Category Archives: Art

Grant Wood 2.13.13 Thought of the Day

“All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow” –Grant Wood

Self Portrait [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

Self Portrait [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

Grant DeVolson Wood was born on this day outside Anamosa, Iowa, USA in 1891. today is the 122nd anniversary of his birth.

Growing up on a farm Grant helped with the chores and raised his own goats and poultry. He liked to draw from a young age and used home-made charcoal sticks made of burnt wood from his mother’s stove.

Near Sundown Wood [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

Near Sundown Wood [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

His father died when he was 10 and the family moved to Cedar Rapids. He attended Washington High School where he took art, designed scenery for plays and drew for the school paper and yearbook.

After he graduated in 1910, Grant did a lot of different things.  He took art classes, taught art, made jewelry, learned carpentry, decorated people’s houses and cared for his mother and his sister Nan….He loved gadgets and making things, and he worked slowly and carefully at all of his crafts.  He was even able to use his artistic talent when he joined the army during World War 1.  His job was to paint camouflage on tanks and cannons. [Grant Wood Art Gallery]

After the war he traveled to Europe to study the 19th Century French Impressionist. Upon returning to the States he set off on his own style of painting, American Regionalism.

Appraisal [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

Appraisal [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

Going back to Iowa, for Grant Wood, was the formative experience in his artistic life. It was the return to his home state that prompted his painting to take a distinctive turn–towards regionalism, towards American subjects, towards the nineteenth century, towards an affectionate and yet ironic vision of his country and its history…[]

He hit the peak of his popularity during the great depression.

His vision of the American heartland seemed to touch a troubled country deeply; his paintings offered a land that responded to cultivation lusciously rather than blowing away in the tornadoes of the dustbowl, as well as farmers and their families who offered a bounty with round and blushing cheeks. [Ibid]

He started the Stone City Art Colony and Art School with Adrian Dornbush and Edward Rowan in 1932. With the help of the Public Works of Art Project and the Civil Works Administration Grant employed many of the artist who lived at the Colony to produce murals in public buildings like court houses and post offices.

English: This is one of the digitized images o...

English: This is one of the digitized images of the original painting American Gothic that Grant DeVolson Wood, a master artist of the twentieth century, created in 1930 and sold to the Art Institute of Chicago in November of the same year. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He taught painting at University of Iowa from 1934 -1941.

Wood died of pancreatic cancer on February 12 in 1942.

Daughters of the Revolution [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

Daughters of the Revolution [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]


Grant used his sister Nan and their family dentist as subjects for his famous painting, American Gothic. The image has been updated and satired endlessly. Here are a few examples…

from soldiers and airline workers



Air Line employees

Airline employees

to celebrates…

Paris and Nicole

Paris and Nicole

Amy and Sheldon (From the Big Bang Theory)

Amy and Sheldon (From the Big Bang Theory)

to politicians…

Sarah Palin and John McCain

Sarah Palin and John McCain

Michelle and Barack Obama

Michelle and Barack Obama

to just plain weird stuff…

security cameras

security cameras

And you know if there's a lego version out there... I'm gonna put it in.

And you know if there’s a lego version out there… I’m gonna put it in.

Yousuf Karsh 12.23.12 Thought of the day

“Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.” — Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh was born on this day in Mardin, Ottoman Turkey in 1908. Today is the 104th anniversary of his birth.

Karsh was a child during the Armenian genocide and his family was forced to flee from village to villiage. His sister died of starvation. In 1924 his parents sent him to Sherbrooke, Quebec to live with his uncle, George Nakash who worked as photographer. Karsh showed interested in the art and his uncle arranged an apprenticeship with John Garo, a portrait photographer living in Boston.

After his apprenticeship he returned to Canada and worked in a studio near Parliament Hill  in Ottawa. The Prime Minister discovered his work and arranged sittings with visiting dignitaries.

Karsh photographed Winston Churchill when the Britt came to give a speech to the Canadian House of commons in 1941. It became the most reproduced photographic print in history.

Winston Churchill's "Sinews of Peace"...

Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” address originated the term “Iron Curtain.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He went on to photograph 51 of the 100 most notable people of the century in the International Who’s Who (2000).

He died in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in July of 2002 at the age of 93.

Karsh : Créateur d'images

Karsh : Créateur d’images (Photo credit: mstcweb)

His art has been celebrated on Canadian postage stamps and in 2009 Ottawa hosted a Festival Karsh .

Yousuf Karsh - Hepburn

Yousuf Karsh – Hepburn (Photo credit: Père Ubu)

Photo of Humphrey Bogart by Yousuf Karsh, 1946...

Photo of Humphrey Bogart by Yousuf Karsh, 1946 (“Yousuf Karsh collection” at the Library and Archives Canada). According to image information the copyright has expired. Title: Humphrey Bogart, actor Year: 1946 Size: 19.75 x 16 inches Source:National Archives of Canada Reference number: PA-212506 Restrictions on use/reproduction: Nil Copyright: Expired on December 31, 1996 Credit: Yousuf Karsh / Library and Archives Canada / PA-212506 Creator: Karsh, Yousuf, 1908- (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marx Brothers by Yousuf Karsh, 1948

Marx Brothers by Yousuf Karsh, 1948 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nederlands: Paul Robeson in 1938; foto Yousuf ...

Nederlands: Paul Robeson in 1938; foto Yousuf Karsh; National Archives of Canada/PA-209022/Copyright: Expired (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

H. G. Wells in 1943.

H. G. Wells in 1943. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer Deutsc...

Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer Deutsch: Martha Graham 1948 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Williamsburg & Richmond (part 5)

Richmond banner

[This is part Five of my What To Do in Williamsburg & Richmond Blog for part one go HERE. For part two go HERE. For part three go HERE.  and for part four go HERE.]

