Category Archives: THE ARTS

Book: The Right Stuff

 

Tom Wolfe found out that Navy pilots had a 23 percent chance of dying in accidents. What made them so eager to take the risks, especially the risk of space flight? They have The Right Stuff. Uploaded by nasa.gov.

Every now and again you find an author whose work is both wonderfully entertaining and extraordinarily well written. That was my experience when I found The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. I wasn’t breathlessly waiting for someone to write a book about America’s early space program, so I didn’t rush to read this one. But when I did, I was a Tom Wolfe fan for life.

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The Right Stuff details the exploits of test pilot Chuck Yeager as he endeavored to break speed and altitude records, then transitions to NASA’s Mercury program. The film adapted from this book was good, but Wolfe’s book is so much better. (As is the case for virtually every movie made from a book.)  Wolfe found that Navy pilots had a 23 percent likelihood of dying in an accident. So why were they so eager to become pilots in the first place? Because they had something special inside them — “the right stuff.”

Here’s Wolfe’s explanation of how he came to write The Right Stuff: “This book grew out of some ordinary curiosity. What is it, I wondered, that makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan, or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse? I decided on the simplest approach possible. I would ask a few astronauts and find out.”

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Travel: The Ahwahnee Hotel

 

 

Imagine the task of getting 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 tons of lumber to a remote location - in 1927. Photo by QT Luong, uploaded by terragalleria.com.

As you can see by the tags for this entry, the Ahwahnee Hotel earns its way on this list in several ways. It’s a great hotel, so Travel. It’s been a part of Yosemite National Park Since its creation in 1927, so History. And it’s a combination of the architectural elements of the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts movements, so The Arts.

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The site for the Ahwahnee was chosen because it looks out on several of the most distinctive features of Yosemite, including Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point. It’s constructed of rough-cut granite, and what appears to be wood siding is actually poured concrete stained the color of pine bark and redwood. You can imagine the complexity of getting 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 tons of timber to this remote location in 1927.

As a hotel, this 4-Diamond property provides 99 rooms, parlors, and suites, as well as 24 additional cottages. It offers a range of amenities that almost mock the idea of it being in a national park, from turn-down service to afternoon tea. If you choose to go, be sure and cash out some CDs — the cheapest room for a simple room with no breakfast is over $400…

Screenwriter: William Goldman

 

William Goldman wrote five novels before it ever occurred to him to write screenplays. But when he got started, he did it better than anyone. Uploaded by wga.org.

I have to acknowledge that William Goldman is one of my writing heroes. I found his novels, including Magic and Marathon Man, to be some of the most enjoyable reading I’d ever experienced. And that was before I realized that he was one of the most talented screenwriters in Hollywood history.

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Goldman had five novels published before he wrote his first screenplay. But since that time he’s written some of the best movies of the last half-century. I bet you’ve seen a bunch of them (* indicates adapted from his own novel):

Harper (1966) ——… Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969 – Academy Award) … The Stepford Wives (1975) … The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) … Marathon Man* (1976) … All the President’s Men (1976 – Academy Award) … A Bridge Too Far (1977) … Magic* (1978) … The Princess Bride* (1987) … Misery (1990) … Maverick (1994) … Absolute Power (1997)

In addition, he worked as a script doctor, helping get such movies as A Few Good Men and Last Action Hero into presentable shape. If you can find it, grab a copy of Goldman’s autobiography, Adventures in the Screen Trade. It’s one of the most famous (and honest) “Inside Hollywood” books ever written.

Americana: Amish Quilts

Without electricity and central heating, the Amish turned to making quilts out of necessity. It's become a home business for women to supplement the family's income. Uploaded by galen-frysinger.com.

Doesn’t it strike you as somewhat contradictory that Amish women, often called “plain people,” make such beautiful, colorful, even elaborate quilts? Since they don’t permit the use of electricity, their homes aren’t centrally heated. Quilts are an understandable necessity, and once were as colorless as their owners.

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Now they’re not just made for their families and friends, but have become a way for Amish women to supplement the family’s income. As you ride around Lancaster, Pennsylvania (Great American Things, June 26, 2009) and other Amish towns, you’ll see signs like “Quilts sold here. No Sunday sales.”

