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Monday, March 25, 2013

A Visit to William Blake’s Inn received the Caldecott Honor Medal, the highest recognition in children’s literature, in 1982.


A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Vintage Illustrated Verses for Innocent and Experienced Travelers

by 
“William, William, writing late by the chill and sooty grate, what immortal story can make your tiger roar again?”
As an admirer of literary personification, a lover of vintage children’s books — especially ones with a literary slant and especiallyillustrated children’s verses by famous poets — and a longtime fan of Alice and Martin Provensen, I was instantly taken with A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers (public library) — a 1981 collection of playful poems by Nancy Willardthat take us on a tour of Blake’s imaginary inn, inspired by Blake’s beloved Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience and tenderly illustrated by the Provensens in their signature mid-century sensibility of vibrant vignettes and expressive creatures.
This inn belongs to William Blake
and many are the beasts he’s tamed
and many are the stars he’s named
and many those who stop and take
their joyful rest with William Blake.
Two mighty dragons brew and bake
and many are the loaves they’ve burned
and many are the spits they’ve turned
and many those who stop and break
their joyful bread with William Blake.
Two patient angels wash and shake
his featherbeds, and far away
snow falls like feathers. That’s the day
good children run outside and make
snowmen to honor William Blake.
THE KING OF CATS
SENDS A POSTCARD TO HIS WIFE
Keep your whiskers crisp and clean.
Do not let the mice grow lean.
Do not let yourself grow fat
Like a common kitchen cat.
Have you set the kittens free?
Do they sometimes ask for me?
Is our catnip growing tall?
Did you patch the garden wall?
Clouds are gentle walls that hide
Gardens on the other side.
Tell the tabby cats I take
All my meals with William Blake,
Lunch at noon tea at four,
Served in splendor on the shore
At the tinkling of a bell.
Tell them I am sleeping well.
Tell them I have come so far,
Brought by Blake’s celestial cat,
Buffeted by wind and rain,
I may not get home again.
Take this message to my friends.
Say the King of Catnip sends
To the cat who winds his clocks
A thousand sunsets in a box,
To the cat who brings the ice
The shadows of a dozen mice
(serve them with assorted dips
and eat them like potato chips),
And to the cat who guards his door
A net for catching stars, and more
(if patience he abide):
Catnip from the other side.
THE KING OF CATS
ORDERS AN EARLY BREAKFAST
Roast me a wren to start with.
Then, Brisket of Basilisk Treat.
My breakfast is “on the house”?
What a curious place to eat!
There’s no accounting for customs.
My tastes are simple and few,
a fat mole smothering in starlight
and a heavenly nine-mouse stew.
I shall roll away from the table
looking twice my usual size.
“Behold the moon!” you will whisper.
“How marvelous his disguise.
How like the King of Cats he looks,
how similar his paws
and his prodigious appetite–
why, in the middle of the night
he ate, with evident delight,
a dozen lobster claws.”
TWO SUNFLOWERS
MOVE INTO THE YELLOW ROOM
“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”
said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
“Our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?”
They arranged themselves at the window
and counted the steps of the sun,
and they both took root in the carpet
where the topaz tortoises run.
THE MARMALADE MAN
MAKES A DANCE TO MEND US
Tiger, Sunflowers, King of Cats,
Cow and Rabbit, mend your ways.
I the needle, you the thread –
follow me through mist and maze.
Fox and hound, go paw in paw.
Cat and rat, be best of friends.
Lamb and tiger, walk together.
Dancing starts where fighting ends.
THE TIGER ASKS BLAKE FOR A BEDTIME STORY
William, William, writing late
by the chill and sooty grate,
what immortal story can
make your tiger roar again?
When I sent to fetch your meat
I confess that I did eat
half the roast and all the bread.
He will never know, I said.
When I was sent to fetch your drink,
I confess that I did think
you would never miss the three
lumps of sugar by your tea.
Soon I saw my health decline
and I knew the fault was mine.
Only William Blake can tell
tales to make a tiger well.
Now I lay me down to sleep
with bear and rabbit, bird and sheep.
If I should dream before I wake,
may I dream of William Blake.
EPILOGUE
My adventures now are ended.
I and all whom I befriended
from this holy hill must go
home to lives we left below.
Farewell cow and farewell cat,
rabbit, tiger, sullen rat.
To our children we shall say
how we walked the Milky Way.
You whose journeys now begin,
if you reach a lovely inn,
if a rabbit makes your bed,
if two dragons bake your bread,
rest a little for my sake,
and give my love to William Blake.
Gracing the very last page is a piece of heart-warming, aphoristic advice:
A Visit to William Blake’s Inn received the Caldecott Honor Medal, the highest recognition in children’s literature, in 1982. Five years later, Martin passed away. Alice, currently in her nineties, continues to draw.
Thanks, Wendy

