Thursday, May 6, 2021

Pearl Harbor / Boston's Japanese art collection

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Autodidact. Digital montage, © 2021.

•••

Robert Craft, An Improbable Life. Nashville TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2002, p. 33—

On Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941, my father and I were watching a football game in Rockville Center, Long Island, when a loudspeaker announced the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The game went on as though the statement had not been understood, or taken for another Orson Welles radio hoax, but when twice repeated, the stunned, disbelieving crowd in the bleachers began to drift away. As we drove back to Manhattan, the automobile radio sputtered news bulletins, one of which said that the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston had been cordoned by police because of concern that its great collection of Japanese Art might be endangered by reprisals.

Glen Baxter / a childhood spent in darkest Leeds

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Twin Poseurs. Digital montage, © 2021. 

•••

Glen Baxter in Les Coleman, Unthinking. UK: Littlewood Arc, 1993—

I spent my childhood in darkest Leeds. I had a problem. I stammered. One day my mother sent me down to the local haberdashery shop in Hunslet Carr to purchase a collar stud for my father's shirt. All the way down to the shop I practiced my speech, searching for ways to address the shop assistant without blocking on certain troublesome words. This was clearly an important mission and I must not fail. After a thorough rehearsal of every possible combination of words that would indicate to the person in the shop the nature of my visit, I stepped up and opened the door and marched boldly up to the shop counter. “Do you have any collar studs?” I blurted to the man behind the counter. He looked at me for a moment or two then replied slowly, “I'm afraid we seem to be right out at the moment, but if you care to pop next door to the haberdashery shop, they might indeed be able to help you.” I turned and made my exit through the furniture shop.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

recalling the pleasures of teaching with ede

Above Craig Ede, Self-Portrait (© 2021).

 •••

Some many years ago, too long to clearly remember (it was more than three decades ago), I was teaching a course in basic design (not graphic design), the arrangement of visual components, regardless of media. I came up with a brilliant idea: Why not invite an especially capable graduate student to team-teach that course with me? My approach to team-teaching required the combined presence and participation of both teachers in the same classroom at all times. 

But who to ask? It occurred to me that it should be someone who intended to teach in the future at the university level. And of course it should also be someone who had exceptional abilities as an artist / designer, as well as the skills that all teachers should have. To complicate matters, the experiment was non-funded. The student teacher would neither be paid nor would he / she receive course credit. But the experience could be listed on the person’s vita (when applying for teaching positions), with a letter of recommendation, and slide examples of the work that the students produced in the course. 

So who did I choose? Without hesitation, I approached a graduate painting student named Craig Ede, whose recent self-portrait drawing is posted above. At the time, of course, he was three decades or more younger, and did not yet show the scars of the torment of living through both a pandemic and the threatened decay of civilized life. Craig, who has so vividly “captured” himself, is an old friend, a painter, and former professor who lives in Wisconsin. I haven’t seen him for years, but this is such a persuasive reminder, it is almost as if he were present. Or, as he himself explains, it is what he will look like about seven months from now, in December 2021. More than ever, I can clearly see why I invited him to team teach in my classroom. It was a memorable experience, for students as well as the teachers.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

a cart, a ball, and two boxes of wooden bricks

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Cavern (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

John Ruskin (Victorian-era writer and art critic), Prataerita [Of Past Things], 1899—

…I was never permitted for an instant [as a child] to hope, or even imagine, the possession of such things as one saw in toy shops. I had a bunch of keys to play with, as long as I was capable only of pleasure in which glittered and jingled; as I grew older, I had a cart, and a ball; and when I was five or six years old, two boxes of well-cut wooden bricks.

With these modest, but, I still think, entirely sufficient possessions, and being always summarily whipped if I cried, did not do as I was bid, or tumbled on the stairs, I soon attained serene and secure methods of life and motion; and could pass my days contently in tracing the squares and comparing the colors of my carpet; examining the knots in the wood of the floor, or counting the bricks in the opposite houses; with rapturous intervals of excitement during the fillling of the water cart, through its leathern pipe, from the dripping iron post at the pavement edge; or the still more admirable proceedings of the turncock, when he turned and turned until a fountain sprang up in the middle of the street. But the carpet, and what patterns I could find in the bed covers, dresses, or wallpapers to be examined, were my chief resources, and my attention to the particulars in these was soon so accurate that, when at three and a half I was taken to have my portrait painted by Mr. [James] Northcote, I had not been ten minutes alone with him before I asked him why there were holes in his carpet.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

one legge / testy forward imperious tyrannical

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Revisiting Thomas Eakins (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Anthony à Wood, Life and Times

