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Sunday
May012011

from alta plaza park

On a fine day, almost any sort of song makes itself heard, according to Frederich Holderlin.

A certain gentlemen, just returned from the low countries in northern Europe, mainly to see the paintings there, reports that he had Vermeer all wrong. For years he thought "The View of Delft" was about the light; now he sees it's about shadows. He sends this from a Vermeer website:

        It is not just depiction of things, it's a model
        of how the visual plane is ordered, how the
        world works.

George Braque, co-pilot of cubism, painter of birds and fishes, fields and stones toward the end of his long productive life, said somewhere that "only one thing in art is valid, that which cannot be explained." 

For a modernist, Braque was pretty old school. He always wore a suit and tie when motoring, as well as when talking on the phone. My aunt Lois, working for the state department in Europe after the war, had contact with Madame Braque in Paris and remembers her as "quite proper."  His last paintings were of common things--a rake, a plough--just being themselves as he saw them.

Braque died in 1963 and is buried in the tiny village of Varengeville, Normandy in the church's graveyard very near his home. On his gravestone is a bird of his design, in mosaic.

If you're ever in northern France, it's worth a trip. You can see the sea from Varengeville and the light is always changing.

Saturday
Apr302011

in the beginning

Once upon a time I was a beginning-middle-end kind of man.

Meaning: once I'd start to read a book I'd finish. I ate everything on my plate. Paying for admission, I'd walk the whole museum.

Somewhere in middle age I changed, the change having something to do with time and time having almost everything to do with the brain, as the neuroscientist's are now saying.

Now I stop reading almost as many books as I start, and push myself away from the table more often than not.

I've yet to walk out of a movie and can currently recommend "Bill Cunningham New York", the documentary about the New York Times photographer.

Friday
Apr292011

somewhere south of market

Out walking yesterday among industrial precincts, I stumbled upon the artist's studio.

The door was open.

I entered without invitation, making my way through the gloom of clutter--spilled paint, abandoned welding torches, a disembowled motorcycle--toward the small lonely figure of the artist himself, at work.

No words passed between us, as there was nothing to say.

In the sanctity of the rubble, in the stillness of this cathedral of creation, I admired the artworks, gleaming with precision yet flush with the modernist ethos of chaos and chance, as they stood up against the wall.

Thursday
Apr282011

Happy birthday Karl Kraus

Karl Kraus was born in Vienna April 28, 1874.

Journalist and writer, lecturer, publisher of, to name only a few, Peter Altenberg, Trakl, Strindberg and Oscar Wilde, whom many believed he trumped in his ability to generate 'bon mots' (Psychoanalysis is the disease of which it purports to be the cure), Kraus was a one-man socio-cultural phenom.

The attention Kraus paid to language, the premium he placed on clear expression, and the disdain with which he regarded those for whom words were to be used in the service of distortion, politicial or otherwise, is well documented.

A member of Kraus's circle tells this story.

"At a time when we were generally decrying the bombardment of Shanghai by the Japanese, I met Karl Kraus struggling over one of his famous 'comma problems.' He said something like this: I know that everything is futile when the house is burning. But I have to do this, as long as it is at all possible; for if those who are obliged to look after commas had always made sure they were in the right place, then Shanghai would not be burning.

What fun Kraus would have had with yesterday's San Francisco Examiner--as photographed on the bathroom floor of this writers house--in which the front page appeared to have been 'sold' to an advertiser promoting Unlimited talk, text, web.

Karl Kraus died June 12, 1936, but not before ruffling der Fuehrer's feathers.

Happy birthday Karl.

Wednesday
Apr272011

seat of power

In Fillmore, Utah there's a small cafe where, each morning, all the decisions of the world are made. 

The coffee's ok, the cinnamon rolls are excellent.

The men speak in quiet voices and adjourn upon reaching consensus.