The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Yesterday, taking a break from studying, I finally got out to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco's current exhibit on Geisha. The collection was extensive, the kimonos were quite enjoyable, the guided tours were avoidable, and the explanation-blurbs on the wall were quite repetitive and rife with subtle orientalism. Not bad, I suppose.

The descriptions of the various items in the exhibit (paintings, scrolls, kimonos, instruments, photographs, sketches, etc) were geared heavily towards convincing patrons to discard any preformulated idea of geisha being "hookers with white facepaint". I guess that's what you have to do. I mean, it was hyper-self-conscious, no doubt. But perhaps their necessity was suggested by the presence, near the end of the exhibit, of a series of 1950's posters for movies featuring famous American actors crossing the Pacific and meeting exotic Asian women!. John Wayne and Marlon Brando had such film roles.

Included in the exhibit was a smattering of musical instruments used by geisha, including a stringed banjo-like instrument called a shamisen. Happily abiding by the tacit code of conduct to be found in any large museum, I did not open the plastic case, remove the instrument, and lead the exhibit hall in a medley of some sort. But what I could surmise from viewing the shamisen is that it's probably a lot lighter, and infinitely more comfortable to play, than the heavy, cumbersome, leave-a-dent-in-your-right-quad banjo. I've been banjo-free for over four years now.

Lastly, if you check it out and then find yourself in the museum's internal eatery, I also highly recommend the soba noodle salad.

Okay, back to studying or something!


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