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An American in (and outside of) Paris


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#46 Wilfrid

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 10:08 PM

This is getting NSFW.

For what it's worth, I offer a couple of thoughts on the Van Gogh/Munch discussion, and I do so as an admirer especially of Munch's later work, and those self-portraits.

My own instinct is to do my best to account for the appeal (or otherwise) of paintings by looking first at pictorial elements of the work rather than narrative or presumed autobiographical elements. (This is probably the equivalent of focusing on what is on the plate.)

I don't doubt that an almost universal assumption exists that Van Gogh's art is explained, in some way, by a mental condition. We've all seen that terrific movie. In fact, although we know he was intermittently ill, and committed suicide, we actually don't know what was wrong with him (learned link). Nor was he "certifiably insane" through most of his active life, when he was producing the paintings and his memorable and actually quite lucid letters. His illness seems, in fact, to have made it difficult for him to paint: the idea of him knocking out masterpieces while raving mad is a bit of a Hollywood invention.

Indeed, anyone who has spent time looking at art works by artists with chronic mental disorders (so-called "outside art") will be struck certain common factors not normally found in the work of "sane" or "normal" artists.

Van Gogh was not an "outsider" artist. He is thoroughly in control of his pictorial effects (forget Kirk Douglas slashing at the canvas for a moment). He is an impressionist, trying to what other impressionists did, in his own way.

I think there's a tendency to read some kind of mystical derangement into the works just because we know too much about the life. The "fizziness" of the surface - a good word for it - is the product of multiple, distinct brushstrokes and a vivid palette. Signac has a "fizzy" surface too, but nobody supposes it connotes mental distress in his case.

There probably isn't any very strong correlation between personal emotional or mental problems and the character or content of art works in any case. Max Beckmann, Pablo Picasso - random examples of artists who have produced outright "crazy" art without themselves being crazy. Rothko, on the other hand, was a diagnosed depressive - sure, you can find foreboding in his pictures if you look for it, but I think - absent the biography - a deep serenity is a more obvious quality.

As for Munch, I am at a loss to see how Van Gogh's brushwork would have enhanced those late pictures. Mortality and death are not necessarily badly served by a muted, even sickly, palette, let alone by a querulous sense of space. Munch becomes almost ghostly in these pictures. Mortality is an affliction we can be sure any artist shares, and Munch handles it profoundly. A good comparison would be Rembrandt.

#47 Chambolle

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:14 AM

1. This is getting NSFW ...
2. I offer a couple of thoughts on the Van Gogh/Munch discussion ...
3. My own instinct is to do my best to account for the appeal (or otherwise) of paintings by looking first at pictorial elements of the work rather than narrative or presumed autobiographical elements. (This is probably the equivalent of focusing on what is on the plate.)
4. We've all seen that terrific movie.
5. Nor was he "certifiably insane" through most of his active life, when he was producing the paintings and his memorable and actually quite lucid letters. His illness seems, in fact, to have made it difficult for him to paint: the idea of him knocking out masterpieces while raving mad is a bit of a Hollywood invention.

1. When great art is not safe in a workplace, it is a sad workplace indeed.

2. Thank you for your well-written and well-received thoughts.

3. One should follow their instincts. That's why we have them. Looking first at such-and-such is fine, but one must continue and look secondly and thirdly. Large bodies of artwork cannot be fullly understood without contemplating narrative, autobiography, literary texts, historical context and cultural and philosophical viewpoints of the time, just to name a few.

4. I haven't.

5. I'll tackle this one but then I must move on. I have an enormous amount of other stuff to cover.

Chambo surely didn't say that Van Gogh was certifiably insane through most of his active life. He may have been, but Chambo didn't say it. I am of a slightly different viewpoint regarding his illness making it difficult for him to paint.

First, some context:

I am well-versed in Van Gogh's oeuvre and his life.
I studied his career and those of his compatriots in great depth at the Sorbonne.
I studied those who came before him and those who came after.
There have been certain artists to whom I have been uncontrollably attracted in my life.
Van Gogh counts among them.
I have discussed Van Gogh's life, influences and works at great depth with a few of the great Sorbonne scholars on this time period.
Note that there were only a few such scholars at the Sorbonne. Granted, this was ten years ago.

