Archive for the 'Art Culture Politics' Category

Representations

owlThe owl of Minerva overlooking wee Jamie Boswell’s brilliant career. National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.foxAt the kirk in Duddingston, Edinburgh.birdsOn the exterior of The Salmon, in Belford. Presumably an earlier incarnation of the inn….crasterIn Craster, under the pall of the smokehouse working on the town’s famous kippers (cf. Salmon Rushdie’s first brush with the things).frogIn Alnmouth.armsSaw this in two different spots and wondered. Turns out to be the symbol of the old Martins Bank, defunct since 1969. 16th century beginnings with London goldsmiths, who banked under the sign of the Grasshopper.The bird is Liverpool’s “Liver Bird,” a cormorant which has been the city’s symbol since at least the 14th C. It joined the Grasshopper after a merger with Bank of Liverpool in 1928. redA Red Squirrel in a mosaic at the National Portrait Gallery. The animal itself, Sciurus vulgaris, is in critical condition in the UK due to the invasive Gray (yes, our familiar North American park inhabitant) and habitat loss. The Grey is not only larger and more aggressive but carries a pox which it is immune to but which horribly disfigures and kills the Red. We saw a Grey in Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden, but no Reds anywhere. The Berwick Red Squirrel Group’s hazelnut-filled boxes were noted in Shiellow Wood south of Fenwick.crimeThere is a war going in the UK between large landowners, their myrmidon gamekeepers, and raptors and their allies. The landowners make money from game-bird hunters, and claim raptors kill too many grouse and pheasant (an introduced species, by the way, which we saw and heard far more times than we saw raptors), so the gamekeepers poison and shoot raptors (all illegal, but money talks loudest of all in Thatcher’s neoliberal encampment). The Hen Harrier in particular is under severe threat from the eradicationists.

Octopuses

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octo

octop

Suddenly, they were everywhere.

Good Fences?

fenceAn immovable object meets a growing force. The city is full of such cases, of fences and street signs being absorbed by growing trees.

I think here of the dialectic in Frost’s “Mending Wall.” One voice says “something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and the other, the more-often quoted, says “good fences make good neighbors.” I gravitate towards that something, the earth, heaving and shivering through the seasons, throwing the wall to pieces, as it will all our works. Not that we should stop making things, necessarily, however Sisyphean the task. Or should we? Fencing in trees, for instance, is a folly best abandoned.

Who doesn’t feel like that traveller from an antique land when walking in the northeastern woodlands and coming across an old stone fence, so laboriously made long ago and now forgotten, moss-covered, the home today of snakes and chipmunks?

The Plains Indians:

Artists of Earth and Sky at the Met until May 10 is not to be missed. It is amazing and immensely sad. WacochachiDrawing of artist’s world. Attributed to Wacochachi (act. ca 1820-1850), Meskwaki, Iowa. Ca. 1830. Ink and sealing wax on paper.ArikaraShield with guardian sporty. Arikara artist, North Dakota, ca. 1850. Buffalo rawhide, native-tanned leather, pigment.GhostGhost Dance drum. George Beaver (act. late 19th century) Pawnee, Oklahoma. Ca.1891-92. Wood, rawhide, pigment.

Tanka

Moon
Late afternoon Moon
rising over Brooklyn Heights
~ I forget the Sun

Homeward-bound at end of day
Night will never be that dark.

I have been reading Bashō’s travel sketches, culminating in his famous “Narrow Road to the Deep North.” I’m moved by the Japanese tradition of making an event of the contemplation of natural phenomena, like the full Moon, the cherry blossoms. Lately, I’ve been trying to look at the flowers and buds of spring this way.SalixI think also that my Listening Tours (birds, insects, frogs) have some flavor of this contemplation, with special attention to the sounds of the world. (The noisy, crowded, and costume-kitsch-ridden variation at the Brooklyn Wedding Venue’s Sakura Matsuri is not, I think, what tradition had in mind.)Nymphalis antiopaThis week, we watched a Mourning Cloak butterfly feed on birch sap. It drank deeply and so did we.

Jane’s Walk: A Man, A Plan, Stranahan!

StranahanTop-hatted, I’ll be participating in the Jane’s Walk weekend, leading a walk through Prospect Park and into Green-Wood Cemetery on May 3rd. We’ll walk from the James S. T. Stranahan statue at Grand Army Plaza — who, what, where? PRECISELY! — to the Stranahan gravesite in Green-Wood in celebration of the forgotten man behind the park. Jane’s Walks are free; just show up at 11 a.m.

Turtle Underground

turtleThe great turtle or tortoise holding up the world is an ancient story from China and India — and the New World, whose original inhabitants came from Asia.

Less well known is the race of giant tortoises who hold up New York City. Your engineer, the very definition of quotidian, will insist on schist — Manhattan, for instance, is said to be “gneiss but full of schist” — as the foundation of all that challenges the sky, but those of us in the know, know better. It is upon their mighty backs, their rock-like carapaces, that all of this Oz rests.

The trouble with these stout, bold, strong creatures, doing the heavy lifting of our metropolis, is that they are rarely seen. They shun the limelight, they have no interest in celebrity, or even, it may be said, humanity, at all. turtleWell, you know how I like keep my eyes peeled like a grape for evidence of the world rushing in, so when I was in SoHo recently — an aberration on my part, but the tarts are delicious — I happened to catch one of these secretive animals passing below the sidewalk grating. Zounds! The shell is a full yard long! The creature was of course lumbering in that deliberate time-is-different-for-us way. Judging from the shiny baubles around its bullish neck, I’d say it was either returning from a bender, if not N’Orleans, or an anointing by a cult of Kurma-worshippers. March on, noble Testudinidae!


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