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DSCF1420 by svo1905
DSCF1420, a photo by svo1905 on Flickr.

CB Complex

Broken City: noir-lite

Broken City begins in fast-paced muddle.  It begins at a blurry crime scene, and move quickly to a tense courtroom.  At the same time that New York cop Billy Taggert (Mark Wahlberg) is having the charges for murder dismissed against him in court, Mayor Hoestetler (Russell Crowe) is being made aware of incriminating evidence against Billy that would certainly send him to prison – quite a coincidence in timing wouldn’t you say?  The mayor is willing to face down the police commissioner (Carl Fairbanks) and a race riot to keep the evidence hidden so long has Billy resigns.  Billy is a cop, a good guy; the murder victim is clearly a bad guy.  It seems like a normal, everyday kind of conspiracy for the greater good.  There is something reminiscent of the Godfather when the Mayor assures Billy that their paths will cross again.

Seven years later Billy Taggert is putting his law enforcement background to work as a tough-talking private detective.   But Billy isn’t a businessman.  So the Mayor’s phone call with a $50K job to get proof of his wife’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) infidelity comes like a financial deus ex machina for Billy.

'Broken City' 2013 Movie High Defination Wallpapers (4)

At the end of Act 1 Billy’s pretty ordinary problems have been solved in the time allotted for a sitcom.  But what appears to have been a simple solution actually puts Billy in the middle of a classic film noir plot.

Probably you’ve heard the term, film noir, those black and white films that exaggerate lighting and are equal parts drama and thriller.   What defines film noir beyond style is the presence of dark forces at work that pull the characters into a fate that they futilely try to resist.

That brings us back to the opening scene that ultimately drives the whipsaw plot twists not to mention the layers of secrets and motives caked on top of each other.  Beyond Billy’s increasingly messy circumstances are the ordinary vices that are staples for police movies: corruption and adultery.  Broken City resists the temptation to get on a soapbox as it exposes the heros as villians and celebrates the antiheros.   And so it goes in Broken City, the Mayor, his wife, his opponent in the election, the police commissioner, powerful campaign donors are all linked together in a web of corruption that turn what is good and bad upsidedown.

Kiss Me Deadly 3

Broken City is a conventionally done movie aimed squarely at a general audience, which is it say that it is meant to be believable.  It is also very fast paced.  It’s portrayal of politics, budget issues, and the juxtaposition of the very wealthy with the poor could only be more current if it all took place on Oprah’s couch.    At the same time, Broken City is a gateway film to noir classics like Kiss Me Deadly and the Maltese Falcon.  True film noir with its femme fatales, it’s sizzlingly over the top dialogue, is an acquired taste – while Broken City is a real crowd pleaser.

Muzeion, Temple of Muses

If there was a first class lounge at an art museum, it would look like Muzeion in the Design District.  There isn’t anything grandiose or flashy about it, but it feels like a sanctuary separate from our quotidian insta-, multi-, e-, dot com, i-world.

What is immediately noticeable is the juxtaposition of contemporary art with classical pieces of largely non-western art.  The founder, Guillermo Cardenas, likens it to a conversation between young children represented by the contemporary pieces and very old people represented by the classical pieces.  He points out that there is something universal about art and that there is an eternal conversation to be appreciated by pairing such different art objects.  It sounds theoretical, even mystical, but in looking around, there is certain freshness in the classical pieces, and a more grounded feel about the contemporary work.  As displayed on the walls, it makes perfect sense. Image

The gallery has an inevitable flow, as persistent and imperceptible as undertow.  At the center of the gallery is a miniature plaza with a giant fountain that reminds me of a Max Ernst painting.  This central plaza is separated from the rest of the gallery with translucent crystal panels and a sunken border of grainy sand.  Inside the plaza are statues on pedestals.  Throughout the gallery there aren’t the empty (negative) spaces of other galleries; as a result sight lines feel compressed and art objects feel more immediate.

There isn’t any one element by itself that makes a statement – they all work together to create “an experience” as Guillermo explains.  “The leitmotif of the building and the art is energy.”  When he mentions feng shui it all clicks.

