Postcard from Rome, Italy: Following Pink Floyd down the rabbit hole

He slipped on his headset and headed off through the swirling psychedelic lights. Egged on by the pied piper (“…at the Gate of Dawn”) playing in his ears, the Mister eagerly followed Alice traipsing down a rabbit hole of a time machine to his high school days.

Pink Floyd definitely was not on our minds when planning our daily agendas in Rome. In fact, if you had asked me, I could not have recalled when Pink Floyd was last on my mind.

But there we were. All comfortably fed and wined after a nice lunch. Standing at the door of MACRO, Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Roma. And there it was. The ticket counter for “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains,” fresh from its debut at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

We considered walking away. The price tag for entry to the half-century retrospective was double that for most museums in Rome. And Pink Floyd? Fifty years of Pink Floyd?

But, then again, maybe we needed a vacation break from all those churches, ancient sculpture and Renaissance art. And other tourists.

Standing in the lobby, this exhibit certainly resonated loudly as a major escape. So we paid up and donned our headsets and started wandering back to sounds not heard since much more youthful days.

Five minutes in, even I was happy we had. I never had any Pink Floyd albums of my own and was surprised to be reminded of how much of their music was playing in the background of my world during the 1970s and 1980s.

The sound system was amazing; completely absorbing you; shifting as you wandered to different points in the exhibit at your own pace; fading in and out pleasantly, not abruptly. It left you free to move back and forth at will, and the Mister and I, while never standing more than 15 feet apart, structured two entirely different agendas.

We both watched portions of concerts, but the Mister parked himself in front of guitars, amps, mixers, and soundboards, growing increasingly more complex through the years the band played. I assume he was listening to soundtracks from albums on which they were used.

On the other hand, I was drawn to the stories. Interviews about Syd Barrett’s mental illness leading to his expulsion from the band in 1968; about songwriting; about album design; about set design for concerts. All were fascinating.

We stayed in the time machine for about three hours and easily could have slowed our pace. So, quick. Hop on a plane to Rome. You have until May 20th to catch the exhibit there.

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines. Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.

“Time”/”Breathe,” Roger Waters, Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Surrounded by sounds of entertainment

Anyone longing for a bit of live music can simply stroll to the Zocalo in the heart of Oaxaca almost any time of day. Student orchestras and the full state band perform regularly, often challenged by street musicians trolling for tips nearby. Guitars, flutes, marimbas, horns, accordions. Wedding parties parade around town on weekends followed by bands and dancers.

The Zocalo attracts couples who have danced together for years, hardly needing a nudge from partners to stay completely in step executing the most complicated maneuvers of traditional danzones. But the youthful exuberance encountered on a Friday night in Parque El Llano was a refreshing hoot. The high heels and tennis shoes in the photo above managed to partner up for dancing at the end-of-the-week party.

But who brought on the clowns? Clowns increasingly amplified with wireless microphones. People of all ages crowd around, laughing and applauding as on cue.

This enduring affection for street performers clowning around is found throughout Europe. It never translates into anything close to amusing for me.

I grew up laughing over Bozo the Clown and the Three Stooges. How did I get so jaded?

Clowns make me frown, but music makes me smile.

Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: ‘Creating with thumb, hand, head and heart versus robotics’

The odalisque-type figures lolling about on the pastel mosaic friezes of the Budapest Hall of Art appear idle, but the creative Hungarians whose minds envisioned items featured in the 2017 National Salon obviously have been working overtime during the past decade.

The salon we viewed in May, “All Around Us,” was organized around eight applied art and design areas. According to Erno Sara and Joszef Sherer, curators of the exhibition:

“The Art of Everyday Life, Inevitable Design” – we could add as an explanation, and as a subtitle in some cases. Both the title and the subtitle are accurate, since the displayed materials comprise artworks we live with, artworks that are part of our everyday life, objects that we use and that contribute to our everyday comfort….

Our material culture is characterized by explosive attitudinal and technological development…. Archaic techniques and futuristic concepts meet in a warm embrace here…. The futile opposition of Craft and Design are replaced in this exhibition by the nature and possibilities of their mutual interaction.

The architectural designs lining the streets of Budapest reflect a culture reverent of the importance of adding appealing embellishments. But Gyorgy Szego, the artistic director of the hall formally named Mucsarnok – Kunsthalle Budapest, sounds an alarm for the future:

Somewhat more than 150 years ago, the relation between objects and people became a key civilizational issue. Since then, with the exception of “periods of grace…,” creative masters making and using their own tools have been forced on the defensive. The vectors of the curve describing this trend point in the direction of robotisation in an ever-widening scope of products. Resolving the conflict that exists between machine and man, technology and nature has to this day been a recurring, heroic and convulsive challenge faced by architecture and the applied arts….

How can we continue if artificial intelligence overwrites everything? Will the thousands-of-years-old practice of creating with thumb, hand, head and heart versus robotics eventually bring about the end of human existence?

We both had our favorites. I so can picture this cheerful green cocktail pontoon lazily cruising in the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River. Or a spa or little sunbathing pontoon smoothly sailing out of a landing by Hotel Emma. The pontoon boats are electric, so they would be extremely quiet on their relaxing journeys. The collection was designed by Zoltan Peredy.

The Mister, on the other hand, was drawn to Peter Uveges’ metal and glass guitars. The slide and fretless guitars are designed to be particularly appropriate for playing the Delta blues.

Unfortunately, the explanations of his designs are in Hungarian, but the instruments speak for themselves:

During our wanderings throughout our stay in Budapest, the human element in design and invention seems well engrained in and safeguarded for the future by Hungarian culture.