Thursday, December 08, 2005

Christina's World

For those who are interested, the title, “Jake’s World” is a reference to realist painter Andrew Wyeth’s famous 1948 painting “Christina’s World.” In that painting a woman lays on a yellow field looking at a house in the distance. I always found this painting to be haunting and full of longing. A viewer must ask, what is in that house that Christina is looking at, why is she lying on that field? Is she tired of traveling and just spying her destination? Or is she trying to run away and the contents of the home, be they family, husband, kids, etc. keep drawing her back. There’s a very real sense of drama in that painting and mystery. I love it. In the same way my character Jake is longing for something distant and past. Something that never was, a happy childhood with his mother in their quaint upstate home.

See the painting in more detail here.

Find out about the house in the Wyeth painting.

The painting is in the Museum of Modern Art Collection.

There is even a book about woman in the painting Christina Olson was a real person.

Here is a brief summary of the book from alibris:

About this title: Recollections from people who knew Christina Olson give us an unusual portrait of an obscure Maine woman whose image became, somewhat ironically, one of the most recognized, loved, and misunderstood in all of American painting. In Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, she is the woman in the pink dress, half-reclining in a vast, open field, leaning toward the dark mass of a farmhouse. Almost everyone recognizes that image, and many mistakenly assume that it shows a young woman resting pensively in the golden autumn grass. The real Christina Olson spent her entire life in that house. When Wyeth met her, she was in late middle age and unable to walk upright at all. By then her world was defined by the distance she could crawl. But she was a woman of keen intelligence and dry humor, as this unusual biography makes clear. Jean Brooks, Christina's niece, knew for years that she must create this book: "So many untruths have been written about my Aunt Christina, " she says. "She should be remembered most for her...personality, her independent nature, and her dignity."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Barbara Vance from the SETI institute emailed me her comments to my site. I had some other professional comments that I will post here in a nother of my shameless self promotional posts:

Hi Lon,

Sorry to take so long to get back to you. It's been rather busy! I checked out your blog, and it looks great! I can't pretend that I'm any expert, but I like your styling and your content very much. Thanks for including us in your list of podcasts. We wouldn't mind if you added either the radio show or the SETI Institute home pages to your list of links ;)

We are in the process of making some changes to the show - for the better, we think. We'll be leaving commercial live radio and moving to another outlet. The shows will be slightly longer without the need for as many commercial breaks, and the production quality should also be improving. We've created a sound studio here at the Institute for conducting the show. Not being locked into being live on Sunday nights will also assist in scheduling scientists and other science-related guests. As part of a NASA grant to support the show, we'll also be doing frequent pieces on what's happening with the NAI (NASA Astrobiology Institute) projects dealing with all the aspects of life in space.

And don't worry - we'll still be posting the shows on our website as well as podcasting them, so you won't miss an episode!

Thank you again for your kind words about the show, and keep up the bloggin' work!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Paper Clips

As long as I’m on the subject of HBO, I just watched a documentary that was featured on HBO on Demand under the Documentaries section. It was a fascinating look at a small school in Whitwell, Tennessee that takes a look at what the children of the mostly white, protestant children were learning about diversity, mainly nothing. The principle of the school decides that the best way to teach diversity in this small isolated town is to teach them about the Holocaust. During the class, one of the children mentions that he doesn’t know what six million looks like, the number of Jews murdered. They decide that they will try to collect six million paperclips to memorialize the deaths and to bring the sheer magnitude of that number to reality.

Things go very slow at first but then when they attract the attention of some journalists who publicize their endeavor, the paperclips start coming in by the thousands. Many famous people send them paperclips including Tom Bosley who send one. Some people sent boxes of thousands other sent a few to memorialize relatives and friends who had died during the holocaust. In one very touching instance, a group of German children sent an old suitcase with paperclips attached to the inside, each one with a note written in German. There were translations on them and each little note and paperclip was an apology to Ann Frank. Most of them started, “Dear Ann.”

Though extremely moving, the most inspirational and tear invoking moment is when a group of holocaust survivors comes to the small town to tell their stories. I will not repeat them here because the pure emotion cannot be translated by me. You have to hear it from the people themselves as they tell of relatives lost. It is clear that the children of this town found inspiration in project as well as the teachers and some of the parents and relatives of the students. All became involved as more and more paperclips poured through the local Post Office that became so overwhelmed that the school administrators had to make special trips to pick up the ever-increasing deliveries. In all, they collected 30 million paperclips! More importantly they counted every one of them.

Why paper clips? I thought the same thing. At first it seemed a logical choice because 6 million of anything would prove to be too big to hold. There is another reason though and the reason is almost as touching as anything else in the story. During World War Two Norwegians wore paper clips on their collars to show their solidarity to the Jewish plight. Any overt form of protest would result in arrest so they chose this small gesture. Who knew that many years later the paper clips would again come to represent a small community’s effort to identify with the Jewish people’s horror.

I would recommend this film to anyone wanting to see a touching story that will not only explore more of the Holocaust’s effects and helps to break down prejudice against Jews but in a very real way (and this is pointed out in the film) helps to destroy the stereotype of Southerners. Another irony that was pointed out in the film by a Washington Post reporter who researched the story was that the town of Whitwell was very close to where the “Scopes Monkey Trial” took place and close to the place where the KKK was formed.