Scarlet Letter
Tramp Steamer


Portrait of the Artist as an Old MaN

January 30, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

We spent the weekend celebrating our son Eric's birthday and the birthday of his and Michelle's twins, Chase and Chad. These are shots taken on the way back to Pittsfield after leaving the Turnpike.

Its lights strobing, a Lenox Police cruiser has pulled a car over along the Lenox strip on Route 7 last evening. It calls to mind the advertisement on PYX 106 of the lawyer who calls himself the DUI guy, or something like that. He says you never want to see those lights in your rearview mirror but should call him if you do. I listen to PYX 106's classic rock sometimes when I'm painting.

The refurbished dome of Pittsfield High School glows on East Street, as does the Shell station at First and Tyler. It's easier to have civic pride in the dome, but the station's canopy does add color to a dimly lit First Street. Two of my kids, Shannon and Michael are PHS grads. Eric graduated from St. Joseph's.

This is South Street approaching Park Square. And below we have the main drag of Lee minutes after we left the Pike. All but one of these photos was shot from the moving car while Babbie drove. The one shot when the car was stopped is of the high school dome.

I should mention that we had a wonderful time at Saturday's birthday party for the twins, which included about 40 guests, and at the one yesterday for Eric, which had a smaller cast of characters. Attending from our side of the family were Shannon, Riley, Zoa, Zoann and Sarah Mai.

Let me add a personal note. Babbie and I are lucky to have three wonderful children - who haven't been called children by anyone but us for years - and four amazing grandkids. Combined, they light up our lives.




January 27, 2012

We got this signal high on the wall yesterday, obviously from outer space and beamed through one of the clearstory windows.

I wish I could interpret it.

Maybe it was for Babbie. She was out when it came in. Do you think they'll call back.

Speaking of Babbie she's in the picture with me, below, at Zoa's last Thanksgiving.

Back to the picture at the top. I think I've just figured it out. Somewhere out there in a distant galaxy is an extraterrestrial art critic who loves my Jeanne d'Arc painting on the wall. Or hates it.






January 25, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner

Ah, my poor little Honda Odyssey sitting forlornly in the back driveway on a damp gray January day.

Yesterday it experienced a little trauma, and as a result, so did I.

But by this afternoon the clouds dragging down our spirits - both mine and the Odyssey's - lifted due to swift action by Honda.

Here's what set the whole thing in motion. The engine warning and traction control lights switched on Monday when I was driving home through the drizzle, drinking coffee and feeling revitalized after an encouraging conversation with an art dealer.

 I called Bedard Brothers in Cheshire and made an appointment to get my 10-year-old van checked out Tuesday afternoon. One thing great about Bedard's is it's on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail Cheshire Lake. So I can hike while they work on the car. While I was out on the snow-covered trail yesterday listening to The Marriage Plot on my iPod, they were hooking my beast of burden up to their computers.

When I got back, my left sneaker soaked through to my sock, I listened to more of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel - which is particularly interesting to me because much of the first half takes place at Brown, the college I attended but did not love.

Then Shaun signalled me to come back to the service desk.

Earlier I had told Shaun I hoped he could fix it as easily as last time. Last time was when the hood wouldn't latch no matter how hard I tried. He simply lifted the hood, closed it and, magically, it latched.

"He can fix anything," said Scott, the other service desk man. "He knows everything."

I said something like, "That must be a burden, knowing everything."

Kidding around had made everything feel like the problem was going to be minor.

But it wasn't. Shaun told me the transmission needed to be replaced and along with it the computer and ELD sensor, whatever that is.

"What's it going to cost?"

He pointed to a figure handwritten on a paper on his desk. This is the number:


I was so floored that I joked about it. Then I said $5,600 was more than the van was worth. I knew Honda had had difficulties with Odyssey transmissions and Shaun said he would check to see if the company would help cover the cost.

Shaun called back this afternoon. Honda had come through. The company made an offer to reduce the price sharply. Shaun said that one of the factors in my favor was that I had bought the car new and had maintained it.


I bought it at Bedard's 10 years ago this month. I have always had it serviced there, following their advice on servicing and repairs, even precautionary work like an expensive timing belt replacement 25,000 miles ahead of schedule. It was a good idea, they said, because of the cars age. 


