history


22
Nov 22

Claude Monet at the LUME

This is Camille Pissarro’s “The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning.” Or part of that 1897 work, anyway. Circumstances, and shooting from the hip, and just trying to get the part I wanted. And the point is to say, guess what we saw today?

That’s the clue, and so was the headline, I guess. But the answer is, the impressionists!

Here’s part of Monet’s “Water Lily Pond.”

But the museum trip wasn’t about paintings directly, but rather a digital introduction and interpretation. Art in the 21st century, remixing the old masters. (More on that tomorrow.) And getting photobombed in the transitional elements of the show.

There’s a part where you can take your picture on an iPad, and select a filter — a big hit pre-Instagram, I’m sure — and then have it displayed on the art wall. Here we are.

This is a small work of Paul Cezanne, “Landscape at Auvers.”

Cézanne was an innovator and influenced countless modern artists as he sought to both reflect nature and show his own response to it, whatever that meant at the time. His mentor was Pissarro, but he would eventually move away from the impressionist movement.

Edgar Degas is also an impressionist, but he also worked in sculptures, and this one is on display at the LUME. The one on the right, I mean.

This is “Dancer Moving Forward, Arms Raised” which was found in Degas’ studio and cast in bronze in 1920, a few years after his death.

Here’s another painting of Camille Pissarro’s. This is an oil on canvas, circa 1865. Pissarro is sort of the elder statesman of the impressionists, and the neo-impressionist movement. Oh, and also post-impressionism. Talent, longevity and a willingness to grow allowed him to cover a lot of 19th century bases. Now, if you aren’t particularly an art connoisseur, you might not be familiar with Pissarro, so let’s just say this. Over the course of four-plus decades, all of the artists of the era — Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, Seurat, van Gogh — were all influenced by the man.

Pissarro was a contemporary of Armand Guillaumin, and this is one of his works, the 1877 “Quai d’Austerlitz.” It shows the left bank of the Seine River in Paris where Guillaumin worked nights for the Bridges and Roads Department. Later he won the lottery, and decided to spend his time on landscape paintings. Excellent choice, moving on to things you love.

And this is Pierre-August Renoir’s “Bouquet in a Vase.” Big broad, rapid strokes. I wonder how long this sort of canvas took to complete in the hands of a master.

And since Claude Monet is the name on the event, here’s a Monet. This is “Charing Cross Bridge, London” a turn-of-the-century oil on canvas. You can tell without even reading the placard that this is Monet’s London.

He spent the Franco-Prussian War there, and he painted almost 100 paintings of the Thames during his time in smoggy London Town. Monet spent a lot of time playing with the light and the smoke and fog that gave the Big Smoke its reputation.

Group picture time! (This is just before the gift shop. Every thing in its place.)

I’ll have more from this fun Newfields exhibit tomorrow.

After dinner we went back to Newfields for Winterlights, and a quick walk through of the famous Lilly House. I was surprised to see this part of the house. They lifted this idea directly from my Pinterest page.

Here are some of the Winterlights. The big blue tunnel near the grand finale.

The weather was perfect. Everyone at Newfields was having a great time and full of the initial holiday cheer of the season. There will be a video or two from the lights show tomorrow, too. But it’s late, and, for now, I want to leave you with one final impression.


17
Nov 22

We only go back a century in this post

We have rapidly moved straight on into holiday mode. It was a sneaky and sudden shift this year. I was wondering how these Dickensian commercials made it into the breaks of football games, and then looked at the calendar. That was surprising. Well, time means nothing anymore, and the weather has, until just last week, been unseasonable.

But I receive a monthly email from the thermostat people. This is our one publicly acknowledged concession to having a smart home, connecting a remotely programmable thermostat to our domicile. It is useful when traveling. But the downside is the emails. The upside to the email is that, once a month, we receive a basic summary of our heat and A/C use. For instance, the heat was up a little bit in October, compared to last year, but the air conditioning was drastically lower.

Also, and this may just be copy holder for all I know, I haven’t consulted the National Weather Service here, the email says our average temperatures in October 2022 were 6° cooler than October 2021. The average high three degrees lower, the average low 44 in 2022, compared to 54 in 2021. So much for the late warmth confusing my knowledge of the seasons.

