Monday, December 12, 2011

Tim Tebow


Man wins two national championships in college and the Heisman trophy, at Florida State, and the thing he's most well known for is his morality and Christian celibacy.

Denounced for his size and limited play style, he sits a season on the last place Denver Bronco bench behind Kyle Orton , an action that prompted his die-hard fans to buy billboard space all over Colorado advocating for his start.

Upon finally getting the starting nod halfway through the season, he racks up enough wins to put Denver in first place in the division through what have become trademark 4th quarter comebacks.

He's this polemic force of nature, lining his own stat column with figures that would make Kyle Boller embarrassed but filling the win-loss column with numbers that'd fill any Bronco fan with glee.

The man is beautiful: everything about him, from his lifestyle choices to his successful challenge of what it means to be a professional athlete in the most physically taxing sport there is, defies every cynical thing that I've come to know in sports.

The man makes you believe that not only can you be better, but that everyone else can better better. No, it's more than that. You have to be better if you're going to keep up with him, in everything you do.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Bad Clown by Michael Earl Craig

The Bad Clown

I was at the acupuncturist's.
It was my first time.
She put the needles in as I told jokes
to the ceiling. She put more needles in.
I tensed up and let out a demented clown laugh.
It made her stop for a second.
There was a gentle gong-and-bell track
piped in via hidden speakers.
"The speakers are in the jade plant," she said.
I tensed up again. I was golden brown.
I felt like one of those bad clowns.
The kind that hide in the sewers.
The acupuncturist was trying to help me.

Craig uses simple language to describe a single moment that seems to speak of something more poignant. What I really find beautiful is Craig's ability to use a seemingly vague phrase such as "bad clowns" to create an image and feeling that connects with readers. The description of "the kind that hide in the sewers" is enough to create a picture of the "demented clown laugh" and the awkward moment created in the situation. Craig's ability to say so much in such few words adds to the beauty of the poem. 

The World's Best Pizza Hut

Fortunately, my roommate and I were lucky enough to decide to blow all of our money while we were abroad last year on a trip to Egypt.

This picture was taken from the roof of a Pizza Hut that is literally right across the street from the pyramids at Giza.

I'm not sure if its beautiful or just heart-breaking in the worst sort of post-colonial way, but what I do know is that one of my favorite meals that I've ever had, ever, was at this restaurant with my roommate and a Chinese national named Hayden that we met at our hostel.

Gauguin



This is called something like "Two Breton Women in the Road." I think the plain surety of the texture and repetition of color in swatches is beautiful, especially when those colors are so vibrant and the most delicate, visually drawing part of the painting is not the hills or trees or women's bodies or clothes, but the careful attention on the one peasant's face as she listens to the other. This painting compels me and confuses me by its ability to do so.

Dangerous Laughter



Millhauser's "Dangerous Laughter" is one of the most beautiful collections of short stories that I have encountered. He artfully takes metaphors to the levels of fantastic stories, but at the same time grounds the fantasy in a language that argues for their reality. The reader is simultaneously amused by the impossibility of it all and fighting the strong desire to check if some of the events described have actually occurred. This collection walks a fine line between reality and fantasy and in exploiting the division creates some incredibly rich metaphors.

Babette's Feast

"Babette's Feast" is a Danish film from the late 80's that is about the confluence of Christianity, tolerance, and art. The first section of the film examines life in a rather hard-line Protestant community in northern Jutland. Two spinster sisters have a French emigre (who left France for political reasons) as their servant. There is a very palpable feeling of distance not only between the Catholic Frenchwoman (Babette) and the Protestant community, but between the members of the community themselves. They've taken the most divisive interpretations of their pastor's teachings to heart.

In the course of time, Babette wins the French National Lottery (her nephews(?) enter her every year), and she elects to spend all the money on one luxurious, perfect meal that slowly, inexorably breaks down the divisions between the people in the community, their understanding of the demands that their religion places on them change entirely in the face of the incredible beauty of this feast and the act of generosity on the part of Babette. This has got to be one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, not so much because of its cinematography or mise-en-scene, but because of the feeling of absolute warmth it projects.

This is the feast scene itself, broken into two parts. Important background information: the members of the community, used to self-denial, have sworn not to enjoy the decadent and, in their minds, decidedly Catholic meal.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Attraction

No matter how hard I have tried to stay away from issues of vanity on our blog, I couldn't help myself but make my last post to be on a more controversial subject matter in terms of the topic of beauty. So without further ado, I think Ryan Gosling is beautiful.
In all seriousness, I do believe that there is some form of pleasure that we derive from something beautiful upon encountering it. I personally don't believe that pleasure is a completely separate reaction that diverges from experiencing true beauty, the way some of our philosophers have stated. Setting aside sensual attraction for a moment, our attraction to certain objects like paintings or concepts like math equations creates some type of response, whether to act fair and just as Scarry would have us believe, or to try to recreate it or share it with others.
Although some may say that sensual attraction has no validity in the argument of things that are beautiful, I do not find our tendency to find certain people "beautiful" as being a misuse of the word. I find a tremendous amount of beauty in the concept of attraction and what it takes for an individual to bond with another in a very personal way. Stemming from these ideas, I would like to argue that although humans derive pleasure from sex, I am certain that many individuals would find the act and the experience to be beautiful nonetheless.

