Taking kids to the Louvre

I’m leaving this here as a reminder to my future self.

One month before any trip to the Louvre: join Amis du Louvre (Adhérent) to get a membership for however many adults are in your household (kids are free). The cards will be mailed out and then you can skip the lines at the Pyramid and other places. You might be able to talk your way in from the Passage Richelieu or Carrousel (underground mall) entrance if you say that you’re going to buy a membership. With the membership, you don’t need to get a timed ticket and then wait in line for 30 minutes to use that time slot.

Once in the Pyramid, skip the Nintendo-based audioguides, which are complex and confusing (and the commentary is limited to a handful of works and isn’t very interesting).

Enter via Richelieu and the French sculptures, especially the Barye animal fights.

Upstairs to Napoleon III’s lavish crib.

Upstairs again to the two Vermeers (one was in Abu Dhabi; one here). Here’s how much demand there was at 1 pm on a weekday to see a painting not called “Mona Lisa”:

Then the huge Rubens salon and walk through French painting to see if the battle scenes catch their eye.

Finally to the Mona Lisa room, which should be revisited on a Friday night around 9 pm if anyone actually wants to see the painting. Note the surgical mask as protection against aerosol viruses in the most crowded room of the world’s most visited art museum (at least 15,000 visitors per day). Fortunately, the ventilation system was upgraded in the 50s… the 1850s.

A mostly-European crowd in which we see reliance on masks, typically mere surgical or cloth ones:

In other kid news, ours enjoyed this stinky cheese from the supermarket:

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Abortion Care Art?

Abortion care for pregnant people seems to be the principal topic among Democrats running for office in the upcoming election. Examples:

(Certainly the decision to continue incubating Joe Biden’s granddaughter was the biggest economic decision that Lunden Roberts has made so far ($2.5 million tax-free downpayment plus unspecified monthly revenue); note that an abortion can often be sold at a discount to the net present value of the expected child support cashflow so it isn’t necessary to have a baby to profit economically from a baby.)

I’m not an expert on reproductive health care, of which we are informed that abortion care is the most critical component, but I had a thought while viewing Love and Birth at the Musée D’Orsay (Georges Lacombe, circa 1895):

Where is the abortion-care-themed art for Democrats who own Hunter Bidens and want to demonstrate their passion for this most important aspect of reproductive health care?

Separately, a Hero of Faucism at the jammed art museum fights an aerosol virus with a humble surgical mask…. worn over a beard:

A masked Follower of Science in front of a sculpture titled “Redneck and Alligator” (well, maybe it is actually a crocodile scene set in Africa):

Here’s an overview of the converted train station:

The ceiling of the museum restaurant:

This prompted our almost-9-year-old to say “Hey look, there’s a peacock. Dad, you need to give me a shotgun and then…. problem solved.” (Readers: If you are having problems with ornamental peafowl on your estate, let me know and we’ll send the youth over to deal with the birds directly.)

Speaking of problems, like most of Paris, the museum is afflicted with gender binarism:

On the other hand, they do give a lot of floor and wall space to Kehinde Wiley:

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Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton museum

A heroic reader suggested that we visit the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne and was kind enough to pick us up and drive us there. Frank Gehry designed the building in 2006 when he was 77 years old. In other words, he did a few sketches and let a platoon of nameless architects and engineers figure out how to make it happen. Some of the sketches are shown in the museum and they look like a 3-year-old’s art.

The museum is a triumph of form over function. There’s a building and then a bunch of decorative glass is attached to the exterior, supported by a frame. The galleries inside are chopped up so that a recent show was spread over 10 separate galleries for no reason other than each gallery is fairly small. A prefab aircraft hangar would actually work better for the required function of designing an art exhibit.

The exterior is striking and includes a staircase waterfall.

The museum lacks a permanent collection so it is all-special-exhibitions-all-the-time. We visited during a visit comparing Claude Monet, whom most people have heard of, and Joan Mitchell, who never met Monet and whose name is unfamiliar even to art nerds.

From the signage I learned that Monet cranked out 400 paintings from 1900 through 1926 and 300 of them were of water lilies at Giverny. Here’s a triptych that had been scattered to three different museums in the U.S., reassembled on a long wall:

What does Joan Mitchell’s work look like?

