Saturday, November 14, 2009

For The Weekend

"We need not think alike to love alike."

The words are by Transylvanian Unitarian preacher Ferenc (Francis) David (1510-1579). The photograph is mine.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thought For The Day

"Art is contemplation. 
It is the pleasure of the mind which searches 
into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated."

The quoted words are by French sculptor Francois-Auguste-Rene Rodin (1840 - 1917).  The sculpture, also by Rodin, is called Rose Beuret.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nokomis, Her Mother, And The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

My daughter -- we'll call her Moonbeam for our purposes -- is an aspiring artist with a day job. She has a style all her own, as you can easily see from the painting posted here, called "Nokomis and Her Mother."

Moonbeam gave this painting to me as a gift, and I treasure it. For me it holds several layers of meaning. The reference in the painting's title is to Longfellow's poem, "Song of Hiawatha," which contains these lines recounting Ojibwe legend:

By the shores of Gitche Gumme
By the shining big sea waters
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis ....

Moonbeam earned her degree in Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota, where practically every other street name, and many of the lake names, reflect Ojibwe legend. Several of her paintings, including this one, were inspired by Longfellow's poem.  I also read the title of this painting as honoring the relationship between mother and daughter -- Nokomis and her mother the Moon -- and in that way, it is extremely personal to me.

Another way I relate to the poem is through Moonbeam's great-grandmother, who used to recite Longfellow, and in particular this part of the "Song of Hiawatha," as well as Alfred Noyes' poem, "The Highwayman," to me whenever she visited.  My grandmother had only an eighth grade education, but she also had an excellent memory and a love of poetry that was never lacking for appreciation in our modest household, where there wasn't much money for books.

Ultimately, and in a way I'm sure Moonbeam probably didn't intend, I also view this poem as a reminder of Gordon Lightfoot's classic ballad, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which is about the sinking of the freighter by that name on Lake Superior on this date in 1975.  Lightfoot's song begins with these haunting lines:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumme
The lake it is said never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy ....

Ojibwe is, of course, the preferred name for the Chippewa tribe, and Gitche Gumme is Lake Superior. Lightfoot's ballad is perhaps the most evocative and haunting ballad I have ever heard. A friend sent me this video this morning to remind me, and I thought I would share it here, thus bringing my memories full circle.  With thanks.  <3

Thought For The Day

"Love dies only when growth stops."

The words are by American writer Pearl S. Buck (1892 – 1973), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on this date in 1938.  The photograph is mine.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fragments ~ Hedy Lamarr

"Any girl can be glamorous. 
All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

Indeed.  And no doubt it also helps if you look like Hedy Lamarr (Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler), the Austrian-born American actress who spoke the above-quoted words, and who was born in Vienna on this date in 1914. 

Lamarr was born into a prominent family and had a relatively advantaged background.  She was apparently close to her parents, later recollecting that her banker father had sat beside her for many hours and read her fairy stories.

The real fairytale life of Hedy Lamarr began relatively early. Having studied both ballet and piano from age 10, Lamarr was quickly recognized for her beauty and began her acting career in German films as a teenager.

"If you use your imagination, you can look at any actress and see her nude .... I hope to make you use your imagination."

Perhaps Lamarr’s best-known – and most notorious – role was in the 1933 Czech film ECSTASY, in which she played a love-starved wife.  Lamarr appeared briefly in the nude, which she later claimed had shocked her parents when they saw it.  Look quickly because it will no doubt also shock the Photobucket police.

But possibly the most controversial thing about her role was the close-up shots of her face in ecstasy – if you know what I mean – which Wiki reports that she later claimed were induced by her director poking her in the bottom with a safety pin. 

Pin, indeed. 

"I don't have any gnawing guilt over contributing to any unhappiness suffered by my husbands. They were as much to blame as I was."

