Exhibit your museum

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Friday, May 27, 2005: Here are a few tips on how to enjoy having a major museum in your area. This is advice for locals. Tourists, get on the Web or contact AAA; this isn’t for you.

Bentonville’s coming Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (isn’t it nice that for a change a big public space that is privately funded is not named for a big shot or a corporation?) will be a new concept for old-timers of all ages.

Going to the museum comprises an afternoon one to six times a year. I’m speaking as a resident of Fayetteville who does not have a daily commute to Bentonville. It’ll be maybe 40 minutes away. That’s nothing for people used to commuting, but for some of us, that time requires planning. You park, pay admission (though some of the exhibits and the surrounding park will be free, according to plans) and enjoy one to three hours looking around.

Museum admission is aggravating but even in a place like Chicago it’s rarely more than a movie ticket. Get over it. Take the kids, by all means.

Of course, the last stop will be the gift shop. I hate it, but museum stores are fun.

Before or after the walk-around, have lunch at the museum cafe. It won’t be too expensive, just a little bit. But these bistros have a just-right amount of refinement, appropriate for a special day. It’s also quite nice to break up the museum visit with a snack in the midst of looking around, heading back after coffee for the galleries you missed, or whatever.

As for me, I see my wife and I hitting the museum then dinner at perhaps Copeland’s in Rogers on the way home.

There will be thousands of lucky people for whom Crystal Bridges is just five to 15 minutes away. Go often.

It’d be a great idea to become a member of the museum, however they organize that. So for an annual, tax-deductible fee, you get free admission for all but the super-duper traveling exhibits, and probably gift shop and cafe discounts.

This will be a great lunch-break spot. Stroll through a gallery or two, eat lunch there, or brown-bag and sit on the grounds. Bet there’ll be sculptures out there.

Hey, I’ve done this, living just a mile from the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, and visited many other museums over the years. It’s very nice to have this opportunity. If the Ozarks no longer is some rural hit-or-miss sprawl of trees, colleges, chicken farms and Wal-Marts, let’s be a small version of Fort Worth — not Dallas. -30-

Sell us your huddled masterpieces

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Tuesday, May 24, 2005: A Brick about Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Last Monday, Wal-Mart’s Alice Walton announced she and also her family’s foundation would build a museum surrounded by a park near downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, her companies’ headquarters.

There was a clue about this a couple of weeks earlier when major news media, being New York-based, reported (as did local media), that Miss Walton bought a 19th-century Hudson River School masterpiece that long has been exhibited at the New York Public Library. (Go ahead, plug “Walton” and “Durand” into Yahoo news or Google news, and you’ll see how big a deal some thought this to be.)

The plans are by the architect who did (actually, redesigned) Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and the grounds will be by a similarly credentialed landscaper. Sure, it would’ve been great if she’d hired local, but hiring the best, period, is just as good.

In the next four years as it’s being built, there’ll be plenty of time for writerly fun: Within hours Monday, I had notes for several satires. Now, this week, it is time to be grateful. The museum is a good thing.

One of the Democrat-Gazette articles quoted more than one more non-local business analyst to say this is not a Disney World type of tourism magnet. I hope that fact continues to be expanded in reporting.

My take on that would go in the wrong direction this morning; there’s time enough. Suffice it to say now that Crystal Bridges is good for the area and its residents. Not everything has to translate into money, into the shallow industry of tourism.

This is how major if smaller museums get going. One good example not yet used by any commentator so far as I’ve read– but it’s the first that came to my mind — is the Amon Carter in Fort Worth. Actually, the Carter and several other museums lie on the perimeter of that beautiful park in downtown Fort Worth, including the Kimbell.

Lots of money from just one or a few benefactors got these halls going. Oil money, appropriate for the era.

The rest of the country should shut up and let us build our museum. Miss Alice won’t buy all your masterpieces. We don’t need that many. -30-

Koran in a barrel

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Sunday, May 22, 2005. So

  • … if the International Red Cross says some Americans in some way desecrated the Koran in front of Iraqis, Afghans or other Muslims (with comparable incidents already reported months ago as part of the Abu Ghraib initial and follow-up reports — and now somehow forgotten)
  • … and if a British and an American newspaper publish photos of the imprisoned Saddam Hussein naked except for a pair of briefs
  • … does Newsweek magazine deserve the derision for reporting an impossibility — flushing an entire book down a toilet with no details like crumbling a page at a time — on the basis of an anonymous but official source?

It’s shooting fish in a barrel, taking photographs of a captured man. Sure Saddam was a butcher, but one who shook hands years ago with current U.S. officials. Would the world regard Stalin in his skivvies differently? The Allies didn’t leak photos of Adolph Eichmann in his longjohns. Or Rudoph Hess — Spandex in Spandau? Am I hosen you? Leder, man.

Here, the photos were taken by someone with access, thus likely an American Authority. And the photos got out. And if the Pentagon and White House only make a Casablanca outcry (Capt. Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”), as they have, it sure sounds like this is a leak meant to be leaked.

If there hadn’t been rioting, Washington never would have demanded a retraction from Newsweek. The magazine would not have known that its source had backed down on the allegation. If violence had occurred over Saddam’s pictures, wouldn’t the Western press face comparable pressure? Oh, yes. -30-

Muffle that rumble

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Friday, May 20, 2005. Condensed from Fayetteville’s Northwest Arkansas Times this morning (or read whole article):

“Mayor Dan Coody wants attendees of Bikes, Blues and BBQ to ride quietly, a sentiment shared by the festival’s board of directors. ‘We encourage everyone to be quiet,’ said Richard Watson, chairman of the board. Watson said that not only do volunteers ask riders to be quiet and respect neighborhoods, but the group also has the request posted on its Web site, which reads, ‘BBB welcomes biker guests and ask that you please drive courteous and quietly.'”

