Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The birth of Impressionism

Walter Horatio Pater (1839-94), a quiet Oxford don, gained fame and notoriety upon the publication of his Studies in the History of the Renaissance in 1873. The most famous section of this work is his description of La Gioconda, or The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo Da Vinci (of Da Vinci Code fame -- shudder) . I have not chosen to include that description here, even though it marks the beginning of the age of Impressionism, but have instead included a couple paragraphs that, in my mind, give a greater definition of what it means to be an Impressionist. And for those who think, hey, this Impressionist stuff is way over my head, have you ever heard of the phrase "Art for Art's sake?" That's Impressionism. It is an accessible approach that even a Loves Park hill billy like myself could appreciate.

"The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us,--for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. Acounted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours,or work of the artist's hands, or the face of one's friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragicdividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost andsun, to sleep before evening. With this sense of the splendour ofour experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

sick, sick, sick!!

You know what's great?

Being set free from the gravitas of self-importance.

Know what else is great?

Dissolution of ego in the slipstream of time.

" " " " "?

I want to lose myself
sink into the cracks in the pavement
and forget my name.
notice the Japanese beetle that bumps against the ceiling light.
the frost creeping tendrils into the earth.
frogs sleeping in the mud beneath the river.
god Non-god bliss and Mexican polka
a funky-colored hat to ooh over and toss to the sky
la la la la la la
musical introspection
always the beat
the sternum rattling bass thunder

Dillard's disintegrating frog
to eat and be eaten and repeat the vicious cycle anew

my blood knows me not
reads not these words
is a hidden blue stranger
with an agenda foreign to my soul

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Actual musings...

Life's been crazy lately. Fatherhood looms. And, honestly, I'm excited and scared and confused and questioning my abilities -- like leaving on a life-changing journey where the anticipation of leaving is just as life-changing.

Cool events lately:

-- watching the sun rise -- low scuttling clouds, colored from blood red closest to the low-rising sun to purple to faded pink on the western horizon -- Monday morning en route to Kirkland for substitute teaching.

-- I worked as an aide two days last week in Kirkland and helped Dustin ace his geography exam. He even identified correctly where Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia are. We used mnemonics to memorize the location of Lichtenstein and Luxembourg ("Remember: L is for the little countries, also Latvia and Lithuania"). Monday I subbed for the agriculture teacher and had Dustin again. He came up to me at one point and whispered, "I wish you were my aide all the time."

-- Going to Pecatonica forest preserve and checking out a dried ox-bow lake. The lake bed is dried, cracked mud, spongy underfoot, like astroturf, cracked into blocks, dank and fetid like the original gene pool from which we formed spines and rose out of the muck. Saw fish bones and huge clam shells, and on the way out sank up to my knees in mud and spent ten minutes extricating myself (take one step, sink, remove foot, reach in quickly-closing-over hole and retrieve shoe, put shoe back on, mid-air, place foot down again, repeat as necessary to dry land.

-- Running in the early morning and watching the squirrels jump about and play. The native Fox Squirrels, some of the biggest squirrels in the world, are even bigger as they store up winter fat. A lot of swaying bellies sighted on my runs.

-- Practicing idioms with Wendy Tsai, a woman from southern China who has volunteered to let me tutor her for my Teaching English as a Second Language class. Wendy's got enough facility with English that I can teach her without translation and she's ready to take on idioms. The first one I taught her was "schmooze." We're now in the food idioms, like "piece of cake," "mushroom," "pie in the sky," "tough nut to crack" and "in a jam/pickle." Wendy is so enthusiastic about learning. She makes this practicum project easy and fun.

-- Reading Shakespeare. Although I am not Shakespearian (not cut out for high drama), I really love reading the Bard's works. And I admit I haven't read much since high school, so exposing myself to his works now, in my more finely-honed adulthood, has re-introduced me to his genius. I could go on and on, fie, fie, fie. This semester I've read "The Twelfth Night," "Henry V," "Hamlet," and "Measure for Measure." Still have to read "The Tempest," though it's no longer required. I just want to do it for extra credit.

-- Spent all day last Saturday -- it was rainy, wet and cold -- reading the last 300 pages of George Eliot's "Middlemarch." I haven't given myself over to a book that completely since August, when I tore through "The Ice Master : The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk" by Jennifer Niven. "Middlemarch" was quoted in both papers due for my 19th C. British prose class.

I am going to apply for an aide position in the DeKalb School District. I'll start the paper trail as soon as finals are done. My class schedule next semester is three classes, all after 3 p.m. With baby on the way, full-time work looms. I'll probably work full-time all of 2006, which is part of my grand master plan, which is why I'm earning 27 credit hours (18 graduate) this year. Next year I'm slated to take nine hours in the spring, then clinicals and a methods course in the fall, more clinicals and methods course spring '07, student teaching in the fall. Spring '08, seemingly far off in the distance, I will have a master's degree and be certified to teach English, with a history endorsement (yes, I earned enough history credits as an undergrad to qualify for an endorsement, which means I can teach history classes too) in the State of Illinois.

Short-term my goal is to work a first or third-shift job this spring and summer and a second or third shift position in the fall. But, overall, work full-time all of '06 with a few side projects thrown in, like finishing up my Rock River adventure and going on a few long weekend hikes.

Substitute teaching is nice. The experiences help prepare me to be a regular teacher. But the work is too sporadic. I'm only working a couple days a week right now, which is fine, considering my schedule, but I definitely need more and regular work. Imagine that! A regular paycheck. Financial planning. Whodathunk?

Many other events happening right now that I don't feel like sharing, yet.... maybe later. Maybe not. Who knows? The Shadow knows.

Song: Bowling for Soup -- "1985"
Book: Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure"
Food: baclava
Emotion: Perpetual confusion and amazement over life's little miracles

Monday, November 14, 2005

More Esther pregnancy photos

Esther at 33 weeks

Esther's done the rounds with the baby showers. I think she's had three, not including the Mobile Skills Crew surprise party in October. These pictures were taken Saturday, Nov. 12, at Forest Hills Free Church in Rockford. Thanks to her sister, Dorothy, for the photos. Ever since I dunked our Canon Elph in the Rock River I've been without a camera.
Misty and Esther

Esther and the "Lil' Louie" cake

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

John Ruskin, pre-Raphaelite art

(John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852)

So I'm working on this paper about materialism in the Victorian age and, coincidental to that, I keep finding all this information about one of the leading poets and architectural/art critics of the age, John Ruskin.

A few weeks ago a friend showed me some prints by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, a Pre-Raphaelite artist. I had heard of Pre-Raphaelite art, but did not know much about it. So, I went to my favorite web sources, Wikipedia and Answer.com, and, well, here's a paste from Wikipedia:

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (also known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets and critics, founded in 1848 by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt.
The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach adopted by the Mannerist artists who followed Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". In particular they objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts. They called him 'Sir Sloshua', believing that his sloppy technique was a formulaic and clich├ęd form of academic Mannerism. In contrast they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.

In 1850 the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood became controversial after the exhibition of Millais's painting "Christ in the House of His Parents", considered to be blasphemous by many reviewers, notably Charles Dickens. Their medievalism was attacked as backward-looking and their extreme devotion to detail was condemned as ugly and jarring to the eye. According to Dickens, Millais made the Holy Family look like alcoholics and slum-dwellers, adopting contorted and absurd 'medieval' poses. A rival group of older artists, The Clique, also used their influence against the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Their principles were publicly attacked by the President of the Academy, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake.
However, the Brotherhood found support from the critic John Ruskin, who praised their devotion to nature and rejection of conventional methods of composition. He continued to support their work both financially and in his writings.