Photo Challenge: Branches

©2014 Beret Olsen
My favorite dead tree, with Mt. Diablo in the distance.                           ©2014 Beret Olsen

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©2014 Beret Olsen
That’s Mt. Tam there in the setting sun.                                                     ©2014 Beret Olsen

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All of these photos came from walks up Mt. Davidson. Thanks to nuvofelt for issuing weekly photography challenges.

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Strange bedfellows: Renaissance painting and indie music

A few months ago, I wrote a post responding to a video which I failed to embed properly. Apologies. I suppose it was inevitable that Zero to Hero would challenge me to figure out that mess. I went back and fixed the problem–I think.

For my month of blog fine-tuning–c.f.,  Zero to Hero–I’m supposed to write something which includes embedded media. In honor of this occasion, I have decided to share something that has snagged in the corner of my brain. It is not the usual Bad Parenting fare.

I’m being haunted by a music video.

I find the song mesmerizing. The lyrics are just inscrutable enough to tantalize my imagination. The melody is intoxicating, and the mix is perfect–complicated, well-balanced. What is bugging me is the video itself. I’m still trying to figure out what they were thinking.
The set and arrangement of characters were modeled after what is perhaps Raphael’s best-known painting, a fresco he did at the Vatican called The School of Athens.

School of Athens, from wikipedia.
School of Athens, from wikipedia.

This painting supposedly includes “every great Greek philosopher,” which means everyone from Socrates and Plato to Euclid and Pythagoras. I don’t know any contemporary Greek philosophers, but it doesn’t matter:  the painting was done in the 16th century, so I’m off the hook.

School of Athens was part of a series that was supposed to illustrate a progression from reason (Western philosophy) to revelation (Christianity), and to show how they worked  together–an idea that has been lost in these days of intelligent design vs. evolution.

But what characters has alt-J put in their video? These are not meant to be philosophers. And why did alt-J choose to put this particular cast in dialogue with art history and religion? After a very un-scientific search, the best I could find was an off-hand comment about wanting to set contemporary figures from a “lower socio-economic status” into Raphael’s famous work. Fine. But these are not “poor people,” per se; these are stereotypes from gangster culture:  the liquor in a paper bag, throwing dice, ferocious dogs, big earrings, wife beater t-shirts, heavy chains, spandex dresses. I look at pictures of members of the band and wonder:  what are these pasty white guys trying to say? Are they trying to offer commentary on class and culture? Or simply show off their liberal arts degrees from Leeds?

The lyrics have not helped illuminate this conundrum:

“Three guns and one goes off
One’s empty, one’s not quick enough
One burn, one red, one grin
Search the graves while the camera spins

Chunks of you will sink down to seals
Blubber rich in mourning, they’ll nosh you up
Yes, they’ll nosh the love away but it’s fair to say
You will still haunt me”

The video makes no sense to me, and borders on offensive. If this is what they think poverty looks like, I find it terribly condescending. Kind of like when Miley pops in a grill and acts out her impression of African Americans. Awkward, at best, but likely much, much worse.

At the same time, I can’t stop listening to the song or watching the video in question, so who am I to judge?

****

p.s. I did find out where they got the band name. Press alt-J on your keyboard and you’ll get ∆:  the triangle that appears in their video and as their logo. Triangles are their favorite shape.

What am I doing here?

From www.images.sodahead.com
From http://www.images.sodahead.com

I don’t remember why I started a blog.

I don’t even really know why I need to write. I just know that when I don’t, I get cranky.

When I do write, I feel fabulous–whether I end up posting or not. So why don’t I simply dump my thoughts in a journal and stick it on the shelf? Continue reading What am I doing here?

Another New Year, Another Chance to Aim Low

To really aim low, I could be zero AND a hero. From empowermm.com, whatever that is.
To really aim low, I could be zero AND a hero. Image from empowermm.com.

Gone are the days of resolving to “Achieve balance,” and then feeling crappity all year when I can’t do it. This year, I have decided once again to aim low, focusing on short-term, achievable goals. I will make reasonable monthly resolutions, and then emerge victorious. That is my plan.

For January, I’m participating in “Zero to Hero,” the embarrassingly titled 30-day plan for kick-starting or fine-tuning one’s blog. And though it sounds as if I need a cape, I will proceed without one.

For today’s assignment, I was supposed to introduce myself and consider my purpose and content. Well, I thought about it. I blog about everything from teaching to parenting to bad hair cuts to traveling, and I have no intention of narrowing my focus at this time. As for an introduction, I’ve been here a while, so I decided to rewrite my About page. It now reads as follows:

Likes:

  • snacks
  • the Oxford comma
  • snail mail
  • other great stuff

Dislikes:

  • raisins
  • parking
  • sciatica

Neither a morning person nor a night owl, I can be surprisingly productive between 10 and 2. I am awake for many, many other hours, though–mostly on purpose.

Additional fun facts:

After graduating from Carleton College with a degree in Sociology and Anthropology, I joined Teach for America, continuing to teach and administrate in urban public schools for twelve years. For my first mid-life crisis, I went on leave to study photography at California College of the Arts. I am currently raising two daughters, writing two blogs, teaching and photographing whenever possible.

Also, I am apparently a photo editor for an online magazine. This is exciting and terrifying, but I didn’t include that on the page because I don’t actually believe it yet.

Now. I am expected home in time for the bedtime routine. That is next on my list to achieve.