Thursday, April 29, 2010

...of what-not...

Recently stumbled upon the blog the morning oil  Don't remember how I got there. Had something to do with Flannery O'Connor (haha). Through it I came to know several other artsy blogs including THE UPPERCASE, filled with plug-ins about exquisite things from the graphic art world, eye candies abound.

Not much going on around here. I'm back teaching the 2nd graders this week. We're learning to draw and paint animals from life. No, we don't have real animals in the classroom, although that would have been  preferred. We use the vinyl versions which you can buy from school-supply merchants. I'm focusing on their learning to see objects in three-dimensional space, from different points of view. It's a bit hard for that age, but with patience and finesse, you can get the points across. They struggle and panic a bit, but anxious to "get it right."

I am a firm believer in learning through repetition. Of course educators more "progressive" than I have rather dissed repetition in learning, but as I have little respect for "progressiveness," I positively revel in my reactionary (or wayward?) pedagogy.

Yesterday I gave a lesson on texture and how to use brush and paint to create the illusion of the same. I will take photos of some of their drawings and post them later.

Gotta run. 2nd graders awaiting me. We'll start a jungle painting putting to use what we have been learning last few days: animal form, points of view, texture, brushwork...

p.s....OMG!! I just noticed that Blogger's new editor now has spell-checker on it!!! Makes me want to pop a champagne!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

thought nuggests from reading

Just finished reading The Violent Bear It Away for the second time. Second time or not, I still felt like having just survived a neuclear bomb.

Flannery does not write from a "golden heart" only, she is a superb craftsman, with a "lean and mean" bent for language and keen eye on pattern.

The story has an unmistaken structural symmetry with violence, physical and spiritual, at its core. It begins and ends with a death, a grave, a drunken 14-year-old boy, a fire, a woodthrush called in the same four formal notes, only to "make silence" in the beginning, but grieved against it in the ending... One can pick out many of such motifs throughout the story and realize the pattern that has made the story, the work, the thing, through wich she devoted to the Endower of her genius.

She makes what ought to disgust, disgusting; what ought to infuriate, infuriating. Hers is an incarnational art. Ideas are only generated through the concrete. Understanding this respect for the concrete is essential to understanding the Catholicity of her stories.

I am at the same time reading James Joyce's Dubliners, a collection of short stories before he went incoherent. I read the last of the collection, The Dead, in a college course and was blown away by the man's wizerdry of painting by words. The Catholic Joyce knows the sovereign power of the concrete, and commands it with grace. In these early stories you already sense the dread and irony which would become unbearably aloof and detached. You dread with the characters but have a hard time being aloof with the author, not when you know there's a Flannery O'Connor. At the end of each story, I'm always happy that it has ended. No lingering bomb effect.

As Forrest Gump says, that's all I have to say.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I felt exceptionally light hearted today, perhaps because we had the day just to ourselves, me and KDM.  All was quiet, unhurried, unlike our shared recurring dreams in which we are  perpetually going somewhere, always in transit, frantically trying to catch a plane, board a train, furiously fumbling for passport, money, or ticket, fighting to close a bulging and busting piece of luggage...Sometimes, the hotel we stayed would physically disappear when we returned from a local market, or if it stayed put, its doors and or stairs somehow shifted from place to place as we tried to find our way back to our room...

None of that. We had an easy, care-free day. We went to the AM Mass. Father's jubilant mood reached a highlight as he successfully coaxed an "Alleluia!" out of the usually mum and dull "Catholics." From where I sat, I could see directly over the congregation, on the opposite wall of the church, the Icon of Jesus breaking through the tomb stone while the Roman guards slumber.

After the Mass we drove home, ate Cream of Wheat, fixed extra creamy by KDM with strawberry jelly, banana and blueberry. 

 We retired to the porch to read after the brunch, while sufficiently hydrated on coffee and O.J., until the silence lulled us into a sweet and gooey kind of drowsy state, which obliterated any alertness necessary for reading. Regretting not having a hammock to nap in, KDM suggested we sober up by taking a walk down through the wood to the pastures. Our three dogs dully tagged along.

We came out of the other end of the pasture onto the gravel county road up a steep hill leading back to the house. Dogwoods are in full bloom but you had to cut through jungles of brier and vines to get down to the valley where the trees are. Once you get close to the tree, the snowy tops clearly visible from up on the road disappear because they are above you and indistinguishable from the tender green leaves. We come in here every year when the flowers are in season to take some home. I am flower-crazy and dogwood is simply irresistible.

Any how, the flowers pictured here are the result of our expedition. If I have time and will power, there'll be a painting, or two, of the subject (presently I'm working on a different picture.)

To close the day, I cooked round steak, red potatoes, salad for dinner. While the steak was in the oven, we sat on the rock in our little rose garden and said a rosary, sipped wine, pet the dogs, till dusk turned into night.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cross: Collectively

Last night I watched part of the Stations of the Cross led by the Pope on EWTN, and thought I noticed a sorrow on the faces of the crowd which, I had not in previous years.

Lent, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter, cannot be the same for Catholics world round. Not this year. Complacency, plague-like; triumphalism, if any, has been shattered. And it is well for us it is so.

We have been attacked, shouted at, spat on, smeared, blackened, but mostly, humiliated, and the best we can hope, humbled.

Our priest broke down, nearly sobbed, during homily at yesterday's service. He apologized for however he might have inflicted hurt to anyone in the flock. He had been saddened, angered, and humbled, by scandals and sensational reportings about the Church; he was angry because ever since the sexual abuse scandals broke eight years ago, the face of priesthood had been altered, to the point of fear to interact normally with his own flock and little school children.

I sensed that his apology was all he could offer to remedy the injury for which he was not responsible. Yet taking responsibility, confessing and paying the debt of others, is quintessentially Catholic. The sins of one, of a handful, of many, inflict the whole. Collectively we must suffer and atone.

I sent the same priest an email a few days ago, to express my distress over the scandal and confusion. This is what I wrote:
"As Catholics we care about the Pope, the Church, but we mostly want to be told the truth, by both the Church or the media. Fairness is the most basic rule for reporting. With the rising temperature in the attacks and anti-attacks, facts are often overlooked, or willfully ignored. Both sides can be guilty of these. The Church teaches us to use reason, and not to be carried away by passion or ideology. I'd be the first to admit it is EXTREMELY hard to do, given the sharply divided political and social reality we face today. I came into the Church convinced it's the citadel of Truth, and still will not accept anything less. I understand the Church is made up of sinners, including the pope. I'm not afraid to look at the wounds, sores, scabs, filth, and dirt in the dark recesses of the Body of Christ, I need to know what's there and how bad things are, so that I would know what to do.

If it's time for sackcloth and ashes, I will not spare myself."

Friday, April 2, 2010

we call this Friday good

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

-T. S. Eliot, East Coker from Four Quartets