Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pluto And Beyond #3: The Golden Age of Outer Solar System Studies


Executing a photographic survey of the ecliptic searching for unknown planets (or other outer system objects) until very recently was less than conclusive because it took so much time create the exposures and work around the Zodiac that it was always conceivable that an object would be slowly moving in just the right fashion to move out of an area just before that area was imaged. Now, however, ‘teams’ of robot telescopes and advanced scanning software can image the Zodiac, or, in fact, the whole sky, so quickly that it will be very difficult to find reasons potential targets might avoid detection.

However, the outer system in some ways is like Loch Ness—it captures the imagination of people, even professional astronomers, and they tend to want to see things out there . . .

And the remarkable thing about the outer system is that professional astronomers are discovering that there is vastly more to see out there than anybody ever suspected.

*

When I first became interested in astronomy, the outer system was typically thought of as barren. The outer system, then, consisted of the asteroid belt, the gas giants, Pluto, and a rag-tag population of comets. That was about it.

Then, as I understand the timeline, dynamic studies of comet populations that modeled solar system behavior by simulating the last few billions of years made it clear that at the observed rate of comet destruction, in order for us to see as many comets as we do today, there must be a vast reservoir of comets out there at the fringes of the solar system. Those studies created a revival of the Oort Cloud structure surrounding the solar system.

The Oort Cloud structure has proven a useful theory for explaining comets and now several other structures have been proposed for the outer system.

In addition to the classic asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, there is now a population of centaur planetoids known to orbit between Jupiter and Neptune.

There is even a multi-part population of trans-Neptunian objects that includes the Kuiper belt, the scattered disk, and other objects out to the Oort cloud.

There’s a hell of a lot of stuff out there and the way that stuff groups itself (and comes ungrouped) is making the outer system seem far more dynamic than the inner system.

*

Beyond new objects and their behaviors, even some of the classic outer system objects have proven full of surprises.

The rings of Saturn turned out to be vastly more complex than anyone suspected. And of course now we know Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also have ring systems.

The axial alignment of Uranus is tipped almost parallel to the ecliptic. Something caused that.

The magnetic field of Uranus isn't aligned with either the planet’s rotation or the planet’s center. Nobody knows what that means or what that implies for our understanding of planetary magnetic fields in general.

The moons of Neptune are bizarre. Triton, for instance, rotates around Neptune in the opposite direction of the planet’s spin. And both Triton and Nereid rotate not around Neptune’s equator but in very inclined orbits. Something caused that, too.

Infrared observations of our galaxy have revealed vastly more brown dwarf stars than anyone had suspected. There always has been speculation that Jupiter may be a failed star. As astronomers gather more data about brown dwarf populations, if brown dwarfs are found with very low mass, speculation about Jupiter’s exact nature may become more, so to speak, heated.

Sophisticated computer software and advanced hardware make it possible to simulate all manner of oddball orbits for suspected objects beyond Pluto. Large planets that orbit far off the ecliptic nonetheless can have stable orbits which interact with trans-Neptunian objects only at extended time scales. This has been suggested as a mechanism for periodic extinctions on Earth, as TNO’s may get periodically perturbed and sent toward the inner system for possible collision with the Earth. Modern robotic telescopes and scanning software will soon be able to conduct full-sky surveys that search for planets not just near the ecliptic by everywhere in near-Sun space.

Possibly the most intriguing change to thinking about the outer system—well, to me, I guess—has been the discovery that the distinction between asteroids and comets is not as clear cut as it was thought to be. Some centaur objects have been observed to display asteroid characteristics during part of their orbit and comet characteristics during other parts of their orbit. The solar system has been around for billions of years. Comets are volatile. They not only crash into the Sun or other bodies, but they sometimes simply break up. In order to explain how a large population of comets can still exist after billions of years, astronomers were forced to imagine the Oort Cloud structure surrounding the solar system. But how can a volatile sub-set of asteroids still exist after billions of years? That’s a good question.

And one final speculative aspect of finding all these things, all these structures, all these behaviors in the outer system, raises a very intriguing question about the nature of solar systems in general. For generations solar systems have been thought of as something like islands or archipelagos in space, separated from one another by vast seas of interstellar space where distances are measured in light years. It is always possible that this was a quaint, anthropomorphic idea to begin with. It is always possible that matter of some kind and structures of some kind extend throughout interstellar space itself and link stars together, possibly with plasma dynamics of one kind or another making the galaxy itself one holistic structure of structures.

*

What makes this a real golden age isn’t just our awareness of the outer system but also the fact that for the first time in history astronomers have tools that can effectively probe the outer system.

We have space probes actually traveling through the outer system and sending back data.

We have space-based telescopes imaging the outer system without atmospheric degradation.

Adaptive optics make it possible for ground-based telescopes to see almost as well as space based telescopes.

Multiple-mirror telescopes combined with adaptive optics make it possible for ground-based telescopes to see better than space-based telescopes.

Advanced software and hardware make it possible to theoretically simulate any imaginable theory about objects and behaviors in the outer system.

I don’t often envy young people. Life is complicated and young people have to deal with life’s complications without the benefit of experience. However, when I think about the outer solar system, I really do wish I were a young person in college right now.

There’s a lot to find out about what’s going on in the outer system. There’s a lot to explain about what’s going on in the outer system. I think it would be great fun to be one of the people doing the finding out and explaining.













Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pluto And Beyond #2: The Ecliptic


Using my little telescope that I’ve had almost my whole life, I’ve observed Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. I know I’ll never see Pluto through my telescope. But at some point in the next few years I hope to use my telescope as a guide scope mounted on a larger aperture telescope fitted with a good digital imaging system to photograph an ecliptic star field over a series of nights that will show Pluto as a tiny point of light moving against the backdrop of fixed stars. (Of course, modern digital imaging systems can function as auto-guiders, but I want to give my old faithful telescope a role in tracking down all nine planets. [I have no passion for this business of is or isn’t Pluto a planet. To me it will always be the ninth planet.])

The ecliptic is a key idea in planetary astronomy and kind of interesting, too. Today I’m just going to ramble on about it for a bit. Observing Uranus last Summer helped me get a full picture of the ecliptic visually for the first time.

*

I suspect every astronomer, professional and amateur, has his or her favorite and least favorite ways of explaining the ecliptic to people new to astronomy. It’s not really that complicated of an idea but some of the typical explanations make it seem complicated. There’s a general usage and a specific usage. I think if you look at the general usage first it helps understand the specific meaning.

Wikipedia opens with a typical explanation: “The ecliptic is the apparent path that the Sun traces out in the sky. As it appears to move in the sky in relation to the stars, the apparent path aligns with the planets throughout the course of the year.

The trouble is, nobody can ever see the Sun and the stars at the same time, so this explanation tries to create a picture that is literally impossible to ever make real.

The simplest way to communicate the idea of the ecliptic in general is to go outside on a clear night, point at whatever planets are visible, and trace a half-circle across the sky from horizon to horizon that intersects the visible planets and say that area of sky, that arc, that area of sky that includes all the planets, is the ecliptic in the general sense.

Another way to get the general sense of the ecliptic is to compare the Sun to Saturn. Most people have seen pictures of Saturn with its beautiful ring system extending out into space lined up with the planet’s equator. If you picture our Sun as a sphere in space, the Sun has no rings, of course, but the planets in the solar system extend out roughly from the Sun’s equator on a plane, just like rings would. That flat plane extended out from the Sun’s equator is the ecliptic in the general sense, the plane on which the planets travel when they orbit around the Sun.

The specific usage of the word is a result of the Earth traveling around the Sun on the same plane with the other planets. When the Earth travels around the Sun, if we were magically able to see the Sun and the stars at the same time, as the Earth shifted in space around the Sun the stars behind the Sun would change, too. The Sun appears to move, day by day, month by month, through the constellations. In fact, that’s where we get our Zodiac from. The Zodiac is the set of twelve constellations the Sun appears to move through in the course of a year. The specific path the Sun takes through those constellations is called the ecliptic.

This is an interesting time of year because it’s possible to get a good ‘view’ of the imaginary path—In Taurus, the ecliptic passes right between Aldebaran and the Pleiades, then just south of Pollux and Castor in Gemini.


*

One interesting thing about the ecliptic is that the human race seems to have known about it forever. Some historians believe a Zodiac system similar to ours was in use more than 5,000 years ago.

It’s fun speculating on how the Zodiac may have gotten started. Did early star gazers notice that certain stars lined up with certain landmarks when the stars were rising or setting, and then later notice that the Sun, rising or setting, lined up with those same landmarks? Or did early star gazers notice Mars, Jupiter and Saturn always seemed to move, to wander, within a certain area of the heavens and did they then pay special attention to that area and start grouping those stars into the Zodiac?

*

The ecliptic is important to planet hunters because if all the planets orbit on the same plane, if they’re all visible in the same area of the sky, then how hard can it be to track down new planets?

The accepted story of William Herschel discovering Uranus makes it sound not too hard at all. One night, so the story goes, William Herschel was out with his telescope just ‘looking around Taurus’ and he saw a star he didn’t recognize, a star that didn’t appear quite like a star but appeared to have a disk. He thought it might be a comet, but he and other astronomers quickly realized it was a new planet. It can be that easy!

However, little details make things very difficult.

All the planets orbit roughly on the same plane, but most planets orbit a little north or a little south of the exact plane of the Earth’s orbit. Most planets differ by about one and a half degrees. Pluto, however, is more than fifteen degrees off the exact plane of the Earth’s orbit.

Those little differences add up.

For instance, when I observed Uranus from my back yard, the planet was so low in the sky, so near to my local horizon, that I could use a telephone pole in the alley to key on the planet’s location when I shifted from binoculars to my telescope. On the other hand, Mars is so high in the sky right now that I need to use a right angle adaptor on my telescope to observe Mars.

