2.25.2008

book tag




Thanks to Mr. Trigg at Side Effects I guess I'm "it."

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

I'm having trouble adhering to the rules already. Book nearest me is the one I just got from the library,
Mayflower, A Story of Courage, Community, and War. It's got one of those awful Marketing Department subtitles that tries to simultaneously create an air of intrigue and give the shelf-stockers at Barnes & Noble an idea where to put the book. Unfortunately page 123 yields an uncharacteristically brief, uninformative and deadly boring three sentences.

The next book nearby is actually a journal. And page 123 is a photograph. Am I cheating by posting from page 124? It does give me a reason to post some 19th century beefcake though.
"He was a writer, a publisher, an award winner, an antiquarian, and a man whose commitment to his craft nearly cost him his life. Gurney's work was commissioned by thousands of patrons during his remarkably long career and in return, it became the subject of many articles and the devotion of collectors. Hundreds of his images can be found in the New-York Historical Society's Library, but not all in one place."
This from Painting with the Sunbeams of Heaven. Jeremiah Gurney, Photographist by Sandra Markham, in The New-York Journal of American History (the bulletin of the New-York Historical Society, Fall, 2004).

Jeremiah Gurney was a prominent and prolific New York City "photographist." His main competitor was Mathew (sic) Brady, and like Brady, he was a consummate entrepreneur and self-promoter (take a look at his "100 (and 89) Gurney's Premium" advertising flier for one of his earlier studios. He rented rooms at 189 Broadway from 1840 to 1852). So successful was his business that in 1858 he built himself a three-story white marble studio at 770 Broadway;
"J. Gurney's Photographic and Fine Art Gallery" was open til 9 pm every night. Along with his son, Gurney created singular (literally) daguerreotypes as well as mass-market cartes des visites of celebrities, noted actors, respectable families and quasi-scandalous lady gymnasts til about 1874.


I will do my best to keep the tag going although it feels awfully like I'm heaving some virtual chain letter/albatross onto the next sucker... I'll nominate Le Divan Fumoir Bohemien, Morbid Anatomy
, Sit Down Man You're A Bloody Tragedy, pathetica, and Daily Poetics.

Images:
American Youth, 1852-1856, by Jeremiah Gurney, from the Getty; Gurney premium, c.1840s, from Grand Monde; Parmly and Ward Families and Friends, April, 1862, from N-YHS.

2.21.2008

cringe-worthy

I'm surprised I hadn't thought about this before: word aversion (also called "the moist panties phenomenon.") My friend Clay brought it to my attention that a fair number of women, in particular, express disgust at the sound of the word "moist." This was the first I'd heard of it. And it was not until I focussed on it did I begin to find something unpleasant about the word. I hadn't really had an aversion to "moist", but if pressed I'd say there was something icky about the oleaginous "oy" coupled with the prissiness of "st."

Language Log stresses these are not words that are taboo, or commonly taken to be offensive, nor are they words subjected to widespread misuse, which triggers a somewhat-related "word rage." Rather, this is purely subjective opinion based on sound, divorced from definition.

I like the idea of word aversion. I mean, I'd already made lists of words and names I liked, independent of meaning. Why not words I am repelled by? Off the top of my head, words that make me wince are "veggies" and "yummy."
I also hate "tummy." I notice these are all "ee"-sounding, informal words. Dare I say Americanisms? Perhaps not. I wonder, though, if it's more the connotations that these words bring with them-- annoying, entitled parents I come across in my neighborhood, say--than the words themselves. I am disappointed by the word periphery. It's got a sexy definition that I like, but the sound of it doesn't evoke anything remotely appealing. It is unsatisfying to say and it is ever-so-slightly inelegant– the "p" - "ph" and "eri" - "ery" seem reduplicative but they're not. The "phery" in particular seems weak and awkward-looking.

Language Log makes this interesting connection, quoting another blogger:

I really just don't like those words. I don't dislike their meanings, but phonetically they conjure up all sort of unpleasant textures. 'Baffle' sounds fibrous and tough like a mat of hair, and 'Cornucopia' is too much like 'corpulent'. I won't get started on 'squab'.

This reminds me somewhat of the way that people talk about synesthesia -- I wonder whether there's any connection.

For some of us I think there is definitely a connection. I agree with the above about "baffle" although I dont' find that word bothersome. When I read "lobe" I think of wet, blubbery, custardy things. I would not say I'm a synesthete but I often have textural or other visual connotations with sounds. I would, for instance, opine that "two" could never be blue-- its more of a warm-colored number. I have never experienced taste or smell in relation to a word....

