On This Date
December 7, 1941 – “a date which will live in infamy.”
American Art – Part I of IV: Monica Cook
Artist Statement: “Over a decade ago I began painting self portraits out of convenience of using myself as a model. Although the paintings are somewhat autobiographical I have rarely considered my ‘self portraits’ a portrait of me. I try to allow the character to evolve on its own and not become trapped by expectations or likeness.
After many years of feeling confined to painting self portraits I would catch myself trying to memorize others features, like the shape of some ones hands or the color around their eyes to bring back to my portrait in the studio. Over time I had grown tired of solely painting myself and of the limited pose I had from painting from life through the mirror, so I began to use photographs as reference. Like many artists I enjoy working alone, becoming comfortable with use of a photographic reference made it possible to paint others without the distractions of having a model in the studio.”
A Poem for Today
By John Frederick Nims
I’d have you known! It puzzles me forever
To hear, day in, day out, the words men use,
But never a single word about you, never.
Strange!—in your every gesture, worlds of news.
On busses people talk. On curbs I hear them;
In parks I listen, barbershop and bar.
In banks they murmur, and I sidle near them;
But none allude to you there. None so far.
I read books too, and turn the pages, spying:
You must be there, one beautiful as you!
But never, not by name. No planes are flying
Your name in lacy trailers past the blue
Marquees of heaven. No trumpets cry your fame.
Strange!—how no constellations spell your name!
“It does not matter much whom we live with in this world, but it matters a great deal whom we dream of.” – Willa Cather, American author and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize (for “One of Ours”), who was born on 7 December 1873.
Some quotes from the work of Willa Cather:
“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”
“Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”
“The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one’s own.”
“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
“All the intelligence and talent in the world can’t make a singer. The voice is a wild thing. It can’t be bred in captivity. It is a sport, like the silver fox. It happens.”
“Give the people a new word and they think they have a new fact.”
“The condition every art requires is, not so much freedom from restriction, as freedom from adulteration and from the intrusion of foreign matter.”
“The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is.”
“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”
“When we look back, the only things we cherish are those which in some way met our original want; the desire which formed in us in early youth, undirected, and of its own accord.”
“A work-room should be like an old shoe; no matter how shabby, it’s better than a new one.”
“Sometimes a neighbor whom we have disliked a lifetime for his arrogance and conceit lets fall a single commonplace remark that shows us another side, another man, really; a man uncertain, and puzzled, and in the dark like ourselves.”
“The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.”
“The irregular and intimate quality of things made entirely by the human hand.”
“What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.”
“When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them as if their reason had left them. When it has left a place where we have always found it, it is like shipwreck; we drop from security into something malevolent and bottomless.”
“Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of V: Dee Clark
Died 7 December 1990 – Dee Clark, an Arkansas-born American singer.
In the words of one writer, “Serban Savu is a figurative painter. His skillfully rendered canvases capture the daily existence of contemporary Romanians at work and leisure. Savu treats his protagonists’ facial characteristics in a generic manner, causing their individual identities to remain elusive. Interior scenes depict people unaware of our gaze and absorbed in their own worlds, viewed through glass and embedded in compositions governed by architectural features. Exterior rural landscapes often portray solitary figures in the middle-distance, isolated and overwhelmed.”
“Every age yearns for a more beautiful world. The deeper the desperation and the depression about the confusing present, the more intense that yearning.” – Johan Huizinga, Dutch cultural historian and author of “The Autumn of the Middle Ages” and “Homo Ludens” (in which he suggests that play is primary to and a necessary [though not sufficient] condition of the generation of culture), who was born on 7 December 1872.
Some quotes from the work of Johan Huizinga:
“The susceptibility of the average modern to pictorial suggestion enables advertising to exploit his lessened power of judgment.”
“An aristocratic culture does not advertise its emotions. In its forms of expression it is sober and reserved. Its general attitude is stoic.”
“A superstition which pretends to be scientific creates a much greater confusion of thought than one which contents itself with simple popular practices.”
“History can predict nothing except that great changes in human relationships will never come about in the form in which they have been anticipated.”
“History is the interpretation of the significance that the past has for us.
“If we are to preserve culture we must continue to create it.”
“It is impossible to strive for the heroic life. The title of hero is bestowed by the survivors upon the fallen, who themselves know nothing of heroism.”
“Physical nature lies at our feet shackled with a hundred chains. What of the control of human nature? Do not point to the triumphs of psychiatry, social services or the war against crime. Domination of human nature can only mean the domination of every man by himself.”