"Just give me faith; make me believe."

This is one of my favorite Dave Matthews Band songs of all time called "Save Me."
I've been writing my final paper in this class in reference to Milton's Paradise Lost, which offers a different perspective on the Christian creation story. Since it is from Satan's perspective, God is portrayed as a distant character who unjustly banishes Satan to Hell, which is presented as a prison-like environment.
I feel that "Save Me" would be an appropriate song to pair with Paradise Lost with lines like: "I said, 'How 'bout a drink or a bite to eat?' He said 'No, my faith is all I need." So then save me, mister walking man, if you can." This line borders on doubt and necessity in a person's relationsihp with God because Matthews highlights the absurdity of living purely off of faith, yet challenges God to save him in order to have faith be his only necessity.
I find that, because these ideas are so cyclical and dependent, they are beautiful because you can make an argument for faith or against faith using the same lines from Milton's poem/Matthews' song.
"Save Me" from Some Devil by Dave Matthews

Back to Plato's Symposium

So as the semester ends, I find myself looking over the philosophy we have already read. Though we definitely have the extremely important Diotima story from Plato's Symposium in our text, my favorite part of the work is missing: Aristophanes' speech. I find myself thinking about it often, whereas I'm not as enamored with Socrates and his story. If you have time, please read it. If it strikes you the way it did me, please let me know what you think.

In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word "Androgynous" is only preserved as a term of reproach.

In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast.

Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; - and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man - woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round: like their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods.

Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained.

At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. He said: "Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg."

After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they were on the point of dying from hunger and self - neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them, being the sections of entire men or women, and clung to that. They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man.

Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women. The women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male. And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love.

My words have a wider application - they include men and women everywhere; and I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the next degree and under present circumstances must be the nearest approach to such an union; and that will be the attainment of a congenial love. Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to us the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest benefactor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and giving us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are pious, he will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make us happy and blessed.

Beauty Out of Context



Zoos are a strange place for me. They make me both wildly ecstatic and very sad at the same time. The prospect of going to see wolves "in the fur" is ridiculously exciting, but once I go and see the reality and the poor pups are cooped up in an enclosure that is tiny compared to what they would have in the wild, I get very sad. The same goes for the polar bear who swims in the same little pool and climbs up the same little rocks for every day of his life, and the tiger who naps in the same spot of sun on the same boulder every day. The animals themselves still look beautiful and majestic, its just when their surroundings are factored in, the beauty saps away. I think this feeling might be universal- those who stand in awe when they hear a chorus of wolves howling in Yellowstone might only be a fraction as excited when hearing wolves howling in an enclosure. I'm wondering whether this is true for inanimate beautiful things as well as the animate ones. I have a picture that can illustrate my point as well- a beautiful peacock in a crummy enclosure.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jack Johnson - Breakdown Lyrics

Jack Johnson -Breakdown lyrics

I hope this old train breaks down
Then I could take a walk around
And, see what there is to see
And time is just a melody
All the people in the street
Walk as fast as their feet can take them
I just roll through town
And though my windows got a view
The frame I'm looking through
Seems to have no concern for now
So for now

(Chorus)
I need this
Old train to breakdown
Oh please just
Let me please breakdown

This engine screams out loud
Centipede gonna crawl westbound
So I don't even make a sound
Cause it's gonna sting me when I leave this town
All the people in the street
That I'll never get to meet
If these tracks don't bend somehow
And I got no time
That I got to get to
Where I don't need to be
So I

Chorus 2x

But you cant stop nothing
If you got no control
Of the thoughts in your mind
That you kept in, you know
You don't know nothing
But you don't need to know
The wisdoms in the trees
Not the glass windows
You cant stop wishing
If you don't let go
But things that you find
And you lose, and you know
You keep on rolling
Put the moment on hold
The frames too bright
So put the blinds down low

Chorus 2x

---------------------------------------------
I love to Jack Johnson, especially around finals time since his songs are super relaxing, and happy-go-lucky. This is by far one of my favorite songs by him just because the lyrics remind me to slow down in life and appreciate the things around me. Usually, i'm so focused on where i need to go that i forget to appreciate the ride along the way, or the journey towards my goal. I think this is beautiful because it inspires me to change my ways, and live my life differently.

Song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4O7ufx9D_s

Degas' Dancers


I find this painting strikingly beautiful. The light blue colors make the dancers seem light and air-like, while the darker colors around them just make that even more pronounced. The dancers' graceful poses contribute to the image of fragility and lightness.

Coliseum

I'm posting this video because I think it poses the issue of individual taste. How can one reconcile my feelings about this drummer and the music being played with the feelings of thousands of others who not only find no beauty here, but would probably characterize this video as unpleasant or abrasive or ugly? Are my reasons (self-taught (see drumstick placement in hand) technical skill and ease, artful composition, balance and counterbalance) persuasive, and is my Wittgensteinian utterance, "that's beautiful," valid enough? Or is this just not beautiful?

