Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Office Space

There are two things that really annoy me: stupid people and stupid people who run corporations. In my experience the American corporate environment is a theatre of the absurd whose cast seem to boast more than its fair share of jesters. To give an example, yesterday a member of lower middle upper management made a rare visit to my office.

Normally, this man works from home, but he had to come in, because his computer was malfunctioning. Because there were no empty offices available, he was forced to work out of a spare cubicle in the administration department. Despite the fact that the cubie is outfitted with a phone with its own extension, this jackass communicated to any potential callers that they should not call him at the cubicle next to his. This allowed him to make arrangements with the woman who works there to answer his calls and transfer them to him. Seriously. There he sat at a little desk with nothing more than a glorified piece of cork board separating his work area from hers, while she answered the phone for him instead of doing the work for which she is actually payed.

I am probably just a misanthrope, but that kind of posturing just drives me insane. We are talking about a man who normally works alone out of a home office. He has no receptionist there. Unless he has enlisted his dog to screen calls, nobody expects anyone but him to answer the phone. UNLESS...I bet he answers the phone in a high voice:
"Hellllllllooooooooooooo Mr. Schmuck's office. May I ask who's calling? Oh, Mr. X, just a moment, let me get him for you...Mr. Schmuck, phone call!"
(copious stomping to mimic the sound of approaching footsteeps and then back to his normal deep voice) "Hello? Schmuck here."

The worst part was him mouth breathing on the other side of the partition while she answered calls he totally could have picked up for himself. In fairness, I think his car, an expensive, behemoth black SUV of the sort that makes us more dependant on foreign oil, thereby fueling our interest in attacking small oil producing fundamentalist countries in the Persian Gulf in the name of human rights while we ignore violations in other locations, prejudices me against him from the outset. Of course, he does possess great wisdom, which includes the following advice regarding vacationing in Cabo: "If you go, you have to go on the booze cruise. Just be sure you don't go scuba diving when you are drunk, or you might throw up in your mask." No wonder people are impressed enough to answer phone calls for him while he twiddles his thumbs...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


In my last post, I mentioned that Rossetti's women all had a smiliar look about them. Because it was spiteful, there is no need to revisit what I thought that similar look was. What I would like to revisit is who this young woman was who had young Dante so enamoured that he spent his time obsessively painting her. As it turns out, I remembered correctly. He did have a muse - Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862). Like all good muses, she died young, leaving her swain able to idealize her to his heart's content without ever having to contend with her face becoming lined, her voice raspy from years of smoking, or her breasts so saggy she could sling them over her shoulders like a continental soldier. (Just as an aside, this reminds me of the day I had a co-worker completely convinced that the original lyrics to "Do your ears hang low" were "Do your boobs hang low" until they were changed by pressure from the censors, but back to the creative muse).

Of course, I do realize that there is more to love and creativity than the manipulation of a muse, but it is notable just how many 19th century artists and poets had such a muse. Having written my Master's thesis on constructions of femininity and the Artists's use of the muse as a reflection of his own idealized concept of the Feminine, it's been a special interest of mine for quite some time. This still does not, however, stop me from appreciating the beauty of these paintings or the sentiments that engendered them. In fact, as I've grown older, I've become able to appreciate the concept of a love that inspires in such a way much more than I did in my 20's.

When I first began studying the subject, it was in the shadow of articles by feminist theorists. While they have some validity, they also tend to weigh heavily on the side of the artist manipulating the image of the female in order to serve as a conduit for his own ideas of femininity rather than his art immortalizing her as she really was (i.e. the feminine as empty vessel). Now I am able to view such things as possessing more complexity. I suppose that is one of the perks of growing up.

Either way, there are some fascinating muse stories out there. One of the most interesting I've encountered is that of Charlotte Stieglitz. Perhaps one day I will write about her here. Another is the young girl who inspired Novalis' Hymnen an die Nacht. And, of course, there is always the story of Orpheus and Eurydiche, which has always been among my favorite Classical tales along with the stories of Cupid and Psyche and also Pygmalion.

At any rate, I think that my last post perhaps gave Dante Gabriel Rossetti short schrift. I was reminded of just how lovely Rossetti's work is in researching who his muse was. For more information on Rossetti visit The Rossetti Archive
, which offers extensive information about artist and his works.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Study for Boreas
Originally uploaded by Eviluting.
One of my favorite painters is John W. Waterhouse, who also happens to be my favorite of the Pre-Raphaelites. The Portland Art Museum in a clear bid to make birthday month that much happier is currently hosting an exhibit from the Delaware Art Museum. While I am unsure of whether there will be any Waterhouse, I do know that the exhibit features works by Rossetti, Hunt, and Millais.

