Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Berthe Morisot, Revolutions, Ice, Candy

Yesterday was Berthe Morisot’s birthday.

If I did the math right, she would have been 172 yesterday.

I’ve seen some sources put her birthday as January 15, 1841, but Wikipedia uses January 14, 1841 so that must be a consensus choice. Even though I included her birthday in a post a few years ago, I didn’t remember it so I missed saying anything about it yesterday. Oops. Yesterday I wanted to get in that stuff about the Australian Open starting and mostly I wanted to get in that little sequence of music and verse, about “Worlds in collision/Carry us along.”

I did say I have way too much Paris on my mind, so it is almost as if I was writing about Berthe Morisot even though consciously I wasn’t.

And, you know, talk about: Worlds in collision!

When I used that phrase I meant it metaphorically—and I was thinking of Velikovsky’s absurd astronomy theories, with Mars and Venus and the Earth literally in collision with each other.

I was thinking that real life is strange—there is so much distance between everything, literal distance of space, literal distance of time, along with figurative distances of different ways of thinking and different social traditions—but even with all these very real distances keeping us apart, just like Velkovsky’s bizarre theories of planets flying back and forth across the solar system, we as individuals are always flying back and forth around the distances that separate us and somehow colliding with each other or struggling through almost colliding with each other and carrying around the after-effects the way Velikovsky imagined that history itself was deformed by the trauma of the human race witnessing the wild astrophysics.

Berthe Morisot is all that. She is all those distances.

She’s far from us, but somehow so close. In her own time there were scientific and social upheavals of distances so comparable to ours. And she lived through it all, dealt with it all, and reflected it all—one way or the other!—in her art. I mean even the choice of not creating images based directly on all the craziness around her is a conscious decision driven by the madness. It is a reflection, but a reflection shaped by her own thinking, the mirror—so to speak—of her personality, character and deepest self. And I’ve written many times about how her work almost always contains an intense dichotomy, a sense of here and there, a sense of age and youth, people and places somehow together but still tragically separate.

And I’ve always wondered if her very subtle and very personal body of work might be the most real and powerful way of approaching issues like this. I mean as opposed to what might be called a more documentarian or social realism kind of approach.

I’m guessing many people today who see the film “The Dark Knight Rises” watch the business about the “Gotham Commune” and don’t even realize that stuff really happened!

Parisians of that era certainly thought of their city as the world’s greatest city. Then radicals formed the Paris Commune. And Berthe Morisot lived through that. For us that stuff is wild, almost unthinkable plot twists and amazing images in a (very dubious) superhero adventure movie, but for Berthe Morisot it was real life. And she lived through all that. Incredibly, the Impressionists as a group left very few images documenting that bit of social upheaval. Manet left one or two drawings and paintings of the desolation in the streets and among the people, but almost everybody else among that community of artists just ignored it in their work, although biographers refer to both Morisot and Manet experiencing what are described usually as “nervous breakdowns” after the political turmoil first of the radicals and then of the nationalist forces “suppressing” the anarchists and communists.

So yesterday was Berthe Morisot’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Miss Morisot. I feel as if you are right here next to me. I feel as if you are infinitely far away from me.


This isn’t much of a photograph, not much of a composition, but it has a sense of here and there—I mean the reflection in the glass—but more importantly it shows that the back window of my car is relatively ice free.

This is a very big deal for me.

A few weeks ago my rear defroster stopped working. My rear window has wires embedded in the glass. I assumed that either a trivial problem like a blown fuse was at fault and I could crawl under my dash and change the fuse myself, or some complicated electrical issue in the wiring was at fault and would require a technician to isolate and repair the problem.

So I should have checked the fuses. Or taken my car to the shop. But I did nothing.

So I’ve been doing the least I could do—nothing!—and just driving with a rear window that fogged up now and then.

But toward the end of last week and over the weekend we’ve had some typically Chicago insane weather around here.

One day the temperature would be in the fifties and the next day the weather would be in the twenties, or colder. At some point over the weekend, we had a hot spell, with rain, and then the next day the temperature dropped down into the teens. For some strange weather physics kind of reasons the streets and sidewalks did not freeze over, but many cars became totally iced-over. Windshields and rear windows were solid flat thin blocks of ice.

And it was ice from hell. For some strange ice physics kind of reasons the ice was almost impossibly hard to scrap or chip away.

On Sunday morning I walked to a nearby grocery store. When I was walking into the grocery store, outside an apartment complex across from the store some old senior citizen was standing in the street with a big scrapper, scrapping away at the ice on his car’s windshield. I did all my shopping and when I came out of the grocery store, the poor old guy was still there scrapping away!

It was ice from hell.

And my rear defroster was broken.

So Monday I was driving around and the only view behind me I had was from my side mirrors. I was thinking, well, that’s life, I’m probably going to get a ticket for driving in an unsafe vehicle, or die or get mutilated in a crash.

But I just couldn’t get up the energy to crawl around under my dash and check the fuses.

At some point Monday morning I asked myself, again, “Now what is the least I can do to deal with this?” And it occurred to me that the number one rule for dealing with computer glitches is first and always to start by checking the wires. Check the cables. Unplug everything and plug it back in. That very often solves whatever problem you’re dealing with.

So I pulled over and popped open my car’s hatchback to check the little wires that connect the embedded heating elements to the car’s electrical system. I almost never use the hatchback so I couldn’t imagine any way the wires might have become damaged, but checking them was the least I could do.

So I pulled over, opened the hatchback and checked the wires. There are three very thin wires connecting the rear defroster to the car’s general wire harness. Two wires were connected just fine. The third wire—somehow!—had worked itself loose and was just hanging there with the plastic connector just resting against its connection point.

Damn it!

So I reconnected it. Then I double-checked and snugged-up the other two wires. I got back in my car, switched on the rear defroster and ten minutes later my rear window was clear of ice.

I felt: 1) like Einstein for solving the issue; 2) like a brain-dead complete idiot for driving around for two weeks with a simple disconnected wire.

But it’s all right now. In fact it’s a gas. It’s alright. I’m Jumping Jack Flash and it’s a gas, gas, gas.

My rear defroster works again!


Looking back, dwelling in the past, now that I can see clearly through my rear window, I feel I may have been too harsh when I’ve posted about Maria Sharapova selling candy.

Candy At The End Of The World

Distance: Chicago To Melbourne

I mean, yesterday I wrote: What the hell do people like this think?

I mean, what was I thinking?

I mean candy is fun.

I mean, everybody loves gummy candy.

When you look at all the craziness celebrities do these days—both the insane and horrible things that are widely reported in the mainstream media, and the even more extreme insanely horrible things that are covered in show business journals and business journals and various websites that follow celebrities—selling candy is a pretty cool thing to do.

If, for instance, Maria Sharapova wanted to make the case, she could—in a fantasy world lost in the clouds of my brain—she could make the case that Berthe Morisot made the choice not to do documentary images of the Paris Commune and instead the wonderful images that Morisot did create have been as lasting an art, even a more powerful art, that has resonated in a vastly wider way at many more metaphorical levels than literalist depictions ever could have.

So Maria Sharapova is selling candy.

She’s not making sex tapes. She’s not having children with lunatics. She not singing love songs to politicians working for drug cartels (or worse).

Candy is fun.

I’m very sorry, Maria Sharapova, for saying What the hell do people like this think?

Candy is fun.

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