Archive for ‘Art de toutes formes’

November 22, 2015

Summer reminiscence

Evidently, I don’t blog anymore. Only three posts this year! My excuse is the large amount of scientific writing I’ve been doing lately. When you remove the ability to be quippy and do nothing but voice your own opinions without forethought or justification, it turns out I’m a fairly terrible writer. Soooo, when I finish staring at my computer screen for hours trying to form words into cohesive thought, I am simply in no mood to do any other writing…at all…ever again. The unintended benefit is I now have a tremendous amount to fill you in on. Shall we begin?

The 42nd Annual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

It was on May 2nd and 3rd this year, and it still surprises me that after attending this festival for the last four years, I can still find new and interesting things.

20150502_142941I found some gorgeous handmade glass circular knitting needles by Michael and Sheila Ernst Glass. I was assured by the artist that they absolutely won’t, say, break while I’m knitting and impale me through the hand. They were a little pricey (not that I wouldn’t realistically spend that much on needles if I were being truthful with myself) but still stunning.

I learned a new skill from woodworker Stephen Willette who makes beautiful fiber art tools. Now normally I can’t have anything to do with artisans like these; my boys would simply not tolerate exposed balls of yarn in expertly crafted wooden bowls to go undestroyed. But I bought this lovely lucet and learned how to make a lucet braid. <– That link, by the way, will take you to a YouTube video with a good tutorial…and bitchin’ soundtrack. This is a technique that apparently dates back to the Vikings and the resultant cording can be used to make just about anything: jewelry, potholders, rugs, things like that. I’ve decided, once I get the hang of making the braid more uniform, to begin with some cute neon friendship bracelets and I’ve also found just the yarn for it:

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And speaking of neon, I am absolutely thrilled that vibrant, rich colors are back in vogue. I, and my skin tone, simply cannot do pastels, and white clothing is just impractical. That is when I discovered Neighborhood Fiber Co., a local, small batch hand-dyed yarn company that makes some of the brightest, most colorful yarns I’ve found. I got their exquisite Penthouse Silk Fingering. Yarn colors are named after neighborhoods in DC and Baltimore.

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Traveling in the name of science

I attended a couple scientific conferences this summer (a.k.a Nerdfests according to the Greek) which gave me the opportunity to do some traveling for free. Well, for me at least. And of course I had to do lots of science-y things, but there was time to spare to take a look at my surroundings, and I saw some amazing things.

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This is the lobby area of the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, MO. Clearly a converted railroad station from a grander era, at night they have a subtle light show of changing color on the roof. It was an unexpected pleasure since while I don’t know much about the Midwestern town outside of the Judy Garland film, I hadn’t had high hopes.

The intensive scientific workshop I was attending in Dubrovnik, Croatia coincided with their Summer Festival celebrating music and art. This meant that in between didactic lectures and dipping into the cool, blue Adriatic, I was able to attend an open air chamber quartet performance held in an old abbey and hear La Traviata sung in the streets. Yeah, it was an okay time. The festival opened with a fireworks ceremony, and we found a tremendous spot to view it from:

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And finally, a real, bonafide vacation

In September, I got the opportunity to visit the Greek’s homeland of Cyprus. Well…he was actually born in Maryland. His family is from Cyprus, a Greek isle in the Mediterranean invaded by Turkey in 1974 forcing his family to flee to the States. So, it was both homecoming and vacation. The resort town his family actually lived in is still on the occupied side and I’ve got to say, seeing most of the city abandoned and crumbling and, ironically, unoccupied, cordoned off in a “forbidden zone”, was truly haunting. Aside from that though, it was a happy and exciting trip, and I think I’ll conclude this post with some of my favorite photos from it.

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Lunatics cliff diving from off the top of the sea caves near Cavo Greko

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IMG_1273 20150918_093430  It isn’t all warm, sandy beaches and clear, blue water. There were also forests and mountains that actually got pretty chilly. Our jaunts there were pretty much the only time my aggressively endothermic partner was truly comfortable.

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The Greek talks nuts.

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But let’s not forget about those sunny beaches and crystal blue water…

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I know. I’m jealous of myself right now.

