American Art – Part I of V: William Coulter
In the words of one writer, “William Coulter was, along with Gideon Denny, the foremost artist on the San Francisco Bay. Born in Glenariff, Ireland where his father was captain in the Coast Guard. At age 13 Coulter went to sea and learned every detail of the ships on which he sailed. He had a natural gift for drawing and color and during his off-duty hours aboard ship he sketched and painted. After arriving in San Francisco in 1869, he worked as a sailmaker while continuing to paint in his leisure and by 1874 was regularly exhibiting with the San Francisco Art Association. By 1890 he was living in Sausalito in a house that was just a few feet from the water. He kept a studio in San Francisco at 325 Montgomery Street, which he shared briefly with Hiram Bloomer. In 1896 he joined the staff of the San Francisco Call as their waterfront artist. His pen-and-ink drawings appeared daily until the disaster of 1906. One of his most important commissions was done between 1909-20 when he painted five mural panels for the Merchant Exchange Building. From 1869 to 1936 he chronicled the shipping industry in San Francisco Bay, capturing the vitality of the square-riggers, hay scows, tug boats, and schooners that sailed in and out of the Golden Gate. Coulter died on March 13th, 1936 at his Sausalito home. In 1943 a Liberty Ship was launched at the Kaiser Shipyard and named S.S. William A. Coulter. Coulter’s works are held at the Oakland Museum, Maritime Museum, SF, California Historical Society.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of IV: Giuseppe Verdi
11 March 1851 – Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Rigoletto” premieres in Venice.
My favorite part of the opera:
A Poem for Today
“A Farmer Remembers Lincoln”
By Witter Bynner
Well, I was in the old Second Maine,
The first regiment in Washington from the Pine Tree State.
Of course I didn’t get the butt of the clip;
We was there for guardin’ Washington—
We was all green.
“I ain’t never ben to the theayter in my life—
I didn’t know how to behave.
I ain’t never ben since.
I can see as plain as my hat the box where he sat in
When he was shot.
I can tell you, sir, there was a panic
When we found our President was in the shape he was in!
Never saw a soldier in the world but what liked him.
“Yes, sir. His looks was kind o’ hard to forget.
He was a spare man,
An old farmer.
Everything was all right, you know,
But he wasn’t a smooth-appearin’ man at all—
Not in no ways;
And a swellin’ kind of a thick lip like.
“And he was a jolly old fellow—always cheerful;
He wasn’t so high but the boys could talk to him their own ways.
While I was servin’ at the Hospital
He’d come in and say, ‘You look nice in here,’
Praise us up, you know.
And he’d bend over and talk to the boys—
And he’d talk so good to ’em—so close—
That’s why I call him a farmer.
I don’t mean that everything about him wasn’t all right, you understand,
It’s just—well, I was a farmer—
And he was my neighbor, anybody’s neighbor.
I guess even you young folks would ‘a’ liked him.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of IV: Mark Stein
Born 11 March 1945 – Mark Stein, a vocalist and organist for the American rock band Vanilla Fudge.
Musings in Winter: W. Somerset Maugham
“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.”
From the Music Archives – Part III of IV: Dmitri Shostakovich
11 March 1968 – Dmitri Shostakovich completes his 12th string quartet.
A Second Poem for Today
“What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use”
By Ada Limon
All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.
Musings in Winter: Shannon L. Alder
From the Music Archives – Part IV of IV: Otis Redding
11 March 1968 – Otis Redding posthumously receives a gold record for “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.”
“There’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet.” – Philo T. Farnsworth, American inventor dubbed the “Father of Television,” who died 11 March 1971, admonishing his son.
Philo T. Farnsworth would not be pleased by a recent Nielson report, according to which Americans now spend 34 hours a week watching television.
Here’s some equally disturbing news: The authors of a 2010 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation have stated that Americans between the ages of eight and eighteen now spend almost as much time on social media as their parents do working – 7 hours, 38 minutes per day. In their words, “Even this staggering amount underestimates the media usage of young people.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of German painter Tim Eitel (born 1971): “Tim Eitel has established himself as one of the more gifted painters, creating images which, being based in figuration, may seduce the observer with their immediate accessibility, but are characterized by an atmosphere, an absence, that adds new dimensions to contemporary painting.”
