01
Apr 17

Los Angeles 2017: Museums

Getty Museum

Early last month I decided to take a last minute trip to L.A. One friend was going for business while another was going for fun. Plus my brother said it was good timing for him and his wife. On top of all that, I managed to find a cheap flight.

As on all my trips, I saw a buttload of museums.

The Broad

A newly opened contemporary art museum and already booked months in advance. But my brother knew about its standby line, in which you show up, wait in line, and hope you can get in.

We got there about half an hour before it opened, and the line already went down the block. However, the museum workers did a good job of letting us know how long the wait would be. They said an hour, and that’s exactly what it was. It also helped that it was beautiful out.

The space and art were fun. Lots of Jeff Koons, Jackson Pollock, and other ones I can’t name. :P I wanted to see the Infinity Mirrored Room, but there was a waiting list. Not only that, there was a line for the list. I would definitely go back.

Japanese American National Museum

I had mentioned wanting to see the George Takei exhibit. Turns out it was walking distance from the Broad so off we went.

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I really enjoyed it. I was surprised to learn it was curated by Jeff Yang. Surprised because you don’t usually see writers curating museum exhibits. That may be part of the reason I liked it. It told a cohesive story, taking highlights from Takei’s life and juxtaposing them against points in American history, from his being interned with his family at age 5, to the racism he faced trying to make it in Hollywood as an Asian American actor, to Star Trek, to coming out, to getting married.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

I always enjoy going to LACMA, especially since my brother is a member and can bring a guest for free. Their special exhibit was Picasso & Rivera, which examines the paintings, etchings, and watercolors from the contemporaries and compared them to the classic works (Greek for Picasso, Mexican for Rivera) that inspired them.

The Getty

My friends and I spent a good three hours here, but I could have stayed for longer. I focused on the special exhibit, Bouchardon, which was fairly interesting, and the garden. I started to look at the Concrete Poetry exhibit, but it wasn’t that exciting to me. Maybe if I had had more time. I felt like looking at some paintings so I went over to that building (which was hard to find for me) and got in some Rembrandt, Dutch still lifes, and French Impressionists.

That’s not all! I did other stuff besides visit museums (if you can believe it). That’s coming up next.


05
Jan 17

NYC Adventures: 2016 Holiday Edition

While last year I went out of town, this holiday season out-of-towners came to me, which meant I got to see some New York sights I’d never seen before, and a few I hadn’t visited in a while.

The United Nations

United Nations

[Photo by Paul VanDerWerf, CC BY 2.0]

I worked near the United Nations for 10 years but never went inside. Last week was my first time. My friend Motoko from Tokyo and her son wanted a tour, and Ellen, my buddy in Boston, was kind enough to arrange it and to, of course, join in on the fun.

You have to go through quite a bit of security before getting inside. No wonder they ask you to get there an hour before your tour time. You check in at one location, wait in line at the main location, then put your stuff through metal detectors and go through a full body scan, just like at the airport. It was so similar, some people were about to take their shoes off.

Once you get inside, it’s worth it. The lobby is beautiful. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures. That’s what I get for not having much memory on my phone.

The tour was interesting, but because I was sleep deprived, I didn’t retain much of it. What I do remember was the guide was credentialed up the wazoo. She spoke three languages (English, Japanese, and Spanish), had a master’s degree in international relations, and was fluent in English despite having come from Japan just two years ago.

She was also nice enough to translate for Motoko’s son, although that wouldn’t have happened if Motoko hadn’t noticed her Japanese name, or if Ellen hadn’t asked her to translate in the first place.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

I’ve been to the Grand Central Oyster Bar a couple of times before, but it’s been several years since my last visit.

The Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal, New York City

[Photo by Jazz Guy, CC BY 2.0]

That’s not my picture of the bar although we sat at the bar.

What I love about the place is that it’s a mixed crowd. You have tourists but you also have working stiffs who want to get away from their desks for 40 minutes and enjoy some delicious clam chowder.

Which is what I had. Tasty and filling and only $7.

The Met

Of course I’ve been to the Met a hundred times, but what I’d never seen before was a line that long. How long? It went out the door, down the stairs, and onto the sidewalk. It was a perfect storm of the early afternoon, the holidays and a chilly, steady rain.

