Bewitching Book Bonanza

“Shadows mutter,

mist replies;

darkness purrs,

as midnight sighs.”

~Rusty Fischer

Brace yourselves for the spook fest! When October is here, you know Halloween won’t be too far behind. Here’s my stash for the upcoming days – from classic horror to contemporary thrillers, my Halloween reading pile is ready. The bookstore even sent Halloween-themed bookmarks. So cool! I’m currently reading Shirley Jackson’s “We Have Always Lived In The Castle” on Kindle. Will move on to these paperbacks soon enough.

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halloween

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Sculpture and Literature

“Sculpture is the art of the intelligence”, said Pablo Picasso. Books lend themselves to more than just reading. The Walk of Ideas was conceptualized as part of a campaign called Deutschland – Land der Ideen (Welcome to Germany – the Land of Ideas). It comprised a set of six sculptures in Berlin, designed by Scholz & Friends, one of Europe’s largest advertising agencies, for the 2006 FIFA World Cup football event in Germany. The sculptures were  were put up between 10th March and 19th May 2006, and were on display until September 2006. They were placed on central squares in Berlin’s city center.

The six sculptures included Modern Book Printing, Milestones of Medicine, Masterpieces of Music, The Automobile, The Modern Football Boot, and The Theory of Relativity. The sculptures were built using neopor – a graphite polysterene foam for construction materials, and coated with a white varnish. The production time for each sculpture was about two months, with on-site assembly spanning three days. Plaques were created in both German and English, with details on the symbolism of each object.

Der Moderne Buchdruck (Modern Book Printing) was installed on 21st April 2006 at Bebelplatz, opposite the Humboldt University of Berlin. The 12.2 meter structure took three days to assemble on the Unter den Linden street. The steel structure held seventeen “book” segments of different sizes, each representing a different author’s name. Inclusive of the stabilizing ballast weight, the overall weight of the “book tower” amounted to thirty-five tons. The seventeen books were stacked, with their spines prominently displaying the names of German poets and writers. The sculpture was said to be erected in memory of Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press in Mainz around 1450 and introduced printing to Europe. Gutenberg had even created the first bestseller in history – the Gutenberg Bible – the first major book printed in Europe using mass-produced movable metal. It marked the age of the printed book in the West.

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Here are the author names displayed on the spines, starting from the topmost:

Günter Grass

Hannah Arendt

Heinrich Heine

Martin Luther

Immanuel Kant

Anna Seghers

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

The Brothers Grimm

Karl Marx

Heinrich Böll

Friedrich Schiller

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Hermann Hesse

Theodor Fontane

Thomas Mann and Heinrich Mann

Bertolt Brecht

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

I will be covering the remaining five sculptures in subsequent blog-posts.

Celebration Of An Artist

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Today’s Google doodle.

It’s always an exciting day for a dancer when the Google doodle features an artist. Today’s doodle is an ode to Oskar Schlemmer on the occasion of his 130th birth anniversary, for his contributions to art, puppetry, theatre, and dance. Schlemmer was a German painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school – Staatliches Bauhaus, a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined fine arts and crafts, and was recognized around the world for its approach to design. Schlemmer’s work has been described as a “rejection of the pure abstract, and retention of the human” (not in the emotional sense but in the physical structure of the human body). He represented bodies as architectural forms, where the figure was an interplay of convex, concave and flat surfaces. He was fascinated by movements the body was capable of, and captured his observations in his work.

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Oskar Schlemmer – One of the most influential aesthetes.

Schlemmer was the youngest of six children, whose parents both died before he reached his teens. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule – a vocational arts school which existed in German speaking countries in the mid-19th century. The Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart was another one of his alma maters, where he studied under the tutelage of landscape painters Christian Landenberger and Friedrich von Keller. Schlemmer moved to Berlin in 1910 where he painted some of his early works, before returning to Stuttgart in 1912 as an apprentice under Adolf Hölzel. In 1914 he enlisted to fight in WWI, and returned to work under Hölzel in 1918. Schlemmer turned to sculpture in 1919, and was invited to run the mural painting and sculpture departments at the Bauhaus school.

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“Grotesque” (1923)

This was followed by being hired as a Master Of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop in 1923, after working at their workshop of sculpture. His most famous work which brought him international recognition was the Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet) of 1922, which comprised costumed actors transformed into geometrical representations of the human body. There were three acts, three dancers and three colors, twelve scenes with eighteen costumes. He designed the costumes based on cylindrical, spherical, conical and spiral shapes – revolutionary at the time. Schlemmer described his creation as a “party of form and color”. The Triadic Ballet is viewed by many scholars and artists as a precursor to contemporary choreography and modernism.

