Issue:  Vol. 46 / No. 38 / 22 September 2016

Dishing it up at the Legion

Out There

Two Sevres trays and a cup and saucer are part of the Gustavo Serina bequest on display at the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Pieces from an innovative French porcelain manufactory that served under Louis XV's royal patronage are displayed in a new exhibition at the Legion of Honor. Sevres and Vincennes Porcelain from the Gustavo Serina Collection will be on show through Jan. 22, 2017. Under the nom de plume Tavo Amador, Serina is a frequent contributor to Arts & Culture, so we asked him to engage in a brief Q&A about the exhibit via email.

Roberto Friedman: How did you become interested in 18th-century French porcelain? When did you first start collecting it?

Gustavo Serina: My BA and MA are in Early Modern European History, with an emphasis on France from 1715-1815. During that period, French decorative arts dominated Europe. From about 1750, the Sevres Royal Factory produced porcelain that set the standard for that art form. I began collecting it in 2001.

Why have you promised your collection as a gift to the FAMSF?

I have promised the collection to the FAMSF because the Legion of Honor was established to house French art, and because my late husband Robert W. Melbourne (Bob ) and I had 42 happy years together in the Bay Area. A gift from him started the collection, and he frequently added to it. Leaving the collection to the FAMSF is a small way of giving back.

Do you have a favorite piece?

I don't have a favorite piece, but a few items on display are extremely rare, notably the petit vert (pale turquoise) tray that probably was part of a tea service purchased by Louis XV on Christmas Eve, 1761, and the roze (pink) ground plate from the 1758 dinner service purchased by the Duc de Richelieu. These items have an intimacy that other art-forms lack. They were held, used, and admired by their original owners and subsequent generations. This is very appealing to me.


What's the buzz?

As a desk editor, our least awesome, superexciting correspondence comes from business agents promoting the perfect online service for us. For the most part we will spare you all the details. But we do make an exception for a recent cold call.


"We're updating, our automated jargon and buzzword removal tool. This free tool automatically hacks PR buzzwords out of press releases. Terms like repurposing, solution, robust, best of breed, mission-critical, next-generation, web-enabled, leading, value-added, leverage, seamless, etc., are struck out by the Buzzsaw. It also takes a scythe to cutesy hipster-style words and phrases like totes amazeballs, awesome and superexcited.

"If there are any new words or phrases that you'd like us to add to the database, please let me know.

"Best regards,

"Hamish Thompson."


"First, thank you for all the hard work and dedication. Been to the site, and let's just say your Hall of Shame resonates. Oops, there's one from us: resonates. Also there's: thanks for all the hard work. But really, don't get us started. Can we just say this about that?

"As much as we appreciate your pointing out the inanity of such phrases as 'manage expectations' and 'expedite the deliverables,' we'd be much happier if we could add whole buzz categories to your list of buzz words, namely: sports and military metaphors. We feel like sports and the military are already foisted upon us rather more than we'd like, and we mean more than simply in manners of dress and sex. We mean in whole strings of words, and after all, words are just signposts, manifestations of thoughts. So start the buzzsaw, please!

"First up there's 'my team' and 'your team.' Now, Out There hasn't relayed a foul ball to one of our colleagues or kicked one through the goalposts since we were forced to wear cleats on the playing fields of high school phys. ed. So can we get off the turf already?

"Then, we are not proud that our national government is the largest arms provider in the world. Or that our military is by far the biggest suckler on the meager teats of our taxes. So we do not want to hear 'mission: accomplished' or 'over and out' about anything from you or your team. Instead, we want to give peace a chance.

"We mean, this is where the buzz words 'win rates' (sports) and 'Roger that!' (military) come from. We're already suckers for a military cut. But if only we could eliminate the competitive, zero-sum mindset, we'll surely (you should excuse the expression) expedite the deliverables. And that will be totes amaze-balls.

"Gay peace & love,



The American Dream

RIP Great gay playwright Edward Albee , 88. Who's afraid of George and Martha?

Years ago, at an OutWrite LGBT writers' conference, Out There asked Albee his feelings about a gay sensibility in front of a room full of people. Albee replied snippily that there was no such thing, something along the lines of, he wasn't a gay playwright, he was a playwright who happened to be gay. Well, okay. Last week in The New York Times, Dick Cavett was quoted as saying that in the 1970s, Albee ambushed him in a Montauk deli and told him to lay off the "fag jokes." So he was sort of on both sides of the issue.

Anyway, no doubt he was a theatre immortal. Virginia Woolf, Zoo Story: everyone knows the early plays. But his later work was equally great. A few seasons ago, ACT staged a production of The Goat that knocked our socks off. So for Edward: Baa-aah!


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