Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lab Rat

                                                       Alcoholic Rat, Pittsburgh, 2014

If I was a lab rat, and experiments were going to be conducted on me, I guess there are worse things than being force fed booze.  Although, it does sort of remind me of the ironic punishment realm of hell as defined by The Simpsons in "Treehouse of Horror IV" .  That aside, the importance and history of specifically bred strains of lab rats to study alcoholism has proven to help researchers understand the disease in humans.  It all boils down to your genes as to whether or not you are more susceptible to becoming an alcoholic, or whether you'll be able to set that bottle down and walk away after one or two.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Whores of Boiled Leather

16th Century German Halberd, Cleveland Museum of Art, 2014

I recently finished reading - actually listening to while I drove or puttered around the house - George R.R. (because one 'r' isn't enough!!!!) Martin's 5 book opus (so far, with more books to follow, eventually), "Game of Thrones: A Song of Fire and Ice".  While I am a HUGE fan of the HBO show, Game of Thrones, I am less enthralled by its work of origin.  Martin's insistence on repeating himself endlessly, describing each detail over and over again as if it were new, taking up pages and pages with tiresome minutiae that detracts more than it adds to the overall narrative.  When you trim off the fat you have what the show presents, which is lean, fast-paced storytelling at its best.
But what I found most disturbing about the 5 books came about  in the last two: "A Feast For Crows" and "A Dance With Dragons".  In both books the female characters are treated even more violently than in the previous three, and are nearly universally referred to as either 'whores' or 'cunts'.   This was shocking.  I applaud Martin's abilities in world-building, of which he is a master, but he is a wretched writer, or has become a wretched writer.  Despite the conflated verbosity of the first 3 books, the writing isn't so laborious that you want to throw the book across the room with great force, but there were enormous sections of the last 2 books when I left the room while the CDs spun their tales of boiled leather and whores.  I folded laundry, I went to the post office, I took the dog for a walk.  Never once did I lose the thread of the story because precious little was happening.  Whores!  Boiled leather!  Corn!
My only interest at this point in seeing Martin finish the series is for the sake of the show.  Although if he doesn't, at this point, I trust the show runners, D. B. Weiss and David Benioff, to finish the story of Westeros for him, and us. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Looking Along Broadway Towards Grace Church, 1981

Streetview, Cleveland, 2014

Red Grooms created this piece that now hangs in the Cleveland Museum of Art, a painting-like sculpture depicting the hustle and bustle of lower Manhattan as he experienced it.  At once crowded and colorful, noisy and diverse, there's a mastery in how he constructs the sense of depth and place.

Friday, November 21, 2014

My Little Pony and Death of a Toreador

My Little Pony and Death of a Toreador, Pittsburgh, 2014


Unbeknownst to me, while I was researching some of Picasso's paintings and the inspirations behind them, My Little Pony wandered into the scene, witnessing first hand the gore and brutality that takes place within the lurid confines of the bullfighting ring.  Traumatized beyond all comprehension, she then withdrew, stage right, and has not been  seen since. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Urban Living Fossil

Ginkgo biloba Leaves, Pittsburgh, 2014

Those times when I start to feel depressed, for whatever reason, I try to remind myself that I am not just surrounded by wonder, I am immersed in it.  Such was the day today while walking down Fifth Ave in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, I looked down and immediately recognized the distinctive fan-like shape of the ginkgo leaf.  Possibly one of the most fascinating trees on the planet, if the fossil record is to be believed (and I'm a believer), the ginkgo has existed for well over 200 million years, placing it in the Mesozoic Era alongside the dinosaurs.  The first deciduous seed producing tree, the ginkgo has witnessed the waxing and waning of countless species.  It's hard to imagine any form of life being able to adapt to various changes in climate over deep time, but the ginkgo has proven to be extremely resilient.  Today it's a popular urban tree for its tolerance of pollution. 
Those shed leaves cheered me a bit this morning as I made my way through the bitter cold.  All hail the mighty ginkgo!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Murder of Crows

Roosting Crows, Millvale, PA, 2014

While driving through Millvale the other evening on our way to somewheres else, we witnessed a large number of crows gathering to roost in the nearly barren treetops on a hill near a desanctified church.  The whole thing was more than a tad spooky and surreal.  But, it seems, that crows congregating to roost in huge numbers is very common during the fall and winter months.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hollywood Film Awards And Other Misrepresentations

Godzilla Backdrop, Pittsburgh, 2014

We, I, had the misfortune last evening of having left the channel on CBS and then being subjected to their phony Hollywood Film Awards.  These awards carry about as much weight as those trophies handed out to every kid who participated in t-ball.  Worse than meaningless, they are an insult to both the movie going public and the myriad of people who toil so hard* to create entertaining, engaging, thought-provoking cinema.  The HFA are the opposite of all of that.  It seems that the winners (there are no nominees, only winners) are chosen by a secret junta comprised of publicists.  The winning movie, actor, screenplay needn't have even premiered or been screened!  As long as the junta is in agreement, then okey dokey.
A few  lowlights:
Hillary Swank not told that writer Gillian Flynn's first name is pronounced with a hard 'G' as in 'gill' not 'jill'.  This is an honest mistake and one that we made up until I listened to an interview with Flynn on NPR.
Robert Duval, after receiving the Best Supporting Actor Award, delivered a nonsensical (what was not, sadly, to be the only nonsensical) speech about God only knows what.  Where is Meryl Streep when you need her?  No where near this hot mess, that's for sure.
It was painful to behold Queen Latifah trying to justify the very existence of these awards and lend them some semblance of credence.  She failed because there was no other option.
Career Achievement Award goes to...Michael Keaton.  Apart from the upcoming movie 'Birdman', Mr. Keaton hasn't made a film that I've been aware of since....I don't know when.  'Batman Returns', maybe.  That was another uncomfortable moment as they tried to justify giving him that sort of award.
The most uncomfortable moment came when a completely and utterly wasted drunken Johnny Depp took to the stage and rambled and cursed, rambled some more and then cursed up a storm.  This might be a bit amusing, except to see someone this inebriated is always sad, because you know they have a real problem, not just a tiny manageable problem like me.
All of this added up to the sort of embarrassment that one seldom sees, and doesn't necessarily ever want to witness again.
*Excludes anything by Tyler Perry or Kirk Cameron