Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Laguna Matata!

As I mentioned the other day, my wife and I spent the weekend in Laguna Beach. This was kind of an anniversary gift from my in-laws (our actual 4th anniversary is tomorrow), and a welcome break from normalcy, despite having to fit the "vacation" into a standard weekend without taking any time off from work.

We stayed at the "Hotel Laguna," which has a history dating back to the late 1800's, although the current structure was built more recently (dedicated in 1930). It is rumored (though apparently not confirmed) that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall stayed here. The picture on the right shows the view outside of our hotel room window, where we could see the ocean just beyond the hotel garden, which as used on Sunday for two weddings (a third was held on the nearby beach, also connected to the hotel). Clearly, the location is a popular one.

The beach is certainly one of the reasons Laguna is so popular. Here, you can see our hotel in the background beyond the crowds of people enjoying the sand and sun. I have to confess that I'm not much of a "beach" person, myself, but I still have to admit that the view is wonderful.

Another thing that Laguna Beach is known for is its artistic community. The Sawdust festival is just one of several places where visitors can go to peruse and purchase works from a variety of artists from around the area. My wife and I have been to the Sawdust festival several times, and this trip was certainly no exception. For obvious (I hope!) reasons, many of the artists ask that visitors not take pictures of their works. This is how many of these people earn a living, and people certainly have less reason to buy a painting (for example) if they can just take a photograph of it! So, for the most part, my camera stayed in my pocket while here. Still, I had to snap a shot of what the booths look like just as you enter.

Another tradition in Laguna Beach is the "Festival of the Masters," which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. For those unfamiliar with the Festival of the Masters, it is a production consisting of tableau: representations of famous artistic works (in this case, both paintings and statuary) using motionless actors on stage. If you've never seen such a presentation, the effect is difficult to describe. From the distance of the seats in the audience, the motionless actors and the lighting and the backdrops and the props all work together to create an eerie illusion of two-dimensionality, even when you know that there are real (i.e., three-dimensional) people and objects on the stage. The actors are creatively anchored to the backdrops in such a way, for example, that you often cannot tell what they're standing (or sitting) on in order to appear in the proper place within the "painting" that they are recreating. As with most stage productions, photography here was also prohibited, but here's a shot of the program and my ticket. The work depicted on the program: The Giant, was one of the pieces recreated on stage, although the stage recreation had to, for reasons of necessity of scale, focus mostly on the bottom portion with the children, adding the eponymous "giant" only later via an overhead projection.

All in all, an enjoyable "quickie vacation," although I confess that the traffic getting in and out via the two-lane highway leading through the mountains immediately east of town was more than a little frustrating. If you want to go see the sights, consider yourself warned.

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