Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cucurrucucu Paloma

I am posting this Spanish song. You may recall hearing it for the first time in Pedro Almodovar's film "Hable Con Ella" (Talk to Her). The voice singing that song is Cataeno Veloso, for whom I have had my one and only, big celebrity crush. I don't know how I came to know his voice, but it is tender and alive and extraordinary. I am posting this concert performance of his with this wonderful string arrangement by the cellist and musical director, Jaques Morelenbaum.

At the moment in the film when the song is sung, the character realizes he has lost his only real love. The song, appropriately, recounts the story of a man who dies from the pain of the loss of someone he loved. It is lushly romantic and very unAmerican. What I love about Cataeno Veloso is his ability, especially in this performance, to walk a line between restraint and manipulation. His voice is just so touching and perfect. For me, it is the restraint that makes the song so wildly beautiful.

In Spanish the lyrics by Tomás Méndez are:

Dicen que por las noches no más se le iba en puro llorar.
Dicen que no comía, no más se le iba en puro tomar.
Juran que el mismo cielo se estremecía al oír su llanto.
Cómo sufría por ella, que hasta en su muerte la fue llamando!

Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, cantaba.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, gemía.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, cantaba.
De pasión mortal moría.

Que una paloma triste muy de mañana le va a cantar
A la casita sola con sus puertitas de par en par.
Juran que esa paloma no es otra cosa más que su alma,
Que él todavía la espera a que regrese, la desdichada.

Cucurrucucú, paloma,
Wucurrucucú, no llores.
Las piedras jamás, paloma,
Qué van a saber de amores?

Cucurrucucú, cucurrucucú,
Wucurrucucú, paloma,
Ya no le llores.

In English these lyrics transalate into:

They say that at night he didn’t do anything but cry.
They say that he didn’t eat and didn’t do anything but drink.
They swear that heaven shuddered when it heard his cry,
How he suffered for her, calling out to her even as he died.

Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, he sang.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, he wept.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, he sang.
As he died of mortal passion.

That a sad dove came that morning to sing to him,
To the small house with its windows open wide.
They swear that the dove is nothing less than his soul,
That is still waiting for her to come back, her, the unfortunate.

Cucurrucucú, dove,
Cucurrucucú, don’t cry.
The stones never do, dove,
What do they know of love?

Cucurrucucú, cucurrucucú,
Cucurrucucú, you don’t cry any more.

Cucurrucucu Paloma

Here is Perla Batalla singing the same wonderful song as Veloso, above. I think she is more manipulative with the sound than Veloso. She is riding a wave, just behind the crest, having a wonderful time. I like this version, too. There's little more of a pop feeling to it, but such a voice. Her version is moving, even without the benefit of a full string orchestra supporting her.

was a backup singer for Leonard Cohen and sang on his film and tribute album I'm Your Man. If you saw the film you may remember her and Julie Christensen. They were hard to miss. They preformed some duos that are still vivid in my mind. Here's Batalla...see what you think of her Cucurrucucu.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Anne Truitt

I wanted to bring attention to this post by Tyler Green, regarding Anne Truitt on his blog Modern Art News. Truitt died in 2004, at the age of 83, in Washington, DC. It has been said that it is she who started the minimalist movement. She resisted being called a minimalist. She felt her work was different from that movement in that it was created with her own hands, while the minimalists tended to be working with the manipulation of industrial materials.

It is hard to explain Truitt's work or one's deep attraction to it. Truitt's work is so simple that it feels too obvious. I understand that her life was moved by color. In the way a savant must understand numbers, I think Truitt understood color and shape. It was intuitive and unexplainable. The Hirshhorn is planning a Truitt retrospective in 2008, which prompted my reflection on her. Surprisingly, there are only a few examples of her work that I have found on the web. The one above is too small and lame. I like Truitt's picture looming over the art.

I read Daybook: Journal of an Artist by Truitt years ago. It inspired a long period of work for me that was better than any I have known since. Her struggle with trying to make art on a confined schedule resonated for me at the time and helped me work long into the night. I have had few periods since then where my imagination so clearly took over and lifted me. I feel I owe that period to her inspiration. Daybook is revered by writer Jesse Larsen as one of the 500 Great Books by Women. If you like diarists and/or art, Truit's Daybook is well worth your time.