Enjoy, then, this brand new conspiracy theory that I’m hatching with every keystroke before your eyes: Something about vaccines and wearing masks are altering my perceptions of days.

There aren’t a lot of mask wearers around anymore, are there? Despite, well, you know.

Holiday mode is upon us. We are having guests next week and trying to put a thing or two into an itinerary, such as can be had. I am setting the over-under on trips to the grocery store, from next Sunday to the following Saturday at four.

This means I’m also counting the hours until a few days off work. And, judging by my inbox, everyone else is, too. It’s a delightful thing, the unacknowledged and entirely unified feeling of we’re all just waiting … until … And there’s some solidarity involved in that too. Everyone is looking at different dates. My Thanksgiving begins tomorrow. Some people will push through a few days next week. I’ll be thinking of you while I’m doing my level best to not think of work.

My contribution to the cause today was this. I canceled some things. I reminded some people of something two weeks out. I scheduled a few programs for two and three weeks away. I found myself in a series of tedious emails that will be resolved next week, when I won’t be here. (And saying they were tedious is not a criticism. The tedium was mostly my doing.)

This evening I donned long pants and a long shirt and gloves and ear muffs and a headlamp and ran two miles in the brisk cold and snow flurries. It wasn’t a personal best, but I wasted little time getting that down. Then I sat in the garage and sanded wood for almost three hours. A few more hours of sanding and the longest running project in the history of woodworking will be ready for a dry fit. Saturday, then. I had dinner at 10 p.m., and am planning on reading myself to sleep.

But only after this.

Some unsung hero(es) at the university library has collected and preserved and digitized some ancient newsprint. It makes for a fun few minutes and, now and again, we’re going to dive into some old random stuff from the alma mater. Why should these bits of history exist in only one corner of the internet? If I can’t be there, I may as well bring imagine something now generations past. This is The Plainsman, 100 years ago today.

Remember last year! Centre is Centre College of Danville, Kentucky. It was already 100 years old by this point, and that previous year, 1921, the Colonels whipped up on a young Auburn team, 21-0. No one had forgotten. They all remembered.

Frank McLean Stewart, college student.

Stewart, having gained hard-earned insight from that choice, shared his wisdom with others before graduating with the class of 1923 with a degree in agricultural science.

He became a field rep for the American Cotton Association, then worked for Belle Meade Butter Company before becoming a dairy farmer. He spent a decade as the executive secretary of the Alabama State Milk Control Board and left there to work for the War Food Administration late and just after World War II. In the 1950s he became the state’s commissioner of agriculture.

I wonder how many times he told that story when he was a younger man.

I’m always struck by how ads in smaller parts of the country, for the longest time, didn’t even bother with addresses. Just get to our town. Ask around, someone will tell you how to find The Cricketeria. (I see references online to the Cricket Tea Room through at least the 1930s, but that’s where the trail stops. Similarly, I found William Abbott, born during the Civil War, died, next door in Opelika, just before World War II. He came from a family of photographers.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever run across anything about this ice cream parlor. But everyone knows Toomer’s. Back then, of course, it was an actual drug store. Today, many owners later, it’s a busy gift shop. Same name, same corner.

This was another drug store. At one time, in a walk of two or three blocks you could hit five drug stores. Sign of the times, one supposes.

What do you suppose they’re implying with these quote marks?

Remember, this is 1922. The technology was ascendant. It would have been farther along, but the government stepped in during the Great War and took over the airwaves as a matter of national security. You could study radio, the engineering and broadcasting elements of it, that is, and it was understood to be a military endeavor at the time. Radio at Auburn has a big history. I’ve written about it a bit here, you’ll see a bit more on the subject … right now.

This is the next issue of the paper next one in the collection is from about two weeks later, Nov. 29, 1922. Since we’re here we may as well breeze through it. (Oh, and, yes, Auburn avenged the loss to Center. It was a 6-0 game, the Tigers mauled ’em. Every bit of overwriting possible was used to describe the game. We’ll skip most of that here.)

