Friday, July 31, 2015

"Counting" by Autre Ne Veut

Autre Ne Veut (translated from French as I Want No Other) is the nom de musique of Arthur Ashin. And I just love this song "Counting" from his release "Anxiety." Ashin said in an interview that the songs on "Anxiety" came from a rough patch in his life that included anxiety about relatives dying. I think this is the song that deals with that issue and I can relate... the sound is intense with random and jittery sax squeals, a bit mournful, with a thick sense of gravitas on the hook, "I'm counting on the idea that you'll stay alive."

Thinking now when you don’t mean that
Speak, this is not a time we don’t see
This is not a way for you to be
I don’t wanna be with you all night alone
It’s in my time to break it off
I don’t wanna die and then break it off
I don’t wanna know where we make it out
No, no, no

I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay
I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay alive

Take it down when you don’t mean
Down soft, this is not a world for you to love
And I don’t wanna see that fade our love
This is not the way that you expect to be
Taking off out and making love
Everything you say is breaking up
This is not a time for this to stop
No, no, no

I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay
I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay alive

Thinking now when you don’t mean go
Fade, this is not a time where you can raise
This is not a time where you're okay
I don't want the feeling you are not alone
It's in my time to make it out
This is not your time to make it out
This is not your time to make it out
No, no, no

I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay
I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay alive
I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay alive, I need you for a little while
No, no
I’m counting on the idea that you'll stay put

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BEAUTY: Photography--Valerio Vincenzo

Valerio Vincenzo spent eight years and and traveled 10,000 miles documenting the internal borders of the EU for his photographic series Borderline, the Frontiers of Peace.

The Artist Statement for this project:
"Since the signature of the Schengen Agreements in 1985, the borders of most of the European continent have been erased little by little from the landscapes and people’s imaginations. These Agreements are a giant leap in the progressive unification of Europe and the emergence of a European conscience.

Today, with 26 countries belonging to the Schengen Area, 16,500 km of borders can be freely crossed. The attribution of the Nobel Peace Prize to Europe in 2012 has confirmed the historical importance of this slow, almost imperceptible, but radical change.

With the help of a GPS and detailed maps, I have conducted many trips along these "erased" borderlines, with the intention of capturing the essence of these now-peaceful crossings. Even if sometimes these pictures have been taken thousands of km away from each other, they all provide images that are far from the stereotype that we tend to associate with the notion of border. What is a border anyway?"

And that must be the exact question that rooster is thinking as it crosses the invisible border between Belgium and the Netherlands...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BEAUTY: Interiors--Candace Shaw

Interior designer Candace Shaw collaborated with Maxine Granovsky Gluskin and her husband Ira to create a fantastic home in Toronto. The home might seem rather neutral but look closely at the details, the shapes, the forms, the balance of texture and pattern and color, and the composition of each room. Shaw's talents are evident in touches like orange silk curtains in an understated dining room, the classic and whimsical Pedro Friedeburg hand chair in the living room, salvaged Baroque columns that create an ad hoc four-poster bed in the master suite, and a Kelly Wearstler ink-splattered carpet in the study.

But it is Shaw's client Maxine, president of the Art Gallery of Ontario's board of trustees, who has collected a stunning display of modern photographic portraiture and modern art to grace the walls of the home and serve as a counterpoint to what at first glance seems like more traditional elements such as a Chippendale-style fretwork stair rail and classical moldings in the hallway.

Photos from Elle Decor

Monday, July 27, 2015

BEAUTY: Sculpture--Leah Fraser

Sydney-based painter and sculptor Leah Fraser makes deliberately naïve- and tribal-looking figures she calls Shamans which incorporate crystals and gem stones into their bodies. The effect is totemic, appearing as ethnic objects a Shaman might actually use in practice.

Crystal Mountain Shaman, earthenware and assorted crystals
Ongon Shaman, earthenware and assorted shells and crystals
River Song Shaman, earthenware, selenite, and lapis lazuli
These Things Take Time Shaman, earthenware and assorted crystals
Turn Your Body To Light Shaman, earthenware, citrine, and apophylite

She also makes "Magic Bottles," which, again, look like something in which a Shaman would store herbal remedies or healing powders.

