Saturday, July 31, 2010

Locus Focus - Jungle Boogie

Locus Focus is a meme hosted every Saturday at Shredded Cheddar. It's all about settings that come alive for you in books; so link-up your own choice of setting and read about the settings others have written about!

This Saturday's setting: The Island of the Black Eaters-of-men

Call It Courage
By Armstrong Sperry

"For a quarter of a mile the coconuts held, beautiful trees that were more luxuriant than any in Hikueru. It was always thus in the rich soil of the volcanic islands. Then came a belt of breadfruit and wild bananas, of oranges and guavas and mangoes. The roots of the mape' trees--the island chestnut--twisted over the ground in strange, tormented shapes. Vines trailed like aerial ropes from the high branches where orchids bloomed, while little parakeets fled on swift wings and vanished in the green gloom. Mafatu had never before seen woods like these, for Hikueru was open and wind-swept. These endless legions of trees seemed to close in upon him, imprison him with reaching arms, with heady odors, with eerie light and shadow. Ferns grew higher than a tall man's head; the roof of leaves was powdered with starry blossoms."
Such is the island where the young Mafatu, deemed a coward on his home island of Hikueru and a source of shame to his father, masters his sea-fears alone; alone, but for his dog companion - oh, and those cannibals.

Maybe the solitude of such a place (solitary even from pagan civilization, for cannibals from an adjacent island perform their sacrifices here) is what some like Mafatu need. The very precariousness of his position seems to push him from one great feat to another. Hunting, cooking, making a boat. (The adventure of getting and cooking one's own food is at its most alive here.)

A place most to be feared proves to be Mafatu's space for maturity: those who have the greatest tremblings of cowardice within them are by no means exempt from courage, for courage does not mean merely the absence of fear.

Something about the oppressiveness and immediate wildness of this luxuriant island affords continuous opportunities for Mafatu. Anyways, it's here where he comes into his own:

"On his left hand, far offshore, the reef boomed to the charging surf; the curve of the beach reached out like two great arms to enclose the lagoon. Coconuts and pandanus trooped in shining legions to the very edge of the sea. A flight of green-and-purple parakeets flashed across the sky and vanished. There was no other sign of life. No voices of men; no laughter of children; no footprint in the sand.

The volcanic peak that formed the background of the island rose perhaps three thousand feet straight up out of the sea. It was the cone of a volcano long extinct. From its base, ridges of congealed lava flowed down to the distant shore. Once, in the dim beginnings of the world, this mountain had belched forth fire and brimstone, spreading destruction over the land. But the forgiving jungle through fertile centuries had crept back up the slopes, clothing them in green, green."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Garden Sprawl Friday

The garlic trimmed and cleaned:

I have yet to cut the tops off the above variety, as the stalks were still fairly green when harvested. I don't know if it makes any difference, but it just seems right to wait until the whole stalk dries up before cutting it.

And the last of them that got pulled:

While the first pictured garlics are nicely wrapped (their stalks above ground were also the last of the three varieties still standing erect), I regret not having pulled up the other two varieties earlier. Moreover, what I did especially wrong was actually pull them up - without digging them with a trowel, and prying them up, from the bottom.

Since the stalks were fallen over (as is supposed to happen) and weak, what happened is when I pulled the stalk up, it ripped off the top portion of the wrap of the garlic bulb, leaving the garlic bulb still in the soil. Lesson learned. The garlics are still perfectly good of course.

What is amazing though is the gratuitous multiplicity in nature. For each variety of garlic pictured, I bought three whole bulbs. So altogether there were nine bulbs. You plant the separated cloves from each bulb (a bulb of garlic is merely the ring of wrapped cloves). Each clove turns into a whole new bulb. It doesn't take long, saving just a few more bulbs than last time each harvest for planting instead of eating, before you have quite a...garlic operation.

Another nice thing about garlic is that your bulbs will develop a hue, a tinge of colour totally unique to your micro-climate. Thus, two sets of the same variety grown in two different regions will be...well, could you call them the same variety?

The cantaloupes, in the true spirit of sprawl:

The potatoe and cabbage bed:

The cabbages have steadily been disappearing (thank goodness) instead of just sitting there going to waste. I dug up one of the potatoe plants and came to the conclusion that I will wait a further couple of weeks. If you're going to have potatoes that aren't "new potatoes", you may as well let them get good and big. The pole beans are beginning their climbing of those poles in the back; they are late, late, but not too late.


This evening one of the cats caught a blue dragonfly and was unsure about eating it. You could hear the poor thing burr-clicking its wings, still alive, but damaged.

The tabby, being delicate about real meat (she likes her kitty treats), played at it, but didn't really get to eating. So she was joined by her sister: the meat-eater.

The tabby took off. The dragonfly was still alive, and I was unsure about what to do. I knew I should make an end of the dragonfly, as it was clearly beyond recovery and suffering. Just then, thank goodness, the silver one took over - and didn't waste any time.