I love the Odyssey because it drives great, still feels solid as a rock at 76,000 miles and I can haul my artwork around in it. The cargo space is big enough to handle a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood.

My paintings are often almost that big so that's a big deal for me. (The seat you see in this picture looks like it is the driver's seat but is actually in the middle row.)

It doesn't get great milage. But our main car is a 2007 Prius and it does.

Maybe I'm unrealistic but because this van has held up so well - and now that it will have a new transmission and computer - I hope to drive it into my 80s. (I'm 76 now.)

My dealings with Honda on this issue were more than satisfactory. Transmissions were the Achilles heel of some Odysseys, so much so that there is a webpage called Odyssey Transmission where people vent their woes.

This blog ordinarily would have been posted about 2 a.m. this morning. But I couldn't write it last night until today because my wedsite host had been hacked into by an outfit that sells Viagra without a prescription. That's the same outfit that pirates people's emails to give you the hard sell. The host fixed the problem so no ED medications will be hawked here.



January 23, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here by lack of popular demand is a second edition of Through a Glass Darkly ( see my January 17 post for the first edition. These are photos shot in night-darkened double paned windows in the house, giving what seem like double exposures at times and other unusual effects.

For example, the photo at the top looks to me like sun flares and the one below like fiery hands of a phantom about to play an invisible piano.

Below is a lamp we've had for years. Most of that time it hasn't worked. But I love it as a piece of sculpture. Some time ago we had it rewired and the globes rechromed. But it only worked for a while. Apparently adjusting the globes shears the internal wiring. I love the jet of red on the left.

And we end this post with a shot of a partial eclipse of the moon. One disappointment I have with this post is that I can find no excuse to rerun actress Harriet Anderrson's photo, her sweater unbuttoned enough so that she could wear it off the shoulder - off both shoulders and way off. If you missed it you can scroll down to January 17/



January 21, 2012


Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I got this shot of bands of shining light as the sun broke through the clouds recently.

It was just late enough in the afternoon that some cars had their headlights on. Often that's a beautiful time of day to walk south along North Street beside Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield. Of course almost any time of day is a great time to walk along Pontoosuc.

I haven't been out on the ice yet. I love taking long walks on the lake. It's been cold long enough now that the ice should be very thick. And now snow covers the slick surface you see here, so there should be decent traction. We'll see what the weather's like in the morning.





January 19, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is Amelia Earhart, the fashion-plate pilot , with her first plane. I'm putting paintings in the Runway Series together and hadn't looked at some of these in a long time. At the time I was reading quite a bit about her and her daring exploits and she became one of my heroes.


These two are dressed like Amelia but were modeling Hermes clothes a couple years ago. The designer was Jean Paul Gaultier, whose star set when he made anti-Semitic comments to a woman in a bar.

This woman wore a Gareth Pugh creation on the runway.


This model probably isn't too comfortable in the fashion armor and may be getting singed by the flames from the burning piano but she shows off that Alexander McQueen dress handsomely. The trio below is the first painting in the Runway Series. This photo was taken in my studio. I'm going to have to take a better shot.



January 17, 2012


Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I spent some time late Monday night taking self portraits in a glass, darkly. That's right, in a glass, not through a glass, darkly*.

In the first three photos in this post I was shooting my reflection in the black glass of a window in a lighted room. Above I was steadying the camera on the arm of a sofa I sat in. The picture that I got was too difficult to see (below) so I brightened it and increased the exposure on Aperture.


Dropping down to the shot below I was closer to the window and to the overhead light, so the face and hands were much brighter. In this case the camera was being hand held at a slow speed. I took a lot of shots to get a few that weren't blurry. This one looks like a double exposure. But the effect was caused by the fact my image was reflected in both sheets of glass. Afterwards I found that if I lined myself up perfectly, I could get a shot without the echo.



I also fooled around using the flash which gave me shots like the one below.


Then I moved into the kitchen which was dark. I opened the door to the cellar and turned on the light for the stairs. The photo is of the reflection in a kitchen window. The green light at the lower left is from the telephone.


