Archive for April, 2012

Eye of the Beholder

April 27, 2012


  OK, what do the picture above, The Investiture of St Ildefonso by Nicholas Rodriguez Juarez and the one below, Sultry Night by Grant Wood have in common?  Give up?  Well it’s the tormented sexuality of certain viewers of those works.  Huh?

  Top one first.  You see it as Sr. Juarez painted it more or less.  Sometime thereafter however it was on its way to a perch on the wall of a convent when head abbess perhaps, but I’ll wager a priest, decided that an image of a man in that milieu would serve naught but untoward arousal.

  The painting was thus altered so that he became a she.  When it arrived at a new home some centuries later it was sent to a conservation lab for inspection and cleaning.  X-rays showed that what appeared to be a kneeling nun was actually a man saint in drag.  Drag was undone and voila.

  Sultry story even funnier.  Looks weirdly lopsided, right?  Well, didn’t start out that way.  Look at Wood’s lithograph of the same scene below and you’ll see what I mean.  An attempt to send the original (whole) painting to a show via the USPS was blocked by a repressed postal inspector and so Wood excised the self-showering farmer.

  The resultant state of the painting is somehow perfectly obtuse and, with knowledge of the back story, homeopathically conveys a sense of the zeitgeist far more subtly than did, say, the film American Beauty much more recently…

cf post 8/21/09

Results Below

April 20, 2012


  This one is easy – you’re looking at our new friend Nellie.  Born in a barn on the day after Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, we took her home March 17.   Wife visited the farm many times in between and once asked mom Lucy which of her five to chose.  Owner was so impressed at the subsequent interaction that we got a discount.

  Our little black pearl slept through the night right off and whimpered at the front door appropriately.  We set up a baby monitor so as to hear her called to nature in the middle of the night.  It’d been fifteen years* since we’d had a pup and Nellie fit right in.

  She’s a morning person, uh dog, and is raring to go the moment she first hears or sees us in the AM.  Throw something and she’ll roar into action – bouncing off kitchen walls and cabinets like a cue ball struck on an empty table.  It’s hilarious to watch.

  Or was.  Few days ago while standing at the counter eating breakfast I accidently stepped on a squeaky toy.  Dark flash, chomp, rip, and there went the most expensive pair of pants I’ve ever owned.  I would never have bought them myself and had complained to she who’d brought them home when I saw the tag.  “But it’s your daughter’s wedding” she said.  Gone.

  I was headed for an important meeting, so changed quickly and ran down the stairs.  Dang if Nellie wasn’t around the corner waiting to grab hold again. Oh, no! Hadn’t even left the house, but I was a good way through next paycheck.  “Don’t be a grump!” said guess who. 

  That evening we were both tired, but she (Nellie) was so happy to see me that she spun about several times before nuzzling up.  I patted her a bit and onto her back she then rolled in hopes of a belly rub.  That patch of bare skin is so soft!  Oh well, we’re cool…

  Woke next morning to find an impressive archipelago of soft brown mounds arrayed across the kitchen.  She’d probably attempted to give notice, but the fact that she’d chewed through the intercom cord had short circuited her yelps.  Took her to the vet to learn that she’s hosting three different sorts of worms probably ingested onboard a raccoon waste nugget.

  None of this bothered wife in the least.  Until yesterday.  Sweet Nellie got in behind the computer during a precious Facebook session and chewed through the router, printer, and mouse cables.  All that stupid I can’t believe that guy’s a billionaire ‘Friend’ stuff disappeared.  Snarls were exchanged.  Results below.  

*cf December 2, 2011

What Else Am I Gonna Do?

April 13, 2012


  Ok.  This is what happens when nearly sixty and attempting to switch gears.  You’re no longer in charge at work, have a great idea about what to do next – one in which you’re fully invested, and for which would spare no effort – but gotta wait for pieces to fall into place. 


  What else are you gonna do?  Nobody wants your opinion and you can’t just sit there… Origami requires concentration, dexterity, three dimensional thinking, and is endlessly rewarding.  No two of even the simplest forms end up exactly alike.  Challenge and difficulty accrete with desire.

  The word origami is Japanese and does mean fold paper. Japanis a resource poor country with trees being one of few in abundance.  Wood thus came to be the focus of Japanese creativity as raw material for many things made very differently in other parts of the world. 