Sir Arthur Aston was governour of Oxon at what time it was garrison’d for the king, a testy, forward, imperious and tirannical person, hated in Oxford and elsewhere by God and Man. Who kervetting on horseback in Bullington green before certaine ladies, his horse flung him and broke his legge: so that it being cut off and he therupon rendred useless for employment, one Col. Legge succeeded him. Soon after the country people coming to market would be ever and anon asking the sentinell, “who was governor of Oxon?” They answered “one Legge.” Then replied they: “A pox upon him! Is he governor still?”

song, carols, hymn, chants or even a drone

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Paul's New Acquisition (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Joseph Langland (Poetry! What in the World are You Saying?)—

I wanted to sing to you to say, not to be forgotten, that poetry is among other things, song, varied carols, hymns, chants, or even a drone. But it is verbal music; the word is its god, and the poet its worshipper. I never was much interested in helping anyone into poetry because he had exciting ideas, but the moment I find someone who is enchanted by a phrase I think that he might be trained to lift whatever he thinks into a whole holy city of the imagination.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Inez McAlister Faber / Out Here on Soap Creek


Above
Roy R. Behrens, Snake Eyes (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Inez McAlister Faber, Out Here on Soap Creek. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1982, pp. 23-24—

Probably many people wiser than I dislike some of the things I like, such as hoeing, canning, cleaning house, cutting corn fodder, living in the country, being in my thirties, dahlias, roses, meals on time, empty houses with flowers still growing in the yards, old furniture, small boys, books, newspaper editorials, astronomy, chickens, dogs, cows, horses, meat or gravy cooked in a cast-iron skillet, waffles, carrots and spinach.

It is quite likely that others, and I have no quarrel with them, like many of the things I hate, including petunias, cats, children who have been taught that they are cute, grown-ups who try to act kiddish, male or female sissies, superiority complexes, machine hemstitching, tablecloths hemmed on the machine, cows with horns, weedy gardens, dwelling houses painted green, rain on washday, so-called living rooms that are only used for company, and overstuffed davenports. Large women in striped or checked dresses, bad table manners, being flatly contradicted, people who handle books roughly or who lay an open book face down upon a table, people who read over my shoulder, inquisitiveness, concrete walks in front of farm homes, fried parsnips, mashed potatoes, interruptions while ironing, washing milk pails, cleaning muddy overshoes, cooking for visitors who do not come, going to bed, getting up, washing yesterday’s dishes, and talking over the telephone.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

a cool clutch and four gears and even reverse

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Hammer Smith (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

An unidentified aging British chaffeur and auto mechanic, recalling his youth as a worker on an estate, in Ronald Blythe, The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age. New York: Penguin Books, 1980, p. 65—

I’ll tell you how I learned to drive. There was a shooting party and I had just got this car all washed and polished and clean, ready for the pick-up—the guns—when a boy came out of the house to put some dirt in the dustbin. I called out, “Come for a ride, Harry?” just as a joke, laughing, you know, but then in Harry jumps aside of me, looking pleased and excited. So what could I do? I was sixteen. I'd watched old Crossley [the estate chauffeur] with the gear-lever and the brake, and I told myself, “If he can do it, I can do it.” So I reached for the pedals and suddenly there we were, dashing down the front drive! That drive was a mile long and ended at the bottom lodge, where the village policeman lived. I was driving straight to prison, I told myself, for taking the motor. And could I turn it round and bring it back? But that lovely motor had a cool clutch and four gears and a reverse, and by luck I managed them all—brought it back safe, washed it all over again, and nothing was seen or said. That was the first time I had a drive and I’ve been driving ever since.

a car came down the street and ran into them

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Moon River Dog (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Frank Jacobs, The Mad World of William M. Gaines. NY: Bantam Books, 1973, p. 77—

In the fall of 1954, [William M.] Gaines [founder and publisher of MAD Magazine] and Nancy [a close friend and staff member] were turning into a gas station on West 96th Street in Manhattan. As they made their turn, a car came down the street and barreled into them. No one was hurt, and Gaines exchanged the usual insurance data with the driver of the other car, whose name was Gene Zahn. About a year later, two blocks from the gas station, Gaines pulled up to a newspaper stand. After buying his paper, he returned to his car, backed out a few feet, and was struck by a car rounding the corner. No one was hurt, and Gaines exchanged the usual insurance data with the driver of the other car, whose name was Gene Zahn.