Itzhak Perlman plays Kreisler

Perlman is certainly one of the better violinists of our time, and this, while a very well-known piece, is one of the better chamber pieces written by the late 19th, early 20th-century master Fritz Kreisler. Perlman wrenches the right amount of feeling from this incredibly technical piece, though his rather determined playing style helps with that. If you're someone who prefers a chamber work played smoothly, check out Joshua Bell's version.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Paul Villinski


"I am drawn to humble, yet evocative materials; in this case, crushed beer cans from the streets of New York - every one of them once raised to someone’s lips. My process of “recycling” them into images of butterflies is a quiet physical meditation, a yoga of tin snips and files and fingers. As the butterflies alight on the walls of my studio, they lead into an exploration of formal, painterly issues. Often, they want to gather into a certain shape, or fly off on a particular tangent, and I let them. They function both as marks in these abstract, three-dimensional “paintings,” and as actors in curious narratives. Some pieces develop a quirky, magic-realist quality, as if a strange child has trained the insects to perform some ritual dance we are not usually privy to. Finally, the butterflies operate symbolically, and I try to develop a conceptual unity between materials, process, and imagery: metamorphosing littered beer cans into flocks of butterflies mirrors the act of transformation and rebirth that butterflies symbolize across all cultures…."

-Paul Villinski


I feel like art is so enchanting to us because as humans we have the ability and opportunity to recreate the things we find in nature into more meaningful patterns and showcases. Again, I believe it is remarkable how some people have the vision to take ordinary objects like beer bottles, records, crack cocaine vials (see artwork on bottom left corner of photograph) and transform them into something beautiful.

Beauty laid bare



“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our heats? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?”

I was re-reading Annie Dillard's The Writing Life and came upon this passage. Dillard states that when we read we are searching for "beauty laid bare." When I first read it, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the phrase. Does she mean beauty that is obvious, or beauty that is stripped of any excess? I'm still not quite sure what the phrase precisely means, but I feel like in the passage Dillard is trying to express something we have discussed in class frequently: beauty can express some truth to us that we cannot merely state, but need to experience through art.

Playing for Change

I was a little irked by the dismissive treatment music was given by a few of our philosophers, and I've been trying to think of ways music isn't merely the transient, indulgent/luxurious thing it may appear to be on the surface. Playing for Change has allowed me my "Aha!" moment in this pursuit. Playing for Change is a kind of charity that unites people globally through music. The impression this kind of movement leaves on me is lasting, and one can hardly categorize a charity as luxurious, especially when it has such noble intentions as Playing for Change has. The organization has pieced together many songs that I find beautiful and catchy and unique, and "Stand By Me" is just one of great songs I could have chosen (if I'm not mistaken, it's also their first).

"Pretentious Diction"

"The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious" - from Politics and the English Language by George Orwell
I think
George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, is beautiful because
he focuses on the importance of communication rather than the impression that
one’s writing makes on others. Therfore,
he does not write to impress others or create a hierarchy of intelligence
between him and the reader, but to benefit the reader by opening his or her
mind to his point of view. I believe
this is where the power of the English language lies, not in complex sentence
structures or big words.

Choir of King's College, Miserere



Listen at about 1:35. That's Roy Goodman, making what I take to be one of the most beautiful sounds a person can make. Goodman later hit puberty and his voice broke - obviously, I never heard him in person, but a friend played this recording for me a while ago, and I find myself going back to it again and again.

Post from Thurdsay

Hey guys, my computer wouldn't let me post on Thursday, so here is the re-post.

I am working on a paper about translation of Shakespeare and I stumbled unto a translation of "Hamlet" by B. Pasternak. In the "To be, or not to be" monologue Pasternak translates the line "And makes us rather bear those ills we have/Than fly to others that we know not of" with extremely beautiful and poetic language. Now, I never thought that this line was particularly beautiful in the original, so I thought it was incredible how a translation can actually illuminate the beauty of the original work.

You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies


This is a permanent exhibit in the Phoenix Art Museum by a Japanese artist named Yayoi Kusama. This picture is the best I could find though it doesn't really do the artwork justice.

The piece consists of a rectangular room with the doorless entrances enclosed in light-blocking antechambers. The room itself has mirrored walls and ceilings, and the floor is made of a reflective black surface. From the ceiling hang hundreds of different strands of LED lights that twinkle, glow, and change color. The effect of this on the viewer is total disorientation, and the artwork itself is physically difficult to escape.

A poor video of the artwork can be found here.

I think that this is beautiful because the nature of the piece is the engagement between the artwork and its audience. The audience itself is physically inseparable from the actual artwork.

Play Dead; Real Time





For me, Douglas Gordon’s Play Dead; Real Time is a good example of art in which I am more attracted to the conceptual underpinnings, as opposed to the actual subject matter. So I’m not suggesting that this particular elephant is beautiful (even though she might truly be so; who is to say?) or that training elephants is beautiful (which can in fact be seen as somewhat ghastly and cruel). I’m more interested in what the video is doing for me. I like how the screens attempt to present the elephant as life-size as possible, as if it is in the room with us, filling our world like the elephant belongs to it. We can only work with what we’re given, so maybe our reaction is meant to be specific. By continually falling, the elephant on the screen would seem to anticipate our sensitivity to its struggle to get up. We’re momentarily invested in the animal’s effort, as if we’re somehow implicated in the action and called to respond. Only after we might remind ourselves that it’s not "real"— the elephant is trained and is probably doing just fine. I’m amazed by art that can produce those kinds of reactions in viewers.