Musings in Winter: Thomas L. Friedman
“In my world, you don’t get to call yourself ‘pro-life’ and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself ‘pro-life’ and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself ‘pro-life’ and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children…The term ‘pro-life’ should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth.”
A Third Poem for Today
“A Colander of Barley”
By Tami Haaland
The smell, once water has rinsed it,
is like a field of ripe grain, or the grain held
in a truck, and if you climb the steel side,
one foot lodged on the hubcap, the other
on the wheel, and pull your body upward,
your hands holding to tarp hooks, and lift toes
onto the rim of the truck box, rest your ribs
against the side, you will see beetles
and grasshoppers among the hulled kernels.
Water stirs and resurrects harvest dust:
sun beating on abundance, the moist heat
of grain collected in steel, hands
plunging and lifting, the grain spilling back.
Musings in Winter: Jess Walter
“All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character-what we believe-none of it is real; it’s all part of the story we tell. But here’s the thing: it’s our goddamned story!”
American Art – Part II of V: Giuseppe Cadenasso
In the words of one writer, “Giuseppe Cadenasso was born in the small village of Maragolla near Genoa, Italy on Jan. 2, 1854. At age nine he sailed from Genoa to northern California where his uncle owned a vineyard. As a young man he found employment in San Francisco as a barber, waiter, and sang Italian opera at the Tivoli Opera House. His raw talent as an artist was discovered by Jules Tavernier. Tavernier took him to the studio of Joseph Harrington who gave him free art lessons. Cadenasso later earned enough money for further study under Arthur Mathews at the Mark Hopkins Institute. His studio-home on Russian Hill at 17 Macondray Lane was called “The Sign of the Eucalyptus.” He later moved across the bay where he painted scenes of the marshes and eucalyptus trees of Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda. From 1902, Cadenasso was head of the art department at Mills College. Motivated by tone and harmony, Cadenasso developed an original style and often used his fingers to spread the colors. His lyrical landscapes earned him the title of ‘the Corot of California.’ Returning home from seeing his son off to the World War, Cadenasso was struck by an automobile at Powell and Post Streets in San Francisco and died of injuries on Feb. 11, 1918.”
“One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.” – Alexander Fleming, Scottish biologist, pharmacologist, and botanist, who died 11 March 1955. In the words of one historian, “Fleming wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy. His best-known discoveries are the enzyme lysozyme in 1923 and the antibiotic substance penicillin from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain.”
Two quotes from Alexander Fleming:
“It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject; the details may be worked out by a team, but the prime idea is due to enterprise, thought, and perception of an individual.”
“I have been trying to point out that in our lives chance may have an astonishing influence and, if I may offer advice to the young laboratory worker, it would be this – never to neglect an extraordinary appearance or happening.”
Musings in Winter: Alexander McCall Smith
“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of South African painter Henk Serfontein: “Serfontein´s places of resting and waiting evoke a certain romantic nostalgia, a hopeful intimacy, a place for the traveller to rest his weary bones. Yet they undeniably also contain a more sinister dimension. They are places of wariness, heightened suspiciousness, in which the viewer could be both welcomed guest and unwanted intruder. Most importantly, you know you are alone here, it is dark and there is silence.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Joseph Millar
Even the bosses are sleeping late
in the dusty light of September.
The parking lot’s empty and no one cares.
No one unloads a ladder, steps on the gas
or starts up the big machines in the shop,
sanding and grinding, cutting and binding.
No one lays a flat bead of flux over a metal seam
or lowers the steel forks from a tailgate.
Shadows gather inside the sleeve
of the empty thermos beside the sink,
the bells go still by the channel buoy,
the wind lies down in the west,
Musings in Winter: Frank Lloyd Wright
“As we live and as we are, Simplicity – with a capital “S” – is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”
American Art – Part III of V: Shaune McCarthy
Artist Statement: “Working with clay as a sculpture medium continues to enthrall and delight me. The challenging process keeps me learning, and as my skill level increases so does my curiosity.
I am usually immersed in a feeling of energized focus for hours on end. Its fun building figures in space. I like the very definite rules of clay building, but it can be full of suspense, taking me to the limit of my patience, to despair and then bringing me back to sweet control and relief all in an afternoon.
