Monday, June 30, 2008

The Scottish Play

We saw the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of Macbeth on Saturday night. It was great. It was easily one of the top three productions I've seen at CSF in the past few years. I put it behind last year's perfect A Midsummer Night's Dream and ahead of The Tempest from about three years ago.

I wore skinny jeans, gladiator wedges, a gray, a-line, puff-sleeve top by Alldressedup, and a way oversized Stella McCartney sweater with buckles for when the temperature went down. I carried my black, Isabella Fiore frame bag.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is 50 years old. I have been going on and off since junior high school. It's a summer tradition. Round about February you start to think, what am I going to do this summer? And then you go online and see what's going to playing up in Boulder. It's a tradition along with Red Rocks and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. At certain points I start to think, this is boring. I've been doing this same circuit my entire life. If I never had to shlep my parka up the hill to Red Rocks again, it would be fine. I would not miss the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theater if for some reason all of the roads between Denver and Boulder were closed. I think, there are other places in the world where people do other things in the summer. But if I were in another place I'd do the same things, just in different venues. In Chicago, there would be Jazz Fest and Blues Fest. There would be the dunes. If I lived in New York, I'd be in the Hamptons. Instead I'm here, where I belong.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday Night

Went to the Wynkoop for drinks and shuffleboard with J's office. When they left, J's brothers arrived along with J's brother's fiancee and we drank and talked. JW was not performing with Impulse Theater last night, so about 9:30 we walked to the Wazee Supper Club for dinner and more drinks, then back to J's office where I watched the four of them play Foosball. We called it a night early and tumbled into bed around midnight.

I wore my cherry-print Betsy Johnson silk halter dress with ruffle hem and red, round-toed Chie Mihara shoes.

Friday, June 27, 2008

More Music

Mark Knopfler on Tuesday. That guy knows how to play a guitar.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Four Shows

I saw four shows last week -- that's approaching JW and DR's average for a seven day period. Next week there are three more to come, which has to be some sort of record for me. It occurred to me only last night, when J mentioned that he goes to a lot of shows now that he's with me, that perhaps all of this watching may not be living. The exchange went like this: I said, "When you're with me, you live." He replied, "I at least spectate." I don't know if this was meant as a criticism. It was his life we were talking about. Plus, he seemed to be enjoying himself and had earlier assented enthusiastically to my buying him Counting Crows tickets for his birthday. But I'm not going to speculate about his life or even mine in this space. I'm just going to record what I saw and how I felt about it.

First: Nixon in China. This is my favorite opera of all time, and I have been looking forward to it since I bought season tickets to Opera Colorado last year at this time. I had seen it performed as a concert opera about six years ago, but this was the first time I have seen it staged live. (I first saw a PBS broadcast of the Houston Grand Opera production from the 80s -- but that was years ago and now I don't even have the technology at my house to watch the videotape I made of it). The opera company seemed particularly proud to be staging it -- they've had guys in Nixon masks running about at opera performances and even around town to publicize it.

The company should have been proud. The performance was incredibly successful. The acting was some of the best I've ever seen in opera (I've seen a lot of opera devolve into shtick -- the February performance of Don Pasquale was just that) and the voices didn't suffer for the acting. I think that this sort of performance, where the characters are all based on people from the not too distant past whom we all would recognize, must have great acting. Of course, an opera with a subject like this one could devolve easily into a Saturday Night Live performance -- the staging seems to call for the Nixon character to be just as uncoordinated on stage as he looked on television. But the libretto really liberates the characters from the second dimension and really rounds them out. Each one of them is resolutely in his or her own skin in this opera. Each one of them sees the events of the plot from this or her own point of view, making you wonder some times if any of them are really in the same moral universe. You could really make a case that they are not. Plus, none of them are really occupied with what is happening around them. They are all sort of going through this diplomatic ceremony without any interest in its meaning or any interest in their own role in it. They are merely players. Their inner voices are, paradoxically, what we hear, and they comprise a series of thoughts and memories and feeling that are entirely not about the ceremony in which all of them have gathered to put on. It is such a great opera. I wore a black, mirrored-waist flapper dress by Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti, black Cole Haan high-heeled sandals, and carried a Furla silver clutch.

