1999 Notebook: Interval XII

16 April 1999
Getting Passion Backward
By Jupiter, I've got it all wrong. According to Desiderius Erasmus:

    Jupiter, not wanting man's life to be wholly gloomy and grim, has bestowed far more passion than reason--you could reckon the ratio as twenty-four to one. Moreover, he confined reason to a cramped corner of the head and left all the rest of the body to the passions.

I got that out of his 1509 book, Praise of Folly. And so now it appears that I'm doing everything backward. My ratio of passion to reason is about one to twenty-four.

I think Arthur Tress had an interesting perspective on the lack of passion in contemporary art:

    "Perhaps why so much of today's photography doesn't 'grab us' or mean anything to our personal lives is that it fails to touch upon the hidden life of the imagination and fantasy which is hungry for stimulation. The documentary photographer supplies us with facts or drowns us in humanity, while the pictorialist, avant-garde or conservative, pleases us with mere aesthetically correct compositions--but where are the photographs we can pray to, that will make us well again, or scare the hell out of us? Most of mankind's art for the past 5,000 years was created for just these purposes. It seems absurd to stop now."

Passion is scary; it's also embarrassing even when expressed well. It's embarrassing especially when expressed well. What's a nicely brought-up boy to do?

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17 April 1999
Between Two Barons
My allegiance to Baron Romero is a fact, publicly stated. In an ideal world, such faithfulness would be rewarded. In this world, though, allegiance is a tricky thing.

I was in a liquor store in a less-than-ideal world when I spotted a bottle of Baron Saint Jean, a cheap French wine. I bought a couple of bottles, which each cost ten pennies more than a bottle of Baron Romero, a cheap Spanish wine.

I drank the wine, then contrasted the two barons' offerings. They were each pleasant in their own way. One tasted like grape-flavored lighter fluid; the other tasted like bad port and kerosene. The trouble is that I can't remember which was which.

I wonder what Baron Romero will make of my experiment?

18 April 1999
Insecure Shite
When I was in high school, I mounted a small, unauthorized exhibition of my work in one of the school's glass display cases. A friend showed me how to bend the glass just far enough to slip the lock out, and ever since then the first thing I look at in glass display cases is whether or not they'd be easy to break into. (For the record, I've never broken into one since high school, even the ones that had worthless locks.)

The other day I was at an art school examining the glass display cases; they were much more interesting than the students' work displayed in them. I saw something I'd never seen before: the cases had no locks at all. I decided to report the lapse in security to the night watchman.

The guard wasn't concerned.

"No one'll steal that shite," he said dismissively. And for emphasis, he added, "It's shite, man, complete and utter student shite."

I had to admit that, unlike the students, the old man hadn't spent years in the art school without learning anything.

19 April 1999
Biological Superiority
A friend was recently in an unpleasant business transaction that almost concluded with her nemesis declaring, "it's a dog-eat-dog world." I say "almost" because my friend knows her biology.

"I'm sorry, pal, but it is not a dog-eat-dog world," she declared. "It is, in fact, a gerbil-eat-gerbil world. And you, pal, are such a gerbil."

She reported that her antagonist, befuddled by her superior grasp of biology, then accepted all of her unreasonable demands.

What a great anecdote! It makes me wish I'd paid more attention during my science classes.

20 April 1999
Waxing Eloquent
Jane told me that she's been making lots of photographs of Antonio Canova's statue, The Three Graces. It took me a moment to remember which piece she was talking about; I'd always heard it referred to as The Three Bums, a reference to the models' ample derrières. (I suppose one of the great triumphs of Ruben is that such figures are referred to as "Rubenesque," rather than, "Canovalike.")

What really surprised me, though, was the revelation that Canova originally waxed the statues with a delicate, pink wax to enhance the fleshlike qualities of the stone. It reminded me that Edward Weston and the f64 disciples used to wax their prints. (I think they used automobile wax, but I'm not sure.)

I suggested that Jane carry on both traditions by waxing her Canova prints. I wasted my breath.

"It was a stupid idea then, and it's a stupid idea now," she said. "What is it with you and stupid ideas, anyhow?"

Beats me. I'm just lucky, I guess.

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21 April 1999
Is the Sky Vertical or Horizontal?
Is the sky vertical or horizontal? That was the subject of debate at dinner last night. Some people argued passionately that the sky must be horizontal; other guests argued with equal conviction and logic that the sky must, in fact, be vertical.

Many bottles of wine and too few hours of sleep later, the only trace of the learned discussion is a confusing diagram.

Is the sky vertical or horizontal? Probably.

22 April 1999
The Hierarchy of Laziness
A friend suggested I wasn't enjoying my slothfulness as much as I could.

"You may be lazy, but you're not getting the full benefit of your inactivity because you're not shirking your duties" she suggested, and then added, "if you have any duties, that is."

"Take Tuesday afternoon, for example," she said. "The entire board of directors was expecting my report on what to do with a medium-sized company that we bought a month ago. The board was waiting for my recommendation, and, of course, every poor schmuck at the company was waiting for even a hint of what might happen. Brilliantly, at the last minute, I phoned in an obviously phony excuse and then went to a baseball game. I savored every beer that afternoon. Now that's sloth."

I suppose she had a point, although I didn't appreciate the bragging that her inactivity was superior to mine. I may be naïve, but in an ideal world there would be no hierarchy of laziness.

23 April 1999
A Generally Decent Life
I just read a brilliant line in Amy Hansen's obituary in the Times.

"She was generally a decent person, but that never stopped her from being indecent on necessary occasions."

What a tribute!

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24 April 1999
Beryl Graham (snaportrait)
Beryl Graham is my closest friend; that makes this my worst portrait of the recent series.

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart