Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy 1st Blogiversary, Paideia!!!

LJ strikes a pose similar to that from one year ago.

Yeah, it's been a while since I plopped my ugly visage upon the top of a blog post, but, since it's my first blogiversary, I figured I'd go all retro, bringing back the tradition of the self-portrait "meta" posts. ;-)

Although I can't believe that this project has gone on for a year, I'm so happy that it has. There has been a fair share of frustrations and failures, always falling short of my goals, like the 500 posts in a year, but, for every shortcoming, there has been abundant pleasure to counter the disappointment. In sum, writing Paideia has been a joy!

Here's what I wrote in Post #1:

"Each day is an opportunity to learn something new, to appreciate the richness of life, and to share our thoughts and feelings with our friends. Every day is a learning experience. That's what this blog is about."

In meeting this premise, Paideia has been an unqualified success.

So, let's look at some photos and reflect upon the year that was.

At the intersection of Wilshire and Veteran in Westwood. Running around to all of these museums and galleries, I spent plenty of time sitting in LA traffic. Heck, I even got into an awful accident on the 405!!!

Agate Hand by Harold van Pelt at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. Many odd sight were seen.

D*Face mural at the Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City, now hidden by recent construction. Before starting this blog, I was an occasional gallery visitor, but now it's a frequent occurance.

Fuchsias: South Coast. Perhaps the biggest change in my life has been my constant awareness of flowers for the Friday post. Previously, I liked flowers and sketched them on occasion, but now I'm always on the alert for these pretties. ;-)

WesterCon 64 in San Jose was fun, but the Tiki Dalek was the highlight for me. Yeah, I attend many strange conventions and social events.

Huntington Galleries displaying classic British art. Just some proof that I can do the high-falutin' stuff too.

Doubles and Couples - Turin Version (2008) by Haegue Yang, on view at LACMA. Although I do love traditional art and culture, I am always fascinated by the unusual, the peculiar. I may not end up "liking" the work, but I appreciate anything that forces me to think about matters, to reconsider my opinions and preferences.

The Japanese Garden (Suiho-en) in Van Nuys. Yeah, I also love the exotic and the foreign for the same reasons. I visited many gardens and came to appreciate the various approaches to laying them out.

Interior of the Skirball Cultural Center Tower. Sometimes, I'd just take a photo of something that caught my fancy, a scene or image of beauty or inspiration.

Princess figurines (Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle) from the Disney Traditions line. For all of my interest in high culture or alternative culture, I still maintain a love and interest in popular culture. From classic Disney cartoons to Billboard chart-toppers, I find pleasure and inspiration in the mass media ocean that surrounds me.

The biggest project that I've been pursuing for this blog has been the Pacific Standard Time event. It's been great fun and enlightening.

Phil (2011) by Comora Tolliver, on view at the Torrance Art Museum as part of the "To Live and Paint in LA" exhibition. Perhaps the biggest outcome of working on Paideia is that I'm now starting to use my blogging skills to help promote my local art museum, writing at Madrona Musings. I'm looking forward to it.

And that's a quick look at our year. I hope you've enjoyed it. I sincerely thank you all for following and reading this blog. Let's get ready for another year of celebrations and events, art and music, and, most importantly, lots of fun!!!


Monday, February 27, 2012

Sophisticated Giant

Dexter Gordon was born on February 27, 1923/

I can't let this day pass without celebrating Dexter Gordon, one of my favorite jazz musicians.

Smooth, cool, and sophisticated, Dexter's music could enflame the passions while chilling the blues. He could lift up the heart while casting down the troubles. In short, the soulful sounds of his saxophone were transcendent.


"Don't Explain" from A Swingin' Affair (1962)


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Neon Pop

Detail of Green Shirt (1965) by Robert Rauschenberg

When visiting the Norton Simon Museum, I rarely walk around towards the back side of the building, overlooking the parking lot. On those occasions that I have, I've noticed this work by Robert Rauschenberg, Green Shirt, a fine example of neon Pop Art, but I haven't ever seen it turned on.

This weekend, the lights were colorful and bright.

I had wondered about this piece previously. But there isn't much info available on the work, at least not on the Internet. Doing an image search only turns up a few photos, most of which don't show things in detail.

Detail of Green Shirt (1965) by Robert Rauschenberg

So, I figured that I'd share a few photos for you all. ;-)

Diffuse Reflections, Part II

Venus Victorious (1914) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, on view in the Sculpture Garden at the Norton Simon Museum

I had been considering paying a trip to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena to attend a lecture "Human and Divine: Face to Face with Hans Memling's Portraits" by Maryan Ainsworth, curator of European Paintings at the Met, but, whereas I started the day on the fence in this matter, Renoir's birth date settled it. No other Los Angeles area museum has such interesting examples and diversity of his work.

So, it was off to Pasadena for me. And while I was there, discussing the Frick Collection, from where the current exhibit of Memling's Portrait of a Man is on loan, I found out that there was an interesting show of Renoir's work. It looks mighty impressive. If I had the time and money, I'd be on my way to NYC to check it out. ;-)

But I'll content myself with the local treasures and some very cool vids that the Frick has put up on YouTube.

Detail of Bouquet of Lilacs (1875-80) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Beautiful work!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dance Party: February

Cover image for Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" (1992)

It's that time again.

This month's selection is filled with memorable songs, love 'em or hate 'em, tunes that set the sound for their era. From the Trammps' "Disco Inferno" to the Spice Girls' "Wannabe", these songs became pop culture icons.

To be honest, I wasn't fond of many of these songs back in the day, but time has given them the warm glow of nostalgia. ;-)

Image for the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold" single (1982)

Let's listen to some music!!!

Diffuse Reflections

Bal du Moulin de la Galette (1876) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I find the paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir to be the most charming examples of Impressionism, filled with lush figures, sumptuous colors, and human warmth.

While my passion for Impressionism ebbs and flows over the years, I have always adored Renoir. I think it is because his work is generally about people, not landscapes or Parisian boulevards. Moreover, he focuses on average people, not ballerinas or prostitutes. To bring out such beauty from the quotidian experience of humanity, this is what I find compelling.

Some might dismiss it as mere bourgeois sentimentality. Certainly, there is some validity to the charge, but I think it overlooks both the astute way in which Renoir captures the spirit of the moment and the innovative painting techniques that he utilizes in doing so. The artistry is found in how the artist expresses the image.

Detail of Dance at Bougival (1882-83) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

So, let's celebrate Renoir's birth date, born on February 25, 1841, by admiring the wonderful beauty of his paintings.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Flowers: Anemones Purple and Red

Anemone Coronaria: Purple Buttercup

Afternoon on a Hill
(By Edna St. Vincent Millay)

I will be the gladdest thing
   Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
   And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
   With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
   And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
   Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
   And then start down!

I grew up under the shadow of Modernism, the Beats, and Confessionalism, all of which instilled within me a disdain for "old-fashioned" rhymes and meters, silly sing-song poetry. Although very well-regarded during her lifetime, Edna St. Vincent Millay was no longer an American literary luminary when I started to learn how to handle verse. But, as contemporary poetry sloughs off the automatic bias against traditional styles and forms, her reputation is again on the rise.

And, since I like her writing, I think this is a good thing.

Anemone Coronaria: Mona Lisa Wine

As for the anemones, I figured that they were too pretty to not share with you all. So lovely, even Adonis would have to gaze upon them with appreciation. ;-)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2012 Weekly Wrap #5

Grand Staircase at the Huntington Gallery

Wow!!! That was a messed up week.

It was a triple whammy that took me out since last weekend. First, my computer had difficulties again, requiring a few days in the shop. Second, my health turned mighty bad for a couple days. Third, my personal/professional/social calendar was packed. In total, I had no time, opportunity, or energy for blogging.

But I've bounced back. I really want to hit Post 500 in time for my One Year blog anniversary. ;-)

Well, it's been over two weeks since my last "weekly" Wrap, but there hasn't been too much. Only nine posts over here at Paideia and three at Madrona Musings. Eh, it's not an impressive output, but such slow periods are the expected outliers of a regular blogging production.

Disney Cinderella ceramic figurine from the 1980s.

Here are the posts:

Twice, we looked at cinematic features, both of which were Disney animated movies. First, we checked out Pinocchio and considered how scary various scenes were to my youthful imagination. Then, we looked back at that classic "rags to riches" story, Cinderella.