I saw Blue Man Group in Vegas with my students. I am not sure what to say about it. My impression is that there is supposed to be something more going on than what I think was happening on stage, but it all seemed disjointed. During the performance, words are projected on screen on screen and across the stage. The words that were projected the night I went all seemed to be about communication, about technology, and the convergence of the two to create a world in which all knowledge can be accessed and shared. There were also vignettes about the alienation that technology can produce. One set featured a cafe in the desert, with "neon" signs that continually changed according to the changing character of the diner as it travelled through time. It started off offering gas and food, and ended offering expensive coffee and free Internet.

But what the actors were doing on stage appeared entirely "random," in the words of one of my students. The blue men did skits, made paintings by blowing "neon" paint onto canvas with their mouths, and invited an audience member to the stage, only to have him covered in blue paint, connected to a rope, turned upside down, and pushed into a canvas to create a blue image of his form. Quite a bit was required of the audience in terms of participation. Was this how they were trying to decrease modern alienation and bring us all together? At least four people were called on to stand and wave to the audience during the warm up. Two people, including the aforementioned man, were brought up on to the stage. The rest of us were put to work during the finale conducting five minutes-worth of crape paper pouring over the balcony over our heads and toward the front of the house. The result of all of this is that I remember everything, but have no idea what it all means. I wore my bubble-hem empire waist dress by Velvet, gladiator wedges, and carried my Kooba Olivia bag in lava.

Every time I see Cirque du Soleil, I think to my self that I have to work out more. My students and I saw Mystere in Vegas, as well. It was not as good as other Cirque du Soleil shows I've seen, but it still had everything that I love about that company's product -- a strong background in the European circus tradition, complete with its medieval props and costumes. Cirque du Soleil makes me feel like I've entered into a world created by Goya. Regardless of its title, Mystere was not entirely mysterious, nor was it dark -- which are two moods that I think Cirque du Soleil does so well. However, the movement was incredible, hence my feeling of physical inferiority to the players. Just watching these people, you see how skilled they are -- in dance, in gymnastics, in acrobatics -- all of them seemingly skilled in all types of movement. And all of it is real -- these are technicians. When you see a Cirque du Soleil performance, you don't see half-trained "dancers," you see dancers who have been trained in classical ballet. I wore a gray, silk, Miu Miu dress with empire waist, my gladiator wedges, and carried the Kooba Olivia bag in lava.

I made sure I got home from Vegas early enough to see Robert Plant and Allison Krauss at Red Rocks last night. It was probably the best concert I've ever seen. They performed songs from their album, of course, but they also performed solo songs -- Robert Plant did Led Zeppelin, of course, with Allison Krauss singing back up, and Allsion did bluegrass, including a song from the O Brother, Where art Thou? soundtrack. They had T-Bone Burnett with them, and he did about three of his own songs. I wore skinny jeans, a striped BCBG blouse that ties around the neck, a Stella McCartney canvas jacket, and my blue, sparkly Marc by Marc sandals. I carried the Kooba Olivia bag in lava.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hoover Dam

I went to Hoover Dam today and it made me proud to be human. That huge structure is an elegant example of the convergence of a multitude of our arts. I know little about the science that went into it, but the power lines alone, conducting electricity toward two major cities, speak to what our species is really capable of.

I love massive public works projects. Their chief purpose is always to make the world better for others. In the case of this dam, it was built with that 1930s spirit of the collective that I find inspiring. Just as inspiring is that 1930s spirit of doing great things under ugly circumstances.

I wish we had more of it these days. The contrast between Las Vegas and Hoover Dam is undeniable. One serves the other, of course, but that one was built to serve humanity, and the other mammon. Don't get me wrong, I like mammon, and I am totally about hedonism, but Las Vegas is so bread and circuses where Hoover Dam is so focused, so true, so all about human potential.

