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Naming Names.

Several months ago I took a picture of this graffiti and spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d like to say about it. Where should I even begin? Should I say that it’s interesting because animal iconography seems to be pretty rare in graffiti? Well, I just did. That’s all, folks!


But wait–there really is more. Some, particularly fans of the literary movement known as New Criticism would say the work can only be judged in itself without any reference to outside influences or the artist’s background or intent. And that’s pretty much all I can do since I don’t know anything about the artist. But what if I found something that shed a little light on it and meant I didn’t have to wrap up quite so soon? That’s where this helps.

From this I think the camel is the artist’s tag–essentially their name. What’s a name, after all, than a symbol? Sure, most names are symbols made up of letters–there are some exceptions, such as that thing Prince used as his name for a while–and letters themselves are symbols that we’ve mostly agreed all make the same sounds, although I did have an uncle who wouldn’t spell anything with the letter Y because he was convinced it would sneak onto his farm at night and tell dirty stories to his cows, but that’s another stor.
Anyway that reminded me of the Dutch aristocrat, art historian, and dealer Jan Six–who is actually the descendant of ten previous aristocrats with the same name, making him the eleventh Six. The first Jan Six (born (January 14, 1618, died May 28, 1700) was painted by Rembrandt and amassed a considerable art collection. The current Jan Six continues to collect with a particular emphasis on Rembrandt and in the past few years discovered what he and some scholars think are two previously unknown Rembrandt paintings at auctions. And keep in mind that a painting by a lesser known Dutch master–say, one of the guys from the cigar box–can sell for thousands but a Rembrandt can be worth millions, and if they are legit he got them at bargain rates because the auction houses didn’t know what they had. Even with a decline in the study and even collecting of older paintings–the prices on modern works are rising while the old ones aren’t–there’s enough interest in them generally to make them, especially the ones done by well-known artists, valuable. Although further complicating all this is the fact that, with his many pupils and large studio, it’s almost impossible to know whether Rembrandt himself painted a painting alone or whether he had help, or whether it was just one of his students copying his techniques.
That difference can also seriously affect the value of a painting, but shouldn’t it be the work itself and not just the name that matters?

Perfect Timing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sa1TgAeZlQI’d rather have a root canal than go to the dentist.
Maybe that’s not exactly true, but I did have a dental appointment for a regular checkup and cleaning, so I left work early to catch the bus. The Nashville MTA app is now defunct. It used to show riders when specific buses were due to arrive. Now it just lists the scheduled arrivals at different stops which is pretty useless because its rare that buses are ever on schedule. I was reminded of this when I was standing on one side of the street and the bus I wanted, not due for another ten minutes, pulled up to the stop across the street, paused for a microsecond, and went on its way. Once on that side of the street I set off on my merry way with plans to catch the next bus or walk to the dentist’s office, whichever came first. Fortunately I did catch the next bus, and when I got on the driver said, “Nobody’s ever at this stop at this time of day,” and I said, “Well, someone was today!”
Then at the dentist’s office the hygienist asked me if I were feeling better and I asked, “Was I feeling bad six months ago?” I’d forgotten that I’d had a dental appointment the week before but had to reschedule because I had a cold, which is how my short term memory is, but that’s another story.
When I left the dentist’s office I checked the bus schedule, thinking I’d catch the bus going back, and while I was doing that the bus, due in about five minutes, sped by, so I started walking.
As I was standing on a corner waiting for the light to change a young guy and his large black Labrador Retriever came and stood next to me. The Labrador Retriever looked up at me and I asked the guy, “What’s his name?”
“Oliver,” he told me.
“Hello, Oliver,” I said, and Oliver wagged his tail and rubbed his head against me, and I petted him, which made us both pretty happy. And I was actually glad I missed the bus because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have met Oliver.

Don’t Steal This Book!