Music was obliquely the topic in two posts. First, we celebrated Valentine's Day with some good ole Country music. Second, we explored the concept of "stairways" in various Rock songs. Good stuff!!!

Our Friday Flowers popped up twice since the last Wrap. Yeah, this week apparently has two Fridays. Camellias and Elizabeth Bishop were the stars of one post. Birds of Paradise and Audre Lorde were the focus of the other.

Then we ran through a string of birth dates. We celebrated the athleticism and grace of Russian figure skater, Irina Slutskaya. The poetry of Elizabeth Bishop merited not only a Friday Flower post, but an actual post dedicated solely to her. Finally, Charles Darwin received a birth date shout out. ;-)

Over at Madrona Musings, we looked at a couple artists showing at the current Torrance Art Museum show, "To Live and Paint in LA". First, we looked at Miller Updegraff's A Fairy Story. Then, we checked out Rebecca Campbell's Highlander (Rebecca). Finally, we gave notice of a few shows on view in the Greater LA area featuring the work of Jocelyn Foye. There is plenty of engaging art to see in Torrance.

In any case, hopefully, I can make up for lost time over the next week.

"No Whammy! No Whammy!! No Whammy!!! Nooooo!!!!!!"


Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Flowers: Birds of Paradise

Strelitzia Reginae: Bird of Paradise

What My Child Learns of the Sea
(By Audre Lorde)

What my child learns of the sea
of the summer thunders
of the riddles that hide in the curve of spring
she will learn in my twilights
and childlike
revise every autumn.

What my child learns
as her winters grow into time
has ripened in my own body
to enter her eyes with first light.

This is why
more than blood
or the milk I have given
one day a strange girl will step
to the back of a mirror
cutting my ropes
of sea and thunder and spring.
Of the way she will taste her autumns-
toast-brittle or warmer than sleep-
and the words she will use for winter
I stand already condemned.

Audre Lorde isn't one of my "go to" poets for inspiration or comfort, but she's got an interesting style and a distinct voice. One of the cool things about dedicating a post to a poet each week, usually in celebration of their birth date, is that I've taken the time to reexamine some writers. And that's the case with this Friday's featured poet, Audre Lorde, who is way more interesting than I remember from when last I read her work, nearly fifteen years ago.

Strelitzia Reginae: Birds of Paradise

And what of the Birds of Paradise? I often overlook them, ubiquitous as they are in the Los Angeles area. However, the Norton Simon Museum's sculpture garden had a beautiful enough collection of the Strelitzia that I figured it was about time they were featured.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Blue sky at the top of the stairs

It's one of those days where my interest goes from topic to topic, incapable of settling down for a leisurely read or write, but hopping around the conceptual lily pads of my imagination.

And, for some weird reason, I have stairways on my mind.

Well, since I'm not up for writing anything of coherence tonight, I might as well share a couple photos with you all. ;-)

Bookshelves at the bottom of the stairs

I leave it to you clever readers to derive significance from these words and images.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Wish Your Heart Makes

Disney's Cinderella was released on February 15, 1950.

It's time to celebrate another Disney animated classic, Cinderella.

The Valentine's Day synergy works well with this film, probably the most overtly romantic of the Disney classics. Sure, Snow White or Sleeping Beauty can contend for the romance title, but I feel that their narratives don't focus on the "girl desires to meet boy" aspects nearly as much as Cinderella. And their antagonists command significant screen time, which some might argue makes the story more interesting overall, with greater imaginative conflict.

But Cinderella is more overt in dealing with wish fulfillment fantasies. Her goal is to attend the Prince's ball, not a matter of survival. She is an active seeker of romance, not the beneficiary of a rescuing Prince Charming. Yes, she must overcome oppression, but it is for love and not for life.

Running in glass slippers is difficult.

So, let's celebrate Cinderella and all the rags-to-riches, "scullery maid Princess" stories that this fairy tale has inspired. ;-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bitters to Match the Sweet

Chocolate Candy Hearts wrapped in pink and red foil

I hope you all have had a Happy Valentine's Day.

For all of my rants against holidays and the inauthenticity of modern commercialized celebrations, I really do want people to enjoy the day. That's actually a driving premise here at Paideia, the reason why I do all of these birth date notices or historical comments. There is something to celebrate each and every day, something to learn, something to cherish.