I wonder what the people who worked on it thought when they stood back and took it all in. And I'm not just talking about the city of workers that were imported to actually put it together, but what about everybody in Washington who developed the policy that would take tangible form in the dam? What about the engineers who designed it? All of those people, when they finally saw this great project completed must have remembered when it was just an idea on a piece of paper, whether in an analysis or on a blueprint. I'm just a girl born into a different world than they, but I feel new.

And patriotic. Dammit, look what we can do! Look what we did, and first. I think about the style in which the dam was built and how it truly suits the celebration of both the United States and the worker in a time wanting money but rich with pride in its ideas and accomplishments. It's the same style that celebrates the Soviet Union, those blocky 1930s populist friezes and those huge murals celebrating the worker. "Rosie the Riveter" is done in that same style, with a little bit of the pinup thrown in.

For me, this style has always seemed both beautiful and malicious. Beautiful because there's so much hope in this style -- it looks into the future -- "We can do this, we can do anything," it says. It is also the style of the art and architecture of Stalin and of totalitarianism socialism and its propaganda. I look at architecture built in this era (the Boulder City Hall, is the example that comes to mind) and I immediately think of those black and white photographs of vast Russian wheat fields and peasants sitting on tractors. Then I think of the purges. But behold the Hoover Dam. It possesses that same aesthetic, but in a different context. Here it is the architecture of progress, not of continual revolution.


I arrived in Las Vegas last night. I'm here for work, which means that I am here chaperoning teenagers. Because I'm a consummate professional, that means no drinking or gambling, though I have reserved the right, through a blanket, anticipatory apology, to swear -- especially while driving.

This, of course, does not mean that on some night off I can put on my watermelon-colored, Catherine Malandrino dress and go somewhere -- anywhere without kids (still no drinking, but I don't like to drink anyway unless I'm with people I trust -- really, just with Jeff -- because then I know I'll get home safe).

That isn't to say Vegas isn't about kids -- just about adult kids. The place reminds me of Disney World, Epcot, an airport, and Casa Bonita rolled into one. First of all, it's all so big. I mean the scale -- everything looks like it's been built to one and a half scale. I feel Lilliputian walking along the strip, or pulling up to my hotel.

Then there's the hyperreality of it all, if I can borrow a word from the great Umberto Eco. Everything is so realistic, in only that artificial way that realism can suggest. But that same realism suggest surrealism -- especially when you realize that you are actually being just swept along in this place -- literally. Everywhere there's an elevator, or an automated walkway -- they just take you from venue to venue, most of the time before you even know you are leaving one to go to another.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Last night we saw Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Red Rocks. It was an excellent concert. The band apparently loves to perform, and they apparently love to preform for Red Rocks crowds, as they looked like they were having the time of their lives last night. Not only that, but it was a three hour-long concert, and nobody opened for them. Part of this, I am sure, is due to the fact that Todd and the Monsters are local boys who got their start at CU. (Really, they got their start in high school at my alma mater -- of which we Rebels are particularly proud). The audience at Red Rocks last night looked like the core of their fan base -- people who remembered them from back when, some of whom brought their children.

As for me, I went to university in another state, so I didn't get to follow their ascendancy in Boulder, but learned about them when I moved back to Colorado in 1993. By the time I first saw them in concert, they were playing venues as large as the old McNichols -- a place suitable for the really famous (Bob Dylan and Paul Simon played there, among others). I like their music, but what I really liked about the concert last night was when they got bluesy. They had a great horn section and started off with some selections deeply rooted in traditional blues. They sent the horns off when they played old Todd, but brought them back later to finish off the concert. Big Head Todd has for a long time collaborated with Hazel Miller, who also performed last night, so her blues background really contributed to what was going on on stage.

