Carrie Fisher’s latest offering, the cleverly titled Shockaholic, is a markedly similar follow-up to her Wishful Drinking, which was released in 2008 and eventually parlayed into a successful one-woman show on Broadway. For those who are partial to Fisher’s sharp and acerbic take on things, her sense of the absurd clearly derived from first-hand experience, Shockaholic (if not exactly shocking) doesn’t disappoint.
In this slim and admittedly self-indulgent collection, the novelist/actress (Princess Leia in a long-ago and far-away Star Wars incarnation), reprises her riff on an often surreal life as child of Hollywood stars, ‘50s sweethearts Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, in an anecdotal memoir that could have been titled “Before I Forget.” (For the majority of those too young to remember, her parents’ marriage ended when her father ran off with screen siren Elizabeth Taylor, quite the scandal in those days.)
The name of the book is a play on her recent experiences with electroshock therapy, a treatment that has proven successful in her ongoing struggle with bipolar disorder (a subject covered in her novel, The Best Awful). It comprises the opening chapter, where Fisher goes on the record about the amnesiacal after-effects of ECT, as it’s called, which results in loss of short-term memory. (She admits to “blanks” at various stages throughout the volume.)
In typical Fisher fashion, she finds humor in the madness: ”One could argue that by having regular ECT treatments, I’m paying two – that’s right, two – electric bills. One for the house and one for my head.” But on a more serious note, she adds that it “punched the dark lights” out of her depression. Continue reading
The recent opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art spurs some thoughts about a pervasive practice involving philanthropy and the arts, and how (thankfully) there can still be an exception to the rule.
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Bentonville, AK
Created with a $800-million-dollar donation spearheaded by Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, Crystal Bridges is situated in a lovely locale surrounded by streams and woods in Bentonville, Arkansas. It’s unique not only in that its unassuming location belies the magnitude and scope of its collection, but the fact that its name is refreshingly devoid of its benefactor, in contrast to the long history of the rich bequeathing millions in exchange for immortality. (Among the more notable: the Whitney, Guggenheim, and Morgan museums in New York City, the Gardner in Boston, the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C.– and the list goes on.) Continue reading
Something I saw in a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine led me to vicariously visit a world of darkness many, many leagues under the sea, a place where organisms subsist by way of a reactive chemical process that allows them to navigate their way through existence in the blackest of environments.
Bioluminescence, as it’s known, results in various forms of marine life emitting light, often glowing in colorful, beautiful patterns, as a means of adapting to the harsh circumstances of survival without benefit of the sun.
A real-life ctenophore (comb jelly), in full glory
Artist Shih Chieh Huang, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, was clearly captivated by the concept of bioluminescence, and his inspiration is displayed in The Bright Beneath, left, an exhibition currently on view at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Working closely with museum scientists, and with access to a collection of millions of specimens for research, Huang created a mix of lights, computer parts, plastic tubes, and other assorted items, that are an artistic interpretation of what it might be like to encounter these complex ocean creatures, suspended amidst the dimmed lights of the gallery space.
Of course, the really spectacular light show takes place in a world far removed from that of museums (brief clip here). But projects like Huang’s remind again of the creative bond shared by the spheres of art and science. (The Bright Beneath is at the Museum of Natural History through January 8.)