Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weekly Wrap: Wednesday Night #17

The Powerpuff Girls in 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas (2002)

It's been a couple of weeks since our last Wrap, but, since the posts have been coming at a slow pace, a result of holiday activities and poor health, there really hasn't been a need, when simply scrolling down the front page would reveal all that had been posted in the ensuing period.

But tonight we'll catch up on the situation. Moreover, we'll take note of Paideia's 400th post!!! Woo hoo!!! I've had a lot of fun writing on this blog. Hopefully, you've also enjoyed the journey to 400. :-)

I'm expecting the upcoming month to continue at a leisurely pace, perhaps ten posts per week. Family and friends and "holiday/year end" social functions will be cutting into my writing time. I might do a few more photo posts to keep up an engaging daily schedule. Whatever the situation, I hope we'll have a great time.

Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, from The Nightmare Before Christmas

Here are the posts since our last Wrap:

We've had two Friday Flowers posts, Peruvian lilies and All-America roses.

We visited many locations including Downtown Disney and Riverside's Mission Inn.

Regarding arts and entertainment, we celebrated the birth date of Russian ballerina, Alexandra Danilova. We also paid a quick visit to the Torrance Art Museum to view the South Bay Focus exhibition. Our monthly Dance Party featured a fun mix of songs from over four decades.

Two posts celebrated animation. First, we enjoyed some cartoon thrills with the Powerpuff Girls. Then, we fondly reflected on the Toy Story series.

A traditional wooden sailing vessel off the coast of Hermosa Beach caught our attention for an "Image of the Day" post. Then we celebrated Thanksgiving. Woo hoo!!!

Until next time, here's your weekly weird.

Nothing spreads the Christmas spirit like an elf on a cannon. Ho Ho Ho!!!


South Bay Focus

Ranchiro Palas Verdes Lighthouse on Cliff (2010) by Elizabeth Hestevold

Throughout the year, the Torrance Art Museum has featured engaging exhibitions from artists across the globe. The curation has been aggressive in creating an aesthetically stimulating vision for this small, community venue.

It's been a fine series of shows, successfully engaging local art enthusiasts in considering the potentialities of curation within the civic context. I have been impressed and inspired by both the process and the results of this artistic exploration.

However, one of the critical roles of a "community" museum is to showcase the workings of "community" artists. And that's the premise of South Bay Focus 2011. Local artists have been selected to express their own artistic vision and, as an aggregate, to delineate the "South Bay" style.

South Bay Focus will be on exhibit at the Torrance Art Museum until December 16.

I haven't been able to give the show a full viewing just yet, as the official opening isn't until this Saturday, but my quick glimpse revealed plenty of interesting works. I'm hoping to attend the opening reception this weekend to get a better view of the exhibition. It'll be lots of fun ;-)

The Way of Rain (2011) by Rency Punnoose


Monday, November 28, 2011

Festive and Eclectic In Riverside

Entry to Riverside's Mission Inn, flanked by giant Nutcrackers

This weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the historic Mission Inn in Riverside, a vast and sprawling structure of eclectic architectural designs, made even more eye-catching by the pervasive holiday ornamentation.

It's a rare event for me to travel so far to the East, well beyond the borders of Los Angeles County. But there are many cool things to see in Riverside, most especially the Mission Inn, founded in 1876. That may not seem like an "antique" date in most of the world, but, in this part of California, that's mighty venerable!

I wasn't able to stay into the evening, when the Festival of Lights dazzles the night. I'm hoping that I'll have the opportunity to take another trip inland.

Ho Ho Ho!!! Santa visits the Mission Inn

There are plenty interesting things about Riverside, but this post is all about images from the holiday look of the Mission Inn. ;-)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November Dance Party!!!

Cover image from Donna Summer's Four Seasons of Love (1976)

Once again, we enter the final stretch of the month with a celebration of popular music from over the past four decades. And there are a bunch of interesting songs that we could feature tonight. Sometimes, these monthly posts are tough to put together, because of the poor quality of the selection, but tonight it was tough because there was so much from which to choose.

And that's a good thing. Family obligations and poor health have kept me from maintaining a steady stream of posts over the past week. Nevertheless, I've been having a good time. :-)

Cover image from My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade (2006)

Let's listen to some music.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Flowers: All America Rose

Rose: Love and Peace

New feet within my garden go --
New fingers stir upon the sod --
A Troubadour upon the Elm
Betrays the solitude.

New children play upon the green --
New Weary sleep below --
And still the pensive Spring returns --
And still the punctual snow!

