McDonald's turned 50 this year. And, like many 50-year-olds, Ronald is in the thick of a midlife crisis. Yet, in contrast with the pencil-pushing, righteous-living ways of many who feel the urge to indulge their inner adolescents, McDonald's has gotten all the play out of the way. The Happy Meal lifestyle couldn't last forever, much as the joy that comes from shoving a Big Mac down your craw and following it with a haystack of fries turns inevitably bilious and dyspeptic. So now McDonald's is on a bit of a health kick, pushing salads and apple slices instead of slobbery sandwiches and snotty apple pies.
SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- Nearly all visitors to Cambodia come to see the ancient temples of Angkor -- the tree-strangled Ta Prohm, the exquisite Banteay Srei, and the majestic symmetry of Angkor Wat itself, among countless others. But not far from the ruins lies a memorial to a less glorious part of Cambodia's past: the Cambodian Landmine Museum, Prevention, and Rehabilitation Center, run by local de-miner Aki Ra.
What power lies in a picture? Flat, boxed in a frame, a mere snap in time, skeptics may say. But, for at least three artists in a new, Washington, DC, exhibition, photography offers the sweeping power of protest -- dynamic, fully dimensional -- captured in the smallest and simplest of human moments.
“We Could Be Heroes” is the latest exhibition at the gallery Transformer, a shoebox of a space wedged into a gentrifying neighborhood east of Dupont Circle -- and into a city not nationally known for its arts scene. The brainchild of gallery co-directors Jayme McLellan and Victoria Reis, Transformer showcases the work of emerging artists; “Heroes” is, however, one of the first overtly political shows the gallery has produced.
It was a familiar sight: a photograph of a drawn, ashen-faced man standing next to rows of skulls. He looked liked many of the tourists who stand at Cambodia's Choeung Ek killing field, dazed and staring at the rows of bones, craniums stoved in by machetes and clubs and garden hoes.
But the man was no tourist. His powerful shoulders gave away his military past; the down-turned eyes hinted at horrors witnessed and never forgotten. The photograph was a publicity still for a film; the man in the photo is retired lieutenant general Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian who presided over the doomed UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, a ragtag outfit deprived of the mandate to fulfill any part of its moniker.
The theater at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh is buzzing, even on this sticky Sunday night. Hordes of young people are pulling up on their motorcycles or chatting on cell phones -- the kind of crowd I've seen at free rock concerts by the city's riverfront. The young people are here to see a much more sobering performance tonight: a modern Cambodian play called A Wounded Life. Looking down at my program, I meet the sad gaze of the play's heroine, Poeu, an innocent country girl whose family is deceived into selling her into prostitution.