Monday, June 29, 2009
I was hired after the start of the school year to fill a position that was just allotted to a school to alleviate over-crowding and so my homeroom was created out of the 3 existing homerooms. I ended up with a class of 23 (15 boys --12 of which were headed to a career involving reform school at some point, and 8 girls -- another 3 of which where clear candidates for some future episode of "cellblock H")!
Among this motley crew was T. He was boy with tremendous social intelligence, a gift that he used without the benefit of any discernable moral compass. I am not a professional with the credentials to certify anyone as being "pathological" in anything, but the word was bandied about freely regarding T. by those with classier degrees than I.
And so today, when I stumbled upon "The Bugr qekr" a flip book that he made in art, a book that quickly ended up in my "June Box" because of its deleterious effects on the social fabric of my classroom when it first debuted back in the spring of 1994, I was much more nostalgic in my recollections of T.'s tenure in my class.
In reflecting upon him (I still can see his impish smile clearly in my mind’s eye) I hope that he's landed gently somewhere and found a place in this life where his talents and manias can contribute to the common good. And in any event, marvel with me at his superb narrative, riveting plot twists, and profound sense of the needs and desires of the common man: I give you with tongue firmly planted in my cheek, "The Bugr qekr".
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Also up now at the National Gallery of Art is a relatively small show with a powerful impact. "Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life" features 31 works, 30 still lifes and his iconic self-portrait. Not-with-standing the fact that my friend and neighbor Cathy has spent the better part of the past two years conserving works and co-authoring the catelogue, it's a take your breath away exhibition. Meléndez' technical expertise creates canvas after canvas so beautiful, so realistic that you can almost smell the freshly baked bread and taste the lushly rendered fruit and vegetables. The tragedy for the 18th century artist was that he was never appointed to the courtly positions he spent his life pursuing in vain. The glory is how he therefore took common objects and the lowest form of genre painting in the esteem of those around him, and elevated them to a regal stature. The show's at the National Gallery of Art on the Mall in the east building through August 23rd, it's a must see for the summer.
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the school where children played,
Their lessons scarcely done;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
Since then ‘t is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.
~ Emily Dickinson
1830 - 1886
Saturday, June 27, 2009
To celebrate her 400th birthday, the National Gallery of Art is hosting an intimate focus show of her paintings in their Dutch Cabinet galleries in the west building. You also get to see works by her husband, Jan Miense Molenaer, and her possible mentor, Frans Hals. Her oeuvre is relatively small to begin with, so anytime a dozen of her paintings are assembled in one place, it's worth the visit.
Furthermore, I commend to your attention the wonderful article in next week's issue of The New Yorker by Peter Schjeldahl, "A Woman's Work: The Brief Career of Judith Leyster." It provides excellent background information.
Friday, June 26, 2009
The other two foci are Latin American music and African American oration. Both are extremely low impact upon the mall, viewer passive, and cheep, common, and insignificant in the pantheon of folklife venues. I lunched at one of the Latin American food tents, and the food was disgusting. It was cooked so long before I got it, that it was inedible.
It's the most uninteresting, non-interactive, lame year of concepts for this "festival" in my 15 years of attending.
Was down on the Mall on Wednesday, and got these two shots of the Smithsonian Exhibition Hall, also known as the Smithsonian Castle. Built out of red limstone quarried in northern Montgomery county the grounds feature some of the most beautiful gardens in DC.
On an accompanying placard the story of the mural reads: "the Global Refugee Mural by Joel Bergner © 2009 creative director Tom Block This mural tells the story of 3 refugees who live here in Maryland, who were interviewed for this project. Georges, a former mayor of his city in eastern Congo (DRC), fled with his family when the war came to his region. Mai, from Myanmar (aka Burma) was unable to return to her country due to religious persecution by the government. Taameem, from southern Iraq, fled after her brother was murdered by local militia members and she was targeted as well. Funded by the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County. Partnership with the International Rescue Committee's refugee resettlement center in Silver Spring." A further reference is made to the artist's work @ www.joelsmurals.com
It's beautiful, check it out.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Shack it off!
