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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Poor Steve

I just read a review of a trailer for the new Pink Panther movie. I don't expect it to be any good, and I agree that Steve Martin has struggled to remain relevant in the last several years (Cheaper By The Dozen?) But I believe this slight was undeserved:
Playing Clouseau this time is Steve Martin, who I enjoy in the Naked Gun films, but damn, this Pink Panther looks like it would be lampooned in a film from the Naked Gun series. I mean, he looks like W.C. Fields in a trenchcoat in this film!
If you're not in on the gaffe, it's this: Steve Martin was not in any of the Naked Gun films; that's Leslie Nielsen. The author may be referring to this other actor from the Naked Gun series. Poor Steve!

He still writes great essays. That is, Steve does. I don't even know if Leslie can write.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Books

Just finished: Dawn, by Elie Wiesel. Sad and thoughtful, what is it like to kill someone in the name of justice?

Finished recently: Freakonomics. Not a bad book as a springboard for discussion, but I can't fully recommend it until they provide a little more data, and a little less self-promotion.

Currently reading: The Hidden Language of Baseball. The history of signs and sign-stealing in baseball. I don't actually watch baseball anymore, but the notion of communicating simultaneously in public and in secret interests me. I wish the book spent more time on mechanics than history, but I'm still finding it fun.

Currently reading: Night by Elie Wiesel. My wife doesn't want me to subject myself to such sadness. It's my second reading, and it has become a sadder book with age.

About to read: Head First Design Patterns. This is a technical design book which I am reviewing with the intent of reviving our office's Design Patterns discussion group. I've heard great things about this book, I'll know more soon.

The Getty Villa


Today was special. My wife's friend Paula has been working on the Getty Villa restoration project for the last several years. Tomorrow is the first day that the Villa will be opened to the public. Today, however, Paula brought about 15 of her friends on a private tour. I was lucky enough to be one of them.

A little background: The Getty Villa was the original Getty Museum before it was relocated to its home high above the Sepulveda Pass. In 1996 the Getty Villa was closed to begin this long restoration project.

Corbin Smith, head of the Getty Villa Project Team, led our tour, and was full of knowledge about the history of the museum, the negative reviews by critics of the original Villa, and how the selected architects chose to embrace the existing architecture rather than abandon it altogether.

I should say something about the architectural style, at least, as much as I can with my limited vocabulary. The experience of entering the museum is designed to look like the museum itself is an uncovered excavation. The colors and layers change as you descend to the lower levels to mach that impression. The cafe upstairs is designed to invoke the notion of a makeshift overhang where excavators would relax. Corbin called all of this conceit, and by that he probably meant it as "an elaborate poetic image or a far-fetched comparison of very dissimilar things."

The work they have done is astounding. Items of note: the outdoor theater, the indoor theater. The staircase made from bronze, the wonderful tiled floors and ornate ceilings. The gardens are awesome, and by that I mean they filled me with awe. The roman (greek?) blown-glass exhibit was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Our tour concluded with a visit to the room dedicated to showing the original drawings of the various architectural teams competing for the restoration project, and detailed scale models of the final project. Corbin was knowledgeable, interesting, and clearly enjoyed himself throughout this project.

A little sadness darkens this wonderful reopening: some of the artifacts which Italy is insisting it wants back are part of the collection in the new Getty Villa.

I cannot wait to go back, although it can't possibly match the calm, quiet and clean atmosphere of the empty grounds. Tickets are free, but must be obtained in advance. The exhibit is currently sold out of all scheduled showings through July.

Thanks, Paula!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Choices to make while packing

If one is travelling for eleven days, does one pack five pairs of underwear, or six? Why does one think about this at 12:10AM when the flight is 7 hours later?