Friday, August 30, 2013

Peel Me a Grape

Having tracked down the grapes of wrath yesterday, I got wondering about the source of peel me a grape.

First recorded instance:
Mae West says,
"Beulah, peel me a grape" in her 1933 film I'm no Angel ("the one with Cary Grant").

Not from the grape movie, but I love West's dress here, in Belle of the Nineties (1934):
 Costume by Travis Banton. 

And here's Dusty Springfield singing "Peel Me a Grape" on her TV show It Must Be Dusty, August 29, 1967  

Song by Dave Frishberg, 1962. 
Frishberg was born in Saint Paul, MN, in 1933, according to an interview in the Mississippi Rag.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Angry Grape Juice of Khan

"The Grapes of Khan," by Wayne Bressler, from the New Yorker, September 24, 1990 

I was thinking how odd it is to see a reference to Star Trek (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) in the snooty New Yorker, but I think the humor here is based on the pleasure of self-congratulations the reader gets from recognizing the play on "the grapes of wrath," ––even if they don't know the movie––which does fit the NYer.

Then I got wondering, where did that phrase come from? 

I couldn't go back further than John Steinbeck's novel. Wikipedia tells me he got the title of his novel from the Civil War lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

...which draws on some scary crazy imagery from Isaiah (which explains why Khan wears red) and the Book of Revelation:

Isaiah 63:1-6 (King James Version)

63 Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? 
I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?

I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.
And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.
And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.

Revelation 14:14-20 (King James Version)

14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
. . .

18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Very Khan indeed. 

And as a little reward, if you've gotten this far, here's Ricardo Montalban (Khan), modeling happy beef, not angry grapes:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Dog Days Aren't Over (Postcard Paintings)

We're having a heat wave, due to last all week. Even at night, it's broiling:

 This is Aflie, the wire-haired fox terrier I'm sitting. This morning I hosed him down to help him stay cool while I sit in the yard watercoloring.

 And this is me, cooling my head in a sprinkler while out for a walk with my friend Jill yesterday.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Plucking a Rose

Around 1800, going to "pluck a rose" was a euphemism for ladies going to pee.

Wonder how ladies of Jane Austen's time (and before, and after) relieved themselves when away from home, swaddled in all that fine material?

They carried a gravy boat–like item called a bourdaloue which could be used away from home, at a ball, say, or in a carriage. 

"La Bourdaloue",  by French painter François Boucher

Or they used a"close stool": like a commode, with a chamber pot inside.

Maids (or indentured servants, or slaves, depending on where the lady lived) were on hand to dispose of the waste, probably into some sort of cesspit.

Postcard #7: "Pear Where?" (Fresca)

Postcard #7: me to bink
Pear Where? 
January xx, 1992

At Christmas 2013, Bink scanned for me this long-lost series of postcards that we had made and sent each other in 1991-1992.

Click to see all 22 postcards

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How I Started a 365 Blog on a Whim

It's hot today, too hot to go photograph the community garden. I took these in early August. (The garden is right on the Greeway--that's where the rollerbladers are.)  

I'm photographing the garden every month for the calendar the neighborhood alliance puts together every year.  My involvement grew out of the daily photo "365" neighborhood blog I started with a couple others in 2011.

Recently someone looking to start a 365 project in his neighborhood e-mailed me a questionnaire. The questions included how I recruited for, promoted, and financed such an endeavor.

Easy answer: I never did.
I doubted that my experience would be useful to someone with the foresight to think about such things. In fact, I felt a little defensive: if I'd answered his questions the way they were framed, my answers would have read like, How to Do It Wrong

So I reframed the questionnaire into an invitation to reflect a little on the life of the blog.
This is what I wrote:

How I Started a 365 Blog on a Whim

That's great you are launching a 365 project! I loved being part of Phillips Whittier 365 for the couple years it lasted.

I launched P+W365 with what seems to me now a rather impressive lack of forethought:
sitting in a coffee shop on the morning of Feb. 2, 2011, I read a Strib article about the Powderhorn 365 photo blog and saw that the blog's facilitators were holding a workshop that evening. I roped in a pal who happened to be in the coffee shop and happened to own a car (which I don't---it was cold out and if I'd had to bus, I wouldn't have gone).