I'm 25 again. It's a winter morning, I'm drinking coffee alone at my kitchen table and planning to call my mom: it's her birthday. I'm home cause my county has called a snow day and now the sun is out when I hear on the radio that something has happened to the crew of the Challenger...I turn on my TV...soon I'm the one crying.
Shack it off....
I'm 48, just 2 year younger than him.
Michael Jackson is dead. DEAD. Like what the fuck? I'm barely absorbing the death of Farrah Fawcett, and now this? At least she had a reason. What was his? An all consuming hatred for himself and desire to be someone else until the bleaching off of his skin left his flesh and heart so exposed to life that all that was left to him was death?
Hamlet slide down and make room for Michael. Marilyn, can you get him a glass of cool water?
Skirting the northern edge of Takoma Park, not far from my home are a series of 5 little two story circa World War II apartments Each unit was originally designed with 4 apartments. Today they've been converted into offices and small businesses for the most part. They feature services by and for the Latino community in the area, and three of them where painted with these beautiful murals last summer. The bottom image is a law office and you can see kids playing futbol on a plain surrounded by mountains. I've seen these places in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The middle is a Chiropractor's office and features people in a park with a waterfall. The artist adeptly carries the railing of the wheelchair ramp into a bridge crossing the stream. And further he places a person on the opposite wall so that her image appears from this angle to be ascending the ramp--so clever. The top image is an underwater setting of a Caribbean coral reef.
Y todos eras muy bonitas!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Went to see Monsters Vs. Aliens today up in Baltimore. It was all right. It had its moments. It also had its annoyances, not the least of which was the main character, Susan, a.k.a. Giganticus. She was wholly underdeveloped to the point of engendering zero on the empathy meter. Hard to really get into a movie when you find yourself wondering who to root for let alone why you should be on anyone's side: although, Bob the blob was compelling, at times--and had most of the funny lines! I didn't see it in 3D, and perhaps that technical distraction would have left me feeling better about this one....
Friday, June 19, 2009
Stumbled across this today, and checked it out. So far, it's fabulous.
In a nutshell, you type in the name of a favorite group, and it creates a random playlist for you to listen to featuring the group and similar sounding artists. Por exemplo, I typed in "Blick Eyed Peas" and then got a playlist with them, House of Pain, Nelly Furtado, Kanye West, etc. You have the option to remove any song from the playlist you don't like.
You get one shot without obligation that will last about an hour, and then you're asked to register. It is free, and once registered, it saves your playlist as your station. You can create as many stations as you like to acess whenever you're using your computer. I like it! A box worth opening!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
One of the great things about my job is that I not only get to help teachers, but I also get to assist kids all over the building. Over the years, I've come to grow very fond of a group developmentally delayed/Autistic children in one of our Learning Center classes. This spring they did their self-portraits in art and this is V.'s.
Picasso make a little room at the top!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Latest Post Card from my friend R. who returned home to visit his family in mid-May. He works on a Green Card here for Conoco Oil, but is now suddenly struggling to gain approval for his return.... He's been told it's an H1N1 Influenza thing, even though he is perfectly healthy.
Governmental beaurocracies are actually some of the most capricious organizational structures ever devised by the hearts of men.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Last day of school with kids today. And at the "End of the Year" assembly, I received a pin from the county in acknowledgement of my 15 years of service. It wasn't something that I expected--I thought it was only 14.....Where does the time go?
