to (by public transportation, no less!) and an excuse for drunken brawls at the outdoor beer garden. It was already in full swing by Friday afternoon at 3pm.

The beach and feeder to the Rhine were fun and idyllic spots for local visitors and the historic town of Kaiserwerth made it a refreshing and worthwhile escape from the city.

Schloss Benrath (former residence of Elector Carl Theodor (1724-1799)

On my way out of the city headed south to Schloss Benrath, I continued to be impressed by the public transportation in Germany and how easy it is to get around. I am injecting photos of Schloss Benrath along with my commentary. They don’t have anything to do with each other, but maybe the pictures will help make my thoughts more interesting to read!

Having worked for the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway System in my first job out of graduate school, I became an incorrigible train junkie. I got my “first training wheels” from former British Rail or London Tube engineers. They were making use of their ex-pat junkets in Hong Kong, living a colonial life of luxury at a time that was soon to eclipse. The looming year 1997 was just around the corner, signaling the end of the empire after more than 150 years of dominance.

(note: The Palace was decorated with fabric sculptures as part of a special exhibition.)

Nevertheless, I used the skills the Brits taught me about station design, vent shafts, headways and trip generations. This led to a lifetime pursuit. I enjoy and marvel at all of the planning and logistics needed to run a public transportation system. Transit system design integrated with high density development worked wonders, particularly in Hong Kong, but the concept is no exception in major European cities.

When I get on a local transit system in Germany, I get excited by its sheer beauty and efficiency. Its citizens appreciate and  respect the system so it stays clean. The users, the workers, the managers, the leadership all work for a common goal. There are places for luggage in lieu of seats (see photo) so the upholstery isn’t damaged.  Someone can still sit there if needed. Smart signage says it’s ok to have coffee but you need a cover for it.  (See sticker in the middle of the window).

IMG_7807
Yes, some design forethought can go a bit far. At the Schloss Benrath, I noticed all the “mother” hardware that could probably last 1000 years in place. Forged of hand wrought brass, the hinges are twice the size of the door handle.  It must have been decided that the weight of the door on the hinge produces greater stress than a door handle holding a door in place. Any ideas, engineers in the audience? In any event, it’s different from common practice today. We just replace hinges when they wear out.

On the German speaking tour. I heard a big gasp from the crowd about the size of a corset in the early 18th Century–a mere 46 cm! I’ll let you calculate the conversion.(:))

And at the Schloss outside:  a pretty picture who looked good enough to be a model to me…

IMG_7810

Day 32-38: Essen in Essen

Essen always had a curious name, since it sounds like the German word for “Food”, or “to eat”. There doesn’t appear to be any connection. I was tempted to feature the food we ate in town, but it wasn’t anything remarkable. A side trip from Dusseldorf to nearby Essen takes only a half hour by train, so friend Helena and I planned a full day excursion there.

At the recommendation of a fellow architect and German student, we spent the afternoon exploring the massive Zollverein, a coal mine converted to a museum for explaining the extraction, production and transport of black gold. As a UNESCO world site, this was the heart of the famous Ruhr Valley.

Like the African-Americans who migrated from the Deep South to the San Francisco Bay Area after World War II, many migrants came from Poland at the end of the 19th Century to this rapidly developing industrialized area. In the 1950’s and 1980’s, many new migrants from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Russia and Romania arrived in this area and other parts of Germany to search for a better life.

The museum had a you-name it-we have it approach to anything and everything to do with coal and beyond. The plant area was so extensive, it could be a quarry for humanity. Integrated with the coal production factory itself, the collections included dinosaurs, Roman ruins, Greek urns, geological rock samples, and memorabilia. It felt a bit like the Tate Gallery and the High-Line concept in New York City thrown into one gigantic area, but it tries very hard to not be a theme park.

I amused myself by looking for the oldest fossil and located coral imprints that were 600 million years old!! My favorite though, was just a tender young fish print checking in at a measly 60 million years.

