Long ago in a far away place, my mom took my sister and me to see Aunt Marie off to lead a guided tour in Europe. She sailed on the Queen Mary. She gave me a sip of champagne. I became light-headed. Ever since I have wanted to make a transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary (now 2).
I just did it. On a New York Times package that included several talks per day.
So we wandered New York one night, visited a drab and weakly guarded Trump Tower, saw Jeff Koons up to his usual materialist shenanigans (pimping at Saks):
Toured the NYT building and then beheld the ship.
Somehow an upgrade befell us.
So the cabin and the sea were large and calming.
Dinners and after-dinner entertainment were formal several nights, after all it is the Queen’s ship.
And then life went on. On to Salisbury and Stonehenge
Salisbury Cathedral had some stunning art by Ana Marie Pecheco
Then Oxford, a town aswarm with tourists, mostly youthful, perhaps future graduates of this ancient site.
Of course, I thought, we have to hear a lecture by a Professor on an arcane, esoteric topic that could only happen at Oxford, or maybe Berkeley. Luckily the Ashmolean was celebrated something and there was a lecture of Riddles in Early Anglo Saxon literature.
The room was packed and the professor, Andrew Orchard, whipped from Greek to Latin to old English as if it were all simple nursery rhymes, reciting poems and dashing off explanations of what they did to make their riddle work. A perfect Oxford moment.
And then London.
MacBeth was in the courtyard of St. Paul’s at Covent Garden and the production was superb. Visceral and imaginative with fine acting.
And to keep up to date, a visit to the West End to see “the play of the year,” The Ferryman. a fabulous exploration of guild, betrayal, family, desire, loyality and memory in the Ireland on 1980. It built to a climax of massive proportion just like the classic Greek tragedies.
There was also the Tate Modern but I could not take photos of the Giacometti exhibit of the powerful and comprehensive survey of African-American art in the 1960s and 70s that resonated with the issues of civil rights and black power. It originated here but I can’t imagine it won’t find its way to the States.
A Short Comment about our Leader
Our Congressional Democrats see the daily blunders, endless lies and massive policy disasters of the President but not what explains them.
He, and others like him, have returned to a medieval system of belief. He lives in the time warp where beliefs prevail by the sheer force of will exercised by potentates and their minions.
The medieval mind knew nothing of scientific evidence. Science, reason and the Enlightenment had not yet arrived.The Dark Ages depended on blind faith, unquestioned fealty, and willful ignorance. Rulers, in their privileged isolation, lived in an idyllic world of riches and prosperity in which poverty, pollution, despair and desperation did not exist or was the natural fate of those who deserved such misery through faults entirely their own.
To recognize that dignity and respect for others matter, that good healthcare should be a right, that a financially secure retirement should be assured, that the working class isn’t the only or even main place to find deplorable actions and thoughts—all this matters greatly. But without a firm grasp on Trump’s medieval worldview, it appears as mere disagreement about ways and means rather than a rejection of a world cut to the measure of a small elite who disregard proven truths and established facts. Normally the province of religious extremes of all faiths, Trump proves that it can also be the default position of the insecure, uninformed, belligerent and defensive ones for whom curiosity and compassion no longer exist.
This is an open letter to the DNC (Democratic National Committee) about their failure to confront Trump effectively. I haven’t sent it yet and welcome feedback.
Dear Democratic National Committee and Surrogates:
They say any publicity is good publicity and by that standard the DNC is doing a world of good for Donald Trump. Every fund request I get tells of another blunder or outrage, acts that do little to upset his base.
What I don’t hear is what the Democratic Party offers as an alternative. That means zero publicity for what really matters: a radically different vision for an America we can once again recognize as our own.
You lost the election, on multiple levels. Put your house in order and invite us in.
Address, at the very least:
Will you revitalize and pursue the Democratic platform devised at last year’s convention and use it as a building block to the future?
What will you do to return us to a Post-Enlightenment (17th century on) world that understands how science freed us from myth, superstition and folly? The Republicans have opted for a medieval system of belief that denies scientific evidence in favor of blind faith and willful ignorance. How will you make clear the difference, especially among those susceptible to a system the nurtures unverified claims and demagogic appeals?
When will you stop pretending the working class does not exist, or is populated with undesirables? Factory workers are not members of the middle class as President Obama seemed to believe. They earn wages not salaries and have much less security, just for a start. Saving the middle class, the sub-title of Elizabeth Warren’s new book, ignores those whose future stands in yet starker jeopardy. When will you speak to and for a core constituency you have overlooked and sometimes disdained?
