History, Removing Statues, Sculpture, statue

Learning All About History by Looking at Statues. Chapter V ~ An Iron Curtain Descends

 

I’ve always revered architects, and will often come to a complete halt to admire a building.

Even if that’s frustrating to the people behind me, honking their horns.

But while I love architecture, I’ve never really cared deeply about interior design.

So I didn’t immediately identify this statue as one of the founding fathers of interior decorating, Fritz Pingelig, in his day, draped in glory, and known throughout Europe (as well as the Sultanate of Brunei, and some parts of Abyssinia), as “The Iron Curtain”  (or “Langsir Besi” in Malay, or “Yebireti Megareja” in Amharic).

He traveled the length and breadth of a war-torn continent, stitching together a more sophisticated lifestyle, advancing civilization yard by yard.  And in the process, developing valance theory.

 

The artist Pingelig in his salad days. When he ran out of windows, he’d hang curtains in the surrounding woods. Some people thought that was weird, and hampered the crossbow season.

 

Pingelig felt strongly about home décor, and nothing in his plans was more important than curtains and drapery.

The statue depicts him with a curtain rod, draped in one of his baroque creations.

“I care not a pin for putting up walls, but envision a Running Fence of Fabric, separating culture from the abyss.” 

During the endless strife during the Thirty Years War*, Pingelig somehow stayed neutral, traveling from court to court, castle to castle, on the rough corde du roi roads of the day, helping the hidebound to get over their hangups, introducing curtains and a bit of privacy to Europe.

I can do nothing about this endless war,” he declared, but at least I can oppose the drafts.”

He constantly exchanged ideas with other artists and architects of his day, through a network of messengers he called “The Silken Web.”  Whenever inspiration struck, usually in the wee hours, he would dash off a textile message.  The archive in Lisle, France preserves some of these notes, written in a tiny hand on scraps of foolscap – exhorting, self-promoting, criticizing – and they provide us a window into the past, and into Pingelig’s soul.  Essentially, he was mad as a hatter.

Somehow surviving a badly-frayed social fabric, and decades of warfare, his tragic death stemmed from his blind hatred for Venetian blinds.

“A window hanging is too good for them” he would often say.

He greeted each new acquaintance with the question You know how to make a Venetian blind?”

followed by “Poke him in the eye!”

Then he would laugh maniacally.

He never got tired of that one.

And he had a sword, so most people shuttered, but laughed along.

Finally, he trotted out this joke to a visitor named Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola.

Who did not cotton to this bit of drollery.

Andrea, better known by his professional name, Palladio, was not only one of the most famous architects of all time, but a proud citizen of the Republic of Venice.

Shortly after this, Palladio invited Pingelig to the unveiling of a grand colonnade of his design, hinting that a nice bit of chintz might be the perfect, neoclassical finishing touch.

But due to a typo in the brochures, the affair turned out to be a cannonade, and Pingelig died in an accidental crossfire.

We draw a curtain over his soon-forgotten life, a loose thread in the tapestry of history, his legacy just blowing in the breeze.

No one really pays any attention to that man behind the curtain.

Peace to thy gentle shade.

 

* Ok so technically, the Thirty Years’ War wasn’t endless, but a lot of people said it felt kind of endless, between the wholesale slaughter, burning, looting, and the Baroque music of the time – you can only take so much harpsichord and sackbut.  A lot of folks said, you know, doesn’t it feel more endless than the Hundred Years’ War?  Which was kind of on-again-off-again, there were famines and plagues to kind of add variety, at least you got a break once in a while?  They would have laughed at the Seven Years’ War, big deal.  And in our gone-to-the-dogs modern times, talking about the 1967 Six-Day War, please, people from the 17th c. would find it pathetic.  Although the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 clocked in at under 45 minutes.  Some people describe my digressions as endless, come off it, venga ya, they’re no ways as bad as the Thirty Years’ War.

 

P.S.  I did not make up the name Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, that’s the Palladian architecture guy’s real name.  His father wasn’t a gondolier, either, so I don’t get it.

P.P.S.  There’s been a lot of confusion over claims that Pingelig claimed to have designed the Louvre.

He never said that.  It was already there, for centuries. And Cardinal Richelieu told him, they already had enough curtains.

Pingelig designed the louvre, or what we in the U.S. would call the louver.  

And when the Venetians came up with a better, adjustable version of slanted slats, that’s when the resentment started.

