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Image: The Art Newspaper
Alexander Ponomarev’s underwater art project, “Alchemy of Antarctic Albedo (or Washing Pale Moons)” was said to be for the edification of whales.

Quirky art projects in quirky places call for quirky reporters. Adrian Dannatt writes entertainingly at the Art Newspaper about memorable moments experienced on a trip to cover underwater art — in the Antarctic.

“Typical barren beach; Joaquin Fargas putting reflective silver sheets over the rocks to try and help stop global warming whilst the young architect Gustav Düsing was busy with his white cotton tent, sprayed with water to freeze rock-solid like salt or Greek marble drapes. …

“Rather effective photo exhibition using special plastic display boxes on tripods mounted in the water and along the beach, the horizon line in a photograph next to actual horizon on the sea. …

“At 4 pm it had been a week since we first came up the gangplank and boarded this boat, now our dear old friend. All gather on the back deck for Alexander-the-Great, Pon-Pon lui-même to launch his own underwater art project, ‘Alchemy of Antarctic Albedo (or Washing Pale Moons).’

“These submerged lit globes will be lowered into the sea in order ‘to clean the moon ash.’ He happily admits that he is making this work just for the whales, typically generous, ‘they are a better audience than so many others.’ …

“Much masculine labour, heaving and pushing, to get the moon-balls out to sea, a sweaty, rather laborious form of three-dimensional poetry.

We went out in our Zods but of course could not see anything of the project because it was all underwater, made for the fishes rather than mere humans.

“However the two Argentine underwater divers, fantastic moustachioed veterans straight out of Hemingway, who had been very dismissive and suspicious of the whole thing, were actually impressed, touched, transformed by seeing the reality. Which makes it a successful art work by any definition, and the whales apparently surely adored it also.” More here.

It feels both silly and sacred. Like liturgical clowns.

Dean’s Beans

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Photo: Dean’s Beans
A visit to growers in Peru.

A friend on the commuter train got me into buying the very delicious coffee of Dean’s Beans a couple years ago.

I was initially intrigued by the idea that you could create a special blend and name it for somebody as a gift. But I soon learned there was even more to admire about the way Dean and his company are raising the living standards of the farmers they work with in poor countries.

A recent email newsletter from Dean shows what I mean.

“Each visit to our farmer partners is an amazing experience. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always both a learning experience and a chance to go deeper into our quest to bring positive change to the world. My recent muddy, buggy, flood and storm delayed trip to Pangoa Coop on the slopes of the Peruvian Amazon was no exception. (Facebook photo album here!)

“Our 13 year-long reforestation project has resulted in huge forest tracts and more income for the farm families of Pangoa. Walking amongst the bird-filled, mixed-story forests towering over the coffee plants on the farms of Avelino, Rodrigo and Sabino, I am so humbled and thrilled to see where the farmers have gone with a little help from their friends.

“They have started in their nursery, planted and grown over thirty thousand hardwood trees through the program, and we are looking at twenty thousand more in the next two years. Their low-tech, highly productive bokashi composting program has helped farmers resist and overcome the devastation of La Roya (Rust fungus) in recent years. What amazing resilience!

“You can join us on a walk-through of this lush, healthy coffee forest on our Javatrekker YouTube Channel! …

“I have also been talking to Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center about including Pangoa in their Bird Friendly certification program.  We had several community meetings to explain the program. The farmers are totally into it and they will easily pass with flying colors (just look at the toucans and tanagers!). We are now arranging the inspector visits and have agreed to pay all of the administrative costs so that Pangoa can seamlessly integrate Bird Friendly certification into their portfolio of progress.

“Similarly, during meetings with CODEMU, their women’s organization, lots of women shared their success stories as the loan fund we got started ten years ago continues to support these hard working women. …

“Wow, am I blessed to have such a fulfilling and damned fun life!”

More here. Follow Dean on twitter @Deans_Beans.


I enjoyed an upscale pre-auction showing of art and antiques with Stuga 40 on my recent trip. Next time I may need to check out an unusual shopping mall dedicated to recycled items. Steve Ghent wrote about it at Good News Network.

