Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And All In Graceful Proportion To One's Courage*

Fig. 1. Sam Taylor-Wood - Self Portrait Suspended II, 2004

'Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further.'

Rainer Maria Rilke

* 'Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.' Anaïs Nin

Your Ears Will Orgasm #22: Michael Nyman - Out of The Ruins (MixPod Player)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lounging About In Daddy Warhol's Silvered Harem

Fig. 1. Nat Finkelstein, Gerard Malanga, Nico, Donovan, Barbara Rubin, John Cale, Danny Williams, Sterling Morrison, Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol, Lou Reed and Moe Tucker at the Silver Factory, 1966

'Employees make the best dates. You don't have to pick them up and they're always tax deductible.'

Andy Warhol

Your Ears Will Orgasm #21: The Velvet Underground & Nico (MixPod Player)

The Velvet Underground & Nico

1. All Tomorrow's Parties
2. Femme Fatale
3. Here She Comes Now
4. Candy Says
5. Sunday Morning
6. Heroin
7. Venus In Furs
8. Pale Blue Eyes
9. I'll Be Your Mirror
10. The Black Angel's Death Song

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Games We Shouldn't Forget To Play: Part Three

Japanese Toy Illustrations (13 to 18 of 30)

Fig. 1.

Fig. 2.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 4.

Fig. 5.

Fig. 6.

'I am a hand. And a hand is a tool. I am, therefore, a tool. A tool for giving and receiving emotions. (Thus, not a working tool.) On the palm of my soul are engraved my life-lines. On occasion I read them in front of the mirror. This activity lost the flavour of anxious narcissism long time ago. I am a victim of tactilism. I have too many erogenous zones for one body. Sometimes I feel that I can't even fit into it. I have never worked but, in spite of that, my fingers are in constant motion even when I sleep. Clenching and unclenching, intertwining and sometimes even exchanging places.

Permanently they try to pass on something to the deaf-and-dumb nearby. Usually in vain. Sign, non-verbal speech (in fact, the only real language which is capable of expressing the ambiguity of things and events because it gushes from inexhaustible sources within the imagination) nobody wants to understand anymore. For this civilisation it's a language of the barbarians, psychopaths and cripples because there is no profit in it. I am a hand with six fingers with webs in between. Instead of fingernails I have petite, sharp, sweet-toothed little tongues with which I lick the world.'

Jan Švankmajer

Addendum: The Food Of Love - A Musical

Meat Love (1989) - d. Jan Švankmajer

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In This Painted Paradise Of Sea, Stone And Sky*

The Sunday Six #6: On Someone Else's Distant Horizon

Fig. 1. Claude Monet - Low Tide at Pourville (near Dieppe), 1882

Fig. 2. Claude Monet - The Cliff Walk (Pourville), 1882

Fig. 3. Claude Monet - The Church at Varengeville, 1882

Fig. 4. Claude Monet - The Cliff at Sunset (Étretat), 1882-83

Fig. 5. Claude Monet - Rock Arch West of Étretat (the Manneport), 1883

Fig. 6. Claude Monet - The Needle Rock and the Porte d'Aval (Étretat), 1885

'To paint the sea really well, you need to look at it every hour of every day in the same place so that you can understand its ways in that particular spot.'

Claude Monet

* 'The sea. The sea enchants, the sea kills, it moves, it frightens, it also makes you laugh sometimes, it disappears every now and then, it disguises itself as a lake, or it constructs tempests, devours ships, gives away riches, it gives no answers, it is wise, it is gentle, it is powerful, it is unpredictable. But, above all, the sea calls. You will discover this, Elisewin. All it does, basically, is this: it calls. It never stops, it gets under your skin, it is upon you, it is you it wants. You can even pretend to ignore it, but it's no use. It will still call you. The sea you are looking at and all the others that you will not see, but will always be there, lying patiently in wait for you, one step beyond your life. You will hear them calling, tirelessly. It happens in this purgatory of sand. It will happen in any paradise, and in any inferno. Without explaining anything, without telling you where, there will always be a sea, which will call you.' Alessandro Baricco (Ocean Sea)

Your Ears Will Orgasm #20: Debussy - La Mer (MixPod Player)

