20
May
07

In which the writer does not end up beautiful, but has a jolly good exhausting time

So, everything wants to happen on Sundays here. I had my pajama day on Saturday which entailed taking everything out of my drawers and trying to sanitize my dresser with catnip so that roaches would be properly afraid (finding a prickly brown leg mixed in with my turtlenecks, which I’d been meaning to put away, was highly distressing. It’s not my fault, really. I mean, I’m not the neatest person in the world, but there’s nothing in my turtlenecks that a roach should find enticing. My cousin tells me that we’re in a tropical climate, thus, roaches are an inevitability of life. The internet says that catnip deters the brown buggers while humanely [well, perhaps “roachely”] not killing them. So even if spreading catnip sachets into my clothes drawers causes stray cats in my path to go wild with joy [and who am I to deny stray cats their joy?] as I walk past, I am going to do my best to to avoid that particular tropical inevitability of life. The gauntlet has been tossed. The roaches have been warned.)

Unfortunately, my PJ Saturday didn’t mean finishing the process of cleaning and sanitizing EVERYTHING in one fell swoop, though the clothes were all re-washed and the wintery ones packed away. My room looks like something has exploded in it. And for ye who will smirk and mutter that it usually looks like that… well, fie upon ye.

But I was talking about Sunday, well, supposed to be talking about Sunday. I’m sorely sleep-deprived for (as usual) no really good reason, so I’m in babble mode. Forgive me.

The intelligent post on identity and its constructions will have to wait.

So Sunday… There was the scheduled make-over, then there was an invitation to see the British Museum exhibit at the National Palace Museum

(National Palace Museum view from hanging off a railing.)

from my aunt, then there was the photo gathering of friends. Saturday morning, when I was not quite sentient, I thought that I’d somehow join my relatives at 9 AM to see the show, leave them to strut in a show, and then skip off to shoot shots of pretty things (I know, the parallelism has broken, but I’m too tired to create a “show” sort of construction for this last bit that would be vaguely true. This is probably why I’m not a real writer, whatever a real writer would be– probably intelligent and wise and good at cocktail party conversation.)

So, the make-over modeling session was canceled since although it was my friend’s final class, she was called home to her unfortunately unwell parent’s house in Taichung.

So today I woke up to fall asleep on the subway and inhale paygun danbing (bacon in a kind of egg pancake with soy sauce which I’m almost certain my mother would disapprove of, but which is delicious) with my aunt and cousins. Then we plopped into a cab, which then U-turned out of the massive jam going to the National Palace Museum. We strolled through a lovely park with lots of water-lilies and lotuses (the Latin student in me feels obliged to say loti)

in the rain before seeing the umbrella parade. (Can I just say that real-life Lotus is so beautiful– I’d never seen them by daylight before or not in a painting).

Well, not really the umbrella parade.

More like umbrella queue that zig-zagged under the awning by the entrance, circled around the building, and U-turned in the parking-lot, and by the time we got to the awning by the entrance, went all the way up to U-turn on the mountain a bit too.

This was for all of us with tickets bought ahead of time. We started in the parking lot U-turn and had a 90 minute wait. (I ducked out of line and made a little very-bad-guide-to-the-umbrella-line video which proves I’m not meant to be a tour guide.)

Then we went through the exhibition, which was of course crammed with people, and by the end of it, my poor old-lady orthotic-needing feet were highly upset, as were my legs, and I was doing stretches in the corner before turning to see more art.

They directed us to go through the exhibit backwards– probably because it was simply too crowded in the front. I’ve been spoiled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in some ways, I think, because I doubt antiquities and the sheer variety of art from all over the world make it here to Taiwan much. Though I do remember visiting a little museum in Taiwan at some point that had Italian statues and a Stradivarius violin long ago.

It was not an optimal viewing experience– sort of pressed upon all sides by people and the museum had all the tags on the exhibits at the bottom of the cases– so a full set of Native American clothes had all these people crouched in front of it looking at the tag to see where it was made, etc.

Anyway, I saw engravings and drawings by Rembrandt, Durer, Raphael, da Vinci, Goya, etc. I have to say, seeing the drawings for me was quite exciting, because so often, one sees the polished paintings, and not the foundation of the art. The Raphael and the Goya made the most impression on me. The Goya composition was really neat– a split ring with bull-fighters on both sides. The Raphael was a portrait of a woman, and the softness in her face was just very tender.

