Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Friday, December 12, 2003

This diversity of roses is the proof and the sign...

On a feast day throughout Latin America, the Los Angeles Times reports:

The pregnant Virgin de Guadalupe is turning up in other Latino-dominated churches as a way to make worshipers feel at home while honoring the mother of Christ and champion of the downtrodden…Our Lady of Guadalupe's appearance in non-Catholic services has scholars and others wondering whether the beloved apparition that has united Mexicans for nearly five centuries can bring together Christian denominations.

This link takes you to an English translation of a 1649 rewrite of a near contemporaneous version of the 1531 event at Tepeyac northwest of Mexico City.
The image on Juan Diego’s poor quality cactus-cloth tilma should have deteriorated by the 1550’s.
It shows no sign of decay 469 years later in the Basilica located in the Mexico City neighborhood of Villa de Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Art and Legend:
Decorative Turkey Update

In yet another development regarding President Bush's ultra hush-hush 2 hour visit to the Baghdad airport, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank reports the Pentagon-authorised newspaper Stars and Stripes saying:

The cheering soldiers who met him were pre-screened and others showing up for a turkey dinner were turned away...for security reasons, only those preselected got into the facility during Bush's visit...soldiers who dined while the president visited were selected by their chain of command, and were notified a short time before the visit.

Stars ands Stripes, according to the Post, quotes a letter from Sgt. Loren Russell of the Army's 1st Armored Division:

They walked 15 minutes to the Bob Hope Dining Facility, only to find that they were turned away from their evening meal because they were in the wrong unit. . . . They understand that President Bush ate there and that upgraded security was required. But why were only certain units turned away?

Modified Photo: AP
While I don’t surf Ebay as often as I did four to five years ago, something highly interesting caught my eye last week.
I usually visit Ebay’s American Art Pottery categories and find a regular observation of items, sales (some things don’t sell) and prices achieved presents a more accurate reflection of the general market than most media analysis.

The Epply in question.

When surfing the Rookwood category last week I stumbled upon a Rookwood Vellum Plaque, dated 1916, by the highly desired Lorinda Epply being auctioned without a reserve.

Aside from her long career with the Rookwood Pottery, Ms. Epply is an important Cincinnati artist who excelled in other Arts and Crafts media and commands excellent prices for her work.
Epply made some superb and rare engravings, working with E. T. Hurley and his wife Irene Bishop, some on hand-crafted paper. She taught weaving and enjoyed batik and leather crafts.

High School graduation?

Her face in youth and old age appears kind and I would imagine she occasionally spoke her mind.
Like the other older, great and previously deceased Rookwood artists Hurley and Shirayamadani, Ms. Epply died July 18, 1951, within a few years of the Art Department's final elimination at Rookwood in 1948.
Epply was a graduate of Cincinnati's Woodward High School and attended the Cincinnati Art Academy.
She was a member of the Women's Art Club and the Cincinnati Crafters.

A “reserve” is a sort of pre-established safe bet for a seller.
Items with a reserve do not sell unless bids reach the amount of the reserve.
Though pictured without its gilt gesso frame in the initial photographs that are no longer available through Ebay, the large, 9 ¼” x 12 ½”, plaque with the unusually limited depth of the subject matter seemed terribly familiar.
As I scrolled through the professional quality photos I read a bit of curious text by the genderless shop-named Ebay Power Seller:


Standing alone a reference to a method of determining hidden ceramic repair would not be unusual, particularly, as a black light is a common if not completely effective detection tool. Rather, it was the phrase “AFTER NUMEROUS INQUIRIES” along with the plaque’s familiarity and that big gesso frame that got me to thinking, “Who could have inquired prior to the items posting? Kreskin?” I began to think the plaque had been unsuccessfully offered for sale in a non-virtual environment
A bit more thinking and likely some coffee and a nosh and I had it.
I had seen the plaque before.
It had, again, been for sale on Ebay!
I had written the seller and published a brief posting (this link and scroll to March 19) two days after it sold on March 17, 2003 for $7,800.
The March 17th sale made no mention of black lights or possible repair and, among the 21 bidders, I could tell were some big guns from the American Art Pottery Association.
The seller, then, answered my email promptly with a friendly reply.
He struck me as a nice guy and presented himself as more a dabbler than a professional antique seller. I was happy for him and his profitable transaction.
The bidding, when I noticed the plaque last week was, without a reserve, around $3.5K.
Ever the curious blogger, especially when the item’s history became clear, I decided to write the new seller.
I wanted, very deferentially, to know why the seller referenced a black light as well as the possibility of professional repair and if there was any nervousness selling without the safety net of a reserve.
This new seller did not reply.
The plaque, receiving only seven bids, sold five days ago for $4,803.53 with a loss of $2,996.47 considering the March 17th hammer price.
Clearly, considering the unique nature of these plaques, this could not have been a duplicate item.
Something clearly happened between March 17th and December 7th.
A seller certainly could have sold without knowing anything about previous repaired damage.
Anyone shopping on Ebay must consider that a nice looking online photograph is no substitute for a real time examination.
No matter a previous seller’s intention, damage once discovered by a buyer cannot be undiscovered.
Prospective Ebay buyers, particularly in these tough times, must be prepared for worst-case scenarios!
I wish the seller had not sustained this loss.
Had I purchased this plaque I would have been devastated to discover damage or a previous undescribed repair. Upon calming myself, I would have taken the plaque to a ceramic conservator for a professional exam. The best, in my opinion, is Wiebold’s here in Cincinnati.
A proper restoration by recognized conservators would restore some of the value lost when damage or a repair was discovered.
After the restoration I would, if purchased for resale, hold the plaque for, at least, several years or until I could be somewhat assured that I could recover my original and restoration expenditures.
Of course, I would not have purchased something unless I felt its beauty transcended any possibly hidden negative. Additionally, I would not have purchased at that price point, as they say on QVC, without extensive correspondence with the seller.
Buyers beware!