*For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. This is 1 Corinthians 13:12 in the old King James Bible. But I didn't come across the line in Sunday School but as the title of a 1961 movie written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. I always found Through a Glass Darkly - the title, not the movie which I saw in college and can't remember - fascinating and mysterious and would often find myself thinking about it. I only learned later (last night) that the sentence in Corinthians meant we won't see God clearly until we die. For those who saw that Swedish film 50 years ago and can't remember it either, here's Wikipedia's summary  of the plot .

The story takes place during a twenty-four hour period while four family members vacation on a remote island, shortly after one of them, Karin (Harriet Andersson, who is seen in both accompanying photos), who suffers from schizophrenia, was released from an asylum. Karin's husband Martin (Max von Sydow) tells her father, David, that Karin's disease is almost incurable. Meanwhile, Minus (Lars Passgård), Karin's 17-year-old brother, tells Karin that he wishes he could have a real conversation with his father, and cries because he feels deprived of his father's affection. David (Gunnar Björnstrand) is a novelist suffering from a "writer's block" who has just returned from a long trip abroad. He announces he will leave again in a month, though he promised he would stay. The others are upset, and David gives them unthoughtful, last-minute presents. He leaves them and sobs alone for a moment. When he returns, the others cheerfully announce that they too have a "surprise" for David; they perform a play for him that Minus has written. David takes offense (although approving on the outside) at the play, which can be interpreted as an attack on his character.

That night, after rejecting Martin’s erotic overtures, Karin wakes up and follows the sound of a foghorn to the attic. She faints after an episode in which she hears voices behind the peeling wallpaper. David, meanwhile, has stayed up all night working on his manuscript. Karin enters his room and tells him she can't sleep, and David tucks her in. Minus asks David to come with him out of the house, and David leaves. Karin looks through David's desk and finds his diary, learning that her disease is incurable and that her father has a callous hunger to record the details of her life.

The following morning, David and Martin, while fishing, confront each other over Karin. Martin accuses David of sacrificing his daughter for his art, and of being a self-absorbed, callous, cowardly phony. David is evasive, but admits that much of what Martin says is true. David says that he recently tried to kill himself by driving over a cliff, but was saved by a faulty transmission. He says that after that, he discovered that he loves Karin, Minus and Martin, and this gives him hope.

Meanwhile, Karin tells Minus about her episodes, and that she is waiting for God to appear behind the wallpaper in the attic. Minus is somewhat sexually frustrated, and Karin teases him, even more so after she discovers that he hides a men's magazine. Later, on the beach, when Karin sees that a storm is coming, she runs

Minus tells the other men about the incident in the ship and Martin calls for an ambulance. Karin asks to speak with her father alone. She confesses her misconduct toward Martin and Minus, saying that a voice told her to act that way and also to search David's desk. She tells David she would like to remain at the hospital, because she cannot go back and forth between two realities — she must choose one. While they are packing to go to the hospital, she runs to the attic, where Martin and David observe her actions. She says that God is about to walk out of the closet door, and asks her husband to allow her to enjoy the moment. The ambulance, a  helicopter, flies by the window, making a lot of noise and shaking the door open. Karin moves toward the door eagerly, but then she runs from it, terrified, and goes into a frenzy of panic. Karin vanishes, and, reappearing in a frenzy, is sedated. When she stands, she tells them of God: an evil-faced spider who tried to penetrate her. She looked into God's eyes, and they were "cold and calm," and when God failed to penetrate her he retreated onto the wall. "I have seen God," she announces.

Karin and Martin leave in the helicopter. Minus tells his father that he is afraid, because when Karin had grabbed him in the ship, he began leaving ordinary reality. He asks his father if he can survive that way. David tells him he can if he has "something to hold on to." He tells Minus of his own hope: love. David and his son discuss the concept of love as it relates to God, and the factor of human father-child relationships in the perception of God, in the stretching final chapter of the film. Minus seems relieved, and is tearfully happy that he finally had a real conversation with his father: "Father spoke to me."

January 15, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is my father when I was a little kid. Looking pretty rakish. Next to him is a toy of mine, a tin building - perhaps a garage - that I remember vaguely. Seeing him and it together makes it obvious I was with him, which makes me sentimental.

It's a shot that may have been taken by my mother, although it is also possible it was taken when she was in a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Adirondacks. She had apparently contracted TB as a nurse.