Previous tips included:


  1. Planning your trip in the Fall or Winter to avoid the heat and crowds.
  2. Staying in a Colonial House.
  3. Engaging with the locals.
  4. Visit the Wren Building
  5. Take the Rubbish, Treasures and Colonial Life Tour & the Behind the Scenes Tour
  6. Visit the De Witt Wallace and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museums
  7. Tour the Governor’s Palace
  8. Tour the Thomas Everard House.
  9. Visit Bassett Hall.
  10. Get spooky with it.
  11. Stop in to see the craftsmen making things with wood.
  12. Get your Ps and Qs in line at the Printers.
  13. Stroll along Duke of Gloucester Street.
  14. Stand witness for the prosecution at the Courthouse.
  15. EAT.

Richmond —

  1. Visit a Civil War museum like the Tredegar Iron Works
  2. Go Shopping in Carytown
  3. Eat at the Can Can Brasserie


Today we’ll finish up our tour of Williamsburg and Richmond with a stop at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The VMFA has an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and decorative arts. We particularly enjoyed the American Art with its Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri paintings.

Their collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco decorative arts is one of the largest collections outside of Paris. It includes a beautiful display of Tiffany lamps.

A Tiffany "Goldfish" lamp on display at the VMFA.

A Tiffany “Goldfish” lamp on display at the VMFA.

The collection of Arts and Craft furniture was really impressive. From Roycroft…

Roycroft bookcase

To Stickley…

Stickley Fall Front Desk

To Frank Lloyd Wright…

Frank Lloyd Wright Chairs and windows

To Greene and Greene Brothers

Greene sideboard

the display was surprising comprehensive. Admission is free to the museum’s permanent exhibits. And the Museum is open 365 days a year starting at 10:00 in the morning.

But the real reason we went to the VMFA was to see the traveling Chihuly “Breathe Art Into Life”  exhibit. The exhibit, which runs thru Feb 10, 2013 is a filled with spectacular light and shapes that defy gravity. And (especially coming from a pallet of muted earth tones in Williamsburg) it was a feast for the eyes.

There are 9 installations in the exhibit (including the giant chandelier that hangs in the atrium. Arrive a little before your entrance time so you can see the PBS film on the artist.

Chihuly boat 1

One of the Float Boats filled with Chihuly’s Fiori. The smooth glass floor reflects the dazzling glass, And you feel like you are walking along the smooth waters of a Venetian Canal.

The first room you enter holds Fiori and Float Boats. The artist was inspired to create Fiori and Float Boats when he was installing Chihuly Over Venice.  There he hung his massive, intricate chandeliers over the Venetian Canals, but he also dropped pieces of into the water. Locals were hired to  collect the floating orbs. When Chihully saw their row boats filled to the brim with his art he had the spark for Fiori and Float Boats. (The image in the RICHMOND banner at the top of the blog is the other Float Boat  in this display.)

You walk under Persian Ceiling. It is lit from above, and this time you get the feeling as if you are walking through the water, in an aquarium of light.

Persian Ceiling consists of over a thousand piece of blown glass

Persian Ceiling consists of over a thousand piece of blown glass

Chihuly layers pieces and nest smaller shapes into larger shapes in his Persian Ceiling. (Detail.)

Chihuly layers pieces and nest smaller shapes into larger shapes in his Persian Ceiling. (Detail.)

Chihuly, a native of Tacoma, Washington, drew inspiration from the “Slumped, sagging forms” [VMFA display card] of Indian baskets he saw on display at a museum for the “glass”  baskets he displayed in his Northwest Room. He also drew from his extensive personal collection of Native American blankets.

Some of Chihuly's blanket collection line the wall of the gallery.

Some of Chihuly’s blanket collection line the wall of the gallery.

A long low table runs the length of the room.

NorthWest table

Do you see the dovetail joining the split in the wood on the left? I loved how that echoed the patterns in the blankets.

And a wall of “baskets” — both the Chihuly glass versions and the traditional woven ones that acted as inspiration — line the other wall.

The glass in this room takes on the color of sand. We have definitely moved to the West.

The glass in this room takes on the color of sand. We have definitely moved to the West.

In Macchia Forrest the artist combines nine giant flower like bowls. Each bowl has thousands of colors.

Just one of the Macchia measures 27" x 38" x 30"

Just one of the Macchia measures 27″ x 38″ x 30″

The central installment in the exhibit is a room size garden of glass called Laguna Torcello. [Think “room” as in the size-of -my-house “room”.]

It is monocromanic at either end, but burst with exotic colors in the middle -- an entire years worth of glass winter, spring summer and fall.

It is monochromatic at either end but burst with exotic colors in the middle — an entire year’s worth of glass — winter, spring summer and fall.

A pink coral-esque structure soars to the ceiling, looking all the world like some Dr. Suessian underwater Christmas Tree.

"Welcome, Christmas! Fah who rahmus!" [The Whoville Christmas Song]

“Welcome, Christmas! Fah who rahmus!” [The Whoville Christmas Song]

A flower of white at one end of the installation. [Detail.]

A “flower” of white at one end of the installation. [Detail.]

This room returns us to “water”. The over 1,500 pieces almost seem to sway in the waves.

Colorful middle portion of Laguna Torcello. [Detail.]

Colorful middle portion of Laguna Torcello. [Detail.]

Chihuly began making Spears (known as Reeds on Logs) in Finland in 1995. The glass reeds are surprisingly strong. He uses salvaged red cedar from his home state for the logs.

