Gods Old and New
A novel by Neil Gaiman
Tenth Anniversary edition, William Morrow, 2010
Nordic Gods and Heroes
Translated by Padraic Colum
Illustrations by Willy Pogany
Dover, 1996, reprint of The Children of Odin, Macmillian, 1920
I picked up the Colum book in Colorado Springs on a recent road trip. I needed another book for the road, something to unwind with after driving all day. These old stories still hold their appeal—the Thor "franchise" is currently filling the cinemas! Recently, the Weaver mentioned that her current library book, Neil Gaiman's American Gods, had some of the same characters as my Nordic Gods book. I had thoroughly enjoyed the cinematic adaptation of Gaiman's Coraline (a horror story for five-year-olds, as the author put it) and reading American Gods, a book aimed at a much older audience, did not disappoint. Gaiman's twist in the novel is in placing the ancients in a modern American Midwest context. Gaiman reworked the book a bit for this edition, some reviews I had read of the original version suggested it was a little choppy in parts, this newer version, with 12,000 additional words, is seamless. This books works on numerous levels—horror, mystery, fantasy, and even as a study of Americana.
Both of these books are VERY TALL TALES, great yarns full of preposterous situations, many of which are quite gruesome. As an example, I'll leave you with this illustration from the Colum book; there is also a scene with a similar "thrust" in American Gods as well:
Willy Pogany, 1920
The Artist and the Collector
Caitlin Karolczak, Untitled, 2011
An open studio event for the holidays, a Sunday morning, the last day of four. A jazz trio made appropriate noises in the reception area. I found the studio I was looking for halfway down the dimly lit hallway. Walking in, it seemed as if, except for an inquisitive brown poodle, there was no one there. I began looking at the large canvases on the walls; some were new, some I had seen before. There were more than a few I would have loved to have: stunning, macabre, done in a muted Renaissance style. Masterfully painted with uneasy undercurrents of death and perversity flowing through the paint. A self-portrait of the artist as St. Agatha was profoundly disturbing. After a minute or two I heard a rustling from the back of the cluttered studio and, turning around, I saw the artist. I had been to several of her events before and had even purchased a small piece (which I cherish.) I had always regretted not buying more. Those events were always crowded, with a younger "art crowd". Today, with only the two of us (and the dog), it was very different.
"Would you like some hot cider?"
"Yes, a little, thank you."
"If you see any specks, they're cloves."
There were a couple of bins of smaller works, pieces within my budget. Many portraits and half-figures, mostly boys and young men; variations on a theme. Some pieces contained old lithographs, transformed with additional drawing and painting. I don't remember exactly how our conversation began, but I did mention that I had purchased one of her smaller works before. She asked what it was, I started to describe it, she knew it right away—even taking the descriptive words out of my head before I was able to speak them. We talked about her art, about the art world, about the difficulty of making it outside of New York or L.A.. I tried, without being too weird about it, to let her know how much I appreciated her efforts, her pursuit of her most singular vision in the middle of flyoverland. I asked about her use of very old photo albums and mentioned I had one she might be interested in. She spoke:
"Come here, I've got something to show you, something someone gave me."
Hanging on the wall in the back was a memento mori mourning shadowbox, I've seen others, but this one was exceptional.
"It's not the kind of thing people like to have on their walls." She said.
"Is that braided hair sculpture at the bottom?"
"It's strange to think of, to think that a person's DNA is in there."
"There's a lot of DNA lying around this studio."
I did get another small piece, more abstract than most of her other work. We talked a little more, about how slow it was—no one else came in in the half hour I had been in there. Maybe it was the weather?
"My work isn't really popular as a Christmas gift."
A gift to myself, then, the kind of thing I like hanging on my walls.
I wonder how much of the artist's DNA is in it.
View from Flippist World Headquarters, 4 December, 2013
My morning was greeted by two suns yesterday due to the formation of "sun dogs." The recent snow, followed by brisk winds and a cold snap put trillions of microscopic ice crystals into the atmosphere, forming beautiful mirrors of the sunrise. It almost made all the shoveling I did seem worthwhile.
Incident on Þjoðvegur
Hvalfjörður, March 2004
It was my second trip to Iceland. It had snowed on the day I arrived. In the morning the street outside of my guesthouse was covered with slush as I walked to the Hertz rental, a few blocks away. Getting my car, I headed out on Highway 1 to Snæfellsness to experience for myself the glacier's spiritual essence. I had just gone under a fjörd through one of those creepy Icelandic tunnels, tunnels which looked as if they had been burrowed by Elves. As I emerged from the abyss the low clouds above me were extremely dark, yet the mountain tops in the distance across the fjörd were glowing, almost incandescent. I pulled the tiny rented Yaris over to the side of the road. The spectacle was so intense I began to doubt the reality of my senses. I took several pictures but they couldn't do it justice.
At that moment I knew I'd be coming back again.
Cyber Monday Madness
I've been looking for a new laptop. Not real serious-like, but it would be nice to have something better for working with images- more memory, a better screen and a bigger and faster SSD. The kicker is that my 6+ year-old laptop still functions, and thanks to upgrades, it works even better now than it did when it was new. I had zeroed in on a MacBook Pro with the "retina display", 8GB of RAM, and at least a 512GB Drive. Total cost = $1800. Ouch.
So, yesterday I was reading the Sunday paper (I know, "how quaint", but the paper pays for itself in coupons.) In the Best Buy flyer there was a page of "Cyber Monday Specials" -prices good only good on Monday, there was a MacBook pro shown with no price. "It's probably just $50 off, with a gift card or something" I thought. This morning, just for fun, I went to the Best Buy web site and there it was:
Oh boy. $200 bucks off on a computer that almost never goes on sale. I wasted the rest of the morning vacillating over this extravagant purchase. It would be a GREAT major Christmas present, but at our family that amount of money equals about TEN major Christmas presents. The way things work around here my Christmas options are either the MacBook Pro or socks.
I'm writing this at 5:30 P.M. I'll be dithering about this for the next 6 and a half hours.
UPDATE: Socks win!
NEW UPDATE: Computer wins! (I found a similar model for MUCH LESS!)
Waiting For Lady Gaga
Reykjavík, 9 October, 2012
On the madness of crowds.
Spontaneously assembled for the possibility of catching a glimpse of their idol.
The audience became the performance.
Land's End, Cornwall, August, 1973. Image by The Weaver.