Monday, October 26, 2015

What do Chopin & guns have in common?

The Frederic Chopin statue at Royal Baths Park in Warsaw.

Warsaw & Chicago & Birmingham & Fram

In my reply to a comment from Anita a few days ago regarding the paintings of Eugene Delacroix, I wrote these words: "I also like his portrait of Frederic Chopin because I like Chopin's music and because there is a huge statue of Chopin at the Royal Baths Park in Warsaw at which I once spent a few hours contemplating and photographing on a sunny, early spring afternoon. It is a happy memory, and seeing Delacroix's piece stirs that memory to the surface."

(You did not know there were some comments for the October 22 post, did you ?? Some individuals are very creative in finding loopholes to comment cutoffs.)

It was not a "Saturday in the park," as Chicago sang, but, rather, a Wednesday -- Wednesday, March 31, 2010, to be precise -- and, there was ice cream. No matter the day, I decided to publish two of the photographs I took that afternoon in a park in Warsaw of a statue of Frederic Chopin.

One photo is from afar, one is from as near as I could be without climbing up onto Chopin himself. That would not have been respectful. However, respectful or not, I cannot help but commenting that I do not like the look on his face .... or, should I say, on this particular statue's face. It is a rather condescending gaze, a rather arrogant stare. I suppose if one could create music as he created it, the expression might be understood and forgiven. There is a well-known composition by Chopin here for you to judge for yourself regarding his talent.

I also thought I might mention that between this post and my last, I have purchased two more firearms. Surprised, hah ?? Me and guns !! Uffff !!

It was two on Saturday, the first time I recall having bought two guns the same day. One is an old acquaintance in the form of a Colt 1911 Series 70 Combat Commander in .45 caliber. I have more than a few Colt 1911s in various configurations. This one was made in 1975, looks like new and, possibly, has never been fired. Think of that -- forty years old and never fired. It will be when it arrives here from Chicago -- from an attorney's office, not from a park or a band's recording studio.

The Series 70, incidentally, is considered by many to be the "gold standard" among 1911 pistols, and to obtain one in "like new" condition is fabulous.

The other is a rifle made in Birmingham, England -- my first English rifle. My understanding is that the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) has not manufactured rifles for some time. I will try to date this one when it arrives from Provo, Utah. It is in .222 caliber -- triple deuce -- a caliber around which a sort of cult hovers.

This particular rifle was among those manufactured for Herters, a real legend in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest as an outlet of all manner of gear known to mankind for hunters and fishermen. Great recipe books, too -- so I am told. Herters still exists, but only as a sliver of the family-owned firm as it was a generation ago.

Hmmmm .... those two bring the total to almost $10,000 spent to purchase guns during the past twelve months. Sort of silly, hah ?? .... but, boys will be boys. And, that total does not count the money spent buying accessories such as telescopic sights and holsters, or ammunition, which amounts to a few thousand more. Small change to some, but not for most of us.

I am sure all this absolutely fascinated each and every one of you, he says with a smile on his lips. But, fascination by one is all that is necessary, if you get my drift.

To end where we began, what do Chopin and guns have in common? Why me, of course ....


Thursday, October 22, 2015

A walk through a timeless garden

A trend of mine the past few months has been measuring years by people I have known along the way. Most of us meet a few memorable ones. When there are people you would love to meet and to speak with, but you cannot because they came to this earth and left it long before your own time, the best alternative for knowing them seems to be reading what they wrote or, in this instance, examining what they painted. I have had just such an opportunity. This painting, entitled, "Liberty Leading the People," is an oil on canvas completed in 1830 by Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix. It is housed in the Louvre-Lens in northern France, but thirty other of Delacroix's works, along with forty-five paintings by other artists who ushered in Modernism, are now on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia .... Read on below, if you wish to know more. To accompany the illustration and the words is a video I have used three or four or five times in the past. What better than my favorite band -- the old, original, genuine Boston -- performing, "A Man I'll Never Be," and my favorite Impressionist -- Claude Monet -- one among the artists who are part of this show and whose work also is present in Mia's permanent collection. I feel compelled to mention an inexplicable, continuing thread which began with my posts about Sylvia Plath and moved along through Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger and now appears again through Brad Delp, the Boston vocalist. Like the others, he killed himself. He was age fifty-five at the time of his death.

In case you are passing by ....

I will make this sort of short and sweet.

About fifteen miles from my current residency, a half-hour in time for driving and parking and walking to an entry, is a building in which I found a dream-like existence for a few hours a few days ago.

I say another existence because how often does one walk among paintings which are the works of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas and, perhaps a bit lesser known, Eugene Delacroix?

The building is known as the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), and it currently is featuring an exhibition entitled, "Delacroix's Influence: The Rise of Modern Art from Cezanne to Van Gogh." The show features thirty of Delacroix's pieces and forty-five works from the artists just mentioned, as well as others.