In addition to the actual production lines, scaled models were used to demonstrate the work flow. The tidiness and efficient Bauhaus-designed buildings didn’t reduce the cast of sadness and grueling work that must have taken place there. Work conditions were so poor that many workers did not live long. Below is a short clip of one of the videos presented (unfortunately in German only) that shows how the coal could be delivered from the shaft to the ground in 30 seconds:

In the evening, Helena and I saw Romeo and Juliet, the ballet by Prokofiev. The music was stirring and the performers expressive. We experienced a rare standing ovation by a primarily local crowd (i.e., no tourists), so it was definitely worth seeing. Recognition by the audience in such a warm way has been a rarity in my experience in Germany, but when it happens, you know you have seen something amazing.

The ballet was performed in the famous theater designed by Finland’s namesake architect, Alvar Alto. The flat panels of granite covering the building seemed strange on curved surfaces. He didn’t seem to think that poured-in-place concrete would be acceptable for such a noble building.

I couldn’t resist sharing this photogenic shot of Helena, my friend and traveling companion from Switzerland.  Every year, we attend music festivals in Germany or Switzerland. Some of you may remember seeing her in previous posts in Dresden. We keep threatening to tackle Salzburg together, or maybe a music festival near where she lives next. She prefers ballet over opera, but we compromise and go to both as well as concerts.

As a physician and therapist, she has traveled the world and lived in many places. She has an admirable life, from moving to Switzerland in high school from the States, to studying in China (where she and Gee Kin met), building a hospital in Mozambique, and working at a sleep clinic in Switzerland! She also has an amazing outlook on life that is energetic and contagious. She kept me on my toes (literally, trying to keep up with her pace), and fit enough for a queen.

IMG_7676

At the end of the weekend Helena and I went to another local event at Düsseldorf’s Oper am Rhein with a joint Russian and German concert. The program included arias from many popular operas, including Eugene Onegin, Don Giovanni, and Puccini. If that weren’t enough, we were in for another standing ovation.

The warm crowd (maybe a lot of passionate Russians?) clearly loved the performers and the music. We did too. But two in a row? If I don’t watch out, I will have to amend my comments on the rarity of standing ovations among German audiences. I could swear I didn’t detect any over-enthusiastic Americans or their accents prompting or provoking the crowd. In any event, it was a very satisfying weekend of walking, talking, listening, watching and enjoying life.

(Forgive me for cheating: the dish on the feature is from Düsseldorf, not Essen! We searched high and low for an American Breakfast on Mother’s Day, but only found a fancy hotel on the way serving yucky healthy food. Ironically, the scrambled egg on salad with sweet potato chips was delicious).

Days 17-18: Asian-American in London Sees An American in Paris

Blenheim must be one of those architectural gems featured in An Outline of European Architecture  by Nicholas Pevsner. I wanted to run to my tattered and worn copy on my shelf at home to see if it was. The book got me through most of my Architectural History classes, just at a time when I wondered why studying palaces like these were useful endeavors in life.

A rare English Baroque palace, Blenheim was built by John Vanbrugh. He was a controversial pick over Christopher Wren, who designed and built St. Paul’s Cathedral. Van Brugh managed the project poorly and he himself had to be managed during the process. In the end he left the project in disgrace. It’s funny, but I’m sure I didn’t learn the project management details in architectural history, but it figured prominent in the storytelling about Blenheim.

Van Brugh was probably better known for his layout of the rooms. He originally designed an entire length of the building intended as a picture gallery. It didn’t work out. Maybe there weren’t enough portraits of the family. The walls were converted for use as a library. One of the photo shows how it looks like…well, an afterthought.

The Duke of Marlborough, an original Churchill, lived here. He was granted the property after winning the war against France and Prussia around 1704. The battle took place in Blindheim, Bavaria with 50,000 troops on each side.

