A Louvre Sampler

Here are a few shots from the Louvre. I’ve labeled some of them. Best viewed in full size. 


Jacques-Louis David (1740-1825)

Henri Bellechose (1414-c.1445)

Jean Auguste Ingres (1780-18670 

Joachim Patinnir (1483-1524)

Francois Edoard Picot (1786-1868)


Mona Lisa Side View



Winged Victory of Samotrace

Some of the Crown Jewels

Baroque Ceiling

David: Coronation of Napoleon

David: Death of Marat

                                                            Bellechose: Martyrdom of St Denis

Ingres: Grand Odalisque

Picot: Cupid and Psyche

Patinir: St Jerome in the Desert

Paris in a Hurry? Can You Skip the Louvre?




When we were in Paris in June, the city was mobbed with tourists. Granted, Paris is always a popular destination, but the pent-up demand occasioned by COVID has made it more so and it looks like the crush will continue until late if the fall. 


 If you are going there and you have a limited amount of time, I have a possible time-saving recommendation: Skip the Louvre. That might seem blasphemous, but it really depends on your personal art tastes. If you’re not a fan of Neoclassical or ancient art and can live with not seeing the Mona Lisa, you can devote your time to other attractions in the City of Light.


First of all, if you decide to go, absolutely book tickets. If you don’t, there’s a very good chance you won’t be able to get in. Even if you book ahead, plan on standing in very long lines to get in–30 minutes or longer than what it says on the ticket. Dump your water bottle as you can’t take in liquids. (You can refill it inside if you can find a place to do so.)


Second, know that the Louvre is one of the most irrational museums in the world. You will enter via the giant glass Pyramide, once considered an atrocity by some, but it’s pretty spectacular and can be seen even if you don’t enter. Let’s say you want to make a beeline to the first level of the Richelieu Wing, where the Mona Lisa is on view. First, you’ll have to climb stairs as you’ll enter on Level 0. (There’s also a -1 level.) If you enter Gallery 700, you’ll next enter 701, and 711 is off it. If you mistakenly continue to 702, you’ll go down a set of stairs to get to 703 and then you’ll see Winged Victory along the way, but good luck getting to 704 to continue a sequential journey; there is no 704. Gallery 705 involves a circuitous jog and you’ll have to retrace to get to 706, then (you guessed it!) you come 708. And so it goes. In other words, even if you know where you want to go, you’ll have trouble getting there. The Louvre can be utterly exhausting.


Regarding the Mona Lisa, know that it’s quite small–30” x 21” (77cm x 53 cm) and you’ve probably seem better reproductions of it than you’ll see in person. That’s because you can’t linger in front of it. There is a very long line for those who must snap a selfie of themselves in front of Da Vinci’s enigmatic painting. Ironically, most selfie-takers grin like hyenas in front of a subject who might not be smiling at all! In theory, you can’t use a selfie stick, though you might be able to get away with it before the guard yells non!  You can speed the process by getting into one of the non-selfie side lines. You won’t get a front-on view, but you’ll see it just as well can and snap a shot or two before the crowd muscles you out of the way.


The campus is staggering in size and merely walking into the courtyard and the Tuileries Gardens will explain the off-with-their-heads phase of French Revolution. The term conspicuous consumption doesn’t even begin to get it! There’s not enough art in all of France to fill all of the buildings, so three sort-of-connected wings make up the collection. The Richelieu is the main one, plus the Sully and Denon wings. The Louvre is indeed filled with treasures–including the French crown jewels–but of a sort.


As noted, the bulk of the paintings are Neoclassical works from the High Renaissance or the 18th and 19th centuries. The term Neoclassical means a deliberate attempt to evoke ancient Roman and Greek themes and repurpose them. It’s formal in style, carefully balanced, is often enormous in scale, and presented dramatically, even  histrionically. Some indeed seems over the top, but I betray my own tastes with that remark.  Know that there is no art in the Louvre created after 1850, which means it  predates the Impressionists whose works are in Musée d’Orsay.


Another consideration. The Denon Wing has some interesting works from elsewhere in Europe, but don’t go trolling for any Vermeers. They are on loan for a big show at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Much of the bottom levels of each wing is devoted to ancient art that are where you can go to dodge the massive crowds. Elsewhere there are smatterings of Islamic, African, and Oceanic art but Paris has museums elsewhere devoted to each if you wish to indulge. The Louvre’s American collection is small and mostly unremarkable.


Maybe I was both over- and underwhelmed because I had been to the Louvre twice prior to this trip. Check out the photo gallery of Louvre shots that I’ve posted separately. They’ll either make you want to go or serve as all you need to see. For my money, those with limited time in Paris will find Orsay more stimulating. That’s the subject of another blog.


