Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Titian and Those Other Guys at the MFA Boston

I wasn't sure how much to expect from our clowder of kittens and their friends as we made our way through the rain (I bet nobody has noticed how much it has been raining in New England. I might be led to believe I was living in Seattle, but the coffee is still bad, the live music overpriced and the footwear is stylish) and into the restored Huntington entrance of the MFA Boston for the Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice show. The titters about bum cracks from the 6-8 year old group was taken up in exuberant chorus by the 4-and-under set. I won't bore you with the details, but my nightmare scenario involved a disarmingly handsome officer from the Italian questura, a brightly lit room, a glowering agent from some prestigious international insurance institution, my cackling 3-year-old and a priceless broken masterpiece.

But seriously, if you live within 3 hours of Boston, try to see this show sometime during the next two weeks. It's up until August 16th, when it travels to the Louvre. As all the reviewers point out, given the costs required by the aforementioned prestigious international insurance institutions, it is highly unlikely that we will have an opportunity to see such an amazing collection of painting anytime in the near future. The only thing is, if Blicky Kitty had actually gotten that curatorship he applied for years ago, the exhibit would have been a distinctly different experience. For one, it would've been called Titian, the Other Guy, and Whosey-Whatsit; How Titian Rocked my Renaissance World.

Blicky also wouldn't have framed the interplay and visual conversations between the three artists in quite the same way. The reviewers practically make it sound like a horserace:

"Veronese is in the lead by a stretch with his depiction of the Holy Family, now it's Tintoretto coming up from the right with his Suzanna and the Elders, and wait now here comes Titian out of nowhere with a Reclining Venus. The crowd goes nuts. There's chiaroscuro everywhere and you almost can't make it out..... but yes, it's Titian, folks, winning the race by half a length."

Don't get me wrong. The interplay between artists is fascinating to see, but the true joy of this show is the opportunity to see really amazing art close up. When you stand next to a Titian, you get to experience the style that created a tidal shift in the way artists in the Western world used paint. He was the first one to use color and the depiction of light rather than line to delineate form. As his style became more mature and confident, his brushwork became a vehicle for the expression of energy and emotion. He also revolutionized the use of oil paint and glazing with his slow, exacting method of applying layer upon layer to his canvases. He painted over a reddish ground layer to lend warmth to his color then built up the paint. His subtle use of glazes (called velatura or veiling) brought out the richness of the different pigments. Titian was said to have cried "Trenta, quaranta velature!" ("Thirty, forty glazes!").

It's no small feat that Titian gained a mention in Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists. Vasari chronicled all of the great Italian Renaissance artists from Cimabue to Vasari. This book is such an important source for art historians that I'm not really even sure how famous a certain little painting in the Louvre would be (or Dan Brown, for that matter -- his wife's an art historian so she'd totally back me up) if Vasari hadn't rhapsodized about its enigmatic beauty. Vasari's book traced all of the artists and their work, evaluating them for how high they ranked on the Tusca-meter. If they were Tuscan enough, they got his highest praise; garbatissimo, which translates roughly as elegant, gentile or wicked-Tuscan-ie. Of course, Michelangelo who like Vasari was born in Tuscany was the pinnacle of all things artistic.

So it's quite a feat that Titian, who had the double misfortune of not being born in that birthplace of the arts and of beating Vasari out on a big commission even made the lineup. Of course Vasari's praise was measured. Some people mentioned in the Lives thought Titian's painting would have been improved if he were to study more works from antiquity or the work of Michelangelo. Vasari even wrote that Michelangelo (the object of his total man crush), after praising the painting of Danae (above) lamented that in Venice they didn't learn how to draw well first. He quoted him as saying that if Titian were assisted by art as he is by nature, especially in the imitation of life, it would not be possible to surpass him, for he has the finest talent and a very pleasant, vivacious manner. So does that mean if he had been Tuscan, he would have been the greatest artist in the book?

Well, the good news is that I'm not in some sexy Italian jail cell, being interrogated mercilessly. The kittens actually loved the show. Elder kitten was delighted to figure out that the shell in the hand of one figure identified her as Venus. Destruction-prone younger kitten kept herself entertained for a while by admiring the pretty dresses or the animals in the foreground of the Last Supper paintings. But mostly she just delighted in calling out various body parts of each nude figure in a really, really loud voice.

Ecco qui il vostro Mandatory Fun:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Heeeere's Blicky!

Wow that's scary. Sorry and my apologies to Jack Nicholson. Let me salve your nerves with an image from MFA Boston's show Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese; Rivals in Renaissance Venice.

There, that's better. Even Venus looks frightened. Blicky scared her so much her clothes fell off. My apologies for the extended silence, gentle bloggy readers. I was really quite busy:

A. Translating the phonebook into Esperanto.
B. Building a love nest/covert missile testing range for Kim Jong-Il.
C. Building a cool pillow fort in the living room.
D. Starting a new business enterprise in the burgeoning field of door-to-door interpretive dance.
E. Altering my address and facial feastures to avoid being stalked by Mitt Romney (I told you. It could never work. Stop calling me!).
F. All of the above.