Sir Winston Churchill was also born in Blenheim–I didn’t realize that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, as they say. Sadly,  I didn’t find this palace very impressive, even though it is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site,

To reach Blenheim by public transportation, it takes a side trip from London through Oxford by train, then by bus to Woodstock. We stayed overnight in Woodstock (half an hour from Oxford) to visit the Palace early the next morning. Woodstockers are proud to claim their namesake that preceded Blenheim by about 500 years, and  ‘way before the piddly little NY town claimed the name. It’s famous for glove-making.

IMG_7322.JPG

Before the palace was open, we took an early stroll through the grounds. The rolling hills were fun to navigate among the pastoral sheep and a stray pheasant here and there. Not much going on except extensive stretches of green lawn as far as the eye can see and shady trees as shown above. No one was in sight, until we arrived back at the entrance where the tour buses were just unloading the hoards. It started to feel a little bit like St. Petersburg again so we hustled our way out of the throngs quickly.

Our friends in Bath had recommended the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, so we stopped there after Blenheim on the way back to London. The museum has an impressive ancient art and archaeological  collection and many representative pieces I had not seen elsewhere. I could also continue pursuing Silk Road connections and learn more about the string of cities along it.

From what I recall,  art history seems to formally begin around 3000 BC, when Egyptian civilization became established.  One of the earliest pieces in the museum was from as early as 8000 BC, during the Neolithic period in Metsopotamia. Here are a few of my favorite pieces from later periods:

On return to London, I planned a special return visit to Fez Mangal, an “authentic” Turkish restaurant in the Ladbroke Grove neighborhood. I craved its fresh mezzes and kebabs as much as those in Istanbul. Friend and fellow traveler Karen will remember this restaurant from our 2014 visit to London. While we waited for a table SRO, we ordered our sea bream and mixed grill (with lamb, chicken, and mixed lamb kebabs) dishes in advance of being seated.

An American in Paris (see curtain call in featured photo above)

Unfortunately, despite excellent dancers and singers, the confusing and dated dialog from the original production couldn’t be improved. Save your money and watch the movie.

By the way, I forgot to mention in my previous post that Bath is also a world UNESCO site.

In keeping with my celebration list, I’d like to wish dear Dresden friend Hannelore, who keeps me motivated and learning German, a “Happy Birthday” or “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!”

Days 5-8: Dizzyin’ D.C.

The number of museums (all free) in Washington D.C. is staggering, and deciding which ones to visit is a daunting challenge. We decided to each pick one today–and a few off the beaten path. We had already covered the most popular ones in the past with our kids–the National Gallery, the Smithsonian, the National Air and Space.

IMG_4122

First, we headed to the U.S.Holocaust Museum. The featured photo above shows the five-story high atrium of the museum. Photos of Jewish families who perished in the Holocaust were displayed there.  The chain of events leading to the holocaust were many and complex, to say the least.  False evidence blamed the Jews for killing Christ.

Around 1525, Martin Luther initially embraced them. He later turned against them when they refused to convert to Protestantism. It wasn’t until 1994 when the Lutheran church acknowledged Luther’s anti-Semitism.

We primarily think of the Jews from Germany and Austria being sent to camps and killed there. Even more Jewish people from Romania, Poland, Russia and Lithuania were killed. Many were forced to live in ghettos segregating them from mainstream society. However, most Jews living in Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary were spared.

There were chilling graphic depictions of the camps. The arrival of American troops helped to document the horrors before evidence was destroyed. More than half of those who were liberated died within two weeks of being freed. They were already too sick to survive or were unable to digest the food they consumed.

While very sad and sobering, the museum presented an important lesson in history. Similar events could take place again.  This museum teaches us the social, political, and economic circumstances behind such heinous acts and the chain of events that caused the Holocaust. You can learn more about the museum here: https://www.ushmm.org/information/exhibitions/museum-exhibitions/permanent.

In the afternoon, we made our way to the Native American Museum. While the museum is housed in an impressive building, it didn’t reduce the weight of the subject and its history. The many tribes and unions between nations were systematically ignored and destroyed.

The many treaties that were created between the Native Americans and the U.S. were constantly violated, despite initial good intentions. The map below shows how Americans pushed the Native Americans westward further and further from their homelands, while new settlers expanded into these territories.

