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Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon, 2

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment
Litter, 750-1375, Peruvian, Lambayeque, North Coast, wood, gold, silver, cinnabar, sulphurous copper, ammonia, shells, turquoise, feathers

Litter, 750-1375, Peruvian, Lambayeque, North Coast, wood, gold, silver, cinnabar, sulphurous copper, ammonia, shells, turquoise, feathers

[Photo: Joaquín Rubio]

It’s been two months since I wrote about the then-new exhibition Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon at the Seattle Art Museum. With its close three weeks away, we returned on Thursday morning for a tour with SAM’s curator of Native American art, Barbara Brotherton. Before I say a few words about that, let me quote again from the exhibition website:

Discover the mysteries of Machu Picchu, treasures from royal tombs and archeological wonders from one of the cradles of civilization in Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon. More than 3,000 years of artistic history reveal a land of rich complexity and startling beauty.

This unusually wide-ranging exhibition covers archeology, ancient rituals, royal ceremonies, conquest and colonization, the formation of the republic and the emergence of a new national identity. Experience the unfolding of culture through the creative achievements of Peru, from gold funerary masks to modern folk art.

The Seattle Art Museum is proud to be the only U.S. venue presenting this spectacular exhibition of more than 300 works, including national treasures never before seen outside of Peru.

And let me quote also from my first post on the exhibition, recounting our experience on opening night:

We made an unfortunate error, relying on habit to pass from the opening room to a second one in a clockwise direction, not realizing that this time the natural route was counter-clockwise. The nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings were evidence something was amiss, but maybe objects were grouped by medium, not chronologically. Plus, the exhibition showpiece—the forehead ornament—was in a neighboring space. So maybe there wasn’t a strict chronological order.

Off we went, room to room, evidence mounting that we were walking backwards. I should note that we weren’t alone in this choice, the people moving in both directions adding to the confusion. Well, no matter. We saw many extraordinary objects. And we can go counter-clockwise on our next visit.

This time we did go counter-clockwise. Not that there was any chance of erring, since we were following Barbara’s lead.

Thanks both to viewing in chronological order and to Barbara’s comments, we were able to appreciate everything much better, and to realize just how fabulous a show this is. One passes through rooms of objects from the Mochica culture of 100-800, then the Lambayeque culture of about 750 to 1375 and Huari culture of 700-1200, leading to the Inca objects of the fifteenth century and then, suddenly, the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500s. As one leaves the Inca room to enter the first room of art and artifacts influenced by Spain and Catholicism, one experiences in some small way the dramatic shock of that time.

Barbara opened our eyes to the ways that the locals, through their art, adopted Catholicism yet grafted onto it their own native culture. One memorable example is a painting depicting Mary in a triangular gown from neck to feet that gives her the shape of a mountain, realizing her as both Jesus’s mother and traditional earth goddess.

There’s still time to see the show. And still time for a tour. I recommend both.

Categories: Art, Museums

Saints of the Shadow Bible

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

rankinsaints

I explained a week ago, in my post on Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land, that I began it a few Thursdays ago when my copy of Ian Rankin’s latest Edinburgh crime novel, Saints of the Shadow Bible, failed to arrive from the UK. I had pre-ordered the Rankin book from UK Amazon so it would ship immediately on publication, unwilling to wait for its US publication in mid-January. But when it didn’t come on that Thursday, I downloaded and began reading the free portion of Shavit’s book. The Rankin book arrived the next day, but too late. I was hooked on Shavit.

Since finishing the Shavit book, I have been slow to turn to Rankin, despite my love of his famous character John Rebus and my eagerness to learn of Rebus’s newest exploits. The new book and last year’s The Impossible Dead are unexpected gifts, what with Rebus’s retirement in Exit Music a few years ago and Rankin’s introduction of a new character, Malcolm Fox, in two subsequent novels. It didn’t appear that Rebus was coming back.

But he has, twice now. Why wasn’t I diving in? I suppose the problem is that I have grown accustomed to reading on my Kindle or iPad. No need to turn on a light when I go to bed or wake up. Thus, I’ve spent the last week avoiding Rebus, instead downloading opening portions of other novels and trying them out. Like, for instance, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, which I considered reading when it came out earlier this year, and which I saw mentioned by someone last week in an end-of-year list of favorite books. And another book, Bart Paul’s Under Tower Peak, which came to my attention two nights ago when I was reading online yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, with its own best-of-the-year lists. The Paul book makes the list of ten best mysteries as the closing recommendation:

And “Under Tower Peak,” Bart Paul’s suspenseful debut, accompanies a pack-station guide in California’s Sierra Nevada through a hair-raising adventure starting with the mountaintop discovery of a dead billionaire inside a crashed plane.

I hadn’t recalled seeing mention of this book before. On further investigation, I found that the NYT hadn’t reviewed it, but the WSJ did, back in April, with Tom Nolan concluding that “the nonstop action in “Under Tower Peak” is well-paced, the plot twists surprising (even shocking) and the occasional humor welcome. In the end, it’s that right-stuff quality known as true grit that … elevates this fine first novel into a must-read book.”

Wow!

