One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Van Gogh's "Winter (The Vicarage Garden under Snow)"

This painting gets special handling.

Apparently at some point the museum took an X-radiograph of the painting and discovered a little surprise underneath: a woman sitting at her spinning wheel.

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Norton Simon: Installation II

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Picasso's Head of a Woman (c. 1927)

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Braque's Still Life with Musical Instruments (1918)  

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Manet's Ragpicker (c. 1865-1870)

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Brancusi's Bird in Space (1931)

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Giacometti's Tall Figure IV (1960)

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Lehmbruck's Inclined Head of Kneeling Woman (1911)

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Kandinsky's Unequal (1932)

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Kandinsky's Heavy Circles (1927)

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Klee's Two Heads (1932)

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Klee's Possibilities at Sea (1932)

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Sam Francis' Basel Mural I (1956-58)

Trip to Norton Simon: Installation I

A spur-of-the-moment thing: Dec. 30, 2011: three young girls and one crotchety old man.

We'd already been to Pasadena for the Nutcracker, so I thought: Why not the Norton Simon, I haven't been there in years.

If nothing else we'll see the Old Town by day, see them prepping for the big Parade (barricades and bleachers!), and be surprised by an artwork or two.

We couldn't stay long (maybe 1 to 2 hours) so we tackled what would probably be easiest to swallow for the girls: the 19th and 20th centuries. We also took a turn in the sculpture garden (mostly Maillol and Moore, though Rodin is at the entrance).

These are just a few of my faves:

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Van Gogh's Mulberry Tree (1889)

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Degas' Dancers in the Wings (1880)

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Degas' Dancer (1874)

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Cezanne's Tulips in a Vase (1888-1890)

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Matisse's The Black Shawl (Lorette VII), 1918

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Renoir's Reclining Nude (c. 1892)

New Year's Resolution

I'm in Seal Beach: currently a 3D daguerroetype of landscape and fog.

I'm in Siena: Zbigniew Herbert is the docent and he's taking me from Senius to Good and Bad Government to a luna plena:

   Above the Piazza del Campo--luna plena. Shapes harden. A chord is strung between heaven and earth. Such a moment gives an intense feeling of crystallized eternity. The voices will die. The air will turn into glass. We shall remain here, petrified: I, raising a glass of wine to my lips; the girl in the window arranging her hair; the old man selling postcards under a streetlamp; the square with the Town Hall and Siena. The earth will turn with me, an unimportant exhibit in a cosmic wax museum, visited by no one.


I don't really do resolutions--except on a daily basis--but I'll try. I've had my coffee and scone and now I'm walking it off. I resolve to floss more often (dentists have been harrassing me for years). On that note I duck into Sprouts and purchase some Tom's dental floss (on sale) and a new pair of fingernail clippers (the girls keep losing mine).

On the way home I drive by the Haynes Steam Plant (squinting eerily from the fog) or a close encounter of another kind.

Mucha Is Still Alive

The girls and I were in a BJ's last night; between bites I kept looking up and seeing two posters; I kept thinking Mucha but couldn't find his name anywhere (perhaps with posters the artist didn't always sign his name?). Anyway, I remembered the beer: Bieres de la Meuse. It's certainly Mucha.

[From Wikimedia Commons]

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Orvieto's Duomo" by Zbigniew Herbert

Some excerpts I highlighted in Kindle:
Robbe-Grillet, the master of inventories, would have written: "He stood in front of a cathedral. It was 100 metres long and 40 metres wide; the height of the facade along the middle axis was 55 metres." Though such description is devoid of vision, the stone proportions assure us that we are in Italy, where the soaring Gothic of the Ile-de-France was translated into a style entirely its own, but going by the same name because of the habit of chronology (according to which everything occurring at the same time must be given a common label).
The Guelph clan of the Monaldeschi fought against its Ghibelline faction, the fans of empire who were expelled from the town while the sculptors were illustrating Genesis. According to a reliable witness, the author of The Divine Comedy, both families suffer in Purgatory along with the kin of Romeo and Juliet.
Objects and men are vessels of darkness.
Finally, one must fling this blasphemy against the authors of handbooks: the Orvieto frescoes are much more impressive than Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.


