Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pride & Prejudice characters illustrated; free downloads

Pursuant to our Jane Austen discussion last week, we have put together a slideshow of the illustrations by Robert Ball to the 1945 Doubleday edition of Pride and Prejudice. We think they're quite winning. How about you?

Judging by your responses to our piece about Austen lore, Jane is obviously beloved by Daily Glean readers. To reward you for your good taste, we invite you to download the images above here, for crafts projects, bookmarks, framing, what have you. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Matters zodaical

Happy birthday to me and to everyone who falls under the astrological sign of Pisces. The glorious stained glass window depicting it above is from Chartres cathedral. The two fishes whirling around are an all-too-true indicator of my temperament, which more often than not sees two sides to everything and has the devil of a time making a decision. Do other pisceans agree?

In 1950 Japan was the first country to issue zodiac stamps, and now almost 100 countries have followed suit. Above, stamps of a set of Chinese zodiac signs from 1980 to 1992. Marking the year in which a person was born, the animals are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.  
Today is also Bernadette Peters' b'day.  She sure looks better for her age than I do!
On Feb. 28, 1883, the first vaudeville theater opened in Boston. This fertile entertainment form is recreated in a very cool site from the University of Virginia. Hordes of famous entertainers got their start there, including Mae West, Judy Garland, and Bob Hope.
There are 307 days left in 2012, including "leap day," Feb. 29. To make the most of each one or to jot down and preserve important thoughts and happenings, why not pick up The Art of Andy Warhol 2012 Engagement Calendar—a mere $2.98? 
A final tidbit of a linguistic nature. On this date in 1939,  the erroneous word "dord" was discovered in the Webster's New International Dictionary, 2nd ed. Wikipedia tells the tale:
On July 31, 1931, Austin M. Patterson, Webster's chemistry editor, sent in a slip reading "D or d, cont./density." This was intended to add "density" to the existing list of words that the letter "D" can abbreviate. The slip somehow went astray, and the phrase "D or d" was misinterpreted as a single, run-together word: Dord. (This was a plausible mistake because headwords on slips were typed with spaces between the letters, making "D or d" look very much like "D o r d".) A new slip was prepared for the printer and a part of speech assigned along with a pronunciation. The would-be word got past proofreaders and appeared on page 771 of the dictionary around 1934.
"Dord" is actually a legitimate word, however, being the name of an Irish musical instrument (a kind of horn from the bronze age).
Roman mosaic


Monday, February 27, 2012

Post-Oscar pensées

Well, anything on your mind to gripe or crow about? Let's hear it!
I used to watch the Oscars with such acute frustration during the foreign-language and short subject segments because the nominees looked so intriguing and I knew I had as much chance of seeing most of them as I did of having tea with Kate Hepburn. But channels of distribution have gotten progressively better, so that extraordinary films from every continent are literally at our fingertips. Exploring the resources of Daedalus's own listings of foreign-language films on DVD is always gratifying because they form such a robust component of my "to view" queue.
International films in stock that have won or been nominated for Oscars include Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar's Volver and All About My Mother; the late, great Akira Kurasawa's Rashomon; and the wonderful Czech film Divided We Fall. In case you're having post-Oscar letdown, these are films of real artistry and substance.
Almodóvar's films always have such a delightful range of roles for women
Divided We Fall: A darkly humorous exploration of character 
amidst the fear and privations of wartime

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Le Voyage dans la Lune

Here's a little appetizer for your Academy Award viewing tonight. Featured prominently in the best-picture nominee Hugo, Georges Méliès' fantastical short film from 1902 follows a group of astronomers on a trip to the moon and back. It's loads of fun, with barelegged, pulchritudinous "marines" sending off the intrepid explorers, lots of gesticulating, super-duper special effects, and creepy moon creatures. The version below is from the DVD Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema. The second video shows scenes of a hand-colored version in progress.