It’s about time radio did it’s part! Remember, this is 1922, so all of this is an incredible step into the modern age.

On page 4 — it’s a four-page newspaper — there’s a long column that turns this into a process story. They’d just gone through some upgrades and expansions. Now 5XA and WMAV boasted four radio telegraph sets. More technology was coming, but by the time you read this in the paper they were already at 500 watts. Not so much these days, but that was a huge range considering there was less interference in the atmosphere. The paper in Birmingham — the publisher was on the university’s Board — had donated a radio phone, so they had the strongest setup in the South. They would soon be able to get weather reports directly from Washington. All of this led to WAPI, which was a station I had the great honor to broadcast on for a year or so.

The more things change …

It’s easy to take water out of the faucet for granted, if you have it. It’s easy to laugh at a time when you couldn’t take it for granted. It must have been some kind of experience to have lived in that time in between. I assume this is part of that time.

The guy that wrote the above, Reid Boylston Barnes, Itchy to his college friends, was born in 1903, went to law school, and eventually entered the U.S. Army as a captain during World War II, serving in the military judicial system.

He mustered out a lieutenant colonel and continued on his path of becoming something of a legal giant. He died in 1984. He saw some changes in his life. Including …

I was not aware that this was a thing … nice to see some humor in an old newspaper ad, though.

Speaking of literary societies … I wonder how popular they are these days.

This really takes you back.

Maybe I should keep that one. It could be recycled every term, for any generation of college student!


8
Nov 22

We voted hard

We voted this morning. Took a quick trip to the local middle school where all of the sign holders were sunny and pleasant and one of the men running for local office was out greeting people at the 50-foot line. By the time we got our ballots I’d forgotten about them entirely. After walking 50 feet and then waiting 30 seconds to get my ballot, I’d forgotten all about those people.

The ballot here was front and back. One school funding referendum, one Senate and one House seat. There were a lot of local seats for council this, commission that. The jobs you seldom see campaigned for, because the campaign budget isn’t there, but the people in them impact the day-to-day business of this in a direct way.

We also had the opportunity to vote on whether two judges should be retained. It’s a system this state has used for a half century.

Once appointed, a judge must stand for retention at the first statewide general election after the judge has served for two full years. If retained, the judge is on the retention ballot every 10 years. The retention system is designed to allow appellate judges to decide cases fairly and impartially, free from campaign finance considerations, and without influence by partisan politics.

Everything is a tryout, I guess.

Tonight, the student-journalists are trying a new thing. The students from the television station presented a long collaboration with the newspaper students and the campus radio station. They covered the location elections from multiple locations, aired a special on the FM station and streamed live results and news on the web.

This is a big collaboration for them. It happened organically and, I think, that’s the best way. I’m very excited for what they’ve undertaken here, how it has played out and, mostly, for how I’ll get to brag on them after the fact.

Someone gets to be the cheerleader, and that person is me.

More on all of this tomorrow, though.

If you don’t want still more election stuff … here’s some more cycling stuff.

Yesterday we were talking about Major Taylor, the turn-of-the-century world champion. Early in his career he took part in a six-day race. I found this little package from ESPN which talked about what, for many, was a career-defining event.

The six day races are primarily European these days, and soon after Taylor’s, they were reimagined as team events. (If you ever see mention of a Madison, that’s what they’re talking about.) These days, they aren’t even racing 24 hours a day. But way back when, they were a solitary, continual, brutal war of attrition. In the U.S. the six-day races took place in Atlantic City, which saw two, in 1909 and 1932. In Boston, 13 such races took place between 1901 and 1933. Buffalo had 16 races starting in 1910, wrapping up in 1948. There were four in Newark in the early 19-teens. Chicago hosted 50 six-day races between 1915 and 1957, but Six Days of New York was, by far, the most popular American version. There were 70 installments, starting in 1899 and wrapping up in 1961. Taylor’s participation was in a predecessor to even that one.

Two guys — the Italian Olympic champion Franco_Giorgetti and the Australian world record holder Alf Goullet — won eight of those each, in The Big Apple. Both of those were of the relay variety, but still. One of the records Goullet set was at New York, in his 1914 victory,still stands. He and his teammate, Alfred Grenda, covered 2,759.2 miles.