Sometimes I have a clear idea in my head of what I want to build before I begin a figure sculpture. Other times I am content to simply begin with the foot placement on the board and, like a puzzle, piece it together from the bottom up.
I prefer to give the imagination free reign when working with clay. I use no inner supports to build my sculpture. It requires balance and timing to get the whole piece completed as it nears leather hard.
I use thick slabs at the bottom for stability and thinner slabs at the top. Once the piece is built, I usually slice off parts of the figure, hollow them further, and reattach them. Because of space limits in my kiln, I fire the piece in two sections. I then glaze the piece, and re-fire it multiple times, before gluing the sections together.
I use rough texture, drawings, holes and abstract markings that are reminiscent of cosmic maps. And the drama and spirit of my figures are a part of the map too. Most recently my surface treatment has taken over the whole piece and there is no figure at all.
For me the attraction and fun of working with clay is the challenge of staying alert to new directions, and not being afraid to push the limits of the material and the outer reaches of my imagination.”
Musings in Winter: Loretta Girzaitis
From the American History Archives – Dr. Strangelove File: Mars Bluff
11 March 1953 – An American B-47 bomber accidentally dropped a Mark 6 nuclear bomb on Mars Bluff, South Carolina, near the residence of Walter Gregg. The bomb fell from 15,000 feet, and although it did not contain the removable core of fissionable uranium and plutonium (which was stored in a containment area on board the aircraft), it did carry 7,600 pounds of conventional explosives. When it detonated upon impact, the bomb created a crater 75 feet wide and 35 feet deep, destroyed a vegetable garden, a children’s playhouse, and a significant portion of the Gregg home, and leveled nearby trees. No one was killed, but six members of the Gregg family were injured by the blast.
Here’s a description of the incident in a radio transmission by the United States Air Force: “Aircraft 53-1876A has lost a device.” The Gregg family successfully sued the Air Force, and they were awarded $54,000 in compensation for personal injury and destruction of property. The bomb crater still exists, but is now obscured by a swamp.
Here is one writer describing the artistry of Canadian painter Christopher Pratt: “(His) subjects include Newfoundland landscapes, architecture, the female form, structures, figures and emblems. His artwork is based mostly on memory. Pratt doesn’t paint from photographs and when he does his figure work he sketches. The figure work that he does is always drawn from real life.”
Musings in Winter: Yasmina Khadra
A Fifth Poem for Today
“The Good Life”
By Tracy K. Smith
When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.
“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
– Douglas Adams, English writer, humorist, dramatist, atheist, environmentalist, and author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” and “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul,” who was born 11 March 1952.
Biologist Richard Dawkins dedicated his book “The God Delusion” to Douglas Adams, and when Adams died in May 2011, he stated that, “Science has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, and the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender.”
Some quotes from Douglas Adams:
“A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”
“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.”
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
“It is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
“Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”
“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”
“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the drug store, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
“The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at and repair.”
“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”
“Life is wasted on the living.”
“He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.”
“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
“You live and learn. At any rate, you live.”
“The impossible often has a kind of integrity which the merely improbable lacks.”
“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
“The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
“A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.’”
“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”
“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.”
“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”
“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”
“‘You know,’ said Arthur, ‘it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.
‘Why, what did she tell you?’
‘I don’t know, I didn’t listen.’”
“I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Marie Thurmer
We waded in the shallows,
holding his hands, then just
fingertips, as his feet
slowly lifted off the bottom.
The land did not stop
at the waterline, but simply
His worn face bobbed above
the waves, breath in an O
as our words, fistfuls
of shimmering minnows,
scattered, lost on their way
to him. The tide carried
him out, then back a bit,
a gradual letting go into dark
waters, and we, still
in the ebb, could almost
mistake that O
for the response we wanted—
on the ins, ‘I’ll remember you,’
on the outs, ‘goodbye.’