At intermission some guys came out to present a giant check to Crocs, the shoe manufacturer, for some charitable work it is doing in the developing world. That's when J looked at the stage and said, "Hey, I think that's T-- from R---." One of the presenters was one of J's business associates. We found out later that T has had a twenty year relationship with the band, and was lately asked to manage it temporarily, while they search for some one to manage them full time. J texted T, "Was that you on stage with the giant check?" and we promptly received a reply saying yes, and would we come back stage? We watched the rest of the concert from the VIP section, just thirty feet behind the drum set.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New City

So let me tell you how exciting it is to live in Denver now.

Last night we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which just opened its new building on 15th and Delgany. I'll write more about the MCA itself later, because right now I want to write about the view from the top of that building. It's fantastic. Just looking out to the north you see a landscape that didn't exist ten years ago. One of the farthest buildings in your view is Coors Field, which was completed just over ten years ago, and next to it you see the edge of Lower Downtown, and its collection of buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As you look to the west across the river, you see the Highlands neighborhood, marked by a Methodist church sitting on the top of the hill, looking down over the city. But when you look toward the foreground you see an entirely 21st century neighborhood. You see high-density, high-income housing rising up above the old railroad tracks. The light-rail snakes through the neighborhood, through a central park area and past a large suspension bridge. The entire picture, with its mixture of modern and old architecture, feels rather European -- as if we were a mid-sized urban area in Germany or Switzerland.

More exciting than the landscape is who is using the landscape. Kids are using the landscape. I think that this "kid-friendliness" is the most important indicator that you have built a city that works the way it is supposed to. The fact that kids are riding their bikes through the area -- at 8 pm on a Friday night, no less -- that mothers and daughters are popping into the MCA for twenty minutes before walking back home, means that the area is not only safe, but it is accessible to all, regardless of your vehicle, and its close to where people actually live. The really great part of all of this accessibility is that it isn't contrived. It is not a destination that was built just for families with kids, or for partiers or yuppies. It is a place built for people to live.

When I was growing up the city was a destination. It was far away and so was something you did as a family, as if you were going to Disneyland. It was a whole day activity, worthy of a picnic basket, and long hours spent in a museum -- many longer hours than you could stand before getting bored and cranky. But now, as I think back to that view from the top of the MCA, I see that we have a livable city. And not only is it livable, when you are living in it you are aware that you are living in the shadow of excellent architecture, and that you could just pop inside those buildings and be exposed to art and ideas.

I think back to the neighborhood I lived in when I was growing up, and thinking about what was available to us as children -- the mall, Skaggs Drugs, Big Apple Records. It was the landscape of suburban alienation. Consuming was the only activity you could do, unless it was an organized activity -- like sports, or children's theater, or church. Twenty years later, that neighborhood is exactly how it was when I grew up. It is a place of unlimited boredom -- of concentrated boredom. Working there now, I can't wait to leave at the end of the day -- not because of my job, but because the air is so stagnant, so cut off from any fresh breeze.

So when I look at Denver, I think, not bad for a cow town.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Marc by Marc is just so darn wearable....

So, I wore this ensemble yesterday -- another Marc by Marc Jacobs top and shorts combination. It was perfect for Saturday activities: hosting breakfast for J's grandparents, researching a particularly one-sided debate topic, doing the menage at Costco.

The gladiators are from Nordstrom. A wedge with a longer short lengthens the leg and makes the outfit less dowdy. And for those women who are high-shoe averse, I give them my Friday afternoon experience. I locked my self out of the house right before I had an appointment at the salon. You can't miss a salon appointment -- they'll charge you for it anyway and you'll never be able to reschedule within a reasonable amount of time. So I just walked. A mile and a half on four-inch wedges.

The first picture makes me laugh, because I have taken several pictures of my feet for this blog. I'm remembering the line from "Lost in Translation," where the Scarlett Johansson character talks about a fling she had with photography. She says something like, "You just wind up taking pictures of your feet."

The second picture also shows the herb garden -- and our cement-covered backyard. The previous owners were bizarre Christian fundamentalists with ten children. They obviously believed in paving over paradise.