November 21, 2015

Exploring my own backyard…

Occasionally when I am downtown, I’ll stumble upon something that causes me to exclaim incredulously, “I didn’t know this was here!”  Even though it really is no wonder considering how expertly I take my own town for granted (See “Bad hostess“).  And upon discovering this new “hidden” gem, it inspires me to truly make an effort to explore my surroundings and reminds me that they are special and interesting places, despite being a mere Metro ride away.  Case in point: The Costume Collection at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  The collection contains over 30,000 garments from the 17th century to the present.  How can I not know about this?  Fashion?  History?  Seriously?? The thing is, I actually love museums.  I love the rich history and old buildings.  I love the smell of them and what they represent.  So, it really is astounding.

Anyways, in an attempt to remedy that last weekend, The Greek and I paid a visit to the newly renovated Renwick Gallery. Part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, we attended their reopening festival and were among the first people to see the tremendous new exhibition we had heard about: WONDER. [<- Click on that. You will not be disappointed.] It features nine installations from nine contemporary artists in which everyday materials are transformed into something extraordinary…including my personal favorite, a rainbow made of hundreds of strands of embroidery thread by an artist named Gabriel Dawe (see left).

It’s even more beautiful in person. And so ethereal and lifelike, it seemed like I could put my hand out and my fingers would pass right through it. [This is not naughty, by the way; pictures were encouraged.] I highly recommend a visit: it doesn’t take a lot of effort (you can be in and out in an hour) and is an exemplary opportunity to see beauty, something we should try never to pass up.

 

 

July 18, 2014

Festivals and finals

IMG_1050So, the last couple months were hell (See: “The world didn’t end“).  Not only did I have my qualifying exam but an additional gauntlet of scholarly tasks leading up to it.  But it wasn’t all bad.  I made time to do a couple fun things in the early summer (You know, before the soul-sucking malaise of the weeks just before the qual wouldn’t permit me time to properly eat or bathe.  Did I have to make things so hard on myself?  Absolutely not.  But I did, and the bitterness remains.).

Anyhoo, this included some lovely festivals.  (I’m kind of a dork; if this is news to you, you haven’t been paying attention.)   As always, I attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival at the beginning of May.  But this time, I thought, instead of posting the same old photos I do each year, I’d introduce you to some of the new things I discovered this time around…

 

 

Firstly, there was Melissa Jean: an online store based in Marcellus, New York that specializes in handmade porcelain buttons.  I know, I know: buttons are not technically a new, amazing discovery.  But you see, I’m a relatively new knitter and very much still learning, so most of the time my money’s spent on buying the basics.  However, I am increasingly finding, to my delight, that as my skill set expands, I am able to accumulate more advanced accoutrements.  And not to be overdramatic (read: to be as dramatic as possible), my realization at that moment at the festival that I may be ready for buttons was, in a word, revolutionary.  So, my partner-in-crime Sarah and I giddily snatched up as many buttons as we could hold, the ones by Melissa Jean being, by far, the most charming.

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Now, this next finding was a true novelty.  The booth for Loop the online fiber store had all kinds of unique textiles to look at.  They had these spun skeins of batting in an array of vibrant colors that dispensed from the center, which makes the unspun fiber far more workable.  And perhaps it’s just me and my laughably pitiful spinning skills (I suck), but that is a definite plus with how tricky roving is to work with.  They also a bunch of other funky fibers, like these cords of unspun fiber tied together with string; the especially interesting ones had chunky beading or even Treasure trolls woven in (these things, for the young folks).

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And speaking of spinning, we also had the opportunity to get a tutorial from a lovely lady at The Spanish Peacock.  She showed us how to use these supported spindles that come with these lovely, divotted wooden bowls for spinning on a surface.  An attractive option to the clumsiness of a drop spindle or the seemingly impossible difficulty of a Turkish spindle.  I was especially taken with a deep blue one (pictured below), and I very much had to resist the urge to immediately possess it.  In a dear-God-I-think-I-may-actually-die-if-I-don’t-buy-this kind of way.  I just had to keep reminding myself that the grace and deftness with which she spun the thread is not included with the purchase of the spindle, and, with regard to spinning, I suck…hard.