Yesterday morning, I read the free opening portion, at which point the moment of decision had come. Download the rest and keep reading? Or turn to Rankin and Rebus? I chose Rebus, mostly for fear that if I keep delaying, its US publication will occur. I dare not leave the book unread that long. I paid the extra cost of shipping from the UK, after all, in order to receive the physical book. (One can’t download the e-version of a UK book onto a US Kindle if the book hasn’t been published here yet.) I can’t let it sit until the US Kindle version becomes available.

I’m now a fifth of the way through and enjoying it immensely. Too bad I deferred reading it.

What next? Maybe back to Under Tower Peak. Probably not The Interestings. Another possibility is Alice McDermott’s Someone, a novel that is on some book-of-the-year lists and whose free portion I read some weeks ago. Or one of the many history books on my reading list.

Categories: Books

Flight Tracking

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Virgin603

Ever since a certain family member (who prefers that I not tell the details of his life on Ron’s View, so I’m leaving him nameless) went away to college years back, I found myself tracking his flights when he headed to school or back home. I still do it, sometimes texting gate info or other advice as he lands at intermediate stops. This weekend offered the ultimate tracking experience, thanks to his three-flight itinerary from Seattle to JFK to London Heathrow to Cape Town. What a journey!

Nothing too exotic about Friday’s first segment, one we’ve all flown many times. I didn’t start tracking until he was already over western Michigan, having just crossed Lake Michigan. Next time I looked, he was above northern New Jersey. I watched the plane make the usual big turn out over the Atlantic before heading back north to the barrier beaches of Long Island and into JFK. All home turf to me as a native Long Islander.

After a brief overnight stopover, he was off to London. By the time I awoke yesterday morning and thought to start tracking, the plane was approaching the southern coast of Ireland. Next look and he was in the west of England. The plane continued east, straight to the south of Heathrow, then made a circle southwards and back to the north, in for a landing I thought, only to turn to the east and south again, at which point FlightAware stopped tracking. Where did he go? I never did find out. It took over half an hour before Virgin Atlantic recorded the flight as landing.

Two hours later, he was embarked on the overnight, twelve-hour flight to Cape Town. The plane was, anyway. I had to hope he was on it. When I first took a look, he was over southern France. We headed out for a while, the fun beginning on our return.

I thought I knew the location of the world’s countries pretty well. Eastern Europe, the old USSR, the Stans? No problem. Asia? Under control. But Africa not so much, as it turns out.

The big country in northern Africa that he was flying over? Algeria. I know that one. But what about the big country to its southeast?

I should explain, as you can see above, that FlightAware draws in boundaries of countries, but doesn’t identify them.

I know Egypt and Libya in the northeast. I know that Sudan and Chad lie below them. But, um, what is that country just west of Chad? I took the screenshot above a few minutes ago, tracking tonight’s flight, not last night’s. And the plane happens to be right where it was last night when I was stumped.

Mali? Not quite. It’s Niger. Mali is to the west. Oh well.

Next I looked, the plane was over Gabon, just past the bend there on the Atlantic, but I struck out on that one too. Angola, the big guy farther south, was no problem. I finally went to bed as the plane was nearing Angola’s southern border, heading toward Namibia. I never did see it enter South Africa’s airspace. I awoke to learn that the plane landed on time, the family member’s journey over.

I better study up before his return flights.

Categories: Family, Flying, Geography

Jordan on Seaver in Calistoga

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

1calistoga

I read a great piece yesterday by Pat Jordan, one-time pitching prospect turned writer, in which he describes a visit to old friend Tom Seaver, one-time pitching great turned winemaker. Seaver and his wife, Nancy, live in Calistoga, California, where they run Seaver Vineyards.

Seaver Vineyards produces Cabernet Sauvignon in limited production of between 400-500 cases per year. Grown on a south facing slope on Diamond Mountain, our wine is made from 3 different clones (a 4th clone planted in 2009 will be incorporated into the 2011 vintage) grown on our 3.5 acre vineyard.

The 2005 vintage was our inaugural vintage, released in 2008. Beginning with the ’05 vintage we have offered two bottlings of our Cabernet, GTS and Nancy’s Fancy, mainly because the characteristics of the grapes grown on the smaller hill of the vineyard have been very different than those grown on the big hill.

We were in Calistoga in October, 2008. On the last full day of our visit to Healdsburg, which lies across the mountains in Sonoma County, we decided to venture over to the Napa Valley between winery visits. It was a beautiful drive, bringing us down into Calistoga, where we ate lunch, then visited the Sharpsteen Museum of Calistoga History. (I took the photo up top as we were getting back in the car after lunch to drive around town, stumbling on the museum during the drive.) As I read Jordan’s description of the Seavers’ home on Diamond Mountain, I imagined that I had looked up at it from town.

The Jordan article has many delights, even for readers who aren’t baseball fans, though especially for those who care about baseball. Seaver’s insights are fascinating. It’s a surprise to realize that Seaver didn’t make all that much from his baseball days, despite being one of the greatest pitchers ever. He did well, of course, but an order of magnitude less well than today’s stars. He wasn’t a multimillionaire buying an existing successful venture as a hobby. Rather, he bought undeveloped land and made a go of it from scratch as a real business.

I hesitate to quote from the article, as I don’t want to spoil its pleasures. Go read it.

Categories: Sports, Wine, Writing