So I try to make good use of my limited reading time these days, really I do. Usually it's historical non-fiction or really amazing fiction. I mean life is short, why not fill your mind with beautiful words?

But this summer a friend convinced me to read the Twilight series. First of all thanks a lot. You know who you are. Here's an excerpt of dialogue from the Blicky homestead while I was sucked into that series.
Kittens: Mumma we're hungry. You forgot to feed us breakfast and lunch.
Me: Shhhh, Bella's talking to Edward.
Kittens: Mumma, you left us outside in the rain. We're cold and wet.
Me: Be quiet! I think he's going to tell her.
Husband: Hi Sweetie! I'm home. I vacuumed the house and I love you.
Me: Go away, you not-Edward-Cullan-mortal man. I want a divorce because you're not Edward.

Cigarettes have warning labels, alcohol has warning labels. I think the publisher should be required to place a warning label on the Twilight books too. They are the literary equivalent of crack cocaine and something needs to be done.

I was initially ashamed of my habit until I remembered a very brilliant and well-read friend scoffing as the idea of a distinction between "high art" and the trashy read. What makes the distinction? I read some Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to the kittens a while back because I remember thinking it was hysterically funny when I was little. Here's a spoiler plot summary of the Miller's Tale:

Young guy moves into an apartment at the home of an unpleasant man with a hot younger wife. Young clerk woos and seduces said wife. Nerdy guy also gets wicked crush on the hot wife. The wife and the young man hatch a plan to spend the whole night together. They convince the jealous old guy that a second deluge is coming and that he should get set up in the attic for a great flood. Clever couple enjoys some amorous sport. Lovesick nerd comes by and begs for a kiss. Hot wife sticks bum out the window. Lovesick nerd, after kissing bum is no longer lovesick, but ticked off. Stalks off to find a hot poker. Clever young clerk thinks nerd wants another kiss and received a sound branding on his bum. Clever young guy has hot young wife but sore bum. Jealous old guy wakes up thinking it's the end of the world and falls two stories. The young couple convince everyone he's nutty and live happily (albeit sorely) ever after.

So is it really so awful that I got sucked into a romance about vampires, power, love and death and metaphysics?

Enjoy your mandatory fun:

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Letter to the Second-Grade Class in Room 28

Dear Children,

I had a wonderful time volunteering in your class today and playing math games. I've heard about each one of you from my daughter of course, so it was fun to finally meet you in person.

I just wanted to pass along a few observations that you might find valuable as you embark upon your educational careers. First off all C.J. ― Dude! Who cheats at Bingo? Next time I tell you to hand me the bingo number balls it doesn't mean "Drop to the floor and make me pry them out of your hands while you giggle like a little girl."

Jackson, you were so helpful and nice today and I know I'm totally rocking age 40 but sweetie, I'm already married to a nice man my own age. Oh, and spit balls on your Bingo board does not a Bingo make.

Kids, I'm also going to clue you in on something important. When you're walking down the hall and your teacher says in a grave and reverent tone, "Listen. Think about where you are. This is the Third Grade Corridor. And these Teachers are going to be your Teachers next year in the Third Grade. Do you really want them to hear you being noisy?" OK C.J. I don't know, but I'm guessing you might not have to worry about the third grade for a little while. But for the rest of you kids listen up:

The third grade teachers do not hide behind the doors, peek out and make notes about which second graders are the noisy ones and plan horrible fates for them.

In fact, a lot of us grown ups don't really care if you talk too much or act like kids. I know your teachers hate it, but hell, you guys are funny! They need to lighten up. Also we don't really care all that much how you do in school. You know when you go to the dentist they always think you should spend the whole day brushing your teeth and you go to the hairdresser and they're all "Come on, deep-condition your hair." And you go to the doctors are they're all, "You should cut down on doing crack and eating lead paint." Well teachers are the same way and they make your mommies and daddies feel bad if you're acting like kids instead of kissing up (and yes you know who I'm talking about, Little Jenny. No one likes a kiss-up).

When you're a grown up you won't remember a single thing about how you did in second grade, except you'll remember which teachers really didn't like kids all that much. You know deep down, most of us grown ups don't really even care too much where you go to school as long as you're trying your hardest, you continue learning and being curious and you're happy doing what you do. Looking back on second grade you won't think, "Crap, I should've performed better on those standardized tests, thereby helping my school system acquire better state funding." OK, you might have the occasional dream about a test you didn't study for or coming to school naked (especially you, Jackson). But probably you'll think "Wow, I wish I had gotten the chance to run through the halls and jump to see how high I could reach on the bulletin boards."

I'll try and work on the teachers, but for next time guys, let's keep the Bingo game on the up and up.

Oh, and Michael honey? I think we as a species would have been born with only two fingers if they were meant to spend so much time inserted into our nostrils.