“A new generation of recycling has now gone from local drop-off centers to a shopping mall that sells only repaired or upcycled products. …

“ReTuna Återbruksgalleria … contains both a recycling center and a shopping mall. Customers can donate the items that they no longer need, then shop for something new – all in one stop.

“Dropped off goods are sorted into various workshops where they are refurbished or repaired accordingly. Products are then sorted into 14 specialty shops that include furniture, computers, audio equipment, clothes, toys, bikes, and gardening and building materials; all garnered from second-hand products. …

“The center, which is operated by the local municipality, has benefited the local economy by creating 50 new repair and retail jobs, and providing space for private start-ups and local artisans.

“The biggest bonus for the Swedish community is how the center relieves local government from the tremendous burden and expense of disposing of unwanted goods while turning potential ‘waste’ into profits.” More at Good New Network, here. Environmentalist Brad Zarnett posted the link on twitter.

By the way, if you are a big fan of recycling, be sure to check out the WordPress blog Things I Find in the Garbage, which is written by a Canadian who makes a living from things people throw out.

In his regular posts, he describes what he finds, what he usually gets for such items, where he sells them, and any little interactions with people who see him digging through their trash. He also offers resources like “How to Spot Bedbug Infested Garbage.”


Photo: Aaron Wade
The Wade brothers (from left: Nigel, Zach, Aaron and Nick) are all going to attend Yale.

I have often felt awe for parents who do a good job of managing twins, especially when the twins are infants. How much greater is my awe of the Wade brothers’ parents, who must have done a lot of things right to manage quadruplets who all became academic achievers.

As Sarah Larimer wrote at the Washington Post in April, “The Wade quadruplets, of Liberty Township, Ohio, learned that all four had been accepted at Harvard and Yale universities — offers that added to a pretty impressive pile of potential college destinations. …

“Besides Harvard and Yale, the Wade brothers have loads of options for the next four years. Nick got into Duke, Georgetown and Stanford. Aaron is in at Stanford, too. Nigel made the cut with Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt, and Zach with Cornell. …

“ ‘The outcome has shocked us,’ Aaron said. ‘We didn’t go into this thinking, “Oh, we’re going to apply to all these schools and get into all of them.” It wasn’t so much about the prestige or so much about the name as it was — it was important that we each find a school where we think that we’ll thrive and where we think that we’ll contribute.’ …

“Darrin Wade, who works for General Electric, and his wife, a school principal, have saved some money for their sons’ education. But the father said it’s not enough to cover four sets of full tuition for four years at full price at elite private universities. The mother and father are mindful of their own need for retirement funds, too.

“ ‘We have to make sure that we’re helping them down the road by not being a financial burden on them when we get older,’ Wade said.” More from the original story here.

I needed to know what the upshot was and managed to find a May follow-up story. NBC reported that Yale offered the four brothers a great financial aid package, so that’s where they are going.

Hat tip: Cousin Claire on Facebook.

Image: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
The World Economic Forum touts research suggesting that “forest bathing,” the act of being among the trees, has health benefits.

We love trees. John, for example, serves on the Arlington tree committee and helps with the town’s efforts to inventory its trees, acquire more sidewalk plantings, and assist researchers studying the role of urban trees in carbon reduction.

A master landscaper I know is also into trees. He shared this story about the health benefits of something the Japanese call “forest bathing.”

Ephrat Livini wrote at the World Economic Forum, “Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being.

“Forest bathing — basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy. …

“Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better — inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function. …

“From 2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent about $4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing, designating 48 therapy trails based on the results. Qing Li, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, measured the activity of human natural killer (NK) cells in the immune system before and after exposure to the woods. These cells provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and respond to tumor formation, and are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. In a 2009 study Li’s subjects showed significant increases in NK cell activity in the week after a forest visit, and positive effects lasted a month following each weekend in the woods. …

“Experiments on forest bathing conducted by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences in Japan’s Chiba University measured its physiological effects on 280 subjects in their early 20s. The team measured the subjects’ salivary cortisol (which increases with stress), blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability during a day in the city and compared those to the same biometrics taken during a day with a 30-minute forest visit. …

“Trees soothe the spirit too. A study on forest bathing’s psychological effects surveyed 498 healthy volunteers, twice in a forest and twice in control environments. The subjects showed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores, coupled with increased liveliness, after exposure to trees. …

“City dwellers can benefit from the effects of trees with just a visit to the park. Brief exposure to greenery in urban environments can relieve stress levels.”