Photos: Kurt Harrison, Rookwood Pottery Potpourri
Reference: Rookwood Pottery Potpourri, Virginia Raymond Cummins
Thursday, December 11, 2003

As I posted on August 27th, as birds fell dead from the trees, here at this northern tip of the old South, at the point where the old Underground Railroad crossed the Ohio River into freedom, times just seem odd.
The not quite warm and not quite cold weather has been most unusual.
I still have plants blooming in a front yard recently dusted with flurries.
I saw a fly two days ago. December 9th and I spot a healthy Musca domestica buzzing about happy as the proverbial clam.
I’ve had reports of other sightings.
The unusual hasn’t been limited to the weather and tropical insects.
For the last several nights I’ve been kept occupied by occasional bangs and white spark showers coming from the vicinity of the power transformer atop a pole across our cobble stoned alley.
Four visits by the Fire Department, five by the utility and still no known problem. I have a fried security system, a suddenly extinguished gas furnace pilot light, and appliances humming like never before and, now, a utility repair guy tells me that my building shouldn’t have been affected by the unidentified problem.
Maybe I’m just spooked from memories of the mysterious fire at the old Odd Fellows Lodge two years ago when I watched two city blocks of power lines, telephone poles and one large historic pre Civil War structure burn and splinter in mere seconds.
Affected though I shouldn’t be, I know there was no surge or loss of power as the transformer sparked and flamed.
Power was briefly turned off during each examination by the utility and, after some morning phone calls, the rat’s nest of cables, except for a few, snaking to the transformer were so smartly squared away one could almost think the problem had been identified.
The true test will be an explosion and spark-free evening as I fret the phrase “unidentified problem” into a reverb-laden film noir montage of destruction.

I’ve wanted to post an absolutely fantastic new recipe and breakfast recommendation for the holidays.
First, a winter breakfast recommendation that demands a slice of preferably toasted homemade bread:

Shirred Egg
Oven 350

1 large Egg
1 buttered Custard Cup
1 Tbsp Heavy Cream
½ Tsp Butter
Salt and Pepper

Put Cream and Egg in cup. Season with salt and pepper and dot with butter. Bake 15-20 minutes.
Rich and absolutely delicious!
For a bread recipe use this link and scroll to bottom of page.

Apple Pie Bars
Oven 350

2 buttered and parchment paper-lined 8”x8” baking pans
1 stick Butter, room temp
1 ½ cups all-purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 cup Light Brown Sugar
2/3 cup Sugar
2 large Eggs
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Dried Apples, minced
1 cup Pecans, chopped

Cream Butter and Sugars. Blend dry ingredients, except apples and nuts, in a separate bowl.
Add Eggs one at a time to Butter and Sugar mixture. Add vanilla.
Gradually add dry ingredients until just blended.
Add apples and nuts.
Divide mixture between baking pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until an inserted tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for only a few seconds before slicing into bars. Cool.
These are very sticky and require the parchment paper. Though I’ve not tried it, I’m guessing the new non-stick foil would also work well.
Dried apples are very sticky and defy knife mincing. I use a kitchen scissors to cut apple into tiny pieces.
These don’t last long and are fantastic with coffee or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Note: I've been getting fantastic examples of different vanilla extracts at some of the new little Latin groceries springing up. I've found some wonderfully flowery and aromatic extracts that have people demanding to know what you've done.
Go give these new little stores some business!

