Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ivan Bilibin

Upon discovery of the aforementioned Vasnetsov, a swanky art book ordered through the channels available introduced us to the work of Ivan Bilibin, an illustrator with a similar subject matter, influenced by folk art, art nouveau, Japanese prints, lubok, and medieval illuminations, all things very dear to the heart of yours truly.

Vasilisa the Beautiful is one of my personal favorites, due to her Cinderella character being both beautiful and smart, dealing with the likes of wicked stepmothers and Baba Yaga. While dealing with seemingly impossible tasks and unreasonable people, especially in the form of jealous and irrational old women probably rings too close to reality, there's no disputing that this picture is badass in the most Slavic folklore way possible.

Although his life was cut short by the brutal siege of Leningrad in World War II, he did illustrations, advertisements, and set designs that somehow manage to be both epic and whimsical at the same time. 

viktor vasnetsov

I explained to someone the other night that the low economic bracket, while sometimes frustrating, is compensated by the intangibles or the fringe benefits, of free tuition and insurance that most Americanskis would kill to have, not to mention full access to sundry geekery and others to share such things with, and to encourage the curiosity.

As much as I love the printed word, having spent the early twenties majoring in English lit and minoring in art classes where mediocrity was mistaken for raw talent, I love when these two things converge.

My fellow peon stumbled across Victor Vasnetsov's work somehow, I'm not sure where, but I was smitten with the subject matter and the oil painting that reminded me of the Wyeth illustrations in the books my mom got for us from the library. My sister and I still read voraciously and we were obsessed with fairy tales from sundry parts of the globe. Baba Yaga with her house of chicken feet, Koschei the Deathless, flying carpets and firebirds.

There's a classicism and realism here even in the most fantastic of subject matter, and his religious art burns with an intensity that I find welcoming in a world of Kinkadeian sentimentalism. I would love to sit in this church and listen to chanting with lots of incense and icons, but in the meantime, these images will suffice.

More goodness here...

Monday, January 30, 2012

before I talk, I should read a book

Being that I'm both a fundie and a geek for history, maybe I should be taking something other than intro courses on my lunchbreak, because I find myself going but what about this and this and hey you left this out, and it's not just referring back to the good book, because I'm not so delusional to assume that others regard it the way I do, but history of a people even if not entirely accurate, still says a lot about the way of life and the way that others see the world, and usually there's a historical root to most saga and such.

While the instructor might be a fabulous linguist, and have more experience in the ivory tower, that does not necessarily make a good person to be teaching history if We The Peonage are noticing that things are missing. It's not unlike when I took Swahili two years ago and the professor was East African and had a PhD in sociolinguistics but did not actually speak the language he was teaching and would argue with the teaching assistant, a Tanzanian nun who did speak it as a native and would tell us what to put on the test "this is how he thinks it is" as opposed to "this is what we actually say."

Despite being a profound introvert, guilty of the Stipeian, "Oh no I've said too much, I haven't said enough" binary all too often, and due to being unable to gauge said professor's penchant for intellectual honesty.  I don't know if omissions like Babylonian captivities and destructions of Temple Number 1 might be kind of important from a historical standpoint even if we're tossing the proverbial baby as in the whole religious aspect of certain scriptures out with the bathwater. One doesn't have to believe all the spiritual dicta in there to appreciate the literary traditions of the wisdom literature or to attempt to understand a culture and milieu vastly different from our own. And it seems like the Babylonian exile figured much more prominently into the makeup of Judaic tradition and western cultural imagination while the destruction of the temple in AD 70 was more like the final knell. But I might be wrong, and I'm willing to stand corrected.

I'm skeptical of those who say that faith and reason can't co-exist side by side, but I wish I was learning more, because I find myself zoning out the way I did in high school when a thousand years of Byzantines was reduced to a few paragraphs bookended by the ancient Romans and the "Dark Ages."  I know there's so much more there, and I wish that we were covering it. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

medusa's hairbrush

I don't know where I've been this week, continually on edge, ever-conscious of the roiling emotions that spilled over all too much, more harsh than I mean to be, feeling trumping thought to the detriment of all, what I want to say is what doesn't come out and what comes out is so absurd and gesticulating that all meaning is lost.

