Today, 23 April, is World Book Night (sometimes known, confusingly, as World Book Day). It is also the birthday (according to convention; nobody knows for sure) of William Shakespeare, and also the date on which he died, in 1616. On different calendars, Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) and William Wordsworth also died on this day, in 1616 and 1850 respectively.
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Categories : Ambiente, Literary
“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life of the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world…”
His works are full of the lonely, the isolated, the waiting, and the working. No terrorists for him and nothing political in any of his paintings. He was an introvert who painted what he saw or imagined scenes to make his point. Much of the time the point of his art had to do with how isolating he saw life could be.
I’ve spent some time thinking about why Gottgried Helnwein took Hopper’s work and changed it. Here’s my spin on it. He felt that Hopper had so captured America in that painting that he changed the figures to be the icons of pop culture in the 40’s and 50’s – Bogart, Monroe, Presley and Dean. Pop culture is probably America’s greatest contribution to art. All of those icons have a touch of the isolated, the desperate, the yearning, the rebel.
Many art critics have commented on Hopper capturing the spirit of America in his work. Here’s what he saw and imagined.
The spirit of America? Up to the middle of the century I thought it was God Bless America, baseball, football, Iwo Jima, winning WWII for God and Churchill, Mother’s Day, Veteran’s Day and the 4th of July. Well Hopper had a different take on the America he saw in the 1st half of the 20th century. Not such a happy-go-lucky bunch.
Before we get too carried away on a wave of pessimism remember who the man was. He was married to the same woman for 40 years and used her for a model in his work. Painted her as a sexy attractive woman. Worked in the same studio in New York for a long time. Not the radically different characters we like our great artists to be. Think Picasso, Pollack and Van Gogh. Hopper was an introvert. His quote at the beginning tells us that. Those paintings prove it. My conclusion is that we the audience and the art world have gotten carried away with our analysis. Hopper is not an American artist. He’s much bigger than that. He’s a world artist and what he shows us is the human condition. Those faces in those scenes show it. This is his message – we are alone in our skins.
According to the US government currently the US is under attack from “terrorists” . Every horrible act that takes place in public is immediately labeled “terrorist.” I agree that the Boston Marathon bombs were acts of terror but can’t Mister Obama wait a little before he uses the word “terrorist” to label the perpetrators? Has an Orwellian ring to it. It isolates us even more. I don’t know about you but calling someone a terrorist does me no good.
I apologize for the state of the world digression but I hope Hopper’s spirit doesn’t mind. Here’s some of his work that make me feel good. Being alone doesn’t make me unhappy and being with someone else doesn’t either. I think the guy was pretty damn cool.
Attitude is what matters. VIVE ART, VIVE LOVE, VIVE HOPPER!!!
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Categories : Ambiente, Personal
Sure and begorrah you’ve had enough “Slainte” and “Erin go bragh” by now but I’ve been up to other mischief so I couldn’t post this on Sunday when everybody was Irish.
One of my favorite poet’s early poems follows. Note his pen rests snug as gun. The meaning is clear to an Irishman where he stands relative to the “troubles.”
BY SEAMUS HEANEY
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
So what is it that makes me heart pump a little faster when I think of myself as Irish. You’re sitting there thinking. What the fuck? This guy’s name is Snyder. Well ¾’s of my family are from Donegal in Ireland. The Snyder’s were from the Alsace.
It’s not easy being green or Irish, but it was easier on the East Coast in the middle of the 20th century in the Irish neighborhoods of Philadelphia than it is here in Merida. Back then the Fighting Irish were in the hunt for the college football championship year after year.
John Wayne was “The Quiet Man” and Maureen O’Hara was his bride-to-be provided he could knock out Victor McLaglen. BTW the Irish had a problem with John Ford’s idyllic depiction of the Irish countryside back then. Their opinion has changed since. It’s a beautiful film in many ways although a little over-the-top with Irish blarney, more commonly known as bullshit.