Normally planet hunters consider the ecliptic at its most general to be the thirty degree band of sky that stretches from fifteen degrees north to fifteen degrees south of the actual ecliptic. And that’s a lot of sky. It took Tombaugh about a year to work around the entire Zodiac.

*

Over the last eighty years or so, ever since Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto by systematically searching the ecliptic, many astronomers have repeated Tombaugh’s work. It would appear there are no additional large planets waiting to be discovered beyond Pluto.

Or are there?

This is where the ecliptic becomes interesting indirectly.

There are ways a traditional photographic search of the ecliptic might miss a planet. And there are theories about the outer solar system which suggest large planets beyond Pluto may orbit entirely off the ecliptic.

We are living, in fact, in the Golden Age of outer solar system studies. I’m going to ramble on about that tomorrow.





------------------------------------------------------------------

Tomorrow: The Golden Age of Outer Solar System Studies













Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pluto And Beyond #1: Clyde Tombaugh


In the big picture of my life—the overall scheme of things—I won’t remember the year 2007 as the year that I first visited a Starbucks. I’ll remember 2007 as the year that I first observed Uranus and Neptune.

(Of course, I’ll also remember Starbucks. In fact, I’ll remember going to three Starbucks. And I’ll remember not going to two others.)

But for me the outer solar system is an adventure that began almost forty years earlier. My very first encounter with astronomy was about planet hunting beyond Neptune.

When I was in fourth grade my school had a program where students could get out of class for an hour a day if they spent that hour reading in the library. You could read anything you wanted, and the only catch was that at the end of the week you had to do a book report by standing in front of the fifth grade class and summarizing what you’d read.

For me it was the best of both worlds—a chance to read and a chance to perform.

Oddly, only three students ever took advantage of this ticket out of class. Me, a friend of mine named Alicia and a friend of hers named Leona. Alicia grew up to be a teacher. Leona—the second girl I ever had a crush on [after Rhonda Reed moved away], one of the smartest and most beautiful girls in our grammar school—according to neighborhood gossip and legend grew up to run away from home during her high school years, become a groupie of some kind and vanish.

So I got out of class to read books. Back then I was hooked on biographies. I just started at one end of the juvenile biography section and started working my through. Eventually I got to the T’s and there I found Clyde Tombaugh. I don’t remember the author or the exact title of the book I found, but it was a book similar to “Clyde Tombaugh and the Search for Planet X,” by Margaret Wetterer. The book—and the story of Clyde Tombaugh—changed my life.

Other kids had football heroes (those were the days of Roger Staubauch and Fran Tarkenton) or rock and roll heroes (those were the days of the Monkees and the Doors and oh yeah the Beatles). But instantly Clyde Tombaugh became my first hero.

At the start of the Twentieth Century, Tombaugh was a farm boy from Illinois (I was a city boy from Illinois!) who moved to Kansas. When Tombaugh was twelve his uncle let him look through a small telescope and Tombaugh instantly fell in love with astronomy. He read every astronomy book he could borrow from school, local libraries and relatives. He couldn’t afford college, but after high school he still loved astronomy so he built himself two reasonably good telescopes and mounts. He knew from his reading that professional astronomers kept nightly logs of their observations and included sketches so Tombaugh maintained a journal and made well-crafted sketches of what he saw.

After two or three years, Tombaugh still couldn’t afford college but his love for astronomy was still strong and he wondered if it was possible for a high school graduate to have a career in the sciences. He sent some pages from his observing journal to the Lowell Observatory and asked if they had any suggestions for how he could pursue a career in astronomy.

As amazing luck would have it, the Lowell Observatory was about to use a brand new telescope to search for a planet beyond Neptune and they wanted a semi-professional astronomer for the job because they wanted someone who could concentrate on the one task and not have to manage a larger career.

The astronomers at the Lowell Observatory were impressed with Tombaugh’s journal and offered him the job.

Tombaugh worked almost every night (some nights were cloudy) taking pictures, developing pictures and manually checking (with mechanical aids) photographs of the sky looking for points of light that move against the backdrop of fixed stars.

After working almost every night (and often much of the day) for more than a year, Tombaugh discovered a speck of light that moved and was not previously known. Further checking revealed that he had, in fact, discovered an unknown planet—he’d discovered Pluto.

Interestingly, after confirming Tombaugh’s discovery, the professional astronomers at the Lowell Observatory went back and re-checked some of their own work and discovered that they themselves had imaged Pluto, but they hadn’t been sufficiently diligent in their comparisons to other photographs to realize what they’d seen. Only the intense concentration of the “semi-pro” had been up to the task.

Tombaugh was twenty-four years old when he discovered Pluto.

Two years later Tombaugh went off to college. He got married and lived happily ever after as a real professional astronomer. Tombaugh died in 1997, at 91 years of age.

Very cool guy. Very cool life. Very cool story.

*

Tombaugh’s early life planted the seed in my mind that there could be disadvantages to being a professional. It took many years for that seed to germinate and flower.

I fell in love with astronomy after reading about Tombaugh’s life. Very quickly, I learned about a guy named Fred Hoyle and Hoyle became my second hero—a world-class astrophysicist who also wrote great science fiction. I’d always known I wanted to be a writer. Fred Hoyle provided a kind of prototype for how a person could write and also fit in with a ‘larger’ world. In grade school, that became my ‘life goal:’ Become a scientist and also a writer.

Over the years, however, and concluding during a strange week in a Ball State University library, I began to realize that my favorite writers—Richard Brautigan, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison—never acquired a college degree. And I began to realize that ‘well educated’ writers that I liked very much—John Gardner, Michael Crichton, Trevanian—wrote with a ‘voice’ that was distinctly different from writers who’d avoided academia. It’s a strange, obscure difference, but it’s a difference and it frightened me. I began to think about the differences between professionals and semi-professionals and I decided that I felt myself much more in tune with semi-pros than with pros. And that’s when I dropped out to write.

In some ways I’ve been very successful. For most of my life I’ve had great ‘day jobs’ that paid well, kept me comfortable and gave me lots of time to write. I’ve got half a dozen novel manuscripts and dozens of short story manuscripts. I’m very satisfied with how my writer’s ‘voice’ has developed.

I’ve never been published, however. Although editors couldn’t be more positive about my manuscripts and always encourage me to send them more of my work, I’ve never—yet!—appeared in print. That’s not good. And, at my age, the lack of a college degree appears to have a greater impact than when I was younger. That’s not good, either.

But life is about trade offs and in general I’m very happy with all the trade offs I’ve made.

The bottom line is I still have manuscripts out on the desks of various editors and ANY DAY NOW I could find an acceptance letter in my mail box. Then—like Hannah Montana!—I’ll have the best of both worlds: My real voice and a real career.

Any day now . . .





----------------------------------------------------------------

Tomorrow: Pluto And Beyond #2: The Ecliptic















Monday, January 28, 2008

Lost Pieces


I wrote this almost two weeks ago. It was during the first week of the Australian Open tennis tournament. The new tennis season was just beginning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to post it until today and this stuff almost became a lost piece itself because I’ve been flip-flopping, I’ve been changing my mind every day for the last two weeks about whether I should post this or not post it. On one hand, this is way too self-indulgent and off-topic even for my tastes. On the other hand, the sledgehammer ‘symbolism’ of losing my pants and my umbrella in this context is just so absurd—both are, I swear, true stories; I’d never make up anything so silly—that I can’t stop smiling and I hate to waste slapstick. So, like I almost always do when I’m locked up in self-doubt, I re-read Ogden Nash’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man,” and that makes me implore me to exert myself and always sin by doing rather than by not doing. So, I’m posting this. It’s eleven days late [Eleven days? I once said to someone, “To you, four days is nothing. To me, four days is a lifetime.” To my mayfly mind, I wrote this almost three lifetimes ago.] but I’m posting it anyway because it’s important to me to screw up by doing things and saying things rather than screw up by leaving things undone and things unsaid.



Lost Pieces
....................................................................


The theme for this New Year so far is ‘loss,’
a trilogy of chunks gone from my heart.

I lost my big red and white umbrella.
I left it at our local library.
A librarian found it and placed it
in the first floor lost-and-found container.
I looked for my umbrella the next day.
The librarian told me she’d found it.
She showed me exactly where she’d put it.
Somebody else had claimed my umbrella.
I’d had it for years. When I first started
drawing the umbrella modeled for me.
When I learned some martial arts weapon forms
the umbrella learned to parry and thrust.
Now I’m using a smaller umbrella.
It’s okay. It’s from the Art Institute.
But it hasn’t lived through the rains with me.

I sleep in pajama bottoms. Last night
my pajama pants, which I’ve often sewed,
simply came apart—along seams, old rips
and areas of worn-out, frayed fabric.
I’d worn them for years. I’d sewed the old rips
when I’d wanted something useful to do,
waiting for a phone call or to go out.
Each repaired old rip was a memory.
They’re gone. I didn’t make the pants a rag.
I went to Walgreens and bought new bottoms.
They have no rips at all. No memories.

The new tennis season started Sunday.
It reminds me that for years and years past
I’ve watched the players in Australia
start the New Year with their struggles, their fights.
It’s a long season. Ends in November.
My birthday is in November, also.
During last year’s Australian Open
I’d never have expected my birthday
to turn out as cool as it did last year.
The three holes in my heart—two like mouse bites,
the third like a great white shark had slashed me
with a razor and eaten me, laughing—
make me feel completely fucked up, empty.
But I’ve no reason to believe the world
has used up its last unexpected thing.
Last year was a wild, unexpected year.
I’m still here, damn it. I weigh the same weight
as when I played tennis thirty years back.
Even if I tried I couldn’t pretend
I wanted something normal, expected.
I want whatever the hell’s coming next.
Even when I’ve cried I’ve known these spaces
make room for new, cool unexpected things
synchronicity’s jotting my name on.
I’ve got lots of energy. I still do.
When the next wild and unexpected thing
comes my way I’ll probably screw it up
but for a while I’ll be having more fun
than I’ve ever had before in my life.
Maybe that’s not good. But it’s good enough.













