Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Friday, March 11, 2005

My friend Michel van Rijn’s fascinating web site calls attention to the shocking decay and erosion suffered by New York City and London’s XVIII Dynasty pink Aswan granite Egyptian obelisks.
Popularly called Cleopatra’s Needle by residents of both cities, the ancient and valuable monuments first erected by Pharaoh Tuthmose III, while having no historic link to ancient Egypt’s most famous woman, have been fellow travelers with humanity throughout all Western history.

Eroded and covered in grime

The monuments vanishing Hieroglyphic inscriptions praise Tuthmose and commemorate his third sed festival or his 36th year of rule.
The London obelisk was erected at its present site on the Thames Embankment on September 12 or 13, 1878.

Bierstadt's Artotype of Central Park's Obelisk being removed from Egypt

The New York obelisk located in Central Park and just behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was laid in place on October 2, 1880.
The stories of these obelisks are quite fascinating and can be found here, here and here.
Mr. van Rijn should not be the only voice calling for the preservation and care of these travelers through human history.
I’m frankly surprised, with all the billions lavished on Middle Eastern PsyOp, that a clever person at State or Defense hasn’t latched onto the idea of preserving these monuments to Egyptian culture and symbols of the West as guardian.

William Evarts Maxwell

Mr. van Rijn is promising a detailed report on the Central Park Obelisk at some point in the future but, until then and barring any curatorial involvement by government, I think it would be wise to reflect upon the words of Rutherford B. Hayes’ Secretary of State William Maxwell Evarts presented at the New York monument’s February 12, 1881 opening ceremony:

"Who indeed can tell what our nation will do if any perversity is possible of realization; and yet this obelisk may ask us, 'Can you expect to flourish forever? Can you expect wealth to accumulate and man not decay? Can you think that the soft folds of luxury are to wrap themselves closer and closer around this nation and the pith and vigor of its manhood know no decay? Can it creep over you and yet the nation know no decrepitude?' These are questions that may be answered in the time of the obelisk but not in ours."

Images: Shoji Okamoto,,,
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Ain't got no distractions
Can't hear those buzzers and bells,
Don't see lights a flashin'
Plays by sense of smell.
--The Who

"If you're going to spend 60 days traveling the country, fix something that's broke, not something that's worked perfect for 70 years."
--Dan Borsch, 28, Louisville, KY

"No more lies, don't privatize!"
--Kentucky Demonstrators

"We think we need to repair it and strengthen it, not destroy it. And we think that these private accounts [sic] is the first step in destroying it."
--Laurel True, AARP Member, Shelbyville, KY

"If I hadn't had Social Security with them [her children], I would not be where I am today. I wouldn't have been able to go to college. They [the children] would have ended up in an orphanage."
--Patrice Blanchard, 53, Crestwood, KY

Quotes from and the Associated Press

Image: Reuters
Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I have several excellent reasons for not posting today.
First, I'm going through one of my perodic mood swings involving extreme distaste for current events and things political...a recipe posting could be in the offing.
Secondly, most of my day was absorbed with a malfunctioning dish washer and my friendly and highly talkative repairman.
And third, in my new role of pajama-clad faux journalist, I was asked to write a little article for the Cincinnati Art League's newsletter.
The article, concerning April's American Art Pottery Association's convention here in Cincinnati, was proudly written and transmitted to the newsletter's editor just moments ago.
Gosh, free-lance writing...could first amendment freedoms be around the corner for this humble non-profit blog?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Quick, somebody!
Alert Dr. Dobson or the Family Research Council!
Unspeakable sin is leaking from cartoon animals into the real animal kingdom according to a report in today’s London Guardian about a Dutch researcher’s study of male on male mallard rape and an eyewitness account of homosexual duck necrophilia:

The unfortunate duck apparently had hit the building in full flight…Next to the obviously dead duck, another male mallard (in full adult plumage without any visible traces of molt) was present. He forcibly…mounted the corpse and started to copulate, with great force.

I think it is very clear from this report that America’s wetlands must be plowed under or paved with pure God-fearing concrete before our children are corrupted with this European waterfowl perversion or a green-feathered fiend penetrates the White House Correspondents Association!