Reeds On Logs

Reeds On Logs

Chihuly Breathe Art Into Life is $20 for Adults/$16 for Seniors, students and groups of 10 or more. It is worth every penny.

Chihuly sig

Georges Seurat 12.2.12 Thought of the Day

“Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science.”
Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat (1859-1891), photo

Georges Seurat (1859-1891), photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Seurat was born on this day in Paris, France in 1859. Today is the 153rd anniversary of his birth.

He was born to a wealthy family. His father was distant and taciturn.

At every available opportunity, Antoine-Christophe took leave of his family and disappeared to his villa in the suburbs to grow flowers and say mass in the company of his gardener; he was only at home on Tuesdays. Seurat’s mother was quiet and unassuming, but it was she who gave some warmth and continuity to his childhood. [Renoir Fine Art Inc.]

The family lived on the Boulevarde de Magenta near “Le Parc des Butte-Chaumont” and Georges and his mother often strolled through the park together. He revisited the park in his paintings. Seurat was a quite young man with a gentle voice. He always dressed in a dignified manner. Friends teased him that his tall handsome appearance made him look like a department store model. But he “was serious and intense ­ preferring to spend his money on books rather than on food or drink.” [Ibid]

He went to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878. He preferred pointillism over the soft brushstrokes of impressionism. He took a scientific approach to painting, working “fixed hours and (using a) meticulous systematization of his technique.” [Ibid]

English: Bathers at Asnières, Georges Seurat, ...

English: Bathers at Asnières, Georges Seurat, 1884. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He painted six huge canvas paintings that represent the bulk of his artistic output. The first, painted in 1813 (and taking almost the entire year to complete) was Bathing at Asnieres.

Next came La Grande Jatte. He spent two years on La Grande Jatte, going to the same spot every day for months. There he would sketch in the morning, then in the afternoon he would return to his studio and paint on his giant canvas.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Le Grande Jatte “made” Seurat.  He took a studio next to fellow pointillist Signac in Montmartre.

Here he was surrounded by artists ranging from the conservative decorator Puvis de Chavannes, whom he greatly admired, to more progressive contempories ­ including Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. He was at the center of artistic debates, but he kept aloof from them. [Renoir Fine Art Inc.]

Likewise he keep aloof about pricing his paintings. He didn’t need to worry about money like some of his fellow artists.

He settled into an annual routine of painting large canvas s in his studio during the winter and doing smaller marine paintings at one of the Normandy Ports in the Summer.

Paris - Musée d'Orsay: Georges Seurat's Le Cirque

Paris – Musée d’Orsay: Georges Seurat’s Le Cirque (Photo credit: wallyg)

His other large canvas paintings include Le Cirque (1890), The Models (1888), La Parade (1889), and Le Chahut (1891).

Le Chahut, 1889–1890, Kröller-Müller Museum, O...

Le Chahut, 1889–1890, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seurat died at the age of 31 from meningitis in March of 1891.


Thought of the Day 11.16.12 Shigeru Miyamoto

“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock-n-roll.”
–Shigeru Miyamoto

[Image courtesy:]

Shigeru Miyamoto was born on this day in Sonobe, Kyoto, Japan in 1952. He is 60 years old.

[OK raise your hand if you know who Shigeru Miyamoto is.  For the three of you who know who he is … pat yourself on the back — you are a game playing hipster, and I appreciate you taking time away from your Wii to read this blog. For the rest of us… raise your hand if you’ve heard of Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda or played Nintendo. Shingeru Miyamota is Mario’s father if you will.]

The Miyamoto grew up in a small town in the Kyoto region of Japan. Only a few of the homes in the area had Televisions, and Miyamoto’s wasn’t one of them.

Instead, he found entertainment in a steady stream of comic books and puppet shows. [Los Angeles Times ]

He also loved to explore the woods and caves around his town. He embraced the Manga style of art and had hopes of becoming a professional manga artist before switching to video.

A graduate of the Kanazawa College of Industrial Arts Miyamoto says his instructors didn’t always know what to make of him. “I made a lot of strange things in school,” [Ibid] and he was constantly thinking outside the box.

That kind of thinking (and some family connections) got him in the door at Nintendo in 1977. Instead of bringing a portfolio of drawings Miyamoto brought clothes hangers.

He had designed and made them for children who were too small to reach closet bars and too young for traditional, hooked, metal wire hangers. “I came up with a different solution,” Miyamoto said. “I made a wooden hanger that had a little cross shape which would fit into a notch on the wall. I painted pictures of elephants on them.” [Ibid]

He also showed them his idea for a three-way seesaw and an amusement park clock he designed. Nintendo loved it. He got the job.

His first big hit at Nintendo was Sheriff in 1979. He came to the rescue when the nascent Nintendo of America found itself with an overstock of Radar Scope arcade games.  His challenge was to create a game that would fit into the existing stand up arcade style games.

He had always wondered why video games had no plot and felt that there was an unexplored potential for engrossing stories. He … desperately wanted to get the license for a Popeye game. Nintendo was unable to get it, however, so Miyamoto resorted to creating his own characters. []

What he came up with was Donkey Kong. The “hero” of Donkey Kong is, of course, Mario.

Donkey Kong as seen in Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong as seen in Donkey Kong Country Returns (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1984 Miyamoto entered the world of consuls with Super Mario Bros. for the new Nintendo Entertainment System. It was a huge success and spawned a number of sequels.

Super Mario Bros. 2

Super Mario Bros. 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next he developed the fantasy world for The Legend of Zelda.

The game was inspired by notable events that Miyamoto experienced as a child. For example, Miyamoto has expressed that he found it enjoyable to travel through an unknown city without the use of a map. This way, the person won’t know what they’ll find at every corner. He also found a maze like structure near his home as a child, which was also an influence for the game. Finding new things… brought joy to Miyamoto which would be incorporated into his game. [Ibid]

51 - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Pal Wi...