Turns out the logic for the quilts is that fabric scraps were saved and incorporated into the quilts, so nothing was wasted. That jibed with Amish sensibilities. They became popular within the community as a way the women could display their creativity. And often women met together to quilt after the day’s work was done, making the quilting experience a primary social gathering.

Writer: William Faulkner

Faulkner set most of his work in the fictional Yoknapatapwha County in Mississippi, which just happened to closely resemble his home county, Lafayette and his hometown, Oxford. Uploaded by biblioklept.wordpress.com.

Probably the most celebrated Southern writer, William Faulkner produced 20 novels, more than a hundred short stories, and several volumes of poetry. He set most of his novels in Yoknapatapwha County, Mississippi, which closely paralleled his home in Oxford and the surrounding Lafayette County.

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Faulkner’s greatest work came during the period between the two World Wars. His output was influenced by a need for money, which also took him to Hollywood for a brief period at the invitation of Howard Hawks. There, Faulkner contributed to the screenplays of The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not. He produced some of his most famous novels during these years: The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), and Absalom, Absalom! (1936).

Faulkner’s reputation was slow to build, but took a major boost when he was selected to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. In addition, he won two Pulitzer Prizes (Great American Things, February 19, 2010) for A Fable (1955) and The Reivers (1962). He also won two National Book Awards for Collected Stories (1951) and A Fable. Not just a great Southern writer, Faulkner established himself among the pantheon of the greatest American novelists.

The Arts: Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol recognized the commercialization of the culture in the 60s, and helped create the Pop Art movement in response. This painting by Vladimir Gorsky imitates Warhol’s style. Uploaded by loganfinearts.com.

I don’t think Andy Warhol would like being remembered as “The Campbell’s Soup Can Guy.” Or the guy who said that everyone would have 15 minutes of fame. He was involved in so many things – painter, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author. But more than anything, Andy Warhol was one of the first people to realize the power of celebrity.

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He was a leader in the pop art movement that sprang up in the 1960s as a reaction to the increased commercialization of the culture. Warhol saw it first-hand as a successful commercial illustrator. His iconic image of the soup can is memorable, as are the portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe.

Warhol moved from painting to silkscreen process for creating his art in the mid- 60s, and his work polarized the public. Even now, the New York Times says, “Depending on your point of view, Andy Warhol is the greatest American artist of the second half of the 20th century or a corrupter of art who destroyed painting and took us down the slippery slope of postmodernism.”

I think he was a brilliant man who bought into his own hype. But the marketplace may disagree. Warhol’s painting “Eight Elvises” sold for $100 million. I think that would have struck Andy Warhol as just hilarious.

The Arts: The National Book Festival

About 75 authors and more than 100,000 book lovers will converge on the National Mall later this month in a celebration of the written word. Uploaded by theepochtimes.com.

It’s a book lover’s paradise. Held each fall on the National Mall in Washington, the National Book Festival brings over 100,000 fans together with dozens of noted authors in a weekend celebration of the written word.

Sponsored by the Library of Congress, 2010 is the Festival’s 10th anniversary. There are special sections devoted to children’s books, popular fiction/mystery, contemporary life, history/biography, poetry/prose, and teens and children. Among the more notable authors attending are Jules Feiffer, Isabel Allende, Ken Follett, Diana Gabaldon, Martha Grimes, Karin Slaughter, Peter Straub, Scott Turow, Jonathan Franzen, Brad Meltzer, and Katherine Paterson.

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Among the activities at the Festival are interviews, readings, signings, and lectures. And, as you might expect, lots of reading-related programs throughout the weekend to entertain children and families.

This year’s festival is Saturday, September 25. If you’re a reader living anywhere near D.C., this is an opportunity you shouldn’t let pass you by.

Here’s an interesting presentation from last year’s Festival by one of my wife’s favorite authors, Nicholas Sparks:

Architecture: Golden Gate Bridge

The original plans for the Golden Gate Bridge were rejected for aesthetic reasons. Irving Morrow fixed that by designing the towers, lighting, and adding the distinctive orange paint. Uploaded by wallpaperdojo.com.

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges not just in America, but in the world. No wonder it placed number five in the American Institute of Architects’ list of America’s favorite architecture.

