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S'maddam, I'm Addams


Daytrotter, taking time away from its usual musical orientation, checks in on the earthly avatar of Gomez Addams, John Astin:

'Aristotle said, "Know thyself."  The Addams’ knew who they were.  We were weird on the outside and we were strange, but when you looked closer, you saw that this was really a very healthy family.  There wasn’t a lot of conflict in the family.  We were never telling anyone else how to live.  Moralizing was absent,' [Astin] said.  'They were all about the joy and wonder of life.  It was a creation of magic and wonder that’s rare even today in motion pictures.'

Of Related Interest:

  • The first season (1964-1965) of The Addams Family is now available on DVD.  Coincidence?  I think not.

[TV Guide cover via The Unofficial Addams Family Web Site.]

Twyla Tharp's Cirque du Zimmerman [Updated]

Hamlet, Act 1, Scene V:

O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not . . . .

Via stereogum.  More here and here

Pretty darned ironic that they included "Dignity" in the set list, eh?


UPDATE [110906]:

Any day now, any day now, they shall be released

You didn't need Culturegrrl to know which way that wind was blowin', though she did helpfully point the way to the apparently-fine traveling Dylan exhibition now on show at NYC's very own Coalhouse Walker Jr., er, Morgan Library

Tate: Necessarily So

As I was working up this past Friday's post, I was reminded again that Tate Online -- the site maintained by the Tate Britain, the Tate Modern, the Tate Liverpool, et al. -- is simply one of the best art museum sites around.  Beyond providing thorough information for those fortunate enough actually to be visiting those museums, what seems a larger than average segment of the Tates' holdings are searchable in all sorts of ways, including the Java-driven random walk of the Tate Carousel.  Another method of browsing the collection, and of finding out what hangs where and how far one then needs to walk to grab a quick bite after browsing the Turners or Freuds, are elaborate Flash-based maps -- Tate Britain here, and Tate Modern here -- which are themselves searchable by clicking or via interactive timelines and artist indices.  ["Schwitters?  Fifth floor, and straight on till morning."]

The Tate also does a laudable job of presenting its special exhibitions online.  The example to hand, currently on show at Tate Britain, is "Holbein in England," a thorough presentation of Hans Holbein the Younger.

Holbein's collected portaiture defines The Face of Tudor England.  He ranks high on the short list of artists -- Goya and particularly Velásquez would make the list as well, with a very few others -- whose work defines the way in which we imagine their era.  Holbein is so much the definitive portraitist of his time and place that he probably deserves some sort of a design credit for every credible film portrayal of the period, most particularly for Fred Zinneman's film of Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, which is essentially a collection of Holbeins sprung to vivid life.  (The exception there is Robert Shaw's Henry VIII, so much more appealing than his singularly unpleasant real life counterpart can ever have been.)  It is appropriate that the film should owe so much to Holbein, given that Sir Thomas More, via a reference from his pal Erasmus, provided Holbein's point of entry to the English portrait market.

  • Aside: I am a longtime fancier of A Man for All Seasons, so it was a great treat (one of many) on my only visit to the Frick Collection in New York to walk into the The Living Hall and to be confronted by Holbein's portraits of Thomas More and his nemesis Thomas Cromwell hanging on opposite sides of the fireplace.  Those paintings have apparently not traveled to the Tate for the current exhibition, although there is a  drawing of More in Room 1 that appears to have been preparatory to the Frick's portrait.  

Another feature of the Tate sites for special exhibitions is the Room Guide, which provides an opportunity to see, room by room (copyright and technology permitting), the works on display.  For the current Holbein show, for instance, the Room Guide alerts us that Room 3 -- devoted to commissions from visiting merchants of the Hanseatic League -- features this gentleman, blessed with a name straight out of Harry Potter: welcome if you will Cyriacus Kale.

  Kale, Cyriacus Kale

One imagines Herr Kale's homecoming in Braunschweig, and particularly the reaction of his children: "My dad went to London and all I got was this stupid Holbein."

  • The Tate site also retains the online materials, room guides, etc., for Past Exhibitions going back a number of years. Thus, those select few possessed of a taste for English landscape painting can whet their appetites for the Tate's recent and comprehensive Constable show, which will be turning up here in Pasadena at the The Huntington Library in February 2007.

Something you need to get off your chest, miss?


You Know the Drill

Chris at escapegrace points, and having pointed writes:

The Tate Modern has begun a series of Tate Tracks, compositions by contemporary musicians upon reflection of a particular piece of Tate art. The first release is The Chemical Brothers inspired by Sir Jacob Epstein's Torso in Metal from "The Rock Drill" (1913-1914 and pictured above).