Friday, January 25, 2008

The Landscapes With Figures Of Berthe Morisot #5



“We shall die everyone with our secrets untold” — Berthe Morisot

“With what resignation one reaches the end of life, resigned to all the failures of this life and all the uncertainties of the next one, it is a long time since I have hoped for anything and the desire for glorification after death seems to me an excessive ambition; mine would be confined to seeking to capture something of the passing moment, oh, only something! The least little thing! and yet even that ambition is excessive” — Berthe Morisot




Berthe Morisot died in 1895. She was 54.

Renoir heard of Morisot’s death while he was visiting and painting with Cezanne. Legend has it that when Renoir was told of Morisot’s death he stopped in mid brush stroke, packed up his equipment and rushed back to Paris to be with Morisot’s daughter Julie.

Not long after Morisot’s death, her friends staged an exhibition of her work. Legend has it that Degas was so distraught over Morisot’s death, so passionate that her paintings be displayed perfectly, that he found himself quarreling with everyone. Unable to pull himself together, Degas stepped aside and allowed Morisot’s daughter Julie and Morisot’s other friends make the arrangements.

Manet had died more than a decade earlier. Morisot had endured his hideously protracted death from complications of syphilis. His lifelong passion for Morisot is forever evident in his work. Only Victorine Meurent appears in more of his paintings. And Manet’s “Bunch of Violets” inscribed to Morisot is unique among his work.

*


It is difficult to understand Morisot’s frequent episodes of silence and depression. Why would she of all people write, late in her life, about failures, hopelessness and excessive ambitions?

As a young woman barely into her twenties she had captured the friendship and respect (and hearts?) of the most talented artists of her era. Renoir. Degas. Manet. She not only remained friends with these notoriously volatile characters her entire life, but professionally she had kept pace with them. At almost every exhibition her paintings received critical praise equal to or even exceeding that given to her colleagues. It wasn’t unusual at auctions for her paintings to receive higher bids than work of her colleagues. And none of her contemporaries—with the possible exception of Cezanne—created images as uniquely powerful as her work.

What failures? What hopelessness? What excessive ambition? Indeed, one writer looking through Morisot’s letters and journals could only wonder again and again at Morisot’s “unfathomable sadness.”

Perhaps there are unknown letters and journals. Perhaps someday we shall know more about Morisot’s friendship with Manet. Perhaps there is more to know about Morisot’s friendship with the remarkable Degas.

It is conceivable that Morisot’s perception of countless failures and dashed hopes and frustrated ambitions—her unfathomable sadness—was rooted in intimacies lost or unachieved that were so personal she never confided them even to her journals.

Such things happen. The extraordinary painter Gwen John and the sculptor Auguste Rodin were passionate people and equally passionate about their privacy. If I remember the gossip correctly, the only reason history is aware of their intense, life-changing affair with one another is because their romance eventually touched the lives of others who were more forthcoming in their journals.

Or maybe the answer is this woman. Victorine Meurent. Maybe the young Berthe Morisot’s fixation on Manet was shaped by her awareness that Meurent was Manet’s mistress and muse. Maybe Manet’s obsession with Meurent created a kind of feminine analogue of itself in Morisot’s mind. When Meurent left and Manet replaced Meurent with Morisot, Morisot herself was still left with the constant awareness that Meurent had been Manet’s ideal. Did the mental analogue of Meurent that Morisot had constructed in her mind in empathy with Manet grow into her own analogue-I, her internal self-representation? Did Morisot, then, measure herself and her life against this internal ghost, her own understanding of Manet’s ideal? Is that why Morisot’s emotions seem unfathomable to anyone looking at the surface of her remarkable life? Nothing in her work contradicts this speculation. As we have seen this week, many elements of the conceptual continuity in her images are consistent with this speculation.

*


Ultimately, when thinking about Berthe Morisot, does anything matter except her work?

Don’t Morisot’s compositions speak for themselves?

By one count, Morisot had created 416 oil paintings, 240 watercolors, 191 pastels and more than 200 drawings. Morisot created a large body of work. She never turned herself into an assembly line like Claude Monet, but Monet never created even a single composition as deep and powerful as the three we looked at this week. In terms of just raw numbers, how many Vermeer paintings exist? How many Caravaggio paintings? How many Da Vinci paintings?

Even if we knew nothing of Morisot’s private life the things her paintings “say” when they speak for themselves would still be exactly the same.

I no longer remember the first time I saw Morisot’s work. It was years ago. I no longer remember exactly which image made me look more closely and think more carefully. I believe I saw “On the Lawn” in a book about the history of pastels. I believe I formulated many of my thoughts about the conceptual continuity of Morisot’s work looking just at that one image. Then, assuming I was being fanciful and reading in the image complexities of my own construction, I looked through some books of her paintings and was shocked—and wildly happy—to see other compositions of equal or even deeper complexity. I don’t know which surprised me more, finding images of such depth and power or reading book after book that ignored the content of her images and reduced her to a kind of very cool Manet sidekick.

Perhaps Morisot’s sadness was a kind of prescient awareness in her mind of how history would treat her.

But Morisot’s work does speak for itself to anyone inclined to listen—that is, look and think.

Morisot’s paintings say everything that needs to be said.

*


I’m going to end my Berthe Morisot week with a couple of personal, miscellaneous things. A final Morisot painting, a Manet painting and a Morisot drawing. When I was first thinking of how to organize this week, I considered putting Morisot paintings side-by-side with similar images painted by other Impressionists.

I wanted to stress how Morisot abandoned narrative as had everyone else, but she never sacrificed meaning as had almost everyone else. I ditched that idea because I wanted to look just at Morisot images and not clutter up the week with less interesting pictures. However, I’m putting up here a Morisot painting and a Manet painting. In the spirit of the last section, I’ll let both paintings speak for themselves. That’s Morisot, of course, to the left. Manet, to the right.

Finally, I’m going to end the week with a Morisot drawing (an engraving). It makes me smile. I don’t know if that’s a good reason to end the week with something like an apostrophe, but it’s a good enough reason to put up the drawing.

When Morisot was just about my age, she drew this cool, tough looking goose:













Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Landscapes With Figures Of Berthe Morisot #4



“The noble soul has reverence for itself” — Nietzsche

“You must be anvil or hammer” — Goethe

“In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about” — George Orwell





“On The Lawn”


Growing Up Here and There

The conceptual elements of this amazing pastel painting are so powerful that Morisot eschews any general visual organization scheme and creates an image that is simply a foreground set against a background. This blunt visualization lets the conceptual elements dominate the viewing experience and provide their own organizing principle. And the organizing principle here is time: The moment, the moment before and the moment after.

What had happened in the moment before the image we see? What will happen in the moment after the image we see? The painting tells us—shows us—all we need to know to answer both questions.

Starting in the present, the moment, the image depicted, let’s look at the ‘simple’ foreground and background.

The foreground is a patch of sunlight on tall, soft grass. The colors are bright in value, low in chroma, simple ochres. A middle age woman is playing with a very young boy in her lap. There’s a puppy and a butterfly net nearby. There are flowers in the grass. A young girl, older than the boy in the woman’s lap, is standing just outside the patch of grass.

The background is a wooded area of thick trees, but the background is not quite there!

In the strange, amorphous shadows and deep darks of the background, however, the brilliant scope of Morisot’s composition begins to take shape.

Obviously Morisot could have depicted the background in specific detail. Is that a pond to the left? Is the deep shadow to the left actually connected with the large dark in the upper right, perhaps as the space within the woods where a small brook flows? Or are the shadows and deep darks simply a patch of woods where the trees block the sun?

Morisot has painted the background carefully as indeterminate. We don’t know what it is. It is unknown.

But more than that. In the conceptual scheme of things, the background is the unknown.

This pastel painting does more than make my hands shake, more than bring tears to my eyes. This painting gives me goose bumps.

With the background understood to be the dark unknown, let’s come back into the foreground. Back into the light. Back into the known.

We have a middle age woman in an all black dress sitting in the soft grass in the sunlight. Note one more time the odd detail of the background’s largest, deepest dark being positioned over the woman’s right shoulder and, as we’ve seen twice before, the woman is not looking in that direction.

This is the classic alter-ego of Morisot the artist in a classically tranquil scene. A woman enjoying seemingly the best of what life can offer: Warm, bright sunlight. Healthy, energetic children to raise. The leisure time to sit in the grass and play with the children.

What woman could ask for anything more?

Ha! The defining question of so many Morisot paintings! (The defining question of Morisot’s life?)

Who could ask for anything more? Berthe Morisot, that’s who! (Of course, Victorine Meurent, too...)

At least, that other part of Berthe Morisot—her secret self—could always wonder about asking for more.

Because Morisot in her life was always that middle age woman in all white or all black who accepted the traditional place into which her family and her gender and her culture placed her. The safe, the familiar, the known. But, at the same time, there always was a second Berthe Morisot who looked to the unknown with wide, child-like eyes and wanted to embrace it as best she could. The wild unknown of a blank, white canvas. The wild unknown of a passionate, intelligent, skilled artist like Manet. The wild unknown of a life off the beaten path.

She was always Berthe Morisot, but there always was Victorine Meurent in her thoughts.

And this painting is like a documentary of those two selves within her.

We haven’t even gotten to the young girl yet, let alone the moment before and the moment after.

The foreground and the background define the “here” and “there” of this composition. They are the most encompassing and abstract manifestations imaginable.