Fly Image:
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

On October 25th I posted Grover’s Radical Roundup, a collection of clips and links illustrating a curious fight between extremely conservative and well-connected Republican insider Grover Norquist and long-time Richard Pearle protégé and right wing TV talking head Frank Gaffney.
Gaffney accuses Norquist of enabling a radical Muslim 5th Column within the United States and the Bush administration.
This fight, that last week in October, had just been given some traction with an 18 count Federal indictment of Abdurahman Alamoudi alleging money laundering and violations of immigration and customs law by taking $340,000 in sequentially numbered $100 bills from Libya, a federally designated state sponsor of terrorism, to Syria en route to Saudi Arabia.
The Boston Phoenix reported October 25 what was already common knowledge around the nation’s capital.
Norquist’s lobbying firm, Janus-Merritt Strategies LLC, was officially registered as a lobbyist for just indicted Abdurahman Alamoudi.
The Phoenix also reported that public records showed Alamoudi doing more than $20,000 worth of business with Norquist’s firm.
Since October the needle on my Grover Detector has barely budged as Norquist devotes time to increasing beer taxes, shoehorning Reagan onto the dime and the usually mad swirl of gala fundraisers.
Last evening the needle jumped as Gaffney posted on David Horowitz’s, with a David Horowitz introduction, A Troubling Influence.
In the heavily footnoted article Gaffney, among other things, broadens Alamoudi’s connections to Norquist:

The investment began when Alamoudi wrote two personal checks (a $10,000 loan and what appears to be a $10,000 gift) to help found Norquist’s Islamic Institute. In addition, Alamoudi made payments in 2000 and 2001 totaling $50,000 to Janus-Merritt Strategies, a lobbying firm with which Norquist was associated at the time.

While interesting reading, there seems to be some holes in the case Gaffney presents.
I, however, continue to find it curious how little coverage this story is receiving from our old friend the mainstream press.

If you still hunger for things radioactive after concluding the Grover material may I recommend this excellent New York Times article on the radioactive realities confronting humans outside the Earth’s magnetic field:

Radiation in space is not like radiation on Earth… beyond Earth's protective atmosphere and magnetic field, the radiation is mostly ions of every element on the periodic table up to iron (No. 26), moving at a substantial fraction of the speed of light, and approaching from distant stars in all directions.

In recent stories on the Bush Moon Mission some wondered about our present lack of Earth to Space transport much less Earth to Moon. Today’s Times article gives an indication that a difficulty greater than vehicular requirements might be the search for effective shielding from interplanetary radiation.

Modified Photo:
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Dropping a [Para]digm

It seems the bipolitical guns of the bought and paid for power structure, dulled by the contrived theater of bushian hoopla, are not yet fully appreciating some of the more delightful political nuance yet unfolding from Albert Gore’s not yet fully enunciated but still paradigm-shattering and real political masterstroke begun this morning at the National Black Theater in Harlem, NY.
Seemingly underplayed, I thought, by the media (even C-SPAN’s Journal oddly exited the event midway through Gore’s remarks completely missing the Vice President’s most severe criticism of Iraq), several key themes scattered throughout the, perhaps purposfully, low-key event teased the game altering nature of Gore’s remarks and hinted at some of the Republican political internal organs cumulatively affected by his master sword thrust.
Dean, first addressing the crowd, referred to Mr. Gore as the “elected President of the United States” and closed the event by restating Andrew Jackson’s leveling promise to “open the doors of the White House” to the American people come January, 2005.
Gore, promising thunder later today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, described Dean as the only candidate to inspire passion at the grassroots level and to have correctly judged the prewar Iraq situation:

I'm very proud and honored to endorse Howard Dean to be the next president of the United States of America…We need to remake the Democratic Party and we need to remake America to take it back on behalf of the people of this country…Our country has been weakened in its ability to fight the war against terror because of the catastrophic mistake the Bush administration made in taking us to war in Iraq.

CBS News is reporting “sources close to the campaign” saying:

The former Vice President believes Democrats have fought themselves for too long, that he is "unhappy" with the tone of the campaign - and believes his best move is to endorse Howard Dean and do it now.

With clear slaps at the Clintonian centrism so artfully parroted by Republicans, the former Vermont governor, medical doctor and neopopulist thanked Gore and implied a continuing major role for the former Vice President in the campaign and in a Dean administration:

We have needed a strong steady hand in this party and I appreciate Al's willing(ness) to stand up and be one.

Similarly burdened with a candidate lacking a previous national popular mandate, I’ve understood Mr. Rove desires, no matter the ugly historical ramifications for zero year presidencies, to replay 1896.

Wm Jennings Bryan delivering 'Cross of Gold' speech

This morning I accept Rove’s self-serving parallel without, necessarily, the 1896 outcome.
For, this morning in Harlem, I saw the outlines of a victorious post millennial Cross of Gold and heard, with new strength, the echoes of William Jennings Bryan:

My friends, in this land of the free you need not fear that a tyrant will spring up from among the people. What we need is an Andrew Jackson to stand, as Jackson stood, against the encroachments of organized wealth…Changing conditions make new issues, that the principles upon which Democracy rests are as everlasting as the hills, but that they must be applied to new conditions as they arise.
Conditions have arisen, and we are here to meet those conditions…there are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well to do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them…Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere…You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Photos: AP,
Monday, December 08, 2003


Photos: MoveOn, Dean for America

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