DC Pride in rainbow colors

Flags, fans, ribbons at DC Pride

Okay, I’m way late on this. But the Washington DC’s Pride parade was so fun, then scary, that I let weeks slide by. Spoiler: one pix has naked male buns. You are warned.

If you watched the poor television coverage of the Parade on June 8th (I’m a former journalist so I can bitch about them), you’d think the fear spread by the semi-accurate rumor about a gun was all that happened. I can tell you, that’s not true. Whether you were gay or straight as I am, the march was joyful.

It was a parade full of friendly folks, armed with ear-splitting whistles (honestly, who thought that was a good idea?), glitter, and wings. The participants were big on throwing beads, a la Mardi Gras and stickers The corporate participants handed out ice water (thank you, Giant Food).

Marriott float at DC Pride

Churches came with their floats. The Gay Mens Chorus of D.C. marched by.

I did what I usually do – wander through the set-up areas, then try to find a place along the route. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the long linked fencing, so I ended up with the photo journalists, staying out of their way while taking pictures.

The Parade started with military flags. Local politicians went by. Then international: Costa Rica, the EU, the South Asian community, Ireland, Nordic countries. The UK had a stunning float. They also had military officers leading their group.

UK military march at DC Pride parade

Good will abounded. I caught the eye of one of the Aussie contingent who bounded over and gave me a big hug.

Float after float went by. A magnificent ‘woman’ with rainbow hair. The Caribbean man, full of joy. The watchers held out their hands for beads. The story is more in the pictures so I’ll let the images tell it.

From the Caribbean with Pride

Magnificent rainbow of Pride

Mid-Atlantic Leather at Pride

I ran out of power in two camera batteries, so I headed for the Metro to go home. All was fine. I was exhausted, dehydrated, sore back, sore feet. I took the escalator down to the platform.

Then came the gun scare. I held on to the handrail with a death grip because a flash flood of panicked Pride watchers tore past us at a fast run down the stairs.  I thought the escalator might break and stop. I knew that if I let go and was swept along, I’d end up hurt. It was not as if you could be prepared for this. You could smell the fear. Longest ride to the platform that I’ve ever taken.

Got home safely, drank lots of water and watched the repetitive coverage of the parade which was all about the panic, and nothing about the joy.

What a pity.

Balloons and confetti at DC Pride

 

 

 

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The Long Arc of Tony Stark and me

Iron Man costumes at the Marvel Universe of Super Heroes exhibit 

In the last few weeks, endless rivers of words have been written about the Avengers and Iron Man who is really Tony Stark, in particular. What can I add now?

Longevity. I’ve been involved with Stark for decades.

When living abroad in the early 1970s, I spent my time outside of school reading about the Revolutionary War, constructing WWI airplane models, and spending my small allowance on comic books.

One of the series I always bought was The Invincible Iron Man.

I fell hard for Iron Man‘s billionaire eccentric Tony Stark as only a teenage girl could, skipping over his numerous personal flaws, and wishing that the comic books had less about fighting bad guys in an iron suit, and more about the man.

Little did I know that 30+ years later, I’d get my wish.

The flamboyant intelligent playboy who’d captured my interest was brought to life by Robert Downey Jr, an actor with his own complicated past. While there was a lot of jetting around in a suit, the story centered around the fictional man.

Over the 22 movies of the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) that stretched from 2008 to 2019, Stark evolved into a much more interesting man than in the comics. Starting as a practical, but narcissistic man who is summed up in a classified Avengers file as “volatile,” “self-obsessed” and “doesn’t play well with others,” he ages into a man whose brilliance is intent on protecting his family and friends even if his plans are very risky.

In the beginning in 2008, Stark thought he was an Iron Man, invulnerable and arrogant.

The creators of the movie Stark used so many of the distinctive touches from the comics. The handsome, rich playboy was also an alcoholic in one of the most powerful series, Demon in the Bottle, which came out in 1979 when I was a page clean-up girl at Marvel. His drinking problem was part of Iron Man 2.

