Sunday, July 26, 2009

Never Forget You

I heard this song last night on WTMD, found it on YouTube, and am posting it here.

The group is Noisettes, a UK indie rock band and their lead singer (and bass player)is a stunning Afro-British (English-Zimbabwean says Wikipedia) sister named Shingai Shoniwa.

I dig the whole 60s girl-group sound of the song and she can really sing (kinda like Amy Winehouse without the pathology). I also like the way it pays homage melodically to one of my favorite songs, Joan Armitrading's great anthem to individuality "Me, Myself, I."

When I first heard it I thought it must be some kind of 60s tribute song, maybe something from the "Hairspray" soundtrack for example, but they wrote it and produced it themselves.

Noisettes and particularly Shingai Shoniwa definitely bear watching. I wish them well.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

DC Mural Art, part II.

Days after my post about Garin Baker's LeDroit Park mural, Prince of Petsworth blogged about a mural I had photographed last Summer behind Morgan's Seafood restaurant, not knowing the name of the artist or how to find it.

Morgan's Seafood. DC Landmark at Georgia Avenue and Irving, NW.
photo (c)Incorrigible Curmudgeon

Mural behind Morgan's Seafood restaurant.
Mural: (c) Joel Bergner
Photo: (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

Turns out his name is Joel Bergner and he has created several other murals in DC. I like that he makes it his mission to involve the communities in which his art is being created. In the course of creating his murals, he hires and trains local talent in the art of mural painting.

To me he has a 'primitivist,' almost 'fauvist' quality about his work. It is impossible to look at his Morgan's seafood mural without thinking about Paul Gaugin's Tahiti paintings.

Check out his interview and some more of his murals at Prince of Petworth.

In the meantime, another DC mural painter has emerged (courtesy of one of the commentors on Prince of Petworth), named Lisa Marie Thalhammer. Check out her images and insights on her website. Her work is more edgy, more confrontational. Here is her Boxer Girl mural

Boxer Girl mural, 73 'W' St. NW
Mural: (c)Lisa Marie Thalhammer
Photo: (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

Boxer Girl Mural, side of 73 "W" St.NW
Mural: (c) Lisa Marie Thalhammer
Photo: (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

on the side of a rowhouse in Bloomingdale (neighborhood just to the East of LeDroit Park). Her work has a comic book quality (in a 'Beavis and Butthead' sort of way) with an in-your-face grotesqueness not unlike Avedon's American West photo portraits or even the paintings of Francis Bacon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I love this mural

Actual LeDroit Park Gate,
looking East down 'T' Street, NW,
5th St. crossing in foreground,
Florida Avenue to my back.
Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

"This is How We Live" Mural detail
(c) Garin Baker

"This is How We Live" mural looking East on Elm Street, NW
Mural (c) Garin Baker, Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

"This is How We Live" mural, a little closer.
Mural (c) Garin Baker. Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

Mural as seen from Howard University Hospital
(thanks, Cecelia).

Mural: (c)Garin Baker
Photo: (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

I dig mural art. Always have. Howard University was briefly graced by some impressive mural art in the late 60s-early 70s: Eugene Edaw's epic Frederick Douglass piece on Cramton Auditorium, James Padgett's muscular red, white, and black pieces at either side of the Fine Arts bldg. and a piece on the side of Ira Aldridge Theater by an artist unknown to me. I think James Phillips may have had an Africobra mural on Cramton too for a time. And of course there was Ron Anderson's mural on the wall of the original Howard University Punch Out restaurant (from his student days before he evolved into Akili Ron Anderson).

Ron Anderson's mural in the original Punch Out restaurant, ca. 1971
Mural (c) Ron Anderson. Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

In DC, the best murals (at least the photo-realistic ones I tend to like) all seem to be the work of G.Byron Peck, particularly his 'U' Street Ellington mural

Duke Ellington Mural on 'U'St. NW across from Lincoln Theater and Ben's Chili Bowl.
Mural (c) G. Byron Peck. Photo (c)Incorrigible Curmudgeon

and his Connecticut Avenue Dupont Circle Fountain Trompe l'oeil mural

Dupont Circle Mural on Connecticutt Avenue just south of Florida Avenue, NW.
Mural (c) G.Byron Peck. Photo (c) Incorrigible Curmudgeon

above the place where the old lefty-hippie-veggie restaurant 'Food for Thought' used to reside.

The late and lamented Food For Thought Restaurant beneath
G.byron Peck's Dupont Circle Mural.
Mural (c) G. Byron Peck. Photo (c)Incorrigible Curmudgeon

Now I've found a new favorite mural in LeDroit Park at the corner of 3rd and Elm, NW, right up the street from Slowe Hall, the Howard University dormitory where I once lived.

It's the work of artist Garin Baker, a New York artist with a studio called Carriage Art which (according to its website) executes mural art on commission. He works in the tradition of the New York Realists and the depression-era WPA muralists.

This one is called "This Is How We Live," an idyllic photo-realistic scene behind the fairly recently erected LeDroit Park arch at 5th and Florida Avenue, NW, across from the Howard Theatre. His is an idealized vision of the newly gentrified LeDroit Park area just south of Howard University with the U.S. Capitol building in the top center, Howard University's Founders Library imbedded above to the left, and four beautiful Black children smiling beatifically from the upper right, all tied together with the banner imprinted with the title "This Is How We Live."

I like the way Baker breaks up the realism of his work by incorporating squares of intentional simulated pixelization , acknowledging the artifice inherent in any work of photo-realism. This is the only mural of the many displayed on his website in which he does so. Interesting. The piece is copyrighted 2008 but I first happened upon it and photographed it in January 2009. Baker was born in 1961 which makes him a relatively young 48. He's a former illustrator (like Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth) and it shows, which is not a knock on him (or them).