Source: imgur

“An Ohio library says a 1968 copy of Life magazine with the Beatles on the cover has been returned by a borrower who apologized for stealing it as a ‘kid’ and sent $100 to cover late fees.”
-Associated Press

It never occurred to me to steal anything from the library. Maybe this came from an early experience with the library in the school I went to from kindergarten through sixth grade. We were only allowed to check out one book at a time on special weekly visits and we were expected to return each book the next week. And each week she’d read out all our names and what we’d checked out the week before, which didn’t make any sense to me because I didn’t care what anybody else checked out. In second grade I checked out a book about dinosaurs and I’m pretty sure I returned it the next week but the school librarian was just as sure I hadn’t. And she read my name and the name of the book every week for six or seven weeks so I became a class joke, at least during library visits, and really only to my so-called friend Troy who, I’d later realize, felt that if he could deflect attention onto someone else no one would make fun of him for being the only kid in the class whose parents were divorced. I didn’t realize this then because the school library was very small and its entire psychology section was a copy of Freud’s Totem & Taboo that someone had left there by mistake.
I finally found the book. A kid in a different class had pulled it off the shelf and the school librarian’s system was so rudimentary she didn’t cross-reference records so it never occurred to her that it was checked out to two of us at the same time. When I pointed this out she said, “Well, next time you need to return your book directly to me rather than putting it back yourself,” which I hadn’t done. This taught me a valuable lesson: some librarians are jerks. And I wouldn’t make another mistake until sixth grade when I accidentally gave the school’s copy of The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater to the public library and a very nice librarian mailed it to my school with a note that said, “It would appear this belongs to you,” because not all librarians are jerks.
I liked the public library better anyway because it was bigger and there were books that could only be reached by climbing up ladders, although for a long time the only thing I checked out was Octopus Lives In The Ocean by William Stephens, which was a very detailed book about the life cycle of the octopus. I read it so many times I had it memorized and once gave my grandfather a lengthy description of the ins and outs of octopus sex and he was silently impressed, but that’s another story.
I still love libraries. I like owning books too, and I own a lot of books, mostly ones I reread, or at least plan to read again, or just keep for reference purposes even though I believe sometime in the future there will be a vast computer network that will give everyone connected to it access to vast swaths of information. Lately I keep hearing about the Japanese concept of tsundoku, the idea of buying books but never reading them, although I think every book is purchased with the idea that it will be read. Some books we just never get to, but they’re there just in case. Once, in the library where I work, a guy showed me a book of obscure mathematics and he said, “Who reads this stuff?” Not me, but someone, I hope. Why put something into a book if it’s never meant to be read? And it’s why I’m very conscious of always returning library books. I’ve had epic overdues and once, by mistake, I had a book checked out for years and built up an epic fine but I still returned it and some librarians understand that to err is human and they’ll forgive a fine.
And that brings me to the anonymous person who returned the stolen 1968 copy of Life magazine in the throes of Beatlemania. The library probably had more than one copy, but if it didn’t that meant no one else could read it. Maybe the library bound its 1968 run of Life magazine with that one issue missing so it was still unavailable, and maybe later on they got rid of their bound volumes and replaced them with microfiche, which probably contained that issue of Life with the Beatles on the cover, but if you’ve ever tried to look up anything in microfiche you know it’s unreadable anyway.
Still the person returned it in the end and even paid the late fees, and I just hope the librarian who checked it in isn’t one of the ones who’s a jerk.

 

There Went The Sun.