Rob Weir


Rod MacDonald, The Kennedys, Katy Guillen, Momi Maiga, Ros , Heart of the Dragon


It is often claimed that participatory protest folk music is in short supply now that Pete Seeger is gone, Baby Boomers are aging, and Dylan thinks he’s Sinatra. It’s still around…


…even in Florida, where white Trumpians accuse Ron DeSantis of being “too liberal.” Rod MacDonald isn’t falling for such nonsense. Rants and Romance is as advertised. The album opens cheerful and upbeat; “Come Out Annie,”  is sweetened by Ian Wilkinson’s bluegrass-laced fiddle. It’s never a bad idea to win hearts before you aim for minds. Dollops of irony help as well. MacDonald slathers on the latter in “Cry Freedom” by calling attention to tricksters hiding behind double meanings: They cry freedom while they're taking it away/They don't mean freedom for you/They mean the freedom for themselves to tell you what to do. He follows with the Darryl Purpose/Robert Morgan Fisher “Dangerous Game,” a brilliant patter song in the seam between talking blues and rap that connects the dots between war abroad and danger at home. Dave Barry also lives in Florida and MacDonald has a similar penchant for using humor to sneak in serious points. “What Happened to You” is a poke at those in the left (wing) lane who veered right. “The Pandemic” is similarly leavened with wry observations. It’s a putative “romance,” but not of the Romeo and Juliet variety. These are typical of the album’s 17 tracks. There are straight-up, tender love songs–“I Miss You Here and Everywhere” is lovely–self-deprecating songs (“I Didn’t Go to Woodstock”), crisp covers (Cliff Eberhardt’s “When We Were Kings), and shame-the-stupid selections like “Smallpox,” a slam at anti-vaxers and fearmongers: Yes it’s a shame we don’t have smallpox today/There was no one with the courage to stand in the way/When we all got vaccinated and the disease went away…. You’ll find yourself singing along to MacDonald’s refrains, but when I closed eyes for “Heal the World,”  I imagined a room harmonizing on the chorus. Rod MacDonald’s lyrics-forward approach is a balm for troubled times.


The Kennedys
(Pete and Maura) used to live in Northampton–they’re in New York State now–and man, do I miss them. Their latest recording, Headwinds, is  dosed with rock, roots music, and pop, but they too ring warning bells. The Kennedys have long excelled at shifting moods, styles, and messages. Headwinds is a mix of the sublime, the serious, a call to think, and other fine songs to get you over whatever is dragging you down. Maura lures us into open highway dreams on “New Set of Wheels” by tearing out on nostalgic roads before downshifting to: Now I’m a woman on a mission in my fuel-efficient automobile. Pete sets a downhome jangly tone for “Silence is a Warning,” but don’t rest in the hammock; the “silence” is the absence of nature sounds we should be hearing but don’t. He amps up the tempo and ambience for Maura’s lead vocals on “The Sky Doesn’t Look Right.” It’s about bombs, not climate change, but you could be excused for imaging the latter in a summer marked by floods, searing heat, and mudslides. Leave it to their eclectic tastes to channel Dylan in “The Boy From the East River Shore,” which is about a nameless kid growing up amidst tenements, gangs, and violence. Swirling keys segue to electric guitars on a song brimming with pathos and poignancy. But let’s backtrack to how The Kennedys turn on a dime. Who else has the moxie to drag out ukes for a two-step string band take on nips washing up on beaches (“Little Green Bottles”). Note, though, that the serious stuff is interspersed with changes of pace and subject matter. The leisurely paced title track brims with yearning: The restless breeze made the leaving seem so easy/But headwinds make it hard to get back home. How about a bit of click-clack Caribbean-style (with some Django-like guitar licks thrown in) for the giddy “Tangerine,” or nature celebrated in the gospel-influenced “The Woods and the Wild?” The album rounds out with “Waging Peace” with a series of “How many” questions. If you’ve got no answers for them, you probably ought to join the march with Pete’s guitar reverb and Maura’s voice leading the way.


On to other things:


Katy Guillen and the Drive
is a Kansas City-based duo with Guillen on lead vocals, guitar, bass (and occasional keys) and Stephanie Williams on drums and bass. As that implies the sound on Another One Gained is stripped to the bone. They call it indie rock, but you might also think lo-fi and retro. Guillen’s smoky vocals often echo in the mix, though she pierces through Williams’ pounding percussion. The bulk of the songs are about relationships, broken (the title track), probably needing to be so (“Avoiding Every Sound”), emergent (“Discoloration”), scared-but-going with it (“Bottom of Your Belly”), or celebratory (“Different”). She throws out great lines such as I’m cozy in my bed of nails and There is no reason to think about/What I would have changed/For an opportunity lost is another one gained. I was intrigued, but I enjoyed Guillen’s music in small doses. The album could use more variety of style and delivery. 


Momi Maiga
is a Senegalese singer and kora player now based in Barcelona. The 21-stringed harp-like kora is plucked and well suited for solo runs. Its pitch usually matches the instrument’s voice, but Maiga’s vocals are also a strong complement for the kora. Nio feels like a summer breeze that invites deep listening, or simply lying back and letting the sprays of notes wash over you. Why not? One of the compositions is even called “Ocean.” Maiga’s arrangements often owe more to contemporary jazz and New Age music than West African traditional songs, but it’s all good. Try “Ocean” and “Dadje” for examples of jazz infusions and hear him sing on “Kumo” and “Wato,” the second of which evokes a late night club feel.