Until the bridge was completed in 1937, the only way to cross the Golden Gate – the strait between San Francisco and Marin County – was by ferry. By the way, the area received the name “Golden Gate” from explorer, and first senator from California, John C. Fremont.

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A number of individuals contributed to the bridge’s design. Joseph Strauss came up with the original plan… architect Irving Morrow contributed the shape of the bridge towers, its orange vermillion color, and its art deco elements… while Charles Ellis and Leon Moisseiff were primary engineers on the project. It took a little more than four years to complete, and cost about $35 million.

The bridge carries six lanes of traffic, and the toll to cross it is now $6. Walkways are open to the public, one reason why the Golden Gate Bridge has more suicides than any other location in the world. Even so, the American Society of Civil Engineers has named it one of the modern Wonders of the World…

Americana: Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, was named America's 14th most favorite architecture in an AIA survey. Uploaded by de.academic.ru.

No trip to St. Louis would be complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch along the Mississippi River. Although it seems as if it’s always been there, the Arch was completed in 1965.

The distance between the two “legs” of the Arch? 630 feet. The height of the Arch? 630 feet. And it weighs 17,426 tons. The bases are 54 feet wide; it’s 17 feet wide at the top.

View of downtown St. Louis from the observation room. Uploaded by kintoy.blogspot.com.

You can take a small, slow-moving guided tram to the observation room. Slow-moving is right – 4 mph to be exact. Even so, just a couple of minutes and you’re able to see beautiful vistas of downtown St. Louis, the Mississippi, and into Illinois.

Each of the two legs has a different exhibit for visitors. The north leg display includes fascinating photographs and information about the construction of the Arch. The south leg display shows life along the St. Louis riverfront in the 1800s.

The Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. In the AIA’s selection of America’s Favorite Architecture, the Gateway Arch was voted number 14.

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The Arts: Juilliard School

Think you've got what it takes in music, drama, or dance to get into Juilliard? Good luck -- the school enrolls about eight percent of its applicants. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

If you aspire to a professional career in drama, dance, or music, you can hardly have a better school on your resume than Juilliard.

About 800 students are enrolled at Juilliard’s Lincoln Center “campus,” and that sounds like a good number. But consider that a couple of years ago, the school received 2,138 applications for admission and enrolled 162 people. Only the most promising talents get to train at Juilliard.

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Even though there are three disciplines training at Juilliard, the school still tilts strongly toward music education. Of the 800 students noted above, only about 90 are in dance, and 90 in drama. The rest of the students are studying under the distinguished music faculty the school always attracts.

One way to look at any school is to look at its graduates. I admit up front that I’m more familiar with the drama and music graduates than dance. With that caveat, here are some of Juilliard’s distinguished alumni:

DRAMA
Christine Baranski • Andre Braugher • Marcia Cross • Kelsey Grammer • William Hurt • Val Kilmer • Kevin Kline • Laura Linney • Patti LuPone • Kelly McGillis • Elizabeth McGovern • Bebe Neuwirth • Mandy Patinkin • Kevin Spacey • David Ogden Stiers • Bradley Whitford • Robin Williams

MUSIC
Van Cliburn • Bill Conti • Chick Corea • Miles Davis • Renee Fleming • Philip Glass • Marvin Hamlisch • Bernard Herrmann • Yo Yo Ma • Henry Mancini • Barry Manilow • Wyton Marsalis • Itzhak Perlman • Leontyne Price • Tito Puente • John Williams • Meredith Willson

Architecture: The Chrysler Building

When completed in 1930, the Chrysler Building was the tallest in the world - for eleven months. Then the Empire State Building passed it. Uploaded by jpegwallpapers.com.

For 40 years, the Empire State Building (Great American Things, May 13, 2009) symbolized New York City until the World Trade Center towers dominated the skyline. But then and now, the building that most says “New York” to me is the Chrysler Building.

The Chrysler Building has to be the most graceful skyscraper ever built. Constructed for the automobile company in 1930, it was the world’s tallest building for all of eleven months, until the ESB eclipsed it. Though it served as Chrysler’s headquarters for about 25 years, the company never owned it. Walter Chrysler paid for it himself.

