Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Good art? Bad art? In the eye of the beholder.
While we did a lot of things as a group, we also had a fair amount of free time to explore on our own. I was always on the lookout for Russian opera recordings that were never available in the U.S. and I scored quite a few. It made the suitcase extremely heavy on the way home but was worth it. Russia also has some truly fabulous museums, not just the famed Hermitage Palace in St. Petersberg. My favorite of all was a modest building out of the center of Moscow that was devoted to what was frankly admitted to be bad art from the Stalin era, the most controlled and repressive years for art, music, architecture, literature, etc. in the Soviet Union's history.
This building was never built but in concept it isn't all that different from the seven massive and identical official buildings Stalin had constructed in a ring around Moscow (one houses the University of Moscow). Clearly influenced by conjectural reconstructions of Babylonian Ziggurats (particularly some of the more fanciful versions of the Tower of Babel) it appears in the black lacquer painting below behind the star-topped Kremin tower.
And we end with this sad little construction, a not-so-Triumphal Arch in the typically massive, the more concrete we pour the better Soviet style.
One thing I will say, is that Stain himself sometimes had enough of the dreck that was being turned out to glorify him, particularly if it was demonstrably inept. He refused to have that portrait in red anywhere he could see it, and he is known to have left an opera premiere in which the two young lovers sang of their desire to sneak away from the workers' housing in the Collective and watch the moon rise over the Heros of the Soviet People Hydroelectric Dam. Sometimes even megalomania just can't take it any more.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
One Day Only Michigan/Arizona Primary Post
Friday, February 24, 2012
Not too long after I met Fritz in the spring of 1997, we went down to the Animal Shelter in Boston that's just on the border between the South End and the Theater District. Over the years, I'd gone there for several cats. There was no record of her date of birth; like so many of their animals, she had come from someone who couldn't keep her (a lot of the cards on the cages said "Owner incarcerated," for example). She wasn't a kitten but clearly a young adult. I figure she's now just about 16 years old, still very healthy and active.
I don't think I would ever given her the name Starr. The associations for me are Ken Starr, the sleazy lawyer in the Bill and Hilary Clinton Whitewater investigation, and Brenda Starr the cartoon character. But she knew and answered to the name, so Starr she has remained.
Starr is very vocal. It's unquestionable that there's a fair amount amount of Siamese in her background; the voice is unmistakable. We like to have "conversations" back and forth. We have no idea what each other is saying but there's a real give and take in our utterances. But she has one or two yowls, markedly different from each other, that she uses for one thing and one thing only. There's a very loud and deep one that sounds like O-yow that means a hair ball's coming up. It gives me just enough time to steer her off a rug and onto some bare floor.
She has her rituals. After we've been out of the house for a while, she'll greet us at the kitchen door with a lot of yammering and then run just inside the living room, throw herself down on a hand worked Moroccan rug and roll over on her back for a tummy rub. If the rub isn't forthcoming when she feels it should be, there will be a great deal of writhing around making chirping sounds. When I dress or undress, she's always in the room on her back on the rug looking for a handful of fingers to rake her tummy fur back and forth.
One of the rituals I wish she'd drop is the walk she takes some time, or a couple of times, each night through the entire house from the living room through the kitchen, down the long hall through the dressing room into our bedroom, yowling all the way. Sometimes I sleep through it but it frequently wakes Fritz.
We have simple but very nice pocket doors in various places in the house, mostly in the back hall area and dressing room to eliminate lots of doors opening into the hall. They're pine and their bottom surface rides about an inch and a half above the floor. It took her a couple of years to teach herself how to open them. She drops to the floor on one flank, gets her paw under the door and hooks the leading edge of it with a claw or two. It's simple then to pull the door open (the concealed overhead tracks roll very smoothly and easily) and in two or three seconds she'll have the door open enough to get in and out whenever she wants.
I couldn't live without a cat.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Four years ago, Fritz and I began a road trip westward to Cleveland, then south into Pennsylvania and finally back to New England, the purpose being to visit friends, relatives, and to visit as many Frank Lloyd Wright houses as possible. Driving west on the New York Thruway, contemplating a free afternoon in the Buffalo area, I looked at maps to see if anything interesting was along the way. My eye was caught by the promise of boat tours through the western end of the Erie Canal in Lockport. We headed there directly and had three hours on the canal, up with the captain in the wheel house and learning as much as we could.