Image: Google
I say "High", you say "Low"

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi greets released hostage Giuliana Sgrena

The Italian incident, the attack upon the car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena to the Baghdad Airport, like so many things which appear in the corporate media, seems at second and third glance something more complex than mere tragedy.
Obviously, being one of those occasionally pajama-clad ordinary citizen bloggers, I’m dependent on Google searches and material published and broadcast by our friendly once trusted media.
Again, like so many stories be it Gannon, Plame, Swift Boats, Draft-dodging Dubya, WMD, Social Security, taxes or whatever, one side not just disagrees but rather completely contradicts the other side.
This, we are told, is balance.
But is it?
More than balance this is stasis; a condition unchanged, in my opinion, from that which existed prior to the arrival of the balanced information and a condition we used to call ignorance.
Like the balance called fair, the resulting ignorance can only be considered purposeful.
In today’s episode in the Mystery of the Teetering Alliance, the Italians diplomatically say the "reconstruction of the tragic event ... does not fully coincide with what has been communicated by U.S. authorities."
Italy’s Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini says:

The car was traveling at no more than 25 mph. He said a light was flashed at the car after a curve, and gunfire -- lasting 10 or 15 seconds -- started immediately afterward.

A statement released Friday night by the United States Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, in military control of Baghdad, said:

The vehicle was "traveling at high speeds" and "refused to stop at a checkpoint." A U.S. patrol "attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car”…“When the driver didn't stop, the soldiers shot into the engine block which stopped the vehicle, killing one and wounding two others."

The 3rd ID and the Italian Foreign Minister completely contradict one another on all points of fact.
Without any attempt at some sort of wise overarching media or governmental moderation of the disputed facts it almost seems, except for the rise of angry emotions on both sides and a few bullet holes, as if nothing has happened after all.
After a week or two or three or four of zero or slanted coverage, ala Gannon, WMD, Swift Boats, Plame and Dubya’s service evasion, this too, except for a rise in Italian anti Americanism, will quietly blend into the murk and laughter of our scripted national town hall meeting.

I don't know why you say "Goodbye", I say "Hello"

A tiny blurb in a column by Brian Faler in yesterday’s Washington Post offers proof that citizen bloggers go where corporatized media fears to tread, special interest, on demand, non-mass and always person to person decentralized Internet media.
The mini headline, Blogs Draw a Blank, Mostly, seems to mimic old media’s deepest fears wrapped in a blankie of wishful thinking.
The blurb’s point, derived from data complied from the always suspect respondent-skewed CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, is that only 3% of poll respondents said they read blogs everyday and that 12% reported visiting blogs “a few times a month”.
Hardly insignificant, these numbers show, to me, a major thrust into sacred turf once occupied by the heavy haunches of complaisant big media before the absorbent eyeballs of America and the world’s readers and opinion-makers.
Blogs are, in the main, dense, text-weighted things with a naturally limited appeal to the nerd and wonk amongst us.
My gay (meaning happy, light-hearted), colorful and image-heavy e-rag with its occasional recipes, art news and photo-shopped humor is my non-profit attempt to counter these nerdy tendencies.
Though I worked for 30 years in mass communication, I write for an imaginary reader who shares my interests and humor and not for the least common denominator of a mass readership.
In the exactly three years that I’ve been writing this blog, domestic US and global readership has steadily increased from around 15 to 20 hits per weekday to anywhere between 80 to 95 today.
You, too, can peruse my visitor statistics by clicking the square blue/black button on the extreme left margin at the scroll-end of this webpage.
From late October, when I switched to a new web tracker, to this point in time, my page has been loaded and reloaded more than 8,000 times.
These are tiny numbers compared to the big blogs and while a loaded page isn’t necessarily a read page, I’m pleased to know my voice has rejoined the deafening chorus.
And, if you read my stats, visit Unique Visitors and see if you can spot the occasional IP address ending in .gov, .mil, .state, .darpa and .treas along with a wide range of address from across the United States and the world.
The Internet is truly amazing!
If Washington Post and the Gallup organization stopped fretting about blogs and started reporting on the news maybe they would stop drawing a blank, mostly.