To be honest, I could only name a single painting by Delacroix -- "Liberty Leading the People" .... the one used as illustration with this post -- before I heard of and went to this exhibition. Now, much more of his work will be burned into my psyche.

Words like archaic and obsolete might be used to describe my tastes/preferences in art, so I will not attempt to critique this show or wear the guise of a reviewer beyond saying that it was like passing along portals entering my concept of heaven. This group is at the edge of where I begin to look for the off ramp in respect to many schools of painting and, not being the politically correct type, I will not pretend to like something I do not. Most of this stuff, however, I absolutely love.

The show continues through January 10, 2016, so, as the pitch goes, if you happen to be in town, consider seeing it. Unless you are a tree stump, you will become intoxicated by the atmosphere itself and lose yourself in the majesty of the art which surrounds you.

This post also is a reminder that I do not live in the hinterlands; it is only that I often wish I did and, possibly, will again -- to walk in woodlands and to canoe and to swim in clear water beneath a blue sky with endlessly drifting clouds. Only that can surpass a walk among the paintings from the brush of Delacroix and that of his contemporaries and successors.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Read this while you are waiting, Dixie Dear

Books well worn from being well read .... if I had to name one book I value most, it most likely would be a slim volume entitled, "The Lessons of History," by Will and Ariel Durant. Actually (I love that word), I have about thirty books beyond those shown here written by the Durants, all read at least once and tucked away in boxes in a back bedroom awaiting shelves to place them upon or the next move, whichever happens first. Durant was a teacher, a philosopher, a historian and, together with his wife, Ariel, formed a prolific writing team. You might notice adjacent to the Durants are books by Joseph Campbell. He was a mythologist, a writer, a teacher of literature and a lecturer. One of his books was entitled, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." I have read it and, I think, everything else in book form written by Campbell. He and Durant are among my "heroes." I have not mentioned Campbell often, while the Durants appear here periodically. I will turn more to Campbell someday, but tonight leans on the Durants again. One of the things I like most about both men, beyond the workings of their minds, is the fact they both married women who once had been their students. Read into that what you wish. As for the music, I have used this song before. Other than I like its sound and anything that has to do with the color blue, "Baby Blue," by Badfinger is about love which might have been, but was lost in the turmoil of living life .... seems to be a good fit here.

Some dialogue between Dudley, an angel,
and Julia, the bishop's wife,
who does not know Dudley is an angel,
from the novella, "The Bishop's Wife"
by Robert Nathan -- 1928

Julia: But people do grow old.
Dudley: No, not everybody. Only those who were born old to begin with. You, Julia, were born young. You'll remain that way.
Julia: I wish I could believe you.
Dudley: You may.
Julia: .... I simply don't know what to think of you, Dudley. Whether you're serious -- or joking.
Dudley: Well, I'm at my most serious when I am joking.

Treat others as you wish to be treated

There have been past posts in which I wrote about working in a prison system .... actually, running one for a time. It probably was among the most interesting work I have done because of the intricacies of the relationships between individuals incarcerated there and those who worked there.

There was a point where I operated a unit in which I had the worst and the weakest inmates together. It seemed like sort of a challenge at the time, and I relished it. I took the meanest, those in on alcohol and drug offenses, those on the edge of crazy, the racists, killers, rapists, the con men, the dumbest, the brightest, those in on big time felonies, those in on pretty petty stuff, the youngest, the oldest. I took them all, about two hundred of them at any one time, and mixed them up in a building that once had been a college dormitory.

The trick was to keep them all relatively happy, to have them (both inmates and guards) follow the rules, avoid fights, keep contraband out (drugs, home-made hooch), and live in relative harmony.

I did a pretty damn good job at it, and had a number of successful "graduates" and very few who seriously hated my guts. The primary reason this was possible was because of one basic rule: Treat others the way you would wish to be treated if roles were reversed. I was told that the first day I went to work there, and I lived by those words in as much as it was possible.

Do not get me wrong. I also consider myself a mirror, and when you look at my behavior you probably are seeing a reflection of your own .... and, misbehavior is not advisable. I can be an absolute hammer, both verbally and physically when it seems appropriate and necessary. People always have a choice with me, and occasionally someone will make the wrong choice simply because I approach with a smile and a kind word. Never mistake a smile and a kind word as a sign of weakness.

The moral of this piece is that if a group such as that just described can get along, live among one another, keep relative peace and tranquility, why cannot Republicans and Democrats do the same and get along? How about Muslims and Christians? How about black and white and yellow and red? (I suppose that one is politically incorrect.) Anyway, I assume you get my drift.

The reason is quite simple. Inside the "joint," there is "the man" who runs it. Hopefully, he will be a benevolent dictator. On the outside, we increasingly live in a "me first" environment where everyone wants to be "the man" -- or "the woman." As historian and philosopher Will Durant correctly explained it -- freedom and equality are opposing forces and cannot flourish together:

"For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails, the other dies."

It is amazing how many people cannot comprehend that.

