Sunday, February 28, 2010

Journey on the Fish

Journey on the Fish - By Max Beckmann

Max Beckmann really did "just want to paint beautiful paintings", but in that setting forth he could not bypass a whole lot of other sub-mysteries along the way; or what he - with that economical Teutonic thrust of his which he never lost - delightfully called, "certain last things."

Those "certain last things" cannot be spoken about with words (at least not in the way that painting demands; poetry is another matter). They cannot be explained. They refute and refuse explanation. And it's there where painting begins.

And later, the viewer comes along and sees the "afterward" of where the painting began. The viewer meets it with whatever means he has within himself.

This continually built communication (and no, it is not some "collective unconscious" or "collective consciousness") is part of what's so vital about culture. It moves and builds from generation to generation as silently as trees grow, or planets move. Or it is supposed to.

It is an objective freedom. Its removal from our lives is utter death for us.

The modern, or post-modern or whatever critic, looks at the above painting and thinks that Beckmann is presenting some puzzle or allegory. He thinks Beckmann is being too figurative, too obvious, and too coded. His critics criticize him for actually seeming to say something (oh no!) and then in the same breath criticize him for not saying enough.

Beckmann (who hated talking about his paintings) once responded to a reporter asking why he put fish into so many of his paintings:

"Because I like fish, both to eat and to look at. Also they are symbols." What do they symbolize? "Geist — spirit," Beckmann replied. "But the man who looks at my pictures must figure them out for himself."

It is interesting to note that the first thing Beckmann said as to why he brought many fish into his work is that he simply likes them - to eat and to look at.

That is a good response. We do, after all, eat fish. Why do we eat? To live; to have strength; to have potency. But these are "certain last things". As Chesterton implies through a character in The Napolean of Notting Hill:

"A man strikes the lyre, and says, 'Life is real, life is earnest,' and then goes into a room and stuffs alien substances into a hole in his head."

There is an endless diffusion of details to be had in this world of certain last things. And not one thing is without an individual name that shows forth in some manner the infinite expansion of God's creation.

The man and the woman are made one flesh in marriage: on open space (to be gleaned by the sea and boat) two fishes fill the plane, and on the fish two people, careening to earth - or are they circumnavigating the roundess of the sphere, and thus going up? The man cannot look and maybe fears his own potency while the woman looks ahead steadily. They compliment each other. And in their hands, like a last meagre little flourish, we see a mask. But they are each other's masks.

They are holding each other's mask.

Certain last things.


For your Lenten Observation - Part 2

It means something

Saturday, February 27, 2010

For the Great (Catholic) Blogosphere

in which I include myself in some weird way (insert obligatory Whitman quote here) and declare my love for you, my hoodlum friend, my scoundrel, my comrade, more often in spite of what you are than because, this is for you:

And this version is for those who log into the Great Blogosphere to write Asian spam:

Old and New - Ink

Forest Drawing

Click here to view all drawings

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Salvage Yard

Enbrethiliel's continued reviews of The Babysitters Club books has me all nostalgic. No, no, I never read The Babysitters Club, though there were plenty of copies lying around the house belonging to sisters. Though that in itself would be a fond enough memory.

No, just that it brings to mind my immersion in the "Alfred Hitchcock" Three Investigators books! Oh, dear Lord, those years beginning with grade five: The Secret of The Crooked Cat:

I actually picked this book to do a book report on (remember those?) and can still remember the point at which it was no longer a school task, scarily, not even remotely, but discovered that I could actually follow a story - on my own - and that I actually enjoyed it, way too much, as I started reading all the other Three Investigators books.

Those summer nights in bed, reading, but there in their secret headquarters hidden in the salvage yard in southern California with its secret entrances...Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, Bob Andrews...

Not much else to say there. And then Father Brown came along, later...

Image source:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

For your Lenten Observation

"Great things end; small things endure.

We must go back to where we were, to the point where you took the wrong turn. We must go back to the main foundations of life - without dirtying the water." --Domenico, the Madman

The Farmer's Wife

Take the plot of this film in one sentence and you will see how predictable it is:

A farmer becomes a widower and after wedding off his daughter (at the reception of which he realizes how lonely he is) he calls on his capable, dutiful and attractive head servant to help him make a list of prospective women to woo, each of them being either mannish, frigid, obese and/or wearers of hats that have too many flowers or scary feathers spilling off them.