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The building, designed by William Van Alen, is considered a masterpiece of Art Deco architecture. Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser wrote this in their book Architecture in the Twentieth Century: “In a deliberate strategy of myth generation, Van Alen planned a dramatic moment of revelation: the entire seven-storey pinnacle, complete with special-steel facing, was first assembled inside the building, and then hoisted into position through the roof opening and anchored on top in just one and a half hours. All of a sudden it was there—a sensational fait accompli.”

In 2005, a hundred architects, critics, builders, and others were asked to choose their favorite NYC tower. The Chrysler Building was the clear favorite, appearing on 90% of the ballots. And the American Institute of Architects commissioned a Harris Poll to determine America’s 150 favorite buildings – and the Chrysler Building came in at number nine.

The Arts: Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams's plays won Tony Awards, New York Drama Circle Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes. Photo by Evening Standard - Getty Images, uploaded by answers.com.

Lots of writers are eager to write their breakthrough novel, for fame or riches. Some want to tell their family’s story, or their own. Some enjoy the lesser commitment involved in short stories. Lots enjoy the challenge of telling a story through the expressive language of poetry. But you don’t find many writers who make writing plays their primary medium. But it definitely worked for Tennessee Williams.

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While in college, Williams wrote a play called Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay! which was produced by a community theater in Missouri. He said of the experience, “The laughter…enchanted me. Then and there the theater and I found each other for better and for worse. I know it’s the only thing that saved my life.”

Although Williams wrote close to 30 major plays, the period between 1944 and 1961 saw his most celebrated and honored writing. Some of the works created during that period include:

The Glass Menagerie (1944) • A Streetcar Named Desire (Pulitzer Prize for Drama – 1947) • Summer and Smoke (1948) • The Rose Tattoo (Tony Award – 1952) Camino Real (1953) • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony Award – 1955) • Suddenly, Last Summer (1958) • Sweet Bird of Youth (1959) • The Night of the Iguana (1961).

Jimmy Carter presented Tennessee Williams with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

He named his own era - The Jazz Age. Following publication of The Great Gatsby, he tried to live up to his celebrity with drinking and extravagance, and it killed him. Uploaded by blog.oakland.k12.mi.us.

It’s unlikely that you’d consider someone who published only four novels – only two of which anyone who isn’t an English major could name – as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. But those two novels, Tender is the Night and The Great Gatsby certainly qualify F. Scott Fitzgerald for the honor.

It’s also unusual to live in an era whose name you conceived. But Fitzgerald coined the phrase “The Jazz Age,” and he became associated with the ebullience and extravagance of the 1920s. It was a role that he and his wife, Zelda, loved to play.

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The Great Gatsby was completed while the Fitzgeralds lived on the French Riviera. For the American intelligentsia, France was the place to be in the Twenties. It was published to great acclaim, and for good reason. It’s clearly one of the handful of best novels in the American literary canon. But Fitzgerald felt obliged to live up to the celebrity the book earned him, and the extravagance of drink and high living cost him dearly.

Faced with economic hardship and his wife’s failing health, Fitzgerald wrote short stories for popular magazines to make ends meet. Then he moved to Hollywood to work on scripts. He didn’t like the man he had become, which only exacerbated his alcoholism.

Fitzgerald died of a massive heart attack at the age of 44. His last novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon (originally published as The Last Tycoon), was completed by his friend and literary critic Edmund Wilson in 1941. Fitzgerald never matched the greatness of The Great Gatsby, but it remains as one of America’s best-loved and most-read classics.

Book: The Catcher in the Rye

Since its initial publication in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye has sold more than 65 million copies, and still sells 250,000 copies annually today. Uploaded by nationalpost.com.

Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Catcher in The Rye, by J.D. Salinger. The list of memorable American literary characters that stretches from Hester Prynne to Huckleberry Finn to Jay Gatsby can’t be complete now without Holden Caulfield.

Catcher features a first-person, stream-of-consciousness style from Caulfield’s point of view. He’s in that peculiar phase between adolescence and adulthood, and his musings reflect this changing state of mind.

Uploaded by manhattanrarebooks-literature.com.

Though written for adults, teenagers have always identified with Caulfield. Even now, some 250,000 copies of the novel are sold each year, approximately 65 million copies in all. J.D. Salinger had a bad experience with a film adaptation of an earlier work, so he remained adamant until his death earlier this year that Catcher would never be made into a movie. Perhaps his estate will be more flexible, and we might see this story on film someday soon.

