Sunday, October 25, 2009

Daughters of Bluegrass

Although I am not a big fan of country music, I do really love bluegrass. I guess I see it more as folk music than country music, and who can resist the foot-tapping, hand-clapping music that comes with banjos, mandolins, violins (fiddles), bass fiddles, guitars, and some other instruments whose names I do not know? And then there are the soulful, harmonizing voices, the painfully sad or honty-tonk happy lyrics. It just makes you want to dance, even if you don't dance. Who can resist it? What's not to like? I love the way they all know know the same songs, they gather and jam on the square in Daholonega, and men and women of all ages just sit down and make happy music!

So, I was excited when my friend Louisa asked me if I'd like to see the Daughters of Bluegrass perform here in Atlanta. Louisa Branscomb was herself on the Daughters of Bluegrass CD that got Recorded Event of the Year and is a very talented and successful songwriter in this genre and country. So, we not only got to see and hear these ladies perform at the Southeastern Bluegrass Association's 25th Anniversary Concert, but Louisa was invited to perform two songs with them, one of which she had written, "Fool's Gold." This year's Daughters of Bluegrass included Jeanette Williams, Gena Britt, Tina Adair, Mindy Rakestraw, Lorraine Jordan, Jenny Obert, Dale Ann Bradley, and Frances Mooney. I got to meet all of them, thanks to Louisa, get lots of photos, and also get some CDs. And what nice women they all are!

Dale Ann Bradley is a performer for whom Louisa writes a lot of songs (about 4-5 on her new CD), including one that is in the top five on the charts, "Don't Turn Your Back." Dale Ann is the 2007, 2008 & 2009 IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year. What a voice she has! But she also a great guitarist. I was so pleased to meet her and have my photo taken with her and Louisa after their show. I think I'm going to be seeking out a lot more bluegrass!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

BRATS are all around us . . .

Yesterday at the nearby Firestone store, one of the mechanics struck up a conversation with me. As conversations go, it meandered, and lo and behold, it turns out he was a BRAT! And, in my world, that is not a bad thing, but a very, very good thing. BRATS are children of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines who grew up in the military, often living on bases or posts or forts either here or in other countries. BRATS make up 5% of our American population.

The Firestone mechanic, a handsome man in his late 30s or maybe early 40's, told me his family basically moved every two years. First, his dad was a Marine, but he left that and joined the Army and became a Ranger. This guy lived in Germany, Italy, the States, and ended up in Puerto Rico, where he completed school and his dad got a civilian job related to the military, as so many do. He named all the former bases and schools in Puerto Rico and I told him I'd been there on a business trip for DoDDS/AVID in 2002. We reminisced a bit about Puerto Rico . . .

But this scene happens fairly often! The shampoo girl at Vidal Sassoon was a BRAT, living most of her life in Germany. So was a teenager on the street in Decatur who gave us directions. Numerous people I've met online are BRATS. So is one of the trainers at the gym. Quite a few of the new, younger teachers in DoDDS are BRATS. They want to come back! My kids are always running into them, too.

There is a wonderful documentary about BRATS called BRATS: Our Journey Home, that is narrated by famous BRAT/singer Kris Kristofferson. It's a poignant and moving film that cannot fail to have an impact on the viewer. I have shown it to my students, bought copies for my family, and shared it with my colleagues. Even friends with no attachment at all to the military have been moved by this film. It is still being shown in special showings in cities around the USA, but you can also buy a copy on the site above.

BRATS are a very special part of my life. I have spent twenty years teaching them, loving them, and saying goodbye to them. Facebook has become a wonderful way to stay in touch with this special group of individuals. One point made in the film is that not only is dad (or mom) in the military, the whole family is. That creates kids and then adults with very special characteristics (see link above) who go on to serve their country and humanity in much higher proportions than the average American graduate. Thank God for BRATS.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Touch of Turkey

Who would have thought there were so many Turks in Atlanta? But, I guess in a city of 4.5 million, there is a hardly a nationality that isn't represented. But I only know of one (and maybe a half) Turkish restaurants, and that hasn't changed much in quite a few years. So, it was very pleasant surprise to find the Atlanta Turkish Fest well-organized and attended this weekend at the Gwinnett Convention Center in Duluth, GA.

It was strange, and yet comfortably familiar to see the faces and clothing, to smell and taste the food and drink, to hear the music and language, and to see the unique Turkish items such as Evil Eyes and tea sets. I have been to Turkey at least five times, and it is a place that is truly magical. Everyone should go there at least once. Also, there is a huge Turkish presence in Germany, and it was very easy to find restaurants, stores, travel agencies, mosques, and other indicators there.

The first, and most important thing, to do at the Turkish Fest was eat! I was starved, but I took time to look at all the options, about ten vendors, to see what was available. Did I want a doner kabob, shish kabob, the honey-dripping desserts, salads, or what? It all looked and smelled great. I settled on something I had never had before: Gozleme ve Manti (Turkish Crepes and Dumplings), which the servers told me was from the middle part of Turkey. The crepe was very thin and filled with a spicy meat. The dumplings were actually more like tiny tortellini covered with a garlic yogurt sauce, a thin tomato sauce, and a sprinkling of dried mint. I ordered a traditional Turkish yogurt drink, something like buttermilk, to go with it. It seemed like way too much food, but guess what? I ate it all with no problem and even had a few bites of my friend's chicken doner! Afterwards we had real Turkish coffee (sweet and strong with grounds on the bottom) with hazelnuts to munch on.

Finally satisfied with the food fix, we spent time looking through all the vendors' booths, probably two dozen or so, which including tourism, services, souvenirs, foods, copper, scarves, jewelry, music, food, language school, religious information, books, calligraphy, marbling, cooking classes, and more. The entire time, various musical performers were on stage. Nothing makes me happier than Turkish music! Many people were in folk costumes, obviously part of a later presentation.

