L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, November 18, 2011


In the ever continuing rearrangement/refurbishment of my studio, here in the apartment, I just put together a new desk chair I bought at Ikea. Honestly, we have a ton of things from Ikea; in our apartment, if it isn't old/antique, it's probably a product of that Swedish company. Bookcases, tables, bed, chairs, curtain rods, lamps. Everyone jokes about the horrors of assembly-required items from Ikea - the hieroglyphic instructions, the unintuitive build order, the odd fastenings and the "foreign-looking" included tools - but I really enjoy putting things together. I'm pretty good at it.

I always say that with more than a bit of pride. Putting things together is something that always linked me with my late dad. He put things together, took them apart, and put them back together. For a living. He was an airplane mechanic, in the Air force and out. I don't know if there's any genetic possibility that I could have inherited this particular sort of intelligence from him, but I like to think so. My younger brother, Brian, certainly got none of it. I've always been quite gloat-y that I had this quality in common with our dad, while my slim, athletic, non-sissy brother didn't. My brother has many excellent qualities; they will more than suffice.

My dad and I certainly loved each other, even if we never really had a lot to talk about. But my fondest memories of him are of the two of us working together - when we couldn't procrastinate any longer - on some maintenance or repair project. The last time we did so, we rebuilt part of the low wooden fence around my grandmother's Japanese style garden. We had to disassemble one side of it and replace three or four of the fence posts. We said little in the hours we spent doing this, but we seemed so very much in tune, working together, figuring out how to accomplish what was needed. At one point or another, I suggested something that made something easier to do or made it work better; I don't remember what it was. He seemed impressed with my ingenuity, my good sense. And it made me so quietly happy to have that recognition. To have my father's respect was such a wonderful thing.


Putting together my new chair, this is the page in the instructions that shows how to assemble the base:

Ikea is famous/infamous for having no-text building instructions. It's one of the things that makes people craziest when they're struggling to get their new purchase up and running. At the other extreme, for anything where they would consider written language necessary - fabric content and care, cautions, etc. - they share it in all 29 (!) of the languages spoken in the various countries where Ikea has plopped down retail establishments.

I laughed out loud when I saw that one was told to listen for the "click!" Click. With an exclamation mark. (For the record, it didn't make that sound at all. It was more of a vague but still reassuring thud.) For a moment I pondered whether "click" could be the same in every language? Well, of course not. There is also the question of alphabets....

In line with Gigi's and my recent decamping to French when discussing Nick's "number two"s, I got out the French dictionary for a little rough investigation. We find petit bruit sec (literally, a little dry sound - charming!). And we also have clic, cliquet, and déclic. Not too far off, those. Click might be comprehensible with French as a starting point. But I can only assume things are not quite so simple when we arrive at Turkish or Thai.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Artist nightmare

I'm in my studio, working on a painting that's close to being finished. It's on a large, horizontally oriented Ampersand panel. [Gesso-covered Masonite mounted flush with a two-inch-deep birch plywood framework.] I don't know what the image is, but on a large expanse of what seems to be flesh I notice an odd, slightly darkened round-ish patch. Small, about the size of the end of a pencil eraser. The surface of the painting is wet. I put my fingertip on the discolored place and rub slightly, and the paint - and gesso - come away, leaving just the bare Masonite. I'm not particularly alarmed; the small section that came away is just fairly flat color, and should be not too difficult to match. I tilt the panel back, catching the light differently, to examine the surface for any irregularities I might not have noticed previously. What looks like a taped join - under the paint, under the gesso - going vertically and through the point where I found the problem is fairly obvious in the otherwise perfectly flat surface of the Masonite. I tilt the painting back down and now I notice another small section of paint loss about four inches to the right of the first, and the apparent join has become horizontal rather than vertical; both areas of paint loss are along that line. I turn the large panel around to the back side and see that, indeed, the surface is actually in two pieces, taped together with what looks like a few layers of that wide brown paper tape they used to seal boxes for shipping. The top edge of the tape has mostly come away from the surface of the panel, the edges curling out and then back toward it. I turn the panel back around to the front, only to see that the butted seam has shifted now, making about an eighth of an inch separation - the edges still in contact - most of the way across the panel. Along the length of the dislocated seam the paint surface has lifted slightly from the two edges of the Masonite, stretching and in some places torn. I'm still more annoyed than shocked. And pragmatic, thinking first that I should just replace the brown paper tape. Then deciding it will be much better to put the panel on its face and glue a piece of wood to the back of the seam, doing this all on a nice flat surface to ensure that the front of the panel will be as smooth as possible when the repair is finished. Then I'll repaint the damaged parts of the painting. I can do this. I'll fix this.