Hedy Lamarr was married a total of six times.  In 1933, the same year ECSTASY was released, she entered into an arranged marriage with an Austrian arms manufacturer named Friedrich Mandl (sometimes called Fritz Mandel).  Mandl evidently didn’t admire ECSTASY and promptly bought up as many copies of the film as he could.  He was an extremely controlling man who essentially held Lamarr captive to stop her from pursuing her acting career. 

At this point, serendipity enters the narrative.  To keep her within his sights, Mandl took Lamarr to business meetings with German military officers.  Being mathematically inclined, she quickly absorbed the technical information discussed at these meetings.

Lamarr eventually concluded that Mandl was a Nazi sympathizer.  Not entirely surprising given that he was meeting with German officers and guests at his parties included both Mussolini and Hitler.  In any event, Lamarr literally fled her marriage in 1937 and went to Paris.  One account of this story – hers -- has it that she hid briefly in a brothel and consented to sex with a patron in order to hide from Mandl, who had pursued her that far.  No shrinking violet, she.

While Lamarr was in Paris, she submitted a patent in collaboration with a neighbor -- who was also an Avant garde musical composer -- for a device, based on musical principles, which is considered to be a pre-cursor to modern wireless communication technology.  But the device wasn’t practical at the time, and Lamarr’s contribution to the invention was not formally recognized until just a few years before her death. 

While in London, Lamarr met Louis B. Mayer, who told her she was the most beautiful woman in the world and encouraged her to pursue her film career.  Lamarr, however, really wanted to become an inventor and help in the struggle against the Nazi war machine.  Who knows what she might have accomplished if she had, but unfortunately, she was persuaded by the director of the National inventors Council, George Kettering, that the true role of actors and actresses was to sell War Bonds.

Lamarr’s patriotic contribution then morphed into kissing any man who bought $50,000 in bonds.  Naturally talented in more ways than one, Lamarr reputedly raised $7 million in one day in 1941.  Do the math.

What follows after that is the typical story of a glamorous Hollywood star of the “Golden Age.”  Of Lamarr’s many films, the one that I particularly remember seeing is SAMSON AND DELILAH with Victor Mature (1949); although, being a girly-girl, I mostly remember Mature.

During the 1940’s, Lamarr appeared in about two films per year, and also took time out to have two children.  After the comedy MY FAVORITE SPY with Bob Hope in 1951, Lamarr appeared in films only occasionally. 

"I have not been that wise. Health I have taken for granted. Love I have demanded, perhaps too much and too often. As for money, I have only realized its true worth when I didn't have it."

During the 1960’s Lamarr was accused of shoplifting, which resulted in her becoming the subject of a short film by Andy Warhol. In 1967, Lamarr published an autobiography called ECSTASY AND ME.  After this, she more-or-less retired from the public eye, eventually moving to Florida, where she was again accused of shoplifting in 1992 when she was 78 years old. 

In 1998, Lamarr became the center of controversy one last time when she sued Corel Corporation for using her image on packaging relating to its CorelDRAW software. The lawsuit was ultimately settled. 

Hedy Lamarr died in Florida in January, 2000. 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Thought For Sunday

"Words of kindness are more healing 
to a drooping heart than balm or honey."

The words are by British novelist Sarah Fielding (1710 – 1768), whose birthday is today.  Fielding was the sister of novelist Henry Fielding (TOM JONES).  The photograph is mine.  

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Drift Away ~ Dobie Gray

Thought For The Day

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."

The words are by French existentialist author Albert Camus (1913 – 1960), whose birthday is today.  The photograph is mine.


On this day in 1619, Elizabeth Stuart, Electress Palatine (through marriage), eldest daughter of King James VI of Scotland and I of England and Anne of Denmark, and granddaughter of Mary Queen of Scots, was crowned Queen of Bohemia, just a few days after her husband Frederick had been crowned King. 

Elizabeth Stuart

Frederick’s reign was unfortunately short, and two were driven into exile at the Hague.  Because of her brief reign, Elizabeth was nicknamed the “Winter Queen.”  After Frederick died in 1632, Elizabeth remained in Holland; but after the English monarchy was restored in 1660, Elizabeth returned there and remained in England until her death in 1662. 