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Here's an update on my choice for the border garden in the back. From my previous post (Late May Gardens #2) on May 25th, the growth has been amazing. The monsoonal rains of late have certainly helped this aspect of my gardens. I antiscipate that all three plants: pineapple sage, Choleus, and Begonias, will double in size as the summer progresses. And the Pineapple Sage will send out wavy shoots of brilliantly red flowers that never fail to attract hummingbirds. I believe this variant of Choleus will also blossom with spikes of lacy lavender flowers. So far my instincts have not disappointed me.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Besides the Astillbe, there are the Asiatic Lilies. The first among them to open are these amazing orange beauties. I think their common monicre is "Day-Glo" lilies.
Here, I have captured them with an Oak Leaf Hydrangea in the background. This particular bush is a transplant from a volunteer off of an original nursery pruchase that was placed in my backyard in 1999.
Another June, another transition of perennials in my gardens. Here is an image of my most beautiful Astillbe. I planted 5 of them 3 years ago: 1 died outright, 1 is still stuggling with pigmy-esque results, 2 are moderately successful, and then there is this one: magnificent! Such is the life of the gardener....
When I try to parse out what aspects of culture had the most effect, held the most allure, on me as a kid it's gotta be TV. While it never performed the evil duty of surrogate parent, it was something that I spent a good deal of time with--with my parents, who happened to enjoy the medium, as well. And here in June 2009, yet another actor from those golden years has made his sexuality a matter of public record. Wesley Eure who played the David Cassidy look-a-like son on the Saturday morning staple "Land of the Lost," and the erstwhile David Horton on the soap "Days of Our Lives" for a decade has officially set the record clear: He's GAY. His revelation posted on the website AfterElton.com includes the year of living dangerously as Richard Chamberland's much younger lover. And to Wesley's credit, in an era that saw many closeted gay actors self-distruct, he's lived a good life with contributions to Nickelodeon TV, two children's books, the author of "Dragon Tales" on PBS, and countless hours of fundraising for causes like a cure for Breast Cancer, shelters for battered women, and AIDs. Welcome into the light. You may finally never have to worry about breathing in the foul smell of moth balls again, er, unless you like that sort of thing....
The Public Radio show Studio 360 did a little homage to the Gay Pride flag today and then issued a challenge to design a new one. So I bit. Here's my design. It has three components: 1) The Rainbow of the current flag, 2) The pink triangle of the Nazi holocaust against GLBT people, and 3) a new design of my own featuring a circle of 6 gender symbols in flesh tones that combine M-M F-F and M-F pairs.
Isaac Mizrahi will judge the entries. What do you think? Wish me luck.
You can judge my competition for yourself at: www.studio360.org
Friday, June 12, 2009
Still reading the tales of Jelalu Din Rumi. The translation with gorgeous reproductions of illuminations was a gift from a former student. He bought it for me in Iran during a family vacation two years after leaving my class, and the giving of this gift was such a sweet surprise. The text was written in the 13th century and is naturally heavily influenced by the Koran The tales are written like epic poems and are intended to have a moral edge. They are by and large capricious, and illogical in there presentation of events; mystical and inhumane in their judgments. Basically, they are a reflection of the author's world and religious understandings.
I couldn't help but reflect on the elections today in Iran as I read. It would seem that what is happening there is just the next step in two worlds clashing: that of the 13th century with the 21st. Why modernity frightens so many is beyond me. With but a wisp of a moment to participate in this miracle of life, one would better be served by latching onto wonder, instead of fear.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Sunday, June 07, 2009
I like numbers. I like statistics, and I often relax by researching information of a numerical sort. Recently, I've been plotting out where minorities live in the United States. As a white guy, I've been told that within my lifetime (God willing), my demographic will become another minority in this country. I live in community where I'm already in the minority. I find this future exciting. Living in a diverse ethnic nation will so enrich us all. But just how diverse is the United States? That's the question that I set out to answer.
