Welcoming December with Poetry: Ted Kooser
Now the seasons are closing their files
on each of us, the heavy drawers
full of certificates rolling back
into the tree trunks, a few old papers
flocking away. Someone we loved
has fallen from our thoughts,
making a little, glittering splash
like a bicycle pushed by a breeze.
Otherwise, not much has happened;
we fell in love again, finding
that one red feather on the wind.
Welcoming December with Art: Oleg Bezugly
Welcoming December with Music: Norah Jones
1 December 1822, Vienna – Eleven-year-old musical prodigy Franz Liszt gives his first public performance as a pianist. His success at this concert, with Beethoven in attendance, was a harbinger of things to come.
“They were liberation songs. You’re walking down life’s road, society’s foot is on your throat, every which way you turn you can’t get from under that foot. And you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die, or insist upon your life.”—Odetta Holmes, American singer, actress, guitarist, and civil and human rights activist, who died on 2 December 2008.
Odetta was often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement,” and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called her “the queen of American folk music.” She certainly had a lovely voice.
Died 3 December 1919 – Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a French artist and a leading painter in the Impressionist style.
“The summer that I was ten—
Can it be there was only one summer that I was ten? It must
have been a long one then—” – May Swenson, American poet and playwright, who died on 4 December 1989.
Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen
Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt
Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead
How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye
American Art – Part I of IV: Tina Imel
In the words of one critic, “Tina Imel’s oil paintings are an amalgamation of classical portraiture, punch cartoons and medical texts. Her portraits border on the surreal. She often incorporates pieces of someone else’s past into her own environment. Her fondness for possessions that have outlived their owners and her traditional style of painting give her introspective and very personal work a connection to history. Tina is an award winning artist whose work has been shown in galleries across the United States and Europe. Her paintings will be featured in two up coming books including a collection of contemporary female surrealists and selection of 45 international artists.”
“That was my one big Hollywood hit, but, in a way, it hurt my picture career. After that, I was typecast as a lion, and there just weren’t many parts for lions.” – Bert Lahr, American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, and Cowardly Lion, who died on 4 December 1967.
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Freddie Cannon
Born 4 December 1940 – Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, an American vocalist responsible for the musical masterpiece “Palisades Park.”
American Art – Part II of IV: Jim Salvati
In the words of one writer, “To look at a Jim Salvati painting, is to experience a snapshot into the soul of his subjects. Each person portrayed in his work, which is thick and textured with oil paint, is telling a story about the life of the person, the emotion of that moment in time, their world surrounding them, and a warm sense of the human condition and its uniqueness. ‘We all have stories,’ Salvati says, ‘and I like telling them.'”
From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Frank Zappa
“You can’t write a chord ugly enough to say what you want sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.” – Frank Zappa, American composer, singer-songwriter, guitarist, recording engineer, record producer, film director, and wit, who died on 4 December 1993.
In the words of one writer, the paintings of Malagasy artist Christophe Jean Michel Rabearivelo (better known as Fofa) “involve viewers in the fairy atmosphere of the East by forming an amazing world” that “reminds viewers of mirages.”
“There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.” – Hannah Arendt, German-American political theorist, who died on 4 December 1975.
Hannah Arendt eschewed the label “philosopher” in favor of “political theorist” because, in her words, “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.” At least three of Arendt’s books are definitely worth reading: “The Human Condition” (her most influential work, in which she deals with the nature of power, politics, authority, and totalitarianism), “Men in Dark Times” (a collection of intellectual biographies), and “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.”
Some quotes from Hannah Arendt:
“Economic growth may one day turn out to be a curse rather than a good, and under no conditions can it either lead into freedom or constitute a proof for its existence.”
“The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a world-wide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the last decade.”
“The trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide.”
“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
“Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.”
“No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics, the cause of freedom versus tyranny.”
“Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.”
“The ultimate end of human acts is eudaimonia, happiness in the sense of living well, which all men desire; all acts are but different means chosen to arrive at it.”
“It is my contention that civil disobediences are nothing but the latest form of voluntary association, and that they are thus quite in tune with the oldest traditions of the country.”
“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”
“The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.”
“This is the precept by which I have lived: Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes.”
“Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity.”
“Nothing we use or hear or touch can be expressed in words that equal what is given by the senses.”
“Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.”
“The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle.”
“We have almost succeeded in leveling all human activities to the common denominator of securing the necessities of life and providing for their abundance.”
Pere Pruna (1904 – 1977) was a Catalan painter and a favorite of Pablo Picasso, who introduced him to the intellectual and artistic circles of Paris. Throughout his career, Pruna remained an admirer of ancient arts, especially Greek and Renaissance classics, and the female form was his favorite subject matter.
“A very great vision is needed, and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky.” – Crazy Horse, Oglala Sioux Chief, who was born on 4 December 1840.
American Art – Part III of IV: Sherri Belassen
A Poem for Today
By Donald Davie
Chemicals ripen the citrus;
There are rattlesnakes in the mountains,
And on the shoreline
Hygiene, inhuman caution.
Beef in cellophane
Tall as giraffes,
The orange-rancher’s daughters
Crop their own groves, mistrustful.
Perpetual summer seems
Precarious on the littoral. We drive
Inland to prove
The risk we sense. At once
Winter claps-to like a shutter
High over the Ojai valley, and discloses
A double crisis,
Winter and Drought.
Ranges on mountain-ranges,
Empty, unwatered, crumbling,
Hot colours come at the eye.
It is too cold
For picnics at the trestle-tables. Claypit
Yellow burns on the distance.
The phantom walks
Everywhere, of intolerable heat.
At Ventucopa, elevation
Two-eight-nine-six, the water hydrant frozen,
Deserted or broken settlements,
Gasoline stations closed and boarded.
By nightfall, to the snows;
And over the mile on tilted
Mile of the mountain park
The bright cars hazarded.
American Art – Part IV of IV: Judith Peck
Artist Statement: “I’ve painted my models to have an ethereal glow, distinct from a background that might otherwise envelop them. Captured in their gaze is the knowledge that the person has experienced life fully and moved beyond life’s challenges. My hope is that their penetrating gaze will move the viewer out of complacency. The warmly resonant faces offer a gateway to the human interior, evoking psychological and social urgency. The detail in the paintings is important in making them feel solid and real. These works become guides to explore the challenges that speak to the core of one’s own existence. The paintings are intimate, and viewed up close, create the sense of looking into a mirror to meet eyes that ask inescapable questions. Balancing light and darkness, the images prompt existential questions, triggering deep feelings about life’s ambiguities. Beauty and pain, life and death come into balance, and the viewer becomes the philosopher, drawn into introspection on the meaning and preciousness of life. Art becomes poetry, and poetry stirs into philosophy, leaving the viewer subtly changed.”