Saturday, December 31, 2011

Camille Claudel

I just watched Camille Claudel, the 1988 movie starring Isabelle Adjani in the title role. Besides the sometimes horrendous (read : over-dramatic) soundtrack, I enjoyed the portrayal of the artist. And was touched by Claudel's genius, and her tragic story. The long fought struggle of women artists to exist in their own right, not as merely other (male) artists' muses. And the hardship that comes from not having what most of those men had : support and care in the form of female companionship and inspiration. As a woman you have to be the artist, the muse and the caretaker all at once. And what was her brother Paul thinking? she introduced him to the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, and all he found to do to repay her was to keep her interned for 30 years - even though the medical personnel recommended she be released. Maybe he felt threatened...we yet have to see the day when most men are not, by strong women. I find her willfulness and dedication so inspiring, and her art beyond moving. I loved when Blot (the gallery owner) says about it : "...puisqu'il m'arrache les entrailles, moi" ('since it tears my heart out'). I guess next time I'm in Paris a trip to the Musée Rodin will be in order - not to see his works (although I will too) but to visit the room dedicated to her.

 la vague

Camille Claudel in 1884, at 19

la valse

vertumne et pomone

la petite châtelaine

les causeuses

...and Rodin's arrogance:

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Bay Bridged

A nice treat for the end of the year: The Bay Bridged included a song of mine in one of their 2011 in-review mixtape - take a listen! A lot of other Bay Area friends in there, including Dreamdate, Sonny Smith,  Papercuts, Vetiver, The Foxtails Brigade, Little Wings...too many to name. How lucky are we here?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Xmas Cheeseburgers

Xmas Cheeseburgers 

I was without Christmas spirit
so I made three cow dogs, 
Lola and Blacky and Pinto,
cheeseburgers with ground chuck
and French St. André cheese
so that we'd all fell better.
I delivered them to Hard Luck Ranch
and said, "Chew each bite 32 times."
They ignored me and gobbled.
The world that used to nurse us
now keeps shouting inane instructions.
That's why I ran to the woods.

Jim Harrison, Songs of Unreason

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Alice and the Jabberwocky

Some of my students were learning Jabberwocky with me this semester, the Donovan version:

...they were having fun with the words, acting them out. I explained to them that since the nonsensical language was invented, you could imagine the Jabberwocky to be anything you wanted it to be, but some of them told me that 'there is a Jabberwocky in the movie'. Since I only knew the 1951 Walt Disney version (I do prefer books before anything else after all), I was a little perplexed. They went on to tell me how it was a sort of dragon, big and scary of course. After a little research I figured that they must have been talking about the Tim Burton film, and so I borrowed it and watched it one night:

And I loved it. I usually don't go for big productions and special effects, but I loved how he used the Jabberwocky poem and made it come to life, while at the same time making the story about a young woman finally taking charge of her own life through the power of her imagination. It was wonderful to see what someone might make a bandersnatch to be, or the jubjub bird and of course the jabberwocky. Yet I was mostly touched by the typical fairytale symbolism of slaying the monster - your inner fears and everything that keeps you from believing in yourself - in order to proceed to the next chapter of your life. And in this case the hero (in the mythical sense, as discussed by Joseph Campbell) is a heroine. "Girl power" as one of my colleagues summarized it when I described it to him.

I ended up showing it to my students on their last class of the semester (after they were done with their holiday show) - reserved a room and arranged to have all three fifth grade classes together for an hour and forty-five minutes. A lot of them hadn't seen it - they were riveted.


And here's the Lewis Carroll poem that started it all. For an explanation of the lexicon you might want to consult this wikipedia article.


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

(as illustrated by John Tenniel)