IMG_5083 2
Non-native Population Expansion, 1820 (Dark Red), 1850 (Rust), and 1890 (Yellow)

We welcomed the slow walk back to the hotel to ponder our thoughts from the day’s deep and sobering educational experiences.

Days 7-8: The NMAAHC, Capitol Hill, and the Museum for Women in the Arts

Many of the newer Washington D.C. attractions like the National Museum of African-American History require advanced tickets. I was glad I knew ahead of time, or I would have been disappointed. The stunning new building was designed by David Adjaye and is clad in filigree bronze screen panels.

After being guided down to the lower floor where slavery, civil war, and segregation topics were covered, we began our long difficult journey tracing and understanding the roots of African-American history.

Everyone was very quiet and pensive as we shared the tragic stories of Africans from mostly Central and Coastal West Africa being captured by Portuguese, Dutch, British, French and Danish slave traders. By around 1800, the importation of foreign slaves was banned. Rhode Island slave traders developed and dominated a thriving domestic trade.

Less than half of the captured Africans survived the journey to the Coast or the horrific slave ships. While approximately 500,000 slaves were brought to the States, a total of around 12 million slaves were captured in Africa and sold in the New World. The largest proportion were sent to the Caribbean or to Brazil.

As families were split up and sold, the humiliating auction blocks were used to showcase the black slaves. They were split up from families and loved ones, mothers from their babies. Both sides of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War used the issue of slavery as a strategy to rally supporters to their side. The British and Americans offered freedom to those slaves who fought in the Revolutionary Wars, and the North and the South also made promises to African Americans that often were not kept.

After slavery, it was difficult for African-Americans to survive the post-Civil war era. Many prominent leaders and heroes were featured, and there were many historic events and landmark decisions. Segregation displaced slavery and became another racist era.

The museum was split into the history and dark past on lower levels, and modern culture on upper levels. The NMAAHC offered insight and understanding of the arduous path of not only African-Americans, but the shared path of all Americans. You can read more about the museum’s collections here:  https://nmaahc.si.edu

The combination of these museums left a powerful imprint on my understanding and perspective of oppressed people in America. It seems more pertinent for all of us to learn about the history and development of oppression as race and religion become major issues in our current society.

The stretches between sights and buildings along the Washington Mall and Capitol Hill are far and wide, so good shoes and good planning are essential for surviving D.C. The Washington Metro provided some relief in getting between points, but the distances by foot are intimidating, even to veteran walkers like us. Thanks to L’Enfant and his grandiose French city planning scheme, the wide boulevards and diminished human scale do seem to put people in their places.

Well, the verdict is in. Yes, Washington D.C. is a pretty awesome place. I couldn’t help but compare the time lapse walking between buildings with that of Versailles. We got our royal injection thanks to L’Enfant. And I’m not sure whether the Kremlin and Red Square came first or we did (around 1800), but I’m guessing that National Mall beats Moscow’s in area. While we’re at it, it might be worth comparing Beijing’s Tian An Men Square and Forbidden City.  A research project for another day.

At the opposite end of the National Monument, above are just a few grand dames on Capitol Hill: the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

Above are one of three perfect copies of the Gutenberg Bible at the Library of Congress; and Cupcakes?!? (click on image to see captions and to increase scale)

Below: interior of ornate Italian Renaissance style Library of Congress. Almost stands up to or equal with the Library in Vienna. (To see the Vienna Library, search posting from Day 27 of 2015, dated Aug. 21)

A very understated but worthwhile visit to the Women’s Museum yielded some gems: a Frieda Kahlo Self-Portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky, and friend Hung Liu’s noble portraits of women who were prostitutes. Gee Kin had trouble identifying five famous women artists, but managed to come up with these and Annie Liebowitz. Sure enough, she had a photo of Dolly Parton proudly on display.

