Saturday, April 30, 2011

Buck the Bunny and the Perilous Platforms

Buck the GameStop Bunny

Just a quick hit. I was watching the Penn Relays on ESPN and saw one of my favorite ad characters of recent years, Buck the GameStop Bunny. This character is a spoof off of the old Mario Brothers-style platform games. If you're a gamer of the right age, these commercials tap into some core youthful emotions.

Here's a collection of some of these ads:

And here's my favorite Buck vid:


GameStop's Wikipedia page is here.

And here is the official GameStop website.


Sweet Music Soft and Mellow

Denise Donatelli performing at LACMA

Every summer, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) hosts a series of Friday jazz concerts, in partnership with our local jazz station , KKJZ 88.1 FM. To celebrate the birth date of Duke Ellington, I figured that I'd catch a live performance. Being a member of LACMA and interested in a few shows currently on exhibit, I made the trip out to the Miracle Mile.

The concert was held at the Grand Entrance. Seating was iffy, but I got a good location. Sound was passable, although the audience was full of chatterboxes. Y'know, just because it's free doesn't mean it has no value!!! The band performed two sets with a brief intermission between.

This was the first time that I have seen Denise Donatelli perform live. I don't know if this was the right venue for her. She has a warm and gentle voice and her movements are sensuous and smooth. I think she must be fantastic in a club venue, but, in the LACMA entryway, the nuances of her performance are lost in the hubbub. Nevertheless, a diamond in the ruff is still a diamond. It was a good show.

Her performance of "Don't Explain" was especially good, bringing out the pain and futility of the words with a gentle subtly. Most performances try to out-soul or out-anguish Billie Holiday, but that's a losing strategy. Donatelli instead delivers the words with a sense of comfort, smooth as honey, but there is an "aftertaste" of pain in her words. Fantastic artistry.

Since I was at LACMA, I decided to look at a few of their current exhibits. So, before and after the concert, I went scrambling around the campus looking at art. The first show that I got to see was Elizabeth Taylor in Iran.

This was a series of thirty-two photos taken in 1976 by Firooz Zahedi in pre-revolution Iran. Apparently, the original negatives were lost and these few photos were produced off a contact sheet. An interesting little show, it disproved my belief that no woman can look sexy in a chador. Of course, few women are a hot hot hot as Liz Taylor. ;-)

Here's a vid:

The second show that I visited was David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy.

Star Cage by David Smith (1950)

I'm not a big fan of Smith's work. However, this is a very interesting exhibit which has me reassessing these works. First, it shows the geometric continuity underlying Smith's aesthetic development. Second, the exhibit layout provides an easy reference between works, which enhances the viewers capacity to recognize and appreciate design nuances. Finally, with over 100 works to view, the sheer scale of the exhibit allows the viewer to get a lasting feel for Smith's artistic vision. It's a very worthwhile show, even if you're not into the subject matter.

Finally, this one took me by surprise. The Magna Carta is in Los Angeles?!!

Yeah, on loan from the Bodleian, it's in town for only a short visit (April 26 to May 5) in celebration of BritWeek. Hmm. . . Anyways, I was happy that I caught a viewing of it. This one was from 1217. I think that I've seen the 1225 version on one of my trips to the UK. Pretty cool.

Of course, I can't visit LACMA with paying a visit to Michael and Bubbles. ;-)

Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons (1988)

Here's a link to LACMA.

Here's Denise Donatelli's website.

Here's the Wikipedia page to David Smith.

And the Magna Carta's Wikipedia page is here.


Friday, April 29, 2011

It Don't Mean a Thing

So, what is my favorite Duke Ellington piece? I'm happy you asked. ;-)


Gateway: Japan Revisited

BIO by Yuki Yoshida

Gateway: Japan is closing tomorrow at the Torrance Art Museum. If you can swing by to check it out, I highly recommend it. I've already discussed a few works in a previous post, but there are many more works worth checking out.

For instance, Yuki Yoshida's BIO is an intriguing piece. On my first visit, I didn't give it much attention, but upon a second viewing I found it enthralling. These figures caught amber-like in stasis are fascinating. They have a slightly Lovecraftian quality that captures my imagination. Check out this vid:

Likewise, Akira Shikiya's Get Smart is a charming work that I overlooked upon my first visit. Here are a few images:

Finally, you really don't want to miss Nobuhito Nishigawara's Capitoline Donkey, do you? ;-)

LOL!!! Anyways, I really enjoyed this show.

Here's a link to the Torrance Art Museum's website.

Here's Nobuhito Nishigawara's website.


