Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Trip: Nana and Jackie in Our Nation's Capital

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden: When it comes to terrifying oversize arachnids,
buy American!

As mentioned previously, Justin and I are home for the summer. I spent my first week attending a college counselor workshop at Georgetown while Justin did battle with the Japanese driver's license exam. My sister Jackie, in the meantime, did some exam slaying of her own, conquering the DAT test for dental school. Here is a sample question:

5. Removal of the gallbladder makes it more difficult to digest foods high in
A. carbohydrates
B. nucleic acids
C. proteins.
D. fats
E. vitamins.

I would prefer this sample question:

5. Which of these should not be removed by a dentist?
A. Wisdom teeth
B. Molars

In any case, Jackie did better than I would have, and than most other people (my art major sister scored in the 97th percentile on biology, which makes one wonder what on earth the bio majors taking the test did with those four years). To celebrate, or perhaps because she was used to grueling punishment, she came to pick me up at my Washington conference, and we budgeted a day to see the sights of our nation's capital.

This is a good time to mention that Jackie and I did not dress alike on purpose - after a week, my purple tank top was the cleanest thing left, and Jackie had coincidentally brought something similar. At the Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, Jackie and I split up briefly, and she wondered where I'd gone. She went up to a guard and asked, "Have you seen my sister? She's about my height, brown hair, wearing a purple tank top?" The guard said, "Oh, yes! She was just in the other room there." So Jackie went over and thought, "This is strange. I was just in here... how did I miss her?" And that was when she realized that the guard had given her directions to herself. White people all looking alike: it's not just for Asia anymore!

It's also possible that the museum experienced a space-time discontinuity. Not entirely out of the question for a building which displays something called the "Ghost Clock:"

Not that exciting, until you realize that the entire thing is made out of a single piece of wood carved and painted to look like a piece of fabric draped over a grandfather clock. Genuinely trippy.

We also visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History, which was closed for renovations when I lived in D.C. I enjoyed being able to catch up with old friends:

Also, George Washington's clothes. Homeboy was tall - usually estimated between 6'1 and 6'2 - and he had shorter legs, so he seemed even taller on a horse. This set a causally-questionable but still intriguing electoral tradition of tall presidents which continues to the present day.
Being the history teacher, I dragged Jackie to the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, where I took lots of pictures for classroom use. The art teacher and I co-taught a project this spring in which students looked at various monuments and memorials and then had to come up with a historical event or individual and design a monument of their own. I have a great PowerPoint on that, if you're the sort of person who enjoys PowerPoints on the history of funerary architecture. If you are, we should hang out.

In my opinion, commemorative designs fall into two categories: before and after Maya Lin. Here's her groundbreaking Vietnam Memorial:

And now the Korean War Memorial. Look how heavily this draws on Lin's ideas: the reflective stone, the tall black wall, the carvings intended to help make the participants in the conflict real. I'm not saying Lin invented these ideas or techniques, but she certainly put them on the map.

And that's all from D.C.! Thanks, Jackie, for the great road trip and the fabulous photography!