Bishop Fulton Sheen had a weekly TV show and Bing Crosby was the #1 singer in the land. Old Blue Eyes changed that and I have to say I was glad then and I’m glad now. And what happened next was remarkable and who knows how dishonest? An Irish Catholic became president. I didn’t know back then how unpredictable and complex the world was but I do know now. Most if not all of those Irishmen have had a fall from grace.
I had no idea as a boy that the Irish writers I loved came from a tradition that had been born a millennium and a half before. There were these little Irish monks writing in monasteries that were sanctuaries for the written word. Without them the modern world would be struggling even harder to understand how the human race thought about things in the beginning when the word came into being. When I finally got to Dublin 50 years later it all made sense. That Irish sense of humor was evident even then. A monk illustrating the Bible, drew a cat in the margin of one of the pages. It’s thought to be that he was sitting there in his cell bored by the day after day task of creating one of the most revered books in the western world and there was a cat on the windowsill; so what the hell he just made a drawing of it for the Book of Kells.
My grandmother believed in the “little people.” If you saw her you’d know why. She had the look and the spirit of the leprechaun. Her eyes twinkled when she laughed and she never missed a chance to laugh. My grandfather made lemonade from lemons when he lost his job during the Great Depression. He went in the basement and fed the family by making whisky not to drink but to sell. Thank you, Carrie Nation, and the 18th Amendment.
We came from a land ruled by an oppressor and many of us aren’t forgiving the English when it comes to that. When asked to be included in an anthology of great British poetry since he was born and raised in Northern Ireland Seamus Heaney said :
“Be advised my passport’s green.
No glass of ours was ever raised to toast the Queen.”
My heroes as a boy were Irish freedom fighters. I didn’t know the differences among Free Staters, IRA men, and the Sinn Fein as a boy and I still don’t get it all. But what the history of Ireland did for me was make it easy and natural to be a rebel. I raised my middle finger to all those in authority at the hint of any disregard for my right to be free. No need to tell you it got me into some trouble in high school and the military.
Now about the water of life – uisce beatha – phonetically (ish’-ka ba-ha), the Gaelic words that became the English word “whisky.” The 1st mention of whisky in the written history of the modern world comes from the Annals of Clanmacnoise where an Irish Chieftain in the 13th century died from an alcohol overdose. I’ve been to Ireland and I understand how it might have happened. Fighting naked in the cold and the rain by the river Shannon just forced the man to take to drink. The more he drank the warmer he felt until….
Finally to my point. The cliffs of Slieve League in Donegal stand 2000 feet above the Atlantic – higher than Ireland’s most famous cliffs the Cliffs of Doher. The wind blew a gale of rain stitches in my face as I stood there 5 or 6 years ago. The photo below was taken from the spot. It was the land of my ancestors I’d heard about but like many Irish-Americans it was the land of a family I’ll never know. I have never seen a picture of any of those who lived in this land from across the sea. They’d left this land to forget the sorrows, the troubles and save themselves from a potato famine that was made by politics and business as much it was by Mother Nature. It was a fucking challenge just to stand still in that blowing wind and stinging rain. That’s when it came to me. What it means to be green and Irish is to be standing as a tree rooted in the earth bending in the wind and the rain with a smile on my face to be home at last. The irony is that my home now is in Merida, Mexico where it’s not so easy being green but it’s great to be livin’ Irish with my middle finger raised to anyone who wants to fuck with my Social Security.
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Categories : Ambiente, Film, Literary, Personal
My first memory of Carnaval goes back to growing up Irish-Alsatian in Philadelphia and
There were and still are some wonderful German bakeries in that part of the world and we called what we ate on Shrove Tuesday “fried doughnuts.” Being pudgy at the time I remember it being about stuffing as much sugar and fried fat in my face as I could seeing that Lent would start the next day. Eating for me was not going to be the unhealthy activity it usually was for the next 6 weeks. Back then in my Catholic world of guilt and pain Mardi Gras was a one-day affair of eating-in-excess to ready myself for the sacrifices to come.
