Saturday, November 14, 2009


I went to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Though the dry museum air only irritated the scratchy throat I've got, I wanted to make some headway on a research paper. It is (or will be) a critical look at how African art in the MFA is presented  in comparison to how the Western art is presented. So I stood, squatted, knelt before the objects and texts of the Art of Africa room taking notes for about an hour. The woman guard on duty tracked me, lingering behind me in suspicion.

(Pause to consider:  Why was I so suspicious for taking time?  Because museum visitors usually don't.  I usually don't.)

I didn't get all I wanted out of the room (yet) but you can only hover in one place irritating one person for so long. I explored the rest of the museum, without real direction, but made a point to visit some Egyptian rooms because, hey, Egypt is a part of Africa, but, hey, not really, according to the MFA's floor plans/visitor paths.

Anyway, I tried to take a look at a range of the rooms. But I got scared. And not even in the dark basement rooms with the actual mummies where people should get scared. Because those rooms were populated, because they're dark and intriguing and showcase death. I got scared in the doorway of a well-lit, light-walled, second floor room because it was empty. And I attribute it (along with certain series of nightmares) to this:

Of course the mummy didn't answer Bert's questions;  Delaware and bicycles didn't exist B.C. And you can't deny that that rendition of 'Rubber Ducky' is particularly haunting.  I usually identify with Bert, but it seems I'm stuck as Ernie in terms of Egypt.

Perhaps next museum day, more bravery.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Living Freer

Or living more free? More freely? Living free more?

The matter of which is correct is a small one compared to the new Live Free legislation that was signed by Governor Lynch today.

If the Old Man of the Mountain were still with us today, I'm sure he'd give a great gaze of approval down his old nose of granite.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back in the Familiar Vineyard

While I still have yet to replace all my European cards with my American ones (Charlie card, Bull Moose Musiccard, etc.), I have to admit that my UNH library card was snuggled into my wallet the day after I got back. Nerdy as it may be, it is such a good library, and I'd missed a decent selection of English reading. I just finished Thomas Wolfe's beast of a book, You Can't Go Home Again, last night. [See quotation that makes up the previous post.] My mum was concerned when she first saw the title, thinking it some result of reverse culture shock or your garden variety Garden State young adult angst.

Truth is, the "reverse culture shock" I experienced was minimal, if at all existent. And truth is, that was kind of disappointing. There's the obviously painful nature of the idea that "you can't go home again," but there's also, I think, something validating about that feeling. It's evidence that you've gone somewhere and done some things (apart from take more photographs of Europe's most photographed sites).

Interestingly, one of the last books of the novel dealt with the protagonist's time in Germany and the onset of World War II--issues that preoccupied a good deal of my semester abroad. Without really knowing it, I chose a very appropriate read to start the summer (after Ray Bradbury's more breezy Dandelion Wine). That "you can't go home again" is right, even if only in the smallest of senses sometimes. To finish the post (but not the pondering!), one more passage from the book. (Please excuse the angst that I'm indulging in.)

"It seemed that he had known it forever, and he felt as he always did when he left a city--a sense of sorrow and regret, of poignant unfulfillment, a sense that here were people he could have known, friends he could have had, all lost now, fading, slipping from his grasp, as the inexorable moment of the departing hour drew near."

(Below find a much more upbeat summertime mix that you can listen to if you so please!)

You Can't Go Home Again

"...And at the end of it he knew, and with the knowledge came the definite sense of new direction toward which he had long been groping, that the dark ancestral cave, the womb from which mankind emerged into the light, forever pulls one back--but that you can't go home again.

The phrase had many implications for him. You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake, back home to aestheticism, to one's youthful idea of "the artist" and the all-sufficiency of "art" and "beauty" and "love," back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time--back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."

--Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again

Friday, May 15, 2009

Museum Manners, Part Dva

I like what this guy has to say. I just recently added "Taking pictures with cellphones" and "Taking pictures in art museums" to my list of Things I Think Are Stupid. (Yes, I do actually have a list of things I think are stupid.) Largely inspired by my visit to the Louvre on the first Sunday (read: free (read: terribly packed with tourists)) of April. I have no picture of Mona Lisa.

Please note I did not write "People who take pictures with cellphones" or "People who take pictures in art museums." If you take pictures with your cellphone and you are reading this, chances are I still want to be your friend. Also I have been guilty of both in the past (the latter more than the former). So, no offense intended.

In other news, I'M HOME! Maybe some pictures of what I have returned to are to come. Maybe this blog will die now that I'm not abroad any longer. Only time will tell.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Description of Another Struggle

It's the morning of two of my final exams and while perhaps I should be doing some last-minute reviewing, in the grand scheme of things, the fate of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis seems more crucial. Though I think the public is helpless in this situation, it's still an important issue to be aware of. In this time of recession, the University is planning action to sell most of the museum's collection to ease financial hurt.

Read this interview in two parts--Part One, Part Two--with the Rose Art Museum's board chairman for insight into a struggle far greater than that of my own.

And now, off to tackle the politics of Central Europe and see to the collapse of Communism. Right.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Description of a Struggle

Only a handful of days left in Prague and it is difficult and upsetting that finals are consuming my last free weekend, and not walks along the Vltava and up hills of long grass where I can read and look out over the spires and orange roofs that I'll soon jet away from. I'd love to take some final photographs and reflect and instead all I can do is think in lists. To-write, to-study, to-pack, to-purchase, to-see.

This is my (poor) description of a struggle. A quick post to put off work. Apologies for not posting well recently (to anyone who reads this thing). Finals and class and finals and a good visit from my friend Andrew and finals have taken precedence. And finals have prevented much free writing and thinking. However I've realized that, though both the title and the address of this blog are literary, and though I love those things literary, I've completely ignored the huge literary presence in my Prague life: Franz Kafka.

I'm reviewing all we've covered and I think my favorite was the first story that we read, Description of a Struggle, written before he decided to do away with the ornate in his writing. (Maybe I like it because it reminds me of Kerouac, more sentimental than the classic Kafka. Not that I don't appreciate his mature writing and love for paradox.) So let's finish with a quotation and try and ditch the struggle.

"We build useless war machines, towers, walls, curtains of silk, and we could marvel at all this a great deal if we had the time. We tremble in the balance, we don't fall, we flutter, even though we may be uglier than bats. And on a beautiful day hardly anyone can prevent us from saying: 'Oh God, today is a beautiful day.'"

...To marveling, and the summer that fast approaches!