While driving to an Eagle project yesterday, Chimo started asking questions about what differentiated humans from other mammals, and I said among other things it was most important that humans produced art---of many kinds---that could inspire and awe. This afternoon I decided to drop in at the Columbia Museum of Art to catch its "Impressionism from Monet to Matisse," a wonderful collection of paintings by such household names as Renoir, Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Chagall, Seurat, as well as probably lesser-known artists such as Braque, Sisley, Forain, and Lepine. What an amazing show featuring great artists that many locally would not normally get a chance to enjoy. Oddly enough the two paintings I liked the best might be borderline (and not even) classified as impressionist. Edmond Georges Grandjean's "Changing Horses" is beautiful; I can't remember any horse painters that were better. Two giant white horses dominate the large canvas. I also liked Jean-François Raffaëlli, whose work seemed like a transition from realist to impressionist. On the other end of the spectrum falls Cezanne's "Trees and Rocks," which is darn near modernist. Probably my favorite piece, especially when viewed around ten feet away was Albert Marquet's "Blue Boat at Porquerolles." The water practically shimmered. Monet's "The Seine at Giverny" is a pastel, foggy delight, depicting a grouping of trees on the bank of a river. There were several ballet paintings and drawings from Degas (of course), Toulouse-Latrec, and others. Dance seemed a perfect theme for the impressionist quick style. Seurat's "The Picnic" seemed to reveal his path toward painting with the dots. There were more than fifty works displayed, and Columbia is lucky to have them for a short while.
It’s always a dame. Yes, this truth I have learned many times over, and I’m not catting around. In my case, there are many dames, of course, and they shall likely be the death of me. My main dame, rock of my existence, however, is my babe Sarah, but this tale has little to do with her. Nor my many mistresses, no. This story is about a dame who interrupted my normal sleuthing duties.
It was a dark and stormy night. I was sitting at my normal perch, feet up on Sarah’s computer keyboard, when there was a knock. I could barely see a profile through the translucent pet door, but I could smell her Chanel #5. I set down my absinthe. I don’t always drink absinthe, but when I do . . .well, I really have no idea why. I called for her to enter. The flap wasn’t locked.
I nearly fell off the table. Dressed in sheer blue velvet, with a wide-brimmed hat sporting plumage from several different breeds, she sashayed into my room. I’ll have you know that I am a feather fetishist, but let’s keep that between us. She had curves that wouldn’t stop, a squashed nose that of an aristocat, and enormous blue eyes you could have swam in. Skinny dipping immediately came to mind. Margaret Keane would have drooled to paint them.
“What’s a broad like you doing in a seedy neighborhood like this?” I asked. I was relieved that my maid had recently changed out the litter box.
“I was looking for help,” she purred cattily. “And I heard you were the top.” Oh, what she didn’t know! I played it cool, though, but my whiskers were thrumming like strings on Hendrix’s guitar.
“What should I call you.” There were many names already swirling about the crevasses of my feline brain. But then she stopped my heart.
“Kitty Boo Boo. But you can called me Boo.”
I almost melted. I recognized her now. She had sent me a card. The online photos did not do her justice.
Quickly I was to my feet. I knew we should talk in more intimate surroundings. “It’s late. I was heading over for some Indian cuisine. Wanna join me for some curried tuna and nan?”
A sensuous smile cracked her beautiful face, and she said, “Why not.”
I knew I was being foolish, heading off into dangerous territory, but it was a path I’d take a thousand times just to hold her delicate paw again.
[Join us tomorrow as we continue The Adventures of Duffy Dean, Detective on this radio channel.]
"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson
I just heard someone say that the Newtown massacre was a staged event, that none of the children were murdered, that it was all an elaborate attempt by the government to take away guns. I thought to myself, "How many hundreds of individuals would have to be included in that scenario, in order to secretly carry something like that off?" From police to parents to the press. Of course I have heard other conspiracies: that the assault rifle was never used. That the murderer did not have the skill to kill that many people. I mean, heck, those are even tame compared to the paranoid arguments that Obama is organizing a black army to kill whitey (which of course would take millions of dedicated participants who would stay quiet about the nefarious intentions); that the whole Bin Laden raid was a sham and that the SEALs were paid off with millions to keep quiet; etc., etc., etc. One neighbor told me repeatedly, "it could happen." Every time he made a wild assertion (Obama was born in Kenya, things like that), when asked what evidence he had to support them, inevitably it came down to, "well, it could have happened." His basic beliefs: You can't trust anyone. Every cop was out to get you. Every person on welfare was a cheat. Obama is Hitler. Stuff like that. . .and it is making my head hurt. All of it seemed to come down to "I believe it, therefore it is true." I know my neighbor is not the only one harboring this type of craziness, but it is truly bothersome.
I will now go and prepare for the inevitable takeover of the world by suicidal gorilla robots and giant brainiac ants who together plan to use telekinesis to navigate a giant asteroid into Earth and end all life. . .
