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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pianist Van Cliburn Has Passed Away

photo NY Times
no copyright infringement intended

Pianist Van Cliburn, the laureate of the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, died yesterday. His performance at the competition finale of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 earned him a standing ovation lasting eight minutes (wiki). His success at Moscow was a blessed moment of relaxation, of normality, in the long epoch of Cold War.

The image above shows him congratulated by Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader at the time. It is said that Mr. Khrushchev asked the pianist as he was hugging him, why are you so tall? Because I'm form Texas, was the answer (actually he had been born in Louisiana, by the way).







(Zoon Politikon)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Claude-Joseph Vernet: The Shipwreck

Claude-Joseph Vernet: The Shipwreck
oil on canvas, 1772
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Patrons' Permanent Fund and Chester Dale Fund
(http://www.nga.gov/fcgi-bin/timage_f?object=111194&image=23048&c=)
no copyright infringement intended


The Shipwreck epitomizes the type of marine subject for which Vernet was best known. It was commissioned, along with a pendant Mediterranean Coast by Moonlight (location unknown since c. 1955), by Lord Arundell in November 1771. The Shipwreck formed a dramatic contrast with the peaceful, moonlit coast scene, illustrating respectively the "sublime" (eliciting a sensation of horror in the spectator) and the "beautiful" (an agreeable and reposeful sensation), concepts that were much discussed in aesthetic discourse of the day. A ship flying a Dutch flag has foundered on a rocky seashore during a dramatic storm. Wind crashes the waves, bends a tree to breaking point, and sends clouds scudding across the sky, while a red zigzag crack of lightning illuminates a harbor town farther along the coast. Survivors from the wreck are distraught, exhausted, or just grateful to have clambered ashore. As the ship takes a final lurch against the rocks, desperate survivors slide down a rope in an attempt to reach the land. Shipwrecks were a real travel hazard in the 18th century, similar to automobile and plane crashes in our own time. Vernet painted the scene with lively brushwork, corresponding to the various effects of clouds, waves, and foam; his figures, however, were carefully and precisely rendered.


(Vernet)

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

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Claude-Joseph Vernet: Soldiers in a Mountain Gorge, with a Storm

Claude-Joseph Vernet: Soldiers in a Mountain Gorge, with a Storm
oil on canvas, 1789
Detroit Institute of Arts
Credit: Founders Society Purchase; gifts from Dr. and Mrs. Edwin S. Smyd and Mr. and Mrs. Lee Hill by exchange
(http://www.dia.org/object-info/905abadb-bc44-477c-8f22-cc38abf3cd06.aspx?position=1/user_area/comping/2001.7.jpg)
no copyright infringement intended



(Vernet)

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Claude-Joseph Vernet: Morning



Vernet's Morning reveals the later 18th-century landscape tradition out of which Friedrich developed his later Romantic seascape compositions. Friedrich borrowed Vernet's compositions in which prominent beholders stand with their backs to the real spectator and gaze into a hazy infinity of picturesque voyaging. If mid-eighteenth-century Europe saw the mature development of the Grand Tour with its focus on classical and Renaissance monuments in Italy, later eighteenth-century travel culture expanded the Grand Tour by including a wider range of Gothic monuments in Northern Europe and a search for sublime landscapes in Germany, the Alps, the mountains outside Florence, and the Amalfi coast. With its wistful reverie and pair of kindred spirits before a hazy seascape where boats voyage off into a mysterious infinity (itself indebted to Claude's harbor scenes with sunsets), Vernet's Morning anticipates the new interest in landscape contemplation and interior musing seen in later eighteenth travel literature such as William Beckford's Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents (1783). Friedrich took this landscape tradition and deepened its removal from the picturesque mundane and momentary by removing genre elements, heightening sublime contrasts of light and dark, near and far, replacing familiar sunsets with more eerie moon light, and enlarging the introspective beholders in the foreground.


(Vernet)

(Caspar David Friedrich)

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Caspar David Friedrich






(Old Masters)

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Police Officer Roy Painter on an Indian Motorcycle

Police Officer Roy Painter on an Indian Motorcycle, 1938
photo from the New York City Police Museum
(posted on Facebook by The Old NY Page)
no copyright infringement intended


(America viewed by Americans)

(New York, New York)

Claude-Joseph Vernet



Perhaps no painter of landscapes or sea-pieces has ever made the human figure so completely a part of the scene depicted or so important a factor in his design. Others may know better, he said, with just pride, how to paint the sky, the earth, the ocean; no one knows better than I how to paint a picture (wiki).