I give this context solely to say that I am not talking bullshit. Nor am I googling for my knowledge base. Please don't read into that that I think that you are. I don't.

To be clear, Chambo never talks bullshit. Chambo may be misunderstood or not understood.

But Chambo don't do bullshit.

Silly yes. Bullshit no.

And the more double entendre, the better. Sometimes you need to hear (or read) Chambo a second time, if not a third time, to grasp where he is coming from. Sometimes he is writing about the future and things are only clear later. My advice is to continuoulsy re-read Chambo. Make it a life project. It's a more useful use of time than watching Netflix.

To a large extent, I will try to avoid those writing peculiarities in the remainder of this post.

Okay, enough bullshit. Where were we ...

Oh yeah, insanity.

First off, artistic insanity is not a criticism but complement in Chambo's book. What we don't understand today, we may understand tomorrow.

Secondly, although many here might think that Chambo was randomly googling for Van Gogh's visage, they would be sorely mistaken and seriously misinformed about my process and my precision.

My above post included 3 precise Van Gogh self-portraits.

I had these three self-portraits in crystal clear chronological focus in my mind's eye when deciding to make my crazy comparison with Munch. I specifically set out to find them.

Je m'explique proceeding in reverse order from my original post.

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My portrait #3 above with the green background is from 1888 and is generally agreed to have been dedicated to Gauguin. Prior to Gauguin's arrival, it is well-documented that Van Gogh was already dealing with serious mental health issues. I am not going to attempt to psycho-analyze this dead man and tell you why he had these problems. As far as I am concerned, any deep-thinking, mortal human being should have mental health problems. It's the sheep that are sane and they like it that way.

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My portrait #2 with the bandaged ear was painted after the well-known argument with Gauguin - the argument that resulted in a Van Gogh's self-destructive act. That argument occurred at the end of 1888. Cutting off one's ear is not what most sane people do when a discussion does not go their way. (Please speak loudly in the future. I only have one ear.)

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My portrait #1 with the swirly blue background is le tableau du Musée d'Orsay dating from mid-1889. It was painted shortly after leaving the asylum in Saint Remy. Van Gogh is suffering from continuous hallucinations and delusions of death at this point in time. This is probably his most intense self-portrait. This is a portrait of internal chaos. If one understands human nature and the human beast, it is difficult to read it any other way.

Van Gogh died in 1890. Most would agree that his cause of death was suicide due to a self-inflicted gun shot. Most sane people don't consider that a sane thing to do.

The last two years of his life were a notable and wildly productive period for him. If you don't think so, you need to seriously reacquaint yourself with his production from 1888 until his death two years later.

Insanity does not require continuous, non-stop insanity.

The insane can be lucid from time to time.

One final point to back up my thought process.

From time to time, even Chambo can be lucid.

When it comes to art, I try not to screw around too much.

#48 Wilfrid

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 03:28 PM

I appreciate your lucidity.

I agree, of course, that Van Gogh suffered greatly from a condition which manifested itself in behavior we can readily label insane.

He was a chronic alcoholic, which is quite sufficient reason, I'm afraid, for waking up with a chunk of your ear missing. There are many competing theories as to an additional underlying condition, and my conclusion - as I said - is that we just don't know. If his illness was the consequence of some physical condition, or even lead poisoning (from eating paint - this has been seriously argued), then the association between his illness and his art becomes, at least, problematic.

Thanks for discussing the self-portraits further. I don't think we're far apart on these. I do accept that the portraits consciously register his degrees of suffering. What I'd like to persuade you of - and this is why I mentioned pictorial values - is that they don't manifest that suffering in their execution. They are executed by someone fully in command of his technique and his material and entirely conscious of other contemporary developments in painting.

This is one important reason why they're good.

Paintings created by people "not quite right in the head" typically exhibit much less satisfying properties (flat or non-existent pictorial space, meaningless - to the viewer - repetition of motifs, a compulsion to fill all available space, no relationship with contemporary artistic conventions, etc).

I wonder if you had any second thoughts on Munch?

#49 Chambolle

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 08:19 PM

1. Paintings created by people "not quite right in the head" typically exhibit much less satisfying properties ...

2. What I'd like to persuade you of - and this is why I mentioned pictorial values - is that they [Van Gogh's self-portraits] don't manifest that suffering in their execution. They are executed by someone fully in command of his technique and his material

3. and entirely conscious of other contemporary developments in painting.