How will you stop corporations and rich individuals for shirking their responsibility to pay taxes? We may have a high corporate tax rate but it is a fiction, obviously so when companies like Apple can shelter vast amounts of profit in foreign nations, untaxed.
When can Medicare be gradually extended downward to become a universal health care system? How will you handle the vested, private interests that turn health into a profit center?
How can we acknowledge the difficult status quo of semi-legal and illegal immigrants and offer a path to citizenship as well as a well-coordinated plan to limit illegal entry in the future?
What tangible steps and new legislation will secure equal rights for all genders and sexual orientations as well as all ethnic and religious groups?
How will you acknowledge the fear, resentment and even hatred expressed by some whites who can no longer take their historical racial or gender privileges for granted? How can the sense of an all-inclusive American People can be restored?
What concrete steps do you propose to counter terrorism by building democratic institutions, especially in countries that lack democratic traditions? What texts should be read in schools, what role can local and regional governments play, how can citizens make their voices heard and respected, when can tribal leaders and warlords have their power reduced? Isn’t it time to step back from endorsing monarchs, oligarchs, patriarchs and illiberal ultra-nationalists who refuse to find a way to accommodate and respect minority groups of all kinds? We say we want to bring democracy to others but more other bring little more than death and destruction. What will you do to change this?
Why do I not hear about action, real action, in these directions?
I can vote against someone, but I also want to ACT FOR something.
This are hard questions but without answers the Democratic Party will remain a party of the past.
i’m back in Budapest, teaching in the DocNomad program, a grad program where students spend the year going from Lisbon to Budapest to Brussels making docs along the way. It’s a great program. And here are some impressions from the city where Orban’s rubber stampers just voted to close the Central European University, a great university too liberal, it seems, for Orban and his far right policies.
It’s here: The 3rd edition of Introduction to Documentary, first published in 2001. Lots of updates and photos from new and older films, but the biggest changes is a brand new chapter, “I Want to Make a Documentary: How Do I Get Started?” It covers key aspects of preproduction from the pov of what funders tend to look for and what a filmmaker needs to convey.
The book size is a bit larger and that makes for a really nice lay out of tables and photos.
What Monet did to get rolling isn’t all that different from what he did later on. But it is already powerful and raw in a way his later, more contemplative images aren’t always.
He did this image from memory obviously; otherwise he’d have no doubt drowned. And it’s powerful; you worry about the sailors and wonder about their fate.
He surely loved water and the artistic challenge it presented. Social status and labor were of far less interest than nature, but this was so for most of the Impressionist work.
Compare the “finished” work above with the sketch quality of the one below. He manages to depict a crowd of folk in the water with almost no delineation at all; and the water ripples have an amazing power.
Copies don’t go justice but Monet’s painting, Boats at the Port of Honfleur, can give you chills. Just dabs of paint tossed onto the canvas, these reflections of boats and trees are only that; but their weight, coloration, proportion and placement render the rightside up world of what floats perfectly in its upside down world of reflection. It’s an amazing work and possesses, and exudes, a vitality that the great later works of waterlilies and the like do not (despite their rhapsodic beauty). it has to be seen in person. It is a perfect painting.
Then there’s dad. Dad didn’t approve of son becoming a painter. The placard says this is a calm, respectful portrait of dad in the park, with no hint of the familial tension. Nope. Look, if the reproduction allows, at dad’s posture. Stiff as a rifle, jaw jutting forward, left leg almost levitating as he “reads.” Monet captures a tight, strict figure of black and white that contrasts sharply with the painting of his wife that follows.
This “shot” of his wife on a cold day outside the house, passing the glass panelled door, imbues her with a melancholy look that may relate to the enforced poverty his not yet successful painting career and his lack of paternal support imposed. A look of sadness, fleeting, perhaps, and yet the room is large, the glass clear, the day bright and Monet pays homage to the woman who endures what must be endured with and because of the very work that honors her.
Some paintings capture another maturing style in the early work: smoother, softer, with less obvious traces of brush strokes and paint dabs. This painting, done, I believe, in the Netherlands, is representative and feels “nice” to me in a more familiar and comfortable way. Yet the reflections–those perfect gestural reflections–are there to remind us of the degree to which Monet’s early work possessed a rawness and perfection, a magic and defiance that slowly gained recognition and acclaim, enough to erase the poverty of these early years.