Hither and Thither #33

A short one this week. I wasn’t at my desk a lot this week, due to the supreme pleasure of showing my visiting bestie around Seattle, which means my RSS reader is largely unread. a stuffed sloth in a tree on 14th Ave on Capitol Hill in SeattleI spied this dude on the way to dance class a few days ago. I hope he stays forever. I want there to be a plaque and an artist’s statement. division squiggleReading this left me aching to sit at my desk with paper, scissors, and about a million hours to spare. (Although I realize a laser cutter would be the more useful tool.) division squiggle rich kids12th Avenue, Capitol Hill. Pointed. Apt.

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Since my friend went home yesterday, I’ve been very domestic, which means lots of podcasts. I’ve had quite the backlog of Podcastle, which means two things:

  1. I do not have enough fantasy fiction in my life.
  2. I can remedy that beautifully and immediately.

So, in the past few days, I’ve enjoyed listening to:

Fine soundtracks for laundry, dishes, and cooking.

And I will leave you with just one more:delicious things from Ines Pattiserie

Having a friend in town is a great motivator to check out things you’ve managed to miss so far, and so it was with the two of us and Ines Pattiserie. I needed coffee, and she wanted a cookie, and we wound up with this raspberry cake, multiple cookies, a croissant, a small anise meringue, and an additional almond croissant bagged to be eaten later. (I ate it as part of a breakfast thali the next day with blueberries, cut pears, and fried eggs.) The proprietor is soft-spoken, intense, and very keen for you to try new things. She kept heaping extra goodies on the plate, and we ate until we had only the mildest of regrets. Also, the espresso was some of the best I’ve had in some time.

It is very beautifully and very meticulously put together. And I will wear stretchy pants next time.

People Who Are Not Having a Good Time at Bruges’ Memling Museum

It’s easy to go to Europe and get total Beautiful Antiquities fatigue. Between the towns and cities full of centuries-old churches, museums stocked with the riches that come with living in an old country, and the availability of these things to willing American tourists, you can become a particular kind of jaded. Truth: I realized on this trip that I actually am not all that interested in visiting old churches. They are beautiful, yes. And if there’s a certain local mythology going on, as there was in both Bruges and Brussels (more on that later), you learn about another aspect of the place you’re staying more viscerally than you could otherwise. But when I see ornate churches, lavished with riches and made with decades and centuries of labor from the faithful, I only see ruined lives and bent souls, both in the past and now. All the carved wood, stunning sculpture, and ancient gilding in the world can’t get me past that.

But the Memling Museum… that is a different matter.

The Memling Museum collects art, history, and medical paraphernalia from across the 800-year history of this hospital/nunnery/cradle of fine Flemish art.

I promise this makes sense.

Hans Memling was an adopted citizen of Bruges, and he created stunning commissions for, among others, the curiously flourishing nuns and priests of Sint-Janshospitaal.* So the museum collects some of Memling’s works, some of the tools used for palliative care of pilgrims who appeared in Bruges feeling poorly, and other artifacts from the hospital’s long history.

I was enthralled.

You should go, if you get the chance. But in case you don’t, here’s a thematic tour. I give you: a selection of people who are having a bad time in art in the Memling Museum.

Portrait of Francois de Wulf, anonymous, 18th century

Detail from Portrait of Francois de Wulf, anonymous, 18th century. The rest of this painting depicts a man who would like you to know he is quite skilled and prestigious, looking at us to reassure us of this and paying not nearly enough attention to prodding this child in the eyeball. Sorry, child. It wasn’t easy being a pilgrim in the 1700s. We get pairs of things for a reason, I guess.

Opthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst, Georg Bartisch, 1535-1607

Opthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst, Georg Bartisch, 1535-1607. This is a page from a book meant to instruct you of something. Mainly, it instructed me that I should take a moment to be glad that I was born when I was. But I’m always glad of that.

