Archive for February, 2010

Watched: Of Mice and Men (but no rabbits)

Posted in period drama, WATCHED with tags , , , , , on February 21, 2010 by echostains

Of Mice and Men

Probably because I had been recently writing about  regionalism (Wood, Stueart Curry and Hart-Benton) and about the Great Depression, I watched a DVD   I hadn’t watched in quite a while the other night.  ‘Of Mice and Men’ is a novel by John Steinbeck, set in the Great Depression.  It tells the sad story of two wanderers Lennie Small and George Milton who are travelling around California looking for work.

George Milton played by Gary Sinise

“Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. . . . With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.”
– John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men, Ch. 1

Steinbeck wrote the book in 1937.   The DVD I watched was first shown on film in 1992 and starred John Malkovich as Lennie Small and  Gary Sinise as George Milton.  In the film it is known that these two are cousins, but I thought they were brothers in the book.  It’s so long ago since I read it, that I can’t remember.  When the two finally obtain work (after being manhunted out of their last job due to an unfortunate incident involving Lennie and a girl) all seems rosy.  George has to look after the huge Lennie who has the  mental abilities of a child and he is tough, but compassionate  and played very well by Gary Sinise – the part of Lennie is a hard act to follow, but Sinise is admirable.

Lennie played by John Malkovich

Lennie played by Malkovich magnificently, just wants to touch things – rabbits especially.  he just want to stroke them and cuddle them.  But he doesn’t know his own strength and always ends up killing the poor animals that come his way.  George tries to protect him, especially from the ranch owners son – who keeps picking on him.

Curley (the rancher’s son) has a wife – known only as Curley’s wife.  She is young and bored and desperate for attention, and Curley is jealous of anyone she speaks to.

A lot of the plot features Lennie and Georges dream.  When they have enough money, they plan to settle down on their very own ranch.  The main attraction for Lennie of owning a ranch of their own is all the rabbits they will have.  This dream keeps Lennie going and he is always requesting this same story from George.  Another ranch hand hears about it and he also wants to throw his money and his lot in with the men.

One of the saddest scenes in the film is when the old ranch hand’s dog gets shot.  One of the other men convinces him that the dog is too old and decrepid and needs putting down.  This ultimately is what happens in the end with poor Lennie.  Up to his neck  in trouble once again (this time murder), George shoots him in the back of the head rather than let the lynch mob deal with  him.

I really must read this book again – and soon!  the other book I have read by Steinbeck is ‘Cannery Row’ . The Great Depression seems such an interesting time, though it brought sorrow and hardship.  Steinbeck lived through a lot of it and this shows in some of his novels – which do have that ring of truth.


Cool Ice Sculptures

Posted in SCULPTURE with tags , , , on February 20, 2010 by echostains

the icy coach

I love ice sculptures, Are they a craft or an art form?  I think, both. I like the thought that has gone into them and ephemeral nature of these sculptures.  Everyone knows the story of Cinderella and how her coach  turned back into a pumpkin because she wasn’t back before the clock struck midnight, – imagine the coach just melting way!  And the glass slippers!  This coach looks so delicate,  like it is  made of glass.

icy dancer

Here’s a different take on the popular TV programme ‘Dancing on Ice’….. Dancing in ice!  Another lovely thing about these ice sculptures, is that wonderful effect light has on these glistening objects.  It’s as if the object has a life trapped into it, trying to get out.

cold fish

The time and patience it takes to do these sculptures must be considerable.  These are taken from the Krasnaya Presnya Park, Moscow.  Stunningly beautiful, much craftsmanship and imagination have gone into these examples of popular Russian culture.  Moscow even has a museum of ice sculpture!

Here’s some larger than life ice sculptures.  The forest backdrop makes them all the more magical…….

Moscow on ice HERE

Ice coach and other wonderful creations HERE

More Bodies from the Bog: Grauballe Man

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , , on February 19, 2010 by echostains

Grauballe Man

Another Bog body that I find fascinating is ‘Grauballe’ man.   When I first read ‘The Bog People’ by Professor PV Glob, this was the body that frightened me the most.  Over time though I don’t seem to see the horror any more – just the near perfect preservation of a man who was murdered all that time ago in history (not a nice subject I know) and I feel such pity for that poor man and what he must have suffered  – his throat cut and his skull fractured.

the hand of Grauballe Man

Grauballe man has the best preserved  Iron age body.   Carbon dating places him as living about 55 B.C !   He lay in the peat which preserved him until he was found in 1952 in the village Grauballe in Denmark.  His hair is remarkably spectacular, though the chemicals in the peat have turned it red.   His nails are perfect and his wonderfully preserved fingerprints have been taken!  Was he sacrificed?  No one knows for sure.  His age was about 30 and studies have discovered that he was in the early stages of gout and suffered from arthritus.  Grauballe man was naked apart from a strange cord around his neck.