“Systematic philosophical and practical anti-intellectualism such as we are witnessing appears to be something truly novel in the history of human culture.”
Musings in Autumn, Hoping for Snow: Buson
“Lighting one candle
from another -
A Second Poem for Today
“The Bookshelf of the God of Infinite Space,”
By Jeffrey Skinner
You would expect an uncountable number,
Acres and acres of books in rows
Like wheat or gold bullion. Or that the words just
Appear in the mind, like banner headlines.
In fact there is one shelf
Holding a modest number, ten or twelve volumes.
No dust jackets, because — no dust.
Covers made of gold or skin
Or golden skin, or creosote or rain-
Soaked macadam, or some
Mix of salt & glass. You turn a page
& mountains rise, clouds drawn by children
Bubble in the sky, you are twenty
Again, trying to read a map
Dissolving in your hands. I say You & mean
Me, say God & mean Librarian — who after long research
Offers you a glass of water and an apple —
You, grateful to discover your name,
A footnote in that book.
“It is a tragedy of the world that no one knows what he doesn’t know—the less a man knows, the more sure it is that he knows everything.” – Joyce Cary, Anglo-Irish novelist, artist, and author of “The Horse’s Mouth,” who was born 7 December 1888.
Some quotes from the work of Joyce Cary:
“To forgive is wisdom, to forget is genius.”
“The truth is that life is hard and dangerous; that he who seeks his own happiness does not find it; that he who is weak must suffer; that he who demands love will be disappointed; that he who is greedy will not be fed; that he who seeks peace will find strife; that truth is only for the brave; that joy is only for him who does not fear to be alone; that life is only for the one who is not afraid to die.”
“Plantie is a very strong Protestant, that is to say, he’s against all churches, especially the Protestant: and he thinks a lot of Buddha, Karma and Confucius. He is also a bit of an anarchist and three or four years ago he took up Einstein and vitamins.”
“The Professor looked like a Protestant saint when the cannibal offered him the choice of taking six wives or being boiled alive. He wanted to mortify some flesh, but he didn’t know which.”
“I believe that every English poet should read the English classics, master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them, travel abroad, experience the horror of sordid passion and—if he is lucky enough—know the love of an honest woman.” – Robert Graves, English poet, scholar, translator, and writer specializing in Classical Greece and Rome, novelist, and author of the superb “Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography” (1929), who died on 7 December 1985.
Graves called “Good-Bye to All That” “my bitter leave-taking of England.” In it, he describes the physical and cultural cataclysm of World War I, including and especially the dangerous inadequacy of uncritical patriotism. True to his principles, Robert Graves turned down a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1957.
Some quotes from the work of Robert Graves:
“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.”
“Marriage, like money, is still with us; and, like money, progressively devalued.”
“If I were a girl, I’d despair. The supply of good women far exceeds that of the men who deserve them.”
“A remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good in spite of all the people who say he is very good.”
“A well chosen anthology is a complete dispensary of medicine for the more common mental disorders, and may be used as much for prevention as cure.”
“In love as in sport, the amateur status must be strictly maintained.”
“Prose books are the show dogs I breed and sell to support my cat.”
“What we now call ‘finance’ is, I hold, an intellectual perversion of what began as warm human love.”
And a poem:
“Dead Cow Farm”
An ancient saga tells us how
In the beginning the First Cow
(For nothing living yet had birth
But elemental Cow on Earth)
Began to lick cold stones and mud:
Under her warm tongue flesh and blood
Blossomed, a miracle to believe;
And so was Adam born, and Eve.
Here now is chaos once again,
Primaeval mud, cold stones and rain.
Here flesh decays and blood drips red
And the Cow’s dead, the old Cow’s dead.
Musings in Autumn, Hoping for Snow: Terri Guillemets
American Art – Part II of IV: Casey Childs
Some quotes from the work of Heywood C. Broun:
“Only Puritans think of the Devil as the most fascinating figure in the universe.”
“I doubt whether the world holds for any one a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice-cream.”
“Everybody favors free speech in the slack moments when no axes are being ground.”
“A technical objection is the first refuge of a scoundrel.”
“The great threat to the young and pure in heart is not what they read but what they don’t read.”
Héctor Julio Páride Bernabó (1911-1997) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was a painter, engraver, draughtsman, illustrator, potter, sculptor, mural painter, researcher, historian and journalist. He settled in Brazil and became a naturalized citizen of that country.