There were numerous other interesting works there, but I felt sad that these great artists (including Berte Morisot and Mary Cassatt whose works were represented) and others (I didn’t see any Georgia O’Keefe) had to find a cause to be celebrated on their own and could not be integrated with the mainstream art world. Can you name five living women artists?

To top off the day at Momofuku DC: Honey Crisp with Arugula, Kimchee, and Maple Sugar; Skate Wing, and Chinese Broccoli with Cashews. Highly recommended.

Apologies for the long post.  Combined posts will reduce the load on your Inbox!

Days 1-2: If I can’t make it here, I’ll make it… in SF!?!

On a cold, crisp, early, snowless morning, we landed in EWaRk–oops Newark. Land of the plenty, as hubby Gee Kin tells me. Joisey’s not only the second wealthiest state (per capita) in the US of A and higher than that of California, but the most densely populated (@470 sq. m/pp). In fact, almost as dense as the Netherlands (@409 sq. m/pp)! That’s a two-upper to lowly San Francisco Priders, who can claim neither for California.

Despite our early arrival from the red-eye, we managed to entertain ourselves with a brisk, let’s-avoid-chills-in-our-flimsy-made-for-California-jackets-walk in NYC to the Soho area where Balthazar, a great Frenchy breakfast institution, is located. I indulged in a rare Bloody Mary (no, I didn’t have a Vodka preference) with a salmon tartine and a first-time ever decaf coffee at 10am in the morning.

Our intriguing waitress was Korean-Irish and grew up in Japan. She validated my question about her origins after she told me that many people ask her if she was from one of the Stans. I guessed she might have been Uzbeki. For centuries the Central Asians have mixed their European and Asian roots into beautiful minds and bodies. It’s always exciting to find them in far-flung America.

On the way back to our Lower East Side hotel, we passed the New Museum. I couldn’t resist a quick peek. I learned from my personal guide, an Italian Art History major, about the museum’s genesis. As a spinoff from the Whitney, this museum collects work of living artists but has no permanent collection. That poses some challenges where there is a perpetual installation on half of the building’s several floors. Nevertheless, the portion that was open for Raymond Pettibon proved to be a worthwhile stop. While most of his work is focused on American iconic figures and political messages, his foray out of his graphic work into the SoCal surfing world was refreshing. See a few curly waves below.

After a break in the hotel to de-jetlag, we made it to the Pig and Khao around the corner for an early dinner. The diverse gathering of patrons and staff made the environment feel very friendly and comfortable. It reminded me about a comment from my German teacher. After she had visited New York for a week, she returned to San Francisco and was struck by how lacking in diversity San Francisco was. We were just starting to catch a whiff of the contrast between cities already.

The hotel is a new-age, suite hotel in the middle of the Lower East Side neighborhood. The narrow streets give this area an immediate neighborhoody feel. Despite the questionable gentrification, the owners made an attempt to link the hotel to the community by offering yoga classes and volunteering in the neighborhood. We actually went to the pop-up free food service to the neighborhood to help serve meals in the morning. It’s a great way to discover another part of NYC and a departure from our usual Midtown Manhattan Pod Hotel.

Ein Schönes Wochenende (A Beautiful Weekend)

The ten-year drought in California is over. Fountains are flowing again. Cherry blossoms and daffodils are in bloom in the Park. I have come out of hibernation and the synapses are sparking. And Spring is in the air!

Unlike the East Coast, we are experiencing beautiful weather in San Francisco. Germans often wish friends and family “A Beautiful Weekend”, and indeed we celebrated one this week.

Can you walk to a museum within a mile where you live? Indeed, we are fortunate enough to have both the DeYoung Museum and the Academy of Sciences within a stone’s throw of home. We finally took advantage of the convenience and did a twofer in one day to use our memberships in both. For visitors to San Francisco, you can easily conquer these in one fell swoop as they are opposite each other in Golden Gate Park. In the tower at the top of the DeYoung (a Herzog and DeMeuron masterpiece), you can grab a killer view of San Francisco within Golden Gate Park (see images shown below) from the tower (see header image above of tower).