Friday Flowers Again

Purple and Green

(Amy Lowell)

False blue,
Colour of lilac,
Your great puffs of flowers
Are everywhere in this my New England.
Among your heart-shaped leaves
Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing
Their little weak soft songs;
In the crooks of your branches
The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs
Peer restlessly through the light and shadow
Of all Springs.
Lilacs in dooryards
Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;
Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
Above a cellar dug into a hill.
You are everywhere.
You were everywhere.
You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon,
And ran along the road beside the boy going to school.
You stood by pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,
You persuaded the housewife that her dish pan was of silver.
And her husband an image of pure gold.
You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms
Through the wide doors of Custom Houses--
You, and sandal-wood, and tea,
Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks
When a ship was in from China.
You called to them: "Goose-quill men, goose-quill men,
May is a month for flitting."
Until they writhed on their high stools
And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers.
Paradoxical New England clerks,
Writing inventories in ledgers, reading the "Song of Solomon" at night,
So many verses before bed-time,
Because it was the Bible.
The dead fed you
Amid the slant stones of graveyards.
Pale ghosts who planted you
Came in the night-time
And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems.
You are of the green sea,
And of the stone hills which reach a long distance.
You are of the elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles,
You are of great parks where everyone walks and nobody is at home.
You cover the blind sides of greenhouses
And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass
To your friends, the grapes, inside.

False blue,
Colour of lilac,
You have forgotten your Eastern origin,
The veiled women with eyes like panthers,
The swollen, aggressive turbans of jewelled Pashas.
Now you are a very decent flower,
A reticent flower,
A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,
Standing beside clean doorways,
Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,
Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight
And a hundred or two sharp blossoms.

Maine knows you,
Has for years and years;
New Hampshire knows you,
And Massachusetts
And Vermont.
Cape Cod starts you along the beaches to Rhode Island;
Connecticut takes you from a river to the sea.
You are brighter than apples,
Sweeter than tulips,
You are the great flood of our souls
Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts,
You are the smell of all Summers,
The love of wives and children,
The recollection of the gardens of little children,
You are the State Houses and Charters
And the familiar treading of the foot to and fro on a road it knows.
May is lilac here in New England,
May is a thrush singing "Sun up!" on a tip-top ash-tree,
May is white clouds behind pine-trees
Puffed out and marching upon a blue sky.
May is a green as no other,
May is much sun through small leaves,
May is soft earth,
And apple-blossoms,
And windows open to a South wind.
May is full light wind of lilac
From Canada to Narragansett Bay.

False blue,
Colour of lilac.
Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,
Lilacs in me because I am New England,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are of it,
Because my flowers are for it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice
Since certainly it is mine.
Here's a link to Amy Lowell's Wikipedia page.


Beyond Category

Continuing our celebration of Duke Ellington. The song that defines the "Jazz Age" for me is "Take the A-Train" composed by Billy Strayhorn for Duke Ellington in 1938. The "A" Train is a reference to the subway line that runs from Brooklyn to Harlem upon the express tracks through Manhattan, in New York City. The inspiration for the song comes from Ellington giving Strayhorn directions to get to his house.

I confess to being one of those obnoxious tourists who took a ride on the "A" Train merely because of this composition. But that's just payback for all those tourists that make driving along Hollywood Blvd or Sunset such a trial. ;-)

Anyways, within the Jazz tradition reinterpretation of the standards is a vital form of aesthetic progression. Successive generations of performers apply their new styles in a reassessment of the classics. This is sharp contrast to the Classical music tradition. For instance, one doesn't reinterpret a Bach piece in the style of Stravinsky or restructure Mozart as a minimalist piece from Glass. I think this is one of the principle charms of jazz music.

While Classical composers like Beethoven, Schubert, and Chopin are preserve and revered in a manner similar to museum pieces, the Jazz masters like Ellington, Armstrong, and Gillespie are still providing grist to the mill of Jazz creativity. Yes, that's a generalization with definite exceptions, but as a broad analysis I believe it holds true.

Anyways, let's look at this tradition. Here's Duke:

Here's a post-Swing interpretation featuring Anita O'Day:

Now, we go West Coast "cool" with Dave Brubeck:

Finally, Charles Mingus give it the late Hard Bop treatment:

In each interpretation, what were the primary emotive techniques? Positing the Ellington performance as the model for comparison, what are the new qualities that the subsequent interpretations bring? These are the types of questions that make the Jazz tradition so intellectually stimulating. And it was Ellington's special talents that established the standards by which we may judge other performances.

Anyways, here the Wikipedia page for Take the "A" Train.

Here are the Wikipedia pages for Anita O'Day, Dave Brubeck, and Charles Mingus.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Got Lots of Class

Duke Ellington was born an April 29, 1899. His influence on 20th century American music is profound, even well beyond the confines of jazz. I could write endlessly about his fantastic compositions. I could link to countless vids. But I think we'll content ourselves in this post with one of his signature pieces:

Here's a link the Duke Ellington Wikipedia page.


