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We are watching The Secret of Kells. It is absolutely spectacular. Pagan and Christian, mysterious and historical. It is visually rich, the music is beautiful. We only watched one hour of it (or so) before it was B's bedtime wind-down, and I'd gotten chills twice.
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What is it about art? Some pieces sing to us. Some pieces please our brains with their skill, but don't speak to our souls. Some pieces feel alive, others dead. It makes no sense; it's part of the mystery of the world we live in.

When I got to the British Museum I expected (well, I had surprisingly few expectations!) to be swept away by the Greeks and the Egyptians. But the Egyptians, while fascinating, didn't do it for me at all. The Greeks were beautiful, sublimely so. The mosaics and busts were exquisite. I really felt like the faces captured and contained a part of the soul of the person depicted. How can stone feel so alive?? The artistry is truly breathtaking.

One thing that humbled my modern person was how well these ancient - 2000, 3000 years old - pieces hold up. Not only are the works still intact or the details still there, but the artistry can still speak to us. What have we created that will still hold up and speak in 2000 years? Anything? I'm not sure.

What I absolutely never expected was to be moved at my very core by the Assyrian statuary and reliefs.

In college I took an ancient history class that covered the Akkadians, Assyrians, Egyptians, etc, but honestly I remember next to nothing. I have a loose understanding of the chronology, but a slightly better understanding of the myth and religious stuff. Still. I walked around a corner and BAM. Enormous winged lions with male bearded faces flanking a recreation of even taller cedar doors. The lion creatures were guardians of the gates and I barely came up to the hooves.




(forgive the photos, they were taken with my iphone and barely capture the art)

Here is a guardian of a temple of Ishtar:


I loved the reliefs of the bird-headed guardians:

This one is next to the tree of life




I was even moved by the reliefs of the lion hunt:



What's hard to see in all these pictures is that all the items have cuniform writing all over them. I had seen pictures of cuniform and learn about it (my last boss was an Egyptologist who could read hieroglyphs and even some cuniform), and never thought twice about it. But in person I found the script beautiful:


I can't explain why these stone items spoke so profoundly to me. Whatever magic is present in these items is equally present in the Greek busts and statues. But as much as I'd like to be enraptured by the Greeks it's just not for me. Usually I am more drawn to the green, forest, ocean loving peoples: the Celtic world speaks deeply to me, some of the Norse/Scandanavian stuff (though more intellectually than spiritually), the Finns intrigue me, and I am very partial to Shinto and Japanese ideas of nature. Hindu and yoga stuff has lately been taking a primary place in my mind, and of course there's always the Orthodox Christian world, though Christianity is quickly losing its appeal to me. That an ancient Mesopotamian culture would bowl me over like this..... well, every day a new adventure.
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I used to have this memorized. I admit I am a fan of 19th century Romantic poetry. At some point in my choral history I sang a beautiful arrangement of this. While sitting this morning, fragments of it kept coming to mind.

She walks in beauty - Lord Byron


SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
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These kids are my new creative heroes. Parody of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance video.
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Ok. So I'm entering week #3 of being ill and I'm on virus #2. This week I begin going back to work, illness or no. I went to the doctor on Friday, just to make sure I didn't have something unusual or requiring medication, and she was only concerned that I was so pale. Everything just needs rest. Or a good cold snap to kill of the crud that's been making the rounds. What sucks is that while your immune system is low fighting off one bug, you're vulnerable for the next. Bah, I say.

I have been spending my time watching a lot of 'tv' - by that I mean tv on the internet. Adam and I have started watching Freaks and Geeks, which is pretty good. The new show that gets my vote, and frankly kicks Glee's confused, sorry ass (even though I so want it to work) is Community. Really funny, quite smart, and that main dude is hot. That always helps. I also discovered Sesame Street online, which has been very helpful with the downpours that Wales has been getting lately. Bennett and I watch clips, which we can arrange in themes - like, numbers, feelings, letters, etc. We make it interactive and it's fun.

I've also recently discovered Lady Gaga. She's a good singer, with brainless, forgettable, but ok music. But what a freaking FABULOUS performance artist. She's like a mainstream Bjork, without the amazing music. I am more than a little in love her Bad Romance video. The zombie dancing just slays me. I think I am going to have to watch every single video she's made.