Addendum #1: The Katie And Edna Show

Katie (aka Katiefornia) has again graced us with her virtual presence, her wistful reflections and one of her favourite poems. I'll let her explain the connection between the Monet and Maine in a moment; but first I would like to thank her for being such a consistent and considerate reader, not to mention such a generous and genial contributor. At the risking of sounding like an ebullient "teacher's comment" on her elementary school report card, I think it's true to say that Katie is always cheerful, convivial and courteous: she knows how to give and how to take, how to share and how to thank. Indeed, she is exactly the kind of optimistic, good-humoured, intelligent and polite visitor I have been trying to attract to this blog. In short, she is always a pleasure to have in my class. And now, over to you, Katie:

Oh how I love these Monet paintings. I'm especially captivated by the Étretat ones, as I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon there in 2002. It looked just like these paintings. Amazing to think that Monet could have been sitting exactly where I sat taking in the beautiful views of the rocks.

I'm sure that it will come as no surprise that ESVM [Edna St. Vincent Millay] wrote about the sea, since she grew up on the coast of Maine. Even though I live in California and have the Pacific Ocean not that far away, I still miss the Maine coast, and spending time with my grandparents out rowing or sailing with them. I'll leave it to Edna to elaborate:


Searching my heart for its true sorrow,
This is the thing I find to be:
That I am weary of words and people,
Sick of the city, wanting the sea;

Wanting the sticky, salty sweetness
Of the strong wind and shattered spray;
Wanting the loud sound and the soft sound
Of the big surf that breaks all day.

Always before about my dooryard,
Marking the reach of the winter sea,
Rooted in sand and dragging drift-wood,
Straggled the purple wild sweet-pea;

Always I climbed the wave at morning,
Shook the sand from my shoes at night,
That now am caught beneath great buildings,
Stricken with noise, confused with light.

If I could hear the green piles moaning
Under the windy wooden piers,
See once again the bobbing barrels,
And the black sticks that fence the weirs,

If I could see the weedy mussels
Crusting the wrecked and rotting hulls,
Hear once again the hungry crying
Overhead, of the wheeling gulls,

Feel once again the shanty straining
Under the turning of the tide,
Fear once again the rising freshet,
Dread the bell in the fog outside,

I should be happy! - that was happy
All day long on the coast of Maine;
I have a need to hold and handle
Shells and anchors and ships again!

I should be happy . . . that am happy
Never at all since I came here.
I am too long away from water.
I have a need of water near.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Which proves the point that there are really only three gifts any of us can expect to last a lifetime: a happy childhood, good genes and the right name (one of the Irish meanings of Katie is "pure").

Love and best wishes to you and your loved ones, Katie - now, and always.

Addendum #2: And Then, A Little Later...

Your “teacher’s comments” had a somewhat familiar ring, so I dug out the “School” folder from my archives and found two report cards from when I was eleven.

My first Teacher Evaluation showed I wasn’t quite living up to Mrs. MacLaren’s expectations:

“Katie’s written work is very good when she really tries to think an idea through. Sometimes she stops before she gets really into it. I want her to achieve at a higher level in academic areas because she has more ability than she sometimes demonstrates.”

By the end of the year I had improved a bit:

“Katie’s creativeness is so evident in her written work, as well as the delightful illustrations which accompany it. Katie does all of her work, and more, enthusiastically yet has time to be friendly and happy with others.”

I have to laugh at how little has changed in 33 years. Now that I'm back in class with ISFK, I know that having a dedicated teacher will make me want to work hard so I can achieve at a higher level.

Addendum #3: And, In Between, "Old Dive" (who, via Small Glass Planet, has been to me from Norwich, England what Katie has been to me from San Francisco, California)

If you could take a different road, just for one day, where would you go? What would you explore? Robyn would go to Chicago, for reasons which make it sound as genuinely tempting as the Emerald City in Oz.

This "take a different route just this once" thing; it's a feeling I get really intensely at airports. Just to get on a random plane and see where I end up. There are so many wonderful places to explore, if only I just got on that plane … But as I cannot choose a favourite, I'll choose something simple instead … something I've done once before and, if I could find that fork in the road again, would be off down there like a shot.

In winter, I love walking our desolate local beaches in really huge storms. Like that one in Ryan's Daughter. Any chance I get, if the weather forecast sends us a big one, I'm off to see Mother Nature throw a wobbly. To stand there and let her get all shouty at me. I love it …

One of the best I ever found was at Walberswick, some years back. It was February. There was a thunderstorm … and I mean a fucking huge storm! All howling and swirling black sky and searing lightning. It tore over the marshes and up the valley like the wrath of God.