The annual “Bouquets to Art” at the DeYoung allows floral designers to interpret a famous painting or exhibit. The scent of the flowers enhance the experience. A few of my favorites are shown here. Flowers are scattered throughout the museum, with two or three displays in each gallery. The floral displays coerce you into a lively dialog with the paintings.

The nearby Academy of Sciences is a recently renovated, Platinum LEED building. That means it is a sustainable, net-zero energy building. We had neglected this natural history museum and aquarium until recently, after I saw the ones in New York and Berlin. The albino crocodile, Earthquake exhibit, Butterfly Terrarium (in a structure that imitates the Reichstag!) and full-scale skeleton of a blue whale are notable. And, in true San Francisco style, the Terrace Cafe had a decent menu with our choices here (Fish Tacos and Skirt Steak with Arugula Salad).

IMG_3038

The annual CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) Festival, held in San Francisco over the past couple of weeks, closes this weekend. The “Guangzhou Dream Factory”, was an evocative documentary about African entrepreneurs in China, and a series of seven short films showcased emerging filmmakers. Here’s a couple of shots from the new trendy “Uptown” neighborhood of Oakland where the New Parkway Cinema is located, and the Q&A with the directors and actors of the film shorts.

My midterm art review for figure drawing earlier this week helped me to organize and present what I have produced in class. Here is a spectrum of work along with others’ work. See if you can detect my “style” vs. others’ contributions!

At the beginning of the week, the Acting Chancellor of City College of San Francisco presented plans for the Fort Mason campus, where I attend art classes. Unfortunately, the lease is up for renewal. Options were presented to a vocal group of teachers, students and representatives of the arts in San Francisco. It was a contentious meeting. Despite the re-accreditation and free tuition for San Francisco residents next year, the budget and planning process is very unclear and dubious.

IMG_6547

You’ll soon see the launch of the Fourth Annual “Travels with Myself and Others” World Trip! Stay tuned and follow along “real time” during the posts next month! You can check out the itinerary of places to be visited on the tab at the top for “World Tour 2017 (or in the series of bars on the upper right on a mobile device). Join me and and don’t forget to send your comments!

Impressionistic Views

Monet Exhibit

The special Monet exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco is worth seeing if you are in town through May. You get an extra bonus on a beautiful day with views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Monet’s early years were revealing. He wasn’t always the fuzzy artist we have come to know. He was very accomplished and painted his family and landscapes on trips to London and Holland. His studies of flickering light on water and objects were exquisite. These led him to the later impressionistic work as his eyesight failed him.

He worked so skillfully en plein air that all the paint was still wet on the canvas when he put his brush down! Amateurs could only dream of mastering painting like that.

Going dark

You might think its pretty hard to avoid the news media these days, but I am proud to say that I have gone dark for over a solid month now. After battling a serious addiction to the news, I decided to kick it completely. I couldn’t take the noise and felt like I was going deaf from it.

Short of a few minor infractions by headlines that popped up on innocent websites not known for news (my bank, Instagram, or Twitter for the non-news sites I visit), I went cold turkey. That included TV, internet and newpapers!

The filtered, second- or third-hand information you inadvertently receive from conversations with others protects you from heading into a 100-year flood or dam collapse. My best solicited sources of news and weather reports in California were from friends in Germany! They certainly were much more concise and only told me that I need’t look for Noah’s Ark yet.

I finally broke the ice today and listened to Deutsche Welle’s Langsamer Gesprochen, or news in German spoken s-l-o-w-l-y. I got both curiosity and language learning covered at-the-same-time.

Racist or Anti-Racist?

At our German class last night, we had an interesting assignment. Specifically, we were learning the words for musical instruments and prepositions. In general, the story we were to read with a partner involved a group of residents in an apartment building in a German city. Each of the residents played a different instrument. When they each practiced, they caused havoc and complaints between neighbors in the building.