I know the key is hard to see, so here are the categories that I chose to create: Grey = 0% African Americans, Green = less that 1%, Ecru 1 to 14%, Yellow = 14.1 to 29.9%, Gold = 30 to 44.9%, Orange = 45 to 59.9%, Red = 60 to 74.9%, Purple = 75 to 89.9%, and Ultrmarine = 90 to 100%. There are no ultramarine jurisdictions on this map. Further, whenever a county surpassed 50%, I increased the thickenss of it's board and highlighted it in Aqua. To this end, there are 12 states and the District of Columbia with majority African American populations at the county level. For a total of 95 counties with a majority black population.
These facts are interesting, yet I find it far more interesting that such vast expanses of the United States are home to less than 1% of African Americans. And given the way our representative form of Federal governance works, there are a majority of Senators in Washington for whom the practical ability of Black Americans to effect their re-election is nil, and therefore the ability of African Americans to get their issues taken seriously is scant at best.
African Americans make up 13% of the entire population of the United States, yet they represent only 1% of the men and women in the United States Senate, 9% of the House of Representatives. On the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas comes closest to providing parity by single-handedly being 11% of that body, and yet his opinions would doubless better reflect the beliefs of aging, conservative white men than the average black person in America.
It will be very interesting to see how the legacy of our President will effect these inequities 20 years down the road. The rise of more diverse public servants and their ascendancy to Federal office may be his lasting gift to this nation.
There are just 5 states with counties that have majority Hispanic populations: Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. 51 combines counties in all. Again, gray areas are those with no Hispanic residents and green where Hispanic citizens form less that 1% of the total population: Maine and West Virginia jump out in this category. And the range of the ecru is from 1 to 14% and so it's a little misleading in that the ecru in Michigan represents percentages hugging 1% and those in New Jersey range closer to 12%. But I deliberately chose 14%, because I think it's a threshold percentage toward political enfranchisement. With 15% or more of the population, it's possible to have an appreciable effect on the political landscape of a jurisdiction. Below that, no so much. With majority of Hispanic Americans trending toward the Democratic Party, and the majority being younger and trending toward the generally progressive leanings of the under 30 somethings, I have my eyes fixed on Texas in the 2012 presidential election. We already know that this demographic effected the Democratic tsunami in New Mexico and the switch from red to blue of Nevada. And if I were one of the three Cuban American representatives from south Florida, I'd be watching my back for 2010.
My trend toward ferns is bearing fronds! Here's my fountain in the front yard. I have Autumn, Japanese Painted, Lady, and Mexican ferns around it. In the background is a magnificent Cinnamon fern. And just out of the image on the left is a row of Ostrich ferns that flank my driveway. And the best part? The deer don't eat them!
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Took time from quilting to peruse one of my all time favorite children's books. Virginia Lee Burton (1909-1968) created a history of our universe that gradually spirals down from billions of years to millions or years to thousands of years...... to a single year of change. Each page features a beautifully stylized illustration upon which the era, epoch, age, day is revealed like a scene on a stage. The narrator is always present, as well (reminiscent of Sondheim's narrator in "Into The Woods").
I love this book. It's factually accuracy remains unassailed, and it's detailed images demand more than a casual glance. I can't think of a better book to give a child.
"Ages: To Look At 4-6; To Read Aloud 6-10; To Read To Yourself 10 up" I couldn't agree more!
Friday, June 05, 2009
After an autumn lull -- that was really no lull at all if you want to ask the families of the 113 soldiers who died in the field between September 1st and December 31st -- casualties have once again returned to a predictable, lullable, unexceptable average of 30 per month or one a day. And now in the first 5 days of June 13 have died. It's a rate that would lead to a month with 78 casualties if it were to continue. Isn't even one too many? Haven't we established that our aggressions in at least Iraq were unnecessary to our national security? I long for the day when we are no longer mired in that desolate land of age old conflict and allow them to either devour themselves or stand up and re-establish the heritage of art, literature, learning and prosperity as a self-determined people. We will never rid them of terrorists. Only they can do that for themselves. Our resources must be directed to our own shores and the things that need fixed here, and our courageous, obedient military needs to be reserved for the threats that are real.