From the Music Archives – Part II of V: Otis Redding
7 December 1967 – Otis Redding records “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
Here is what one critic has said about the work of French sculptor Beatrice Bissara (born 1972): “Her nude female figures allure us by their traditional beauty and harmonious softness of their forms. In her inspiring figures, Bissara reveals her perception of the human condition.”
A Third Poem for Today
“The Wicked One Goes to the Makeup Counter,”
By Janet McNally
You can’t argue beauty’s not an accident, the particular heft and angle
of a chromosome’s spin. A tarted spangle, bright lanyard twist, the slip
of cells weighting this boat uneven from stern to prow. We’re all
skittery as marbles on a marble floor. Beauty stays, then goes;
it fades, we say, something about years and sun, the nights we slept
in makeup and left mascara like ashes on the pillowcase. We burned
through every one of our dreams. I wasn’t always a stepmother, you know.
There were whole years when I was a girl. But now, these ladies
sell me moisturizer, stand close in their lab coats, pretending at science
in a fog of perfume. They wield a contour brush and my cheekbone pops.
The magic settles uneasy; it turns out fairy dust was always
fake. And the lipstick’s made from beetles, shells crushed vermillion.
Here is the Artist Statement of Latvian painter Laine Kainaize (born 1953): “I have been interested in painting since my early childhood. I graduated from the State Academy of Arts in Riga in 1980.
I have been a member of the Latvian Artists’ Union since 1982. I paint mainly in oil, but also do water colour and drawing.”
“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” – Thornton Wilder, American playwright, novelist, and recipient of a National Book Award (for the novel “The Eighth Day”) and three Pulitzer Prizes (for the novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” and the plays “Our Town” and “The Skin of Our Teeth”), who died 7 December 1975.
Some quotes from the work of Thornton Wilder:
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?”
“Being employed is like being loved: you know that somebody’s thinking about you the whole time.”
“Now he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other. There may be two equally good, equally gifted, equally beautiful, but there may never be two that love one another equally well.”
“Only it seems to me that once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don’t talk in English and don’t even want to.”
“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it is on your plate.”
“Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.”
“The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself ‘Oh now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.’ And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventures.”
“[Dona Maria] saw that the people of this world moved about in an armor of egotism, drunk with self-gazing, athirst for compliments, hearing little of what was said to them, unmoved by the accidents that befell their closest friends, in dread of all appeals that might interrupt their long communion with their own desires.”
“Seek the lofty by reading, hearing and seeing great work at some moment every day. ”
“Many who have spent a lifetime can tell us less of love than the child that lost a dog yesterday.”
From the Music Archives – Part III of V: Tom Waits
“Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.” – Tom Waits, American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor, who was born on 7 December 1949.
Critic Daniel Durchholz described the voice of Tom Waits as sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Kathleen Jamie
Well, friend, we’re here again —
sauntering the last half-mile to the land’s frayed end
to ﬁnd what’s laid on for us, strewn across the turf —
gull feathers, bleached shells,
a whole bull seal, bone-dry,
knackered from the rut
(we knock on his leathern head, but no one’s home).
Change, change — that’s what the terns scream
down at their seaward rocks;
ﬂeet clouds and salt kiss —
everything else is provisional,
us and all our works.
I guess that’s why we like it here:
listen — a brief lull,
a rock pipit’s seed-small notes.
Sucking Up To Santa
Died 7 December 1902 – Thomas Nast, German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist who is considered the “Father of the American Cartoon.”
Below – Thomas Nast’s greatest work: an aesthetically perfect portrait of wonderful, kind, generous, pony-bestowing Santa Claus; a pony: the best possible Christmas gift for someone who has been nice all year long. Or at least tried to be. Occasionally.
Musings in Autumn, Hoping for Snow: Philip Pullman
“We feel cold, but we don’t mind it, because we will not come to harm. And if we wrapped up against the cold, we wouldn’t feel other things, like the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the Aurora, or best of all the silky feeling of moonlight on our skin. It’s worth being cold for that.”
From the Music Archives – Part IV of V: Wings
7 December 1973 – The rock group Wings releases “Band on the Run.”
From the American History Archives: The Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.
In the words of one historian, “The Battle of Prairie Grove was a battle of the American Civil War fought on December 7, 1862, that resulted in a tactical stalemate but essentially secured northwest Arkansas for the Union.”