The Preaching of the Antichrist, by Luca Signorelli and his school (1499-1504)
San Brizio Chapel, Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy
[From Wikimedia Commons]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Madeleine in Paris and Soufflot's Pantheon

From Herbert's "Among the Dorians":
The Madeleine in Paris and Soufflot's Pantheon compared to their original inspirations are like birds from an ornithological encyclopedia compared to birds in flight.

The Madeleine Church, Paris, France
[From the Wikimedia Commons]

Soufflot's Pantheon, Paris, France
[From Wikimedia Commons]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finished Barnes' "Parrot," Moved on to Zbigniew Herbert's Prose

No real surprise in the final chapter: Braithwaite/Barnes determines there's more than one parrot and that he'll never know exactly which parrot was Flaubert's. The museum where Flaubert borrowed the parrot had, at one time, roughly fifty parrots. Also, it's suggested that writers like Flaubert often took liberties with the facts: i.e., he may have changed the coloring to suit his artistic sensibilities.

Anyway . . .


Started reading Herbert's prose (downloaded his posthumous "collection" from Kindle--I've read many of these pieces in book form, but it's been years).

A few lines which I've highlighted:

In art I am interested in the timeless value of a work (Piero della Francesca's eternity), its technical structure (how stone is laid upon stone in a Gothic cathedral) and its connection to history. 
(Herbert quoted in the Introduction by Alissa Valles)

I came to a halt most frequently at Mantegna's portrait of young Francesco Gonzaga.

(Herbert in "Among the Dorians")

Portrait of Francesco Gonzaga
by Andrea Mantegna

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Alphonse Daudet in "Flaubert's Parrot"

Perhaps he is mentioned earlier, but he first caught my attention in the chapter titled Pure Story. Here, and we're twenty pages from the end, we first learn about the intimate details of Braithwaite and his wife, and his wife's death (apparently in England "Not To Be Resuscitated" was at some point euphemized to "No 333").

Anyway, re Daudet: Barnes is comparing early "brothel experiences": Flaubert's (as fictionalized in L'Education sentimentale) and Daudet's:

Perhaps I am too accepting. My own condition is stable, yet hopeless. Perhaps it's just a question of temperament. Remember the botched brothel-visit in L'Education sentimentale and remember its lesson. Do not participate: happiness lies in the imagination, not the act. Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory. Such is the Flaubertian temperament. Compare the case, and the temperament, of Daudet. His schoolboy visit to a brothel was so uncomplicatedly successful that he stayed there for two or three days. The girls kept him concealed most of the time for fear of a police raid; they fed him on lentils and pampered him thoroughly. He emerged from this giddying ordeal, he later admitted, with a lifelong passion for the feel of a woman's skin, and with a lifelong horror of lentils. 

Who Was Alphonse Daudet?

Alphonse Daudet (13 May 1840 – 16 December 1897) was a French novelist. He was the father of Léon Daudet and Lucien Daudet.

Early life

Alphonse Daudet was born in Nîmes, France. His family, on both sides, belonged to the bourgeoisie. The father, Vincent Daudet, was a silk manufacturer — a man dogged through life by misfortune and failure. Alphonse, amid much truancy, had a depressing boyhood. In 1856 he left Lyon, where his schooldays had been mainly spent, and began life as a schoolteacher at Alès, Gard, in the south of France. The position proved to be intolerable. As Dickens[clarification needed] declared that all through his prosperous career he was haunted in dreams by the miseries of his apprenticeship to the blacking business,[citation needed] so Daudet says that for months after leaving Alès he would wake with horror, thinking he was still among his unruly pupils.

On 1 November 1857, he abandoned teaching and took refuge with his brother Ernest Daudet, only some three years his senior, who was trying, "and thereto soberly," to make a living as a journalist in Paris. Alphonse took to writing, and his poems were collected into a small volume, Les Amoureuses (1858), which met with a fair reception. He obtained employment on Le Figaro, then under Cartier de Villemessant's energetic editorship, wrote two or three plays, and began to be recognized, among those interested in literature, as possessing individuality and promise. Morny, Napoleon III's all-powerful minister, appointed him to be one of his secretaries — a post which he held till Morny's death in 1865 — and showed Daudet no small kindness. Daudet had put his foot on the road to fortune.