ETA: I also wanted to add these bits but forgot. I also watched Away We Go which is sweet, but enh. However, the best bits are the Maggie Gyllenhall-Ultra AP satire. I've been recognizing a lot of my hypocrisy and other attractive traits lately, and I recognized more than I'd like to admit in this section. You can see bits here and here.
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Praise Song for the Day, by Elizabeth Alexander )

When I heard it live I deliberately held my judgment in check, for I am a notorious poetry hater. Not that I hate poetry, but that I think most is crap. I didn't think that Ms. Alexander did a very good job of reading her poem. But at the end I decided that I liked it. I also thought it had a very pagan feel to it. I don't know anything about her spiritual leanings. Any one else get a pagan flavor from it?

Art!

Oct. 9th, 2008 08:49 am
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Tomorrow night our friend, Sadie Jernigan Valerie, is having an art show. Her work is amazing. I own this. I want this but can't afford the $380 for it. I think we are going to get this, a baby cup. Check out her work.

Her art makes me miss singing.
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For those of you in the Bay Area:

Many of you know that I (and Adam) work for a Jewish education non-profit. We are hosting a reading on Tues, Jan. 15, that might interest you, or your literary friends. Sayed Kashua (I couldn't find a good web link for him) is an Arab-Israeli, and from all accounts is HIGHLY regarded in Israel. The bio we have for him says he is 28, a journalist, novelist, tv critic and Palestinian. Here is an Amazon link to his latest novel, Let It Be Morning.

Even though I haven't read any of his books, I'm really looking forward to hearing him read.

Info below, and feel free to pass it along to anyone you know who might be interested in this:

When: Tues, Jan. 15, 5-6:30pm
Where: Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way (bottom floor of the Berkeley Hillel bldg), across from Boalt School of Law, Berkeley, CA
Cost: FREE, refreshments provided

Feel free to ask if you have any questions.

UPDATE: New York Times article from Monday about Kashua.
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My arts salon met over the weekend and the subject of Thomas Kinkade came up, why I can't remember. There are many visual artists in this group: cartoonist, painters, many sketchers, some one who does computer graphics for big name films. One of the visual artists had never heard of Kinkade before. We all groaned, wondering how that was possible when his art is sold in licensed stores in malls everywhere. Over the last few days we've been posting articles about Kinkade back and forth to each other. We all agree that we loathe his work. Below is a slightly expanded version of what I wrote to the group.

Yet, his paintings *are* pretty. Nice colors, bucolic scenes, technically proficient.... they're peaceful. But they lack that "je ne sais quois" of something with soul; they're flat. It's an interesting argument: is art always something that is provocative (I would say no)? Can it be something merely aesthetically pleasing? Is it the blatant marketing of his work that is so distasteful? Don't all artists wish for the success that he has?

Kinkade's work is all about marketing. It is merely the selling of a fantasy, a momentary distraction from reality. And he basically says as much in interviews. He says he's selling hope, but really he's selling "Art"- trademarked, copyrighted, all rights reserved.

My only entry point into these questions is to think in terms of music. Kinkade is the pop music of art. I will say that Britney Spears is no Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (amazing, and sadly dead, opera singer) and her music isn't even as musically interesting as Beck (or, insert your own band here). But sometimes it's nice to just groove out to something well produced, that I don't have to work to listen to, or doesn't ask me to bring my own thoughts and experiences to.

Maybe that it's it: art asks us to engage with it, to think and feel and interact, we have to meet the artist some where along the way. Even if we are not moved emotionally or challenged intellectually, we get caught up in the beauty or the experience. It's not just a 100% passive experience. And that's what I find so boring about Kinkade's work: it asks nothing of me.
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Today has been a good, but long day. Adam left for Mew Mexico in the wee hours. I rode my bike to work, the first time in a week I think. My fitness is dying; the bike ride was hard. Productive at work. Have suffered from a head ache all day long. I have been sitting in silence, eating the curry I made, reading Mouse Guard. Adam buys the individual issues, but the collected book is worth getting your hands on. It is so beautiful. The dialog is minimal, but the art tells the story. Mice, the middle ages, etc. Plus, the book has maps and information about the life of mice - at least, if mice lived like people in the middle ages. Beautiful stuff. Check out the website. You can even read it online!