Little do the hoi polloi know, there’s a semi-secret side entrance which is a million times less crowded. Another friend showed it to me and Ellen long ago, and it’s the only entrance I’ve used ever since.

Still, that didn’t keep the rest of the museum from being mobbed, especially the Impressionist wing. Our guests lasted half a dozen Monets, Degas, and Seurats before we took refuge in the cafeteria.

Peter Luger Steak House

A great thing about out-of-town visitors, besides the company of course, is that I end up doing things I never would have on my own. Such as dinner at Peter Luger.

If you want an old school New York experience and don’t mind spending a little dough, you’ll love Peter Luger. Perhaps its Brooklyn location has something to do with it, but I felt like everyone — the managers, the waiters, even the other diners — had walked straight out of some movie about NYC.

And the food was good too. We started with sliced tomatoes and onions, which is literally just that. What makes the dish is their sauce, similar to cocktail sauce but not tomato-y. We also got a single (massive) slab of bacon.

Unfortunately by the time our 16 ounce steaks came, I wasn’t that hungry, and could barely make a dent, although I had no problem finishing off our sides of creamed spinach and German fried potatoes, which were similar to hash browns.

It came out to about $80 per person including tax and tip, which may seem steep, but with all the leftovers and the experience itself, it was worth it.

Corner Cafe & Bakery

I’ve been wanting to try this place since I moved into my neighborhood little more than a year ago. New Year’s Eve morning, I finally did, and it didn’t disappoint.

I got the Southern breakfast.

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That’s three eggs, bacon, potatoes, a corn muffin, and fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce. A delectable way to finish out 2016.

InterContinental Barclay Hotel

Something else I don’t usually do is go out on New Year’s Eve. To me NYE is basically SantaCon without the Santa suits. But this year I found myself out and about, and I have to admit, it was a nice change of pace.

After helping Motoko pick up some provisions for her feverish son, Ellen and I ended up spending a relaxing afternoon at Motoko’s beautiful hotel.

While we charged our phones at the bar, we each got an old fashioned.

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It was very well made, and I got sufficiently tipsy. Plus the bartender was very nice and didn’t make us feel rushed.

I’d definitely return to the InterContinental Barclay bar just to have a drink and hang out.

Times Square on New Year’s Eve

Our relaxing afternoon came to an end when we headed out to meet our friend Aki. She and her boyfriend had a party later and were staying at a hotel for the night. Unfortunately that hotel was right near Times Square.

Getting from Midtown East to Midtown West on New Year’s Eve was like trying to climb over the Berlin Wall. But climb over it we did, mostly due to Ellen’s persistence. Like Aki said, I was about to call it a night when Ellen finally found a cop who let us through the barricades.

The hotel itself was pretty relaxing. We ended up eating discounted happy hour snacks in the lounge instead of trying to find a restaurant. The food hit the spot. Wings, pita and hummus, quesadillas, and a pizza-like flatbread.

At about 8:30 I made Ellen leave. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in that part of town close to midnight. We walked Aki and her boyfriend partway to their party and grabbed a cab at Columbus Circle. By nine, we were in PJs and watching Orange Is the New Black, my kind of NYE. I was happy that Ellen was so accommodating.

Pure Thai Cookhouse

The next day we headed back to the west side and had our first lunch of 2017. Pure Thai Cookhouse was an Aki find. It was packed but didn’t seem touristy, an excellent combination.

I got the special, a beef dish in a mildly spicy curry paste with a fried egg.

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A yummy start to the new year.

Here’s hoping that every day of 2017 is as delicious.


29
Sep 16

A tiny dress, tinier handwriting — and a huge literary legend

charlotte_bronte

The summer before my senior year in high school, I tried to read Wuthering Heights. I think I read the whole thing, but it was a struggle. The novel was too dark and complex for me at the time.

During the school year, a classmate recommended Jane Eyre. That I devoured. I was Jane. All of us plain, quiet girls were, and we loved dark and troubled men (or boys, at the time) like Mr. Rochester. I read the novel several times, and later her biography (not Elizabeth Gaskell’s). I wrote about Jane Eyre for AP English (and got an A although I thought I was bullshitting). In college I watched the miniseries version with Timothy Dalton (or tried to, I wasn’t into it) and I read Wide, Sargasso Sea.

So when my friend and I popped into the Morgan Library over the weekend as part of the Smithsonian’s free museum day, I was over-the-moon to see their exhibit on Charlotte Bronte.