(Old Masters)

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Denis Diderot

Denis Diderot (1713-1784)
portrait by Louis-Michel van Loo
exhibited at the 1767 Salon de Paris 
under the title Portrait de M. Diderot
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Denis_Diderot_111.PNG)
no copyright infringement intended


co-founder and chief editor, contributor to the Encyclopédie along with Jean le Rond d'Alembert (wiki)




(Le Parnasse des Lettres)

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mateiu Caragiale





(A Life in Books)

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Povestea lui McSorley's

McSorley's: view of the barroom
illustration by Thurber
(The New Yorker, 1940)
no copyright infringement intended

(click here for the English version)

Anul era 1860, iar in scurt timp Lincoln avea sa devina al saisprezecelea presedinte al Americii, chemat sa conduca natiunea in unele din cele mai grele momente ale istoriei ei. Dar in dimineata aceea de februarie Lincoln nu era inca bine cunoscut. Venise la New York, unde urma sa tina un discurs la Cooper Union, o universitate inca tanara, avea si ea sa devina peste ani venerabila. Fireste ca Lincoln era emotionat si se temea ca new yorkezii aia sofisticati il vor vedea doar ca pe un provincial oarecare, nimic mai mult. Discursul insa a fost electrizant, si avea sa ramana celebru in istorie, the Cooper Union Address. Aplauzele au fost furtunoase, audienta a fost castigata de personalitatea lui. Dupa aceea, cativa suporteri l-au invitat la o berarie din apropiere, de pe Strada a Saptea (am gasit povestea asta in The Examiner). Au petrecut acolo cateva ceasuri bune, Lincoln s-a comportat ca un adevarat barbat si a baut cot la cot cu ceilalti, ceea ce i-a marit popularitatea.

Beraria aceea exista si azi, este socotita cel mai vechi Irish saloon, taverna irlandeza, din New York (chiar daca nu o fi chiar din 1854, cum o lauda firma, in orice caz in 1860 era acolo si era cunoscuta). O infiintase un imigrant irlandez, John McSorley, Old John cum avea sa fie cunoscut in folclorul local. Numele carciumii a fost la inceput The Old House at Home, si asa avea sa ramana pana in 1908, cand firma crasmei a fost doborata de o furtuna si a trebuit inlocuita. Cu ocazia aceea beraria a capatat numele  de McSorley's Old Time Ale House. Mai tarziu s-a renuntat la Time si s-a pastrat restul, McSorley's Old Ale House. Si asa a ramas cunoscuta, si asa se numeste si azi.




Clientela a fost intotdeauna amestecata: studenti dela Cooper Union, medici internisti dela Bellevue, vanzatori dela librariile din Astor Place,  camionagii dela Wanamaker, pensionari de prin Bowery, dar nucleul dur il alcatuiau imigrantii irlandezi, fie ei tamplari sau tabacari, carutasi, parlagii sau zidari. Cu exceptia catorva ani cand vindeau si tarie, s-a servit intotdeauna doar bere, si doar la halba, si doar un singur soi de bere, care mai tarziu avea sa se numeasca McSorley's Cream Stock. Licenta a trecut prin mai multi fabricanti de bere, pana la urma au ajuns sa o puna si in comert la sticle, cu eticheta McSorley's, insa in carciuma a ramas si azi servita numai la halba. Mai e berea asta cum era odata? Mai mult sau mai putin. Am gasit pe web un articol despre ea, spunand ca nu e o bere chiar atat de irlandeza pe cat crede ea ca este. Autorul articolului pare a fi un pasionat de bere irlandeza (http://www.beeridiot.com/?p=203), asa ca o avea dreptate.