Both Time Magazine and Modern Library named The Catcher in the Rye among the Top 100 novels written in the 20th century.

By the way, in case you don’t remember where the book’s title originated, it comes from Holden’s mishearing of a line in a Robert Burns poem. Here’s how he explains it: “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

Architecture: I.M. Pei

We don't always know architects by name, but the great ones become more than artists, they become brand names. Uploaded by archtracker.com.

With few exceptions, most architects remain unknown by name to the public at large. Usually, we know them by their designs. One of the few men whose accomplishments are so great that his reputation has spread beyond trade circles is the great I.M. Pei.

Pei was born in the Chinese city of Guangzhou (what we wish we could still call “Canton”), and was raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai. At age 18 he left to come to college in the USA, starting at the University of Pennsylvania, but quickly transferring to M.I.T. His talent became evident quickly, and he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He became a U.S. citizen in 1952.

One of the first projects that made his reputation was the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC. That led to the building considered his first signature structure, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. Since then, he’s gained wide acclaim for the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, the John F. Kennedy Library, and the glass and steel pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Architecture, like art, can only be described feebly by words. Here’s a gallery of some of I.M. Pei’s wonderful designs…

Pyramid entrance to the Louvre Museum, Paris

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Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

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Javits Convention Center, New York City

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

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National Gallery of Art, East Building

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National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder

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John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

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Writer: Raymond Chandler

Because of his definite performance in The Big Sleep, we'll always picture Humphrey Bogart as the character of Philip Marlowe. Uploaded by images2.fanpop.com.

I’m a little bit sheepish to admit this, but it must have something to do with the two-syllable names. I sometimes can’t remember if Raymond Chandler is the writer and Philip Marlowe is the detective, or the other way around. Maybe after writing this post, I won’t get them confused anymore. Maybe.

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Chandler was over 50 when his first novel was published. He only completed seven books, but four of them are among the best detective fiction ever published: The Big Sleep (1939), Farewell My Lovely (1940), The Lady in the Lake (1943), and The Long Goodbye (1954).

Along with Dashiell Hammett, Chandler helped create what’s known as “hardboiled” crime fiction. Philip Marlowe was a tough, sarcastic, hard-drinking private eye, but one who also showed a more thoughtful, philosophical side. The movies made from Chandler’s novels helped create a cinematic style as well, film noir.

Speaking of film, an underappreciated aspect of Chandler’s literary legacy is his screenplays. He co-wrote (with Billy Wilder) the noir classic Double Indemnity, and also collaborated on Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.

It’s hard to picture the Philip Marlowe character and not think of Humphrey Bogart (Great American Things, August 11, 2009), the actor who brought him to life in The Big Sleep. Or did Bogart portray Raymond Chandler? See, I’m still confused…

Writer: Neil Simon

No writer has earned as many Tony Award and Academy Award nominations as Neil Simon. Uploaded to Flickr by jovisala47.

Neil Simon doesn’t have the gravitas of some other playwrights, such as Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. Those who write comedies seldom do. But in many ways, writing humor is even more challenging than drama – and Neil Simon may be the foremost author of comic plays in American history.

Simon got his chops writing for television. He wrote for two of the most popular shows in the 1950s, Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows and Sergeant Bilko. He received Emmy Awards for each show. Then in 1961, his first play for Broadway opened (Come Blow Your Horn), starting a career that has seen him garner 17 Tony Award nominations, and four Best Screenplay Academy Award nominations.

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Even if you haven’t seen Simon’s plays actually performed, you’re bound to know their names since they’re so well known. They include: Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys, Biloxi Blues, Sweet Charity, Plaza Suite, Brighton Beach Memories, Biloxi Blues, The Goodbye Girl, and Lost in Yonkers (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1991.

Neil Simon is the only playwright to have four shows running concurrently on Broadway: Sweet Charity, The Star-Spangled Girl, The Odd Couple, and Barefoot in the Park

The Arts: Museum of Modern Art

About 2.5 million visitors come to MOMA each year to see amazing works by the likes of Monet, Gauguin, Johns, Warhol, and many other imaginative artists. Uploaded by e-architect.co.uk.