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Ah, another successful festival in the books…without the same well-worn assemblage of photos… Okay, fine, one baby alpaca photo.  It’s tradition!  Her name is Wanda.

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July 24, 2013

Bits 4

Well, it’s certainly been a while since I’ve done a Bits post.  It’s not as though I haven’t had random preoccupations worth noting recently; indeed I find that due to the abundance of scientific knowledge flooding into my brain the past eleven months, any other unrelated thoughts I may have are, by necessity, a bit discursive.  I cannot tell you how unsettling it is to know the word ‘Paracoccidioidomycosis‘ but struggle to find the word ‘necessity’…just now.  With that mind, I would like to segue awkwardly into an announcement that I am finished with my first year!  Which, technically, means nothing as there is no summer break in grad school; I got to take a whopping week off!  At any rate, I’m done with classes at least for several months and have been granted a partial reprieve to indulge in the other things I enjoy doing.  Namely, looking at stuff online.

Now, when you factor in my Facebook page, my blog, and let’s not forget all my online shopping, I have a pretty prolific internet presence.  That last one makes the most profound impact by far, which, given the amount of time I spend trawling Facebook and blogging about nothing, should frighten you.  To be clear, that is not to be confused with “trolling”, which, in regards to the internet, means “being a prick on the internet because you can” according to UrbanDictionary.com.

So, let’s get on with it, shall we?  This is a collection of a few things useful or beautiful that I’ve lately found online.  Much like Pinterest, only with more reading.  (Hint, hint: it’s basically all fashion…and décor; my life is one small, well-decorated sphere.)

This edition– Etsy finds: I must confess, I am an Etsy fan.  If you don’t know what Etsy is, then you’ve obviously never wondered aloud where one might get penny farthing earrings or a papier-mâché rabbit sculpture in my presence.  Because I surely would have told you about the charming online marketplace that is www.etsy.com.  Here are just a few of my favorite shops:

  • barberry & lace – The shop of a woman in Arizona who creates handmade vintage-inspired jewelry.  Um, what even is “handmade, vintage-inspired jewelry”?  Yeah, this is:

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Gorgeous, no?

  • ethanollie– A shop with a brick-and-mortar counterpart in Portland, OR that sells vintage furniture and decor, mostly from the last century (i.e. simple, retro pieces)

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Oh, and other random nuggets of loveliness that it is my strong recommendation you check out:

Classic and elegant eco-fashion from Amour Vert:

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This pretty little yoga meditation cushion from Relaxso: Because sometimes it is hard to attain a state of blissful transcendence and spiritual nirvana when one’s butt is sore

relaxso zafu meditation cushion

These delightful place mats from William-Sonoma…to match your paper mache rabbit head, naturally! (I adore kitschy tableware!):

w-s bunny placemat

June 23, 2013

New recommendation: Love, Marilyn

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I’ve been known to make some poor decisions.  Not on par with Miss Monroe’s per se, but ironically, I made one of those poor decisions last week when I chose to stay up late watching “Love, Marilyn”, the latest addition to the HBO Documentaries Summer Series, instead of going to bed at a reasonable time.  I had to be up at an ungodly hour the next morning, but I found it to be so enchanting and entrancing that I couldn’t look away.  The documentary is based on a book entitled “Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters”, and like the title indicates, it is a never-before-seen collection of Marilyn’s writings recently unearthed at the home of her acting coach and mentor, the late Lee Strasberg.  The film is directed by Liz Garbus and features notable names reading passages from Marilyn’s own writings.  These include Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Viola Davis, and Uma Thurman (super unsurprisingly).  It also has other actors reading passages and pieces from others who have either worked with or written about her including those by Pulitzer prize-winning author Norman Mailer*, wonderfully read by Ben Foster, and a highly entertaining exchange of letters between an exasperated Billy Wilder, director of “Some Like It Hot”, and playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s third husband, as read by Oliver Platt.  An excerpt: “Had you, dear Arthur, been not her husband but her writer and director and been subjected to all the indignities I was, you’d have thrown her out on her can, thermos bottle and all, to avoid a nervous breakdown. I did the braver thing — I had a nervous breakdown. Respectfully, Billy Wilder.”.