At the workshop, we met a congenial, similarly serendipitously minded fellow who, unlike me and my pal, was an actual photographer, with a nice camera. He lived in the neighborhood next to ours, so we put our two neighborhoods into one blog, and started that very evening, which happened to be the Asian Lunar New Year.

I'd blogged on Blogger before, so I used that platform again for the very good reason that I knew how. I'm as happy with it as a person who doesn't have a basis for comparison can be.
(But if I did it again, I'd set up a Facebook account too.)

Within a few months, both of the other photogs had dropped out. Turned out the congenial neighbor's relationship with substances affected his reliability: he took the cash we chipped in to buy business cards (Powderhorn bloggers suggested getting these, to hand to potential subjects) and never placed the order or posted any more pictures, even though I e-mailed him saying we missed him.
And then my pal's cheap-o camera broke.
But through word of mouth, a couple friends of friends joined, and some other pals occasionally guest shot photos.

Perhaps not surprisingly, with this sort of management, the blog sort of wobbled along. We never had enough photographers to cover every day, for instance, and a couple of us doubled-up on days. After the first year, we decided not to commit to any particular days--people posted when they wanted, and everyone posted their own stuff, directly. No overseer.

You might be thinking by now, no wonder this 365 project is no longer operative.
And you'd be right. We basically ran on serendipity until we used it up.

Also, we never tried to raise any money (beyond that first pooling of our resources for biz cards) or hold shows or do any promotion at all. 
(We did meet for coffee once in a while.)

P'horn 365, in contrast, runs a tight ship and is still going strong, so I expect their model might be more helpful to you.

Our blog did wind up in the Whittier Alliance 2013 calendar, however, and through that I am now one of the photographers for their upcoming 2014 calendar.
So one thing led to another, as it tends to do, and that pleases me.

This must sound very half-assed, and it was. It was also wonderful.
A few months after starting the blog, I spent 6 weeks walking the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. Every so often I had access to a computer, and when I looked in on P+W365, the photos were so . . . well, from far away, even the most casual snap of home seems exotic.

Very worthwhile, to see your neighborhood as somewhere else, which is really, to answer your very first question, why I started the project in the first place.

So, good luck with your 365!

My best, Fresca

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Postcard Painting: Red Chair, Lake Superior

By Lake Superior, Duluth (actually an inlet, Saint Louis Bay, by the Munger Inn)

I'm trying to do faster, lighter postcards.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I am your writing self and I am watching you sit there.

Dave Eggers writes: 
"I am your shower curtain and I am watching you..." 
Whoops! Ha, no, wrong image--just something I ran across, researching sanitation. 
Here's Dave Eggers with the shower curtain he wrote for The Thing Quarterly.
Could I use this in the sanitation history book I'm working on?
By "working", I mean sitting here. Dave Eggers nails it:
This kind of life is at odds with the romantic notions I once had, and most people have, of the writing life. We imagine more movement, somehow. We imagine it on horseback. Camelback? We imagine convertibles, windswept cliffs, lighthouses. We don’t imagine - or I didn’t imagine - quite so much sitting. I know it makes me sound pretty naive, that I would expect to be writing while, say, skiing. But still. The utterly sedentary nature of this task gets to me every day.
I spend seven or eight hours… each time I try to write. Most of that time is spent stalling, which means that for every seven or eight hours I spend pretending to write - sitting in the writing position, looking at a screen - I get, on average, one hour of actual work done. It’s a terrible, unconscionable ratio. 

L'Astronave, now serving wine!

Parody of the Italian Quaretermass movie poster I posted a couple days ago. (From here.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Search Term of the Day

Isn't it great how we can search our mangled guesses and, pretty often, actually find what we wanted?

Like, Blogger stats informs me that whoever typed in betroit becht life of others was led to my post, Brecht Poem from The Lives of Others

Search engines are as good as a psychic librarian or something.

_________Not only did it find this cartoon for me when I googled man searches for book with "the in the title" but it intuited that I have always wanted to know what the cartoonist, Roz Chast, looks like   . . . even though I, myself, didn't know I wanted to!