Remember those ubiquitous little fountains that were all the rage more than a few years ago?  For most of us, Feng Shui was a fad embodied by some exotic Eastern accessories to be replaced by the next fad.  For Guillermo, an architect, Feng Shui was the foundation, an ancient foundation.  Most of us take for granted where the door should go or how the approach to the building should be designed – is that even a decision?  Guillermo didn’t take anything for granted as he overhauled the space with feng shui as his north star.  Image

Muzeion is his brainchild.  There is a Latin hospitality that is a part of his demeanor reinforced by a Continental passion for discussing ideas.  With silver hair and the consuming intensity of someone who loves his profession, he reminds me of a favorite college professor.  He listens intently; the corners of his eyes narrow with concentration when he speaks.  He has a million faraway stories and more than a few unconventional ideas.  When encountering such a strong weltanschauung, you come to a fork in the road where you have to choose deference or doubt.  With his ideas manifested all around us, I go with the flow.

When I ask Guillermo how he selects so many eclectic pieces he again comes back to energy, the energy of the art itself.  Everything in the gallery is working together to create that energy.  In discussing the space and the benefits of positive energy, Guillermo exclaimed, “If you have a headache, don’t take an aspirin, come here!”  And that is the vision for how these pieces in the gallery can make a difference in your life.  The ‘energy’ or “Ch’i” as it is called in feng shui are meant to improve the energy of your home – they improve the energy and balance of your life.

Be sure to put Muzeion at the top of your list for the next Design District Gallery Walk on September 22.  Sometimes I struggle to connect with pieces as I walk through a gallery — at Muzeion, the Temple of Muses, it felt like the gallery was connecting with me.

News Release: Glen Rose to Host Visitors and Events as Part of 2012 Japan-America Grassroots Summit in North Texas

August 24, 2012 (Glen Rose, TX) — North Texas has been named the site of the 2012 Japan-America Grassroots Summit.  The event will bring 160 visitors from Japan to participate in tours, programs and homestay visits with 15 communities all over the DFW Metroplex.  The half dozen visitors who will be hosted by Glen Rose will establish relationships with their host families and see the wealth of attractions in the area. The centerpiece of the visit will be a concert held in their honor.

The Concert on Saturday, September 1, at 7pm will enjoy the outstanding acoustics of the First United Methodist Church.  There will be a reception at the Pie Peddler after the concert.  Japanese-born, Dr. Asakura, Tarleton State Professor of Music, will sing a selection of traditional American songs.  Lending his baritone voice to Spirituals, he will be accompanied by TarletonState colleague Dr. Leslie Spotz.  According to Dr. Spotz,”The invitation to participate in such a far reaching international exchange right here in north central Texas is exciting and inspiring!  Dr. Asakura and I were delighted to be included.  It seems especially appropriate that he and I continue a Japanese-American cultural exchange in Glen Rose, since we already have that every day in the music hallways of TarletonStateUniversity’s FineArtsCenter.”

The visit begins in Fort Worth on August 28, with the Opening Ceremony at Billy Bob’s Texas and closes in Dallas on September 3.  While the visitors are in Texas, they will take in sights all over the Metroplex including the iconic Fort Worth Stockyards sites and a favorite Japanese pastime, watching baseball.  The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX will observe Japan-America Friendship on Tuesday, August 28, when the Texas Rangers take on the Tampa Bay Rays. 

The Glen Rose Homestay program kicks off on Thursday, August 30 with a welcome reception at Barnard’s Mill at 3:00 PM.  “I was so excited to be asked to coordinate this event,” said Pie Peddler proprietor Rhonda Cagle, who is also the Host City Coordinator for Glen Rose.  “I am a retired teacher and learning about different cultures is so intriguing to me.  I look forward to showing them around my unique home town of Glen Rose.  We have so much to offer a visitor to our small town.”

On Friday, August 31, the visitors will visit Fossil Rim Wildlife Preserve and DinosaurValleyState Park.  In the evening, they will take in a slice of life (Texas-style) when they watch the Glen Rose Tigers take on Ranchview in the season opener high school football game. Following the football game, the visitors will be treated to a hayride at the Hideaway Ranch and have dinner at its new Silver Dollar Steakhouse.

”Immediately upon learning of the 2012 Japan-America Grassroots Summit, we knew we wanted to be involved,” said Jason and Traci Niedziela, the owners of the Hideaway Ranch and Silver Dollar Steakhouse.  “We enjoy cultural exchange and we’ve both lived in Japan.  As a result, we have a profound interest and love for this country.  We look forward to helping any way possible.”  Jason and Traci Niedziela are also helping conduct the cultural training for the Glen Rose host families in anticipation of the three-night homestay program.