Anne Truitt is a Marylander. Although born in Baltimore, she was mostly embraced and claimed by DC, where her studio was for many years. She grew up in Easton, Maryland on the shore, where legend has it that she was apparently so visually impaired as a young child, that it was not until she got glasses that she realized that trees had individual leaves. She saw only shapes and masses of color. Some attribute the quality of her work to this childhood condition.

"I've struggled all my life to get maximum meaning in the simplest possible form," she said in an interview with The Washington Post in 1987. "That's what I've spent my life doing, and it's never been understood."

Is "it", or are we, ever "understood"?

Truitt worked in isolation in her studio through the years. The isolation is critical to the work, so often. And perhaps it is the isolation that creates the feeling of distance and a mild paranoia. One seems not to be able to have both society and art, garrulousness and introspection, understanding and revolutionary work.

Finally, this from Daybook. Truitt reflects on human legacy as she sits at the National Gallery:

"I sat for a long while in one of the rectangular courtyards, listening to the fountain. Feeling the artists all around me, I slowly took an unassuming place (for two of my own sculptures were somewhere in the museum) among the people whose lives, as all lives do, had been distilled into objects that outlasted them. Quilts, pin cushions, chairs, tables, houses, sculptures, paintings, tilled and retilled fields, gardens, poems -- all of validity and integrity. Like earthworms, whose lives are spent making more earth, we human beings also spend ourselves into the physical. A few of us leave behind objects judged, at least temporarily, worthy of preservation by the culture into which we were born. The process is, however, the same for us all. Ordered into the physical, in time we leave the physical, and leave behind us what we have made in the physical."

Seriously Funny

Keep your eye on this new comic, Charlyne Yi. She's got something going on in her very young mind. This YouTube "Man on the Street" routine up above is just hilarious. I can't quite imagine a grown up Charlyne, but I guarantee...it's going to happen. That face. Those crazy eyes. That goofy grin. It is zany and refreshingly simple. I don't know how far she can take it, but she seems to have the prerequisite daring that can take a person a long way. Her effort reveals not an ounce of cynicism, or for that matter, wit. She is just sheer fun.

Friday, July 27, 2007

No End in Sight - the trailer

This looks difficult to bear. It is just so insane.

ComicCon - San Diego - Frenzy Abounds

click to enlarge

Women are still doing it for themselves. And lemonade helps. Here is a quick article from out at the really funny ComicCon convention in San Diego. Organizations like Friends of Lulu (FOL) are helping to promote women in the comic book industry. Women are joining together to foster other women who write in this wonderful genre of literature / art.

Rock your local comic store. In Baltimore, of course, you would go immediately to Atomic Books in Hampden. Ask for the women writer's by name. Buy their work. Read it. You will know enjoyment. Check out the links in the article for a fuller appreciation of the breadth of the graphic novel. If all else fails, go to the ComicCon blog at the Los Angeles Times for a fuller look at the frenzy. Shaky Bacon anyone? You heard it first...right here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Your Mama's Hair

Your Mama?

...and another thing about Art Scape. I was photographed by the woman above who is called "Your Mama" (I think her employers call her Bekkah.) She has a new Baltimore blog, called "Your Mama's Hair" and she shot mine at Art Scape and posted it on her blog.

Your Mama likes: hair, curls, dreads, cornrows, dye jobs, perms, flat irons, scrunchies, barrettes, buzz cuts, mohawks, bangs, braids, pigtails, beehives, updos, bed-head, highlights, lowlights, bad hair days, colors, fros. Her blog is dedicated to the hair of Baltimore. Her collection has just begun. I would suggest you send your favorite hair pictures to Your Mama's blog.

OK. I don't like the picture of myself that Your Mama posted. I am much better looking when the light's right and the angle is correct and the gel hasn't melted in the 94 degree heat and I have had my hair stylist do that scrunchie thing before I actually go out to meet the public, and I am wearing something other than a pink shirt. I prefer something black. I didn't even know I was wearing the god-awful pink shirt. So scroll w-a-a-ay down the page and find the spikey-white haired woman, hugging herself in the hideous pink shirt. Here's Your Mama's Hair. Also Your Mama and I are mutually linked to each other which is kind of sexy. Umm.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Art and celebrity

Henninger's Tavern - Marking the passing of Tammy Faye in its own way

The last few days were pretty wonderful. First a soiree at Jack's where literary purpose of the event was to hear readings of Jamaica Kincaid's short stories. The non-literary purpose was to taste three great wines. A cozy evening on a warm Baltimore night. We all seemed hungry for written words, brilliantly arranged.