(http://www.beeridiot.com/?p=203)
no copyright infringement intended

Dar sa ne intoarcem la vremurile de demult. Unii beau berea rece, altora le placea fiarta, si-o incalzeau pe plita pusa pe soba din centrul carciumii (marturisesc ca si mie imi place bere fiarta, dreasa cu oarece mirodenii). Alaturi de asta se serveau pesmeti, ceapa cruda si branza (unii clienti se plang si azi ca branza e tot cea care a fost desfacuta in 1854, in seara inaugurarii). Old John era inebunit dupa ceapa cruda, era in stare sa ia o halca de paine (mai bine zis un coltuc), sa faca o gaura si sa bage acolo o ceapa intreaga, apoi musca din ea ca dintr-un mar. Iar vorba lui era, Good Beer, Raw Onion, and No Ladies, pana in 1970 accesul femeilor la McSorley's a fost interzis, batranul era de parere ca nimeni nu poate sa bea bere in tihna in prezenta unor femei, iar interdictia a ramas si multi ani dupa ce a murit el. A trebuit ca in 1970 tribunalul sa dea o sentinta prin care sa oblige carciuma sa primeasca si femei. Prin veacul al nousprezecelea insa, o singura femeie a fost primita sa intre. Era o batrana un pic ciudata, vaduva de razboi, mergea din carciuma in carciuma sa vanda alune. Cand era cald afara, Old John ii vindea o halba. Drept multumire batrana i-a brodat odata un steag american, pe care Old John  l-a pastrat si e si azi acolo. Mai era o femeie, insa asta era inramata pe un perete, in camera din spate, un nud cu papagal, copie dupa o pictura celebra a lui Courbet (e drept ca autorul copiei si-a luat oarece libertati fata de original).

Altfel, era bine sa mergi acolo. Old John tinea un set de lulele si un sac de tutun, si daca luai o bere, aveai dreptul si sa pufai o pipa din partea casei. Altfel, batranul isi avea si momente de cumsecadenie, si momente destule cand era morocanos. Bause zdravan in tinerete, insa in ultimii treizeci de ani de viata a devenit abstinent, spunea mereu cand era intrebat ca isi bause portia. Insa ii placea sa manance. Seara isi taia o friptura babana, o punea pe o lopata (ca alfel nu ar fi incaput) si o tinea deasupra focului.

(Vintage Anchor)
no copyright infringement intended

Old John tinea si un cal, caci ii placea sa participe la cursele de trap. Calul era tinut intr-un grajd prin apropiere (pe St. Mark's, daca nu ma insel), iar noaptea ii punea si o capra alaturi, caci, asa credea batranul, noaptea caii au nevoie de companie.




Au trecut pe acolo mari personalitati. Primul a fost Lincoln, cum am zis. Avea sa vina acolo si un alt mare presedinte al Americii, Theodore Roosevelt. Insa cel mai des venea Peter Cooper, fondatorul universitatii Cooper Union, un mare inginer si un mare filantrop (el a introdus locomotivele cu aburi in America, si tot el a infiintat Cooper Union, universitate privata cu o selectie extrem de riguroasa, in care studentii odata admisi nu mai trebuiau sa plateasca nici o taxa de studii). Peter Cooper a fost unul din bunii prieteni ai lui Old John si petrecea ore intregi in camera din spate, la taifas cu muncitorii care erau clientii obisnuiti - avea si un scaun al lui, care a ramas a lui si dupa ce a murit si e acolo si azi.

Cu atatea povesti, si cu atatea personalitati care au trecut pragul acolo, nu e de mirare ca McSorley's a intrat in atentia artistilor. In 1882, McSorley's Inflation, o comedie de Ed Harrigan, cu muzica de David Braham, a avut peste o suta de reprezentatii pe Broadway (si lui Old John ii placeau mult cuplete lui Harrigan si Hart).

Pe la 1911, un grup de artisti au inceput sa frecventeze locanda. Era John Sloan, care a imortalizat locul in cateva picturi astazi bine cunoscute. Apoi George Luks si Glenn O. Coleman. Ca si Sloan, erau artisti realisti, interesati sa surprinda pe panza viata din cartierele new yorkeze. Venea si Stuart Davis, modernistul, care ne-a lasat o acuarela celebrand atmosfera de acolo.


Stuart Davis, McSorley's Ale House
watercolor with traces of charcoal on paper, 1917
(Sotheby's Catalog)
no copyright infringement intended

O gravura facuta de Sloan in 1916 infatiseaza camera din spate. Batranul asezat in scaun inspre fereastra, cu fata la ceilalti, poate fi foarte bine Peter Cooper, sau poate Old John, insa amandoi murisera de mult, asa incat Sloan si-a folosit imaginatia. Exista si un ulei al lui Sloan infatisand tot camera din spate, a fost facut in 1912 si cred ca de data aceasta omul de pe scaunul dinspre fereastra era un contemporan al pictorului.