Mrs. __________

Thursday, April 30, 2009

You Make Me Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Blicky Kitty has been asked to create a playlist for Queen Elizabeth's new iPod that Obama gave her. She'll be shaking her tweed-clad self in no time with our lineup:

Fake Empire by The National
Safe European Home by the Clash
Sexy Little Girl Princess by Lisa Germano
Radio Gaga by Queen 
London Calling by the Clash
Banquet by Bloc Party
North American Scum by LCD Soundsystem
Wear Clean Drawers by the Coup
You're Aging Well by Dar Williams
Royal Pain by the Eels
Killer Parties by The Hold Steady

OK well maybe I'm just overtired so I just scrolled down through the titles in iTunes I thought she'd enjoy. Feel free to add your own...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

L'Etat C'est Blick

Paul Cézanne, Mount Sainte-Victoire

Mount Ste-Victoire, April, 1999

The staff at Blicky Kitty are celebrating all things French today!

The South of France is an ancient Gallic marvel of Papal Palaces, which produced minds like St. Exupery and Cézanne, plus there is killer rock climbing around Mount Sainte-Victoire. As you wander around the rocky terrain it's like walking into a Cézanne canvas with the darkly defined linear structure of the trees, growing as if they've been slathered with daubs of black ochre paint. The quality of greens that you can see on the landscape seem to change with each variation in light. The lenticular clouds float untouched by the mistral winds and scatter moody colors across farm buildings and woodlands. This unique landscape had as profound an effect on the development of early modern painting at anything hanging in far off Paris at the Musée d'Orsay or the Musée de l'Orangerie.

I'm sending Blicky over for a spa getaway while I clean the house and get ready for an afternoon playdate. He assures me that his French is impeccable. It's so weird, Blicky Kitty is HUGE in France. I know, who would've thunk it? The paparazzi and mainstream press are following him into his spa treatments. He emailed me the transcript of an interview he did:

French Reporter: Blicky Kitty, what do you think of France so far?
BK: Sur le pont d'Avignon, L'on y danse, l'on y danse, Sur le pont d'Avignon, L'on y danse tout en rond.
FR: Um, yes that's a 15th century folk song about the Pont d'Avignon. It's OK, I speak English. Tell me, how are you enjoying your spa day?
BK: L'Etat c'est moi. Pomme frittes. Je voudrais un chocolat chaud; grand avec du lait de soya, pas de creme. Quelle heure est-il?
FR: Blicky Kitty, that doesn't make any sense. Could you please speak in English? Can you tell me anything of value that I can pass along to my readers?
BK. Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
FR: Ah merci bien alors Monsieur Kitty!

Et voici votre amusement obligatoire:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Report: What I Did on My Spring Vacation

Well it was school vacation week in MA. We spent a wonderful week. See if you can spot the things we did not do during the vacation:
A. Spend the afternoon plein air painting in the gardens of Blythewald, in Bristol, RI.
B. Learn the fine, yet messy art of taxidermy at a special children's seminar offered by our local children's museum.
C. Construct an elaborate full scale educational diorama about child labor conditions in the 1920's.
D. Take in the sights at the new (to me) MoMA.
E. Dress my children up as 16-year-olds and hunt for 1920's-esque factory jobs with poor conditions and long hours.
F. Get to hear my three year old publicly utter the words: "Look Mumma, I found another Rothko!"
G. Enroll aforementioned 3 yr. old in rodeo clown school.
H. Get to hear my three year old publicly utter the words: "Look Mumma I'm a frog that poops!" as she hopped precariously close to the (gristly) Woman With Her Throat Cut sculpture by Giacometti.
I. Shop for Manolo Blahniks with the money earned from 1920's-esque children's factory jobs.
J. Enter 8 yr. old in the Jon Benet junior bathing beauty pageant.
K. Get to see Spring Awakening (w/out kids) in Providence.
L. Go for a beautiful nature walk with May-May in South County, RI.

Any cool images seen on BK are derived from talented relatives.

Any cool images seen on BK are derived from talented relatives.

Answers: Activities B, C, E, G, I and J did not actually take place on this vacation. I am not ruling anything out for future sojourns however.

OK I brought home a little mandatory fun for you. Just to let you know I am one of those rare people who just does not like musicals. But Blicky is declaring Spring Awakening fan-flippin-tastic:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wacky Packages for a New Era

For some time, I've been aspiring to create a Wacky Packages line for our new era, but no sooner had I created this, Blicky decided to buy the rights and create an actual toy product for girls. He thinks these things will sell even better than another product of a different name...

He feels that until now, little girls had no idea what to tell their plastic surgeons when they grew up so this is actually a public service. He also feels that he's helping society by teaching little girls that the of the color of your skin doesn't matter; they can all aspire to sluttiness. He hired a bunch of models to promote the new line. They even agreed to have their noses surgically removed and their lips enhanced with permanent shellac. One of the unfortunate side effects from the procedures is that their feet now fall off, but luckily they are a cheerful bunch.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

From Our Accountant...

Dear Mrs. ________,

It was very kind of you to bring your tax materials to our office at 4:45 this afternoon but quite frankly I'm not sure what you thought we could do for you. While I understand you might not have heard that tax day is April 15th, some of the material you brought in ranges from the perplexing to the reprehensible.

Under your profession you wrote "Taxidermist (just kidding). MILF (just kidding). Blogger (LOL ROTF)." What do you mean by this? The IRS emphatically does not appreciate humor, ambiguity or narrative content in your tax return. 