Tickets are timed, but the museum was jammed.

Note that a fair number of folks had elected to stay safe from an aerosol virus by voluntarily entering a crowded indoor public environment while wearing surgical and cloth masks. There aren’t enough books and movies featuring Monet’s art so it was impossible to stay home and #StopTheSpread?

My favorite part of the building, though unlikely to be of much use in typical Paris weather, was the series of outdoor terraces.

(Note the Heroes of Faucism, wearing their masks while outdoors.)

When you leave the museum, whose restaurant gets terrible reviews on Google Maps, you’re in the Jardin d’acclimatation:

From 1877 until 1912, the Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation was converted to l’Acclimatation Anthropologique. In mid-colonialism, the curiosity of Parisians was attracted to the customs and lifestyles of foreign peoples. Nubians, Bushmen, Zulus, and many other African peoples were “exhibited” in a human zoo. The exhibitions were a huge success. The number of visitors to the Jardin doubled, reaching the million mark.

The Fondation LV is not part of the Paris Museum Pass system and the trip out to the park might not be cheap or simple. I give this place a thumbs-up on a beautiful day and a thumbs-down if the weather is less than perfect.

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Movie recommendation: Official Competition

It is rare for me to recommend a movie without helicopter scenes, but on the Paris-JFK leg of our recent trip, I enjoyed Official Competition, a movie about a rich old guy (comically characterized as a “millionaire” and therefore rich enough to buy a tract house in South Florida?) who funds an enfant terrible director (Penélope Cruz, with spectacular hair) to make a movie from a novel by a Nobel literature winner. The director chooses a popular star (Antonio Banderas) and a brooding acting nerd (Oscar Martínez) to play brothers. The nerd actor lives in an apartment surrounded by books and plays vinyl LPs of avant garde music. He condemns the mass audience for not appreciating great art. Memorable line from an angry actor: “I’ll turn your face into a Picasso.”

All in Spanish with subtitles.

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Taxes and productivity lessons from Pablo Picasso

The Picasso museum in Paris is built on inheritance tax, according to a sign there. Pablo Picasso died in 1973 and his children had to give paintings to the French government or pay estate taxes that would certainly have exceeded their ability to pay (since the paintings that they had in their houses, gifts from their dad, were valuable but hadn’t been sold voluntarily).

For those who are concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to handle the demanding job of president more than 60 years after his defeat of Corn Pop, here’s some comfort: Picasso (born 1881) was cranking out as many as 2 paintings per week at 90 years old:

Maybe the wife, 46 years younger, assisted?

Speaking of Picasso and younger humans who identified as female, here are some photos from October 2022 taken in the National Gallery (London):

The curators tell us the married 45-year-old artist was having sex with a 17-year-old and, perhaps after consultation with Kentaji’s panel of biologists, that this 17-year-old can be characterized as a “woman”. Yet when something sexual happens with a 17-year-old today, he/she/ze/they is typically characterized as a “child” (example regarding a 36-year-old who supposedly had sex with a 17-year-old; from Australia: a teacher in his 30s having sex with a 17-year-old “young girl” and “child”). Why hasn’t Picasso been canceled or at least devalued? Is it worth paying $100 million to have a work by a child molester on your wall? Why not invest in a Hunter Biden instead, at a $99.5 million savings? Why would a collector want to be reminded of Picasso’s reprehensible actions every time that he/she/ze/they looks at his/her/zir/their living room wall?

Circling back to the productivity-in-old-age topic, if Joe Biden is the “Picasso of Government Spending”, should the “Picasso of the Art World”‘s staggering late-life productivity give us confidence in President Biden as a hands-on leader?

Finally, let me say that I loved the museum. Below we can see two guys who decided to improve their primitive masks’ seals against an aerosol virus by not shaving their beards (this is after deciding to head into crowded indoor art museums as part of the COVID-free lifestyle):

And here’s a patron on the rooftop deck who shows how exciting 100-year-old paintings can be:

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London Theater Review: Good with David Tennant

Phantom of the Opera Les Mis, Mamma Mia!, the Lion King, and Wicked were sold out, so I treated myself to the second night of a revival of Good, a 1981 play commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The new production economizes on the number of actors to an impressive yet also absurd degree. The roles of wife, girlfriend, and mother are all played by the same actor, for example.