It's been a while since I posted an Emily Dickinson poem. When I began poetry blogging back in April, I went a bit thick with her works. Seeing as how she's my all-time favorite poet, that was a predictable course of action, but I felt that I was overdoing it. Thus, I began showcasing more contemporary, lesser known artists.

But I decided to treat myself to some Emily for the holiday weekend. :-)

Rose: Europeana

In regards to the roses, I'm featuring a few that had been selected as "All-America Roses." It seemed appropriate for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gobble Gobble

Beavis and Butt-head celebrate Thanksgiving

Just popping in for a quick Happy Thanksgiving!!!

We'll be skipping the Weekly Wrap until next Thursday. Best wishes!!!

Garfield looks like he's having a wonderful day. ;-)

Here are a few vids for the day:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Infinity . . . and Beyond!

Buzz Lightyear action figures

On November 22, 1995, Pixar's first feature film, Toy Story, was released.

It's hard to imagine that 16 years have passed. But when you pause to consider all the Pixar movies that have since come, things fall into perspective. Including Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and WALL-E, these films have set the standard for cinematic CGI animation. Yet, this success was founded upon a simple story about the secret life of toys.

The Toy Story trilogy is among my favorite series of films. Each movie is a "stand alone" feature, but continues to build upon character interaction and delineate personality nuances. Although accessible for children, the stories are equally as engaging for adults. In terms of plot, each movie presents a distinct type of conflict, resolved with a compelling mix of thrills and humor, in defiance of memorable antagonists.

Toy Story poster (1995)

Fun Stuff!

Life in LA: Image of the Day #1

Classic wooden sailing ship cruises in the South Bay

My photo is mighty grainy, but I couldn't pass up on sharing the occasional odd sight that characterizes life in Los Angeles. ;-)

I guess there's a movie in the works that needs nautical footage. A few years back, some filming for the Pirates of the Caribbean was done down off the Palos Verdes peninsula.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Random Images from Downtown Disney

Lion King Statue in Downtown Disney's World of Disney Shop

Yeah, the holidays keep me busy. ;-)

Here are a some images from my trip to Downtown Disney.

Sheriff Woody Pride from the Toy Story series, built out of Legos

I'd like to go visit Downtown Disney on a bright and less hectic day to take some less rushed photographs. There are actually a lot of cool little details scattered around.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

En Pointe

Alexandra Danilova in Le Bal (1929), costume by Giorgio de Chirico

It has been a long while since our last ballet post. Let's remedy the situation by celebrating the birth date of Alexandra Danilova, born on this date in 1903.

One of the greatest prima ballerinas of her generation, Danilova made an indelible mark on the art of dance both upon the stage and within the studio as a teacher. Sadly, there is very little footage of her performances easily available, just brief clips and fragmentary shots, flashes of her grace and poise.

But it is clear, from these images and the testimony of her audience, Danilova was a wonder of motion.

Alexandra Danilova in Swan Lake

So, let's take a moment today to appreciate the beauty of ballet and the artistry of a legendary performer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

The Powerpuff Girls officially debuted on November 18, 1998

I often write about the cartoons of my youth, but fun animation didn't stop when I reached adulthood. Case in point, the Powerpuff Girls delivered quirky humor and classic superheroic action/parody.

The mastery of speculative fiction tropes was impressive. From tokusatsu thrills to infernalist horror, the writers knew how to turn genre expectations upside down, delivering stories that would entertain both children and exceptionally geeky adults. And the pacing was excellent, packing relentless mayhem into a mere ten minute short.

Although the protagonists, Buttercup (green), Blossom (red), and Bubbles (blue), were entertaining characters, the show really excelled with the "Rogues Gallery". Twisted parodies of supervillain archetypes, the recurring antagonists sealed the deal for me, whether it was the super-genius monkey, Mojo Jojo, turning the world's population into dogs or the spoiled super-rich girl, Princess Morbucks, ruining Christmas for kids around the world by switching Santa's "Naughty" and "Nice" lists.

Once again, the day is saved, thanks to the Powerpuff Girls!!!

And then there is the outrageous, over-the-top violence. This cartoon could get gruesomely brutal. But it was so absurd that you never stopped to consider that a monster was torn to pieces, limbs ripped off, eyeballs burst from within, and other assorted mutilations. And that the perpetrators of such mayhem were little girls only amped up the gonzo quality.

Friday Flowers: Lily of the Incas

Alstroemeria: Peruvian Lily

First Thanksgiving
(By Sharon Olds)

When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object,
like a soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, after him, fresh
from the other world - which lay, from within him,
within me. Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing - whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn't need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she's fast asleep, I'll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing, then tossed them back
into the air - I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.