P.P.P.S.  from Carole King’s “Tapestry”

He moved with some uncertainty, as if he didn’t know
Just what he was there for, or where he ought to go…
Soon within my tapestry, along the rutted road,
He sat down on a river rock and turned into a toad
~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Chap. IV  “The Perils of the Pavement”   Dog Warden Philip Eckel 

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/12/07/learning-all-about-history-by-looking-at-statues-chapter-iv-p-eckel-the-perils-of-the-pavement/

Chap. III “A Tale of a Forgotten Colony”   Harold, of the House of Hamburg

http://www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/12/01/learning-all-about-history-by-looking-at-statues-chapter-iii-a-tale-of-a-forgotten-colony/

Chap. II  “Giving History an Icy Reception”  Teddy Roosevelt

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/11/22/giving-history-an-icy-reception/

Chap. I “Stumping for President”  George Washington

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/11/17/stumping-for-president/

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Finger Lakes, FLX, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant

Last summer, after a wet spell, I posted some pictures of colorful specimens of toadstools and other fungi, sprouting all over the local woods.

I also included this shot, of a strange non-fungus, “monotropa uniflora,”  called by various names like “Ghost Plant,” “Indian Pipe,” or “Ghost Pipe.”

 

I would not care to hear whatever dark and sinister tune might whisper out of these pale ghost pipes.

From a distance, it has a pale, porcelain prettiness, and the stems are a rather nice pink, but on closer inspection, the overall effect is of an unhealthy, repellent fleshiness.  But perhaps I’m just projecting, because of its vampirish lifestyle.

A lot of fascinating info on Tom Volk’s Fungus Web Page.

[http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi]

My first surprise, was to find out that it’s a herbaceous perennial plant, and somehow related to much more cheerful plants:

cranberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries!

Seems like it would be a strained relationship.

That pale, creepy Uncle Fester we never discuss when the young blueberries are around.

Not only did we find it growing amidst the various fungi, but like them, it lacks chlorophyll.

A parasitic existence, living on fungi.

It’s host fungi, in turn, have a symbiotic relationship to trees, often beeches.

Professor Volk mentions a “one-way flow of carbohydrates,” which immediately brought an image of me in a pasta restaurant.

Given its somewhat creepy appearance, and parasitic nature, its not surprising to find another, creepy, nickname,

“Corpse Plant.”

 

I’ve only seen it a couple of times in my life, and was surprised to find it again, embedded in greenish glass, in the Corning Glass Museum!

This is an amazing glass creation by Paul Stankard, “Cloistered Tri-Level Botanical with Indian Pipe Flower and Spirits”

I’m sorry it’s not a better picture, I photographed it inside a glass case, which could have used a wash.  We know which visitors are making things smeary, we can identify their fingerprints.

 

But if you look closely, you can make out the spirits on the underside of this strange plant.

 

 

Here’s a link to a better image, on the museum website

[www.cmog.org/artwork/cloistered-tri-level-botanical-indian-pipe-flower-and-spirits]

Apparently Native Americans discovered a number of medicinal uses, including a root tea, used as a sedative and soporific.

I don’t experiment with such things, and in this case, doesn’t it look like, as a sleeping aid, it might just work a bit too well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blogging, memory, music, South America, Sudamerica

The power of a song ~ ~ ~ Musical journeys in my mind

Every day, I’d look at the volcán Villarica. At night, there was a glow in the sky above it, from its lava lake.

 

A little over a year ago, I was living in Chile, teaching English to school kids.

I think about my time there quite often, but whenever I try to write down my impressions of that country, I find it very difficult.

 

I arrived, and dove right into it, caught up in a fast-paced orientation program, then moving to a small town in the foothills of the Andes, during the wintertime. I got off the bus, found my host family and moved into their hostel.

Next day, started teaching, often bewildered by the constant shifts in language. Textbook Spanish, to “schileno,” to some indigenous Mupache words, to “huaso” (a “cowboy” dialect used by the rancher kids), to “flaite” (ghetto slang).  My Spanish was so-so, and elements of “Spanglish” had crept in, from my City Year in a Milwaukee school.   Chile’s “English Opens Doors” program is taught entirely in English, in theory, but I was the only native English-speaker in the school, and needed to communicate with the staff, as well as the kids.

I was using every bit of spare time to think about creating lessons, to travel, find a hot shower, visit friends. I never took time to consider or reflect about my experience in Chile, until I was no longer there.

Now, I can look back, peering at that place and time in my mind’s eye, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to being able to describe it in a meaningful way.

Take Santiago, for example.

A fascinating place, but I don’t think I can really describe that city, apart from a series of brief memories. A walk up the Cerro Lucia hill, or the eerie silence of the city from atop the Torre de Americas, the tallest building in Latin America.

photos of the hillsides by Paul Quealy

 

But these memories already feel distant, like I’m watching a movie. Snippets of memories from Chile are vivid, but mostly they seem like a well-edited video.