The “here” is the visible, the known, the light, the safe, the familiar, the acceptable. The “there” is the unknown, the dark, the dangerous, the unproven, the strange.

Now we get to the young girl in the painting.

Right away we see that Morisot has done some very cool things: The young girl is neither in the foreground nor the background. The young girl is standing just beyond the tall, sunlit grass. We can’t see her feet because of the tall grass in front of her but we can see that her body doesn’t block any tall grass behind her. She’s not in the foreground, but she’s not shadowed, she’s not in the background darks, either.

This creates a profound kind of tension, a visual and conceptual imbalance in the moment of the image. Where is the young girl, in the foreground or the background? Is the young girl “here” or “there?”

We can answer that question by looking beyond the moment, by looking to the moment before and the moment after.

Let’s start with the moment before. That’s where this adventure began. And this painting is an adventure and it is about adventure.

Presumably, the young girl was playing in the sunlight with the woman. But in the moment before the image we see, the young girl separated herself from the middle age woman. The young girl stepped away from the play. She walked away from the puppy, the baby, the butterfly net, the flowers in the grass, the friendly woman. She walked out off the patch of grass and sunlight, and toward the unknown, the shadows and darks of the ‘indeterminate’ woods.

But then the young girl stopped. She turned around and faced what she’d just walked away from. The visual catalogue of childhood joys: The puppy, the flowers, the baby boy, the butterfly net, the loving adult.

That’s the moment before. That moment takes us up to the moment the picture actually depicts. But it raises a question: Why did the young girl stop and turn around and look back at what she walked away from?

What will happen in the moment after? What will the young girl do next? Will she return to the childhood joys of playing in the sunlight? Will she turn back to the unknown, exciting shadows and darks of the woods and run into them to enjoy the thrills of life off the beaten path?

This painting is not a Rorschach test. Morisot is an artist and real artists answer questions they ask. This painting answers the question of what the girl does next and we can read the answer.

Because back in the moment before, Morisot has done another very cool thing. This very cool thing defines the present, the moment actually depicted in the painting, and points directly to what will follow in the moment after.

In the moment before, just before the image we see, the young girl has taken off her hat.

Look at the visual level of the young girl’s head. The top of the young girl’s head lines up almost exactly with the top of the middle age woman’s head. The middle age woman is wearing a hat. The young girl has removed her hat. Morisot depicted the heads at this exact level to underscore that the woman is wearing her hat and the young girl has removed her hat.

In today’s Britney Spears world, a girl outside without a hat means nothing. A hundred and fifty years ago in Europe a girl outside without a hat was a statement. Indeed, this is one of the very few images Morisot ever painted of a girl outside without a hat.

What is the moment after? What does the young girl do next?

In the moment after the image we see, the middle age woman will still be playing with the young boy and the puppy.

The young girl, in the moment before, had walked away from the sunlight, turned around and removed her hat. What will she do next?

The young girl isn’t going to run back to the sunlight. She is going to turn and run into the woods, into the unknown, enjoying the fun of the adventure.

That’s why she removed her hat.

This painting is about coming of age. It’s about a child making the choice to start becoming an adult. The toughest choice. About making the choice to walk away from childhood, from the accepted, the known, the familiar, and choosing the unknown thrills of starting toward adulthood.

And it’s about Berthe Morisot choosing the acceptable and Victorine Meurent choosing adventure.

The young girl in this painting removed her hat, the ‘top’ symbol, in that era, of culture, refinement and acceptability.

Victorine Meurent had made Manet famous and infamous by removing her clothes and posing nude for Manet’s odd pastiches of classical themes centered on contemporary naked women.

Morisot posed for Manet. She stepped into shadows by visiting his studio without a chaperon. She accepted his ‘scandalous’ [?] gift of the painting ‘A Bunch of Violets’ with her name inscribed with his.

But Morisot never posed nude. (At least she never posed nude and made mention of it in her letters or journals. None that have been released, at any rate.)

Morisot never ran off into those dark woods.

But her artistic alter ego always dreams of doing such things.

The young girl in this painting has taken off her hat and in a moment will turn and run off into the woods. This young girl wasn’t going to return to childhood joys and childish play. This painting is about a child starting on the path to adulthood. A particular path to a particular kind of adulthood. An adult who embraces the unknown, adventure and excitement.

The kind of adult constantly on Berthe Morisot’s mind, consistently shaping her work, consistently causing her to wonder.

The kind of adult like Victorine Meurent.

However, as we speculate about what Morisot may have done or not done—her own real life relationship to the “here” and “there”—we must remember what Morisot very certainly did do: She created paintings like “On the Lawn,” “The Harbour at Lorient,” “View of Paris” and many, many others.

Each painting is an adventure that Morisot did embrace. And each painting is an adventure that Morisot shares with us, with every viewer, as we see and think along with Morisot, as we see and think what she saw and thought through her work.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tomorrow: “We shall die everyone with our secrets untold” — Berthe Morisot










Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Landscapes With Figures Of Berthe Morisot #3



“The very notion of truth is a culturally given direction, a part of the pervasive nostalgia for an earlier certainty. The very idea of a universal stability, an eternal firmness of principle out there that can be sought for through the world as might an Arthurian knight for the Grail, is, in the morphology of history, a direct outgrowth of the search for lost gods in the first two millennia after the decline of the bicameral mind. What was then an augury for direction of action among the ruins of an archaic mentality is now the search for an innocence of certainty among the mythologies of facts.”

Julian Jaynes






“The Harbour at Lorient”



Searching Through The World Out There

Yesterday’s painting, “The View of Paris,” was organized visually as layers creating depth. “The Harbour at Lorient” is organized visually as reflections. The sky at the top of the painting is reflected in the water at the bottom. The woman to the right is reflected as the ships in the center and left.

How can ships be a reflection of a woman? That’s how art crosses over from art to great art and becomes magical art.

First, a couple of ‘social history’ type points that help clarify some background to this painting.

Lorient is a very old harbour in western France on the Atlantic coast. For many hundreds of years trading ships from all around the world have made port at Lorient.

The middle age woman all in white—the white, of course, identifies her with the artist, as we saw yesterday—is depicted by herself in a public place. She’s not with her husband. She’s not chaperoned by an older woman. She’s not herself chaperoning children. To the sensibilities of Europeans a hundred and fifty years ago, this image of a woman by herself in a public place would have been the first clue that the artist had created a painting with more going on than meets the eye.

And this composition has quite a lot going on, some of which meets the eye and some of which doesn’t meet the eye but must be thought about.

I picked the three paintings that I did and I’m posting them in this order because the paintings and the sequence illustrate both the depth of Morisot’s artistic thinking and also the expanse of her expressive means.

In yesterday’s “View of Paris,” the sense of “here” and “there” pitted the tranquility of tourist suburbia against the bustling work-a-day world of Paris. “The Harbour at Lorient” creates a much more encompassing dichotomy.

In “The Harbour at Lorient” a middle age woman—

[A note about this ‘middle age’ appellation: A hundred and fifty years ago in Europe even wealthy people didn’t expect to live much more than half a century. Manet died at fifty-one. Morisot herself died at fifty-four. Morisot was twenty-eight when she painted this. That was middle age.]

—is seated firmly on a stone pier. “Here” is on dry land in respectable, cumbersome clothing, even protected from the sun by a parasol. “There” is the rest of the world, because to a French man or woman Lorient immediately would have brought to mind the trade routes that touched on every continent of the globe. Lorient is an Atlantic port, not a Mediterranean gateway to Europe or Africa.

So, we have the sky above and the sky below. We have a middle age woman oddly alone in a public place to the right. And we have half a dozen or so merchant ships in the Lorient harbour from God-knows-what exotic ports of call from around the world to the left.

The middle age woman is pointedly not looking at the merchant ships. And it’s worth noting that the ships are positioned over her right shoulder. Yesterday, the woman in white had the view of Paris positioned over her right shoulder. We will see this again tomorrow.

The woman starring forlornly down at the stone pier she’s sitting on is so not looking at the ships but the ships are so her own reflection!

Here’s how:

Start with the woman’s head. The woman’s head in the foreground and the ships in the middle distance occupy the same vertical ‘level’ of the composition. Look at the line of the horizon behind the woman’s head. Morisot has carefully painted a kind of ‘stairway’ of structures leading the viewer’s eye from the woman’s head to the left and down directly to the nearest ship.

Consider, too, the shapes of the ship hulls. They are irregular ovals. Compare them to the shape of the woman’s hat and hair. The ship hulls, made small by distance and perspective, visually appear quite similar to the shape of the woman’s hat and hair.

More intriguingly than just level and shapes in perspective, Morisot painted the ship hulls as rich darks, deep brown. The woman’s hat and hair, shadowed by her parasol, are the same darks, also deep brown.

Just in case the viewer didn’t notice the horizon line or the shapes or the colors, Morisot does a very cool thing.

Look at the woman’s hat. Though the woman’s head is shaded by her parasol, Morisot has drawn on the top of the hat a small flower, bright white in the sun. Look at the nearest large ship. The hull is dark, like the woman’s hat, and the dark hull is topped by a small cabin, bright white in the sun. Look at the ship in the center of the channel. The hull is dark, topped by a small working sail bright white in the sun.

That’s how ships can be a reflection of a woman.

In yesterday’s “View of Paris,” the women were static, leaning on a fence. The child was dynamic, walking toward the view of Paris. In “The Harbour at Lorient,” the woman is static, seated on the stone pier. Look at the ship in the center of the channel. It is sailing away. We know the ship is sailing away and not entering the harbour because Morisot has carefully painted the working sail at the ship’s bow, slowly pulling the ship out of the harbour.

