Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book eighteen: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin.

I'm not one to reread books.  With so many books in the world, it seems like there isn't enough time to give a single book the luxury of a second reading.  But with a recent trip to San Francisco to see A.C.T.'s new musical production based on Armistead Maupins Tales of the City and More Tales of the City.  And considering visits made to the neighborhoods featured in the books.  And since the book was finally made available for the Kindle, I decided to reread the first book in the series.

Tales of the City (as well as the subsequent novels) is a Pop-literature wonder.  And I use the term "Pop" in the art-movement sense of the word.  If there are any better literary works that achieve the bigger than life, commercially-fueled mentality of artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol, I'm not aware of them.  From the frequent use of consumer brands (there's Aim Toothpaste, Weejuns, and Levi's are practically a character in the book), to the fantastical plot lines, it just seems to make sense that Warhol and Maupin both figured prominently into the 70s, even if it was on opposite sides of the country.  Maybe that "Pop" sensibility is one of the reasons I love Tales of the City.

What else makes these books so good?  Well, first there are the characters.  Mary Ann Singleton's naivete is pitch perfect, particularly for those of us raised in small-town America.  Michael "Mouse" Tolliver is the ultimate boyfriend with just enough naughtiness to make him extra sexy, and just enough vulnerability to make him super adorable.  And Anna Madrigal is one of the best-written characters of the late 20th century with her unending empathy, her boundless generosity (particularly with her home grown pot), and her no-holds approach to living.


Takes of the City is also fueled by outrageous, soap-operatic, and unbelievable plot lines.  There are plot devices in this book that should cause you to roll your eyes and put the book down.  But much of Maupin's talent is to not only make you believe in the outrageousness, but also to make you enjoy the absurdity.

However, if I had to point to just one thing that makes Tales of the City brilliant, it would be dialogue.  No one writes dialogue like Armistead Maupin. It's fast-paced. It's finely tuned to each character; there are times when you know who's speaking even if it isn't obvious simply because each character speaks with such distinctive style.  And it's witty.  After seeing Ira Glass live, I commented that I just needed someone to cue music for everything I said and did in life and I'd be a better communicator.  Now I've decided that if I could just have Armistead Maupin right my dialogue, I'd be unstoppable.

Here are a few of the hundreds of dialogue gems.  Like this moment when Mary Ann informs her mom that she's not returning from her vacation to San Francisco:
Her mother began to cry. “You won’t come back.  I just know it.”
“Mom . . . please . . I will. I promise.”
“But you won’t be . . . the same!”
“No. I hope not.”

Or this moment when Beauchamp asks Mary Ann, his father-in-law's secretary to lunch:
“How about lunch tomorrow?”
“I think he’s booked.”
“Not him. You. Will he let you out of your cage for an hour?”
“Oh . . . sure. Dutch?”
“Italian.”

With that, for the first time, I'm awarding a book five Jeffies.  Now, would you please release More Tales of the City on the Kindle?

Friday, July 22, 2011

From San Francisco to Paris by way of Spain.

Usually, I write a post for each museum show I visit.  But I'm often surprised how a trip to a city somehow becomes a series of museum shows that all relate to each other.  And that has never been more so than with this trip to San Francisco.  My art experiences on this trip were so interrelated that I've decided to create just one massive post about the whole experience.  And it didn't even start with a museum visit.  It started with shopping.

I'm always trying to figure out who the new, mainstream fashion retailers will be.  With Salt Lake City getting an H&M (which means they've basically become EuroGap), I've been on the lookout for the new, hip global retailer.  And I may have found it in the Barcelona-based brand, Desigual. Unlike other emerging (at least in the US) fashion brands like the UK's Superdry and Japan's Uniqlo which take a decidedly American-sportswear approach to fashion, Desigual brings an un-apologetically Spanish attitude, with lush patterns and sun drenched colors.  Desigual was one of my first discoveries on this trip to San Francisco.  But why would that matter for a post about museum visits.  Because strangely, one of my next visits was to a museum show all about Spanish fashion.