One of the Lonely People

Karl Lagerfeld in a hotel suite made of chocolate (Photo: Jacky Naegelen. Reuters)

Sometimes you come across an image that steals your ability to make coherent commentary. This is one such image. That's fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld standing next to a chocolate sculpture of Baptiste Giabiconi, attired only in white briefs. Moreover, the entire suite is decked out in chocolate, like some demented fantasy from Willy Wonka.

Apparently, this is some sort of promotion for Magnum Ice Cream. Hmm. . . I can't say that this makes me desire to try it out. Kind of the opposite. Although this Rachel Bilson ad is a little better:

Anyways, it's hard to imagine that the Choco-suite was designed without consideration of all the off-color comments that it would generate. Just read the comments over at Boing Boing.

Here at Paideia, we'll steer clear of such blue humor and instead offer you some Hot Chocolate:

Here's an article at Curbed, Karl Lagerfeld Apparently Designs All-Chocolate Hotel Rooms, which also contains links to other related articles.

Here's a link to Karl Lagerfeld's Wikipedia page.

And here's the Wikipedia pages for Rachel Bilson and Baptiste Giabiconi.

And since I'm in a shillin' type of mood, here's Magnum Ice Cream's website.


Girly Talk

Blossom Dearie (1957)

Blossom Dearie was born on this date in 1924. A jazz singer and pianist, she was never a blockbuster name. Certainly, she was a fantastic singer, but her voice was notable for its girlish quality. There is something a bit disconcerting when you hear some "mature subject matter" expressed with such an innocent sounding voice.

When I first heard Blossom's music, it didn't work for me. Fortunately, I kept an open mind on the matter and eventually came to appreciate her performances. I got past the childish vocal quality and came to enjoy its brightness and implied coyness. Additionally, I grew to admire her technique and articulation.

So, here's to Blossom! We'll not let her go unappreciated at this blog! ;-)

Here's a link to Blossom Dearie's Wikipedia page.


Precarious Transition from Girl to Woman

Cover art by Rudy Nappi (1962)

Recently, I've been interested in the use of tableaux in artistic expressions, as demonstrated in my posts on Luigi Ontani's AmenHammerAmeno and the Getty's exhibit on Photography from the New China. A bit of serendipity arrived in my inbox in the form of a message from dnj gallery about the availability of some photographs by Holly Andres. These photos are from her series "Sparrow Lane" which happens to be a work of narrative tableaux. Hurray!!!

The premise is the exploration of emergent experiences of adulthood as a woman from the starting point of childhood as a girl. Andres utilizes the imagery of Nancy Drew to draw connotative values to work. Just as Nancy bravely confronts the mysteries before her, so too do these young women investigate the secrets of adult femininity. Just as Nancy's surrounding carry a sense of menace, likewise the girls of Sparrow Lane transgress into a "forbidden" realm. There is definitely a foreboding mood to these images.

Here are a couple images:

Outside the Forbidden Bedroom by Holly Andres

The Ruby Ring by Holly Andres

These are images that could be drawn straight off of a Nancy Drew cover, but the sexual subtext is unmistakable. I appreciate the nuances of the images. For instance in the "Forbidden Bedroom", I like how the older girl has her hand upon the younger girl's shoulder, as if she's having second thoughts about seeing what's inside yet her facial expression displays a clear focus in the mystery before her. Likewise, the placement of the older girl kneeling at the base of the stairs holding a symbol of passion, while the younger girl looks down upon her with an expression of surprise, implies the attainment of adult knowledge but without full comprehension.

Yeah, I could go on and on about the Sparrow Lane series, discussing color, costume, symbolism and placement. But I recommend checking it out for yourself.

Here's a vid in which Holly Andres discusses the series:

Here's a link to Holly Andres' website.

And here's a link to the Nancy Drew Wikipedia page and her official website.


Signaling in the Library

Event organizer, Dana Vinke, prepares to introduce Traci Kato-Kiriyama

In celebration of National Poetry Month, the Torrance library scheduled a poetry reading by Traci Kato-Kiriyama. She read from her recent poetry collection, Signaling. They were really good, precisely the type of poetry that I enjoy most. They all had a premise to explore, be it on coming to terms with the death of her father, commenting on an emotionless partner, or contemplating a future undead meeting with the children of the children that she doesn't have.

Stylistic concerns took a backseat to the points of narrative or commentary. But these were definitely poems, with engaging structure and incisive word choice. Her reading had a engaging cadence and rhythm. Most importantly, these poems have the feel of authenticity to them. They come from the deep emotions of real life experiences. There is an honest vulnerability and intimacy in these poems.

