Learning About Armenia

I walked into the Armenian Museum of America not knowing a thing about Armenia, except that its people suffered a genocide (but I had no idea when). At first glance, it looked like a small museum…but I spent almost two hours there.

There were many beautiful artifacts and artworks:

Armenian Museum artifacts

Armenian Museum artifacts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was thrilled to see a Yousuf Karsh exhibit. Born in Armenia, he was a famous photographer who took stunning portraits.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The term “genocide” was first coined by a lawyer who was studying the events that led to the extermination of 800,000+ Armenians between 1915 and 1917 by the Ottoman Empire (later known as Turkey). What can I say about this…no words suffice. I’m glad to be informed about this horrific time in world history, but I struggle to comprehend such evil.

The Armenian Museum is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighborhood of Watertown, Massachusetts.

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Make Trouble

John Waters is one of those artists whom I love without even having seen most of his work. I just know that I love him. Now that I’ve seen him in person, I feel a stronger urge to study his oeuvre beyond my viewing of Hairspray in 1988.

A couple of months ago, he was visiting my local bookstore to promote the publication of his new book Make Trouble, which is essentially the speech that he gave at the 2015 Rhode Island School of Design commencement. I had read the speech online and did it make me chuckle!

During the interview, he was witty, charming, blunt, and seemingly down to earth. I didn’t have time to have a book signed that night, but I truly hope I get to meet “the prince of puke” someday.

John Waters

John Waters (right) being interviewed by Chris Castellani.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Scots

I have an affinity for Scotland, since many of my dad’s maternal ancestors lived there. When I think of Scotland, I think of wild and windy remote areas and tough, headstrong people who like to have a laugh. I’ve only ever been to Edinburgh—it’s a beautiful city—but I hope to return someday to visit the ancestral homeland and the wild and windy remote areas.

So I was grateful to have the opportunity to see two great Scots speak last week: Alan Cumming and Harry Benson.

Alan Cumming is simply amazing. He acts, he sings, he writes, he photographs. Many people who watch TV know him from The Good Wife; I’ve known him from his movies in the ’90s. And as the Masterpiece Mystery! host, of course.

He was in town to promote his book You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams, composed of brief life stories accompanied by photos he’s taken. I could have listened to him tell stories for hours. He seemed so down-to-earth, charming, and witty. I think Scots have their very own version of a smirk and eye twinkle.

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He signed books afterward but I didn’t have it in me to stand in line that particular night. But I do love him! I hope he brings his sappy songs concert to New England sometime.

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He particularly enjoyed telling the story of meeting Oprah, who inspired the title of this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had never heard of Harry Benson, but when I read the description of the documentary about him—and read that he would be in attendance at a local screening—I had to attend. I wish I could be Harry Benson, one of the world’s most prolific photojournalists. He grew up in Glasgow, getting his start at a local paper and then moving on to the cutthroat atmosphere of Fleet Street in London.

He was asked to photograph the Beatles’ first visit to the States in 1964 and things just went up from there. He has photographed pretty much every celebrity throughout the past 50 years, including 11 U.S. presidents. He was there when Martin Luther King was assassinated and when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. He photographed the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Somalian refugees in the 1990s.

Calling him driven and hardworking is an understatement. But he also was able to connect with loners such as Bobby Fischer and Michael Jackson and gain the trust of countless celebrities and political figures. His sense of humor and no-nonsense style shone through in the documentary, and in real life when he answered questions from the moderator and the audience at the screening.

Both he and Alan survived bleak childhoods to share awe-inspiring talent, grace, and humor with the world. It was thrilling to hear these successful artists share their life stories.

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry's wife, Gigi; Harry, Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry’s wife, Gigi; Harry; Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

People Say We Monkey Around

I watched a lot of TV when I was growing up. Back when sitcoms ruled the day. I remember doing plenty of other things, too: reading, playing outside, playing dress-up, playing with dolls, doing more reading, listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40. But somehow there was still plenty of time for sitting in front of the TV.

One show that I enjoyed was The Monkees. The Monkees were cute and funny and I dug their music. Mike Nesmith was my favorite; I liked his sideburns and his knit hat.

So when I heard that Micky and Peter were going to make a Boston stop on their 50th anniversary tour, I had to go. Yes, 50th.

Unfortunately photography was not allowed during the show. So all I can do is allow the memories to light the corners of my mind.

The show was fabulous because Micky and Peter were just as playful as ever, and a screen behind them was constantly rolling footage from the TV series. They paid tribute to their late band member, Davy Jones, a few times and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

Peter and Micky came out with a new album (with guest appearances by Mike Nesmith) and I bought it after the show. SO good. Two of my favorite musicians, Ben Gibbard and Rivers Cuomo, wrote songs for the album.

monkees-good-times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I highly recommend the album. I also recommend the Monkees’ cult classic film called Head…if you want to experience a drug-infused frenzy without ingesting any drugs. Wow. There is a lot going on in this movie.

OK, I still have one birthday list item to report on. I’m only three months behind schedule…stay tuned for a recap of my birthday trip to Hyannis, Massachusetts!

Steve Martin, Museum Curator

He’s a comedian, actor, producer, and musician. And now he can add museum curator to the list.

Steve Martin was in town last month to talk about the exhibit he helped curate at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Martin is also an avid art collector, and he enjoys the work of Canadian painter Lawren Harris. He must know someone at the Museum of Fine Arts, and I imagine they started talking about Lawren Harris, and the MFA person suggested that Martin help curate an exhibit, and there you have it.

My friend Tracy and I stood in line outside of the MFA on a March afternoon for two hours to ensure that we would get a seat at a free panel discussion about the exhibit. Martin, artist Eric Fischl, and writer Adam Gopnik sat on the panel, which was moderated by MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum.

Luckily the lineup was projected onto large screens, so I didn’t have to keep craning my neck to get a glimpse of them.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I listened to them speak, I imagined that I was really smart and rich and I was attending a cocktail party in New York City at which this type of conversation is commonplace. For an hour, they talked about Lawren Harris, the art world, and the MFA exhibit. Martin was serious most of the time, but he did crack a few jokes and made some signature faces.

It was totally worth the two-hour wait in line! I’ve been a fan of Martin since the ’80s and have always marveled at his many talents. It was a joy to see him in person.

So I have about six weeks to accomplish nine more things. Totally doable, right?

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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