So, if you took today to focus on romance, that's great, but remember that any day can be a time for romance. Chocolate candies and flowers are wonderful throughout the year. ;-)

A shot glass filled with candy hearts. Yum!!!

So, let's give thanks for the uplifting thrill and warm comfort of romance.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happy Darwin Day!!!

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809.

Although I dislike celebrating traditional holidays, that doesn't mean that I'm anti-holiday across the board. ;-)

My complaint with traditional holidays is that either they have drifted from the original premise for which they were founded or that the original premise is no longer something that resonates within contemporary society. An example of the first situation is when a solemn celebration of some ethical/spiritual concern gets hijacked by crass consumerism. An example of the second is when a holiday is founded on a supernatural event or Bronze Age myth. In either case, the modern celebration has no valid basis beyond mere traditionalism.

On the other hand, most unofficial holidays have clarity in premise and authenticity in expression, unburdened by societal practice or the encrustations of tradition. Such a holiday is Darwin Day, which directs us to the appreciation and practice of Science, specifically as it relates to our understanding of humanity as a part of the greatness of Being.

And that's something that I can appreciate without candy hearts, colored eggs, or a turkey dinner. Maybe a banana cream pie. . .

Happy Darwin Day!!!

So, let's celebrate the birth date of Charles Darwin and reflect on the awesome wonders of Science.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Flowers: Camellias Again

Camellia: Katie

(By Elizabeth Bishop)

The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she's a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
she'd tell it to go to hell,
and she'd find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well

into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.

Certainly, you didn't think that I was going to be content with just one day of celebration for Elizabeth Bishop? ;-)

Camellia: Nuccio's Bella Rossa

As for the camellias, they've been on deck for a few weeks now. We are around halfway through the camellia season, so I figured it was about time to share them with you all.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jump! Jump!! Jump!!!

Irina Slutskaya at the European Championships in 2001

One of my all-time favorite figure skaters is Irina Slutskaya.

Slutskaya was the best athlete of her generation of skaters, constantly pushing the limit of athleticism versus "artistry". Although her career was certainly a success, she was ahead of her time in that judges were looking for "grace, elegance, and performance" rather than awesome jumps and physical daring. Therefore, she was generally overshadowed by the undeniably poised Michelle Kwan, costing her a few gold medals over the years.

When Slutskaya developed vasculitis, I was bummed that such a great and distinctive skater was effectively retired, or so I thought. Her swift recovery and return to the ice, better than ever, amazed me. Although an Olympic Gold would have perfectly capped a legacy of excellence, her spirit and competitive energy were inspirations enough.

Irina Slutsakaya at the European Championships in 2005

Therefore, I'd like to wish Irina Slutskaya a Happy 33rd Birthday!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For Elizabeth

Elizabeth Bishop with her cat, Tobias, in 1954

Chemin de Fer
(By Elizabeth Bishop)

Alone on the railroad track
   I walked with pounding heart.
The ties were too close together
   or maybe too far apart.

The scenery was impoverished:
   scrub-pine and oak; beyond
its mingled gray-green foliage
   I saw the little pond

Where the dirty hermit lives,
   lie like an old tear
holding onto its injuries
   lucidly year after year.

The hermit shot off his shot-gun
   and the tree by his cabin shook.
Over the pond went a ripple.
   The pet hen went chook-chook.

"Love should be put into action!"
   screamed the old hermit.
Across the pond an echo
   tried and tried to confirm it.

Here, I'll demonstrate my equivocation on the matter of determining a favorite poet. ;-)

On the typical day of the year, if asked, I'd say that my most beloved of poets is Emily Dickinson, but today, on her birth date, born in 1911, my dearest admiration goes out to Elizabeth Bishop, who's verse can gently pull my heart through scenes of humor, horror, or heroism.

Elizabeth Bishop was born on February 8, 1911.

I can write about her poetic genius endlessly. I could start another blog dedicated to studying her words. But, I think the best way to honor Elizabeth Bishop is to let her poems speak for themselves.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I've Got No Strings

Pinocchio released from Stromboli's cage by the Blue Fairy

I can't let the day pass without posting a brief celebration for the anniversary of Pinocchio's release date, February 7, 1940.