In 1910 Old John a murit, si i-a urmat fiul, Bill (care avea sa fie poreclit in scurt timp Old Bill, prea era scortos). Era abstinent si tot timpul morocanos, insa stia sa mestereasca berea ca lumea. Vara tinea halbele intr-o cada plina de gheata, asa ca oricat ai fi zabovit sa iti bei berea, halba ramanea rece. Intr-o pictura facuta de Sloan in 1912 il vedem pe Old Bill oficiind la bar, cu papillon negru si parul roscat.


John Sloan, McSorley's Bar
oil on canvas, 1912
Detroit Institute of the Arts
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:McSorley%27s_Bar_1912_John_Sloan.jpg)
no copyright infringement intended


Era morocanos, cum zic, insa clientii mai batrani il indrageau si chiar erau mandri de toanele lui, doar imbatranisera odata cu el, le amintea de anii tineretii. Doar cand venea cate un musteriu nou, cate unul din astia batranii se ducea si il lua peste picior pe Bill, hei, da-mi si mie cinci dolari cu imprumut, hai, ca doar nu o sa ii iei cu tine, stii ca giulgiul nu are buzunare. Bill se enerva si mormaia niste sudalmi. Iar clientul se intorcea la noul venit, ei vezi?

Cand inchidea, Bill ii chema pe toti clientii la bar si le dadea un rand din partea casei. Era un obicei pe care il avusese si taica-sau, si il pastra cu sfintenie. Toata viata si-a respectat tatal si i-a respectat amintirea.

Inca doua picturi de Sloan, facute prin 1928/29. Intr-una il vedem pe Old Bill inconjurat de pisici: era una din pasiunile lui, tinea pisici in bar si le hranea copios. Iar cealalta pictura celebreaza spiritul lui McSorley's, clientii adunati acolo intr-o seara de sambata.





John Sloan, McSorley's Saturday Night, 1928
(http://artoutthewazoo.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/john-french-sloan-the-mcsorleys-bar-paintings/)
no copyright infringement intended


Unul din artistii care veneau pe la 1911 si mai incolo, a adus intr-o seara un prieten, care facea parte din miscarea anarhista. tinea discursuri incendiare si avea mereu neplaceri cu politia. Culmea este ca Bill, care era un reactionar indarjit, a prins drag de anarhist si s-au imprietenit. I-a zis la un moment dat un politai, fii si tu mai atent si mai fereste-te de omul asta! - Dar ce a facut? - Ei pe dracu', pai asta vrea sa arunce in aer toate bancile. - Pai si eu vreau la fel, a zis carciumarul, care era atat de invechit in felul lui de a fi, ca nu avea incredere in banci, nu lucra cu nici o banca, nu avea nici casa de marcat, ii platea pe furnizori cu bani pesin, bagati in pungi de hartie. Om de scoala veche, ce mai.

Dupa ce a trecut de saptezeci de ani, asta era dupa 1930, a vandut carciuma unui politai pensionar, care era foarte cumsecade. Daca il vedea pe vreun client ca incepe sa faca scandal, nu il dadea pe usa afara (cum ar fi facut Bill), ci ii dadea o farfurie de ciorba sa isi revina, pentru ca, spunea el, nu clientul e vinovat daca berea a fost proasta.

Altfel, carciuma ramasese peste ani la fel cum fusese de la inceput. Pe jos peste podea era asezat rumegus, tavanul era plin de panza de paianjeni si coscovit, tot locul intunecos, soba in mijloc, camera din spate pentru clienti mai cunoscuti. Iar peretii plini de tablouri. de portrete, si de taieturi din ziare (cea mai veche fiind o stire din 1815 a unui ziar londonez, se anunta in doua randuri ca trupele engleze s-au angajat in lupta cu trupele franceze ale lui Napoleon la Waterloo). Pe langa asta, o curiozitate, multe oase de iades. Au si ele o istorie a lor. Au fost destule razboaie in toti anii astia, iar cand plecau pe front, oamenii isi lasau cate un iades aici, sa il gaseasca la intoarcere. Oasele de iades ramase sunt ale celor care au murit in lupta.

Iar Joseph Mitchell avea sa scrie in 1940 povestea locului, a intitulat-o The Old House at Home si a publicat-o in The New Yorker. In 1943 avea sa apara in volum, McSorley's Wonderful Saloon. Este o poveste superba, si care strabate cu maiestrie cateva generatii in vremea carora fireste ca New Yorkul s-a schimbat mult. I-am citit povestirea de mai multe ori, pentru ca m-a vrajit. Am observat ca dela o generatie la alta, schimba si vocabularul, pentru ca si limba evolua: din 1854 pana in 1940, cand Joseph Mitchell si-a scris povestirea. Am folosit-o in povestirea mea pe a lui, si intamplarile pe care el le descrie, dar de multe ori si cuvintele lui. Asa ca povestea mea este mai curand un soi de Repovestind impreuna cu Mitchell despre carciuma lui Old John

e. e. cummings a venit si el des pe aici si a scris odata un poem despre McSorley's, insa in cu totul alta nota decat a facut-o Mitchell.