Crunch, crunch, crunch, the whole thing went down.

Cats are mean bastards.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Exhibition

July 2nd was the opening reception for the Arts 2010 juried exhibition, in which my painting was included, and which runs until August 29th. While the gallery was pretty well packed upon arrival, after at least 30 minutes the number diminished suddenly, it seemed, by half. One really cannot blame the vapid post-modern attention span too much, when the collective non-aura of the work in the gallery is taken into consideration.

The opening address was so blandly ethereal and unmarked by any hint of boldness or any common connection with human life that it was the very extension of what is called "applied art". I don't know if this is part of some purposeful and conscious effort to neutralize all manifestations of truth with the very language that employs words like diversity, expression, creativity and so forth, into a politicized ghetto where subjectivism rules (and where even subjectivity is annihilated).

Our cultural ghetto is not one of suppression, at least not in the explicit sense. It is one of a very deadly and subtle assimilation. And the artist who makes pretend that he is positing truth and diversity against the flattening effects of this culture does not understand that he is merely feeding it - that is to say, he does not understand that the de-spiritualizing, anti-incarnational operatives are coming from that assimilative field which is at its most deceptive when it appears as some kind of neutral ground. If the artist wants to create portals that open onto the infinite, he must come out of the boat like St. Peter.

I was certain there was going to be at least one homo-promo painting in the exhibit, as this has been a usual course with the gallery over the years; but there was not one - I hate to almost say - sadly. Because when you look at work like the following,

the initial thought that comes to mind is that a few of those propagandistic paintings would be practically welcome.

In the above works, guess which won first place in the "works on canvas" category. Now guess which won second. Now guess which got honourable mention. I'll make it easy: the pictures are in that order, starting from top to bottom.

Notice I discluded third place in that list. Third place - and showing that not all is lost - was the painting shown here, of the oranges, in between the two others (and hey, they placed my painting beside it!):

What is sadder is that a good chunk of artists who won awards or honourable mention did not even show up at the reception to receive their recognition. Is so-and-so here? So? Alright, on to the next one. Now, some years back, when a painting of mine was included in the exhibition, I didn't go to the opening reception. It didn't win anything, but I realize now that the good thing to do is to show up, whether one gets first, second, third, honourable mention, or is simply included in the exhibit.

But what kind of arrogant indifference rules when a second place winner doesn't show, along with a bunch of other "winners"? And please don't give me any of that humble anonymity foulness. Talk about a cultural event that is a lie in every respect. It's rather diabolical; for what is a worse dismantling of our sense of cultural event - and thus of community - than a cultural event that negates itself - playing out its symbolical inversion as though it weren't inversion? But it's a lie.

Winners were hesitant to show up, and viewers were quick to leave. The opening speech almost implored the audience not to listen too hard, and the top canvas picks of the jury sucked donkey shit. A big pile of donkey shit would actually be more interesting, to one who has the contemplative gumption, with the flies that buzz around it and land thereon, laying their wormy progeny within; how it mixes with the rain, and how it bakes in the sun, the pathogens being killed off, and its final blessed withering into the soil that produces life and nutrition.

I went back to the gallery a couple weeks after the opening to take pictures. This exhibition I was pleased - or at least not exasperated - with how my painting appeared:

And I liked this landscape:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Garden Sprawl Friday

Coleslaw anyone?

Today, most of the garlic got pulled. They should have been pulled earlier, as a center bulb was protruding from the ring of cloves on some of them. There are three varieties. I know one of them is Red Russian, and I know which actual garlics those are, but the other two I'm not sure, as I did not label them, though I know, having placed a stake at each variety, which ones are different from the other; it's just that I do not know any longer the names. No matter how much you think you will remember what you planted, label it anyways.

See the bees? Click to enlarge. The other week, all sorts of bees were over the leek flowers all day.

The cantaloupes - or muskmelons - are sprawling well:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Locus Focus - A Family Home

Link up at with Locus Focus at Shredded Cheddar. Locus Focus is a book-related meme in which you post about settings in books. This weekend's Locus Focus is themed: A Family Home. While the meme continues every weekend, there will now be a chosen theme once a month. For the theme of A Family Home I chose Homer's The Odyssey.

One is only really introduced to the house of Odysseus as the story winds closer and closer to him slaughtering the freeloaders that occupy it. One gets acquainted in more detail with the hall, the courtyard, pets, the maids and nurses, latches and bedrooms and storerooms. The Odyssey is in many ways the journey into the heart of a house, without which the heart of man is sick.

Odysseus is changed in his outward appearance by Athena to an old, weather-beaten begging man, dressed in rags; and he comes to his own home, after many years, by way of the swine-holding. It is inevitable he will beg scraps from the hands of the shameless pseudo-suitors he will later be killing.