You list 3 dependents (one of which is a highly dependent dyspeptic feline), so I'm assuming that you have children under your care when you're not too busy blogging.

Spa treatments, massages and facials do not count as unreimbursed medical expenses and soreness from your pilates class does not count as a disability.

No, you cannot receive your refund in gold bouillon, and to answer your question you can't get an additional refund for your share of the stimulus packages.

You actually owe taxes and as I told you last year, you can't pay for it in Kinzcash.


Dewey Cheetham

Your Accountant

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saucy-licious Wednesday

Blicky Kitty is feeling absolutely Sauce-tastic, Sauce-tacular and Saucy-licious since he learned he is to be the featured blog over at the Secret is in the Sauce. Welcome saucy bloggers! I've already met some really great bloggy friends over at SITS, so I'm delighted and honored to have this Sauce-o-delic day in the sun!

I just stumbled over a reference to these the other day. Am I was the only person in the world who still remembers Wacky Packages from the 70s? If you don't it just means your either too young or not nerdy enough -- take your pick. They were little bubble gum packs that came with stickers spoofing contemporary ad campaigns. Here's my all-time favorite:
If I close my eyes I can almost hear the snorts and guffaws of countless 1970's kids from the 10 and under set.
If there's one things my kids are missing out on in their sheltered little Beatrix Potter PBS kids universe is a good drunken joke. Those little nuts are completely pissed off of their gourds. You never see Peep, Clifford or Caillou fall into a barrel of whiskey then stumble around hiccuping. I plan to write to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on the subject. How will children ever know that they ought not go swimming in a barrel marked "XXX"? Caillou would say in his impertinent, high-pitched whine, "Mommy why are there two of you? I just punched Rosie and Gilbert!"

I remember this one too because it was so cool that there was this gruesome, dead Davie Crocket guy in there. I used to love the fact that anything was possible in the wacky packages universe. You could buy things that would seriously harm you and it would be hysterical.

What would be some good modern wacky packages? I think they just need to be super morbid, corny puns.

Oh here's some good mandatory fun for you. The birds and the fun animation reminded me of all the beautiful images in Steviewren's blog. I can't stop listening to Neko Case this week. Her voice is just astounding to me and her new album Middle Cyclone showcases it so well:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

This is what the moppets and I read tonight. Happy Easter!!

Dear little bunny, you unfortunately are not part of the bunny hegemony. You must come to terms with the social taxonomy as it is articulated to you by the dominant social group. If you don't make the appropriate reproductive decisions you are not destined for high achievement. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Oh No They Ditn't....

OK this is a fun meme from Ann's Rants. Of course I can't follow the rules of these things to save my life so I'll just do my own. I present to you the rudest events I have ever experienced. I might not have a big list but they're goodies. I'm also adding in some things I wish I had said.

Growing up we were lucky enough to be able to spend summers at my grandmother's house in Newport RI (that's me rowing around with some children that have been foolishly entrusted to me). Because it's a tourist destination, a young student can always find a restaurant job and I had the distinction of being a horribly, horribly bad waitress. One especially busy night we were short-staffed and I was left with ten tables. In the middle of the shift a couple pulled me aside to make sure I knew how terrible I was. 
Mean customers: "We just wanted to let you know this service has been the worst we have ever had. We didn't get our bread on time, our food was late and you forgot our second drink order entirely."
Dream Response: "Well I was disappointed in you as customers too. I don't think you handled yourself well at all. You shouldn't really try to order in another language unless you're fluent because it just sounds pretentious and you should really lay off the cream sauce."

Then there was the old guy in the train station in Czechoslovakia (thank you, spell check feature). We had gotten kicked off a train while en route to Poland, because we didn't know we needed transit visas. Anyway, we had to sleep in the station. I woke up when he came in -- a big friendly smile on his face, like one of those picturesque toothless dudes that serve as the unwitting backdrop to some overeducated American or British memoir writer who discovers themselves while traveling in Europe. Anyway, he picks up my water bottle off the floor walks over and squeezes my breast.
Real Response: (shaking my sleep-sodden head) "Um, I think that old man just squeezed my boob. Yeah, actually, no... um yeah...I think he did."
Dream Response: (in perfect Czechoslovakian) "Oh my gosh, that was so hot! I bet that just slays them in toothless rural Czechoslovakian old lady circles!"

Then there was the time one restaurant manager had the good sense to fire me. I won't mention any names but my boss was Eni and if I could spell it or remember her last name you may be certain that I'd be posting that as well along with her date of birth and social security number. Anyway, one night after work I was in the ladies room, in the stall, when Eni came in and slipped the envelope under the door. 
Eni: "Sorry to do this here, but here you go." So I opened it up and read that I was fired.
Dream Response: Hey Eni, sorry to do this here, but I have a good-bye present for you!

Crazy Lady at my dad's funeral: Oh, you're Laurel? Oh I heard all about the miscarriage, and now your Dad died. That must be so hard. Are you pregnant again? (I wasn't)
Real Response: (insert sound effect of crickets chirping)
Dream Response: I honestly can't even come up with a good dream response here. Any ideas?