Although there are no characters who identify as 2SLGBTQQIA+ or of Color (or 2SLGBTQQIA+ and of Color), the play is timely because it concerns Nazis, who have never been more numerous on Planet Earth (everyone who disagrees with me, for example). The lead is David Tennant, who has played Dr. Who on BBC and this led to every one of the 796 seats in the Harold Pinter Theater having been sold (I got the last one at 7:13 pm for a 7:30 pm show).

One great aspect to the play is that it explores the tendency of academics to embrace whatever political ideology is necessary to hold onto and/or climb to the next run of the university ladder. There is also an exploration of what happens when the fresh young student is competing with the tired wife and mother for a dynamic professor’s attention. The play looks at extremely late term abortion care, i.e., whether it is okay to perform abortion care on the elderly whose quality of life has declined (euthanasia). This is what gets Nazi Party officials interested in the professor, who ultimately wears a fine SS officer’s uniform. The play is at its weakest in showing the audience how this apparently useless literature professor could plausibly have been considered of some importance to the National Socialist cause.

My favorite scene: the professor burns books by Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann (Ron DeSantis is accused on social media of having banned hundreds or thousands of books within the state of Florida and yet these works stubbornly #persist in being available to the unwary).

It is worth spending $150-200 per person on this experience? Maybe, but the seats are pretty uncomfortable if you’re older than 30 or taller than 5’4″. And a musical with 200 singing dancing cast members is a better value on a per-actor/per-skill basis.

Loyal readers will be disappointed if I don’t share some masketology. Perhaps 10 or 20 out of the 796 audience members were wearing masks, about half simple cloth masks and half more elaborate affairs. As readers will recognize, this is a source of confusion for me. They’re afraid enough of COVID-19 to wear a mask, but not afraid enough to stay home and experience something theatrical via streaming video rather in close proximity to 794 strangers? One lady was sitting right in front of me and had the mask off during intermission and then put it back on again for the second act. Apologies for the poor mobile phone image quality in dim light, but here are a couple of folks with the high-end masks walking out:

Soho and Chinatown were packed on a Thursday night following the theater. Pubs all around central London seem to be packed, beer drinkers spilling out and congregating on the sidewalks in front of the pub until at least 10:30 pm. The English economy is going down the tube (so to speak), but these folks still have plenty of money to spend on drinking in pubs? (Maybe this is because the government has promised to borrow money and spend it in such a way that consumers don’t suffer a reduction in lifestyle.)

Also on the way back to the hotel, I went by the Monument to the Women of World War II, which reminds us that it is not going up in a 1,000+ horsepower Spitfire during the Battle of Britain with 100 hours of flying experience that required bravery, but rather staying on the ground.

There were some political posters outside Whitehall.

and here’s a guy nobody talks about anymore:

Nobody is upset if Julian Assange dies in prison without ever having been convicted of anything?

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Hunter Biden’s competitor in the art world

It’s National Arts and Humanities Month. Hunter Biden is probably the world’s most successful artist as measured by the time between when he started to paint and when the first painting sold for a least $500,000 (Guardian). What’s his competition? “Three Years Ago, Her Art Sold for $400 at the Beach. Now It Fetches Up To $1.6 Million at Auction” (Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2022):

“Summertime,” Ms. Weyant’s portrait of a woman with long, flowing hair that the artist had sold for around $12,000 two years before, resold for $1.5 million, five times its high estimate.

Ms. Weyant’s oeuvre of roughly 50 paintings has already filtered into the hands of top collectors such as investor Glenn Fuhrman and plastic surgeon Stafford Broumand. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently exhibited her work in a group show, and former Venice Biennale curator Francesco Bonami said he predicts she will make her own Biennale appearance soon, which would be another career milestone.

