the year is going

Inspired (and awestruck) by Camille Seaman's magestic glaciers, I gathered a few icy-blue-and-white images for your viewing pleasure. The color scheme is an unlikely one for my place here, but I'm trying to broaden my horizons. And this Andrew Wyeth homage to my favorite seasons seems an apt accompaniment — and a lovely way to say goodbye and hello to years old and new:

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.

:flickr, bergdorf goodman, oregon ballet, alexey teterin at deviant art

what a difference a second makes

A "leap second" will be added onto official clocks around the world at midnight to account for the Earth's slowing spin on its axis. Just before we welcome in the New Year, the international authorities charged with keeping precise time will add a single second to our lives. It will be the 24th “leap second” since 1972, and the first since 2005.

Leap seconds are needed to reconcile two very different ways of measuring time. Traditionally, humankind has reckoned time by the spin of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun. Under this astronomical arrangement, a second is one-86,400th of our planet’s daily rotation. But because of tidal friction and other natural phenomena, that rotation is slowing down by about two-thousandths of a second a day.

Since the 1950s, atomic clocks — which are based on the unwavering motions of cesium atoms — have made it possible to measure time far more accurately, to within a billionth of a second a day. Unfortunately, every 500 days or so, the difference between the time registered on those clocks and time as registered by the Earth’s rotation adds up to about ... you guessed it, a second.

So at irregular intervals, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, based in Frankfurt, orders that the world’s atomic clocks be stopped for a second. This puts the two systems back in sync — at least until the next leap second.

So then, how will you spend your extra time?

:nytimes, 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... 1 ... happy new year!


I'll see YOU in 2009.



so long, farewell

Sunday was the second annual Good Riddance Day: New York City residents were invited to say goodbye to their bad memories of 2008 (the financial meltdown, in particular) by tossing them into an industrial-strength shredder set up in Times Square. A sledgehammer was provided to those who preferred to have their lingering 2008 memories smashed to pieces (subtle). Last year, people destroyed their annoying cell phones and shredded lousy report cards. This year, the $250 prize for the most creative object shredded went to a man who tossed in a sock. It represented all the socks that emerge from the laundry without their mates.

:la times


visionaries: camille seaman

"I make images of anything that interests me, that I am curious about—things that I find wonder and awe in," says Camille Seaman. In recent years, she has been interested in the great icebergs of the Antarctic. "This," she says, "is where I found my planet."

The daughter of a Shinnecock Indian father, Seaman was raised on a small reservation on Long Island, New York. With a background in fine arts—she attended LaGuardia High School in New York City—she decided to get a BFA in photography, studying with John Cohen and Jan Groover. She has also traveled to Tibet with National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry and taken workshops with Sebastião Salgado, Paul Fusco and Eli Reed.

Seaman discovered the far north in 1999 on a trip to Alaska. Later, she and a few members of her husband's family traveled via icebreaker to the island of Svalbard, in the arctic north of Norway. That trip, in turn, inspired a journey on the same icebreaker to the Antarctic in 2005. "It was then that I saw my first iceberg," says Seaman. "It was mammoth, and I was deeply humbled." Later, Seaman made yet another trip on a Russian icebreaker, photographing icebergs with a secondhand Fuji GX617.

The work is part of a project Seaman calls Melting Away. She says her goal is to capture the "individuality" of the bergs. "They are these stoic, glowing masses of time and experience," she says. "Until my trips to Antarctica, I never considered myself a great portrait photographer, but once I got there I realized that the land, the animals and the place itself had a personality. That realization made Antarctica accessible to me."

:order seaman's book, the last iceberg, here


Merry weekend, everyone. Wherever you may be.



a day by any other name

The many faces of December 26: the first day of Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, St. Stephen's Day, the second (or first) day of Christmas. To celebrate the lot, I give you The Chieftains (another of Ireland's innumerable national treasures) with their cover of "St. Stephen's Day Murders." Vocals by Elvis Costello.

