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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Sin Esperanza - Frida Kahlo, 1945

Sin Esperanza (Without Hope) – Frida Kahlo, 1945

Doctor Gordon was unlocking the closet. He dragged out a table on wheels with a machine on it and rolled it behind the head of the bed. The nurse started swabbing my temples with a smelly grease.

As she leaned over to reach the side of my head nearest the wall, her fat breast muffled my face like a cloud or a pillow. A vague, medicinal stench emanated from her flesh.

“Don’t worry,” the nurse grinned down at me. “Their first time everybody’s scared to death.”

I tried to smile, but my skin had gone stiff, like parchment.

Doctor Gordon was fitting two metal plates on either side of my head. He buckled them into place with a strap that dented my forehead, and gave me a wire to bite.

I shut my eyes.

There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath.

Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap would fly out of me like a split plant.

I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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Bathing Nude - Zinaida Serebriakova, 1927

Bathing Nude – Zinaida Serebriakova, 1927

I remember the ceiling over every bathtub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colors and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs, too: the antique griffin-legged tubs, and the modern coffin-shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking indoor lily ponds, and I remember the shapes and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap holders.

I never feel so much myself as when I’m in a hot bath.

I lay in that tub on the seventeenth floor of this hotel for-women-only, high up over the jazz and push of New York, for near onto an hour, and I felt myself growing pure again. I don’t believe in baptism or the waters of Jordan or anything like that, but I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water.

I said to myself: “Doreen is dissolving, Lenny Shepherd is dissolving, Frankie is dissolving, New York is dissolving, they are all dissolving away and none of them matter any more. I don’t know them, I have never known them and I am very pure. All that liquor and those sticky kisses I saw and the dirt that settled on my skin the way back is turning into something pure.”

The longer I lay there in the clear hot water the purer I felt, and when I stepped out at last and wrapped myself in one of the big, soft white hotel bath towels I felt pure and sweet as a new baby.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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Bootleg Whiskey - Jacob Lawrence, 1943

Bootleg Whiskey – Jacob Lawrence, 1943

There are few things as beautiful as a glass bottle filled with deep amber whiskey. Liquor shines when the light hits it, reminiscent of precious things like jewels and gold. But whiskey is better than some lifeless bracelet or coronet. Whiskey is a living thing capable of any emotion that you are. It’s love and deep laughter and brotherhood of the type that bonds nations together.

Whiskey is your friend when nobody else comes around. And whiskey is solace that holds you tighter than most lovers can.

I thought all that while looking at my sealed bottle. And I knew for a fact that it was all true.

True the way a lover’s pillow talk is true. True the way a mother’s dreams for her napping infant are true.

But the whiskey mind couldn’t think its way out of the problems I had. So I took Mr. Seagram’s, put him in his box, and placed him up on the shelf where he belonged.

Walter Mosley, Black Betty

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Girls With Good Luck Charms - Raphael Kirchner, circa 1905

Girls With Good Luck Charms – Raphael Kirchner, circa 1905

8.
Here’s a system you can use. Let’s say you’re playing an old-fashioned three-reel machine at a dollar a spin with a max bet of three. A reel is a mechanical wheel that spins inside the machine. When the symbols on the reels line up in a designated pattern, the player wins. This line is called the payline. If you put in $10, the credit meter will display 10. You can bet one, two, or three credits. If you bet three credits, i.e. max bet, when the reels spin your credit meter adjusts to 7. Congratulations, a single spin on a $1 machine just cost you $3. It’s particularly frustrating when the first reel of your $3 bet stops between symbols. At this rate, you’ll be broke in no time. So start with a single credit. If the first reel doesn’t stop with a symbol on the payline, stick to a single-credit bet for the next spin. But if that first reel puts a symbol on the payline, up the bet, even if the second or third reel doesn’t. As long as the first reel puts a symbol on the payline, keep upping the bet all the way to max bet. But as soon as the first reel stops cooperating, drop back down to a one-credit wager. I call this system the Rule of Firsts. The thing about this system, of course, is it’s not really a system.

9.
This is what happens when you press the spin button on a slot machine: the button sends an electromagnetic signal to a random number generator, which assigns a value to each reel that determines its position. In other words, before the reels even begin to spin the outcome of the game has been decided. So much for systems.

13.
What about luck? Luck has nothing to do with anything unless you’re the kind of person who thinks it has everything to do with everything. People who believe in luck tend not to be system players. Luck isn’t what’s making the casinos rich. Luck doesn’t pay the rent or the car payment or the cosmetic surgeon. Luck doesn’t keep the lights on at Thunderclap. But going to a casino and not believing in luck is like going to church and not believing in heaven.

Jim Ruland, from “13 Ways of Looking at a Slot Machine” in This is Not a Camera (originally published at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency as part of the series “Dispatches from an Indian Casino” under the pseudonym “Leslie McDonald”)

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Satire on False Perspectives - William Hogarth, 1754

Satire on False Perspectives – William Hogarth, 1754

…I saw this study once many years ago, from Ohio State University, the graduate program there. They did a study of self-identified conservatives and self-identified liberals, and they got a group that self-identified in those categories, and that also both sides identified as fans of [The Colbert Report], and they had them watch the same video, then they said, ‘What do you think his actual political position is here?’ Democrats believed that I was a liberal or liberals believed I was a liberal pretending to be a conservative, and conservatives who enjoyed the show tended to think that I was a conservative pretending to be a liberal pretending to be a conservative…

And I don’t really want to correct either side, because there are times I agree with my character. And I really don’t want the audience to know when I do. I love that, man. That’s the triple gainer. I purposefully jumped over the line a lot at the beginning of the show so people would be confused.

Stephen Colbert, interviewed by Judd Apatow for Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy

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American Train - Hiro Yamagata, 1988

American Train – Hiro Yamagata, 1988

There’s a lot of hip guys in the world, but who can follow Billy Joel in America, you know what I mean? I don’t give a fuck who you are, I don’t give a fuck if you’re Sting or Bono– if you’re onstage in America, there’s a part of you that just hopes Billy Joel doesn’t walk in. I remember going to see Billy and Elton John in concert. I kind of wanted to see Elton a little more, and I came out of it thinking, Billy Joel is actually more American than Bruce Springsteen, you know what I mean? Bruce Springsteen’s a fucking Russian soldier compared to fucking Billy Joel, man…

Chris Rock, in an interview with Judd Apatow from Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy

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Josephine Baker - Kees van Dongen, 1925

Josephine Baker – Kees van Dongen, 1925

I saw her a year before she died. She was greeting people at the Rainbow Sign in Berkeley, California. Ntozake Shange, a poet and playwright, coaxed me into the receiving line because I was shy. And when it came my turn I presented her with a copy of [Mumbo Jumbo,] the novel on whose cover I had used an old photo of her to represent two sides of the Vodoun goddess Erzulie. And she flashed that famous smile and squinted those famous eyes and she said, ‘Do you know the young man who wrote this book?’ I was so awestruck, I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I knows him,’ forgetting that that young man was me. That was Josephine Baker. Such a divine presence she made you forget yourself.

– Ishmael Reed in the New York Times Book Review, December 12, 1976

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