November 25, 2013 § Leave a Comment
[click for pdf, with its slightly different photo layout]
1 Girls as Cats
A friend and colleague, Alexia Raynal, a woman who has been doing some interesting reading and thinking about how children are viewed, and about how views of children are used by adults, has shared my interest in this show: “Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations.” But her favorite of the paintings is quite different from mine. Alexia’s favorite is La partie de cartes (the card game; only the female player is shown above), and she liked, too, the curator’s observation: “The confident look on this girl’s face indicates that she is winning—or thinks she is.” For me, leaving aside the room of extraordinary drawings Balthus did when he was 11 years old, the show was dominated by Thérèse rêvant (Thérèse dreaming), featuring Balthus’s leading model Thérèse Blanchard, then 12 or 13 years old, with one leg up, underpants showing.
There is a sense in Thérèse rêvant that is completely absent from the card player: a sense that a model is holding a pose, doing what a painter has told her to do. Even the underpants, to say nothing of the cat, may not be her own. Many have noted that the folds of Thérèse’s underpants are not unlike vaginal lips. Given that the painter painted these, too, one could say that even Thérèse’s lips are not her own. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
- An exploration of ethical issues surrounding Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
- Mitch Kellaway writing about Xena, the first great transgender TV show
- A demonstration of photo-elicitation in action
- What kind of morals J.K. Rowling may be teaching our children
- An exploration of how a post-illness self reconstructs the pre-illness one
It’s all at http://zeteojournal.com/. And also included is my own piece:
- A proposal for a new science (“Science B”), one of perhaps many possible sciences in which the distance separating perceiver and perceived may be thought to disappear. May I note here that this essay was happy to find itself in dialogue with a blog conversation that had been conducted by two of the people, or blogs, on my blogroll: Ed Mooney’s, Mists on the Rivers, and Kelly Dean Jolley’s Quantum Est In Rebus Inane.
The next Montaigbakhtinian “real” blog post should be ready by next Tuesday (26 November 2013), and will be on the Balthus show currently at the MET Museum in New York. A “taste” from the current draft of the conclusion:
Like a big-city street, an art museum gives us permission to look, encourages us to look, and we are grateful, likely too grateful, for that. But when it is the scrupulously painted folds of Thérèse’s underpants we are seeing, we may be reminded that the viewing falls short of our expectations. A life of seeing, and of being seen, is not all we have wanted.
Photograph is of Henrietta Lacks.
October 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
[click for pdf]
One evening a streetwalker dresses herself in an alluring fashion in order to attract clients. Unfortunately, this is an evening that a police team has been assigned to round up streetwalkers, and she is arrested. Several days later she has to appear before the court. Again she dresses herself, but this time not in an alluring fashion. She wants to look respectable and quite alien to the hard life of the streets, little rooms, hungry strangers.
In a sense this is what all of us, some of us better than others, do many a day, trying to dress ourselves “for success” (or sometimes it’s for failure or to be ignored, etc.). « Read the rest of this entry »
October 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
 K.J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality
While reading manuscripts that had been submitted for Zeteo’s Fall 2013 issue, I became interested in first sentences and what one can learn from them. So for ZiR, as we call it, I spent a September week looking at first sentences in some of the already published works that I was reading. My attachment to books and words being what it is, I also decided to add, after each first sentence and my quick “look” at it, a second extract, offering a peek at the riches of each work as a whole.
I began with Kenneth Dover’s Greek Homosexuality (Harvard University Press, 1978), a book that was highly regarded and influential (to include on Foucault), and which I was reading as part of work on an essay about Plato’s Lysis. The first sentence of the preface:
This book has a modest and limited aim: to describe those phenomena of homosexual behavior and sentiment which are to be found in Greek art and literature between the eighth and second centuries B.C., and so to provide a basis for more detailed and specialized exploration (which I leave to others) of the sexual aspects of Greek art, society and morality.