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Costume from the Triadic Ballet, 1922

Space dance, gesture dance, rod dance, hoop dance, metal dance, form dance, scenery dance – Schlemmer used elaborate costumes in his stage ideas and transformed dancers into “artificial” figures which united dance, costume and music. Faceless female figures were the predominant subject in his paintings. He developed a multidisciplinary course at Bauhaus called “Der Mensch” (The Human Being) – a movement which celebrated his themes of the human figure in space; sitting or standing, lying down, walking or stationary. He used Cubism as a springboard for his structural studies, and was intrigued with the possibilities of figures and their relationship to the spaces around them. His characteristic forms are visible in both, his sculptures as well as his paintings. He also immersed his creative urges in stage design, and executed settings for the opera “Nightingale” and the ballet “Renard” in 1929.

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“The Dancer” (1922)

Schlemmer left Bauhaus in 1929 and joined the Akademie in Breslau where he painted one of his most celebrated works, the “Bauhaustreppe” (Bauhaus Stairway) in 1932. During WWII, he worked at the Institut für Malstoffe in Wuppertal. He produced a series of eighteen small, mystical paintings titled “Fensterbilder” (Window Pictures) in 1942, his final works before his death a year later.

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“Bauhaustreppe” (1932)

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Sources:

~www.thefutureperfect.com

~www.britannica.com

~www.bauhaus100.de

Blogging Anniversary

This blog-site completes a year today. Woohoo!! Those of you who have been following this site for a while, would be aware that Curious Cat was the outcome of an accident I had last year. For the uninitiated, I suffered from nerve damage and was bedridden for a couple of months – the entire right leg being paralyzed from hip to foot. Being a marathoner and dancer, staying put was more difficult than the actual injury. Books, movies, art and craft, online courses came to the rescue. I did a couple of random courses on Coursera, and began learning Russian on Duolingo. Along with painting, paper quilling and various other home-made crafts, I was aching to create something more. There was too much information input and not as much energy output. I decided to start a blog to write about things I was doing – thoughts on books I read, experiences on races I had run and dance shows I had performed at; just idle ramblings on whatever came to mind.

Curious Cat was named after my pet cats, who are always interested in what’s going on. And having spent much time with all my pets during the recovery period, I noticed how snoopy cats can be – in contrast to the indifference they are usually known for. This blog was not intended to be read by anyone; just a means of putting my thoughts into words. The settings were initially set to private because I didn’t think anyone would want to read any of it. Unlike a travel blog which would interest travellers, or a fitness site that would bring in exercise enthusiasts, or cookery or book blogs which cater to specific reader groups, I have varied interests. I love all of those things and write about all of them, and much more, and that was where the dilemma lay – in finding like-minded people who also share varied interests. About two months after I started Curious Cat, two friends found out about it from a casual conversation and wanted to read. So I had to change the private settings to public. Within a few days, a large number of “followers” cropped up. I had no idea what they were “following” because my “about” section clearly mentions my ramblings, without offering anything specific to follow.

The initial write-ups centered around book reviews and art work since I was reading a lot and crafting some thing or the other at the time. I’m not from a writing background professionally and didn’t know what to write on, besides the topics that randomly came to mind. When I turned the settings public, I also chanced upon The Daily Post and the word-of-the-day they offered bloggers to write on. November and December were spent diligently writing to every word – I didn’t miss a day! I learnt new words, and expanded and expressed on the ones I knew. It was a great initiative for newbie writers, offering them a base from where to grow. Sadly, The Daily Post discontinued this endeavor within a few months of me finding out about them. But I did connect with some like-minded people through the daily prompts, and realized there were many like me who benefited tremendously as non-writers turned somewhat writers, who wanted to continue writing daily. Stephanie from Curious Steph was instrumental in bringing us all together, and in June this year we formed the Ragtag Community – seven of us from around the globe, working in different time zones to fix a word each day for bloggers to write on. The team presently comprises Sgeoil, Margaret from Pyrenees to Pennines, Tracy from Reflections of an Untidy Mind, Mary from Cactus Haiku, Gizzylaw from Talkin’ to Myself, and of course, Steph and me. The ragtaggers recently completed three months and are growing by leaps and bounds with fellow bloggers dropping in daily to share stories, poems, photographs, or just about anything related to their interpretation of the daily prompts. Each of us has our day to fix the prompt, and Margaret has given us today’s word – energy. (For those who would like to participate.)

About two months ago, some reader friends mentioned they found it difficult to navigate Curious Cat for book reviews and literature related articles. So I started Tomes and Tales – a purely literary venture for fellow bookworms. I love reading and there’s always lots to say and share about books and authors. So at the moment, I manage three blog-sites.