The Summit honors the life-long friendship between Captain William H. Whitfield, an American whaler, and John Manjiro Nakahama, a Japanese fisherman and the first Japanese citizen to be educated in America.  Manjiro’s knowledge of America faciliated the opening of Japan to trade with the western world following the arrival of Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853.  Manjiro taught English, navigation, ship-building and American ideas, such as democracy, to young Japanese samurais who led Japan to modernize and join the developed world.

“The friendship between these two men is unique in that it has continued for more than 170 years between their descendants,” said Hiroko Todoroki, CIE Secretary General. “The purpose of the annual Grassroots Summit is to encourage new friendships between Japanese and Americans that will last a lifetme and beyond. Members of the Whitfield and Nakahama families play a pivotal role in each Summit, and serve as a reminder of the enormous potential of grassroots exchange.”

The 2012 Japan-America Grassroots Summit in North Texas is being presented by the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth and the JohnManjiroWhitfieldCommemorativeCenter for International Exchange (CIE) in Japan and the U.S. in cooperation with the Consulate-General of Japan in Houston, community organizations and the host cities.

Sponsors are Fujitsu Network Communications, Inc.; Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, Inc.;  7-Eleven, Inc.; Sumimoto Corporation of America; and Gulf States Toyota, Inc.  Additional support is provided by Brounoff Communications; The Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art;  Dallas GiveCamp, and Suzuki Graphic Design Studio.

For more information on the 2012 Japan-America Grassroots Summit in North Texas, visit the website at:  www.NorthTexasGrassrootsSummit.org.


About the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth (JASDFW)

The JASDFW has a 42-year history of contributing to mutual understanding betweeen the United States and Japan through educational, cultural, business, and exchange programs.

About the Center for International Exchange (CIE)

The CIE, a foundation formed in 1992, aims to contribute to global peace and stability, by promoting the mutual understanding and friendship between citizens of Japan and America and throughout the world.

Art of the Week Guest post: Olga Krasnova

A couple of years ago I went to the exhibition of Sergey Andriaka’s works, one of Russia’s famous modern watercolor artists. It was like getting into summer in the middle of winter – his stunning bouquets of lilacs, peonies, chrysanthemums, landscapes and still lifes immediately made you forget about the cold wind and snow outside and carried you away to green meadows and forests full of beautiful flowers.  I was really impressed by his works and I still remember how his pictures filled me with joy – it was like enjoying the first sunny day, even though it was indoors.

S. Andriaka, Volga Landscape, 2008

S. Andriaka, A Vase of Orchids, 2005

Olga is a translator in Moscow and a frequent traveler to Italy and the United States.

Here is a story on the opening of the exhibition, and Andriaka’s unique watercolor technique.


Planespotting at DFW

With three generations of my family working as cabin crew, and having worked on the ground crew at three different airports (MCI, STL & BOS) and logging an irresponsible number of hours playing Microsoft Flight Simulator, I am something of an airport junkie.

DFWAirport has an area especially for plane spotters.  Founder’s Plaza is located to the north of the airport.  Most often the plaza is the best place to watch planes land, but not always.  Whether they land to the south or north depends on which way the wind is blowing.

There are a couple of other things to pay attention to at Founder’s Plaza.  Air Traffic Control (ATC for short) is piped in live at the plaza.  Those rapid-fire instructions aren’t going to mean very much (not to me either), but you do want to perk up your ears for the word, “heavy” that indicates a big jet.  You can look for the various kinds of planes http://arunrajagopal.com/2010/08/12/identify-airbus-from-boeing/ (landing gears and engines are the telling signs).  You can see where flights are coming from by using the app Flight Aware.

The most thrilling part of plane spotting is the when the international carriers land.  From 1:30 – 2:30 you can see KLM come in from Amsterdam, Qantas come in from Sydney and Lufthansa come in from Frankfurt.

Here are a couple of videos of Qantas landing.


Here’s the good one.


