Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Allright, people, rally the troops--I need your support for Mike's hometown picture palace. The beautiful Jensen's Raymond Theatre in Pasadena is in danger. There aren't many theatres like this one left in California, or anywhere really.

Go to www.raymondtheatre.com and post your support!

(Besides, once this thing gets restored, I can eventually add it to my Evil Empire of Movie Palaces, the better to brainwash the unsuspecting theater patron...)

Still reeling from the idiocy that is Forever Amber (which I still can't manage to finish--for a piece of garbage it rambles on...well, forever), I've read a couple of fairly decent books lately.

It's been out for some time but I just got around to reading The Devil Wears Prada. Hoo boy, did this one hit home--I've worked for a truly unbalanced woman before and, though she wasn't nearly as demonic as Miranda, the Prada-wearing title devil, my boss was pretty whacked out. I was also quite taken with the author's insight (clearly taken from personal experience) on trying to Make It. The tribulations of a recent college grad trying to find both career success and personal success might not be eternal, in that such problems simply didn't exist two hundred years ago, but this novel will certainly strike home with anybody who's graduated from college within the last thirty years or so. For those who have had to work for someone decidedly unstable, it will not only strike home, but take up residence in that home.

I've also just finished Steve Amick's The Lake, The River and The Other Lake. Still not sure what to make of the ending--it's a bit anticlimactic, I think. Amick creates a pretty good array of interesting and believable characters. I found the setting particularly irresistible--the town of Weneshkeen is a little place on Lake Michigan that seems to have accidentally become a resort town.

I do recommend both for your reading pleasure, though I'll not go into full review mode here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Baltimore Museum of Art

Went with the parental units this last Thursday for lunch at the Baltimore Museum of Art. This thing is known by various names depending on the speaker’s cultural and social background. The younger set calls it the BMA. The older la-di-da set insistently calls it the Musee. Those firmly in the middle of the road call it the Art Museum. Its critics call it “that sarcophagus on Wyman Park” and people in Highlandtown call it “What???”

The Museum is probably best known for the collection of the Cone sisters, who donated their rather vast collection of modern art (modern, that is, in 1925) to the then fledgling museum. It also possesses a spectacular collection of mosaic work from Antioch, which is probably singly responsible for my interest in classical civilisation and my minor — almost major — in said topic.

Setting aside my fascination with the Antioch mosaics (particularly the one with pigeons who appear to be performing some weird conga line), my favorite works at La Musee are the lush French and Italian works of the 18th and early 19th century.

My taste in art is simply described: flowers and naked people. If you involve one or the other, I’ll like it; if you involve both I will declaim your artistic mastery to the world. (Needless to say, I prefer attractive naked people. Ugly naked people might be artistic, but pretty naked people are pretty and pretty makes it art where I’m concerned.) My favorite painting at the Art Museum is “Rinaldo and Armida” which is about the size of the screen at the Hippodrome and features a big, passed-out-drunk muscly dude in Roman armor being accosted by a really hot naked chick. That, my friends, is art.

Seriously, now, aside from the obvious appeal of the hot nekkid folks, I find this sort of painting the most appealing. It is a style which captures, realistically, the human form without resorting to some random cheap vaudeville tricks to surprise and thus enchant its audience. The artist has elected to represent, beautifully and realistically, a classic love myth.

I have often been accused, probably justly, of being artistically blinkered by classical tradition. Perhaps this is true — but what is it that makes the portrayal of a tomato soup can into art? Especially given the fact that said soup can had been designed by someone else and had been in popular currency for seventy-five years? Does this mean that I will become a Great Artist if I “create” a canvas portraying a box of Raisin Bran? No, of course not — because I would then be only mimicking Warhol and the soup can. But if I’d painted that Raisin Bran box before he’d painted his soup can? Then, I’m pretty sure that I’d be an Artist.

I find it extremely depressing that, to be acknowledged as a visionary artist, one must only do something ludicrous that has not yet been done. If I stick a banana up my butt and hop naked on one leg down St. Paul street, it will get me locked up, but if I do it in Greenwich Village, I might just be heralded as a performance artist with a New Statement to Make — unless, that is, the week before, somebody else had done the same thing with a cucumber.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

First Significance

Apparently your house museum visitors are more erudite than the ones I run across. The most frequent comments I hear, in various tours, are along the lines of “Can you believe they actually used this?”

There seems to be a common belief in object- rather than place-oriented museums that everything on display is “the first.” From the Smithsonian: “Is this the first guitar?” “This must be the first car.”
Apparently, mere historic value, use by a major figure of history/culture, or exemplary status is immaterial. The public only finds an object significant if it is the first of its kind.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

House Tour Question

The “first” question from museum visitors is one I had not heard before — but I imagine it. On house tours, people like to ask, “What’s original, here?”