Hopefully there will be some Waterhouse too. I have always preferred him to Rosetti, even though he seems to be more recognized. Rosetti's women are all pouty lipped and have a generic Rosetti look about them. Plus, they always look like they've just smelled something really nasty or have just been forced to take a chug of rotten skim milk. I believe they're modelled after a woman he knew. Maybe she was prone to eating things that didn't sit well with her. All I know is that his women all tend to look the same, just with different hair. I'll have to do a bit more research on her. I know I read about her in one of my art books somewhere.

At any rate, Waterhouse's faces somehow have always felt to me to have more depth and character to them, even though I suppose one could argue that there are similarities among his female figures as well. Either way, they are beautiful. (Just look at the detail in the sketch - the folds of her robe, the graceful curve of her fingers, the expression on her face...) I really do enjoy all the Pre-Raphaelites and am very excited to see the exhibit later this week!

Geezer's Lament

Originally uploaded by jensect.
It could be said that I was a bit ambivalent about reaching the ripe age of plenty-nine. It's not that I am particularly age obsessed (though I am sometimes shocked when I realize for just a moment that I am over 27 or that someone born in the 80's could be of legal drinking age). I just had a hard time getting too excited over my birthday this year. Anyone who knows me can attest to this being unusual. I am, after all, the girl who wanted a shrine, so people would have a place to leave offerings of cool gifts for me. I even declared herself Shoema, Goddess of Footwear to encourage this, but so far it hasn't really panned out.

Despite this, I have had a really interesting birthday month and it's not even over. I've taken a trip to the beach, bought new clothes for the first time in what feels like eons (but is actually only a number of months), gone to an anti-war demonstration, a memorial service, and gotten some really cool gifts (albeit not at my shrine).

Part of birthday malaise was, I think, direclty related to fearing I would end up having to break my tradition of doing something new each year on my birthday. As it turns out, I did a lot of new things on March 20. I received a gift wrapped box of rocks. I carried a cardboard tombstone bearing the name of Analaura Esparza Guitierrez, a 21 year old soldier who was killed in Iraq, to an Arlington NW memorial in the park blocks. I ate (and still dream of) the most incredible frosting ever - frosting that had had an ice bath - and decided that if all foods taste this good after a cool dip, I will never again eat anything that hasn't first been immersed in ice. I'm not sure how realistic this plan is, but I stand by my proclamation, at least until I've changed my mind or have a craving for something that needs to be served hot. Meanwhile, frosting and chocolate chip mint ice cream it is!

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Originally uploaded by Martina.
Every year (except for last year, and I still don't knkow how it happened, but suspect voodoo might have been involed), my friends and I make a pilgrimage to the not-so-ancient Stonhenge replica that stands on a bluff overlooking the little town of Maryill, Washington. I do not remember how the tradition started or even why, although I suspect it may have had something to do with This is Spinal Tap. What I do know is that it is an unspoken rule that the journey must be made at least once a year. It is simply how it has always been (assuming time began in the early 90's) and ever shall be (unless we forget like last year).

The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been unseasonably warm and sunny, so a couple Saturdays ago, we jumped in my car and headed East through the Columbia River Gorge Scenic area. If I haven't mentioned it before, now would be a good time to point out that the Gorge is one of my favorite places on earth. If I could write poetry that did not have the ring of a Hallmark Greeting, I would write it about the Gorge. Had the consumptive poets of the Romantic era known about it, I'm sure they would have written about it to. I am certain they would have come up with something better than:

Oh my Gorge you are so pretty
I think I will leave the city
And drive my car...I mean carriage
Out to you
Oh sweet Gorge you are so nice
And Vista House it adds (or at least will when it's built in 100 years)
some spice
And a lovely view

But back to the present and prose, the Gorge is beautiful (I would say gorgeous, but someone might hit me) and some of the views are absolutely stunning. Whenever I am there, I have to wonder how it must have been for settlers ending their journey on along the Oregon Trail to see it for the first time. I can't help but think that those who weren't cranky from the whole treacherous-journey-I-didn't-think-we'd-make-it-over-the-mountains-before- winter-and-I-told-you-we'd-need-more-in-the-conestoga-wagon-than-a-rocking-chair-a-banjo-whiskey-and-laudanum-oh-and-did-I-mention-I'm-starving thing. Even the snarky ones must have been at least a little impressed.

This time we did not spend much time in the Gorge proper. We did, however, stop for lunch at Big Jim's in The Dalles. Maybe it's because my grandfather used to live there long ago, but I've always liked The Dalles with its little red brick church and old timey Main Street. Most of all, though, I like the name.

The Dalles was named by a French trapper, Joseph Lavendure. A dalle is a flat stone, and French traders used the term to describe the river rapids near the site of the present city. Originally it was known as La Grande Dalle de la Columbia, but was later shortened to Dalles City and then The Dalles. History books will tell you that Lavendure was the first person to settle the area. This is true, if you're willing to ignore the Indians who got there some 9,000 years before him. As an abundant Salmon fishing area, it was already an established trade center long before any white settler laid eyes on it. Big Jim's, however, did not come until much later.

