Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Guernica

 

You can read about this painting at this web site, with info about Pablo Picasso and his works. Here's a bit from the introduction:

Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace. On completion Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed. This tour helped bring the Spanish Civil War to the world's attention.

This work is seen as an amalgamation of pastoral and epic styles. The discarding of color intensifies the drama, producing a reportage quality as in a photographic record. Guernica is blue, black and white, 3.5 meters (11 ft) tall and 7.8 meters (25.6 ft) wide, a mural-size canvas painted in oil. This painting can be seen in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid.

Interpretations of Guernica vary widely and contradict one another. This extends, for example, to the mural's two dominant elements: the bull and the horse. Art historian Patricia Failing said, "The bull and the horse are important characters in Spanish culture. Picasso himself certainly used these characters to play many different roles over time. This has made the task of interpreting the specific meaning of the bull and the horse very tough. Their relationship is a kind of ballet that was conceived in a variety of ways throughout Picasso's career."

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Djinn (Again)


"The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" is one of the best novels I've read in a long time. Well, it's a novella. And I appreciate the fact that the author, A.S. Byatt, didn't try to stretch it out into a whole novel. 

The title made me wonder, as I'm sure it makes everyone wonder, how a djinn could be in a nightingale's eye. I mean, djinn live in bottles in between their jobs as slaves to humans, right? But in the eye of an exotic bird? I think I won't be spoiling the story to tell you that "nightingale's eye" is just the name of a certain type of glasswork used to make a beautiful bottle. 

We don't even get to how the main character finds the djinn until more than halfway through the story. Why? I guess we need to know about this main character to understand how she finds the nightingale's eye and then how she treats the djinn. 

Some writers (Many writers?) would have had us find the main character finding the bottle and the djinn right away, because we want to know this, right? But that wouldn't work for this story. In this story, if we got that part first, all the rest would be "backstory," an idea that works for other stories but would ruin the whole effect here.

And here's another thing about this story: There's a bit where the main character has a carnal encounter with the djinn. Again, I don't think this is a spoiler to mention this. Djinn are famous/infamous for this kind of thing. I mention it because the way this comes about, and the way it turns out, are so beautifully done that there is nothing offensive about it. This is in stark contrast to the bits in that book I ended up reviewing last Friday, "City of the Lost," which were so offensive that I skimmed through all those pages and finished reading the book only because I wanted to see if I had guessed correctly the identity of the serial killer (and I had---another indication of the not-so-great writing). Also, I would have thrown the book into the recycling bin if it didn't belong to the amazing Camas Public Library. 

Another thing about this book: The subtitle is "Five Fairy Stories," and I've got to say that the four other stories, which precede this one in the book, are just as fascinating and even delicious to read. I love that A.S. Byatt didn't follow the route that is so often traveled by contemporary writers of just changing a few details in the Little Red Riding Hood, for instance, story, to turn it into something more "modern." No, she writes her very own fairy tales. 

And, as this blurb from Amazon puts it, these "narratives ... are as mesmerizing as dreams and as bracing as philosophical meditations; and they all inhabit an imaginative universe astonishing in the precision of its detail, its intellectual consistency, and its splendor." 

So, having read this book, slowly, so that I could savor the beauty of the writing and the splendor of the tales, I find that A.S. Byatt won the Booker Prize for her book "Possession," which I have on hold at the wonderful Camas Public Library, and which I will start reading as soon as I get back to the library to pick it up. Also, I'm going to find "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" on Amazon or Thrift Books and see if I can get it for a reasonable price, used, so I can re- and re-read it. 

(Just checking on Thrift Books, I find that if I had a spare $20 or so, I could order someone's seminar paper, for Pete's sake [not even a PhD thesis?], titled "You Must Be the Prince," about A.S. Byatt's fascination with and use of motifs from traditional English fairy tales, stories from Shakespeare and the tales of Chaucer, as well as the tales of the Arabian Nights. Nah, not gonna buy that. Also, not gonna get the Djinn/Nightingale's Eye book for now, either, b/c it's too expensive, even used. I will keep looking.)

(Also, BTW, I keep asking myself who would by a used book in "Acceptable" condition for three or four dollars more than it would cost new...and then charge another four bucks for shipping. Anyone know the answer to this question?)

Why You Should Never Talk to Police

 



Sunday, January 29, 2023

My Horoscope For This Week

(according to Madame Clairvoyant): (And I must say I love this!---it's just what I needed to hear, now.)