Crow Magic Bottle, earthenware and turquoise
Flight Magic Bottle, earthenware and chrysocolla
Swallowtail Magic Bottle, earthenware and sea shell
White Stone Magic Bottle, earthenware and assorted crystals

Fraser does not have a dedicated website that I can find but her work is featured at and sold by Arthouse Gallery in New South Wales.

Fraser's Shamans remind me of "River Man," a fantastic song by the incomparable David Sylvian from his 1986 opus "Gone To Earth."

I see your eyes light up like fire
It's medicine to me
But as the hunted live their lives
You're keeping out of reach

So I keep running, falling
Till I reach the water
Run with me, holyman
When I reach out I find I'm
Standing right beside her
Now we're living blessed with
All the thunder in the world

Should you ask me to come home
To wake up from the sleep
Like a boat inside a storm
Is there no hope for me?

So I keep running, falling
Wade into the water
Run with me, riverman
But when I reach out I find I'm
Standing right beside her
Now we're living blessed with
All the thunder in the world

So I keep running, falling
Till I reach the water
Run with me, holyman
An' when I reach out I find I'm
Standing right beside her
Now we're living blessed with
All the thunder in the world

Blessed with all the thunder in the world
Blessed with all the thunder in the world
Blessed with all the thunder in the world
All the thunder in the world
Blessed with all the thunder in the world

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Animation for The School of Life based on a short piece of writing by Alain de Botton.
Co-directed by Lara Lee & Hannah Jacobs
Narration by Alain de Botton

Thursday, July 23, 2015

BEAUTY: Painting--Jill Sykes

Painter Jill Sykes paints a very simple but utterly enchanting motif, especially for summer: the shadows of plants and tree branches and leaves on a wall. I used to live in a house that had a beautiful bush outside the window of my home office and when the sun shone in, it cast these exact patterns on the wall above my desk. I would get distracted by the subtle movement of the branch in the breeze, and watch for minutes, hypnotized...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Just finished reading...

...Mary Renault's THE LAST OF THE WINE.

After I read Mary Renault's THE MASK OF APOLLO last year (reviewed here), I was eager to start this novel by Renault, her first one set in ancient Greece.

In THE LAST OF THE WINE, written in 1956, we follow our narrator, Alexias, from early childhood to adulthood. And I must say, it was a rather dry start. I just don't recall MASK being dry but perhaps the fact that she wrote it in 1966 gave her a good ten years to adjust and refine her story telling technique for her ancient Greek timeline.

As I made my way through the book, each chapter struck me not so much as literature, but a list of facts: this happened, then this happened, then that happened. Renault was not an indulgent writer. She clearly did not believe in taking time to truly develop characters in a spiritual or psychological way (I wonder what she thought of Virginia Woolf?). Events and action. That was her modus operandi for this book. And to my surprise, her method does have a kind of cumulative effect. Reading accounts of our narrator's life--his participation in the Olympic games, his friendship and love affair with Lysis, his studies with Socrates, his military service, all against the back drop of instability and war between the Greek city-states--actually does build a character. She has a way of getting it all to accrue and to matter so I ended up caring about our narrator and his life when I thought I did not! Whether that is an accidental by-product of Renault's writing or whether it was carefully planned by the author is still a question I have.

I am torn between the idea that, at least in light of this novel, Renault is a kind of surface-y storyteller skimming along the top, and the idea that she knew what she was doing and measured out a careful and effective pace of action and time. I can't tell...and maybe that is not such a good reaction to have. Maybe it shows a flaw in the writing.

Aside from the mechanism of her writing itself, the book, like MASK, is impeccably researched. Renault was a true scholar and she spent a lifetime studying ancient Greece so she knew what she was presenting. The structure of life in ancient Greece--or contemporary Greece to our narrator--feels true and fleshed out. My reaction to her portrayal of ancient Greece in this novel is a little paradoxical (and has nothing to do with the story itself): it seems so different, a universe away from our own daily existence, with slaves and temples and women treated as property and hand-to-hand combat, and all the details specific to ancient Greece--and then as I was reading, I continually realized nothing has changed. Women are still treated poorly and in parts of the world, still considered to be property. We are all still at war--not with city-states obviously (although some backward states here in the United States are having a very hard time joining the culture of the 21st century, and make occasional noises about seceding), but with other countries, and with differing religions. How tiresome; when will we ever, as an entire species, get rid of this specter of "God?" "God bless America?" How about "God bless the world." Don't people want the whole planet to succeed? They live on the planet with everyone else after all; or better yet, how about "We bless ourselves" about people find the value in themselves that they want their god to find? Alexias and many other characters made offerings at the temples of different gods to ask a favorable outcome of something or other. And we, as a culture, tend to do the same. Instead of relying upon help from a supernatural force, it might behoove us to help ourselves.