Durant goes on to explain his thesis, but, from my point of view, the logic of the statement needs no further explanation, only a bit of thought.  If you read only one book in your life, I would suggest "The Lessons of History" by Will and Ariel Durant. There are no miracles in it, only reality as defined and demonstrated by actual history. And, if you are among the "history is written by the winners" crowd, you are a literal tree stump and I am sorry to have wasted your precious time. Reality, past and present, is there for anyone who cares to look for it -- sometimes even dig for it, both literally and figuratively.

As the system now exists in the United States, we are drifting into anarchy. If individuals cannot learn to treat others the way they wish to be treated, there will be big time trouble -- no doubt.

I will leave it at that, maybe to resume another day, maybe not.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"It was Saturday night & I was feeling alright"

Jan Kuehnemund -- lead guitar for Vixen
November 11, 1961 -- October 10, 2013

Friday, October 2, 2015

This post is longer than I intended

The three faces of Eve .... whoops, I mean of Sylvia Plath. If you do not understand that connection .... well, tough. The only hint I will offer is that it deals with a case study of a personality disorder and is in reference to a psychiatric situation which may (or may not) be related to the problems encountered by Plath. Neither will I provide any specific explanation for the presence of this song -- "What Is and What Should Never Be." I have used it before, both the Led Zeppelin version and the rendition by the Black Crowes with Jimmy Page. Anyway, if after listening to the piece you cannot figure out how and why it is appropriate to this post .... well, tough. I am pretty ornery tonight, ain't I ?? Must be my personality ....

Words written by Sigmund Freud
in "The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank:
Inside Psychoanalysis"

"Life is impoverished, it loses in interest, when the highest stake in the game of living, life itself, may not be risked. It becomes as shallow and empty as, let us say, an American flirtation."

"And happiness is what you need so bad, girl,

the answer lies with you ...."

These past few posts have absolutely not been meant to form a critique of Sylvia Plath's life or work. I have read only one biography and her one and only novel, plus some odds and ends biographical material. These posts, then, simply form a few thoughts and observations, and here are what probably will be the final few paragraphs about her from me:

As I mentioned in a comment to Smareis for my September 24 post, I have dated women who were mentally unbalanced to one degree or another (in my opinion) and part of my work experience has been with convicted felons, both men and women, in a prison setting. I know the difference between sane people who do crazy things and people who are legally and/or medically crazy.

For instance, I once had an inmate secretary/clerk who had left her baby in a house and set the house on fire. She was a good worker, reliable and everything about her superficially seemed to indicate a gentle person. Her act was crazy, she was not. I am not sure which was the case with Plath.

I also knew someone who was subjected to shock treatment about the same time Plath underwent it. His reaction was like Plath's -- blue flashes, jolting and noise: "If anyone does that to me again I'll kill myself."

Reading the biography, "Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953," and her novel, "The Bell Jar," gave me a sense of who Plath was, but not enough insight to be sure of the depth of her mental abnormalities. I do know that still, after completing both books, I really do not like her as a person and would have ignored her on the "college dating circuit." I am curious mostly about the last year of her life and, maybe, will look for biographical material in that regard.

I think Plath was an excellent writer, and might have become a great one, although Bell Jar seems to me to be only an average novel. For whatever reason, "Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man," by Thomas Mann, and similar fiction kept popping into my mind while reading Bell Jar.

She painted pictures very well with words. She seemed wise beyond her years at times, but then I would remind myself that Bell Jar is not the book of a nineteen-year-old as it seems to be, rather the work of an experienced woman approaching thirty looking back at her comprehensive, teenage journals and turning them into sort of novel form.

I still do not grasp her prominence in the feminist movement, unless it simply is because she recognized the social/work inequality between men and women and spoke out about it loudly and clearly in Bell Jar. She described one man she dated as a woman-hater, and apparently felt there was no shortage of them: "I began to see why woman-haters could make such fools of women .... They descended, and then they disappeared. You could never catch one."

Perhaps oddly, Plath seems to me to have become a man-hater, in a sense, but it also caught my eye when she wrote she had not been happy since the age of nine, which translates into since soon after the death of her father. I would speculate that is one of the keys to unlocking Plath's psychology, although I imagine it would not be a popular argument with the politically correct crowd.

I like that she held James Joyce's, "Finnegans Wake" in low regard. I do, too .... in fact, lower than low.

I said earlier that I had come to the conclusion I did not like her -- at least during her college years. Never-the-less, I would have relished going out on a date or two with her and talked and talked and talked -- sort of a voyage of discovery -- but, I am not the sort of guy she would have dated in college.

I do wonder, however, if I would have changed my opinion and come to like her a decade later, when she was more experienced with life, married, a mother, a published writer and living in the hinterland between normalcy and psychosis.

Remember, this has not been a book review or a critique about Sylvia Plath's life or lone novel, "The Bell Jar," but more like a few random notes about things which entered my mind while reading material by her and about her. I am glad I read these things and learned as much as I did about her, and I would recommend her work to anyone and everyone.

Something special ....