Let's talk about love and Valentine's Day.

There’s rather a lot to unpack about Valentine’s Day. Let’s start with the part about St. Valentine, shall we?

Valentine, according to legend, was a holy Roman priest under the rule of emperor Claudius the Cruel. Claudius was apparently having trouble getting soldiers to join his military and he decided it was because they were all too attached to their wives and families so he banned engagements and marriages. Valentine went against this decree and married young lovers in secret. When his defiance was discovered, he was arrested, tortured, and beheaded. The beheading reportedly took place on February 14th in the year 270. His martyrdom, supposedly in support of the union of lovers, is what propelled him to sainthood. However, factual history debates the legend seeing as how there are no fewer than three different Saint Valentines – all martyrs – mentioned in the early Catholic records under the date of February 14th. It is also possible that the romantic significance of Valentine’s Day was merely a way for Pope Gelasius to put an end to the pagan love feast of Lupercalia which saw men randomly draw the names of young women to be with. Like a pagan key party of sorts. The Pope disliked this festival and declared February 14th to be St. Valentine’s Day instead of the Feast of Lupercalia. Whichever legend or Valentine is true, Valentine’s Day started with martyrdom of some fashion and likely ended with the overwriting of a pagan festival.

Now let’s dive into the love game. There is a lengthy list of synonyms for ‘love’. A sample includes: affection, devotion, fondness, friendship, infatuation, lust, respect, passion, yearning, amity, ardor, admiration, attachment, adoration, tenderness…  With so many words that elaborate on or relate to love, why do we insist that such rigid boundaries define our actual love interactions? Valentine’s Day typically reflects on romance – the love that is romantic in nature and infused with notes of lust and adoration. It typically neglects anything other than heterosexual sex-and-partnership unions of a romantic nature. But there are many types of love. Not only on the LGBTQ spectrum which are just as romantic but in terms of how humans can love each other full stop. Love is a multi-faceted emotion. It does not deal in strict boundaries. Look at the synonyms: lust, respect, fondness, friendship, ardor, tenderness. These are loves that speak beyond the strictly romantic definition we work from. These are the loves so often cited as “Greek loves”: agape, storge, philia, and the like. Just as with our own word for love, however, the Greek words for love are similarly multi-facted. They are interchangeable within context and relationship. The love of a parent to a child or a child for a parent. The love for a deity. The love between siblings. The love between mentor and mentee. The love between companions on a like journey. The love between friends. The love between partners. The love between first-time lovers. The love between those long-married. The love between creative muses. The list is endless. Love itself is not constrained by our arbitrary definitions, it springs up between the cracks of the walls we erect and the rules we attempt to enforce. “Love is a many splendored thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all we need is love,” as Christian so passionately declared to Satine in ‘Moulin Rouge’, defining the power of love without fencing it in.

This Valentine’s Day, celebrate the fullness of love in your life. Whoever it is that you love – your parent, your child, your sister or brother, your best friend, your creative partner, your inspiration, your spouse, your lover, your idol – whoever it is that makes this life sweeter, makes you smile, makes the sun shine brighter and the struggles less difficult: that’s your Valentine. That’s your love. That’s who this day ought to be for.

To quote the inimitable David Bowie himself, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

- Corinne Simpson

The Inverse Function

Back in November of 2015 I wrote a guest post for my friend Lindsey McNeill (Scream Queen B)'s blog. It was about ageism against women in Hollywood and embracing aging instead of fighting it and wanting to see more women of all ages onscreen... it's the kind of post that bears repeating over and over again because it never goes out of style, sadly. We never learn to embrace aging and we really should. Hollywood really should. So here, then, is a teaser of that post (called 'The Inverse Function') along with Lindsey's blush-inducing flattering introduction. Please please please click the link at the end to go to the original post to finish reading it there. Because I have things to say and they're worth reading... and I know it takes time to click but I like to give credit where credit is due and Lindsey coaxed this post out of me and hosted it first so finish reading it on her site. Thank you!  xoxo Corinne the VampireNomad

 

#BITCHPLEASE  I met Corinne Simpson on set of the Sexy Voter campaign, where she demonstrated the delight of individual eyelashes. After quickly discovering we're both writers, both into horror and feminism, we decided we better go for coffee. Our new friendship has lightened my spirit with so much needed laughter and shared wisdom that I'm reminded of a universal force that brings people together at just the right time. Plus, a woman who can use Star Trek: The Next Generation to perfectly illustrate my current spiritual obstacles... you wanna keep her around and thank her daily. 

