Monthly Archives: October 2008

There’s much to finish up before I fly away, but I’m stalling with miscellaneous media uploads and notes for yous:

Johanna doing her stool routine (I won’t bother explaining how this reminds me of Standard Operating Procedure, which we watched this week).

That Lyndale rose garden in Southwest Minneapolis—that’s good roses.

Bites into it. Throws it on the ground. Laughs. And runs away.

This is what happens when you leave in braids for two days.

Mama rocks the homemade pretzels.

We hit that farmers market by the Guthrie last Sunday while grabbing Sarah’s ticket to see LHOTP.

A glass gift for a fellow Iowan (from a design I’ve done once before) on his 34th birthday. To be gifted in China.

The Apple Peelers from Jake, Sarah & Johanna on Vimeo.

OK, outta time! Ta-ta til November.

Hunkering down at this moment for two hours of political soap opera; Frontline’s quadrennial dramatization of The Choice is gripping (though who hasn’t made theirs already?). They’re leading with strong stuff: Obama’s 2004 speech at the DNC—the audacity of hope, people bawling, “it’s like watching Tiger Woods.”

McCain, joylessly determined, blindsided by Rove in South Carolina in 2000. Watching him endorse Bush through gritted teeth induces cringing on both sides of the couch. Wishing I could hear more Gingrich analysis, to my surprise. Is it just me, or does McCain 08 lack even a shred of charisma? Even his smiles are mean.

Rolling Stone stoner-reporter relates Obama’s early impressions of the senate: “Shoot. Me. Now.” Talking heads with jokey names—Butts, Preckwinkle—narrate Obama’s triumphant Harvard days and failed Congressional bid (I didn’t know about that bit).

McCain pressing Rumsfeld on war planning is righteous. All squandered now… Palin may get short shrift on Frontline, but elsewhere, they’re having a heyday:

There’s been a drought in Evil Nazi-themed viewing here lately. Netflix to the rescue: The Rape of Europa tracks the tragic fate of European art treasures during WWII. Not an incidental victim of Nazi destruction and theft, art was a prime mover behind Hitler’s imperial vision. From wiping out “degenerate” modernist, Jewish and Slavic culture to “reclaiming” the work of so-called Germanic artists, the Reich saw art as the subject and object of world domination. Hitler and Goering drafted lists of the works to be seized along with new territory; the film implies battle plans were shaped by their desire for specific pieces (especially from the deep collections of Parisian Jews).

By war’s end, nearly every great work of art in Europe that wasn’t in ruins had been stolen and/or stashed (lost works are still coming to light as far away as Utah). The Allies’ tireless corps of art specialists or “Monument Men” pick up the pieces (in every sense) to hunt down, repair and repatriate everything they can.

The art history student in me is jealous of Europe. In America, art can feel peripheral—a passtime, a stunt, an evening’s entertainment or an investment (it barely makes a blip on the political radar in ’08). But over there, art is inseparable from city, identity and history, something to live and die for. I envy that without exactly wishing for it.

Oh, did I mention I’m going to China this month? It’s odd how casually I talk (or don’t talk) about it. Up to now, it comes up mostly as a scheduling concern—No, I can’t hit that show at the Turf Club, because, you know, after October 21st, I’LL BE SOMEPLACE SO FAR AWAY I MIGHT AS WELL TAKE A SPACESHIP.

Soon, I’ll jump on a flight to Tokyo then make a (relatively) short hop to Beijing. There I’ll rendez-vous with my fellow travelers: Austin, who’s taking time off his reporting beat to goof off in the some of the only places in China he hasn’t been, and Kirk, who left for China today to take care of business before we go exploring.

The itinerary (with no details, because I have no idea what I’m getting into):
> Four days in Beijing
> Fly to Kunming, Yunnan province
> Night train to Guiyang, Guizhou province
> Night train to Guilin, Guangxi province
> Fly back to Beijing for a few more days

I have two weeks to get my head around this (followed by two weeks of being utterly out of my head).

Life has more or less returned to normal here (to-do lists and deadline expectations have been brought to heel; Sarah and Johanna are back from Portland and, presently, sleeping it off), so I can report a few highlights from my visit to the Capitol of Capitols:

Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story: I was lucky enough to see this timely and illuminating documentary at all, let alone catch a Q & A between the director and a theater full of jittery beltway residents teasing out the film’s implications for November 4th. Tracking the ruthless rise and sudden fall of the original College Republican-cum-presidential mastermind, Boogie Man shows how Bush’s Campaign 88 was saved by dirty tricks and outright lies and leaves little doubt where Karl Rove, the architect of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and McCain’s illegitimate black child, learned his treachorous craft.

Avedon: Portraits of Power: I wouldn’t have walked a mile to see this exhibit, partly because Avedon’s work is so ubiquitous (if you read the New Yorker, at least) and partly because I think his status owes more to his access to the powerful than to his talent (or maybe gaining access is a talent). But the show resonated beautifully in election-addled DC where politics dominate every conversation. A gargantuan print of Ronald Reagan greets you on your approach to the Corcoran Museum. At home, reflecting on Reagan is a nostalgic act best indulged over a lazy night of PBS. But in that context, I saw the shadows Avedon’s subjects cast over present obsessions and sensed the flesh-and-blood personalities that animate Great Events. On the way home, we passed the hotel where Eliot Spitzer trysted and the bar where the Bush twins liked to pass off their fake IDs.

More honorable mentions: Score-filled thrifting and mindblowing soul food on Georgia Avenue; pepping up a dour presidential debate party after a long, rainy afternoon of patio drinks in Adams Morgan; A Sunday brunch of sweet rolls, sausage links, frittata and Scrabble hosted by Marc and Evelyn; drizzly walks around NW Washington, including a stop at the impressive fountains of Malcolm X park (shown below); stuffing my face with skewered meats at a street festival in Mount Pleasant before heading out for my evening flight.