Although Sharon Olds' birthday is November 19, I figured we could bump her up a day to showcase this wonderful poem from her Blood, Tin, Straw collection, published in 1999. Although I'm not the biggest fan of her works, I do feel as though she's become the "punching bag" for anti-confessionalist aesthetics in poetry. Moreover, the impact of her poetry is more often found in sound and structure, rather than "meaning" or premise. In this regard, her handling of cadence is really exceptional and admirable.

I wonder if contemporary critics bother to read poetry aloud anymore.

Altsroemeria: Lily of the Incas

And why the alstroemeria? They're hardy flowers, not flashy, not famous, low to the ground, but, when you take the time to examine them, their wild beauty and subtle color are wonderful to behold.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Weekly Wrap: Thursday Night #2

Methane Lake on Titania (1968) by David A Hardy

Another week, another wrap. We took it leisurely this week with regards to posting. But I did a bit of cleaning and fussing about behind the screen, working on weeding out some labels, fixing up links in the Art page, and trying out that "LinkWithin" gadget.

I'm not certain that I'll keep the "LinkWithin" for long. It makes the front page look busy, but I can accept it if it helps readers find other posts in which they might have an interest. When I installed it, it impressed me with how it accurately linked up appropriate posts, but, since then, it hasn't worked too well. My most recent posts seem to have randomized links. That's kind of stupid! So, I've got it under review. If it doesn't start showing some accuracy, I'm bootin' it out of Paideia.

Although this week was heavy on the art posts, five out of ten, I'm satisfied with an occasional imbalance like that. After all, Monet's and Rodin's birthdates only come once a year each. Moreover, we normally assign a greater percentage to art, with music as a close second. As long as we keep the topics mixed over the long term, it does no harm to go a bit heavy on one for a week.

Burghers of Calais (1884-95, 10/12) by Auguste Rodin, Norton Simon Museum at night

Let's look at the weekly blogging:

We had five art posts. In celebration of Rodin's birth date, I shared some photos from my archive of local museum visits. Later on that day, while visiting the Norton Simon Museum, I snapped some new photos. Monet's birth date was also a cause for celebration, in which we featured a few paintings that are in our local Los Angeles collections. I was able to visit a few galleries this week, which enabled me to write about the excellent show of Chuck Close's work at Blum & Poe. Finally, our Pacific Standard Time experience continued by revisiting some shows and attending a few lectures. Good stuff!!!

Music was discussed in two posts. First, we celebrated the birth date of the 19th century female composer, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, appreciating her beautiful compositions. Then we enjoyed some smooth jazz from Diana Krall.

Friday Flowers were chrysanthemums. We visited the Petersen Automotive Museum to check out the excellent Phil Hill exhibit and see some awesome cars! And, finally, we had a rare science post featuring Sir William Herschel, the discoverer of Uranus and infrared radiation.

Fun stuff. Next week will likely be at a leisurely pace as well, given that it's holiday time, with plenty of familial obligations. But I'll try to make the ten post minimum for you all. ;-)

Here's the weekly weird.

Giant Pool Balls (1967) by Claes Oldenburg


Delineation Through Pixelization

Detail of Self-Portrait II (2011) by Chuck Close

Because of his expressed distrust of those who attempt to convey through words the experience and significance of art, as though such endeavors are either "spin jobs" and charlatanism, or, at least, verging close to such chicanery, even if the critic has no vested interest in the work under review, which puts up a filter between the reader and their ability to experience the art in an unbiased and authentic manner, writing a blog post about Chuck Close's solo exhibition at Blum & Poe feels presumptuous, even disrespectful towards an artist to whom I have the greatest of respect and admiration.

So, to ablate this feeling, I'll use simple declarative sentences for the remainder of this post.

Chuck Close is a portraitist. Some of the works in this show utilize a technique of grid-based "pixelization." Within each "pixel" shape, colors are layered in a manner that may be perceived as abstract when viewed up close. When viewed from a distance, the colors may be perceived as "blended" into a neutral and contextual pattern. Therefore, the experience of these works may be highly variant depending upon the vantage point.

Kara (2010) by Chuck Close

On view are large paintings, small stamp works, and two Jacquard tapestries.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Only Trust Your Heart

Diana Krall was born on November 16, 1964

When I first heard Diana Krall in the early nineties, her voice, so smooth, silky, and sexy, was not enough to win my enthusiasm for her music, which seemed too "tribute" or "homage" based. Certainly, it made for good listening and Diana's jazz performance style could not be overpraised, but there was a "old fashioned" pop predictability that just turned me off.