If you rode a bicycle from Madison Square Garden to Las Vegas, Nevada, Google Maps tells me you’d do almost that exact same distance, except these masochists were doing that on a track, where the scenery seldom changes — but the hallucinations might!

The following photos are from last night. Don’t run, we are your friends.

Except we did run. The Yankee had her second post-op checkup and her surgeon gave her the green light to run, a little bit, when she felt like it. She felt like it, so we ran a little bit. Just a mile or so, being conscious of the jarring and vibration that comes with running.

I think, more than the run, she simply liked being able to do one more thing that was normal. It’s a big step, followed by another one at a brisk clip.

There’s a 10K to do next month. Plenty of time to ease into that, and then back into off-season base miles. One more thing that’s normal.


28
Oct 22

Fifteen hundred words on folklore

Variations of these photographs will be jigsaw puzzles this year.

If you know to torture someone with a puzzle this is a good place to start.

This oughta be good for one gross winter day, right?

It will rain here this weekend, and so the rest of the trees will sigh and sneeze their seasonal leaves onto the ground. Already they looked dry and dusty. Autumn has come, and though the forecast promises nice weather after some weekend rain, autumn has also left notice it will soon be gone.

You have to acknowledge that some class flyers are better than others.

And I don’t know Robert Dobler, but it seems like he has a seasonally popular area of research going on here. But, “Objective truth is not our goal,” seems more like a summer offering.

This class also seems interesting.

But this is the one I would want want to audit. Specifically, I like how this text promises the class will examine modern Irish folklore. Most folklore you hear, at least in the western world, seems older. Or your imagination makes it older, anyway. This is framed in a contemporaneous and politically practical way.

One presumes that all folklore started that way, but then time and life happens. Eventually context is subtly altered, or removed altogether, through retelling or adaptation. Maybe some of that was deliberate, perhaps some of it just takes place because some other novel goals could be met by this story. And that’s to say nothing about geographic origin, or oral migration and what that could do to a story’s influence or impact.

I was thinking of that because we were in the building the folklore program calls home, the Classroom and Office Building, or the COB, as the cool residents pressed for time and wholly accepting of acronyms call it. We were in the COB because tonight was the Undergraduate Folklore & Ethnomusicology Student Association’s annual Ghost Walk. Every year we’ve been here I’ve missed out on this, because it always seems to be on a night when I’m in the studio. This year, the FESA folks chose Friday and so decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and a lovely, mild evening on campus.

At the second stop, the stories picked up. They walked us to the front of Owen Hall, named in honor of Richard Owen, the Indiana State Geologist and a professor. Today, Owen Hall houses the College of Arts and Sciences administrative offices, but a natural science building and museum. Apparently, some of the cadavers used there lost limbs in the dumbwaiter system. Also, we learned about a spiteful nursing school prank. Some students decided to scare an unliked classmate by hanging a limb from a light fixture. They expected a scream when she went into the room, but all was quiet. Finally they decided to go check on the kid and found her sitting numbly in a corner, her hair shock white, and she was chewing on the severed limb. Go IU!

At the IMU, you could learn about a ghost guard dog. This story needs a little more detail, but this is a big building and there are lots of stories to compensate. Maintenance staff hear footsteps on the fourth floor and run across cold spots. They catch the echoing sounds of laughter and are sometimes encountered by a bodiless voice whispering their names. In some versions of the story the names are shouted.

In the Tudor Room, which is a nice dining room in the IMU, people report hearing a child giggling and a bouncing ball. The ghost kid apparently likes the tapestries. Once, they were removed for a cleaning and the longer the tapestries were gone, the supernatural events got more … spirited. He also messes with the silverware, which, if true, must aggravate the staff to no end.

In the nearby Federal Room — a formal parlor and dining room done in a colonial style, which features handmade wallpaper displaying tourist impressions of early nineteenth-century America, a wallpaper you can also see in the White House — you can host 72 people for an event. But there will be three other guests. Spooky guests. I’ll quote from a recent book about hauntings.

