Friday, January 29, 2010

Celebrating Robbie Burns' Birthday

January 25th was Robbie Burns' birthday.

Statue of Robert Burns in Dumfries town centre.
Photo by Ron Waller.

Here's a bit of a poem and some belated links about the Scottish poet, whose birthday has been celebrated with annual dinners for over two hundred years.

From Tam o'Shanter

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white—then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the Rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.—
Nae man can tether Time nor Tide...

The complete songs of Robert Burns
Robert Burns supper recipes
Kids' activities
A Robert Burns DVD
A nice surreal version of Burns by Calum Colvin

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Map They Could All Understand

He had brought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

~Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark

Back in November 2008, we took a look at globes and I said we'd look at maps some other week. This is some other week!

Tourne Tourne Petit Moulin
By Elisabeth Lecourt

By Elizabeth Daggar
Liz provides info about each country, such as this page about Januarria.

Eva Just Had to Move she grew herself a head and some feet, and went looking for a healthier forest.
By Cori Dantini

Leo Belgicus, map of the Low Countries (1611)
By Jodocus Hondius (1563–1612)

Chasing the Dragon
By Matthew Cusick

The earth as a jester

All the Tea in China
By Susan Stockwell, made with tea bags and cotton thread
Copyright 2010 Susan Stockwell. Any use is prohibited without the written permission of Susan Stockwell.

Many links this week:
~ Library of Congress Map Collection
~ The Voyage of the Pequod (Moby Dick)
~ Upside Down World Map
~ Handmade Map Rose
~ Strange Maps blog
~ The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography (book)
~ Bird Notecards (painted on maps)
~ World Beat Music Map
~ Mind Map Art (by Astrid Morganne)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Christina Rossetti

Oh, what's that in the hollow...?
by Edward Robert Hughes, circa 1895

Poems by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) today.

Amor Mundi reminds me of E.A. Poe, because it sends a shiver down my spine. Rossetti knows creepy.

Amor Mundi
By Christina Rossetti

“Oh where are you going with your love-locks flowing
  On the west wind blowing along this valley track?”
“The downhill path is easy, come with me an it please ye,
  We shall escape the uphill by never turning back.”

So they two went together in glowing August weather,
  The honey-breathing heather lay to their left and right;
And dear she was to dote on, her swift feet seemed to float on
  The air like soft twin pigeons too sportive to alight.

“Oh what is that in heaven where gray cloud-flakes are seven,
  Where blackest clouds hang riven just at the rainy skirt?”
“Oh that’s a meteor sent us, a message dumb, portentous,
  An undeciphered solemn signal of help or hurt.”

"Oh what is that glides quickly where velvet flowers grow thickly,
  Their scent comes rich and sickly?”­“A scaled and hooded worm.”
“Oh what’s that in the hollow, so pale I quake to follow?”
  “Oh that’s a thin dead body which waits the eternal term.”

“Turn again, O my sweetest,­turn again, false and fleetest:
  This beaten way thou beatest I fear is hell’s own track.”
“Nay, too steep for hill-mounting; nay, too late for cost-counting:
  This downhill path is easy, but there’s no turning back.”


I thought about Robert Frost when I read these poems, thinking that Frost liked taking the harder path (the one less traveled) and that Rossetti liked the harder one as well (the one up-hill). But then I reread The Road Not Taken and noticed that the road less traveled wasn't harder. We tend to think of it that way because that makes it meaningful for us. Huh.

by Christina Rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
  Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
  From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
  A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
  You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
  Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when 'ust in sight?
  They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
  Of labor you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
  Yea, beds for all who come.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Civil Rights Sculptures

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

How do you make civil rights struggles come alive with just a hunk of metal or block of cement?

Like this:

Police Dog Attack
Sculpture by James Drake, Photo by Chris Denbow

Birmingham Alabama's Historical Preservation Authority commissioned striking sculptures to commemorate the civil rights marches of 1963. The sculptures are located in Kelly Ingram Park, which used to be off-limits to people of color, and is across the street from the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church, where four girls were killed by a Ku Klux Klan bomb in 1963. Powerful history makes for powerful sculptures.

Children's March ("I ain't afraid of your jail")
Sculpture by James Drake

Firehosing of Demonstrators
Sculpture by James Drake

The Foot Soldier
Sculpture by Ronald S. McDowell, Photo by Dave Barger

Three Ministers Kneeling
The statue was based on the Revs. N.H. Smith Jr., A.D. King and John T. Porter, who led a march in downtown Birmingham on Palm Sunday 1963 to support the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and Ralph Abernathy, who had been jailed.
Sculpture by Raymond Kaskey, Photo by Linda Stelter

~ Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Making Connections: A Curriculum Guide For Grades K-12.
~ A nice brochure about the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Trail
~ The Society of Architectural Historians blogged about their civil rights tour.
~ Save Outdoor Sculpture's "Caring for Outdoor Sculptures" questionnaires, forms, and info.
~ While we're at it, Save Outdoor Sculpture also has a page on rescuing public murals.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Updike and Lewis, poetry books for children

photo by Benh Lieu Song

A couple of books of children's poetry to share today. They aren't new, but they were new to me. J. Patrick Lewis' book has poems to go with famous monuments, such as the Great Wall of China and the Statue of Liberty. I liked how his poems "echoed" the buildings in some way.

From Monumental Verses
by J. Patrick Lewis

Arc de Triomphe
Built 1806-1836

Triumphal Roman arcs
Were magic doors
For ancient soldiers who,
Surviving wars,
Resumed their lives
As ordinary men
By merely passing through
Them once again...


John Updike's A Child's Calendar (with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman)
has poems for every month. I love his descriptions of nature in particular.

from January
by John Updike

The days are short,
  The sun a spark
Hung thin between
  The dark and dark.


