John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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This week in the arts and sciences

In the visual arts, I watched three DVDs this week:

Boy, I’m really zooming through Grimm! Not entirely by choice though. There are not very many copies of the season one DVD set in the South Central Library System (SCLS), so it took quite some time for the first disc to show up. But the subsequent discs showed up with lickety speed; disc 3 showed up at my library just a couple of days after I released the suspended hold I’d placed on it, and disc 4 the day after that. Given that I can only keep the discs a week, I had to prioritize them over anything else, which meant watching a couple of episodes a night. Which may sound like no big thing, but I don’t really care for marathoning TV shows; I’d rather watch one episode at a time, but time was of the essence. Anyway, still enjoying it. I should be finished with the first season not too long before the second season comes out.

Back to the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar winners! Kramer vs. Kramer is a 1979 film written and directed by Robert Benton and starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. I find myself without much to say about this; it was a good movie, but I never really found myself caring about any of the characters, and I kind of didn’t like Joanna (Streep’s character).

In the creative arts, I attended two art exhibitions.

I mention last Monday that I'd taken in the 1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibit at the Chazen Museum of Art. I'd been meaning to check it out for quite some time, but had never gotten around to it, and Sunday was my last chance. I thought it was a very good exhibition, but I'm a fan of that period of American art, so of course I would. It was a little disappointing looking at it in a modern context; to my way of thinking, the Public Works of Art Project was a good use of Federal funds; it got money to people who badly needed it at a time when money was hard to come by, and we ended up with some really glorious works of art out of it. Sounds like a good tradeoff to me! Too bad the current political climate wouldn’t support a 21st century revival of the project.

My friend Barry Sherbeck is a very talented photographer, and he's part of a group exhibition called BE:LONGING that opened this past Friday as part of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's semiannual Gallery Night. Barry had an amazing display of photos he took during his wife's recent (successful, yay!) battle with cancer that I found very moving. Another of the artists created a really interesting work by taking a print of a man praying over a loaf of bread (the one seen here) and painting over the whole thing except for an area she masked with the silhouette of a hand holding an apple core, placed so that the man's head, hands, and bread were visible. Very thought-provoking. The same artist also created an interactive display; she provided a manual typewriter and invited visitors to type anything they wanted onto a slip of paper and place it into one of several library card pockets she'd mounted on the wall nearby. For my own part, I didn't type anything; instead, I removed one of my pocket poems (the Rumi/Ladinsky one) from my wallet and put that in one of the card pockets.

I also stopped briefly at a glass studio downstairs from the gallery in which the BE:LONGING exhibit was on display and spent a few minutes watching a glassblower create a piece of art glass. It was fascinating to watch an artisan in action. Unfortunately, I had to get to the library before it closed so I couldn't stay long, but with luck, it will be open again for the fall Gallery Night.

In the literary arts, I read three books and started a fourth.

Grant Achatz is the winner of the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the United States and proprietor of Alinea, which is ranked #7 in the world by Restaurant magazine and is the only restaurant in Chicago with three Michelin stars. It's maybe a bit of a stretch to call Grant Achatz: The Remarkable Rise of America's Most Celebrated Young Chef a book – it's a compilation of articles about Achatz that originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune – but it was an interesting read nonetheless.

I first read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman shortly after it was released; I read it again this week because it was on sale in the Kindle store. And I caught a joke that had somehow eluded me on previous reads! From page 184: "Even the pious Scots, locked throughout history in a long-drawn-out battle with their arch enemies, the Scots …" Nice.

As I mentioned the other day, I finally got my hands on the new Robert Crais novel, Suspect, and I whipped through it pretty fast once I did. I thought the chapters narrated from the dog's POV were more than a little over the top, but beyond that it was pretty good. I would have preferred a new Elvis Cole novel instead of this, but to paraphrase the aforementioned Neil Gaiman, Robert Crais is not my bitch. Nevertheless, it's significant that the thing I found most exciting about Suspect was the brief appearance by John Chen, a recurring character in the Elvis Cole novels.

I was surprised to get a notification this week from the SCLS that the WPLC Digital Library Item I'd placed on hold was now available, largely because I'd forgotten ever having placed such item on hold. But apparently I did, and I'm reading it now because electronic resource holds expire after three days, can only be checked out for a week, and can't be renewed. Sorry, Anne Elliot! Anyway, the book in question is The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century by Scott Miller, and it's about President McKinley's administration and assassination. It's got an interesting format; the chapters alternate between McKinley and the events of his administration, and the history of the anarchist movement that influenced his assassin, Leon Czolgosz. It's a nice way of presenting two fairly disparate topics that become intertwined only right at the end. I'm 28% through; the Maine has just exploded, and in the other timeline (so to speak) the Haymarket Riot is right around the corner.

Moving from the arts to the sciences, I attended a lecture on microgrids, a mostly experimental electrical energy paradigm that could make power generation more efficient, lower carbon emissions, and make the transmission of electricity more reliable. Power plants, it turns out, are massively inefficient, in that 40% to 70% of the fuel used in such plants is lost in the form of heat energy, so one of the main driving forces behind the microgrid strategy is to reduce the size of the power generating plants and move them closer to where the power will be used, so the heat energy can be captured and used for heating or cooling. I thought it was an interesting idea, and if it sounds interesting to you and you have an hour to spare, I'd suggest you watch the recording of the talk.


Tags: art: glass, art: multimedia, art: painting, art: photography, author: robert crais, history, movies, reading: books, science, tv: grimm, wisconsin: madison

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