I had been there. I had done that. She was exploring jazz's musical vistas which I had seen. Maybe it was because I was so immersed in classical music at that time, but I felt that, for all of her charm, she was bringing nothing new to these well worn standards. Classy and competent, no doubt, but her performances didn't innovate. They were just "standard rep."

Towards the end of 1999, I was listening to her music late at night. Her voice was so comforting, a warm caress of sound, passionate, inviting, and playful. At that I moment, I thought to myself, "Screw it! Her music stirs the passions and lifts the soul. Who cares if she's covering old ground, when she covers it so well?"

Diana Krall from the cover of All for You (1996)

So I am now an enthusiast of her music. Diana has also developed as an artist, growing more assured and distinct in her performance style. Whereas her early work feels very dependant and referential towards previous performers, she is now setting the standard for future jazz singers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beyond the Crystal Spheres

Uranus Rings (1987) by David A. Hardy

In 1738, Sir William Herschel was born. His career in science was prestigious, including the discoveries of Uranus and infrared radiation, the coining of the word "asteroid", and the improvement of telescope technology. And he composed symphonic music as well!!!

Although I rarely cover "science" topics, I couldn't let Herschel's genius go uncelebrated. Too often, we spend our time celebrating "popular" figures, overlooking those individuals who may have been less glamorous but, nevertheless, contributed significant ideas or inventions to humanity. That's not to say that "media darlings" or celebrities are not important, but, instead, that a discerning society ought to give equal or greater interest and respect to those who labor in obscurity, as is appropriate to their contributions to society.

Our current Age of Information was founded upon the genius of prior scientists and thinkers. Herschel was one of these great men.

William Herschel's 40 ft. telescope, 1789

So, let's give thanks to Herschel and those innovative thinkers, famous or obscure, who have made our world a better place.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Only an Ornament

Sketch of Fanny Mendelssohn by Wilhelm Hensel

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was the older sister of the famous Romantic composer, Felix Mendelssohn, wife of the prominent court painter, Wilhelm Hensel, granddaughter of the great Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, and the grandmother of a few notable intellectuals; the tradition of defining her in relation to prominent male relatives is a disservice to her own underappreciated genius.

Born to a respectable German Jewish family in 1805, Fanny Mendelssohn was subjected to the societal marginalization that was socially prominent toward women. In spite of her obvious musical talent, her family never allowed her to cultivate the knowledge and skill to meet her potential. While her brother was developed into one of the greatest voices of early Romantic composition, Fanny picked up her technique through self-taught trial and error as a performer.

Fortunately, her brother encouraged her compositional activities, publishing her works under his own name so as to avoid the scandal that would have ensued if the true authorship was known. When Fanny married Wilhelm Hensel, who supported her musical endeavors, she eventually began to publish under her own name.

Sketch of Fanny Mendelssohn by Wilhelm Hensel

Let's honor her birth date by listening to some beautiful music. And reflect upon the even greater music to which we cannot listen, those pieces that were never realized by Fanny because of the many social obstacles that prevented their creation, lost to the ignorance of misogyny.

En Plein Air

Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning (1891) by Claude Monet, Getty Museum

Yeah, I know that we've been hitting the art topics with high frequency this last weekend. There are many wonderful people to discuss today, but I couldn't ignore Claude Monet, born on this date in 1840.

My feelings about Monet are complex, but all highly positive. Perhaps, the most important way in which he has influenced the development of my own personal aesthetic base is in the "plein air" technique. The concept behind "en plein air" is to work quickly on a piece, assessing the subject's salient features, composing the aesthetic structure, and expressing the authentic experience. By practicing this method, both in pictorial and verbal styles, I feel that my skill as both an artist and a critic of art has been enhanced.

As regards Impressionism, I have a deep love for this style. Fortunately, the local museums have wonderful examples on display, even a few Monet's. It is always a thrill to visit these "old friends" that I've been admiring for over three decades. Maybe I'll finally pay that visit to the Getty that I've been planning for a few weeks now. ;-)

The Artist's Garden at Vetheuil (1881) by Claude Monet, Norton Simon Museum

In any case, let's take a moment to reflect on how amazing human beings are that we could produce an artist like Claude Monet.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pacific Standard Time: Weekly Update #5

Pacific Standard Time logo

Although my health has improved significantly, the wreckage of two days lost to illness has created a backlog of tasks and social obligations, crowding out most of my art appreciation time. I still managed to fit in a rich set of activities, but not to my customary "aesthete grade" desires.