The picture was taken, I think, along the Bronx River in Scarsdale, N.Y., in the late 1930s. Our apartment was near the river, really more of a stream, and we often took walks along it in the shade of the overhanging trees. There was one place where there was a smell of sewage. I wonder if sewage was piped into the river in those days.

I haven't been able to find the actual photo but I have a small Xerox of it. I took this shot from the Xerox.

This is the next project in the series of photo blowups on my parents. The first of my father, mounted on a panel 72 inches high is show below. Only yesterday I was putting another coat of flat black on the panel. Soon I will put a protective coat of clear acrylic medium over the whole thing.

I will tell you some things about my father, who, like my mother, I loved. Maybe I should say love. But not today. Another time. Maybe when I finish and mount the new picture. One think I will tell you now is his friends called him Jack, a name I like and one I suppose might be inevitable if your name is Horner.





January 13, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I don't know if other dealers do it, but at Bedard Brothers' Honda the service department opens a high garage door when you pull up and you drive right in. Wednesday I pulled in with a minor problem.

"The hood won't latch," I told the service guy. Two days earlier I had noticed that the hood was ajar and tried about eight times to slam it shut. No luck.

"OK," the service guy said and went to the front of the car lifted the hood and closed it.

The hood latched.

"You've got the magic touch," I told him. "Thanks."

"Anything else we can do for you?" he asked.

"No. I'm all set."

He pushed the button and the tall door opened so I could back out. I tried to put the car in reverse. It wouldn't go. I tried again. No go.

"The engine isn't on," the service guy said.

I turned the key and backed out. He's a nice guy but I bet he was shaking his head and wondering when the kids would take my keys.

Driving south on Route 8 I stopped at the Cheshire Lake causeway. That's where I saw the Canada geese.

Many of them had their bill tucked under a wing and napped while balancing on one leg. Pretty good trick.

I tried it last night, tucking my nose under my arm, which also covered my eyes, and lifting one foot. I could only balance for a second or two with my eyes closed. With my eyes open I can balance much longer.

I'd make a lousy goose. Or maybe not.


Now that you've seen geese on ice I thought I'd show you men on ice. These fishermen were on Pontoosuc Lake Wednesday. The morning paper had an article warning that the ice was still too thin to go out on. They obviously didn't agree.

Me, I don't trust the ice until the fishermen drive their pickups and SUVs out on it. Anyway, the ice was too slick for a walk Wednesday. Yesterday's snow - the first in a long time - should improve the footing. Now I just have to wait for the pickups to make their move.

Back to Cheshire Lake. These Mallards were paddling around, their heads astoundingly green. The two on the right look fake, don't they?




January 11, 2012

This post is excerpted from an extraordinary photo essay by Craig Walker, a Denver Post photographer who won the Pulitzer Prize for photography in 2010.  Walker shot for the Berkshire Eagle before going to the Denver paper in 1996. I'm presenting eight of Walker's 49 photos about  Brian Scott Ostrom, along with Walker's captions and a short preface.



Scott drives to a Boulder bar to meet his girlfriend on April 30, 2011. The stitches in his neck were from his attempted suicide earlier in the week after the couple had an argument. "It spiraled out of control. ... I was so full of rage and resentment. I was mad at myself. I was in flight-or-fight mode. Since I'm a Marine, there is no flight mode. It's fight ... it's kill, kill, kill. Well, I'm not going to kill (her)," he said. Scott said he believes every combat vet struggling with PTSD has a contingency plan. "Every one of us has a suicide plan. We all know how to kill, and we all have a plan to kill ourselves."


After serving four years as a reconnaissance man and deploying twice to Iraq, Brian Scott Ostrom, now 27, returned home to the U.S. with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The most important part of my life already happened. The most devastating. The chance to come home in a box. Nothing is ever going to compare to what I’ve done, so I’m struggling to be at peace with that,” Scott said. He attributes his PTSD to his second deployment to Iraq, where he served seven months in Fallujah with the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.

“It was the most brutal time of my life,” he said. “I didn’t realize it because I was living it. It was a part of me.” Since his discharge, Scott has struggled with daily life, from finding and keeping employment to maintaining healthy relationships. But most of all, he’s struggled to overcome his brutal and haunting memories of Iraq. Nearly five years later, Scott remains conflicted by the war. Though he is proud of his service and cares greatly for his fellow Marines, he still carries guilt for things he did — and didn’t do — fighting a war he no longer believes in.