Additionally, Traci is an entertaining speaker and clearly has a love for poetry and artistic performance. She was very supportive of the audience's poetic potentials. She's involved with the Tuesday Night Cafe in Little Tokyo, which features open mic nights to help foster LA's poetry and performance scene.

Traci's such a friendly person that she even took a photo with me. ;-)

Traci Kato-Kiriyama and LJ pose for a photo

Anyways, I'm very happy that I was able to attend this event. I look forward to catching another of Traci's recitals sometime soon. Here are a few vids featuring a couple of the poems that she read at the Torrance recital:

Los Angeles


Here's a link to Traci Kato-Kiriyama's website.

And here's a link to her blog with a nice collection of some of her works.

Finally, here's a link to the Tuesday Night Project.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Form of Appreciation

We can't forget to wish a Happy 52nd Birthday to Sheena Easton. Here at Paideia, we commemorate the hotties of the Eighties whenever we can. ;-)

I like "For Your Eyes Only" and "Morning Train" but Sheena is at her sexiest in "Strut". Don't believe me? Check out the vid:

Here's a link to Sheena Easton's Wikipedia page


Down These Mean Streets

Scrooge McDuck, Urban Entrepreneur (Original image by Carl Barks)

There's a fascinating article at Discovery News about how birds with big brains are successful at adapting to an urban environment. The term "big brain" doesn't necessarily means "smarter" but refers to the overall ratio of brain to body size. Avian critters such as jackdaws, magpies, and wrens are urban adapters. They are able to adjust to the diverse elements that comprise the city life, in terms of food and habitat.

Moreover, there may be some natural selection at work in the avian world, as these birds may become even brainier to continue thriving in the city. As urban development spreads and paves over the preexisting natural environment, the pressure for birds to adapt will become even greater. Things aren't looking good for the yellowhammer or the golden oriole.

Life is tough when you have a small brain. ;-)

Of course, a mention of big-brained magpies necessitates a vid:

Here's a link to the Discovery article, Brainy Birds Live the High Life in Cities.

Here's a link to Wikipedia page for Scrooge McDuck.

And here's the Wikipedia page for Heckle and Jeckle.

Finally, it's always good to pay a trip to the Audubon Society website.


Für Elise

On this date in 1810, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote one of the most beautiful and captivating musical compositions of Western Civilization, "Für Elise". Although the piece is titled with a dedication, we don't know for certain who "Elise" was. The primary argument is that the title is is error and should actually be entitled "Für Therese". This would indicate that it was written for Therese Malfatti, a lady to whom Beethoven proposed in that same year.

Therese turned down the offer and eventually married an Austrian noble in 1816. One is tempted to make a commentary on how wealth and power are more appealing than artistry and genius, but Beethoven was certainly a difficult man. You can't really blame a young lady for rejecting the offer of a person of erratic disposition, even if he was a musical genius. Nevertheless, the music is one incredible love letter.

In any case, this seems to be an appropriate place to give my favorite Beethoven quote:

"What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven."
LOL!!! The man had a bit of an ego.

Here's a vid of Valentina Lisitsa paying "Für Elise":

Here's a link to the Wikipedia page for "Für Elise".

And here's a link to Valentina Lisitsa's website.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Isn't It Funny, How a Bear Likes Honey?

The pedigree of honey
(Emily Dickinson)

The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.

And if Emily is too high brow for y'all, here's some Scottish Indy Pop:

Here's the Camera Obscura Wikipedia page and their official site.


I Always Tell the Truth

We're also celebrating the birthday of Giorgio Moroder, born in 1940. His music is not my "cup of tea" but it certainly has a distinct sound. I remember being in a club in the early '90s when his song "The Chase" from the movie, Midnight Express, came on. Although that song was like 15 years old, there was still a bunch of enthusiasm for it. It's got a memorable vibe that is hard to resist.

My favorite Moroder compositions are from the movie, Scarface. The individual pieces don't stand out as showstoppers, but together they set up a strong mood. They capture the film's spirit. In the game, Grand Theft Auto III, this music is used both for a laugh and as a reference motif. It's a cool form of appropriation. "Flashback FM, where every night's a dance party.

Here's my favorite piece from the soundtrack, Debbie Harry singing "Rush Rush":

Finally, I wouldn't be a child of the '80s if I didn't link to Flashdance:

Here's a link to Giorgio Moroder's Wikipedia page.


The Wellspring of Good

Bronze Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius, born on this date in the year 121, is my favorite Roman Emperor, the last of the "Five Good Emperors." Additionally, he is one of my favorite moral philosophers. Whenever I read his Meditations, it amazes me to consider that this dutiful, humble, and authentic voice is of the Most Powerful Man in the World!!! Would I be so ethical and righteous if I had supreme wordly power? I seriously doubt it.

