London Calling

Soon Come is a sweet short film featuring skateboarder Ezra Bruno rolling through a deserted London reminiscing poetically about what life was like before Covid-19. The film, produced by Outright Films, was shot in one day during April of this year.The story of Soon Come is told through a poem that describes the many things that we all love and miss about London.

 

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one person out of 8,000,000

“Personal Poem”

by

Frank O’Hara


Now when I walk around at lunchtime
I have only two charms in my pocket
an old Roman coin Mike Kanemitsu gave me
and a bolt-head that broke off a packing case
when I was in Madrid the others never
brought me too much luck though they did
help keep me in New York against coercion
but now I’m happy for a time and interested

I walk through the luminous humidity
passing the House of Seagram with its wet
and its loungers and the construction to
the left that closed the sidewalk if
I ever get to be a construction worker
I’d like to have a silver hat please
and get to Moriarty’s where I wait for
LeRoi and hear who wants to be a mover and
shaker the last five years my batting average
is .016 that’s that, and LeRoi comes in
and tells me Miles Davis was clubbed 12
times last night outside birdland by a cop
a lady asks us for a nickel for a terrible
disease but we don’t give her one we
don’t like terrible diseases, then

we go eat some fish and some ale it’s
cool but crowded we don’t like Lionel Trilling
we decide, we like Don Allen we don’t like
Henry James so much we like Herman Melville
we don’t want to be in the poets’ walk in
San Francisco even we just want to be rich
and walk on girders in our silver hats
I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is
thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRoi
and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go
back to work happy at the thought possibly so

 

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Heading To Tokyo

While most folks heading to Tokyo were focused on the upcoming Olympics, the Japanese art collective Mé headed to the skies. Last week, city residents were surprised to see a giant hot air balloon in the shape of a human head floating over Yoyogi Park. The art installation was titled “Masayume” which means “dream come true.”The surreal hot air balloon drifted around Tokyo, surprising and sometimes frightening people.

The project was inspired by a dream that Haruka Kojin, one of the three-member art collective, had when she was a child. The face on the balloon featured an actual person who is alive, somewhere in the world but their identity remained undisclosed. The person was selected from over 1400 people all around the world who applied to have their face floated into the sky above Tokyo.

 

 

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Sunday Plans

No one knows who the solitary man smoking a cigar in this paintings by Edward Hopper titled  “Sunday”  was, but for many viewers he embodies the ennui of a Sunday morning. Painted  in 1926, the work has often been seen as symbolic of isolation and disconnection in the American city.

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And the Moon Be Still as Bright

Regular visitors to TBTP may recall my many posts about the novels and short stories by the great American writer Ray Bradbury. One of the first sci-fi gems of his that I remember reading as a young child is the powerful collection titled The Martian Chronicles.

 Lately, I have been thinking about one especially moving, disturbing, and oddly relevant chapter called “And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” a powerful and emotional tale about a crew of Earth astronauts who discover the extinction of the Martians. They discover that the entire Martian population was wiped out by chickenpox, contracted from humans who visited the planet on previous expeditions. Most of the crew shows no remorse and in fact isn’t bothered at all by the tragedy. Their response is to party and to celebrate the team’s successful landing. However, one member does not participate in the festivities, instead he contemplates the thought of how such a mighty civilization could be taken down so easily by a similar pandemic on Earth. This crew member, named Spender, eventually deserts the crew to explore Martian ruins and becomes enamored with the Martian’s once spectacular civiliztion. He later returns to the landing site and kills most of his team, intending to stop the colonization of Mars in order to preserve its fallen civilization.The crew’s captain is forced to shoot Spender to prevent more loss of life.

One of my favorite versions of The Martian Chronicles is the 1974 Limited Editions Club publication with  dramatic, full-color illustrations by Joseph Mugnaini. The special edition was limited to 2,000 copies and is now a sought after collector’s copy.

 

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Primary Source

It’s now possible to read one of the oldest books of English literature in the world  online.The Exeter Book is a 1oth century anthology of poetry in Old English and one of  only four manuscript books containing virtually all the English literature that has survived from the Anglo-Saxon period.

Written by an anonymous scribe around 960-980 in the southwest of England, it has been kept in the Exeter Cathedral since the eleventh century. Five years ago, it was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register as an example of documentary heritage of outstanding global significance.

