General Burnside and his whiskers peek between Sabbath candlesticks.
As I've noted previously, our family doesn't rank high on the old-timey scale. I don't hunt, plow, swim in a wool union suit, macrame owls, or play racquetball.
But we, as a family, collectively yearn for a simpler time, a time when...well, a time when stuff wasn't a bunch of plastic crap and a guy could get botulism from eating a pickle.
We have a glass-fronted cabinet where some of our religious items are kept. Adding to this sanctimony is the somber visage of the original Mr. Keep-Portland-Weird, Ambrose Burnside, staring at us from a booze label inspired by his daguerreotype.
We keep the bottle behind the candlesticks and next to the Passover plate as a first aid measure should religious observance in our home cause a calamity requiring a good, stiff drink.
I realize that Slivovitz should be the bottle in the cabinet, for that at least takes into account our Eastern-European ancestry. We'll have to pass on that until some hipsters in town start distilling the stuff and selling it with a cool old-timey graphic.
LSS recently organized the pantry to reveal meager supplies.
I am not prepared for the apocalypse unless you mean zombie apocalypse, then we are well prepared, at least in philosophy (first stage: scrounge food from the city, then when it is clear there is no Internet move to the country and learn to grow crops and squint at strangers when they approach).
I grew up in Minnesota where classmates' parents "put up" fruits and vegetable they had grown themselves.
No such talents on our parts.
Should the grocery store run out of food we most likely would survive about 15 minutes, then we would face the void of a larder stocked with hot sauce and canned tomatoes.
I can't help but ponder what a person who lived in America 100 years previous would think of our lifestyle -- probably be like, "Cantaloupe in February? Forget all that pioneer crap, sign me up!"
Because this is a British production it is a "documentary" rather than "reality TV." The premise is that the producers, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, send Karl Pilkington, who hates travel, traveling around the globe for non-stop misadventure.
Karl complains at every new place, strange food, odd custom, no doubt to the delight of audiences everywhere who share his Homer Simpson sensibilities. Toilets, weird edibles, odd dress, nothing is off limits for this everyman.
The 10-year-old really loves this show, somehow Karl's observations jibe correct with the kid.
Karl, however, is not an employee at a nuclear facility or a coal miner or barkeep, rather an English radio and television personality, travel show presenter, actor, author and former radio producer. He has a calm deadpan that could be a good influence on an excitable child.
At least he's introduced several unusual destinations to the kid, such as America, giving him an outside look at our nutty culture.
Back in the day I had a friend who was a serious fan of Andy Warhol. My friend wasn't a collector or a party-goer at The Factory, but a serious exhibitor of art who was thrilled with the conceptual flights of Warhol.
My friend staged a Warhol film festival which showcased many of his works. Several of the films appeared as studies of a singular activity, such as "Man Eating A Mushroom."
The crowning achievement of the festival was a screening of "Empire" -- a silent movie, filmed in slow motion, of the Empire State Building in New York City. The film runs eight hours and five minutes and has a few seconds of action when a blurry Warhol walks in the foreground a few times throughout the film. Abridged showings of the film were never allowed, and supposedly the
unwatchability of the film was an important part of the reason the film
Back when I was cool I sat in the theater marveling at the audacity of using motion picture technology to render a static object. I sat for over an hour staring at the screen, my mind running through permutation after permutation about what type of message, art, legacy Warhol strove for.
Whatever my conclusions they've long evaporated except for the thought that the film still stands a marvel as a playful, subversive work.
So when my 10-year-old filmed 16 minutes of him hitting a discarded pager with a hammer, I immediately thought of Warhol's films.
I thought I don't want anyone to be bored or have to face the void of conceptual art. With that in mind I cranked up the speed to 400% of normal for a more concise video. Enjoy!
The 10-year-old made two videos this weekend. "Dr. Chicken" is the second and perhaps the most thematically challenging of his recent works, bringing a controlled, yet ebullient, spirit to this rousing short.
As his YouTube channel is a subsidiary of my account (minimum age 13), I see the comments his classmates post on his videos. Whatever the adult world may think of his work, he is hitting big with the fourth-graders, keying in on the zeitgeist with style and verve.
As a result of watching many YouTube videos the 10-year-old wants to do it himself and break big on his own channel.
My role is to help the kid get his ideas filmed, edited, and uploaded.
I'm trying hard to confine my help to the technical ("Might need some light in here") rather than be a story editor. So far the kid is satisfied I am taking direction appropriately. Not only has he scripted the dialogue but he also is very specific where the edits should be.
Here is the first work from the weekend where the kid is doing a parody of a video blogger. From the mind of a 10-year-old to you.
Eugene Smith and Thelonius Monk jamming in 1959. Note: This photograph is for illustration only and does not represent the French movie industry, students, or cats.
Seeing so many images of France lately brought me back to the Spring of 1983 when I graduated high school and purchased a ticket to Gatwick Airport, outside London, and a Eurail Pass for a few months.
I traveled all over Europe that spring with two friends and now laugh at myself when I think about the things I said, did, believed in. But such had to be for a life well lived.
Still it was a fantastic trip that was to launch many life pursuits. One of the things that the three of us all agreed on was that we needed to travel alone for a while. I don't remember if this was because the others had itineraries I didn't think were important or they just needed to flee my cloying presence. I immediately saw this "alone time" as my own vision quest -- what would happen if I had nowhere I had to be, had all the time in the world, and was able to easily move myself around Western Europe. Such freedom reiterated that my life was my own and I would spend it as I saw fit.
So what did I actually do?
Sure I saw the Louvre, the Prado, the Uffizi Gallery, but also spent serious time playing video games and trying to find movies in English of the Fast Times At Ridgemount High sort.
In Paris I went to a scruffy university neighborhood and found the shabby theater showing an American movie. In the square near the theater was a statue of an 18th century nobleman, judging by his dress, that someone had dumped a bucket of orange paint over -- certainly a strident protest of something.
Before the main movie was a black-and-white ten-minute short of jazz musicians playing which looked like it was made in the 1950s. The film cut back and forth between the musicians and slow-motion footage of cats being dropped behind a translucent screen so only their silhouettes were visible. The bebop jazz, the cats gracefully writhing through the air, made for something that in my mind was unequivocally French, artistic, and beyond the scope of gross American culture.
There was no mention of who the musicians were, or even who made the film -- it appeared to exist only to give illustration to the beautiful abstraction of the music. I had certainly seen music videos before, but such were obviously intended to promote the band and sell records. The minimal edits, the stationary camera, the beauty of the airborne cats, all seemed to exist only to give the viewer pleasure.
I looked for this clip on YouTube and was unable to find it. I was again brought back to that smokey theater when I saw this clip. Sure it has good production value and is by a famous artist, but the style harkens back to my jazz-cat experience in thematic simplicity. Enjoy:
Stoic, fearful, sometimes petulant, these patient kids waited a full 20 minutes for the pizza to come to the table without exploding in anguish.
I freely fess up to being a lover of pizza, both fair and not-so-fair. But if I have to choose, I'll take the good stuff.
A moment of delicate emotions occurs when the family comes out of a rainy Oregon night, labors collaboratively to choose the toppings, then is forced to wait a spell until the dinner arrives.
Those first few minutes when everybody is eating, talk is minimal as the hot cheese and pepperoni reminds (the Jewish pizza eaters) that life is not only samsara, but we can catch glimpses of nirvana, especially when really hungry and eating a fine slice.
A good pizza experience can turn the impossible task into merely a challenging chore.
I get comfort from many types of food, but pizza is particularly joy-inducing.