There's a wrecked concrete breakwater at the harbour mouth (it's the one under Peahen's bottom on that picture I posted of her). I clambered over the barrier and walked right out to the end. It's all twisted, rotting concrete with rusted reinforcing bars sticking out, and this HUGE sea towered over it. Every massive wave pounded and smashed into it with an enormous BOOM. The whole structure shuddered and shook. It was brilliant! (and very, very cold and wet) … It was a totally stupid thing to do but I just clamped my legs round a concrete beam and sat there for ages watching the storm, letting the waves try and knock me off while the sky tore itself to bits all around me. And it was one of the most fantastic feelings I've ever had …

Eventually I came to my senses and struggled, soaked and battered, back up the beach into the dunes, where nestles one of the very best pubs in the universe. Stone flags and high Victorian pews. Big inglenook with a massive log blaze. Wonderful local ale and fresh caught fish. The Bell at Walberswick. It's swamped by tourists in the summer, but go there in winter when there's a big old storm … I keep going back, but there's not been a storm to touch that one …

So, young Robyn. If I could choose, then let me take that road again. The cold, wet and stupid one …

Thanks for all the cynical humanity and curmudgeonly humour, Dive.

Love and best wishes to you and your loved ones - now, and always.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I Am Floating Free - Like A Drunk In A Midday Choir*

Fig. 1. Henri Matisse - Le bonheur de vivre, 1905-06

'I am unable to make any distinction between the feeling I get from life and the way I translate that feeling into painting.'

Henri Matisse

* 'Like a bird on a wire, / Like a drunk in a midnight choir / I have tried in my way to be free.' (from Bird On A Wire by Leonard Cohen)

Addendum: At First Because I Had To Be - Now Because I Want To Be

Johnny Cash - Bird On A Wire (1994)

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Exact, Elegant Arithmetic Of Artificial Sounds*

Fig. 1. J. W. Waterhouse - Saint Cecilia, 1895

'The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, "Is there a meaning to music?" My answer would be, "Yes." And "Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?" My answer to that would be, "No."'

Aaron Copland

* 'Music is the arithmetic of sounds as optics is the geometry of light.' Claude Debussy

Your Ears Will Orgasm #19: Debussy - String Quartet (MixPod Player)

Addendum #1: So Much Better When She Was Being Bad

Eartha Kitt (1927-2008) - C'est Si Bon (Live Kaskad, 1962)

Addendum #2: So Much Clearer When You Think About It

The "magic mirror maze" sequence from The Lady from Shanghai (1947) - d. Orson Welles (who, in 1950, gave her her first starring role, as "Helen of Troy" in his staging of Dr. Faustus)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

And The Lord Said, "Let There Be Lego": Part Three

Fig. 1. Gathering together all the chief priests and experts on the Law of Moses, King Herod asked them where the messiah was to be born. They said to him, 'At Bethlehem in Judea, just as it was written by the prophet.' Matthew 2:4-5

Fig. 2. Then King Herod summoned the magi. He sent them off to Bethlehem, saying, 'Go and search for the young child. When you have found him, let me know, so that I may also go and do him homage.' Matthew 2:7

Fig. 3. Having listened to the king, the magi set off. The star that they had seen rising went on before them until it came to a stop over the place where the child was. Matthew 2:9

Fig. 4. They came into the house and saw the young child with his mother Mary. Matthew 2:11

Fig. 5. They bowed down and did him homage. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

Fig. 6. But the magi were warned in a dream that they should not return to King Herod, and so they traveled back to their own country by a different route. Matthew 2:12

Fig. 7. When the magi had left, suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, 'Get up and take the child and his mother. Flee into Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for King Herod will be searching for the child to destroy him.' Matthew 2:13

Fig. 8. Joseph got up that night and took the child and his mother, and went to Egypt. Matthew 2:14

Fig. 9. When King Herod realized that he had been tricked by the magi, he was furious. Matthew 2:16

Fig. 10. He sent out soldiers to kill all the male children two years old or younger throughout Bethlehem and the surrounding countryside. Matthew 2:16

Fig. 11. After King Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in Egypt in a dream, saying, 'Get up and take the child and his mother. Go to the land of Israel, for those who sought to kill the child are dead.' Matthew 2:19-20

Fig. 12. But when he heard that Archelaus, the son of King Herod, was reigning over Judea, Joseph was afraid to go there. And having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the region of Galilee, and came to live in a town called Nazareth. Matthew 2:22

