Archive for March, 2013

An Incredible Life

March 21, 2013

Young Anne Tyng

 While back I mentioned a project I’d undertaken.  It’s a biography of the woman you see above pictured as a young girl.  She was born on Bastille Day in 1920 in an aerie nestled in a valley of the mountains of central China.  She led an amazing life and as proof that I’m not the only one with that opinion, behold a small portion of her papers held deep in the vault of an Ivy League archive.  Access is limited and they’re tended by several learned and caring souls.

AT Archive

  The lady has left us, but relatives, friends, colleagues, as well as a few detractors are yet around to recollect.  Interestingly, the level of candor is in direct proportion to emotional proximity.  The process of going through papers, reading books, and talking with these folks feels like having embarked upon a treasure hunt, the spoils of which to transmute into a fabric of essential truth. 

  Only part way in I’m incredibly humbled by both the scope of the undertaking as well as the tremendous responsibility I owe the entire cast of characters.  In each of those with whom I’ve had the good fortune to cross paths a subtle apprehension has manifested one way or another.  They know that a tale of high point short shrift would be easy, quick, and likely command rapt attention.

  Nope.  This is going to take a while.  Besides, I’ve got to figure out how to go about it.  I’ve never done anything like this before.  “I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I learn how to do it.”


**Toyo Ito won the Pritzker Prize.  Read about him below at 4 13 12 and 2 12 10      

…Of Which Reason Knows Nothing

March 9, 2013

 Chair in fireplace

In the New  York Times the other day* there was an interesting article about Norwegian firewood.  Apparently the subject arouses considerable passion in the Land of the Midnight Sun.  There is a bestselling book – Solid Wood  – and a twelve hour television documentary that, through its course, catalyzed a string of invectives via text of which half complained that the firewood was stacked bark side down and half worried about what they saw bark side up.  Uhm, the denouement of this program was a live, fixed, close take of a hearth borne conflagration log after log after log.

  Thinking that perhaps related emotions were cathected into the Beatles’ tune Norwegian Wood, I investigated.  Probably not.  The lyrics most likely refer to cheap pine paneling in allusion to a venue of illicit love.  John: “I’d always had some kind of affairs going on, so I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair…”  Really great melody in the key of E Major and was their first song to employ Harrison on the sitar.  Rolling Stone placed it #84 on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

  But back to the bark.  If you need some firewood, let my little black angel help as she did in the photos above and below.  At top you see a kitchen chair she dispatched to the woodpile by gnawing through all four of the lower horizontal cross members.  It still stood, and I would have kept it, but wife was concerned for embarrassment should it one day collapse beneath a friend or relative.  Pulling apart its back I felt like how I imagine a surgeon does while making way through a ribcage.  In contrast, the seat fell with measured grace to my Scandinavian axe.

  The scene at bottom is another of creative firewood procurement and this one is special on two counts.  First, the painted shingles shorn from the front of our house add a certain sparkle to the fire made all the more special with the knowledge that they are no longer available.  Second, notice the exposed TV and Internet cable at lower right.  Service has lately acquired a special intermittency.

  Oh well, she has my heart  and as per Pascal: “The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing”.

Missing Shingles

*NYT 2/20/13

** This is a wood cut by daughter of her friend Max