I originally saw the video in a series that I cannot now find and which would be too long to post on here anyways. Sorry I couldn’t really find a good video without commentary that was just strictly on the installation.

Carbon Nanotubes

This drawing is of a carbon nanotube. I recently learned how fascinating these little things were. The potential for the application of nanotubes is remarkable. This technology can allow us to create bulletproof body armor (Superman), invisibility cloaks (Harry Potter), and elevators to space (Charlie of Chocolate Factory fame). What is not beautiful about being able to live out some of the experiences shared by our favorite fictional characters?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Passage by Hart Crane

Passage
User Rating:
5.5 /10
(10 votes)


Where the cedar leaf divides the sky
I heard the sea.
In sapphire arenas of the hills
I was promised an improved infancy.

Sulking, sanctioning the sun,
My memory I left in a ravine,-
Casual louse that tissues the buck-wheat,
Aprons rocks, congregates pears
In moonlit bushels
And wakens alleys with a hidden cough.

Dangerously the summer burned
(I had joined the entrainments of the wind).
The shadows of boulders lengthened my back:
In the bronze gongs of my cheeks
The rain dried without odour.

'It is not long, it is not long;
See where the red and black
Vine-stanchioned valleys-': but the wind
Died speaking through the ages that you know
And bug, chimney-sooted heart of man!
So was I turned about and back, much as your smoke
Compiles a too well-known biography.

The evening was a spear in the ravine
That throve through very oak. And had I walked
The dozen particular decimals of time?
Touching an opening laurel, I found
A thief beneath, my stolen book in hand.

''Why are you back here-smiling an iron coffin?
' 'To argue with the laurel,' I replied:
'Am justified in transience, fleeing
Under the constant wonder of your eyes-.'

He closed the book. And from the Ptolemies
Sand troughed us in a glittering,, abyss.
A serpent swam a vertex to the sun
-On unpaced beaches leaned its tongue and
drummed.
What fountains did I hear? What icy speeches?
Memory, committed to the page, had broke.



The images in the poem themselves are beautiful, but when put together in the world of the poem, the connections being made become more interesting than the images on their own.

Wallace Stevens

SIX SIGNIFICANT LANDSCAPES

I
An old man sits
In the shadow of a pine tree
In China.
He sees larkspur,
Blue and white,
At the edge of the shadow,
Move in the wind.
His beard moves in the wind.
The pine tree moves in the wind.
Thus water flows
Over weeds.

II
The night is of the color
Of a woman's arm:
Night, the female,
Obscure,
Fragrant and supple,
Conceals herself.
A pool shines,
Like a bracelet
Shaken in a dance.

III
I measure myself
Against a tall tree.
I find that I am much taller,
For I reach right up to the sun,
With my eye;
And I reach to the shore of the sea
With my ear.
Nevertheless, I dislike
The way ants crawl
In and out of my shadow.

IV
When my dream was near the moon,
The white folds of its gown
Filled with yellow light.
The soles of its feet
Grew red.
Its hair filled
With certain blue crystallizations
From stars,
Not far off.

V
Not all the knives of the lamp-posts,
Nor the chisels of the long streets,
Nor the mallets of the domes
And high towers,
Can carve
What one star can carve,
Shining through the grape-leaves.

VI
Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses --
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon --
Rationalists would wear sombreros.




Not only does the star carving through the grape-leaves remind me of Scarry's palm tree epiphany, but also Stevens' creation of his own phenomenological experience (the strangeness of the wind and water in the first part, being taller than the tree because he can reach the sun or the shore with eye and ear, etc.) as the content of the poem often seems to distract readers and critics from what is really at stake aesthetically. How is what Stevens put to paper controlling our perception? When we talk about the beauty of this poem, for instance, are we talking about his absurd system of rationale in the last part or the way he compares the movement of water over weeds to the movement of a pine tree in the wind and why? Are we really concerned with Stevens' system of cognition and theory? Or are we talking about our experience of reading those lines, separate from what one may assume to be Stevens philosophical, aesthetic position? Or is it some difficult combination of the two?

Jeremy Bentham

"The way to be comfortable is to make others comfortable. The way to make others comfortable is to appear to love them. The way to appear to love them -- is to love them in reality."

--Jeremy Bentham

I think is quote is beautiful because I think that it's true.

Ambigram

This is one of the images from Dan Brown's novel, Angels and Demons. From every angle, the words earth, fire, air, and water are legible. In the book, this symbol is branded on someone's body after he is murdered by the group to whom the symbol belongs. Of course, this is gruesome and disturbing, but the image alone is beautiful because of its symmetry. In this case, symmetry seems to equal perfection. I think this is beautiful because perfection is attained in this image.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"The Laughing Heart"

Now that I think about it, I suppose I do have a favorite poem. The words are very lyrical and blend together so eloquently. My favorite part is the last line that seems to represent a role reversal and the glorification of the human being. It is odd to surmise religious figures elevating mortals -dare I say- above themselves, but in this moment I am reminded of inspiration and the potential power of mankind.