American Art – Part III of IV: Claudia Alvarez
Artist Statement: “I’m influenced by the characteristics of children. Their actions pose questions simply yet poignantly about complex issues in the world today. A child’s viewpoint is innocent of cultural conventions. Their eyes and comments reveal to us just how corrupt social mechanisms are.”
Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” – Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher, historian, cognitive scientist, logician, political critic, and social activist, who was born on 7 December 1928.
In a 2005 poll, Noam Chomsky was voted the “world’s top public intellectual,” and according to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, he is cited as a source more often than almost any living scholar. In addition to being the “father of modern linguistics,” Chomsky has influenced fields such as computer science, mathematics, and psychology, and he has written extensively on war, politics, and mass media.
Some quotes from the work of Noam Chomsky:
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.”
“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”
“Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.”
“Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.”
“If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”
“The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people.”
“Education must provide the opportunities for self-fulfillment; it can at best provide a rich and challenging environment for the individual to explore, in his own way.”
“The Bible is one of the most genocidal books in history.”
“If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion.”
“The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn’t betray it I’d be ashamed of myself.”
“I have often thought that if a rational Fascist dictatorship were to exist, then it would choose the American system.”
“In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued – they may be essential to survival.”
“The United States is unusual among the industrial democracies in the rigidity of the system of ideological control – ‘indoctrination,’ we might say – exercised through the mass media.”
“In the US, there is basically one party – the business party. It has two factions, called Democrats and Republicans, which are somewhat different but carry out variations on the same policies. By and large, I am opposed to those policies.”
“If you are working 50 hours a week in a factory, you don’t have time to read 10 newspapers a day and go back to declassified government archives. But such people may have far-reaching insights into the way the world works.”
“Unlimited economic growth has the marvelous quality of stilling discontent while maintaining privilege, a fact that has not gone unnoticed among liberal economists.”
“We can, for example, be fairly confident that either there will be a world without war or there won’t be a world – at least, a world inhabited by creatures other than bacteria and beetles, with some scattering of others.”
“If there was an observer on Mars, they would probably be amazed that we have survived this long.”
“In many respects, the United States is a great country. Freedom of speech is protected more than in any other country. It is also a very free society.”
“Resistance is feasible even for those who are not heroes by nature, and it is an obligation, I believe, for those who fear the consequences and detest the reality of the attempt to impose American hegemony.”
“There are two problems for our species’ survival – nuclear war and environmental catastrophe – and we’re hurtling towards them. Knowingly.”
“There is massive propaganda for everyone to consume. Consumption is good for profits and consumption is good for the political establishment.”
“You cannot control your own population by force, but it can be distracted by consumption.”
“I don’t want followers.”
“In the literal sense, there has been no relevant evolution since the trek from Africa. But there has been substantial progress towards higher standards of rights, justice and freedom – along with all too many illustrations of how remote is the goal of a decent society.”
“Stability is when the U.K. and U.S. invade a country and impose the regime of their choice.”
“The ‘anti-globalisation movement’ is the most significant proponent of globalisation – but in the interests of people, not concentrations of state-private power.”
“The government of Israel doesn’t like the kinds of things I say, which puts them into the same category as every other government in the world.”
“The public is not to see where power lies, how it shapes policy, and for what ends. Rather, people are to hate and fear one another.”
From the Music Archives – Part V of V: Chopin
Musings in Autumn, Hoping for Snow: Peter Matthiessen
“The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no ‘meaning,’ they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Robinson Jeffers
The fierce musical cries of a couple of sparrowhawks hunting
on the headland,
Hovering and darting, their heads northwestward,
Prick like silver arrows shot through a curtain the noise of the
Trampling its granite; their red backs gleam
Under my window around the stone corners; nothing gracefuller,
Nimbler in the wind. Westward the wave-gleaners,
The old gray sea-going gulls are gathered together, the northwest
Their wings to the wild spirals of the wind-dance.
Fresh as the air, salt as the foam, play birds in the bright wind,
Forgetting the oak and the pinewood, come gulls
From the Carmel sands and the sands at the river-mouth, from
Lobos and out of the limitless
Power of the mass of the sea, for a poem
Needs multitude, multitudes of thoughts, all fierce, all flesh-eaters,
Bright hawks that hover and dart headlong, and ungainly
Gray hungers fledged with desire of transgression, salt slimed
beaks, from the sharp
Rock-shores of the world and the secret waters.
American Art – Part IV of IV: Richard Thomas Davis