Balenciaga and Spain is the de Young's recently-opened show that tracks the influence of Spanish art and culture on the brilliant haute couture of Cristobal Balenciaga.  After having recently seen the spectacular Alexander McQueen show at the Met, I was worried this show would feel like a bunch of frumpy, old frocks.  But Balenciaga was breaking rules and creating mind-blowing dresses long before McQueen was even born.  And while this show wasn't presented with the attention to drama that I enjoyed at Savage Beauty, it was still brilliantly curated. (Note: I'm stealing photos from the web because pictures weren't allowed from the show.  So these pictures do not represent installation views.)

Take for example, the way the exhibit demonstrated the influences of  18th and 19th Century paintings by Spanish artists like Velazquez and Goya. The billowing, draped silk felt positively royal, both in the paintings and on the mannequins.

Balenciaga also embraced two contradictory philosophies of Spanish Catholicism: opulence and austerity.  Who wouldn't love a painfully plain creation designed for an important moment in life like Wedding Dress and Veil from the 1968 summer collection (white silk satin organza, silk gazar by Abraham).

This brings me to one of my favorite things about the show.  Sure there were lots of lavish ruffles, intense beading, and impossible embroidery, but the best dresses were those with a stunning modernity, many almost architectural in their execution.  This doesn't mean they didn't take their references from Spanish art.  Balenciaga embraced many of the more challenging artists of his time like Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.

One of my favorite dresses was shown next to a reproduction of a Miro painting that inspired it.  Cocktail Dress (Winter 1967, black silk gazar by Abraham, rhinestones, faux pearls) was so far ahead of its time it feels like a silhouette Lady Gaga might rock on the red carpet.

Another favorite dress that hinted at the work of Picasso was this Evening Dress (Winter 1967, lime-green silk gazar by Abraham).


Wouldn't it be great if you could walk out of a show about early Modernist Spanish fashion and see a show about early Modernist Spanish painting? Oh wait, I'm at the de Young, and if I toddle downstairs, I can experience an entire exhibit dedicated to the greatest Spanish master of Modernism, Pablo Picasso.  The show is titled Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris.  And it's an ambitious effort. I've never been a big fan of early Modern art and I frequently don't get Picasso.  This show did a whole lot to change my mind.  If you go, get the audio tour which is packed with more information than you might want when it comes to Picasso.

What I didn't expect from this show? The raw emotions inspired by some of the art.  In the first gallery is La Celestina/The Woman with One Eye (1904, oil on canvas). This picture of a poor woman with a severe cataract is from Picasso's blue period.  That phrase used to make me giggle because it's so art-world silly.  But the de Young show makes it seem more logical and provides a framework from which to better-understand the phases of Picasso's career.  La Celestina is down right creepy.  It packs a lot of emotional punch.

I also loved one of the final galleries in the show that featured five bronze sculptures all inspired by the same Picasso mistress, Marie-Therese Walters.  It was fascinating to see Picasso present the same person in so many different ways, from relatively-true-to-the-original to abstractly cubist.  Shown here is Head of a Woman (1931, bronze).


So far, the San Francisco trip seems to be all about Spain and Modernism.  But maybe that theme could visit other European icons, like Paris.  Because the next day we showed up at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) with absolutely no knowledge of what was showing.  The helpful woman at the membership desk asked if we were there to see the "Steins" show because it required timed tickets.  I had no clue what the "Steins" show was, but based on the recommendation of the attendant, we got our tickets.

The official title of show is The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avante-Gard (on view through September 6). The Steins were a prominent San Francisco family whose three children grew up and moved to Paris.  The most famous of the group is writer Gertrude Stein.  She lived for much of her early time in Paris with her brother, Leo.  Also living in Paris at the time was another sibling, Michael Stein who lived with his wife, Sarah.  The Steins were early champions of some of the greatest artists of the early 20th Century, including Picasso.

This exhibit is a stunning study in how to collect art, even if you have limited resources.  The Steins seemed to have a sixth sense about the art and artists that would be famous down the road. In fact, some have argued that Gertrude Stein is partially responsible for Picasso's success as an artist. The Steins owned many of the most famous works by Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, and others. Not only that, but they and their family members were regularly painted by these same artists.  And when these artists became famous and were too expensive for the Steins to collect, they moved on to other emerging artists, helping to create a generation of successful painters, sculptures, and writers.

The Steins regularly opened their homes to anyone interested in the new art, hosting parties for not just the rich and famous, but also the casual visitor to Paris.  Those gatherings were seminal in creating the innovative art scene that invaded Paris.  While much of the art in this exhibit is impressive, the show is most interesting for the way it ties the art to the lives of the Steins.  The Steins displayed their art salon style.  The exhibit shows many early photographs in the homes of the Steins.  You could see a work of art hanging on a wall in the photo, and then see the exact same work hanging on the wall of the museum.