“Didn't we have an accident a year ago?” Gaines asked.

“I believe we did,” answered Zahn, giving a polite nod to Nancy, whom he remembered from the previous run-in. “Say, don't you think it's time you two got married?”

Gaines thought if over and decided that the point was well-taken. Within a month, he and Nancy were married.

a picture in which a dot is the lobe of a man's ear

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Rhythm and Discernment (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Bennard B. Perlman, The Golden Age of American Illustration: F.R. Gruger and His Circle. Westport CT: North Light Publishers, 1977, p. 294—

The Composition Class instructor, Henry J. Thouron, sought to stimulate the creativity of his students. He would draw a rectangular area, then locate within it a few freehand lines and a dot. “Now I want a picture where this dot is the lobe of a man's ear and these lines are incorporated,” he would advise. All of the elements would have to become part of the composition; that was the challenge. Each student then evolved an original picture where the design was controlled by the novice artist, rather than by happenstance.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

or dance-like beatings the boy endured

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Papa's Waltz (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

The title of this digital book montage (I sometimes call them “visual poems”) is intended as an homage to what some people regard as Theodore Roethke’s finest work, a sixteen-line autobiographical poem, titled “My Papa’s Waltz” (c1942). It is beautifully constructed, filled with engagement and gesture—and is yet at the same time disturbing in its beneath-the-surface suggestions.

Roethke, as a poet should, makes apt use of figures of speech, and we (the readers) are left to decide what to make of it. Does “papa’s waltz” simply describe an innocent dance, in which an inebriated father is engaged in ritualistic fun with his son, a small boy. Or, as certain components suggest, is it not a literal waltz, but instead a frightening memory of dance-like beatings the boy endured at the hands of a drunken parent?

You must read the entire poem, which is available online at the website of the Poetry Foundation. At the same, it also helps to read the article about this poem on Wikipedia, and to learn about the life of Theodore Roethke.

rum, agony, complete carnage, noise and death

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Table Talk (© 2021). Digital montage.

••• 

Anonymous (a retired, 79-year-old British man, who, at age eighteen, while serving in France during World War I, had survived crippling battlefield wounds), quoted in Ronald Blythe, The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age. UK: Penguin Books, 1980, pp. 135-136—

[While serving in the trenches] we reached a line the Germans had just vacated and on the next morning, after being made to drink a lot of rum, I went over the top for the first time. Everybody has written about it and nobody can describe it. Not really. The legs and arms of the dead stretched out, the ripped bellies of the horses steaming and stinking. And the dead faces of mates looking up at you out of the filth. Filth. Men made into filth before your very eyes. “He’s finished,” you’d say to yourself, and in a way you were glad he was! Because there was this useless agony because you’d got to go. How I prayed then! “Over the top!” it was, and there you were, running and falling. After the first time I fell asleep in a trench filling with water and was nearly drowned. We were on the Somme. It was solid carnage, noise and death. There was so much death then that it doesn’t matter to me now. Or should I say, it doesn’t worry me now. Now that I’m getting on for eighty, and when there’s not a morning when I don’t thank God for it. Day come, day go.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

i wanted my father to be what he could not be

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Tall Tails (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Sherwood Anderson, Memoirs. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1942—

…as a small boy, I wanted my father to be a certain thing he was not, could not be. I wanted him to be a proud silent dignified one. When I was with other small boys and he passed along the street, I wanted to feel in my breast the glow of pride.

“There he is. That is my father.”

But he wasn’t such a one. He couldn’t be. It seemed to me then that he was always showing off…

…He was like this, let’s say an Irishman came to our house. Right away Father would say he was Irish. He’d tell things that happened to him in Ireland when he was a boy. He’d make it seem so real, that, if I hadn’t known where he was born, in a county down in southern Ohio, I’d have believed him myself.