Tromp d’orielle at the Dallas Contemporary as seen in A+C Magazine

Chant (Song), by Rene Leveque is a dominating presence at the Dallas Contemporary.  Composed of hundreds of black umbrellas hanging upside-down from the ceiling, the installation is a little larger than a tennis court.  The generic black umbrellas were bought in bulk (perhaps that explains the acrid, oily smell of the installation).  The umbrella’s canopies were slashed according to the artist’s instructions.   The overlapping fabric creates a low black ceiling disrupted by powerful oscillating fans angled up at the umbrellas.  The fans, together with a soundtrack, create a tromp d’oreille illusion to emphasize the auditory nature of the trick).  It seems that this gentle push of air is responsible for the dramatic, metallic screeching that can reach up to 95 decibels.

While the soundtrack is reminiscent of a turning subway amplified by the acoustics of a tunnel, the black umbrellas are the personification of generic.  These two ingredients are combined to evoke a crowded, cosmopolitan environment.  What remains hidden are the people implied by a subway, and the crowd that should be holding the umbrellas.  The absence of this implied crowd makes the other visitors fill the gap, like they are meant to be a part of the exhibit.  In fact, Chant creates an unusual stage of museum-goers walking with their heads tilted up, or a crowd of people talking seemingly oblivious to the mob of umbrellas above.

As the canopy of umbrellas ends, there is a drywall fence with holes; it is the next piece by Leveque, La mort du cygnet (The Dying Swan).  Behind the fence is a shed made out of plywood painted black.  A light bulb hangs down from the ceiling, and a black wedding dress rests on the floor below.  The missing masses of Chant are overshadowed by something more disturbing: the absence of an individual connected to the abandoned dress.   With the black dress, there is the hint of a narrative.  Once again the crowd becomes a part of the installation.  Limited by the size of the shed, we all stand in close proximity to the dress and look down as if we were attending a funeral.

Often in a museum our response to art is individual — personal.  Viewing Leveque’s works, like attending a sports event, is infinitely more powerful if you go when it is busy.  There is an unusually shared response to Chant.

There is an interesting corollary installation at the Grand Palais in Paris that applies what sounds like a more colorful, whimsical approach to similar themes.  (Note to editor: see links below)  While Daniel Buren’s installation of low, overlapping, colored glass with a soundtrack sounds cute and all, I personally am glad to have Leveque’s very effective, very memorable works here in Dallas.  Whether it says something to you about art, or it just inspires you to buy an umbrella with a little more personality, Leveque’s work stays with you.

The very best time to visit Leveque’s installations before they close on August 8th, is this Saturday when the Design District hosts Gallery Night from 6-9.  Having been to the Contemporary during its regular hours, I know first-hand that these installations are best appreciated with a crowd.  In case food trucks, a DJ, a dozen galleries open late and the ever eclectically dressed Dallas gallery crowd weren’t enough incentive to attend.  Put it on your calendar now, and get there before your friends so you can appreciate the absence of the implied masses and the anonymity of the other viewers.



Top 5 Films of 2012 (so far) Guest Post: Cineaste77

This film hits the audience like a punch to the head- sudden, horrifying and unpleasant. It’s about lost potential and a destroyed life, and a grown man suspended in adolescence at the moment things changed to render him a wounded animal.
Fun, thrilling, well-written and well directed, but then there was never a reason to expect any less from wunderkind Joss Whedon. The cast gels together as much as their characters do not, attracting and repelling each other through the film. THE AVENGERS is everything a summer action movie should be and more.  
A powerhouse of British acting elevates this predictable and cliche story to something pretty good. They play a group of retirees who are trying to find the balance between the luxuries they think they deserve, and the budgets they actually have. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith’s characters in particular have some great things to say about old age, dignity, and not letting oneself be put out to pasture prematurely.
Liam Neeson doesn’t take crap from any creature, be it human or animal.  Widely criticized for its inaccurate depiction of wolf behavior, this film is about the raw survival of humanity out of its element. The most horrifying and disturbing death here doesn’t involve the wolves at all, and it’s touches like that that make this film great.
Navigating sex and love in your teen years is hard. Navigating sex and love in your teen years when you are a young lesbian ups the difficulty exponentially. Dee Rees’ debut film adeptly shows that there are experiences that are different for gay teens. It also shows that sometimes, no matter what your sexual orientation, things like first loves and heartbreak are common to the human experience.
About Cineaste77:   You might say that Cineaste77 was born to be a movie maven. Legend has it that her mom went into labor after laughing too hard at the “Make Em Laugh” scene.  Her inherited smart eye  for film is especially fond of classics and kung fu.