Here's a photograph of Gertrude and Leo Stein's atelier at 27 rue de Fleurus.

In that photo, you can see both Henri Matisse's Woman With a Hat (1906, oil on canvas) and Picasso's portrait, Gertrude Stein (1905-06, oil on canvas) which Gertrude said didn't look like here.  Picasso's response: "Don't worry it will."  He was right.  Both works (shown here) were on display at SFMoMA.


If you're still reading this post, you're thinking one of two things:  "When will it ever end" or "That's an awful lot of retail-art-museum coincidences happening in San Francisco."  If you're thinking the latter, there's even more to come.  Because on my last day in San Francisco, I paid a visit to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to see a show called, Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories (also on view through September 6).  This show explores five facets of Stein's life, from her avante-gard writing to her many friendships with some of the world's most creative thinkers.

Two of the "stories" told in the exhibit stood out for me.  The first was Gertrude Stein's relationship with Alice B. Toklas.  The two women were one of the first openly lesbian couples to take the world stage.  With surprising candidness, they built a home life together that I found charming for its strange and quirky normalness.  Photos of the two at home with their dogs Basket and Pepe, surrounded by art and intriguing objects like a pair of Louis XV chairs upholstered in needlepoint created by Alice, were a happy surprise.  And their talk of being "married" made me realize that same-sex marriage has been an issue for a lot longer than I imagined. You can celebrate the progressive couple by downloading your very own Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas paper dolls.

Here's Man Ray's photo, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (1922, gelatin silver print).

The second "story" that intrigued me was the influence Gertrude Stein has had on the art world, and not just because she helped new art thrive in her own time.  Even now, artists are creating works that embrace the ideals of individuality set out by Gertrude Stein.  One of the most amazing pieces in the show is Devorah Sperber's After Picasso (2006, 5,024 spools of thread, stainless steel ball chain and hanging apparatus, clear acrylic viewing sphere, metal stand). I can only imaging that this reworking of Picasso's portrait of Stein would appeal to Toklas, with it's nod to the wonders of hand-crafted objects created from thread.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What I learned at Storm King: Steel is fluid.

Yes, I'm still talking about the amazing things I experienced at the Storm King Art Center.  But I can't leave the topic without mentioning a couple of other sculptures.  These two Zen-inducing works are made from steel.  But with just a slight breeze, the metal sculptures drift and glide effortlessly, transforming sculpture into something magical.

Here is Five Open Squares Gyratory Gyratory (1986, stainless steel) by George Rickey.

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And this is Sea Change (1996, stainless steel) by George Cutts.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book seventeen: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Teen angst and high-school drama reign supreme in Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.  My opening statement may come across a little flippant for a book about teen suicide.  But I wasn't good at all that drama when I was in high school.  And I find it less interesting now that I'm older and less willing to blame others for everything.

Here's the idea behind Thirteen Reasons Why: Clay Jensen (one of the narrators in the book) receives a box of cassette tapes.  He tracks down a cassette player and discovers that the tapes were created by Hannah Baker (the other narrator in the book). Hannah was a "new girl:" in school who was tormented by her classmates and in response commits suicide.  But before killing herself, she makes a series of cassette tapes that identify people who factored into her suicidal decision.  There are thirteen people identified and the tapes are to be passed along to each person.  If they aren't passed along, Hannah has diabolically arranged for a secret, second set of tapes to be made public.

I did a fair amount of eye-rolling while reading this book.  Hannah would build up the tension and suspense as she neared revealing the next person who ruined life, only to divulge some trivial rumor or the fact that someone hadn't tried hard enough to get her to talk about how she was feeling.  Sure there were a few moments that were serious or emotional.  But for the most part, this is a book about making mountains of molehills.

By the time I finished the book, I didn't really feel sorry for anyone.  I didn't feel sorry for the people identified in the tapes because most of their "crimes" seemed so inconsequential. I didn't feel sorry for Clay (who had a crush on Hannah) because he was the one character who treated Hanna with respect.  And most important, I didn't feel sorry for Hannah, hell I didn't even really like her.  And that's a problem for a book like this.  Because I really wanted to feel like Hannah had been treated in a way that warranted her actions.  And I just didn't.