At current count, Curious Cat has 211 followers. I still don’t know what everyone’s following since this was never intended to be a technical blog. But I’m glad to have you all here. The stats show I published 389 articles in the last one year, and the blogging community has played a huge role in inspiring me to write more and connect with fellow readers, athletes, musicians and a plethora of individuals with varying interests. It is rightly said, good things can come out of the bad too. The accident and its aftermath was a horrible time for someone accustomed to moving about, but if not for that forced sedentary lifestyle I might never have ventured into the blogging sphere and met so many lovely people out here. Even a year later with all my energy returned, and easing into races and dance shows step by step, I still try keep up with writing almost every day. It has been great connecting with you all. Keep reading and sharing. 🙂

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The Capoeira Family

My Capoeira school celebrated its anniversary over the weekend. Cordão de Ouro was founded by Mestre Suassuna on 1st September 1967, along with Mestre Brasilia. Suassuna taught regional capoeira, while Brasilia meted out teaching in angola capoeira.  Hence the name, Cordão de Ouro which means “cord of the world” – all different styles under the same roof. Mestre Brasilia later formed his own group, São Bento Grande.

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An archived photo from the sixties with Suassuna’s first students in Itabuna, Bahia.

Cordão de Ouro was the birthplace of many prominent names in capoeira – Flávio Tucano, Biriba, Marcelo Caveirinha, Urubú Malandro, Espirro Mirim, Xavier, Lúcifer, Torinho, Pial, Cangurú, Sarará, Zé Antônio, Ponciano, Bolinha, Geraldinho, Cicero, Ze Carlos, Penteado. Suassuna believed in recycling and creation, was never satisfied, and laboured to up the ante of his game. His creative and restless mind led to the development of the miudinho sequences. The new generation of capoeiristas continued and added to his legacy. Boca Rica, Mintirinha, Saroba, Coruja, Chicote, Chiclete, Kino, Pintado, Lú Pimenta, Barata, Esquilo, Romualdo are considered agents of a new and rich game.

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Reinaldo Ramos Suassuna

Originally started in São Paulo, Cordão de Ouro presently has numerous branches in Brazil and abroad – the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia. The many different groups of capoeiristas all belong to one large worldwide family – representing Mestre Suassuna’s sport and culture, and the work done by him and his supporters. Speed, agility, resilience, creativity, music, and not forgetting one’s roots are what Suassuna teaches, and dedicated capoeiristas labour to stay true to the philosophy of the Master and his group.

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With Monitora Alegria from Israel.

Spinning Dreams

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

~Maya Angelou

I haven’t shared much of my craft work lately. This is a dreamcatcher I had made a while ago from some yarn I found, along with random bits and pieces of decorative items lying around the house.

Dreamcatchers are crafts of the Native Americans (Ojibwa people), to be hung on a cradle, or bedroom window or door. They consist of hoops on which webs are woven, mostly made from twigs, feathers, and other objects from nature. The traditional belief being, good dreams descend from the feathers and find their way to the dreamer. Bad dreams get trapped in the web, and evaporate like morning dew on sunrise.

These are synthetic feathers and plastic beads used with the glittery yarn, wound around a metal hoop. Traditionally, however, dreamcatchers are created from objects found in nature.

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Art Techniques – A Glimpse

Today’s prompt reminded me of an assignment I had submitted while pursuing an art  course at the Pennsylvania State University. While I prefer keeping this blog light-hearted and avoid technical posts, I thought of sharing this one creation. We had different submissions every week which were peer reviewed. Students were provided a theme and purpose, for which we had to create an art work along with the artist’s statement and a brief description. This was one of our weekly assignments and my submission for the same.

Theme: Stories Through The Lens

Purpose: Create a collage medium of a black & white photograph from small pieces of newsprint.

Artist statement:
“Puppy Love”

This is a picture of my dog, Razor. Razor was the youngest of my three dogs, and the baby of the family. This picture was taken when she was seven years old, and clearly shows her love for her (and our) food. She would look at us eating as if food was the most important thing in the world that she was being deprived of.

The photograph has a curtain on one side of Razor’s head, and the wall and floor on the other. The collage was created from black and white newspaper shreds. The curtain and wall have lighter values, compared to the floor. The curtain is printed, so pieces of alternating values have been overlapped. Razor’s fur is darker on her muzzle and ears, compared to the top of her head. The fur on the body is even lighter. So I’ve used bits of newspaper accordingly. The features have been highlighted with darker shades of paper.