What was the point, it was buried somewhere and I try to pick my words carefully, but stumble over syntax and a hundred tangled thoughts shrieking to be heard, and I can't see straight with all these thoughts crawling out of my head, it's all one big mess and everything gets turned to stone.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

arctic snow

Currently reading Ian Frazier's book on Siberia, a region that inevitably calls to mind games of Risk! in which Irkutsk and Yakutsk usually had little strategic importance, and also exiles and such. It was the coldest place in the world, a place where one's breath freezes in mid-air and falls to the ground, not a place I think of when I think of a place where people live and such, or a place with lush green forests, which makes me reconsider the visual geography in my head as opposed to what actually exists. 

Curled up in a blanket on the couch with a pot of tea and a bowl of noodles, it's been hard to put down, with its evoking of a world so different from my own, places I know little about, people I never knew existed. It makes me remember why I love to read and why in a much more introverted time, I spent most of my time in the company of books. We had found "Sputnik Turista" tour guides of some of these places like Khabarovsk, but most of these showed bureaucratic buildings and monuments of Lenin that only cemented a kind of desolate imagery cast in ice and concrete. A certain politician once claimed to see Russia from her house, and while that might have been stretching it, it's not that far away.

There's also a volume from another kind bibliotheque of Folktales of the Amur, which I'll get to next but initially was drawn to due to the almost psychedelic illustrations with imagery and symbolism inspired by the folk art of that region like the cloth above. Despite claims of equality and brotherhood and the propaganda of "red westerns" with heroic Native Americans taking down the White Man, the treatment of the people who lived there for thousands of years wasn't much better, though the sheer vastness of the land precluded any concept of reservations. Still, these are lovely. RioWang has more of the story here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

snows and rumors of snows

These photos have been residing on the camera a couple of weeks now. This has been the warmest winter I remember, which has been good as far as lower heating bills and not skidding through the streets of Clevelandia. It's said there will be snow again, and then it will melt, and who knows what comes after that. I've given up bothering to try.Upon moving to the new neighborhood, I keep forgetting that it is indeed okay to begin walking again and emerge from hibernation. Having this beauty just down the street is only an encouragement.

a fire, a shelter, an arcane ritual
reflecting pools of the river valley
true story, me and Queen of the Bondo barely escaped attack by a flock of angry seagulls, but we were kind of asking for it.
blue sky and ice

frozen surf
intricate underneath
swaying like chimes

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The spillover of frustration verbalized has been apologized for and equilibrium restored via sundry music exchanged and imbibing from the Sacred Vessel of St. Drogo, who extends his blessings over we the supplicants in all our unattractive slightly crazy coffee-drinking glory. 

Returned to the enameling studio last night experimenting with hues of sapphire blues and aquamarines clouding up and burning out around the edges. There are sheets of copper, discs and shapes, glass jars of powders untried, bits of colored and marbled glass and millefiori for infinite combinations. The age of the materials and the mere seconds of difference between an under or overfire maintain an element of alchemy and the lack of empirical formula. After almost a year of working in the studio, I still have no idea what I'm doing. There are metaphors that could be drawn out by someone more sagely but to be immersed in the creative process even for an hour or so is beautiful and needed.

I wish I had the time and the training to craft truly enduring works like these, and instead gaze in rapture at museum pieces and color plates in books. The process is even more arduous than my own, and the results infinitely more sublime.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

find my nest of salt, everything's my fault

So I wonder if my love is conditional when the heart is full of more exasperation than forgiveness and even if God is love perfected there was a whole lot of destruction bound up in that too that I just can't wrap my head around. Sorry Francis of Assisi, it's damn hard to sow love in the mire of hatred without coming way too close to being sucked in.

