July 11, 2020

Great Big Story on CNN and as a downloadable app

When all of the negative and scary news starts to get you down, consider visiting the Great Big Story initially launched by CNN.

Short documentaries on various POSITIVE topics might just keep you from slipping over the edge. I especially like to have these clips playing when I exercise, cook or clean.

The link I included will send you to a Great Big Story on Hungarian piano-maker David Klavins who is veering away from Steinway, Fazioli and Bosendorfer in a big way.

https://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/piano-maker/?xrs=CNNHP

The Great Big Story site hosts short films on a myriad of topics that will amaze and uplift you. For kicks, type “Paris,” “London,” “China” or “Italy” in the subject line which will bring up short films for those of us who would prefer to be traveling the world right now.

Politics, illness, floods and bad economic news will become background noise, at least for a few minutes.

You can download Great Big Story from your app store or go to the GBS link:

https://www.greatbigstory.com

Genius & Anxiety by Norman Lebrecht

This has certainly been a time for book-lovers to get immersed in history and large novels. While some book reviewers have suggested picking up War and Peace or One Hundred Years of Solitude, I chose books to learn more about Jewish and Irish history.

Norman Lebrecht has written a jam-packed history book entitled Genius & Anxiety – How Jews Changed the World, 1847 – 1947. Freud influenced how we view sex and psychology. Einstein pioneered concepts of time and physics. Marx mapped out the elements of communism versus capitalism. Kafka and Proust changed how we view literature. Sarah Bernhardt revolutionized acting and celebrity.

Less well-known people also contributed to our modern world. Karl Landsteiner helped make blood transfusions and major surgery a reality. Paul Ehrlich helped formulate chemotherapy. Rosalind Franklin paved the way for genetic science. Siegfried Marcus may have created the first motor car.

Lebrecht frequently writes about music so there is ample mention of seminal composers like Mendelssohn in the 19th century and Kurt Weill and Leonard Bernstein in the 20th. He highlights Korngold and Eisler on the West coast and Leonard Bernstein in the east. In truth, what would Hollywood or Broadway look and sound like without Jewish creativity? Name three famous American composers and one reels off George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Bernstein.

The book’s brilliance is particularly in Lebrecht’s description of what was happening in the world as he profiles these creative people. Industrialization, the World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the rise of the Nazis, the McCarthy era, the creation of the state of Israel, all figure into this expansive canvas. Lebrecht does not argue that Jews are genetically smarter and more talented than others but that they have a strong tradition of culture and education. Historically being outsiders may have also caused them to think “out of the box” and push new ideas in everything from science, politics, business and the arts.

Genius & Anxiety is the type of book you could either absorbingly read cover to cover, or skip around in, according to your tastes.

Riviera TV Series on Sundance Now

When the mood is somber in your home and abroad, what better way to disperse the blues than to watch some escapist soap opera fare? Riviera, set in, you guessed it, southern France and Monaco is definitely eye candy.

The show has quite a pedigree. Neil Jordan, the director of such notable films as Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, has created and co-written Riviera with high brow British author, John Banville. Jordan has since disavowed any connection to the series with the addition of sex scenes and writing changes that he did not sanction. That somehow ups the trash factor allure.

The cast features Julia Stiles as recent widow, Georgina Clios whose husband, billionaire and art collector Constantine Clios is mysteriously blown up on a yacht in episode one. Anthony LaPaglia plays the shady mogul in flash backs, with Lena Olin dramatically entering the scene as his first wife. The most surprising cast member is Will Arnett in a semi-serious role as Georgina’s uncle.

The plot is littered with screwed up children, rich and dangerous friends, racehorses, scary strong men, corporate skullduggery and art fraud.

I can see why Jordan has divorced himself from this project. Murder, mental illness, kidnapping, and surprise parentage are soap opera staples thrown into this improbable potpourri. Still, the cinematography, the homes, the clothing and the very bad behavior is strangely compelling. Just what the doctor ordered when stuck at home without a Monet on the wall or a bottle of Dom Perignon in the wine cave.

I watch Sundance Now as an added channel on my Amazon Prime Video account.

El Greco: Ambition and Defiance exhibit at the AIC – Museum now closed

I was deeply disappointed when it became impossible to catch the exhibit, El Greco: Ambition and Defiance at the Art Institute of Chicago. The show opened on March 7, but the museum closed shortly thereafter due to the corona virus outbreak.

The AIC has listed the exhibit up until June 21, 2020 so let us hope that we may yet get to see several El Greco masterworks at our beloved museum.

El Greco, which means “the Greek,” was born in 1541 on Crete which was part of the Venetian empire. He lived in Venice and Rome, before making his ultimate home in Toledo, Spain.

Here is a two minute overview of the AIC’s show,
El Greco – Ambition and Defiance:

If you are so inclined, you may want to seek out other images of his artistic output on Google Arts & Culture.

El Greco paintings at Google Arts &n Culture

Virtual Tours of Notable Places: The Prado in Madrid

People have been posting ideas on how to use one’s “home time.” As much as I love music, I do, on occasion, need to explore other topics.

I was remembering visits to favorite art museums which led to thinking about famous museums that I have not yet visited. Uppermost on my wish list is the Prado in Madrid, Spain. Here is a five minute clip that highlights some of the Prado’s art treasures, including paintings by El Greco, Velazquez, de Goya and my personal favorite, the triptych work by Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

I erroneously assumed that Guernica by Pablo Picasso was also at the Prado. In reality, the famous large canvas is in Madrid, but at the Museo Reina Sofia.

Here’s to seeing Madrid and its art treasures when the world returns to health.

WNDR Museum in Chicago West Loop

Do you need an indoor idea for fun during our winter weather? Are there any people under 40 you want to impress with your coolness? Look no further than the WNDR Museum in the west Chicago Loop.

Visitors wander from room to room experiencing immersive visual and audio environments. Tech artists have created scenarios where you become part of the art such as in the black box room that places you on a screen and then morphs it into a kaleidoscope of images. A disco room allows you to use LED flooring to paint swirls with your feet.

One of my favorite stops was the Mirror Room by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Also intriguing was a black and white room with slanted floor. An arm appeared out of a wall cut-out and a voice asked if we wanted a photo taken with our phones. In truth, the whole museum is one big Instagram opportunity.

There are creative rooms where the visitors can explore their artistic muse using old-fashioned paper and materials provided by Wndr. A snack area features curated treats for purchase and a large complimentary cereal bar replete with milk, both cow’s and alternative.

Yes, admission is over-priced and repeat visits might not be forthcoming for most adults, but this is most entertaining for an hour or two. And you just might find a bauble or two in the quirky museum store.

Photo temporarily displayed on the museum walls. Me with husband Paul and Jim Koudelka.

Be forewarned that the museum does not handle cash. All transactions must be done through the internet or with a credit card.

By all means, bring your phone. Selfies encouraged.

wndrmuseum.com