Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Monumental Art Fever

You know how sometimes there's an explosion of attention around a subject and it inspires all kinds of excitement and exploration? Sometimes people hit on these things by themselves and other times the media does it for us. In these situations I have a tendency to get carried away and become intensely interested in forensic science or military boot camps or Russian prisons. Netflix is to thank for many of these phases.

Well last week I got all wrapped up in Monument's Men.

It started when the Minneapolis Institute of Art put together a list of everything in the museum that was plundered by the Nazis. So visitors could go around with a map and find all the recovered art. It was a cool little treasure hunt and gave the visit more purpose than forlorn wandering thinking, 'ok, I guess we just look at everything...'

Second thing: a coworker and I went to a talk given by a curator at the Smithsonian who is a real live Monument's (wo)man. While she was in the army she helped save a bunch of art in the Iraqi art museum and a ton of Jewish artifacts hidden in the basement of the Iraqi secret police building. A talk you say? Yes, I went to a lecture. On a Friday night. And now I'm going to join the army and save all the art.

My coworker and I were so excited by the lecture... uhh... amazing art event that we literally ran to the nearest movie theater to see the Monument's Men movie. It was good. The only issue was you didn't really see the scale of the undertaking. It mostly showed the 6-7 super star actors running around finding all the art and you're sitting there worried about how in heaven's name they're going to move it. "Clooney just take the best painting and run! The Russians are coming!" In reality there were a few hundred Monument's Men. They're just not in the film.

A common question between movie and art talk was why it is/was worthwhile to save art when lives are at risk. Obviously neither source placed the two on equal footing, but both emphasized art is a cultural and historical record. What do we know about past civilizations due to art, both practical and ornamental? Think about Egyptian history without art. No pyramids, tombs, afterlife preparations, hieroglyphics. What would you have? Sand. There would just be a lot of sand.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Brasil Part 3

Praia do Forte

Hotel rooms had hammocks!


Encouraging message

Site of a Michael Jackson music video
Church from Salvador's colonial days
Tiles from Portugal

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Brasil Part 2


World cup stadium
Electric barb wire fence and broken glass - standard home security. Does not prevent graffiti.

Quirky drawing in contemporary art museum
Hotel view

Coconut water vendor
Tourist police

The food was great and healthy. Cooked vegetables, beef, chicken, fish, beans and rice.

Fishing boats

Park in the middle of the city

Brazilians are very good at the beach. They have elaborate set ups with live music and waiters on hand with seafood.
I was not very good at the ocean. I tried body surfing with minimal success and a lot of salt water up my nose.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


In January I spent two weeks accompanying a student group in Brazil. It was great! I should have defected. The weather was way better than this ridiculous "polar vortex" seizing the midwest.

The best part was using the Portuguese I learned before going. Mastering at least a few words of the local language before setting foot in a country is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. People love it when you try to speak their language and then they love you and try to help you. Everyone smiled at me and thought my Portuguese attempts were precious.

Here is an example:

Brazilians: Cuanto tempo voce fica en Brasil? (How long are you in Brazil?)

American (me): Duas semanas. (two weeks)

Brazilians: (breaking into cheers) Ahhh! Muito bem! Voce fala Portuguese!  (Very good! You speak Portuguese!)

We went to four cities in the Northeast: Salvador, Cachoeira, Fortaleza and Praia do Forte. After considering posting an educational snapshot of our itinerary in each city I decided to offer this link: Here are some pictures.


Cachoeira. First town to declare independence from Portugal.

Artist's studio

We had lunch at a farm near Cachoeira. It was so gorgeous and perfect in such a simple, healthy way.
Everything about the farm was perfect. For example, this perfect courtyard.
And perfect view.
I spent most of our time there trying to figure out how I could own a farm near Cachoeira.

We went on a boat ride.

And were something of an attraction when we got back (it's smaller town). Which was good because there wasn't a dock. The boat driver gave the rope to a bystander so the boat wouldn't float away while he hauled us, one by one, back onshore.