By the end in 2019, he was a man who just desperately wanted to keep what little he’d managed to salvage after an universal war.

In 2008, our newswire sent reporters and photographers to cover the Afghanistan war. Iron Man‘s opening scene is an attack on a U.S. patrol over there. As I ate popcorn and watched the backdrop and dangers seemed familiar.

While covering the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls for our newswire, Iron Man infiltrated my interviews. Talking to the head of the University of Chicago’s Asian Institute about Jones, we ended up talking about the then-upcoming Iron Man movie. He complemented me on seeing my hero come to life. I laughed.

Reflections of him kept popping up in my life. Who hasn’t worked with someone like Stark in their office? Handsome, self-absorbed, arrogant… I can say from personal experience that it’s exciting to be around someone like that but he’s extremely high maintenance. After the first decade or so, he’s irritating rather than attractive.

In Avengers: Infinity War, Stark goes to fight the evil Thanos on Titan… and fails. His protege, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is turned to dust as are 50% of life forms in the universe when Thanos snaps his gloved hand. Stark is devastated. He failed to protect anyone, and is stranded on an alien planet.

After being returned to Earth by Captain Marvel in Avengers: Endgame, he retires, hiding until the remaining Avengers ask for his help. Despite turning them down initially, he ends up finding the solution and joins in the quest for the Infinity Stones that will reverse the snap.

The Stark of the first movie would have done it for the ultimate challenge, or because he wanted to prove that he was the most powerful of the Avengers. 22 movies later, the practical engineer has nothing to prove to anyone. All he wants to do is try to keep his family alive… and save the universe.

That’s what he does with a snap of his fingers encased in a gauntlet embedded with the Infinity Stones. Stark saves them all. The dead of the first snap return, Thanos and his minions are turned to dust. A happy ending.

But, as the incredible power of the Stones chars his body, Tony Stark dies.

That teenager reader of The Invincible Iron Man in me was confused – he lost again? The woman I am now saw it as a bittersweet, but appropriate end for a flawed hero.

Stark’s memorial brings together all the people and heroes he touched. His original mechanical heart is set adrift on a funeral wreath on the lake outside his retreat. Avengers: Endgame winds up the stories of the original Avengers and show the way for the younger ones. (Hello, Spider-Man: Far From Home.

The survivors mourn their dead and move on with life.

Stark’s death nagged at me though. Even an adult, I was confused at my lingering sadness. It was just a comic book character from long ago who I’d enjoyed reading along with X-Men and Spider-Man. Why should it matter?

It mattered because the MCU and Downey brought to life a far more complicated character than the inked drawings on now-brittle yellow paper. The films concentrated on the human elements that I looked for all those decades ago. It was right to mourn someone that had I’d spent a long time with even if he was only a piece of fiction that ensnared a teenager’s imagination, and later brought to life by a talented actor on the movie screen.

So, I toast you with a non-alcoholic glass of Seltzer water and strawberry shrub.

“Goodbye, Tony. Rest in peace. It’s been a good run for us both.”

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Memories of Easter include chainmail & lilies

Lilies at the National Gallery of Art

Easter Lilies at the National Gallery of Art

Easter is what you make of it.

Over a lifetime you collect memories of Easter, many of them with friends and family. They may or may not included costumes, swords, pirates and/or stringing cables for masquerades.

As a child abroad, there were special moments such as the giant, to a seven-year-old, solid chocolate rabbit that my mother got from a White Russian woman who sold them in Hong Kong. Another year I discovered the truth about the Easter Bunny when its helpers overslept, and the basket was empty.

I remember hunting colored eggs with my friends. One of them later was murdered during hitchhiking in the 1970s. I still have a picture of her at the hunt though, so she lives forever.

As a teenager, my high school friends started the science fiction group, and were also theater people. Instead of going to church, we went to the local SF convention, Balticon, which coincided with Easter.