The exhibit marks the 200th anniversary Charlotte’s birth. The Bronte children were born in Yorkshire to an Irish immigrant father and English mother. Charlotte had two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who both died of tuberculosis at ages 11 and 10, respectively, and within a month of each other. Just a few years earlier, their mother died of uterine cancer. Left in the family besides Charlotte were her father Patrick, younger sisters Emily and Anne, younger brother Branwell, and their aunt Elizabeth who helped raise them after her younger sister’s untimely death.

In the end, patriarch Patrick was the only Bronte to live to old age, outliving all of his children. Branwell and Emily died the same year, at 31 and 30, respectively, and, like their sisters Maria and Elizabeth, within months of each other and rom tuberculosis. Branwell was also an addict, and legend says that his failed romance with a married woman only worsened his condition.

Anne died the following year at 29, also of tuberculosis, and Charlotte, six years later at 38, from complications of pregnancy although it’s speculated she might have also had typhus.

The exhibit focuses less on the tragic side of the family and more on the imaginative and whimsical. Included are the miniature replicas of books and magazines she and her siblings created for their toy soldiers, her teenage poems (one of which she bragged took her only an hour to write), her drawings and paintings, and of course her famous works.

My friend and I were fascinated by the teeny-tiny handwriting all the Bronte siblings used. It’s said that they started out writing that way to match the size of their toy soldiers, but then it became a sort of secret code. I had heard of her “miniscule handwriting” before, but I hadn’t realized it was that miniscule. The Morgan helpfully offers magnifying glasses so you can actually read it although they didn’t really help my 40+ year old eyes.

We both wondered how it was even possible to write so small, until my friend joked that maybe along with her teeny-tiny frame (Charlotte was all of 4’9” with an 18-inch waist)

she had teeny-tiny hands that made writing so small easier.

In addition to her artworks, there’s the famous family portrait by Branwell Bronte.

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That’s, from left to right, Anne, Emily and Charlotte. The portrait is usually housed at the National Portrait Gallery so I must have seen it during my two-week stay in London several years ago, but I don’t remember. So seeing it in real life for what felt like the first time made me swoony.

Branwell had originally included himself in the portrait, but then painted himself out because he didn’t want to “clutter” it. Now as the painting has gotten older, you can see the “ghost” of Branwell between Emily and Charlotte.

The exhibit’s piece de resistance is a portion of Charlotte’s original handwritten manuscript of Jane Eyre (written in regular size by the way). This is usually at the British Library so like the Bronte portrait, I must have seen it before, but again I don’t remember so it felt new and just as swoon-worthy. Of course I wish I could have taken a picture of it, but, understandably, they don’t allow pictures.

You’ll have to go and see it for yourself. The exhibit is open through January 2.


19
Sep 16

Paris 2016: Museums! Museums! Museums!

What’s a trip to Paris without a lot of museums? This year I revisited two favorites, and checked out a few new ones.

Musée Jacquemart-André

I had read online that the Musée Jacquemart-André is a lot like the Frick here in New York, and that it was: a beautiful former home filled with eclectic art. The only thing missing was an indoor garden.

One painting that caught my eye was “Saint Georges and the Dragon” by Paolo Uccello.

saint-georges-terrassant-le-dragon-uccello-c-c-recoura_1

Something new I learned was that Christians took the legend of dragons from the Chinese “to symbolise the deliverance of the church, oppressed by Paganism.” In other words, slaying dragons was about slaying Paganism.

Cartier Foundation

Last year I really enjoyed the Louis Vuitton Foundation so I thought I’d have the same experience with the Cartier Foundation. Not so, I’m afraid. It’s quite small, and all there was when I went was an animal sounds exhibit. Maybe good for kids, but it didn’t interest me. The nicest thing is their outdoor space with lots of trees and plants.

Musee D’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie

The Musee D’Orsay is our favorite museum so of course we had to visit it again. For some reason this time there was zero line. We couldn’t believe it. And it wasn’t too crowded.

Then we realized that might have been because one whole wing was closed. But there was still a lot to see. I got my art nouveau fix, and for the first time we went out to the roof.

My friend’s photo turned out way better than any of mine.

Another day we checked out Musée de l’Orangerie, my second time, my friend’s first. It’s very small but I love it. And if you like impressionist art, you’ll love it too.

