Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Benefit and the CBD

Last weekend we spent Saturday evening helping to end Genocide and Sunday being a bit more self-indulgent. SKIF sponsored a benefit using music to raise awareness about the Genocide taking place in Darfur. The closing act was none other than 10/2 Goathlands very own Adi Diner who was upstaged only by a member of the local Sudanese community sharing his story. Adi played a few tunes in line with the theme of the evening, including Stevie Wonder’s “Saturn” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

Earlier in the day we’d attended a 1st birthday party for a friend of his’ daughter and another HS friend of his- not a SKIF person-, when told of Adi’s plans for the evening said, “What’s Darfur?” I was personally shocked. You don’t have to read a paper cover-to-cover to be aware of this horrific situation that has been going on for over 6 years. And this guy isn’t an idiot—he went to the same magnet school as Adi so that should count for something. Adi retold the story- much less judgementally than I have, and acknowledged that clearly awareness still needs to be raised.

The speaker from the Sudanese community went out of his way to thank the Jewish community. With Melbourne’s Jewish community being predominantly made up of survivors, there is a heightened sense of urgency about this situation amongst them. While the small benefit raised only $700 it was nice to do some small part to help.

And at the Russian Bar we went to after the gig I even felt moderately guilty about the $17 (!) chocolate decadent martini I had, but since my friend Helen bought it for me, isn’t it really her that’s the decadent one? (thanks, Hels)

Sunday was much more about us then the greater good of the world. After all, it’s exhausting to spend too much time making the world a better place, so Sunday we focused on appreciating the culture of Melbourne. I’d been kvetching of late that we never did anything “Melbourne-y”…how many of you regularly take advantage of the cultural offerings of the place you live? (Boulderites, you are excluded from the conversation since I know you all probably went running this very morning before going for a bike ride and climb! Unless you’re reading this blog from your I-phone as you hang off of a rock wall!)

In any case, I wanted to see some of the excitement that the city has to offer. Adi’s original plan to visit a seaside town was cancelled by Mother Nature so instead we hit the CBD. Our first stop was the National Gallery of Victoria. This museum has two parts- one focusing on Australian art, the other with an International focus. Adi had never been to either so we hit the international one. One interesting note is that the museum is a bit of a misnomer now. It began before Australia was unified in -oh I don't know, but it was after the first world war I think! So at the time, it was Victoria’s National Gallery. Since Victoria is no longer a nation, it should technically be called the state gallery but that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. In fact, the State Gallery of Victoria sounds almost as though the art has been committed and is being held against its will.

The building is unique, with right angled escalators and cut outs in the wall as well as a huge stained glass ceiling. Given that it was built prior to the new push to house museums in destination works of art, I found it pleasing and less of a forced architectural entity. The collection itself is a bit eclectic. In the ‘European Art of the 19th and 20th Century’ room, for example, a Matisse is hung by a Manet which is next to a Rothko and then a Lichtenstein. Because the museum isn’t’ particularly well-funded—even by the poor funding standards museums have- it seems that when a piece by someone famous is available, they grab it. The result is a bit of a hodge-podge without much cohesion.

That said, I still enjoyed the parts I enjoy- notably impressionism and abstract expressionism, because I am not a very smart art person. I got annoyed by the post-modernist BS…in particular, a group of plywood letters, painted black and arranged to read “Infiltrating the Living Room of the Bourgeoisie”. This has inspired me to create a companion piece called “The Self-Indulgent Problem of Post-Modernism.” I think I’ll make a fortune.

After seeing about 2/3rd of the museum, we’d exhausted the cultural part of our brains and took our leave, guilt-free since there was no charge. I pointed out that we could return at any time and Adi’s reaction seemed to indicate that it would be at least another 27 years before he did so. And this is a guy who likes museums!

The weather had cleared a bit so we walked up the road, slowly due to Adi’s over-exertion at Squash earlier in the day. We headed for Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance which, unlike the museum, Adi had been to previously. The last time he was in High School in a marching band. Feel free to mock him for being a band geek here.