What is the feeling exuded by this sentence? Mastery? Quiet confidence? A sense of a person completely integrated into his field and little disturbed by the storms of life? A person to be trusted? In fact I think that Dover’s conclusions could be complete hogwash and it would still be difficult to reject them because of the tone of his writing and all the careful and thorough scholarship that appears to underlie it. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Taking a two-week break from New York, family, essay writing and blog posting, rent-paying work, . . . The phrase “The Freedom Tour” came into my mind in this regard, and not too long after that the song lyric, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” But I would not ignore my first, more positive feeling—the possibility of enjoying a particular freedom that perhaps only a bureaucrat with a permanent contract, “9 to 5″ job and defined-benefit pension can enjoy. The freedom of being able to take a rather complete if not long break, sans need to check one’s messages, etc. (For at least a dozen years now I’ve been at work on a piece about the advantages and disadvantages of being a bureaucrat.)
As the current break is expected to involve visiting Wittgenstein’s haunts at Cambridge University and Paris streets once strolled by Baudelaire, I offer the following two quotations:
In order to live happily I must be in agreement with the world. And that is what ‘being happy’ means. — Ludwig Wittgenstein
[I]l est beaucoup plus commode de déclarer que tout est absolument laid dans l’habit d’une époque, que de s’appliquer à en extraire la beauté mystérieuse qui peut y être contenue, si minime ou si légère qu’elle soit. — Charles Baudelaire, « Le Peintre de la vie moderne »
My translation: It is a lot easier to declare that the wrappings of a given period are completely ugly than to apply oneself to trying to extract the mysterious beauty that could be inside, regardless of however minimal or insubstantial that beauty might be.
Credit & Links
Image is a graphic abstracted from the Folkestone White Horse, the figure carved into Cheriton Hill, Folkestone in Kent, England, overlooking the English terminal of the Channel Tunnel. The design for the horse was drawn by a local artist, Charlie Newington.
Wittgenstein quotation is from the posthumously published Notebooks, 1914-1916, edited by G.H. von Wright and G.E.M. Anscombe and translated from German by Anscombe (University of Chicago Press, 1984). Note: Wittgenstein was born in 1889; these are grad school musings.
Baudelaire quotation is from the fourth part (“La modernité”) of his essay “Le Peintre de la vie moderne” (1863). An English translation by P. E. Charvet appears in Baudelaire: Selected Writings on Art and Literature (Penguin, 1995).
October 1, 2013 § 1 Comment
[click for ameraiku.pdf]
It is quite some time now that the haiku has made its way across the Pacific, and many an American, adult and school child, has tried their hand at imitating the form and sensibility of these Japanese poems. Meanwhile, you might say, I have, intermittently, been exploring what an American armed with English might do to the haiku. A few enchantillons, let’s call them:
She Had It All
She had it all—the
phone, the tattoo, the Diet
Coke, the cigarette.
On Human Agency
The taxi driver
without a fare drives slowly
and with a fare fast.
After walking by an Akido class
to fight without hurting and
hurt without fighting
We admire his turds,
my son and I. I would show
him mine, but refrain.
Haiku written a day after long considering a tiny bit of a plant that clung to my finger while I was taking a shower
the bike lane blocked by cars—ghosts
play with our beliefs
September 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Revised September 2013 from Sequence 5 text, January 2004
[click for pdf]
Sick, I went with my son, then two years old, to the drugstore in the village where we had a weekend house. It so happened that this particular drug store was part of one of the several drugstore chains that around this time were accused of aggressively lobbying their customers to switch from cheaper versions of drugs that their doctors had prescribed to more expensive ones that were not necessarily as effective. As I recall, for these lobbying efforts the drug stores were being paid by drug companies, and in some cases customers’ prescriptions were being changed without the customers’ or their doctors’ prior approval. But let us proceed as if such matters were beside the point.
At this store, as in most stores to which young children are taken, certain products—little games, candies, brightly colored packages of stickers, cards featuring pictures of animals—were displayed at the eye and hand levels of young children. As I was waiting for my prescription to be filled, Jonah, as many a child will, began pulling some of these products off the shelves. The chance of his making a mess was good, « Read the rest of this entry »