After punching a hole in his apartment door four times, Scott stands in his living room. "My PTSD comes from long exposure to combat trauma," Scott said. "I think it comes from the fact that I survived. That wasn't my plan. It's an honor to die for my country, but I made it home."



During their breakup Scott tries to leave his apartment as his girlfriend seizes his glasses. "She steals my glasses because I can't see without them. She antagonizes me. She does it to push my buttons, but I'm not going to do anything. I'm not going to hit her." As soon as she entered, she immediately began carrying things to her car. "I dated this girl for almost two years, and it was the most tumultuous relationship I have ever had in my life. It was the closest thing that got me back to the levels of stress I had in combat," Scott said.



Scott watches as his girlfriend struggles to carry his Tempur-Pedic mattress from his apartment. She'd arrived to pick up her belongings but was taking his bed because she said she paid for it. After a 15-minute struggle with the heavy mattress, she gave up and left in a rage. He said the relationship was exactly what he needed at that time in his life. "I needed someone to affirm the way I felt about myself. ... I felt like if I stayed with that person long enough and received enough punishment, then I have in some way sought redemption for my actions overseas in Iraq."



Jibby ( Scott's treasured dog) waits as Scott hitchhikes on May 28, 2011. Scott said he wasn't excited about returning to daily life after camping. "Society reminds me of war. Being out here and being self-reliant is uplifting. Just knowing that I'm responsible for my own fate feels good. ... It's at the core of every man. We gotta be outside -- we can't be locked in a box."


Scott watches an evening storm roll in outside his apartment on July 27, 2011. "I'm just feeling guilty about the things I did. I was a brutal killer, and I rejoiced in it. I was bred to be a killer, and I did it. Now I'm trying to adapt and feel human again. But to feel human, I feel guilty. I did horrible things to people... That's why I can't eat: I feel guilty, I feel sick."



Scott laughs with (Marine Sgt. Dean) Sanchez (of the Wounded Warrior Regiment) while shopping at JC Apparel Industries in Denver. The owner, also a former Marine, sold Scott a suit for cost. "There's a lot of people that care about me right now," Scott said. "I can't thank them enough. I have a lot of generous friends -- people that talk to me. They listen to me cry. A lot of good friends."

Scott takes a deep breath after checking in to the PTSD Residential Rehabilitation Program. "This may sound superficial, but I hope my nightmares go away. I'm tired of dreaming about Iraq. ... I'd rather dream about ... girls and water slides," he said. Scott said his fellow soldiers helped him to cope with his life while he was in Iraq. "I guess I could say this year was the worst year of my life because I wasn't constantly surrounded by my brothers. Iraq was ... horrible, but at least I had my family there with me. ... Next year is going to be much better. I mean ... life's already looking up, you know?"


For the full Denver Post online-only report, including 41 additional photos and a video, go to: http://photos.denverpost.com/mediacenter/2011/12/special-project-welcome-home/26786/

Craig Walker

I worked closely with Craig Walker when he was a photographer for nine years at The Eagle where I was the associate editor. We are good friends.

On the special projects he developed at The Eagle - including one on the last six months of a woman AIDs victim's life - Craig spent major blocks of time with his subjects. What resulted were exceptional photographs, shots that were both telling and humane, full of art and soul.

With the Post he has not only covered Denver and Colorado but has had assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Palestine and has come under fire.






January 9, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Saturday night the I raced with the moon as it cut through the clouds. Even though that's an optical illusion and the moon and I were basically stationary, it felt like that as I took moonshots through a clearstory window in our house.

Putting the words racing and moon in the same sentence makes me think of Vaughn Monroe. Monroe, a popular crooner in the 1940s, sang a love song called Racing with the Moon. I decided to buy it on iTunes.

I was amazed at the number of songs he recorded that had been favorites of mine when I was in grade school: Time On My Hands, Dream, Seems Like Old Times, Blue Moon, Moonglow, Moonlight and Roses, The Very Thought of You, Tangerine, Thanks for the Memory and the World War II hit, When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World).

He had a good voice but listening to most of the songs from that era is hard because the orchestration was so soppy. 

When I went to bed the moonlight was streaming in through the windows and the skylight. The best night light you could have.