Wednesday, April 30, 2003


Hmmm... no, I don’t think the computers of modern writers will reach iconic status, for the exact reason that Lisa states. The typewriter was, perhaps, the only tool that could really achieve that level of being a totem, a touchstone of the author’s genius — only because of its insane longevity. A computer is impersonal; by the time you get attached to it, it’s hopelessly outdated. And how many pens must Thomas Hardy have gone through? Five thousand geese must have sacrificed their tailfeathers to help Samuel Pepys keep his diaries; if one single quill could be tracked down, what would be its significance? Would that quill be responsible for some of the greater moments, or was it merely used to make out a marketing list?

Following the same path, is the tendency to iconify inanimate objects like this universal? It seems to be more prevalent in American culture, maybe the natural outgrowth of “George Washington Slept Here.”

Brian J. pointed out an interesting tendency of museum visitors a while back. Tourists at the Museum o’ American History always want to know if something on display is “the first”... e.g., “Is this the first car?” “Is this the first guitar?” (Both actual tourist questions, if I recall.) It seems that we want everything to be awe-inspiring; something merely old isn’t good enough; it must be the very first of its kind. There are probably a lot of people who would be much more impressed with having seen Faulkner’s typewriter than they would be interested in reading the work he produced on it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Dave Barry’s Computer

One more try at stirring up conversation. Did you notice the photo tour of Dave Barry’s office? Seeing his computer led me down a predictable path: so that’s where he writes silliness, week in and week out — wow. In most work places, one gets a new computer every so often. Much more often, I’d say, than old fashioned writers bought new typewriters. Does that mean that old computers won’t be in museums, won’t pack the same pow as, say Faulkner’s typewriter? (Scroll down a little.)

Monday, March 24, 2003


I’ve been intending to respond to the lock/don’t lock query for a while now, but between personal financial drama, the springy nature of spring and our latest colonial enterprise (I’m going to call it that even if no one else is; I prefer honesty to tact) I hadn’t gotten a round tuit. Remember those silly things that were given out as premiums at company picnics and such? They were coasters, usually; ’cause they had to be round, see. They were emblazoned in big letters with the word TUIT with a smaller legend reading “Now you can’t say you never got a round tuit.” Ah, the ’70s, how nostalgic we are for them; and how glad we are of their passing.

Anyway, on to locking. I’m of mixed minds. I live in the sort of neighborhood that some people see as a wealth of Victorian taste and architecture and others see as a crime-riddled nightmare. Let me tell you, if you think this is bad, I’ve got all of West Baltimore to show you and we’re not even going to discuss Detroit or South Bronx. Still, it’s probably not the most pastoral of sections. (A bit more so now though thanks to the monkey grass Lisa brought up on her visit this weekend last.)

However, I live right on a major street, and rowhouse architecture being what it is, the houses are flush against the sidewalk. Anybody trying to get into my house would be really obvious, so it’s highly unlikely that the potential robber would bother with the front door at all, preferring the relative obscurity of the rear doors and windows off the garden. Those doors, yes, I lock. Crime in this neighborhood is always a crime of opportunity; never the Grand Heist sort of thing. Someone sees an open window, checks to make sure no one’s looking, and pops in. There’s no casing or planning involved. Even a flimsy lock probably guarantees that no one will bother you.

The front door, though, I lock mostly out of habit. I have two sets of front doors — an outer set (intended in 1883 as storm doors, really) that open into a little vestibule, and then the “real” front doors that actually give in to the house. I lock the outer set, but actually took the lock off the inner doors. They have beautiful etched ruby glass panels, and I’d rather have someone just walk in than smash it out. And, in the summer, I put up the screen doors inside the vestibule and leave both sets open (when I’m home, at least) to air the house. For that matter, a score of times I’ve come downstairs in the morning to discover that I’d never bothered to lock the front doors the night before.

So far I’ve had but one “intruder” through the front door. I’d been fooling around with the planters out front and hadn’t locked the door when I came back in. I was sitting in the front parlor and reading, when I heard the door open and the unmistakable sound of someone shuffling through mail. My mail, my vestibule. I walked into the hall just as a nicely-dressed young lady opened the inner set of doors. She looked up from my mail, saw me, and dropped her jaw. She’d evidently been so preoccupied that she simply walked into my house instead of her own house two doors up the street. I felt badly for having startled her — she wasn’t really expecting to find a random guy in what she believed to be her house — and she in turn was so apologetic that she sent me a box of cookies the next day.

Yeah, this is a really crappy neighborhood, eh?