I know, I know, high-school bullying is a big problem right now and this delivers the message that even small insults can cause immense emotional harm resulting in tragic ends.  That's a good message that needs to be told.  But here's another message that needs to be told: High school sucks. Get over it! Now let's move on to the things that will really make your life meaningful.

P.S.  As with book fourteen, you've just read the commentary of a 40-something realist (some might say cynic).  A whole lotta high-school students (and their parents) would disagree.  So lest I discourage you from reading a book that might save a teen's life, consider reading others' opinions about Thirteen Reasons Why.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book sixteen: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt.

This just in from the "judging-books-by-their-covers" category.  I actually chose to read The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt largely based on the design of the cover.  I saw it on a Web site and was immediately drawn to the bold graphic.  But then I read it was a Western, so I was less interested.  That is until I was walking through The King's English Bookshop and this book was a staff pick.  You can always trust a staff recommend at The King's English. (Although now I have to feel guilty about taking their staff recommendations because I bought the book on my Kindle.  Sometimes modern life sucks.)

The Sisters Brothers tells the story of two brothers, Charlie and Eli Sisters.  Eli acts as the narrator for the tale.  The two brothers are a couple of wild-west thugs who work for a frontier bad guy.  Charlie and Eli are sent to track down a character named Herman Kermit Warm (what a brilliant name for a mysterious character in a Western).  The two travel through Oregon and San Francisco on their way to Warm's California claim and along the way they encounter one adventure after another.

As narrator, Eli hopes for a better life than his current existence filled with violence and cruelty.  While Charlie seems content with the status quo.  As we get to know the characters better, their relationship gives the novel a literary flair that questions the Western as we know it.  Charlie and Eli are surprisingly well spoken for a couple cowboy henchmen.  And amid the violence (and there is some gruesome violence) there is plenty of fine-tuned humor like the running joke surrounding Eli's discovery of teeth brushing.

The Sisters Brothers is a surprising, modern take on the Western that shakes up cliches and asks readers to reconsider what it means to be the good guy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book fifteen: Something Missing by Matthew Dicks.

Summer reading season is here and that means I'm on the lookout for books that are fast-paced, packed with fresh, quirky characters like none I've met before, and offer moments of madcap action adventure.  And more than anything, I want a book that's just fun to read but that still makes me appreciate the skills of the author. A book that delivers on all my summer reading dreams is Something Missing by Matthew Dicks.

Something Missing tells the story of Martin Railsback, a hyper-organized thief who "acquires" objects from his "clients" in a way that allows for repeat visits.  The genius of the character is that you can relate to the story, not because you imagine yourself a thief.  But because you can totally imagine being one of his clients.  In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I should be blaming all my absent mindedness on a Martin-like thief.  Just last night I said, "I could have sworn I bought some canned tomatoes a few weeks ago."  Maybe Martin paid me a visit and canned tomatoes were on his list.

A strange event sets Martin's life into chaos.  Never, in the history of literature, has the replacement of an electric toothbrush been so thrilling. so intense, so action packed.  I still can't stand in line behind someone rummaging through personal effects trying to find just the right change without getting nervous.  The adventure is a success.  And soon Martin has a new found confidence that he puts to good use.  He starts small, acting as a secret marriage counselor who helps a busy husband remember his wife.  Soon, he's saved a surprise birthday party and in process met a woman who just might like him.

Sure there are moments when it feels like Dicks loses faith in his readers with writing intent on reminding you of past details, just to make sure you "got it."  But, maybe that's just the author's way of building the obsessive personality of the main character.

I won't give away much more of the book except to say there's a scene involving a garage that gave me one of the best written scares I've read in a long time.  I also have to comment on the brilliance of the ending.  This is a book where I hated the author for ending where he did.  Yet I simultaneously praised the author for knowing the perfect place to stop the story.  Plus, it's an ending that raises plenty of moral questions to keep you thinking. This book is well worth the read.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

50 states. 50 photos.

Note: Some of the photos in this post may not be suitable for all audiences.