Les Arts Decoratifs

This was a first-time visit for the both of us to Les Arts Decoratifs, mainly to see the Barbie exhibit.

It was fun although some of the displays weren’t well-lit. Plus it was really warm. We noticed that about a couple of museums. I’m used to the ones in New York that are freezing.

The exhibit traced the history of Barbie, which has had many variations. Here’s the French Barbie, in honor of our trip:

Oh lala! French Barbie at the Barbie exhibit #barbie #france #paris #museeartsdecoratifs #museum

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Palais de Tokyo

At first I didn’t know what to make of this contemporary art space. The upper floors had some kooky stuff.

Enthusiastic #paris #france #palaisdetokyo #museum #art

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Plus it was too warm AGAIN. Then my friend pointed out their more interesting collection on the bottom floors. That stuff reminded me of the Whitney. Unfortunately I was a bit lazy about taking pictures. But my friend took some great photos and videos.

Next up, my second favorite thing about traveling: food.


05
Jan 16

NYC Adventures: Museums

As you might know, I’m pretty much addicted to museums, and so after moving back to New York, I was especially excited to revisit some of my old haunts.

The Frick

An old favorite, I love the Frick because it’s small and easy to handle. Comparable to Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris, in my opinion.

The former residence of rich guy and union-buster Henry Clay Frick, the building houses Frick’s extensive collection of European paintings and sculptures, 18th-century French porcelain and furniture, and much more.

Plus who doesn’t love an indoor garden court?

The Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is practically in my backyard, and because of that and its enormity, it seemed like the right museum to join.

met_egypt_1115

In recent years, the Met’s most popular draw has been its costume exhibits. Last year I saw Death Becomes Her, and in September, China Through the Looking Glass.

met_china_0915

I loved both although both times were complete madhouses, especially the latter since my friend and I saw it on the last weekend, which happened to be the Friday night of Labor Day weekend.

But membership has its benefits. In the future, I’ll be able to see all special exhibits during off hours, ie, without the hoi polloi. One I’m really looking forward to is the opening of The Met Breuer, which will house modern and contemporary art, and is located in the Whitney’s old space.

But the permanent exhibits are nothing to sneeze at. Although I’ve been visiting the Met for years, recently I saw two exhibits that I’ve never seen before, one on late Baroque interior design and one on medieval Spanish art. I also revisited Arms and Armor while listening to the (free) audio guide app.

I feel like the Met is a place you can visit a million times and see something new every time.

The Cloisters

While I’ve lived in close proximity to New York for most of my life, I somehow never visited the Cloisters until late last year.

Whenever I think of the medieval art museum, I think of my brother’s school trip there when he was a kid and his coming home with a print of its arguably most famous work, The Unicorn in Captivity, which hung on his bedroom wall for years. Seeing the tapestry in person was a little like seeing a celebrity.

The surrounding area, Fort Tyron Park, is also lovely.

cloisters_1115

Getting out there is a bit of a schlep. At first my friend and I balked at paying $6 for the bus ride, but it turned out to be worth it. The seats were super-comfy and the ride was pretty quick at less than 20 minutes. If we had taken a regular local bus, it would have taken more than an hour.

The Whitney

When I was living on the Upper East Side before I moved to San Francisco (otherwise known as “New York, Take 1”), the Whitney was my favorite museum. It was very close to my apartment, and my work ID at the time got me in for free. On hot summer days, I’d just go there and hang out.

Now the Whitney is in the Meatpacking District right near the High Line. It’s a beautiful space with an amazing view:

whitney_view_1115

I thought it was going to be insane with people when I visited over Thanksgiving week, but it actually wasn’t too bad.

While I still love the Whitney, because of its new location I unfortunately probably won’t be visiting it very much.

Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum

Another museum that’s close to where I live. I always enjoy it although I found the recent Pixar exhibit somewhat disappointing. I liked the How Posters Work exhibit better.

And the rest…

Since moving back, I’ve also had the chance to visit the Museum of Arts and Design (love the jewelry); the Museum of Morbid Anatomy in Brooklyn (at least the store and a weird movie about old health films); the Morgan Library (specifically, Alice: 150 years of Wonderland); and the Princeton University Art Museum, which by the way is always free.

But the NYC adventures don’t end here. Next up, food glorious food.