I queried some of my friends about disliking words. I'll update as the answers roll in.
Matt says:
veggie for sure
cheeses
soups
for some reason these plurals bother me

Steve:
I won't use "munchie" either. I don't use "scarf" either but i accept scarf.

Doug:
Oh I hate veggie!
..."dangle" would be one...

Maria:
i'm not crazy about brassiere, crayfish, minge

my mother:
guru "I even hate the way it looks" said she

Anne
horny!

Update: I recently got an email from a potential date that used the word "tummy" prominently and it nearly made me physically ill.
I still get a shiver of disgust just thinking about it. (don't worry its not someone who would know that I'm referring to him).
The word "goodies" also gives me pause.

In reading the comments I like that Brooklyn Brit is throwing flaps into the mix...

2.11.2008

other choices, other rooms

Maybe I've become too attuned to 'New New Realism' in photography, fashion and otherwise? The flashlit anti-glamour of Juergen Teller for instance, or the mundane, affectless, almost documentary style of... well, if I knew slightly more about contemporary photography I could reel off the pertinent example. Martin Parr? Am I reaching here?: I was looking at real estate listings online and somehow ended up on Foxtons. (I am not looking for properties in the more far-flung reaches of Brooklyn so you get an idea, here, of how I waste my time.) The more I poked around, the more I was struck by the interior shots of each house. Presented without judgment, the rooms are neatened and posed as best they can be in all their beruffled (or benighted) glory. I think it's the naive aspirational quality mixed with a discomforting airlessness that I find interesting. It reminds me of a Sears studio portrait. Or perhaps its just the decor choices...

Addendum:
"New York Loving Brit" (who under no circumstances should be confused with "New York Brit") writes that these scenes remind him of David Lynch. I can see where he's going with that. Although I wasn't initially seeing anything unnerving about these rooms, just a leaden unpleasantness, I've found a reference that seems to take things from the mundane to the menacing: Gregor Schneider.

Schneider, a German artist, has marshaled an ongoing 20-year work called "Dead House"– a transformation of his boyhood
home in which he replicated and reconfigured spaces, creating false walls and dead end corridors. Another work Die Familie Schneider was an installation created in 2 identical houses in London's East End (image above). Members of the public were allowed to let themselves into the houses individually, by key, to view the homes and observe the inhabitants who went about their tasks– personal, unsavory, monotonous– unresponsive and unseeing. Schneider, as he is summed up: "Under his hand, the domestic environment becomes the site of an unrelenting existential confrontation." Amazing. I think I might have to get the book, if I can stand it...

Images, properties from Foxtons: Bed Stuy, Old Mill Basin, Cypress Hill, Marine Park, Sunset Park

2.08.2008

for the repose of needles

February 8th marks the observance of Harikuyo, Japan's Festival of Broken Needles. A celebration thought to be several hundred years old (I've read it originated in the Edo period, or 16th century-19th century, and have also read that it stretches back to the 4th century AD!) Harikuyo is a memorial service and a ritual of thanks and respect for the tools of sewing. Broken sewing needles and bent pins that gave their "lives" during the past year are laid to rest in a bed of ritual tofu and buried or dropped at sea. Observed in shrines and temples across Japan, it reflects Shintoist traditions of veneration of the spirits of the dead and prayers said for the repose of souls.

Shintoism aspires to an ideal of harmony with nature and states that all things– living and nonliving – contains a kami or "spiritual essence" (sometimes translated as "god," "soul" or "spirit").

When a tool (in this case, a needle) has done its part– finished its valued service–it is relegated to a sacred place, and in some small sense, it is not forgotten.

image: "pin forest" by aleash, from worth1000.com

2.06.2008

Frans Masereel

I came across my copy of The City (originally published in 1925) by Frans Masereel. I've had it for years and just recently was moved to look through it again. Masereel was born in Belgium in 1889 and lived first in Paris and then Berlin where, notably, he was friends with George Grosz. He worked as an artist for magazines and journals and created a number of 'graphic novels.' He worked in charcoal, paint and watercolor but it was his series of expressionistic woodcuts that made Masereel internationally known.

I've not seen any of Masereel's other woodcut series but this particular 'novel' bristles with social commentary: scenes of consumer frenzy, labor clashes, and bourgeois malaise. In a stark, flashcard views Masereel conjures instances that are at the same time highly detailed and universal: the anonymous scramble of the streets, the dynamic modern city and the hidden machinery that propels it. Glimpses of moneyed spectacle and louche feather-bedecked gaiety alternate with the squalor of back alleys and scenes of hushed personal desperation. A brilliant spray of fireworks or the insistent glare of a streetlight illuminates both a flash of domestic horror as well as the quiet padding of the cat down the back stairs...

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