To be an artist in Iran---whether it be music, film, dance, writing, or just about any such endeavor---and to truly express one's views on society or step outside the rigid parameters set by the cleric-run government is to creatively maneuver around the oppressive censorship binding freedom of expression and to be then willing to pay a mighty high price for the attempt and the affront to those in power. Such experienced pain is beautifully presented in Jafar Panahi (the award-winning Iranian filmmaker) and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb's This is Not a Film (2011), a satirical attack against state censorship of movie making and a cry for reform, even as the former awaits news of the final judgement that will certainly send him to jail for some period (six years) and possibly take away his ability to ever produce a film again (twenty-year ban). I have enjoyed several of his films over the years, which often focus on restrictions in Iranian society (specially those placed on women) and continued class divisions. Filmed partly in iPhone in Panahi's posh apartment as he suffered house arrest, the "movie" masterfully pokes fun at the stupidity of censors, but also reveals how painful and scared his is that he will soon be seriously punished and be denied the opportunity to continue creating. His films have largely been banned in his own country, but have been richly and frequently awarded and are hailed internationally. As I write this review he is still in jail, a persecuted artist who dared to chide the authorities, and I hope continued international protest and whatever else can be brought to bear pressure can obtain his swift release and return him to what he does best, making movies, documentaries, and "nonmovies".
For artists, and those interested in the creative process of one musical artist, let me encourage you to watch Everything In-Between: The Story of Ellipse (2010), a documentary following the two-year production of her album Ellipse, covering not only some of the writing, but the construction of her sound studio, the experimentation with sounds, mastering the new equipment, working with other musicians, and many of the numerous struggles that go into composing. She is quite talented, and a bit zany. I have much enjoyed her music, both solo and in Frou Frou. There is somethign to be said for finally letting a project go, because one could tweek and tweek forever. The photography, both by Heap and whatever camera people she employed, as well as whomever out the documentarty together, did a good job of quickly capturing glimpses and propelling the story along to the hectic and tiring final days. They captured what appears to be a very free spirit, and a talented one at that (who apparently plays a wide range of instruments as well as just about anything else she can lay her hands on. For those who have never played music or recorded, it also opens one's eyes to some of what occurs in the long process of producing a song or album. Hard work, inspiration, long hours, willingness to scrap or refine, and so much more.
A small Egyptian police band, lead by a stern but likeable conductor with a dark secret, arrives in Israel to play a concert for an Arab Culture center and gets lost in the shuffle, landing in a quiet desert town by accident. Craziness ensues, right? No, in fact, what happens in Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit (2007) is a heartwarming and lightly comedic look at the interplay of culturally different people with common human problems. This is a wonderful little film. Sasson Gabai (an Iraqi-born actor) is absolutely wonderful as Tawfiq Zacharya (often called The General), leader of the group and determined to preserve the finances, dignity, and tradition of his band. The darkly beautiful Ronit Elkabetz is Dina, a lonely yet vibrant restaurant worker in the almost deserted town who takes the lost musicians under her wing. She is kind of the whore with the heart of gold. Saleh Bakri is the youngest and newest member of the band, and the cad. There are several other smaller parts, all well played, each contributing small bits to the overall picture. The pacing is wonderful and the director does not try to force comedy by creating farcical mischief. The interplay is often melancholy, as the characters often glimpse the personal side of their counterparts, and the commentary is done with a light hand, as when one band member sitting in a cafe covers a photograph celebrating some Israel defeat of their Egyptian foes. To me the film spoke to the commonality of people, that our differences do not mean connections cannot be forged, kindnesses offered and accepted.
Unfortunately, because a history lecture started one hour after the beginning of the monthly First Thursday in downtown Columbia, I was able only to see the exhibit of art at Tapps. But it was well worth my time to drop in and see many examples of beautiful and hard work produced by South Carolina students (primarily from Richland and Lexington counties, but others were also represented). High and middle school students were featured, but some of it was produced all the way down to elementary level. The professionalism of some pieces was startling and encouraging. Some photography was especially good. It is great to see that art still thrives in the state's schools and that First Thursday provides another opportunity for these artists to showcase their talent. As an aside, the art produced by my sons over the last few years is every bit as good as most of what I saw tonight. Yeah, I am biased, but you should see what they have done: come to my office!
Attended tonight at the University of South Carolina a lecture by Bancroft-winning legal historian Tomiko Brown-Nagin as part of her promtional tour, I guess, of her book Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement (2011). As she described it, the work is a corrective to the common view of looking only at the big cases and lawyers (such as Brown and Marshall) and exploring the work of many lawyers in both fighting on a local level and contesting the focus of the struggle, as seen through the advocacy of Atlanta's CR lawyers. Sponsored by the Institue for African American Research and held at Cooper Library, Dr. Brown-Nagin sketched out the three major waves of legal involvement as it morphed from emphasis on voting rights and limited inclusion, to more radical push for complete equal rights, to an emphasis on making sure advances addressed poverty, housing, and other economic ills. I was dismayed somewhat by the low attendance, both from within the department and generally, especially by undergraduates (who seemed completely absent).
And this is only a light criticism, but someone needs to do a better job editing the IAAR newsletter.
Metal bent and plastics shorn
along the street glitter adorn,
remains of combat vehicular
litter on oiled asphalt and tar.
Quickly towed, no cars remain,
Perhaps some water or other stain,
Why do they not clean up it all?
A message, perhaps of human fall
Until the rain or employed hand
sweep away remnants and sand.