Osprey, Mono Lake © Robert Sommers 2023

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Þorsdagr*

*Thursday. From the old norse Thor's day celebrating the protean god Thunaraz, God of thunder. Yesterday, wednesday, or Wōdnesdæg, we celebrated an anglo saxon god Wodan who apparently bid his final adieu in about the 7th century.

Wodan's day was a bit woeful for me as I pretty much paid up all of my outstanding debts, some that had slyly hung around for several months. Got one left that should be manageable. Now the cupboard is near bare again and I get to start the cycle all over, like most americans do on a monthly basis. Now I have an excuse to be miserable for the rest of the week.

We went to a wonderful dinner the other night at some friends' home. A friend who is a retired professor, food and wine critic and multiple cookbook author (and faithful blog reader) manned the grill and worked up a sumptuous feast which included a delightful salmon over swordfish mousse dish and a perfectly roasted filet mignon. Denis has written several books on the cooking of meat including the new Complete Meat Lovers Cookbook with Bruce Aidells. So he should know his way around a grill and did. Not only do you learn a lot about cooking when you read his book, you get to meet his statuesque Aunt Nora, and his proud Irish uncles back in Sheepshead Bay.

Anyway folks got to talking and we somehow got on the topic of the rises and falls and spectacular crashes in our lives. I parroted the statement that I once heard not to trust anyone who has never fallen on their ass. Most of those types of people were exceedingly lucky once, but somehow figure they are brilliant instead. They lack a certain humility that broadens the spirit and if nothing else, allows one to appreciate dark comedy. I take a certain pride in all of my scars and travails. It was a great dinner. We had one obligatory white wine and then got down to business with some really good reds including an excellent bordeaux.

We lost another business on Main St. this week, the Lace Apron. This hurts for a multitude of reasons, but principally because the owner and all the people who gave it a go put so much effort into making it work. And selfishly, because I went over for one of their delicious little flans nearly every afternoon.

They are clearing out the store this week and I noticed a cop talking to the proprietor yesterday afternoon. Apparently the front door had been accidently left open for two days. Someone notified the gendarmes. She had all this kitchen equipment priced and apparently people came in, and left their money on the table for the sold items. People walked in and out leaving money for two days and nobody stole anything. Or touched the money. Another reason to love Fallbrook.

I have had a lot of positive feedback about my blog this week and I really appreciate it. I was grooving. One of my friends hounds me that I should be doing this for money. 

Now I tried to explain that there is no blog equivalent of Schraft's luncheon counter where I can go and get discovered. There are millions of writers in Blogdonia and I am deeply appreciative that people find the time to peek into my little corner of the universe, oftentimes on a daily basis.

I have had two professional writing gigs in my life. In the late eighties and early nineties, I wrote an occasional article for California Grower, an agricultural magazine.  This enabled me to write off a trip to Israel for an article I wrote on the Volcani Institute in Tel Aviv and to stick around for the Scud War. I wrote several articles for Silver Magazine in the late nineties. Wrote a little science fiction that got published up in Oregon in the eighties as well, some of it pretty damn good, now all unfortunately lost.

All of the media are changing so fast that no one really knows what to make of this blog thing. What I do know is that if it's not free nowadays, it ain't going anywhere. Music, photography, writing, once the cat is out of the artist's bag and flowing through the cyber ether, you just can't stuff the genie back in the bottle. The concept of copy write and compensation has been flushed down the swirling vortex of cyberspace. 

So I might as well just write. Number one, I can't not write, as last month's failed experiment showed and number two, writing daily makes one a better writer. What am I gonna do, sit back on my haunches and wait for Lewis Lapham to call and tell me how brilliant I am and sign me up for Harpers? I'm waiting, Lew.

As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of 'do it yourself.'
Marshall McLuhan

I read another quote the other day from, I forget who, about whoever controls the images controlling history. Or something like that. Maybe whomever controls the information pipelines actually has the power, hence the grand rise of google, Corbis and facebook. With the explosion of real time communication, we are also seeing a rise in preposterous viral events like Birther stories, balloon boys, Trade Center conspiracies, etc. It isn't enough to debunk, because perception drives reality and they take on a life of their own. And can change financial markets, cause great numbers of otherwise sane people to start having tea parties, and create a multitude of other end of the world scenarios. And then the next thing you know, the townspeople are running through the shtetl with torches.

