Posts Tagged ‘truth’

John Constable: Landscape and Prophecy

October 28, 2014 2 comments

It could be just a fine landscape painted in the colder months in England, but RT feels there’s something prescient or even prophetic about this untitled painting by John Constable. The image, with its loose, impressionistic style, anticipates art that would have been considered avant-garde a half-century after Constable painted it (1811), and its subject is nothing tangible, but rather the mood it creates in the viewer. We see here a movement away from the heroic and romantic concerns of the 18th and 19th centuries towards a direct encounter with nature and experience, the commonplace that is somehow not commonplace. The beauty of humanity and nature are here in balance, a poise we need to encourage in our century.    RT

Painting: Study for or detail of a larger painting? John Constable, 1811. WikiCmns; Victoria and Albert Museum. Public Domain.


UV Earth

January 5, 2014 2 comments



Here’s an eye-catcher to start the year with: the Earth, taken in ultraviolet light from the surface of the Moon. Open your eyes, folks…   RT


Photo: Earth in Ultraviolet Light from the Moon’s Surface. NASA. Public Domain.


Along Floats the Mangled Kahuna–A. Manookian

August 31, 2013 2 comments

File:Along floats the mangled Kahuna on the sea-caves calm water near to the sitting Marin whose spark of life has just flickered out.jpg

Wandering, rather in the manner of an 18th-century mariner, RT has stumbled across a treasure trove. In Hawaii, of course, though nothing else in this story is quite what one might have expected.

The clue that let RT know he had found something amazing is the above drawing, by one Arman Manookian and exhibited at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The full title alone is enough to give the viewer pause: Along floats the mangled Kahuna on the sea-caves calm water near to the sitting [Francisco de Paula] Marin whose spark of life has just flickered out. A tale (or more than one) surely hangs on this title. Scurrying through the pages of Wikipedia, RT has assembled some data to help us decode the drawing: 1) a kahuna is a Hawaiian priest or magician; 2) Francisco de Paula Marin was an influential figure in the Kingdom of Hawaii under its first and perhaps greatest monarch, King Kamehameha I. FdPM is, among other achievements, responsible for introducing pineapples and coffee to Hawaii. But so far, RT has been unable to discover much about FdPM’s death other than its date–1837.

Arman Manookian seems a less legendary figure (if such is possible in this tale): Armenian, born in Constantinople in 1904, he survived the Armenian Holocaust and made his way to the United States, where he studied art. After graduating, he joined the Marine Corps and was honorably discharged in Honolulu. He began to practice art, and his talent attracted significant commissions. Sadly, he committed suicide at 31. Today, his work, and especially his oil painting. is highly valued in Hawaii.

Hawaii, which RT visited several years ago, is an amazing place, and its history since discovery by Captain Cook is one of the most remarkable testaments to the resourcefulness of a native people dealing with the political realities of the 18th and 19th centuries. Why should we wonder that this period has produced illustrations worthy of an episode from Moby Dick? There is more poetry in life than we imagine.   RT

DrawingAlong floats the mangled Kahuna on the sea-caves calm water near to the sitting [Francisco de Paula] Marin whose spark of life has just flickered out, Arman Manookian; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Peace on Earth

August 10, 2013 6 comments


As every reader of Gilgamesh knows, an ending is also a beginning. Here’s to peace and the hunch that the best is yet to come.  RT


Photo: Olive Tree; User: Albert Kok. WikiCmns; CC 1.0 Generic.


Integrity–Poetic Advice

July 9, 2013 1 comment



RT’s latest book recommendation is Mark Strand’s 100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century; he has just started reading, but has been impressed by the range of styles and content in the anthology.


By this point, readers may have gathered that one of RT’s poetic criteria is integrity, a term that he freely admits is difficult to define. If pressed to give a definition, however, RT will say that integrity is the degree to which a poet is personally involved when writing a poem. Many masks are available at the moment of composition, and while some may be useful or necessary to the poet’s goals for a particular poem, it is all too easy simply to hide behind them. Urgency (another abstract term) may be a trustworthy sign of when a poet is delivering the best he or she can.

Consider the story (perhaps recounted in these pages before) of a Russian poet who was so angry at Stalin he had to sit down and write out a satirical poem. Stalin, upon learning of the offensive act, threw said poet into the Gulag for some years. When he got out, an interviewer asked if it had been worth it; the poet said yes.

That’s integrity. (And would that we all had the strength for it.) But whether or not any particular poet can get all the way there and speak truth to power (or just to share how he or she is feeling), we should all strive for the courage that will allow us to.


