Saturday, May 30, 2009

Egads! Murphy Calling!

Smells really good in here today! It's either the lilacs, or the coffee beans...all over the floor. You see, today (Saturday) has been one of those days; you know the kind - the days when everyone else's world is filled with sunshine, roses, and perfect cups of fresh coffee, while your day is haunted by a grayish cloud over your head (and only yours) labeled "Murphy's Law". Yup. My day started with the hand slicing while cutting beautifully aromatic lilacs for the store. Then there was the dog surprise, which I discovered with a bare foot. No details needed. At work, the bean grinder was plugged. This I learned while attempting to fill it with fresh beans, tearing the bean bag thus sending two pounds of beans hither and yon throughout LaDeDa.

This dance of the catastrophe continued until about 2:00, when I decided to hang it all up, and pick up a book for the last hour of my day. Upon the recommendation of several young customers, I selected Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. I knew I needed to delve into the world of graphic novels sooner of later, and this got me started. It's not a pure graphic, more of a hybrid, combining text and pictures. Adults have trouble with graphics because we don't know how to read pictures. Sometime around fifth grade, book publishers decided we longer needed beautiful illustration to clarify the text. We were ll grown up and could handle 5X7 sheets of paper filled with nothing but, as Hamlet said, "words, words, words, words, words, words," - or something like that.

Thank goodness we have emerged from those dull days of no frills, no fun tomes, to an era where comic book type accents are no longer considered an attempt to dumb down a story. So, I went ahead and started the book, only to discover that twelve-year-old Greg Heffley, the main character, was having a Murphy's Law life - not a single day, mind you, an entire life! Wouldn't you just know it. Not only was I living it, but I was reading it as well. No use trying to flee. I spend the next hour with Greg and his nit-wit friend, Rowley. Greg's a little dorky, and he is the first to admit it. His journal recounts his constant attempts to overcome his dorkiness by doing cool things like becoming a safety patrol, taking on the aggressive role of an apple flinging tree in the school production of "The Wizard of Oz," and participating in Big Wheel races. He never really succeeds is upping his self-image, yet he never stops trying. I'm not big on reading sequels, prequels, or even more than one book by the same author (except for Sedaris, of course), but I need to read Jeff Kinney's second book about Greg. I have to find out if the guy's persona improves, or if he just gives in and joins the local chapter of Losers International.

Come to think of it, I have read a couple other graphic-hybrids, The Invention of Hugo Cabret being the most impressive. Brian Selznick incorporates several iconic themes including the Frankenstein legend, and the story of Oliver Twist. These are all wrapped nicely in the tale of a young French orphan, working to stay one step ahead of the law, and trying desperately to fulfil his late father's dream.

Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic, Persepolis, is the story of the author's unforgettable childhood, and coming of age in Tehran during the Islamic revolution. This skillful piece was transformed successfully into a film.

My occasional desire to get me some culture reared its head last week, and I watched an artsy movie called "Caravaggio". He was a 15th century artist who apparently ushered in the Baroque period. His work is intensely dark. The play of light andshadow is so strong that some of his works look more like sculpture than one dimensional paintings. The enigmatic Caravaggio was a fighter, a drinker. He was a charismatic character who intimated himself into the lives of religious leaders. He had a dangerous side that led to him committing a murder (and getting away with it due to "connections"), attempts on his life, and colorful love affairs.

This is a self portrait called "Young sick Bacchus." Isn't it interesting that he named it after the Roman god of wine and festivity?

The movie didn't work well for me,but it did get me thinking about all the troubled artists, and whether or not they are truly troubled. I guess that history (and psychologists) would indeed say they had problems - people like Poe, Plath, Hemingway, and an all too lengthy list of visual artists, actors, writers, and musicians. But maybe some of them were just ahead of the game. Maybe they were tapped into some fresh vibe that the rest of us had to hear about, be appalled by, reject, and eventually, after years of deciphering and analyzing, finally embrace. I always think that people with edge have so much to say or to show to the world, but they seem to frighten some people. John Lennon sure was edgy in his day, but look how many of his songs have become anthems for peace - not to mention the strength of the poetry in much of his later work. Once again, I have to say how grateful I am that the arts community allows me the privilege of hanging on the fringe of their fringe. They have taught me to look and to see. They have prodded me until I learned to listen. But most of all, I appreciate that they do not laugh at me lack of artistic ability, and my desperate wannabe attempts. In return, I see and I listen with sincerity.
I also saw "The Wrestler," and fully agree wtih all the awards that Micky Rourke won.

I know, I know, you have all seen irises. but, these are a new variety. These are the "OH JOY! Bev did not manage to kill us," variety. There is a nice lady across from the east side of Franklin elementary school, who sells plants dug from her garden each spring. I have gotten some of the nicest ferns, and hosta, irises from her. Her prices are great, and, in exchange for that, all she asks is that your return the plastic pots.

What am I reading? Just finished an ARC called The Blue Notebook, and plan to start The Rivals, an 18th century comedy of manners play by Sheridan. I'm sure I'll be campaigning to bring back the word "Egads" by the time I am done.

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