Si ce s-a mai intamplat dupa aceea, dupa ce Mitchell si-a scris povestirea, iar cummings poemul? Seria de intamplari si de povesti a continuat. In 1970 femeile au trebuit admise, caci asa glasuia decizia tribunalului. Asta a dus la niste schimbari de logistica, au incercat ei sa faca schimbari cat mai putine (de exemplu au lasat destul de mult timp toaleta unisex). S-au mai intamplat si altele. In 1964 patronul (un urmas al politaiului care luase afacerea dela Bill) s-a dus in vizita in Irlanda si masina i s-a stricat pe drum. Era departe de orice localitate si l-a salvat un irlandez, Mathew Maher pe numele lui. S-au imprietenit dupa asta la toarta, iar Mathew a venit apoi la New York sa lucreze ca barman la McSorley's. A preluat el afacerea in 1977. Asa ca localul e tot acolo, tot plin de amintiri, tot servind bere la halba, doar ca acum e napadit de turisti.




McSorleys Old Ale House, New York City - Bucket List Bars
(video by drunkenhistory)

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e. e. cummings: i was sitting in mcsorley's

e.e. cummings, selfportrait
oil painting, 1950's
source: Nancy T. Andrews
(http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/cummings/cummings.htm)
no copyright infringement intended


i was sitting in mcsorley's. outside it was New York and beautifully snowing.

Inside snug and evil. the slobbering walls filthily push witless creases of screaming warmth chuck pillows are noise funnily swallows swallowing revolvingly pompous a the swallowed mottle with smooth or a but of rapidly goes gobs the and of flecks of and a chatter sobbings intersect with which distinct disks of graceful oath, upsoarings the break on ceiling-flatness

the Bar.tinking luscious jigs dint of ripe silver with warm-lyish wetflat splurging smells waltz the glush of squirting taps plus slush of foam knocked off and a faint piddle-of-drops she says I ploc spittle what the lands thaz me kid in no sir hopping sawdust you kiddo

he's a palping wreaths of badly Yep cigars who jim him why gluey grins topple together eyes pout gestures stickily point made glints squinting who's a wink bum-nothing and money fuzzily mouths take big wobbly foot

steps every goggle cent of it get out ears dribbles soft right old feller belch the chap hic summore eh chuckles skulch. . . .

and I was sitting in the din thinking drinking the ale, which never lets you grow old blinking at the low ceiling my being pleasantly was punctuated by the always retchings of a worthless lamp.

when With a minute terrif iceffort one dirty squeal of soiling light yanKing from bushy obscurity a bald greenish foetal head established It suddenly upon the huge neck around whose unwashed sonorous muscle the filth of a collar hung gently.

(spattered)by this instant of semiluminous nausea A vast wordless nondescript genie of trunk trickled firmly in to one exactly-mutilated ghost of a chair,

a;domeshaped interval of complete plasticity,shoulders, sprouted the extraordinary arms through an angle of ridiculous velocity commenting upon an unclean table.and, whose distended immense Both paws slowly loved a dinted mug

gone Darkness it was so near to me,i ask of shadow won't you have a drink?

(the eternal perpetual question)

Inside snugandevil. i was sitting in mcsorley's It,did not answer.

outside.(it was New York and beautifully, snowing. . . .





...the saloon and its slobbering walls, snug and evil... the simultaneous attraction and repulsion... for the place... Cummings's trademark disregard for conventional grammar and syntax are effective here, as they help to depict a bustling, chaotic, and dirty atmosphere that is nonetheless comfortable.