Next thing we read is that a foreigner moves into the building. He plays the guitar. Suddenly all the neighbors who never spoke to each other become friends and band together to complain about the new neighbor. I love learning German for all the analysis and critical thinking they throw into exercises just to make sure you are paying attention.

The guitarist eventually moves away, and the neighbors go back to being the way they were–unfriendly,complaining, and not speaking to each other.

Clearly there are cultural differences between moral judgment and how we are taught in Germany and the U.S. But if the teacher hadn’t explained it to us, I would have thought it was a racist story! What do you think?

Cafe Lily

I discovered from one of Ruth Reichl’s tweets that a Korean-Uzbeki restaurant exists deep in the heart of Brooklyn. I immediately calendared this intriguing cafe on my list of go-tos once we arrive in New York on our upcoming trip eastward.

The article from the NY Times attached explains how Koreans ended up in the far-flung former Russian state in Central Asia. If it hadn’t been for Julianne’s classmate, who had been to Uzbekistan on a Korean Christian mission, we never would have connected the dots.

But indeed the Koreans were purged from cities like Moscow and Vladivostok during WW 2 to isolated Uzbekistan. If you remember from my first travels in 2013, I visited the Silk Road cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bokhara and Kiva. I can’t wait to get another sweet reminder of the delicate flavors from there, combining plov (pilav) and root vegetables with kim chee and barbequed meat!

For those interested, here’s the writeup:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/dining/cafe-lily-review-bensonhurst-korean-uzbek.html

Here are the photos (reformatted with new editing tools) originally posted from travels to the Samarqand market Bazaar in Uzbekistan in 2014. The market in Tashkent was even larger– one of the biggest in the world that I have seen! (Click on photos for captions and larger images)

Bouquets of Birthday wishes in March to: Farris, Marilyn, Julianne, Frances, and Corene!

Days 50-51: Mongolia 4

We are in Day 5 of ger living. Despite its challenges, the variety of gers has allowed us to get a full flavor of ger living. Our last ger included a stay along one of the largest fresh-water lakes in Mongolia. While rudimentary, it gave us a feeling of staying at Lake Tahoe, Mongolian style.

The many incredible, pristine pastoral landscapes we encountered traveling off-road by Land Cruiser included frequent herds of sheep, goats, horses and cattle. These are free-range animals, owned by herders who live in nearby gers, and have no fences. The animals get rounded up at the end of the day and know who and where their friends and family are. We had a full court press of the domestic animal world with a few wild ones and migrating birds for flavor.

The Erdene Zuu Monastery was founded in 1586 and is the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. The religion came from India and Tibet in the 12th Century. The grounds of the Monastery are preserved as a museum. The adjacent complex is a working temple. The temple was built over the palace built by Ugudei Khan, and materials were taken from the ruins.

The Kharkhorin Museum presented a fascinating series of maps showing the the history of Mongolia. If you are curious, please click on these to see more; if not, skip this section.

The Chinese Han Dynasty successfully fought back the Xiong Nu empire in Northwest China, and early portions of the Great Wall were built to deter the Xiong Nu from advancing further. (Remember Mu Lan? She was fighting the Xiong Nu!) You can read more about the ruins of the early Great Wall in my posts from Turpan in August 2013.

In the following series, you will learn more about the history of the great Chinggis Khan (1162-1227), one of his sons Ugudei Khan (1186-1241), and his grandson Kubilai (1215-1294). The maps attached are in some ways easier to read than the ones above, as they show the flow of conquests. Take a look at the arrows and dates on the maps and the extent of their conquests in the span of a century! The influence of the Mongols reached as far west as Iran, Iraq and Turkey.

In the same museum where early 8th Century Turkic memorials were preserved, a tomb for servants contained miniature figures similar to those found in Xian. They had Han Dynasty characteristics similar to the figures we enjoyed seeing in Dunhuang Museum in Northwest China. They had unique, expressive faces and lively gestures in their bodies. Apparently these were not created in a tomb for any noble, but were offerings by servants. The size of the figures, gold, and ceramic pieces were not large enough to represent those that were buried with those a leader.