 

 

I didn’t take many pictures, and most of those were taken with a cheap cellphone, and are clearly low resolution.  But I can close my eyes, and recall countless images, in clear high definition.

I can recall an emotional link (as you may get during a good movie), but as I replay these experiences in my mind, I cannot bring them back to life.

 

 

In an instant, I can conjure up a stream of images, that blend and flow seamlessly into each other, but they feel like a picture gallery, beyond reality.

 

 

That is, anyway, until I listen to music.

People often talk about scents, the aromas and smells that evoke memories. But for me, music is the strongest link to memory. Places, people, and even emotions come alive again when I’m listening, and it’s the sounds that are extremely evocative.

You usually don’t get to call the tune. For me, Chile is a song I would never have heard, had it not been for my fellow teacher, and good friend Paul, from Dublin.

Assigned as roommates in Santiago during training, by chance, we ended up posted to the same region of Chile, in towns on either side of Lake Villarica.

He was teaching the kids his kind of English, with a strong Irish accent, and would talk about his family in Dublin. And he introduced me to the music of an Irish singer I’d heard of, but never actually listened to, James Vincent McMorrow.

And like soda bread, or mutton stew, McMorrow is very much an acquired taste.

Not my usual rock & roll, or Motown soul.  I heard a high, light voice, like someone quietly singing to themselves.  Usually described by music critics as “delicate,” or even “whispy.”   It was good to hear someone singing in English, but McMorrow was really not my cup of tea.  At first, if I had to pick a single word for this terse, falsetto style, it might be “strange”.

And yet, the first song I heard, “Get Low,” immediately stuck in my head, and became the song of Chile for me.

I’d like to relate, that my theme song for Chile was a hauntingly beautiful folk tune, in 3/4-time, for the traditional cueca, the national dance.  But instead, every time I did anything by myself – riding the bus to Villaricca or Temuco, walking along the beach, on my way to school, when I got out bed – it was this almost airy Irish tune that played in my head.

And when I didn’t hear Get Low in my mind, this persistent, odd song, I’d put on headphones, and listen to it.

Chileans are a welcoming bunch.  Sincere, kind, and generous.  The teachers I worked with, the kids, and people I met day-to-day, were all honest and straightforward folks who love life.

But I was just desperate to hear English. It was exhausting to think and operate entirely in another language, especially when complicated by an unfamiliar accent, dialects and two distinct sets of slang, and there were times I felt like I was unable to think, unless I would be listening to music in English. So I would listen to any tune, any sort of dreck, so long as it was sung in English. Some of it, really terrible.

But, every day, I also listened to Get Low.

 

Now, over a year since I left Chile (almost to the day), when I hear that song, Chile is brought back to me in vibrant Technicolor! And with it, the memories of my friends, students, fellow teachers, glimpses of the landscapes from a bus window, the walks around town, all tinted with a happy glow. It all comes flooding back to me. I listen, and, during the span of that three-and-a-half minutes, I am revisiting Villaricca.

 

 

I can picture walking along the Costenera, see the volcano in the distance across the lake, the children running along the cold water on the black sand beach. I can picture coming up on the big terminal of the Jac Bus station, built from large wooden beams, which signaled that I had arrived back in town. I can picture the walk to Paul’s house, up the hill apart from all the other houses, back along the windy back roads.

 

My village, Pucón, sitting next to an active volcano, often felt creepy, despite being a “eco-tourist hub” with its trendy bars, tour stands, even a nightclub, its legions of bikers and hikers, getting gear on, getting a buzz on, loading up the trucks and buses for their guided outdoor “adventures.”  The teachers and kids were wonderful, but their town, during the winter months, is a dark, rainy place, saturated in smog from the countless wood stoves.  Some days you could taste the air, a pea soup of green wood smoke and carbon monoxide, with a soupçon of formaldehyde and ashes.

Across the lake, Villarica felt like a balanced, happier place, furthering my theory that Pucón’s volcano exerted some sort of magnetic pulse that negatively influenced my mood and emotions. There was a constant disorienting feeling of the surreal in Pucón, a sense of unreality.

 

Villaricca felt normal and safe, apart from the scattered remnants of the old city, most of which was burned during a Mapuche reprisal attack in the 1570s. A local told me the history of the region, and his in-depth recitation of its wars and slaughter also left me with a feeling of unease. The Mapuches, never subdued by the Incas or conquistadors, are resistant to colonization to this day;  some of the church-burnings prior to the Pope’s recent visit were blamed on extremist Mapuche factions.

But back to the music.

As the song plays, Chile suddenly becomes real to me.