4. I wonder if you had any second thoughts on Munch?

5. I appreciate your lucidity.

1. But we are not discussing someone typical. We are discussing Van Gogh who is currently considered to be one of the most visually striking painters of his century. When you enter the Musée d'Orsay rez de chaussée gallery right now, they have a large poster pointing you towards the Néo et Post-Impressionnistes on the 2nd floor. The poster is of a painting. The museum has many, many options to choose from. Take a wild guess whose pretty painted face is on that poster. You would correct if you guessed Van Gogh's blue face from the 1889 portrait that I presented en premier. We are not talking about someone typical.

2. There is no need to persuade here. Again, one of the world's great painters is by definition going to be fully in command of his technique.

What I would like to persuade you of is that the final two years of Van Gogh's life were very productive and his most successful as a painter*. Few would dispute this. Also, from 1888 until his death in 1890, Van Gogh's mental fragility and mental problems were at their most severe. One can interpret that as one wishes. There are multiple ways to do so.

3. I also think that your view of an insanity is way too extreme. There are many shades of grey. There are many people who are considered insane but they are entirely conscious and well aware of what's going on around them. Not all, but many. There are many people who are well aware that they have substantial mental problems and they ask to be institutionalized. Re-read this thread for some examples. But this does not necessarily mean that they are unable to follow contemporary events. You should really defer to me on this one. I'm reasonably well-versed in the subject matter.

4. I have many, many thoughts on Munch. Second thoughts, third thoughts, fourth thoughts ... I simply related my visceral experience from that exhibition. Sadly, I don't have the time right now to do a deep dive on Munch as I am already months behind schedule here and I'm getting further and further behind as each day passes.

5. You're welcome. But to be perfectly honest, maintaining lucidity for a long stretch drives me insane.



* Van Gogh checked himself into the asylum in Saint Remy in mid 1889. During his stay there, he painted over a hundred paintings.

The last two years of his life were a notable and wildly productive period for him. If you don't think so, you need to seriously reacquaint yourself with his production from 1888 until his death two years later.

Insanity does not require continuous, non-stop insanity.

The insane can be lucid from time to time.

I chose these words very carefully.

I am in agreement that in the absolute peak moments of rabid illness and depression he was artistically incapacitated.


Portraiture aside, some of Van Gogh's 1888 production includes:

Starry Night over the Rhone (1888)
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Arguably his most appreciated Sunflowers (1888)
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The Red Vineyard (1888 - the only painting that he sold while alive)
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His 1889 production includes:

Irises
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Starry Night (1889 - painted at the asylum in St Remy)
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Poppies
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His 1890 production includes:

Poppies and Butterflies - who doesn't love butterflies ?
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Field of Poppies
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Poppies and Daisies
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His writings were indeed profound and insightful:

"If ... boyhood and youth are but vanity, must it not be our ambition to become men?"

"The diseases that we civilized people labor under most are melancholy and pessimism."

"There is no blue without yellow and without orange."

"I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate."

"We spend our whole lives in unconscious exercise of the art of expressing our thoughts with the help of words."

"To do good work one must eat well, be well housed, have one's fling from time to time, smoke one's pipe, and drink one's coffee in peace."

Amen, brother. I'm off to dinner. Maybe a coffee en fin de repas.

#50 Wilfrid

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 08:57 PM

1. But we are not discussing someone typical. We are discussing Van Gogh...

Possible miscommunication there. I was saying Van Gogh's work does not exhibit the properties of "outsider art" - not remotely.

3. I also think that your view of an insanity is way too extreme. There are many shades of grey. There are many people who are considered insane but they are entirely conscious and well aware of what's going on around them. Not all, but many. There are many people who are well aware that they have substantial mental problems and they ask to be institutionalized. Re-read this thread for some examples. But this does not necessarily mean that they are unable to follow contemporary events.


"Insanity" is imprecise - if that's what you're saying, I agree. My reaction was to the phrase you used, "certifiably insane," which indicated at least an extreme condition of some kind. Suffering from depression, for example, is not "insanity," nor is the behavior associated with "alcoholism," and certainly suffering from such conditions is entirely consistent with Van Gogh's obvious mastery. I was really responding to the implication that he was somehow mentally our of control when working - but I now think you didn't really mean that.