Conceptually we have the same elements as yesterday. The “here” and the “there.” The rock solid dry land of Lorient contrasted against the rest of the world. We have the artist’s alter-ego, the adult woman, sitting peacefully “here.” But also we have the other, the second alter-ego—everything a painter paints is an embodiment of something in the painter—that is, the trading ships composed as a reflection of the woman, identified visually with her hat and hair, her head, a kind of painterly metonymy for saying her thoughts.

The woman is “here” in her cumbersome dress, firmly seated on the rock pier. She’s even reaching down to touch the stone as if to test the reality in front of her.

The woman’s thoughts—her dreams, wishes, fantasies—are floating in the reflected sky as the trading ships, sailing away like the ship with its working sail set, making passage for “there,” for everywhere in the world that’s not “here.”

This painting was completed in 1869. Berthe Morisot conceived and executed this fantasia of sailing away just after Victorine Meurent—Morisot’s Doppelganger in the art, mind and heart of Manet, and in Morisot’s own artistic self-image—left France and sailed away to America.

Soon Morisot would pose for Manet’s “The Balcony” and she herself would become the ‘femme fatale’ muse of Manet in the whispers of the Paris art world.

But was she happy?

We know from Morisot’s letters and journals that sometimes in this period she was happy. But from these same sources we also know her happiness was tempered by almost equal amounts of what biographers call ‘crippling self-doubts” and bouts of almost existential depression.

“The Harbour at Lorient” is a bright sunlit afternoon. The woman needs a parasol to protect herself from the sunlight.

Does the woman look happy?

Life is complicated. All normal people are complicated. How much modern art allows us to come to grips with our own inner complexities, to project them onto it the way this painting does?

Regardless of whether or not Morisot’s thinking of Victorine Meurent inspired this composition—could it not have?!—the duality, the conflict, is still visually real. And the structured resolution of the conflict as a beautiful image provides us with a kind of totem for making real our own strange complexities and, perhaps, helps us frame for ourselves a resolution to our own inner conflicts.

That’s art. That’s great art. That’s magical art.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tomorrow: “On The Lawn”










Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Landscapes With Figures Of Berthe Morisot #2



To you—is it movement or is it action?
Is it contact or just reaction?
And you—revolution or just resistance?
Is it living or just existence?
Yeah, you—it takes a little more persistence
To get up and go the distance


The Enemy Within






“View of Paris from the Trocadéro”



The Sense of Here and There and the Choices We Make

First of all, this image is quite striking just visually. It is a view from a famous tourist spot on the fringes of Paris looking toward the city proper. At the top, atmospheric perspective has turned the buildings of Paris purple. But visible is the dome of the Hotel des Invalides, the cupola of the Pantheon and the towers of Saint-Sulpice and Notre Dame and Saint Clotilde. The middle ground is mostly indeterminate shapes of various shades of tan. In the foreground things become visually quite odd, with the bulging, almost abstract half-oval of a lawn beginning as a straight line in the near foreground and forming an arc out toward the view of Paris. In the near foreground are two middle age women in ‘respectable’ clothing, black and white. Separated from the two women is a young girl.

Things are more than just visually quite odd. In Morisot paintings it is very rewarding to look closely and dwell on details. And there are some good ones here. And some that we shall see repeated tomorrow and the next day.

The two women are dressed in black and white. This fashion statement identifies them with the artist. Morisot was well known for dressing in all black or all white. In fact, a writer visited her studio as a boy and later recounted the experience: “How she scared me . . . with her ‘strange’ dress, always in black or white, her dark and burning eyes, her angular, thin, pale face, the curt, abrupt, nervous words, and the way she laughed when I asked to see what she hid in ‘her notebook.’

The middle age women are standing, quite static, in fact leaning, against a fence, with their backs turned to the city of Paris. The woman in white has the view of Paris over her right shoulder. This seemingly pointless detail we will see again tomorrow and the next day.

The young girl is separated from the two women. Unlike the women who are static, leaning against the fence, the young girl is dynamic. She is walking toward the fence. Morisot has taken some care not only to show both of the young girl’s feet, but to make it clear that the feet are not at the same level, that the young girl is in fact walking toward the fence. Morisot even has drawn the girl’s shadow in front of her, as if it’s a visual arrow leading her on.

The young girl is facing toward the city of Paris. The young girl is walking toward the fence, presumably, to get the best view possible of the city.

The middle age women are static, facing away from the city. The young girl is dynamic, facing toward the city, walking toward the city.

But Morisot then did a very cool thing. Look at the color of the young girl’s dress. It is violet. The girl’s dress is the same color as the buildings of Paris in the distance.

Atmospheric perspective has turned the distant view purple. The mid-ground is tans and greens. The foreground is greens and black and white. The only color in the near foreground is the violet of the young girl’s dress.

Morisot has painted the young girl facing the city, walking toward the city and to underscore the point has painted the young girl’s dress the same color as the city.

Just in case the viewer didn’t notice that the women are facing away from Paris while the young girl is facing toward Paris, just in case the viewer didn’t notice the young girl’s feet, just in case the viewer didn’t notice there’s more going on here than meets the eye, Morisot used color to visually link the young girl in the foreground to the city of Paris in the distance.

This painting was not painted just to be looked at. This painting was painted to be looked at and to be thought about.

This image, like almost all Morisot landscapes, is not simply an ‘evocation of place.’ This image, like almost all Morisot landscapes, creates first a sense of here and there. One place, there, alive, thriving, kind of wild, seductive, interesting. The other place, here, familiar, sedate, proper, peaceful, boring. And then, as we shall see in other Morisot landscapes, the figures she identifies with her adult self have accepted the here place, they’ve accepted the familiar, sedate, proper, peaceful, boring place. But there is always another element, a link to another part of Morisot’s self—her sense of her own youth? her reflection of herself as Victorine Meurent?—almost desperately longing for the other place, there, where the hours are alive, thriving, wild, seductive, interesting.

And even if we don’t know the motivation that prompted Morisot to create the image, even if it’s not rooted somewhere in Morisot’s thinking of Meurent, the visual reality of it is still there, still so plain, still waiting for us to project our own desires, our own accepted selves and our own secret selves into the dynamics of the scene and, through the magic of the amazing art, become a little more alive ourselves and come to know ourselves a little better.

This isn’t art. This is fucking great art.

This does more than make my hands shake. This brings tears to my eyes.

I can’t put into words how pissed off it makes me that Morisot, who created images like this, is typically regarded as the talented amateur and Manet is typically regarded as the master.

I can’t put into words how pissed off it makes me that Morisot had a lifelong crush on Manet and looked to him for direction when she on her own could create magical stuff like this.

I can’t put into words how grateful I am that regardless of her endless insecurities and self-doubts Morisot almost always found the inner strength to stand in front of a canvas and remain true to her own sensibilities, create compositions that were true to her own artistic sense-of-self and she never settled for simply ‘making paintings’ that would impress other painters or wow the critics. (Because that, damn it, is what Manet did.)


[exhales] Okay. And this is just the first painting. Tomorrow’s is even better and Wednesday’s is best of all.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tomorrow: “The Harbour at Lorient”










Monday, January 21, 2008

The Landscapes With Figures Of Berthe Morisot #1



“I don’t know who has treated Ophelia worse, Hamlet, Gertrude or literature professors.”

Did Gertrude Murder Ophelia?



Berthe Morisot’s birthday was last week. (b. 1841, 01/14 or 01/15, sources are unclear.) I can’t believe I missed it. I had other things on my mind, but those things seem to have cleared themselves up. I’m making up for missing Morisot’s birthday last week by making this whole week Berthe Morisot week.

Right at the start, let me bluntly say I’m completely unqualified to speak about either art or Morisot. I have no degree of any kind in art or art history. However, this is a topic to which I’ve applied myself a little bit and, at least in a blog way, I believe I have some worthwhile points to make.

I’m going to be talking specifically about three Morisot landscapes. Even with a full week, I barely will have room for everything I want to say about just these three paintings. I suspect I could do an entire blog just about Morisot, posting every day for two years and still not run out of things to say.

(Hmm. Right about now people who know me will be smiling and recognizing this is one of those topics where, if I were talking in real life, they would be putting a hand on my arm and telling me to calm down and pointing out that my hands are shaking...)

I’ve mentioned Morisot once before on the blog, in my post about pastels. I put up a pic of her painting, “On the Lawn.” I’ll be returning to this amazing image—my pick for one of the most powerful images ever created—later in the week.

I opened today’s post with a quote from myself [sigh] about Ophelia because just as fans—damn it—of Ophelia have reduced the complicated reality of her powerful character to a one dimensional, sad caricature, fans—damn it—of Berthe Morisot have essentially ignored her as an artist and reduced her to one or another trivial caricature: the talented amateur; the Manet protégé; the woman impressionist; the bourgeois illustrator; etc. Friends during her life and fans after her death did far more to dehumanize and pigeonhole Morisot—both in her own mind and in the ‘social consensus’ of history—than any enemies (and she really had few if any enemies) could have hoped to do.

A magical and weird thing about art is that an artist often sets out to do one thing and, succeeding or failing, also accomplishes something else, something entirely separate from their original intent. Morisot approached painting with clearly defined and heartfelt goals. She was a wildly smart woman and codified her thinking in frequent letters and journal entries: “It is important to express oneself...provided the feelings are real and are taken from your own experience.” “...The desire for glorification after death seems to me an excessive ambition; mine would be confined to seeking to capture something of the passing moment, oh, only something! The least little thing!

I’ll be returning to the full context of that second quote at the end of the week.

Berthe Morisot certainly accomplished the goals she set for herself. But her skills, passions and commitment to painting led her to create an entirely unique approach to landscapes with figures, far more powerful than anything Claude Monet or her other contemporaries ever managed.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I’m going to look at three paintings. Today I’m going to set up how artists have typically used figures in landscapes and I’m going to set up my extremely speculative belief in Morisot’s relationship to Edouard Manet and more specifically her thinking about Victorine Meurent shaped her self-image as an individual and how that self-image, then, worked itself out through her expressions and creations as an artist.

