28 September 2008

love a banned book this week

This coming week is Banned Book Week. Here's some info:

* A compilation of banned books edited by John Mark Ockerbloom for the University of Pennsylvania Libraries; not this year since the dates don't jive but an interesting compilation and it has a link to Penn's Online Books page.

* ALA's Banned Book Week page

And, clearly, you yourself can google "banned books" and find oodles of information, including the completely authoritative "List of banned books" on Wikipedia.

Florida Highwaymen

The most recent SACOLIST report on LCSH additions had a note about the proposal for "Florida Highwaymen (Group of artists)." I don't think I'd heard about them so I checked it out. It refers to a group of African American artists, mostly men, who traveled about selling their paintings from the trunks of their cars. The paintings are somewhat evocative of Hudson River School paintings and/or the seaside views of someone like Martin Johnson Heade. Or perhaps a garish combination. The image above, from the floridahighwaymen.com site, makes a wonderful backdrop for my computer at work. The men used this approach to selling their work because they were not likely to get gallery shows and a black guy couldn't just go around with a stack of paintings. Many of them were trained artists but these trunk sales were a way they were able to get their paintings sold, a way available to them as black Americans. (They probably didn't make as much as Damien Hirst made in his Sotheby's auctions.)

But what about the subject heading proposal? It was refused as a subject heading with the caveat that they could be established as a corporate name. The old NAF/SAF debate. It seems to me that since a critic invented the name, and even though some of the surviving Highwaymen use the name, that it's more like a movement (subject heading) than a corporate body (name).

it's a new day

Sunday again, perhaps my favorite day. Usually I start with the Times and pancakes at Silver Spurs but today I'm joining Diana Mitrano for dim sum brunch in Chinatown and don't want to ruin my appetite.

This has been a pretty momentous week. I signed the retirement agreement with the provost earlier in the week. My last day in the office will be at the end of this calendar year and then the active movement toward the next phase of my life can begin. I'll be moving to the family house in Alfred but not full-time until later in the spring or early summer. I went to the Peter Lieberson retrospective concert last night at Miller Theatre at Columbia last night and thoughts of concert opportunities kept interrupting my brain waves. The old "is there life outside New York City?" syndrome. But then this morning, while chatting with my brother Doug on gmail, we mused on Alfred's events. This semester, Lenka Clayton is a visiting artist and Doug has been doing some interesting interacting with her project to document the Steinheim collection. The Steinheim is a quirky stone building that was built as a museum, the oldest in western New York (or some such claim to fame). Lenka is keeping an Alfred diary at alfreddiary.blogspot.com. The entry for the 26th of September entitled "the first lost artefact" is actually my brother's hand on MY front porch! Some of Lenka's documenting reminds me of Nina Katchadourian and Doug says that Lenka knows about Nina's work.

20 September 2008

Cindy Bernard at Tracy Williams

Last night, Dan Biddle asked me what good art I'd seen and I was embarrassed that I couldn't immediately think of anything. The first thing that came to mind was the Wiener Werkstätte jewelry show at the Neue Galerie. It was lovely but that was a couple weeks ago. Here it is the third Saturday of the new season and I haven't been to West Chelsea or elsewhere for galleryhopping. So .... as I was out running errands today, I stopped at White Columns and Tracy Williams in the West Village.

The Cindy Bernard show at Tracy Williams is entitled "Silent Key" which stands for a ham radio operator who has left the scene. In this case, it was her grandfather after his death. The show consisted on the lower level of postcards and other remembrances of his ham radio days. Grandpa had never talked about the connecting but Bernard grew up with the noise of Morse Code whenever she visited. Many of the places no longer use the name on the cards and that was part of Bernard's selection process: Bechuanaland, Nyasaland, British Guiana, Yugoslavia, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, German Democratic Republic. These evoked thoughts of NACO work on changed place names and also my dad's work with the Missionary Board when we were little kids. The Seventh Day Baptists had missionaries in Nyasaland (now Malawi) and British Guiana (now Guyana) so we knew those places well. Upstairs, there is a ledger with entries from Grandpa's communications that read like text messages, Facebook statuses, or overheard cellphone conversations, e.g., "he sed it was snowing," "Getz called up," "he faded out toward last," or "he is big gso man." What's a gso man? I don't know. Bernard has founded the Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) which has analogies, for me, with social computing (through the name and elsewise), sending messages through the vapors and hoping they get to the right destination (our faith is incredible and has been since we tried to get messages to people beyond the reach of our unamplified voices). The gallerist and I talked about this for a while and she said she gets a lot of messages with people venting about this or that, and it's sometimes not even someone she knows. Maybe that's a cellphone or IMing phenomenon because I don't see that. One does see the errant email message but usually it's followed by a virtual redfaced apology.

14 September 2008

George Orwell, blogger ... er, diarist

Have you discovered the George Orwell diaries which are being (re)entered daily by the Orwell Prize at http://orwelldiaries.wordpress.com/? It's a wonderful project ... but how did they get the archives to start in July 1938?

little tetrazzini wings

My favorite paragraph (so far) from today's Times:

"Mr. [Daniel] Radcliffe still lives in the house he grew up in, with his parents and two dogs, Blinka and Nugget. (Nugget is not, oddly enough, named after the lead horse in 'Equus.' Rather the Radcliffes have a tradition of giving dogs names that can follow the word 'chicken'; a previous dog was named Tikka.)"

