Monday, February 09, 2004

Kvetching blog.

Not too cold today, but exceptionally windy, and in the dead of winter winds blow in only one direction: in your face. Outdoor photo shoot today, four interviews over the phone, editing for on-line publications, answering the phone, scouring my inbox of its spam, etc., etc. So today made me a little irritable. If it had been Tuesday or Wednesday or even Thursday, it wouldn't have seemed so annoying, this crush of tasks. But it was Monday on top of everything else.

Might as well go with this mood to kvetch. For a few moments today I passed through the State of Illinois Building, that round glassy UFO of a building downtown also known as the Thompson Center, for it was then-Gov. Thompson who commissioned it from Helmut Jahn 20+ years ago. Near the entrance, there's a kiosk that promotes tourism in Illinois, and I paused there for a moment. Never know what you'll find at such a kiosk.

One leaflet announced: "FORBIDDEN. The Field Museum Chicago." Those were the words on the cover, along with a painting of a Mandarin. As it turned out, he wasn't actually a Mandarin, but the boss of the Mandarins, the Emperor Qianlong (18th century, descendant of Manchus who done good). On the back, there's more explanation: "Splendors of China’s Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong."

Which is the Field's latest megashow, running from March to September. It looks interesting: high art from a high despot. Elegant vases, elaborately carved furniture, bowls of distinction and taste, that sort of thing. With the added panache of being from the FORBIDDEN city.

I'm not kvetching about the subject, or slant of the leaflet, or the idea of megashows, or the Field Museum -- a fine museum all around. This is my gripe: "Tickets to the exhibition, including basic admission to the museum, are $17 for adults, $14 for seniors and students with ID, $8 for children 3-11." Total for two adults and two children: $50, not counting transit, snacks, or gift-shop baubles.

Forget it. The Manchus might be interesting, but they're not that interesting. I suppose if you had a passion for this kind of art, and can't make it to Beijing, this show would be for you. But if you're not altogether sold on this megashow, that price is too damn high.

I checked my notes, and the admission Yuriko and I paid to see the Forbidden City itself was about $7 per person. Granted, that was 10 years ago, but that's beside the point, which is this: the cultural/entertainment inflation of the last 20 years or so pisses me off. I'll bet the proprietors of museums, concert halls, live theaters, night clubs, sports teams, and so on would cite an increasing cost of doing business, but their price increases have far exceeded inflation over the years. Somehow, those institutions survived before the days of ticket inflation. Lately, they've just been sticking it to the visiting public.

A minor gripe, in the scheme of things. But a legitimate one, I think. I generally avoid megashows, and I’ll have to live without gazing upon this fine set of Manchu objets d’art.


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