Arguably, Méliès was the most accomplished filmmaker in the world during the first years of cinema. I look forward to viewing more of his surviving works; how about you?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The skinny on Oscar

From the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (always a mouthful) come the following factoids:
Official Name: Academy Award® of Merit
Height: 13½ inches Weight: 8½ pounds
Awards Presented So Far: 2,809
First Recipient: Emil Jannings, Best Actor for The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh in 1929
Design: A knight holding a crusader’s sword, standing on a reel of film. The reel's five spokes represent the five original branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers).
Designer: Cedric Gibbons, chief art director, MGM
Sculptor: LA artist George Stanley 
"The statuettes presented at the initial ceremonies were gold-plated solid bronze. Within a few years the bronze was abandoned in favor of britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy which is then plated in copper, nickel silver, and finally, 24-karat gold. Due to a metal shortage during World War II, Oscars® were made of painted plaster for three years. Following the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones."
The first film to sweep Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay was It Happened One Night—and it didn't happen again until One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Silence of the Lambs.
Clark Gable & Colette Colbert in Capra's 1934 comedy
What are your favorite/least favorite Oscar moments? Vanessa Redgrave's political rant? Roberto Begnini vaulting across the seats? Denzel Washington and Halle Berry hoisting Best Actor/Actress awards the same year? Bjork's swan dress? Cher's Bob Mackie kitsch couture? After 82 years, Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win Best Director? Below are a few of mine.
At the 11th Academy Awards, Shirley Temple presented Walt Disney with an honorary Oscar for the first animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (with seven mini-Oscars to boot!) Below, Charlie Chaplin received a Lifetime Achievement award and an unparalleled 12-minute ovation in 1972 after being persona non grata in Hollywood for 20 years because of a certain senator named Joe McCarthy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Little Nemo and his creator

If you have even a smidgen of interest in comics or early animation, grab hold of Winsor McCay: His Life and Art. Sure to be a collectible (as are the out-of-print volumes of McCay's flagship creation, Little Nemo in Slumberland), this fascinating and lavishly illustrated biography also explores the early-20th-century worlds of vaudeville, dime museums, and newspapers. McCay was a staggeringly gifted artist who drew at the speed of light and whose collaborations with top newspaper technicians in color processes produced some of the most astonishingly beautiful cartoons ever created. Relentlessly creative and innovative, McCay spun fantastically imaginative plot lines and executed them with brilliantly innovative, outside-of-the-box layouts. Imagine the strips below the size of a newspaper page and you can get a sense of their impact.
This detail of the last panel of the strip below shows the artistry with which McCay created the rain on newsprint. See also the underwater scene with the mermaids. Fabulous!
As they used to say in the '60s, "what a trip!"
McCay's son, who had a gorgeous thatch of hair, was the model for Nemo. These final panels are typical, as Nemo is somewhat rudely awakened from one of his phantasmagorical dreams.

Animation comes into being in this segment from McCay's groundbreaking experiments of 1911.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Roald Dahl

Britain's Royal Mail is celebrating Roald Dahl. Yay!

We have his autobiographical More About Boy: Roald Dahl's Tales from Childhood (illustrated by the great Quentin Blake) as well as The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. Do you have a favorite Dahl picture book? (His adult novels and ghost story collections are also tops.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

All things Austen

Watercolor portrait, 1816 ed. of Emma
Miss Austen of Hampshire has always been well-loved, respected, and celebrated by critics and readers alike, but interest in her life and works has exploded in recent times, with Austen societies, film adaptations, book clubs, films about the book clubs, sequels to finished novels and endings to her unfinished ones, "fan fiction," bestselling mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies—you name it. People discuss what books she read; blog about what clothes she wore, food she ate, places she went, and music she listened to; supply background on Regency mores and morals; and gossip about the people she liked and those she loathed. (Among the best of the many blogs on Austen are janeaustensworld, austenblog, austenprose, and janeaustenaddict.)
One hopes Austen would be amused and gratified (if not a tad dumbfounded) at her posthumous celebrity. Obviously she is a writer who continues to bring much joy and value to people's lives.
Do drop by our Austen page, where we have a goodly cache of novels, notecards, a daybook of witticisms, and more (no zombies though).
The first sentence of P&P in the "Jane Austen" font, which can be downloaded here.