Sophia of Hanover

Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, Sophia of Hanover, ultimately became, through a series of developments too convoluted to detail in a “fragment,” heiress presumptive to her cousin Queen Anne of England and Ireland.  Sophia never became Queen because she died a few weeks before Anne, but her eldest son became King George I. All British monarchs since then have been descendents of Elizabeth Stuart.

On this date in 1916, Jeannette Rankin (1880 – 1973) became the first woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. Rankin is the only woman to have ever been elected to Congress from Montana.

A social worker by training, Rankin was also suffragist and devout pacifist.  She voted against United States entry into both World Wars; her extremely unpopular vote against World War II ultimately resulted in her retirement from Congress.

Both as Congresswoman and later as a lobbyist, Rankin was a champion of legislation to provide government funding for health clinics, midwife education and visiting nurse programs, with the goal of reducing infant mortality.  Rankin was a founding officer of the American Civil Liberties Union, and later became a leader in the anti-Vietnam-War movement.  The foundation created in her name still provides scholarships for low income women.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fragments ~ Archduchess Maria Anna

On this day in 1738, Archduchess Maria Anna, sometimes called Marianna, was born in Vienna, the second child of Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary & Bohemia, and Francis Stephen (I), Holy Roman Emperor. 

Maria Anna

Maria Anna’s mother, Maria Theresa, was a powerful ruler in her own right, as the first and only ruling Empress of the Habsburg Dynasty.  She also became Holy Roman Empress by virtue of her marriage. 

Maria Theresa

A true multi-tasker, Maria Theresa was also mother to sixteen children, most of whom survived to adulthood.  Interestingly, all of the girls were named Maria, after their mother; the youngest and most beautiful daughter was Maria Antonia, better known as Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), queen to Louis XVI of France, whose birthday was this past Monday, and whose portrait appears a few posts below this one.

Maria Anna was highly intelligent as well as beautiful, if the painting above, by Martin II Mytens, is any indication.  Unfortunately, she also suffered from an obscure physical disability that kept her from participating actively in court life and made her unfit for the marriage market.  Because Maria Anna is known to have had a hump in later life, it is thought that the disability may have been osteoporosis or severe arthritis.

Emperor Francis, Maria Theresa, and Family

In any event, Maria Anna’s disability propelled her along a life track that was somewhat different from the ordinary archduchess.  Often isolated from and ignored by her family – as was usual in those times; Jane Austen’s brother suffered a similar ostracism from his family – Maria Anna devoted herself to studies – in particular numismatics and mineralogy.  Known in her time as the “scholarly duchess,” she is also said to have been an avid collector of minerals. 

Ultimately, when the family was unable dispose of Maria Anna in marriage, she was given the position of abbess at the prestigious Imperial and Royal Convent for Noble Ladies in Prague and awarded a huge allowance, which she later gave up for a smaller provision elsewhere. 

Maria Anna and her sister, Archduchess Maria Elisabeth, lived together in the same convents until their deaths.  Maria Anna died in 1789. 

Emperor Joseph II, Maria Anna, and Maria Elisabeth

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Poetry Cupboard ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Love lights more fires
Than hate extinguishes.

On this date in 1850, American author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born on a farm in my home state.

I’m interested in Wheeler Wilcox for a couple of reasons, the first one being the local connection. Another reason is that she was one of three American Nineteenth Century poets who were the subject of a doctoral dissertation written by my daughter’s aunt several years ago.

Wheeler Wilcox was considered something of a sentimentalist, and a popular poet, rather than a literary one, who made substantial amounts of money from her poetry. I happen to own an ornately embossed volume of Wheeler Wilcox’s poetry, published in 1901, that I found years ago at a used book store. These lines from the poem “Maurine,” which is also the name of the book, certainly display a sentimental turn of mind:

The moon went down, slow sailing from my sight,
And left the stars to watch away the night.
O stars, sweet stars, so changeless and serene!
What depths of woe your pitying eyes have seen!
The proud sun sets, and leaves us with our sorrow,
To grope alone in darkness till the morrow.
The languid moon, e’en if she deigns to rise,
Soon seeks her couch, grown weary of our sighs;
But from the early gloaming till the day
Sends golden-liveried heralds forth to say
He comes in might; the patient stars shine on,
Steadfast and faithful, from twilight to dawn.