It is an inventive and ingenious approach that elevates this film over the other docs I’ve seen.  This format is especially appealing to me because it is, in my opinion, the highest form of oral storytelling (a lost art)…by letting those whose occupation is acting be the storytellers.

And through it I’ve also discovered that Marilyn herself was actually a magnificent writer.  It illuminates what I don’t think a lot of people understand about her.  Namely, that she was an incredibly hard worker, a devoted reader who sought to learn about everything, and a remarkably intelligent (though troubled) person who actually created and maintained her well-known persona that eventually became her curse because it would not allow her to be what she truly sought to be: a dramatic actor who was taken seriously (although if this revelation is true, it makes her a brilliant actress, perhaps one of the best).  I’ve dabbled a little in Marilyn mythology (according to this latest documentary, there have been literally thousands of books written about her); I’m more of a Jackie O girl!  But what I think separates this film from most everything else about her is their decision to not treat her purely as a victim, of the Hollywood machine’s and the public’s desire to make her a thing that could be moulded into their embodiment of a sex symbol or a starlet (or a tragic heroine).  Ironically, this film makes her into what she so yearned for: to be not a “beau ideal”, but a person with thoughts and feelings and desires of her own.

This is all interspersed with lovely photos, archival footage, and interviews with and excerpts from Marilyn herself.  It is, in short, beautiful and just plain well-done.

*  (And though I mention Norman Mailer’s biography, it is worth noting that he posits in the final chapter of his book that Marilyn was murdered by the FBI in retaliation for her affair with Bobby Kennedy.  Just an FYI.  I am far more excited to read Gloria Steinem’s 1987 biography, “Marilyn: Norma Jeane”.)

January 15, 2013

A Jaunt to The Jefferson

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Over the holidays, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit my great aunt and my cousin in Richmond, VA.  This was truly a momentous occasion as I was, respectively, 15 and 12 the last time I saw them.  That’s right, grunge was at it’s popularity peak when I last saw my cousin!  Sadly, we only had a day, but we packed a lot into that day!  Part of that outing included a wonderful tour of downtown Richmond.  My cousin was right: I-95 simply does not do the city justice!  I remember many road trips through Richmond as a child.  My most vivid memory, aside from the smokestacks and pervasive grayness, was a large, aluminum cigarette jutting out of the city, the so-called Tobacco Monument on the grounds of the Phillip Morris Plant.  As I understand, it no longer stands there, a relic of a bygone era that is no longer politically correct.  The highlight of the day (aside from good company) was a trip to the historic Jefferson Hotel.  Built in 1895, it is one of the finest hotels in America.  It has both an AAA Five Diamond award and the coveted Mobil Five Star award, one of only 27 hotels in America to carry that honor.  It has hosted 12 U.S. Presidents including both Roosevelts, Reagan, both Bushes, and President Obama.   Both Elvis and Frank Sinatra have stayed there, the latter apparently serenaded other guests at the hotel’s esteemed restaurant Lemaire following his dinner.  Named after Thomas Jefferson, who was born in Virginia, it is truly a storied site and unimaginably beautiful.  So naturally, I took a few photos.

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This is The Palm Court Lobby.  It was such brightly lit room with the large skylight and all the Tiffany stained glass windows.  In the center is a marble statue of Thomas Jefferson.  When we were there, the room was set for tea service.  But surrounding the statue used to be a marble pool where several live gators resided.  Apparently, affluent Richmonders would vacation in Florida and return with baby gators as pets (if there is a more poorly thought out idea in this world, I have yet to encounter it!).  And in an outcome no one could have predicted, the babies would grow into adult gators and become unmanageable and were then promptly “donated” to the hotel.  It is for this reason that several bronze replica gators can be found throughout the hotel, beginning with an enormous one at the entrance that startled the crap out of me when we arrived.  Speaking of which…