She is a superb storyteller (I will never think of breakfast quite the same) and a brilliant mind. When she offered to write piece on Hollywood and the invisibility of women of a certain age - particularly in relationship to men - well I knew this was something to share and discuss. So please enjoy and give her some love!

 

THE INVERSE FUNCTION

GUEST POST BY CORINNE SIMPSON.

There is a curious thing that happens in Hollywood as women age: they become invisible.  Or rather, they simply don’t age.  It’s a phenomenon I like to affectionately call The Inverse Function because I am very mathematically inclined.  No, that’s a joke, I’m not at all but I do full-heartedly support women in STEM and believe more women should be in STEM fields because our world is our battleground and our playground simultaneously.  Women should define and explore it as much as men.  I digress.  Defined, inverse means “(of a proportion) containing terms of which an increase in one results in a decrease in another.  A term is said to be in inverse proportion to another term if it increases (or decreases) as the other decreases (or increases)”. So, like my bank account and makeup collection: that is an inverse relationship.  As my makeup collection increases, my bank account decreases.  But in Hollywood The Inverse Function I refer to is age-related.  Specifically: as actors age (or increase in years), their lead actresses get younger (or their ages decrease).........

to finish reading click here: Scream Queen B and The Inverse Function

 

by: Corinne Simpson

 

Terima Kasih - Sama Sama

Thank you and you're welcome are two phrases used a lot in any language and Bahasa Indonesia is no different. A few of my original posts are about my experiences traveling around Indonesia and they were entitled Terima Kasih (thank you) Indonesia. 

It doesn't take much to be thankful and saying thank you is actually one of the greatest acts of kindness we can impart on others. 

Well, I'd like to take this time to say "Thank you" to Corinne, our site mistress and THE Vampire Nomad for hosting my words and stories and for providing me with a platform to do so. Being able to create has been a godsend. I've enjoyed writing and collaborating with Vampire Nomad and we have had some crazy conversations that our readership have been privy to. We cannot forget about our polygamy post. Of course, working with Alan and Nathan has been an amazing experience as well.  This is one talented group of writers.

Of course, I would be no where without you, dear readers. Thank you for commenting on and reading my words.

In the future, I look forward to creating my own brand and of course writing. As always, you can find me on twitter. 

Cheers.

Jennifer Ward

RantingnRaven on twitter

Ray Bradbury: Master of Allusion

Just a little bit of transparency here, I am reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for the eighth time. No I am not a sadist; I am a teacher.  Every time I read this novel with my students, I am amazed at how many new understandings I have. This is the sign of a really well written novel. It has meat for us to feast on time and again. Bradbury is an allusionist and by that I mean he is able to feed us multiple allusions to set the tone and give us a clear understanding of his interpretations or the understandings he hopes the reader will have.

If you haven’t read Fahrenheit 451, I will summarize for you. It’s about American society in the future. All we know is that people live carelessly and have total disregard for one another and for life.   In this society reading is forbidden and fireman burn books. So instantly our perception of the roles in society are turned upside down. People are forbidden to think for themselves. Somehow reading books forces people to think for themselves and form their own thoughts.  The book is in three sections: The Hearth and the Salamander; The Sieve and the Sand; and Burning Bright.

Bradbury is the master of including little thought bombs in his literature. He leaves little quotes here and there to make us, the reader, think beyond the literal level. As an old woman’s book cache is pillaged and at risk of being burned by the fireman, she says:

“Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day see light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

In truth, most of my students have no idea what this quote means. But what this quote does is forces us to think. Why would Bradbury use this? What is its significance? Essentially, a man named Latimer said this to Nicolas Ridley when they were being burned for heresy for spreading protestant beliefs in England.  In the novel, the old woman actually burns herself with her books. She burns herself because she cannot live without her books. She holds strong in her beliefs, not unlike Latimer and Ridley.