[From Wikipedia:]


Alphonse Daudet (1840 - 1897)
[From Wikimedia Commons]

Monday, December 26, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flaubert's Paramour: Louise Colet

Louise Colet Pictures, Images and Photos

"Flaubert's Parrot": More Schizophrenia

There are fascinating "bits" and meditations on Flaubert.

For example, according to Parrot Flaubert hated trains:

Gustave belonged to the first railway generation in France; and he hated the invention. For a start, it was an odious means of transport. 'I get fed up on a train that after five minutes I'm howling with boredom. Passengers think it's a neglected dog; not at all, it's M. Flaubert, sighing.'
Barnes also quotes from the Dictionnaire de idees recues:

'RAILWAYS: If Napoleon had had them at his disposition, he would have been invincible. Always go into ecstasies about their invention, and say: "I, Monsieur, I who am even now speaking to you, was only this morning at X . . . ; I left by the X-o'clock train; I did the business I had to do there; and by X-o'clock I was back."'
And Gustave was fretting about the iron beasts just before he died:

The penultimate sentence of Gustave's life, uttered as he stood feeling dizzy but not at all alarmed: 'I think I'm going to have a kind of fainting fit. It's lucky it should happen today; it would have been a great nuisance tomorrow, in the train.'
[Note:We do not learn in this passage what Flaubert's ultimate sentence was. Presumably because it's not about trains. Perhaps it is forthcoming.]


I find the bio bits--even Barnes' reflections or speculations on the bio bits--more interesting, more convincing, than the pseudo-profundities (p-p's) that intermittently punctuate the text.

Here's an example of a p-p (Barnes is repeating the first two metaphors and adding a third: the flashing parrot--of course the titular parrot must flit through every other page):

Sometimes the past may be a greased pig; sometimes a bear in its den; and sometimes merely the flash of a parrot, two mocking eyes that spark at you from the forest.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Flaubert's Parrot": Enjoying It, I Think

Ok, I'm enjoying it, for the most part. That said he's not Nabokov; he's not even Coetzee. Hard to put a finger on it--is it that silliness often tries to pass for wit? is it that stylistically Barnes just doesn't rise to their level?--and perhaps I'm rushing to judgment.

Time will tell.


Re Nabokov: the narrator, Braithwaite, enjoys alluding to Nabokov. He's already tried to tell us that Nabokov got the phonetics wrong on the name Lolita (of course he's just repeating what he heard at a lecture).

This morning he's anxious to let us know what Nabokov said about Emma Bovary's adultery:

Do you know what Nabokov said about adultery in his lecture on Madame Bovary? He said it was 'a most conventional way to rise above the conventional'.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Positioning the Tottentanzers

A friend sent me a link to this artist's interesting work. John Frame is a sculptor--and more than a sculptor.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Double Life of Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes = Dan Kavanagh = Edward Pygge = ???

Of course I imagine "equals" isn't quite equals.


[From Conversations with Julian Barnes by Julian Barnes, Vanessa Guignery,  and Ryan Roberts]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Statue de Gustave Flaubert

Started reading Julian Barnes' Flaubert's Parrot. This seems to be the statue in Rouen that he describes in Chapter 1: Flaubert's Parrot:

Let me start with the statue: the one above, the permanent, unstylish one, the one crying cupreous tears, the floppy-tied, square-waistcoated, baggy-trousered, straggle-moustached, wary, aloof bequeathed image of the man.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tubby Schaumann & Who Killed Cock Robin?

The denouement is taking forever, but with Tubby "getting there" is the thing:

I saw everything through a veil: the streets, the people moving with us or coming toward us. Voices, the noise of carriages I heard as in a dream, and suddenly found myself sitting at a table by the window in the Golden Arms, with Tubby Schaumann sitting down beside me. Huffing and puffing and then taking a deep breath he said with a sigh, "There!" and after a while, "Well, well, well, well, who killed Cock Robin?"