  Paper came to be regarded as sacred and an important element of the national religion – Shinto.  Secular folded objects evolved therefrom.  The first known set of origami objects available for sale appeared in 1728.  The first book of techniques was written in 1797.

  I prefer projects not requisite of tools beyond one’s digits, but might make an exception for one I just found.  It’s a replica* of Japanese architect Toyo Ito’s Architecture Museum on the island of Omishima which opened last fall.

  The building is “built to resemble a ship’s deck carrying a cargo of dreams of architecture for the future”.  Some find a formal resemblance of it to Louis Kahn and Anne Tyng’s City Tower project.  Their influence can certainly be seen in other Ito buildings. 

  No surprise then that several years ago Ito visited UPENN to meet with Dept Chair Detlef Mertins who later initiated a retrospective of Ms Tyngs oeuvre entitled Inhabiting Geometry and to whom the catalogue is dedicated.  Have the catalogue and wish I’d seen the show.


**More on Ito at post of February 10, 2010

It’s Your Move Antonius Block

April 6, 2012


  Know how your best ideas, your strokes of genius, never come when hailed, but when you’re doing something else?  Well there’s an interesting new book about that phenomenon titled Imagine – How Creativity Works  by Jonah Leher. And no surprise, to me anyway, that it brought to mind something, uh, weird.

  In the book Leher recounts the random events that led to the coining of the Nike slogan “Just Do It” and you’ll not find it surprising that the story hasn’t joined waffle irons in the annals of Nike lore.  It has more to do with a scythe than a swoosh.

  Turns out that the dude tasked with the development of a crisp and pithy turn of phrase had earlier in the day been discussing a new book by Norman Mailer – The Executioner’s Song – about the tortured and torturing life of Gary Gilmore which ended with death by firing squad.  Gilmore’s last words were: “Let’s do it.”  See?

  OK.  Not long ago, but long enough, wife and I were in the throes of a heated unpleasant argument.  Can’t remember what it concerned, but do that it had been protracted and had accompanied us through the evening news and into bed.  We’d not yet perfected that don’t go to bed mad thing.

  Anyway, we paused for a moment as our eyes adjusted to the moonlight beaming in through a window.  At the exact moment we reengaged, a bat that had somehow found its way in and flown up the steps rounded the corner into our room.  Gave the phrase “sound of wings” a whole new meaning.

  We both went silent and looked at each other for a moment.  There was no question in either of our minds that rectification of that sort of situation was more part of my job description than hers, but we both got up.  Not though without considerable trepidation.

  It flew back down the stairs and we followed.  I located a couple tennis racquets while wife kept track of the creepy creature.  It flew into oldest daughter’s empty bedroom.  I followed and wife closed the door behind us.  Thing hung upside down from short curtains at the top of the window.

  After a quick flick to the floor, I trapped it on the carpet.  Wife slid a piece of construction paper underneath which I hoped wouldn’t tear as I applied pressure with my hand.  Hard against the strings, it writhed an awful dance macabre while squealing just within the range of perception.  Released at the front door it disappeared into the night.

  Shaken by what we’d conjured up, we looked at each other and spoke not one word more that night.   Tossed and turned for quite a while before falling off and into an incredible dream with a Bergman flic – The Seventh Seal – as the setting.  Max Von Sydow playing knight Antonius Block challenges Death to a game of chess and a chance at a reprieve.  Block jostles the chessboard prompting death to say “You won’t get off that easily”. 

  Death replaced the pieces as they’d been and they played on to his victory, but Block’s real purpose had been to distract Death and prevent him from spotting husband Jof (me) who had seen Death and wife Mia (my roommate) who thinks Jof is nuts.  At the film’s end Jof watches Death lead Block and others away.

               I see them, Mia! I see them! Over there against 
               the dark, stormy sky. They are all there. The 
               smith and Lisa and the knight and Raval and 
               Jons and Skat. And Death, the severe master, 
               invites them to dance. He tells them to hold 
               each other's hands and then they must tread the 
               dance in a long row. And first goes the master 
               with his scythe and hourglass, but Skat dangles 
               at the end with his lyre. They dance away from 
               the dawn and it's a solemn dance towards the 
               dark lands, while the rain washes their faces 
               and cleans the salt of the tears from their 

He is silent. He lowers his hand. His son, MIKAEL 
(played by our dog Sauger), has listened to his words.  
Now, he crawls up to MIA and sits down in her lap. 

               You with your visions and dreams.

    How could I make this up?