I don't think that I'd go all Nero or Caligula, but I wouldn't be writing Stoic reflections in my private journal. No, I'd be eating exquisite food, drinking fine wine, enjoying the cultural and intellectual richness of the Roman arts and letters, and relaxing with pleasurable company. I would hope that I'd have the ethical integrity to govern with wisdom and responsibility, but that would be secondary to having a good time.

I wouldn't be writing things like this in my private journal:

Everything that happens happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.

Now, when you read such concepts in the works of Epictetus or Musonius Rufus, these are admirable ideas. But it's no surprise that people with such little worldly power would try to tame the chaotic pulls of ambition and desire. Finding contentment with a humble existence is a coping mechanism for the weak and disenfranchised. The Roman Emperor is neither weak nor disenfranchised!!!

And this is what makes Marcus Aurelius so admirable. The Stoic virtues are not mere coping devices for a life of hardship. They are relevant regardless of worldly status. Marcus Aurelius doesn't practice the Virtues because he needs to; he practices them because they are Right.

Here's a short vid about the life of Marcus Aurelius:

Here's a link to Marcus Aurelius' Wikipedia page.

If you are interested in Moral Philosophy, definitely check out the Meditations, which is available free on-line at many locations including at the Internet Classics Archive or Project Gutenberg.


Keep His Eyes Covered

A Paler Shade of Being by Caniglia

I've been doing some research on blogs, blogging, and the various styles and genres of such. One type of blog that caught my attention was the "dream blog" which is one part dream journal and one part public discussion of symbolism. I'm not really into dream analysis but I am into symbols and images.

Anyways, I thought that I might give it a try. However, I had two concerns. First, I was a bit worried that my dreams would be boring or only appropriate to an "Adult" blog. Second, I normally can't remember my dreams unless I wake up in the middle. Fortunately, my unconscious mind decided to cooperate with today's project. Here it is:

At a library, I met some tall, scrawny, bearded, long-haired hipster who could spontaneously generate tiny beetles from his hair by whipping his head around like you see in various shampoo or hair treatment advertisements. I was totally skeptical, but, upon extensive review, that claim was confirmed. So I started researching the topic, aided by my sister, flipping through the massive tomes that this library held. Somehow, we eventually discovered and obtained a thin wand of tightly wrapped paper, like an artist's paper stomp.

Apparently, blowing at the end of this wand would result in the manifestation and projection of little white flies, similar in shape to the critters in the image above. We gave it to a friend to blow upon, as we took observations and notes. However, our friend is apparently an imbecile and he decided to project the flies at random, like a kid with a peashooter. This made my sister very angry. She snatched the wand away from him and berated him for his stupidity. Meanwhile, I was brushing myself down, making certain that there were no little white flies on me.

Upon waking up, I identified a song with this dream, Schubert's "Des Baches Wiegenlied". Here's a performance of the work:

I doubt it has any meaning beyond random subconscious associations, but it certainly is a curious imagining. This dream blogging thing is kind of fun. ;-)

Here's a link to Caniglia's website. Plenty of haunting images can be found there.

And here's a link to the Wikipedia page on Die schöne Müllerin.


Monday, April 25, 2011

In a Mellow Mood

I guess one song isn't enough to celebrate Ella. So here are a couple more, playing against type this time. I could have linked to "Get Happy" or "That Old Black Magic" or "If I Was a Bell" but I thought it would be nice to switch it up.

Someone to Watch Over Me

Cry Me a River


First Lady of Song

Ella Fitzgerald performing in Chick Webb's Orchestra

I'm a Jazz enthusiast. So I could let the day pass without celebrating the birthday of the great Ella Fitzgerald, born on this date in 1917. For pure vocal artistry and skill, she was probably the best of the classic Jazz songbirds. With beautiful phrasing and an incredible range, she is the Voice of the Jazz era.

Personally, I prefer Billie Holiday, Anita O'Day, and Sarah Vaughan. These singers have certain intangibles of performance that I find more appealing. Sometimes Ella feels too pretty and clean, a little light on the "Soul" content. But this is a relative criticism. Saying that you've got less "soul" than Billie or less "cool" than Anita or less "verve" than Sarah, doesn't mean that you're deficient in any of those qualities. And so it is with Ella Fitzgerald.

Anyways, nobody beats Ella when it comes to "sweet":

Here's a link to Ella Fitzgerald's Wikipedia page.


I am Vengeance! I am the Night!

Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Cover art by Bob Kane.

