Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weed Patches

Every day I like to go up on top of the GA Tech/Technology Square parking deck in order to gaze at the city skyline and survey the traffic on the interstate below. This gives my eyes a break from long periods spent staring at a computer screen.

Today I found myself gazing down at a GA Tech facilities guy cutting back weeds. These weeds have grown almost as tall as a person, and they have swallowed up the trunks of the ornamental trees planted in a row between the building and the sidewalk.

The guy used a hedge trimmer to carve the weeds back from the sidewalk they had been partially blocking, much as one might carve topiary. His actions resulted in a smooth, five foot high wall of weed by the sidewalk.

This was ridiculous, because the weeds obviously should have been pulled outright long ago. But somehow the opportunity for doing that had slipped by, and one day it was decided to simply trim them back. It struck me as being akin to using a laser to carve a malignant tumor into a beautiful, miniature Venus de Milo while leaving the tumor in place.

Since my mind runs away with itself very easily, the actions of the Facilities guy struck me a metaphor for the way society deals with many problems. Rather than pulling the weeds at the start, it seems to be human nature to let them grow until the problem cannot be ignored--when the sidewalk becomes impassable. By then the effort required to completely solve the problem is too much to contemplate, so we simply cut the weeds back.

Since this is (purportedly) a European-themed blog, in order to justify this musing I'll add a metaphor offered to me by my Slovakian former roommate Luboš to describe how America deals with its problems:

"America began its history like a quilt. But then the quilt got torn. So you sewed patches on the tears. And then the patches get tears. So you sewed patches on patches. And soon the entire quilt became patches on patches on patches..."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Charles Dana Gibson, Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr., Evelyn Nesbit, and "The Eternal Question"

[September 27, 2010 - Changes made to this blog entry per ADDENDUM below]

This is a "Eurotrash or Eurotreasure?" departure, but since it's become my blog in general, and I've used plenty of Gibson girls to illustrate my Eurodance DJ set flyers, I feel I can indulge myself this one time.

Charles Dana Gibson's "The Eternal Question" [link] has long been believed to be a portrait of Evelyn Nesbit, the chorus girl and model who, a few years after Gibson's drawing was completed, found herself the center of a crime of passion that led to what is generally regarded as the first "Trial of the [20th] Century."

I think I have made a discovery. Last night, while looking through the Corbis website, a 1901/1902 image of Evelyn Nesbit jumped out at me [link]. I believe Gibson used this image as the basis for "The Eternal Question." I present my analysis below. No proportions were altered in any of the photographic images.

The eyelid is the most startling clue; the lighting and fold lines are nearly identical in the two images.

The interior of the ear forms a distinctive key-shape.

The lips and chin are nearly identical.

The two photos above are identically sized and angled. Increasing the size of Nesbit's hairdo along with the changed tilt of her head would have been changes made in order to emphasize Gibson's question mark. Although apparently doubled in size, that amazing sea of hair retains the same proportions and forms throughout.

The photos in the image above are also identically sized and angled. The facial features generally line up; there is a slight waver for the eyebrow and eye in my sizings (perhaps with more care I could align even those), but all else is a perfect match.

I think that the idea of Gibson working from a photo makes him an even better artist. He would have had stunning artistic insight to look at the photo, see that question mark potential there, and then fully realize that vision in his drawing. This is far more interesting to me than if he had sat Nesbit down in front of him and said, "OK, now make your hair into a question mark." :-D

So am I only the latest person to see this, or is this a new piece of insight into "The Eternal Question"?

ADDENDUM - September 27 - Paula Uruburu, who literally wrote the book on Evelyn Nesbit (the excellent American Eve [link]), kindly wrote back to me on this issue and offered something I could not bring to the table: real scholarship. :-D

First off, she informed me that the photograph was taken by Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. Eickemeyer took most of Nesbit's most famous shots, including "Tired Butterfly." [link]

Second, she agrees that Gibson must have seen this particular Eickemeyer photo, and complimented me on my "brilliant detective work." (I blush. Thank you, Paula!)

Third, there are not many profile shots of Nesbit to (literally) draw from.

But she also noted that Nesbit had also sat for Gibson in the flesh (thus I have deleted the lines in this blog entry where I had expressed doubts about this).

So, at this stage it seems to me that it went down like this: having been acquainted with her already, Nesbit came readily to Gibson's mind as he conceived of "The Eternal Question," and at some point in the creation of that drawing he turned to the Eickemeyer photograph to help fill in the details.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Buggles Sample Ruins Two Songs in One Summer

Orbital were one of the leading electronic music groups of the 1990s. Then they lost their way, and after that they threw in the towel.

In June 2010 they came back from the dead with a new single, called "Don't Stop Me," which featured a sample of a chick from the Buggles' song "Video Killed the Radio Star." It's quite irritating.*

A couple weeks ago, will.i.am rolled out a tune with Nicki Minaj called "Check It Out." It features that same Buggles sample, but this time it's run into the ground, making "Check It Out" one of the most unlistenable pop songs of the last several years. Lyrics consist of performers boasting about their awesomeness and an oft-repeated plea to "check it out."** Orbital's take is not sounding so bad now, is it?

Of course, it's unlikely that the sample's reappearance on "Check It Out" only a couple of months after Orbital's tune came out was a coincidence. But why steal an idea that was bad to begin with and turn it into something so much worse?

The original Buggles song:

* Their "The Gun is Good" is better.
** The reason these sorts of lyrics reappear like roaches is suggested in the verse:

Step up in the party like my name was that bitch
All these haters mad because I'm so established
They know I'm a beast yeah I'm a fucking fab bitch
Haters you can kill yourself

...which suggests that any complaints about the tiresomeness of hearing such clichéd lyrics (which would no doubt come from "haters") will fall on deaf ears.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Life Goes On

In the same way one might worry that no phone call or email for a few weeks from one's elderly father might mean elderly father is lying injured at the bottom of a flight of stairs, his cell phone inches out of reach, perhaps readers sometimes worry that my failure to update this blog means I have met some similarly unhappy fate.

The lack of updates simply comes down to this: this blog focuses on Europe, with an emphasis on my own direct interactions with that continent. Since I haven't been in Europe for many months, updates have been few.

For regular updates on European music, I encourage you to join my lately bouncing "Eurotrash or Eurotreasure?" Facebook group, which I have been posting to several times each week.

For more thoroughly digested music matters, please visit ye olde Kingpigeon.com website, where one will find DJ sets, music reviews, and other fine items.

When I find myself preparing to depart for Europe again, this blog will spring back to life. There's no need to call the paramedics at this time. ;-)