He has created other murals in DC, as well as in New York, Atlanta, and elsewhere throughout the U.S. I also really love the piece he created for the Turkey Thicket Aquatic Center in Brookland Northeast DC. This piece is so kinetic it exudes an almost comic-book sensibility though it fiercely maintains Baker's penchant for hyper photo-realism.

Turkey Thicket pool mural
(c)Garin Baker

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson's demise

Like everyone in America, I became a fan of the Jackson 5 when they first hit the scene. Who didn't like the idea of a group of kids from one family (except maybe the Osmonds) performing with such professional aplomb, led by their cute and charismatic little pixie, Michael.

Of course I was finishing up college when J5 was at their peak and we at Howard were probably more into the Five Stairsteps (World of Fantasy, You Waited Too Long, Oo Oo Child, etc.). They were the same deal basically although one of the five was a sister. Don't know why they didn't go on to enjoy similar success to the Jackson 5, although not having the support of a Berry Gordy and the Motown machine is probably the biggest reason.

That said, I've been trying to figure out why I'm not as bummed out about Michael's death as so many people world-wide seem to be. I suppose the main reason is the inescapable conclusion that Michael led such an unhappy life that his death gives him some respite from the suffering.

Still, I made a list off the top of my head of the entertainers I was most bummed out about after their premature deaths and Michael comes in at, I don't know, somewhere in the lower half. After Hendrix, the list is in no particular order and is not exhaustive in any case:

The List:
[1] Jimi Hendrix
[2] Otis Redding
[3] John Belushi
[4] Natalie Wood
[5] Curtis Mayfield
[6] Richard Pryor
[7] Gilda Radner
[8] Phyllis Hyman
[9] Isaac Hayes
[10] Bernie Mac
[11] Minnie Riperton
[12] John Lennon
[13] Marvin Gaye
[14] Michael Jackson
[15] Luther Vandross
[Honorable Mention] Barry White, Eddie Kendrick, Levi Stubbs, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin.

Don't get me wrong: Michael Jackson was a supremely talented man who tried to make the world a better place through his music and humanitarian efforts. He meant a lot to a majority of people whose lives he touched and he will justifiably be missed (even by me) and mourned. I am saddened by his death. I'm just trying to understand why I'm not more moved by it.

For the record, my favorite Michael Jackson song is "The Lady In My Life," which saw a lot of air time on WHUR's Quiet Storm back in the Melvin Lindsay days, although there are many more that I liked as well. I remain more drawn to Michael Jackson's ballads than his dance music.

I'm sure others (entertainers I will miss) will pop into my head but R.I.P. all of them including Michael. And Steve McNair, too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dutch Country Farmers Market, Burtonsville, closes

all photos (c)2009 Incorrigible Curmudgeon

The so-called Amish Market has been a Burtonsville, MD staple for over 20 years. Now the strip mall where it sat has been bought and the tenants all booted out so they can build (drum roll) another strip mall. Only now the anchor will be Giant Foods, the Supermarket currently resident in a similar strip mall right across the street. That mall, Burtonsville Crossing, is apparently being allowed to die, having already lost almost a third of its tenants.

I won't miss the Amish Market as much as most. I have shopped there maybe 5 times in the last 10 years, though I have elderly residents in DC who make regular pilgrimages 15 miles out to Burtonsville to shop here. They swear by it, particularly its rotisserrie chicken. Definitely an AARP kinda vibe to the place.

As a veggie, I always found the store heavy on the meats, and the air was always thick with the smell of meat, like a butcher store. The produce was okay, but the prepared foods were all heavy on the fats (usually cooked in lard), with lots of doughnuts, cakes, pies, home-made junk food, candies, potato salad, and ice cream. Think fried, sweet, salty, creamy. Gag.

Then there's the subtle but undeniable creepiness factor: most of the workers are dressed in nineteenth-Century attire (women in black an white floor-length dresses with white bonnets, men in black trousers with suspenders with white long sleeve collared shirts, the ones old enough sporting Abe Lincoln-style beards with no mustaches, some also wear the standard black and brimmed 'preacher' hats). Its like a casting call for Peter Weir's 1985 movie "Witness" (Harrison Ford as a cop who falls in love with an Amish woman, Kelly McGillis, while solving a murder) which for most of us is the only exposure we've had to the Pennsylvania Dutch culture. Nice people, just kinda cult-like.

Still I swept through one last time today on its closing day in Burtonsville, though it will be re-opening in 6-8 weeks in Laurel, MD, about 5 miles East of here.

I bought a pretzel and a half-dozen onion bagels (Amish bagels: now thats an oxymoron).

Aw hell naw!!!

photo by Kiichiro Sato/AP

photo by Kiichiro Sato/AP

photo by Frank Polich/Reuters Photos

photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Today the Sears Tower in Chicago, tallest remaining bldg. in the U.S., opened four glass enclosed balconies extending four feet out from the edge of their observation deck on the 103rd floor.

Visitors can walk out and look straight down through the glass floor to the street 1,353 feet below or they can look straight ahead and see 50 miles on a clear day. Of course they can do that without walking on glass.

The glass has variously been reported as being somewhere between 1/2 inch and 1-1/2 inches thick and the balconies are supposedly engineered to support 8 people or 5-10,000 pounds. The Washington Post indicates that the floor is a laminate of three 1/2-inch layers of glass bonded together by the same polymer as windshields on cars.

While Incorrigible Curmudgeon has a pilot's license and has been known to go sky diving, it is safe to say you will not be seeing any photos by Incorrigible Curmudgeon taken from any of these balconies. I'll leave the photos to my Chicago friends: Joyce and Danielle :).