I'm way behind on blog posts.  But I still want to document some of the great things I've seen in the last few months.  Like a show I saw at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City titled, Robert Mapplethorpe: 50 Americans.  Unfortunately, it's long since closed so you can't see it.  But here was the idea: Ask 50 Americans, one from each of the 50 United States, to select their favorite Robert Mapplethorpe photograph.  It was extra fun because most of those selecting photographs have no real experience with Mapplethorpe or fine art.

This would be a great show just because of the incredible Mapplethorpe prints.  These photographs remind you that even though digital photography is spectacular, there is nothing like a meticulously hand-printed photograph.  But the show added an extra element thanks to the comments of ordinary people talking about the work of one of America's great photographers.  So here are some of the photographs I like best with notes about who picked each and why. (By the way, these photos of photos aren't perfect because I took them with my trusty digital camera which had a hard time dealing with the reflections.)

Fred, a rancher, guide, and high school coach from Meeteetse, Wyoming chose this photo of the first World Women's Bodybuilding Champion, Lisa Lyon (1982, Gelatin Silver Print).  Strangely, Meeteetse is only about 30 miles from my home town.  Fred had never experienced Mapplethorpe's work before this project.  Here's a story from Fred that may explain why this was his favorite: "I was attacked by a big bear grizzly in 1997 and my wife informed me that if I wanted to go back to the mountains again, I could only do so with a friend or get some dogs. [My dogs] became the exact tiger in the photo."

It's easy to associate Mapplethorpe with portraits or with still lifes, particularly of flowers.  But I was fascinated with the way many images were neither, but rather some surprising combination of the two. Take Ken Moody (1985. gelatin silver print) selected by Brenda from Manchester, New Hampshire.  Brenda was also new to Mapplethorpe's work and responded to this work because, "it's sexy but questioning . . .sexual yet reserved. It's sort of like playing peek-a-boo."

Joshua, a nursing student from Fargo, North Dakota was familiar with Mapplethorpe's work.  That may explain why he was more comfortable with some of the artists more sexually-charged images.  He chose Cock and Gun (1982, gelatin silver print) because of the time it was taken, just as the AIDS epidemic was being noticed by the gay community as a sexually transmitted disease.  He wondered if the image might suggest that, "the penis may symbolize a potentially deadly weapon.  It also speaks to the way that society has fetish-ized black male sexuality and power."

Finally, I couldn't write this post without showcasing one of Mapplethorpe's pictures of flowers.  This is Tulip (1987, gelatin silver print) chosen by McCale, a 29-year-old river guide and teacher from Boise, Idaho.  "To me, this image represents a rather untarnished look at the grace and vigor of the natural form. After being rather shocked at some of Mapplethorpe's more sexual and controversial work, I settled on the tulips as something that embodies both . . . When I look at the image, I see a penis as much as the tulips."

Book fourteen: Something Like Summer by Jay Bell.

Something Like Summer by Jay Bell is a book that's hard to categorize.  I'm not sure if it's supposed to be targeted at gay teens or to a standard adult reading audience.  Maybe it's a gay coming of age story.  Or maybe it's a cautionary tale about the perils of life in your twenties.  It could also just be a little soft erotica for boys who like boys. The book is very gay, and I don't mean that in the "this-is-so-stupid-I'll call-it-gay" way.  I mean it in the "holy-cow-there's-a-lot-of-gay-drama-in-this-book" way.

In any case, I've read better books that fall into all of the categories listed above.  Don't get me wrong, this is a perfectly enjoyable read. In fact if you're looking for a casual beach read this summer, this isn't a bad choice.  I'd just argue there are better choices.

It's the story of Ben, an out high-schooler looking for love.  He falls for the new kid, Tim Wyman, who seems impossibly straight and impossible to meet.  Turns out Tim's a lot less straight than he pretends to be and soon, Ben and Tim find themselves in the middle of a intimate friendship that will last more than a decade.  Cue the gay drama.

Something Like Summer doesn't quite deliver the story I wanted. The characters are sometimes flimsy, never able to convince you that their intentions are sincere.  The writing frequently gets fluffy and lush, all at the same time, like a same-sex romance novel.  Although that makes for some steamy sex scenes. And the story just suddenly ends with little resolution for most of the characters.

