A List

September 16, 2003 at 11:14 pm | In yulelogStories | 7 Comments

A list of curiosities and texts and events that I will fail to write about at this time: for example, Monster/Beauty by Joanna Frueh, perhaps in relation to this Women on the Edge story. Or how about this review of Marina Warner’s Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self (remember No Go the Bogeyman?), in relation to what’s all over the French and German press: Madonna’s flogging the children’s book she published yesterday. (Le Monde quotes the vedette thus: “J’aime les petits enfants plus que les grands. Il n’ont pas encore de mauvaises habitudes ou au moins elles ne sont pas d


September 16, 2003 at 9:51 pm | In yulelogStories | 6 Comments

I just spent an aimless hour in — oh, be still my beating heart! — the open, the wide wide open stacks of a university library. This sort of thing excites me tremendously since I might find it. Sometimes I have a plan, other times I wander until I sense an alluring combination of Dewey-isms and an enticing spot for my posterior, and then I tear my clothes…, no, I mean, I open a book and begin. It’s best if I can locate something really ephemeral. Today I found the bound volumes of The Graphic, an illustrated weekly magazine from late 19th century London. I opened Vol.3, January to June, 1871, in the midst of which Paris was besieged by German troops. No photographs here, but very many engravings. To illustrate reports from France, The Graphic used drawings sent from Paris via balloon. This item — from Vol.3, February 4, 1871, p.95 — held my attention:

A Parisian Pigeon Hunt

The Ibis, tradition tells us, was worshipped by the Egyptians for its snake-killing propensities, and the stork is still venerated by the Dutch as a sure promoter of domestic felicity. A goose, also, was sacred to the Romans, while a jackdaw is reported to have been canonised by the good monks of Rheims; but the pigeon, whose home-loving nature has been utilised from the time of Noah, has been a general favourite with all ages and all nations. The Chinese are especially fond of these birds, and attach little whistles to them, so that they create a melodious sound when flying. Mahomet had some pet pigeons who used to feed from his ear, and was once preserved from certain death by a hen pigeon remaining on her nest which had been built at the entrance of a cave where he lay concealed, as his pursuers deemed the bird’s presence sufficient evidence that no one was there. The Turks recognise the bird’s claim on them, and in many towns they are properly rationed and cared for by the Government. The pigeons of St. Mark, at Vencice, are well known, and a touching story is told of how the Venetians, who, after a long siege, were famished and entirely destitute of provisions, gave up their last few grains of corn to feed these cherished birds. Formerly, also, pigeons were protected in France by a special law, under which the lord of the manor alone could keep them, and, indeed, until recently, they were considered as game, and thus subject to the game laws.

Now, however, from the great service they have rendered to Paris, they are almost adored by the Parisians, and the French journals teem with poetical and prose effusions in praise of les pigeons de la Republique, as they are affectionately termed. Thus great was the rejoicing in Paris at the advent of one of these birds, for though out of the many sent up from the provinces, comparatively few ever reached the capital, each bird could carry 35,000 despatches, which, by dint of microscopic photography, had been reduced to the space of about three inches, and were affixed to the middle feather of the tail. The severe cold in many cases proved fatal to the pigeons; some fell victims to birds of prey, while others, forced by fatigue or want of food to descend, were captured by the Parisians. One bird was thus caught, and his message being taken away, and false despatches substituted, he was permitted to continue his journey, and greatly astonished the Parisians next day by the extraordinary reports he brought them.

The sight of a stray pigeon in Paris always created great excitement amongst the population, and a regular hunt would ensue, until, chased from street to street and roof to roof, worried by stones, and stunned by the shouts of the crowd beneath, the poor bird would sink down under the shelter of some chimney-stack, and surrender a discretion. Our sketch [p.96] represents one of these hunts in the Rue Rivoli, where a venturesome pompier [fireman], perched on a giddy pinnacle of the Tuileries, is vainly trying to catch a supposed provincial messenger. As these hunts, however, greatly endangered the capture of the bird and the safety of the despatch, an official remonstrance was issued, stating that if the pigeon were left to itself it would be sure to return to its master’s house, whereas the chase might not only frighten it away, but in beating wildly about to escape its pursuers, the bird might dash itself against some hard obstacle, and the precious despatch would perhaps become detached and lost. Indeed, the hope that it might bring important news from the provinces, and the fear that it might escape, has several times proved fatal to the poor pigeon. Two (writes our artist) have been shot, and the last one which arrived was caught by a hungry marchand de vin, who, about to pick it ready for cooking, accidentally discovered the despatches attached to its feathers.