Say that was not enough to tell you where the film is going, let's drop another hint: throughout the farmer's ordeals with rejection from these eccentric ladies he comes to sit dejectedly again and again in his chair by the hearth, across from which sits another chair, the chair his deceased wife used to sit in; and sitting in it now and helping the farmer with his ordeals and coming up with new prospective names is the capable, dutiful and attractive head servant.

But of course long before this moment we already know. We know within the first fifteen minutes - or even before that.

Then what is it that makes one want to watch the film to its end? This phenomenon in which a film transcends its own predictability, and does so without defying expectations, I touched upon in a previous post a while back. That post actually anticipated this present review, which I've only worked myself to finishing now.

The Farmer's Wife is a surprisingly endearing romantic comedy from Alfred Hitchcock. This is his only slapstick film that is a comedy through and through, and that isn't based in black humour - like The Trouble with Harry, though it abounds in double entendres and innuendoes. There is no other film in Hitchcock's oeuvre like this film; it stands alone, almost like a mysterious island that he never touched again - though there are techniques, motifs, visual structure and themes here that are recognizable throughout all his films.

But one can put it this way: if Hitchcock's silent era is removed even from his early period, then The Farmer's Wife, though a silent film, is removed even from his silent era. It's almost as if Hitchcock did this film just to prove that he could make a comedy, and a good one, then left it at that.

Through visual motif that outweighs the plot, the film speaks a word about marriage, and those things that are concomitant with it: death, loss, loneliness; and of course those other highly resonant things: kitchen tables laden with food, laundry drying by a fire, two chairs by a hearth.

A Hitchcock film is a rare one that doesn't make reference to marriage - usually in dread belief in its objective making of a man and a woman one flesh. He had a highly sensitive feeling for these things concerning marriage; not a perfect feeling, or an always moral feeling, but one that definitely was not indifferent to it.

The Farmer's Wife starts off with a short death bed scene. It is adroitly and swiftly handled; Hitchcock channels, with a few cuts, all the attending emotion of loss at the death of this farmer's wife.

We get the usual pastoral pictures of the farm. The handyman, Churdles Ash (Gordon Harker), who turns out to be the comedic foil, enters the house. Two beagles follow him up the stairs. We don't follow the handyman to the upstairs room, but the two beagles stop at the top stair, resting both their heads on the floor.

Then the handyman comes back down the stairs, goes back out into the daylight, where he looks up at the top open window whence a man is looking down. The man in the window sadly and slowly shakes his head at the handyman below who is frowning, and he turns away, presumably to do some farm work.

The man in the window goes back to what's taking place in the room, and then there's the cut: we get the very still and composed shot of the head servant and a couple others around a bed and a woman in the bed.

The structure after this scene basically runs: the farmer gives a wedding for his daughter. The wedding we don't see, but only the distant bell swinging in a distant church spire and the joyful expression of the head servant in the kitchen, which informs us that the wedding ceremony has been completed. The ensuing wedding feast, which we do see, provides the frame for the farmer's deep loneliness in his widowhood; it gives us also the three prospective women, all in attendance at the feast, that the farmer decides to woo.

Next is the "courtships". Courtship is inaccurate since the farmer doesn't waste his time but simply states, after some rather saucy innuendoes ("I be coming up here like a fox to snatch away one of your fat hens!"), that "I be marrying again."

Suffice it to say, the three "wooings" provide the comedic heart of the film. After all those have failed, there is a peculiar fourth; a sort of last resort; a very beefy barmaid who at one point grabs the farmer by his arms and shakes him so violently that he is reduced to something like an over-boiled asparagus. (By the way, Jameson Thomas who plays the widower farmer, Samuel Sweetland, is expressively brilliant in this film)

But we don't see the result of this fourth "wooing" played out. Not yet. Hitchcock does something much more interesting and structural.

The farmer comes back home, and as he nears the open bottom window of his house he stops to listen to the handyman giving one of his rants to Minta, the head servant. The handyman goes on about how he can’t stand to see his master become so wretched, coming back each time like a dog with his tale between his legs, and so on.