My three yr. old at church, while stretching my shirt over my shoulder: Mumma your moo moo (what she used to call nursing) bra is not pretty. You should wear the leopard one.

Thesis Advisor: You can't measure these things, but if you could, I say you have a really disorganized mind. Also your writing is weak.
Real Response: (insert crickets again)
Dream Response: I think this skirt looks hot on me. OMG It's soooo fun being 28. Have you met my Italian boyfriend? I bet I could spell Checkoslovakia without even using spell check!

Drunk guy at bar: "So, who's your friend?"
Dream Response: "Go over and introduce yourself and tell her I sent you. Here, I'll hold your wallet."

Little old lady who I let go in front of me last month at the bargain grocery store: "Oh I thought you were a man."
Dream Response: Again I'm coming up dry. Any ideas? Oh, wait! I got it! "Well you cute little Q-Tip, I know a Czechoslovakian toothless little guy around your age who would beg to differ!"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Stuff You Never See On Facebook

Click here to read my Facebook page

Well I was on Facebook tonight looking at the status of all of my friends. I know! My friends list has gotten way longer and more interesting since we got Blicky:

Charo is cuchi-cuchi
Gene Shallot is still being stalked by Anna Lefler.
Fabio still can't believe it's not butter.
Jermaine Clement wishes that weird old lady with the cat blog would stop calling his house.
Beazlebub is getting the "undisclosed location" all tidied up for when a former VP comes back home for a visit.
Johnny Depp is still deep and edgy.
Kate Moss is ****ssnooorrt!***
Miley Cyrus is flying to North Korea to teach Kim Jong-il how to take over the world, one little girl at a time.

Here are some ideas for really, really bad things to post on Facebook if you're receiving a bonus with a portion of the government bailout money:

Skiff is Nanny Nanny Boo-Boo.
Chet is busy instructing a contractor to cover the maid's quarters in gold leaf.
Livingston is on the yacht, choking on his Pims he's laughing so hard at poor people.
Monty is posting the addresses of his fellow federal bailout bonus recipients as a joke.
Skiff is worried about the flaming object that was just hurled through his window.
Chet is "hey did the contractor let you in?"
Livingston is wondering if there's a wedding with lots of torches at the yacht club.
Monty strongly regrets his role the untimely death of his Wall Street chums.
Skiff is "What does that say? Acme TNT?"
Chet is "No, no put the cudgel down you lowlife taxpayer!"
Livingston thinks that torch-wielding crowd must be his prep school friends coming onto the dock to surprise him.
Monty wonders if he remembered to delete his own address from the list.
Skiff is aahhhhhh!
Chet is owwwww!
Livingston is "Groundswell of populist sentiment! Oh no! Oh no!"
Monty is "heeeellllp!"

Check out Anna Lefler's post about Facebook which I discovered in the middle of writing this. It's the blog equivalent of thinking you look great walking into a party in that new Valentino and in walks Halle Berry wearing the same exact thing!

Here's some mandatory fun for you. I'm actually reposting to stick a new video on here that Kat over at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes reminded me about today on FB. Thanks Kat! This is just way too funny. Carol Burnett as Charo's mother:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Recession? What Recession?

The Big Cat and I snuck out for a quick flick tonight in beautiful downtown Providence. The movie Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen was showing at the Providence Place Mall (We always love a good caper flick and she's never dull to watch on screen, is she?). We used to live in Providence before moving out here to the boonies and driving in is always a treat. I lovie, love, love Providence for so many reasons.

On the walk in, we were struck by the sheer numbers of people wandering around who haven't heard of this stupid old scary, nose-diving economy thing. It was no different than any Saturday night two years ago; with self-conscious young girls wandering about in ill-fitting tight jeans, young boys conducting distracted, fractured conversations as they smile excitedly and look around, and young couples bringing their toddlers to movies and giving them free reign on the virtual video rides. Many of them carried actual store bags so they apparently weren't just there for the food court and a movie. I started to think "Gee, maybe I don't need to be hoarding canned goods, dehydrated military rations and automatic weapons." Everything is just fine.

Upon closer inspection however, some things have changed. We went to the automated payment kiosk to validate our parking and heard a familiar sounding synthesized voice:

"Welcome to Providence Place Mall, please insert your ticket." Oh no! It's world renowned physicist and author Stephen J. Hawking! How could things come to this where the pillars of our society are forced into such debased and menial positions? "Please insert card or cash payment now." 

"It's OK, Stephen J. Hawking," I yelled. "You don't need to do lower yourself like this!" There are always high school science jobs that you could apply for!" At least he didn't have to see his clients. They must've had a microphone in there for him to use. As we left the building, I worried that it wasn't well-ventilated enough for him.

As we drove out I was reminded about another worrying sign of the times from a while back. Hobos have apparently taken up residence in our beautiful shopping mecca!

This is a true story! Performance artist (hobo) Michael Townsend and a group of fellow artists snuck into Providence Place mall and built a small studio apartment. The project arose from the artist's desire to explore the phenomenon of the modern American mall and his own relationship with consumer goods. Here's a link to a web site about their project where they "market" the loft as a stylish new living community. They created the 750 foot square space above an empty storage room in the mall parking garage that was accessed through a door in the stairwell. The collective of artists worked together to haul in over two tons of materials to outfit their space.