The microscopic despatches on reception at the post-office were enlarged and displayed on a sheet by means of a magic lantern, and transmitted by a staff of clerks. The private messages were forwarded to their respective destinations, while those received by the Government, such as were thought fit to meet the public eye were published in the Journal Officiel. Reduced to such absolute dependence on aerial messengers for communication either with or from their fellow countrymen, well might the Parisians exclaim with the Proscrits of Victor Hugo —

Vents, dites-leur notre misere,
Oiseaux, portez-leur notre amour

P.96, ill.: “Sketches by Balloon Post: A Welcome Visitor — Arrival of a Pigeon in Paris”

Yoo-hoo personal greeting

September 13, 2003 at 6:26 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Yoo-hoo personal greeting

This is for my nephew and his bride; what are blogs for if not also for putting personal greetings on the www:

Mario Nakazawa and Jeanne Epstein are getting married tomorrow — best of luck, you two! The wedding is too far away, so I thought I’d instead post a picture of Mario’s great-grandmother, Elisabeth (“Lisbeth”), nee Lampert, surrounded by her spouse and children. Perhaps embarass the groom a bit. Alas, no flat-bed scanner handy, though… But trust me, Mario and Jeanne, it’s actually a great photo, with the matriarch in mid-belly-laugh, while her youngest (my mother) looks broodingly, teen-age-ishly off-camera. A foretelling of sorts (the brooding), but the gran is great, and it’s something I’ve found useful to hang on to.

So, welcome to the family, Jeanne — remember there’s a streak of bossy outrageous matriarchal humour embedded here, and you’re fully entitled to mine it! (Lisbeth would definitely have approved.) Welcome, welcome, welcome, may you both live happily together, and may your derailleurs always work in synch.

(…Think they rode their bikes from Georgia? Hope not!)

About a day

September 11, 2003 at 11:46 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

I wanted to write about this day and what happened 2 years ago as well as what happened 30 years ago, and about the need for seeds of peace. Read the whole thing here if your 9/11 threshhold can take yet another one of these.

Why this blog is called “post studio”

September 10, 2003 at 10:39 pm | In yulelogStories | 1 Comment

It appears that there may be one or two people confused as to why I changed the name of this blog from Yule Heibel’s Weblog to Yule Heibel’s Post Studio. It has nothing to do with anything as stupid as wanting to avoid the word blog, which I happen to think is quite a good word. I pointed out in my post on August 18 that I changed the name in a burst of enthusiastic support for the likes of Temporary Services; also for Gregory Sholette and others, for their attempts to take art out of the studio and into the street (as REPO History, for example) and into the community (note: this event, “Technopocalypse vs. Technotopia,” lasted 3 days and cost $35; be sure to check out the website, and visit Lumpen, too). Their practice has been called “temporary services,” “service art,” and “post studio.” The affinities to blogging are real: as curators in Banff put it when they went Beyond the Box,

The white cube — it’s a vision of the gallery museum that has dominated thinking and practice in the art world for decades. Beyond the Box: Diverging Curatorial Practices is a collection of essays by leading Canadian and international curators and artists that explores regions of practice outside this “cube,” delving into contemporary challenges to traditional ideas about art and curating.

None of this is new; it’s what the avant-garde has been doing for decades and decades and more decades. None of us is (re)inventing the wheel here, but it is my prerogative to call this blog what I want. If I wanted to call it Hugo Ball’s Nearly Hundred Year Old Hat Trick, I could do that, too. But I like the fact that there are people out there who are working beyond the studio, not by punching people in the face (literally or figuratively), but by involving those who have been disenfranchised from the ruling culture. (Actually, the way things are going, that’s almost all of us.) So, more power to post studio practice; it’s why I started blogging in the first place, not so I’d have to dance in a line or win a contest.

Barbie’s book?

September 8, 2003 at 8:37 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

An interview in The Atlantic Online with Virginia Postrel, author of The Substance of Style, columnist for the business section of The NY Times, and blogger. Here’s a question from the interview, followed by Postrel’s answer. All I can say is I couldn’t disagree more:

Given your observation that personal style is becoming increasingly important to a person’s success in life, do you think there should be an explicit focus on teaching kids about self-presentation while they’re young, so they won’t have trouble in that area later on?
I think it is a good idea. I think we should teach kids about making themselves look good and about presenting their ideas well. They should have speech training, and there’s nothing wrong with teaching them how to use aesthetic tools like Power Point. All of these things have to be done well. It’s like teaching people to write.

