Sunday, September 30, 2012


I got an online appeal from The Landmark Trust in England to help them (with money, ├ža va sans dire) in re-restoring the ornamental facade of the Egyptian House in Penzance, originally created as a museum and geological repository in 1835. Several decades ago the Trust preserved the building the first time around, creating three flats which can be booked by curious travelers.  

In 1997 when my daughter had finished her junior year at Oxford, I went over to do some traveling with her. We spent a week walking the cliffs in Cornwall and our base was the top-floor flat of the Egyptian House.

The flat's front door was original, curved (like the doorframe) to correspond with the curving walls of the steep spiral staircase.

Since 1997 one or the other or both of us have arranged stays at other Landmark properties. Probably the strongest reason for that loyalty is the harmonious mixture of period fidelity with practical but still tasteful modern amenities.

My handwriting on the back of the bottom photo (all these were taken with the disposable cardboard 35mm film cameras that were standard technology 15 years ago) tells me that I am repairing my daughter's purple hooded sweatshirt. She despises purple clothing now, but she liked it then. 

My daughter's response to this nostalgic series of photos appears here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


In the new hanging of the permanent collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the gallery devoted to Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still shows off the work especially well. The painting under scrutiny is Untitled, 1957. The red painting glimpsed at far right is Untitled, 1954.

Land's End, 1963

Fragments of painted stencil-like lettering from one of the longest-lasting contenders on my own top ten list of favorite paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Modern ArtLand's End, painted in 1963 by Jasper Johns. If you needed a single painting to represent the unlikely link between Abstract Expressionism and Pop, you could do worse than rely on this one.

50/50 Floor

Tauba Auerbach has taken over a gallery at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of the Field Conditions exhibition running through the end of the year. The installation is called 50/50 Floor. The glowing tubes above are spinning steadily but semi-randomly and somewhat out of sync. The photos I took here were horrendous until I remembered to lower the ISO and reset the White Balance for fluorescent.  

Mabel Watson Payne liked this room exceedingly when she absorbed the experience earlier in September with her parents, as seen here. With a grandchild of my own, I am now effectively corrupted and far less tempted to express the deep sarcasm I still feel about the curatorial dumbing-down taking place in all American art museums, which increasingly pimp themselves to the taste of tourists and children in order to increase the gate-count.


I was walking from the Museum of Modern Art on 3rd & Mission through the Union Square part of downtown and on up the slope beyond (in the cold and foggy Friday afternoon air) toward my favorite engagement of the week (with my granddaughter) when I saw these pigeons, aiming for and landing on the ornamental ledge of a rather fancy unoccupied 1920s-era building across the street. I expect it will be occupied soon, now that fewer and fewer of the commercial street-front spaces anywhere near downtown San Francisco are empty.

There is a NEW BOOM obvious all over town these days, and my son-in-law mockingly and humorously told me that he has heard many people saying that THIS boom is REALLY DIFFERENT from the LAST boom because it is BUILT on something SOLID and therefore we need not expect another CRASH such as we have seen after every other local, national or international BOOM throughout recorded history.

After he said this we both laughed and laughed at the obvious falsehoods people are willing and eager to tell themselves and others.

Friday, September 28, 2012


For snack time Friday afternoon Mabel Watson Payne wanted to open the vanilla energy bar she found in my backpack and I said that would be fine after Daddy had checked the label for things that wouldn't be good. Mabel was very happy when he approved her request to eat the bar but she promised only to take mouse bites to make the chewing easier. 


Mabel's frog-potty appeared in the bathroom a coupe of weeks ago. She plays with it and puts her dolls on it and has conversations about it and reads books about it. On Friday another thing she wanted to do that needed permission from Daddy was to bring the frog-potty out into the living room and play with it there. He said fine, just like with the energy bar, and then Mabel showed me how many different games it is possible to play with a frog-potty.

Blain|Southern, Berlin

Blain|Southern Gallery of London has a Berlin branch on Potsdamer Strasse in the former Tagesspiegel newspaper building. I came across these white and soaring images of this English/German art space here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Endpapers of discarded library books. The ones above are probably luckier than average. since they have received sympathetic retirement housing here.

At bottom, a copy of one of the justly famous collaborations between Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak. I have never seen this one in real life, but would very much like to, I'll Be You And You Be Me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The Coming God

after Nonnus

Horned child, double-born into risk, guarded
by satyrs, centaurs, raised
by the nymphs of Nysa, by the Hyades:
here he was, the toddler, Dionysus.
He cried 'Daddy!' stretching up to the sky, and he was right
and clever, because the sky was Zeus
his father, reaching down.

As he grew, he learned to flit through other forms;
he'd become a newborn kid, shivering in the corner,
his soft pink skin suddenly the pelt of a goat
and the goat bleating, his hands and feet
now taking their first steps on tottering hooves.

As a grown boy, he would show himself
as a girl, in saffron robes and veils,
moulding his hips
to the coil of a woman's body,
shaping his lips to speak in a woman's voice.

At nine he started to hunt.
He would match the jink
of a coursing hare, reach down at speed
and trip it over; chase alongside a young buck and just
lift it from the running ground
and swing it over his shoulder.

He tamed the wild beasts, just by talking,
and they knelt to be petted, harnessed in.
By his boyhood's end he was dressing in their skins:
the tiger's tree-line stripe, the fallow deer speckled
like a fall of stars,
the pricked ears of the lynx.

One day he came upon a maddened she-bear
and reached out his right hand to her snout
and put his white fingers to her mouth, her teeth,
his fingers gentle at the bristled jaw,
which slackened
and drew in a huge breath
covering the hand of Dionysus with kisses,
wet, coarse, heavy kisses.

– Robin Robertson
from the London Review of Books

image here