(Ricard Ros I Roig) is also from Barcelona. I really liked De la Terra with a big qualification. Ros is Roig plays flutes and the sac de mus (bagpipes) His six-track EP is a mix of exciting tunes and lovely pastoral pieces. The band–sometimes four pieces and sometimes five with the addition of brass–offers quieter treasures such as “Arlovins,” but  gets the room hopping with fast-paced material such as “Sac buit.” But let’s talk about the percussion, which throws off the balance. Much of it is the tambori of Axel Balzquez, who also plays delicate flute. When I watched Ros videos, Balquez's hand drums are more constrained but, on the recording, I mistook them for a drum machine. They are so front forward and repetitive that they distract from the melodies rather than frame them. Listen to the sylvan “Juno” and you’ll hear the difference when the percussion is tamped down. Two things would make this a great album: better engineering and ditching the gimmickry.


If you like dreamy Asian music, try the Heart of the Dragon Ensemble. It’s an “ensemble” in the broadest possible way: a Chinese arts collaboration based in London that brings together musicians, acrobats, dancers, and visual artists. (You might recognize similarities to Chinese “opera,” which couldn’t be less like how Westerners perceive that term.) The Art of the Chinese Xiao and Hulusi celebrates festivals devoted to literature and music. The intent is to fuse East Asian and Western music, but the latter is mostly guitar and piano, with Chinese instruments such as the zither-like guzheng, the two-string bowed erhu, and the many-fretted (and often dramatic) pipa the stars of the project. Try “Wild Geese Over the Sands” for calmness and “The Moon Before Dawn” for something a touch more lively. Overall, this is a soothing, meditative album. 


Rob Weir

Three Tousand Years of Longing is a Magical Discovery


Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

Directed by George Miller

United Artists Releasing, 108 minutes, R (mild nudity and violence)





No one has ever accused Tilda Swinton of playing it safe when it comes to considering movie roles. She’s unorthodox in demeanor, temperament, and appearance–the sort of actress that shows up as a sultry vampire or looks like a David Bowie doppelganger. In Three Thousand Years of Longing she’s a cross between a nebbish librarian and a gal wanting to unleash her libido. Plus, she has her own djinn (genie).


This fantasy film is based on an A.S. Byatt story but could have been culled from 1001 Arabian Nights. Swinton is Alithea Binnie, a narrologist, an overly serious and dorky scholar of stories, myths, and legends. She’s analogous to Dan Brown’s symbologist Robert Langdon in that she can instantly recall detailed meanings embedded in obscure sources. She is in Istanbul for a conference when she stumbles into a shop, sidesteps the owner’s efforts to sell her something elegant, and leaves with a misshapen blue bottle that somehow appeals to her.


When she’s alone, she prises off the top, inhales spicy dust, and the giant form of a djinn fills the room. Most people would be alarmed by that, but Alithea isn’t most people. At first, she thinks she’s hallucinating—she’s prone to doing so—but she’s not. Nor is the bottle’s resident djinn (Idris Elba) typical in any way other than being required to grant three wishes. Alithea is not falling for that. She’s a narrologist after all, and she can’t think of the scenario in which a genie’s granted wishes turn out well.


Our unnamed djinn is very happy to be out of his bottle but is perplexed by her lack of desire to wish for anything. He tries all his wiles to tempt her, but Alithea only wants to listen. As we learn, he’s a powerful djinn but not a very strategic one. Alithea is thrilled by his stories of course, and the djinn has many. He has had numerous lovers over the centuries, including the Queen of Sheba, one of Suleiman’s concubines, and a Turkish merchant’s wife. But he has always managed to miscalculate and become reimprisoned in his bottle, once for 3000 years!


It would be safe to say that Alithea and her djinn make an odd couple no Broadway play or TV show could conjure. He continues to badger her into wishing for something–maybe it’s in the genie bylaws that you need to do that–but she is the ice to his fire. In essence, it’s a standoff between a powerful spirit and a canny dweeb. When Alethia finally does wish for one thing, her choice is surprising and is willingly granted.


You probably know that genies are common in arid lands, but not so much in damp climes. Complications arise when Alithea brings her bottled djinn to London. Let’s just say that adaptations are the order of the day.


Despite what I have written so far, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a film for adults, not Harry Potter in a bottle. It only works because director George Miller of Mad Max fame sets free two terrific actors to find their comfort levels with one another. Of the two, Swinton is the oddest, which is quite an accomplishment when your co-star is a mythical figure. Swinton is rational and stubborn in temperament; Idris is, by turn, pleading, stormy, resigned, and tender. As a djinn, though, he has all the time in the world!


Like the characters in this film–and it’s largely a pas de deux–I cycled through various moods and impressions. At first, I found the entire premise absurd. But I grew perplexed, then anxious. In the end I was charmed.


This is a quirky film and I’m not at all shocked that it fared poorly in theaters. Even after having gone to DVD and onto numerous streaming platforms it has largely fallen between the cracks. That’s a nice way of saying that not many people have seen it. My advice is to watch it and let it work its magic.


Rob Weir