The people were their usual hospitable Turkish selves. Everyone was very anxious that we should find what we wanted, be happy, etc. Here, take this, take this--a pocketful of Jordan almonds, maps, postcards, brochures, a CD, a folder. Can I help you? Smiling families and children. The entire event was happy and interesting. My only phrase in Turkish, "Tesekk├╝r ederim" (thank you), was understood everywhere and met with surprise and smiles. It's a good one is know if you only know one thing in Turkish! I can't wait for next year's fest.

Friday, October 16, 2009

High on Monet

I have been to many places to see works by Monet: London, Paris, Stuttgart, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, and Giverny, to name a few. So, I was excited to learn that the High Museum of Art in Atlanta was showing his work early this summer. When Alison came to visit, we went to see it. There she is above with Claude himself!

The show was very small, only four paintings, and a bit anti-climatic after the big Henry Moore exhibit at the Botanical Garden. The "big draw" was this huge, room-length, curved water lilies painting. "The highlight of the exhibition is a breathtaking 42-foot painting that inspires a sense of serenity, meditation, and the infinite. Painted at the end of his life, this series became Monet's "obsession," as he wrote in 1908. In these paintings, he sought to capture the beauty he found in nature, especially in his beloved garden at Giverny."

This and the other three, smaller works were all from the New York Museum of Modern Art, but I had already seen a really impressive and large exhibit of the water lilies large curved painted at the Orangerie in Paris in 1998. Now that is a Monet exhibit not to miss! Nor was the Monet at Midnight show I saw in 1999, which was the largest collection of Monets (80 works!) ever assembled in the world. Atlanta, and the High, are, however, trying.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cowboys and Indians and Andy Warhol

I had known about the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, about thirty miles north of Atlanta, for several years, but I finally got the chance to see it with my friend Elaine this past weekend. It turned out to be bigger, better, and much more interesting than I ever thought it would be! Not only is the facility itself beautiful, but the collections and exhibitions are extensive, well-organized and documented, and really interesting! In fact, it is so large, we were there for several hours and did not get to see everything.

There are paintings ranging from traditional Western art of the 1800s to contemporary art, including a significant number of Andy Warhol works centered on Native Americans and the American West. The galleries are well-lit, well-organized, and well-documented. In my mind, that means the placard tells you the necessary things about the painting without telling you what to think about it, as many museums are now apt to do. Here at the Booth, they might give you some interesting background, but they do not interpret it for you. Thank heavens. There are many galleries consisting primarily of paintings, with some prints and drawings: the Mythic West Gallery, Modern West Gallery, Cowboy Gallery, Heading West Gallery, Faces Gallery, War is Hell Gallery, and the American West Gallery.

One sub-section of the Modern West Gallery was a hall of movie posters of famous Westerns, which brought back to mind some of my childhood cowboy heroes like Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, and Bat Masterson. Of course, John Wayne was everywhere--posters, paintings, and even sculptures (so was Ronnie Reagan).

Famous Western figures and events from history were abundant throughout the museum, but especially upstairs. General Custer and "the last stand" were popular, as was "the shootout at the OK Corral." Remember that one? Geronimo has a section devoted to himself. The Native American tribes are well-represented on maps, in art, and in exhibitions of original objects and clothing. There are a couple of stagecoaches, and many, many sculptures, especially the large bronze ones that are usually associated with the American West. One particularly frightening one has a Native American warrior being snatched away by a huge eagle. Something went terribly wrong in the hunt.

The section of the museum that was a total surprise (and a nice one) to me was the Presidential Letters Gallery. Wow! This is an exhibit of a picture, a few interesting facts, and one original letters from every President of the United States! There is even a spot for President Obama's letter, with a little sign saying it is on its way! Most of the letters are hand-written, so there is a typed translation next to each of those. I just found that whole collection fascinating! And to think it is in Cartersville, GA!

Unfortunately, you cannot take photos inside, so the only ones I have are outside. It costs $10 for an adult and is open every day but Monday. You can view a fifteen-minute film about Western art and the Booth for free, and there is a nice gift shop. There is also a research section with more than 20,000 volumes and an interactive children's gallery organized like a working ranch.

Like I said, I didn't get to see it all, but I'm eager to go back again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Moore in America

In July, my daughter Alison and I had the opportunity to see the Henry Moore (Large Sculpture) Exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and we enjoyed both the Large Sculptures and the Botanical Garden itself. We had one of the few cooler, less humid days of summer and no crowds to distract us from the art and the plant life.

I had seen a Henry Moore exhibit years ago at the Mannheim Art Museum in Germany and greatly admired his large rounded human forms. The Atlanta show had twenty pieces displayed throughout the garden, which seemed the perfect place to show and see them, so different from the modern, white, cold museum in winter. This show was also the largest outdoor exhibition of Moore's works ever shown in America.

Henry Moore (1898-1986) was a British artist and sculptor and is one of the world's best-known and admired 20th-century sculptors. Most of his work is in bronze, and nearly all depict human forms. One of his recurring themes is the mother and child. There is something very appealing about the pieces . . . perhaps it is the whimsical nature of the forms themselves, something like giant crib toys or stuffed pillows, or maybe it is the smoothness and roundedness that is somehow soothing and never threatening.

To see them all, we had to walk all over the garden, which gave us plenty of time to also admire the flowers, trees, and even "wildlife" in the enclosed spaces like the Orchid House. By the end, we had as many or more photos of the garden as we did of the sculptures. The funniest thing we saw was a volunteer fall off her ladder into a lily pond!

I do hope the ABG continues to bring shows like this to the city. It was a highlight of the summer. More Moore, please!