For the past year, the [27-year-old] artist has been dating Larry Gagosian, the 77-year-old founder of arguably the most powerful art gallery network in the world. … Ellie Rines, owner of the New York gallery 56 Henry, which gave Ms. Weyant her first New York solo show three years ago, said anyone who factors the artist’s dating life into her odds of success is being misogynistic.

From the same article:

Readers: How are you celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month?


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The museums of Indianapolis

After Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our family’s next stop on the way to Oshkosh was Indianapolis. We parked at Signature IND and Ubered into town for lunch in a sacred space:

Despite the sanctified-by-2SLGBTQQIA+ nature of the restaurant, it was tough not to notice that workers were unenthusiastic about being there, a sharp contrast to Gatlinburg in which genuine warmth is the usual attitude of a server.

First sightseeing stop, July 22, 2022, the children’s museum:

After handing over more than $100 for tickets (family of 4; would have been $8 for a family on what used to be called “welfare”), I made a beeline for the café in an attempt to score a Juneteenth Watermelon Salad. Instead of a history lesson, however, I got only a lesson in inflation:

The museum has an epic dinosaur section with real fossils that visitors can touch. Real paleontology is going on in this museum and visitors can arrange to take part.

The museum reminds children that they can make a difference, but only if they can first be classified as victims (of the Nazis (including Donald Trump), of prejudice against Blacks, of prejudice against those with AIDS, or of the Taliban).

Comic books are available to flip through via touch screen, but only those featuring female superheroes.

Barbie is not featured as a family court entrepreneur (“Divorced Barbie comes with: Ken’s Truck, Ken’s House, Ken’s Fishing Boat, Ken’s Furniture, Ken’s Dog, Ken’s Computer, one of Ken’s Friends…”), but rather as a physician or “computer engineer”:

Speaking of Barbie, the museum offered an opportunity to compare her 1959 physique with that of a modern parent:

(the guy’s wife was almost equally ample)

The next day, we went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, inside the famous track that was built by the creator of Miami Beach. Fred Flintstone’s Indy car is parked in front:

Note the two guys wearing surgical masks in their lonely fight against an aerosol virus:

They’re concerned enough about COVID-19 to wear masks, but not concerned enough to refrain from sharing the museum’s indoor air with 100+ other folks nor to refrain from taking a bus ride around the track (I can’t remember if they actually kissed the bricks or not, a seemingly less-than-ideal way to #StopTheSpread).

Next stop was the Eiteljorg Museum, which specializes in Native American and Western art. The museum acknowledges that it is on land that rightfully belongs to others, but it refuses to give the land back:

And then there is the posted DEI “commitment”:

Just a few steps beyond the righteous floor sign, we get the Native American perspective on white say-gooders and their land acknowledgments:

A couple of cloth-masked visitors again raise the question for me… why are they in an indoor public place?

Native-created masks for horses and humans:

Prevent COVID-19 from spreading by shutting down the water fountains:

Will Florida ultimately be the only state left with working water fountains?

If you’ve got kids, don’t miss the basement of this museum, which has a lot of hands-on activities. Back on the main floor, the scale of the Western paintings is literally awesome:

Another museum (Newfields), another pair of masked visitors:

They’re enjoying “THE LUME”, an animated version of the Impressionists set to music. But if they’re worried enough about COVID-19 to wear a mask, why aren’t they worried enough to stay home?

Our kids loved this production (see below; #LoveIsLove) and were reluctant to leave even after two hours. “This is the best place ever,” was the explanation. There is a bar/coffee shop within the exhibit and also bathrooms, so it would actually be possible to stay the whole day.

One idea had been to leave for Oshkosh on Saturday night. The “shelter in place & stay safe” text message was not promising, especially given that it was being sent to people whose shelter options were a 10 lb. tent and a 1500 lb. (empty) airplane.

The next morning was not a lot better for getting to our actual destination of Appleton, Wisconsin:

Southwest Airlines was delayed 3.5 hours getting into Chicago, according to a friend coming into Oshkosh the easy/smart way, so we didn’t feel bad trying to wait out the weather at the Indiana State Museum.

