Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aahhtt!

Looks like I am going it alone this time around. Your submissions (poetry, short stories, essays, etc.) are appreciated. Send 'em to riart1@aol.com for unedited appearance on this blog. But let's take a look at Aaahhtt!

Aaahhtt!

I have been visiting museums and art galleries for many years and I don't hesitate to say I appreciate works I can come close to understanding. My favorites include Edward Hopper, many of whose works hang in the Whitney Museum in New York, Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. You look at their work and generally can understand what they are all about. I recommend them. I might also include Pablo Picasso among my favorites. Although some of his work is difficult to understand, most ultimately get through to me. Many artists, however, leave me wondering what their paintings are all about. These include abstract expressionists and other avant guard (although abstract expressionism is almost 75 years old!)schools. When Jackson Pollock walked over a canvas spread on his garage floor, repeatedly dripping paint from cans, his work represented, in my words, its specific lack of intending to represent anything more than dripping paint on canvas, a concept which might be stimulating to some. These canvases are worth millions today, but don't ask me why.

When I see an incomprehensible canvas before me, I like to look for something by the same artist which demonstrates that he is not just blindly slinging paint, but is capable of painting something skillfully representative. If you look at paintings from Picasso's "blue period," you know he was more than a pigment slinger and worth the intellectual effort required to start to understand his cubist paintings such as "Woman in a Mirror" or "Guernica." I reiterate then that it is the viewer's responsibility to see something indicating a painter can produce a reasonable and recognizable picture of a cow before throwing a splash of white paint on a canvas and calling it "Milk."

The Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan is now undergoing a resurgence. Vacant warehouses and garages are being turned into art galleries. (When in New York, check out the streets from 21st to 24th between 10th and 11th Avenue.) The interior of all of these establishments are painted stark white and usually have no more than a dozen paintings hanging within them. Most are totally incomprehensible and carry exorbitant price tags. If a gallery sells one at the asking price, its rent, salaries and overhead are probably covered for a couple of years.

In the middle of this on 21st Street is the Chelsea Museum of Art. When I visited it, they were featuring their permanent show of the work of an abstract impressionist named Miotte. His work was too abstract to impress me. They also were featuring a show by a Japanese artist who products consisted of images of ostriches and some decorative floral arrangements which resembled wallpaper samples. In my opinion, these pieces were far below the quality which warrants being in a museum, but probably a shade better than the incomprehensible and expensive "aahhtt" on exhibit in the neighborhood's galleries.

It's back to the Whitney to look at some Hopper for me.

If you would like to look at some of Edward Hopper's work, check out http://www.museumsyndicate.com/artist.php?artist=54. (I can't reproduce them here due to copywrite laws.) There are 184 of his paintings there; just click on the small image to enlarge it. Don't miss "Nighthawks" which you probably have seen before with slightly altered faces.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Baseball Season is Here!

Remember, folks, that this blog is open for you to "publish" all of your literary efforts: short stories, poems, essays, etc. It isn't "political" any longer. Send your stuff to me at riart1@aol.com. And here is a short story I penned a few years back which is appropriate for the baseball season and other times as well. It has sort of a message.


The Worst Ballplayer on the Field

Jack Lippman


Jerry was the worst baseball player of all the kids at the ball field in the park. Every time there was a choose-up game, he was picked last. Whenever he swung at the ball, he missed. In games, he always struck out. In the outfield, where he always played, he couldn’t catch the ball, even if it came straight to him. The others often laughed at him.

One afternoon, as Jerry was walking to the park, he heard a voice coming from the hedges beside the sidewalk. “Hey, Jerry, are you on your way to the park to play ball?” Jerry stopped and looked behind the hedge. To his surprise, he saw a little man with a wrinkled face sitting on a rock smiling.

“Jerry, I’ve a present for you,” the man said.

“Who are you, Mister?” Jerry asked, despite having been taught never to speak to strangers.

“I’m an elf! The kind you read about in fairy tales. I’ve been sent by your fairy godmother to help you.”

Jerry looked at him, replying, “I don’t believe in elves or fairy godmothers! But tell me your name. And what’s this about a present for me?”

“Well, I’m glad you’re being reasonable, Jerry. My name is Mr. Fafuffnick, and whether you like it or not, you do have a fairy godmother. Everyone does. Anyway, yours doesn’t like what has been happening to you at the ball field. So she asked me to give you these.” And with that, the elf took a well-worn baseball glove and a bat from a satchel he was carrying. “Use these, Jerry, and you will never have any more problems at the ball field.” And with that, the elf vanished in a puff of smoke.

That afternoon, as usual, Jerry was picked last and sent to play in the outfield.
The very first batter hit the ball high and far toward that part of the field where Jerry stood. He didn’t even see the ball, but somehow found himself running backwards toward the fence at the edge of the field. Sensing that it was time to leap up, he flew almost three feet off of the ground and reached over the fence. When he came down, the ball was in his glove.

The next batter hit the ball to another part of the outfield, where one of Jerry’s teammates futilely chased it as it rolled and bounced along the grass. Jerry ran, with a speed he never knew he possessed, across the outfield and picked up the ball which was continuing to elude the other outfielder. By this time, the batter was rounding third base. Jerry cocked his arm back, and from the farthest part of centerfield, threw it toward home plate, where it landed precisely in the center of the glove of the catcher, who easily tagged the runner out.

When the inning was over, Jerry’s teammates cheered him. When his turn at bat came, he hit the first pitch far over the centerfield fence for a home run. Each time he came to the plate, he hit another home run. At the end of the game, Jerry’s hand was sore from the number of times his teammates had high-fived him.

Walking home, as he passed the hedges where he had met the elf, he heard a voice. It was Mr. Fafuffnick.

“Nice game today, Jerry, baby,” he called out, offering still another high-five. “That last shot of yours must have gone 450 feet! And now, may I please have the bat and glove back?”

“No way, Mr. Fafuffnick,” Jerry answered. Suddenly, the bat and glove, which he had been carrying, dropped from his grasp and, as if they had legs of their own, they waddled over to the elf, leaving Jerry’s hands stinging.

“Jerry, you underestimate the power your fairy godmother has given me. In the future, when I ask you to give something back, I hope you will comply, and not force me to repeat what I just had to do. You see, part of my job is to take the bat and glove back to your fairy godmother each night so that she can recharge them. But don’t worry, I will be behind these hedges every day to give them back to you when you pass by on your way to the park.”

Mr. Fafuffnick was true to his word, and every day, he gave Jerry the glove and bat. Jerry continued to catch any balls hit his way, throw runners out at the plate and get hits each time he came to the plate. All of the other players, and even some of the grown-ups who came to the ball field, agreed that Jerry was the best player who had ever played at the park. At the end of the summer, they even gave him a little trophy saying exactly that.

“Pssst,” a voice came from behind the hedges, as Jerry headed home from the park for the last time that summer.

“Hello, Mr. Fafuffnick,” Jerry greeted the elf. “Here’s the bat and glove back. The season’s over now, and I really want to thank you and my fairy godmother for all that you have done for me.”

“Think nothing of it, Jerry, and this time, you get to keep the bat and the glove. They’re yours permanently. Good luck with them!” Mr. Fafuffnick replied.

“But how is my fairy godmother going to recharge them if I don’t give them back to you each time after I use them,” Jerry asked.

Mr. Fafuffnick looked at the boy. “Jerry, baby, I thought you might have caught on by now. After the first week or so, I stopped taking them back to her for recharging. You know, fairy godmothers exist to give you a hand once in a while when you need it, but no fairy godmother has ever guaranteed anyone a free ride for the rest of their life. From now on, Jerry, what you accomplish is up to you.”

And with that, Mr. Fafuffnick disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Another Deep One From Sid & Some Thoughts of My Own

We certainly hope that we will be receiving material from additional contributors. Thus far, only Sid, Harvey and myself are contributing. Others have suggested they might in the future but none have as of now. Keep those cards and letters coming. Submissions go to riart1@aol.com. And here is Sid's latest:

WHERE DID I COME FROM?

Sid Bolotin


“Grandpa, where did I come from?”

“Well,” he answered, “if you mean where do your roots lie, my grandparents came from the Ukraine in Russia…same as grandma’s.”

“No, no! That’s not what I’m asking. I already know about my Russian heritage.”

“Oh,” he smiled, “you mean like from your mommy’s belly?”

“Oh, gramps,” giggled Brooke, “I’m nineteen, and I know all about sperms and eggs. Remember I had sex education in grammar school. I’m in college now studying to be a child-psychologist.

“Okay, Brooke, then just what are you asking me about?”

“Well, I’ve been learning about the ego and the id and the brain and psyche, and I thought with your explorations of spirituality you could tell me where my ‘I’ came from. Was ‘I’ in the sperm or the egg? Was one half of my ‘I’ in the sperm, and the other half in the egg? And, what about the millions of other sperm? Did my ‘I’ hop from one to the other until ‘I’ landed on the one that fertilized my mom’s egg? Or, did each have a different version of my ‘I’? if you say that ‘I’ was not in the sperm nor the egg, was ‘I’ in space, on a star, or just out ‘there’? If so, then how and when did ‘I’ enter mom’s belly…at conception, at movement, at birth?”

“Whew, my munchkin,” groaned the old man, “you ask some deep, deep questions.”

“Yeah, everyone says that I take after you, gramps. We’ve chatted along these lines before. That’s probably why I’m also taking a course in Philosophy and Spirituality.”

This was not the first time one of his grandchildren had posed such an esoteric inquiry. As Gramps sat and pondered his granddaughter’s gushed questions, his mind swept back through the decades of his own search for such answers by exploring religion, philosophy, mysticism, and science. He sat silent and pondered possible answers…knowing that none were black and white. Then he said, “Brooke, honey, you know that I have no absolute answer to your questions. Throughout my own exploration of such matters, the one certainty that I’ve discovered is that there is no conclusive answer. Science has not devised a test that can address the question. In my opinion it boils down to personal belief based on a person’s private study. For example your brother, Jared, believes that his path to such wisdom lies within the teachings of the Orthodox Jewish Sect called Chabad, and he’s pursuing his learning at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

“Most people don’t even involve themselves in such subjects. When your cousin, Zach, was discussing his college course in Philosophy with me, I told him that learning about such subjects and discussing them with people of like minds was the best way to develop a personal understanding. That’s the best that one can do. It’s really a personal experiential journey.”

Hearing grandma call everyone to come and eat, he stood, threw an arm around Brooke’s shoulders, and said, “Let’s eat and continue our discussion over a cup of tea.”

* * *

One Thing Leads to Another (or “Can you get kosher filet mignon in Tel Aviv?”)

Jack Lippman

At lunch the other day, a close friend asked me if I knew the reason why meat from the hind portion of a cow was not kosher. After thinking for a moment I replied that I supposed that was the unclean end of the animal, and that the cuts from that part of the animal just couldn’t be kosher. “Just as I had thought,” my friend replied. “But that isn’t the case. Actually it comes from the story in the Bible about Jacob wrestling with an angel who, in the struggle, pinched his sciatic nerve leaving Jacob lame. Because a cow’s sciatic nerve runs through its hind portion, some rabbis years ago deemed that because of what happened to Jacob, any meat coming from a portion of the cow close to the sciatic nerve couldn’t be kosher.” My friend had also heard that in Israel, where beef has to be imported and is not as common as in this country, they have the expertise to remove the entire sciatic nerve from the cow, making cuts of beef from the hind end of the animal kosher! Such a procedure is not economically feasible in this country, however, even though it is done in Israel.

A few days later I repeated this story to a physician, who happened to be orthodox, who confirmed it all. This led to a discussion of kashruth in general, the reasons for it, and mention of an interesting book, Judaism – A Way of Being, by David Gelertner, a computer science pioneer on the faculty at Yale University.

Gelertner’s book, written from a modern orthodox standpoint, attempts to offer answers to some key questions regarding Judaism: Why are there so many rules observant Jews are supposed to follow? (and kashruth is just one of them), how can Jews believe in a God whose name and image are hidden from them?, what about inequities between men and women in Judaism?, and finally, why has God allowed so many bestial things to happen to Jews and all of mankind throughout history? I’ve read the book and his answers are thought provoking.

But this all goes to show you that one thing can lead to another.