(e. e. Cummings)

(McSorley's)

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Telling the Story of McSorley's

McSorley's: view of the barroom
illustration by Thurber
(The New Yorker, 1940)
no copyright infringement intended

(click here for the Romanian version)


It was February 1860, and Lincoln was not yet well known in the country. All this would change very soon, as the electoral campaign was approaching: by the end of the year he would be elected the sixteenth President of America, called to lead the nation in some of its most difficult moments ever. But in that morning when he came to New York to deliver a speech at the Cooper Union, Lincoln was fearful he would fail to convince the audience. After all he could appear to these sophisticated New Yorkers as just some Mid-Western guy, nothing more.  It didn't happen that way. His discourse was extraordinary and it would remain in history as one of Lincoln's most important statements, the Cooper Union Address. Later that day, several men that had been in the attendance, took him to a pub nearby, on the Seventh Street (I found this story told in The Examiner). They spent there a good couple of hours with  lots of ale mugs and much fun, and Lincoln proved to be a fine fellow in all respects. People definitely sympathized with him and decided that he was the man to be their leader from then on.

That pub is still in operation, it's the oldest Irish saloon in New York (even if it's maybe not been running exactly since 1854, as the signboard is boasting, it was anyway there on February 27, 1860, the day when  Lincoln came in). It was founded by an Irish immigrant, John McSorley (Old John, as he would remain known in the local folklore). The name of the tavern was at the beginning The Old House at Home and it would remain so till 1908, when the old signboard failed in a storm. They changed the signboard, and they changed the name, into McSorkey's Old Time Ale House. Later the Time was removed and the saloon kept only the remainder,  McSorley's Old Ale House, and so it's been since then, and so it is today.




The clientele has always been motley. As Joseph Mitchell describes it, students from Cooper Union, internes from Bellevue, the hospital on First Avenue, then all kind of mechanics and salesmen, truck drivers and clerks, also old guys living in poor hotels on the Bowery, but the hardcore were the Irish immigrants, be them carpenters or tanners, teamsters, slaughter-house butchers or bricklayers, that kind of workforce. Except for a few years at the beginning of the 20th century when they tried to sell also some spirits, there has always been only one kind of drink, ale, and only on tap, and only one brand of ale, McSorley's Cream Stock. The license has passed across the years through three or four brewers, eventually they started to produce also bottled beer, labeled with the McSorley's name (while the tavern has been keeping to the tap rule). Is it today the same as it used to be in the old days? More or less. I just found a review stating that, the beer is less Irish than it thinks it is, and the taste is like a hoppier version of a cream ale (http://www.beeridiot.com/?p=203). So it goes.


(http://www.beeridiot.com/?p=203)
no copyright infringement intended


But let's go back to the old days. Some liked the beer as cold as it could be, others preferred it warm, and were keeping their mugs on the hove of the stove that was in the middle of the barroom. There was also a free lunch of soda crackers, raw onion and cheese (the patrons have always been complaining that the cheese was still the one served in 1854 at the opening,  but you know how picky patrons can be sometimes). Old John was crazy about raw onion (according to Joseph Mitchell, he liked to fit a whole onion into the hollowed-out heel of a loaf of French bread and he ate it as if it were an apple). His motto was Good Beer, Raw Onion, and No Ladies. And so women were not allowed, as Old John believed that men couldn't drink in tranquility in the presence of the other sex. The interdiction remained in place many years after he had passed away. It has been necessary a court order to reverse this interdiction, and it came only in 1970. But in the old days there had been only one woman willingly admitted inside, an old peddler who was going from bar to bar on the Bowery hawking peanuts. In warm days Old John was even selling her a beer. She was so grateful that she embroidered for him a little American flag that was put above the brass-bound  ale pump and it is still there. There has been also another woman, only this one was kept framed on the wall in the back room and is still there today: a nude with a parrot, a copy of a famous painting by Courbet (not a perfect copy: the man who did it took some liberties from the original).

Overall it was good in the old days. Old John was keeping a set of clay and corncob pipes, plus an amount of tobacco, and the purchase of one beer entitled you to a smoke on the house. He had his moments of affability, he had also his moods. He had been a heavy drinker for many years, then he decided that he had had his share and got sober. He was a big eater. Each evening he liked to cut for him a huge steak of three pounds or so, and to place it on a coal shovel over the fireplace, in the back room.


(Vintage Anchor)
no copyright infringement intended

Old John had also a horse, as he enjoyed surfing sulky. He kept the horse in a stable on St. Mark's Place, where it was sleeping along with a nanny goat: Old John considered that during the night horses needed company.




There have been notable patrons along the years. It has been Abraham Lincoln, as I said, also another great American President, Teddy Roosevelt. Then Peter Cooper, the founder of Cooper Union, who was coming often and was a good friend of Old John. He liked to stay in the back room, chatting with the working men, and a stool was reserved for him. It remained known as Peter Cooper's stool after he passed away and it is still there in the back room.

