|Somewhere in W. Virginia|
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
|MS. Douce 199, fol. 252r, Bodleian Library at Oxford|
Curried Eggplant Soup
Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate, Pistachio, and Pears
Early Grey-infused Apricot Tart in a Hazelnut shortbread
And there was Macmas, too, that time of year when all good friends gather and there is brunch and we unite, as with all these holidays and surely since the Middle Ages (ok, since Saturnalia), to hold off the cold and be together. Mac was truly valiant this year in gift assembly, as two out of three dreams come true required extensive tinkering: a doll house (Eleanor) and a microscope (Iris). Oliver's wish of a cat has come true in the form of two kittens who will enter our lives after the first of the year - a wee girl and a boy who have been named by the kids (somewhat inexplicably but it works) Miss Frizzle and Darwin. Cats and dogs entered medieval households with much less fanfare - though every time I say that, I think of all those Books of Hours and those noblewomen with pampered lap dogs and know there's a a study to be done of the medieval pet (maybe already has?). Perhaps as that tiny terrier helps Mary of Burgundy think on her Book of Hours, Miss Frizzle and Darwin can help me say something meaningful about siege engines and medieval colonialism. Or I can think on the most excellent Pangur Ban, the Irish cat who helps his monastic companion hunt and wrestle with ideas because he does the same with mice. We are not alone in our struggles.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
|Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor|
I felt especially safe there as not an hour earlier, we'd been rear-ended on the rainy road coming back from ice skating in Bloomington. Everybody in both cars is fine (yea! seatbelts!), and our car is even drive-able (not the other driver's though - really, seatbelts are everything). So we found ourselves driving back into town still with the possibility of making it to Bach and Barbecue. Originally, I was just going to go, but then all three kids wanted to go as well, so we all went. And I'll be honest, for Oliver and Eleanor it was more the Alfredo than Bach, and for Iris it was definitely the barbecue, but once they were there, they loved it. The tables at Chief's are covered in paper that the kids can color, so we started drawing "What this music makes me think of." Iris, ever the literalist, drew a bunch of notes.
I bet that Bach would have enjoyed this evening. What were the listening conditions for his Coffee Cantata? Ok, wait, I just looked it up, and it appears that it was performed at Zimmerman's Coffee House in Leipzig in the 1730s. The libretto is hilarious. And quite the feminist rebellion: (a daughter refuses to give up her three (!!!) bowls of coffee a day, despite her father's entreaties; she won't marry any man that won't let her drink her coffee; and it turns out that generations of women have loved coffee). Why do people relax around music when there is food? It must be the sensuality and comfort of the food, the pleasure of the meal shared.
|from Robert Bartlett's Medieval Panorama|
Of course, one can go too far with these things! No need to "go medieval" on this - may your holiday tables be filled with mirth, music and many tasty morsels!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
And then calcium, and its revelation, I'm persuaded, of a medieval knowledge of materials and what they can give. Alabaster, a.k.a gypsum, is a combination of calcium, sulfur, oxygen, and water: thus the beautiful hieroglyph: CaSO42H2 (dang, can't do subscripts here, that's where you'd put the numbers). Lots of calcium there. What I need to ask my colleagues is whether or not calcium is "responsible" in some way for the porosity. For guess where else calcium shows up in huge amounts? Ivory. Calcium phosphate to some. Favorite medieval carving material to others. Hardness level? 2. This calcium commonality may be a bigger whoop for us moderns, because it likens two separate disciplines - we realized we needed a vertebrate biologist at the table when ivory emerged. A medieval sculptor existing within no such disciplinary divides could desire both equally for their give to touch, pigment, and gold. I'll confess that it's the presence of calcium in the human body, too, that thrills me here. A chemical commonality that reformulates these works of art as material extensions of the human. Or human participation in their materiality. Scientific facts, medieval practices, modern desires - let's see how this goes.
Monday, December 12, 2011
I can hardly sleep for how excited I am about tomorrow. It's not the student presentations on Jerusalem (although I'm sure those will be swell), and no, it's not the grading. Rather, I'm having lunch with two really nice colleagues, a geologist and a biochemist, who have kindly offered to help me decipher a science article about alabaster. It's so science-y, that I can't even reproduce the title here. There are spectotropic methods of indecipherable names and intentions. I seek to understand how (geologically and biochemically) alabaster could sustain pigment and gold leaf. It's a porous stone, open and, I can't help but think, generous. Articles discuss its "veins." The alabaster you see above is not the kind that I'm researching, which was used in making devotional statuary (much of it of hand-held scale) from about 1300-1550. But I love the veins and the landscape it presents. We spoke, this semester in the "Nature" unit of Gothic Art, about the agency of aesthetics - the way a beautiful stone can "work" you, can draw you in, solicit touch and desire. Alabaster is cheaper than marble, shorter lived in the realm of human fascination. But it's warm and receptive to impositions of the human imagination. What makes a stone available to become art in the Middle Ages? Is its malleability its liveliness? Does it project forms to its maker? Does alabaster, for instance, warm to the human touch? I don't know of another stone that can hold gold and pigments so well and so long, that works so willingly with the dramatic elements of art. Is this why there are a full 97 (that's a big number) alabaster Heads of John the Baptist left to us? Is this why human skin can be lauded as alabaster? There'll be much more to write tomorrow (Caillois, Marbod of Rennes) but for now, I just wanted to register excitement as I start to think of the process from stone to statue, from unhewn to hewn.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Hmmm - I wrote that a week ago Sunday. Note to self: never title a post with the word "Interrupt" in it, for it is doomed to be interrupted. Life has been as hectic and at times as absurd as that in Freedonia, but without the leadership of Rufus "All I can give you is a Rufus over your head" T. Firefly. We've since seen Duck Soup about ten times and the kids can do several of the dialogues ("You can leave in a huff; if that's not fast enough, you can leave in a minute and a huff" is the current favorite) and a pretty tight mirror scene. We're hoping that Santa brings more Marx Brothers into our lives because that would only be appropriate.
Eleanor's comment, which I can still savor, had to do with this absurd dog toy that she won in France at the end-of-the-year festival (yes) - a squeaky doggie newspaper. She loves this toy, sleeps with it, carries it around, brings it to school, makes drawings of it. It finally dawned on me to ask her why she loved it so, and she replied: "Because I can interrupt." The power to interrupt: this small, squeaky, annoying toy gives her that power, and she loves it for that reason. Never mind what she might interrupt - Eleanor is unencumbered by the transitive needs of the verb. She just can. And she has: we've heard that damn thing squeak in the midst of the most intense conversations/frantic searches/power struggles. That high-pitched squeak of the air going out, the breathy whine of the air coming back in. What a joy, what a fantastic disruptive joy, to be able to interrupt. Ask Groucho Marx.
|MS. Rawl. liturg., f. 13 Bodleian Library, Oxford|