Fig. 13. The child grew and became strong and filled with wisdom. Luke 2:40

Fig. 14. And God's favor was with him. Luke 2:40

Your Ears Will Orgasm #18: If We Must (MixPod Player)

A Sides:

The Ramones - Merry Christmas
Lemmy Kilmister - Run, Rudolph, Run
Fall Out Boy - Yule Shoot Your Eye Out
Reverend Horton Heat - We Three Kings
The Kinks - Father Christmas
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - All I Want For Christmas

B Sides:

1. Morphine - Sexy Christmas Baby Mine
2. Bright Eyes - White Christmas
3. The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale Of New York
4. Death Cab For Cutie - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
5. Taylor Hollings - Christmas Blues
6. The Joy Formidable - My Beerdrunk Soul Is Sadder Than A Hundred Dead Christmas Trees

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And The Lord Said, "Let There Be Lego": Part Two

Fig. 1. Being an upright man, and not wanting to disgrace her in public, Joseph had decided to leave Mary quietly. Matthew 1:19

Fig. 2. But as he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. The child in her is of the Holy Ghost. She will give birth to a son. You will name him Jesus.' Matthew 1:20-21

Fig. 3. About this time, Caesar Augustus ordered a census of the entire Roman Empire, and so everyone went to their own towns to be registered. Because he was a descendant of King David, Joseph set out from Nazareth to the town of David, called Bethlehem, to register with his pregnant fiancée Mary. Luke 2:1 & 3-5

Fig. 4. It happened, while they were there, that the time came for her to deliver her child, and Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. Luke 2:6-7

Fig. 5. She wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn. Luke 2:7

Fig. 6. There were some shepherds out in the nearby fields, keeping watch over their flock at night. Luke 2:8

Fig. 7. An angel of the Lord appeared before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. The shepherds were terrified. Luke 2:9

Fig. 8. But the angel said, 'Don’t be afraid! Listen, a Savior has been born to you today who is Christ the Lord. Here is your sign: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.' Luke 2:10-12

Fig. 9. Suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host was there with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men he favors.' Luke 2:13-14

Fig. 10. So the shepherds left in a hurry. Luke 2:16

Fig. 11. And they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby was lying in the manger. Luke 2:16

Fig. 12. Having seen the baby, the shepherds made known what they had been told about this child, and all who heard it marveled at the things that the shepherds told them. Luke 2:17-18

Fig. 13. After eight days passed and it was time for the child to be circumcised, he was given the name Jesus. Luke 2:21

Fig. 14. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of King Herod, some magi from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose, and have come to do him homage.' Matthew 2:1-2

Fig. 15. When Herod the king heard about this, he was disturbed, as was all of Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2:3

Addendum: Elvis Presley - Blue Christmas (1968 Comeback Special)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And The Lord Said, "Let There Be Lego": Part One

Fig. 1. This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth. Matthew 1:18 & Luke 1:26

Fig. 2. [To] a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, who was descended from King David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Luke 1:27

Fig. 3. The angel came to her and said, 'Greetings, highly favored one! The Lord is with you.' Luke 1:28

Fig. 4. Mary was greatly troubled by his words, and wondered what this sort of greeting might mean. Luke 1:29

Fig. 5. The angel said to her, 'Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a child. You will name him Jesus.' Luke 1:30-31

Fig. 6. Mary said to the angel, 'How can this happen if I had not had sex with a man?' Luke 1:34

Fig. 7. The angel answered, 'The Holy Ghost will come upon you.' Luke 1:35

Fig. 8. And the angel left her. Luke 1:38

Fig. 9. Shortly afterward, Mary got up and hurried off to the hill country. Luke 1:39

Fig. 10. She entered the house of Zechariah the priest and greeted his wife Elizabeth. Mary said, 'My soul exalts the Lord in praise!' Luke 1:40 & 46

Fig. 11. 'He has wrought mighty deeds with his arm. He has scattered the proud and arrogant.' Luke 1:51

Fig. 12. 'He has cast down rulers from their thrones.' Luke 1:52

Fig. 13. 'And has raised up the lowly.' Luke 1:52

Fig. 14. Mary remained with Elizabeth for about three months, and then returned home. Luke 1:56

Fig. 15. Mary was found to be pregnant by the Holy Ghost. Matthew 1:18

Addendum: Happy Tree Friends - Christmas Smoochie