As a child, this was my favorite movie. The plot, the music, and the characters all caught my imagination, sometimes with a thrill of terror, like when Pinocchio begins to transform into a donkey or the escape scene with Monstro the whale.

That whale scene put such a scare into me that I was not able to get on the Storybook Land boat ride at Disneyland, which begins by entering into the gigantic mouth of Monstro. ;-)

Pinocchio makes a jackass out of himself on Pleasure Island

I don't know if it's still my favorite Disney movie, but it's definitely a Top Five constant.

2012 Weekly Wrap #4

The "Vespa scene" from Roman Holiday (1953) starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck

With four "Weekly" Wraps in 38 days, it looks like the weeks are a bit longer in Paideia time than in the real world. ;-)

Well, I'm happy with things. Improved productivity would be great, but I'm in it for the long haul, which means that I ought to go with the flow. Sometimes, I can dish out the posts at a brisk pace, but, as long as I keep a regular output, staying within the writing "comfort zone" will keep things fresh and of reliable quality.

This is especially true since I've started a second blog, Madrona Musings, in support of the Torrance Art Museum. Readers of this blog know that I adore my local museum and frequently post about the exhibitions. It's with great honor and excitement that I can now do so in an official capacity, contributing my writing efforts to promoting the best small museum in the LA area.

As regards the topics since our last Wrap, it has been a fun blend from the whimsical to the horrible, the sublime to the crass. And it is such a random mash of subjects that makes blogging at Paideia so very entertaining.

Detail of Overload (2009) by Conrad Ruiz

Let's look at the ten posts of the week.

We had a post for both of our weekly features. For Friday Flowers, we commemorated Tulipomania along with the poetry of Gertrude Stein. For Spooky Sunday, we looked at some of H.R. Giger's dark artistry.

There were three other art related posts. A visit to Coprogallery turned up a uncannily realistic sculpture of Beavis and Butt-head. We reviewed Helen K. Garber's ghostly works on exhibit in her show "Encaustic Noir" at dnj Gallery. Then, Eric Joyner's adventurous robots caught our imagination, on view in "It's a Jungle Out There" at the Corey Helford Gallery.

Three music posts were featured. First, we celebrated the birth date of my all-time favorite composer, Franz Schubert!!! Then we wished a Happy Birthday to R&B singer Jody Watley. Finally, we put together a group birthday celebration for Axl Rose, Natalie Cole, Bob Marley, and Rick Astley. Fun stuff!!!

Rounding out the topics, we reviewed an exhibition of scooters at the Petersen Automotive Museum, which made for the perfect excuse to look at vintage Vespa commercials from the 1960s.

Finally, as mentioned above, we introduced our new blog, Madrona Musings, for the Torrance Art Museum. Among the posts that readers of Paideia might find of interest is a "spotlight" on the works of Conrad Ruiz and some video art, specifically Adnan Hussain's "Gul (Flower)" which was screened a few weekends back at the museum. Check it out!

And that's the Weekly Wrap.

Dill Hole by Kevin Kirkpatrick, featuring the likenesses of Beavis and Butt-Head


Monday, February 6, 2012

(Dough)Nuts and Bolts

Detail of Rocket Surfer by Eric Joyner

The vintage tin toy robots of the 1950s have a sense of optimism, an exuberance, that promises a bright future of technological miracles. Unlike the mechanized monsters that became more common in subsequent dystopian views of the future, the "atomic age" robots are the manifestations of enlightening science, the mark of humanity's transcendent genius.

In Eric Joyner's exhibition, "It's a Jungle Out There", on view at the Corey Helford Gallery, these icons of progress are shown undertaking a series of adventures, from being attacked by pythons or robot-eating plants to surfing both upon the primordial waves and across the starry void, scenes that could have come from the imagination of a child playing out stories from the pulp adventures of science fiction magazines or comic books.

It's a playful display of pop surrealism mixed with uplifting nostalgia. And donuts. ;-)

Detail of All Wrapped Up by Eric Joyner

In terms of technique, the paintings are impressive, rich with detail and vibrant colors. There is a visceral sense of place, evocative of classic jungle adventures from pulp fiction, such as the Tarzan stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs.