Saturday, November 29, 2008

two pictures

Giovanni Paolo Pannini, "Picture gallery with views of ancient Rome" (1758).

I love paintings like this. Firstly because I love paintings of architecture. I like buildings and cities and public spaces, and I like how the lines of buildings compliment or contrast with the lines of perspective and the frame of the painting. Secondly because I love paintings within paintings. I love this impossible imaginary gallery with its majestic baroque vaults and its jumble of artworks representing the classical architecture which was the original model for that baroque. The galley has an unlikely opening at the back that reveals some king of monumental gate. To the left of the gate we see a painting of the arch of Constantine (another gate) and to the right the pantheon, its columns almost parallel to those of the gate. Which is more real? The sky outside matches the sky of the paintings. The style of the paintings is the same as that of the framing painting itself, and we almost get the sense that this hall is filled with mirrors or windows set at odd angles. To the right we have Trajan's column with its barely distinguishable frieze representing his imperial triumphs -- art within art within art. Of course, we would be seeing this in the Louvre, so we find ourselves in a gallery surrounded by paintings as we look at this one. Maybe we are in a painting as well?

I love the bravado of it. Why paint one just one painting when you can paint a gallery? A Borgesian labyrinth of paintings and play between styles and lines in which the dizzy spectator loses track of where he or she is, whether in Rome or in the imaginary gallery or in the real one.

When I was a child, one of the bathrooms in my house had a large mirror that had two wing-mirrors that could be folded out. I used to fold them into a triangle, leaving only enough space to stick my head in so that I could see an infinite forest of Liams, fading in distant green images of the weakening light spectrum. I know what Pannini was after -- holding infinity in the palm of his hand.

"Portrait of a Youth" (Lucrezia Borgia?) by
Dosso Dossi.

The second picture, it has been asserted recently, is the only known painting of Lucrezia Borgia, the great femme fatale of the Renaissance. Only one question: hot or not?

Friday, November 21, 2008

I would very much like one, please, thank you

A woolly freakin' mammoth

Yesterday I read in the Times that some scientists believe they can reconstruct the DNA of a woolly mammoth from hair that has been preserved, and even bring one to life:
There are talks on how to modify the DNA in an elephant’s egg so that after each round of changes it would progressively resemble the DNA in a mammoth egg. The final-stage egg could then be brought to term in an elephant mother, and mammoths might once again roam the Siberian steppes.
That would be a hell of a way to confuse Vladimir Putin. The article laconically added:
The same would be technically possible with Neanderthals, whose full genome is expected to be recovered shortly, but there would be several ethical issues in modifying modern human DNA to that of another human species.
Yeah, you think?

I actually think that there are ethical issues involved in bringing back a species that nature had already decided to retire. Any thoughts on that?

At the same time, having a real live woolly mammoth around would be very cool, and I would like to have one, thank you very much, please.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

best bathroom graffiti so far

Ancient Roman latrines, Ephesus.

The best I've see so far, from the Reed College Student Union's Men's Room, mid-1980's:

"Please do not throw cigarette butts in the urinal. It makes them soggy and difficult to light."

Monday, November 17, 2008

is my cat trying to kill me?

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

Hat-tip Sandalstraps.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

new links

...a world of possibilities...

I've added three new links to the sidebar, and all three will provide my dear readers with hours of strangeness and beauty.

Cabinet of Wonders is a site maintained by a writer named Heather McDougal, and it features well-written posts covering all sorts of oddities. It is 17th-century Wunderkammer meets steampunk. Heather describes it well:
What we have here is a Cabinet of Wonders, a place where things of interest are set out, in possibly bizarre, possibly fetishistic presentation, for perusal by the discerning, who understand that presentation, and scientific interest, are all a form of magic.
The other two sites are short on words, but rich in imagery. If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats is a group blog dedicated to... well... pop culture, I guess... Just a lot of strange images, archived under provocative categories.

The Roving Medievalist is the main blog of Jeffrey Smith, Ohio's greatest monarchist, and features lovely photos of usually medieval churches. Scroll down his sidebar and check out some of his numerous other blogs, including one dedicated to Baroque architecture (Frozen Music) and cemeteries (A Morbid Fascination). Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

spes vicit timorem

Columbia University, 12:45 AM, Nov. 5, 2008.

The Latin phrase above was sent to me last night by my friend and colleague Steve after Obama won the election. "Hope conquers fear."

We voted yesterday around 4:00, since we wanted to wait until Filius imperatricis pulcherrima Africae occidentalis got out of school so he could accompany us to the polls. Then we settled down for a tense night with the TV and the laptop, as I flitted between a half dozen different websites and exchanged instant messages with William. Once Penn went, I started to relax. Ohio came through, and when the polls closed in California, we knew. I was in shock, Imperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis was in tears. About 12:30 we went out for a walk. Crowds flowed up and down Broadway cheering and crying. We stepped on to campus where a group of people were jumping up and down, yelling and hugging. Sponteneous chants broke out. "O-ba-ma," of course, and varients of "Yes, we can" ("Yes, we did;" "yes, we could"), but also "de-mo-cra-cy!" and "U-S-A!" People sang the national anthem and "America the Beautiful."

One black student shouted, "Our first president! Suck it, Harvard!" (Obama graduated from Columbia).

This was a victory for Democrats, for blue Manhattan, for students and for African-Americans, yes, but it was more than that. It was a victory for our country. The McCain campaign made the choice clear -- unable to formulate any real vision for the country, they made it about fear of change and culture war and devisiveness, about race. Pennsylvannia and Ohio were not suppposed to vote for a black man. "Real" Virginia was not supposed to vote for a Democrat. North Carolina was supposed to re-elect their senator because of religious slurs. The United States of America said no, thank you.

My country made me proud last night. Spes vicit timorem.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

s & c implores...


Monday, November 03, 2008

s & c endorses

Barack Obama for President of the United States.