The river is
  A frozen place
Held still beneath
  The trees' black lace.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gardening Lost Hope

Our theme this week is fantastical eclectica...

Jason deCaires Taylor's Underwater Sculpture Park would give me goosebumps in person. Can you imagine accidentally happening upon his sculptures?

TamCC Project


The Gardener of Lost Hope

The Archive of Lost Dreams

Taylor is environmentally-sensitive with his work, and his site explains that the sculptures "highlight ecological processes whilst exploring the intricate relationships between modern art and the environment. By using sculptures to create artificial reefs, the artist’s interventions promote hope and recovery, and underline our need to understand and protect the natural world. The sculptures are sited in clear shallow waters to afford easy access by divers, snorkellers and those in glass-bottomed boats. Viewers are invited to discover the beauty of our underwater planet and to appreciate the processes of reef evolution."


Andrew Davidhazy is an RIT professor of Imaging and Photographic Technology who posts a generous amount of photography information online. He also shows some of his own fascinating photos, like these high speed ones. In particular, I liked the frozen lemon exploding, water rebounding out of cup, and the candle flames seen in schlieren beam. But the sneeze was also striking, in an "Ewww!" kind of way.

Candle Flames Seen in Schlieren Beam

I like calendars that I can look at for a while and still see something new, which is why I have enjoyed calendars by these two artists:

Daniel Merriam

Thomas Barbey

This article by Hugh Hart shows Terry Gilliam's terrific storyboards for the movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and discusses how they were used. I think my favorites are the Hot Air Balloon and the Monastery, but then there's also Tony's Crag and the Doctor's Wagon...

Have you heard of The Lightning Field by Walter De Maria? This huge land sculpture was new to me, although it has been up since 1977. It is made up of 400 stainless steel poles situated in a one mile by one kilometer area in New Mexico. The location is remote and in the desert -- you can't just casually go see it. There's a cabin where you can stay (from May-Oct) when you are visiting it, and they expect you to take your time. The foundation that maintains the installation says: "The Lightning Field is intended to be experienced over an extended period of time. A full experience of The Lightning Field does not depend upon the occurrence of lightning, and visitors are encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the field, especially during sunset and sunrise." They ask that you not post photos, which I have honored.

I found this article about a trip to see it very interesting: A Pilgrimage to The Lightning Field by Todd Gibson

Also, here's visitor information.

Friday, January 8, 2010

They Follow Still...

by Auguste Rodin

Have you heard the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice? They were very much in love, but Eurydice stepped on a poisonous snake and came to a sad end. Orpheus, a magnificent musician, played songs about his loss that were so sweet, so poignant, that he was given a chance to bring Eurydice back from the Underworld.

Orpheus was forbidden to look back at Eurydice while he led her out of the Underworld -- if he turned to look, she would be lost to him forever. Would you have looked?

Orpheus couldn't help himself. He did not live much longer after losing Eurydice the second time, and Zeus laid his lyre among the stars.

Lyra, the constellation of the lyre. The brightest star is Vega, which is the second brightest star of the northern hemisphere.

Many poets and artists have been inspired by these tragic lovers. For instance, Rainier Maria Rilke wrote Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes. (translated from German by Stephen Cohn, 1997):

…[Orpheus] had to tell himself: They follow still.
He spoke the words aloud and heard them fade.
How soundlessly they moved! The silence gnawed
At him. Although he knew one backward glance
Must utterly destroy the whole design
So nearly now achieved, he ached, he longed
At last to halt, to turn and look behind
And in the distance see those other two
Who followed but who stayed so strangely mute:
The God of distant journeys, God of Messages,
Whose eyes were bright beneath the dusty hood,
His slender baton held in front of him
And at his feet the ever-beating wings;
Beside him, held at his left hand, walked she.


I read about Sue Hubbard's Eurydice recently -- it was a poem written specifically to be read at the Waterloo underpass in England.

Apparently, Eurydice was well-loved by travelers and passers-by, but it was painted over. There is a campaign to bring it back.

It's a lovely poem. I hope this story has a happy ending.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


“You be careful. People in masks cannot be trusted.”
~Fezzik from The Princess Bride

This week, we're wearing the mask...

Alderwood mask of a woman of high rank, possibly Djil√°quons
(They can tell she is "of high rank" because of her lip plug, called a labret.)
Haida, around AD 1830, from British Columbia
from the British Museum

from Magic of Venezia

Japanese Goldfish Mask
by Merimask

Plague Doctor Mask
It's understandable that doctors would have wanted to avoid catching the plague from their patients. But frankly, if I saw someone coming at me wearing this, I'm not sure how well I would have reacted. (Then again, if I had the plague, maybe I wouldn't have cared.) Shelley Batts offers some info about plague doctor garb here.

I like some other plague doctor masks, such as this one and this one.

Singing Spirit Mask
by Phillip John Charette, "Aarnaquq", Yup'ik tribe, Alaska

Mende Bundu Society (Sowei) Mask
From the Africa exhibit on the SJSU gallery site: "This twentieth century mask from the Sande Society in Sierra Leone was used for ceremonial purposes in the initiation of young girls entering adulthood."



* Mr. Delahunt's Mask Making how-to page (using plaster bandages -- I would love to try working with those sometime.)
* More mask-making
* A cool lesson plan using Sowei Helmet Masks to talk about beauty and culture.
* One more African mask.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Open the window in the center of your chest...

I discovered today's poem on Liz Garton Scanlon's blog. It reminds me of this quote by Walt Whitman:

All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments.

Where Everything Is Music
by Jelaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

Don't worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn't matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world's harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can't see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.