Archives for August 2009

The sign of judgment: the earth will begin to sweat

There was a time when I spent a lot of time in public libraries. They’re great places for the intellectually curious and the financially challenged. Then I became a public librarian — and became jaded towards the library-going experience. Then I became an academic librarian; and now, after some years in academia, I am still fairly ruined for the joys of public library patronage. But I do enjoy poking my head in from time to time. So, the other day, while waiting for Walgreens to fill a prescription of antibiotics for my daughter’s infected mosquito bite, I ventured into the nearby branch of the local public library system.

Among the gems I found while browsing the stacks was this: 1000: A Mass for the End of Time by a group of golden-throated ladies called Anonymous 4. I’m listening to it right now, and thumbing through the notes, including the Latin text with parallel English/French/German translation. The first line of the Processional Hymn is notable:

Judicii signum, tellus sudore madescit.

The sign of judgment: the earth will begin to sweat.

A prophetic reference to global warming? A description of New Orleans in August? In any case, quite an image, and a beautiful apocalyptic liturgy pulled from a millenium past.

"He must increase, I must decrease."

Happy Feast of the Decollation of John the Baptist, everyone!

(Photo, of course, is of the Mitsui original in my living room. Creepy Catholics!)

If anybody needs me, I’ll be huddled in the corner, sobbing and burbling, "Ten years! Ten lousy years!"

Amelia Lester, 26 Year Old Former Fact Checker, is the New Managing Editor of The New Yorker.

Pizza Night

Sharp-eyed viewers will note that the sausage pizza shown under construction here is perhaps not as round as a hand-tossed pizza might be. The truth is that, while these photos do have the virtue of being unstaged, the dough-tossing shot is taken from a later pizza – there were six in all, made in honor of William Wilson, Guitarist Extraordinaire, who had a birthday to deal with. The dough proved a bit sticky just out of the gate, and this first pizza was rolled only.

Twit My Dad Says

Twitter has never really made sense to me until now. Some guy named Justin, 28 years old and living with his parents, is simply twittering various things his dad says. My favorite:

“The dog don’t like you planting stuff there. It’s his backyard. If you’re the only one who shits in something, you own it. Remember that.”

Pictures for Car Story

Story is here. Click to enlarge

Red Ink XI

The Concord Coalition Plausible Baseline, created using the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) updated projections, shows that current policy would lead to $14.4 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years.

That’s double the forecast of 7 trillion, just a few weeks ago. In trillions of dollars.

How big is a trillion? 1,000,000,000,000. That’s not so big, is it? A zero here, a zero there; what’s the difference?

Is there another way to visualize this? Try this. Or maybe this will make it more clear.

Surely this “Concord Coalition” is rag-tag group of right wing nut jobs, a bunch of tea-baggers straight out of one of those Town Hall meetings, right?


Plus ca change…

“Mention art to a film magnate, and he will laugh in your face. ‘Listen, brother,’ he will say, after the guffaws have subsided, ‘the motion pictures are made for the square-heads out in Kalamazoo, not for the highbrows in Greenwich Village – and the square-heads want entertainment, not art.’ It is useless to argue that art may conceivably be entertainment; art, in Hollywood, is regarded as a dull, dry, esoteric and highly unprofitable property which is to be shunned religiously by all those who have the best interests of the exhibitor’s box office at heart. Charlie Chaplin is, and always has been, the living refutation of this absurd doctrine.”
– R.E. Sherwood, writing in Vanity Fair during the run-up to Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 film, The Gold Rush.

In other, rather more modern Vanity Fair news, the New Mexico Nurse sends word that the Summer of Death has claimed Dominick Dunne. Dunne was one of what is surely a dying breed – not just a journalist who covered celebrities, but a celebrity journalist.

Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts?

Touching bottom?

At a certain point, sloth and self-loathing cease to be funny. Or as funny as they used to be, anyway. I’ve got a stack of things to read that has gotten silly. Gonna try to give a little of each evening to them. (He wrote, blogging at night…)

I’d like to be a better, more literate person than I am…

…but well, you see, Twin Peaks.

Ron Mueck

Speaking of the End of the World

Quin, do you got your ears on? Girard on War and Apocalypse.


Me: If I lose my job, I think I’ll go to art school.

The Wife: How about business school?

Poetry Happens

For a person who ostensibly cares about language, I don’t read poetry as often as I should. It is difficult for me to pick up a volume of poems and say to myself, “Now I will read poetry.” I do much better when I happen upon it in somewhere – say, when the University of Iowa Press sends my wife a review copy of Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Wallace Stevens, and I open the package while sitting on the steps in the front yard next to the herb garden and read one aloud to her as she picks tomatoes from the plants growing along the driveway. Oh, hey, here’s one by Robert Lowell…

…O that the spirit could remain
tinged but untarnished by its strain!
Better dressed and stacking birch,
or lost with the Faithful at Church –
anywhere, but somewhere else!
And now the new electric bells,
clearly chiming, “Faith of our fathers,”
and now the congregation gathers.

O Bible chopped and crucified
in hymns we hear but do not read,
none of the milder subtleties
of grace or art will sweeten these
stiff quatrains shoveled out four-square –
they sing of peace, and preach despair;
yet they gave darkness some control,
and left a loophole for the soul…

When will we see Him face to face?
Each day, He shines through darker glass.
In this small town where everything
is known, I see His vanishing
emblems, His white spire and flag-
pole sticking out above the fog,
like old white china doorknobs, sad,
slight, useless things to calm the mad.

Today in Porn, Absolutely Tragic Edition

Jasmine Fiore, a former Playboy model who was found dead in a suitcase with her fingers and teeth removed, has been identified by her breast implants.

Healthcare Reform Forum: Jon Stewart, Peggy Noonan, and Mark Shea

Jon Stewart on Healthcare Reform

Peggy Noonan on Healthcare Reform

Mark Shea on Healthcare Reform

The Catholic Illustrator’s Guild Interviews Daniel Mitsui

Here. At one point, our man takes up the question of cartooning:

“I do think that cartooning can teach an artist a lot about sacred art. Visually and compositionally, a comics page from the early 20th century resembles an illuminated manuscript. The figures in mediaeval illustrated manuscripts often look cartoony, simply due to the speed (fast) and scale (small) at which they were drawn. My own figures often look cartoony for similar reasons; I can draw very realistic figures if I have charcoal, a kneaded rubber eraser, and models willing to sit still for six hours, but they’re not something I can improvise easily.

There is also a vigorous comic tradition at the edges of mediaeval sacred art – in manuscript drolleries, misericord carvings, gargoyles, and, ultimately, Hieronymus Bosch – that is very interesting in itself, and even more interesting when considered as an essential part of the iconographic system.

Personally, I credit cartooning with teaching me to compose narratives. For example, I recently received a commission to illustrate a spiritual journey in allegory; it involved a woman climbing a mountain with her family, falling away from them, being led back to the path by a priest, and rejoining them to ascend to the summit. I was able to compose the story in a single continuous landscape. It begins in the top left corner, then moves counterclockwise around the border, breaks into the center of the drawing, and zigzags to the top center. It’s complicated, but I think that anyone can understand the events, and their chronology, without any panels or numbers or arrows to direct him. I wouldn’t have been able to compose that without having read a lot of Popeye and Krazy Kat and Little Nemo. “

But that’s just a snippet. Go thou and read.