The Shrine was built after the First World War and is dedicated to all those who have served in Australia’s three branches of the military: The Royal Australian Air Force, The Royal Navy and The Australian Armed Forces. Or something like that. The important thing to remember is that these are kids who were serving at the request of a Monarchy a half a world away.

The Shrine include the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and an eternal flame and a museum showing all the different medals and such. Apparently anyone who has ever served for Australia is written in some book there. Lucky for them, they can close the book on Iraq since their Prime Minister has brought home his troops. Some pillars recount all the places various branches served during World War II, and it’s not the places we generally hear about. Such battlefields as Borneo, Singapore and Malaysia factored in heavily to their military story.

Our day of site-seeing complete, we made our way back to the CBD, towards Chinatown) or China lane as I call it because it is so compact) to Camy’s, our favourite dumpling spot. As we walked past federation square, the final remnants of the weekends’ Industrial Design Expo beckoned, so Adi grabbed a seat to watch the giant outdoor screen footy game and I took a look at the plastic pods displaying the ideas of the next generation.

My favourite was the emergency housing that could be transformed into permanent housing, for victims of disasters. So what starts as a canvas shelter at a disaster site is easily covered with timber to become a permanent dwelling in a relocated space in the after-math of the disaster. I’m sure there are folks in Myanmar and China who could use these now (unless they’re all housed and cared for at this point. Given how much news coverage they are all still receiving, that must be the case!)

Finally, we made it to Camy’s where we ordered way too much food. I’ll spare you the details as my mother has complained that no one cares what I eat…but trust me when I say it was really yummy, especially the pumpkin cakes!

It was a good weekend, made even sweeter by some huge sports victories…2 out of 3 at Fenway AND the Bombers beat our Red Sox-like rival, Collingwood in our match!

Enjoy the photos!

Smiling, Adi sings about a wonderful world. But it isn't :-)

Adi is in front of the wall of water

I smell the fresh flower in the statues hand...he was a great Australian army doc but I forget his name.
The pathway to the Shrine of Remembrance

A view of the Yarra River and the MCG.. the Melbourne Cricket Ground (footy happens there too) which holds 100,000 fans!

One of the plastic pods displaying the design show ideas.


Anonymous said...

Your story about the post-modernism in the museum made me laugh! And I don't think you have to be a "smart art person" to have an opinion on what sucks - I would wholeheartedly agree with you. :) Glad you had a fun , well-rounded and busy weekend! Hope you're staying warm too.

Jennifer B. Saunders said...

Seeing as we have nothing like a Chinatown in Columbus I would be interested in knowing what you ate at Camy's. That way I could live vicariously through you!
Jennifer Saunders Forman

Sheryl said...

Why thank you Jen (are you Jen or Jenny or Jennifer these days...I feel like in HS you were that right?)

Since you asked...Adi enjoyed a small order of fried prok dumplings which I declined, choosing instead the mushroom and scallion steamed dumplings for myself. We also had rice cake with vegetables..the rice cake is not the styrofoamy thing you think of here, more like a gooey, gelatinous type substance that is really tasty, served with veggies in a sweetish sauce (not Swedish, rather a sauce with some sweetness). We also had red bean buns, which were sort of sweet and savoury together- a fluffy warmed bun with a red bean paste inside. And then the pumkin cakes, which are quarter siezed dollops of lightly fried dumplings with a dusting of sugar on top. yum!

And Mazel Tov on the wedding too!

Jennifer B. Saunders said...

Mmm Thanks! Always Jennifer - never Jen or Jenny.

Leslie said...

What's worse: marching band or majorettes?

Feel free to make fun of Steph. I might even be able to dig up a "classy" photo of her in sequins.

Great to see you happy and well! Besos from London. -Leslie T.-

Sarita Bonita said...

Totally random question... how did you set up your blog so we get emails each time you post... or do you send emails each time you post?