Wheeler Wilcox came from an impoverished background. Her mother sought solace in literature, with the result that Wheeler Wilcox began writing both prose and poetry at an early age. She wrote a multi-chapter novel at the age of eleven and earned her first commission for writing when she was fourteen. Following high school, she spent one miserable year in college and then began writing both prose and poetry for a living.

One source that I looked at described Wheeler Wilcox’s writing as follows:

Ella wrote about love, optimism, marriage, temperance, the labor movement, classless society, history, life crises, and more. Much of her prose consists of moral platitudes, little sketches of about 500 words. She often wrote about letters she had received from readers: she was the Dear Abby and Ann Landers of her day. Those of us who have been criticized for using platitudes can certainly appreciate her platitudinous statement about platitudes in 'Women Who Want to Succeed': that all successful people know the important platitudes ….

Isn’t that the truth?

When Wheeler Wilcox was 28, she married Robert Wilcox; together they explored various schools of thinking, including “Theosophy,” “New Thought,” and “Spiritualism.” The couple had a very interesting pact that whoever died first would come back and communicate with the other. When Robert Wilcox died in 1916 and did not return as Ella expected him to do, she traveled to California, seeking counsel from the leader of the Rosicrucian Philosophy, Max Heindel. These words from her description of this meeting reminds me eerily of my own thoughts whenever I hear a story about how Jesus has appeared to someone on a piece of toast, or the Virgin Mary has appeared as a stain on a wall:

I replied that it seemed strange to me that an omnipotent God could not send a flash of his light into a suffering world to bring its conviction when most needed.

Heindel’s response essentially was that Robert Wilcox would only reappear when Ella’s tumultous grief had quieted. Ella took this advice to heart, even composing a mantra in which she repeated over and over:

I am ready, God: I am ready, Christ: I am ready, Robert.

Despite these careful preparations, however, I have never heard that Robert Wilcox ever reappeared to comfort his widow.

Wilcox was very popular within the “New Thought” movement, and as mentioned above, her writings demonstrate a blending of various schools of thought, including a belief in reincarnation. She is perhaps best known for the lines that begin her poem “Solitude,” which was composed after a chance encounter with a grieving widow while traveling to the Governor’s inaugural ball in 1883:

Laugh and the world laughs with you,
Weep, and you weep alone;
The good old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox died of cancer in 1919. Although Wheeler Wilcox is now considered an obscure minor poet, her words quoted at the top of this post are preserved for posterity as an inscription on a paving slab in Jack Kerouac Alley, next to the City Lights Bookstore, in San Francisco.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Uncovering Beauty

A friend of mine reminded me that on this date in 1922, Howard Carter first entered the tomb of King Tut in Egypt, and the rest, as they say, is history. I had the good fortune of seeing the Tut exhibit that toured the U.S. during the 1970's; and in addition to the solid gold funeral mask, with which everyone is familiar, my favorite item from that exhibit was this ...

... a statue of Selket, the Egyptian goddess of magic and the underworld, and the funerary casket that she guards, which stands several feet high and is covered in gold. A true object of beauty, it is also the subject of the poster that I purchased at the exhibit and kept as a cherished memento for many years. I recently moved, and ironically, discovered the poster in a cache of other similar items "buried" in a storage room in my basement. A very welcome archaeological find of my own, and a great reminder of the most awesome display of manmade artifacts that I have ever seen.

A good day in my own mine, so to speak.


Fragments ~ Mary of Orange

On this day in 1631, Mary Henrietta Stuart, Princess Royal, Princess of Orange and Countess of Nassau -- more commonly called Mary of Orange -- was born at St. James's Palace in London.

