Table of Contents: > A Commonplace Book


The Art Imperative, Part III

The Power of Taste
Zbigniew Herbert

It didn’t require great character at all
our refusal disagreement and resistance
we had a shred of necessary courage
but fundamentally it was a matter of taste
…Yes taste
in which there are fibers of soul the cartilage of conscience

Who knows if we had been better and more attractively tempted sent
rose-skinned women thin as a wafer
or fantastic creatures from the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch
but what kind of hell was there at this time
a wet pit the murderers’ alley the barrack
called a palace of justice
a home-brewed Mephisto in a Lenin jacket
sent Aurora’s grandchildren out into the field
boys with potato faces
very ugly girls with red hands

Verily their rhetoric was made of cheap sacking
(Marcus Tullius kept turning in his grave)
chains of tautologies a couple of concepts like flails
the dialectics of slaughterers no distinctions in reasoning
syntax deprived of beauty of the subjunctive

So aesthetics can be helpful in life
one should not neglect the study of beauty

Before we declare our consent we must carefully examine
the shape of the architecture the rhythm of the drums and pipes
official colors the despicable ritual of funerals

Our eyes and ears refused obedience
the princes of our senses proudly chose exile

It did not require great character at all
we had a shred of necessary courage
but fundamentally it was a matter of taste
…Yes taste
that commands us to get out to make a wry face draw out a sneer
even if for this the precious capital of the body the head
must fall

(art: Pax Sovietica Polish Solidarity Movement Poster, 1980s, © Stapleton Collection)

Multum in Parvo

The compact power of this beautifully rendered instance of Chinese calligraphy, and it’s accompanying description, is breathtaking. Underneath the seaming simplicity of the rendering and the relationships of brushstrokes lies a mechanism as precise and interdependent as a timepiece.

It’s emblematic of the profound pleasures of its source – an essay called Multum in Parvo, by Carl Zigrosser, the Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the 50’s and 60’s. The phrase means “Much in little” – where “a multiplicity of detail is concentrated into a unified principle, the particular is transformed into the universal, a largeness of meaning is conveyed with the utmost economy of means.” The essay was published in a elegant, carefully crafted, hardbound edition in 1965. Out of print, copies are plentiful and cheap, and can be found here.

Wish I was here…

Given the way this week is going, I wish this notepad cover was dimensional portal rather than a simple piece of fab period ephemera. Oh well… This Del E. Webb’s an interesting cat. Time’s Man of Year in 1964, Webb, “a  Phoenix construction man with a can-do reputation” helped Bugsy Siegal build Las Vegas. From scratch. Interesting bio here.

Robert Longo’s Place

Shots taken by Todd Selby of Robert Longo in his studio. For me it’s the smudgy texture of everything surrounding his deep, velvety drawings. Especially evocative are the shots of his supplies – more like mechanics gear, overlaid with an archipelago of black smears. Everything here suggests a great physicality behind the smooth rich sheen and stark contrast of his finished work. Longo has compared his drawing style to sculpture, saying “when I draw with graphite I smudge it with my fingers, move it around physically, it’s like clay. Painting is painting on the surface, covering up, where drawing is putting the picture into the paper like a photograph.”

It’s a testament to their power that they retain a so much of this can u order vicodin online muscularity, materiality, and weight when hung in the hermetic space of a gallery. However, they seem especially at home in the studio. It’s like seeing a big ship being assembled in dry-dock from far overhead, and seeing the complex mechanics behind something that will later glide with such heavy grace on the water.

(Below for your pleasure, are a few selections from his iconic 80’s series Men in the Cities. They have, I think, aged particularly well, and seem, now, emblematic of their era rather than beholden to it. Longo also maintains an excellent, comprehensive website with generous galleries spanning his entire career. Also, Selby’s ongoing, long running series of arty glitterati in their homes is amazing and worth checking out frequently)

Thou Shalt Not…

Thou shalt not show the law defeated, or the inside of a thigh, or lace lingerie, or a dead man, or narcotics, or drinking, or an exposed bosom, gambling, a pointing vicodin to buy gun, or a tommy gun. — This 1940’s photo stacks all ten cardinal sins forbidden at the time by movie studio self-censorship regulations into a ziggurat of sin. Aces.

Draw 50 Aircraft & Spacecraft

Illustrations from Draw 50 Airplanes, Aircraft, and Spacecraft, by Lee J Ames, published by Doubleday in 1977. If I remember correctly, besides following the steps accurately, a successful drawing required that you loudly mimic the sounds of the craft as you drew it.

For your pleasure, a layout…

frigidaire

This swatch of an old ad is a poem for the eye. The different inflections of voice in each typeface and the elegant cascade from one line to the next give it a wonderfully nuanced read. I love the way the human how to buy vicodin over the internet touch of the girl is offset by the right angles of her gesture. It’s composed perfectly, like an expert round of Jenga – completely stable but full of tensions and cross balances. Good show, little layout, good show!

