January 31, 2010

A Day at the Museum(s): Rodin and the Underground

Drove to Philly through the snow yesterday for a visit to the Rodin Museum and a Poe-related twilight tour at Laurel Hill Cemetery.  It had just begun snowing when I left and the drive up was fun for watching the flakes swirl in paisley patterns across the roads, and for zooming along I-95 past Baltimore only to find that the city skyline had disappeared behind a wall of foggy clouds. 

Danaid - The Source

The Awakening

How does this appear to you?  As peaceful repose?  Erotic abandon?  She was originally intended to be part of Rodin's masterwork, The Gates of Hell, but ended up being sculpted life-size on her own.  Seen whole, the tension in her pose becomes apparent and she takes on a much different meaning.  Rodin named her The Martyr.

A few more images here.

Arrived at the tiny Rodin Museum with nary a flake in the overcast Philly sky, but after my half-hour wander-through found that flurries had begun.  By the time I grabbed something to eat, the snow was again swirling and gathering on the roadways and getting to the cemetery was sketchy.  So very worthwhile, though, as the Underground Museum (as Laurel Hill is called) is truly one of the most fantastic cemeteries I’ve been to.  Built on the grounds of what were once three estates on the border of Philly, it’s a city unto itself, with boulevards lined by family plots and obelisks for skyscrapers.  The Poe connections mentioned on the tour - graves of people he’d known and/or worked with during his short time in Philly - were really unnecessary.  Seeing the place in the snow was reason enough to be there.  The lights of downtown Philly reflected between the cloudy sky and the snowy ground to create a rosy-golden glow in the air that contrasted with the dark grey and white-shrouded monuments.  Unfortunately, it was both too dark and too cold to attempt photos, so the best I can do to convey the beauty of the place is a handful of shots from past rainy-day visits.

The day began early and ended very late and, despite the snow-extended driving time, was full in a way that makes it feel long in a satisfying way.  Which, unfortunately, will make today feel lethargic and brief in comparison.  Always a trade-off...

January 17, 2010

Random babblings: Seasons roll on by

And I'm lost behind
Words I'll never find.
And I'm left behind,
As seasons roll on by...*

Still can't string together anything pithy, but feeling the urge to blog anyway.  In the mood for weirdness today... 

Watched The Libertine again last night.  The prelude to the film is only partially accurate:  I do find Wilmot repellent but, like Sade, still fascinating.  I wouldn't like him as a person, but greatly admire him as an idea.  Probably his best known (read: most notorious) work is A Ramble in St. James's Park (I'm not quoting it here, I don't want my blog reported.  Follow the link if you're curious).  What compelled the man to write such obscenity-filled bawdiness?  Especially considering that he could turn around and pen something like this:

After Death nothing is, and nothing, death,
The utmost limit of a gasp of breath.
Let the ambitious zealot lay aside
His hopes of heaven, whose faith is but his pride;
Let slavish souls lay by their fear
Nor be concerned which way nor where
After this life they shall be hurled.
Dead, we become the lumber of the world,
And to that mass of matter shall be swept
Where things destroyed with things unborn are kept.
Devouring time swallows us whole.
Impartial death confounds body and soul.
For Hell and the foul fiend that rules
God's everlasting fiery jails
(Devised by rogues, dreaded by fools),
With his grim, grisly dog that keeps the door,
Are senseless stories, idle tales,
Dreams, whimsey's, and no more. 

Was it a desire to shock?  Or a compulsion to honesty so intense it became perverse?  As the character of Wilmot says in the film, "I don't mean to upset people, but I must speak my mind. For what's in my mind is far more interesting than what's outside my mind."  Though whether what was in his mind was as interesting to the rest of us is, of course, entirely subjective.
Ellicott Cemetery, Ellicott City MD

Spent a rainy January afternoon today wandering cemeteries outside of Baltimore, then reading Sherlock Holmes while chewing on mussels at Bertha's.  If you're a Holmes purist like I am, don't bother with the new Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. film unless you can convince yourself that it's not really Sherlock Holmes, it's just an action flick set in Victorian London with characters who solve crimes and share the same names as Conan Doyle's creations.  Just go back and re-read the stories.  Or, watch for the Granada TV series starring Jeremy Brett on public television.

Came home to follow a blog post from The Crow to Sam&Sara Motel and thence to She Is (best. URL. ever.).  Probably not the direction that was intended from the original post, but thoroughly appropriate to my mood.  The images at the latter two put me in mind of Maynard James Keenan and A Perfect Circle, which is fitting after being in Baltimore earlier.

Driving from Ellicott City through Catonsville and into western B'more, there were so many images I was dying to stop and photograph. So much of the architecture in these neighborhoods indicates that their hey-day was during the early decades of the 20th century. There's so much terrific detail to so many of the rowhouses, individual homes, and storefronts that, though bordering on decrepit now, it's obvious that these areas were once beautiful, vibrant places to live. I get excited at the things I see driving by and want to stop and capture them, save images of them before it's too late, but these are not necessarily appropriate neighborhoods for me be wandering around with a camera. Sure, the idea of being mugged crosses my mind, but it's more a matter of consideration and delicacy. A friend with whom I rode the Gwynns Fall trail summed it up well when we stopped in one of the grittier neighborhoods to snap a shot: Traveling through these neighborhoods is not visiting the zoo.  She's very right.  I would not ever want to offend anyone who lives in such areas by "playing tourist". They live with the grime and crime and grim reality of it. Would my recording the sights that catch my eye in these areas be a compliment or an insult to them? There can be beauty in decay, but do you see it if you're stuck in it every day?

If I should be short on words
And long on things to say,
Could you crawl into my world
And take me worlds away?*

* Chris Cornell, Seasons

January 1, 2010

It's not dead...

...it's just moribund.  There's only one truth I know, and that's that life is a series of cycles.  The slump I'm in now is sure to eventually spiral back around to something more lively.  In the meantime, I keep having ideas of things to babble about here in blog-land, but when I begin to explore and flesh them out, I find that I really don't want to think that hard.

I'm gonna go watch tv.  Hopefully you'll still be here when I get back.