You should really defer to me on this one. I'm reasonably well-versed in the subject matter.


I am good up to DSM IV, but I see (via Google) that DSM V is still awaited. "Insanity" is a concept the psychiatric profession doesn't really use, and we can see from this conversation how confusing it can be.

* Van Gogh checked himself into the asylum in Saint Remy in mid 1889. During his stay there, he painted over a hundred paintings.


Again, I don't think we really disagree. Being in the asylum seemed to help him work, but the condition which led him there did not. (I see you do agree with that.)

Thanks for the pix, etc.

#51 balex

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 03:07 PM

I have some outsider art by an Englishman who can only draw when he comes off his medication. Not much like Van Gogh.
Interesting and beautiful in its own way, but for different reasons.

I find the whole madness/genius thing a bit tiresome -- it should be put in the bin with all of the other romantic myths about artistic genius.

#52 Chambolle

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 03:43 PM

I find the whole madness/genius thing a bit tiresome -- it should be put in the bin with all of the other romantic myths about artistic genius.

How many alcoholic, drugged up, deranged, self-mutilating, hallucinating and asylum-based Fortune 500 leaders are there who were considered la crème de la crème in their field? Or scientific leaders ?

There were some, but few. No need to list them.

In the arts, they are everywhere.

You see them in great volume in this field. You see them by the Galliano (that's Italian for gallon (and that rhymes)):

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Whether it's the King of Pop from Neverland, the King of Rock from Memphis or the McQueen of England, it just keeps on going on.

The destruction is simply everywhere.

Yet, when Sir Balex gives an order, one salutes his captain and one implements.

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Aye aye, Captain, let's tack elsewhere.


I'm closing The Doors on insanity for the moment but I plan to let it all hang out in the near future:

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#53 Chambolle

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 01:02 PM

What makes Chambo laugh ?

Berlusconi.

I liked this line from this article:

Italians admired his image of wealth and sexual prowess. “The average Italian saw himself as Berlusconi, only poorer,” wrote Mr. Gramellini, the columnist.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/world/europe/berlusconi-both-drew-and-divided-italians.html?pagewanted=1&hp

Berluscioni makes me laugh. And think.

You gotta admit, the guy did know how to have fun. If you can convince Poutine to put on a dopey hat and get him to crack a smile, that's worth something, isn't it ? That's diplomacy.

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On a more serious note, his path to political power included importing flashy American soap operas, scantily-clad girls and ...

he owned the three largest private television networks as well as popular supermarket tabloids and a broadsheet newspaper. Once in power, he also held sway over the state broadcaster, giving him a virtual monopoly on information. He had created a mass audience and transformed it into a political constituency.

Then, once in power, he appoints his own tax lawyer as finance minister.

Has sex parties at his villas that were surely more bezerk than Berke's would have ever been.

How come the Italians have all the fun.

In comparison, our dear leader is a bore. How come gals like Ruby Heartstealer aren't invited to party at Camp David:

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And we wonder why we get no respect throughout the world !

Let me tell you something - when you achieve the pinnacle of political power, my friends, it is incumbent upon the leader to wield it to its maximum. Wield it wisely, yes.

But also wildly. Think Roman times. We still think about those emperors, don't we.

I'm still forming my political ideas but when they are fully baked, I promise you that you'll like what you see and you'll want a taste.

Hmmm, there are lessons to be learned here. People in this world are starving for excitement and entertainment. Hmmm ... Berlusconismo, Chavismo, Chambismo, Chamboismo, Chambobo, Chambozo ... ehhhhh, none of them are quite right yet ... but I got plenty of time and I'll take my time and it's only a matter of time until I find the right rallying cry. I'm more convinced than ever. The left tells us that Europe is right and what's works in Europe will work in the good ole you ess of aye. I'm starting to agree. I'm starting to see the light. I'm a bit slow but I plan to pick up the pace. Maybe I need to start showing off my sexual prowess in public. Frankly, I'm loath to do so, but I do love my country and I care deeply about it and you just got to do whatever it takes to make it to the top. We have a history here in our great country of applauding and pardoning presidential peccadilloes. Maybe Chambo can rise to power on such shenanigans. Maybe what's right for Italy is right for us. Maybe what's right for Italy is right for the US. Hmmm, surely something to stew on.