If it was a Scotchman the same thing happened. He became a Scotchman. He’d get a burr into his speech. Or he was a German or a Swede. He’d be anything the other man was.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

mortality's end / pack a case and leave the rest

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 Above Roy R. Behrens, Carte Blanche (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Ronald Blythe, The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age. New York: Penguin Books, 1980, p. 103—

A man who dies at forty will usually show one cause of death, wrote Alex Comfort; a man who dies at eighty will probably show nine or ten, so that had we cured the one that in fact killed him, he would have died soon after of something else. Behind this bleak truth lies the reason why so many aged leave home for homes. They are deteriorating. Their mortality, which has been kept in check or which has been concealed for so long, is now unhideable from themselves and from their families and neighbors. The effect of these last diseases, their breaking down of the organism, is called “not being able to manage.” The pressures from inside and outside then begin, and just at a moment when the smallest decision requires a mighty effort, one is asked to make what for most people is a tremendous effort—to go on managing, and knowing that you can’t, or to be managed. To pack a case and leave the rest. Travel light has always been the advice given to pilgrims and the old people’s home repeats it, though for its own convenience, not for the new resident’s.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

the bean lacks dignity and succotash is vulgar

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Above
Roy R. Behrens, Cross Purposes (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Charles Dudley Warner, “Ninth Week” in My Summer in a Garden. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885—

There is no dignity in the bean. Corn, with no affectation of superiority, is, however, the child of song. It waves in all literature. But mix it with beans, and its high tone is gone. Succotash is vulgar.

•••

John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings. Wesleyan University Press, 1961—

The artist conscientiously moves in a direction which for some good reason he takes, putting one work in front of the other with the hope that he’ll arrive before death overtakes him.

•••

Don Marquis, Archy’s Life of Mehitabel. New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1938—

man eats the big fish
the big fish eat the
little fish
the little fish
eat insects
in the water
the water insects
eat the water plants
the water plants
eat mud
mud eats man.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

picked it up and then flung it under the seat

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Root Canal (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Ann Barr and Paul Levy, The Official Foodie Handbook. Arbor House, 1985—

When Marilyn Monroe was married to [playwright] Arthur Miller, his mother always made matzo ball soup. After the tenth time, Marilyn said, “Gee Arthur, these matzo balls are really nice, but isn’t there any other part of the matzo you can eat?”

•••

George and Weedon Grossmith, The Diary of a Nobody. London: J.M. Dent, 1940, pp. 55-56—

I was leaning out of the box [at the theatre], when my tie—a little black bow which fastened on to the stud by means of a new patent—fell into the pit below. A clumsy man, not noticing it, had his foot on it for ever so long before he discovered it. He then picked it up and eventually flung it under the next seat in disgust. …I felt quite miserable. Mr. James [a companion], of Sutton, was very good. He said, “Don’t worry—no one will notice it with your beard. That is the only advantage of growing one that I can see.” There was no occasion for that remark, for Carrie is very proud of my beard.

To hide the absence of the tie I had to keep my chin down the rest of the evening, which caused a pain at the back of my neck.

Friday, March 19, 2021

she realized her father was damaged by war

Above Roy R. Behrens, Ebullience (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••
Lyn Lear, in Remar Sutton and Mary Abbott Waite, eds., The Common Ground: A Circle of Friends. Latham NY: British American Publishing, 1992, p. 47—

My dad was sick a lot after he came back from World War II. I remember him screaming in the middle of the night because of the nightmares. The whole house would shake.

We would sit and listen to him talk in his sleep about those terrible war events: his best friend getting blown up in front of him; fights. It was very dramatic. We would sit around and Mom would write all the dreams down. I realized then my father was damaged; I realized what the war had done to him. It was an insight into why my father was the way he was. It changed my relationship with him.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

bereft of wonder we never know anything ever

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Above
Roy R. Behrens, Wondering Eye (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Raphael Soyer (American painter, referring to his identical twin brother, the painter Moses Soyer) in Kathryn McLaughlin Abbe and Frances McLaughlin Gill, Twins on Twins (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1980), p. 53—

We looked exactly alike. People would greet me and say, “Hello, Moses,” and Moses would be greeted with “Hello, Raphael.” And I remember, a long time ago, I was walking along Fifth Avenue very briskly, and then I see Moses walking along too, and I was astounded. I mean, I didn't expect Moses to be there at that time. But it turned out to be myself, my reflection in the mirror, from far away.