I didn't see any new exhibits, but I did attend a couple of lectures. The Norton Simon Museum had two Pacific Standard Time events. First, I attended a spotlight talk on Claes Oldenburg's Fire Plug Souvenir- "Chicago August 1968" and the fireplug motif as expressed in his lithographed Notes 1968. It was an interesting contrast between Oldenburg's more familiar light-hearted "pop" pieces and his deceptively critical political/social works.

Then, I attended a lecture on Dennis Hopper's photograph, "Double Standard" (1961), given by Prof. Damon M. Willick of Loyola Marymount University. Using the photo as a jumping point, the lecture was a reading of the various trends salient in the Los Angeles art scene during the era of the photograph and of the ensuing decade. It was a broad examination, encompassing everything from LA car culture to emergent minority voices to the fetishization of image and surface content. It was a good intro talk for those new to the topic of Los Angeles art.

Double Standard (1961) by Dennis Hopper

Finally, I was able to attend a panel discussion, "High Voltage: The Watts Legacy", at the Hammer Museum. The panel was moderated by Dr. Darnell Hunt. The panelists were artists, John Outterbridge and Andrew Zermeno, and collector, Stan Sanders. It was an engaging conversation, bringing up topics of art as political speech, the art establishment's fluctuating level of acceptance for African-American artists, and the transformational role that the Watts Riots played in spurring artistic creativity.

So, focusing more on activities than viewings was a good change of pace. No doubt, I'll be back to my solitary gallery pacing next week, but I had a good time at these events. I'm very grateful to live in a civilization where experts are readily available to impart insight and information.

Operation Teacup (Tower Easter Week Clean-Up) (1965) by Milton Martinez

Here are the Pacific Standard Time exhibits that I attended:

Hammer Museum

"Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980"

Norton Simon Museum

"Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California"


Concours d'Elegance

Exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum celebrating the life and career of Phil Hill

Although the stereotype of American automotive racers is that of brash and impatient "alpha" males, the first great American-born international champion, Phil Hill, was a reflective and quiet man.

Not only did he excel on the race course, back in the days of motor mayhem and high driver fatalities, but he also dedicated himself to restoring classic cars, preserving the material history of automotive culture. Long after his Grand Prix championship was in the rear view mirror, Hill continued to promote vintage vehicles.

In fact, his influence as a "car man" may be more lasting in his work with classic cars than in racing for Ferrari or Ford. Certainly, the Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance, one of the most important events for antique auto enthusiasts, would be far less prominent, if not for the high profile support that Hill provided over the years.

In celebration of the fifty year anniversary since Phil Hill won the Formula One World Championship, the Petersen Automotive Museum is hosting an exhibition, showcasing both sides of his contribution to the automotive world: the cars in which he raced and the vintage treasures that he restored.

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO; debuted at 12 Hours of Sebring in 1962

The cars were so awesome, I felt significantly cooler just standing next to them. ;-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Age of Bronze, Part II

The Thinker (1880, 11/12) by Auguste Rodin, overlooking Colorado Blvd

If The Thinker was originally designed as a figure surveying the damned at the Gates of Hell, then what does it signify that it will be overlooking Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade, proceeding to the Rose Bowl, along Colorado Blvd? Hmm. . .

Earlier, I promised some more photos of the Rodin sculptures at the Norton Simon Museum. The lighting conditions were not optimal, but I think a few turned out looking satisfactory.

Jean de Fiennes, Vetu (1884-95, 1/4) by Auguste Rodin

Saint John the Baptist (1878-80, 7/12) by Auguste Rodin

The sculptures have amazing facial expressiveness, revealing a depth of emotion, engaging the viewer with unvoiced questions.

The Age of Bronze

Monument to Honore de Balzac, first modelled 1897, cast in 1967 (9/12) by Auguste Rodin

Auguste Rodin was born on this day in 1840.

Los Angeles is lucky enough to house two significant collections of Rodin's sculptures: LACMA's Cantor Garden and the Norton Simon Museum. Additionally, Stanford University up in the Silicon Valley houses a superb collection that is well worth a long drive (or quick flight) and overnighting the weekend.

I'm so familiar with his works that I sometimes overlook them, passing them by without so much as a glace. The Thinker at the Norton Simon rarely receives a visit from me anymore. So, it's important to remember how awesome these works are.

The Thinker (1880, 11/12) by Auguste Rodin

Let's take a look at a few classic Rodin's and renew our appreciation for his genius.