When you’re at a crossroads, you tend to put off making a decision for as long as possible. What people don’t always understand is that this isn’t because you’re afraid of making the wrong choice but because you’re luxuriating in the sense of possibility. When you want to experience as much as you can in life, of course you’re reluctant to limit your options before you have to. At some point, you have to choose, but that doesn’t mean you need to rush. Take the leap if you’re ready, but if you aren’t, there’s no harm in waiting.

Abstract Acrylic Painting

"Abstract Acrylic Painting" is a class I'm taking this quarter through the Clark College Community and Continuing Education program. The teacher, Cathy Ekhoff, is the kind of person you want to spend time with, the kind of person you want to be like when you grow up: cheerful and accepting while at the same time knowledgeable and authoritative.

You never know what you're going to get in an art class, right? I mean, I know two people, in my own family, who have great artistic skills and instincts, who decided against majoring in art and/or design in college when they realized how capricious the whole thing is. One of them realized in community college that their work wasn't being judged on any rational or definable criteria, but on how the other students in the class reacted, as well as what kind of mood the teacher was in that day.

This isn't my first art class through the Clark CCE program, but it's the first one I've really enjoyed, and what's really funny is that I thought, after the first class meeting, that it was going to be awful. But I had paid my money and I wanted to go to the second meeting, and I'm glad I did. Because I learned. A lot.

In the first three-hour class, we talked about what is even meant by the term "abstract." Then we had to draw some little pictures based on what another person told us about the originals, without seeing them for ourselves. Then, for homework, we were supposed to use our own acrylic paints at home to come up with a painting of our drawings. Below is the photo my partner was describing to me, using only words of shape, size, and orientation in space, along with the drawing I did based on her description. 










And here is the painting I made, at home, from this drawing. I know: It's not great in any way, and when I compared it with the homework paintings by the other students, I was almost embarrassed. (I took photos of the other students' works, but I don't feel comfortable posting them here b/c they're not mine and I didn't get their permission.) But not quite, because of the way the instructor talked about it: with some praise (for my colors), a lot of encouragement, and some practical suggestions. 

In the second three-hour class, the teacher gave a 10-minute talk on color theory and had us all make our own color wheel, and then gave us little cards to copy, matching the colors on them. "If you were in art school, you could have a whole semester on color matching," she said. "But you've now had 10 minutes on it, and you're going to do great." So we spent the next two hours painting these little cards, trying to match the colors exactly. And, finally, we put them all together, using grid numbers the teacher had written on the backs of the cards. 

Below are the little cards I tried to copy and match the colors of, and, on the right, the final result, when we put them all together:


A gigantic pear: Pretty cool, huh!








Meanwhile, halfway through this class, one of the students said, "I thought we were going to be doing our own projects in here." The teacher looked puzzled. The student explained that she wanted to bring her supplies to class and paint whatever she was working on, because "I don't have a table at home where I can spread out and work." 

One of the other students said, "I just use my kitchen table. I spread out a big sheet of plastic, like we do in here." That first student shook her head. "I can't do that." (We don't know why, but of course we're not going to ask for details. She knows what she wants.)

The teacher said, "Of course you can bring your own things and work on your own projects. But my understanding is that when you paid to take this class, you were expecting to be taught, and that's why I'm teaching you what I know." And she does know so much, way beyond what this student and any of the others of us know; and she knows how to teach.

Later, that same student complained about how "hard" it was to do the color-matching exercise, and wanted to know what the finished project would even look like. Again, the teacher looked puzzled. "This is called learning. It's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to stretch you beyond what you knew before." (She used words to that effect, not speaking as bluntly as I've made it sound.)

And that's what I'm enjoying about this class: I'm learning, I'm doing things I would never have thought to do on my own, and it's not easy in any way, but it's worth it; I'm expanding my experience of the world. Another student in the class, whom I'd met in my first CCE art class, and who is an experienced and talented artist, came up to me and said, with a huge smile, "Isn't this fun! I'm learning so much! And it's completely different from any other class I've ever taken." I was glad to know someone else was enjoying it as much as I was. (And in fact I think most of the class members felt the same way we did.)

Saturday, January 28, 2023

What's Wrong With This Guy!

"This guy," Mike Pompeo, was the secretary of state under the former guy (TFG). Just knowing that should let you know what an empty piece of gaseous effluent he is. And, now, he has added to the noxious smell that surrounds him by claiming that Jamal Khashoggi, a legal American resident and a journalist at the Washington Post, was "just an activist," and not a journalist.

