(2) The other super-exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a sharp contrast: Manet/Velázquez, on view until June 8. Velázquez, Murillo, Zurburán did feel for their subjects. They all seemed much more eager to portray the lives of their models than their anatomical peculiarities. We see the subjects' attitudes, moods and expectations. Then, 200 years later, comes Goya. This was another superb draughtsman, expert in portraying contorted bodies, most notably in the series "The Disasters of War" (scenes from the Spanish resistance to French occupation of Spain under Napoleon) and many others, but with a passion utterly different from Leonardo's. Manet, Degas, even Courbet reinterpreted those passions. And the Americans (Sargent, Whistler, et al.) commodified them. (If you can't get to the show, be sure at least to check out the website.)
(3)Midnight's Children: We caught the last performance at the Apollo Theater on Sunday. Terrific play, in the original sense -- that is, terrifying. We spotted Salman Rushdie himself in the audience, only a few seats away, but we didn't fight through the crowds afterwards to greet him. I don't know what I would have said, other than "I've loved your work." Satanic Verses I especially loved. I never got through the book Midnight's Children, I confess; it's long, and requires close attention to follow, and other things came up to take my attention away from it. Now that I know how it comes out, I want to go back to the book. You can perform a lot more magic on the page than on the stage.
(4)The side benefit of going to the play was that it took us to 125th Street, Harlem's main drag, where before the play we visited one of our favorite places, the Studio Museum in Harlem. The main show, open through June 6, is "Challenge of the Modern: African American Artists 1925-1945." Very, very impressive works by artists famous (van der Zee, Jacob Lawrence) and less famous. Oddly, they include the Cuban, Wifredo Lam (whose name they misspell as "Wilfredo"), but I was happy to see more of his exuberant paintings, whatever the pretext.
Meanwhile, some American military planners are beginning to realize that US military force is not an overwhelming deterrent to rebellion or resistance. Maybe in Washington they should start trying diplomacy -- but that requires listening to the other guy.
In yesterday's NYT (Saturday, March 29, 2003), Dexter Filkins reports a conversation with two American Marine sharpshooters, Sgt. Eric Schrumpf, 28, and Cpl. Mikael McIntosh, 20, at their base camp in southern Iraq.
"We had a great day," Sergeant Schrumpf said. "We killed a lot of people."
Both Marines said they were most frustrated by the practice of some Iraqi soldiers to use unarmed women and children as shields against American bullets. They called the tactic cowardly but agreed that it had been effective.Sgt. Schrumpf tells of seeing an Iraqi soldier standing near some women, and with other men in his unit, opening fire. He saw one of the women "go down."
"I'm sorry," the sergeant said. "But the chick was in the way."Cowardly soldiers, or heroic women? We have seen them before, shielding their men with their bodies against Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland, against the National Guard in the Colorado mine strikes of the 1920s, against the French in Algiers in the 1950s, against American soldiers in Vietnam, and many other places. We are bound to see them again. The chicks and the mamasans and the kids keep getting in the way.