"The Laughing Heart"
Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed
into dank submission
be on the watch;
there are ways out
there's light somewhere
it may not be much light,
but it beats the darkness
be on the watch
the gods will offer you chances;
know them . . . take them
you can't beat death, but you can
beat death in life . . . sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be
your life is your life
know it while you have it;
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight in you

A Blank Page

I enjoy spending my time dabbling in creative arts, but I almost always feel that the blank page I was staring at before is more beautiful than whatever I put on it. It's not to say that whatever I created is so awful it shouldn't exist, but rather I usually prefer that moment in time where I'm just about to put my pen or pencil or brush to paper and I see my whole work completed in its entirety in my head, and it is beautiful, and in that moment, it has every possibility of coming to fruition. So I draw a line, I write a word and I can't exactly mimic what it is that was in my head. It's as though I know what I want to create, but I don't know how to create it. This is probably due to my insufficient skill, and I assume (though I'm not sure I hope) that with time and practice my actual creations will be just as beautiful as I what I had envisioned, but for now I'm content to be happy revel in the possibilities afforded by a blank page. I can't decide whether this means beauty in this case is perfection or possibility for me, but maybe it's a mixture of both plus something else I overlooked.

Dali meets Alice in Wonderland


I am breaking one of the rules I set for myself as a beauty blogger in this post. I told myself that I would only post pictures of paintings, sculptures, buildings, etc. that I had witnessed in person but I couldn't help myself. I love Dali and I was moved to share this work. The piece itself is owned by the William Bennett Gallery in New York. It is an illustration (of a series of illustrations) created by Salvador Dali to accompany Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. This particular one is titled "Advice from a Caterpiller."


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Maman



I couldn’t think of an example during class, but I’ve remembered an instance when I made one of the errors that Scarry discusses—the recognition that something which deserved to be called beautiful had been previously withheld that attribution. I had always hated Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture “Maman,” which I had only ever seen in pictures, mostly because I abhor bugs and couldn’t find anything interesting or acceptable about a giant spider. It wasn’t until I actually saw one of the sculptures in Ottawa that I found them to be beautiful. It’s just one of those situations where you have to experience it in person. I found it somewhat humorous when, in a press release by the Tate, Bourgeois says that spiders are “helpful and protective” as they “eat mosquitoes.” I didn’t come to see the sculpture as beautiful as a result of background info I learned about the artist’s wish to make allusions to a mother’s protectiveness. This was all very poignant and, of course, central to the meaning behind the sculpture. What was more profound for me was the moment when being in the presence of this art work changed my impression of something I had always thought of as ugly.

"I had been hungry"--Emily Dickinson

I had been hungry all the years-
My noon had come, to dine-
I, trembling, drew the table near
And touched the curious wine.

'T was this on tables I had seen
When turning, hungry, lone,
I looked in windows, for the wealth
I could not hope to own.

I did not know the ample bread,
'T was so unlike the crumb
The birds and I had often shared
In Nature's dining-room.

The plenty hurt me, 't was so new,--
Myself felt ill and odd,
As berry of a mountain bush
Transplanted to the road.

Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.


I find it beautiful how she is able to relate the idea of "hunger" with the image of "persons outside windows." She connects to a greater idea by the end of the poem in an effortless way that I have a hard time unraveling.

Take that, Library! Luddite Poem to the Face!

I am displeased with the library computers, and also with technology in general, so I will post this Luddite poem in protest of the universe's spiting me my video watching because of the laxness of the library administration. Just Update The Adobe Flash Player, Already!
The Tintwhistle Weaver's Daughter (From Kevin Binfield's collection of Luddite writings at Murray University).
There was a weaver's daughter born
When loaves were big and cheap
Work was forbid on a Monday
Tho work enough for keep
His daughter grew pretty and fine
On meat and bread he'd bring
And bloomed the human face divine
Her light sweet voice would sing
But your debts and taxes want pay'd
Coined of the poor and dead
Your Orders and council kill trade
And weavers cry for bread
So bent the daughter to her fate
From work she did not cower
She beam'd the yarn from Manchester
And dress'd the warp with flour
She beams the yarn from Manchester
And dresses the warp with flour
The shuttle flies from morn til night
And rests at a late hour
From morn til night she cannot cease
Her life is nowt but toil
She has not time for love or sport
Her blooming flowers spoil
Still your debts and taxes want pay'd
Coined of the poor and the dead
Your Orders and French wars kill trade
And weavers cry out for bread
She bends no more to her poor lot
A life of nowt but toil
Enriching the mighty and great
While her own flowers spoil
She cries aloud her heros name
Her Sherwood hero Ludd
Will set a stop to wars and steam
And wages as they stood

Monday, November 28, 2011

Diamonds in an Alley

I tried to find a photograph to depict the moment I will describe, and even though this one was taken during the day, it's the best I could find.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/carlicky/3365018374/

Early September I was walking home at night through an alley (no, I was not alone, in case you were worried) and actually had a moment where I stopped walking to witness how mesmerized I was by the ground beneath me. For about thirty feet or so in front of me lay a dust of miniscule diamonds embedded in the cracks of the asphalt and shimmering under the artificial light of a streetlamp. No, they were not real diamonds, but of course tiny shards of glass from broken liquor bottles that must have been there for quite some time. The shards seemed to be dug into the ground by tires from cars, deceptively serving as one of the materials used to pave the road. For someone who just wanted to get home as quickly as possible on an unusually cold fall night, I remember that alleyway quite vividly and how I deliberately stopped walking to take a better look. I still recall how amused I was at something as familiar as broken glass that seemed to serve an aesthetic purpose for an otherwise bland backdrop. I have realized that I enjoy being fascinated by objects that aren't by themselves supposed to be beautiful. If put in the right place, an ordinary object becomes anything but. Perspective is everything.

