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Smithsonian Associates Digital Digest

If you've resolved to make 2024 a more interesting and rewarding year, this month's digest offers a great head start. Whether you're looking for ways to enhance your health, deepen your understanding of music and art, spice up your culinary know-how, or prep for April's total solar eclipse, you'll find a wealth of suggestions to help manifest your resolutions.

And, as always, this lively monthly collection is designed to make sure you continue to enjoy what you've come to value from Smithsonian Associates: programs and experiences that are entertaining, informative, eclectic, and insightful.


Yoga as Lifestyle Medicine

Are you intrigued by yoga, but think it might not be for you? You may change your position after spending an interactive day with Linda Lang, a certified yoga therapist who introduces how yoga can be the self-care component in anyone's healthcare prescription: a lifestyle medicine that promotes overall well-being.

Join Lang on Thursday, February 8 as she weaves time-honored practices with scientific research to examine how yoga can calm your nervous system, improve heart health, benefit cancer survivors, and strengthen memory while reversing symptoms of cognitive decline to reduce the risk of dementia. Lang covers categories of asana movements; pranayama breath work and meditation; and offers perspectives on how to embrace yoga as a clear path to lifelong health, inspired living, and better being that works for you.

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Gut Instincts

The last decade has shown the importance of maintaining a balanced gut microbiome and the consequences of its disruption. On Tuesday, March 12, physician John Whyte, chief medical officer of WebMD, leads an enlightening investigation of the world of gut health and the intricate ecosystem that resides within us.

Whyte delves into the fascinating microscopic universe of the gut microbiome-a complex community of trillions of microorganisms that play a pivotal role in our overall well-being-to explain how these tiny inhabitants influence our digestion as well as our immune system, metabolism, and even mood. He provides an opportunity to empower yourself to make informed choices for a healthier, happier gut and to learn about the factors that can influence it, such as diet and lifestyle choices, stress, and the use of antibiotics and probiotics.

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A Winter Feast

We've cooked up a grand menu of food and wine programs to warm the cold months. On Friday, January 26, Smithsonian Associates' favorite sommelier Erik Segelbaum explores the grapes of Bordeaux and leads tastings through classic wines including white Bordeaux, reds from selected Left- and Right-Bank appellations, and even a few surprises. The immersive program includes a curated personal tasting kit to enhance the experience.

Turmeric gets attention for its health-giving properties and is treasured as a culinary spice, lending a base of flavor and brilliant pop of yellow to dishes around the world. On Tuesday, January 30, spice expert Eleanor Ford covers the facts, myths, and properties of turmeric and offers guidance on how to use this spice to its best effect.

Drawing on her new book Chinese Menu, Grace Lin shares the stories behind delectable Chinese American favorites from fried dumplings to fortune cookies. Rooted in history and folklore, the delightful tales are filled with squabbling dragons, magical fruits, and hungry monks. Journalist Lisa Ling joins Lin on Thursday, February 8 to uncover the rich histories of these dishes just in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Although Lin's book is for young readers, this delicious conversation is for foodies of all ages.

Indulge your senses on a journey through the captivating history of chocolate on Monday, February 12 at the Ripley Center. Food historian Francine Segan gets to the scrumptious center of our love affair with the treat as she traces chocolate's origins, colorful history, and connections to figures including Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, and Casanova. Afterward, enjoy a sampling of Italian chocolates and take home chocolate-infused recipes for sweet Valentine's celebrations.


Art That Moves You

Dancing is both an art in and of itself and an inspiration for visual artists. And that has been true for thousands of years. A recent major exhibition at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, "Beyond Bollywood: 2000 Years of Dance in Art," highlighted the rich meanings and ideas that dance has conveyed over the last two millennia in Southern Asia. In a beautifully illustrated talk on Thursday, January 25, co-curator Forrest McGill reveals how historic and contemporary sculpture, painting, textiles, jewelry, and photographs from countries including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia have their roots in dance.

The 19th-century dance halls and cabarets of the Montmartre district in Paris were like a second home to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who lived nearby. Many of his images, including paintings, prints, and caricatures, drew on visits to these haunts. On Wednesday, February 21, art historian Joseph Paul Cassar offers a critical analysis of Lautrec's paintings and posters within the context of life in Montmartre. Cassar also talks about the artist's aristocratic family background; his sufferings due to physical ailments; and how he found comfort in his art.

Henri Matisse, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, created everything from tiny etchings to enormous cast-bronze sculptures to designs for stained-glass windows. His best-known works, however, are his motion-infused paintings, such as his series on the dance, embodying the vivid light and color of southern France. On Tuesday, March 5, art historian Nancy G. Heller examines these canvases, as well as Matisse's more cerebral Cubist works, in depth.


Mr. Sun, Please Shine

Have you appreciated the extra minutes of daylight that we're getting this month since the winter solstice on December 21? Back then, many of us were getting no more than 9½ hours of light, but as of January 21, we'll have almost 10 hours of (hopefully) sunshine.

The trend of more daylight continues through the summer solstice on June 21 as usual-with the exception of April 8. On that Monday, a total solar eclipse will occur across much of the United States. Our moon will appear to slide across the sun, quickly but briefly hiding it and revealing the sun's corona (its incandescent atmosphere). Are you interested in viewing the eclipse or learning more about this dramatic celestial event? On Wednesday, February 7, Kelly Beatty, senior editor for Sky & Telescope magazine, shares helpful advice for seeing it safely and sheds light on the nature of solar eclipses.

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Know the Score

Whether it's Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Richard Strauss, Mascagni, Puccini, or Bach, opuses of almost every famous composer have added emotional depth to hundreds of films. With clips, commentary, and piano demonstrations, concert pianist and scholar Rachel Franklin delves into the magic of some of the greatest film music ever composed (even when it was unintentional) in a series that unreels Wednesdays from January 24 to February 14. And on Thursday, March 7, Franklin honors Bedrich Smetana's 200th birthday year by exploring how the composer's ardent Czech nationalism infused his operas, tone poems, chamber music, and piano works.

Porgy and Bess premiered on Broadway in October of 1935, running for 124 performances and ending in financial ruin. The score by George and Ira Gershwin, however, has a stature unsurpassed in the American operatic repertoire. Explore this pivotal work with Gershwin scholar Robert Wyatt in a Thursday, February 1 program highlighted by the composer's film footage of a rehearsal and Wyatt's interviews with the artists who first portrayed the title characters, Anne Brown and Todd Duncan.

Franz Josef Haydn proved that music could be both serious and joyful-at the same time. In an engaging series offered Tuesdays from January 30 through February 27, classical music and opera expert Saul Lilienstein demonstrates the range of Haydn's innovative genius in almost every field of musical endeavor.

Johann Sebastian Bach's religious cantatas-poetic and musical commentaries on sacred texts associated with specific dates on the Lutheran liturgical calendar-are vivid showcases of the composer's understanding of complex human emotions. Singer Thierry van Bastelaer examines the sources of their power and their significance in Bach's output on Thursday, March 21.


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