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Monday, July 29, 2013

Seattle---part II: You have to love the street sculpture

Waiting for the Interurban
Seattle's outdoor  sculpture is rich with humor and meaning. This, a cast aluminum piece by artist Richard Beyer dates to 1979 and is most often gayly decorated by the people.

This Calder is in Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park, a nine acre public space with permanent and visiting exhibits and incredible views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. It is in close proximity to Pike Place Market and admission is free.

Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park
The park contains beautiful, creative, humorous, interesting works of art from Mark Dion, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Richard Serra, Roxy Paine, Anthony Caro, Louise Nevelson, Mark di Suvero, Beverly Pepper, Alexander Calder (above), Roy McMakin, Teresita Fernandez, Louise Bourgeois and Tony Smith and is ever growing and changing. (Hint to reader: Pretend you know all these sculptors and just nod.)

One of my favorites:

Typewriter Eraser by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

This one is often called Troll Under the Bridge by Steve Badanes and others. It is an 18-foot mixed media piece sculpted in 1990 and sits under the north end of the Aurora Bridge. That is a real Volkswagen Beetle under its left hand and a real tourist under its right.

The Troll
Perhaps the most interesting of the sculptures is this statue of Lenin. This bronze sculpture of Bolshevik Russian Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin stands 16 feet high in the Fremont neighborhood. It has a good story as told on Wikipedia.

It was constructed by a Slovak Bulgarian sculptor under commission from the Soviet and Czechoslovak governments. While following the bounds of his commission, the sculptor intended to portray Lenin as a bringer of revolution, in contrast to the traditional portrayals of Lenin as a philosopher and educator. His Lenin marches ahead fiercely, surrounded by torrid flames and symbols of war.

The work was completed and installed in Poprad, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), in 1988, shortly before the fall of Czechoslovak communism during the 1989 Velvet Revolution. The Poprad Lenin was not toppled in the demonstrations during the fall of communism. Instead, it was quietly removed from Lenin's Square several months after the Velvet Revolution.

Lewis E. Carpenter, a Washington resident who was teaching English in Poprad at the time, found the monumental statue lying in a scrapyard ready to be sold for the price of the bronze. In close collaboration with a local journalist, Carpenter approached the city officials saying that despite its current unpopularity, the sculpture was still a work of art worth preserving. He offered to buy it for $13,000. After many bureaucratic hurdles, he finally signed a contract with the mayor on March 16, 1993. With the help of the original sculptor, the statue was professionally cut into three pieces and shipped to the United States at a total cost of $41,000. Carpenter financed much of that by mortgaging his home.

On February 18, 1994 amidst the uproar in Seattle that was set off by the statue of a communist leader, Carpenter was killed in a car accident. The statue, now part of his estate, was left lying in his backyard. The family contacted a local brass foundry which offered to move it off the property. It now stands at the intersection of Evanston Ave N, N 36th St, and Fremont Place. This is just 3 blocks west of the Fremont Troll, another art installation under the Aurora bridge.

Fremont was considered a quirky artistic community, and like other statues in the neighborhood (such as Waiting for the Interurban, above), the Lenin statue is often the victim of various artistic projects, endorsed or not. A glowing red star and sometimes Christmas lights have been added to the statue for Christmas since 2004. For the 2004 Solstice Parade, the statue was made to look like John Lennon. During Gay Pride Week, the statue is dressed in drag. Other appropriations of the statue have included painting it as a clown, and clothing it in a custom-fitted red dress by the Seattle Hash House Harriers for their annual Red Dress Run.

It is a commanding, impressive work of art... and there are many more everywhere in the city. Public art is big in Seattle.

Scroll down to the previous post for more on Seattle, my favorite city.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Favorite city: SEATTLE, and why not?

Looks like a birdhouse... or a mailbox, but it isn't. It's a book exchange box and there are many of them in neighborhoods all over Seattle.

This is just one resident's way to share good reads. There are about 15 books in this box adjacent to the sidewalk, inviting anyone to "Take a book/Leave a book."

There are a lot of things I really like about Seattle. This reputedly gray, rainy city sells more sunglasses per capita than any other major U.S. city. It also has the largest percentage of library card holders in the nation (80%) and residents spend double the national average on books every year.

Seattle Public Library
Seattle has the neatest public library (with 26 branches) all tied together by a very handy computer system that makes checking out books and returning them easier than going to the post office. It's library system is the busiest in the nation with a circulation of 24.2 million books, films, magazines, papers, etc. And it's head librarian is the only librarian in the world, perhaps, that has her
own bobble-head doll.
Librarian bobble head doll

Seattle is home to some pretty impressive second read book stores with good selections at Goodwill and Value Village too. These stores--some as large as your friendly Walmart--are vigorously shopped by all.

This city recycles EVERYTHING from lawn debris to food leftovers. There are regular garbage and recycle pick-ups and if you are not in recycling compliance (they spot check), you are warned twice... then fined! No plastic bags in stores either.