•••

Ernest G. Schachtel, Metamorphosis (New York: Basic Books, 1959)—

Education and learning, while on the one hand furthering this process of discovery, on the other hand gradually brake and finally stop it completely. There are relatively few adults who are fortunate enough to have retained something of the child’s curiosity, his capacity for questioning and wondering. The average adult “knows all the answers,” which is exactly why he will never know even a single answer. He has ceased to wonder, to discover. He knows his way around, and it is indeed a way around and around the same conventional pattern, in which everything is familiar and nothing cause for wonder. It is this adult who answers the child’s questions and, in answering, fails to answer them but instead acquaints the child with the conventional patterns of his civilization, which effectively close up the asking mouth and shut the wondering eye.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

dust to dust as we totter toward the end of time

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 Above Roy R. Behrens, Architectonic (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Wiliam Hazlitt, “On the Fear of Death” in Table Talk (1822)—

Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern—why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?

•••

Roy R. Behrens, “Khaki to Khaki (Dust to Dust): The Ubiquity of Camouflage in Human Experience” in Ann Elias, et al., eds., Camouflage cultures: beyond the art of disappearance (Sydney AU: Sydney University Press, 2015)—

…“I am I” and, to follow, I am not “not-I.” Or, I am “self” as distinguished from “others.” We typically regard our “selves” as permeable identities in a bouillabaisse of ubiquitous “stuff,” a surrounding that seems to a newborn, in the famous words of William James, like “a blooming, buzzing confusion.”  One wonders if this might also explain, as Ernst Schachtel suggested, why we are all afflicted by “childhood amnesia,” leaving us with little or no memory of the first years of our lives, because we lacked the “handles” then—the linguistic categories—that enable us to “grasp” events. In recent years, increased attention has been paid to the various forms of “amnesia” at the opposite end of life, including gradual memory loss, senility, dementia, and the horrifying ordeal of Alzheimer’s. If the boundaries of our figural “self” are blurred when we are newborns, perhaps we should not be surprised that the limits of our “self” grow thin—once again—as we totter toward the end of time.

As adults, we use hackneyed phrases like “dust to dust” to imply that at birth we somehow spring from naught; that we metamorphically evolve through infancy and childhood; live out our ritualistic lives as corporeal upright adults; then slowly—or, just as often, catastrophically—“deconstruct”; and (at last) are literally “disembodied” in the process that we dread as death. Instead of saying “dust to dust,” it may be more in tune to say “khaki to khaki,” since it seems as if our lives consist of time-based re-enactments of a spectrum of nuanced relations between figure and ground, some or all of which pertain to varieties of camouflage. 

online access

taxonomic rhyme and reason in esthetic forms

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Suspended Animation (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Nicholas Humphrey, “The Illusion of Beauty” in his book of essays, Consciousness Regained: Chapters in the Development of Mind. UK: Oxford University Press, 1984, p. 126—

Here then we have the beginnings of an answer to what relations lie at the heart of beauty. “All beauty may by a metaphor be called rhyme.” What is rhyme like? Well, let us have an example: cat rhymes with mat; cat does not rhyme with table; cat does not rhyme with cat. Taking rhyme as the paradigm of beauty, let us turn at once to the fundamental question: Why do we like the relation that rhyme epitomizes? What is the biological advantage of seeking out rhyming elements in the environment? The answer I propose is this: Considered as a biological phenomenon, esthetic preferences stem from a predisposition among animals and men to seek out experiences through which they may learn to classify the objects in the world around them. Beautiful “structures” in nature or in art are those which facilitate the task of classification by presenting evidence of the “taxonomic” relations between things in a way which is informative and easy to grasp.

RELATED LINKS

Art, Design and Gestalt Theory

How Form Functions

Embedded Figures in Art, Design, and Architecture

Saturday, March 13, 2021

pare down and reduce the form to minimum

Above Roy R. Behrens, Whiplash (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Akio Morita, Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony. New York: Signet, 1988—

Whereas Americans and Europeans often develop complex large-scale solutions to problems, the Japanese constantly pare down and reduce the complexity of products and ideas to the barest minimum. They streamline the design, reduce the number of parts. The influence of Zen and haiku poetry are often evident in the simplicity and utility of Japanese design.