#54 Chambolle

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 12:50 AM

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job.

And I am so head-over-heals happy with my brilliant and benevolent bosses.

I take back everything bad that I have ever said about mouthfuls middle management.

I was in error. I apologize profusely for that.

I simply didn't appreciate nor understand their extremely enlightened managerial methods.

You see, at my prior jobs I was used to being profusely patted on the back and constantly stroked by my superiors. That made my job very agreeable.

But my transition to working full-time at mouthfuls has been a slightly rocky road. Management has been much less hands-on (a bummer) although their editorial policy has been (pretty much) hands-off (a positive). I guess you could say that it's the normal pros and cons of any new job.

And as you know, there is nothing I love more in the whole wide world than reporting for the illustrious Mouthfuls Nation.

But I must admit that the lack of focused feedback from the higher-ups has been frustrating and I felt like I was just blowing in the wind and tilting at windmills.

And without the normal, chummy editorial room back patting and ego stroking camaraderie, gosh, I didn't really feel that I was fully part of the team.

But that was then ... That's all changed now.

Je m'explique.

Remember when I entered into collective bargaining negotiations with mouthfuls middle mgmt. Many thought that the response was just silence. Many thought that would create a giant rupture in relations.

Incorrect.

First, mouthfuls middle mgmt graciously apologized for never giving me my normal interim performance review.
Next, they told me that I was doing an absolutely A+ job as of late.
Finally, they told me to sit down, shut up, pop some popcorn and simply listen.

That last one wasn't all that easy for me, but I try to listen real good for at least a few of minutes after being stroked like that.

And here is what they said to me :

Let us be brief.

1) Chambo, your work is one of a kind.

2) In appreciation for your efforts, we would like to extend your stay in Paris.

3) Further, as a modest bonus and as a token of gratitude for a job well done, we are thinking of sending you to Rome.

4) We would be sending you into the eye of the storm and in return we would expect to hear about the following:

- a) What's going on with the European financial crisis ? Can mouthfuls make a quick fortune here ?
- b) What's going on with Ruby Heartstealer nowadays ? And Berlusconi ?
- c) What's going on with Roman cappuccino culture ?
- d) What's going on with Roman restaurants ?

5) Your budget is unlimited. Act wisely and wildly. As usual.

6) Naturally, we do need to run this by mouthfuls senior mgmt for their rubber stamp approval before we issue the press release on all these developments. Please be patient.


Imagine my reaction to all that ! Just think of my emotions !

I'm over the moon delighted.

Gotta go now. I just made arrangements to stay in Paris for a bit more. And I gotta get packing.

I truly believe that I may indeed be working for the greatest organization on the planet.

I feel like I'm the luckiest man on the face of the earth.



I now got an awful lot to live for.

Mouthfuls Nation - I love you. I adore you. I'll try not to let you down.

Eternal City ... Here comes Chambo !

#55 Wilfrid

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 03:44 PM

I find the whole madness/genius thing a bit tiresome -- it should be put in the bin with all of the other romantic myths about artistic genius.

How many alcoholic, drugged up, deranged, self-mutilating, hallucinating and asylum-based Fortune 500 leaders are there who were considered la crème de la crème in their field? Or scientific leaders ?

There were some, but few. No need to list them.

In the arts, they are everywhere.


I strongly disagree with this assumption. On the one hand, there are plenty of barking mad mathematicians and scientists. Business leaders generally lack biographers, but I hardly doubt that a good many of them have suffered from clinical depression or other common psychiatric conditions.

But much more importantly, in every case, including artists, it's a minority.

For every "mad" novelist, painter or poet, there are thousands of sane ones. As Balex said, this is a tired myth.

To save time, just make a list of major impressionists, then tick the ones who suffered from clinical mental illnesses.

#56 Chambolle

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Posted 16 November 2011 - 01:07 AM

Chambo on the Pantheon.

The sun has set. I come here to pray. To pray for Italy. To pray for her future.

For me, this amazing half-sphere never loses her ability to awe.

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Upon entry, I am more in awe today than prior times. I don't know why.

My thoughts ...

The concept is volume. The volume is beauty. The beauty is spiritual. The spirit is everywhere.

Engineered by an emperor.