Sheila Metzner

http://www.sheilametzner.com/

Over break, I visited the art museum in my hometown where there was an exhibition in which Sheila Metzner's photography was featured. I was immediately struck by her work. Some of them have an inhuman quality about them which make them look like they could almost be paintings. I find her appreciation for the human form and her playfulness with shapes and parallel lines particularly beautiful. Even the fashion portfolio seems to be not exclusively about clothes, but about emotions created by images.

How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later is an essay written by Phillip K. Dick detailing his reasons and motivations for writing, among other slightly more erratic topics.

I find it beautiful because it, if nothing else, it is incredibly engaging.

CTA Bus Driver

I don't have a picture of this man. I do not even know his name. All I know is that at approximately 7:50pm he was driving a 151 south bound from Devon and Clark.
Let's back up a little bit.
My roommates and I were on my way from our apartment to campus. We were waiting for the bus at the stop with other CTA customers. One elderly woman had five or six huge bags of groceries and when the bus came, my roommate and I asked if she was getting on this bus or a different one. She replied in Spanish, saying that she had lost her CTA pass and did not have enough money to pay for the trip. I told her I would pay for her trip and we helped her carry her groceries onto the bus. The bus driver smiled when he saw her and asked her if she was going to the retirement home. Apparently she is one of his regular customers.
Anyway, when we came to her stop, without being asked or missing a beat, the bus driver hopped out of his seat. It seemed like before I could even blink, he had grabbed all her groceries and was helping the women across the street to her apartment building.
Then, he ran back across, jumped back in his seat and we continued our trip.
What a beautiful example of human interaction and individual kindness.

Beautiful Bondage, A Response



...from the collection of the Louvre. Michelangelo's slaves are all about muscular torsion, the body restricted and bound. They are violently homoerotic and look forward to something like Mapplethorpe's sadomasochistic photography. In more extreme examples, the figures struggle to break free of the blocks of stone they're carved from.

Beautiful Bondage


Yes, I want there to one day be beautiful rope tied around beautiful bodies. Who wouldn't? I'm personally sick of ordinary nude sculptures. Where are the shibari sculptures? For now, photographs will do.

Faerie Houses

I know that faerie houses probably seem like a silly idea to many people, but I find everything about them to be beautiful. (Here is a picture of a particularly intricate one) The design of the homes themselves are charming or pretty at best, but it's the whole concept put together that I find beautiful. Designing a home for imaginary creatures is a true exercise of the imagination, and actually building the entire structure requires a lot of dedication and time. Every single faerie house is a labor of pure creativity, and every single one is unique. I suppose the same can be said of most non-imitative art, though I don't find most non-imitative art to be beautiful. I feel that in this case, at least personally, there must be more to the equation than simply imagination and dedication, though I still can't quite put my finger on what.

CA Conrad

Frank ate clear around
the sleeping worm
of the apple

"any life saved in this place
is magic" Frank said
"it's life coming back to you"





This short, untitled poem is from a collection called The Book of Frank, comprised of many untitled, less-than-a-page-long poems revolving around a sexless, gender-less persona, Frank.

This poem has a haiku-like, imagistic clarity at the start. The reader is offered a glimpse of a specific situation; the lines are precise, almost uncomfortable in their handling of the situation as inherent or normal. (The worm is of the apple.) Then the speaker provides an aphoristic quotation, at first seemingly unrelated to the image which preceded it. The delay in connection amplifies the impact. Plus the ambiguity of the aphorism (Is the saving of life the preservation of the worm by the apple and its hibernation inside it or the sparing of its life by the human's careful eating?) allows the short poem to move beyond its limitations. The content and organization of the poem as well as its almost inextricable place within a larger work violates expectation. What sort of poem is this, one may ask. Certainly steeped in traditions of Japanese poetry, American imagism, and English epigrammatic verse, it is simultaneously outside these genres. Is this reverent emulation or something else? How sincere is the poem, given its positioning as part of The Book of Frank within literary history?

Recognition

I really liked the passage in Scarry's book about recognition of beauty that is preceded by ignorance. This picture just reminded me of that passage. Sometimes I find myself realizing that something that I see everyday is beautiful: and its not that I didn't know it to be so, but that I forgot to recognize it as such. I think the recognition of beauty in things the beauty of which has been dulled to us because we encounter it too often is beautiful: just that moment of recognition in itself.