Although it is incomplete and damaged in a few places, its 123 written leaves are generally very well preserved. The most of the content is made up of 95 poetic riddles and 40 poems and elegies, two of which – Juliana and Christ II (The Ascension) – are signed by one of the very few named Anglo-Saxon poets, Cynewulf. Other poems include The Ruin, The Wanderer, and The Wife’s Lament. It also features considerable contemporary Anglo-Saxon imagery marginalia, virtually invisible until revealed by digitization process.

“These drypoint images made with a pen nib or fine wooden point but no ink have become like an etching,” said professor James Clark, from the University of Exeter, who has led the research alongside digital specialists based in the university’s digital humanities lab. “They are only visible under very bright light, and high resolution imaging shows them clearly for the first time. We think these drawings would have been more visible when the book was newer, but grease and discoloration have made them harder to see.”

This digital copy also enables readers to see how the original parchment was made from different animal skins, home in on individual letterforms including runes, as well as corrections and editorial additions.

“The Exeter Book has been the jewel in the crown of Exeter Cathedral for nearly a thousand years,” said Ann Barwood, canon librarian of Exeter Cathedral. “The cathedral’s challenge has always been to keep it safe, while also finding ways to share it with the world.”

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Freedom is a Fable

Freedom, A Fable: A Curious Interpretation of the Wit of a Negress in Troubled Times.Illustrated book with offset lithographs on paper and laser-cut pop-up paper silhouettes, 1997.

I have always been emotionally moved by Kara Walker’s powerful art work, especially her intense silhouette murals. This short story, her first work in book format, is illustrated with pop-up versions of Walker’s famous silhouettes. At first it appears to be a vintage children’s book but is actually a contemporary tale of racism and gender discrimination. Set in the Civil War era, Freedom, A Fable tells the story of a female slave who is granted emancipation but still experiences oppression, discovering that freedom is indeed a fable. Walker’s story addresses the persistence of negative stereotypes that emerged in the minstrel shows, novels, and artworks of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It also draws upon 19th century novels and memoirs written by former slaves. By presenting her work as a book—an intimate object meant to be held, read, and paged through—Walker implicates us in the corrosive narrative of racism in America.

NB: If you subscribe to TBTP by email, you may need to click on the short url at the bottom of you message to play the video above.

 

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Restoring Rome

During the past few weeks, I have been pondering a story from the news about a project to restore parts of the ancient Roman Colosseum and open those areas to tourists. The story claimed that for the first time ever, the sections below Rome’s Colosseum, where gladiators and animals waited before combat, will be opened to the public.

The $30 million project, which is being funded by a corporate donation from the Italian fashion brand Tod’s, will complete an extensive renovation of the hypogea—an  area comprising the subterranean pathways —was announced with much fanfare in a ceremony in June. Wooden walkways have been installed throughout the underground structure, making it accessible to visitors for the first time in the Colosseum’s nearly 2,000-year history.

My confusion stems from the fact that I remember touring the hypogea and other underground areas of the Colosseum forty years ago on my first visit to Rome. So, either my memory is faulty or in the past it was possible to explore at least some of the underground sections of the ancient building. If you’ve been to Rome’s most famous monument, and if you’ve visited the hypogea please let me know.

 

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Summer Reading List

Once again Barack Obama has released his summer reading list. On Facebook, he wrote, “Whether you’re camped out on the beach or curled up on the couch on a rainy day, there’s nothing quite like sitting down with a great book in the summer. While we were still in the White House, I began sharing my summer favorites–and over the years, it’s become a little tradition that I look forward to sharing with you all. So without further ado, here are some books I’ve read recently. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.”

At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop
Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen
Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura
Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert

I’ve read three of the selections on President Obama’s list. Two were hits and one was a disappointing miss. I won’t say which one I wouldn’t recommend, but I expected more from an author who won a Nobel Prize for Literature.

 

 

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Chill Out

I have never visited the little fishing village of Polperro in Cornwall, UK, but it has been highly recommended to me over the years. The very chill, hour-long video of the village (below)is incredibly relaxing and meditative. There is no narative, no travelog, just the ambient sounds of birds, wind, and water.

NB: if you subscribe to TBTP via email, he video may not appear. Just click on the short url link at the bottom of the email.

 

 

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