Just as horizons broaden for most of us during adolescence mine widened into watching film of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but my most significant experience in understanding the meaning of Carnaval to the Latin world was had by watching Orfeu Negro. Besides giving me an understanding of Carnaval it introduced me to the music of Jobim/Gilberto/Bonfa. If you want to relive the memory or watch it for the first time you can watch the complete film on Youtube. BTW an ex-novia from Peru said to me, “No, no Rio!! It’s instant divorce! Everybody cheats in Rio especially at Carnaval.”
But nothing can beat the real thing. The first real thing for me was Carnaval in Cadiz, Spain 3 years ago. Andalusia and Carnaval are hard to beat and Cadiz’ celebration is considered at the top or near it in Europe. The traditions of flamenco, gypsy culture and Spanish political satire made for a fun-filled (and at times thought-provoking) week.
I was looking forward to my first Carnaval in Merida. But mi novia was the first force to pull me in the opposite direction. She didn’t want to go. Actually I wasn’t that disappointed since I expected Merida’s celebration to fall short of Cadiz. My girlfriend is Mexicana by birth so I was kinda puzzled by her distaste but I had no problem with skipping the whole deal but a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Saturday she showed up and said, “Lo siento, eres neuva aqui y curiosa…vamos.” 3 hours later we’re walking back after being subjected to an endless comparsa of beer company-sponsored floats peopled with tittilating torsos twirling to mindless music. Not the bossa nova of Orfeu Negro. Before you dismiss my reaction as coming from an older out-of-touch-wth-today curmudgeon, I do listen to the music of today’s youth and enjoy some of it. The last day of Carnaval celebration was Tuesday. We – my novia, her daughter and her Mom – went en familia to the beach at Progresso. A beautiful day of sun, sand and surf sprinkled with the same camiones de cerveza, sexy cuerpos, y aburrido musica.
Public drunkenness was not a problem. Kudos to the people. The family spirit of togetherness and love that makes this place special was very evident. The children come first. The level of art (visual and sartorial) displayed in comparsas that I saw was mediocre at best. Eating at Eladio’s in Progresso was infinitely better than fasnachts in Philadelphia. Now if only I could find Virginia Rodrigues to sing Manha de Carnaval.
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Categories : Ambiente, Film, Personal
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Categories : Ambiente, Personal
Now that we have finally gone over the cliff – fiscal, calendar, whatever that cliff was we went over – I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Chino wishes you a Woof!!! Woof!!! as well. For any of you wondering there has been no name change but he was the star of the Fiesta held last weekend at my place.
Having been introduced to some Mexican celebrations of the holidays I think I’ll visit a weight loss expert. The Christmas Eve feast began with snacks and drinks (mostly non-alcoholic) from 10 till about 1AM. A champagne toast began dinner which had been delayed so that the last attendee – the 7 year-old son of a divorced Dad – could sit at the table with Dad’s family after he sat with Mom’s on the front-end of the celebration. On this particular night divorce didn’t seem so bad since he got to celebrate twice as much as everybody else. I was touched by the love and patience everyone showed and especially touched by the hug and kisses he gave his one year-old half-sister upon arriving. The place given family life is something Mexico can boast about especially when the presence of kids at an almost all-night party was so comfortable. The downside we will come to later.
As I’ve gotten older eating at 2AM has made it difficult to sleep but luckily there was turkey’s natural sedative, tryptophan, among the pork, chicken, potatoes au gratin, rice, and stuffed pumpkin. What no cranberry sauce? For those of you not-in-the-know turkey-aided sleep is mostly mythical since it takes huge quantities of tryptophan to bring on sleep. So I will have to own up to having add enough wine that I was snoring by 4AM.