51 – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Pal Wii Demo (Photo credit: ddconsole)

As new Nintendo gaming counsels came out (which, conveniently, happened just in time for the Christmas selling season) he was involved in developing  games that worked specifically for each product.

He takes inspiration from the world around him. That cave near his childhood home was the basis for The Legend of Zelda … The bathroom scale started Wii Fit, and a dog training class was the inspiration for Nintendogs.

He has dozens of titles to his name. Together Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda have sold over 350 million copies.

Real Japanese Hero #1: Shigeru Miyamoto

Real Japanese Hero #1: Shigeru Miyamoto (Photo credit: Andy Heather)

[So here’s the big question… who is your favorite Miyamoto character?… I’m a Princess Peach girl myself. ]

Princess Peach

Princess Peach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the Day 11.15.12 Georgia O’Keeffe

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way –– things I had no words for.”
— Georgia O’Keeffe

Pineapple Bud, oil on canvas painting by ''Geo...

Pineapple Bud, oil on canvas painting by ”Georgia O’Keeffe, 1939 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Georgia Totto O’Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, USA in 1887. Today is the 125 anniversary of her birth.

O’Keeffe knew she wanted to be an artist by the time she was 10-years-old. At 18 she attended the Art Institute of Chicago and transferred to the Art Students League of New York a year later.

Though her student work was well received she found it unfulfilling, and for a short time abandoned the fine arts. She worked briefly as a commercial artist in Chicago before moving to Texas to teach. [American Masters]

At 28 she took some classes at the Teachers College of Columbia University in South Carolina. There she met instructor Arthur Down who “Helped O’Keeffe move away from the forms she had found so stifling” and toward her own, unique style.

Charcoal on paper 1915. [Image courtesy: Oberon’s Grove]

A friend mailed some of the charcoal drawings she did  in Texas to Alfred Stieglitz in 1916. The photographer and gallery owner was so “enthused with the vibrant energy of the work” [American Masters]that he put together an exhibition of the work. “So, without her knowledge, Georgia O’Keeffe had her first exhibition… at Steiglitz’s “291 Gallery.” [Ibid]

The following year O’Keeffe and Stieglitz worked together on a larger solo show that included both watercolors and oil paintings. By June 1918 Stieglitz had convinced her to move to New York and spend all her time painting.

Six years later the two were married, beginning one of the most fruitful and well-known collaborations of the modernist era. For the next twenty years the two would live and work together, Stieglitz creating an incredible body of portraits of O’Keeffe, while O’Keeffe showed new drawings and paintings nearly every year at the gallery. [Ibid]

1918 photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe taken by Stieglitz  [Image courtesy: Oberon’s Grove]

A vacation to New Mexico in 1929 proved a turning point for the artist. She discovered “the open skies and sun-drenched landscape” of the desert that she would return to  annually.  She bought a Model A Ford to drive around the desert, and if the heat got too intense she would crawl under the car for shade.

More than almost any of her other works, these early New Mexico landscapes and still lifes have come to represent her unique gifts. The rich texture of the clouds and sky were similar to her earlier, more sensuous representations of flowers. But beneath these clouds one found the bleached bones of animals long gone. [American Masters]

Georgia O'Keeffe, Ram's Head White Hollyhock a...

Her summer pilgrimages lasted until Stieglitz’s death in 1946 when she took up residence in a pre-Civil War period adobe outside Abiquiu.

“When I bought it, it was totally uninhabitable. Architecturally it is not a masterpiece, but a house that grew.” The rooms were mostly bare, though some contained dilapidated furniture. The house had been added to in various stages after the Civil War. A large summer house and a lilac tree stood in the garden. The rooms inside were in disarray…. However, the arrangement was appealing, and all the rooms opened to the patio. When O’Keeffe began to stay at Abiquiu… there was hardly a room she could live in. [Architectural]

O’Keeffe’s reputation as an artist continued to grow throughout the 50’s and 60’s. In 1970 she has a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art which cemented her position among “the most important and influential American painters.” [American Masters]

O’Keeffe later in life. [Image courtesy: Architectural]

By 1972 her vision began to fail (she suffered from macular degeneration) and she stopped painting with oils. But when a young potter by the name of Juan Hamilton came to her house looking for work in 1973 a new artistic world opened up for O’Keeffe. “With his encouragement and assistance, she resumed painting and sculpting.” [Ibid] Hamilton became her business manager and closest companion.

In 1976 she wrote her autobiography “Georgia O’Keeffe.” It was  a best seller. In 1977 President Ford awarded her with the Medal of Freedom and in 1985 President Reagan gave her the Medal of the Arts.

Georgia O’Keeffe died at the age of 98 in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1986.


UPDATE: We went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia on Friday and I snapped this shot of O’Keeffe’s White Iris.

Georgia O'Keeffe's White Iris, 1930, Oil on Canvas. At the VMFA.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Iris, 1930, Oil on Canvas. At the VMFA.

Thought of the Day 10.20.12 Viggo Mortensen

“There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom, ever.”
Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA  in 1958. He is 54 years old.

His family lived in Venezuela, Denmark and Argentina where his father managed farms and ranches.   He learned to speak fluent Danish, Spanish and English growing up. His parents divorced when he was 11 and he moved with his mother back to New York. After graduating St. Lawrence University he moved to Europe and lived in Spain, England and Denmark making his way as a truck driver and flower seller. Eventually he returned to the US ready to try his hand at acting.