[from a profile of actor Daniel Radcliffe, about to open in "Equus" on Broadway]

13 September 2008

a full house

When your house is full of books, the last thing you need is 100 books and more checked out from the library. While I like the fact that they can be in perpetual renewal unless requested, it means you just let them pile up (well, *I* let them pile up). In order to retrieve some space, I decided that I could use LibraryThing with a tag of "checkedout" rather than the similar "unread" that is often suggested and used. Some of these books are not to be read but used. As I'm going through them, I'm finding some wonderful bits of moments from some time ago. The one in hand is Propos de littérature by Alain. The slip of paper in the book indicates that I was taken by a statement about memory but I have no idea where I saw the quote. The text in the book: "Il semble que le souvenir soir esthétique par lui-même, et qu'un objet soit beau principalement parce qu'il en rappelle un autre." Or as it says on the piece of paper: "It seems that memory is aesthetic in itself, and that an object is beautiful chiefly because it recalls another." I still like the quote, it still strikes a chord, now if I could just remember where I saw it.

11 September 2008

we might have to do this again!?!

In an article in The New York Times on August 26th, John Tierney describes Vernor Vinge's new book entitled Rainbows End and other writings. He describes a man who succumbs to Alzheimer's but comes out of it not knowing about Facebook, Second Life, Wikipedia and whatnot. He has to go back to high school to learn how to cope. In the world of 2025, he retreats to Geisel Library at UCSD where the "paper books are about to be shredded to make room for a highbrow version of a virtual-reality theme park." We've got intelligence amplification, not simply artificial intelligence. cf http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26tier.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=rainbows%20end&st=cse&oref=slogin (or search "rainbows end" at nytimes.com Yes, Rainbows End is given without an apostrophe; not the end of the rainbow, but rainbows are over. Or an allusion to Howards End?

07 September 2008

Jenny Holzer, library builder

In the "Inside art" column in Friday's New York Times, there's a notice about Jenny Holzer's project for the exterior of the Guggenheim. She will be illuminating the spirals with sayings that "will range from terrorism and the Iraq war to poems about loss, grief and love." The installation will become part of the Guggenheim's permanent collection and she will be adding sayings and poems throughout the fall. She calls it a "library."

06 September 2008

thinking about travel

As we walked on the beach yesterday, Dan Evans and I were talking about where in Europe we'd been and places we hadn't had nearly enough of. Sicily kept coming up in my stories, clearly I NEED to go there. I think Christie and I might actually make it next fall; first there's some business to take care of, on both our parts, but it might enable a longer trip. The sirens are telling both of us to find our roots, or rather to get back to the important stuff. For Christie, it's the earth: gardening, house work (working on a house, not just IN a house). I've got a bit of that in a desire for fresh tomatoes (thanks to Elizabeth Lilker, I've had some this year). A nice little kitchen garden is all I imagine I'd ever really be responsible for. And there's room for it outside the kitchen door of the family homestead. If all the stuff comes together, I'll probably retire from the current round of my life and get on with some "just cataloging" jobs that I can do from Alfred and the family homestead. My brother and I might get some kind of bookselling business going but it probably won't be the used bookstore that we'd been looking at. Another advantage, of course, about retiring and doing some odd-job cataloging is that a trip to Sicily could be longer. I've been dreaming about that place on the south coast of Sicily that's been calling me. More sirens.

Speaking of sirens, it's amusing how they warn folks about weather out here in Cherry Grove. A couple hours ago, the fire department guys on a boardwalk vehicle tooted the horn and announced that the last ferry to the mainland this evening would be the one at 5:50. And also: fasten everything down. We'll hope for wet and some wind, not destructive amounts of either.

ocean waves

The Cherry Grove Art Walk got cancelled because of hurricanes coming up the East Coast. Hanna is sort of working her way in the neighborhood. The ocean waves are vigorous, it was raining a little bit ago but has stopped ... for the moment. They say it will rain hard during the night. As Kent Boese said on his Facebook page, I'm really lovin' Hanna. Of course it's only from the edge that one can say that. The center of the hurricane is not something to muck about with.

As I took the train to Sayville, there was a complicated transaction happening within earshot. Someone had left their cellphone somewhere and the two people who were in the train didn't know each other but the one would be at the Jamaica train station at 11 pm that night and could return the phone. The other said she was being a Good Samaritan. I decided to label this message "random acts of kindness." That's also a theme for my sister who took, when rather bored I guess, some extra quarters and put them in Ithaca parking meters that were expired. I don't imagine most of those blessed by the quarters knew it. But that's the random part, I guess.

I was reading the Times on the train and there was an article about Charles Rangel and his not paying taxes on his house in the Caribbean which is not anywhere near a full-time residence. How is it that our legislators and other politicians so forget that they are subject to the rules too?

I went for a walk on the beach a while ago and started toward "home" when the rain started to fall. The inclement weather seems to be making folks happy and friendly, facing the great unknown and all that. I guess that's just more random acts of kindness, like the happy birthday balloon that I picked up from the beach and put in a garbage can.