The best attractions, for me, are those that naturally spring from a locale, a natural wonder like a waterfall, or manmade like being home to a prominent university (where the community and visitors can enjoy some student traditions, like homecoming or bed races down Dickson Street). Good tourist traps also are nicely derived from being first at something. But in recent decades fake tourism has taken over. These are near-arbitrary events being marketed as worth people’s time.

Which works. People do travel to various towns nationwide that coordinate garage sales to be on the same weekends. People come the Ozarks for the twice a year crafts fairs. A garage sale is a tag sale is a yard sale: Rummage, all, I say. I used to enjoy crafts fairs, here and in central Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, California, North Dakota. Until they grew boring: Little made at crafts fairs currently has any regional distinction or must-have quality. Or that enough new artisans appear year to year, enough to negotiate traffic, parking and crowds.

A biker weekend, here held in late September or early October, does not spring organically from Fayetteville. Harleys aren’t made here, nor is this the home of the first moto-cross race etc. Folks who like cycles and indeed the culture surrounding them, come here with no more thought than they would travel to any of the other biker rallies through the country. The rally at Sturgis, S.D., began in the 1930s, which makes it legit. But after it, the locale can’t matter.

So Fayetteville officials ask, or expect, for an event built in large part on rowdiness and noise (which is fun and American), to be subdued? Who are they fooling? Not the participants, and not the locals who will find streets and restaurants colorfully and frustratingly tied up that fall weekend.

Should readers turn to finish the article to Page A6, they’ll see the text is next to a house ad for a coordinated motorcycle ride, a Poker Run, to benefit the Special Olympics, perhaps coincidentally co-sponsored by the Times. In very large informal type, it is titled:
“Rumble in the Ozarks.”

The only quiet Rumble is a stomach at 5 p.m. -30-

Leash life

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Wednesday, May 18, 2005: Instead of speaking out of turn, here is a Brick.

While sketching with some others in Gulley Park at twilight, a family approached: a mom, two boys and a dog tethered to one of the kids. Intelligent kids, you could tell. The dog had a long lead and pulled his master over so the pup could sniff us and our art materials scatted on the grass.

“Bad dog,” said the boy. A second later the dog came over again.

“Bad dog,” said the boy, this time managing to pull the reluctant dog away from us. (One of my party had paused to study his sketch and eager to pet the animal.)

“Kid,” I wanted to say. “The dog isn’t bad. He’s being a dog. You don’t want him to knock over our water bottles, then shorten the lead. Oh, and go to obedience school so both of you know how to act in public.”

That’s reading too much into this. It just reminded me of myself and my Australian terrier, George, my pal from fourth-grade until eighth, when he got run over, which I witnessed.

Dad made sure I knew how to lead with a leash, and George was smart and learned to heel, sit and so forth. But to allow length for him to explore and me to tag along with him on walks at Creekmore Park in Fort Smith and Lake Tenkiller in eastern Oklahoma, that’s a nice memory set. And to heck with the grown-ups we annoyed! -30-

Equal footing, midair

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Monday, May 16, 2005: I keep forgetting to enjoy the new Fayetteville Public Library. My usual habit is to hit the 10-minute curb parking and go in long enough for the book I had put on hold via the Internet or to choose a fresh book-on-CD.

The new building though is conducive to reading, writing and just staring out the big windows south toward the Boston Mountains.

This was a perfect spring day so I made time to park in the deck and sit outside on the library’s large patio, where I got a lesson from nature.

I heard a bird call over and over from above. I looked up and saw a small bird chasing a small-to-medium-size hawk. Not just chasing, but attacking, pecking the predator between the shoulder blades, or whatever they are on a boid. Both were flying.

Obviously, the hawk was interested in that bird’s nest and the chicks or eggs in it. The hawk may have already gotten one, who knows, and the dark little bird (it was too high up to really determine the species) was defending the nest by chasing the big guy away.

Fight club rules (Chuck Palahniuk). Was this a fair fight? What is a fair fight? Why should a fight need to be fair, and who or what determines that? (Oh, commentators, and what do they know?)

The little bird if on a level playing field — which would be anything solid, including a tree branch or roof — would be cheese on a cracker for a hawk, and as quickly devoured. Its hooked beak and long talons were made for lunching on the fly.

But in the air, the two were not on equal footing (equal winging); the little guy had the upper claw. The hawk was could not strike the bird, coming up from behind and pecking his back, and striking hard, you could tell, because the hawk sometimes lost a little altitude.

We all know that hawk will return. It knows where the nest is. The little bird will eventually lose the contents of its nest perhaps including its life, unless the hawk locates a less-guarded nest full of snacks and forgets.

Can’t feel sorry for the hawk. People talk of wild animals as having enemies and the bigger animals having fewer enemies, at which point we usually come to a sermon about Man.

The hawk obviously has lots of enemies, but few that can do anything about it.

Martial arts generally model many stances and attacks not on mockingbirds, but cats: the scope-out, the crouch, the spring of arms and legs then landing ready for more, for basic moves on prey. Cats offer martial artists complex tricks more useful to humans when the other guy is another cat.

As a long-time little guy, I also need to learn about fighting from a little bird that uses well its limited resources and opportunities. -30-