It’s been raining. We’ve had heavy rain, rain that’s caused the backyard to flood, that’s sent cascades of water down the stairs leading to the driveway, rain that’s caused me to say, “Why didn’t I bring an umbrella with me and do I really want to go back and get it because I’m already soaked?” And we’ve had light rain, rain that’s barely even wet, the kind of rain that’s caused me to say, “I don’t need an umbrella if this is as bad as it’s going to get,” and then it gets worse, it turns into moderate rain that’s not that bad but it might as well be heavy rain because I’m probably going to be out in it for a while. There have been a few short periods when the rain stopped but during those times it turned really, really cold and still overcast, and people in the elevator would say, “Can you imagine what it would be like if all this rain were snow?” Yes, as a matter of fact I can imagine that and I’ve been through ice storms and I’m glad that even though the combination of cold and rain isn’t pleasant it could be so much worse.
Finally there was one day last week, the first of March, in fact, which is supposed to come in like a lion, a saying that always confuses me because lions are hot weather creatures. If March comes in cold and wet then the animal it should come in like should be a polar bear, since it’s going to maul you and maybe have a liver with toxic levels of vitamin A. Then, the saying goes, March goes out like a lamb, which makes sense for a month that seems to shit on everything, but that’s another story. This day, though, was not only dry but the sun came out, which was a real kick because most of us had forgotten what it looked like. It was warm too. Well, warm-ish. The temperature went up to almost sixty, Fahrenheit, which is in Celsius is, I think, the square root of 17.2. I left the office in a mood almost as bright as the weather and had a nice walk to the bus stop. There were lots of other people out walking too, and people jogging. Once I got on the bus I saw even more people out walking, jogging, just out enjoying the day. We passed a restaurant with a patio that’s been a pond for the past month, and I’m pretty sure the inside was empty because everyone was sitting outside.
For the first time in weeks I was looking forward to the walk home. Then we got to my stop, I got out, and it started raining. I didn’t need an umbrella when I left.

All You Need To Know.

Sometimes people say to me, “I like art but I don’t understand it.” I understand what they mean. I also don’t understand what they mean.

Art criticism isn’t as hard as a lot of art critics seem to want to make it out to be. The only thing anyone really has to ask themselves when considering a work of art is, Do I like it? And if you can give a lengthy, detailed answer explaining why then congratulations—you’ve got all it takes to be an art critic, because a critic is just somebody whose opinion is longer than anybody else’s.

I think I first realized this many years ago in college when a famous and highly respected art critic came to judge student works. He was so famous I can’t remember his name now, but it doesn’t matter because you probably wouldn’t recognize it anyway. How many art critics can you name? I read a lot of art criticism and history and I can only name about half a dozen and at least two of those are dead but that’s another story.

When the famous and highly respected art critic came to judge the students’ works he explained his method for deciding what was good and what wasn’t.

“Some mornings I want orange juice and some mornings I want tomato juice,” he said. “If I feel like orange juice and you give me tomato juice, even if it’s the world’s best tomato juice, I’m not going to like it.” This was a pretty brave admission from a critic, and probably more than he meant to say—that his judgments were subjective and fallible and likely to change, even from one day to the next. And he’d probably not be too pleased with me interpreting his words that way but, hey, he’s the one who said it. And I don’t feel bad about interpreting him that way because he looked at my friend’s painting and said, “This is pineapple juice. I hate pineapple juice.”

And then he moved on without saying anything else, which I think was unfair of him. He could have offered more and I’d even say that as a critic he should have offered more. The only critic who should be allowed such a terse opinion would be a dead critic and maybe not even then.

There’s a needle somewhere in this verbal haystack and it’s that I like the above picture but I don’t know what to say about it except that to me it’s pineapple juice and I always like pineapple juice.

Remedies To Remember.

Starve a fever, feed a cold.

Ice on a sprain, heat on a strain.

Peroxide on a cut, petroleum jelly on a burn.

Pressure for a bruise, rest for a cramp.

Cooling for sunburn, warming for chilblains.

Sleep for a migraine, exercise for a hangover.

Cayenne oil for soreness, alfalfa juice for swelling.

Breathe deeply with a charley horse, hold your breath with hiccups.

Chicken soup for the flu, broth for the catarrh.

Moisture for itching, wicking for sweating.

Honey for a sore throat, preparations of sulfur for the croup.

Suction for snakebite, ointment for scabies.

Tilt back with a nosebleed, recline with vertigo.

Aspirin for warts, retinoid for carbuncles.

Garlic for gangrene, citrus rind for halitosis.

Warm milk for night terrors, pectin for nervous philtrum.

Poultices for dislocated lobe, molasses for irritable toenail.

Bacon grease for fiddler’s elbow, brandy for well digger’s ass.

Quicklime for a shallow grave, formic acid for badger infestation.

Sticks and stones, rubber and glue.

Bungle in the jungle, that’s all right with me.

 

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