Technology, new art forms, food, and ballet

I’m fortunate to have a ring side seat as information technology is transforming the world, but it doesn’t always look pretty. It makes me wonder, at times, whether, as machines get smarter, humans on average are becoming more and more like the race depicted in the wonderful animated picture Wall-E: fatter, lazier, and dumber. But I haven’t given up all hope, and there are some signs pointing the other direction.

A case in point: this week when my son Gabe (pictured here at Alta last week) sent along his first self-produced short video, which is here. He shot it with a tiny body cam over the course of 3 days skiing in Telluride, CO. The finished product reminded me strongly of some of the beautiful skiing we did together. It’s hard to describe the complex sensations and emotions of skiing far from away from the crowd when its steep and deep, but Gabe managed to convey some of it. The flamenco score heightens the sense of edginess — wild joy with stabs of fear.

Good skiing sometimes seems like art, almost like dance, but the work is seldom shared with other humans by the skier-creator. Until recently, filming the experience was a costly and difficult undertaking. In the past couple of years, though, video cameras have gotten much cheaper as well as tinier, and easier to use, and the software for recording and editing has become highly accessible. The tools for communicating the work instantly and almost cost-free over the internet now exist. The learning curve for use of all this technology is short. And so a new class of artist is being born — the skier-auteur. Technology advances are likewise enabling new types of musical expression, and undoubtedly many other artistic expressions. Perhaps the day will come when everyone will be an artist.

Is food art? I argued about this years ago with my friend Tom, a gourmand who took a strong position that great chefs were artists. Over the years, I’ve moved closer to his position. A great restaurant is a multi-media experience, with sets, lighting, sound, and actors, and also smells and tastes.

Last night Sally and I tried a new Thai restaurant off of Moore Square — Fai Thai. It has replaced the Duck & Dumpling, an Asian fusion spot that was one of our favorites, and that we were sad to see close. The emphasis is less on standard Thai fare than on local ingredients and variety. The decor changes involved colorful parasols and lanterns, which were engaging. The menu had fewer vegetarian options than we hoped, but enough to get started. We found the three dishes we tried each quite different and delicious. The spiciness hit the Goldilocks point — not too much, not too little. Our waiter was friendly and attentive, and the manager took some time to talk to us about the aspirations of the place. He appeared to take on board our suggestions for more attention to vegetarians. Thai food fans should try it.

After dinner, we saw the Carolina Ballet perform Carmen. This is the third time we’ve seen the company do Weiss’s ballet, which is one of our favorites in the repertory. Bizet’s music is unforgettable, and the story is sort of perfect for ballet — love, jealousy, death. For all my admiration of Peggy Severin-Hansen’s great talent, I had my doubts about her as Carmen, who is a sensual, cynical heartbreaker. Peggy’s long suit is purity and innocence — the perfect Firebird. Her Carmen was sweeter than normal, not completely cynical, but this turned out to give the tragedy a new bit of bite — more tragic in a way. Richard Krusch as the Toreador was highly serious, and convincing. He’s a fine dancer who keeps getting better. As always, the story ended with a violent shock, but the production was wonderful.