Bradbury uses the protagonist Montag, a fireman turned crusader, as his voice to call out American society of the late 1950s. At this time, Bradbury and others really feel as though freedom of speech is being compromised because of communism; thus, they fear oppression. Bradbury is a polemicist and we see this in many of his works.  Consequently, he uses Montag to question his own dystopian society.

Midway through the novel, in The Sieve and the Sand, Montag no longer wants to burn and actually believes that what is contained within books is important. Montag wants to change society’s perception of books and thinking in general but he gets too excited and lacks clarity and the ability to plan a well-structured coup against the oppressor. An old English professor helps to guide him, but has this to say:

“Remember Caesar, thou art mortal.”

Again we are given an allusion. We know instantaneously that Montag is not invincible. If history serves as a reminder, Caesar was murdered for trying to make social and governmental reform.  When Bradbury makes this allusion, we can see that Montag is going to struggle to reform his society and someone who he believes is his ally will stand in his way.   We are forced to have an understanding of history or at a minimum do a little bit of research.

Not all authors can infuse a multitude of allusions in a text without their work becoming too arduous for the reader. Bradbury never underestimates the intelligence of his readers and he probably knows we could handle all the allusions. I just love how well written Fahrenheit 451 is and how Bradbury makes the reader think. We cannot be passive readers when we read his work and I think that is exactly the point. Bradbury is a master allusionist  (I know this is not a word, but I’m channeling Shakespeare here).

 

~Jennifer Ward

RantingnRaven on twitter 

The Thrilling Tale of The Ghent Altarpiece

Do you think classical art is boring?  

“Yes actually, VampireNomad, I really do think those praying saints and pious religious paintings are deadly dull.  I prefer Campbell’s soup and melting clocks.”

Well, yes, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali are two of the greats!  Campbell’s Soup Cans and The Persistence of Memory are truly brilliant works.  But why don’t you like Renaissance art?  Why are the more classical works boring?

“They just are.  There’s nothing interesting about them.”

I respect your opinion.  If anything, art is a personal experience.  Art, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  What arrests the attention and stirs the emotions of one will have no effect on another and that’s the beauty of art, the power of it.  But if I may, I’d like to tell you a story about a famous work of Renaissance art from the 15th century.  This, though, is no lecture, no droning factual discourse.  This is a riveting tale of angelic beings, sacrifice, scandal, death, piety, theft, Nazis, and mystery.  This is a thriller, an action adventure tale set in the Renaissance world of oil painting.

The Thrilling Tale of The Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck.  

The Ghent Altarpiece resides in the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Ghent, Belgium.  It is widely considered to be the greatest monument of early Flemish painting.  It is an oil painting and a polyptych: which is to say it is a painting comprised of many panels and opens and closes to reveal different scenes, religious in nature.  Fully open it stands at an impressive seventeen feet wide.

Who painted what?  Nobody knows for sure.  The brothers Hubert and Jan did not work side by side on the entire Altarpiece and as is so often the case with famous siblings, one brother far outshone the other.  Nobody knows much about Hubert but Jan van Dyck is a household name.  He’s the Alec Baldwin to Hubert’s Daniel, you see.  It is widely believed that Hubert painted the central inside panels featuring God, Mary, and John the Baptist because their scale is so different from the rest.  Then Hubert died.  And Jan finished the Altarpiece, graciously inscribing his brother’s name first on the completed work.  Sibling rivalry!  Death!  Posthumous acclaim!  

When closed the upper panels depict the Annunciation: the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary to inform her she would bear the Christ Child.  Though the scene spans four individual panels it depicts a single room with Gabriel on the far left addressing Mary on the far right.  He addresses her literally, for the words he speaks to her are painted directly on the canvas emanating from the level of his head.  He says “Ave gratia plena” (“Hail thou that art full of grace”).  Mary’s reply is also inscribed as emanating from the level of her head.  She responds with “ecce ancilla” (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord”) but her words are painted upside down.  Was Jan having an off day?  Did Hubert do it before his death to spite Jan’s vision?  No, the words are deliberately painted upside down because Mary isn’t talking to Gabriel or you, the viewer, she’s talking directly to God.  So the words are upside down for God’s benefit, being as He’s viewing them from above.  Effectively this would make the panels one of the first graphic novels, really.  Graphic novels with a supernatural twist.  (Or even a ‘Supernatural’ twist.)