RELATED LINKS

Art, Design and Gestalt Theory

How Form Functions

Embedded Figures in Art, Design, and Architecture

Friday, March 12, 2021

be fair / put things back where you found them

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Rock Paper Scissors (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. New York: Ballantine Books, 2004—

1. Share everything. 2. Play fair. 3. Don't hit people. 4. Put things back where you found them. 5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS. 6. Don't take things that aren’t yours. 7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody. 8. Wash your hands before you eat. 9. Flush. 10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. 11. Live a balanced life—learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some. 12. Take a nap every afternoon. 13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. 14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. 15. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup—they all die. So do we. 16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned—the biggest word of all—LOOK.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

the embalming of a suckling pig and broken vase

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Confinement (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Jorge Luis Borges, in “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins,” Ruth L.C. Simms, translator (1942)—

[On the pages of “a certain Chinese encyclopedia,” the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge] it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.

•••

Rennie Ellis (Reynolds Mark Ellis), Australian Graffiti Revisited. Melbourne AU: Sun Books, 1979—

If voting could change things, it would be illegal.

alphabestiary / the moose found in his pajamas

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Alphabestiary (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

H.L. Mencken, in The American Mercury, March 1925—

The [Ku Klux] Klan is actually as thoroughly American as Rotary or the Moose. Its childish mummery is American, its highfalutin bombast is American, and its fundamental philosophy is American. The very essence of Americanism is the doctrine that the other fellow, if he happens to be a minority, has absolutely no rights—that enough is done for him when he is allowed to live at all.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

aesthetics / each species appears itself designed

Ogden
Above Roy R. Behrens, Ogden (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

James Hillman, Cosmos, Life, Religion: Beyond Humanism, 1988—

Animal life is biologically aesthetic: each species presents itself in design, coats, tails, feathers, furs, curls, tusks, horns, hues, sheens, shells, scales, wings, songs, dances.

•••

Tom Driberg, Baron Bradwell, quoted in the Daily Express (1937)—

Sincerity is all that counts…Think again. Bolsheviks are sincere. Fascists are sincere. Lunatics are sincere. People who believe the earth is flat are sincere. They can’t all be right.

he could not correct his relation to the universe

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Hat Trick (© 2021). Digital montage.

 •••

E.L. Doctorow (remembering Theodore Dreiser), interviewed in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work: Eighth Series (New York: Viking, 1988), p. 30—

Dreiser wrote this magnificent novel [Sister Carrie]. It was published in 1900; it was then and still is the best first novel ever written by an American. It’s an amazing work...The book was a magnificent achievement but the publisher, Doubleday, didn’t like it, they were afraid of it. So they buried it. And naturally it did nothing; I think it sold four copies. I would go crazy too in that situation. Dreiser rented a furnished room in Brooklyn. He put a chair in the middle of this room and sat in it. The chair didn't seem to be in the right position so he turned it a few degrees, and he sat in it again. Still it was not right. He kept turning the chair around and around, trying to align it to what—trying to correct his own relation to the universe? He never could do it, so he kept going around in circles and circles. He did that for quite a while, and ended up in a sanitarium in Westchester, in White Plains.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

if they think i am crazy, i will open for a dollar

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Taking Liberties: No Regrets (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Daniel W. Humphrey, quoted in Steven J. Zeitlin, et al., A Celebration of American Family Folklore (New York: Pantheon, 1982), pp. 39-40—

One day my dad got hurt on the job and, as a result, he said he couldn’t bear to put any weight on his heel. The doctors, however, said it was all in his mind, and they sent him to a psychiatrist. This irked him, so my dad said, “If they want to think I'm crazy, I'll make them think I'm crazy.” So he goes to the doctor's office, and the doctor brings out the Rorschach inkblot tests. The doctor laid these cards down in front of my father, and Dad reached over, picked them up, shuffled them and dealt them out for a hand of Five Card Draw and said, “I'll open for a dollar.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Robert Pinsky regarding the process of dying

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Hand Me Down (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Robert Pinsky (regarding the process of dying) in his review of Philip Roth, Patrimony: A True Story in The New York Times Book Review, 6 January 1991—

The last words, the blessing of the young, the washing of the body, the coins on the eyelids, the deathbed confession, the deathbed reconciliation and the deathbed farewell have been succeeded or crowded by the IV, the respirator, the feeding tubes in the nostrils, the living will, the hospital roommate, the nurses.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

if memory serves me right here are my origins

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Above
Roy R. Behrens, In Point of Fact (© 2021). Digital montage.

