Well, this is nowhere near as clever as the Librarians do Lady Gaga parody (which you can view here in the Lady Gaga category), but it is timely. I am not sure why they selected Curious George (a male monkey) over, say, Bemelmans' Madeline (who was a bit of a girl gone wild in a much more sedate and chaste era), but maybe that was the only Big Book they had on hand at the ALA Conference.
I love it! Parents who realize that a part-time librarian just can't do justice to a school's library program: Arlington Hts. Greenbrier School parents fight to keep librarian
We last posted about the Hayward Gallery's (London) latest exhibit, "Invisible: Art About the Unseen." Well, we found some more examples, including one called The Museum of Non-Visible Art perpetrated by our erstwhile intern, James Franco. For shame, Jimmie!
And then there is the music which is not be to played by avant-garde composer, John Cage. Entitled 4'33" (Four minutes and 33 seconds), it requires the musician(s) playing any instrument(s) to NOT play for the entire duration of the piece, so we have four minutes and 33 seconds of SILENCE. Grab your favorite alcoholic (or non-alcoholic) beverage and settle back in your favorite chair for this amazing work of art:
The Museum's New Art
Southbank Centre (Courtesy of its website)
Once there was, and once there was not, an art museum in London. It was called the Hayward Gallery and it was part of a humungous arts center (or "centre" as they spell it across the pond) that included venues for music, theatre and dance performances, as well as a fabulous library just for poetry of all kinds. It sprawled on the south bank of the River Thames (hence its name "Southbank Centre"), stretching all the way from Waterloo Bridge (made famous by a Vivien Leigh movie and a Kinks song) to the London Eye (a gigantic Ferris Wheel). It was quite the place for Art with a capital "A."
Soviet Bloc-- oops, the Hayward Gallery (courtesy of website)
Now the Hayward Galley was an ugly building on the outside, fortress-like, with a facade of massive, jutting concrete blocks. This was called "Brutalist" architecture and was apparently all the rage starting in the 1950's and running through the mid-'70's, and it did in fact remind an observer of the Cold War, totalitarianism and Soviet Union-era apartment blocks. But I digress. Anyway, the Hayward did not house any permanent art collections. Instead, it hosted three or four temporary exhibitions each year. Millions of art lovers passed through its chrome and glass doors to view historic works by Leonardo DaVinci, Edvard Munch and the French Impressionists, as well as modern and contemporary art by Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein (the cartoon-dot guy) and sculptor Antony Gormley.
The curators of the Hayward were tossing ideas around for a new exhibition one winter's day when a horrendous blizzard struck the heart of London, the worst in a century, rendering the known world invisible in a cloak of blinding white. The curators stared out the windows into... a white void... and suddenly it dawned on them in a moment of simultaneous ideaism.
"Ah hah! By Jove! That's the ticket!" they shouted (or whatever Brits exclaim when the lightbulb goes on above their heads). "Invisible art! Come on, let's put on a show!"
So they set out to scour the world for 50 works of art that no one could see. Surprisingly, their quest proved not too hard to achieve, because over the past 70 years, painters and sculptors and other "artistes" had apparently been making lots of invisible art!
Or did he mean he was the art?
They scooped up a sculpture by American artist Andy Warhol that he did not create and exhibit at the New York nightclub, Area, in May of 1985. The art consisted of an empty pedestal with a label: "Andy Warhol, USA/Invisible Sculpture/Mixed Media, 1985." He hung around it for awhile, posing awkwardly, then walked away.
Next, they wrangled a Claes Oldenburg piece titled "Proposed Underground Memorial and Tomb for President John F. Kennedy" that was not constructed in 1965. It would have been a hollow bronze casting the size of the Statue of Liberty, buried upside down. Through an opening "about the size of a golf ball," a spectator could have viewed the interior by kneeling or lying down, eyeball to the hole.
Klein staring at his exhibit "Void Room"
The curators took the Chunnel over to France to take a gander at the non-works of French artist provocateur Yves Klein, who stunned the Parisian art world in 1958 with a show that consisted of an entirely empty gallery (yes, blank white walls) which he insisted were filled to the brim with an invisible "blue sensibility." Klein also proposed "Air Architecture," an immaterial architecture made of the elements of nature, such as air, fire and water. For example, if you lived in a cooler Northern climate, you would have a wall of fire. In the hot South, your walls would be of refreshing water. (Who knows what would happen in a drought!) Anyway, you get the picture and are probably asking yourself: "What was he smoking?"
I'm guessing it wasn't just Gitanes.
Moving on to Copenhagen, they made a particularly intriguing find: the "Invisible Labyrinth" by Danish artist Jeppe Hein.
"Just look at this," one said. "Our visitors will wear digital headphones that vibrate whenever they knock into one of the invisible walls of the maze!"