Viggo Mortensen in a still from Witness [Image courtesy:]

He did some theatre then expanded to film. His footage in 1984’s Swing Shift and  Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo ended up on the cutting room floor, but he had more luck in Peter Weir’s Witness. Mortensen played Moses Hochleitner, the younger brother to Alexander Godunov’s Daniel Hochleitner. He didn’t have a lot of lines in the Harrison Ford flick, but some how he stood out from the sea of blond-haired Amish men in blue shirts.

His next step was to Television where he was cast as Bragg on Search for Tomorrow [BRAGG, what a great soap opera name, right?]

In 1987 he played a crooked cop on Miami Vice. There was more theatre too, this time in LA’s Coast Playhouse’s production of Bent, for which he earned a Dramalogue Critics’ Award.

Movie still from G.I. Jane []

A splay of supporting roles in the 1990s saw him acting in some good movies (The Portrait of a Lady directed by Jane Campion) and some not so good movies (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III)  Critics started to take notice when he starred opposite Demi Moore as brutal Master Chief John Urgayle in G.I. Jane (some critics said he stole the movie from Moore) and as the other man in A Walk on the Moon with Diane Lane. He played another ‘other’ man in A Perfect Murder, a reboot of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow. He was Eddie Boone, a major league baseball player with a trifecta of additions in rehab with Sandra Bullock in 28 Days. And rounded out the decade by playing the devil in The Prophecy.

Movie poster from Lord of the Rings [Image courtesy: Beyond]

2001 saw the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, the first in Peter Jackson’s epic Tolkien cycle. With his role as the heroic Aragorn “Mortensen was established as a major leading man among Hollywood’s A-list ranks.” [Viggo Mortensen — Biography, Movies. The Two Towers followed in 2002 and The Return of the King premiered in 2003. He brought quiet strength, “commanding good looks”[ibid] and a rye sense of humor to Aragorn. He embraced the role whole heartedly. He did all his own stunts in the movies (and took quiet a few knocks in the process). He wore his sword and costume for days on end so they would have an authentic lived in look. And he became so attached to his equine co-stars, Uraeus and Kenny, that he purchased the horses after the film wrapped and took them home.

After his success in the Lord of the Rings Mortensen managed to keep himself centered…

Exceedingly humble about success and uncharacteristically un-Hollywood, Mortensen managed to stay somewhat reclusive and focused on other interests outside of acting, namely painting and writing poetry, despite becoming one of the most recognizable stars in the world. [Viggo Mortensen — Biography, Movies. ]

He used some of his earnings from playing Aragorn to start Perceval Press publishing house in Santa Monica, California.

Perceval Press is a small, independent publisher specializing in art, critical writing, and poetry. The intention of the press is to publish texts, images, and recordings that otherwise might not be presented. [Percival Press]

Mortensen’s own artistic, musical and written works are available through Perceval Press. He writes poetry, essays, and companion pieces for his paintings and photographic work in English, Spanish and Danish. Musically he has completed 16 albums, working almost exclusively with the guitarist Buckethead.

Back on the silver screen was Hidalgo in 2007.  It is the true story of American Frank T. Hopkins who participation in a 3,000-mile race across the Najd desert called the “Ocean of Fire”.

He gave “his most compelling and carefully drawn performance to date” [ibid] as an everyday man who’s violent past catches up to him in A History of Violence a film directed by David Cronenberg. He worked with Cronenberg again in 2007 for Eastern Promises, where he played a Russian gangster. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film.

In 2008 he was Ed Harris’ sidekick in the Western Appaloosa. He also starred in Good which takes place in the 1930s. Mortensen is a professor struggling to decide if he should join the Nazi party.

Movie still from The Road. [Image courtesy:]

The grim Cormac McCarthy novel was the basis for Mortensen’s next movie, The Road. It is a post-apocalyptic story of a father and son trying to survive in a bleak wasteland.

Once again teaming up with Cronenberg, Mortensen plays Dr. Sigmund Freud in his the 2011 film,  A Dangerous Method.

Coming up Mortensen has several film ready for release including: On The Road and Everybody Has a Plan; and in 2013 The Faces of January and The Last Voyage of Demeter.

Publicity shot. [Image courtesy: TheReelist]

Found this on Facebook and had to share.


Thought of the Day John Lennon

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Switching up the formula a little today as it is NOT John Lennon’s Birthday — that was October 9th — but I was away that day, so I thought I’d retroactively give John the birthday nod.

“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.”
— John Lennon

John Winston Lennon was born on October 9th, 1940 in Liverpool, England. He would be 72 years old this year.

John was born during World War II, indeed he was born during an air raid, to Julia and Alfred Lennon. His father worked as a merchant seaman and was often away from home. By the time John was four-years-old his parents were divorced and he went to live with his Aunt Mimi Smith. Although Alfred was largely out of the picture, Julia remained close, she visited John regularly.

She taught John how to play the banjo and the piano and purchased his first guitar. []

Julia Lennon died when John was 18, she was stuck by a car.

He did not do well in school, and preferred to be the class clown rather than study. He did love art and music though. John drew unique (almost grotesque) line drawings that quickly and simply captured the image.

John started a ‘skiffle band’ (a band that used the instruments they had at hand) called the Quarry Men when he was 16. The Quarry Men take their name from John’s high school, Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool. The next year he asked Paul McCartney to join the group.  George Harrison and Lennon’s art school mate Stu Sutcliffe also joined the band and they later added Pete Best on drums.

John at the Cavern Club [Image courtesy: Join the Cavern Club]

The group changed their name to the Beatles and played clubs in Hamburg, Germany and the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Brian Epstein came on board in 1961 as manager, and they got a recording contract with EMI records.