That's the verdict on this book from a 40-something cynic whose view of romance is that of a realist.  So before you decide not to read this book because of my review, you might want to saunter over to Amazon and read some of the reviews written by gay teens.  Because they have a much different view; the inspired view of young, gay romantics who finally see their lives in print. And that alone is worth something.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book thirteen: Bossypants by Tina Fey

If you're a fan of Saturday-Night-Live Tina Fey.  Or if you like the 30-Rock Tina.  Even if you just like the Tina Fey you see accepting accolades at awards show, then I can pretty much guess you'll like her recent memoir, Bossypants.  That's because a lot of it represents Fey's self-deprecating, sharp-edged humor that makes her so likable to some and so annoying to others.

Some may find portions of the book familiar since several chapters deal with her life at Saturday Night Live and her work on 30 Rock.  In fact it occasionally feels like you're reading an episode of 30 Rock.  Bossypants is best when Fey is reminiscing about her teen years.  Or talking about the antics of her gay friends.  Or both. Like when she describes a bunch of 17-year-old, theater boys away from home at theater camp and living in the dorms for six weeks. "Think of the joy and freedom they must have felt, like being on an all-gay space station."

But it's not just silliness.  Tucked in among the laughs are great stories as well as some practical tips.  The chapter outlining what Tina Fey learned from Lorne Michaels offers plenty of advice to help you in the workplace.  For example, this bit of wisdom on deadlines: "The show doesn't go on because it's ready, it goes on because it's 11:30."

One of my favorite chapters in the book offers hope that daughters everywhere will live up to their mother's expectations.  "First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese Symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches."

I'm not sure this book will win any literary awards.  But if you're looking for a fun, summer read that will make you laugh out loud and still make you feel like you're reading something of worth, Bossypants is a dang good choice.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sex, drugs, and chorus lines.

1970s San Francisco is the backdrop for Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and More Tales of the City.  It's also the inspiration for a new disco-infused, musical production inspired by the novels.  And the musical is almost as fun as the books.

I guess it would be hard for me to not like this show.  I'm a big fan of Maupin's crazy cast of characters.  I like musical theater.  As a teen growing up in the age of disco, I love the 1970s. And if that weren't enough, the music is written by Jake Shears and John Garden, two of the musicians behind one of my favorite bands, The Scissor Sisters.

Other things to like about the Tales of the City musical?  The set was fantastic, capturing the fun-house quality of San Francisco's Russian Hill. Betsey Wolfe as Mary Ann Singleton was a musical powerhouse with just the right amount of naivete.  Wesley Tayor was delightful and adorable as Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, just as he should be.

And what good is a musical without a showstopper or two.  Tales of the City delivers with two standout numbers.  There's Homosexual Convalescent Center where Michael and his boyfriend attend a party of snooty, older gay men.  With surprising lyrics and some delightful staging, this party in pink is a whole lot of gay fun. Diane J. Findlay's brilliant portrayal of Mother Mucca reaches absurd levels in Ride 'em Hard.  But it's not just the showstopping production numbers that give this musical its soul.  Paper Faces, performed by Mary Ann and the company is a lovely, emotional song about what we choose to show to and hide from the world. Tony Award winner Judy Kaye as Anna Madrigal ends Act I with another lovely, emotional performance of The Next Time You See Me.

Sure this show may need some tweaking, tinkering, and tightening.  But I agree with a lot of critics that this show is Broadway bound.  Although I'm not sure how kind the critics will be once it hits the Big White Way.  Let's hope New Yorkers will embrace this quintessentially quirky, San Francisco story.  You can count on me for a couple of ticket purchases.

Book twelve: Land Art by Michael Lailach.

For the first time in a long time, I read a real, live book instead of a Kindle edition.  It made sense as this was a book about Land Art and the pictures are always better in print.  Michael Lailach's book Land Art is a reasonably short, readable volume about the beginnings of earth art and other similar movements of the 1960s and 70s.  The introduction is a friendly review of the topic.  But the book is at its best when it gets into discussions about individual works by specific artists.  Each spread in the book provides a review of a single work of Land Art (although references to other works are also included).

I consider myself something of a Land Art expert and I'm proud to note that I have experienced four of the works mentioned in the book and a number of other works by artists mentioned in the book. You might say, that doesn't seem like all that much.  But when you consider how difficult it is to see some of this art, and the fact that most of the works in the book were temporary and can no longer be experienced, I'd put my record up against just about any other Art enthusiast out there.  And while I don't expect anyone to actually act on this recommendation, if you have any interest in the subject, Lailach's Land Art is well worth the time.