Example of fan art, by Sabrina Vincent
Marvel Comics' version of Sense and Sensibility
Example of monthly desktop "wallpaper"  created by an Austenite
Now in her 90s, detective novelist P.D. James combined her two great loves—mysteries and JA—into 2011's Death Comes to Pemberly, a suspenseful sequel to P&P which garnered rave reviews. In its enthusiasm to tout the novel, NPR apparently did a "spoiler," which prompted one Austen devotee to bemoan the gaffe:
Just in case I was the only mystery or JA fan listening on Thurs. morning, Dec. 8th, I must in good conscience utter one ladylike bleat! As other listeners have by now hopefully reminded you, it is a truth universally acknowledged that interviewers of mystery novelists do NOT during the interview reveal the name of the murderer in the book described! I felt for PD. James, and for myself, as reading the book is still a future pleasure for me, now reduced somewhat by the lack of mystery!
A sample excerpt of Pemberly is available here. I am looking forward to reading it—how about you? (Luckily I didn't hear that particular NPR program!)
Footnote: For audiobook fans, professional reader Nikelle Doolin has made a free version of the complete Persuasion available on itunes and on her website.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spot on!

I love the spot paintings by Damien Hirst. What do you think? To me they have a sort of alluring power—the apotheosis of pure color, perhaps? Gagosian is currently showing them in 11 locations in 8 cities around the world. You can see more at this New York Times slideshow. At left, Ethyl Laurate, 2003; below, Phe-Tyr, 2004–11 (both household gloss on canvas; © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved).

But wait... stop the presses! I'm just about to post this when I see a luscious post by art blogger Joanne Mattera about all of the other relatively unsung artists creating beauteous things with dots and probably not making the big bucks. Point taken!~

Stuart Davis, Factory by the Sea, 1932. Williams Collection.
Further reading/viewing from our current offerings: Adventures in Modern Art: The Charles K. Williams II Collection (above); and Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956–1974. Below, one of the "mirror paintings" by pop-art/conceptualist trendsetter Pistoletto.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Strong women; fine artists

No one else in the history of photography has captured this breathtaking moment between the appearance and disappearance of things like Lillian Bassman.—Richard Avedon
Fashion and fine art photographer Lillian Bassman (above left) died last week at 94. The New York Times' ran a slideshow of her work and many websites turned to the Abrams book Lillian Bassman: Women for striking examples of her edgy, elegant images. (A 2009 Times article by Ginia Bellafante is also absorbing: “Being a woman gave her an advantage, Ms. Bassman felt. 'The models thought about this a lot,' she said. “It was a sexually very different thing when they worked with men. They felt a charge. They were posing for men. I caught them when they were relaxed, natural, and I spent a lot of time talking to them about their husbands, their lovers, their babies.”) Thanks to our photography guru, Judy Rolfe, for alerting us.
We are very jazzed about the upcoming Cindy Sherman exhibit in the Big Apple. In announcing the show, the editors of Photo District News' "photo of the day" showed some choice samples of her work, including the photographs below. It has been 15 years since Sherman has had such a major exhibit:
Beginning February 26, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is presenting a “retrospective survey” of her artwork, which will feature over 180 photographs made from the mid-1970s through the present. The exhibit will feature some of Sherman’s most interesting and beloved self-portrayed characters including the fictional film actresses of the 1950s and 60s from “Untitled Film Stills”; common subjects from Old Masters paintings, such as aristocrats and milkmaids; and her over-the-top “society” women. Also on display is her most recent work: murals that depict a Sherman character in color against a black-and-white landscape painting.

Of further interest is our current title Joyce Tenneson: A Life in Photography 1968–2008, with many ethereal and archetypal images. You can see images from each phase of her career here, including "Amazing Men" and "Wise Women." Photo below by Tim Mantoani from the "Behind Images" project.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Uptown Downstairs Abbey"

For Downton Abbey addicts, these affectionate BBC parodies are too too hilarious. Ab Fab's Jennifer Saunders as Dame Maggie Smith, Kim Cattrall as Lady Crawley, Joanna Lumley as the housekeeper, and so much more. Enjoy!

Also quite enjoyable is series creator Julian Fellowes' tour of Highclere Castle, where the series was shot.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"What will you give me for...."

Pawn shop traffic is on the upsurge as folks struggle with job loss, foreclosures, and other attendant economic woes. In her article A Brief History of the American Pawn Shop, Wendy Woolson went back in time to the quite rare records of a New York City establishment for August 21, 1838. The 130 pieces accepted that day included the following:
Did we have ha'pennies back then? If anyone knows what a "coffee box" is and why they were so pricey, please enlighten. Do you have any pawn stories to share? What do you think about the cable shows on the business? For some reason they make me queasy (probably because I put myself in the position of the person wanting the loan/sale). Copies of the James Christiansen's punning drawing above are available for purchase in many formats here.