I was reading the interview with the Taliban captured correspondent for the New York Times the other day and he said that his captors were enraged by the Abu Graib, Guantanamo stories of U.S./Israeli subjugation of the Islamic world. Which seem to have been grossly overblown at least in scale, but provided a lot of fodder for new generations of budding suicide bombers.

So we have seen a total decline in academic scholarship in the news media, which allows an anti media conglomerate like Fox to assume its mantle in protecting the conservative base from the slanted liberal mainstream. What bothers me is how it elevates intellectually challenged people like O'Reilly and Hannity to an equal position with serious journalists. What did O'Reilly ever do, write for the Boston Phoenix? Inside Edition? Yet he had a jackoff session with Britt Hume last week where he sounded like he was the second coming of Edward R. Murrow. 

We live in a new world of immediacy. Visceral sound bites. Hit and run journalism. Flavor of the month, quickly disposed of to allow for the next wave of incoming flotsam. I can even come back in two hours and change this paragraph and no one will be the wiser. The concept of time and permanence shifts in the new digital age. A few keystrokes and voila, twenty twenty foresight.

This affects my business to some degree. I have seen my peers rush to the altar of modernism only to find that the fads have as much shelf life as raw milk. That is why one of my eyes is continually open to the wonder of the 18th and 19th century and is pointing more to classical style every day. Tried and true.

You can win the rat race but you are still a fucking rat.
Mike Tyson

I remember reading about Malthus in school. Work people so hard that they don't have time to screw. House them in Bauhaus like modern jails and call it the new frontier. Form follows function until it hurts. Clean lines that eventually choke the user like so many prison bars.

I may be a dying swan. The current generation has no use for history. Or the artifacts of same. Ikea baby. Disposable. Shellshocked by continual sensory bombardment. One of the problems with the digital revolution is that it raises several trust issues. Images, sound waves, quotes, everything can be altered in a Wave the dog, Forrest Gump scenario. With the short memory and general lack of interest of humankind, history is whatever we say it is at the moment. It is interesting to see how two viewers can disagree about an act that occurs in the present. How much more so for an event in the not necessarily so distant past, like the Holocaust for instance. I here bye declare that -----------[insert here] never occurred, moon landings, resurrection,Vasco de Gama, what have you. 

So we rely on aggregators of facts, your Huffington Posts, Blue Heron Blasts, Townhall.coms, who all have their own agenda which subtly flavors the content of the raw information stream. Which few of us have time to plunge into or navigate. So we greatly heighten the stupid index. And fall victims to those that would exploit our ignorance.

It is interesting to me that the keyword in the arts and antiques business, from my vantage point and in my opinion, at least for the last ten to twenty years, is regionalism. People are interested in the paintings and furnishings created locally. This allowed several things to occur. Number one it allowed people to connect with their local history, possibly as a prescient reaction to the globally homogenized barrage we are currently experiencing. 

The same thing occurred 120 years ago in England with Morris, Ashbee and Ruskin and the Handicrafts Guild. They celebrated hand made things with an eye on the brutal shadow of the industrial revolution to come. And then were subsequently bulldozed down by the oncoming wave of the mass market.

I read a nonfictional book excerpt once that stayed with me about a guy who was canoeing in the Amazon with four friends and goes through the most horrible traumatic experiences and washes up on a river shore and crawls into a primitive hut and sees that the Flintstones cartoon is playing on a satellite television system. To his misery. Dallas and Dynasty and american consumerism have been like a viral tidal wave that has caused more cultural devastation than any air borne disease ever could. Now we have women in the Philippines sanding there skin pigment off to look whiter.

I wore one of my old tie-dies to the gym to a lot of guffaws recently. And heard a friend bitch about a neighbor's purple house. Because we live in a land that begs conformity and then deals out swift punishment to knock the offending corners off any cultural lawbreakers.

So fellow nonconformists, we might be going to hell in a bucket but at least we can enjoy the ride! I salute you. Let your freak flags fly! Thanks for reading.


Hudgins said...

It seems to me that if any two people agree on a particular viewpoint it therefore becomes a reality to them.

And due to this agreement these two people might therefore believe they can impose this reality on the rest of the world.

And that is where it all gets screwed up.

grumpy said...

...and i feel like i owe it to someone...so eating well is the best revenge? i can dig it...more news in today's paper about the sweat lodge victims in AZ; sad beyond belief; evil is alive and well..."when the foot of pride comes down, there ain't no goin' back."


island guy said...

