Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Art or Not?

John Everett Millais: Beyond the Pre-Raphaelite BrotherhoodI lack a degree in art appreciation and I am no expert on art, so my visits to art museums always set me to wondering why some of the works on display would be considered art worthy of a museum wall. I know what I like and research tells me that in itself can be a partial definition of good art. Art is that which inspires great emotion or is a springboard to intriguing thoughts. Among other things, good art is intellectually or emotionally provocative. 

Good art or great art? Is the difference determined by the test of time or expert technique? Is it great symbolism as that found in Millais's Ophelia? I'm a great lover of flowers so this painting shows me a new view of those flowers as well as a new appreciation of Shakespeare's Hamlet. After reading about the symbolism, and the history of the painting--painted 1852, and the fact that it is hanging on the wall of the Tate Museum in Britain, this seems to be undeniably great art.

Because I'm not an expert in art, I am often baffled on my trips to Modern Museums of Art where I've seen some really unusual items like bottle cap art in designs on walls, similar to this display at Las Vegas in Mandalay Bay's House of Blues. Folk art, great art, good art; who's to say? It is certainly fun to look at.


Granted, it is totally creative and unique when used car parts are turned into dinosaurs, but is it art? Recycling art takes ordinary junk and redesigns it into recognizable shapes of other objects. It's very clever and creative; very green for the environment; is this a recognized art form? Just asking. This is the art of Yubi Kirindongo from Curacao.

I'm constantly trying to decide, when is it art or childish crap?  Am I missing the message, or does it have a message? I wouldn't call this item great art, but it certainly sent me on a chase to learn about floriographytussie-mussies and nosegays

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning at CBS             

My favorite activity on Sunday mornings has to be CBS's television magazine program called Sunday Morning from 9:00 to 10:30. Today, they included segments on collections of cuff links, dream homes including Hurst Castle, and another about the Taj Mahal. They also included stories about hair stylist Frederic Fekkai, and a technological discussion of new refrigerators that are designed to be energy efficient and ecologically friendly. Their most unusual story of the day had to be the weird discussion of unusual caskets. There is actually a funeral museum. We learned a lot from King Tut's tradition.

The program covers a great variety of interesting stories and beautiful analysis along with fabulous scenery and photographic examples of their subjects. I am always eager to see the new ideas they bring to their audience week after week.  The reporters and narrators have pleasant, soothing voices that remind me of some PBS presentations. My favorite phrase from their program today was the name of a country music song written by someone they interviewed who lived in a really gaudy palace in Las Vegas. It was titled Big Hair Gets You Closer to God. The musical selections they include are usually very classy and I like to make sure I watch the entire program to see the closing credits with beautiful music and unique scenery. Today, they showed the gardens around Hurst Castle.

I love travel, but I could never experience the great variety of interesting places and subjects they introduce. I don't even mind the commercials run between stories because I multi-task when I watch live TV shows. I continue to surf the web, or grab another cup of coffee during those breaks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Leavenworth Case

The first book written in 1878 by Anna Katharine Green, this book has a rich historical status. It is remarkable that it is a classic which is experiencing a modern spotlight not unlike its bestseller status at its first publication. It stands the test of time and is as entertaining today as it was in centuries past. Its greatest claim to fame is that it was used in a Yale law class to point out the legal problems in circumstantial evidence. It is also significant that it was considered to be the first detective story written by a woman.

Considering that the book was written by a woman in 1878, the attitudes of men toward women are the most fascinating, and funny features of the story. Men seem torn between their requirement to treat women paternalistically and their admission to a weakness for the mysterious hold women have over men's attentions by way of their beauty and mercurial personalities. Men are confused by the vulnerable weaknesses women could display and bewildered by the possibility of a devious intent. They can't seem to trust their own instincts and don't know how to read or trust women.

They seem to suspect a greater strength of backbone in women than they are prepared to cope with. The men of authority are baffled by the behavior of women and can't decide if they are weak little hot house flowers, or great actresses and if they are using feminine wiles to conceal the truth. Therefore, the women feel free to indulge themselves in a great deal of hysterical melodrama to manipulate the men. The authorities are caught between a rock and a hard place because they can't treat the women as they would men in a situation regarding murder because the women can always play the gender card which shames the men into backing down. How things have changed in the world of crime and punishment. Gender equality didn't exist in 1878. Women in today's world could never get away with the self-indulgent "drama queen" behavior of the Nineteenth Century.