Here is RT’s brief poem on the subject:


Strategy has been their entire study


i see no life

i feel no heart;

poets do not exist


until they share

the dangerous business

of being themselves.


© 2013, The Rag Tree.


PhotoCluny, remaining pieces of gothic architecture; WikiCmns; CC 1.0 Generic; users: Rotatebot and Ziel.



Thylacoleo Was Terrifying

the marsupial lion…and other cool stuff…check it out! RT

the glyptodon

Think Australia is scary now? I mean, I understand your trepidation – salt water crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, giant spiders – who wouldn’t think twice about going for a stroll in the Outback? But what you see today is nothing compared to what aboriginal settlers had to deal with 50,000 years ago. There were giant kangaroos, hippo-sized wombats, twenty-foot long monitor lizards, and echidnas the size of sheep. Sheep.

Whoever got to this island, looked around, and said “Yeah, this’ll do,” must have had ice water in her veins. I can imagine her stepping out of a canoe, a fierce, conquering look in her eyes as she surveyed her new home. I can imagine her walking through the forest paths. I can imagine her hunting for food. I can imagine her being flying-tackled and eaten by a 250 pound marsupial lion.

Because this article isn’t about…

View original post 451 more words

Actor’s Equity and an Afternoon’s Research


Loyal readers of this blog will remember that RT has a grandfather who was an actor; this afternoon RT has been doing more research on him, patiently going through news archive listings online. And not for nothing.

My grandfather, my mother’s father, who seems to have been principally a comic actor, also had a serious side. It turns out that he joined the famous 1919 Actor’s Equity strike that won recognition of AE and a five-year contract for its members. RT is delighted by the news (as was his mother when he told her). We are positively proud that he had a political consciousness and was willing to strike to win better working conditions. Bravo, Grandfather!!!

Photo: Marie Dressler, Ethel Barrymore and others during the 1919 AE Strike. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Kind words will unlock

April 15, 2013 2 comments



a gentle reminder on monday morning…

(reposted from Ajaytao 2010)


Kind words will unlock.

Jargon and Poetry

April 11, 2013 1 comment

File:Denis Diderot plaque - 3 rue de lEstrapade, Paris 5.jpg


Jargon is one of those necessary and mysterious things: necessary because any group of people united by common interests will eventually evolve its own terminology for the interest(s) that has brought together its members, mysterious because the use of jargon prevents those outside the group from understanding what is being said. (And RT himself remembers being shut out of more than one football conversation.)

It’s no use blaming this or that group of jargonists for indulging in their special lingo; we are all guilty of creating and participating in jargon. Just consider the varieties: professional talk, sports talk, wine tasting descriptors, scientific terminology, and, last but not least, native languages used for private conversation.

RT offers two observations on the phenomenon:

1) Poetry. Poetry is the opposite of jargon. Whereas jargon is the creation of a group and signals membership in the group, poetry possesses a universality that opens its words to all speakers of a language. Poetry is all about accessibility; its beauty and clarity are two of its primary characteristics, and these encourage reading. Poets will use rare words and expressions on occasion, but the context almost always supplies the meaning, and the word adds to the richness of the language.

2) Duplicate/unnecessary terminology. RT presents the following symbol ¶  for consideration. Is it a pilcrow or a paragraph sign? It can also be called a paraph, alinea, or Blind P. And what exactly are its uses? Poetry intrudes itself here once again: we are leaving the realm of correctness and entering that of delight. We begin to talk about preferences among users–or even schools of use.

On the other hand, RT is pretty sure that when plain meaning is the chief consideration, the term used should be that one understood by the broadest possible audience: in this case, RT would recommend the use of the term  paragraph mark. But then, RT’s poetic, anti-jargon, instincts are showing themselves again. That isn’t to say, of course, that in the right place in the right line, he might not have recourse to the term alinea. It’s a beautiful word, after all.


What is worth bearing in mind through all this is the precision that jargon can confer on communication. There are times when it helps to distinguish between the hyphen and the hyphen-minus, the guillemet and the guillemot. And when jargon is correctly used and the text beautifully copy-edited, reading becomes that much more of a pleasure (as any hardened reader can tell you).



PhotographDenis Diderot plaque – 3 rue de lEstrapade, Paris. WikiCmns; CC 2.0 generic; author, Monceau from San Antonio.


Doodle-a-Day: March 13

April 3, 2013 1 comment


i like this man’s style–bold, simple, unapologetic…  RT

(reposted from Ironclad Folly)


Doodle-a-Day: March 13.