1962 saw huge changes for both Lennon and  the group.  In April of 1962 Sutcliffe died tragically of a brain aneurysm. In August John married Cynthia Powell, the couple had a son, Julian in April the next year. The band replaced drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr. The realigned group recorded  at EMI with George Martin as their producer, and released Love Me Do in October. The single reached #17 on the British Charts. Please, Please Me the follow-up single, topped the charts. And the Beatles were off.

Beatlemania invaded the US in 1964. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and played sold out concerts.

Still from Hard Day’s Night. [Image courtesy: Cinematical]

Back in the UK they made the movie A Hard Day’s Night.  The movie is a delightfully fun, pop romp of a mockumentary. It featured songs from the album of the same name, notably: A Hard Days Night, If I Fell, I’m Happy Just to Dance with You, Tell Me Why, Any Time At All and Can’t Buy Me Love. The popularity of the movie helped keep the album at #1 for 14 weeks on the Billboard chart. The budget was limited so it was shot in black and white, and everything was kept simple. Not so with their second film HELP! which still manages to be charming but not as charming as  Hard Day’s Night. It is overproduced and over done. Lennon said that the Beatles felt like extras in their own movie with HELP! and it shows.  Still the music was pretty awesome: Help!, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, You’re Going to Lose That Girl! Ticket to Ride, It’s Only Love, I’ve Just Seen a Face, and Yesterday. The Album held the top spot on Billboard for 9 weeks.

Musically the lads from Liverpool were in top form, releasing the breakthrough album, Rubber Soul in 1965. Their song writing had transformed from the harder R&B influenced Hold My Hand kind of song to lyrical, mature songs like Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man, Michelle, Girl, In My Life, and If I Needed Someone. It was another #1 Billboard album (6 weeks).   [I’m guessing that if you are still reading this blog you are a Beatles fan and already have most of their albums, but if you don’t… I’d put Rubber Soul at the top of the list. For my money Rubber Soul and Revolver are two of the best albums every made.]

Rubber Soul [Image courtesy:]

Revolver [Image courtesy:]

Yesterday…and Today came out in 1966. Stand out songs include: Drive My Car, Nowhere Man, Yesterday, If I Needed Someone, We Can Work It Out and Day Tripper. The album reached #1 for 5 weeks. Revolver also came out in 1966.  Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Here, There and Everywhere, Yellow Submarine, Good Day Sunshine, And Your Bird Can Sing, and Got to Get You Into My Life are some of the hits off the album, which spent 6 weeks at the #1 spot on Billboard’s chart. By 1966 the strain of constant touring, recording, and the hounding fans was weighing on the band. Lennon got in trouble for his “We’re more popular than Jesus now” remark. They played their last concert in Candlestick Park stadium, San Francisco in August.

The following year the Beatles put out their eighth LP, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. An eclectic mix of pop, rock n roll, and Indian influenced tracks.  It won Album of the Year and was #1 on the Billboard charts for a whopping 15 weeks. Hits from the album include: With a Little Help from My Friends, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Getting Better, –the amazing — A Day in the Life, and of course, Lovely Rita.  But as good as Pepper was, and it was very good, it was also over produced. All those horns and whistles and animal sounds didn’t quite get in the way enough to ruin the songs, but were they really necessary? Listening back on them now… well, I prefer a simpler production. [It worked somehow in A Day in the Life; not so much in Lovely Rita, but still, the later has such a great title.]

Speaking of over produced…there’s Magical Mystery Tour — a movie that makes absolutely no sense.  The LP had some lovely songs though. And even if it was becoming painfully clear that Lennon was writing  the “Lennon” songs– which were leaning toward sarcasm — and McCartney was writing the “McCarntney” songs — which were tending to  get more nostalgic and saccharine — both came up with some good ones here, like: The Fool on the Hill, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, and All You Need Is Love.

1968 brought the animated (and equally bizarre) film Yellow Submarine. In November they release a new album called The Beatles aka The White Album. It was at the top of the charts for 9 weeks.   This double album seems almost schizophrenic with some great songs like the hard rock and roll Back in the USSR, Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? Helter Skelter, and  Revolution; others that are lovely and lyrical; While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, Julia, Long, Long, Long, Good Night; And others that I’m not going to waste my time talking about.

On the personal side John divorced Cynthia Lennon in November of 1968. He and Yoko Ono, who he had been seeing since 1966, and living with since the summer of ’68, put out a collaborative album Two Virgins.  The album showed the couple nude on the cover and was banned in most record stores. On March 20, 1969 John and Yoko married in Gibraltar.

The following week, the two master media manipulators used their celebrity for good, hosting a honeymoon “bed-in” for peace in room 902, the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton. The… pajama-clad newlyweds spoke out about world peace. It was the honeymoon as performance art, interlaced with a protest against the Vietnam War. []

They repeated the “performance” in Montreal  the following week and with a bedroom full of musicians, artist, writers and other 1960’s counter-culture dignitaries, they recorded  Give Peace a Chance.

Abbey Road [Image courtesy:]

Abbey Road was released  in 1969. It is actually the last album the Beatles recorded, but it was released before Let It Be.
Notable songs include: Come Together, Something, Here Comes the Sun, and I Want You. Abbey Road stayed at #1 for 11 weeks.

Recorded largely in January in 1969,  Let it Be wasn’t released until 1970 and was #1 for 4 weeks. Lennon had already left the group (September of 1969.) A film of the same name came out the same year. The film was supposed to be a documentary that went behind the scenes to show the world’s most famous rock band making an album. Instead it showed the world’s most famous rock band dissolving.  The film culminated in a rooftop concert on January 30th. Songs from the album include: Don’t Let Me Down, Get Back, Two of Us, Let It Be, and The Long and Winding Road.