I can picture going out for a beer and fried potatoes with onions and cheese (sounds bad but tastes good) with Paul and our local friend, Valentina. I can picture walking on the old concrete of a former dock, trying to dodge the waves off the lake as the wind picked up. I see the church, which meant I was lost, as I only ever saw it when I wandered in the wrong direction. The clothing stores, surprisingly nice and high-end. Fruit stalls that struck me as honest and authentic, with their colorful concrete walls, stacks of oranges, apples, and other fruits. I went there for cheap fruit frequently, at least until I was informed by Paul that the stacks of boxes harbored a considerable colony of rats. I never saw evidence of them, but figured that he was better informed.

 

While the music plays, I feel and recall everything .

We had a party in Villaricca, well, really more of a low-key get together, some of the English tutors and some locals. I can smell the gas of the heaters, feel the chilly biting cold wind, and hear the endless baying of the black-faced ibises on the rooftops around us.

 

Some of the English Opens Door teachers.

But, the song does more for me. Perhaps as my discrete, detailed memories fade and meld into one single dream-like experience, I listen now and see more.

I can see, all at once, the entire journey from Santiago to Valparaíso and everything in between, six months of memories and experiences, compressed into a few minutes.

 

 

I listen and recall our side trip to Argentina, riding bikes into the mountains, the lakes azure blue in the dry heat and the resinous smell of the pines and monkey puzzle trees. I clearly see Valparaíso, perhaps the highlight of my time in Chile. A place that felt magical, and was one of the more amazing cities I have been – very much a place in the here-and-now, and also a place off in a kind of time warp.

 

Now, when I hear Get Low, while I see mostly Pucón and Villariccca, a third town Temuco floats into the recollection, a place where I spent a fair bit of time. A little regional capital, with limited things to do and see, but a place where I was happy.

It’s not that the song is great. The song isn’t great, in fact I find McMorrow’s voice a bit weak and whispery, and the tune has become annoying, or at least, it is, when it’s playing endlessly in my head.

But as a tool, as a means of recalling and reliving highlights of the past, it is phenomenal.

 

The view from Volcán Villarica (in Mapuche, Rucapillán) 2,860 m.

 

You can take a chairlift most of the way up the Villarica volcano, and then hike up the snow-covered bit. Coming back down is faster, and fun – you can slide on your back, using the ice ax as a brake.

 

I have other songs. I recall Hong Kong with “We Were Kids” by Turtle Giant. I can listen to tunes to remind myself of college, or to recreate various trips. One piece of electronica instantly takes me to my college library, third floor, right side, fifth window from the bathrooms, overlooking the quad, with my countless books about the Iroquois stacked all around me.

The furthest back I can go with this trick, is six years ago, a trip through the Southwest, and specifically to Colorado, with The Killer’s “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” and a song called “Roya Re” sung by a Punjabi whose name escapes me. Both tunes provided by my Venezuelan friend Luis, with traveled with two things: a big collection of tunes on an iPod, and even bigger knife, and who took the time to introduce me to some new music.

I am now in Boston, and I am still waiting for the song that will define this city for me, but that will come in due time. I don’t even have to listen for it, it will just start playing one day.

 

 

P.S.  If anyone is interested in the “English Opens Doors,” here is the link centrodevoluntarios.cl/

It’s a wonderful program – the concept, the staff, and the volunteers –  run by Chile’s Ministry of Education and the U.N., and here’s a bit from their website:

The National Volunteer Center is a branch of the English Opens Doors Program and is supported by the United Nations Development Programme-Chile. The National Volunteer Center recruits native and near-native English speakers to work as teaching assistants in Chilean classrooms, specifically to improve students’ listening and speaking skills. Volunteers also assist with other initiatives of the English Opens Doors Program, such as debates and English Camps.
Volunteers teach and encourage the study of English while living with Chilean host families and interacting with members of the local community.

McMorrow “Get Low”

[www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ryi20DglVJM]

And War with “Low Rider

[www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A0U7jakUY8]

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Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Nature, NY, photography, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Upstate New York, Winter

Pictures of Upstate New York. January. A frozen stream in Sugar Hill Forest

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“Carroña (Carrion)” by Javier Perez

 

There were old Monty Python sketches, that started with “Well, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition…”

When we visited the new wing of the Corning Glass Museum, I didn’t expect crows.  But there were quite a few.

And this was my kind of ornithology – – indoors, out of the snow and sleet, and the subjects holding very still.

Among the creatures depicted on, and of glass, over the millennia, birds are clearly flying high, a perennial favorite.

The crows in the pictures above, are not glass.  They’re taxidermied  in the act of dismantling a ruby glass chandelier.