Maybe you want to see, too? She looks just like one of her drawings in the New Yorker:

Size of the Enterprise Relative to the Eiffel Tower

Sorry this is fuzzy, but you get the idea.
From "Engineer Thinks We Could Build a Real Starship Enterprise in Twenty Years" (2012)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

L'Astronave Quartermass

Title original: Quatermass and the Pit
Naztion: Gran Bretagna
Year: 1967 Production: HAMMER FILM

Looking for Italian images of a starship (l'astronave), just for fun, 
what? are you suggesting I am avoiding work? tsk, tsk
 I keep turning up these Italian posters for Quartermass films.

I had no idea who Quartermass was. According to Wikipedia, 
Professor Bernard Quatermass is an intelligent and highly moral British scientist, working for the British space programme (?!), created by the writer Nigel Kneale for a BBC sci-fi series in 1953.  

In a 1990s interview, Nigel Kneale said:
"I wanted to write some strong characters, but I didn't want them to be like those horrible people in those awful American science fiction films, chewing gum and stating the obvious. Not that I wanted to do something terribly 'British', but I didn't like all the flag-waving you got in those films. I tried to get real human interest in the stories, and some good humour." 
[italics, mine. You don't think he could have meant the {future} Capt. Kirk, do you?]

The Quatermass Xperiment, a 1955 British science fiction horror film made by Hammer Film Productions, which I have not seen (yet).
Parody version here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Toilet Ghosts

Researching sanitation today, I ran into toilet ghosts. 

You know Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson, in the films), from Harry Potter. [source]

I can't find any evidence, but she seems to be a version of Hanako, a Japanese ghost who has hung out in school bathrooms since the 1950s. Hanako appears when you call for her. Mostly harmless, in most versions...
Art by cute or death.

This idea that you would willingly call for a ghost (why?!) reminds me of a tale I heard at sleep-overs: 
Look in the mirror and say I believe in Mary Worth three times, and she will appear. 
For years, I was scared to go to the bathroom at night for fear I'd accidentally call her up since it was impossible to glance at the mirror without thinking the phrase. 
[reading up on it, the more usual name is Bloody Mary.]

I can't remember what Mary Worth was supposed to do to you, but I do remember being baffled by the existence of a comic strip about a nice older lady named Mary Worth:
Yes, Mary, let's just leave it at that!

P.S. I found a blog  Mary Worth and Me that "celebrates how hilarious it is."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Search Keywords

All-Time Traffic sources for this blog, from Blogger Stats

This doesn't seem quite right... The post with the Brecht Poem from the Lives of Others, for instance, has 3,309 pageviews, but doesn't even show up in these top searches.

But what's more mysterious is the daily stats: sometimes the search terms that led people here are nothing I ever wrote about, like yesterday's papier mache mario.

There, now I that I have gone and mentioned it, I'd better post something. Here:

jeffm: "Me dressed as mario character "Chain chomp" in the half marathon: papier mache and a bit of a bugger to run in. ... I'd made myself two little handles on the inside to hold as I ran. " --From Tri Talk Forums 

Marz and I are house and dog sitting L & M's wire-haired fox terrier, Alfie, so I can add a couple of those too:

My sketch from this morning--Alfie is keen on keeping squirrels out of the yard:

And Alfie & Marz listening to records (the Nat King Cole Trio) on the front porch: 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Winifred Nicholson: 3 Paintings

Hannah said my watercolors rather reminded her of Winigred Nicholson's oil paintings.  When I looked her up I was very pleased. 

 Polyanthus and Cineraria, 1921

Red Tulips in a Red Jug, 1954

Andrew at the Beach, 1936

I want to try painting people, too.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My New Spork

From this morning's journal
"GOAL: to carry my new spork in my bag so I don't have to use disposable silverware (as I have long carried my travel mug)."

I worry about plastic forks, but I own three computers. 
Two old (2004 & 2009) Mac laptops, and a 2012 Mac desktop for editing video (which I haven't done) (yet).

Last week I bought a PC laptop because ever since I spilled coffee on my '09 Mac laptop, it's been wonky: once it wouldn't restart until I took it into Apple and they wiped everything.

Since I'm writing for work again, that won't do, but I decided to save $1,000 and buy a PC--my first ever.
How different could it be?

It was like going from a BMW to a Ford Fiesta.

When I returned the PC last night, sheepishly (I'm the sort of person who feels apologetic when she returns things), I told the nice guy at Best Buy that I had always used Macs before, and he said, "Wow! This is a huge step backward!"

 Ah. OK, then. It's no secret.