Lucian Freud at the Fort Worth Modern Museum (The Blitz Weekly)

Lucian Freud’s portraits are like being at the DMV – except half of the people are naked, and unfortunately it isn’t necessarily the half you wouldn’t mind seeing naked.  Freud (grandson of Sigmund Freud) is widely hailed for creating intensely psychological portraits.  After wandering the exhibition, I found myself wondering more about what is revealed about the psychology of the artist.

D/FW rivalry notwithstanding, I think you could get even the Dallas Art glimmeratti to admit that the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has scored the biggest art exhibition of 2012; a claim that has been turbocharged by Lucian Freud’s death less than a year ago.  This exhibition is extremely important and not just because the New York Times and the rest of the national media are slobbering about it.  According to curator Michael Auping, there is a challenge implicit in the exhibition, “I think the bottom line (for Lucian) is here’s how it works, and can you accept it? Are you OK with that?”

Almost all of the most celebrated art in the world was at one time controversial, hated even.  You don’t see that in a van Gogh or Picasso today because their moment is a part of history (and the museum gift shop) – Lucian Freud’s moment is still now.  His work will be in museums a hundred years from now, but there is only one moment and one place where this huge collection of portraits is contemporary.  To boil it down, these portraits have the power to stir shit up.  Someday a museum person will get out of their flying car to go to work and explain why these portraits were controversial when they were painted – but that isn’t the same as actually having been in this moment.

The expressions of Lucian’s models range from blank to sad.  All of the figures are idle.  The background is always of Lucian’s cramped, dirty studio. In his mature work, Freud uses a painting technique called impasto to create an ugly leprous texture with the thickly applied paint.  Even among the models he selected who are attractive find themselves disfigured on the canvass by Freud’s tainted eye.  Not even a baby’s sweetness is spared by Freud’s unforgiving “reality.”

Maybe smiling, beautiful people are more likable, but are they also more impenetrable? Does beauty hide?  It’s hard to disagree that Freud’s bleak approach is revealing.  Each of these painting is like a short story.  And for or better or worse, this exhibit of almost 90 portraits is like drinking short stories from a fire hose.  There are so many faces and so much detail; it becomes both tiring and energizing.  With so much selection, every viewer is bound to find a connection.  I was drawn to the distance in “Hotel Bedroom,” and the wilting face of “Man in the Silver Suit.”

My favorite though is “Flora with the Blue Toenails,” those toenails are a beacon of polish and beauty next to Freud’s seemingly universal dirty fingernails.  There is a shadow of a head cast on the bed. I check; it isn’t my shadow.  She is ambiguously not alone.  Suddenly, I feel uncomfortable.  Freud wasn’t about to let me enjoy that one.  Thanks, buddy. 

Lucian’s models aren’t the only characters in the exhibition; the biggest character is Lucian himself.  Lucian Freud is interesting in the way that van Gogh or Caravaggio is interesting: in a larger than life way (he had 17 known children, for starters).  There are relatable insights like when Freud switched from using a sable hair brush to paint every detail of a sitter, to a coarser hog’s hair brush.  In addition to Freud’s super-sized presence in the exhibition, there are the actual stories of the people he painted.  Sitting two days a week, three hours at a time for close to a year, the artist got to know these people – sometimes intimately (oh yeah, that is exactly what I meant).  There is a little book that accompanies the exhibition on sale for $5 that includes some of these stories.  But the much better bet is to invest the time in going to the museum’s website www.themodern.org to look for one of the regularly scheduled tours.

I was in high school when Kurt Cobain committed suicide.  I can never explain what I felt or why was an important experience to anyone.  But there are people, people I don’t even know, who experienced the same thing.  We were all in that moment.

All of us are a part of things like that.  Go.  Go, and be challenged, because contemporary art is meant to say something about your world and to speak to you.  Someday these portraits will be about Lucian Freud and museum people, but this exhibition is really about right now.

The show ends on October 28.  Don’t fool yourself if it sounds like that is an entire presidential election away from now.  Despite the uncomfortable brutality of Freud’s self-criticism turned against the world, plan on making a connection, several connections even.  And go early; so you can go back and see a set of blue toenails, in my case, which I will never forget as long as I live.  Admission is $10.  The museum is closed on Mondays and open late on Fridays.


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