We all could play the blame game, the primary competition in the Suffering Olympics. Who hasn't felt burned, who hasn't borne the brunt of someone else's casual cruelty. Even the worst among us still has feelings, but those feelings are no absolution.

I apologize for what I said, not expecting acceptance or reconciliation or even anything resembling love. To continue to exist there needs to be some degree of truth and mutual owning up, which doesn't always happen. I crave resolution but that can only come when both entities are willing to own up. I do the best I can, but if you're not moving, we can't meet halfway.

Friday, January 20, 2012

the rabbit box

Being a bit of a geek, I know that library booksales, especially in the fair land of Lakewood are like Black Friday for those with barcode scanners who will camp out and then rampage in search of first editions. I stumbled across this little book that I fell in love with, despite its overwhelming and strange sentimentality, but the sepia photos and the looped musings on fragility and insecurity and love grabbed me. Attempts at finding a second copy for gifting were thwarted because evidently it's somewhat rare,evidently written by a former priest who later turned to queer theatre and this small volume was part of a series (the others are what my prior housemate described as "too peace love and 70s to be cool."

But it seems to have a cult following on the Internets, and for good reason. It's a lovely little thing.

winter gardens

While the Duchess is truly thrilled to have a Batcave cubicular of her own with ample space for stashing tea, tomes, and tunes,the brutalism of the 1950s-built workplace is not nearly so swank as sundry locales in the old country.

This one at the Ursuline Institute in Belgium is only open one day a year, and is one of the places I want to see before I die. I don't do the bucket list thing, because this is highly unlikely, but thankfully others have shared the sights.

We have nothing quite so epic here in Clevelandia, but the Rockefeller Greenhouse, being free and open all year, is a convenient substitute with the sweet mingling of jasmine and citrus, the profusion of orchids, palms, and cacti.I love winter, but the greenness, the way the air feels so fresh, and the respite from the grey and rust works wonders.

to mourn in velvet

The following was deemed amusing by yours truly under the influence of a good liter of ginseng tea late at night. Quoted in Victorian London, originally penned by satirist Thomas Hood about Victorian funeral dress...

The Squire and his lady cross over the road and enter the shop, 
where ebony chairs are placed for them by a person in a full suit of sables. 
A young man, also in black leans across the counter with the solemn air 
and a tone of a clergyman at a funeral 

May I have the melancholy pleasure of serving you, madam? 

Lady. I wish, sir, to look at some mourning. 

Shopm. Certainly, by all means. A relation, I presume? 

Lady. Yes; a widow, sir. A poor friend of mine,
 who has lost her husband. 

Shopm. Exactly so — for a deceased partner. 
How deep would you choose to go, ma'am ? Do you wish to be very 

Lady. Why, I suppose crape and bombazine, unless they're gone out of fashion. 
But you had better show me some different sorts. 

Shopm. Certainly, by all means. We have a very extensive assortment, 
whether for family, Court, or complimentary mourning, including the 
last novelties from the Continent. 

Lady. Yes, I should like to see them. 

Shopm. Certainly. There is one, ma'am, just imported — 
a Widow's Silk — watered, as you perceive, to match the sentiment. 
It is called the " Inconsolable ; " and is very much in 
vogue in Paris for matrimonial bereavements. 

Squire. Looks rather flimsy, though. Not likely to last long — eh, sir? 

Shopm. A little slight, sir — rather a delicate texture. 
But mourning ought not to last forever, sir. 

Squire, No, it seldom does ; especially the violent sorts. 

Lady, La ! Jacob, do hold your tongue ; what do you know about fashionable affliction ? 
But never mind him, sir, it's only his way. 

Shopm, Certainly — by all means. As to mourning, ma'am, 
there has been a great deal, a very great deal indeed, this season, 
and several new fabrics have been introduced, 
to meet the demand for fashionable tribulation. 