Help! For a bracing counterpoint to Postrel’s assessment of Power Point as an aesthetic tool (???), see Edward Tufte’s article in Wired Magazine: “Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials.”

Needing a break from the chirpy joys of “aesthetics” as described by Postrel and the grim sterility of technology as described by Tufte, I dove into this review, Snatch Squad, of Catherine Blackledge’s The Story of V: Opening Pandora’s Box. The aesthetic imperative of lovely packaging that Postrel espouses resulted in the 19th century genre ideal of the The Nude (always without pubic hair, until Manet put in a 5-o’clock shadow and Courbet painted the clinical but furry Origin of the World) that seems still to thrive in the endlessly groomed of today. The Story of V (nice pun on that of O) probes deeper:

The vagina has been explored by gynaecologists, sexologists and pornographers, but rarely, if ever, has its every cultural, historical, anthropological and anatomical facet been probed with such exhaustive – and exhausting – dedication. In our liberal era, we think we’re all frightfully frank, but the vagina remains a far more taboo subject than we realise. Indeed, what goes on down there is still misrepresented or shrouded.
(…) The crux of The Story of V is the role of the “intelligent vagina”. Blackledge gathers together a body of evidence showing that the idea of the vagina as a reproductive “passive vessel” is one of the greatest scientific mistakes of all. In fact, it acts as a sorter and screener of sperm via an obstacle course of hairpin bends, chambers, and a finely balanced acidic eco-system that bounces away the weedier genetic specimens before they can get anywhere near the egg. Orgasmic contractions then hasten the selected sperms’ journey. The vagina, therefore, is an active participant in successful conception.

Ok, try to fit that into a substance of style agenda or into a PowerPoint presentation….

Merkwuerdige Liebe, Herr Doktor

September 7, 2003 at 8:32 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

This via the ever-excellent Wood’s Lot, who got it from Harper’s Index:

Amount the Defense Department has lost track of, according to a 2000 report by its inspector general : $1,100,000,000,000
Ratio of this amount to the rest of the world’s military budgets combined : 2:1
Approximate number of accounting systems in use at the Defense Department : 2,300
Percentage change since 2001 in the median annual compensation of CEOs of major U.S. defense contractors : +79
Change since March 2001 in the number of working-age Americans who are neither working nor looking for work : +3,600,000
Average salary of a state legislator last year : $30,300
Average amount spent lobbying one : $130,000

There’re lots of other interesting facts on this site: take a look.
And an aside and PS: I love Wood’s Lot, but I wish the site would load more quickly and with fewer burbles. (Sorry, I’m re-watching Dr. Strangelove as I type, you know, Burbleson Air Force Base, etc. etc. George C. Scott, you chew gum like an open book!) A couple of times I have had to use an ueber-trick to kill the browser application after Mark’s Lot hung it up: go to “terminal,” find application # and type kill -9 [#of application]: poof!, and start over. Hungh. I guess he just has too many good links and thinks — poor Exploder overloads.
Something else I saw that friends in California will appreciate: Califoracle. Factoid or fiction-as-real?
A few days ago I pointed to a couple of articles that I expected to dissect more fully, but never did because I underestimated the drag of everyday tasks, and my own sloth (…which is considerable). One of them was this article in Adbuster, which really caught my attention because it’s about girls, a topic close to home: my daughter is 9, one of my UK nieces is a dissatisfied 30-something who was on Big Brother before going back to real life, the list goes on: over 50% of the people I care about are (or were) girls. This article is by Oliver James, a clinical psychologist and author of They F**k You Up (this points to a lukewarm review). He begins by citing “a really weird fact: affluent British 15-year-old girls are now twice as prone to anxiety and depression as their poorer neighbors.” It comes from comparing yourself endlessly to others, and “never being satisfied with yourself or what you’ve got.” As James notes,

Comparing to other people is a part of the human condition. If we want to be better at something, we naturally look toward people who have already achieved what we aspire to. Equally, if we want to cheer ourselves up, we gain succor from observing less accomplished performers than ourselves.

Key to this strategem of comparing is “discounting.” When you compare yourself to someone indisputably better, you avoid falling into despair by “discounting,” that is, putting the other person’s excellence into context. You say to yourself, “well, he’s better because….[fill in the blank].” When you compare yourself to someone worse off, you probably don’t “discount” and just enjoy being better off. The economic structures of our advanced media-saturated capitalism, however, exploit the comparison instinct to the point of no return:

As a result, affluent 15-year-old girls are liable to say in all seriousness that they hope to be as successful as Madonna or Posh Spice, directly comparing themselves and apparently oblivious to the extreme improbability of it ever happening. Feeling they almost know these women and encouraged by song lyrics and autobiographies that promise “you too can be anyone you want to be,” the girls make no discount for what has made the stars stand out.