Now, the farmer comes into the house with a beaming blissful smile on his face. Why, we are not really sure. Did he really meet with success with the beefy barmaid or is he just trying to defy Churdle's expectations and prove him wrong, if only for appearances?

Minta seems devastated as she backs behind the rocking chair and grapples and fondles the back and front of the chair with her hands.

But after the handyman leaves to do some work, disappointed that the farmer is going to be enslaved yet again, the farmer sits in his chair by the hearth - and he completely deflates. He has met with failure again.

Now Minta, being encouraged, starts coming up with new names, whether sincerely or not we don’t know, while the farmer scratches out all the names of the women that he had written on a pad of paper, and from whom he got rejected. He sits back in his chair and gazes into the empty chair across from him. Now comes the masterstroke.

Hitchcock overlays living images of the three once-prospective women on top of the empty rocking chair, like ghosts. Each one fades into the chair, shaking their heads, laughing in mockery, or however they acted when the farmer asked them for marriage. One after the other, as one fades out another fades in to take the other's place. Then after the third one fades out, we see the fourth one, the beefy barmaid, fade into the chair; and we see her as she acted when she was rejecting the farmer's proposal; the rejection which we never got to see. Genius.

Then comes the next masterstroke. When the beefy barmaid begins to fade out, just as her image is about to vanish completely, Minta, the head servant, in the flesh, real and present Minta, sits in the chair, still thinking distantly about some other names for the farmer.

And after a few gazing, half-comprehending beats, the farmer's eyebrows lift higher than Vincent Price's.

And then what happens next…well, I don't want to spoil the movie for you.


I checked at youtube without hope to see if the film is on there, and - would you believe it - somebody posted it! For some reason though the music is completely different from the version I saw on dvd. The music on the youtube version is unfortunately rather boring. The music on the version I saw was amusing and was made fit to the scenes.


Feast Day of the Holy Face

I'm republishing an old post from Febraury 24th. 2009:


May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth by all the creatures of God and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the adorable Face of Thy Beloved Son for the honour and glory of Thy Name, for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of the dying. Amen.

After receiving this prayer, Sister Mary of St. Peter was given a vision in which she saw the Sacred Heart of Jesus delightfully wounded by this "Golden Arrow" as torrents of graces streamed from It for the conversion of sinners.


Eternal Father, turn away Thy angry gaze from our guilty people whose face has become unsightly in Thine eyes. Look instead upon the Face of Thy Beloved Son, for this is the Face of Him in Whom Thou art well pleased. We now offer Thee this Holy Face, covered with shame and disfigured by bloody bruises in reparation for the crimes of our age in order to appease Thine anger, justly provoked against us. Because Thy Divine Son, our Redeemer, has taken upon His Head all the sins of His members, that they might be spared, we now beg of Thee, Eternal Father, to grant us mercy. AMEN.


ETERNAL FATHER, we offer You the Holy Face of Jesus, covered with blood, sweat, dust and spittle, in reparation for the crimes of communists, blasphemers, and for the profaners of the Holy Name and of the Holy Day. AMEN.


Our Lord told Sister Mary of St. Peter that the Image of His Holy Face is like a Divine Stamp which, if applied to souls, through prayer, has the power of imprinting anew within them the Image of God.


Thanks to: Catholic Tradition.

Also check out: The Holy Face Association.

Saint Veronica,

pray for us!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Up and Out

Do the unreached stars record our pains,
eat them in a twinkling, still-staying,
resuming as before to flame?

Was the lidless night so made
for this, that up and out
are ages on ages
built for us to gaze,
and our lifetimes here, mere twinklings,
that a single star - of them all - winks at?

Movies that people love but which I hate

Movies that lots of people love but which I love to hate. You can play too. I have come up with five so far but feel this list is going to expand in future posts. Each title has to include an alternative choice of your preference, an alternative to the popularly loved movie that you hate.

So here are the first five:

1. Good Will Hunting

As much as there is going for it in the relationship between Williams and Damon, I just hate the humanism of this film. I hate how the math problems, the world of numbers, are not detailed even just a little. I hate the inexplicable scenes like the friend jerking off in the baseball glove and Affleck covering one of Damon's interviews and a bunch of others scenes. My alternative choice: Searching for Bobby Fischer - the best boy genius movie of all time.

