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Olympics figure skating: The Lovely and The Unlovely. I have the greatest admiration for the women and men who compete, for their dedication, their persistence, their sacrifices, and their abilities. I love their grace and elegance, not to mention their costumes. (I also would gladly wear any of Johnny Weir's jackets.) But Adam Rippon's confession of the starvation requirement made upon him appalled me. Was this another fashion-runway skinny model/skinny skater fetish inflicted onto performers and spectators alike? Were the draconian regimens imposed by coaches and trainers encouraging bulemia and anorexia? In pairs skating, I cringed as the women were thrown about like sacks of potatoes, thrust dangerously into the air or heads barely above the ice. There seemed to be more than a hint of violence here. Who was the judge that told Adam Rippon his buttocks were too large? How did we come to accept the physical and mental abuse of these young athletes as necessary and even desirable? Note: the AP has just published an article on this subject.

I used to think the Olympics were a healthy outlet for young energies and national competitiveness, certainly preferable to going to war. Have we now entered into another kind of war? Where is our common sense, our understanding of appropriate body images? Why don't we protest?

If you are planning a visit to Seattle, and even if you're an armchair traveler, you will want to see the triple domes of Amazon's new building. It has permanently altered the cityscape of Seattle, and has been described as part conservatory and part office. Curiously it is designed to attract the eye of the public and yet it is not open to the public. This decision has provoked an intense discussion on income inequality in Seattle, with its emphasis on insiders and outsiders. Even a view from the outside, however, reveals the bold concept and design of the interior. The basic idea was a cloud forest, not in the tropics but in a well-misted business facility in the middle of an urban environment. Humidity and light are meticulously monitored, while the stunning architecture cannot help but impress.

By now you are undoubtedly aware of the brou haha between the White House and the Guggenheim Museum. The Washington Post offers its understanding of the historical background to this exchange; you can also go to our Woman of the Month for further discussion.

I don't usually promote individual products or companies, but this article from the New York Times gives us a provocative insight into what the success of Amazon's Alexa means for society in general and for the future as well. Although the author experienced an ungodly scream during the night from his Alexa, he is forgiving enough of Alexa's imperfections to contemplate her new-found popularity. More broadly it thrusts A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) and its implications inescapably into our view and hopefully will provoke some serious thinking about where we are heading and, critically, why we are heading there.

Tom Killion and his Quail Press have been making multicolor woodcut prints of the Northern California landscape since 1977. In the interim he received a PhD in African Studies and particularly Ethiopia from Stanford University, administered a medical relief program in the Sudan, and received a Fullbright scholarship in Eritrea. He now works near Point Reyes in Northern California. In a detailed discussion of his technique, Killion mentions the landscape prints of Japan in the early 19th century as well as American and European wood engravers.

Although its exhibition is now officially closed, The J. Paul Getty Museum in New York City mounted a spectacular show called "Golden Kingdoms", with more than 300 masterpieces from the year 1000 to the 16th century. Focusing on luxury and art in the Americas, the exhibit has promoted investigations into the previous assumptions about how people lived and created at that time. This site offers some extraordinay examples of the craftsmanship that went into these objects, as well as information on the cultures and traditions of the societies that produced them.

If you are a fan of Leonard Bernstein you will want to take note of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's production of his "Mass". Calling it a "glorious mess", the L. A. Times speaks of its splendor and grandiosity. In 1967 Jackie Kennedy commissioned Bernstein to compose music in honor of JFK. Bernstein commented that "he saw the world on the verge of collapse", due, he said, to "the multiplying nuclear arsenals and the total unpredictability of statesmen who are hardly statesman-like". 100 years after Bernstein's birth, it appears that not much has changed. Gustavo Dudamel has added to the grand confusion of the original staging by blending rock band and orchestra and using over 200 performers including a marching band, a children's chorus, 7 solo dancers, and a boy soprano. Lennie would have been proud.

While we are on the subject of spectacles, we should mention Gucci's runway extravaganza, which included surgical equipment, severed heads, and cyborgs. Gucci's intent seems to be to portray a "post-human" world. Has anyone read "The Quasi's?

Richard Nixon went to China, and now ping pong has come to the New York Philharmonic. A new concerto called "Ricochet" by Andy Akiho had its American debut at the orchestra's Lunar New Year celebration. It featured a violinist, a percussionist, and two ping pong players, whose potentially wayward balls were separated from the audience and the musicians by a tall net. Occasionally wine glasses and drums replaced the paddles, requiring a bit of deftness on the part of the players.

Scanners are now being employed to discover hidden secrets in the works of Pablo Picasso. Advanced technology has become the rage in examining the works of artists, and in this case it was applied to one of Picasso's Blue Period paintings, called "La Misereuse accroupie" from 1902. Owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the piece intrigued a conservator of paintings there, who worked with the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Northwestern University to discover the paint strokes that were eliminated or covered over before the painting was finished.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2018