And who is Cock Robin? There are a few possibilities:


And what is an English rhyme doing in a German novel? The rhyme isn't in Tubby, just the allusion. Apparently "versions" of the story exist in other countries, including Germany.


The "long version" of the English rhyme:

Who killed Cock Robin?
I, said the Sparrow
with my bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin.

Who saw him die?
I, said the Fly,
with my little eye,
I saw him die.

Who caught his blood?
I, said the Fish,
with my little dish,
I caught his blood.

Who'll make the shroud?
I, said the Beetle,
with my thread and needle,
I'll make the shroud.

Who'll dig his grave?
I, said the Owl,
with my pick and shovel,
I'll dig his grave.

Who'll be the parson?
I, said the Rook,
with my little book,
I'll be the parson.

Who'll be the clerk?
I, said the Lark,
if it's not in the dark,
I'll be the clerk.

Who'll carry the link?
I, said the Linnet,
I'll fetch it in a minute,
I'll carry the link.

Who'll be chief mourner?
I, said the Dove,
I mourn for my love,
I'll be chief mourner.

Who'll carry the coffin?
I, said the Kite,
if it's not through the night,
I'll carry the coffin.

Who'll bear the pall?
We, said the Wren,
both the cock and the hen,
We'll bear the pall.

Who'll sing a psalm?
I, said the Thrush,
as she sat on a bush,
I'll sing a psalm.

Who'll toll the bell?
I said the Bull,
because I can pull,
I'll toll the bell.

All the birds of the air
fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
when they heard the bell toll
for poor Cock Robin.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tubby Schaumann = The Fat Detective = The Man Who Sees

Apparently Tubby Schaumann is a precursor to the fat detective: think Nero Wolfe, Frank Cannon, or Ironside.

[From Fat Boys: A Slim Book by Sander L. Gilman]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Stopfkuchen = Cake Stuffer = Tubby Schaumann

Already a third the way through.

The title has been translated (some say badly, because it's not as "shocking" as Stopfkuchen = Cake Stuffer, the cruel nickname Tubby was given by his fellow classmates as a boy) as Tubby Schaumann: A Tale of Murder and the High Seas.

Edward, an old school chum of Tubby's, is the narrator. Currently he's sitting with Tubby beneath a linden tree, outside of Tubby's Red Bank Farm. I think Tubby's easing into how he solved a murder; not quite sure.

"Yes, yes, Edward," said Schaumann, "go forth of the ark! Some are sent out into the world to found a kingdom or an empire, others to secure an estate at the Cape of Good Hope, and others again just to capture a little country girl, one whose native good spirits have been stifled and who has a poor devil of a papa who himself is tormented almost to madness--to capture her, I say, and to acquaint her with Henriette Davidi's cookbook and with Heinrich Schaumann's likewise dreadfully stifled desires for a little happiness and dignity."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Decorations on Streets

I've been in Italy in late November and in February--never real close to Xmas. Still, I've seen the lights.

Putting up the Christmas Decorations

Prague around Xmas.

Charles Bridge, Prague 02/12/2008

Years ago now (over 20) I spent a week or so before Xmas in and around Charles Bridge, Prague. I've been back since, but not in the winter. Some day . . .

My Photos (Photos of Photos) from Vilnius: 01/2002

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hill of Three Crosses

Hill of Three Crosses by raitis
Hill of Three Crosses, a photo by raitis on Flickr.
When I was in Vilnius I also took a photo of these. I got up before sunrise, walked quite a distance in icy snow, snapped a few pictures. This photo--not mine--is very nice.

Christmas Vilnius 22.12.2007

christmas vilnius 22.12.2007 by feelingod
christmas vilnius 22.12.2007, a photo by feelingod on Flickr.

I was in Vilnius (Vilno) probably 5 years or more before this photo was taken. Similar tree (maybe smaller) but I don't want to run for my photos (I believe I used black and white film on that trip).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

More on Lubeck's Der Totentanz

Decided to get a bit more ambitious. I have an accordion-like postcard (bought it in Marienkirche years ago), consisting of eight panels, showing the whole dance, from Pabst (Pope) to Wiegenkind (infant). Comparing the 8th card here with the original (see below), it's obvious re details that these are not exact duplicates. Still . . .

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