Indeed, to my eyes and sensibilities Morisot was a far greater artist than her lifelong friends Degas and Renoir. And I regard Morisot as a greater artist even than her lifelong ‘other’ and strange soul mate, Edouard Manet.


LANDSCAPES AND FIGURES

It’s certainly possible for a landscape to be a powerful image with no figures at all. Claude Lorrain’s beautiful ink sketch of the Tiber comes to mind. Or the landscapes of George Inness.

Classically, however, figures in a landscape provided the ‘narrative,’ they told the ‘story’ of a painting. So, we have images like Poussin’s “Landscape with the Buriel of Phocon” where the characters are acting out a cartoon-like scene.

In modern times, figures in a landscape are used to provide scale or as ornaments of one kind or another, such as in Claude Monet’s “Poppies”

In Morisot’s landscapes we will see that she embraces modernity and shuns narrative. However, rather than reducing figures to ornaments or structural roles, Morisot incorporates figures visually and conceptually into the very heart and soul of her compositions.


BERTHE MORISOT AND VICTORINE MEURENT

The most speculative element of my posts this week is that Berthe Morisot’s thinking about Victorine Meurent profoundly shaped Morisot’s own self-image and art. I assert this without direct evidence, but base my thinking on a very specific absence of certain evidence and my basic beliefs of human nature.

In terms of absence of evidence, I mean Morisot’s letters and journals. Morisot wrote openly of her contempt for Edouard Manet’s long-suffering wife. And if Morisot was at the same party with Manet or Degas and they flirted with anyone but Morisot, Morisot wrote openly of her displeasure: “M. Degas seems pleased, but guess who he left me for? For Mme Lille and Mme Loubens! I’ll admit I was a bit piqued to see a man I deem very clever abandoning me and offering his witticisms to two fools.

Regardless of their other friendships—indeed, of their marriages!—Morisot and Manet were lifelong soul mates.

But Victorine Meurent had been Manet’s first soul mate.

Physically, Morisot and Meurent had things in common. They both were beautiful, and they both had distinctive, idiosyncratic kinds of beauty. Their faces, their gazes, were described by painters and writers as ‘captivating.’

Artistically, Morisot and Meurent were both skilled painters. Morisot had extensive formal training. Meurent was self-taught and tutored by Manet. Both Morisot and Meurent were talented enough to have their works accepted by the difficult judges of the Paris Salon.

Personality-wise, however, Morisot and Meurent were opposites. Morisot was an upper class woman who embraced the sense of propriety a life of wealth and status delivered to her. Meurent was a working class woman who could openly do all the things Morisot could only dream of doing (or, if Morisot did them, she was forced to do them on the sly, when nobody was looking). Meurent could travel by herself; Meurent could mingle with male artists without a chaperon; Meurent could openly have an affair with Manet...

Berthe Morisot who wrote openly and bluntly about almost all aspects of her life, so far as I know, never once wrote a single comment in a letter or journal about Victorine Meurent, her only real competition for Manet’s deepest affection.

Is that believable?

There has been speculation that Morisot’s descendents—her family who still control her papers—have withheld letters and journals which contain explicit comments about her relationship with Manet. I believe these speculations are true.

Edouard Manet used Victorine Meurent as a model more frequently than he used Morisot. However, Manet painted more portraits of Morisot alone than he did of Meurent. Indeed, Manet devoted so much time and energy to painting Meurent and Morisot that when he would occasionally paint his own wife his friends would make amused asides, “About time,” and mention it in their journals.

Berthe Morisot, a passionate woman, must have thought about Meurent frequently, especially when Meurent, a very independent woman, asserted her independence over even Manet by leaving France and traveling to America.

Morisot must have understood it was only after Meurent left for America that Manet first asked her to pose.

But we have no letters and no journal entries where Morisot records her thoughts about Meurent.

Morisot’s work, however, is a different story. In many of Morisot’s paintings there is a profound sense of duality, outright conflict, between free-spirited youth and stolid age, between what can be seen as the proactive freedom of Meurent and Morisot’s own embrace of an adult, propriety-drive life.

We will see the duality in the three paintings I’m going to talk about this week. It is visible and clear and makes for amazing—magical?—art. My interpretation of this, that is, that Morisot’s thinking about Meurent created a kind of artistic fountainhead for her, is completely speculative, but against the backdrop of Morisot’s life and work, it appears reasonable.




-----------------------------------------------

Tomorrow: “View of Paris from the Trocadéro”
















Friday, January 18, 2008

“Liefde Baart Kunst”


He didn’t draw just her, his love Saskia.
He sat with her, posing in the mirror, too,
because the etching would be reversed, he knew,
and the same light, shadows, was his idea.

Or, rather, truth—one thing, and res omnia
was his idea. Her, true. And their love, true.
Starting from perfection was all he could do.
The perfection of being with Saskia.

“Love brings forth art”—the Dutch took it for granted.
Centuries later his art makes the case plain.
Has anyone drawn, conceived, more from the heart?

People who don’t, won’t, love create things slanted
in the direction of craft, of now, of pain.
Art leans toward, through, forever. “Love brings forth art.”






Rembrandt, Self-Portrait with Saskia, 1636











Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Curse Of Loch Ness #1 — Tess


There once was a woman named Tess
who lived very far from Loch Ness.
    But every man she would meet
    in bars, on the street,
wanted always to talk of Loch Ness.

This woman cared nothing for creatures
with frightening, dinosaur features
    and she wanted a man
    with more to his plan
than chatting about creature features.

Tess finally opened a store
selling quilts she made, candles and more.
    She vowed to stay mellow
    and wait for a fellow
who’d talk crafts, more crafts and more.

But Tess was one day undone
making a landscape quilt for fun.
    She quilted a lake scene,
    a Bob Ross, relaxed scene,
and she added a monster for fun.

When Tess studied her finished piece
with a monster swimming in peace,
    she asked, “What made me do it?
    My vow, I blew it!
I’ve shattered my craft-induced peace!”

Tess still makes craft inventions
but she attends monster conventions.
    She makes good money pitching
    monster candles and quilting
at cryptozoologic conventions.





- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tomorrow: The Curse Of Loch Ness #2 — Heidi












Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Five Celebrity Pencil Cartoons (Annotated)














- - - - - - - - - - NOTES - - - - - - - - - -


Back when I was drawing cartoons only in pencil, I had this idea that pop culture is so celebrity driven that maybe I could increase my chances of making a sale by incorporating celebrity names into my cartoons. So I did this set of the same kind of silly images I’ve always liked, but I added the random name of whatever celebrity I happened to be thinking of at the moment. And I tried to tie it all together by pretending the images were drawn from photographs by the ever-popular celebrity, Drew Barrymore.

I didn’t like the idea enough ever to do it again, but these still make me smile. I especially like Neve Campbell’s purse and Julia Roberts’ fish skeleton earring.

However, in the couple of years since I drew these cartoons some of the celebrities have stopped being celebrities. (Indeed, about two weeks ago a friend of mine asked me, ‘Who’s Drew Barrymore?’) Here are some notes on the names and contents of these cartoons:

Neve Campbell—Of course Neve stared in the “Scream” trilogy of movies and also the great film, ‘Wild Things.’ She’s made other films, but the last time I saw her mentioned in pop culture it was some columnist making fun of her for being a has-been at such a young age. [sigh]

Tori Amos—Tori is a very pretty singer/piano player. I have no memory what her voice sounds like or if she writes good songs because whenever I see one of her videos I get hypnotized by her beautiful face. She sits kind of side-saddle when she plays piano and she sometimes wears intriguing clothes. Mostly I just remember her hauntingly pretty face. She hasn’t had a hit—or a video—in a very long while.

Jordana Brewster—Jordana stared in the reasonably good monster movie, ‘The Faculty.’ For a while I thought she was the most beautiful young actress in the Hollywood. But she has since dropped off the face of the planet and I have no idea what she is doing now.

Jennifer Connelly—Film buffs know Jennifer as the beautiful singer from the great science fiction film, ‘Dark City.’ She’s done a lot of other films and has gotten a lot of critical acclaim lately for her ‘real’ acting, but she’s still not as famous as she should be. In college, Jennifer studied physics, so I thought it would be fun to link her to Wolfram’s book.

Julia Roberts—I’m not a big fan of Julia Roberts. The only reason I used her name was for the purpose of cognitive dissonance—that is, because she’s the last person I’d expect to see wearing something interesting like an earring made from a real fish skeleton.











Thursday, January 10, 2008

Eagle Inn: Top Ten Nonsense Anagrams


  1. glean en i

  1. iglee nan

  1. gee an iln

  1. gale nine

  1. a nig lene

  1. ilne gane

  1. gain enel

  1. i ne ne gal

  1. gel annie

  1. gin an eel













Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Something Magic, Unknown, Daring Me To Know


I took binoculars a few days ago
and walked out into the freezing winter night
to look for Comet Tuttle. Clouds hid that sight
from me but I saw a spectacular show.

Against the dark clouds I saw a big ‘V’ glow.
A classic ‘flying V’ UFO alright!
A ‘Phoenix Lights’ encounter for my delight!
Something magic, unknown, daring me to know.

Through my binoculars I saw it was geese
flying so low that lights from the suburb’s streets
reflected off their feathers. Birds were shining.

If I hadn’t said, ‘Show me a comet, please’
and gone to look, I wouldn’t have seen the treats.
For those who dare, magic’s always designing.














Monday, January 07, 2008

Faux Mischa Dreams


I once knew this girl
who looked exactly
like Mischa Barton.

Remember that poem,
Theodore Roethke’s
I Knew A Woman:’

      I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
      When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them

The woman I knew
who looked like Mischa
was like that woman
only when she sneezed
it was like chirping.