The Chemical Brothers track thrums menacingly, if somewhat predictably.  It is particularly effective, for those with a high-speed connection, if you play it while viewing the sculpture in "slideshow" mode.  A low bandwidth version, sans slideshow, is accessible here.  I look forward to future installments featuring music triggered by the likes of Kline, Twombly, Warhol's Brillo boxes, and (yummy!) Man Ray.

The original Rock Drill is no more, but was a major major hit with the High Moderns.  Donald Kuspit discusses its history and the origins of the Tate Torso at length in his ongoing Critical History of 20th-Century Art:

The Rock Drill 1913-1915 A perverse Cubo-Futurist mixture of the organic and mechanical, like Duchamp-Villon’s horse -- all the more so because of the phallic, aggressive, American-made pneumatic drill that was initially part of Epstein’s sculpture -- it was a daring avant-garde innovation for its time.  As Richard Cork writes, 'Epstein was almost alone in proposing that a machine could play a legitimate part in a work of art,' although he was not so extreme as to call a machine a work of art, as Duchamp did.  Epstein’s work 'seemed like a bold sculptural expression of the Vorticists’ theoretical insistence on "the point of maximum energy",' but he did not join the aggressive Vorticist group, although Wyndham Lewis, one of its leaders, praised the robot-like sculpture for its 'dream-like strangeness.' . . .

But in 1916 The Rock Drill changed -- it lost its drill and legs, and one arm, and became a crippled robot.  Re-exhibited as Torso in Metal from 'The Rock Drill', it looked 'melancholy and defenceless,' as Cork says.  Plaster had changed to metal, but the figure remains 'pitifully vulnerable' -- unexpectedly human.  It is no longer an invincible, ruthless, predatory creature -- a kind of grotesque humanoid insect.  It has been castrated, and turned into a hollow shell of its former belligerent self. Epstein has stripped the figure of its weapon, as it were, changing it from a strong to a weak figure.  Also, brilliantly, he has a turned a whole figure into a fragment, suggesting that, however ominously masked, its spirit was broken. . . .

With Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound was also impressed with the original Rock Drill -- Hugh Kenner gives it plenty of play in The Pound Era -- to the extent that it lies beneath numbers 85 to 95 of The Cantos, written during the initial years of Pound's post-war commitment to St. Elizabeth's Hospital and published in 1956 as Section: Rock-Drill, 85-95 de los cantares.  Josh Corey considered that sequence as he was blogging his way ambitiously through The Cantos in the summer of 2004; like Gunga Din, Mr. Corey is a better man than I am when it comes to venturing across forbidding terrain. 

Incidentals and Extras:

  • While we are on the subject of Pound, see also Jonathan Mayhew's skeptical assessment of Pound's much-vaunted skills as a translator.
  • Pound has turned up on this weblog in several contexts, including stout service as inspiration for a double dactyl back in the autumn of ought-four.
  • Is it just me, or did the design staff of the George Lucas Imaginative Hegemony Sphere, like, tooootally rip off The Rock Drill when they came up with these guys?

NOT the Rock Drill

  • And for extra, Pound-free, painting-meets-poetry-meets-all-other-aesthetics credit, be sure to read Kasey Mohammad's splendid musings on Michael Sweerts' 1661 allegorical painting, Clothing the Naked, which concludes with this:

What surprises me much more than the undecidability of such questions is the untroubled confidence with which generations of commentators pronounce their decisions.  Poetry is problematic enough, but as overdetermined, aporetic, and equivocal as language may be, it has nothing on visual images.  At least words can pretend to bear or provide definitive glosses.  With pictures ... well, all I can think of is the famous scene at the end of Queen Christina, the close-up of Garbo's face, where it seems that the deepest, most profound thoughts and emotions imaginable surround it like a halo -- but when asked by adoring moviegoers how she had attained to such a sublime range of expression, she explained that she simply put on the blankest look she could possibly muster.

Keeping Our Ring Fingers Crossed in Los Angeles

While the Deutsche Oper mumblingly, fumblingly reinstates its production of Sam Peckenpaugh's Bring Me The Heads of World Religious Figures Mozart's Idomeneo, the opera news in Los Angeles promises healthy helpings of Wagner.  Specifically Los Angeles Opera will, at long last, mount a complete production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen beginning in the 2008-2009 season, with three runs through the complete cycle to be staged in the summer of 2010.  The Los Angeles Times reports:

German director Achim Freyer, known for complex and sometimes obscure stagings, will direct and design Wagner's four-opera 'Ring' cycle for Los Angeles Opera, general director Plácido Domingo announced Thursday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

       * * *

James Conlon, the company's new music director, will conduct the cycle.  It will be his first American 'Ring,' although he has conducted the work in Germany. In coming seasons, he will also conduct such other Wagner operas for the company as 'Tannhäuser,' 'The Mastersingers of Nürnberg' and 'Tristan and Isolde.'