2. The Spider Man movies

Don't get me wrong; I do kind of like them (except for the third) because of Sam Raimi's direction, but not enough. There's something sterile about them. I don't like Toby Maguire or Kirsten Dunst. I don't like the scenes in which May gives her wise lectures to Peter. And the second Spider Man…it wasn't that great. My alternative choice: Darkman

3. Titanic

You knew this one would be on here. In the words of my friend Bryan: as soon as I saw Leonardo Dicaprio in the back seat with Winslet and crying on top of her, he was irredeemable from that point on. My alternative choice: Big

4. Batman: The Dark Knight

I confess I made myself like this movie when I saw it in the theater. Then I watched it on dvd. Yikes. This film is so ludicrously stupid it beggars description. Scene to scene, how the Joker gets from one locale to another and how he manages to set everything up the way he does (getting himself in with the police officers to assassinate Gordon to planting someone with explosives in his belly and hijacking the two ferries and on and on) is stupid even for a comic book movie, especially for one that has such pretensions of seriousness. My alternative choice: Either the first Batman (not Burton's) or The Phantom or The Shadow. Tough to come up with an alternative for this one.

5. The Shawshank Redemption

Kidding, kidding, kidding. Relax.

The real 5. E.T.

I remember the talk about E.T. when I was a kid. And I remember one of my older sisters taking me and my brothers to go see it at the theater. And I vaguely remember thinking to myself that this was the most boring thing I had ever seen. Okay, the bike ride escapade at the end is cool. And you know, I still don't think this movie is all that great. My alternative choice: The Goonies - or if you want the alternative to have to do with aliens, then Explorers (minus the aliens)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dead Leaves - Drawing

The Cross is a Tree

This Sunday's readings are laden with the paradox of our poverty, hopefully causing us to be reliant on the richness of God. The poor will inherit the kingdom of God. The hungry shall be satisfied. So, blessed are they.

But cursed are the ones who trust in man and the flesh and who turn away from God. They are cursed by dint of their own poverty.

These words of the first reading about the man who trusts in the Lord and becomes like a flourishing tree resonated with me:

"...does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."

Wonderful. With our trusting submission to God, we are asked and made to bear fruit in the year of drought - in addition to the other years. Will you be trusting enough to keep going - say, as personal or universal upheaval perhaps occurs, and especially when what you thought rich turns to poverty - and then bear even more fruit than before?

This fruit-bearing seems almost synonymous with the absence of anxiety and fear that is mentioned in the same passage.

I've always liked Michael O'Brien. I read all his novels, non-fiction books, articles, reflections, essays, newsletters; I read everything of his. In his most recent newsletter he ended it with these words:

"Where do we find such love within ourselves? Truly, there is always love within us. Sometimes it is sleeping, and sometimes it is buried or badly bruised, and sometimes it is awake, though not entirely awake. In order to love with our whole minds, hearts, and souls, we must ask our Father in Heaven for the grace to love Him and each other, and then respond to the graces day by day. I recall how my children when they were small, around the time of my birthday, would ask me for a little bit of money, and then they would go off with their mother on secret projects, and a few days later they would give me their gifts with beaming faces."
Think about that.

Removing Sandals, not the Burning Bush

There is no other thing more frustrating to paint than the face of Jesus. To paint His face is hard well beyond the attainments of skill.

Skill for this task seems only necessary as antecedent exhaustion before the real strokes get made. In other words, more often than not, skill gets in the way. Artistic accomplishment alone is going to get you the most awful, rubber headache of a Jesus possible.

In light of that tortuous difficulty, one can understand the graphic shorthand that was developed over the centuries by iconographers. As my instructor says, you are making graphic annotations. You are not describing per se; you are realizing within the laws of the human hand.

What is it that we do when we come to terms with the limitations of something, like painting? We seek to attain what is most essential that can be attained through those limited means. Everything else gets bailed out. And in the end, depending on how well you've done, everything else has somehow been woven in.