Two other words that start with G

Blogger's spell-check doesn't recognize the very-important-for-painters word gesso. Its only suggestion for correction/replacement is . . . Gestapo.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Numbers and attention and love

Yesterday's date - if you somehow failed to notice - was 11/11/11. And it also included two opportunities to experience the time posting of 11:11 on 11/11/11. A lot of people thought that was pretty cool.

Many believe that eleven is a strongly energetic number, and that seeing 11:11 on the clock is a moment powerful with potentiality. And therefore a moment to focus one's attention or even a moment to pray. I've been lucky, most of my adult life, to quite frequently stumble upon 11:11s. And I always use those minutes - or fragments of minutes - to slow down my breathing, think positive thoughts and/or ponder my goals and desires. Also, numerologically, I'm an eleven. While any eleven ends up being a two, of course, many numerologists believe that it's pretty powerful for an eleven to be the penultimate sum.

Anyone who knows Gigi and me at all well, and knows the story of how we found each other, knows that Rufus Wainwright was crucial to us. At the end of 2003, we both had a newly minted mania for his music; we "met" on his website message board. G had happened to be visiting Portland, saw a show of mine and wrote me a sort of fan letter. I responded, we became long-distance friends and, eight years later, here we are. Even though our enthusiasm for Rufus and his music has cooled quite a bit, we'll always be very grateful to the fellow.

His first album to come out after G and I met had a song on it titled "11:11". Never one of our favorites, musically, it still felt fairly directed at us. (It even included the line, "...wasn't in Portland and I wasn't in heaven.") Because right from the beginning, at least once we were in an in-person relationship, G and I have always witnessed 11:11s. (G's always seen them, too. And eleven has always been her favorite number.) And if we happen to be together, we must have a small kiss to mark the moment. Silly I guess.......but why not?! (Honestly, much of the time now, we look for them, we wait for them. Which isn't quite fair, I suppose....)

I had yesterday off, and since I hadn't listened to Rufus' music in a very long time, it seemed only right, considering the day, to listen to the album that contained that song. I put on two of his albums, actually. (And put them in shuffle with two albums of Holcombe Waller, whose music I love. It was a good combination; there are a lot of similarities in their music. And a nice contrast, vocally: Holcombe's pure, soaring instrument, and Rufus' mumble-y, powerhouse baritone.)

When I really love an album, I'll play it over and over and over. Until I've heard it so much, sung along with it so much, heard it in my head even when I'm not hearing it - know it so deeply - that, gradually, it somehow disappears. And then I don't really even hear it when it plays. I've been so greedy for this thing I love, that I've devoured it and so don't have it anymore. That's certainly the story of those Rufus albums. The main reason I stopped listening to them is that I stopped hearing them.

I noticed an odd thing yesterday; I don't know that I've had exactly this experience before. When I listened to Rufus' albums, they remained partly disappeared to me. I still couldn't quite connect with them. I half expected that, even after all this time. But what surprised me was that these songs that I had known so well, sung at the top of my voice countless times, weren't entirely familiar to me anymore. As I tried to sing along, I couldn't always tell where the melody was going to go next. Rufus' progressions do often tend to be unexpected, but still. At this point, the music is so familiar that I don't entirely hear it but, at the same time, so distant that I can't follow the path of the tune. I wasn't prepared for this odd dislocation of memory.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The necessity of the appropriate "uh"

When G brought the doggie in from his first walk of the day, this morning, I asked if he'd done his "business". As new/returning dog owners, we spend an inordinate amount of time pondering and discussing his digestive tract and its production, shall we call it. But since we are also inordinately squeamish about discussing anything relating to that general topic I've suggested that, whenever possible, we speak of it in French. So when G announced that Nick had been successful not once but twice, I chimed in happily, "Il a fait caca deux fois!"

And then, of course, as happens any time I venture into my beloved French, I couldn't think of another bloody thing to say. My mouth was ready, my brain had stalled. But I noticed something about that anticipatory stance that I never had before: my muttered "uh" was in French. Really impossible to describe, the sound and shape of both the inside and outside of my mouth. Closer to an "ew" sound than an "uh", my mouth small and round and my tongue pressed against the back of my lower teeth. Even though my brain was currently void of French content, my mouth had the instinct intact. And somehow knew that if I ever would think of something to say, I'd be ready. Because you really can't get from a beautifully manufactured French to an American "uh", and back again.