Thursday, January 27, 2011

Iowa's Matt Gatens, Beauty Queen

Exactly two weeks ago, an eagle-eyed reader from Evanston, Illinois, a dedicated fan of the Northwestern University Wildcats (and a law student at Northwestern), brought to my attention startling news: University Of Iowa Men’s Basketball player Matt Gatens has recently been entering beauty pageants—and, of all things, winning them!

I was genuinely astonished when my reader—whose eye had been caught by the announcement last autumn that a one-woman show about Broadway legend Chita Rivera was in development, a one-woman show that will star Gatens—alerted me that foreign wire-service news stories on the subject of Northwestern’s 90-71 pasting of the Iowa Hawkeyes on January 12 of this year featured photographs of an overwhelmed and tearful Gatens being crowned winner of a major international beauty contest.

Upon receiving the news from Evanston, I was, to be frank, quite skeptical—until I clicked on the links my reader provided, only to encounter brief news summaries of the Northwestern-Iowa game, news summaries that indeed were accompanied by the amazing photographs below, photographs clearly and unmistakably labeled: “Iowa’s Matt Gatens”.

Until reading the news stories and seeing the photos for myself, I had had absolutely no idea that Gatens had launched a career on the pageant circuit.

Three questions immediately arose in my mind: (1) why did Gatens choose to represent Venezuela; (2) where did Gatens find such a brilliant makeup artist; and (3) why is not The Big Ten Conference making a big deal of the remarkable feat of a conference athlete winning major beauty events while actively competing in intercollegiate athletics?

No doubt the producers of “Matt Gatens As Chita!” can provide answers to my questions.

One assumption: the show’s producers believed that Gatens needed to represent a Latin country while competing on the pageant circuit, since Miss Rivera herself is Latin. Another assumption: makeup artists on Broadway apparently are even more miraculous than I had had any right to expect. A final assumption: the producers of “Matt Gatens As Chita!” wanted to capitalize on Gatens’s beauty queen status for the financial benefit of the show, and not for the financial benefit of The Big Ten Conference (a decision that must have upset Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany no end)—and have, consequently, remained in strict control of dissemination of news about Gatens’s prowess in wowing the panel of pageant judges that awarded Gatens the winner’s crown.

Normally I am no endorser of tears.

However, under the circumstances, Gatens surely may be forgiven for a small display of waterworks.

What with a major beauty title in his pocket and an important Broadway debut in a one-woman show quickly approaching, Gatens no doubt is overwhelmed by his good fortune.

Sports fans everywhere must be happy for Gatens, especially since that basketball thing never worked out particularly well for him.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Visualization Of Stravinsky

George Balanchine’s “Symphony Of Three Movements”, danced to Igor Stravinsky’s composition of the same title, is the subject of the above photograph.

“Symphony Of Three Movements”, choreographed in 1972, was one of the last ballets Balanchine created to the music of Stravinsky. Four and one-half decades separate Balanchine’s first Stravinsky ballet, “Apollo”, from his final Stravinsky efforts, all created for the 1972 Stravinsky Festival mounted by New York City Ballet in honor of the composer’s death the previous year.

This weekend, Andrew and I will see one lasting result of the 1972 Stravinsky Festival: Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant”, set to Stravinsky’s work of the same title, will be on one of the NYCB programs we shall attend.

The photograph below, depicting Stravinsky in 1930, was taken by Balanchine.

Was there ever a photograph of Stravinsky that was not unforgettable?

At every stage of his life, Stravinsky overpowered everyone and everything he encountered, including cameras.

Dances At A Gathering

Tomorrow afternoon, Andrew and I will head to New York for the weekend.

The primary enticement in New York for us: three interesting programs at New York City Ballet.

I am not certain I can say I am a partisan of ballet—but I can state that I am definitely a partisan of the work of George Balanchine. Balanchine was unquestionably a genius, although I am confident I possess only a superficial understanding of the breadth and depth of his genius.

We shall see four Balanchine ballets I have already seen (although not all were danced by New York City Ballet). We shall see another three Balanchine ballets I have not yet seen (one of which will be new to Andrew, too).

We shall also see an Alexei Ratmansky ballet that I have already seen, and a Jerome Robbins ballet that will be new to me.

To end the weekend, we will catch Brian Bedford’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance Of Being Earnest”. The current Broadway production is based upon Bedford’s 2009 staging for The Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Bedford himself portrays Lady Bracknell, one of the great gorgon roles of the British stage.

It should be a fun weekend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hanseatic Architecture

This early-20th-Century building, in central Hamburg, is a typical example of traditional Hanseatic architecture, still in use in Hamburg. Inspiration from The Baroque Era remains conspicuous in Hanseatic architecture, as is demonstrated in this handsome yet utilitarian structure.

From what we were able to ascertain, the building was originally constructed to serve, at least in part, as a firehouse. An insurance concern now occupies the building.

Hamburg is my favorite European city, probably because it was the first European city Andrew and I visited together. Our two weeks in Hamburg were delightful.

No other city in Europe features such a remarkable blend of fine buildings from the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries as does Hamburg.

I could live in Hamburg—and I hope we go back some day.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

Saint Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, as seen in a 1912 postcard.

Attending To Business

Since our return from the Christmas holidays, Andrew and I have been attending to business, and only attending to business.

We stayed home during the three-day January holiday weekend, mostly because there was nowhere we wanted to go and nothing we especially wanted to do.

Two years ago, Alex came for a visit during the January holiday weekend. One year ago, Andrew and I went to New York for the January holiday weekend.

This year, we spent the long holiday weekend doing laundry, cleaning the apartment, cooking, and performing other necessary mundane tasks.

Andrew and I may go to New York next weekend, as New York City Ballet’s season resumes this week.

We will make a firm decision before the week is out.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More Frightening Than The Hamburg Firestorm

More frightening than the Hamburg firestorm is this conspicuous example of genetics gone haywire, chromosomes gone awry.

Whatever might possess a person to publish, proudly, such a revolting photograph of himself? It boggles the mind and perplexes the soul. Does not this person have any friends or family members who might advise him how ridiculous, if not outright appalling, he looks?

I believe it may be assumed, with confidence, that this most disagreeable and disagreeable-looking person does not have a rewarding life path before him.

We live in a nation of morons.

The Frightening Hamburg Firestorm

The photograph above was taken shortly after the 1943 Hamburg firestorm, in the very heart of the area struck by the deadly inferno. The firestorm’s centers were in high-density residential areas approximately three-to-four miles Northeast of the very center of Hamburg.

The buried vehicles in the photograph are gutted fire trucks, either trapped by melting asphalt on city streets or abandoned because of heat ferocity.

The photograph below is a rare color photograph of the aftermath of the Hamburg firestorm. The deceased in the photograph was, ironically, a Hamburg fire warden, identifiable from headgear.

While virtually all of Hamburg was bombed, the deadly firestorm occurred in a fairly contained area from which very, very few survivors emerged. Most firestorm victims died of oxygen deprivation while occupying bomb shelters—and most victims would have become unconscious several minutes prior to their deaths.

The areas of Hamburg that suffered the firestorm were not rebuilt after the war in a manner comparable to their pre-war states. Whole new street patterns were created, as were new subway lines and new subway stations. Nothing from the past had survived to provide a suitable foundation for rebuilding the firestorm-struck areas, so city planners started from scratch.