You Couldn’t Pay Me to… and Milk Duds at the Opera

Ellen has to prep for her dates with the brilliant British guy she meets at a Kandinsky

Ellen meets a very cultured professor  at the art museum.  He knows EVERYTHING.

Okay, I admit I like culture.  But I couldn’t get tickets to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet.

Am I in London?

No, so it hardly matters.

So what do we do in the Midwest for fun?

I pretend to shop at the mall like other women, but usually just stop at the bookstore.

And during the long, long, long harrowing winter nights when the wolves are howling at the door, etc,  I read Sophocles in Greek and Plautus in Latin. That’s theater, isn’t it?   If you study classics for seven years and then teach it for seven more (or more), it’s a snap.

But there are so many subjects I know little about.

And so I was laughing my head off over an episode of Ellen, the ’90s  sitcom starring Ellen DeGeneres.  In “Ellen’s Improvement” (Season 2, Episode 13), she decides to improve herself after she and her friends miss all the questions on Jeopardy.  Perturbed that she didn’t know who Kandinsky was,  she reads a book about him.

.Then she drags Adam and Paige to a museum.

Paige:   “I don’t get art.”

Ellen:  “You’ve gotta give it time.”

Paige:  “No, my mom said if it doesn’t go with the drapes it’s not worth having”

Ellen:  “Yes, this $300 million dollar Kandinsky would clash with her ceramic clown collection.”

Okay, that’s funny.  But it’s even funnier when she meets a UCLA professor from England and they have an arty chat.  Then she has to prep for her dates with him, until she introduces him to her world of watching TV on “Melrose Place” night.   Heather Locklear reminds him of Lady Macbeth.

That is my nightmare.  I love art museums but pray I don’t have to talk about art.  I have had many a trite conversation with friends who know the phrase, “Ah, the colors.”  Perhaps I’ll read a few chapters in my Sister Wendy art history book and learn a new phrase before I rush off to that Sargent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I am so bored by opera that I laughed hysterically when Ellen falls asleep and her friend Adam throws a milk dud at the woman singing Madame Butterfly.

I’m sorry, but it’s just so funny!

And so I must, like Ellen, take a crash course in culture.


 Hamlet, because Benedict Cumberbatch is stunned that I’m missing his performance.  (My last Hamlet was  Paul Gross at Stratford, Ontario, 2000.)

Julian Barnes’s Keeping an Eye Open:  Essays on Art. Actually, I do want to read this.

The Amazon sample of Evan Baker’s From the Score to the Stage: An Illustrated History of Continental Opera Production and Staging.  (Just the sample!)

Crafting with Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya. (But it is art?  No, I’m kidding.)

Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me?   (She’s funny.)

Chrissie Hynde’s Reckless: My Life As a Pretender  (She is a stunning rocker; rock is art; ergo, rock, scissors, paper.)

The Penguin Book of Witches, ed. by Katherine Howe.  Halloween is coming!  And I might have to talk about witchery!  And I’ve been to Salem!  Diane Purkiss, author of The Witch in History: Early modern and twentieth century representations, said in the TLS  that Howe’s anthology of witchcraft was  too American.  Good, I’m Howe’s audience!  (Howe is also a very good novelist.)

The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael (Library of America).  If you read Kael’s brilliant movie reviews in the ’70s and ’80s in The New Yorker, you know how outrageous she was.

So what’s on your list?

6 thoughts on “You Couldn’t Pay Me to… and Milk Duds at the Opera

  1. I find that I enjoy the thing itself — paintings, music — more than most of what is written about art. Historical background is fine, but as soon as they use words to convey the essence of another medium they get into trouble, usually sounding pretentious and intimidating the rest of us. Let’s make the critics use the art they claim to understand. They should sing or play their music comments, draw or paint their art criticism.


  2. Paul Groos as Hamlet was terrific…just saw Jonathan Goad as Hamlet and it was very good…but not like Paul
    I enjoy your blog and reviews, etc


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s