If your science fiction works that you had published in Oregon were good (or good enough to seem that way in memory) take a look for them on the blogsphere/information highways (and bye ways). Maybe there is a fan club of two out there who have archived it all....could be an interesting exercise in web searching. I used to enjoy descriptions of such searches in various science fiction tales, you could certainly use the search to generate new material.

Blue Heron said...

I sent some stories to Chad way back when - Greensburg, married to Katrina, neighbor of Ken Babbs. Remember him? Small town Oregon newspapers, now recycled pulp.

k55f5r said...

Hi neighbor.
At least it's a pretty comfortable bucket.
Thanks for the writing. I'm one of the weekly visitors to your fine collection of essays.

Blue Heron said...

Thank you for reading me, K55.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your observation that the focus on regionalism in the art/antique world in recent years is probably a psychic antidode to globalization, much as the craftsman aesthetic was a romantic throwback to medieval guild systems. But in addition to reacting against the consuming of industralized products, the craftsman philosophy was also a paternalistic attempt to help the working classes - an alternative to Marx. Get rid of the gingerbread because it makes housework harder and imprisons working women doing endless housework when they should be improving their minds; make the structure the aesthetic; connect to healthful nature; etc. So particularly ironic when the working class couldn't afford to purchase craftsmanship, so they began mass manufacture of faux crafted - decorative hinges instead of real ones; box beams instead of structural beams, etc. So in the long run it became largely a pretense, but one that
I continue to appreciate aesthetically. Most critics see the "theater" of the revival period as unrelated to the preceding craftsman aesthetic, which they describe as "honest," but in many ways I think that view is simply Anglos seeing the mythologizing of medieval England as "authentic," and the mythologizing of medieval Spain as romantic theater. I also love the irony that Spanish revival sprang up in parts of the country with Hispanic heritage (first one was in Florida by a NYC architect), but that the deeds to the houses forbade Hispanics (along with other undesirables) from living there. I used to tease ---- that without me he'd have to leave -----. If you look at some of the philosophy underlying the two - harkening back to an idealized historical period, "pretend" structure as the defining aesthetic (fake beams, decorative hinges), connection to the outside through french doors, there are actually many similarities that are usually ignored when the pro craftsman contingent "disses" revival stuff.

Blue Heron said...

Thanks anonymous for a very well written comment. I remember reading an antique magazine from around 1915 that referred to the craftsman movement as a bastard amalgam of fourteenth century dutch farm furniture with a few other forgettable components thrown in. I made the mistake of mentioning it to a good client once who summarily dropped his passion like a hot potato and never bought another piece.

Their are several ironies involved. In the first place, all of the Stickley and Roycroft stuff was terribly expensive in the day and beyond the reach of the "common" man. Like Apple computers when they came out and still to some extent to this day.

In addition, the movement celebrated work by the individual but if "there's no mark, there's no money" as we say in the trade. People still were and are such sheep that they only want work crafted by the "names". So the aristocracy is still in control and people like Barbara Streisand, Brad Pitt and Alexandra Sheldon can control the market. Lets dress down like the peasants, it really helps our elitist guilt complexes.

I am not sure if it was paternalistic to try to free women by reducing the ornamentation in their lives but they did ship them off to sunday basket weaving and china painting class and chauvinism was as rampant then as it is today. Women artists still have to sign their work with initials because we all know they can't be serious painters...

Addison Mizner was the great Miami architect who pioneered spanish revival. They got into it earlier than the west coast and had better true pieces such as virguenos from latin america. I love the revival look but stop at lamps with shields and knights and that medieval chivalry chic. Gave away one of those lamps this week I hate it so much.

I share in the humor that hispanic revival houses were sited in neighborhoods that forbade hispanics themselves. Did you know that both La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe forbade minorities including jews until 1960? Don't see a lot of jewish revival either, come to think of it.

The reality is that the puritans are tiring. I used to joke that the craftsman devotees should go without electricity and really get into the proper groove. Like Williamsburg or the amish or something. I hate going into some of these houses that are so dark that you cant see but several clients live in them.

So I am with you on the pretense issue, aesthetic purity is another invention, find a comfortable artifice and go with it. Your house is gorgeous and you are a very intelligent couple and we would love to have dinner. John is Millard, will not be going to Santa Fe this december and thanks for the it's, its possessive correction. And thanks for reading.