More here. Be sure to watch the video.

Hat tip: Paul Kelly on Facebook.

mariannemooresplash-1Ellen’s friend and colleague Heather Cass White has come out with a new edition of poetry by Marianne Moore, the quirky inventor of “turtle top” for a car design, among other, more significant literary adventures.

I once had the pleasure of hearing Marianne Moore read at Bryn Mawr College. She looked so much like my grandmother. My parents encouraged me to read her books, providing O, To Be a Dragon! for example. Random lines stuck with me, like this statement on poetry: “I, too, dislike it.”

On the website “FSGWork in Progress,” White writes thoughtfully about the challenges presented by her subject.

“In trying to sum up the experience of having spent the last ten years editing the poetry of Marianne Moore, most recently in the New Collected Poems, I think of a recent classroom interaction I had. Toward the end of a course on twentieth-century poetry, one of my students, clearly at the end of her patience with me, demanded to know why I kept asking them, ‘But what is a poem?’ It’s probably a measure of how deeply I feel that question that I hadn’t noticed I’d asked it even once before she pointed it out.

“I do know why I am stuck on it, however. Editing Moore’s work will deprive anyone of their certainty about what a poem actually is. All poetry editing raises a fundamental issue: Is a poem a specific ordering of words on a page? And if so, which page? The one the poet originally wrote, whether by hand or type; or the one that was first published; or the one that was last published?

“If all of those arrangements of words are identical, one may duck the question, but they rarely are. Typesetters and proofreaders make mistakes, and they also make corrections which poets find agreeable. Poets change their minds. Conventions of spelling and punctuation vary from house to house, and change over time. There are competing theories about how to handle such issues, and consensus views to guide practitioners, but the questions must always be confronted.

“At the risk of seeming to brag, I will claim that confronting these questions in Moore’s work is unusually torturous. Someone had to, though, because the final record Moore left of her own work — and the standard Moore edition for several decades — has been her mendaciously titled Complete Poems (1967). …

“Creating one, however, is tricky. Her lifelong practices of revising, reordering, and redacting her poems make a special kind of hash out of any attempt to be definitive. Certainly her revisions are the most spectacular problem. Moore didn’t just write poems, she rewrote them, often completely, often more than once. …

“Moore deserves careful editorial attention because she is, by any measure, a major poet. She was and is revered by her poet peers for her inventiveness, her fierce intelligence, her wit, and her moral vision. Her work is original, with an original’s perennial newness. In editing the New Complete Poems, I have done what editors do: devised a working set of procedures to present the poet I know and value. I have not, because I cannot, settled any questions about what her poetry is or may become. Original things always exceed definitive presentation and containment. Long may her poems confound us.” More here.

In one of the ESL classes where I volunteer, we have been reading Emily Dickinson. Time to suggest Moore to the teacher, I think. Women poets don’t get nearly the respect they deserve: it pains me to recall that as much as my father wanted me to know the work of these women, he told me there were no great female poets.

I’m back to taking walks near my home and looking for interesting shadows. The current collection of photos includes leaf shadows on a tree trunk. Only a couple dog walkers were out when I shot this, but I noted an unusual number of cars outside a house flying “2017” balloons. Probably a late-night graduation bash. All was quiet as the grave at 6:30 a.m.

Nearby, blue lupines caught my attention. I admired many lovely ones in Sweden and was happy to see that, while I was gone, a whole batch was blooming along my usual walking route.

I’m also sharing a grapevine over a bench, a bonsai tree near the church herb garden, and a deep red rose on a white picket fence.

More unusual: the big playhouse at the nursery school and some elaborate digital art by high school students.

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