Lady. And all in the French style ? 

Shopm, Certainly — of course, ma'am. They excel in the funebre. 
Here, for instance, is an article for the deeply afflicted. 
A black crape, expressly adapted to the profound style of mourning, 
— makes up very sombre and interesting. 

Lady, I dare say it does, sir. 

Shopm, Would you allow me, ma'am, to cut off a dress ? 

Squire, You had better cut me off first. 

Shopm, Certainly, sir -r- by all means. 
Or, if you would prefer a velvet — ma'am — 

Lady, Is it proper, sir, to mourn in velvet ? 

Shopm, O, quite ! — certainly. Just coming in. 
Now, here is a very rich one — real Genoa — and a splendid black. 
We call it the Luxury of Woe. 

Lady. Very expensive, of course? 

Shopm. Only eighteen shillings a yard, and a superb quality
in short, fit for the handsomest style of domestic calamity. 

Squire. Whereby, I suppose, sorrow gets more superfine 
as it goes upwards in life ? 

Shopm. Certainly — yes, sir — by all means — at least, a finer texture.
The mourning of poor people is very coarse — 
very — quite different firom that of persons of quality. 
Canvas to Crape, sir ! 

Lady. To be sure it is ! And as to the change of dress, sir, 
I suppose you have a great variety of half-mourning ? 

Shopm. O, infinite, — the largest stock in town ! Full, and half, 
and quarter, and half-quarter mourning, shaded off, if I may say so, 
like an India-ink drawing, from a grief pronounced to the slightest 
nuance of regret. 

Lady. Then, sir, please to let me see some Half Mourning. 

Shopm. Certainly. But the gentleman opposite superintends 
the Intermediate Sorrow Department....

retreat is good

It's not that I mind gridlock especially when on the bus, it was just knowing that there's a whole pile of interesting books on the desk at work and none of them made it into my bag to read so I tried to sleep and texted my fellow public transportationistas out of lack of anything better to do before stumbling out into the snow and walking up the street, happy to cook something warm and spicy, curl up in one of my dad's flannel shirts and some blankets with a pot of tea and Stoned and Dethroned on the stereo, with a stack of books on Siberia and the Ottoman Empire and Victorian London on the flimsy coffee table to peruse.

Taschen has these beautiful African interiors books bound in batik cloth on the shelf at the east side bibliotheque and I'm a hopeless sucker for interiors that remind me of The Arabian Nights and places that I'll never get to see, with names like Marrakech and Zanzibar and Abijan, and these full-color tomes are my only window to them from my state of peonage on the other side of the pond.

Still, having majored in English and reading Edward Said and following the news, I approach these beautiful estates in Capetown and Cairo with some degree of trepidation. I wonder how the kitchen staff feels about this "authentic dress" and think about the cost of each one of those artifacts, because not all of us work for Conde Nast or have diplomatic connections, even as the aesthetic appeals to me and I find the wares at World Market and City Buddha appealing even as I know that there is a conscious marketing of pseudo-bohemian orientalism on a budget to suburban housewives looking for something funky in the mini-mansion or bachelorette twentysomethings like yours truly who furnish with hand-me-downs from more affluent relatives and more well-traveled friends. The co-opting of the "authentic artifacts" can be debated by the ivory toweristas, but I think of all the tumult and revolutions and regular folk who live in townships and slums and wonder if I'm either trying to see beyond the walls of exclusivity or if I'm just overthinking this altogether.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I feel misread enough...

Awareness of the social ramifications of telling someone further up the totem pole of overlordery to mind their own business and then some, it's a source of constant marvel to me that intellectual activity devoid of social climbing or some other agenda involving the trifecta of money, status, and power, is somehow strange and disconcerting. I suppose it's generally threatening to the social order, as are alliances formed among the peons because heaven forbid they start thinking. That's so weird. 