Dreaming a Beautiful

derek_stationary

Master illustrator Frank Frazetta’s stationary design for addlepatted sun children Bo and John Derek’s movie production company, Svengali. I was going to leave the commentary at that, but I was riding my bike this afternoon, and the Walkman offered up Sheena, by Trader Horne, a long forgotten British psych-folk outfit. Hardly a stanza had passed when I realized the song was a tone poem to the idea of Bo Derek. I share it here, below, for your pleasure:

Sheena, Trader Horn:

 

Kay Ryan

magglass

NOTHING VENTURED

Nothing exists as a block
and cannot be parceled up.
So if nothing is ventured
it’s not just talk;
it’s the big wager
Don’t you wonder
how people think
the banks of space
and time don’t matter?
How they’ll drain
the big tanks down to
slime and salamanders
and want thanks?

REPULSIVE THEORY

Little has been made
of the soft, skirting action
of magnets reversed,
while much has been
made of attraction.
But is it not this pillowy
principle of repulsion
that produces the
doily edges of oceans
or the arabesques of thought?
And do these cutout coasts
and incurved rhetorical beaches
not baffle the onslaught
of the sea or objectionable people
and give private life
what small protection it’s got?
Praise then the oiled motions
of avoidance, the pearly
convolutions of all that
slides off or takes a
wide berth; praise every
eddying vacancy of Earth,
all the dimpled depths
of pooling space, the whole
swirl set up by fending-off—
extending far beyond the personal,
I’m convinced—
immense and good
in a cosmological sense:
unpressing us against
each other, lending
the necessary never
to never-ending.

Kay Ryan’s poems are a public service. They burrow into the overlooked and taken-for-granted and uncover something intrinsic and valuable. Her contribution lies in recovering buy vicodin on silk road insight trapped in cliches and bromides. Her poems pause to illuminate the darkness just before dawn, linger over the texture of the fabric of life, and note the passing of water under the bridge. In Nothing Ventured she detects the weight and scale of nothing itself, and marvels at how casually we gamble it away. She is also a consummate observer of the whirring gizmos of existence. Indeed, “little has been made of the soft skirting action of magnets reversed.” By the end of Repulsive Theory, the lovingly rendered “pillowy principle of repulsion” is invested with a precise and staggering physical and poetic power, doodling the edges of continents, “unpressing us against each other, lending the necessary never to never-ending.” Now our Poet Laureate, all her books are endlessly rewarding, and while some are rare, Niagara River, Elephant Rocks and Say Uncle are easily found. A great overview can be found here. (Image: Roy Lictenstein, Magnifying Glass, 1963)

Image Compression Standards

lena

This is a crop of a photo of Lena Söderberg, the centerfold of the November 1972 issue of Playboy. In 1973, engineers at the USC Signal and Image Processing Institute used it as a test image in their research. The data they collected from the image, specifically the red, green, blue color channel data, have become the standard benchmark for image compression quality ever since. That research also built the foundation for the image compression algorithms used in JPG and MP3s. It adds, I think, a nice resonance to know that the quality of much of what we listen to and see online is tuned to this fetching image. (two great geeky observations and articles on Lena here and here)

Why Pop?

We bargain in good faith, those of us who will read anything, hoping at least to complicate ourselves, at most to save our souls… we put up with a lot and forgive even more… in return for vitality, spontaneity, and the occasional hot flash, we pretend not to notice what’s skin-deep, addlepated, nasty, brutish, and short.

– John Leonard, review of ” The Diviners” by Rick Moody
New York Times, February 9, 2006

For Your Pleasure 2008

For_Your_Pleasure_2008_Front FYP_2008a_back

So, here, below, please find a recreated, reposted version of the first in the For Your Pleasure series, from 2008.

It was originally posted at my old ad agency’s then-obligatory “weblog.” That post, along with this, marked the beginning of a good four/five years of committed blogging and writing. I set things up over here at shepelavy.com shortly after, and, well, here we are, still transmitting in the wilderness.

Looking back I can see why I wanted to commemorate that year in music. So much boss tunage! Stew’s remarkable musical Passing Strange opened on Broadway that year. Embedded deep in its soulful heart was “Arlington Hill” – a gorgeous benediction to ardent, addled, questing oddballs everywhere – “Yes, suddenly there is a meaning… and everything’s alright”

It was a banner year for swinging psych — I had finally tracked down the erotically volcanic “Mundo Colorido” by Brazilian jazz chanteuse Vanusa; gotten turned onto the Cambodian rock melange of Dengue Fever; lost it for the hi-gloss epic 60’s revivalism of the Last Shadow Puppets.

Neon Neon remains an enduring one-off treasure – the gonzo synth soaked tribute to the life of 80’s avatar John Delorean.

There were comebacks & old head hits galore: Stereolab and REM released their most vital work in years; the long abandoned second album by Sandy Denny’s Fotheringay was finally, lovingly cobbled together; a delightful egghead pop record by Byrne/Eno; and the Psychedelic Furs played one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, playing with genuine punk passion to a small motley crowd in a now shuttered, forgotten West Philly niteclub.

Can’t remember where I happened upon the spellbinding, spooky spoken-word charms of Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia – as evocative, singular, wordy and weird as their name.  The apocalyptic synth-punk of Lost Sounds sizzled and Amanda Palmer’s barrelhouse melodramas were still well inside their sell-by freshness date.

And, as welcome and pleasant then, as now, and ever, ladies and gentlemen — the seasonal zephyr we like to call the Sea and Cake.

Total time: 53 minutes. Download the comp here. Thanks for listening. Cheers.