According to the Providence Journal, "In a feat of derring-do likely to be savored for years by the Providence-area underground-art community, the artists illegally ate, drank, slept, read, held meetings, watched TV and enjoyed games on a Sony Playstation 2 in a palace of American consumerism." They had simple casual furnishings and only the barest necessities, but they apparently had bold improvement plans for the space.

I only just realized tonight that Michael Townsend was the same one who created a moving tribute to the victims of 9/11 in Manhattan. He and a team of fellow artists created silhouettes in painter's tape representing victims of the attack. The figures are laid out across the city to form four hearts when viewed from above.

I'm not sure, but I might have met him when I took the kittens to the TapeArt Artaquarium off of Wickendon Street last spring. It was awesome. They had free Goldfish crackers and they let the kids adorn the walls with colored tape. Where was I going with any of this? I don't know:

Providence is awesome because of its vibrant art community? 
Consumerism as we know it is waning? 
It's probably that Stephen J. Hawking shouldn't feel badly because at least he's not a hobo. And even if he were, that wouldn't be so bad because hobos feed our children crunchy, salty treats.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blicky Hacks Second Life: Shout Out to My Geek Peeps

Blicky Kitty has been really curious about this virtual world, Second Life, he keeps hearing about and since he still cherishes an unfulfilled belief in futurist utopia he decided to hack his way in. Being a monochromatic kitty creating his avatar was a snap. Moving it around was a different story. Yes, he patiently submitted to the training tutorial about how to move, fly, give yourself enormous breasts, etc, but the second he left, he wandered into lava pits and walls and got stuck in trees while flying.
Luckily, he met a faerie named Una with a sparkling bindi and elaborate mehndi on her hands and feet and who, as luck would have it, was begrudgingly willing to show him around. This is an emersive 3D art installation at the amazing Kelly Yap Studios in second life. It's exciting to see how artists and architects are taking advantage of free materials, new possibilities for 3D and movement and not having to adhere to Newtonian physics. Blicky learned all about fractals by one of the artists/geniuses who creates installations, avatars and sculptures in second life.
Blicky's brain was starting to hurt, so he decided to go dancing at Jopsey Pendragon's Cloud Chateau. Blicky immediately friended Jopsey which, judging from the hushed whispers of his new friends, was the SL equivalent of having Johnny Depp on your friends list in Facebook (Which incidentally Blicky also has. His status today was "Johnny Depp is still suffering from existential angst."). All of a sudden it struck Blicky that he could be anything; human, dragon, animal, male, female, alien, cloud and do anything in Second Life. That's what things started to go downhill...
After about a week we noticed that Blicky was on the computer all night, then in the morning he'd wander around, eyes as big as saucers, mumbling about how he had to stay up for when his friends in India and Europe logged on. It was getting bad. He started forgetting his kittens' names, putting their shoes on their front paws, cooking their pet guinea pigs instead of breakfast etc. and we hoped it might be a phase. He got an SL girlfriend named SexyMysterious Starbeam and I'll spare you the details, but you know when you're little and you play with Barbies and you finally get the satin dress over her boobs and you realize she needs to be dressing up for a reason so you take Ken and you smush 'em together and squish 'em all up and make them kiss with the kissy kissy noises? Well a lot of people think that's a fun thing to play in Second Life.
Luckily, our intervention worked and as you can see he's made some more responsible and stable virtual companions. He even has a Second Life spouse, who complains about doing most of the virtual cleaning, and a mortgage, so he's been spending time off the computer to "get away from it all." He seldom spends any time there these days, but his kittens are fully clothed in the morning and they're thinking of getting a new guinea pig. While Blicky decidedly took the wrong road into Second Life there are so many others doing stunning and creative things there. Where else can you go to a lecture in a Victorian library, sit in on a buddhist discussion with people from around the world, fly in the apse of a virtual cathedral with a dragon, tour the Parthenon and listen to an in-world broadcast of Science Friday with Ira Flatow? I'm just curious about where these immersive environments will lead us. I mean this inter-a-web thing sure seems to be getting popular.

Oh and here's your Mandatory Fun:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Well the permafrost is finally lifting here in MA, and we're emerging from our winter dens, somewhat grouchy and bewildered. We took the opportunity last week to go to the Audubon Society's Environmental Education Center in Bristol RI for a nature walk. They had a lovely picture of a red-winged blackbird on their brochure and sure enough, there he was within five minutes of our arrival like a Walmart's greeter. I guess it's time for spring cleaning....

Cynthia, over at Muse Swings tagged me to divulge cleaning quirks. 

The "Before" Picture. (Hey Cynthia, check out my Amaryllis)

I already had done a post about Blicky's unusual green cleaning tips, and I won't do it again because my hands just looked too blicky in the photos. I do try to clean every single surface assiduously in the few precious moments when I am able to move the cookie cutters off the bedside table, the potato masher off the writing desk, the minuscule Polly Pockets clothing off of the stairs and the Twister game off the dining room table (where I presume it has been serving as a polka dotted house for its two little denizens). So it is usually quite clean underneath the heap of toys and surreptitiously purloined utilitarian objects.