Musings in Winter: Jack Kerouac
American Art – Part IV of V: Frederick Butman
In the words of one writer, “Born in Bangor, ME in 1820, Frederick Butman operated an apothecary shop in Gardiner, ME and helped found the local gas and water company. Without the benefit of instruction, he began to paint figure studies. He arrived in San Francisco in 1857 and exhibited the earliest known painting of Yosemite Valley at the Mechanics’ Institute Fair. One of the first California artists to devote himself exclusively to landscapes, as well as Yosemite, he also worked in Oregon’s Columbia River area and Washington in the 1860s. He exhibited in San Francisco a variety of mountain scenes including views of Mt Shasta, Mt Hood, and Lake Tahoe. Returning to the East in 1867, he exhibited these scenes to an enthusiastic audience. A trip was made to Europe where he sketched in France, the Pyranees, and Swiss Alps before returning to San Francisco in 1869. He painted about 80 paintings in California and received high praise from the local press. His work commanded large sums of money during his lifetime. Butman was just beginning to do some of his finest work when he returned to Maine for a family visit and died unexpectedly in Gardiner on July 26, 1871.”
A Seventh Poem for Today
By Helen T. Glenn
The release of water in the base
so controlled that the surface tension,
tabletop of stability, a mirror,
remains unbroken. Moisture seeps
down polished basalt sides.
Musings in Winter: David Guterson
“To deny that there was this dark side of life would be like pretending that the cold of winter was somehow only a temporary illusion, a way station on the way to the higher “reality” of long, warm, pleasant summers. But summer, it turned out, was no more real than the snow that melted in wintertime.”
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Mark K. Brown
Artist Statement: “When I learned to do my first Eskimo carving, it wasn’t easy. I used to watch my older brothers making their own art work. It looked easy the way they carved, so I decided to try my first art carving.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
An Eighth Poem for Today
By Gabriel Spera
The jay’s up early, and attacks the lawn
with something of that fervor and despair
of one whose keys are not where they always are,
checking the same spots over and again
till something new or overlooked appears—
an armored pillbug, or a husk of grain.
He flits with it home, where his mate beds down,
her stern tail feathers jutting from the nest
like a spoon handle from a breakfast bowl.
The quickest lover’s peck, and he’s paroled
again to stalk the sodgrass, cockheaded, obsessed.
He must get something from his selfless work—
joy, or reprieve, or a satisfying sense
of obligation dutifully dispensed.
Unless, of course, he’s just a bird, with beaks—
too many beaks—to fill, in no way possessed
of traits or demons humans might devise,
his dark not filled with could-have-beens and whys.
Musings in Winter: Jostein Gaarder
“Imagine that one day you are out for a walk in the woods. Suddenly you see a small spaceship on the path in front of you. A tiny Martian climbs out the spaceship and stands on the ground looking up at you…
What would you think? Never mind, it’s not important. But have you ever given any thought to the fact that you are a Martian yourself?
It is obviously unlikely that you will ever stumble upon a creature from another planet. We do not even know that there is life on other planets. But you might stumble upon yourself one day. You might suddenly stop short and see yourself in a completely new light. On just such a walk in the woods.
I am an extraordinary being, you think. I am a mysterious creature.
You feel as if you are waking from an enchanted slumber. Who am I? you ask. You know that you are stumbling around on a planet in the universe. But what is the universe?
If you discover yourself in this manner you will have discovered something as mysterious as the Martian we just mentioned. You will not only have seen a being from outer space. You will feel deep down that you are yourself an extraordinary being.”
American Art – Part V of V: Hiram R. Bloomer
In the words of one writer, “Born in New York in 1845, Bloomer came to California with his family in 1852 and settled in San Francisco. Having decided upon an art career, he was a pupil of Virgil Williams, Thomas Hill and Stephen Shaw from 1868-73. The years 1874-79 were spent in Paris where he was a pupil of Duran and Pelouse, and the years 1879-90 were spent in England. Upon returning to the U.S., He attended the National Academy Design in New York for two years. In 1892 he returned to San Francisco and resumed his residence and studio at 506 Battery Street. Early in his career he concentrated on portraiture, but after returning from Europe, he turned his attention to the local landscape. His works done after this time show the influence of the Barbizon painters. About the turn of the century he moved across the Golden Gate to Sausalito where he spent his remaining years. He died on June 3, 1911 and is buried in Fernwood Cemetery. Member: Bohemian Club; San Francisco Art Association. Exhibited: Paris Salon, 1878; Royal Academy, London, 1879-90; Mark Hopkins Inst. 1903, 1906. Works held: Oakland Museum; California Historical Society.”