The African carvings and sculptures were pretty cool. I haven’t seen that much African art, and I found myself wondering what the original context of the plaques were. The modern wooden sculpture from New Zealand had these lovely swirlies all over it. The Indian sculptures of goddesses had a smooth grace and a certain lushness of form. (Forget the wishes to be an octopus so I could hold all of the things I haul around, I want to be one of those goddesses with graceful hands arched all around them like a halo extending power.)

The art from Northern Iraq– especially the pen holder of silver and gold embedded in intricate designs with smooth curves– made me mourn for the work destroyed and looted during the invasion of Iraq. It’s such a loss. People devote huge chunks of their lives to make something beautiful and meaningful for others, and in the blinding stupidity of war, which is after all the destructive impulse counter to the creative one, wipe it out in a matter of minutes.

Of course, I think that, and then remember the carefully worked bronze shield, the glorious helmet engraved, and remember that perhaps there is an art in war also. But still…

sigh.

Anyway, we passed by the mummies (and as beautiful as mummies are– they always inspire me to want to be an Egyptian, well, I suppose a dead Egyptian– it always strikes me as slightly spooky that the dead are on display for us), the ornamental eyes, and the golden Japanese screens.

I maintain that Eos (Cupid) had a rather large feminine derriere. My first glimpse of him from behind all the other people was from the waist down, and I thought he was a girl. Sorry, my art criticism does get better than this and wondering how long the Chinese terracotta warriors took to do their hair and their horses’ hair in the mornings.

Dionysius was magnificent, though a bit serious for a god of wine.

The Brits really did go forth and appropriate marvels from all over the world. There is the thing with museums– they expose tons of people to amazing art they would never otherwise see, but so often at a cost to whomever it belonged to first. I mean, I highly doubt there was an especially fair compensation granted to everyone whose wall is now missing a plaque of goddesses, or whose statue is now missing a Buddha’s head.

Anyway, by the end of the exhibition, which while it was wonderful and worth it, was definitely an endurance test of being on my legs for about six hours straight, I was ready to find a chair and live in it for quite a while, which we did at the cafe.

The National Palace Museum has pretty much all the major Chinese classical art, because the Communists destroyed most everything else during the Cultural Revolution. However, the cafe serves expensive western food. “Cindrella Beef “was delicious, but I’d have thought we’d get something a bit more, well… Chinese — you know, preferably served in a colorfully glazed bowl.

After I flung my corn on the cob on the floor (corn on the cob perched on a fork is difficult!) by accident, we polished our plates and headed to the main museum.

I really wish I’d had time and a sketchbook with me. I saw the pearl finnial of a king’s crown, the justly famous jade cabbage— one piece of jade encompasses all the colors, and the ornate stationery sets of kings, complete with carved brush holders (this one too), ink stones, etc.. There were also the tiny tiny miniatures, like this olive pit and the engraved ivory boxes complete with tea sets that are about the size of grape seeds.

We didn’t see all of the museum, but it is a wonderful collection, and if you go to Taipei without seeing it, you have to come back.

Of course, my legs were teetery tottery blobs of painful lead by the time we strolled to supper at a wedding banquet restaurant, which was mostly empty, though the chairs wore their silken covers proudly, the fabric still festooned the ceiling, and the pool sipped up the raindrops. We managed not to get stung by a hornet interested in our meal, and I managed to squirt shrimp brains all over my shirt.

By this point, I had to give up on meeting up with my fellow photographers, which was quite sad as next month promises to be frantically busy too.

However, hanging out with my relatives was relaxing and fun as usual. They have really gone out of their way to include me in their fun excursions, and I appreciate it so much.

Okay, I’m really going to sleep at a quasi-decent hour, and I’ve wittered on much too much. Forgive me. I meant to post about the dangers of excess echo in KTV, finding a place to be, and something about waiting in line and quirkiness…. That will have to wait, along with the explosion of drawers which is covering all horizontal surfaces of my room at the moment. I’ll just have to sleep thinking that the catnip will protect us (me and my explosion of stuff) from the roaches. I do believe in catnip… I do believe in catnip… I do, I do, I do, I do believe in catnip…

(Note: I’ve linked liberally to the National Palace Museum website here– there’s still more of course, that I’ve left out. If I’ve messed up any links due to my sleep-deprived wonkiness, sorry–just let me know.)

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