The downside of Mexican family life came on New Years Eve when the mandated presence of a 16 year-old at the fiesta was fulfilled with all night darts being sent from the eyes of the teenager to her mother. If memory serves 16 is the height of the identity crisis and my kids in the 80′s would not have acquiesced if they had been mandated to skip being with their friends. In this particular instance I think somewhere between the Mexican way and the American way there might be a fitting compromise. Thankfully I don’t have to fight those battles anymore.
As we approached midnight someone started using Youtube on the computer to find songs that were traditional to the celebration here in Mexico or that stirred up memories of time past. So as the only Gringo in the group I naturally suggested “Auld Lang Syne” thinking everyone would know it. Not so. I got blank stares. You know from Scotland? More blank stares. Searching my brain for the word, I finally came up with, “Escocia.” Nodding heads but still questioning eyes. A slightly off-key version of “should old acquaintance be forgot and never bought to mind.” Still questions on most faces. How do I get out of this? Remembering
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
I told them, “it’s a drinking song, los borrachos.” Smiles of acknowledgment. I was off the hook.
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Categories : Personal, Uncategorized
I hate to mislead my audience. The pics of the dog above are of the dog I left behind in Los Angeles. I am waiting for a pic of Chino /Tino/whatever because I haven’t set up my phone as a camera.
Now here is Chino!!!
This getting old stuff is for the birds. Having said that reminded me that Thanksgiving was recent so maybe it was a poor choice of words for the aging process given the recent rise in the mortality rate of turkeys. Sorry, I digress.
The point is that my declining sentient state was evident when I recently adopted a dog from Evolucion where I volunteer as a dog walker. As Silvia Cortes, the owner of Evolucion said, “Chino choose you.” She was right. In our first meeting the little mutt mix of mostly terrier put his dirty little paws on me with the unmistakable look of “Take me home now Daddy.” That night before falling asleep I was reading “Following Atticus” a memoir about the impact a mountain climbing schnauzer had on his owner’s life. The next morning I woke up saying to myself – time for another dog. My first choice would be a Rottweiler but with my continued knee problems and the heat of the Yucatan it’s not the best partner for me in Merida.
The next trip to Evolucion I met up with Chino again and Saturday night he was in his new home. It wasn’t until the next day that I learned that Chino was his name when Patricia Holland (an Evolucion volunteer mainstay) sent me an email congratulating me on my adoption. The title of the email was “Chino.” Up until that time I had been calling the damn dog Tino since that’s how my malfunctioning ears transmitted his name to my brain when we were introduced. Until then I had been somewhat puzzled by the lack of reaction the dog had when I called him, “Tino, come.” He didn’t even look at me. Then I learned his real name and said, “Chino, come here.” He looked at me like “Hey dummy who told you my name. I was planning on ignoring you for the rest of your life” and came and sat at my feet. I introduced him to my son on Skype before I knew Chino was his name as Tino. My son said, “Hey T, how are you?” We talked a little about renaming the dog.
He’d been here 2 days before he decided to let me know his vocal chords were in order. There’d been no whining for food or drink, no barking at strangers at the door just a silent little brown dog who pretty much followed me wherever I went hoping I’d give him a treat or a pat on the head. Yesterday I learned what gets him to talk. I was standing in the kitchen when suddenly I heard a very loud bark. I turned from the sink and headed for the front door thinking someone I was expecting had arrived. Not so. I almost tripped over him as he raced out the back door after a cat who had ventured into the yard. The cat scampered up the wall and out of sight. The only thing missing from the scene was a silly soundtrack from Looney Tunes.
So here’s the dilemna. He’s my dog and I can call him what I want within the bounds of civility or not. I do admit to using vulgarity at times. What do you think readers? Should he be Chino, Tino, T for short, T C or Tchino as a compromise. Provided I get more than 7 votes I will abide by the popular decision and the dog will be given the name the blog audience dictates.
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Categories : Uncategorized