Who ? Hadrian. The humanist. He who held off the hordes. A lover of Greece and a lover of Antinous. One god-to-be loves another. Rome and Greece were attached at the hip, their fates intertwined. Then and now.

Yes, Agrippa's name is scrawled atop the Corinthian-colonnaded portico, but let that not be an impediment to understanding why we wax philosophical about this cement.

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Hadrian - we salute you.

And today, Berlusconi was banging bimbos and manipulating the media. Oh my, how times have changed. The Roman Empire is no more. Everything is going down the tubes.

I am inescapably intoxicated by the Pantheon. I have always been attracted to the Pantheon and the panty off. I have always appreciated form and function.

In five languages every five minutes, they ask for silence for this is un lieu de culte - a place of worship. The recorded voices echo eerily in the silent, sacred chamber.

I stare in wonder towards the hole in the sky. I stare in awe at the floor.

The floor is a multi-marbled, geometric pleasure.

Porphyry - a red burgundy marble from Egypt. White marble from Asia Minor. Yellow marble from Numidia.

The floor is covered as are the continents.

The Pantheon is for all gods. The marble is from all over. Marble from conquests. Long live Rome !

I've never been inside the Pantheon when it was raining. I'd like to be there then. I'd like to see water coming down through the always-open oculus. I'd like to see the Pantheon when it's wet.

This is a building that speaks to love. Love of the gods. That was its early purpose.

And love of woman.

Raphael is buried here.

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Raphael was a pope's painter. He loved a baker's daughter. He painted her.

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He asked to be buried here. His wish was granted. His lover's wish to be present at his burial was denied.

Below Raphael's tomb, we see two doves kissing. One upside down. Beaks embracing. Raphael and his lover. They meet at least.

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Raphael - dead at 37. Same age as Van Gogh. Per Vasari, the cause of death was excessive sex.


We have not progressed all that much in 2000 years, have we ?

I challenge Calatrava and Koolhaas to out-conceive this cupola.

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I don't think they can.

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Beauty isn't that complex.

Beauty just is.

The emperor outwits the architect.

And our world screams out for leaders.

#57 Chambolle

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 12:48 PM

Chambo on Saint Peter's Basilica.


Chambo is approaching and reflecting upon Saint Peter's Basilica - that "ornament of the Earth".


Peter, that's Pétrus in Latin.

This building is the real Château Pétrus.

Laying your eyes on this basilica is like Château Pétrus touching your tongue.

"The sublime of the beautiful", said Emerson's tongue when his eyes were touched by it.

It, being the basilica:

I love Saint Peter's Church. It grieves me that after a few days I shall see it no more ... It is an ornament of the earth. It is not grand, it is so rich & pleasing; it should rather be called the sublime of the beautiful.


Lovely words, yet I am at a loss for words to explain how this great edifice is not grand.


Peter, that's Petros in Greek. Derived from petra or stone. Petra is in Jordan.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of its rose-red rock.

And it's treasury:

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I have approached Petra, as all have, through its narrow, once-water-washed way. That is, through that haunting gorge, known as al-Siq.

As has Indian Jones:



It gets one thinking about the potential approaches to walls of stone. Or at least it does Chambo.

Please notice Petra's triangular pediment held high by four central Corinthian columns, with columns five and six, flanking out wide to the left and right.

Does that remind you of anything ? It should.

May I present to you Saint Peter's Basilica:

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Do you see Petra in the picture ? I do.

Eerie, isn't it ? Do you ever think about these things ? I do.

So what have we before us ?

An immense wall of white. White travertine. Colossal Corinthian columns flanked by colossal Corinthian pilasters.

Colossal in size, yes, but more specifically, of the colossal architectural order. Impressive, isn't it. Where would Maderno get a giant idea like that ? Think Michelangelo. Think Capitoline Hill.

Our wall of white is a line-up of eight columns plus four wide-receiving pilasters that make up a team of twelve.

In football, that's one too many players on the field. That's a penalty. A common criticism of this facade is that it is too wide. It's a reasonable critique. Then again, there are a lot of apostles that need to be placed upon the roof.

Speaking of football, you can fit two football fields inside this church end to end, end zones excluded. Now imagine many Hail Marys being said while multiple Hail Marys are being thrown.

It's that big.

It's the biggest church in the world.

Ever.