A pioneer of the art movement at Indiana University and a member of the Art Committees of General and State Federations of Clubs, Mary Burney passed away in 1933, before her portrait was even finished. The story is that Mary was extremely dissatisfied with the way here portrait was being painted by Wayman Adams. She was aware that her portrait was going to join the portraits of others who had performed great achievements at the IMU. She raised quite a stir within the university when she began looking around for a replacement painter. She since passed away before the painting was finished, it’s believed that she continues to haunt the Federal Room, where it’s displayed.

Perhaps the painting was her unfinished business, since it was the one thing we knew she was unhappy about right before her death. Staff who have felt a never-ending presence in this room have declared that doors unlock as they are performing their nightly lock-up, as if someone is following right behind them, unlocking the doors they have just secured. In fact, this ordeal has become some common that staff have been instructed to perform a double-check before leaving for the night.

Poor Mary had suffered devastating losses in her life. Her husband passed away before her, and she had lost her son in a fire sometime later. Over the mantel in the Federal Room hangs her portrait, flanked by two urns — one holding her husband’s ashes and the other holding her son’s. Oddly, in June 2001, one of the two urns went missing. The urn was lost for years, and, just as mysteriously as it disappeared, it reappeared one day on the mantel where it used to be. Visitors have smelled perfume when entering the room, often described as the smell of roses or other flowers that were extremely aged. Others often note the faint smell of smoke, as if a candle has just been blown out, although there are no candles within the room. Could this be Mary’s perfume or the smoke from the fire that killed her son the guests are smelling?

Other versions of the story have just the ashes disappearing. In some tellings, valuables go missing. There was a 2002 story in the campus paper where one of the first campus ghost tours actually visited the room. The guide talks about the two missing urns, another variation.

That story has a great quote, too. “It’s easy to feel comfortable when a big group is in this room, but it’s when you’re alone that you can feel her presence and smell the whiff of her perfume.”

We visited the Dunn Cemetery, where one of the folklore professors takes over for a bit.

“We are all pointed in this direction. Everyone you know is pointed in this direction. Everyone you will meet is pointed in this direction.”

Student next to me: “What direction are we talking about?”

The professor, meanwhile, told us about the first person to be buried in the Dunn Cemetery, a 19th century teenager, who apparently met her untimely fate after an accident with a wagon wheel. (Dunn Cemetery is on campus. This property was sold to the university by the Dunn family in 1855 after a fire on the original campus. The common tale, at least, is that one condition of the sale was that the cemetery would remain undisturbed. In fact, it’s still an active cemetery. Two people have been interred here since we arrived here in 2016.)

The folklore professor tried to plant the seeds of future folklore. This, he said, is what folklorists do as an experiment. His story could use some work, but he notes that if the story catches on, the retellings get better.

This makes me wonder about what ingredients a story needs to get retold. There’s something thematic to study there, too, I’m sure.

We stopped at the Showalter Fountain and heard a few tales about the nearby Lily Library. The last stop was at the arboretum, where shadowy figures are said to whisper to visitors “Get out of my home!”

That could be anything, but there are a lot of shadows in the arboretum. It was here, at the carillon, where we learned of the McNutt Hatchet man. It’s a tale of a student who fell victim to a man during a Christmas break. Honestly sounds like the most conceivably realistic story we’ve heard. There’s a version of this tale where it’s a man with a hatchet, and in the iteration we heard this evening the hatchet man is a serial killer. In every version I’ve heard, the hatchet man was never caught.

That’s the part that seems most reasonable. There are more than a few unsolved murders around. And that’s not folklore.


5
Aug 22

Where are we now? One thousand words of hints

Let’s drag this mystery out a bit more. Last night we drove late into the evening, before checking into a hotel, our base of operations for the weekend. But where is this?

Here’s a hint. This is a tree I stood under to avoid the midday sun.

The peeling bark, characteristic of the species, and the brilliant contrast of green leaves and a blue sky aren’t giving it away? They are good clues. Not a clue: my standing under a tree, seeking shade. My skin is so fair it will turn red anywhere. So while that’s no help at all, the bark might tell you something. Give it another look.

No? Need more? OK then.