Listening to Celtic music at Balticon in the 1970s

At those early conventions in the 1970s, things were simple. You could toss a cape over your arm, pretend you were King Arthur, and be generally accepted. You could also learn to sew, figure out how to make a gown, and pretend you were out of a Tolkien book or Roger Zelezny’s “Amber” series or whoever you were reading. Everyone spoke the universal language of SF and/or fantasy literature.

One memory from the 1980s is of seeing the young girls in their frocks and flowers dancing down the hallway of the Hunt Valley Inn while on the other side chain mail clad barbarians carrying axes and looking totally exhausted went by. Both sides were happy.

This was decades before “Game of Thrones” made fur cloaks and swords popular in the mainstream.

Conventions was often the only time I saw so many friends who enriched my life to this day. The convention moved Balticon to Memorial Day and another hotel, and I stopped going.

It took another twenty years and a career in journalism to manage to spark another Easter memory. In 2014, the McClatchy newswire allowed me to do an article and a video on the Easter lilies of the National Gallery of Art. During the winter the NGA has an inside garden. After Easter, the fountain with mercury is barren until fall. Here’s the Changing of the Lilies.

 

 

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Coming this April strong women abound on SF and Fantasy screens

Shuri, the brilliant sister of the Black Panther

Captain Marvel. Wonder Woman. Princess Leia.  Shuri. Natasha Romanoff the Black Widow. Mon Mothma. Okoye. Arya Stark, Elsa, Maz Kanata.  In the last decade, there has been an explosion of strong women in movie and television’s science fiction/fantasy genre.

(I started this piece in 2017 when it was announced that Jodie Whittaker would take over the mantle of the BBC’s Doctor Who. I never published it because it wasn’t quite ready. Now it is.)

Wonder Woman made 821 million in 2017. In 2016, Mad Max: Fury Road ended up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in charge. It was nominated, but lost, for Best Movie at the Academy Awards. Numerous women in HBO’s Game of Thrones have come into their own. Disney gave us the young princess Moana and the regal Elsa in Frozen. We’ve come a long way.

In the early 200os, I was part of an online Star Wars group that bemoaned the absence of women in the universe. I finally asked them what they wanted if they could talk to the marketers. They had no answer. They couldn’t imagine what they’d want for themselves; they only wanted tee shirts for their daughters. Skip fifteen years, and the moms have a number of sources of merchandise for themselves as well as their girls.

The animated series,  the 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, gave young girls a role model in Ahsoka Tano, the apprentice to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. When Disney bought Star Wars, and rebooted the movies with a female protagonist, Rey, in The Force Awakens, (2015) they opened that world to women (beyond Princess Leia). Star Wars: Rebels (2014) gave us Hera Syndulla the pilot and leader of the spaceship Ghost who supports the Rebellion.

Rey’s costume from Awesome Con, 2018

The Force Awakens gave us Rey, the strong athletic young woman whose story would lead us forward in the Saga. The stand alone film, Star Wars: Rogue One, has Jyn Orso, daughter of the Death Star’s creator, who leads a team  to find the plans for the Death Star to get them to Princess Leia and the Rebellion. Unfortunately, she dies.

Since 1963, Doctor Who has been a man for his last 12 regenerations, (an opportunity to switch the lead actor.) Changes came to the series when in 2014, his eternal enemy, The Master, showed up in a female incarnation, Missy. Now the Doctor is Jodie Whittaker.

Now for a dose of realism. Why the “sudden interest” in women? It’s not just only the protests of younger generations for equality. It’s that marketers see women as those who will buy, not only for their children, but for themselves. The actress who voiced Tano in The Clone Wars, Ashley Eckstein, started her own clothing and jewelry company, Her Universe, to provide women with fannish clothing, something that men had had for decades.

What does this mean for the future? Hopefully more strong women. I define “strong” in that she leads by example, whether or not she’s the lead character. Her actions leads new generations to admire and seek to emulate her.