What’s interesting about the U.S.S. Indianapolis? Not that the U.S. Navy failed to heed a distress call from the torpedoed cruiser. Not that the U.S. Navy failed to notice when the massive ship did not show up in port as scheduled. Not that nearly 900 men died, 600 of them unnecessarily (left to float in the water and be attacked by sharks until a PBY crew accidentally discovered them). Not that the tragedy figured prominently in the movie Jaws. See the sign below for what visitors can learn next to the model.

Suppose that a visitor wonders about the merits of low-skill immigration. He/she/ze/they will learn that “Securing the rights of all Hoosiers has been fought by many. Individuals and communities rally together to fight against hate and social injustices.” A migrant who shows up on a Monday morning is a “Hoosier” by lunchtime and, certainly, it would be “hate” and “injustice” if anyone were to regard the migrant as illegal somehow.

There’s a hands-on cardboard engineering lab on the top floor. Here a 2-year-old learns to build a park that is welcoming to the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community:

Is there room in Indianapolis for every American who identifies as 2SLGBTQQIA+ and for the entire populations of Haiti (11 million) and Honduras (10 million) to become Hoosiers? It sure feels as though there is! Downtown, at least on the weekend, feels empty.

Summary: This is a great 2- or 3-night stop.

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Which James Caan movie should we watch to celebrate his life?

James Caan has died. I’m wondering if we should watch some of his lesser-known movies to celebrate his achievements. From Wikipedia:

In 1977, Caan rated several of his movies out of ten – The Godfather (10), Freebie and the Bean (4), Cinderella Liberty (8), The Gambler (8), Funny Lady (9), Rollerball (8), The Killer Elite (5), Harry and Walter Go to New York (0), Slither (4), A Bridge Too Far (7), and Another Man Another Chance (10).

Should we try to see that last one, a French Western(!)? It is available streaming on Amazon “ScreenPix”.

And, of course, we can’t mention anything related to The Godfather without reminding ourselves “A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns.” (from the book, not the movies?)

A post-1977 film that seems like a good candidate is Misery, about a strong independent woman. For me, the movie is tainted by its association with Stephen King (I’m not a fan of the horror genre to begin with), but it features Kathy Bates and she won an Oscar for her performance.

What other James Caan movies are essential (like marijuana in California and Massachusetts)?


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A masked afternoon at the theater

My general rule is that if an activity is dangerous enough to require wearing a mask then it is dangerous enough to avoid altogether. I wouldn’t go to a Broadway show, for example, because they’re telling me that it isn’t safe (masks are required as well as vaccine paper checks) and nothing stops me from staying home to watch Hamilton over and over and over and over again.

On April 23, 2022, however, my general policy was superseded by a directive from Extremely Senior Management (Mom, almost 88 years old). Off to the Round House Theater in Bethesda, Maryland, for a vaccine-and-mask-resistant SARS-CoV-2 variant spreading event. The show was “We declare you a terrorist…” concerning the Second Chechen War and jihadi takeover of a theater in Moscow. (In the best American tradition, the playwright Tim J. Lord who tackles this complex subject seems to have no background in Russian language, Russian culture, Islamic religion, history of Chechnya, etc.)

Anyone in Bethesda can tell you that checking photo ID for voters is racist. According to the Righteous, People of Color are too stupid to obtain photo IDs. Tending to confirm this theory, the Bethesda theater experience begins with an ID and vaccine paper check and there were no People of Color in the audience (unless Asians count).

Throughout the theater, there are numerous signs demanding mask-wearing:

As with the airlines in the Science-following pre-Mizelle era, COVID-19-suppression is enhanced by filling the lobby with unmasked people who are eating and drinking.

We acknowledge that we’re on land stolen from Native Americans, but we will neither give it back nor pay them rent:

No matter a person’s gender ID, he/she/ze/they will will find bathroom to suit him/her/zir/theirself:

Remember to fight COVID-19 by washing your hands:

This was made more challenging by the fact that the theater staff were too busy checking vaccine papers, photo IDs, and mask compliance to refill the soap dispensers.

I still can’t figure out why the people who printed up all of these signs and designed these protocols didn’t ask “Wouldn’t it make more epidemiological sense if we shut down our COVID-spreading theater altogether?”

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