Now to make some phone calls and put myself in bed by 8 o'clock. This headache just won't quit.

Art I like

Sep. 12th, 2007 02:22 pm
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I have been so busy with hiring stuff at work - this part of the job I really enjoy. I've gotten great feedback on the candidates I called in and on the entire process. It's nice to feel all professional n stuff. I am really excited about the team that's come together at my wee nonprofit.

As the day winds down early in preparation of Rosh Hashanah, I took a break to finally check out a website of an artist I saw at a show two weeks ago in San Francisco at the Giant Robot store. Jack Long's work was beautiful in person, and it looks just as lovely on the screen. I loved how each piece, and the collection of the whole, seemed to be illustrations from an esoteric children's book. I really wish I could have afforded some of his work.

Shana tova!

Art

Jul. 31st, 2007 03:53 pm
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My friend Sadie is a painter. She does beautiful work. She's developing her "classical" side having been trained in a more modern and abstract style and working as a graphic designer. I haven't checked in on her blog in a while, what with wedding and now political distractions. However, her work grows more incredible by the canvas.

And I want this. It's the Silver Pitcher with Apricots. I never knew I could like still life so much.
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I've mentioned that I'm busy. It's a little overwhelming, mostly because I've had one weekend at home out of the last four. But I love everything I'm doing. I'm having fun and doing the things that really get me fired up. Which makes me a little resentful about my job sometimes. Like today. It's not that I dislike where I work, who I work with or what I do, it's that I have 7.5 hours fewer in the day to sing or study or cook or read or do yoga. I'm exceedingly spoiled in the flexibility I have in this job. In any other job I would not be able to set the hours I have and just wander off for lunch whenever I felt like it. My job makes possible voice lessons on Fridays, classes at the GTU, and weekend trips to LA.

Speaking of which, last Friday was my first voice lesson in five years. My teacher is much like me: similar build, similar voice type (Soubrette, coloratura), friendly. Turns out she went to grad school with a woman I sang with in college. (Is this what I might sound like if I hadn't been dithering about all these years?) It's a bit of a reality check to both realize how capable I am and how capable I've always been. It's like being given ears for the first time. I am learning to hear myself anew. This is tricky. I've always known that my biggest obstacle was myself and my anxiety. I am trying diligently not to beat myself up for what I perceive as time wasted. Anyway, I am feeling hopeful and a little excited about my voice and lessons for the first time in a long, long time.

And also speaking of which, Adam and I spent the weekend in LA. I always have a great time in LA. What a fascinating place, so fascinating that I don't think I can succinctly capture what it is that I like so much (to visit, only). Good friends help. As does brunch at Dough Boys, where we saw Topher Grace. He was just hanging out waiting for a table like the rest of us. He was not nearly as glamorous as many of the other patrons. That was neat. We also saw Pan's Labyrinth, my second viewing. I liked it even more the second time through and I cried even more at the end, despite knowing what was coming. The elements of obedience, sacrifice and belief move me without fail. I had heard some discussion from friends that the characters were not fully developed, but I disagree. I think that they were developed in ways other than exposition or back story. What is most important to them is made clear in ways that propel the film forward. It is very intelligent directing. If you've not seen it, I highly recommend it. Its difficulty makes the story more powerful - and by difficulty I don't mean the subtitles, I mean the dark hardness of it, violence and all.

The impetus for the trip though was the St. Catherine of Sinai Icon exhibit at the Getty. I love going to the Getty. The architecture, the view.... it makes me want to live in LA. Then of course I come down from the hillside and immediately change my mind. The icons were beautiful and ancient. Many of them were unlike any others I had seen: a square glow of transfiguration rather than a mandorla, Elijah being led by a raven, early icons that look modern to my modern eye in contrast with the flat two dimensional style icons went on to develop, the effects of burnished gold in depicting halos or rays of divine light. I wish I could describe these things in any meaningful way.

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