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Stamp out starving writers, buy their books!


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That Time of Day

Marilyn Robertson feels pretty much the way we do when it comes to finding good reasons to do what we want for our aching muscles, our morale, our spiritual well being and — oh, yes — our sanity. And it’s pretty good therapy after listening to the news or reading the paper’s editorial page. Here’s a new poem from her new collection, Living With Light.

That Time of Day

Don’t you love that time of day when
you can shed those dirty clothes and head for the bath?

This feels so good, I always say,
easing down under the bubbles, knowing that

a clean person can no longer go out and do more
yardwork, move more rocks, trap more gophers.

A clean person may sit at the piano and play
an etude, may read an old book

on an old couch, may have some cashews
and a piece of gorgonzola.

Evening will come the the clean person
as it will to the dirty one, but the clean person

will be better able to enjoy it,
having had both the nuts and the cheese,

plus a little something in a minor key.

—Marilyn Robertson

Line horizontal halfpoint 460 X 10We hope to use a bubble-bath graphic is by Sasukexkaname, but thus far we’re unable to find Sasukexkaname’s e-mail address.

Horizontal line 460pxIs the best art always beautiful, or does ugliness itself have a place in it? It art best when it’s purely for the sake of art itself, or is morality a component of great art?  Here’s an excerpt from an essay by the critic Timothy Cahill, a man  deeply interested in these questions:

I don’t swoon in front of every Impressionist painting on the wall. But I knew that the aesthetic intention of “Is It Art?” was to make me feel shitty, and I was not so suspicious of my instincts as to welcome its hermeneutical defoliation. What self-respecting person suffers a churl, or worse, a roomful of them? Weighing the question of aesthetics, immediately, almost instinctively, it was clear to me that as an ideal Beauty is not simply a matter of pleasure, delight, awe—it has a moral component as well. I could not at the time have defended this impulse, but it was self-evident that to live in contact with beauty is immeasurably healthier to the spirit than living amidst ugliness, whether that ugliness be the blight of an urban slum, the brutal classlessness of a communist tract, or the drab uniformity of a suburban subdivision.  Those forces that deny great swaths of the population access to the sensual and spiritual influence of beauty—whether out of indifference, bigotry, ideology, or greed—commit a kind of mass soul murder. When artists, our chief orators of beauty, deny its importance as well, they make themselves complicit in the violence.

                                      —The excerpt is from Timothy Cahill’s blog, Art & DocumentHorizontal line 460px

Adopt-A-Cat Month

Bucky, the catJune is Adopt-A-Cat month. Maybe we were absent from school the day they taught about that. Or maybe Adopt-A-Cat month wasn’t created until recently and we’re getting the news late. No one around here knew about it until a week and a half of June had gone by. Although we at Critical Pages don’t plan to adopt a cat, we’ll certainly appreciate all month long anyone who does. The feline pictured here is from the comic strip, Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley. The cat’s name is Bucky,  a clever but often annoyed animal who enjoys insulting his amiable,  simple and non-confrontational housemate, a dog named Satchel, and his owner,  Rob. We nominate Bucky as the iconic figure for  Adopt-A-Cat month because he’s not cute.

Stamp Out Starving Writers!

 From time to time we remind you to patronize your local, independent book store.It’s part of our effort to stamp out starving writers by buying their books. In the past, when we suggested that you buy a book, you may have thought we had in mind only a literary novel or a heavy work of non-fiction. We never mentioned pulp fiction, even though it’s one of our guilty pleasures. And by pulp fiction we mean everything from Westerns and mystery stories, to science fiction and romance novels. Pulp fiction writers get paid by the word, and only pennies per word. Buy some pulp fiction and you’ll help stamp out starving writers!Woman topless reading book

And as long as were talking about pulp fiction we should mention The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society. Yes, it was news to us, too. Their web site says, “We’re a group of friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, and complete strangers, who love good books and sunny days and enjoying both as nearly in the altogether as the law allows. Happily, in New York City, the law allows toplessness by both men and women. So that’s the way we do our al fresco reading. If you’re in New York and the weather’s good, won’t you join us sometime…?”  The photo above comes from their website. Finish reading this page first, the whole page, then go off and do what you will. We hope that will include buying a book.