God, I miss dreaming
of that faux Mischa.
My dreams recently
have been all slapstick.

I’ve been writing stuff.
That counts. However
good dreams are better
than getting work done.
Good dreams—even dreams
without foundation—
can lead to work, too.
“The Green Sweater” was       [pt. 1 and pt. 2 and pt. 3]
written for the girl
who looked like Mischa
and the faux Mischa
and I never talked
except in passing.

I am not afraid
of bad dreams. Bad dreams
are all in my head.
I can throw pies there,
get things back on track
and return to dreams
that aren’t slapstick.

Remember that song
by Paul McCartney,
Too Many People:’

      Too many people preaching practices
      Don’t let them tell you what you want to be
      Too many people holding back this is
      Crazy and baby it’s not like me




-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Today’s post is a sequel of sorts to Lost Gloves


















Thursday, January 03, 2008

Noli Me Tangere




When I first hit on the idea of trying to make money drawing cartoons, I was very intimidated by the thought of learning inking techniques. In fact, I thought it was hopeless for me to even try. So, for more than a year I limited myself to working with pencils. I tried to create high contrast images by using soft lead and stumping techniques. (A very good contemporary cartoonist named Matthew Diffee appears regularly in the New Yorker and he renders his cartoons in pencils, so I wasn’t completely grasping at straws.)

When I submit short stories to magazines, my rejections are almost always thoughtful notes from the editor rather than impersonal, printed rejection slips. However, my cartoons never generated any interest at all. I certainly can’t say my pencil rendering technique was the cause of the quick rejections, but it always bugged me that I wasn’t buckling down and forcing myself to learn ink techniques so, eventually, I declared plain pencil renderings a thing of the past and practiced, practiced, practiced with pen techniques.

So, now I’m becoming slightly more comfortable with inking techniques.

However, I’ve got a folder full of old pencil cartoons. I don’t have the energy to ink them—and they’re not ‘pencils’ as such, they’re conceived of as complete as they are, they weren’t planned as a first step toward inking. And I kind of like many of them. Some of them still make me smile.

Since modern scanners and their software can take a low contrast image and generate an acceptable screen image from it, now and then I’m going to dig into my folder of old pencil cartoons and post one or two.

Today’s pencil cartoon was inspired by the fashion label Imitation of Christ. That’s a provocative name that makes a lot of Christian women angry—even though some of those angry Christian women like the clothes so much they shrug off their unease and wear the label. If I ever put out a high fashion line—say tee shirts and swim wear embroidered with cool cartoons or cool poetry—I’d call the line Noli Me Tangere. The echoes and allusions and irony to my ears speak much more to humor than blasphemy.













Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007 Complete Index


December Archive


Friday, December 28, 2007 -- Goldfish And Sea Monsters #3 of 3

Thursday, December 27, 2007 -- Goldfish And Sea Monsters #2 of 3

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 -- Goldfish And Sea Monsters #1 of 3


Friday, December 21, 2007 -- What Is Love? 4—Forbidden Love

Thursday, December 20, 2007 -- Kate Moss (And Why My Life Is Derailed)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007 -- What Is Love? 3—Gorilla My Dreams

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 -- Why Don’t Turkeys Wear Bras?

Monday, December 17, 2007 -- Lost Gloves



Friday, December 14, 2007 -- The Leaky Yellow Pencil

Thursday, December 13, 2007 -- New Shirt

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 -- Snail Tricks

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 -- Inconsolable: Top Ten Anagrams

Monday, December 10, 2007 -- This Makes Me Think Of “The Swan”



Friday, December 07, 2007 -- “Christian Nation — No Foot Play!”

Thursday, December 06, 2007 -- Karen Kilimnik

Wednesday, December 05, 2007 -- Snow Worries

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 -- My Orange Hat In Theory And Practice

Monday, December 03, 2007 -- How To (Slowly) Sort A List



November Archive


Friday, November 30, 2007 -- The Salt Shaker

Thursday, November 29, 2007 -- Candles

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 -- What Is Love? 2—Ayn Rand

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 -- What Is Love? 1—The Mole People

Monday, November 26, 2007 -- Empty Lots


Friday, November 23, 2007 -- The Little Cactus

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 -- Did Gertrude Murder Ophelia?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 -- Epistemology And Cryptozoology

Monday, November 19, 2007 -- This Cartoon Drawing Scheme


Friday, November 16, 2007 -- The Appearance Of Glitter

Thursday, November 15, 2007 -- Gibson’s New Robot Guitar

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 -- Der Gelbe Hai

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 -- Clockwork Musicians

Monday, November 12, 2007 -- Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #5


Friday, November 09, 2007 -- Technology And The Magic Of Images

Thursday, November 08, 2007 -- Technology And The Magic Of Music

Wednesday, November 07, 2007 -- Wayne Thiebaud Where You Least Expect Him

Tuesday, November 06, 2007 -- Norwegian Forest Cats

Monday, November 05, 2007 -- Rate Of God


Friday, November 02, 2007 -- Who’s Gonna Play You?

Thursday, November 01, 2007 -- Halloween Recap 2007



October Archive


Wednesday, October 31, 2007 -- Playing With Dolls

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 -- Death (In The American Eccentric Empirical Tradition)

Monday, October 29, 2007 -- Dear Angie: Get Well Soon!


Friday, October 26, 2007 -- A Nod To Guitars With Knobs

Thursday, October 25, 2007 -- Fast Art

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 -- Will Barnet Discusses ‘Soft Boiled Eggs’

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 -- Strange Goings On In Women’s Tennis

Monday, October 22, 2007 -- Advice On Love From Smallville’s Lex Luthor


Friday, October 19, 2007 -- A James D. Watson Skinhead Thug Goodbye

Thursday, October 18, 2007 -- Lip-Synching For Animation

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 -- Psychedelic Shadows

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 -- ITV Gives 'Frankenstein' A Feminine Makeover

Monday, October 15, 2007 -- He Wanted To Show Her Something Weird


Friday, October 12, 2007 -- Art And Magazines

Thursday, October 11, 2007 -- Communicating The Arts Of Brittany Murphy

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 -- Smallville: Questions And Trepidations

Tuesday, October 09, 2007 -- Cool Old Things Versus Cool Modern Things

Monday, October 08, 2007 -- “Boozing Angelina Collapses!” *


Friday, October 05, 2007 -- The Almost, Sort Of, Kinda Wisdom Of Blake Edwards

Thursday, October 04, 2007 -- Dead Monkeys. Swimming Pools. Movie Stars.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007 -- “Let Me Tell You Something About Los Angeles”

Tuesday, October 02, 2007 -- Sea Monkey Update, Fall 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007 -- 2007 3rd Quarter Index --



September Archive


Friday, September 28, 2007 -- Faraday’s Legacy

Thursday, September 27, 2007 -- Faraday On Speculation In ‘Natural Philosophy’

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 -- Faraday On The Non-Rotation Of Lines-Of-Force

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 -- Faraday On The Separation Of Matter And Space

Monday, September 24, 2007 -- Rex Grossman And Ximena Gonzalez


Friday, September 21, 2007 -- Knobs

Thursday, September 20, 2007 -- Blazing Dawn

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 -- Pastels (Dry): A French Perspective

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 -- Mischa Barton In The News

Monday, September 17, 2007 -- Starhopping Through Capricornus To Neptune


Friday, September 14, 2007 -- Isaac Newton and Stephen Wolfram, Angie, Neptune

Thursday, September 13, 2007 -- Sir Isaac Newton: An Indian Perspective

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 -- Nonstandard Analysis: A (Lost) French Perspective

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 -- Isaac Newton And Britney Spears

Monday, September 10, 2007 -- Sir Isaac Newton: A French Perspective


Friday, September 07, 2007 -- Magic, The Elder Gods, Fall Festivals

Thursday, September 06, 2007 -- Oil Pastels: The Cray-Pas History

Wednesday, September 05, 2007 -- Bee Dates Orchids Back To Time Of Dinosaurs

Tuesday, September 04, 2007 -- Star Hopping



August Archive


Friday, August 31, 2007 -- Michael Vick in “The Man In The Chain-Link Cage”

Thursday, August 30, 2007 -- Michael Vick’s Dead Dog Blues Waltz

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 -- Dr. Phil, Michael Vick And Hillary Clinton

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 -- Michael Vick And Garfield

Monday, August 27, 2007 -- How Do You Make A Dead Dog Float? *


Friday, August 24, 2007 -- Fred Hoyle On Insensate Fury And Really Odd Explanations

Thursday, August 23, 2007 -- Fred Hoyle On Time And Really Odd Explanations

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 -- Solar System Formation And Really Odd Explanations

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 -- Exploding Planets And Really Odd Explanations

Monday, August 20, 2007 -- Gravity, Redshifts And Really Odd Explanations


Friday, August 17, 2007 -- Corporate Communications #5: Alison

Thursday, August 16, 2007 -- Corporate Communications #4: Alison (Introduction)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 -- Corporate Communications #3: Shelley

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 -- Corporate Communications #2: Penny

Monday, August 13, 2007 -- Corporate Communications #1: Pamela


Friday, August 10, 2007 -- Cosmic Swarms

Thursday, August 09, 2007 -- Cosmic Scorpion

Wednesday, August 08, 2007 -- Cosmic Fireflies

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 -- Cosmic Butterflies

Monday, August 06, 2007 -- Stars And Bugs


Friday, August 03, 2007 -- Rembrandt, Magic And Constructing Reality

Thursday, August 02, 2007 -- Rembrandt, Magic And Retinex

Wednesday, August 01, 2007 -- Rembrandt, Magic And Substance Becomes Mind



July Archive


Tuesday, July 31, 2007 -- Rembrandt, Magic And Colors Beyond Words

Monday, July 30, 2007 -- Rembrandt And Magic


Friday, July 27, 2007 -- Mischievous Girls: A Cautionary Tale

Thursday, July 26, 2007 -- Mischievous Girls: A Paragraph Re-Write

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 -- Mischievous Girls—Hard Times

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 -- Mischievous Girls In The News—Lindsay!