•••

Henry Miller, quoted in Robert Snyder, ed., This is Henry, Henry Miller from Brooklyn (Los Angeles: Nash Publishing, 1974), pp. 119-121—

If my memory serves me right, here is my genealogical line, Boccaccio, Petronius, Rabelais, Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau, Maeterlinck, Romain Rolland, Plotinus, Heraclitus, Nietzsche, Dostoievski (and other Russian writers of the nineteenth century), the ancient Greek dramatists, the Elizabethan dramatists (excluding Shakespeare), Theodore Dreiser, Knut Hamsun, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Elie Faure, Oswald Spengler, Marcel Proust, van Gogh, the Dadaists and Surrealists, Balzac, Lewis Carroll, Nijinsky, Rimbaud, Blaise Cendrars, Jean Giono, Céline, everything I read on Zen Buddhism, everything I read about China, India, Tibet, Arabia, Africa and of course the Bible, the men who wrote it and especially the men who made the King James version, for it was the language of the Bible rather than its "message" which I got first and which I will never shake off.


Monday, February 22, 2021

his pistol shot caused the weather vane to clang


Above
Roy R. Behrens, Well-Healed. Digital montage, ©2021. 

•••

Robert Conot (recalling an incident in the life of Thomas A. Edison), A Streak of Luck. New York: Seaview Books, 1979, p. 118—

It was a case of the famous ogling the famous. One evening after he [Edison] and Fox, who roomed together, had gone to bed, a thunderous knock on the door shook them upright. In strode "Texas Jack" [John Wilson Vermillion, aka "Shoot-Your-Eye-Out" Vermillion], the top of his head brushing the door frame, his eyes bloodshot, and his hands on his gunbelt. Which one, he wanted to know, was Edison? When Edison manfully identified himself in a quavering voice, Texas Jack said it was a pleasure: he himself was the boss pistol shot of the West, and he wanted to meet the great inventor of the phonograph. Whereupon he pulled out his six-shooter and, firing through the window, caused the weather vane across the street to clang into a dizzy spin.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

tabula rasa / the disjunctive effect of pandemics

Above Roy R. Behrens, Bus Boy. Digital montage, ©2021.

•••

S. Howard Bartley, A Bit of Human Transparency. Bryn Mawr PA: Dorrance and Company, 1988, p. 89—

A huge catastrophe such as a war…or a peacetime one such as the Great Depression [or a pandemic, such as COVID-19], serves as a definite disjunctive force in history…

As the new generation after the catastrophe emerges, that generation seems largely and sometimes totally oblivious to what occurred prior to it. It is as though history is a sort of a blank. Although many of the material achievements might survive, they are not properly appreciated and are not seen in a perspective.…

Names that were outstanding or at least worth recognition get lost. Things start anew as if from scratch. This means that if someone were working before the catastrophe…and had produced something worthwhile but became a casualty, what he had done would likely go down to oblivion with him. But if such a person were fortunate enough to survive the catastrophe, he could go on. One of his tasks would be to review for those who would be working in the same general areas that he had been in before the catastrophe. In other words, he would be the connecting link between the past and the present. Otherwise the blankness would be there.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Harold Lloyd's walking wooden hobby horse

Above World Cinema poster depicting American film star Harold Lloyd (designer and date unknown).

•••

S. Howard Bartley, A Bit of Human Transparency. Bryn Mawr PA: Dorrance and Company, 1988, p. 73—

[Hollywood film star Harold Lloyd designed a wooden] walking hobby horse large enough for adults to ride…[It] looked much like a regular hobby horse except it was not on rockers. As the rider would lean forward the horse would tilt forward, pivoting (or rocking) on its front legs. This would lift the rear end of the horse and lift the hind legs off the floor. They would swing forward to reach what would now be the perpendicular. As the rider would then lean back, the front end of the horse would lift off the ground and in tilting back the front legs would swing to a new position. The pivot for this second phase of action (tilt) would be the hind legs. So as the rider would alternately tilt forward and backward the animal would carry its rider across the floor. 

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923)


Thursday, February 11, 2021

famous for an hour—his only sports achievement

Paul Pfurtscheller, c1910
Above Detail (restored and adapted) of anatomical wall chart by Austrian zoologist Paul Pfurtscheller (1855-1927), c1910.