It's a good thing, because by the time we got there, we were pretty hungry. Big Jim's is one of those little local burger joints that have delicious, embarassingly cheap food and lots of it. They're especially fun in the summer, when they have fresh fruit shakes. It's the perfect place to stop on the way to the general Maryhill-Stonehenge area.

The thing I love about Washington's Stonehenge is that although it boasts itself a life-sized, faithful replica of Brittain's ancient stones, it looks like it was made from a giant plaster (well, really concrete) cast. Stonehenge was erected by local millionaire, Sam Hill, who built it as a monument to Klickitat County's war dead. Although it is a nice thing to remember those who have sacrificed, I'd always wondered "Why Stonehenge?" Apparently Hill, a Quaker pacifist, thought the original Stonehenge was a sacrificial site and built his version as a reminder that "humanity is still being sacrificed to the God of war". Some 75 years later a week away from the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it's still true. Given human nature, I suspect it will still be true 75 years hence.

Either way, you have to like the spirit of Hill's endeavor. I think he must have really loved the Gorge. He was involved in constructing the old highway and tried to found a Quaker colony at the site of the present day town of Maryhill. Furthermore, he built his mansion, which is now a lovely museum with an unexpected collection of Rodin sculptures, Native American artifacts and memorabilia from Queen Marie of Romania there and ultimately was buried at the foot of his war memorial. As many times as I had been there before, it wasn't until this last visit that I realized that a trail down the side of the bluff will take you down to the site of his eternal rest. Even later I noticed a convenient set of roughly hewn stone steps that will take you there too, but I have to say that I think the trail is probably more fun. Whichever way you go down, I highly recommend a visit not only to Hill's crypt overlooking the Columbia River, but Stonehenge and Maryhill as well.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


There are certain constants in life. Here are a few of them:

A mullet is never a good idea.
People of any race, creed or sexuality will bleed when cut. If they are hemophiliacs, they will bleed more.
It is generally not a good idea to become too involved with any grown man who still goes by a little boy name like Stewie (unless he's Johnny Depp - Johnny Depp could call himself Frieda and still be hot).

There are, however, constants that are even more impressive because of the way in which they link us all together. For example, the same sun that shines on me warms people half a world a away. The same gorgeously full moon that accompanied my drive home a couple weeks ago is the same one that shone down on my weird cousin and aunt (who don't speak, by the way...well, they speak, just not to each other) in Berlin, other friends in Germany and the UK, and the most charming, lovable man I have ever met, who unfortunately resides in Switzerland. I've always loved this idea, because it makes me feel like maybe they are not so far away after all. Even if we don't see each other as much as I would like, we can share the pleasure of gazing at the same stars and wondering at the vastness of the same universe.

It's no wonder that the planets have been venerated by myth, legend and art throughout history. One of my favorite poems is called Mondnacht (Moon Night) It is by Joseph von Eichendorff, a German Romantic poet. When I read it, it makes me wish that everyone could read German. While the language is not as melodic as Italian or as romantic as French, I don't think anyone could read or hear the poem and find the language harsh (especially not if s/he understands it). It is typically Romantic, filled with nature and opening with the image of the sky (presumably via the moonlight, which is never directly mentioned) kissing the earth, making it dream of him. But she doesn't only dream of him. Oh no, she does it in the shimmer of blossoms.

When I read Eichendorff's lines, I can picture the scene. I don't remember a time when I didn't know them. More like prayer than a poem, it has always made me feel peaceful. It makes me feel similar to the way I feel when I look at the Sülamith Wülfing sketch, Der Schutzgeist. Even as a girl I liked it. Since then I have come to associate the poem with my father. As he was dying, its lines kept whispering through my head, especially the last part, which talks about the soul spreading its wings, flying across the quiet countryside, as though flying home. Not being particularly religious in any traditional sense, it somehow seemed apt at the time.

Es war, als hätt der Himmel
Die Erde still geküßt,
Daß sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nun träumen müßt.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder,
Die Ähren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis die Wälder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte
Weit ihre Flügel aus,
Flog durch die stillen Lande,
Als flöge sie nach Haus.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Happy Birthday Month!

Arches 10
Originally uploaded by Martina.
Happy birthday month to me!
Happy birthday month to me!
Happy birthday month to meeeeeeee!
Happy birthday month to me!

Last year on my birthday I was in Arches National Park. Sadly, this year won't feature anything I've always wanted to do as much as visiting the Southwest. This makes me sad, because it will be the first year since I turned 30 that I have not embarked on a birthday week trip. It also means that my resolution to be visiting someplace or doing something new every year on my birthday will be broken. I already have part of my actual birthday planned, so I will have to work on adding something I've never done before. I'll find something fun, though, AND I have a week of time off coming up in May. Surely I will make up for that lack of birthday travel then.