Ever since my very first exposure to it in 1979 as part of a Smithsonian Institution art-history seminar, one of my favorite art venues in Washington, DC, has been the venerable Phillips Collection, a few blocks east and perhaps a block south of the DuPont Circle DC Metro stop.
The Phillips Collection
There are many reasons for my respect and enthusiasm for “the Phillips,” but certainly one of the most salient reasons for my “evangelical” work on behalf of the Collection is that the Phillips houses Pierre Auguste Renoir’s great Luncheon of the Boating Party (hereafter Luncheon). (I refuse to call it, as some critics do, Boatman’s Lunch. Computers are expensive and I would rather not throw up on mine.) Aside from the sheer beauty of the painting itself, I enjoy watching others’
On a recent weekend, my wife and I watched – I for probably the dozenth time – the 1956 classic science fiction movie Forbidden Planet. Perhaps halfway through the movie, and largely because of the Freudian discussion of the power and place of the id in the human mind that was woven into the narrative, I had a lightning stroke of insight: Forbidden Planet (hereafter FP) is no longer, as it was in 1956, a vivid but purely theoretical cautionary tale about Freud’s warnings concerning what he called “the return of the Repressed,” but is also a chilling metaphor for the hazards of Trump as the first truly postmodern American President. Suddenly, I realized that we are not Dr. Morbius and his nubile daughter living on Altair IV perhaps 200 years in the future. Rather we are Americans liv
The recent report on the findings of climatic research into the causes and probable evolution of climate change – a more accurate term than “global warming” – prompted me to consider a possible answer to Enrico Fermi’s classic question “Where is everybody?” Multiple generations of science fiction writers have projected a future in which the Milky Way Galaxy fairly teems with life, rather like Times Square on New Year’s Eve or the tavern in the first Star Wars movie – so much so that the late Prof. Stephen Hawking has publicly counseled SETI investigators to – not literally STFU – but certainly to exercise due caution in broadcasting the existence of intelligent life on earth to every corner of the Galaxy. (Not that we have a choice by now: earth’s electromagnetic emissions by now com