I have been an avid reader throughout my life. I have read widely across genres of fiction and nonfiction. However, one of my favorite narrative forms is comic books (or graphic novels, if you prefer.) Yeah, I don't read them much anymore, but that's not because I've "outgrown" them. Like all art forms, comic books have aesthetic trends and fads that come and go. I'm not a dedicated fan of the genre, so when a trend arises that I don't appreciate I have no problem jumping ship. There is seemingly an infinity of material to read and there is no excuse to waste our precious time on things we dislike.

But this post is about something that I like very much. BATMAN!!!!!

On this date in 1939, Batman was introduced in the pages of Detective Comics #27. I wasn't around for this grand occasion, but I pay homage to it. Batman is one of my favorite characters in all fiction. He is like a mythic hero of the 20th century. Yeah, you can make interesting arguments in favor of the other "superheroes" like Superman, Captain America, or Spider-man, but I would argue that Batman has a greater mythic depth than all the others.

It isn't just in the character of Batman, but in his environment and antagonists. His iconic stories carry a richness of Jungian archetypes. His conflicts are Campbellian in their underlying structure of conflict and resolution. His character has been reimagined on numerous occasions, but the core concept has remained unchanged.

Anyways, I might return to this topic at some later date. Today, I just want to celebrate a classic American Icon. Here's the intro to the 1989 film:

And here's a link to the Batman Wikipedia page.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

First Weekly Wrap Up

Shadows Reach Across LJ's Face

Over the last week, we discussed a decent array of subjects. Here's the Wrap Up:

Eating Barbequed Iguana was about the Santa Monica Museum of Art's exhibits on Tijuana's tourism in Donkey Show, two series by Al Taylor in Wire Instruments and Pet Stains, and a few new works by Daniel Cummings.

In Crunch to Munch, I expressed by disgust over the concept of a Doritos Taco from Taco Bell. Yuck!!!

Great and Wondrous Deeds was about the audio recording of lectures by Jeremy McInerney, Elizabeth Vandiver, and David Roochnik concerning ancient Greek history, literature, and philosophy respectively. I highly recommended their work.

We took note of the activation of Skynet in Something Unstoppable. Fortunately, some time traveler must have defeated Skynet's plans for destruction.

I mused on the acceptance of loneliness in Heat in Freezing.

In That They Were Fair, I subjected David Crest French to the LJR critique. He gets an A for Beauty, but a C- for Originality.

I paid tribute to Billie Holiday's brave statement against lynching in Scent of Magnolias, Sweet and Fresh.

Mascherari describes the performance of Luigi Ontani's AmenHammerAmeno, a tableau vivant work that I was able to attend. With plenty of photos too!

John Muir's environmentalist legacy was celebrated on his birthday in Full of Thy Glory.

I expressed my love for clever advertisements that tell a tale in Gratitude Is the Sign of Noble Souls.

Again, I put on my art blogger hat in Demons of the Wind to discuss the Roberto Cuoghi exhibit at the Hammer. It has a creepy sculpture of Pazuzu too!!! How can you beat that?!

Dark Angel celebrates Bettie Page's birthday and unforgettable sexuality. Hot! Hot!! Hot!!!

Emily Dickinson's "Nobody knows this little rose" is the feature of this week's Flowers for Friday Afternoon.

In Heaven Is Within, I visited Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece, Wayfarers Chapel, and discussed a bit of Swedenborgian spirituality.

Twenty-six years after the introduction of New Coke, I reminisce on the era of the Cola Wars in Catch the Wave.

What the Light Was Like featured Amy Clampitt's poem "Easter Morning" for obvious reasons.

I discussed the fascinating themes of the Getty exhibit "Photography from the New China" in A Brook Without a Source.

Finally, I do a bit of overtly personal blogging in Happy Easter!!!

All in all, it was a busy week here at Paideia. I thank you all for reading and I hope you've enjoyed the visit.

Happy Easter!!!

Sometimes family events can feel smothering. This is especially true for the holidays. There is a slight formality that governs the flow of the gathering. It's not the free form "hanging out" that you get at a Little League game or even a birthday party. But it also doesn't have the strong formalism of a First Communion or High School graduation. It's something between the two types. And that stresses me out.

Now, I always deal with the situation just fine. Very few people even notice that I'm a bit uptight. LOL!!! Maybe that's because I'm just a methodical and focused person by nature.

Anyways, I feel like that rabbit in the photo above. Stuck in a bowl and surrounded by brightly colored plastic eggs, I'd be at the edge yelling "Get me out of here!" ;-)

Nevertheless, I'm thankful for my family, my friends, and all the kind people that I have met over the course of the year. Happy Easter, amigos!!!