I do know how to clean and I like to do it thoroughly. I just marvel at people who can tame clutter. I feel so much better reading the blogs of other moms. What a relief to learn from Ann at Ann's Rants that other people had feline vomit issues and that at least there is a name for it. I do know moms who have lovely clutter-free homes. From where I sit though, it might as well be a superpower. I mean, why don't they just fly? They might as well. They just wave their superpower arms, and *poof* the cat food that's been poured into the water dish and transformed into crunchy soup instantly vanishes. While I sit at my computer and blog, they are going around their beautiful houses (probably singing) and using their super anti-clutter powers. While I'm spending hour after hour online.... I often puzzle over how they do it. Well I think I've finally found a way to even the playing field: Photoshop!
Now look at my kitchen! Don't worry, the kids and cats are still there — behind a cleverly designed storage panel. I also put a French chef in, but I dragged him into the larder with my mouse and created a new layer over him (how would that sentence have read a century ago?). Check out my bedroom too! I erased all of the cat hair without any harsh or toxic chemicals. I just erased one of the neighbor's houses, and the view is great now!
OK spring cleaning, check!

* * *

In other bloggy news, Blicky is just beaming with joy and has become rather unbearable after reading a panegyric in his honor over at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes. Not only did our friend Kat post the banner he designed with his own paws, but she created another beautiful and fun poem for her readers to enjoy. Thank you Kat! 

Also, I'm not confirming or denying that I know this beautiful little blogger or anything but every time I read her posts I'm seized with an inexplicable maternal pride. She is cleverly ensconced in bloggyland with her own nom de plume and avatar. She likes to blog about the books she reads (voraciously) but lately many of the posts are about life in second grade and have ended with the sad little plea "please leave a comment." I know she would love a few words of encouragement. :) Rumor has it that she even wants to create a character that is a cat. Hmmmm....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Don't Be A Procrasti-hater

I've been meaning to do these for awhile. I owe some custom graphics to my friends who won my Valentine's Day Karma Event. These take me a bit of time sometimes when I'm not doing silly Blicky Stuff. This is an homage to Kat over at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes, who aside from being an amazing and talented writer, is a really wonderful bloggy friend. Check out her blog here!

Kat, feel free to use it (or not) as you wish. I was thinking of how your poetry really balances inspiration with wit and fun.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Non-Representational Joke

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Wall Pocket, 2003-04, MoMA, New York

We've all experienced nonrepresentational art; beautiful or jarring abstract forms that provoke in our mind as well as our senses. It has the unique distinction of depending almost entirely upon the museum or gallery wall for its interpretive context. Abstraction splinters the way we think about an artwork because it prods and challenges us to break the experience down into essential units of color form, sound or texture. The reactions it inspires run the gamut from pretentious reverence, abject distain, utter dismissal, playful arousal to befuddled head scratching.

Alma Thomas (1891-1978), White Daisies Rhapsody, 1978, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC

In our house we have something called the non-representational joke. We had several at the dinner table tonight and I'm thinking of calling the Whitney Museum to see if one of the moppets could submit a performance piece for the Biennial. They go a little something like this: 
Why did the chicken cross the road to the water?
Because he dropped his sippy cup?
No (thinking hard).
Because... he was friends with a duck?
I give up.
Because he was a rock and roll boy chicken.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on Red and White), 1949, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

I know, I had the same reaction! It is so sophisticated and masterful the way she smashes the conventional structure to pieces. So subversive! This is all completely uncharted territory in both avant-garde circles and the comedy world. Here's another gem I learned tonight:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Tutu who?
(Laughing about the sound of "tutu who?") Orange.
Say orange who?
Orange who?
Orange tutu.

Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped bare by Her Bachelors, Even/The Large Glass, 1915-23, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

(This one always reminded me of Odysseus' poor Penelope being beset by suitors.) 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do the Dog, Not the Donkey...

It's more than just a killer Specials song, 

I really, really, really want a dog. 

I know what you're thinking, "Yeah, you just want one to eat your cat." True, true. But I also just miss having a dog. In today's era of central heating we really don't need to gather around a hearth anymore. But when you have a dog, there's a real sense of loving warmth that a family can gather around. The kids get to fight over who the dog loves more. "Just look at the way she looks at me. She secretly doesn't like you at all and just wags her tail to be polite."

The question becomes, where to get my dog? What kind of dog will I have? I do cherish a fantasy of having the Beautiful-Dog. You know the ones; custom dyed to match the L.L. Bean dog bed and your Volvo station wagon. My dream Beautiful-Dog would be a Rhodesian Ridgeback. But then there's this to consider:

Yup, those Beautiful-Dogs have more birth defects than the Hapsburgs. Prognathic jaw, hip dyplasia, tendency to try to rule the Holy Roman Empire ("Bad dog! Your heavy taxation to support costly wars will erode your support among the Castillians.")... all worrisome signs that those Beautiful-Dogs have been mixing it up with the cousins if you know what I mean. I have to ask myself, do I really want to contribute to the overbreeding? Do I want a commodity or a family member?
So what's left? I am down with having a mutt, but the local shelters are pit bull-o-ramas. I think New England is just where they get sent, like a maximum security prison for all the most hardened criminals. The people at the shelters don't like to talk about it, but I'm sure those pit bulls sneak drugs in. They do some pretty hard time in the Massachusetts big house. Also, the issue of canine incarceration rape (CIR) is seldom discussed outside of veterinary mental health circles. It's sad, I know, but do I really want a pet with substance abuse and sexual issues? 