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Here’s one leading down to the main staircase.  The staircase, incidentally, is said to have been the inspiration for the grand staircase at the end of Gone with the Wind, since author Margaret Mitchell was also a guest here.  Sorry, no picture of that, but I assure you it was stunning.  Some more pictures:

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And the man himself…

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August 16, 2012

Bad hostess

You know how when you visit a friend who lives in an iconic city and you naturally want to see all the tourist-y things there.  And your dear friend dutifully takes you from place to place and feigns interest.  Only you discover that, despite living so close to this landmark or that attraction, she herself is visiting it for the first time with you.  Because it’s, well, full of tourists.  And so ubiquitously in the background of daily life that it’s become bland and commonplace.  Well, that’s me.  I live in DC metro, and yet I have never been to the Lincoln Memorial or the top of the Washington Monument.  I haven’t been to the Reflecting Pool or the Pentagon, The Kennedy Center or the National Archives, and almost none of the museums.  The few times I have been to the White House or Capitol Hill, it was in protest (though I was still taking pictures; I’m not a very good protestor: I don’t chant or sing, and I hate portable toilets and when people are rude to each other).  The only thing I do visit with regular frequency is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History…because science is awesome, and I have treasured memories of visiting it as a child and realizing then that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Because I can visit these things whenever I want to, I never do.  So, I have also had my fair share of opportunities to be a bad and unenthusiastic hostess.  My first visit to the National Gallery of Art was a few years ago with my cousin from Indiana.  He was enraptured; I was hung over, having spent the previous evening at a Halloween masquerade ball that had gone into the early morning.  Hours before meeting him there (late), I’d woken up at my friend’s house still partially costumed and could just manage to pull jeans over my torn fishnet stockings.  I spent the rest of the day trying not to let the Picassos make me dizzy.  Such was also the case this summer (though in far less spectacular fashion) when my younger stepbrother and his travelin’ buddy, who make their livings in Hong Kong, made their way along the eastern coast of the US and pit stopped in DC.  (Disclaimer: This actually happened in June.  How long do photos languish on YOUR camera’s memory card?  Contemplating renaming this post “Bad blogger”…)

I met up with them one soggy weekday afternoon at the National Mall.  The Reflecting Pool had been drained (hopefully to be cleaned) and stank like a bog, and I had unsuitably worn flats and kept stepping in muddy puddles.  We had a lovely lunch at the National Gallery of Art (upon my recommendation; I have rather poignant memories of their piping hot espresso and ice-cold gelato quelling my pounding head and objecting digestive system the last time I was there).  But, following a trip to the International Spy Museum (which is a great museum, really.  It’s just I don’t find a silver sports car with machine guns mounted to the hood terribly interesting.  Sorry.), my ankles and calves were beginning to ache and the perpetual dampness of the day was starting to get to me.  We ended up in the National Portrait Gallery.  And, as it would happen, I wouldn’t see a single portrait.  Leaving the youngins to their own devices, I made my way through the double doors directly behind the information desk at the entrance, ignoring exhibits to my right and left, and found myself in an inner atrium area.  It was a courtyard that had clearly once been outside, and the façades of the old buildings (the building that houses the National Portrait Gallery is one of the oldest in Washington, “begun in 1836 to house the US Patent Office”) looked just beautiful beside the modern structures used to enclose the courtyard.  The contrast between the two, I’m sure, has some fancy architectural term attached to it, but I don’t know what that is.  Anyways, I kicked off my offending, waterlogged shoes and spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the marble benches listening to the trickling of the water in the stone fountains and snapping pictures (that museum security can’t object to!) while the two boys were left to tramp around the museum alone.  Ah well.  Between the three of us, I think I must have had the best view; so, I thought I’d share those photos with you now.  They make me long for my own elegant, calming oasis, steeped in history, and near my home, that I could go to when I needed to unwind or reflect.  But, in the tragically white trash suburban wasteland in which I live, I don’t foresee such a thing happening anytime soon.

This one was taken whilst lying on my back.  There were so many trees in the courtyard; the glass roof let in so much natural light (you know, when it’s not unrelentingly dreary outside!).  I’m also noticing at this moment that, in unintentionally keeping with the theme of the day, almost all my photos, the majority of which were taken inside, are also grey…

These were taken of the lighted walkway in the National Gallery of Art that connects the West and East buildings.