A poem by Hafiz, translated by Matthew Rohrer

It's pouring rain out
Let's get a drink

It's too muddy
to take a walk
Let's get a drink

Or you could bring some wine over
and some flowers

Because the bars are closed
even if you bang on the doors

The rain is beautiful
for about 5 minutes
and then it is annoying

your red lips
making a circle
replace the sun

If I'm lucky

In the mail yesterday, I found an envelope from Wave books. In it were about 15 printer pages stapled together. The cover page says TRANSLATIONS FROM HAFIZ. On each page is a short ghazal translated by Matthew Rohrer. There are 10 poems total. It doesn't come across here, but when you read several of the poems in succession, a distinct pattern emerges. This kind of lean musicality underpins what appear to be completely casual speech-acts. It's as though everyday-ness assumes a decalmatory posture in the poem. The effect is at once urgent and deliberate.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Keira Knightley


I’ve already posted on one of her films recently, but I will single out Keira Knightley specifically here by saying that I think she has one of the most beautiful faces. I’m not sure if this is over-generalizing, but it seems somewhat similar to what Elaine Scarry calls a “clear discernibility” or “wordless certainty” about beauty. It’s not something I have to even think about—Keira is beautiful, and it doesn’t seem like a situation where I’ll one day say, “No, I was wrong.” I understand that human beauty especially allows for a great variability of responses and judgments. But, to me, it just feels like her beauty is self-evident, as if no one could deny it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sky Water


This is a picture of a little pond in my favorite forest preserve. When my friends and I walk through the prairie part of the preserve to get to the forest there is one pond on each side of the trail, and they mark the half-way point (also that we took the right trail), so we're always happy to see them. On this particular day when we finally stumbled upon the twin ponds the way the light hit the water and the water reflected the sky was just breath-taking. It's almost as though I was looking at two skies, or an arch of heavily forested land that cuts through the sky... there's just so many ways to look at this picture. There's a different thing to see in the differently angled pictures, but I just felt that this one inspired my imagination the most, so I chose it to represent that moment. I guess this means that for me illusions like this in ordinary scenery that cause you to take a second glance and set your imagination soaring definitely fit the bill for beautiful.

Applications of Calculus



Someone mentioned at the end of class today that they found calculus beautiful and time ran out before I could agree with them.

I try to not talk about economics because most people find the topic boring, and sometimes it is, but what makes it interesting and beautiful to me is that certain economic theories can, ceteris paribus, be proven to always be true because of calculus.

Above is a graphic representation of profit maximization in a perfectly competitive market. What makes it useful is that it expresses the optimum amount of goods to be produced--but what makes it beautiful is that this model can be used for any commodity in a similarly structured market. The model is beautiful because it is universal, and its universality is because of the underlying calculus governing each line on the graph.

Pin-Up


I love this series of men in classic pin-up poses. This is supposedly one of the most popular, probably because of the straight-seeming masculinity as a starker contrast to the pose than some of the other men who look a little more queer or ambiguous about their orientation or gender performance.

Hylas


I don't want to think this overused painting (once as common on teenaged walls as "The Kiss") is beautiful, but I always, always have. I think I like how sinister it is, but I can't escape that it is classically beautiful.

Yusef Komunyakaa Broadside


Unfortunately the image is really small so here's the text of the poem:


from Love in the Time of War

Hand-to-hand: the two hugged each other
into a naked tussle, one riding the other's back,
locked into a double embrace. One
forced the other to kiss the ground,

as he cursed & bit into an earlobe.
They shook beads of dew off the grass.
One worked his fingers into the black soil,
& could feel a wing easing out of his scapula.

That night, the lucky one who gripped
a stone like Mercury weighing the planet
in his palm, who knew windfall

& downfall, he fell against his darling
again & again, as if holding that warrior in his arms,
& couldn't stop himself from lifting off the earth.




I think broadsides are a type of replication, celebration, or renewal of the poem. You stamp each letter onto thick paper and an artist draws or paints an image alongside the poem. The poem, which is often already published elsewhere, is renewed and changed at the same time. It turns the piece of paper into an entirely different kind of art work. The poem, which previously existed simply as language and letters on a page, is now part of a much more visual work, or at least more self-consciously visual.

Chicago

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azGIf74ICmw

I have always loved the song "Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens. No matter what kind of mood I'm in, I can always come back to it and enjoy it. Hearing it performed by an a capella group a couple weekends ago reminded me of how much I love it, and how beautiful a stripped down version of a song can be.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bows by James Jean


This painting by James Jean is titled "Bows." I'm not sure what the first thing that drew me to it was, but after reading the title I started to notice specific parts of the painting. It made me question why the red was used at certain points, and the blue. Every line and color appears to have a purpose in the painting, and it asks you to contemplate that connection. The image drew me in, and as I looked through his other work I kept coming back to this one because it seemed to be saying something I could not completely grasp. 

Francis Lai's A Man and a Woman

This song from Un homme et une femme (1966) encompasses all that I love about French film. It reminds of me of other things I find beautiful such as Godard's Breathless and Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour which are two of my favorite films of all time. I just really love the French New Wave. (Also, you can't deny how catchy the song is... toi et moi ba da ba da da...)

de la nada vida a la nada muerte

http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/citi/images/standard/WebLarge/WebImg_000094/60835_764573.jpg

This is a great painting by Frank Stella (nominally a Minimalist, but we could get into why I don't think it makes sense to call him one). The title comes from a colloquial Spanish expression meaning something like "from life nothing to death nothing." The shaped canvas sets up an interesting tension between extreme, literal flatness and the optical impression of dimensionality, which I think is key to the way this painting works. If my experience is any judge, you can't seriously look at it without being made profoundly aware of its visual, autonomous presence - you can see for yourself at the Art Institute of Chicago - but what I mean is this: it manages to collapse its shape (its thingly character?) into a total, optical experience.