With so many stories, and so notable presences, the tavern enjoyed a well deserved fame along the years and naturally it came in the artists' attention. In 1882,  McSorley's Inflation, a play by Ed Harrigan, scored by David Braham, opened on Broadway and had over hundred performances (by the way, Old John was in turn a great lover of Harrigan 'n Hart songs).

By 1911 a group of artists started to be regulars at McSorley's. It was John Sloan, who immortalized the atmosphere of the tavern in some paintings, now well known. It was also  George Luks, also Glenn O. Coleman.  They all belonged to the Ashcan School of painting, interested to capture in their works the essence of  NY neighborhood life. It was then Stuart Davis, the modernist, he also left a watercolor celebrating the McSorley's.


Stuart Davis, McSorley's Ale House
watercolor with traces of charcoal on paper, 1917
(Sotheby's Catalog)
no copyright infringement intended

An etching that Sloan made in 1916 shows the back room. The old man seated in the chair near the window, facing the others, could very well be Peter Cooper, or maybe Old John, anyway both of them were then long time dead, so Sloan used his imagination. There is another painting by Sloan showing the back room, it was made in 1912, and it seems to me that here the man seated by the window was a contemporary of the artist.





Old John passed away in 1910, and the business was inherited by his son Bill (who would soon get known as Old Bill, that stiff and surly he was officiating at the bar). This guy was absolutely sober and always moody, but he had the gift of understanding ale, of knowing ale's tricks and caprices, like no one else. Joseph Mitchell explained it, he understood ale, he knew how to draw it and how to keep it, and in warm weather he made a practice of chilling the mugs in a tub of ice, so even if a customer would nurse an ale a too long time, the chilled earthen ware mug kept it cool. A painting made by Sloan in 1912 shows Old Bill officiating at the bar, with black bow-tie and reddish hair.


John Sloan, McSorley's Bar
oil on canvas, 1912
Detroit Institute of the Arts
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:McSorley%27s_Bar_1912_John_Sloan.jpg)
no copyright infringement intended


He was surly, as I said, but the old customers were fond of him and even proud of his moods: they all had grown together, and Bill's outbursts made them believe they were young again. Sometimes, when a newcomer entered the picture, one of these old guys was going to Bill saying, hey Bill, lend me fifty dollars, don't be stingy, there ain't no pockets in the shroud! Bill was replying with gamy epithets, and the customer was turning to the newcomer, see? Anyway, when the closing hour was coming, Bill called everybody and bought them a round. It was a habit inherited from his father, and Bill was keeping it scrupulously. He worshiped his father, and didn't make any change in the tavern, to keep it as it had been in the old times.

Here are two other paintings by Sloan, made by 1928/29. In one of them we can see Old Bill surrounded by cats: it was one of his passions, he was keeping cats in the bar and was feeding them copiously. And the other painting is just celebrating the spirit of McSorley's, the clients gathered there one Saturday night.





John Sloan, McSorley's Saturday Night, 1928
(http://artoutthewazoo.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/john-french-sloan-the-mcsorleys-bar-paintings/)
no copyright infringement intended


One of the artists who were regulars there brought one evening a friend who was an anarchist, a guy always in trouble with the police for his incendiary speeches. Though Old Bill was a staunch reactionary, he took a liking for the anarchist and they became good friends. Once a policeman warned him about that long-haired nut. - Why? asked Bill. Hell, man, this guy wants to blow up every bank in the country! - So am I, answered Bill, who actually did not have any confidence in banks, and was always operating only with cash. Definitely the old school guy.

After 1930, Bill (then in his seventies) sold the business to a retired policeman who promised not to make any change. The new owner was a very gentle guy. If one patron was starting to make trouble, instead of throwing him out (as Old Bill would have done), the new landlord was trying to sober the drunkard with soup, saying that the man was not faulty if the beer had been bad.

And the saloon remained as it was in the old days, with its ceiling, low, shrunk, and cobwebbed, with its floor, covered with sawdust, with its rickety armchairs around the stove, and with all its memorabilia: portraits and photos and excerpts from newspapers covering any inch on the walls. The oldest excerpt was a paragraph from London Times from 1815, informing that the British and French armies started what would become the Waterloo battle. Apart from that, a rack with many wishbones. There is a history with them. America had a number of wars during all these tens of years, and any patron who was called into the army was leaving here a wishbone to find it when he would come back. The wishbones that remained were those left by the people who died in the wars.