I saw this on a wall in a hotel near ours.

Let’s have a closer look at that plaque.

I know this story, perhaps you do, too. I hadn’t put it together that we’d be so close to this moment of American history. This would have been on that trip, at the train station, but not the actual moment.

There are plenty of photos of Roosevelt’s trip — he was a former president and campaigning for the office again after all — including one taken just before he was wounded.

It was October; there was a chill in the air. Roosevelt was moving from the Gilpatrick Hotel to a nearby auditorium, where he was to give an evening speech. It’s dark, there’s a crowd, and among them is a man named John Schrank. He’s a bartender, a lay Constitutional scholar, a bad poet, a New Yorker. A short man with red hair, round cheeks and thin lips, he blends into the crowd, and manages to work his way right up to the car where Roosevelt is waving to a crowd.

Schrank has been waiting for this moment for a month. He’s been trying to get this opportunity in any of the eight states and big cities Roosevelt has visited in the last few weeks. He’s been waiting in this town all day. He’s been waiting here, specifically, for hours. He’s not going to fail now. He got to within six feet of the former president, fingering the revolver hidden in his vest. In a surging moment of adrenaline, amidst the noise of the crowd, he squeezes off a round.

The place looks like this today.

It did not look like that in 1912.

Before he could fire again Elbert Martin, a man who grew up about four hours away from here, threw his body at the shooter. Martin was a high school football player, and in every photograph he looks the part. He’s a stenographer, has a law degree, and is also Roosevelt’s security.

Others leap in to help, wrestling the attacker to the ground. They’re holding him by his throat. The gun has skittered away. Roosevelt staggered back, catching himself on the car, and sees his shooter.

Roosevelt says, “He doesn’t know what he is doing. Don’t strike the poor creature. Bring him here. Bring him to me.”

They’re now face-to-face. Martin puts the gun in Roosevelt’s hand. The crowd didn’t realize the former president had been shot. He didn’t know it either. Some people thought the round went wide, but there are immediately chants to string the man up, but police take him safely away. Roosevelt gets in the car and taken to the auditorium where he’s supposed to speak. An aide notices the hole in his coat. Reaching under his overcoat, Roosevelt feels blood, but says it is a minor wound.

At the auditorium his personal physician gives Roosevelt a closer look. The round from that .38 went through Roosevelt’s coat, and through the doubled-up 50-page speech, and his metal eyeglass case, before piercing his chest. Roosevelt refused his doctor’s plea to call off the speech. “This may be my last talk,” he said. He was intent on delivering it.

The man who introduced the president told the crowd he’d been shot. There were gasps in the auditorium, but at least one man shouted “Fake! Fake!”

So that’s been around a while.

Roosevelt came to the stage, unbuttoned his coat and the people could see his bloodstained shirt. He spoke, wavered, spoke some more. Along the way he delivered the immortal line, “It takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose!” The crowd ate it up. He asked his very worried physician how long he’d been talking, and the doctor said 45 minutes. The former president said he’d speak for a few minutes more. The crowd laughed again.

Later he did go to the hospital, and they sent him to another one, to see a renowned specialist. Roosevelt, who had first come to the presidency when William McKinley was assassinated, was cheerful, and walked into that second hospital, smiling, cracking jokes, waving. He had X-rays at the second hospital — not available for his predecessor. Roosevelt’s doctors decided he was lucky. The bullet did not go into his rib, did not hit anything vital, and the man was in good shape. They didn’t operate.

He would, of course, go on to give many more speeches. He lost his campaign for a third term in office, but continue to build the legend of Roosevelt, the great man, until his death seven years later, in 1919. He carried the bullet in his pectoral muscle the rest of his life.

Schrank pleaded guilty. He said he was afraid Theodore Roosevelt was trying to establish a monarchy by running for that third term. Schrank died in custody in 1943, at 67. Over the years he talked with more reporters than you’d imagine possible today for a would-be assassin. Those interviews make for curious reading. He had apologized to the city — figured this out yet? — and was later pronounced a model patient at the ward where he spent the rest of his days. His body was donated to a medical school.

We drove by it last night.

So where are we?