These kinds of things seem normal, in a birds of a feather kind of way. We all tend to gravitate towards those with whom we share something in common, be it beach books or sports or subculture, so is it really so surprising? I wish I could say what I feel but know that wouldn't be a good idea on so many levels. In a way it seems tragic to get a glimpse into someone's world and see it be so incredibly small.

Oh Mia, you sing it so much better than I ever could... 

Well I don't need your social love, no
I feel misread enough
And what repels me
Is the fact that you're smiling
Walking on by, walking on by
Yeah when it hits me
See it still gets kinda heavy
Yeah when it's laying there over
It's wide open and read

I don't need your social crap

You head iron sleep boys
I can see, what repels me
Is your pretentious stare
You never look me in the eye
Or feel the truth
Yeah when it hits me
I see you still gets kinda heavy
Yeah when it's laying there over
It's wide open and read

I don't need your social love

I already feel misread enough
And what repels me
Is the fact that you smile
When you're walking all back
There's a connection to be made
It's something you always crave
And now that it's over
Hell, I'd set that fire that you know you like
And now when it hits me
See it still gets kinda heavy
Yeah when it's laying there over
It's wide open and read
How dare you?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

introductions of a kind.

A new home for the body, a new venue for the spillings of the soul, and I'm attempting to put everything in order, reconsider, reconfigure, ponder the twists and turns of the past year or so, making breaks where needed. I started out regional, inspired by the writings of Queen of the Bondo, Bridget, and others, and outed myself to the fellow peon about six months after the fact. Share and share alike. I started out writing about the city, and life in Clevelandia, and occasionally other places too, but realized that the focus was too narrow, too regional to the point where it almost became provincial.

It's not that I mind a little provinciality in the sense that there is so much to discover here in this metropolis in miniature, but there is a whole world out there to be discovered, so many tiny corners to delve into that I will never get to see with my own eyes, being rich in education and dreams and poor in terms of pecuniary resources.

I'd been toying with the idea of starting fresh for awhile, since the last five years have been the best and worst of times... growing up, having my illusions dissed, dealing with sundry tangles with the law and interpersonal drama while censoring most of the gory detail. Some have noticed that I've seemed more depressed than usual, but there, like always, is much more rippling beneath the surface that is much better explained over a cup of coffee or an email at the most abstract.

Meanwhile, the cultural climate among those my age was reaching a fever pitch of shiny happy Cleveland is My Paris booster absurdity, and I found that the title of my own blog was now a Twitter hashtag for Machine Gun Kelly and I was getting emails mistaking me for a far more perky individual. After a very interesting community dialogue, that was the nail in the proverbial coffin. I'm not jumping off the Cleveland bandwagon because the people I wouldn't have hung out with in high school got on, but because there is just so much more.

Some have suggested I'm in need of a new change of scene and it's true that I've been a depressive soul these last few months... sundry drama and processing all that growing up stuff, and living in an apartment with unwanted vermin in a neighborhood where I felt stuck after sunset will do that. A change of hoods, some new changes on the horizon, and the morale's improved considerably. 

While everyone else is panicking about the end of the world or this and that, I've learned like The Teacher that with greater wisdom comes greater sorrow, but that knowledge and the ability to use it as such to see the world more clearly and to share with others is still a precious and beautiful thing.

So among the arcana and ephemeral, expect to contain therein: art, ancient and modern, stained glass, book illustrations, sundry tuneage that does it for me for whatever reason, incoherent musings, the usual stuff that you may or may not dig.

Prunella Vulgaris came out of a trip to the Chinese restaurant where a purple drink of this flower's juice was sold in the cooler. I thought it'd be a sweet name when I play guitar in a doom metal band someday but until then, it's a handy pseudonym and supposedly cures herpes and other ills.

The title was bestowed on me by the Earl of Valdez, partner in bookery, absurd humor, mutual and morbid curiosity, and love of eclectic tunes. You should be reading his blog.
If anything, it'll help any inside jokery or straunge honorifics make much more sense.