Images: Reuters, Blogger
Headlines: The Beatles
Monday, March 07, 2005
Uplifting Beauty

A beautiful book, An Expression of Community, produced by Cincinnati, Ohio’s Art League provides a photographic record of the archaic American belief, adapted from the philosophy of John Ruskin and modified by the late 19th century Arts and Crafts movement, that “beauty uplifts the spirit, inspires the soul and transforms character” and “where better to showcase inspiring works of beauty than in public schools?”
This spectacular and very well made book, a must for any American Art Pottery collector, contains many gorgeous and never before seen images of Rookwood and Wheatley tile installations and is available through Barnes & Noble as well as through the Art League and the American Art Pottery Association.
In addition to architectural ceramics, the book’s color plates also record the breath-taking array of painted murals, sculpture, stained glass and other architectural embellishments that once enhanced Cincinnati’s older public schools.
While, sadly, some of these historic and quite valuable pieces have been destroyed or stolen, the Art League is in the process of preserving many of these public treasures and moving some of them into the newly constructed generation of Cincinnati Public Schools.

Portion of a Rookwood tle panel from the former Madisonville Elementary

As a baby-booming resident of the expanding ring of newer metropolitan Cincinnati area suburbs, I was schooled amid stark, artless modernity.
The drinking fountains of my atomic age generation were cold stainless steel rather than pictorial ceramic.
Our schools windows were clear glass, adorned only with gray Venetian blinds.
Our 1960’s and 70’s classroom corridors were only lined with a modern-life-dooming troika of lockers, trophy cases and fossilized images of long-past graduating classes and dour former school administrators.
Indeed, as time passed and school buildings became more crowded, teachers were even denied the ability to decorate their particular teaching environment as they joined the rootless mass trooping from one barren modular classroom to another.
It is brutally clear from the Art League’s documentation of early 20th century Cincinnati public schools that modernity’s industrial triumph hasn’t merely streamlined today’s schools but, rather, has limited the breadth of our collective national soul and hardened our modern hearts.

Glazed terra cotta grotesque on exterior of the old Hughes High School

Beauty, be it nature or the artistic gift of man’s hand, does, merely by proximity, uplift, soften and illuminate mankind’s spirit.
It is unique, sometimes without price and sometimes extraordinarily dear.
And, tragically for our children and ourselves, beauty is increasingly something we only rarely witness in museums, theme parks or on special interest cable channels and almost never witness in the cold reality of our daily lives.
Ruskin and the adherents of the Arts and Crafts movement lost the last century’s battle with their industrial foe and we post modern humans, speeding along superhighways in fossil-fuel guzzling and often satellite-tracked behemoths, are still self-destructively addicted to the shiny mechanical fruit falling from the unforgiving and robotic Tree of Knowledge.
Modern technology and science are great gifts made more special and appealing when balanced with the products of the brain’s opposite hemisphere.
As we struggle through the early war-torn years of this new millennium, it seems clear that if our Western Civilization is to survive the internal and external barbarian hordes of anti-intellectualism our own internal battles between art and science must modify from a victory-beset war metaphor to that of a winless dance.
Groups of interested citizens like Cincinnati’s revived Art League are a tremendous step toward a future that glorifies and uplifts mankind.
But, ordinary citizens, while vital, are not the only key.
As with the recent potential legal entanglements for remuneration-free web publishing, leaders from art, science and industry must, as did certain great minds of the 19th century, wean themselves from the winner-take-all mindset and shave off a portion of their God-given brilliance for the artistic uplift of modern man and, of course, the common good.
It would be, after all, to their benefit, and likely profit, as well.

Images: AAPA, Robert A. Flischel
Sunday, March 06, 2005
"I said 'blogs' not 'frogs'!"

It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger.
--Bradley Smith, FEC Commissioner, March 3, 2005

We're moving toward a system under which only the folks who are deemed to be professionals will be granted the status of journalists, and thereby more rights than the rest of us. This is pernicious in every way…we can't let government or Big Media decide who has the right to inform the public about matters of interest or urgency.
--Dan Gillmor, former San Jose Mercury News Technology columnist

The Gardner Heist

The Concert, Jan Vermeer, 1665-66

The Art Newspaper, this week, reports this month of March will mark the 15th anniversary of the largest art theft in American history and modern times.
In the early post St. Pat’s feast day morning hours of March 18, 1990 two men gained entry to Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner museum precipitating a $300 million heist of artworks by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, Degas and Flinck along with, curiously, an ancient Chinese bronze beaker and a Napoleonic bronze eagle flagpole finial.
This still unsolved art crime makes fascinating reading and possibly future viewing if a documentary, Stolen, discussed in the Art Newspaper article achieves a wider national release.
Check out the links, or better if you find yourself in lovely Boston, visit the Gardner Museum and feast on a stunning collection of fine, decorative and architectural splendor along with the viciously raped frames of the stolen paintings.


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