The Anatomy Lesson, Anonymous, Bruges, 1679

Detail from The Anatomy Lesson, Anonymous, Bruges, 1679. Surrounding this man: a bunch of other men who look disinterested as only Flemish paintings of aristocrats can make a person look.

the biggest kidney stone you've ever seen (or not)

Intermission: GIANT FREAKING KIDNEY STONES, OH MY GOD. Not included: an explanation of the long, wonderful lives the people who produced these went onto live.

Hans Memling’s Virgin Nursing the Christ ChildHans Memling’s Virgin Nursing the Christ Child. This is one of the centerpieces of the museum, and for good reason. I draw. I make art. But I’ve never worked in oils, and the colors they can produce still stun me. I stood in front of this for a good minute, drinking it in.

But I have an inescapable truth for you.


And that is why Our Lady here is included in this roundup.

Magi, The Circumcision, and the rest on the flight into Egypt, Anonymous, Flanders, 16th centuryDetail from Magi, the Circumcision, and the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Anonymous, Flanders, 16th century. I like this painting because our focus here has the distinct look of someone going, “Uh, hey, can we have a word? There’s more going on here than I signed up for.”

The Good Samaritan, anonymous, Southern Netherlands, 16th centuryDetail from The Good Samaritan, Anonymous, Southern Netherlands, 16th century. At least we know this fellow has better things waiting for him on the other side. Of the story, not the great rift between the living and the dead. That too, I suppose, considering the theme of the museum.

St. John Altarpiece, Memling, around 1479

And, finally, St. John Altarpiece, Memling, around 1479.

Ah, you hate to see that.

We didn’t make it to the Groeninge Museum (though I very much enjoyed reciting Rick Steves’ transcribed versions of how to properly pronounce said museum’s name), but we made the right choice. The Memling Museum, with its wonderful collision of ghastly history, transcendent beauty, and peculiar local history, was one of the highlights of the whole London-Brussels-Bruges trip for me. I was a bit surly on my day in Bruges, but the Memling Museum made all the tourist-dodging and other bits of sourness utterly worth it.

Though having cause to dash across a museum, whisper neckboob to someone you love, and dash back away… well, that is a balm for the spirits too.

*That is: in which I learn that not all people who dedicated their lives to Christianity took a vow of poverty! Because wow, those were some hefty commissions. My favorites: triptychs where the central panel depicts a pivotal moment of Christian mythology… and the two outer wings contain portraits of the priests, nuns, and monks who commissioned the works, staidly looking on as St. John is beheaded or someone important gets circumcised or something of that nature. And, in case you didn’t catch the likeness, many had their names painted above their depictions. I learned many things that day.

Hither and Thither #32

the physical possibility of inspiring imagination

I arrived to the Greater England Area just a few hours too late to go see this. I might’ve taken a train to Liverpool just for this. I might have.

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There are a lot of ways to be at odds with how your brain sees your body and how your body actually is. This was a new one to me.

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I see this message more often lately (though maybe still not often enough), and oh, it makes my heart soar. For a YA version (though still pretty effective), see the Ruby Oliver books.

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All along, I’d been told cats speak French. Apparently not. Though I will say my own were nowhere to be seen when this stuff was erupting from my computer.

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Your regular installment of Andrew W.K. makes you cry.

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It is possible to have absurd amounts of money and also a little sense. I wish there was more of this.

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My friend!

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You don’t drool enough. No, seriously, get on that.

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If I walked into a New York subway car and saw this, I might swoon from the wonderfulness.

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I love when other people create roundups of my city. Eff that Storyville business, though.

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We are better at valuing things if we have lacked them.

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And, finally, a rad roundup about drawing the female body by women who have drawn their own bodies.

On London

No one knows which side of the stairs to walk on. Not ever. Not even with the friendly KEEP LEFT signs at the top and bottom of each flight of stairs in the Tube. Not while entering and exiting buildings either. No one, ever.

It must take a particular kind of fortitude to deal with the influx of confused foreigners, if you are a person who lives in London. All you want to do is go into a museum. All you want to do is walk up a flight of stairs from your subway ride without dealing with an obstacle course of would-be shoulder-checks.

No one knows. I never figured it out. I tried to do as the signs said, as the traffic would indicate, but all I ever did was dodge, a leaf on the wind.