Quite recently when I was in Cluny (France) admiring the sad remains of the Cluny Abbey, I eavesdropped on a French tourist group being lectured beside me. There was a curious question as to whether the 12th-century Cluny Abbey was the largest church ever built. The response, which was correct, was that is was indeed the largest church ever built (in length), until Saint Peter's Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Saint Peter's Basilica, we bow down before you.


The basilica is built above Saint Peter's tomb. Saint Peter, the first pope.

The high altar of the basilica is directly above the tomb. An altar that is only to be used by the current pope.

Hence, a direct Roman link from then to now - from the first pope to today's, plus or minus some hiccups and a slight 14th-century schism.

You remember that papered-over, papal argument in Avignon without which we would be without its imposing Papal Palace and its Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is now just another architectural ruin à la Cluny but a vinous victory for all.

The popes drank and they sure knew how to build.

Let us thank God for arguments. Let us thank God for grenache. Let us thank God for popes.


Where were we ? Oh yeah, Chambo is approaching and reflecting upon Saint Peter's Basilica.

He is approaching the Holy of Holies. One of the most sacred places in all of Christendom. How should one approach such a structure ? How should the Church welcome those who have the wherewithal to stand before this massive facade of stone ? How should one handle the hordes who hope to hear the Pope pontificate ? How should these pilgrims be welcomed ?

These were the questions. These were the architectural questions.

The answer to these questions required reflection. And the Counter-Reformation. And Bernini.

Can you say "pure and precise geometry" ?

Can you say "trapezoid" ? Can you say "ellipse" ? Can you say "fountains as foci" ?

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Can you say the Baroque is full bloom ?


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Can you say: Les deux bras designés par Le Bernin pour recevoir les pèlerins.


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Presented with an extremely challenging puzzle, Bernini masterfully responds enthusiastically and overwhelmingly appropriately with open arms. With the open arms of his colonnade. The loving open arms of Mother Church will embrace her children and her followers and she will love them forever and forever.

Bernini delivers two rows of Doric columns doubled up and surmounted by a sea of saints. These arms engulf us and channel us towards that massive wall of white. Towards that enormous Fortress of Faith that shouts one thing clearly - Don't Fuck with Catholicism !

Behold the Baroque !

And we haven't even entered yet. Let's take a step inside. Let's see if there is anything of interest in there.


Ladies and Gents, I direct your attention to the first chapel on your right.

What have we here ...

Leading off on first base is the greatest sculpture in the world.

An expression of love, youth, sorrow, death and soft white voluptuous flesh.

Forgive us Father for we have sinned.

It was sculpted by a twenty-three year old boy. The greatest sculptor who ever lived.

May I present to you La Pieta :

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Rumors say that this sculptor will prove to be a passable painter.

Maybe even an above-average architect. Maybe he'll design a dome high above your head one day.

The rumors were true.

This sculptor will do all of that and more.

He'll live deep into his eighties yet he will not live long enough to see the delivery of his Superdome. The dome of Saint Peter's.

Hail Mary, let us pray for him.

He will be saved. He will be safe in our hearts.

Let us not cast the first stone. Let us not pass judgment on this man for he will have the final say.



Look out there in center field !

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What the hell is that ?

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Behold Bernini's Baldacchino:

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Have you ever seen anything like that in your life ?

Look at those crazy columns !

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What does this all mean ?

Don't fear. Chambo's here. Lend me your ear.

Those twisted, bronze columns are a metaphor for the vicissitudes de la vie. They are in direct opposition to Bernini's disciplined Doric display dehors.

Why ?

Because once we are inside the basilica and as we approach the Holiest of Holies, we are confronted with just how human and how ephemeral and how weak we are. How fragile life is. How, at any moment, we could buckle and collapse and call it a day. It's scary. It's all very scary. Hence, what should one believe in ? In what can we have faith ?

I don't know. I just don't know. I don't have the answers. I only have the questions.

The one thing that I do know is that Bernini's baldachin is the canopy that covers the pope's high altar which is directly above Saint Peter's tomb. Saint Peter, being the first pope, was Jesus Christ's right hand man and go-to guy. Saint Peter walked on water until his faith wavered. Think about it. Is faith the answer ?


I could go on and on forever.

Art covers every nook and cranny on every single wall better than butter does an English muffin.

This edifice is emboldened with art that attests to God's existence. And tombs that attest to the popes' magnificence.