I am usually a speed reader but I "brake" for interesting and unusual prose. Not to sound too pompous, but I found the diction of this book created an interesting cadence to the prose. For example, instead of saying "I said" the lawyer says "I essayed."  Another phrase of many that caught my eye was, " The authorities evidently repose great confidence in him." I learned a new word--amanuensis.

The plot was intriguing, the social mores hilarious, and the use of language in the Nineteenth Century kept me entertained. Now I am on a quest for more of her work. Project Gutenberg has her works available for free downloads.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Up For Air

It's time to emerge from my latest reading binge. Reading has to be my favorite hobby of the many hobbies in which I have indulged during my life. I have probably spent as many hours reading as sleeping. I have never understood people who say they don't read. I can understand that they might not read as often as I, but never read for enjoyment? It's almost like saying I don't breathe--it's a concept foreign to me. 

I started this week, by buying three books and checking out four books from the public library. I have three more reserved and waiting for pickup. I have given up buying so many books because my house is bursting at the seams and there's no more room. Thank goodness for public libraries! Never say never, but I would have difficulty making the switch to electronic readers because I am so addicted to the paper books. I like holding a book in my hands. I like the smell of books and the weight of a book sitting in my lap.

I am very possessive of the books I have decided I want to keep. Sometimes I turn some books over to second hand bookstores in trade for other books, but I have some classics that I don't plan to give up. Unfortunately, some folks don't understand that and want to borrow my books. I have to make it clear that I plan to keep the book. I learned the hard way that lending books to people is really just giving them books. They assume I won't remember; then they forget and when I ask for it back, they are insulted and have forgotten what happened to it. Simply because I have a lot of books does not mean I want someone to find a home (other than mine) for it. I have a relative who picks up one and starts reading it, which then forces me to tell the person that they can't take it home because it is part of my reference,does-not-circulate collection. Sometimes I revisit my favorite books, or I want to double check some fact from it.

I know that person would finish reading the book in question, then turn around and leave it someplace, which did not sit well with me. The person is a fan of which is fine for her, but not what I want to do. I'm a fan of public libraries. So I wrote my name on the three ends of pages when the book is closed so that my name was visible anytime the book was seen. Then I told her I would pay to have it shipped back to me when she finished it, which finally convinced the person that I intended to hold on to the book. So she left it on my shelf.

When I discovered books, my world was complete. Sometimes, I bury myself in books for days, stopping only for necessities like exercise, eating, shopping, or laundry. I've been known to interrupt sleep to read. One of my greatest reasons for retirement had to be my compulsion for reading. Now I can indulge myself anytime I want. Needless to say, the only things that top my reading priorities would have to be family and friends--grandchildren trump everything.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Return of Tinkerbell

After all of the flowering trees of springtime have finished their annual display, I know the hummingbirds are due to return. Every year, around the end of April, they faithfully return to my feeders to amuse and entertain. They never fail to bring a smile and a reverence for their incredible presence. I often wonder if the birds that come to my feeders each year are different or if the same birds ever return. I sometimes see several near the feeders at the same time so there are many feeding in the neighborhood.

Last year, I entered several posts to this blog about  Tinkerbell, which is my favorite name for these little creatures because of their obvious resemblance to Peter Pan's pixie playmate. The quick darting about and powerful wings shown in the Disney animation remind me of hummingbirds. I call all of them Tinkerbell even though I see three or four at the same time. They just won't wear name tags.

Last summer, I had several up close and personal encounters with them that were awesome. I had reached for the feeder to refill it when I heard a very distinctive sound which I suspected was Tink returning to feed. I froze and watched as the hummingbird danced about in front of my face checking on me. When I didn't move, the bird moved to the feeder to continue feeding and ignored me. It is an incredibly, pleasing experience to have an opportunity to get so close to one. I haven't tried to hand feed them, nor do I require that in my experiences. I'm content to watch and marvel. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010



I won't cry with you,
But I will laugh with you,
I can't agonize for you,
I'm too busy agonizing for me.

Empathy is saved for a few BFF.
If you need a therapist,
Get one,
Everyone will thank you.
Navel-gazing in public
Is very unattractive.
Catharsis is a meal
Best eaten alone.

CATHARSIS - A Poem by R.J.

Global Catharsis -- From the art of Scott Cahaly