Hollie Chastain



I really admire Hollie Chastain for her ability to create extraordinary paper collages using old book covers, photographs, and construction paper. The bright colors accent the yellowed and worn book cover pages so well, giving more life and movement to the images as a whole. Creating something fresh and bold out of discarded and otherwise bland material is truly inspirational. Here is a link for more of her work: http://holliechastain.com/

Grace

This is a picture of my pup, Grace. I'm posting this picture on our Beauty Blog because during this last week before Thanksgiving break, all I can think about is how grateful I am for the chance to go home and see my family (including Grace). Personally, this semester has been full of unexpected twists and turns, some good and some bad, but I've realized that the bad came when I became disconnected from my family and too consumed in school work or professional life. Therefore, I am calling this break my saving grace because it is allowing me to ground myself in family values and familiarity once again.
Obviously, the play on my dog's name is why her picture is posted here, but I also chose this photo because it represents the familiarity to which I cannot wait to return this weekend. Out of all of the people who look at this blog post, only I will feel a sense of comfort founded in knowing this dog and exactly where the couch she is laying on is positioned in my home that belongs only to my family and me. Therefore, I find beauty in the comforting familiarity of this photo.

Banksy's art


Banksy, a British political activist and painter, has an incredibly interesting way to manifest his thoughts through mockery of controversial situations. For example, he painted the above picture on walls in Bethlehem, which was made to separate the Palestinians from Israelis. This wall is about 4x larger than the Berlin wall and is spurring even more hatred between the two heated groups. Banksy's paintings are interesting because he painted such a light-hearted carefree picture of a girl with balloons on a wall that represents hatred and separation. I personally think his bold statements are beautiful because it allows the people who live there to look at the wall in a different way, and it forces them to open their eyes. It also reminds the citizens daily about how ridiculous the wall actually is.

A citizen's opinion that explained this idea further:
"Banksy also recounts that an old man came up to him and told him that he was making the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him. The old man replied, “We don’t want it to be beautiful. We hate that wall. Go away.”

For some more of Banksy's pictures, check out:
http://newsflavor.com/world/middle-east/banksy-in-bethlehem-art-and-the-barrier-between-two-nations/

In a Station of the Metro

THE apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
-Ezra Pound

I find this poem beautiful because it is so minimal. There are no extra words, but the images overlap to create this beautiful picture in your mind. Every words is perfect and is just where it needs to be. It is a tiny poem, but it is so meticulously thought through.

Glassworks Opening




This is the opening to Philip Glass’s Glassworks. I know you could probably find another almost identical video on YouTube, but the reason I decided to post a video of myself playing it has to do with something Elaine Scarry says in On Beauty and Being Just. Beauty necessitates replication, an “unceasing begetting…the perpetual duplicating of a moment that never stops.” The reason why we stare at something beautiful is so fundamentally obvious—a face, palm trees, a statue. We don’t want the beautiful thing to go away. We’re satisfied if we can continue to stare. I guess the same can apply to sound. With this song, I could practice it for hours and never tire of it. To say the least, the song is repetitive, which some people might hate, and if you’ve listened to the first two minutes or so, it would almost be as if you’ve heard the whole thing. But I think Glass understood Scarry's notion when he wrote the piece—I might speak only for myself, but it’s like I don’t want the sound to go away. I want it to be repeated over again and am glad it was written that way.

(It’s a poor substitute, but this is for someone to whom I had said I’d play this “next time there’s a piano…” Sorry we haven't found one.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ezra Pound

CANTO LXXXI

Zeus lies in Ceres’ bosom
Taishan is attended of loves
under Cythera, before sunrise
And he said: “Hay aquí mucho catolicismo—(sounded
catolithismo
y muy poco reliHion.”
and he said: “Yo creo que los reyes desparecen”
(Kings will, I think, disappear)
This was Padre José Elizondo
in 1906 and in 1917
or about 1917
and Dolores said: “Come pan, niño,” eat bread, me lad
Sargent had painted her
before he descended
(i.e. if he descended
but in those days he did thumb sketches,
impressions of the Velázquez in the Museo del Prado
and books cost a peseta,
brass candlesticks in proportion,
hot wind came from the marshes
and death-chill from the mountains.
And later Bowers wrote: “but such hatred,
I have never conceived such”
and the London reds wouldn’t show up his friends
(i.e. friends of Franco
working in London) and in Alcázar
forty years gone, they said: go back to the station to eat
you can sleep here for a peseta”
goat bells tinkled all night
and the hostess grinned: Eso es luto, haw!
mi marido es muerto
(it is mourning, my husband is dead)[...]





This is a canto from Pound's Pisan Cantos, written while detained in an outdoor cage on the plains outside of Pisa, Italy. In what way is this concealed and unconcealed? In what way is this declaration and image coupled with the indecipherable or impenetrable personal as well as historical? How much do we need to know, and how does that affect the judgment of the Canto as good art?

(As a note, the blog obliterated Pound's indentations, which add a lot to the poem. Sorry for that.)