But it is also possible in a couple of towns on the western half of the canal, including Lockport, to rent modern versions of a packet boat and sail the canal privately. The boats have a maximum speed of five miles an hour, sleep either four or six, come with a full working galley, and can be rented for various amounts of time up to a week. Tie-ups are provided at frequent intervals with facilities for dumping trash, refueling, and grocery shopping. A training session precedes each rental. Ever since our canal boat tour, we've been considering teaming up with some friends and renting one of these boats for a leisurely week, stopping wherever we see an interesting place.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Via Right Wing Watch, meet Bishop R. Walker Nickless, of the Sioux City, Iowa diocese, who's here to set you straight:
"You know, the power of evil is going to try any way that it can to get a hook into our world and the values that we hold as so dear and so important to us believing people. And the power of evil—the devil—can certainly look—is looking everywhere to find places where they can—where the power of evil can make a difference. To tear us apart, to get us to just look at the worldly values and forget about—you know, that there’s something more important than the values of the world. And that’s why we’ve got to stand up and violently oppose this. We cannot let darkness overshadow us. We’ve got to be men and women who proclaim the light, and we’ve got to tell the truth, and we’ve got to be transparent, and we’ve got to say that government cannot do this to us."
I wish I didn't believe this, but I do think that somewhere, sometime there will be violent attacks in the US against people, businesses, offices, lawmakers, et al that the radical Right considers oppose their very narrow view of the world. It's a new low for clergy to advocate violence -- Bishop Nickless must want a cardinal's hat VERY badly indeed. But he's way out of sync with his own congregations: survey figures show that something like 92% of American Catholic women use birth control, so that horse left the barn so long ago that the farm has been sold and turned into condos.
There used to be a philosophy called "live and let live." It respected the beliefs and practices of others. Obviously, live and let live is dead. It makes no difference that Catholics are not being forced to use birth control, that Catholic and Evangelical women are not being marched off to the abortion parlors against their will. If they don't believe in it, then nobody can have it.
We're still awaiting the result of the current debate in the legislature here in NH over the bills to repeal same sex marriage. I say bills because some alternates have been proposed that include downgrading all existing marriages into civil unions, which, contrary to the statements made, do NOT provide all the protections and benefits of marriage by a long shot. Despite the well known fact that a 2 to 1 majority of NH citizens oppose repeal, the Republicans have announced that they have the votes to overturn governor Lynch's pre-announced veto should the repeal bill be approved. Given the strong popular opposition to repeal, there are reports that at least some Republican legislators fear being voted out of office in this year's elections should they defy the voters. Isn't that nice?
"It's a time of change and the momentum is with gay marriage," said Michele Dillon, chair of the sociology department at UNH, who specializes in sociology and religion. Poll after poll shows the "millennials" — those age 18 to 29 — overwhelmingly favoring same-sex marriage. "The younger generation is perplexed that it's even an issue," Dillon said. "They're just totally ahead on that."
The UNH poll indicates 71 percent of those age 18 to 34 "strongly oppose" repeal of New Hampshire's gay marriage law with another 14 percent somewhat opposing repeal. In a PRRI poll taken last June, 62 percent of millennials favor gay marriage, including 49 percent who identified themselves as Republicans.
"Young people have friends who are gay and lesbian, and they don't see what all the hullabaloo's about," Cox said. "Their parents, on the other hand, didn't have those strong connections. I mean, they could have had gay or lesbian friends, but they never knew it. It wasn't accepted."
PRRI recently conducted a poll specifically asking members of different religions where they stood on the issue of gay marriage. The results show a divided nation religiously. Some 75 percent of all white evangelical Protestants, black Protestants and Mormons oppose gay marriage.
Favoring gay marriage were Jews (78 percent), non-Christian religiously affiliated Americans, including Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims (72 percent), white Catholics (56 percent), Hispanic Catholics (53 percent), and white mainline Protestants (52 percent).
"The religious/secular divide on this issue is shrinking pretty dramatically," Cox said.
Thursday, February 09, 2012
"The building was once a hotdog factory and, before that, the largest brewery in the country.
Portsmouth is already an arty town, but the idea of another performance space and a decent-sized gallery is exciting, particularly as the age and style of the Frank Jones building suggests the flexible, ruggedly textured exhibit spaces that have been such successes for showing modern art at Mass MOCA, DIA Beacon, and several other converted industrial buildings.