The Bog Bodies by P V Glob

Tests have also revealed his last supper, still in his intestines, a kind of porridge made of many different grain.

gauballe man

This poem was written about him.  The poet is Seamus Heiney, a well known Irish poet who had a strange fascination for things found in bogs – just like me.

The Grauballe Man

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk
cold as a swan’s foot
or a wet swamp root.

His hips are the ridge
and purse of a mussel,
his spine an eel arrested
under a glisten of mud.

The head lifts,
the chin is a visor
raised above the vent
of his slashed throat

that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound
opens inwards to a dark
elderberry place.

Who will say ‘corpse’
to his vivid cast?
Who will say ‘body’
to his opaque repose?

And his rusted hair,
a mat unlikely
as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face

in a photograph,
a head and shoulder
out of the peat,
bruised like a forceps baby,

but now he lies
perfected in my memory,
down to the red horn
of his nails,

hung in the scales
with beauty and atrocity:
with the Dying Gaul
too strictly compassed

on his shield,
with the actual weight
of each hooded victim,
slashed and dumped.

There are lots more of Heaney’s poems on this excellent site HERE

More facts about Grauballe from his resting place in Moesgard Museum

Another of my posts about bog bodies HERE

Want to see a reconstruction of how he may have looked? HERE

All the Fours


I’ve done rather a lot on my Bookstains blog today, so this post will be a short one as I am off out tonight.  This is my 444th post.  I’ve spent rather a long time on here – I could do with getting out more lol!

irma and alfred prunesquallor

I’m still working on my art blog, that’s coming along very slowly and the Gormenghast journey (Titus Groan) – even though I’ve nearly re read it is going at a snails trail.  Will I continue to track when I get to the second book Gormenghast?  I don’t think so, I haven’t got the time.

Pip is told he has great expectations

Over on Bookstains I have been writing about the Dickens books I have read – just very brief summeries but they still took a long time to do.  I am going to keep the teapot category and also the Weird and Wacky, but I am going to introduce some news categories.  The idea is to make this blog an eccentric eclectic mix – and the more the merrier I say!


A Pinned Butterfly

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, DESIGN with tags , , , , on February 17, 2010 by echostains

Did you know that on this day in 1904 the first performance of Giacomo Puccini’s  Madame Butterfly, the Opera was peformed at the La Scala Theatre in Milan?  No me neither.  But my late father used to sing a lot of opera so I quite like to hear it every once in awhile.  I don’t listen to as much as I should like these days really, that’s why I’m currently enjoying ‘From Pop Star to Opera Star’ at the moment.  And for the record I do think Marcella Detroit was robbed!

Hohenstein Madama Butterfly the original poster

Madame Butterfly is such a sad story of unrequited love, duplicity and tragedy (a bit like Coronation Streeet…).  Set in Nagasaki it is a disturbing story about Pinkerton, a young U.S. Naval officer and womaniser who is bored with the world and is marrying innocent young Butterfly – with a clause in the marriage contract that he can get out of it at any time he pleases.  They toast Pinkerton and he joins in saying:-

“And to the day when I will have a real wedding  and a real American bride.” 

Another beautiful poster

Poor Butterfly, she is helplessly in love with Pinkerton the cad who tells one and all that their marriage will simply be simply a farce (but one he goes through with).  Butterfly renounces her ancestral religion converting to Pinkertons.  Everyone is shocked and they renounce her and want nothing to do with her.  Three years later Butterfly is still waiting for her husband to return.  Although things look doubtful, Butterfly does not lose faith that he will return to her.  Another rich man offers to marry her – but she is adamant she is still married to Pinkerton.  She has had Pinkerton’s child and still lives in hope that he will return to her.

He does indeed return – bringing his wife with him!  the cowardly Pinkerton will not meet with her, but his wife promises to look after the son.  For Butterfly there is only one release – suicide. 