If you do not recognize what you cannot attain through a limited medium, you will not attain to anything.

One can likewise understand the "shorthand" that was used to write Scripture - especially the New Testament. All that we know as Tradition was glanced at, in a kind of shorthand, like the graphic annotations of icons - like, yes, but also very different of course.

Take this passage from The Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2:

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

All who believed were together and had all things in common;

they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need.

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,

praising God and enjoying favour with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

There is so much, so much condensed and yet not said in that little passage, and in particular: "They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers."

Already in those four things, which the one sentence mentions almost cursively, we get the sense that they are things that have a weight and world of their own, quite apart from the written word.

We can see by what Scripture does not tell us that Scripture is telling us something.

Scripture has a built-in modesty that tells us: do not take me up alone; that is heresy.

And where in scripture does it say that? Where indeed.

Perhaps sola scriptura doesn't nearly do as much disservice to Tradition as it does to Scripture. Iconoclasts after all, destroyed Scripture Illustrated.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic Mail

From John Taschereau:

Well, family and friends, it’s the day before the 2010 VANCOUVER WINTER OLYMPICS - the Vancouver Olympics have finally come. The story of Whistler’s original development is truly fascinating — from its very inception decades ago it was built purposefully to host an Olympic event one day, due to its spectacular beauty, location, and snow, and that day has finally come. Whistler was originally founded to host an olympic event.

For those that know the area, everyone is always taken aback by the astonishing beauty of the World Famous Sea to Sky highway with its glacial vistas, its majestic peaks and deep fjords lavishly strewn with islands of all sizes and shapes. It's considered one of the most beautiful places on earth and no-one argues it’s title. It is quite something to share it with the world.

At the BC Legislature, there is a door reserved for heads of state. It’s the centre arch. No-one, including the Premiere, can walk through it, unless he is accompanying a head of state and otherwise uses the doors to the side of the arch. Today would have been a rare occasion for him to pass under the arch as Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to address each of us: the province and the country.

Google has done a special Street View for the Whistler slopes which brings you as close as anyone can get.

Apparently, the opening ceremony Oh Canada theme is incredible. The few that haver heard it say it’s astounding. Also, and confirmed, CTV’s Canadian "I Believe" song for these games has become № 1 on iTunes beating out all the major pop stars.

Our family went to see the torch when it passed through Cloverdale. The excitement of this not-even-once-in-a-lifetime-event is pretty crazy.

I have to admit that I have retained a deliberately, exceptionally guarded position of “least fan boy”, but tonight, I am sure everyone can feel the excitement that is absolutely everywhere and completely pervasive. The atmosphere is absolutely charged. You can feel it! Anything human is never perfect, and we all have our own sensitivities to ideas about who benefits and other uses for the money being spent. However, C’est une afait acomplis. We democratically went forward with this, proposed and started by a left (NDP) government under Clarke and manifested under the right (Liberal) by Campbell. For better or worse, we collectively have a decision to live with. Like all of life, we can make what we want out of what is before us.

The Olympics are FINALLY is here — after YEARS OF WAITING since the announcement, and for some, long, long before. I hope everyone enjoys everything they can out of this tremendously unique opportunity and take delight in wishing everyone a FANTASTIC TIME!

Enjoy the Games Everyone! GO CANADA GO!!! And as Stephen Harper proposed, let’s check our obsessive national humility at the door for once.

All the Best!
— John

I agree: "Like all of life, we can make what we want out of what is before us", and, "...let’s check our obsessive national humility at the door for once".

Those protesters are not my cup of tea, as much as I may side with their views and as much as I don't care for competitive sports.

I don't know for sure, but the ones who would protest at the Olympic opening are probably those people who like it when people dislike them; that is, they are not happy until they generate antagonism towards themselves, and they feel they are getting somewhere by doing this. In short, they are little Michael Moores.

They hurt the justice they want to work towards.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Wrong End of Mystery

Scientists Baffled by Amazon Mystery

Some new archeological discovery always "baffles" the "world's scientists", as though they would have a clear handle on everything all of the time and both ways, into the past as well as our future.