Never a queen herself, Mary was nevertheless both daughter of a king (Charles I of England and Ireland) and mother of a king (William III of England and Ireland, and II of Scotland).

While Mary was still quite young, she was highly sought after on the royal marriage market. In 1641, at the age of ten, she married Willem, son and heir to the Prince of Orange. However, Mary's husband then returned to Europe, and it is thought that the marriage was not consummated for some time after that.

In 1642, Mary's father Charles I gave her the title of "Princess Royal," a title that is now traditionally bestowed on the eldest daughter of a monarch, especially when there are male heirs (Mary had two brothers). Charles created the title to imitate the French tradition of calling the eldest daughter of a king "Madame Royale." That same year, Mary and her mother Queen Henrietta Maria crossed over to the Dutch republic, where Mary joined her father-in-law's household and began her active public life.

In 1647 Mary's husband Willem succeeded his father to his various titles (including Prince of Orange). In 1650, just after trying to take over Amsterdam, Willem died of smallpox; their only child (Willem, later William III) was born a few days later. Without her husband's protection, Mary became quite unpopular, owing primarily to her Stuart loyalties and the welcome she gave to her brothers in exile, Charles II and the Duke of York (later James II). Mary was forced for some time to share the guardianship of her son with his grandmother; but in 1657 she became regent, on his behalf, of the principality of Orange. Mary then sought assistance from Louis XIV of France to deal with her difficult Dutch relations; ironically, however, Louis seized the opportunity to grab control of Orange.

Mary's brother (Charles II) was ultimately restored as King, and she and Willem returned to England in 1660; unfortunately, however, she died of smallpox the same year. Politics being what they were in those days, Willem ultimately ascended to the British throne (as William III) in 1689, but only after his uncle James II was deposed.

William III reigned jointly with his second wife, Mary II (pictured above). They are the "William and Mary" after whom counties and colleges have been named in this country ....

.... including the College of William and Mary, which they chartered in 1693 as the second college in the American colonies.

A Thought For Wednesday

All that is worth cherishing
begins in the heart, not the head.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sweet Seasons

Talkin' bout sweet seasons on my mind
Sure does appeal to me
You know we can get there easily
Just like a sailboat sailing on the sea ....

These words from Carole King's "Sweet Seasons" are on my mind this morning. A while back I posted elsewhere that I consider blogging to be like a tapestry in that we use this "new" medium in the same way they used silks and wools in medieval times to weave a record of our lives and experiences.

Some days I wake up worrying what I might blog about on that given day. But most days something comes to me, sometimes through serendipity -- like this morning -- and sometimes through friends who provide me with interesting material and ideas. Today I got some unlooked for inspiration from morning television. While getting dressed for work, I happened to overhear a few bars of "Sweet Seasons" as I was traveling between my bedroom and the bathroom. Now, as prologue, it's important to understand that, in some blogging circles, I'm better known for my cupcakes -- virtual, of course -- than I am for scintillating wit or razor-sharp political commentary. And if you know how my mind works, then you wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that these thoughts brought me straight to Claude Monet's "series" paintings of haystacks.

Monet created several groups of paintings like these during the 1890's to explore the effects of light and the changing seasons on his subject matter. I had the good fortune to see an exhibition of the series paintings gathered together in Chicago in the early 1990's.

In the light of an autumn morning like this one, those haystacks might well look like this ....

And soon enough, as winter inexorably approaches, those haystacks will no doubt look like this ...

Mmmm, mmmm, frosting. Sweet seasons, indeed.

Welcome To My World

I recently acquired a new digital camera that takes terrific pictures. This has reopened a world for me that was lost for many years.

This is a photo that I took during my first outing with my camera at a local botanical garden. Needless to say, look out world. LoL

A Thought For Tuesday

En art comme en amour, l’instinct suffit.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Marie Antoinette

Oh, dear ... I hope it doesn't prove prophetic that I began this blog on Marie Antoinette's birthday ....

Anne Vallayer Coster
Marie Antoinette (1780)