Visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Again) Monday, May 30 2011 

On Thursday, PJ and I each flew to Boston for the weekend. He was there for the American Literature Association Conference, and I decided to tag along for a little rest and relaxation. I had initially thought that I would set up some visits with alumni while there, but I quickly decided that I deserve a little time off every now and then. I’d glad I did; it was a fun, restful weekend.

The highlight of the trip was visiting the Museum of Fine Arts again. In particular, I took a look at the museum’s new Art of the Americas wing, which is nothing less than fabulous. My memory of the previous space was that it was rather dull. The new wing is beautifully arranged, and I especially enjoyed the lighting. The works on display are gorgeously lit in this new, four-story wing. There’s also plenty of room for moving around and seeing the works from multiple positions. It’s a great addition to the museum.

Much of the collection is organized around the museum’s strengths, two of which immediately stand out: John Singleton Copley and John Singer Sargent. One of my favorite paintings during this visit was Copley’s “Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Winslow (Jemima Debuke)”:

This painting illustrates a trend in the way the museum now labels its paintings: whenever the painting depicts a married woman, her maiden name is also given in the title along with her married name. I really like this acknowledgment that women are not only wives, subsumed into their husbands’ identities.

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Allan Hyde’s “Alla Salute!” Sunday, May 29 2011 

Danish actor Allan Hyde first came to my attention in the second season of HBO’s True Blood, in which he played Eric’s maker, Godric. Alexander Skarsgård is more my type, so I didn’t really notice Hyde all that much while he was on the series. That’s all changed with my newest obsession, Hyde’s Internet series, Alla Salute!, which Hyde writes and stars in.

This hilarious series of shorts is about two friends who decide to open a restaurant in their apartment. Hyde plays Patrik, a little league soccer coach who fancies himself a ladies man. (Despite his chiseled physique, the ladies aren’t the ones trying to get with him.) Aleksandar Antonijevic plays Claudio, Patrik’s roommate and the chef of the new restaurant, which was the idea of his ex-girlfriend. Initially, Claudio thinks that opening the restaurant will get him back together with Sidsel, played by Julie Christiansen. (Patrik also hopes to hook up with her.)

All of this adds up to a smart, funny, hilariously sexy show. I can’t wait for the next episode!

Here’s episode 1, “Sidsel Left Me …”:

Patrik’s semi-nudity is featured in almost every episode, which both appeals to anyone who appreciates a hot guy and adds a comic dimension, since his efforts to seduce seem to get him no where. The food also look great! And every episode features the title phrase, “Alla salute!”

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SotW: The Graveyard Near the House by The Airborne Toxic Event Monday, May 9 2011 

Alt Nation has been playing the song “Changing” by The Airborne Toxic Event a lot lately. I like that song, so I thought that I would check them out and see if I liked their most recent album, All At Once. After giving the samples a listen on iTunes and watching a few of their videos on YouTube, I decided to download the album.

It’s a really good album, and once I started listening to it I fell in love with several of their songs. My favorite right now is “The Graveyard Near the House,” which is an amazing love song. Here’s a video for it from YouTube (the Bombastic videos are a series of acoustic vids — they’re all amazing versions of the songs):

It’s kind of tongue in cheek and macabre in parts, but I love this song’s view of life, love, and death. PJ and I are old enough now that these kinds of conversations happen from time to time. Much of this song sums up everything I want to say to him. I think it’s a beautiful song.

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Visiting the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. Sunday, May 8 2011 

Photograph by Robert C. Lautman, National Geographic

While in D.C. last month, I visited the National Museum of the American Indian for the first time. I’ve been wanting to visit since it opened, so I was delighted to have a couple of hours free one afternoon.

As this picture from the National Geographic website illustrates, the NMAI is a beautiful building, and just as its outside is quite different from the other museums in the Smithsonian, so too is its inside. It has a much more fluid, organic organization than more traditional art museums. For example, exhibits are arranged by theme rather than historically. It also embraces a multimedia approach to its subjects, often blending sights, sounds, video, and music into an organic whole that represents native tribes, their artifacts, their art, and their beliefs holistically.

Most of my museum blogging has been about art museums. I’ve also written a couple of posts about natural history museums. This is the first cultural museum I’ve visited in a while, and it took me a little while to get acclimated to it — visiting this kind of museum is obviously very different from looking at paintings, sculpture, etc. Visitors are encouraged to start on the top floor and work their way down. The first exhibits I saw were in the Our Universe exhibit.

As the NMAI website explains,

Our Universes focuses on indigenous cosmologies–worldviews and philosophies related to the creation and order of the universe–and the spiritual relationship between humankind and the natural world. Organized around the solar year, the exhibition introduces visitors to indigenous peoples from across the Western Hemisphere who continue to express the wisdom of their ancestors in celebration, language, art, spirituality, and daily life.

The  gallery features eight cultural philosophies — those of the Pueblo of Santa Clara (Espanola, New Mexico, USA), Anishinaabe (Hollow Water and Sagkeeng Bands, Manitoba, Canada), Lakota (Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, USA), Quechua (Communidad de Phaqchanta, Cusco, Peru), Hupa (Hoopa Valley, California, USA), Q’eq’chi’ Maya (Cobán, Guatemala), Mapuche (Temuco, Chile), and Yup’ik (Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, USA) — and its design reflects each community’s interpretation of the order of the world. (Source)

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Rabbit Hole: A Review Sunday, May 1 2011 

Last night PJ and I finally saw Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a couple, Becca and Howie, whose lives are turned upside down after their young son, Danny, dies in an accident. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell, this film starts 8 months after the accident and examines how parents grieve under such awful circumstances. Here’s the trailer:

I loved this film. I had been a little hesitant to watch it, since I felt that watching a movie about grieving parents would be anything but fun. But Rabbit Hole surprised me with its quiet beauty. The word that came to mind after seeing it is “restrained.” There’s a beautiful restraint to this movie that really appeals to me.

Kidman’s restraint is probably what makes this movie so good. A lesser actress might have been tempted to do more obvious actorly things to convey Becca’s overwhelming sense of loss. But Kidman keeps her grief quiet and inwardly focused, slowing consuming her with its magnitude. Kidman is also not afraid to play unlikeable characters. Becca is brittle and in pain, making everyone around her uncomfortable. Nothing they do is right, and Becca lets them know it at every turn.

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