It's like a false humility. Well of course you're baffled, dim wits, because no one can see eighteen hundred years into the past. Not everything is some code purposefully presented to our minds as a way of proving our perfect immensity. The codedness of mystery is an accidental; but mystery is the purposeful foundation of all of our inquiries, our adventures of being.

But no, they always have to put up this big show about how they've come across something that has them so baffled, and this bafflement in reality only works to increase their stature as experts. It works in the negative to make people think that we know most anything; and takes our minds away from the fact that we know largely nothing.

Hi, we're the News here, just to remind you that we (by which we mean 'we the world') know absolutely everything and there's no reason to despair. But wait, hold on a minute, there is something inexplicable, coming in just now - to tip the scales a bit so that our supreme knowledge doesn't immediately crush us with boredom - that has even baffled the world's scientists! Don't worry; Latin America has always been the seat of mystery itself, and the mystery in question most likely has to do with that peculiar and quaint specimen we now know as "religion".

You have to love those first conclusions they always come to; such as that these trenches were dug for religious or ceremonial purposes.

I don't know what the most likely cause would be; it could very well be for ceremonial purposes. But I find it funny that the "world's scientists" would not first suppose that these trenches were dug merely for agricultural reasons (i.e. drainage).

That would be too mundane. I mean, they're all over the place! And in different shapes too! No way could they have been for small scale crop fields!

What could these ancient peoples possibly have been communicating to our aerial cameras?

A great mystery!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bad Chess Poem

To play online chess - good pastime.
Been playing it for years.
Profile shows more than
a thousand games played,
three quarters of them lost.

Winning streak: usually at a minus.
Draws: counting twenty three.
Abandoned games: seventeen
(which I don't do anymore);
and one of the consistently
lowest scores,
so that folks with either
high or modest scores,
come to my table,

thinking, here's small fry
I can drum a few points out of,
easy prey.
But I'm more
than they bargained for,
making them think twice;
causing a twitch in the confident
mouth, and once a while a thrum
of panic; perhaps sometimes
a glimmer of that mead hall instant,
when Grendel's fist met Beowulf's
and thought: damn it, shit,
since to have a high score
and lose to one who has a low score
means losing a ton of your points,
whereas having a low score
and losing to one with a high score
means losing very few points.

It's pleasure, putting up that fight,
spearing their antics with what might
I have - even when I lose.

Once though, I played one who
had a major ranking - one of the board kings -
such that I'm sure
his playing me was a source of shame
and guilty pleasure to him,
when by some updraft of grace
I was caught up in some risen winging:
move led to move; I mastered the board

and beat him. Couldn't believe it.
He immediately challenged me
to another, saying it was a fluke.

So we played another
and he promptly threw me back down,
but then, before he checkmated me, he
made a draw. Left me with my winning streak,
and he with his minus like an axe cleft
in the great trunk of a tree.

Most graceful player I ever played.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Crocuses Wide Open

February 4th. here in southern British Columbia. There are reports of some cherry trees already in full blossom in Vancouver. I'm starting to take back my earlier complaints. This global warming is wonderful. All you states and provinces in the dregs of winter cold, it's too bad you don't have global warming right now.

Those invested emotionally and financially in the winter olympics are wishing that our winter was more like the one we had last year (record snow dump) when we didn't have this global warming. If I remember correctly, at that time England was the place that had global warming.

The other night I caught this commercial on T.V.:

What an utterly ridiculous commercial. It was obviously made by the same people who made that California commercial. Those blue screens behind the sort-of-famous people (laid-back, sophisticated, home) are almost believable. It doesn't make me proud of my province. It's a rancid sort of provincialism on the steroids of the financial elite.

It is a commercial of course. Not that I'm expecting it to show Vancouver's homeless people getting culled from the streets by the police (a police force not entirely clean) so we won't look bad to "the world", but come on; a little less, uhm, we-are-the-freaking-world-of-the-Na'vi horseshit would be nice.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Forest Drawing

(Click to enlarge)

Furthest from the trails, where the ground is dense and springy, and the growing limbs crowd in and mix with the dead, proves to be the most advantageous for trying to bring out order.