 

And of a silver tree in the Sculpture Garden outside the National Gallery of Art, where one can also listen to jazz on Friday evenings in the summer.  The last concert is on August 31st, and, as luck would have it, I have no work or classes that day since Baltimore’s annual tradition of street racing falls on that date.

July 27, 2012

Sometimes I use big words…

Occasionally, I will use long or obscure words in my blog posts.  It’s not because I’m especially smart.  Or a pompous ass (I’m not sure when it started, but the concept that having and using a broad vocabulary makes one an uppity elitist is a conspiracy instigated by idiots that has begun to catch on with the masses.  Evidence of this can be seen when the otherwise astute and enlightened Greek giggles like a schoolboy when I use funny-sounding, potentially dirty words he doesn’t know, like “coccyx”, or when, during a heated debate, a vacuous silence follows my utterance of, ironically, the word “sycophantic”, and it’s abundantly clear the Greek has no idea what it means but refuses to admit it lest he undermine his entire argument.)

The truth is, in part, that I’m trying to justify the months I spent studying for the GRE.  A prerequisite for pursuing graduate education, never in my life have I known more ways to describe someone as lethargic or something as commonplace.  How quiescent had I become with those quotidian definitions!  At this point I’d also planned to launch into a rant about the relative rarity of some of the words STILL found on the GRE.  “Who still uses the word ‘Lilliputian’ nowadays?” I had inquired, “Who, I ask you, who!?!”  Well, apparently, the answer is this guy, about a day after I began writing this post: a writer from Slate magazine who, following the announcement of the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, reacts to the public’s perceptions that all miniature men are monocratic megalomaniacs.  I then posted his article to the Facebook wall of my debonair yet somewhat diminutive Greek…because these things amuse me.  The adjective Lilliputian, for the sake of curious parties, is always capitalized because it originally described the inhabitants of Lilliput, the imaginary land in Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”.  You know, the tiny, little guys who tied our protagonist to their beach with long ropes and wooden stakes.  So, quite obviously, Lilliputian means very, very small!

I also enjoy reading classic literature, books written back in the centuries where the people who wrote books were well-spoken and erudite.  (The fact that both Snooki and The Situation have published books makes a compelling albeit ultimately unsound argument for the historically enforced illiteracy of the lower classes.  It’s come to this, “Jersey Shore” cast members: you’ve got me longing for the serfdom of the Middle Ages!  Although I can’t imagine I’m the first person to opt for the Black Death over reading your books.  Incidentally, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if, when they were babies, their parents had read Swift’s other work, the gleefully satirical “A Modest Proposal”, and taken it to heart.  But I digress.)

These authors sought artistic and philosophical pursuits instead of idle time and were able to create such richly beautiful works of art without the resources we have today.  Believe me, you would not want to be subjected to the imbecilic ramblings that this blog would become without my easy access to Google and Wikipedia. Finally, I also read a lot of articles by critics- of food, music, movies, books, you name it.  While slightly less lofty than classical literature, they also often use arcane language, sometimes because they are sophisticated and knowledgeable, sometimes because they are supercilious A-holes eager to legitimize the fact that they are just bad-mouthing another’s work by sounding really, really smart.

Because of these things, it often happens that I’ll encounter a word I don’t know and, being the diligent, perpetual student that I am, I look it up.  Well, when Googling the word “vicissitudes” one recent afternoon, I stumbled upon another of my favorite things: new and surprising discoveries of things I find awesome.

Vicissitudes, meaning a change or variation in the course of something, is also a breathtaking (literally and figuratively) underwater sculpture by English artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, commissioned in 2006 and located in Molinere Bay off the island of Grenada, West Indies. It depicts 26 children holding hands in a circle.  The Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park is composed of four of his works including Vicissitudes and is the first public underwater sculpture garden.