Did you know? Elvis Costello isn't Irish. Surprised, right? He was actually born and raised in England. That's why you won't find him on my list of "Ireland's innumerable national treasures." He's on other equally impressive lists. Just wanted to make that clear.

:youtube; images travelpod, cliffs of mohrer & dunguaire castle, ireland. i post these images in honor of my beautiful blogpal, jane (ill seen, ill said), a true daughter of ireland.

on the second day of christmas

Contrary to much popular belief, the Twelve Days of Christmas do not end with Christmas, but rather are the 12 days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th—with the 12 days beginning December 26th—and includes Epiphany on January 6th.

That said, here's a sumptuous still life for your post-Christmas-second-or-first-day-or-who's-counting enjoyment. The dark, rich, candlelit composition of pomegranates, figs and dolmathes is perfectly delectable.

Merry, happy, yummy.

:sahara widoff

harold pinter (1930-2008)

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror—for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us—the dignity of man.

- Harold Pinter, Nobel Lecture, December 7, 2005

:nobel lecture, art, truth and politics, 2005


Merry Christmas.


o holy night

The lyrics to the old carol, "O Holy Night," were written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. Cappeau was a wine seller by trade, but was asked by his parish priest to write a poem for Christmas. He obliged and penned "O Holy Night." Cappeau's friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, composed the music.

In 1961, Leontyne Price joined forces with Herbert von Karajan—and the silky Vienna
Philharmonic—and recorded the fabled Christmas Songs for RCA Living Stereo. The album includes her incomparable "O Holy Night." I was raised on this Price recording, and it makes me weep every time I hear it. This lyric is especially moving to me:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

There isn't a convenient postable YouTube link (or its equivalent) to this gorgeous recording, but you can easily download it here. I can't imagine the holidays—or this special night—without Leontyne's transcendent gift.

:leontyne price, o holy night; christmas songs





If you come from a Greek home (I do), you know that nothing says "Καλά Χριστούγεννα" (Kala Christougenna) or "Merry Christmas" like these buttery snowballs from heaven (aka kourambiedes).




Welcome, winter.

:philippe sainte-laudy flickr


Good weekend, everyone. May yours sparkle with light and love.




:from final scene, act I, of george balanchine's the nutcracker, nyc ballet; paul kolnick, nytimes



Karen Armstrong, the former Catholic nun and author of numerous books on comparative religion, asserts that "all the great traditions are saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences." They each have in common, she says, an emphasis upon the overriding importance of compassion, as expressed by way of the Golden Rule: Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.

The Spiral Staircase, my most favorite of Armstrong's various books, is an account of her young life as a nun in the 1960s. Though she sought "intensity and transformation in the life of a nun," Armstrong found instead a painful rigidity and deprivation. Friendship was not allowed, and the loneliness was unrelenting. Hemmed in by pointless rules, Armstrong came to feel like a miserable failure. When she left the convent in 1969, she was virtually oblivious to the fact that the world had been turned upside-down by social and political upheaval in the interim.

Armstrong's intelligence saved her, and she was able to carve out a niche for herself as an academic at Oxford where the study of literature stirred a dormant spiritual spark. She was especially drawn to T. S. Eliot's poem, "Ash Wednesday," from which came the title image of a spiral staircase. Armstrong deeply identified with Eliot's struggle with faith and his aspiration to move from spiritual barrenness to hope for human salvation:


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

- from T. S. Eliot, "Ash Wednesday"

Interestingly, Armstrong finds space to hope in one of T.S. Eliot's bleakest poems. Throughout The Spiral Staircase, Eliot is a focus for Armstrong's ritual energy, while paradoxically serving as a figure of the fall from faith. The further paradox is that Eliot later reversed, and defined himself as a believer, while Armstrong has never turned back.