"Oh, won't it be hysterical?" replied the other. "Watching them make complete and utter fools of themselves traipsing around an empty room, bumping into things that aren't there?!"
They came upon an artist named Tom Friedman who specialized in invisible art and fell in love with a work he claimed took five years to create. It was a blank sheet of paper (not even canvas), 32 1/2 by 32 1/2 inches square, entitled "1,000 Hours of Staring, 1992-97."
"It's exquisite! But what media did you use?" they asked.
"Stare on paper," he replied.
Bruno Jacob: Untitled (Horse) (courtesy of exhibit)
They traveled the continents until they had gathered 49 pieces to exhibit. They were exhausted by their efforts.
"Let's go home," said one. "49 pieces of invisible art are enough."
"Wait! I've found the 50th!" shouted the other. "We can't possibly not include this one. It's a photo of the artist showing a blank canvas to a white horse."
"Oh, now that is either deep..."
"Or a pile of horsesh--t!"
They were truly ROFLMFAO by now. They chortled and guffawed as they hauled all the invisible art back to the gallery and hung it on the walls and arranged it on white pedestals and plinths. They tediously printed all the exhibit labels in a SERIOUS font and attached them neatly next to the works. They labored over a fine catalog to accompany the exhibit, printed on luxurious, real paper that you could actually see, touch and smell.
At long last, they proclaimed to the world that their exhibit was open. And people came from far and wide to pay real money to oooh and aaah over the empty galleries, blank canvases and barren sculptural plinths.
Visitors revel in the sensual pleasure for the eye.
"Well, what do you think?"
"Hmm, I don't know. What do you think?"
"Let me just stare a minute whilst I ponder."
"Alright then, I'll stare as well."
"Could be an incredibly prescient exploration of the power of the imagination."
"Could be the apotheosis of conceptual art nonsense."
"A big joke."
The small child ran from room to room, searching for something to see. He tugged at his mother's stylish black tunic. His voice was a rather loud whine, an assault to the ears in the hushed gallery.
"But Mummie, you said we were going to see some art. And there is nothing here!"
It's no fairytale.
If you don't believe me, you can check it out at The Hayward Gallery: Invisible: Art About the Unseen 1957-2012.
It's all a bit too much for me. Call me a material girl, but I like my art to be, well, material.
A discovery by Intern George, who knows his way around a decent tune.
"Thinking of recording a cover of this myself, but in the meantime, add this to your summer playlist! I understand they'll be playing at Lollapalooza in your corner of the world come August. The band Walk Off the Earth, that is. Have no idea about the wankers in blue!"
(I love alliteration, don't you?!)
And I love this beyond-clever, wish I'd thought of that, and if I am ever in this situation I will steal the idea campaign to save a library! Adventures in Reverse Psychology, indeed!
FILFs: It's Dad's turn
Last month, in honor of Mother's Day, I posted about horrendous fictional moms. Well, with Father's Day coming up on Sunday, you guessed it, let's celebr--er, castigate, some of the worst dads ever imagined by a fevered brain connected to a scribbling pen. So here's to the fathers I'd like to flagellate:
William Shakespeare knew a thing or two about tragedy and one of those things is that it often involves a terrible father (or a dead one). He created two absolute stinkers in Titus Andronicus and King Lear. One of Shakespeare's earliest tragedies, Titus Andronicus makes over-bearing, helicopter fathers everywhere look good. This gruesome, blood-and-guts drama explores the theme of parents who project their personal ambitions onto their hapless children. When Titus is chosen to succeed the emperor of Rome, he instead marries his daughter Lavinia off to the late emperor's son so that she can be empress. Who cares if the emperor's other son was betrothed to her first? A battle ensues, and in the effort to promote his daughter to power, Titus winds up killing his own son. Later, after Lavinia is raped and tortured by the sons of Tamora, Queen of Goths (avenging Titus' earlier sacrifice of their brother), he invites Tamora over for dinner. In front of his guests, he kills Lavinia to put her out of her misery, before explaining that those very sons who raped and mutilated her are actually on the menu (baked in a pie). It's a revenge fantasy that only Shakespeare could have conjured, with the mutilated Lavinia representing everything that's wrong with patriarchical culture.
But if you are looking for the worst dad in Shakespeare's repertory, look no further than King Lear. Now many Shakespeare aficionados would probably disagree and proclaim that the worst father is either Hamlet's step-pop or the Capulet and Montague paterfamilias in Romeo and Juliet. And they truly are all rotten dads who could not recognize their mistakes until after their children died. However, King Lear actually expects his three daughters to flatter his vanity in return for a piece of his kingdom. Now any father wants to hear a compliment or two from their spawn, but raising children to engage in false flattery just for a little parental ego-boost is not considered good parenting where I come from. Cordelia, the one daughter who displays any strength of character, is given the boot for telling Daddy the truth. Sisters Regan and Goneril get the keys to the kingdom, but alas, succumb to greed and are soon plotting the deaths of King Lear, Cordelia, and eventually each other. Lear fails to repent of his actions until it is too late and Cordelia, the only daughter who truly loved him, dies due to his monstrous vanity. Could be subtitled: "Daddy Dearest."
