S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Moments and Things Recent

Train trip
The train from Manchester Oxford Road left from platforms 1, 2, and 3 - or so it was announced over the course of five minutes. By the end of those frantic minutes, we previously-silent passengers had bonded in shared train-catching anxiety.

Place that tune
The quiet elevator-style music in the background of the Indian restaurant was exceedingly familiar. I could sing along to it, so clearly I knew it. But where was it from? Then I realized - it was the soundtrack to Bombay Dreams; not something I ever thought I would hear done elevator-style.

The Gondoliers
Plot? What plot? This Gilbert and Sullivan piece has a token and somewhat predictable plot, but was nevertheless a great deal of fun, a cream-puff of an operetta. The English National Opera singers were all good, the '50s-inspired costuming fun, and the zany set was functional as well. The set was framed by a storybook-style backdrop, with small canals zigzagging across the stage and up into the storybook behind. Miniature, knee-high bridges crossed the canal at regular intervals, good for perching on and dancing across. The production returns to London in March.

Leonardo da Vinci at the V&A
Leonardo da Vinci's drawings are extraordinarily precise - scenes evoked with just the right few lines - and descriptive - stormy weather summoned with swirls of black chalk. On a map charting the region around Florence, we admired Lastra, just across the river from Signa. (I thought the towns all modern apartment buildings, not realizing how old they are.) They are well-worth spending time with; yet the V&A exhibit currently on of his drawings left me mildly confused. As far as I can tell, the only reason for show was that they could get EU money for it; there was no real greater point to it. We wondered why they didn't sell mirrors in the gift shop, to better decipher all the mirror-writing on the pages.

Life in Renaissance Italy at the V&A
I admired many things about this show: the basic concept, the ambitiousness of using it to compare daily life in Tuscany and the Veneto; the variety of objects, borrowed from all over; the reuniting of the family portraits; and the brilliant idea of using metal frameworks to construct the outline of major rooms within the gallery, evoking the difference between, say, living rooms in Tuscany and the Veneto. It was my first chance to see a very early pair of spectacle frames in the flesh (well, bone actually), much thinner than I'd realized from photographs. There were boardgames and a period musical soundtrack playing (available for sale, of course) and silverware and bed coverlets and wall paintings and an early credenza and fireplace and fountain.

But my pleasure in the show was by no means unalloyed. Many of the labels were no where near the objects they labeled, and required work to decipher which went with which. The brilliant idea of metal frameworks describing major rooms was inadequately realized - the frameworks were painted black which, in a black-painted gallery, made them unnecessarily subtle. Much as many of the paintings were admirable, I didn't understand the point of some of them, other than yet more instances of things-that-hung-on-the-wall then. This was especially true for images which didn't also illustrate some aspect of Renaissance interiors.

Canadian and British universities are still learning the fine art of cultivating alumni networks. Part of the art is instilling a belief in the importance of the network from the very beginning of the degree itself, before potential alums have come anywhere near graduating themselves. Another part of the art is to make all events personal, if possible

A month or so ago, I went to a University of Toronto reunion event. It was held in conjunction with another twenty-or-so Canadian universities in a large, chaotic room with mini chocolate bars to munch on; interaction largely revolved around game play, not a bad tactic given the numbers. In contrast, last night's meeting of the newly revitalized Smith Club of Great Britain was all about personal contact, tags labeled not just with names but years, canapes which encouraged lingering. Sure, the venue was a big noisy, in a corner of a bar, but the effect was still there. Also, it seemed as if all retired Smithies living in London have second homes in France. Not bad, really.

Favorite recent spam subject line: "And no equatorial"
Tags: exhibits, musicals, smith, travel

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