Hillsborough County Library Cooperative Art History “Lecture” Series

So, now that my time at the Rifkind Center is coming to an end, I have some breaking news announcements to post in sequence…

First, beginning this Saturday and through the summer months I will … well, be involved in a series of discussions about art history sponsored through a grant I received from the  Hillsborough Public Library Cooperative. It’s all kicking off at the SouthShore Regional Public Library in Ruskin.


The SouthShore Library has a great history of funding arts programs for the patrons in its off-the-track corner of the county and I am very grateful to receive this support and for being able to work around upcoming travel obligations. The library staff had in mind a formal sequence of talks, but the proposal I made is for something more experimental that I have had in mind for a while…

…which is why I hesitate to call these “lectures.” Each session is going to be very interactive and will unfold in a participant-driven way, and there will be a digital component posted for downloading during and after each event.

Franz Marc Photo Discovery

Much as I enjoy burying the lede, the headline on this story is that I found a heretofore unpublished photo, and this is the Franz Marc photo, taken in the spring of 1914 by the artist’s brother, Paul Marc, in Munich:

Franz Marc photo

Franz Marc, 1914, in Munich. Photo by Paul Marc. Germanisches Nationalmuseum | Des Deutschen Kunstarchivs | Nürnberg

The whole story of finding the Franz Marc photo and a thorough analysis of why it might be that significant images of people and animals are overlooked is forthcoming in the second part of the “Exposing Animals” sequence of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture in September, and this photograph and some others will be reproduced there, but it is also appearing in a different kind of work I did for Empty Mirror Books that comes out this week, so I decided to post it, finally (I first found it in 2015!), here today.

Beyond standing as a strong reminder that there is so much we have not yet learned about the historical avant-garde, this is just a wonderful photograph, “eerie and magnificent,” as Marc would say, so I will just leave it at that for now.

The Blue Flask: A Story in Text Messages

The Blue Flask: A Story Told in Text Message
Pt. 1

A few nights ago, I had a dream in which one of the key objects later appeared in physical form during the day. I thought this was a bit unusual, in that the object, while quotidian, is not something you would see every day, let alone find on the street…

The object is this: a blue thermos type aluminum flask. The dream was actually a fragment of memory about something that had actually happened: a battle of petty ecological one-uppersonship and unintentionally amusing symbolism. Seeking to appear both more recycly than thou and also make a statement of personal taste, this guy had dispensed with plastic water bottles for a flask that looked exactly like the one in the picture, except I am sure minus the millions of microbes. The guy’s sort of but not really rival, a female, at the first opportunity produced her own personal power statement water bottle, ornately patterned in some sort of pink, green, and brown-over aluminum paisley. Also, this bottle was significantly larger.

Because I was in fourth grade (not really it was only a few years ago), and had a clear line of sight to the bottle duel, I poorly concealed some giggling. Observing this my friend across the room looked at me questioningly, whereupon I silently pointed out the comparison. My friend also began quietly laughing, and later, in another location, we both laughed quite a bit.

This was a tiny episode in a sprawling “big fish”-type saga, and I have not thought about it in some time, until this week when someone brought to my attention the names of both bottle-owning individuals, reunited for a charity affair, a telethon to benefit the humorless…J/K those last two phrases.

 Pt. 2

The dream about the bottle was very fleeting, and it was about the incident, and then I dreamed about other unrelated stuff. But when I woke up I could see those bottles through my lashes before I quite opened my eyes. IKR! But it was a dream.

Pt. 3

Later the day of the morning/night of the dream, I went to the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek. This is not unusual, I go there almost every day. What is unusual is to see a blue aluminum water bottle wedged into the space between a windowsill and a window on the second floor in a rarely used reading room (and in fact by a window that is rarely opened since it is always winter). Instead of fleeing in distress I leaned out over the parapet and window frame and fished the bottle in with the help of my scarf. I brought it home and I still have it, figuring that like in The Grudge there is no point in getting rid of it since it has already located me. Even though I can drink as much Löwenbrau Triumphator as anyone in my adopted kingdom I don’t like to carry glass bottles around because I am afraid they will break when I inevitably drop them, so maybe I will use this flask to transport beer during Wies’n – the most fun it will ever have in all of its lives.