I could enchant your eyes with the boundless beauty of the Baroque within this basilica but it would all be for naught. Because all that production was in the past and you are worried and fearful about your future.

But those were the days, my friends, those were the days. I ask you:

Who can out-marble Michelangelo ?

Who can out-gilt Gian Lorenzo ?

Who can out-bronze Bernini ?

I hear nothing but silence. Therefore let us pray.


This basilica is conceptually a cathedral.

Cathedrals used to be the embodiment of an entire culture. Of an entire world view. Of a philosophy of our world and of our reality and of our future.

Never forget that.

One exits thinking about a lot of things.

How could it not be true ? How could God NOT exist ?

Did Michelangelo devote his entire life to articulating fairy tales ?

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Did Raphael ?


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Was Florence also fooled in the quattrocento ? Did Botticelli beguile us with a false birth ?


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Was all of Italy under an illusion? Did Leonardo discuss meetings and suppers that were just flights of fancy ?


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No. No way ! No way in the world !!


I want to believe.

I do believe. I believe it all.

I believe it all to be true. I believe in everything.





But does anything really exist ? Or is it all grand artifice ? That's the real question.

Humans love their visual reality but we know it to be an immaculate illusion.

The external world is nothing more than a massive electromagnetic storm.

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Our eyes evolved and hence we see as we do, but our vision is not reality.

Reality existed before our eyes existed. Reality exists without our eyes. Without us.

Or does it ?

The only internal reality is what you believe.

External reality is the Infinite Intelligence. External reality is the mind of God - God's thoughts.

The purpose of life is to bring those two into harmony. Just ask Einstein.



If I believe it to be true, it is true. It is truth to me.

I believe therefore it exists.

They say that Rome is the Eternal City.

Long live Rome !

But don't be fooled, my friends, because eternity is just the beginning.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind.

I'm Chambo. Je raconte donc je suis.

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#58 Peter Creasey

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 02:39 PM

C, Fascinating! Thanks!
_________________
. . . . . . . . . . . . . Pete/Houston
SOAC . . .
. . "for the discreet and refined enjoyment of uncommon wine . .
. . . . and victuals and the companionship accruing thereto" . . . .

#59 Chambolle

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 10:37 AM

December 8, 2011.

War is Declared in the Parisian Theatre !



Mouthfuls senior management, Mouthfuls middle management, members of the illustrious Mouthfuls Nation ...




Yesterday - Dec 7, 2011 - a date which will live in infamy - Chambo of Mouthfuls Nation was suddenly and deliberately attacked by sea, land and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

Chambo was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its chefs and its emperor looking towards the maintenance of peace in Paris.

Indeed, two hours after Japanese service squadrons had commenced bombing in the Parisian passage des Panoramas, the Japanese ambassador and his colleague delivered to me personally a formal bill for the bombardment ...

It was a long, brutal and bite-sized attack.

But I survived it.

I wasn't literally "stabbed in the back" but I assure you that there were knives present.

Badly bruised from midday bombing, I scurried home.

Later that evening, under the cloak of total darkness, Chambo sought Spanish shelter and safety in the sixteenth and staggered into Restaurant Juan.

But it was an ambush.

A Japanese man with a knife in his hand smiled in my direction and said that he was waiting for me.

For Restaurant Juan was yet another act of deceit and treachery.

It was not Restaurant WHan, nor Restaurant JOE-off, but Restaurant JOE-on.

It was a Japanese restaurant. Named by a man who had no clue about our alphabet nor our silent enunciations.

There was no mercy to be found at Juan.

The evening bombardments were faster and more furious. Cluster bombs, you could say.

No knives were present but it was dangerous, all the same.

Barely, I survived and crawled home.



I now ask for your assistance.

Are we going to allow such unprovoked attacks upon our citizenry ?

The facts of yesterday speak for themselves.

The members of the Mouthfuls Nation have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Mouthfuls Expeditionary Forces, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome, the Mouthfuls Nation in her righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of our Nation and of our people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God, assuming He exists.

We must take the battle to them.

Japanese chefs of the world, you haven't seen the last of Chambo.


Unfortunately, for the moment, all other details from this most dastardly day are currently considered classified information.

#60 Wilfrid

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 03:11 PM

Why post at length about Rome on the France board?