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tag Sale Wonder: From $3 to $2.23 Million


Tag Sale Wonder: From $3 to $2.23 Million

You can’t make this up. Some lucky person who purchased a pretty white bowl at a tag sale in 2007 for “no more than $3″ has now sold it for $2.23 million. It happened at Sotheby’s this morning.
8974 Lot 94 rare and important ding bowlApparently, after displaying it in their home for a few years, the owners — names undisclosed, naturally – got curious and took it to Chinese art experts. They recognized it as a Northern Song dynasty specimen. It ended up in the Sotheby’s sale with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. labeled “Rare And Important ‘Ding’ Bowl Northern Song Dynasty.” It measured just 5 inches in diameter. 
Four bidders in the room and on telephones actively sought the little bowl this morning, and it eventually sold “after a prolonged battle” to London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi for $2,225,000.
Per Sotheby’s:
The bowl is a remarkable and exceptionally beautiful example of Song pottery, celebrated for its thin potting, fine near-white body, and ivory-colored glaze. The only known bowl of the same form, size and almost identical decoration has been in the collection of the British Museum in London for over 60 years having been bequeathed to the museum by the prominent British collector Henry J. Oppenheim in 1947.
I wonder what the tag sale owner will think, if he or she ever finds out.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s 

Monday, March 18, 2013

"these traditions come from Neolithic times — from shamanism — and they have never stopped“


Where the Wild Things Are

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Charles Fréger
Peluche; Evolène, Switzerland.
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Charles Fréger was fascinated by what the human race lost over the millenniums when it evolved from hunter-gather to farmer and, eventually, urban dweller. After learning that there were Europeans who continued ancient pagan rites of celebrating the winter solstice and the beginning of spring, he set out to examine what traditions faded as people became more civilized.
In 2010, Mr. Fréger began to photograph the few small farming communities, in mountainous areas, that still follow the customs that for the most part were precursors to Christmas, New Year’s and Easter. He found that many dressed like animals.
“When I saw the costumes and spent time with these people,” he said, “I realized that I have always felt like a bear.”
DESCRIPTIONCharles FrégerLeft, Ursul (Bear); Boroaia, Romania. Right, Schnappviecher; Tramin, Italy.
"these traditions come from Neolithic times — from shamanism — and they have never stopped“T,” said Mr. Fréger, 38. “For a few nights you can behave like a goat, drink a lot and forget about being civilized. You can be a wild animal for three days and then you go back to controlling your wildness.”
About 10,000 years ago, humans began domesticating wild animals for both food and companionship. Over the course of centuries, animal species were bred for traits that made them docile and more useful to their masters. But as humans changed and fenced in animals, they were also domesticating themselves. The skills needed to survive in the wild were different than those needed to succeed in more complex social arrangements.
Mr Fréger was intrigued by the transformations of human being to beast that he witnessed in 18 European countries. They were, he said, celebrations of fertility, life and death and symbolized the complicated relationship between mankind and nature.
His sculptural portraits are featured in the April issue of National Geographic and are collected in his book “Wilder Mann,” published in four languages including an English edition from Dewi Lewis. The work will also be exhibited simultaneously at the Yossi Milo Gallery, from April 11 to May 18, and at the Gallery at Hermès on Madison Avenue.
As strange and exotic as the costumes and traditions might seem, Mr. Fréger said, they felt somewhat natural for him. His father was a farmer, in the center of France, as were his grandfather and great-grandfather. Mr. Fréger grew up milking cows and studied agriculture in college intending to join the family farm.
“I learned to be a farmer before I went to art school,” he said. “I was not so different from the people I photographed.”
He chose photography over raising animals. Though his recent ancestors, as far as he knows, did not wear primitive costumes of wild animals, Mr. Fréger said, he has never felt domesticated.
DESCRIPTIONCharles FrégerLeft, Boes; Ottana, Sardinia, Italy. Right, Caretos; Lazarim, Portugal.

Monday, March 11, 2013

From ancient witchcraft to the camera obscura to the iPhone, or why Victorians always looked stern.