January 7, 2012

This article was published in the New York Times on the Op-Ed Page in commemoration of the 600th birthday of Joan of Arc, a hero of mine who was the subject of some 30 abstract paintings I did several years ago, paintings that were exhibited in 2009. This is printed without permission and I hope I don't get sued for copyright infringement.


JOAN OF ARC was born 600 years ago. Six centuries is a long time to continue to mark the birth of a girl who, according to her family and friends, knew little more than spinning and watching over her father’s flocks. But type her name into Amazon’s search engine and you get more than 6,000 results. France’s national archives include tens of thousands of volumes about her. She has been immortalized by Shakespeare, Voltaire, Twain, Shaw, Brecht, Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Rubens; more recently, her life was fodder for the CBS television series “Joan of Arcadia.”

What is it about Joan of Arc? Why is her story of enduring interest more than a half a millennium after her birth?

By the time Joan of Arc was 16  and had proclaimed herself the virgin warrior sent by God to deliver France from her enemies, the English, she had been receiving the counsel of angels for three years. Until then, the voices she said she heard, speaking from over her right shoulder and accompanied by a great light, had been hers alone, a rapturous secret.

But in 1428, when the voices pressed her to undertake the quest for which they had been preparing her, they transformed a seemingly undistinguished peasant into a visionary heroine who defied every limitation placed on a woman of the late Middle Ages. The least likely of military leaders, Joan of Arc changed the course of the Hundred Years’ War and of history.

Joan said she sheared off her hair, dressed in male attire, put on armor and took up her sword at God’s behest. She was feverish in her determination to succeed at what was, by anyone’s measure, a preposterous mission. As Joan herself protested to her voices, she   “knew not how to ride or lead in war”; and yet she roused an exhausted, underequipped and impotent army into a fervor that carried it from one unlikely victory to the next. She raised the siege of Orléans by defying the cautious strategies of seasoned generals to follow inaudible directions from invisible beings.

Illiterate and uncouth, Joan moved purposefully among nobles, bishops and royalty. So intent on vanquishing the enemy that she threatened her own men with violence, she herself recoiled at the idea of bloodshed. To avoid having to use her sword, she led her army carrying a 12-foot-long banner emblazoned with the words Party of the Kingdom of Heaven. Witnesses said she was luminous in battle, light not glinting off her armor so much as radiating from the girl within. Her enemies spoke of clouds of butterflies following in her wake, a curiously beatific report from men who said she was in league with the devil.

In the aftermath of combat she didn’t celebrate victory but mourned the casualties; her men remembered her on her knees weeping as she held the head of a dying enemy soldier, urging him to confess his sins. Her courage outstripped that of seasoned men at arms; her tears flowed as readily as any other teenage girl’s.

After a series of victories, Joan suffered the reversals her voices had predicted. Captured and sold to the English, and shackled in a dank cell for more than a year, Joan was put on trial for her life. For refusing to renounce the voices that guided her as deviltry, Joan, 19 years old, was burned at the stake before a jeering crowd, her charred body displayed to anyone who cared to examine it. Thirty years later, in 1450, a Rehabilitation Trial overturned the guilty verdict that condemned her to death; the 19th-century rediscovery of the transcripts from both trials resulted in her canonization in 1920.

Like all holy figures whose earthly existence separates them from the broad mass of humanity, a saint is a story, and Joan of Arc’s is like no other.

The self-proclaimed agent of God’s will, she wasn’t immortalized so much as she entered the collective imagination as a living myth. Centuries after death, she has been embraced by Christians, feminists, French nationalists, Mexican revolutionaries and even hairdressers. (Her crude cut inspired the bob flappers wore as a symbol of independence from patriarchal strictures.) Her voices have been diagnosed retroactively as symptoms of schizophrenia, epilepsy, even tuberculosis. It seems Joan of Arc will never be laid to rest. Is this because stories we understand are stories we forget?

Joan frustrates efforts to reduce her to mortal proportions. What can explain what her voices told her, whether directing her movements in battle or scripting answers to her inquisitors. And what about her reputed clairvoyance, accounts that her touch raised a child from the dead, her ability to direct the wind to fill her stalled boats’ sails?