I love the rescue organizations, but even they're getting a bit steep these days. I think the cost of spa treatments for the rescuers is built into the requested donation. Plus, how do you know they don't have some latent, sleeper cell pit bull DNA waiting to emerge and bite you in the arse? What if the Beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback rescue dog that you've paid 500 bucks for is really the Manchurian Candidate that's been trained to eat toddlers whenever he sees the queen of hearts?

I guess I'll just keep my eyes peeled for now.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blicky Scores First Interview with Real Author

Blicky was initially excited when I assigned him to interview Holly Barker, coauthor of The Consequential Damages of Nuclear War: The Rongelap Report, but was crestfallen to discover that the book wasn't advocating nuclear war and wouldn't lead to any new lucrative defense contracts.

Blicky Kitty: Mao, what in the world are the Marshall Islands?
Holly Barker: The Marshall Islands is a republic of about 29 coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia. The Marshallese live on small narrow islands of sand that lie atop coral reefs. These reef systems form a country that is the size of Mexico, but whose total landmass amounts to some 70 square miles.
BK: Mao like Waterworld with Kevin Cosner?
HB: I guess...the Marshallese are consumate seafarers. Much of their culture and livelihood centers around the ocean. 
BK: Notice you spelled nucular "nuclear." Is that some pretentious liberal conceit?
HB: Yes.
BK: What role did the Marshall Islands play in the development of nucular weapons that I use when I covertly manufacture nucular weapons in the basement as we know them today?
HB: Well the U.S. nuclear testing program was conducted in the Marshall Islands from 1946 through 1958. The U.S. government detonated atomic and thermonuclear weapons with the aim of achieving world peace, but its actions essentially inflicted nuclear war conditions on a fragile atoll ecosystem and vulnerable population. The Marshallese, despite appeals to the United nations, were powerless to stop the testing and were left unprepared to address the resulting problems. The biggest and dirtiest nuclear detonation ever conducted was the Bravo test, on March 1, 1954. It was the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs and it produced a mushroom cloud that was 25 miles from sea level.
March 1, 1954
BK: What was is like for them?
John Anjain describing the explosion from the Bravo test
HB: We published an account by John Anjain (shown above) who witnessed the Bravo explosion from the nearby Rongelap Atoll. They saw a light and many beautiful colors; yellow, green, pink, red and blue. Then they felt a gust of wind and we saw the smoke cloud. There was a clap that was louder than thunder and the women and children fled to the woods. Later Anjain went fishing and felt a fine powder falling all over his body. He was somewhat afraid when the powder began coating everything. It fell all day and all night. The next day, when they saw that the powder had turned the water yellow, they realized it was harmful. Later that afternoon a seaplane came and two men surveyed the damage. They left after about ten minutes which worried the people on the island. On March 3 everyone on the atoll was evacuated. The people of Rongelap were relocated in 1957 after assurances from the Department of Energy that there wouldn't be any risk. Mr. Anjain wrote that "However in 1958 and 1959 most of the women gave birth to something that was not resembling human beings."

A US worker measuring radioactivity on the roof of a Marshallese home with a geiger counter.

The medical treatment that the Rongelap people received was more for the purposes of research rather than optimal care. They were interested in documenting the radiation burns (some people had radiation burns down to the bone and weren't even given painkillers) and the thyroid cancer, but didn't respond to complains of reproductive abnormalities.
BK: Hiding the nuclear fusion rod in his pocket. Why were they researching this?
HB: The Bravo explosion was designed to keep the fallout local so they wouldn't alert other countries to the event and so they could use the Marshallese as test subjects to study the effects of nuclear radiation.
BK: That's nucular. N-U-C-U-L-A-R.
HB: Declassified documents show that they knew the wind would carry fallout towards inhabited islands. Project 4.1  outlines the study of the effect of nuclear radiation on human subjects. The Marshallese believe that this project of human study was conceived before the Bravo explosion took place but the U.S. government contends that it was accidental.
BK: People were so mean and clueless back in the 50's. Thank goodness we're so smart and enlightened nowadays.
HB: There still is no oncologist in the Marshall Islands to this day.
BK: Ta eo kwöj ba? Enana
HB: Blicky Kitty, how on earth did you learn Marshallese? 
BK: Mao. Ña DOE. One last question. What nefarious form of mind control have you used on my human to make her think you're the most awesome rock star of a human being in the universe?
HB: Well I've known her a little while (see above photo). Now Blicky, you said Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would be here to hear about the Marshall Islands.
BK: Oh look! Something shiny!
HB: Damn you Blicky Kitty, Damn you!
BK: Kommol tata! Yokwe! Ñe ebar nana m wilim, inaaj kinake eok ñan mama.