Easter Eggs

Easter EggsSociety finds it easier to give up religious belief, than to abandon the traditions and symbols of religion. Eggs have symbolized fertility, birth and rebirth, for a long, long time. And, as you probably know, you can find eggs used symbolically that way in a number of religious traditions.  Here and now we’re celebrating Easter and what we have here are Easter eggs.  Much of Christian lay society makes a greater celebration and display at Christmas, Christ’s birthday, but clearly in the sacred drama of Jesus’ life his rising from the dead on Easter morning is far, far more significant than his birth.

If you wish, the egg represents the stone that was rolled against the entrance to the tomb to seal it and was found rolled aside on the third day after his death. Or, if you wish, the egg being empty — and all those painted eggs are first punctured and drained — symbolizes the empty tomb of Christ on Easter day. But for many people, contemporary Easter eggs, as bright and colorful as flowers, simply call to mind springtime, fertility and that awakening we feel when we have come through another dark winter and are looking forward to more light and warmth.Easter Eggs

Documentary Movies

The Adademy of Motion Pictue Arts and Sciences will soon be giving a gold-plated Oscar for the best for the Best Documentary film. Documentaries have come a long, long way since Robert Flaherty’s silente Nanook of the North back in 1922. Here are the nominated films. 5 Broken Cameras is a first-hand account of a Palestinian village’s non-violent resistance to the encroaching Israeli settlements that threatens it. The Gatekeepers is about the Shin Bet from people on the inside, namely six former heads of Israel’s secret security service. How to Survive a Plague is about the early years of AIDS. The Invisible War is about sexual assult in the United States military. That’s only four of the five nominated. They are informative and engaging and certainly worth seeing. And, of course, that’s why you watch a documentary, to be engaged while being informed, usually about something important. But you probably won’t come away feeling exhilerated, filled with a sense of quirky triumph, delighted that you’ve witnessed a happy ending, real-world fairy tale. But you might if you watch the fifth movie, Searching for Sugarman. The movie is about two Cape Town men who decide to find out whatever happened to the American singer/songwriter Rodriguez who was wildly popular in South Africa, especially among the rebellious young during the opressive apartheid years. When the search begins there are differeing rumors about Rodriguez’s death, but nothing is certain, except that he was virtually unknown in the United States. How it ends is almost miraculous. (OK, there are some inaccuracies in the film, but see it anyway. You’ll feel better.)The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will soon be giving a gold-plated Oscar for the Best Documentary film. Documentaries have come a long, long way since Robert Flaherty’s  silent Nanook of the North back in 1922.   Here are this year’s nominated films:

5 Broken Cameras is a first-hand account of some Palestinians’ non-violent resistance to the encroaching Israeli settlements that threatens their village. The Gatekeepers is about the Shin Bet from people on the inside, namely six former heads of Israel’s secret security service. How to Survive a Plague is about the early years of AIDS. The Invisible War is about sexual assault in the United States military. The first two are especially recommended.

That’s only four of the five nominated. They are informative and engaging and certainly worth seeing. And, of course, that’s why you watch a documentary, to be engaged while being informed, usually about something depressingly important. But you probably won’t come away feeling exhilarated, filled with a sense of lucky triumph, delighted that you’ve witnessed a real-world happy ending fairy tale.

Yet you might if you watch the fifth movie, Searching for Sugar Man. The movie is about the search by two Cape Town men who decide to find out whatever happened to the American singer/songwriter Rodriguez who was wildly popular in South Africa, especially among the rebellious young during the oppressive apartheid years. In fact, he was bigger than Elvis. When the search begins there are  a couple of rumors about Rodriguez’s death, but nothing is certain. The first thing they learn is that the man known to everyone in South Africa is virtually unknown in the United States where, as one man in the music business says, Rodriguez sold maybe six records.  How it ends is almost miraculous.

OK — if you must be fussy fussy and picky picky — there are some inaccuracies in the film, but see it anyway. We think you’ll feel better.

Dress Goes Transparent If You’re Aroused

Intimacy 2.0

Intimacy 2.0

It’s here — a dress that becomes transparent when you’re in the mood.  (And you thought only Steve Jobs had cool ideas.)  Advanced tech artist Daan Roosegaarde and fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht produced the dress. It’s called Intimacy 2.0 — the name doesn’t sound like haute couture, but it does suggest the high degree of science and technology that went into the garment.