His work is not only stunning, it’s also significant.  Cast from real people, his sculptures are made of marine grade cement, have a neutral pH, and actually encourage the growth of coral reefs. The sculptures are made to become artificial coral reefs and are, consequently, significantly altered over time by the natural environment.  The water itself even alters the appearance of the sculptures given the unique refractive properties of water and the constant variations in water currents and depth of the ocean, making the title of his most acclaimed piece even more à propos.

Naturally, Taylor is also a conservationist, and he has, in my overawed opinion, found a truly ingenious way to send a vital message that is unusually positive (although, also in my opinion, it is quite difficult to be too vocal, negative, or cloying when discussing such a critical situation as the imminently impending extinction of the world’s coral reefs).  An inspiring and welcome addition to the eco-art movement.  And unsurprisingly, the artist has gained international accolades for his ability to seamlessly blend art and conservationism.

Says the artist: “I am trying to portray how human intervention or interaction with nature can be positive and sustainable, an icon of how we can live in a symbiotic relationship with nature. Finally I believe we have to address some of the crucial problems occurring in our oceans at this moment in time and by using human forms I can connect with a wider audience”.

There is also an educational component to his pieces.  Alluvia (a derivation of “alluvial”, pertaining to the soil deposited by a stream), in the River Stour in Canterbury, Kent contains a female figure made entirely of recycled glass positioned alongside her concrete copy.  The pose of her figure responds to the flow of the water and acts as an environmental barometer of water quality based on the amount of algal growth on the figures.  And in 2008, in collaboration with the children’s television program “Smart Art”, he produced the educational art piece The Inverted Solitude at the National Diving and Activity Centre in England.  A male figure is suspended upside down from a floating platform.  When viewed from below, an upright reflection of the figure appears as if standing on the water’s surface.

His most recent work and largest endeavor is the Museo Subaquatico de Arte off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.  It is the world’s largest underwater sculpture garden.  Within it, La Evolución Silenciosa (“The Silent Evolution”, another allusion to change) is the largest underwater collection of art.  Installed in November 2010, it consists of 403 life-size cement people.  Viewed from a distance, the group of statues takes the shape of an eye.  As with his sculptures in Grenada, the aim of this installation is to draw tourists away from the natural reefs and allow them to recuperate and, most basically, to provide new habitats for marine life thus increasing the biomass of local ecosystems.  Taylor and his team take great care to choose locations that optimally attract tourists, avoid strong currents or tidal patterns, and are ideal growing conditions for coral; they also choose the correct times for coral spawning.

The artist’s website can be found here: http://www.underwatersculpture.com/index.asp.  Evidently, he is part of an exhibition in New York City right now that ends (Gah!) TOMORROW.  Ah well, it was a fortunate discovery all the same.  The next time I’m in Grenada…

Given my love of marine science, conservation, and beauty, this is an exemplary example of the benefits of constantly seeking knowledge in everyday life.  How I love the occasions when these things just work out!

June 15, 2012

Greek Fest! (BYOG)

