May 16, 2010

10 Picks for the Week

RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London, May 25 – May 29
Gardeners and flower lovers of this world unite every spring at the world’s most famous flower show on London’s Royal Hospital Road. Prince Charles usually pitches up, and all the lovely English roses do too. Tickets are hard to come by unless you plan ahead or know somebody, though it is certainly worth going out of ones way to get in. This year, peony growers are expecting the best display in years.

1610: the Medici’s Homage to Henri IV, King of France and Navarre, Château de Pau Museum, France, through May 30
Marking the 400th anniversary of the King’s assassination, this exhibition is being held in the castle where the king was born in 1553. Although baptized a Catholic, Henry, who succeeded his father as King of Navarre in 1572, had been brought up as a Calvinist by his mother and sided with the Huguenot cause in the Wars of Religion before ascending the throne as King of France in 1589 and returning to Catholicism. Pau is a city in the Pyrenees with spectacular views; the beautiful Pau castle has a good tapestry collection, and was used as an occasional summer home by the Emperor Napoleon during his reign of France. History buffs, this one’s for you.

I Speak Because I Can
Laura Marling, the most prominent member of a loose community of young London-based performers, including Johnny Flynn and Mumford and Sons, recorded her first album, Alas I Cannot Swim, at the ripe young age of 17—now, just three years later, her follow-up album I Speak Because I Can suggests a formidable songwriter with (newfound) authority. She echoes PJ Harvey in the way she sinks her teeth into her lyrics; Joni Mitchell in her warm, dusty voice and intuitive guitar-playing. In a world all too full of Disney pop-stars, Marling stands out as a healthy breath of fresh air.

The French Open, Paris, May 23 – June 6
The 2010 French Open will be the 109th edition and the second Grand Slam event of the year. Last year’s champion Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, and the Williams sisters will all be on hand to fight it out on the outdoor clay courts. For the first time ever the match will be available in 3D for those with the right equipment. The matches will also be visible from “the beach” by Paris”€™ city hall (for those of you couch-ridden, there is an official television schedule). Other events and entertainment will surely be splattered with the sponsors; logos and the accompanying paraphernalia. Expect to see John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, and other tennis vets.

Auto-Theater, Franz West, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples, Italy, May 15 – August 23
Wander down to the beautiful Southern Italian coast, eat some pasta, and visit the dramatic city of Naples. This major European retrospective of the Austrian artist groups over 40 works in themed constellations for this exhibition. Auto-Theater points to the performative and interactive dimensions of works curated by the artist himself. Visitors will experience the sheer complexity and singularity of his oeuvre.  West’s earliest Adaptives (Passstücke) and collages from the 1970s, papier-mâché sculptures, furniture, site-specific installations, picture walls from the eighties, and his latest sculptures for public spaces will all be on view.

The Pregnant Widow, by Martin Amis
Just as Amis fans were about to give up hope comes a liberating new novel, unique to the Amos canon, in that it is all about sex. It’s not a Gulag novel that turns out to be about sex, nor is it a nuclear-war novel that turns out to be about sex. Set in 1970, our 20-year-old protagonist Keith spends summer in Italy with a small group of friends, primary among them on-again/off-again girlfriend Lily and her gorgeous, trouble-making (for Keith), unfortunately named friend, Scheherazade. “The frankness,” New York magazine points out, “makes [Amis] look, paradoxically, a little less pervy,” which, also maybe ironically, makes the novel all the more revelatory.

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, New York, through May 18
This multi-day drinking fest is actually far classier than it first sounds: a mixture of “bar myth busters,” sherry lectures, and experimental bourbon tastings throughout New York City might leave your head begging for aspirin, but your tastes will beg for more. This first ever cocktail classic purports to celebrate the history, contemporary culture, and artful craft of the cocktail. Check out “The Dizzy Fizz Tastemaker’s Punch” on Monday, “Sustainable Spirits? The Cocktail as Food Justice and the Universal Right of Pleasure” on Tuesday, or any other number of spirits-education events—just don’t miss it.


Glyndebourne Festival, England, May 20 – August 29
Every summer English garden and opera buffs gear up for Glyndebourne, the high-brow place to be of the season. The festival was started in 1934 by the Christie family at their East Sussex estate. This year Don Giovanni, Hansel and Gretel, and Cosi Fan Tutte, among others are on the bill. The headline news is the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Billy Budd, directed by Michael Grandage, in his first venture into opera. Bring a picnic and enjoy the countryside.


Buddha’s Birthday, Hong Kong, May 21
Buddhists around the world will be celebrating the Buddhas’s birth. If you happen to be in Hong Kong, temples around the city burst in celebration. The enlightened one’s birth year is uncertain, though historians date it to around 400 BC. The Buddhist system of insight and meditation practice is not believed to have been revealed divinely, but by the understanding of the true nature of the mind, which must be discovered by personally treading a spiritual path guided by the wise gemini’s teachings. Happy Birthday to you!

Cougar Town
This delightfully entertaining Courteney Cox-vehicle started as just that: a sitcom for old Friends diehards, forty-something divorcees, and not much more. But in perhaps the fastest creative turnaround television has ever seen, this show has evolved into a weekly installment of smart ensemble-based comedy that knows how to make its viewers root for each character. Our favorite part: the unabashed, large amounts of wine they constantly drink, and Andy and Ellie’s perverse, but surprisingly honest, marriage. Tune in to the finale this week and watch Grayson and Jules break the news that they’re dating to her ex, then spend the summer catching up before season two. But whatever you do, skip the first six episodes—it truly was a different (and not one we’d have recommended then) show.


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