:images deviant art



Philippe de Montebello, who has led the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 31 years, will retire at the end of this month. He is the eighth and longest-serving director in the museum's 138-year history. His mellifluous multilingual voice (it fills the heart with longing and ardor) on the museum's audio guides is known to millions of visitors around the world. Mr. de Montebello, who is 72, more than doubled the museum’s physical size during his tenure, carving out majestic new galleries suited to the Met’s encyclopedic holdings. Today it is the city’s biggest tourist attraction, with millions of visitors a year.

To celebrate Mr. de Montebello’s 31 years as director of The Met, the Museum’s Forum of Curators, Conservators and Scientists has organized an exhibition of approximately 300 works of art—from a total of more than 84,000—that were acquired during his tenure. This unique project is a collaboration among curators from the Museum’s seventeen curatorial departments.

Attributed to Miskin
Buffaloes in Combat, late 16th century, India

Duccio di Buoninsegna (Italian, act. by 1278, d. 1318)
Madonna and Child, ca. 1295–1300

Intaglio, mid-Imperial, Antonine or Severan, 2nd–3rd century a.d., Roman
Jasper, gold mount set with pearls and glass

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)
detail from Rubens, His Wife, Helena Fourment, and One of Their Children

Special emphasis is placed on works that have been transformative to the Met’s collection by building on existing strengths and expanding into new areas. Acquired by purchase and donation, individually and in groups, these works demonstrate how the de Montebello years have enhanced the Museum’s encyclopedic collection dramatically and have encouraged public access to the greatness of the world’s artistic traditions. Mr. de Montebello will continue his career as a professor at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts.

Onésipe Aguado (French, 1827–1894),
Woman Seen from the Back, ca. 1862, salted paper print from glass negative

:images the metropolitan museum of art; the new york times


This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young and with the mothers of families; read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in it words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

- Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass, 1855

:rune guneriussen


winter splendor

The word Amaryllis has Greek origins, meaning "splendor." The true Amaryllis is the Amaryllis belladonna, a smaller variety than its more commonly recognized relative, Hippeastrum (what we commonly refer to as the Amaryllis and have come to associate with the winter holidays). The Hippeastrum (new name Amaryllis) was first discovered on an Andean Mountains plant expedition in the early nineteenth century.


Legend has it that the Amaryllis began as a shy, timid nymph. Amaryllis fell deeply in love with Alteo, a shepherd with Hercules's strength and Apollo's beauty, but her affections were unrequited. Hoping that she could win him over by bestowing upon him the thing he desired
most—a flower so unique, it had never existed in the world before—Amaryllis sought advice from the Oracle of Delphi.

Following the Oracle's instructions, Amaryllis dressed in maiden's white and appeared at Alteo's door for 30 nights, each time piercing her heart with a golden arrow. When at last Alteo opened his door, there before him was a striking crimson flower, sprung from the blood of Amaryllis's heart. Sigh.

:images (top) sköna hem, (bottom) d:m



Radiant crescents. These ingenious images from Russian designers, Leonid Tishkov and Boris Bendikov, bring to mind a few famous lines from It's a Wonderful Life (how many times have you watched it so far this month, hmm?):

(George Bailey): What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary.

Gaze upon all fifteen celestial bodies at Tishkov and Bendikov's project, Your Personal Moon.

:leonid tishkov & boris bendikov


thirteen. fourteen.

Thirteen + Fourteen = Twenty Seven of my most favoritest, bestest comrades in all the Internets—some new, some old, some silver, some gold.

Last week, beautiful Lori of automatism gifted me a spot in a line-up of blogs that she loves; she was on official business, admirably fulfilling her duties as recipient of an I Love Your Blog thing, wouldn't you know. Now I'm doing likewise (except that I'm bending the rules to include more than the suggested seven sites in an attempt to make this effort fit into Days Thirteen and Fourteen, as if by magic).

Brilliant, gorgeous, luminous—each and every one of you. What can I say except thank you for making my days merry and bright. I wish you all the happiest of holidays and a new year filled with wonder and joy.