Lt. Col. Wilbur "Bull" Meechum
The Great Santini by Pat Conroy
He's all Marine --- fighter pilot, king of the clouds, and absolute ruler of his family, commanding his home like a soldiers' barracks. He's an egotist, a despot, and an abusive parent (to put it mildly). Ben is his oldest son, a born athlete whose best still never manages to satisfy the big man. Ben's got to stand up, even fight back, against a father who doesn't give in -- not to his men, not to his wife, and certainly not to his son. This semi-autobiographical novel, deemed too close to the truth by members of the Conroy family, drove a huge wedge between the author and his father, leading to a protracted estrangement. They made up after Robert Duvall lent a touch a movie-star charm and charisma in his film portrayal of this character you love to hate and hate to love.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
There's reason why Huck runs away to float down the Mississippi with Jim. And it all begins with Pap Finn, a mean drunk scum of a parental unit. In the 1800s, fathers could physically discipline their children (that's the meaning of the old phrase "corporal punishment") without having to worry about a caseworker from DCFS knocking on the cabin door, but bad dads like Pap, then as now, bring new meaning to the phrase "dead-beat dad." Huck may be an adventurous kid by nature, but his dad's egregious behavior does not induce him to stick around. Twain's portrait of trailer trash in the 19th Century is spot-on.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Morrison's first novel sets a benchmark for despicable dads. Pecola Breedlove yearns to be white and beautiful when she is black and, by all accounts, ugly. She dreams about having blue eyes, which she thinks would solve her problems. Her father Cholly is an alcoholic who beats both Pecola and her mother and, in a drunken rage, attempts to burn their house down. He also eventually rapes and impregnates Pecola, who searches in vain for help from neighbors and family. Cholly might be a personification of self-hatred, internalized racism and social inequity, but his brutal anger is very real and, consequently, horrifying. No sympathy for this devil.
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
Ray, the patriarch of this family of tragic loonies, is not
a biological dad; he's an evil step-dad who adopts twin brothers, Dominick and Thomas, when he marries their mother. He's an ex-Navy thug who terrorizes the brothers throughout their childhood, particularly the weak-link Thomas, with all sorts of inventive physical and verbal tortures: duct-taping their fingers, leaving them by the side of the road, making them kneel on rice, and calling them names like "dirt," "garbage" and "greedy little pig." Consequently, Thomas turns out to be a paranoid schizophrenic and Dominick ends up in therapy as well. I'd like to roast this turkey on the grill for Father's Day.
Well, let's end our exploration of pernicious papas on a lighter note and the comic end of the spectrum...
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Harry joins his wife, Zinnia, who made the MILFs list in May. He's a "small ratty looking man" who wears loud checkered jackets and clashing ties. A scheming, used-car salesman works with crooks, he is a confirmed book-hater, going so far as to forbid his brilliant daughter Matilda from reading them. His forms of child-abuse run along the lines of ripping pages out of her books, calling her names, and forcing her to watch television, which, admittedly, can be a fate worse than death. In the film version, Danny Devito portrayed him to perfection, prompting critic Charles Taylor of Salon.com to describe the Wormwoods as "the apotheosis of middle-class bad taste." I don't necessarily agree with that; they are more along the lines of 20th Century tra
So here's to all the paterfamilias that you will be hefting a glass of suds or a greasy, charred rib in honor of this weekend, as you secretly rehash all the petty parental crimes and misdemeanors they committed against you... remember, they could always be worse!
Beach reads I haven't read
I am not a "beach read" aficionado. Probably because I am constitutionally unable to do a lot of reading at the beach... or any place or time during a summer day. I am of the tribe of ants, who spend their summers toiling under the hot sun, rather than the grasshopper cohort, who fiddle from morning til night as the balmy breezes waft. When faced with a stretch of sand, whether a shell-strewn beach along the Gulf of Mexico or a pebbly shoreline on one of the Great Lakes, I am much more likely to set off on a hike to find a lightning whelk or a gnarled piece of driftwood or just exactly where that path up the dunes leads, than pull a book out of my totebag and settle in under the umbrella. However, this being the time of year when I am frequently asked to recommend "beach reads," I took some time out from spreading mulch to do a little research...
Apparently, the main requirements of a good beach book is that it (1) be engaging and (2) you can finish most of it before your sunscreen wears off, i.e., it's not likely to be "literature," but it must definitely be entertaining. So, whether you like thrillers, chick lit, or something smart but not too heavy, with these books in hand (or on your e-reader), all you need to grab is your towel and sunscreen and you're ready to read.