We don’t need narratives that rationalize human experience so much as those that enlarge it with the breath of mystery. For as long as we look to heroes for inspiration, to leaders whose vision lifts them above our limited perspective, who cherish their values above their earthly lives, the story of Joan of Arc will remain one we remember, and celebrate.

Kathryn Harrison is writing a biography of Joan of Arc. Based on the high quality of this piece, I'm looking forward to reading it. To see this article as it appeared in the Times go to this link.

You might enjoy reading the transcript of her trial in 1431. She was 19 and her brilliance shines through. The transcript is a long but amazing historical document.




January 5, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

When I was a kid a print of a three masted ship, all sails set, hung on my wall. It was a study in black and blues with points of green and red marking starboard and port.

I loved that print because I was crazy about sail boats and because its color scheme seemed very dramatic and beautiful. I could lay in bed and think I was on a ship cutting through the ocean. But much more frequently, and only in winter, my bed was a sled speeding over the snow, its huskies straining at their harnesses. And I would lie in the sled, toasty in the furs covering me, looking at the stars as the dogs took me through the night.

The other night the temperature fell to 4 and I was scrunched up into a semi-fetal position under heavy blankets covering everything but the top of my head. That reminded me of those rides so many years ago just as these photos reminded me of the picture on my wall.

My photos on this post pay homage to that picture.

At the top is a night shot of the channel at Pontoosuc Lake, a favorite subject of mine recently.

And below I caught the moon impaled by the branches of a tree along my road.





January 3, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man had more than 1.5 million hits in 2011 - 1,513,647 to be exact. It was a good year. I think 2010 was as good but, typically, I can't find the stats.  During the year my blog had 56,004 visits.

Bloggers like to express their results in hits because it is a much larger number than visits, which tracks the number of times someone took a look at the blog. A lot of people think 1.5 million hits  means that many people visited your site.

I've started a new painting - the top half of it is shown above - to begin 2012 off on what I hope will be the right foot.

It is a full-length painting of a model, Nana Keita, wearing an outfit designed by Haider Ackermann. This was from Ackermann's sensational Spring 2012 ready to wear collection presented last fall.

At this point the painting is pretty rough. I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I was attracted to by the flowing purple blouse and Keita's beauty. No paint has been applied to the face yet. The yellowish marks there are my pastel sketch of the subject.

An Ackermann dress with sheer top. Photo from Vogue

A lot of the outfits in Ackermann's show were beautiful. I don't usually read what the critics say about shows. But I did look up two to go with this post.

Hamish Bowles in vogue.com praised Ackermann's " poetic and at times transportingly beautiful show."

Bowles had one cautionary note, saying the long dresses with tops of sheer chiffon, like the one above, perhaps went "a step too far." I was intrigued by those dresses but can't imagine who would have the nerve to wear one to a party.

The web-based style journal onesixtynotepad.com said, Ackermann's clothes in that show "set a benchmark that moved a good many in its crowd to tears."

I can't imagine crying about the sheer top. But as a friend of mine once told me after a beautiful girl passed his desk, "It makes my throat hurt."

I add this photo on on January 4. Perhaps it will give you a better idea of the painting. I've had a hard time capturing the color of the blouse and the pants and the light glare on the painting's acrylic gloss background has complicated the effort.



January 1, 2012

Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper crack me up on their annual gig as CNN's hosts for the annual ball drop at Times Square. Her offbeat humor keeps the newsman in stitches, too. No shrinking violet, Kathy peeled her dress off minutes before midnight and appeared in her bra.

Lady Gaga inspired this display, the 51-year-old comedian quipped.

Anderson handed her a sign that said "No Nudity."  In a pause in their repartee, the anchorman said, "By the way, you've got a rocking body." 

He was right. To watch the YouTube video of that portion of the show go to this link.


Nothing sensational happened at the party at my house. We talked and ate a delicious dinner and made each other laugh, six old friends celebrating New Year's together for perhaps the 20th time.

As usually happens the party ended well before the clock struck midnight. Then Babbie and I watched Anderson and Kathy. Then Babbie went to bed and I went to the computer to see if the shots I had taken had turned out and to start my blog. I kept falling asleep.

Figuring washing the dishes would wake me up, that's what I did. It took a while because there were a lot of them. Then I returned to the computer and finished this post.

By the way, Happy New Year.




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