I originally had a fairly clever opening for this post; it’s based on a running joke that the Greek and I share.  Whenever we happen to pass by a Greek festival, of which in this area there are actually quite a few, I like to laughingly remark to him that I would be permitted in because I “brought my own Greek”.  As if bringing my olive-skinned and abundantly hirsute suitor is as good as a ticket of admission.  A gentle poke at the rigid racial exclusivity of being in and belonging to the Greek community, a conclusion I’ve drawn entirely from “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding”, which is the equivalent of watching a Tyler Perry movie and deciding it applies to all black people.  FYI, watching a movie about the comically extreme aspects of a culture and applying it unconditionally to every member of that ethnic group: not a great idea.  Nevertheless, the joke does bring me little periodic morsels of mirth (and the Greek tender bouts of annoyance) and has expanded to include all Celtic festivals as well since the Greek is actually half-Scottish, a fact I don’t often mention although I must say, that fairer lineage does rather handsomely soften his otherwise commanding Mediterranean features.  But sadly, of all the activities the Greek and I do together, he did not accompany me to the Greek festival, a gathering that should have guaranteed his attendance (his name IS in the title) and my ability to talk about it afterwards complete with bad joke tie-in (although I suppose I did discuss it anyway…at length).  This is because my Greek is a bad Greek.  He doesn’t speak the language.  He dropped out of Greek school (and has the t-shirt to prove it).  He doesn’t play the bouzouki or enjoy the taste of ouzo.  He’s approaching his mid-thirties and with no wife and no children (having instead a half-Chinese, half-Caucasian American live-in girlfriend…ahem, that would be me), which makes his YiaYia cry.  And when there is a Greek festival taking place, held by the Greek Orthodox Church that his Yiayia attended for thirty years, he’s nowhere to be found.  Such was the scenario a few weekends ago when I attended the Greek festival of the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in DC solo and met up with my various white friends.  Despite our lack of Greekness (we had one friend there who, with golden blond hair and an Irish last name, still purports to have Greek ancestry), we still managed to have a good time complete with Greek food and pastry, Greek dancing, and (naturally) Greek wine.  Lots and lots of Greek wine!  By a Greek winemaker called INO.  Now, Ino was a mortal queen of Thebes who, after her death and transfiguration, became the goddess Leucothea, “the white goddess”.  She was Dionysos’ aunt and supposedly helped raised him.  She also, struck by Dionysian insanity, murdered her own child.  Apparently, coming into contact with Dionysos can cause madness.  And evidently, the ancient Greeks also had a mythological explanation for getting wasted.  Not the most fabulous omen for one’s Greek company but whatever.  We went through several (and I mean SEVERAL) bottles of their chilled Dry White Wine on that hot and sunny spring afternoon, but they also have another wine called Retsina, which is a white wine flavored with fermented pine resin.  A truly traditional and original Greek wine, unchanged since the bacchanalias of the ancients.  According to one friend, it is the grossest thing you will ever taste; according to another, it is what awesome tastes like.  I didn’t try it; given the fact that I do not appreciate the woodiness of a Chardonnay, it seemed like the right choice.  So, you’ll have to let me know what you think.

More photos of the beautiful church…

 

 

Nightfall and still more wine…

 

February 22, 2012

An appreciation of beautiful photography: Carnevale 2012

It has been brought to my attention that the talented blog writer for “Tongue in Cheek”, a blog about an American expatriate’s daily life in France (which can be found in my Blogroll), has been traveling in Venice during Carnival.  I like to visit her blog from time to time  for her absolutely stunning photographs, mostly of assorted treasures found at Paris flea markets, but this week I’ve been looking at the elaborate masks and headdresses of the partygoers at the 1,000-year old, two-week long Carnevale di Venezia.  So, I thought I’d put aside my environmentalist urge to rip my hair out at all the waste produced as well as my socio-economic questioning of impoverished countries such as Brazil dumping so much money into such extravagant and costly productions and write a little post that gives just a taste (in pictures!) of the festivities currently going on around the world from Brazil and New Orleans (bien sûr!) to Germany, India, and even Mobile, Alabama (no joke).  I prefer the wistful, romantic images from the Italian Carnevale to the bare bodies and vibrant colors of the Carnaval of Latin America or the beads-for-breasts approach of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras (kidding aside, some devoted revelers do manage to keep it festive but alas…young, drunk people ruin everything!).

 

 

And because random trivia interests me, I also found an article about the origins of the plastic baby (which is supposed to represent Jesus) that is baked into the king cake (galette des rois), the doughnut-shaped, frosted, yeast dough cake eaten from King’s Day on January 6th to the last day before Lent (Fat Tuesday).  Apparently, this tradition began sometime in the late 19th century when the Twelfth Night Revelers, a New Orleans social group, began hiding a bean in the cake.  The lucky finder of the bean became the king or queen of the ball.  This is also the reason the king cake is sometimes called a Twelfth Night cake.  The bean became a porcelain figurine when a traveling salesman gave several to McKenzie’s, a popular commercial bakery in New Orleans in the 1940’s.  These became plastic babies when the baker ran out of the porcelain figures, but how these plastic babies became plastic baby Jesuses was not explained in the article and so remains a mystery to this blogger.   http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/02/17/147039138/is-that-a-plastic-baby-jesus-in-my-cake?ft=1&f=1001

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