What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories
By Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman
Oh, the stories women could tell. And 58 of them were willing to spill their guts in this Oprah-recommended read. They're funny and smart. But whoa, are they stooopid when it comes to knowing a relationship is dead. It can take years in breakup "Crazytown." Usually, despite countless clues, there's an epiphany: Mr. Right invites you to have dinner with his married girlfriend so you can be pals. He thinks deploying faux dog excrement at a party is hilarious. He uses "invertebrate" when he really means "inveterate" or comes home one day proudly flashing a cubic zirconia nipple ring. Try to top this heartbreaker: at the altar, he tells you he can't stand the embroidery on your wedding dress, would you mind wearing it backward? So many red flags wave in these witty, woeful tales, you'll think you're in China. A must-read for lovers of Schadenfreude.
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
By Anna Quindlen
She's one of my favorite essayists, so, although I won't be reading this at the beach, it's definitely on my summer reading list. In this collection, she gives us rueful insights into a generation that's "still figuring things out" and still wishing to have it all, even at 60.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A delightful book club read (yes, I actually have read this one) that might serve well as a beach read. It's a light piece of historical fiction set on the Isle of Guernsey after World War II that will make you chuckle, bring a tear or two to your eyes, and give you something to think about (without weighing you down with thoughts too heavy for day full of cottony cumulus clouds).
Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Imperative
by Eric Van Lustbader
Okay, so it's not by the original master, but if you are into thrillers, this one should serve to idle away a few hours while you are baking in the sun (and waiting for the next Bourne flick ("The Bourne Legacy") to premiere in August). Just remember the sunblock if you are prone to burns! Jason Bourne's rescue of a drowning man not only reminds him of himself (the man's an amnesiac too), it raises plenty of questions. Why is he being stalked by the Mossad? Could he really be a legendary terrorist assassin, or is this a
case of mistaken identity?
Elvis, Jesus and Coca Cola
by Kinky Friedman
Not a deep book by any stretch, but supposedly quite entertaining. Operative word here is "quirky." Singer/songwriter Kinky Friedman's flashy mystery stars a Greenwich Village musician named--coincidentally--Kinky Friedman. When a documentary filmmaker suffers a mysterious death, Friedman's search for the missing film forces him to relive his own dark past. If you're looking for a serious book with fleshed out characters that represent the plight of human suffering, just back away from this book, grab your over-priced coffee and go find some stuffy classic. If you're looking for a quick, amusing read that offers nothing more than a cheap thrill, then pick this one up and grab yourself a margarita and a burrito-to-go.
The boys of summer
Summer means book shilling-and-signing, which is a terribly exciting prospect, but an exhausting one for an introvert. Just like teaching! Introverts who toil in a profession that favors extroverts need downtime to recover. While writing is a very introverted activity, selling is not. So I have taken on a passel of extrovert interns for the summer to "pinch blog" for me when I am in recovery mode.
Dedicated or intermittent readers (or late arrivals who have surfed the categories) will recognize these faces...
Intern Bruce: Though he is in Budapest, Hungary filming his latest Die Hard flick, "A Good Day to Die Hard," (the title is enough to make one swoon in the stacks) he eagerly agreed to contribute posts... something about lots of downtime waiting for the cinematographer and gaffers and best boys to get their, er, stuff together. Don't laugh! He's surprisingly erudite for an action hero. And he has already contributed a post, History of Hair: Part I, on The Mullet, a 'do which he swears he's never worn... and I confess I have been unable to find any photographic evidence to the contrary.
Intern George: Although he is in the middle of a European tour re-imagining his hits with the assistance of a full orchestra, writing new songs, and soon to enter rehearsals as one of the acts in the Closing Ceremonies for the August 2012 Olympics in London, he graciously offered to pen a few posts. The man is simply indefatigable!
50 Shades of Gosling
Intern Ryan: the Librarian's favorite pin-up volunteered to whip up some new memes, although I told him that cat-centric submissions would be perfectly acceptable. Ryan has been dashing around his native Canada lately, visiting Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, last week to see his mother, Donna, graduate with a bachelor's in education. He also visited Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side) with gal pal Eva Mendes. He promises to send a post with pix on his "Ya-hey-der" adventures.
I tried to coax James Franco into contributing a few poems, but unfortunately he feels that he is just too over-committed to do right by the task, as he is finishing up some short stories, directing dance pieces and exhibiting multimedia art, including an exhibition this month at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles called "Rebel," based on the James Dean movie Rebel Without a Cause, all while working on degrees from Columbia and Yale. I'm exhausted just contemplating that schedule!
I'm with the band... in Tel Aviv.
Madonna volunteered to scribble a few posts (most likely driven by self-interest in promoting her MDNA tour), but I turned her down... alas, one diva is more than enough for this blog.
To find out more about me, click on the Not Your Average Jo tab.