A Brook Without a Source

New Women by Wang Qingsong (2000)

The Getty Museum had a Photography exhibit, "Photography from the New China," that caught my interest. The primary theme that I took away from the show was that of cultural and historic reassessment.  It brought to mind the Chinese proverb "I dreamed a thousand new paths. . . I woke and walked my old one." Some of the photos spoke directly to this quote.

For instance, the tableaux works by Wang Qingsong are reinterpretations of classical paintings, but with symbols of modern consumerism and materialism, in which the Golden Arches of McDonald's is the equivalent of an Imperial banner and tawdry modern attire replaces the elegant fashions of the courtly ladies. Yet, although these images have significant difference in value, is the underlying action any different? The mighty lord over and forced their will upon the weak, whether it is a Ming Emperor or an American corporation. A courtesan performs the same function regardless of her clothing and hairstyle. So, do these images speak of a new path or continuing down the old one?

I Am Chairman Mao's Red Guard by Hai Bo (2000)

In contrast, the works of Hai Bo do indicate a rejection of the old path. In his series "They", he presents a set of diptychs in which a photograph from the era of the Cultural Revolution is contrasted with a contemporary photo, using the same sitters. In group photos, when a subject has died, there is an empty space where that subject would have been. This contrast between the rigid and colorless Maoist world and soft, timeworn modern world do indicate significant, even painful, change. For Hai Bo's subjects, it may be true that the underlying realities of power and function are essentially unchanged, as indicated in Wang Qingsong's work, but, for the individual, life forces us down new paths.

Standard Pose by Qiu Zhijie (1997)

Finally, the works of Qiu Zhijie brings us to a synthesis of these styles. Creating tableaux of modern Chinese works posed in the style of Maoist propaganda posters with similar coloration to Cultural Revolution photos, we are presented with an ambiguous statement regarding the new vs. old paths. Obviously, these are parody pieces. But what is being parodied? It it a spoof on the old ways by displaying the modern Chinese as so totally incongruous with the Maoist style? Or is it a spoof on the modern Chinese identity that for all of its superficial change is still following along the old path?

In any case, there was much to consider at this show. Other artists on display include Rong Rong, Liu Zheng, Song Yongping, and Zhang Huan. Sadly, the show closes today. Again, I'm more of a closer than an opener. Sorry, amigos. Maybe some fantastic Pipa music will compensate?

By the way, I selected a performance by Wu Man because she is dealing with a similar quandary as that presented in this webpost. She even curated a musical festival entitled "Ancient Paths, Modern Voices." Good stuff!!!

Here's a link to the Getty website.

Here's Qui Zhijie's Wikipedia page.

And here's Wu Man's Wikipedia page and official website.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

What the Light Was Like

Easter Morning
(Amy Clampitt)

a stone at dawn
cold water in the basin
these walls' rough plaster
after the hammering
of so much insistence
on the need for naming
after the travesties
that passed as faces,
grace: the unction
of sheer nonexistence
upwelling in this
hyacinthine freshet
of the unnamed
the faceless

Here's a link to the Amy Clampitt website.


Catch the Wave

Advertisement for New Coke (1985)

Twenty-six years ago, Coco-Cola replaced their classic formula for a new and "improved" one. This was a phenomenal marketing failure. Although the taste tests had shown that people liked the flavor of New Coke, the mere fact of change had upset the core Coke consumer. It was a gamble that brand loyalty would allow a seamless transfer of consumers from the classic formula to the new, while attracting people away from Pepsi.

This gamble failed. Less than three months from the introduction, the original formula was returned to production as Coke Classic. Eventually, the New Coke formula would be phased out.

Personally, I wasn't a cola drinker at the time. If nothing better was available, I'd choose Pepsi over Coke. However, I did find New Coke more to my taste, although not enough to pry me away from A&W Root Beer or Dr. Pepper. On the other hand, Cherry Coke was good stuff!

In any case, I found it weird how people got so worked up about it. LOL! Gotta luv da '80s.

Here's a vid about the launch and backlash:

Here's the New Coke Wikipedia page.


Heaven Is Within

Approaching Wayfarers Chapel

For Good Friday, I decided that I wasn't in the mood for meditations upon the bodily sufferings of Jesus, as is the focus of a traditional Catholic "Stations of the Cross" service. I wanted to think on transcendence. So I took  a trip down to the Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes. It's a beautiful location, situated overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Designed by Lloyd Wright, son of the famous Frank Lloyd Wright, the building is an architectural masterpiece. The Chapel is affiliated with the Swedenborgian church and is designed in harmony with its beliefs. For instance, the harmonization of the Spirit with Nature is represented by the contextual design of material and form, such that the boundary between the Chapel's Sacred Space and the surrounding Natural Space is effectively eliminated. Here are a couple photos to illustrate:

A view of Wayfarers Chapel from the outside

A view of Wayfarers Chapel from the inside.