Monday, July 23, 2007 -- Mischievous Girls Make The World Go Round


Friday, July 20, 2007 -- “How To Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion”

Thursday, July 19, 2007 -- A Resurgence Of Things Wagner

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 -- Nessie Monster Spotted In Chinese Lake

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 -- Is Bigfoot In Michigan?

Monday, July 16, 2007 -- Batteries And Bunnies And Bras—Oh My!


Friday, July 13, 2007 -- The End Of The Renaissance

Thursday, July 12, 2007 -- “One Of The Hardest-To-Imagine Tenets Of Ptolemaic Astronomy”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 -- Has Science Proven That The Earth Is Stationary?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 -- The Windmills Of PHYSICS TODAY

Monday, July 09, 2007 -- Catholic Apologetics International


Friday, July 06, 2007 -- Signs And Symbols Of Jung

Thursday, July 05, 2007 -- Overture! Curtains! Lights! Cue The Dog!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 -- Amateur Science--Strong Tradition, Bright Future

Monday, July 02, 2007 -- 2007 2nd Quarter Index



June Archive


Friday, June 29, 2007 -- Wild Randomness

Thursday, June 28, 2007 -- A Real Hawk Scares A Fashion Swan

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 -- Venus In The Office At Night

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 -- No Croakers, No Nervous Lubbers

Monday, June 25, 2007 -- The Golfing Animal


Friday, June 22, 2007 -- The Leisure Class(es)

Thursday, June 21, 2007 -- Michael Lau: Freedom, Fun And Quality

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 -- What Is A Toy?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 -- Rise Of The Almost, Sort Of, Kinda Silver Surfer

Monday, June 18, 2007 -- The Beginning Of The End (Of Cicadas)


Friday, June 15, 2007 -- Inca Roads: Bassoon And Marimba

Thursday, June 14, 2007 -- Inca Roads (Introduction)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 -- “It’s More Fun If It’s A Monster”

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 -- Ugobe’s Pleo: A Re-Engineered Camarasaurus

Monday, June 11, 2007 -- New Species Of High Fashion Frog


Friday, June 08, 2007 -- Gender Terror And Reality Revisionism

Thursday, June 07, 2007 -- Star Trek And Reality Revisionism

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 -- Pirates And Reality Revisionism

Tuesday, June 05, 2007 -- Trickle Down Paris Hilton

Monday, June 04, 2007 -- A Paris Hilton Jailhouse Review


Friday, June 01, 2007 -- Card Players As An Occult Metaphor?



May Archive


Thursday, May 31, 2007 -- Chance And God

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 -- Gambling And Synchronized Oscillators

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 -- Roulette And The Magic Of Math


Friday, May 25, 2007 -- Dumpling Kaiser #5: Thinking About It Now

Thursday, May 24, 2007 -- Dumpling Kaiser #4: Clouds

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 -- Dumpling Kaiser #3: Jack And Jill

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 -- Dumpling Kaiser #2: Dumpling Rising

Monday, May 21, 2007 -- Dumpling Kaiser #1: Dumpling


Friday, May 18, 2007 -- Computers, Language And The Goblin Universe

Thursday, May 17, 2007 -- Do you need an operating system?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 -- A Fourth Generation Computer Language

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 -- Design Of A [Computer] Language

Monday, May 14, 2007 -- Two Schools Of Thought About Computer Science


Friday, May 11, 2007 -- Britney Spears: Death By Dinosaur

Thursday, May 10, 2007 -- My Favorite Dinosaur Book

Wednesday, May 09, 2007 -- Dinosaurs And Low Gravity

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 -- Dino Rat

Monday, May 07, 2007 -- Loch Ness Toad


Friday, May 04, 2007 -- ‘Lost Horizon’ Versus ‘Camelot’ — #5: Shangri-La

Thursday, May 03, 2007 -- ‘Lost Horizon’ Versus ‘Camelot’ — #4: Fie On Goodness!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007 -- ‘Lost Horizon’ Versus ‘Camelot’ — #3: Two Different Worlds

Tuesday, May 01, 2007 -- ‘Lost Horizon’ Versus ‘Camelot’ — #2: It’s May!



April Archive


Monday, April 30, 2007 -- ‘Lost Horizon’ Versus ‘Camelot’ — #1


Friday, April 27, 2007 -- My Favorite Book About Freud

Thursday, April 26, 2007 -- Freud For Ten Bucks

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 -- Freud Through Ayn Rand Colored Glasses

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 -- Will Freud Finally Slip?

Monday, April 23, 2007 -- Freud And Cake


Friday, April 20, 2007 -- Columbine

Thursday, April 19, 2007 -- The Ax Ismail/Holden Caulfield Connection

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 -- The Videogame Contradiction

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 -- The Copycat Effect

Monday, April 16, 2007 -- Romance, Terror And The Word ‘Piss’


Friday, April 13, 2007 -- Peter Gave Himself Up For Lost

Thursday, April 12, 2007 -- God In “A New Kind Of Science”

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 -- Underwater This Is The Cathedral Sea

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 -- A Mainstream Sports Reporter Meets Evangelical Beliefs

Monday, April 09, 2007 -- My Little Cthulhu


Friday, April 06, 2007 -- Enchantment And Notan

Thursday, April 05, 2007 -- Distortion And Notan

Wednesday, April 04, 2007 -- The Solid And The Fluid In Notan

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 -- Notan

Monday, April 02, 2007 -- 2007 1st Quarter Index



March Archive


Friday, March 30, 2007 -- Ode To An American Zombie

Thursday, March 29, 2007 -- My Favorite Cannibalism Song

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 -- The Basic Zombie Plot

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 -- My Favorite Zombie Movie

Monday, March 26, 2007 -- Rave To The Grave: Return Of The Living Dead #5


Friday, March 23, 2007 -- Tiny Purple Fishes Swim Laughing

Thursday, March 22, 2007 -- Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #4

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 -- Triss

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 -- Gloomy Bear

Monday, March 19, 2007 -- RIP Brad Delp (June 12, 1951 – March 9, 2007)


Friday, March 16, 2007 -- Surfacing Like Well The Loch Ness Monster

Thursday, March 15, 2007 -- “A Most Excellent Philosophy”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 -- AquaBabies

Tuesday, March 13, 2007 -- Real Life Shapeshifting

Monday, March 12, 2007 -- “Will Slime Molds Take Over Our Moon, Now?”


Friday, March 09, 2007 -- Jack Chick

Thursday, March 08, 2007 -- Captain America Has Been Cut Down By A Sniper

Wednesday, March 07, 2007 -- Is Paris Hilton A Superhero?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 -- Is Paris Hilton A Supervillain?

Monday, March 05, 2007 -- Seven Characteristics Of A Supervillain


Friday, March 02, 2007 -- Happy Birthday Theodor Geisel!

Thursday, March 01, 2007 -- Mandelbrot Flirt



February Archive


Wednesday, February 28, 2007 -- Anna Nicole Smith’s Dead Body, Jokes 1, 2 and 3

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 -- A Mischa Barton Loose End

Monday, February 26, 2007 -- In The Realms Of The Unreal Right Here


Friday, February 23, 2007 -- No Zen Here

Thursday, February 22, 2007 -- Why I Almost Never Use Rhyme

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 -- Winona Ryder Redux

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 -- My Britney Shaves Her Head Theory

Monday, February 19, 2007 -- Why Catching A Cold Makes Some People Cuter


Friday, February 16, 2007 -- Mycelium And Aurora Borealis

Thursday, February 15, 2007 -- Crannogs

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 -- Toadspawn Is Quite Unlike Frogspawn

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 -- A Woodland Path Encircles The Loch

Monday, February 12, 2007 -- There Is Only One Lake In Scotland


Friday, February 09, 2007 -- Jeanne Hébuterne — Art As A Grail

Thursday, February 08, 2007 -- Rocks In His Head

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 -- The Goblin Universe Sexuality Gedankenexperiment

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 -- The Other Reason To Burn Witches

Monday, February 05, 2007 -- Talking To People Who Can’t Talk To You


Friday, February 02, 2007 -- Micro Freudian Imperatives

Thursday, February 01, 2007 -- De Humani Corporis Fabrica



January Archive


Wednesday, January 31, 2007 -- meeting archy and mehitabel

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 -- Keys With Their Baffling Variety Of Curves

Monday, January 29, 2007 -- A Play Within Limitations


Friday, January 26, 2007 -- Natural History

Thursday, January 25, 2007 -- Night Buggin’

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 -- Spiders And Snakes

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 -- Actias Luna

Monday, January 22, 2007 -- Spiders


Friday, January 19, 2007 -- Daddy Needs A New Pair Of Shoes

Thursday, January 18, 2007 -- Melanie Daniels In Paris

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -- Britney Spears And The Southern Polar Opening

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 -- The Mind’s Ocean

Monday, January 15, 2007 -- Middle Earth


Friday, January 12, 2007 -- Cryptobiosis

Thursday, January 11, 2007 -- Real Mainstream Professional Publishing #3

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 -- Real Mainstream Professional Publishing #2

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 -- Real Mainstream Professional Publishing #1

Monday, January 08, 2007 -- Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?


Friday, January 05, 2007 -- Saturn and Titan, And The Pleiades

Thursday, January 04, 2007 -- Asymmetry In Its Simplest State

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 -- Cynthiae Figuras Aemulatur Mater Amorum

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 -- The Full Moon Never Eclipses The Sun