It doesn’t have the physical presence of the Metropolitan Museum. Or the architectural pizazz of the Guggenheim. What MOMA does have is the most comprehensive collection of modern art on the planet.

You have to have guts to open a museum nine days after a Wall Street crash, but that’s what the founders of MOMA did. Of course, it helps if your name is Rockefeller – in this case, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, wife of John D., Jr.

The museum began its life in six rooms on the twelfth floor of a Manhattan office building. Today, MOMA occupies 630,000 sq. ft. in an expansive building on 53rd St., between 5th and 6th Avenues. The space is needed, because the museum’s collection now includes more than 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and drawings, and design objects. It also owns more than 22,000 films, four million film stills, and 300,000 books in its archives.

The Dance by Matisse. Uploaded by awarenessblog.com.

Every modern artist of any note is included in the museum’s collection. Some of its most famous works include The Starry Night by Van Gogh, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso, The Persistence of Memory by Dalí, Broadway Boogie Woogie by Mondrian, Campbell’s Soup Cans by Warhol, Te aa no areois (The Seed of the Areoi) by Gauguin, Water Lilies by Monet, The Dance by Matisse, Flag by Jasper Johns (Great American Things, February 5, 2010), and Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth (Great American Things, December 2, 2009).

Almost 2.5 million visitors enjoy this great museum every year. Even if you’re not especially a fan of modern art, you’ll find plenty to interest you, and a visit will be a day of your life well spent…

Architecture: Monticello

There were actually two Monticellos. After the first was completed, Thomas Jefferson returned from serving in Europe and more than doubled the size of his signature home. Uploaded by community.klipsch.com.

Thomas Jefferson loved the neoclassical look, witness the design of his other project in Charlottesville, the University of Virginia. He was greatly influenced by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, whose design principles Jefferson incorporated in the home he built at the top of a rolling hill in the Virginia countryside. He named it Monticello: “Little Mountain.”

There were actually two versions of Monticello, the second overlaying the first. Jefferson built his first version in 1768, but during his tenure as the U.S. Minister to France, he got to see actual examples of architectural styles he’d only been able to read about previously. Then, following his service as the first Secretary of State, he began rebuilding based on what he’d seen overseas. Monticello 2, the one we know today, is twice the size of the original home.

For a century following Jefferson’s death the house bounced from owner to owner. Some took care of the property, some didn’t. In 1923, the private Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the home and had it restored. It’s now operated as a private museum, and while visitors aren’t permitted in all its 43 rooms, much of the home is on public display.

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Among the most fascinating aspects of Monticello are the inventions and innovations Jefferson incorporated into the house. These include a revolving bookstand, a dumbwaiter, a swivel desk chair, and a polygraph machine with many pens that made multiple copies of anything Jefferson wrote.

Monticello is widely recognized as one of America’s architectural masterpieces. But which do you think is more significant – that it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or that it’s been on the back of the nickel coin since 1938?

The Arts: Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was a big game hunter, a world-class fisherman - oh, and he could write a pretty good novel, too. Uploaded by jfklibrary.org.

He was a great writer, called the greatest writer since Shakespeare by John O’Hara. And he had a larger-than-life personality. You can call him a lot of things, but I don’t think you can call a man who drank too much, married four times, and eventually committed suicide, “Papa.”

What do you say about a man who wrote some of the greatest novels and short stories in the history of American literature, but who never actually realized his true potential? He drove an ambulance in Italy during World War I…lived in the amazing Paris arts community along with Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, and Ezra Pound…covered the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance, landed with the Allies at D-Day and was present at the liberation of Paris…all while writing the occasional novel or short story. What could he have accomplished if he’d given himself completely to novels?

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Just look at what he accomplished when he did focus. In order of publication, his novels include “The Sun Also Rises,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “To Have and Have Not,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “The Old Man and the Sea.” This last book won the Pulitzer Prize (Great American Things, February 19, 2010) for fiction, and also influenced his selection for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Hemingway had four rules for writing: 1. Use short sentences. 2. Use short first paragraphs. 3. Use vigorous English. 4. Be positive, not negative. Hemingway elaborated on his method to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I write one page of masterpiece to 91 pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”