The Blue Flask: Postscript

The blue flask/dream incident last week was one of a series of very strange things that have happened to me this year, so though it was “haunting,” I didn’t freak out. While I was in the library, I remembered suddenly that I wanted to check out The Author of Himself, the autobiography of Marcel Reich-Ranicki. I got the book and have been reading it instead of packing. On Friday it was reported that Ranicki had died after a long illness.

Exoskeletal Majority

Somewhere embedded on the candlestick chart of historic tragedies, between, say, the Armenian Genocide and the Andrea Doria, is this: receiving an email from the responder ceviche.com.



Waking up to this missive brought me back to the day when I had a John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship for coverage of animal and environmental issues…now I realize that this is not the same occupational caliber of the Fourth Estate, as, for example, writing about visiting the homes of the wealthy and repeatedly giving shouts-out to one’s friends in the pages of a free weekly shopper magazine, but, still.

In any case one of the stories I wrote back in the day was about the infestation by roaches of some of Atlanta’s downtown landmarks. One of the things I learned was about roach housing, or harborage, in (for another example) restaurants housed in older structures amid a fairly high building density adjacent to bodies of water and a connected estuarial sewer system (this probably does not resonate at all!) was that, because the static population of roaches is always relatively high and self-managing through nice roach habits like juvenile cannibalism, and is also largely nocturnal, something really extraordinary has to happen in order for roaches to come out and be seen during the day (like, say, in a bustling bright loud kitchen during a health inspection?), there have to be so many roaches, such an explosion of the roach population, that, basically, they have to come out and forage to prevent from starving (and as you probably also know roaches can go a good while without eating).

So in such a situation, in addition to the stray visible roaches, we are talking about an infestation of, like, millions of roaches. If you took the lid off the nearest manhole cover and shot a leaf blower into it, the sky would turn black with flying roaches… So, that. PR might be able to spin the Benghazi situation, but all the consulting in the world can’t make millions of roaches go away. Except for the gullible in-crowd wannabes, who, in an obverse of the Emperor’s New Clothes, will simply will themselves into not seeing or thinking about them. The roaches, I mean… For a breakdown of roach-related health issues, please see this totally legit publication from the World Health Organization.


White Face et Wordsworth


Here are some more recent acquisitions from the rueful “Island of Misfit Books” project.

You probably know all about William Wordsworth, the English Romantic poet who was friends with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with whom he visited Rheinland-Pfalz where they first got the idea to translate Goethe’s Faustus.

This volume is called Poems of Wordsworth Chosen and edited by Matthew Arnold. Arnold was an English professor (at Rugby and then Oxford) who was also a poet; “Dover Beach” is often referenced by Ian McEwan and appears in Fahrenheit 451. This book is a printing from 1893. The spine is very bent and there are fingerprints and some faint traces of pencil on almost every page…someone really liked this book.

Crime novelist and short story writer Edgar Wallace was also quite a character and became, in 1927, one of the first authors to secure a deal with a movie studio for stories and scripts. This turned out to be a good thing because Wallace was also, earlier, the creator of King Kong. (In the scene in the basement tavern in Inglourious Basterds during the “Who Am I?” game there are references to both King Kong and Wallace.) As you can see by the cover of White Face, Wallace was also academically ahead of his time, having devoted several hundred pages lo in 1930 to the exploration of the astonishing theory that, indeed, some segment of the population — perhaps even you — is in fact white. A film was made of White Face as well; it premiered in March 1932, just a few weeks after Wallace’s death in February of the same year.

Speaking of trends in scholarship, of course it is no longer necessary to speak French or go to France in order to become a person of letters on French subjects. Nonthetless, my favorite book in this trio is the Brief French Grammar. It was the property of a the New York Public Library in the second decade of the 1900s, and then of the Board of Education of the City of New York where it circulated until 1936. A very enthusiastic student marked a routing slip left inside the book with an emphatic red date: Le Juin 22, 1920. Completely adorable.