The dress is made of leather and — here’s the good part — conductive e-foils that become transparent when exposed to electricity. It’s possible to design a circuit that is activated by an accelerated heart beat or an increase in body heat. And the subsequent flow of electricity will cause the e-foils to become transparent.

According to Studio Roosegaarde’s web site, “Studio Roosegaarde creates interactive designs that explore the dynamic relation between space, people, and technology.” And “By creating interactive designs that instinctively respond to sound and movement, Roosegaarde explores the dawn of a new nature that is evolving from technological innovations.” (more…)

Christmas 2012

Nativity by CorreggioFor Christmas this year we’ve chosen the nativity scene painted by Correggio around 1529.  A group of angels overhead has been been cut from this cropped version of the painting. (They are badly composed and unnecessary; we don’t miss them.) It’s sometimes called Adoration of the Shepherds, because those are shepherds  on the left. Almost hidden in the right background is the figure of Joseph — a person often relegated to the margin in paintings of this family. At the time it was painted, the work was valued primarily for what it portrayed and somewhat less for its technique. Nowadays, the work is probably admired  more for its structure and craft than for the event it captures.  The scene is realistic,  no one has a halo and the shepherds are real people. Furthermore, Mary’s face expresses her love for her child, not religious worship as in so many painting which nowadays strike us artificially pious.  Everyone in this otherwise completely realistic and earthly scene is illuminated by the almost blinding radiance emanating from the child; indeed, the woman on the left holds up her hand as if to shield her eyes.  Correggio’s painting makes visual the words that infant will later use to describe himself — “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Correggio’s work reminds us that in this season of darkness and we need all the light we can get, no matter if it’s 1529 or 2012.

Winter Solstice

Christmas cookiesKeep calm and eat Christmas cookies. Today is one of those rare times when the longest night of the year coincides with the predicted end of the world. The most important thing when facing Doomsday is not to panic. As usual, to be prepare for such an emergency situation you should have a good flashlight,  candles, a pack of wooden matches, a supply of water and some trail mix, plus a map of your state and the intervening states between your home and the Canadian border. Or you can stay where you are and wait it out, for like other days, Doomsday is only 24 hours long.  If you decide to remain where you are,  stay calm and eat lots of Christmas cookies.

Among the Christmas cookies  in our photo are a couple which will be recognizable to fans of the wonderful British science fiction TV show, Dr. Who.  The show began running in 1963, cancelled in 1989, then resurected in 2005 and is still going.  The central character, the Doctor, has been played by 11 different actors, the change from one actor to another being written into the script as a “regeneration” of the same person, a Time Lord. The Doctor travels around the universe in his TARDIS, a space and time travel machine. On the outside it looks like a blue British police box, common in Britain in 1963 when the series began. The Doctor’s machine is a defective old-fashioned model he stole from a museum, but it does retain a primary characteristic of being much larger inside than outside. Various Dr. Who series are available in the United States on BBC America, and possibly other channels as well.

(The absolutely excellent cookies in our photo were made by Linnea and are vanishing fast into another dimension.)

 

Mister Rogers and the Little Boy

Mr Rogers and a little kid by Jim Judkis

Mister Rogers and the little kid - Photo by Jim Judkis

This is a photograph of Mister Rogers being greeted by a child. Recently it’s been reproduced all over the web and in newspapers and magazines, so if you’ve already seen it you probably know that it was taken by Jim Judkis in 1978. We don’t know who the child is.  Many children, now in their forties and fifties, remember Fred Rogers — Mister Rogers as he was known to the kids who watched his TV show. Fred Rogers had a wonderful way of connecting with children, as anyone who watched him can tell you. He was extraordinarily friendly and open to children, not jazzy but calm and not at all intrusive.  Sometimes we forget when we were that small and adults so very, very big. Fred Rogers never forgot— notice how he’s dropped down to greet that little boy — and above all he had a way of making children feel secure. After the recent slaughter of twenty children in Newtown, Connecticut, Mister Rogers’ words of comfort to children came to mind again.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

The photographer had this to say about the photo — “This boy immediately went right up to him and held out his hands to touch him, and he said ‘Mister Rogers!’ In total awe. Total awe. And that was the moment of the photo.”I think it shows the pure attraction, the love … it’s like he’s seeing God, touching God.”

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.