After the Beatles John released Plastic Ono Band.

The raw, confessional nature of Plastic Ono Band reflected the primal-scream therapy that Lennon and Ono had been undergoing with psychologist Arthur Janov. He dealt with such fundamental issues as “God” and “Mother” and the class system (“Working Class Hero”) on an album as full of naked candor as any in rock has ever been. [Rock & Roll Hall of Fame]

1971 brought Imagine. Rolling Stone Magazine called the title track the third all-time best song ever written.

English: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

English: John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John and Yoko followed Imagine with an anti-war release Happy Xmas (War is Over). The Nixon administration was not amused.  It decided to begin deportation proceeding against Lennon.  The stress took its toll on Lennon’s marriage with Ono and the two separated. For 18 months he lived in Los Angeles with another woman, May Pang. It is a period he calls his “Lost weekend” of drinking a partying. He fished Mind Games, and recorded Walls and Bridges. Whatever Gets You Thru the Night, a single off the later album became a number one hit. He co-wrote Fame with David Bowie.

He and Ono were reunited in 1975 shortly before the release of Rock n Roll. The couple celebrated the birth of their son Sean in October of 1975. And, after releasing Shaved Fish, John became a stay at home dad for five years.

In 1980 he came out of retirement and released Double Fantasy with the single Just Like Starting Over.

On December 8, 1980 the music died. As Lennon and Ono were returning home from recording tracks for the following up album,  Milk and Honey  he was assassinated in front of his New York apartment building, the Dakota.

Mangahoota [a special fiction post]

[Since I will be AFK (Away From Keyboard) I thought I’d share the following short children’s story called “Mangahoota.” My daughter was kind enough to do the wonderful images. (I especially love the author/illustrator image at the end.) Needless to say this is copyrighted material and may not be duplicated in any form. Same goes for the illustrations. ]



by Rita Baker-Schmidt, illustrations by Maggie Schmidt


There once was an explorer named Juan Diego Benetiz Jorges Alanzo Perez. He loved to explore the wild and wonderful jungles of the Mexican country side. One day he was walking through a field, eating a mango, when something fell– plop– right on his head. It hit Juan with such a force that the poor man was knocked out cold.

When he woke up there was a bandage across his eyes. He couldn’t see and he had a terrible headache. “Please, Please, where am I?” Juan asked in Spanish.

“Senior, you are in my hospital.” Brother Christos put a gentle hand on the man’s arm. “You had a terrible blow, but you will be all right.”

“All right? I can’t see!”

“That is because your eyes have been bandaged.” Brother Cristos told him, “In a few days we will take off the bandages and you will be all better.”

Brother Christos stayed with Juan for a little while and then he left to go to Mass. But, before he left he promised Juan he would visit him again just before evening prayers.

Juan fell back asleep. He had odd dreams of gigantic flying creatures. He woke with a start. There was a thunderous sound outside. “Bam, Bam! Bam, Bam!” The whole hut shook! But, then a second later a softer “Bam, Bam,” came, and a tiny “Ouch.”

“What is that?” Juan called out, but he was the only one in the hospital that day so there was no one to answer he question.

When the good brother came back that evening he asked Juan if he had gotten any rest.

“I did rest” Juan told him, agitated, “but then I was awaken by a terrible noise.” He described it to Brother Christos.

Because the bandages, Juan could not see Brother Christos smile.

“Did we have an earth quake, Brother?”

“Oh, no.” Brother Christos said calmly, “That was only Mangahoota.”

“What on Earth is Mangahoota?” Juan demanded.

“It is a creature that lives in this area.” Brother explained. “It is usually very sweet and gently, but I’m afraid he lost his control yesterday and he fell from the sky.” There was a note of apology in the holy man’s voice. “That is how you got hurt, you see. Mangahoota fell on you.”

“A bird that is big enough to knock a man cold?”

“Oh, not a bird exactly, but yes, it is quite big.” Brother Christos told him.  “It is a difficult thing to explain.”

The next day, when Juan was sitting in the garden of the hospital, enjoying the warm sun on his bandaged face, it happened again. There was an enormous swooshing sound and then “Bam, Bam!” The Earth shook and the water spilled from his glass, “Bam, Bam!” Then softer “Bam, Bam, ouch”

“Help!” Juan cried in horror. “Help! Help! That Mangahoota is trying to get me! Help!”

The Mangahoota must have been frightened by the tone in Juan’s voice because it flew away again immediately.

Brother Christos came running. “What it is Senior? Are you all right?”

“That beast, that Mangahoota swooped down on me again!” Juan cried. “Take me inside, Brother, please.”

“But, senior, I assure you the Mangahoota is a loving animal. It will not hurt you.”

Juan pointed to his bandages, “It has already hurt me!” He said angrily, “Now, Please, I beg you, take me inside.”

“That was an accident.” Brother Cristos said soothingly, but he obliged Juan and walked him into the hut. “Forgive me Senior,” He said gently,  as he helped the explorer sit down “I am a bit confused.”

“Why is that Brother?” Juan asked. He was much calmer now that they were inside.

“I thought you were an explorer.”

“I am an explorer.”

Brother Cristos fluffed his pillow. “I see.” He said patiently.


The Holy man poured Juan a drink of cool water and put it in his hand. “Humm?”

“Why did you ask me if I was an explorer?”

“It is only that I thought that explorers liked to learn new things.” He said quietly.

“We do.” Juan told him. “We love to learn new things. That is what we live for!”

“Ahhh.” Brother Christos nodded. He sat down in the chair opposite Juan.

“‘Ahhh’ what?” Juan asked. He wished Brother Christos would just come out and say what was on his mind.