I’ve always kind of liked crows.

They’re a lot like some of my friends – – not outwardly colorful, but very smart, and horrible singers.

And some of them, easily distracted by shiny objects.

You’ve probably heard about the little girl in Seattle, who liked feeding the local crows.

The crows began to reciprocate by bringing her lots of interesting junk.  Including bits of glass, some beads and tiny lightbulbs.

[http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31604026]

Here’s a funny coincidence, not making this up.

While I’m writing this, I’m listening online to the Rochester NPR station (WXXI 91.5 FM).

They’re playing Schubert’s “Winterreise

It’s a song cycle in German, not really my kind of thing, but growing on me.  Parts of it are beautiful, but very formal, and sorry, just a bit somber.

And the commentator just mentioned the song was “Die Krähe” (“The Crow”)!

I looked it up:  “A crow has been following him. It has never left him, expecting to take his body as its prey.”

OK, then.

If Schubert had just been walking with a ruby glass chandelier, he could have tossed it on the path, and run for it!

One more installation, and let this be a warning, to any crows following me, and getting ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Crows” by Michael Rogers. The description from the museum site: “Transparent light grey glass; cast, applied pigment; assembled, paper, glue, and wire. 13 cast glass crows. The bodies are wrapped and glued, mummy-like, with newsprint ripped from the front pages of a Japanese newspaper. The crows are hung upside down, suspended by their tails from a twisted wire.”

 

P.S.  I then looked at some of the blogs I follow, and look what Frenchapple 10 “Creartful Dodger” posted [wordpress.com/read/feeds/2949462/posts/1733572267]

It was just Day of the Crows around here!!

 

 

Art, Finger Lakes, FLX, NY, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. January. Corning Museum of Glass ~ The Bad Crows

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It will be a long time before we see anything green or blooming in the Northeast.

Winter is a good time to look for interesting stalks and seed pods in the snow.

Well, this plant is not native to New York, and I think, it’s more interesting than beautiful.

I’ve seen it, in gardens, roadsides and woods, all my life.

Wikipedia indicates that Lunaria annua is naturalized, but native to the Balkans and SW Asia.

In both Europe and Asia, the common names refer to money:  silver dollar plant, the Pope’s money, coins of Judas, etc.

We’ve always called it “honesty.”

In winter, the stalks resemble an abandoned optician’s shop, vandalized by the winter, with old wire-rimmed spectacles, gone cloudy, or missing lenses.

It’s a tough, almost shrubby plant, that needs no care, and produces nice purple flowers, and self-seeds reliably.

The seed pods are brownish, flat, and oval – -you can see one hanging on in the pictures, darkened by exposure.

But when the outer layers drop off, it’s the inner part of the seed pod that a lot of people like to gather – – almost pearly, like discs of translucent parchment or paper.

In the last shot above, the membrane is shredded by the winter weather.  (Tattered honesty, this is New York, after all)

I think the last shot looks a bit sinister, like a display for “Sweeney Todd, Eye Doctor”

If you gather it in the fall, when it’s good and dry, you can slip off the outer covers, scatter the seeds, and bring in the money.

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Nature, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Upstate New York, Winter

Pictures of Upstate New York. January. Honesty, a bit tattered.

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My next few posts are going to be pictures from the Corning Glass Museum.

This is part of my series “Shameless Plugs for Upstate New York” – – my icy, crumbling, semi-medieval homeland.

The museum is a highlight of the “Southern Tier.”

This is the area along the Pennsylvania border, more often synonymous with job loss, aging population, and population loss.

Unless you’re making cheese, or meth, you’re often unemployed.

So Corning, NY, about four hours from New York City, seems a strange setting for a huge, rich treasure trove of ancient and modern glass – – that symbol of beauty, fragility, and civilization.

The explanation is the Corning Glass Company — operating here since 1868.

They’ve made glassware, windshields, Pyrex, Corelle, the telescope mirror for the Palomar Observatory, photochromatic lenses, and the glass for Edison’s light bulbs.

One of their offshoots, Steuben Glass, now defunct, made engraved pieces, for more than a century, that the White House used to present to foreign dignitaries, etc.

More recently, the company’s invented catalytic converters, touchscreens, and fiber optic cable.

But getting back to the museum.

Artists make pilgrimages here from around the world.

The bowl in the photograph has been on display, I think, since the 1980’s, and has always been one my favorites.

“Cityscape” is by Jay Munger, a California artist.

A Pyrex bowl, cut, sandblasted, and painted.

 

 

 

1980's, Art, Finger Lakes, FLX, NY, United States, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. Corning Glass Museum.

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