Seattle has a well run and much used public transportation system with environmentally pure buses that run on schedule. Commuters can check live on-time performance of their bus on line. And all buses have well-used bike racks--Seattle has more people who commute to work on bicycles than any other U.S. city. And it also has an impressive 24-hour ferry system--the largest in the U.S and its #1 tourist attraction.

Got dogs? Lots do in Seattle and they are welcome in more places. Excercise? Seems like almost everyone walks/runs/bikes/hikes/climbs/rows/etc. Lots of people on the streets. Want coffee? Are you kidding me? Seattle, the home of Starbucks, has more places to get a cappuccino or latte than anywhere else. The music culture is here as is the Experience Music Project--the EMP Museum.

Seattle has neighborhoods... really neat neighborhoods, many of which are eclectic in the mix of
houses, ages and styles. And trees of all kinds. It has the largest houseboat population east of the Orient.

Seattle tops the list of America's most educated city--more than half of its 675,000 residents hold a college degree. And it boasts the highest per capita ballet attendance too. Its Columbia City zip code is the most diverse in the nation boasting 59 different languages spoken.

Everything is green and abundant lush landscaping crowds the sidewalks in some areas. Seattle has a wonderful year-round climate for trees, shrubs, plants, grass, etc. Average December/January  temperature is 47/38. July/August averages 76/57. Believe it or not, Chicago, Dallas and Miami get more rain per year than Seattle. Much of the precipitation in Seattle is mist. I was standing outside talking to someone and without realizing it, the ground beneath me was dry but everything else was damp. It could rain all day in Seattle and measure only .10 of an inch while Miami could get a 7 inch dousing in an hour. Go figure.

Seattle has the Pike Place Market, Space Needle, a new waterfront 175 ft high Ferris wheel, an abundance of museums and other great tourist stuff. On a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier, the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges and always beautiful water. Seattle residents seem to have a certain elan you don't see elsewhere. Would Bill Gates live there if it wasn't great?

One outstanding Seattle fact: The Seattle Mariners baseball team won 116 games in 2001... tying the Chicago Cubs 1906 team for most wins in a season... and the Cubs did it in fewer games. Hey! Us Cub fans need something to grab on to.

But my favorite reason for loving Seattle is that my daughter lives there.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Are you laughing with me... or at me?

Actually, it makes no difference. According to a recent study, being funny makes men more attractive. How am I doing so far?

OK, so you need more.

A rich American-Jewish widow is determined to rise in society. She hires coaches to help her shed her Yiddish accent and coarse ways. Once she feels ready, she registers at a restricted resort, enters the dining room perfectly coifed, wearing a basic black dress with a single string of pearls, and orders a dry martini--which the waiter accidentally spills on her lap.

The woman cries: "Oy vey! ... whatever that means!"

Or, as Jack Handey said in his book Deep Thoughts, "The crow seemed to be calling his name, thought Caw."

He also said:

If you were a pirate, you know what would be the one thing that would really make you mad? Treasure chests with no handles. How the hell are you supposed to carry it?!

Better not take a dog on the space shuttle, because if he sticks his head out when you're coming home his face might burn up.

Don't ever get your speedometer confused with your clock, like I did once, because the faster you go the later you think you are.

Still not seeing Dr. McDreamy or Brad Pitt after all this? OK, I'll give it one more shot... 

Sorry ladies, I'm happily married.

PS: Thank you, Jack Handey, for being so funny... and to Ruth Wisse who just released her book, No Joke, for the joke.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

WOW... I just saved $1,7820,200 million this month... but I don't feel that much richer

Well, call me a tycoon or not, but in the blink of an eye, I saved $17.4 million. Yep, my bid to buy Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne, a triptych by artist Francis Bacon at auction by Sotheby's was just a little late. This semi-splendid piece went to some other sharp eyed art patron for that price.

In retrospect, I'm glad. It's a little too "mauvey" for my taste... and if my eyes don't deceive me, I think the artist's brush slipped a few times and he colored outside the lines.

Actually, fine art is in the eye of the beholder, so I guess, I beholden my money this time. Whew! That was a close one.

I also saved $420,000 by not buying Bolt, Europe's fastest pigeon, named after Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man. Racing pigeons do, it seems, bring big bucks. When the seller was notified how much Bolt sold for, he said "I am absolutely gobsmacked."

And if that isn't enough, my wife went clothes shopping this week and, as she brought her packages in from the car, she told me that she had saved $200. I am even more gobsmacked to think that in a week where my total saving was $17,820,200, I still can't find an extra $20 to reload my Starbucks card.

Us rich have it tough.

On another very different matter, congratulations to Texas on its 500th execution. The 'ittsy-bittsy'
downside (not counting the condemned)--now it has to buy more of those big, foam "We're No. 1" fingers.

By the way, only Texas and California record all the last words any of their executed speak. They range from "I'm sorry" to "I'm innocent" with a few "Go Cowboys" thrown in... really.

Sorry... I don't mean to sound coarse of flippant but I just feel execution is a barbaric way to say "Gotcha!" It is much more costly--appeals and all--than any life sentence. It is unfairly and unevenly administered and does send some innocent to their deaths. And as much as we sometimes feel it is emotionally justified in horrendous incidents, it makes no one a better human being.