Indian Day

So, apparently we do theme days now, and Saturday was Indian day. We started off the day with a visit to the Asian Art Museum to catch the Maharaja exhibit, featuring both these traditional images:

and these re-imagined ones:

by Sanjay Patel

I loved Patel’s renderings of traditional Indian paintings, and I stood in the museum shop debating with myself whether I would buy his book, Ramahanja – Divine Loophole (a retelling of an old epic featuring demons and gods and a blue-skinned hero). I decided against it on grounds of cost, but must have picked it up and put it back at least twice before moving on.

Then, we went to Dosa for some South Indian food.

Every time we go eat Indian food, I resolve to learn how to make something besides the couple curries that are in my weekly rotations. This time was no exception. The food was good, the staff perhaps a little disappointed that we were sticking with water, but we’ll put that down to friendliness. All was good.

And then my dad took me to see Jesus in India, put on by the Magic Theater at Fort Mason, San Francisco. (My dad likes to encourage my religiosity by taking me to semi-irreligious things.) The premise is that Jesus spent at least part of his ‘lost years’ (you know, the time in the bible that isn’t documented, between his childhood and the beginnings of his ministry)  in India. Sounds interesting, no? In hindsight, I think I expected something like a cross between The Book of Mormon musical and Lamb by Christopher Moore. It wasn’t that. It was more intellectual than funny, mirroring the nativity story in a complicated interplay with contemporary elements, although there were some good laughs in there. And a lot of weed. It didn’t hit me till the drive home that, of course, weed is illegal in the States. Sorry, my liberal European heritage didn’t quite get the subversive message there.

All in all, a pretty good day. We should do theme days more often.


san francisco

Yesterday I went up to San Francisco by train. I wanted to do parts of the Barbary Coast Trail, including Grace Cathedral and Chinatown.

walking up through Nob Hill

Grace Cathedral

I love Grace Cathedral. The Episcopal Church has been dear to me since it saved my faith back when I went to Berkeley and I love it for that reason alone. But also because it has icons of John Donne and Martin Luther King, Jr, an e=mc2 stained glass window, and a Peets Coffee in the basement. Unfortunately, I got there too late to participate in the Holy Eucharist, so I just wandered around the church, leafing through the Book of Common Prayer and lighting a candle or two. Afterwards, I sat on the steps for a while, just soaking up the sun. (Have I mentioned how much I’m enjoying the weather here?)

Then down California Street into Chinatown. Reading American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods has changed the way I look at these streets. I thought about the stories in the book of growing up in tiny apartments and poverty whenever I saw apartment buildings with the washing hanging from the windows to dry. It made it more three-dimensional somehow. No less fascinating or fun, but it did make it a bit odd to walk around taking pictures.

Waverly Place

there's an old brick Catholic church in the middle of Chinatown. It's adapted well to its surroundings.

And then I met my dad at Peets (where else?), where we did a crossword and indulged in coffee before going on to the Alexander Book Company.

Look, the dinosaur helped.

And then on to the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The exhibit on the (informal) black-Jewish alliance (demonstrated through music) was particularly fun, as this was the exhibit:

you could sit down at the tables and flip between songs on the iPads bolted down. (Although you were kindly requested to not play on the piano.)

And to top it off, we finished off the day at the Fog City Diner with a delicious burger and fries.

That should tide me over till I get back to the States.

on mnemonics in space

I remember being deeply upset when I heard about Pluto’s demotion to non-planetary status. I have very fond childhood memories of our class unit on the planets (say it with me: My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos does not have the same ring to it at all). Well, a couple of weeks ago, my dad and I were visiting the California Academy of Sciences, a wonderful museum that was overhauled and rebuilt several years ago, and opened last year. They have a planetarium, so we caught a show (note: these kind of things are way more interesting when there’s an astronomer sitting next to you that will tell you afterwards what they got wrong). Before they started the actual movie thing (which was very good and informative and spectacular: the amazing graphics and computer animations and space photos kept the kids entertained, the information was interesting for the adults, and the seats were comfy. Plus, Whoopi Goldberg was the narrator), a man showed us a scale model of the solar system to illustrate the comparative distances between planets. He included Pluto, “because it wasn’t fair” that it had been resized to a dwarf planet, and a lot of people – including myself – started clapping. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with an unhealthy attachment to a bundle of rock and ice so many light years away.

oh, and by the way, if I miss Pluto as a planet too much, I can always go and live in Illinois, where the senate has declared that Pluto still is a planet, even if it’s only in their state..

bay area judaism

One of my favorite museums in San Francisco is the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM). It’s around the corner from the Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), which I also love, even if it does get a little too modern at times…

yesterday we visited both. The MOMA was first, for its 75th anniversary exhibition (tagged 75 years of looking forward, which I think is cute). Then on to the CJM, for a lovely, lovely exhibit about Maurice Sendak. Remember this post? Well, I got Egger’s The Wild Things for Christmas from my lovely little sister, although I haven’t seen the movie yet. The exhibition focused on Sendak’s work from a Jewish perspective (usually called ‘the other story’) through taking a look at several themes throughout his work. There were so many illustrations on display, it was amazing. When we went in, I asked myself why I only really knew his Where the Wild Things Are, but when we walked in I realized he had illustrated so much more that I did know about. The Light Princess and The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, for example. My dad loved it as well and examined every drawing minutely (even if he did complain afterward that some of the images were too small for him to properly see).

It was a lovely, lovely exhibition, with a lot of kids running around. I think it will make it into my top ten for this year – that’s how much I loved it.

And I noticed an interesting side effect: exhibitions like these make me want to have kids. Now, you guys know that me and kids? Me and getting married? Me and settling down? just doesn’t rhyme, not right now anyway. But when I see all my favorite childhood books on a pile, and see kids so excited, I want to have some of my own that I can sit down with and welcome into the exciting world of reading.

beer, family-style

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. It was interesting, not so much for the content, but in how that content was presented. Heineken is beer, right, beer that is often drunk at parties, sports events, parties, at home. Usually to relax and often to get drunk. But the Heineken Experience had such a clean image I almost forgot it was about beer. You could totally take your kids to it and it would be appropriate, except for the tiny glass you get to taste halfway through and the two beers you get at the end. And even the halfway glass is very cleancut – you have to take tiny sips so you can taste the different components and it’s very organized. It was very interactive in the manner that  kids’ museums are nowadays.

One of the last stops is a room where images of people partying, accompanied by loud music, blast from all the walls. That, along with the final stop in the bar, was the only place that reminded me of the ultimate motive for drinking – relaxing and getting drunk (enough). Even the giftshop was professionally organized – did you know you can buy anything, really anything, with the Heineken logo on it?

All it all, it was worth the fifteen euros it cost me to get in. And I don’t even really like Heineken 🙂