Category Archives: Music

David Bowie is Almost Over

After a phenomenally successful five-year, five-continent, 11-city  tour, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s David Bowie is exhibition is coming to an end. The show, now at the Brooklyn Museum, closes on Sunday, 15 July 2018. There are still tickets available, but the remaining weekends are heavily booked.

Unless you already have a ticket, you won’t be able to get in tomorrow, 20 June 2018, because it’s a very special day.

Here’s a little background to explain why:

According to Billboard, “…when the exhibit first premiered at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in March 2013, expectations were low. ‘No other museum had booked it for the tour,’ co-creator Victoria Broackes confessed, ‘and we’d published 10,000 copies of the catalog. There wasn’t a lot of optimism that it was going to be a rip-roaring success.'”

“Rip-roaring success” is an understatement, as David Bowie Is became the V&A’s fastest selling show. More than a year ago, it became the most visited exhibition in the V&A’s 166-year history.

And tomorrow, it will welcome its two-millionth visitor.


To celebrate, someone will be designated as Visitor #2,000,000 and will receive a signed lithograph of a Bowie self-portrait, a limited edition of the David Bowie Is book, a pair of Sennheiser headphones, and a premium subscription to Spotify.

With more than 180,000 visitors,  David Bowie is is the best-selling exhibition in the Brooklyn Museum’s history,

Look. This is a flat-out amazing exhibition. If you have a chance to see it, GO. You won’t regret it. If you skip it, on the other hand, you’ll never forgive yourself. Those 2,000,000 people are going to be talking about this show for the rest of their lives, and when they find out you didn’t see it, they’ll be relentless in their ridicule and scorn.

This is one party you shouldn’t miss.


If you’re unfamiliar with New York, it might be helpful to know that the Brooklyn Museum is a 45-minute subway ride from Times Square. It’s a straight shot, no transfers trip on the 2 and 3 lines, and the Brooklyn exit is at the Museum’s entrance.

Here’s a “Know Before You Go” video from the Museum.


All photographs in this posting came from the New York Times online.

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Prague, Beautiful Prague

This is a live stream from Prague, provided by a company called CamStreamer. The Czech Republic is six hours ahead of US East Coast time, so the stream is best viewed between late night and early afternoon in the East. When it’s dark in Prague, the images are murky and uninteresting.


If I could live anywhere in the world, Prague would be near the top of the list. The great disqualifier, for me, would be my inability to learn the difficult Czech language this late in life. While English is the de facto common language in much of Europe, it’s far from universal.

For a certain kind of American, Prague in the 1990s was what Paris was in the 1920s, or what San Francisco was in the 1960s—the Red Hot Center, the Happening city, a culturally rich environment with a thriving creative class, free from the conformist restraints of buttoned-up America. It didn’t hurt that the cost of living was a fraction of what it was in the States.

In the video stream, the camera pans from the Charles Bridge over the Vltava river, past the Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, to the Strahov monastery and back. Walking across the ethereal, haunting Charles Bridge in the evening is one of those things that everyone should do before they die. It’s magical.


The background music is “Vltava”, the tone poem that serves as the second movement of Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast, which is best known in English as My Country. The Bedřich Smetana Museum is one of the endpoints of the video stream.

Since 1952, the Prague Spring International Music Festival has opened on 12 May, the anniversary of Smetana’s death. The opening concert has always been a performance of Má vlast.

Here’s the 2018 concert:

“Cherry Blossom Dream” at ARTECHOUSE

I was away from Washington during this year’s cherry blossom peak bloom, which is one of those times when the city is at its most beautiful. By the time I returned, not a petal remained.

But I got back in time to make it to the Sakura Yume’s immersive “Cherry Blossom Dream” at ARTECHOUSE.

The display reacts to body movements and gestures, so you can throw splotches of colour on the walls simply by waving your hand.

This was my fourth or fifth visit to ARTECHOUSE, and some of my initial fascination with the concept has diminished as my familiarity with it has increased, but it’s still a wonderful place to spend an hour or so.

50 Years Later, There’s a New Print of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And It’s Drop-Dead Gorgeous.

This MUST be watched in full screen!


Thanks to Christopher Nolan, there’s a new 70mm print of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nolan saw the film as a child in London, and, like many people, never got over the experience. in a good way.

After the success of Dunkirk last year, he spent months overseeing the project to create the new print. He emphasizes that it’s not a restoration:

“For the first time since the original release, this 70mm print was struck from new printing elements made from the original camera negative. This is a true photochemical film recreation. There are no digital tricks, remastered effects, or revisionist edits. This is the unrestored film – that recreates the cinematic event that audiences experienced fifty years ago.”

2001: A Space Odyssey opens on 18 May 2018, for limited runs in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco, with more cities to follow. You can find ticket and engagement information at the 2001: A Space Odyssey website.

(Speaking of engagements, there’s no word yet on whether the 18 May release date will lead to a postponement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, which is scheduled for the next day in Windsor. What a dilemma for those poor guests!)

The recreated edition will be released on DVD and Blu-ray this fall, but you really want to see this on a big screen with big sound.


Here’s the original trailer for the 1968 release of 2001: A Space Odyssey:

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

Brussels Miscellanea

With only one big adventure to go, we’re nearing the end of my time in Belgium. I’ll be posting the last of these travel notes this weekend. Meanwhile, here are a few random images from Brussels.


The Grand Place

The Grand Place, surrounded by buildings that date from the 17th century. is Brussels’s magnificent central square.

It gleams. Many of the architectural features are gilded, and the gold paint glows in the sunshine. These pictures don’t really capture that glow, possibly because it rained every day I was in Belgium. (No problem. I wasn’t in Brussels to work on my tan, or, to be more accurate, to work on my beige.)


I Found a Record Shop!

I used to spend rainy Saturday afternoons making the rounds of the bookshops and record stores near Dupont Circle. There were more than a dozen of them Before The Internet, but only one of the bookshops is still open. Finding this place in Brussels was the first time I’ve seen a record store in years.

The musicians pictured on the storefront, clockwise from the center, are Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and Jim Morrison. It took me a while to identify Morrison, and until I noticed the harmonica, I thought Bob Dylan was Lou Reed.


“Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here”

This Big Brother-ish image dominates one of the staircases in the Old Masters Museum.


Théâtre Royal de Toone

The Théâtre Royal de Toone, an historic Brussels puppet theatre, can trace its origins to the 1830s. Depending on the performance, the dialog is in French, Dutch, or the local patois. When the show is something familiar, like Hamlet or Carmen, you can enjoy the performance without understanding every line.


The puppet theatre is in the attic above a rather shabby but extremely popular pub. It’s one of the oldest in Brussels, and it has that run-down, lived-in feel of a classic dive bar.

The Théâtre

During intermission, you can visit the small, one-room display of historic puppets.


Cheesecake

Cheese Cake Cafe

This place looked so American, so not-European that I walked right past it. I didn’t come to Belgium to eat hamburgers or pizza.

And then I turned around and walked right back.

The allure of cheesecake is impossible to resist.

The Streets of Brussels

…or, really, the streets of almost any preserved Old Town in any city in Europe. They’re narrow, uneven, and winding, with rarely a straight line in sight, and they’re lined with buildings that were built to a human scale. Streets like these have the character that comes from playing a key role in the lives of innumerable people over the course of hundreds of years.

Traditional paving like cobblestones can sometimes make walking a little difficult, but you’re walking through history.


Street Scene

Most of the historic district in Brussels is pedestrianized. When people talk about an idealized “Living Downtown”, they’re probably imagining something like this, near the Place d’Espagne:


First Signs of Spring in Brussels