“Well… here you are a man who loves to explore new things, and out there is the Mangahoota, a new thing to you, and yet….”

Juan was quiet.

“I understand your hesitation, Senior. It must have been frightening.”

Juan grabbed at the brothers sleeve. “It was! It is a terribly frightening thing to have a Mangahoota land on your head.”

“I’m sure.” Brother Christos patted his arm. “And you just frightened the Mangahoota by shouting so fiercely. So perhaps it would be best if you didn’t meet.” He pushed himself off his chair and went to leave the room. “You are right, Senior. A meeting would be a bad thing.”

Juan thought for a long time about what Brother Christos had said. He was an explorer and this was a new and strange thing. He’s instincts as a man of knowledge kicked in and curiosity replaced his fear. By the time Brother Christos returned after evening prayers Juan had made up his mind to meet the beast.

The next day Brother Christos walked Juan into the bean field by the mission. When they stopped he handed Juan a bunch of mangos. “What is this?” Juan asked.

“Those are mangoes. Mangahoota loves mangoes.” He held Juan’s hand so it was straight out then he brought it in a slow arch above his head and back down again. “You must wave the mangoes like this, Senior.”

Juan did as he was instructed. “Like this Brother?”

“Yes, but a little faster.” Brother Christos told him. “And you must call him to  you, Senior.”

Juan stopped waving. “How?”

“You must wave your mangoes and call in a loud voice ‘Mangahoota, Mangahoota, come and get them, Mangahoota.”

Juan thought he must be joking.

“Please, go on Senior, or he may not come.”

Feeling silly, Juan waved the bouquet of mangoes over his head and called out “Mangahoota, Mangahoota, come and get them, Mangahoota.”

And from high above the mountains came the swoosh, swooshing sound of enormous wings. Then, “Bam, Bam…Bam, Bam…” and more quietly “Bam, Bam,” and just a whisper of a sound “Ouch.”

The Mangahoota clip-clopped over to them and took a nibble of the mangoes. Sweet smelling, sticky, mango juice pored over Juan’s hands as the creature ate. “Does he like them, Brother?”

Brother Christos laughed as the Mangahoota bent over and gave Juan a sticky lick of a kiss. “Oh, yes, Senior, as I say, they are his favorites.”

They spent some time in the field with the Mangahoota. Both Juan and Brother Christos kept their voices calm and soothing. And the Mangahoota let Juan pet his long fur covered body.

Juan could tell that the creature had long legs with big knobby knees. He had enormous wings, of course, which he kept tucked in against his body. And he had a long muscular neck. His neck was so long that Juan couldn’t reach the top unless the Mangahoota bent down.  But Juan couldn’t form a picture of the Mangahoota in his mind’s eye.

As the Mangahoota flew away and the men walked back into the compound of the mission Juan turned to Brother Christos. “I must know what a Mangahoota looks like.”

“Tomorrow,” Brother Christos told him, “We will take the bandages off, and if you are strong enough we will take our walk outside and you can call him again.”

Juan tried to sleep that night, but he couldn’t keep his mind off the Mangahoota. In the morning Brother Christos came to him and, as promised cut away the bandages.

It took a minute for Juan’s eyes to register his surroundings. The simple thatched hut with the crucifix on the wall, the four camp beds made up with white linens, and the kind young man who had been his doctor smiling at him. Juan smiled back. “Lets go.”

Brother Christos nodded to the bedside table. There were two bouquets of mangoes.

“I must warn you Senior,” Brother Christos told him, “the Mangahootas are very unusual creatures.”

“I should say so!” Instead of the monk helping support Juan, he was being pulled by him. They walked to the middle of the field.

“So unusual that you must employ all of your powers of imagination to see him as he is.”

“I understand. Don’t worry Brother, I have a very good imagination.”

Brother Christos smiled at him and gave him some mangoes.

With out hesitation Juan waved them frantically over her head. “Mangahoota, Mangahoota, come and get them Mangahoota!”

No creatures emerged.

“Mangahoota, Mangahoota, come and get them Mangahoota!” Juan looked at the monk. “Perhaps he doesn’t recognize me with out my bandages.

“We will both try, Senior.” And, holding his robes so he wouldn’t trip, he waved his too mangoes in the air.

“Mangahoota, Mangahoota, come and get them Mangahoota!” They both called. “Mangahoota, Mangahoota, come and get them Mangahoota!”

Then they saw him. Flying high over the mountains, so big that for a second he blocked out the Sun.

“Mangahoota, Mangahoota, come and get them Mangahoota!”

It flew lower over the field. Then with a ground shaking “Bam, Bam” its front hooves hit the ground. “Bam, Bam” the back hooves touched down. Then  a slow unforgiving arch of unstoppable motion bent his long neck and with a  softer, “Bam, Bam” the knobs on the tops of the Mangahoota’s short antlers tapped the ground, and the creature gave a soft, childlike “Ouch.”

It shook away the small pain and  brought its face up to the mangoes. It began to eat, showering Juan and Brother Christos with mango juice. They laughed out loud. When he had devoured the mangoes he eyed them with his big giraffe eyes and lowered his sweet face first to Juan and then to Brother Christos and administered a lick of appreciation.

Later, as the giant animal took flight, Juan turned to Brother Christos. “Why didn’t you tell me a Mangahoota is a flying giraffe?”

“Some times it is better to believe without seeing, Senior, but some things are better believed when seen. The trick,” the young man smiled at Juan, “Is to know which is which.”

The End.

Rita is a writer, designer, musician, animal lover and Austen enthusiast. She thinks her daughter is extra awesome for doing these illustrations. 
Maggie is an aspiring educator, perpetual doodler and actress. 

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