So, I've preferred to write in coffee shops, but I am just going to work on this desktop at home. My '09 laptop works fine for the Internet.

GOAL #2: Figure out where to recycle my oldest ('04) laptop.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Garden Diptychs

I spent half of yesterday weeding 8-months of photos I've taken for the 2014 neighborhood association calendar––the organizer needs to start working on the layout.
The theme is community gardens, and I am one of 6 photographers who agreed to document a garden through the year. (Mine is the SOO Line, along the Greenway.)

I got intrigued by the similarity between human-made supports and the plants' own supports:

And, of course, by the different ways the garden shots document the seasons here in MN.

I'm also interested to see how my photography is coming along: I'm not a photographer, I'm a snap-shotter, but I see my style is developing:
I like big, bold close-ups that show the design of things.

I suppose I approach history in the same way---looking closely to find repeating patterns.
And so, back to the history of sanitation. These days, everything reminds me of sewers! It's all about the flow....

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Postcard Painting No. 12: Superior HQ

From my Duluth trip---the adorable Smokey/Yogi Bear–era sign outside the Superior National Forest Headquarters--just down the road from the Willard Munger Inn where Marz and I were staying.
Happy days!

This one really is a postcard: I put a stamp on it and dropped in a postbox. I worried a little that the watercolor might smudge in transit, but it traveled just fine.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Beautiful Artefact

"$5.00 –– Works!"

I found this Star-light reel-to-reel tape recorder (from the '70s?) at a garage sale this morning. I bought it for fledgling audiophile Marz, but also, it touched me, that humans make such pretty machines to catch sounds.

Imagine, or remember, a technology whose options are, basically, On or Off. It seems so primitive. And yet, how easily it could be lost. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Movie Moment: Melissa McCarthy's Careful Disorderliness

"There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method."
--Herman Melville, Moby Dick

This quote turned up in my Pisces horoscope this week (via Rob Brezny). Melville was talking about whaling, or storytelling. It fits my current enterprise, all right: 
moving out of the research and into the writing of the sanitation history book.

 I started, just now.

For me, opening a word doc and naming it is a breakthrough. I rewarded myself with a Movie Moment (links to my others)–
Melissa McCarthy singing a medley of radio tunes, in Identity Thief (2013).

Reviewers mostly scorned Identity Thief, but it's worth seeing for McCarthy. She is genius at that carefully disorganized enterprise, comedy.

On the surface, the movie tells a sentimental tale of Diana's rehabilitation to social normalcy, at the unwitting hands of an honest but gullible businessman (Sandy, played by Jason Bateman).

But the movie also rewards (tho it does not invite) a deeper reading. McCarthy's character, Diana, is a sociopath, or possibly a psychopath, who steals identities to perpetrate credit card fraud.
 What if instead of becoming a good girl at the end,  Diana is in the process of changing her identity from small time crook to big time socially approved success? 

It's entirely possible, if this is the tale of a trickster, that Diana will emerge from prison––where we see her at the end seemingly swallowing her rightful punishment––having pulled off the biggest psychopathic coup of all:
her transformation into a businesswoman (with help from Sandy the sucker). After all, she's even studying Economics in prison.

Cf. the Forbes magazine article "Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEO's", and interview with British journalist Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry:
I think my book offers really good evidence that the way that capitalism is structured really is a physical manifestation of the brain anomaly known as psychopathy. However, I woudn’t say every Fortune 500 chief is a psychopath.
 It is a spectrum, but there’s a cutoff point....
In higher-scoring psychopaths, what grows in the vacant field where that empathy should be is a joy in manipulating people, a lack of remorse, a lack of guilt. 
Taken this way, the film is a relative of The Ruling Class (1972), starring Peter O'Toole as Jack, an addled member of the British aristocracy. 

When we meet Jack, he believes he is Jesus Christ, and he inconveniences his relatives with talk of love. 
By the end of the film, he has been cured of his delusion and has become a violent psychopath who takes his rightful place in the House of Lords, where he meets with social success.

If taken at face value, Identity Thief tells the tale in reverse: Diana goes from bad to good.
But why take at face value a movie about a character who counterfeits identities? 

As McCarthy sings (uh, sorta),
"If the real thing don't do the trick,
You better make up something quick,
...Ooooh, barracuda."