•••

Roger G. Barker (Iowa-born social scientist) in Gardner Lindzey, ed., A History of Psychology in Autobiography. Volume VIII. Stanford University Press, 1989—

On the first day of the boy’s [himself] attendance at the junior high school in Palo Alto there is a free-throw basketball contest. Boy reluctantly joins the line of contestants; he has never thrown a basketball. He comes to the throw line; he hefts the ball and is surprised by its great weight. He throws—a good one. Another good one. Still another basket. On and on, he can’t understand it. He is a machine,…13, 14,…24 hits out of 25. The boy is famous for an hour, his only sports-connected achievement.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

a modern art museum, telephone and a martini

Donald Barthelme
(in “Brain Damage” in City Life, 1976)—

The Wapituil are like us to an extraordinary degree. They have a kinship system which is very similar to our kinship system. They address each other as “Mister,” “Mistress,” and “Miss.” They wear clothes which look very much like our clothes. They have a Fifth Avenue which divides their territory into east and west. They have a Chock Full o’ Nuts and a Chevrolet, one of each. They have a Museum of Modern Art and a telephone and a martini, one of each. The martini and the telephone are kept in the Museum of Modern Art. In fact they have everything that we have, but only one of each thing... They can conceptualize but they don't follow through. For instance, their week has seven days—Monday, Monday, Monday, Monday, Monday, Monday, and Monday. They have one disease, mononucleosis. The sex life of a Wapituil consists of a single experience, which he thinks about for a long time.

Monday, February 1, 2021

turned, hopped up, and sharply rapped the door

Paul Pfurstscheller (c1910)

Above
Detail (restored and adapted) of anatomical wall chart by Austrian zoologist Paul Pfurtscheller (1855-1927), c1910.

 •••

Linda Elegant, “The Chicken” in Paul Auster, ed., I Thought My Father Was God, and Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project. New York: Henry Holt, 2001—

As I was walking down Stanton Street early one Sunday morning, I saw a chicken a few yards ahead of me. I was walking faster than the chicken, so I gradually caught up. By the time we approached Eighteenth Avenue, I was close behind. The chicken turned south on Eighteenth. At the fourth house along, it turned in at the walk, hopped up the front steps, and rapped sharply on the metal storm door with its beak. After a moment, the door opened and the chicken went in.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

RIP / Iowa Poet Marvin Bell (1937-2020)

Marvin Bell
So let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky like a pigeon poised upon a nickel. Let us not get into a pickle. Or, finding ourselves already deep in the briny pickley flesh, let us find there the seeds of our poetry.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

artist Orr Fisher in process of painting his mural

In the previous post, we featured a delightful WPA post office mural, called The Corn Parade, by Iowa artist Orr Cleveland Fisher. At the time, we didn't realize that someone named Blake Schnormeier has put up a multi-page Sutori site on the same artist. It offers interesting snippets of text, news clippings, paintings, cartoons, and a selection of vintage photographs, including the one posted above, which shows Orr Fisher putting the finishing touches on his wall-sized masterpiece.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

favorite feather in the cap of Ringgold County

Above Detail of Orr Fisher's WPA mural, The Corn Parade (1941), in the US Post Office in Mount Ayr IA. 

•••

Roy R. Behrens, THE CORN PARADE: Orr Fisher's wacky WPA mural, in The Iowa Source (Fairfield IA), Vol 38 No 1 (January 2021), pp. 10-11—

American astronaut Peggy Whitson was born in south central Iowa, in Riggold County, and attended high school in Mount Ayr, the county seat. She is that region's claim to fame, although it should also be noted that the parents of Abstract Expressionist artist Jackson Pollock also grew up in that county. My favorite feather in the cap of Ringgold County is a Depression-era WPA mural that hangs in the US Post Office in Mount Ayr. Created in 1941 by local artist Orr Cleveland Fisher (1885-1974), it is titled The Corn Parade.…more>>>

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

how structured and deliberate designers are

Above Streamlined-era magazine page layout for an Oldsmobile advertisement.

•••
Mirra Merriman in Wendy Deutelbaum and Carol de Saint Victor, “The Art of Teaching: Interviews with Three Masters” in The Iowa Review Vol 28 No I (1998), p. 13—

One of the illusions people have who don't know about the making of art is that it’s an activity that comes out of a creative surge, a genius or passion. What is missed most of the time is how deliberate and how structured the choices that artists [especially designers] make are, and how one can read in the works of art the intellectual process that was taking place in the mind of the artist.