I guess that is the universality at the core of the story, but there is something about it that feels different from the usual "universality" of something like Shakespeare: oh, jealousy or love is the same through the ages, yes yes yes, but when I live in Renault's ancient Greece, there are differences. The whole hand to hand combat thing is pretty horrific and immediate, and so reminds me of some of the harrowing battle passages in WAR AND PEACE. There are in that novel, and here too, depictions of a kind of war we as a species have not known for several hundred years, since the invention of the cannon and gun. These depictions are disappointing though, because I end up at the same place: it might not be hand to hand, but here we are, STILL at it, hacking away at one another. And another difference: the sexual logic is interesting as well. We know that it was common for younger men and older men to have mentor and sexual relationships. But what confuses me is how, at least as Renault shows it, a deep relationship can grow between two men, but then there comes a time when they both must abandon that for the younger man--or both men, soldiers for instance--to marry a woman. Maybe it is that I am looking through the eyes of someone who has fought for gay rights, and in this day and age when gay men (and women) are more and more accepted, I find it disquieting that these men, in a culture that did not frown upon homosexuality, were both somehow by turns encouraged to have and discouraged from having gay relationships. But perhaps that is the issue: for them, that is how it was structured and for me in 2015, I get to make up my own mind. I don't have to choose one thing or another because an arbitrary societal or cultural construct simply says I have to. But having said that, one of the biggest and most valuable pieces of the story is the enduring relationship between Alexias and Lysis. They start their relationship as a younger/older mentor-friend-lover structure, but as they pass the years, fight side by side in battle after battle, and after Lysis takes a wife, they remain entwined, head and heart. And that is a lovely thing.

Recommend? Hmmm. I'm not sure. If you are interested in ancient Greece, this would be a good way to learn about life in that time period...and as I have previously hashed out, it does manage to take hold of one. But if you are looking for literature and not just historical fiction, no, skip it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

BEAUTY: Clothing--Misc. New York Fashion Week

Well, it finally happened! CFDA, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, launched a stand alone men's Fashion Week in New York. I am sure they were inspired by the success story across the pond at London Collections: Men, so this past week saw Spring and Summer collections from some top designers in the United States...a few of them, I confess, are new to me which is exactly the purpose of having a break out men's event like this: to promote menswear.

Here are some highlights from the shows of the first ever New York Fashion Week: Men's.

Opening Ceremony's Carol Lim and Humberto Leon started their fashion retail space in Manhattan in 2002. Their cache grew until they were appointed, as a team, Creative Directors of Kenzo. And for this showing at New York Fashion Week: Men's, the pair created for their original label some wonderful wide legged trousers and shorts. We saw this silhouette on many runways in many collections in Milan and Paris last month. And it is going to replace the skinny trouser...

I love the focus Robert Geller put on the waist with cummerbund-like pieces made of what looks like cable knit sweaters. But other iterations with cords resemble obi sashes for kimonos. It reminds me greatly of what Haider Ackermann did last month in Paris, seen here.

Engineered Garments, founded in 1999 by Japanese designer Daiki Suzuki, is dedicated to a kind of quirky expression of workwear. Recalling the work of another Japanese designer, Junya Watanabe, this Spring Summer '16 collection from Engineered Garments seems like an homage to railroad engineers and their pin striped smocks and aprons. But of particular note is the choice of mature models. Well done, EG!

And finally, regular readers know I love unique shoes. And these exotic, tropical slippers from Michael Bastian feature prints of banana leaves, woven wicker, crocodile, and zebra--perfect for a summer in, say, Costa Rica!