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Norman Rockwell’s America

“Commonplaces never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative.”  -Norman Rockwell

Over Christmas, I went to see the North Carolina Museum of Art exhibition “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell” with my family.  I was already familiar with some of his work, mostly from having seen it in my American history textbooks in high school, and also from the April 24, 1926 Saturday Evening Post cover that hung, framed, in my playroom when I was a little girl.  But I had no idea how prolific he was—4,000 illustrations in his lifetime for magazine covers (and not just the Post), advertisements, and booklets.  His paintings were everywhere—in newsstands, in public buildings, in homes, and on playing cards.  Perhaps the very fact that his images were mass produced led critics to dismiss them as mere kitsch.  High art, after all, isn’t so easily reproducible, or so it’s said. Continue reading

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A Belated Meditation

When you’re telling the greatest story ever told, there’s a lot of pressure to tell it well.  You must be accurate in your telling, faithful to history, but you must be creative as well, making the story new in some way.  You have to bring your hearers back to the time and place and make them care.

The Nativity Story, released in 2006, is screenwriter Mike Rich’s and director Catherine Hardwicke’s evocative filmic retelling of Jesus’ conception and birth, told mostly from Mary’s perspective.  I was thoroughly impressed by the quality acting, cinematography, and musical score, all of which helped create an immersive viewing experience, one that enriched my understanding of what it would have been like to have been a Jew living at the turn of the first millennium in Palestine and to have witnessed the greatest condescension of history—that of the Almighty God reaching down to fallen humanity by incarnating himself as a baby in a feeding trough.  This film is not one of those flat, low-budget flicks with superficiality and schmaltz dripping from every line, every movement.  No, this film has a pulse; it boasts a truthful realism, made all the more real because of its high production values.  And it evokes emotion without being sentimental.  The tone is solemn and reverent, but the wise men provide comic relief, and the central characters are rounded enough to sustain the plot’s action. Continue reading

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Marni Nixon: ‘The Ghostess with the Mostess’

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve probably never seen Marni Nixon’s face, but chances are, you’ve heard her voice.  She provided the vocals for the leading ladies of some of Hollywood’s most renowned musicals—Anna (Deborah Kerr) in The King and I, Maria (Natalie Wood) in West Side Story, and Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) in My Fair Lady—yet she never received screen credit. Continue reading

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Beauty in Odd Places

This weekend I found beauty in an exploding apple and a walking artichoke petal.

Allow me to explain:  This weekend, I went to the MIT Museum for the first time and was pleasantly surprised to find the marriage of science and art on display in more than one corner.  I’m talking particularly about the Harold “Doc” Edgerton and Arthur Ganson exhibitions.  These men use(d) their engineering abilities to create an aesthetic—Edgerton, the aesthetic of stop-action photographs, dynamic and immediate and elucidating; and Ganson, the aesthetic of complex machines that propel some random object into simple motion in order to suggest some philosophical truth or, at the very least, to make the viewer feel something. Continue reading

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Jack Black in Colonial Garb

Does this 1768 portrait of Paul Revere (painted by John Singleton Copley) not look just like Jack Black?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mean, really–the resemblance is kind of eerie.

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Stranglings, Salvation, and Syrup Tsunamis… All in a Day’s Walk.

Last weekend I went on a tour of Boston led by Kevin Ford, chaplain for the MIT Graduate Christian Fellowship.  I learned a lot of interesting trivia about the city and even saw some new sights.  Here are a few of the things I learned:

1.   From Three Hills to One:  Boston underwent a massive landfill project in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which greatly redefined its topography.  The original name for Boston was Tremontaine, in honor of the three hills that distinguished its land:  Pemberton, Mt. Vernon, and Beacon.  Pemberton and Mt. Vernon no longer exist; they were flattened in the early 1800s to supply fill for the Back Bay and South End.  The height of Beacon Hill was reduced by half and the New State House built atop its lowered peak, where it still stands today.  The name “Tremont Street” is a reference to Boston’s original tri-mountainous topography. Continue reading

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