Another interesting element of Swedenborgian theology is the view of the Trinity, in with the traditional concept of distinct "Persons" is rejected in favor of distinct "Aspects." This is best represented by the Triangular form. So, there are plenty of triangles and implied triangles to be seen. Here are a couple photos:

Trinity represented by a triangular fountain

Implied triangles of the entry lead to the expressed triangle of the alter.

Finally, the location on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific allows for wonderful pointers to the Infinite. Creating structures that draw the eye either up into the sky or out across the ocean, the Infinite is easily contemplated here. For example:

A view from the entry steps

Looking up at the Bell Tower

Anyways, I was very happy that I spent Good Friday at such a fine place of contemplation. My photos don't do justice to the full extent of the location's beauty. So, if you are in the Los Angeles region, I highly recommend a visit to the Chapel. Here's a vid of the interior:

Here's a link to the Wayfarers Chapel website.

Here's Lloyd Wright's Wikipedia page.

And here's the Wikipedia page for Emanuel Swedenborg.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Flowers for Friday Afternoon

Placed in a Vase

Nobody knows this little rose
(Emily Dickinson)

Nobody knows this little Rose --
It might a pilgrim be
Did I not take it from the ways
And lift it up to thee.
Only a Bee will miss it --
Only a Butterfly,
Hastening from far journey --
On its breast to lie --
Only a Bird will wonder --
Only a Breeze will sigh --
Ah Little Rose -- how easy
For such as thee to die!

Dark Angel

Bettie Page

Bettie Page was born on April 22, 1923. In the 1950s, her iconic photos earned her the title of "Queen of Pinups." Many gorgeous women have since graced the centerfolds and pages of erotic magazines, but Bettie is still the Queen for me.

She wasn't the prettiest lady of her era. However, the combination of beauty and personality made for an enthralling and compelling effect. There is a sexy playfulness to her pose. Her facial expressions are inviting and vivacious. Most of all, she's bold, but without being brash. It all seems to come naturally to her. This spirit is expressed by the quote:

"I was not trying to be shocking, or to be a pioneer. I wasn't trying to change society, or to be ahead of my time. I didn't think of myself as liberated, and I don`t believe that I did anything important. I was just myself. I didn't know any other way to be, or any other way to live."
That's why Bettie was special. In erotic depictions, there were countless women who preceded her and there have been and will be countless women following, but Bettie Page remains as an unforgettable icon of female sexuality.

Here's a cute vid of her dancing. (Don't worry. There's no nudity.)

Here's a link to Bettie Page's Wikipedia page.

Here's a link to the Official Site of Bettie Page.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Demons of the Wind

A marble sculpture of Pazuzu, fused with his double, by Roberto Cuoghi

While I was visiting the Hammer Museum, I had to opportunity to see their exhibit Hammer Projects: Roberto Cuoghi. It's a small but interesting show. The exhibition space is in a U-shaped room. Along the arms of the "U" are alternate-ego portraits of the artist, images of what might have been or what might be. Here's an example:

Untitled (2010) by Roberto Cuoghi

At the focal point of the curve of the "U", there is a large black marble statue of the Assyrian demon, Pazuzu, King of the demons of the Wind. It is actually a sculpture of two Pazuzus, merged together as though stepping through each other. It's a very disturbing sight.

Moreover, the exhibit space has the feel of a chapel. The portraits on the wall are like devotional paintings, while the double Pazuzu is the alter or idol to whom this space is dedicated. All in all, I felt a bit disturbed.
Nevertheless it is an interesting show.

Since we're on the topic of Pazuzu, here's some music:

Here's a link to the Hammer's Roberto Cuoghi page.

And here's a link to Pazuzu's Wikipedia page.


Gratitude Is the Sign of Noble Souls

The Lion and the Mouse

I'm an enthusiast of well-crafted advertisements. They are like poetry. The ad writer has under thirty seconds to get a memorable point across to the viewer. There are all sorts of techniques and tricks. One of my favorite advertisement techniques is the short narrative.

Like a fable or parable, the short narrative tells a story. However, the moral of the tale is intended to persuade the viewer to purchase the advertised product. It's very difficult to pull this off without seeming totally banal. A message like "Buy this SUV and become a MAN" or "Buy these COSMETICS and become BEAUTIFUL" is totally crass. It's a tough task.

Take a look at this ad from Bridgestone:

I love it!!! Like a one of Aesop's Fables, it carries the moral that one good deed brings another. However, this moral hides the underlying "moral": buy Bridgestone Tires and be safe. Good stuff.

Here's a link for the Wikipedia page on Aesop's Fables.