Wandering in Woodacre – 14 February 2021

Happy Valentine’s Day

Contemporary American Art – Matilda Forsberg

Below – “Chasing the light”; “Up in the north the days are long”; “Backyard scenes”; “Cleansing”; “Summer pastimes”; “Beach scenes: observing family rituals.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 14 February 2015 – Philip Levine, an American poet, two-time recipient of the National Book Award, and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. Critic Edward Hirsch described Levine as “a large, ironic Whitman of the industrial heartland,” and early in his career Levine resolved “to find a voice for the voiceless.”

“An Abandoned Factory in Detroit”
by Philip Levine

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.

Contemporary Belgian Art – Jiri Skrivan

Below – “Last cloud”; “Mist”; “Jacket”; “One”; “The hike”; “Last of the storm.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 14 February 1975 – P. G. Wodehouse, an English novelist, playwright, humorist, and author of “My Man Jeeves.”

Some quotes from the work of P. G. Wodehouse:

“He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.”
“An apple a day, if well aimed, keeps the doctor away.”
“I always advise people never to give advice.”
“Everything in life that’s any fun, as somebody wisely observed, is either immoral, illegal or fattening.”
“He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.”
“It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t.”
“One of the drawbacks to life is that it contains moments when one is compelled to tell the truth.”
“Some minds are like soup in a poor restaurant—better left unstirred.”
“I always strive, when I can, to spread sweetness and light. There have been several complaints about it.”
“Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.”
“It was one of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.”
“She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when.'”
“The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number.”
“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.”
“As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.”

Contemporary Russian Art – Kenya Slobodchikova

Below – “Dream”; “It’s quiet there”; “Reeds”; “Family Cat”; “Hot peppers”; “Bird.”

This Date in Intellectual History: Died 14 February 1994 – Christopher Lasch, an American historian, critic, author of “The Culture of Narcissism,” and recipient of the National Book Award. In the words of one writer, “Lasch sought to use history as a tool to awaken American society to the pervasiveness with which major institutions, public and private, were eroding the competence and independence of families and communities. He strove to create a historically informed social criticism that could teach Americans how to deal with rampant consumerism, proletarianization, and what he famously labeled ‘the culture of narcissism.’”

Some quotes from the work of Christopher Lasch:

“Advertising serves not so much to advertise products as to promote consumption as a way of life. It ‘educates’ the masses into an unappeasable appetite not only for goods but for new experiences and personal fulfillment.”
“Because it equates tradition with prejudice, the left finds itself increasingly unable to converse with ordinary people in their common language.”
“Conservatives unwittingly side with the social forces that contribute to the destruction of traditional values.”
“The effect of the mass media is not to elicit belief but to maintain the apparatus of addiction.”
“Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.”
“The family is a haven in a heartless world.”
“In our society, daily experience teaches the individual to want and need a never-ending supply of new toys and drugs.”
“A society that has made ‘nostalgia’ a marketable commodity on the cultural exchange quickly repudiates the suggestion that life in the past was in any important way better than life today.”
“Adherents of the new religious right reject the separation of politics and religion, but they bring no spiritual insights to politics.”
“Our growing dependence on technologies no one seems to understand or control has given rise to feelings of powerlessness and victimization. We find it more and more difficult to achieve a sense of continuity, permanence, or connection with the world around us. Relationships with others are notably fragile; goods are made to be used up and discarded; reality is experienced as an unstable environment of flickering images. Everything conspires to encourage escapist solutions to the psychological problems of dependence, separation, and individuation, and to discourage the moral realism that makes it possible for human beings to come to terms with existential constraints on their power and freedom.”
“The best defenses against the terrors of existence are the homely comforts of love, work, and family life, which connect us to a world that is independent of our wishes yet responsive to our needs. It is through love and work, as Freud noted in a characteristically pungent remark, that we exchange crippling emotional conflict for ordinary unhappiness. Love and work enable each of us to explore a small corner of the world and to come to accept it on its own terms. But our society tends either to devalue small comforts or else to expect too much of them. Our standards of ‘creative, meaningful work’ are too exalted to survive disappointment. Our ideal of ‘true romance’ puts an impossible burden on personal relationships. We demand too much of life, too little of ourselves.”

Contemporary American Art – Seth Harris

Below – “North Shore”; “South Shore”; “Girl with Orange”; “Black and White Suits”; “Hanging Up a Wet Bathing Suit”; “Some Quick Lo Mein.”

This Date in Engineering History: Born 14 February 1859 – George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., and American engineer known for creating the original Ferris Wheel (shown below) for the
1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition.
Like most people, I have ridden on Ferris wheels many times during my life – in amusement parks, on boardwalks, at county fairs – and doing so was always wonderful. However, pondering this matter, I realize with sorrow that this is just one more example of something lovely that I will never again experience. This is not a complaint; rather, it is just an acknowledgement, from someone grown old, that life is transient and therefore bittersweet. And so, thank you George Washington Gate Ferris Jr. for bringing so much joy into my life; but also and equally ‘ubi sunt?’ Ferris Wheels of my bygone days. And ‘ubi sunt?’ for so many other things, people, and places that have enriched my life.

Contemporary American Art – Juan Bastos

Below – “Fall Landscape 12”; “Pacific Palisades”; “Will Rogers Beach”; “California Landscape 2”; “Fall Landscape 14”; “Fall Landscape 15.”

A Poem for Today

by Angel Araguz

I made up a story for myself once,
That each glove I lost
Was sent to my father in prison

That’s all it would take for him
To chart my growth without pictures
Without words or visits,

Only colors and design,
Texture; it was ok then
For skin to chafe and ash,

To imagine him
Trying on a glove,
Stretching it out

My open palm closing
And disappearing
In his fist.

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