“VampireNomad I distinctly recall you saying something about a scandal.”

And so there was!  The Ghent Altarpiece was completed in 1432 (some speculate it may have been started as early as 1420) and contains, when open, far right and left upper panels featuring nearly lifesize nude renderings of Adam and Eve.  The figures are beautifully done, neither idealized nor unlovely, and, though modestly covering their most intimate parts with cleverly placed hands, are fully naked.  Weren’t a lot of figures naked in classical art?  Aren’t a lot of figures naked in art today?  Yes of course.  Nudity is natural, especially when one is painting Adam and Eve.  However in the late 19th century the worshipers at the church were not over-fond of the nudity and so they commissioned substitute panels (by another artist, of course) that this time showed Adam and Eve fully clothed in fur garments.  And they displayed those new clothed panels in place of the originals by Jan van Eyck.  Prudery!  Just like today and the Superbowl!  Renaissance art is so topical.  Nowadays the original naked Adam and Eve have been restored to the Altarpiece but the substitute panels are also on display so you may gawk as you like at the strangeness of the clothing or the original supple beauty of the painted flesh.

The lower inside panels - of which there are five in total: one large central piece with two flanking panels per side - all depict the same scene, the Adoration of the Lamb.  In the middle foreground is a fountain, the fountain of baptism and therefore of eternal life, and behind it is an altar on which stands a lamb.  The lamb is representative of Christ, of course, who is widely referred to as the Lamb of God.  The lamb in the Altarpiece is pierced in the chest and blood pours out of it into a chalice below, a chalice offered by the church.  All around this vividly depicted sacrifice are groups of worshipers: Christian knights led by Saint George, Christian hermits, the Just Judges, pilgrims led by a giant St. Christopher, and so on.  The setting of this sacrifice and worship is an ever-retreating pastoral landscape.  Brilliantly it continues back into the painting, the clever oil layering techniques employed by Jan van Eyck giving the impression of depth and scale, so the scene seems enormous and endless.  And off in the distance, if you look intently enough, if you can gaze past the gathered figures and the lamb, is Jerusalem.  It’s like that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Cameron loses himself in George Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte only instead of Cameron finding less meaning as he was absorbed by the art, in the Altarpiece you find more. 

“Does this painting have a Ghostbusters connection?”

Yes!  In the film The Monuments Men Bill Murray portrays a soldier who helps retrieve the stolen Altarpiece from the Nazis.  Ghostbusters connection confirmed.

Which brings me to the most thrilling part of the tale.  The Ghent Altarpiece was one of the countless cultural works stolen by Hitler’s armies during World War II.  All twelve panels and seventeen feet of it were taken from the Cathedral of St. Bavo and, dismantled, it was hidden away in the salt mine at Altausee in Austria.  Hitler, as I discussed on Tuesday, intended to make a Führermuseum where he’d display all the greatest works of art he could get his hands on (read: steal).  Theft!  Secret hiding place!  Spoil of war!  Nazis!  The Altarpiece was subsequently found by the Monuments Men and ultimately returned to Belgium and its rightful place in the Cathedral.  But!  Not all panels made it out of the war.  After its trip to the Austrian salt mine and dramatic rescue, it was discovered that one of the lower left inside inside panels was missing.  The panel featuring the Just Judges worshiping the Lamb was gone.  So a replacement had to be commissioned and to this day that replacement panel is the one you will see if you visit the Altarpiece.

Where is the missing panel?  I can’t answer that.  Still in the depths of Altausee?  Decaying on a forgotten roadside somewhere?  Secreted away in a private chalet?  The imagination runs wild.

Still think Renaissance art is boring?  Eh, that’s your prerogative.  But know that behind every work is a great story waiting to be told.  Nothing is exactly as it seems.  The Ghent Altarpiece is both greater than the sum of its parts and a complete and beautiful work all on its own.  It is a masterpiece.

- Corinne Simpson

 

Sources:

Janson, H.W., Revised and Expanded by Janson, Anthony F.  History of Art.  New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 1991 (Fourth Edition).

Kloss, Professor William, MA.  A History of European Art.  Chantilly, VA: The Great Courses, 2005.