Leon Bakst the Firebird

Coincidently, I came across an old art book of mine the other day with an old favorite, which I’d completely forgot about.  Leon Bakst was a Russian painter and set designer (1866 -1924).  he did  for some Greek tragedies, painted scenery for Cleopatra and Scheherazade among many others.  He worked as an art teacher to the Great Duke Vladmir Alexandrovich of Russia in 1902 and he undertook a commission to the Tsar Nicholas 11. I love this flamboyant exuberant type of illustration!  and I bet that he was a very colourful character himself. 

Costume for Cleopatra by Bakst

More of Bakst’s art HERE The story HERE 

Watched – Bleak House (it wasn’t)

Posted in period drama, WATCHED with tags , , , on February 16, 2010 by echostains

I have watched the BBC DVD of Bleak House recently, an episode or two per night.   This Andrew Davies adaptation is an absolute delight.  I have enjoyed these half hour episodes very much indeed!  As usual with Dickens there is always a rather large cast of characters.  This is why the half hour episodes work in establishing them – though some are only short-lived – and no wonder in that atmospheric fog clogged London atmosphere!  Yet another sign of total immersion as far as my enjoyment is concerned.  And I feel that I should mention the music – very understated, gently rippling with just a touch of sadness.

A fine cast indeed

The story of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, the court case to end all court cases though central to the story, got me yawning a bit when reading the book, but here, in bite sized pieces and played so entertainingly, I found them both amusing and interesting.



There are some notable performances too. Gillian Anderson truly astonished me  as Lady Dedlock!  She moved me as I have never been moved before regarding Dedlock’s character.  I cried several times watching her moving performance –  the meeting with her daughter in particular is a tear jerker.   Whilst clinging to the icy exterior of the outer character, I could not help feeling great sympathy for this woman’s inner torment. This a heartbreaking story all round but with a happy ending – well for some.  The eccentric Miss Flyte lets her caged birds fly free when the court case that has ruined so many finally comes to an end, but not before claiming its last young victim Richard leaving poor Ada a widow with impending motherhood.


creepy Tulkinghorn

Notable performances for me apart from the very excellent Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock were  Charles Dance in particular as Tulkinghorn the heartlessly calculating blackmailer, played with an extraordinary reptilian air!  Nathaniel Parker as the ‘child’ Skimpole – a hideous character  presented in a charming package.  Anna Maxwell Martin beautifully played as Miss Esther Summerson, a soft warm loyal girl with intellect, compassion and strength.   The actress’s expressive eyes conveyed all sometimes without even saying a word.  The thoroughly obnoxious Smallweed(‘Shake me up Judy!) I’d like to!  He was played very convincingly by Philip Davies.  But for sheer Dickensian flavour an actor I’d never heard of before, Burn Gorman stole a lot of the scenes, as Guppy.  Guppy is a great comical character anyway, but this man could have stepped out of any Dickens book – his face, the way he talked, the awkwardness of his gait – fabulous!

Burn Gorman as Guppy

I just love Dickens books, and the next best thing to reading them is to watch a carefully filmed, creatively cast BBC adaptation.  I have many and they are calling out to me….

Tea is where the heart is

Posted in DESIGN, TEAPOTS - A HOMAGE TO UNUSUAL TEAPOTS with tags , , , on February 15, 2010 by echostains

All heart teapot by JoAnne Bedient

Seeing that today was one made up of hearts (Valentine’s Day), I thought  I would look for some heart-shaped teapots.  In a lot of homes still, tea is at the heart of the family.  Everyone sits down to a nice cup of tea, hence the title of this post ‘Tea is where the heart is!’  The above teapot is by JoAnne Bedient a clay artist  who specialises in Raku.  I love the unpredictability of this process, and also how you get all the four elements earth, wind, fire and water joining together in the work.  I just love all the crackly smoky patterns seemed to have conjoined together to make this piece.


Here’s another heart-shaped mini teapot, this time from Kelvin Chen.  The fresh colours used and the stylised drawing upon the ceramic gives it an Art deco meets oriental feel.

honeycomb teapot - what a find!

I know this isn’t a heart shaped teapot, but I couldn’t not include this paper teapot that caught my eye.  The owner snapped this up on eBay!  Not only is it fun and pretty – spotting it drew me to the owners blog, which I must say is one of the most  loveliest  blogs I have ever seen regarding tea: the drinking of it, the celebration of it, the loving it and the designs it can lend itself to (some most unusual indeed),    THIS  is the one!

JoAnne Bedient clay artist specialises in raku loved the varied eclectic textures of this piece and whimsical form.  Her website is here and there are some very unusual pieces of her work