But even after he has killed these men and has had their blood and guts cleaned up, and the floor washed down and the hall purified with sulphur, it is almost as if the man is still distant from his own home. He has yet to face his wife, in his own appearance.

It is then that the movements of the journey, the fates, the intervening and meddling of the gods, they come to a kind of halt and hush as Odysseus and his wife face each other in their own house. Penelopeia is wary of trusting that her hsuband is actually her husband, for she is numb after all the years of mourning; she thinks it might be a trick of the gods.

So she tries him with a secret that only her true husband would know. And it is here - a secret about their marriage bed, the bed where conception takes place, the physical place of generating the family of a family home - that the tenderest part of Odysseus is revealed:

"Wife, that has cut me to the heart! Who has moved my bed? That would be a difficult job for the best workman, unless God himself should come down and move it. It would be easy for God, but no man could easily prize it up, not the strongest man living! There is a great secret in that bed. I made it myself, and no one else touched it. There was a strong young olive tree in full leaf growing in an enclosure, the trunk as thick as a pillar. Round this I built our bridal chamber; I did the whole thing myself, laid the stones and built a good roof over it, jointed the doors and fitted them in their places. After that I cut off the branches and trimmed the trunk from the root up, smoothed it carefully with the adze and made it straight to the line. This tree I made the bedpost. That was the beginning of my bed; I bored holes through it, and fitted the other posts about it, and inlaid the framework with gold and silver and ivory, and I ran through it leather straps coloured purple. Now I have told you my secret. And I don't know if it is still there, wife, or if some one has cut the olive at the root and moved my bed!"
And it is here that Odysseus becomes for the reader a real man. That is not meant in some chauvinistic sense, but in the mere sense of flesh and blood; he is not a god. Nor for that matter is he really a world-worn traveller; for it is here he becomes the true man he is - in the family home.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monk Honey

My eldest brother and his girlfriend went to Spain and brought me back this honey. Of course, when I received it the seal was intact and the jar was full. While there is a plethora of honeys, for me there are two general honey types: mellow/buttery and bright/astringent. The above belongs to the latter group. I like both.

Image Source

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Something screwy is going on with the comments. Some have disappeared, and when I try and comment it will not show, at least not until much later.

Just so people know.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Max Monday

Portrait of Family Lutjens - By Max Beckmann, 1944

"A harmonically measured rhythm is established by the expressive play of hands and full, sonorous colors. During that last desperate winter of the war, when this portrait was painted, Lutjens bought a good many paintings, stored the largest works, such as Blindman's Buff, and finally invited the Beckmanns to stay with him in his house." --Peter Selz, Max Beckmann


Image Source

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Locus Focus - Faery and Wootton Major

Link up with Locus Focus at Shredded Cheddar and share a book's setting with others

It is impossible to think of Wootton Major without Faery, or Faery without Wootton Major in J.R.R. Tolkien's tale, Smith of Wootton Major; his finest tale (to this writer) outside of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion (yes, better than Leaf by Niggle).

Wootton Major is a village from "not very long ago for those with long memories, nor very far away for those with long legs." The village is known most of all for its cooking:

"It had a large Kitchen which belonged to the Village Council, and the Master Cook was an important person. The Cook's House and the Kitchen adjoined the Great Hall, the largest and oldest building in the place and the most beautiful. It was built of good stone and good oak and was well tended, though it was no longer painted or gilded as it had been once upon a time."
Now, a little bit from Faery:

"When he first began to walk far without a guide he thought he would discover the further bounds of the land; but great mountains rose before him, and going by long ways round about them he came at last to a desolate shore. He stood beside the Sea of Windless Storm where the blue waves like snow-clad hills roll silently out of Unlight to the long strand, bearing the white ships that return from battles on the Dark Marches of which men know nothing. He saw a great ship cast high upon the land, and the waters fell back in foam without a sound. The elven mariners were tall and terrible; their swords shone and their spears glinted and a piercing light was in their eyes. Suddenly they lifted up their voices in a song of triumph, and his heart was shaken with fear, and he fell upon his face, and they passed over him and went away into the echoing hills."
Faery and Wootton Major are completely distinct from each other, and yet they are interpenetrated; the Village being very much the dependent as it were, like the way the Shire is generally ignorant of literal Kings protecting its borders and keeping watch.

Smith is the one by whom the reader interpenetrates the two realms. And a fay-star is the key. Smith comes to receive it at the Twenty-four Feast. What all this means is a matter I would rather leave to the discovery of those who choose to read this deeply moving tale.

Whereas C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald often seize on the stunning aspects of Faery and the approaching of it, J.R.R. Tolkien is so replete with it, so deeply rooted in it, that the mere unfolding of the tale - simply yet fully written - blesses you, harrows you, with the reality of Faery; with the realization that myths are not lies.