We will always have Princess Leia, Imperator Furiosa, Dana Scully, Elsa, Carol Danvers. The future looks bright. So many others yet to be revealed.

Carry on!

A Rey cosplayer looks up at Princess Leia at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s celebration of Star Wars

Posted in 2019, Fantasy, Marvel Cinematic Universe, movies, Star Wars, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make time for the Empresses of China

An Imperial dragon robe made in the mid-1700s of silk and metallic-wrapped threads.

“The only person the Emperor would bow to is his mother,” says Jan Stuart, the Melvin R. Seiden Curator of Chinese Art at the Freer Gallery of Art.

That is real power.

Along with co-curator Daisy Yiyou Wang of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, Stuart spent over four years working with the Palace Museum in Beijing to bring intimate items of the elite women to the new exhibit, “Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644-1912.” They give insight into the opulent, but restricted, lives of the mothers, wives, and consorts of the Ching dynasty.

Opening March 30th at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in D.C., the exhibit is timely as this is the 40th anniversary of the resumption of relations between China and U.S. “Empresses” runs through June 23rd, 2019.

Women’s stories are not a large part of Chinese history unless associated with a man whose life was well chronicled.

“Empresses” chose to center on five different Empresses who affected or ruled the vast Chinese empire. They’re remember as Xiaozhuang, Chonquin, Xiaoxian, Ci’an and Cixi.

In 1644, the northern nomadic Manchu tribes overthrew the Ming dynasty. The Ching dynasty set up their capital in Beijing and ruled until the 20th century.

While an Emperor could have many wives as he liked in his eight ranks of consorts, there was only ever one Empress at a time. They all came from the Manchu elite.

A newly married Empress arrives at the Forbidden City

The first, Empress Xiaozhuang (1613-1688), helped promote the Tibetan Buddhism within China.

One of the ways to rise amid the ranks was to provide the Emperor a son. The Empress Dowager Chongquin (1693-1777)  was a palace servant who had a boy who became emperor. He adored and respected her to the end of her days – and beyond.

The 15-year-old Emperor married his childhood sweetheart, the Empress Xiaoxian (1712-1748.) After she died at 36, her husband wrote a long poem about his lasting sorrow at her loss. While he had other wives, none ever took her place in his heart.

The last two Empresses were a collaboration of generations. Childless Empress Dowager Ci’an (1837-1881) helped raise a boy born to a lower level consort, named Cixi. They served as co-regents until Ci’an died. Cixi was the de-facto ruler through the next generations of emperors.

Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) is probably best known Chinese empress known to the West through her encounters with the British and the Americans. She reigned until 1908.

Cixi painted by Katharine Cole, American painter

It is Cixi who dominates the exhibit since her long reign stretched into the 20th century. Entering the exhibit, you see a huge portrait in a camphor wood frame.

Painted by an American woman, Katharine A. Carl, it was  exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair. The painting was later given to President Theodore Roosevelt.

The exhibit’s last image, of Cixi, is from a glass negative photograph from the Freer collection.

The Ching Dynasty was overthrown in 1911 with the last Emperor, Puyi, abdicating in 1912.

The items on display all tell more than one story.  Embroidered birds, butterflies, dragons and other details all have deeper meanings in Chinese symbolism.

The phoenix is the king of birds and a symbol of the Empress. The peony is “king of flowers” said Stuart, meaning royalty among other things.

Everyone knew their place at the Ching court. Their clothing showed exactly what their rank and importance.

Peony embroidered on an Imperial robe

The ancestor painting of Empress Xiaoxian shows her dressed in imperial robes and a phoenix-adorned headdress. Three sets of pearl earrings dangle from her ears as a symbol of her royal state. Normally women were only permitted to wear one earring in each ear.