L.A. Opera first announced plans for a 'Ring' in 2000 to be staged by German director Peter Mussbach, working with Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas' special-effects team.  But the post-Sept. 11 economic slowdown derailed the plans.

Being general director of an opera company hath its privileges: Domingo has announced that he intends to sing the role of the, ahem, youthful hero Siegmund in Die Walküre, notwithstanding that he will be 67 years old when the production premieres, and 69 when if closes.  A C Douglas expresses skepticism on this point, a little too subtly for some of his readers, while linking to PlaybillArts' coverage, which notes that in light of his age "the possibility remains that [Domingo] will retire from the stage before then." *

Domingo's current age did not stop him last season from essaying the even-younger title character in Robert Wilson's otherwise generally sublime LA Opera production of Parsifal.  At his best, Domingo still possesses an extraordinary if not exactly Wagnerian voice, but he does strain dramatic credibility more than somewhat in these roles.

The announcement that Achim Freyer will direct is rife (fraught?) with intriguing possibilities.  I quite liked Freyer's 2003 LA production of Berlioz's Damnation of Faust and while he certainly qualifies as avant he seems more intent on maintaining interest in his stagings than in imposing some post-hoc political reading on the work at hand.  (Cf. Idomeneo, supra.)  The LA Times story has Freyer making comforting sounds about his intent to devise a production "in the way that 'Wagner had wanted and sketched'".  One can only hope.

On the bright side, we know one thing that Los Angeles will not get in this production: Although Domingo is also general director of the Washington National Opera, he has chosen to mount a new production in Los Angeles rather than importing WNO's in-progress "American 'Ring'" devised by Francesca Zambello.  ACD was most displeased with what he saw and heard of that one, and he was not alone.  The blurb on the WNO site for this year's installment -- Walküre with, yes, Domingo as Siegmund -- does not build confidence:

Intimidated by Wagner?  This is the genius at his most human.  Think of a henpecked husband (okay, so he happens to be chief god), a pair of overly affectionate siblings, and a disobedient tomboy daughter.  Then just let the music lift you out of your seat and drop you, exhausted and enthralled, three thrilling acts later.

What?  Hilarity doesn't ensue?

~ ~ ~

* NOTE: After initially posting this, I re-read the first A C Douglas item linked  -- the one about Domingo -- and only then noticed that his particular subtlety had even passed me by in prior readings.  The version of the PlaybillArts story that he quotes has Domingo playing the role of Siegfried, not Siegmund, in Die Walküre.  Not much of a challenge there.  Even I could do it, given that Siegfried never appears in that work.  (He is conceived during intermission and doesn't come on to the stage as a character until his own namesake music drama, next in the series.)

PlaybillArts had corrected its version before I read it, making Domingo's role less fried and more mundane.

Upon Reflection

Mirror in the bathroom I just can't stop it,
Every Saturday you see me window shopping.
Find no interest in the racks and shelves,
Just a thousand reflections of my own sweet self self self self self . . .

-- "Mirror in the Bathroom" (1980) The [English] Beat

I have often said that No One Ever Went to Law School to Learn to Be Humble.  To prove my own point, here are links to two recent items either by or about yer 'umble Fool.

  • Lawcrossing is a major online legal job search and recruiting service that also dishes up an online magazine of sorts with articles, columns, interviews, and feature stories on matters legal and/or current.  In a moment of weakness, the site this week features a profile (based on an e-mail interview) of . . . me.  Learn my guilty secrets!  Mock my pretensions!  Wonder at the sinister twinkle in my eye!  Any number can play.
  • Of somewhat related interest: On a more serious and useful note, Lawcrossing's "Inside Legal Blogs" column this week features a pointer to shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPressshlep is devoted to practical discussions on self-help and pro se litigation, and is the brainchild of longstanding online FOTF [friend o' the fool] David Giacaloneshlep promises to be of interest to those who hope to avoid, when possible, falling into the clutches of lawyers.  (Thanks to David, this post isn't all about me.)
  • I also recently published a general purpose article on legal weblogs -- "Letting the Blogs Out: What Weblogs Have to Offer to Risk and Insurance Professionals" -- in the August 2006 issue (PDF) of CLEWS, the newsletter of the Consulting, Litigation and Expert Witness [CLEW] section of the CPCU Society
    • In case the link to the CLEW newsletter proves to be restricted to CPCU Society members, I have uploaded another copy here (also PDF).

But enough about me, eh?