In 1940 Joseph Mitchell told the story of this place. He named the story The Old House at Home and published it in The New Yorker. Later he would compile it in a book named McSorley's Wonderful Saloon. It is a great story, and I used here largely its flow and even sentences from it, trying to make them distinct by use of italics (to the point that my post should rather be named Mc Sorley's, Reading It Together with Joseph Mitchell). What I found special, beside the story itself, was the way Mitchell subtly changed the words and expressions he used as he was passing from one generation of McSorley's guys to another. There were several generations, beginning with 1854, and naturally the language evolved, and Mitchell followed with passion and an immense pleasure all changes that had happened in the main vocabulary across the decades and across the generations.

e.e.cummings also came here and wrote a poem about the place. It is in a very different note that the story of Mitchell.






And what happened after Mitchell wrote his essay (and cummings his poem)? Well, the chain of wonderful stories went on. It was the episode of 1970, when the women were admitted inside. Then the presence of women led to some changes in the logistics, they tried to make them as less as possible (for a while they maintained a unisex bathroom). There were also other things that happened. In 1964 the owner of the tavern (a descendant of the policeman) was visiting Ireland and his car broke up on the road. He was picked up by a guy whose name was Mathew Maher. They got friends and Mathew came to New York to work as a bartender to McSorley's. He bought the business in 1977.  Overall, today McSorley's is still there, full of memorabilia, boasting its cream stock ale, and being now (for better or for worse) a tourist trap.




McSorleys Old Ale House, New York City - Bucket List Bars
(video by drunkenhistory)






(Joseph Mitchell)

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Cascade

(http://www.bloodyloud.com/cascada-nrs-films/)
no copyright infringement intended


A short movie about extreme sailing and extreme filming in extreme nature.



(NRS Films)

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NRS Films

(http://www.bloodyloud.com/cascada-nrs-films/)
no copyright infringement intended


NRS Films brings you the best, most inspiring paddlesports videos on the Web. Their films remind boaters why they’re boaters and make everyone else wonder why they're not. And actually they're much more.It's the wedding of man with nature.



(Filmofilia)

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Glenn O. Coleman at Brooklyn Museum

Hurdy-Gurdy Ballet
lithograph, 1928
(http://www.ifpda.org/content/node/5281)
no copyright infringement intended


In styles that range from straightforwardly realist to the fanciful and abstracting, Glenn O. Coleman devoted his paintings and prints to the portrayal of his adopted hometown of New York City (http://72.9.254.50/view/people/asitem/items$0040null:53/0).


Fort Lee Ferry
oil on canvas, 1923
(http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/384/Fort_Lee_Ferry#)
no copyright infringement intended



The Bowery,
lithograph on wove paper, 1928
(http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/1253/The_Bowery#)
no copyright infringement intended



Third Avenue
lithograph on wove paper, 1928
(http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/87217/Third_Avenue#)
no copyright infringement intended



Minetta Lane
lithograph on wove paper, 1928
(http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/87214/Minetta_Lane#)
no copyright infringement intended

Minetta Lane is named for Minetta Brook, whose course it followed from Macdougal Street to the turn at Minetta Street. The name of the waterway was originally Mannette, an Algonquin word translated as "Devil," but presumably related to Manitou, or "Spirit." The Dutch reinterpreted the name as Mintje Kill, which roughly translates as "Little Teeny Stream."
The path that followed the stream was originally known as the Negroes' Causeway, serving an area where "partially freed" slaves were allowed to own land. The area was later known as Little Africa, home to many of New York City's emancipated blacks. In 1896, Stephen Crane wrote that Minetta Lane and Street had until recently been "two of the most enthusiastically murderous thoroughfares in the city." Today they are a surprising oasis of quiet in one of the noisier sections of the Village. (http://www.nysonglines.com/minettaln.htm)


(Brooklyn Museum)

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e. e. cummings



Edward Estlin Cummings (1894–1962), popularly known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often written by others in lowercase letters as e.e. cummings, was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings. He is remembered as an eminent voice of 20th century poetry (wiki).

Born into a Unitarian family, Cummings exhibited transcendental leanings his entire life. As he grew in maturity and age, Cummings moved more toward an I, Thou relationship with God. His journals are replete with references to le bon Dieu as well as prayers for inspiration in his poetry and artwork, such as Bon Dieu! may I some day do something truly great. amen (wiki).

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                            i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you





(A Life in Books)