Frank Jones had been mayor of Portsmouth and a Representative in the U.S. House when he lost the election for Governor of New Hampshire by a small margin in 1880 and rededicated himself to his various businesses which stretched all the way down to South Boston. He expanded the Portsmouth Brewery in the massive red brick style of classic New England mill buildings.
The Jones buildings covered a huge area and were very famous. Most of them are gone now -- big as it seems today, the old fermentation building on the left, above, that Mr Greiner wants to convert is dwarfed by its now absent neighbor with the clock tower.
The profits from the production of Jones Ale, a quarter of a million barrels of which were produced annually, were enormous, combined with the income from all his other enterprises. He purchased 1000 acres of land on the outskirts of Portsmouth and built Maplewood Farm and enjoyed it with his family for the last four years of his life.
Now shorn of it's 1000 acres and with Maplewood Avenue passing between its front steps and the tree on the left, Jones's home has been broken up into apartments. But not too far away, one of the last remnants of his vast brewery may be about to take on a new and important role in Portsmouth's cultural life.
This picture was not taken here at the house. I found it on the web and wanted to share this delightful scene. We have deer but they've never come this close to the house. That we know of.
Sunday, February 05, 2012
In which The Blogger indulges in some Controversial Speculation
A guest writer on Queering the Church (if an electronic entity can have a sexual orientation, can you guess what this one's might be?) wrote on the theme Was Jesus Homosexual? Having been struck early in my Catholic education by the huge contradiction of the Church's condemnation of homosexuality versus the mass of naked male saints in Great Religious Art writhing in pain/pleasure as they're being martyred (Saint Sebastian being the poster boy for Catholic homoeroticism, see below) I replied with this comment:
It might help to put this discussion into the context of the culture in which Jesus was born and raised. Can we assume that Judaism was as homophobic then as Orthodox and UltraOrthodox Jews are today? If so, it is even more striking that Jesus never said one word against homosexuality -- or even about homosexuality.
But he didn't grow up and live in a wholly Jewish world; the Roman presence was very strong, open and accepting of all cultures (as long as they capitulated to Roman political dominance) and homosexuality was a given in Roman life, especially in the military. Those sayings and encounters of Jesus concerning Romans (before falling into their hands at the end of his life) are all cordial -- pay Roman taxes, although that would not be a popular stance to take to a Jewish audience; and the celebrated supplication by the Roman officer on behalf of the man we now know, thanks to proper translation, to be his lover and not his servant. Jesus had no problem healing the Roman's lover and even praised the man's faith in coming to him for assistance. Not a word of rebuke, as with the woman taken in adultery, and no remarks about those decadent Romans and their pretty boys.
How many Romans did Jesus know? About four miles from Nazareth was a Roman town with military presence. There was a lot of construction work there and as the New Testament identifies Joseph as a carpenter and Jesus as going into his father's trade, it isn't impossible that they spent time there because the work was there. Jesus may well have known Roman culture and been very comfortable with it.
So, was he homosexual? Barring some sensational new documentation we'll almost surely never know his sexuality for certain (or barring some completely faithful translation of the gospels free of the manipulation they've been subjected to over the centuries, or barring a major, unprejudiced reconsideration of the many gospels the Catholic Church decided to suppress over the centuries because they didn't say what the Church wanted them to say). But one fact that I don't usually hear as part of the discussion stands out: Jesus never married. Now aside from all the old jokes about Mary wailing, "Oy, I want grandchildren and my son runs around the country with twelve men," which may or may not be an indication of something, not marrying would not be typical. Or perhaps he did marry young in the usual parent-arranged marriage and it failed -- there are those three decades of "hidden years" after all, for which no records survive that we know of. Who knows what might have been going on?
A couple of typical and clearly homoerotic representations of Saint Sebastian in Renaissance/Baroque art:
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
The Sculpture Post
The three finalists are all women, and two of them have collaborators in realizing their designs. The work of all three is being shown at the Boston Public Library; will public reaction be a major, or even THE major component in deciding which artist gets her creation chosen?
This piece raises SO many questions about construction and support techniques! And is that really just a monumental fart that has shot the bull onward and upward?
The following popped up on a couple of Facebook pages today and several of the resulting comments took it to be real. The fact is that there is no Whitson University in the US, and while College Hill is a college neighborhood in Worcester, MA, the zip code is for Naples Florida.
As someone who's experienced the frustrations of the process of job application to institutes of higher education, from both the applicant's and the search committee member's point of view, I found this satirical piece a delightful and poignant comment.