In Madonna’s case, for instance, she is a Machiavellian workaholic who has used money and status to compensate for a terribly disturbed early childhood. As for Posh, she obsessively craves attention and was willing to do anything to be famous. Without these pathologies, a normal girl is unlikely to be prepared to go through the awful distortions necessary to achieve stardom.

Equally destructive is the fact that, when these increasingly perfectionist girls read their usually excellent exam results, or look at their pretty faces and nubile bodies in the mirror, they fail utterly to enjoy what they see. Instead, they look at others who are better than them in some minute regard (“better at math,” “bigger boobs,” “more friends”), and feel like failures. Worst of all, when they hear of others who have done worse or see girls less pretty, they shrug it off, discounting the evidence that all their work has not been in vain: their best is never good enough.

I have a daughter, so this kind of stuff makes me pay attention. James’s conclusion is very apropos, too:

Money can even be made from restoring the chemical imbalance in our brains that results from these overheated ambitions and false identities, selling pills and therapeutic services to the damaged and subordinated. Capitalism does very nicely at both ends. It creates misery, and it cures it. Our inner lives foot the bill.

There was a flurry of media attention paid to mental illness last week, which drove me crazy in a particular way — the Canadian press had several articles in the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail, and CBC Radio had a couple of interviews with mental health experts. It seems we’re in the midst of an epidemic: 1 in 10 respondents show signs of depression or drug, alcohol dependence. (This article is about on par with something from the National Enquirer; just my opinion of course.) Ok, I visited the Mood Disorders Society of Canada to take their Self-Administered Screening Tool for Bipolar Disorder and learned that I’m probably afflicted with that mental illness. (I already knew from earlier tests, taken in Boston on the subway — the kind that recruit for the big teaching hospitals, Mass. General Hospital, etc., that I suffer from depression…. heh-heh.) The 15-minute assessment en passant will never be a replacement for the real talking cure. There’s a problem with the questions on the tests, and especially with the assumptions: viz., if you have a mental illness, you not only can take a pill, you should take one. On the other hand — oh, illuminated moment — the CBC Radio interviewee pointed out, passionately, that there is this thing she calls “environmental depression,” i.e., mental illness caused by the impossible conditions imposed upon the individual.
You know, the kind of thing lab researchers do to white mice to make them go ape-shit.
Now why in heck would we want to take our meds to adapt to a newer, flashier hamster wheel?

My dog is a terrier, that comes from terroir, earth, and sounds like terror

September 6, 2003 at 9:40 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Today the ocean looked like the beast revealed, dark inky gray, but transparent enough to suggest the threat of suffocating depth, with a skin of oily black surfaces promising tactile superiority. What it offered, so much was clear, stood in excess of anything you could sacrifice in return. This afternoon, we saw rain fall for the first time in months — sudden, brief rain that failed to soak anything well. It did manage to send clouds so low that I suppose the sea felt safe and veiled enough to shed its garments, its reflected glory of colour. No more blues and greens, all tossed away now, stripped naked to ink, unfathomable, the heaving surface suggesting an abyss of extreme weight. It wasn’t lovely at all, although it was attractive in a perverse way: what if you tried to match your puny size to its heft? What if you fell into this?

Melancholia, the personification, has a blackened complexion, even though she is typically represented as a European. A choleric fit also causes the skin of whites to change colour, to darken to purple. I suppose they’re twins, melancholy and rage: girl and boy, perhaps. If oceans were the earth’s face, then masks dropped away this afternoon in the Juan de Fuca Strait.

Yet I was in a great good mood as I walked my dog along the cliffs, flinching at the lightning off the shores of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. I can feel the solid ground between the ocean and me through my soles; and besides, it’s been a long time since it last rained.

Perpetual Julie

September 5, 2003 at 11:53 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

If you live in B.C. or the Pacific Northwest, or just are interested in what’s going on ecologically around here (you know, along the lines of “global warming, local warning”), check out this post by Julie of Perpetualkarma. You know, “just” a blogger, having a little conversation, an address to the reader. No bullshit, but from the heart. This is it, people, girl-next-door (or guy-next-door) taking notes. It could be you, could be anyone, doing this. This is it: pay attention. All of us next door to one another, ready to point, point, point.

It seems the extremely dry conditions of this summer and the fires will continue into future years. It’s all part of global warming, so they say openly on CBC Radio and elsewhere now.

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