Yesterday I was here behind a massive fir, the girth of which exceeded mine. In such a place there is nothing to quite jangle your nerves like a sudden deep grunting sound from directly behind you. Looking back this way and that, telling myself that there are no boars in these woods didn't help any to stop the heart from pounding. And then right behind the tree two racoons make their way, over wet ferns. The one ahead didn't notice me and kept on going. The one trailing behind saw me and froze, then startled, went some paces in the other direction away from me before carrying on down the hill.

I didn't know racoons could make that kind of sound.

Hirst and the Collectivist Fall from Art

Falling Man, By Max Beckmann (photo source:

There is an alright article by Barbara Kay in today's National Post on Damien Hirst's four month London exhibit, No Love Lost, Blue Painting; a "radical departure" from Hirst's studio-produced conceptual exhibits (i.e. actual rotting copulating cows) in that he has painted, solo, twenty five paintings.

There's an even better, earlier article here in The Independent. The best line from the author (in which he mourns the blindness of those who attempt to connect Hirst's canvases with the works of yore and thus reduce the works of yore to superficial egoism):

"So many things obscure a pure attention to good art."

Ah, the inability to meet the demands of real art: the post-modern reward for our divestment of cumbersome, physical reality with its multitudinous array of objects, symbols and figurative species. The reward we now get for this divestment is an endless and cumbersome cacophony, obscuring the ability to see beyond the self - how paradoxical.

In the midst of all warranted criticisms against Hirst and his ilk, that pithy line remains like the last standing word - the only word that these kinds of exhibits deserve - while these nihilistic exhibits (and they are nihilistic) pull down with them into the pit, or nearly so, the critics who spend too much time and too much energy railing against, and detracting them.

The likes of Hirst ought not to ruffle or disturb us or even cause us to be indignant. The time to be disturbed was long ago, when only a few took up that prophetic role. Now is the time to re-build - or simply to build.

I find myself more indignant towards the critics (who I agree with) who come up with terms like "Retrogardism" (a turn on Avante-garde) as a "counter-movement" that brings “a multidisciplinary attempt to retrieve techniques and genres that fell into disuse during the modernist period.”

What? Do you not, even now, get it yet? Do you not understand that you are assuming a post-historical stance as much as Hirst assumes, by talking in the same bunk language of art history?

So many things obscure a pure attention to good art.

I believe that Max Beckmann was one of those prophets who came to be horrified by the sudden takeover of "pure abstraction" (which led to "conceptual art") in his day and yet understood the alternative trap of making a false counteractive art, "painted purely intellectually without the terrible fury of the senses grasping each visible form of beauty and ugliness."

If I was an art teacher I would make Beckmann's "On My Painting" and "Letters to a Woman Painter" required reading.

Beckmann saw in the rise of "pure abstraction" not so much the ruination of tradition, but the ruination of individuality.

"The greatest danger which threatens mankind is collectivism. Everywhere attempts are being made to lower the happiness and the way of living of mankind to the level of termites. I am against these attempts with all the strength of my being.

The individual representation of the object, treated sympathetically or antipathetically, is highly necessary and is an enrichment to the world in form. The elimination of the human relationship causes the vacuum which makes all of us suffer in various degrees - an individual alteration of the details of the object represented is necessary in order to display on the canvas the whole physical reality.

Human sympathy and understanding must be reinstated."
(Emphasis mine)

Beckmann wrote these words in 1938. And now so many, many worthless things obscure a pure attention to good art - and so we are impoverished and distracted, unable to expand the self because we are unable to meet the demand of looking beyond and through the self -to what?

What is there to deserve our princely and jaded gazes? What could there possibly be outside of the slaughterhouse, except to say that art the likes of Rembrandt only points to his personal genius and points to nothing else and then that anyone can paint like Rembrandt?

Monday, February 1, 2010


I have probably needed glasses now for a few years, though it was only very recently, in December, that I bought a prescription (first time since childhood getting an eye exam too!). Driving at night was mostly what prompted me. They are a fairly light prescription, but wow, what a difference.

They are classy-looking Ray Ban and I'm pretty sure the salesman that helped me whittle down the pair was Italian.

The other day I had my first scary spec moment - the moment you realize you were completely unaware that you're wearing the glasses, and you put your hand to your face and there they are, where they've been all along. They have become fused with your head.

It was spec-tack-you-lar.