You don't have to be an "activist" to report on the actions of the Saudi government. But you are definitely a murderer if you arrange to have a journalist killed in order to shut him up. And you are an ignorant fool (or at least, in the much nicer language of the Washington Post, "estranged from the American values of freedom of the press, in shining a light on dark corners of the world") if you support the person, the leader of the Saudi government, who arranged Khashoggi's murder.

And that's who Pompeo is. Also, he's desperate for power, greedy for the small and large benefits he thinks will come to him for supporting a killer. We already knew he was a greedy fool because he accepted a job working in the Trump administration. This compounds his error.

Also, TFG and Pompeo really believe that MBS will believe he "owes" them? How blind and ignorant can they be? (Rhetorical question.) From the Washington Post:

President Donald Trump and his secretary of state reacted to the murder by protecting the Saudi despot, refusing to impose serious penalties against the kingdom, ignoring a congressional resolution calling for sanctions, and seeking to refurbish MBS’s standing. Mr. Pompeo makes no secret of his admiration, saying MBS is “leading the greatest cultural reform in the kingdom’s history” and is “a truly historic figure on the world stage.”


Mr. Pompeo reveals that, in private, he and Mr. Trump felt they rescued the crown prince from disrepute. He recalls that the then-president asked him to go to Saudi Arabia, and that he was the first Western official to see MBS since Khashoggi’s murder. “In some ways I think the president was envious that I was the one who gave the middle finger to The Washington Post, the New York Times and the other bed-wetters who didn’t have a grip on reality,” Mr. Pompeo writes. “He said, ‘Hey Mike, go and have a good time. Tell him he owes us.’”

This is the language of a street tough, not the leader of a nation based on rule of law. Mr. Pompeo offers the lame and ignorant excuse that the Middle East is a tough neighborhood. “The episode was ugly, but it wasn’t surprising — not to me anyway,” he writes of the killing, because “this kind of ruthlessness was all too routine in this part of the world.” Mr. Pompeo salutes Mr. Trump’s decision not to punish the crown prince, saying “it wasn’t a close call.” He then goes on to smear the murdered Khashoggi as an “activist” and not a journalist, claiming he “had supported the losing team in a recent fight for the throne.”


Khashoggi’s journalism, including his criticism of the Saudi despot, was in the best tradition of American values of free expression, shining a light on dark corners of the world. Mr. Pompeo reveals that he is estranged from these principles.

Here's what another Washington Post reporter has to say about Pompeo's latest idiocy:  

Happy Friday to everyone — except Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, the former secretary of state feels no shame in smearing the name of a journalist and a defenseless murder victim — as that’s exactly what he does in his new book, “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love.”


According to reports, Pompeo writes that Jamal Khashoggi — a Post contributing columnist who was my colleague and friend — was not the person we said he was. “He didn’t deserve to die,” Pompeo says, “but we need to be clear about who he was — and too many in the media were not.” Jamal, he goes on, was a journalist only “to the extent that I, and many other public figures are journalists. We sometimes get our writing published, but we also do other things.”


I don’t know how people like this sleep at night.


After more than four years of living with the trauma of Jamal’s killing, and the callousness of both the Trump and the Biden administrations in their policies toward Saudi Arabia in the wake of his murder, I thought I had seen it all. But Pompeo has shown what it looks like when rock bottom has a trap door. Attacking a murder victim’s reputation to hawk books is as laughably pathetic as it is craven...


I speak to people to this day who felt anger and sadness for Jamal — who truly felt for this man they never met. To them, Jamal became a symbol of the powerful’s callous disregard for human life. They, at least, understand that this sort of human connection is more potent than anything Pompeo has to offer.


I knew Jamal’s work and the heart and strength it took for him to write in defense of those in Saudi Arabia who were being persecuted under the crown prince. Jamal Khashoggi will forever be known as someone who fought for the voiceless and who lost his life for speaking the truth.


Pompeo? I’m sure history won’t remember much about him at all.

Friday, January 27, 2023

What---Another Liar in TFG's World?

What did Bill Barr know? And when did he know it? And why did he lie so despicably to all of us back then, and what makes him think we have all forgotten? 

Did you know that his pet puppy, Durham, was given (by Italian government sources) some info about a scandal involving TFG, and Durham and Barr did not make that public? They did not really investigate it---or, if they did, they decided not to tell the rest of us about it. Here's what some NY Times reporters found out about this. 

And here's the response of Andrew Weissmann to the information, on the Alex Wagner show on MSNBC last night. A bit from him:

"I wasn't surprised to hear about Barr. I lived through his actions,...so it was no surprise to me....This was a really good example of the real weaponization of the federal government...and there's no evidence that this is happening now."