Of course there was Art Scape, a dreadful event that is "good" for the people of the city. There are sparkling moments that you must know beforehand are happening and get there for them. There is wonderful artwork so wedged into the crowds of people that you can barely get near it. There are tons of questionable crafts, most of which you can barely get close to because you would have to fight your way through the masses of people moving slowly, slowly in the summer heat. Some very nice black and white photography. I aways find great stuff in the Fox and Brown buildings at MICA. Here are some small works I really liked.

Then there was a modest but heartfelt celebration of Tammy Faye Messner's camp, gay icon, extreme makeup, wacky life at the beloved Henninger's Tavern. I still cannot get my head around her appearance on Larry King and then her death almost immediately afterwards. Celebrity in America is a driven, freaky thing. May Tammy rest peacefully.

The frustrations of truth.

Richard Engel, a highly respected NBC correspondent and longtime reporter in Iraq, provides one of the clearest explanations of the complexity of the political/religious environment in Iraq that I have read. His report appears in Harvard Education, Nieman Reports Summer 2007 Issue. We Americans like our problems reduced to simple images, as Karl Rove so well understands. But these reductions only diminish our ability to tolerate the understanding of the context of a truth and complexity of truth. Too, the administration is really hog-tied in its own swill. It wallows around its own untruthful, sometimes alarming, simplicities, when deeper perceptions and presentations might unite so many efforts to end this war.

Please note that Engel's report on Iraq required far fewer words than any adminsitration presentation I have heard. So maybe the truth can be simply told, rather than endlessly spun. The quote that follows puts to death one more administration "talking point."

"U.S. politicians and military commanders often complain that the Iraqi government "won't step up and do its job." The impression they give is that Iraqi officials are sitting around smoking hooka pipes and refusing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, while U.S. troops are fighting and dying to "get the job done." Perhaps the question should be, "Which job?" American soldiers often ask me when the Iraqis will "step up and fight for their own country." They are already fighting for their country. Iraqi officials, religious leaders, militia groups, Syria, Iran and al-Qaeda are struggling and dying to get a "job done" in Iraq, though it does not appear to be the job the White House would like them to be doing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned during his April visit to Iraq that America's "patience is running out." If he's waiting for Iraqis and the wider Middle East to start fighting the war of Freedom Lovers against Freedom Haters, Americans might need to have considerably more patience in the years ahead."

A word is worth a thousand pictures.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial policy is to use no actual pictures in their news stories. After all, "a word is worth a thousand pictures," no? To do this, the Journal developed a portrait illustration technique that reduces an individual to lines and dots. This process is done by hand. No kidding. The above illustration is included in a brief article on the history and style of the process called HedCuts.

A real live illustrator uses a combination of parallel counter lines, cross-hatching and dotting technique to create each individual portrait. Each portrait takes somewhere between 3-5 hours to create. As the world becomes more infused with technology, it is a hoot to realize that the Journal continues to use illustrators to faithfully reduce a photo to its most basic lines. This consistent style spares the reader from the manipulation of the editorial comments subtly, and not so subtly, made by the photos selected for a story. And then, all that gray is soothing. Even the worst news and individuals seem tolerable. No ruffled feathers. I'm sure Ruppert Murdoch can fix that.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The art nobody can escape...

Another reflection on the essential quality of the modernist movement:

"The culture of the twentieth century is littered with Utopian schemes. That none of them succeeded, we take for granted; in fact, we have got so used to accepting the failure of Utopia that we find it hard to understand our cultural grandparents, many of whom believed, with the utmost passion, that its historical destiny was to succeed. The home of the Utopian impulse was architecture rather than painting or sculpture. Painting can make us happy, but building is the art we live in; it is the social art par excellence, the carapace of political fantasy, the exoskeleton of one's economic dreams. It is also the one art nobody can escape."

Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Japanese are so clever.