Empress Xiaoxian with pearl earrings

Empress Cixi knew the power of symbolism. Her platform shoes not only displayed the  symbols for longevity but have imperial phoenixes on the tips.

Empress Dowager Cixi’s shoes with phoenix heads

Jan Stuart speaks in front of the Empress Xiaozhuang scroll 

In contrast, two hundred years earlier, the  Empress Xiaozhuang is dressed in a simple brown robe. Her throne has dragons and phoenixes which indicated a satisfying, happy marriage. Her long sleeves have “horse hoof” style cuffs, mandated for Manchu royalty.

 

 

 

The exhibit is not all scrolls and paintings. The  athletic Manchus enjoyed hunting.

Hunting scroll with Emperor and woman companion

Socks and pair of riding boots from the late 1600s show details not seen in public. The patterns on the white socks are made by peacock feather filaments  wound around silk threads.

Silk and peacock feather embroidered socks for hunting

Two stunning hats have vibrant blue kingfisher feathers. One has small vibrating phoenixes with pearls and flowers.

Kingfisher feathers and pearls adorn an Imperial hat

Another hat has sable fur, red feathers and a towering set of metal and pearl phoenixes.

Court hat with phoenixes and red feathers

The impressive gold dragon seal of the last Empress of China, Xiaoke, was so heavy that it was left behind when she fled the palace in 1922.

It’s the personal items that humanize the women of the painted scrolls. Cixi had a small massage roller for getting rid of wrinkles. The small black and gold traveling case stands open showing small drawers and an elaborately carved mirror stand.

The exhibit’s book, “Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644-1912,” is outstanding. It is worth reading every detail, from the authors’ notes to the captioning. The color plates show clearly what the low-light of the exhibit does not. There is no flash photography allowed.

Women are getting their due this year. This is one of three exhibits on the East Coast centering around women. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has an exhibit centering around 1000-year old novel, “The Tale of Genji“. The National Geographic Society has an exhibit of Queens of Egypt.

“Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 164-1912”, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., March 30-June 23, 2019

Blue robe with porcelain embroidery

 

Posted in 2019, Asian art, Freer Gallery of Art, Sackler Museum, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Super Bowl notes

I actually wrote this during last night’s Super Bowl but I decided to transfer it here. Kind of fun doing what I occasionally used to do in a newsroom, but, now, I can have *opinions.*

Here’s the Avengers: Endgame Trailer #2. Spoiler: Downbeat.

New Captain Marvel ad for film coming out early March. I already have my ticket.

Update #24: And that is that. For the first time I was rooting for the Patriots because I didn’t feel the Rams won legit. Good luck for next year. And CBS or NFL? Cut the internal reporters mike feed please? I can hear them being crushed.

Update #23: Another T-Mobile text ad. Oh, the Wpost Journalist ad. So proud of having been a journalist, so heartbreaking to see Austin again, #FreeAustinTice, in a video I hadn’t seen before. I am now sniffing.

Update #22: Another Michelob ad. (I don’t drink. I have to Google the spelling of all these beer companies to get them right.) Ad proclaiming that young girls might be football players and should have the chance. Blink?

Update #21: Okay, I love that Alexa ad. The fountain gets me every time. Worth searching out for a link. And Harrison Ford, 76, still Hot!

Update #20: Burger King brings back Andy Warhol? Boy, whose the audience (other than people my age… uh….) who recognized him? Oh, the Budweiser horses with Dylan and “Blowing in the wind” proclaiming the beer’s brewed by wind power. Cute.

Update #19: Huge push for inclusion of all kinds of kids with the Microsoft ad. ANOTHER Bud Light medieval corn syrup ad. Oh, why? Don’t care. Oh, wait = the NCGA National Corn famers unhappy with dissing on corn syrup. Whatever. They can put the corn back in ethanol. Second heart-tugger ad on First Responders. Sniff.

Update #18: I guess after this year’s bad press (Moonves), CBS is trying to remind you of its greatest hits. Comcast ad on their advances in technology.