The History of Photography, Animated

by 
From ancient witchcraft to the camera obscura to the iPhone, or why Victorians always looked stern.
It’s estimated that roughly 380 billion photographs are taken in the world each year — more photos per day than in the entire first 100 years after the invention of photography. But what, exactly, ignited that boom of visual culture? In this lovely short animation, Bulgarian-born Boston-based photographer Eva Koleva Timothy — who gave us the wonderful Lost in Learning project — traces the evolution of photography through innovations in science, technology, and policy, from the Arab world of the 9th century to Leonardo daVinci to George Eastman and beyond.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

If you asked me to describe the rising philosophy of the day, I’d say it is data-ism.


OP-ED COLUMNIST

The Philosophy of Data




If you asked me to describe the rising philosophy of the day, I’d say it is data-ism. We now have the ability to gather huge amounts of data. This ability seems to carry with it certain cultural assumptions — that everything that can be measured should be measured; that data is a transparent and reliable lens that allows us to filter out emotionalism and ideology; that data will help us do remarkable things — like foretell the future.
Josh Haner/The New York Times
David Brooks

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
Over the next year, I’m hoping to get a better grip on some of the questions raised by the data revolution: In what situations should we rely on intuitive pattern recognition and in which situations should we ignore intuition and follow the data? What kinds of events are predictable using statistical analysis and what sorts of events are not?
I confess I enter this in a skeptical frame of mind, believing that we tend to get carried away in our desire to reduce everything to the quantifiable. But at the outset let me celebrate two things data does really well.
First, it’s really good at exposing when our intuitive view of reality is wrong. For example, every person who plays basketball and nearly every person who watches it believes that players go through hot streaks, when they are in the groove, and cold streaks, when they are just not feeling it.
But Thomas Gilovich, Amos Tversky and Robert Vallone found that a player who has made six consecutive foul shots has the same chance of making his seventh as if he had missed the previous six foul shots.
When a player has hit six shots in a row, we imagine that he has tapped into some elevated performance groove. In fact, it’s just random statistical noise, like having a coin flip come up tails repeatedly. Each individual shot’s success rate will still devolve back to the player’s career shooting percentage.
Similarly, nearly every person who runs for political office has an intuitive sense that they can powerfully influence their odds of winning the election if they can just raise and spend more money. But this, too, is largely wrong.
The data show that in state and national elections that are well-financed, television ad buys barely matter. After the 2004 election, political scientists tried to measure the effectiveness of campaign commercials. They found that if one candidate ran 1,000 more commercials than his opponent in a county — a huge disproportion — that translated into a paltry 0.19 percent advantage in the vote.
After the 2006 election, Sean Trende constructed a graph comparing the incumbent campaign spending advantages with their eventual margins of victory. There was barely any relationship between more spending and a bigger victory.
In May and June of 2012, the Obama campaign unleashed a giant ad barrage against Mitt Romney, but as political scientist John Sides wrote in The Times’s FiveThirtyEight blog recently, the ads had no lasting effect.
Likewise, many teachers have an intuitive sense that different students have different learning styles: some are verbal and some are visual; some are linear, some are holistic. Teachers imagine they will improve outcomes if they tailor their presentations to each student. But there’s no evidence to support this either.
Second, data can illuminate patterns of behavior we haven’t yet noticed. For example, I’ve always assumed that people who frequently use words like “I,” “me,” and “mine” are probably more egotistical than people who don’t.
But as James Pennebaker of the University of Texas notes in his book, “The Secret Life of Pronouns,” when people are feeling confident, they are focused on the task at hand, not on themselves. High status, confident people use fewer “I” words, not more.
Pennebaker analyzed the Nixon tapes. Nixon used few “I” words early in his presidency, but used many more after the Watergate scandal ravaged his self-confidence. Rudy Giuliani used few “I” words through his mayoralty, but used many more later, during the two weeks when his cancer was diagnosed and his marriage dissolved. Barack Obama, a self-confident person, uses fewer “I” words than any other modern president.
Our brains often don’t notice subtle verbal patterns, but Pennebaker’s computers can. Younger writers use more downbeat and past-tense words than older writers who use more positive and future-tense words.
Liars use more upbeat words like “pal” and “friend” but fewer excluding words like “but,” “except” and “without.” (When you are telling a false story, it’s hard to include the things you did not see or think about.)
We think of John Lennon as the most intellectual of the Beatles, but, in fact, Paul McCartney’s lyrics had more flexible and diverse structures and George Harrison’s were more cognitively complex.
In sum, the data revolution is giving us wonderful ways to understand the present and the past. Will it transform our ability to predict and make decisions about the future? We’ll see.

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