Haaaaaaave fun! Click on the various forms at bottom-left.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Found Poem

On my desk was this poem...

Tuna sandwich, sliced toms
Corn salad w/lime + cilantro
Tom + cuke + feta + v/o + s/p
Crusty bread
Pellagrino H2O
Chilled lemonade
Energy bars (no chocolate)

...or was it a picnic? Or, is it a picnic-poem?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Andrew and John Wed

Andrew Solomon and John Habich
The Spencer Estate, England

This was some wedding! The article is kind of vacuous, as most of these NYT wedding reviews seem to read, whether they are about gay or straight weddings. The articles contain a consistent tone of schmaltz. But, it is a wedding, after all---that event filled with enormous optimism and adoration, blind to all history. However, the wealth of the two men sets a different twist to the story and suggests an elevation of the of gay knot tying ceremony to a new height. I pray it is a wild glitch that won't need repeating. Excess is a difficult thing to watch, so you may not even want to look at the article's media offering, but then again...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Say what you will...

...the energy she brings to a stage is fabulous. Madonna at Live Earth. Let's dance!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Could the Iraq tragedy get more strange?

"There are more US-paid private contractors than there are American troops in Iraq."

I hope you can see this tiny chart above from the LA Times article explaining this graphic and the issue of private US-paid contractors. We have been hearing rumors about the vast numbers of private contractors PAID by the US. This seems to be the first time that real numbers have emerged.

What does it mean that 118,000 of these people are Iraqis? We're fighting Iraqis and we're hiring Iraqis? These companies that are hiring the Iraqis are being paid billions of dollars a MONTH. Are the employed Iraqis receiving the better part of this money? What about the underfunded, underpaid Iraqi military we are supposed to be training to take over? What does it mean to fight a war with private contractors...who exceed the number of troops? Why did we refuse to send enough troops and then hire enough civilians to out-number the troops? To hide the real cost? To hide the truth that we are not able to even raise enough troops?

There are just so many questions that this war arouses that will never be answered. There are not enough answers. Not in a hundred years will we investigate all these mounting, astounding issues and receive answers for all the questions provoked.

One haunting question is, where will all these companies go when we leave Iraq? Imagine the lobbying "surge" they will put forth to insure they continue to sustain and increase earnings. I think these bloody, greedy war merchants are going to be very desirous of a NEW war.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Vision-thing.

Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop, Director

There has been a considerable push by web pundits who write about music and art to implore the critics of the arts at papers like the NYT and WP to get out of the city and into the countryside. The effort is to encourage these writers to recognize the wealth of artistic endeavors flourishing in the "hinterlands." One critic seems to have taken up the challenge. The New Yorker music critic, Alex Ross did "three orchestras, three cities, two days." His report is here.

I am a fan of this immersion method. The experience is exciting and an adventure. Ross candidly reports his genuine surprise at what he found. Which is satisfying. "Listening to America’s regional orchestras, you realize that the notion of a stratospheric orchestral élite is deceptive." I'll say! But my favorite line was one that really captures the dynamics of any ensemble effort.

Great performances can happen anytime skilled players respond with unusual fervor to a conductor whose vision is secure.

It is not just the generation and communication of a vision that is important. I was caught by the phrase about the conductor's vision at the end of the sentence: whose vision is secure. I have not heard those two words put together before, secure vision. I hadn't thought about it.

Ross did not say that skilled players respond to a conductor with vision. There's more to it; there is the vision that is anchored with a sense of security. One of the things this sense of security provides is freedom for the ensemble. They needn't wobble with the vagaries of the vision that is not held with confidence. In the case of the conductor whose vision is secure, anxiety must be reduced considerably. It is like having a mature and wise parent, rather than a young and uncertain parent who may behave with confidence, but whose sense of confidence is ungrounded, and all the children know it. In this case, it is difficult to act with freedom and ease in the presence of insecurity. The performance suffers.

This same idea may be applied to organizations of all natures and size. Without a leader whose vision is secure, the performance suffers.

Design Alert

If someone mentioned to you that wine was now available in cans, your expression might slip into a puzzled frown. You might think, bleah! Or blech!! But here is a good example of the power of design to change your perceived value of wine in a bottle, if not your drinking habits, quickly.