Update #17: Amazon new series: Hanna looks interesting. New sneakers look cool – Sketchers. More Bud Light ads proclaiming they have no corn syrup. I guess this has become a *thing*.

Update #16: Google ad on Military=heart tugging. Very simple. Colgate ad with man-in-your-face? Ugh. Not a good seller for me.

Update #15: Devour foods has at least caught my attention. I’ll recognize the name. NFL players supporting kids, Inspire Change. Good ad. Lots of NFL ads tonight.

Update #15: Oh, lordie, another T-Mobile ad texting. Sigh. Still not changing my phone. Another tech ad Wix.com. Are we back before the Dot.com bubble burst of 2000? Wix.com . Netflix does nature special Our Planet. Another one for togetherness. Robots depressed because they can’t drink Michelob and humans can.

Update #14: KIA Telleride ad is a heart-tugger but why do the water stunt if you have to tell people Not To Do it? Michael Buble for Buble water. Cute.

Update #13: Toyota Supra ad to The Who’s Tommy. Little complicated. ADT wants to protect your house. Alicia Keys for the Grammy Awards — okay. Hewlett Packard is out to simplify your IT life by banishing a huge red monster. Ok. Redfin wants to sell your house. Xfinity wants to protect your house. There are many PROTECT YOUR HOME electronically adverts.

My take on Halftime? I enjoyed the classic style with more emphasis on the singing and music than Spectacular Performances.

Update #12: Okay the NFL 100 ad was fun even if I recognized only 2 of the numerous players. (Here’s the behind the scenes video)  Time for Half-time!

Update#11: CBS has decided to push all their shows before the half-time show. Local ads. Yellow Tail wine ad playing it safe.

Update #10: Turbotax robot is just… weird. Stella Artois with star actors. Seen it before. Sprint ad with bigger robots and a mermaid. Wouldn’t make me change to Sprint. Lebron James & new TV show ad.

Update #9: MintMobile with chunky milk takes me back to the ads of the early digital era and all those start-ups that failed. 2001, anyone? Norwegian cruise lines=normal ad. Oh, wow. Young Spock for Star Trek: Discovery. Hotness!

Update #8: Toni Harris football player ROCKS for the Toyota Rav-4 upcoming hybrid. Planters automobile cashew was… uh, interesting. Hi Charlie Sheen!

Update #7: Mercedes wish-fulfillment ad was notable for the handsome lead. Persil spent a lot on their cleaning ad. Suitable for daytime TV. T-Mobile/Taco Bell text/twitter/ho-hum.

Update #6: Just saw the third ad supporting worldwide togetherness, this time from Google. The others: Audi ad with guy meeting grandpa and getting a car while choking on a cashew was poor because you had to wait until the end to find out what it was advertising.

Update #5: Game of Thrones meets Bud Light knight. OMG. Dragon flaming. Toasted knight.

Update #4: Expensify’s ice cold rap ad was – snort! Giggle!
The Rock’s new movie is humor and violence. Hobbs and Shaw.

Update #3: The corn syrup/beer ad was really cute. The sparkling water mermaids of Spiked Selzer was fun but having the fish come out behind the tails gave the impression that they were passing gas. Unfortunate. The Doritos ad was uninspiring.

Update #2: Turkish Airlines was interesting. Created by film director, Ridley Scott. Personally, I flew that airline and they were wonderful.

Update #1 ads: Liked the Serena Williams dominance ad; Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale was unnerving which was the point of course.

Current ads: Pizza Hut with Lincoln, obnoxious; Coca-Cola, together is kinda cute.

Blogger note: One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to post one blog every month. Here’s February, but who knows what may come next? Maybe two! 

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Lunch Time in a Furloughed City

For the last 35 days, business and government in Washington D.C. was being held back by a fight between the President and Congress. Finally, the logjam was broken. It’s a pity it was too late for for one of the city’s premiere eating events. Continue reading

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