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We had to submit the original photograph along with the art work created. This was what I had come up with. 🙂

Flying High

Be bold. Be different. Be amazing. And just know ahead of time that some people will think you’re crazy. People will feel jealous. People may try to sabotage your efforts. They don’t really hate you. They hate themselves because they don’t have the guts to do what you’re doing, and they direct that frustration at you. Love them and let them grow. Just don’t spend too much time with them or you will start to think like they do. Feel free to be yourself. Freedom from what others think of you and expect you to be. Sometimes standing out is better than blending in. The freedom to be who you are and what you want to be. Freedom from indecisiveness, fear, insecurity, negativity, laziness. What would you do if there was nothing to stop you? Let go of what holds you back, so you can soar higher.

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If A River – Book Review

Title – If A River

Author – Kula Saikia

Genre – Fiction, Short story collection

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The Birthday Bookathon progresses steadily. For the uninitiated, my reading goals for the year have been regional books from India – one (at least) from each of the twenty nine states and seven union territories. I started on my birthday in November last year and have three more months to go. I just finished one from the northeastern state of Assam. “If A River” is a collection of short stories by Kula Saikia originally written in Assamese and translated into Hindi, Bangla, Odia, Marathi and Telugu languages over the years. This is the first English translation which came out in February this year, comprising twenty short stories, translated into English by six writers.

Saikia’s storytelling is thought provoking, his writing simplistic, with stories inspired from day-to-day life. He transports the reader into the minds of his characters, whereby one feels one isn’t merely reading, but thinking and feeling like his characters do. Some of the stories end with a twist, some twist your thinking throughout, but every one of them causes you to reflect on seemingly mundane issues. From the pathos in ‘Well-wishers‘, to the charming ‘Gift‘, the child-like exuberance of ‘If A River‘, to the horror of ‘Birthmark‘, every story invokes myriad emotions that go beyond the actual story and make you live the character’s life, and experience like he does.

Saikia touches on prosaic themes – waiting at a bus stop, attending a school reunion, going for a run, preparing a will, wanting to play a game of football, making new friends. His narrative, however, leaves a deep impact – causing you to reflect long after each story has ended. I read at the rate of two or three stories a day – in spite of being short reads, the author has the knack of making you read and reflect, and take your time through them. Some of my favorites were, ‘In The Rain‘ – about an elderly couple waiting for the rain on noticing their flower bed wilting, ‘Whispers‘ – set at a funeral, where the death of a house owner results in a maid losing the job she was dependent on for her dying child, ‘The Game‘ – featuring a sports coach and his emphasis on the importance of sports, ‘The Final Hour‘ – the difference between what is thought, what is said, and what is done when doomsday arrives, ‘The Will‘ – about a man with dementia pondering over preparing a will, before he forgets the things he owns, and the people he knows.

I loved Saikia’s usage of figures of speech, and was astounded at his seamless weaving of alliterations, metaphors and personifications in a work of prose, which makes it seem almost poetic. Some beautiful lines:

~”Look at this candle. We simply look at its flame that gives light, the molten wax remains unseen to the eyes. The burning candle does not weep for the molten wax.”

~”Tell me about your long journey. Was it the same old countries, same old oceans, same old mountains, or something new? Did you notice any new clusters of stars to show you the way?” (A bedridden old man talking to birds at his window.)

~”Sometimes poems, as yet unwritten, are created in a hidden, secret chamber of the mind.”

~”An annoying boredom gnaws at her in the silence. Noise could become her friend now.”

~”The doors of his mind are open for the winds of knowledge to enter from all directions.”

~”The pleasure of a journey encompasses much more than the mere satisfaction of arriving at your destination. You may assume that the journey always continues, and it will continue till the last step.”

~”Memories stay with us. They cannot be bequeathed through a will.”

~”Every object has a specific use, and is created for a definite purpose. Yet the significance of that purpose may vary from person to person.”

~”Smiles sweep across their faces like barges on a river, and he stands on its side, unmoved as a rock.”

I marked a lot of quotes and excerpts throughout the book, and this collection will stay cherished among my shelves to flip through occasionally. A mention needs to be made of the translators who have done a fabulous job in bringing Saikia’s works to a wider audience of readers worldwide. The “painting” on the cover is beautiful – simplistic and connects with the reader, just like a river connects its banks. The first page of the book is also printed in the Assamese language – providing a connect with the original writer and his writings – something I have not seen in many translated books. I attempted the script on the origami paper boat I crafted to go with the picture. The words are the title of the book, followed by the name of the author. If you like books that make you think, give this one a read. “If A River” is the only collection of Kula Saikia’s works available for English readers.

Rating – 5/5