Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jane B. Cravan: Update To The Society, April 28, 2010

Police Tried to Protect 'Nessie' From Hunters
Lee Spiegel, ContributorAOL News
(April 28)(AP) -- A Scottish police chief in the 1930s believed the Loch Ness monster existed and tried to protect the unknown animal from hunters who targeted "Nessie" with harpoons.

Documents released this week by the National Archive of Scotland reveal that, in the 1930s, local authorities tried to get the Scottish government to protect and defend the famous monster of the deep, dark waters of Loch Ness.

A 1938 letter written by Chief Constable William Fraser stated, "That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness now seems beyond doubt, but that the police have any power to protect it is very doubtful."

The news comes as no surprise to those who are still trying to confirm the legendary monster's existence.

"I think that there are gigantic, unknown seals that have yet to be discovered from all of the Northern Hemisphere lakes, and Loch Ness is a prime example," said Loren Coleman, who runs the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

As a result of the many reports in the 1930s of strange creatures in the lake, several hunting parties came to the area looking for them, including a couple who showed up in 1938 and wanted to use a harpoon to capture one of the animals so they could prove that a Loch Ness monster was obtainable.

Coleman, 62, thinks the release of Fraser's letter is overwhelmingly important because it validates that the Scottish government -- despite public pronouncements to the contrary -- at the time was secretly concerned that there were real creatures there and wanted to protect the "monsters," or unknown animals that lived in the lake.

"It's a breeding population -- there have been multiple sightings of more than one creature," said Coleman, who in 1999 gave the keynote address to the first International Cryptozoology Symposium ever held at Loch Ness.

"The other big thing that nobody talks about," he told AOL News, "is that it's only six miles to the ocean, and there have been about 27 sightings of these creatures on land, crossing the road, and described as a walrus-type animal or a big slug."

Given the strangeness of whatever it is that inhabits the famous Scottish loch comes under the purview of cryptozoology, which is the study of hidden or as-yet-undiscovered animals.

Whatever lurks in Loch Ness has a long history, dating back to A.D. 565, when the first monster sighting was recorded. Over the centuries, many sightings and photos of a creature (or creatures) have fueled speculation that there might be a surviving dinosaur species in the lake. But it's important to protect these animals, says Coleman, who's considered the world's leading living cryptozoologist.

"I think that any species like this that hasn't easily been found are certainly low in numbers. And the last thing we want to encourage is to think that people, looking for a pot of gold, can go out there and hunt these creatures to near extinction. We really have to undermine the greed motivation that is behind a lot of these hunters." And, Coleman says, what the Loch Ness monster eventually turns out to be will most likely shake science up.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Time After Awhile (1): Jean Helion

     I would like to present a couple of excellent pictures by Jean Helion, a 20th century French painter who interests me, and crib a few lines from an article by Merlin James, published in The Burlington Magazine in April 2005, about Helion. 

     One very good thing about having led an intellectually interrupted life is that it makes it very easy not to pontificate because of over-education or having acquired too much information along the way.  (One period of clarity mixed with confusion gets replaced by another and then another.) 
     Although one desires and seeks accurate and more complete knowledge (about everything), perhaps the residue of early training and instinct, combined with a more relaxed mind and eye, have helped me by now discern the forest for the trees a little, patterns in the landscape, and I feel a little less stuck than I used to on details that just catch, impede, and suddenly and painfully tear like nail-ends protruding from a wall. In art, as in everything else, “lying equals many tears”.  That’s a line in a poem that I like a lot. 
     Also, I’d like to say (to someone, possibly on a series of roadside billboards or a Times Square sign), “you lost me at 'post-modern'”.  Neologisms and silly nomenclature are mainly obfuscation.  As Lou Reed once observed about slang (speaking about why he tried not to include it in his lyrics), nothing “dates” you faster.
     All of this is a way of saying that some people love Jean Helion’s art and others dislike it greatly and regard him as mediocre and retrograde.

Merlin James:
“But in fact it is mistake to concentrate on Hélion’s strategic manoeuvring – on where he stands, what he stands for – at the expense of responding to his works themselves. Celebrating his contrariness, his provocative diversity and unpredictable stylistic manners, is paradoxically to risk doing him a similar disservice as did those who once criticised him for stepping out of line with the avant-garde. What counts is not, as such, that he repudiated abstraction (and then skirted around other movements such as surrealism, post-war realism or Pop). He did so only as a consequence of making the works he felt compelled to make. Parading painting’s affective and semantic potential, his pictures cry out to be critically appreciated and interpreted, not just endorsed as some ‘alternative’ to a discredited – or still tacitly accepted – mainstream canon.”
 “Seurat and Poussin were among Hélion’s acknowledged masters at the time, and while he wrote of them (in the progressive Axis magazine and elsewhere) in formalist terms, his own pictures announce their affinity with past art in subtle ways hardly done justice to by truisms about shared visual rhythm and structure. An abstract canvas by Hélion is recognisably the same category of object as a David, a Louis Le Nain or a Ucello, not least in making the viewer hyperaware of the a skin of paint on a surface, actively and, as it were, continually (re-)generating and sustaining the image.”

“With “Cyclist," (1939) inaugurates the window-and-door dramas, the passing cyclists, the gents with umbrellas, the smokers, the opposition of ‘in’ and ‘out’ – all common in Hélion. "Défence D’," (1943) announces his creed of semantic continuum, from written word through visual representation to ambiguous or abstract colour and form. The hat brim covering the eyes in this, as in so many paintings, flags notions of inner and outer sight, identity and anonymity. "The Stairs" (1944) introduces blindness, (an increasing concern up to the loss of Hélion’s own sight late in life) and enshrines the key principles of ascent, descent, rotation, pairing. "Wrong Way Up" (1947) with its gallery frontage displaying an abstract picture, begins the symbolic juxtaposition of art and reality and the play between shop window and street life. The ubiquitous newspaper readers are definitively assembled on a park bench in "The Big Daily Read" (1950).”


     The final image is a nice, atmospheric photo of Helion and some friends, including Alexander Calder, taken in the 1930s.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


"In the 1930's, 1940's and early 1950's, three artists did a great deal to launch British engraving into the exciting waters of contemporary European art:  the New Zealander John Buckland Wright and two Englishmen, William Hayter and Stanley Gross.  They all had French attachments and were quite independent of the influences of earlier and highly successful schools of British engraving.  Buckland Wright helped Hayter to found his famous Atelier 17 in Paris.  At this workshop in which artists experimented at novel methods of printmaking, JBW (as he became known by his initials) worked with artists such as Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, Miro and Dali.  Later when teaching at the Camberwell and Slade Schools of Art, he was able to communicate to his pupils his experiences of how these artists worked."

"If William Hayter described himself as a 'third-class passenger with the Surrealists', JBW was one to hop on and off the train, experimenting with abstract and surreal styles, while not adopting wholeheartedly the method a la Breton.  During 1934 and 1935, he produced a large number of prints, nearly all abstract or surreal, in a style that he claimed was a mix of the 'blood' of realism and the 'brains' of the abstract rhythm.  The subject matter -- images of women entitled Composition or Artist or Model -- were sometimes in copper engraving but more often in wood.  They were characterised by strong lines and clear and precise delineation.  This recent publication, compiled by Christopher Buckland Wright, reveals some of his 'surreal' outputs:  Surreal Times:  The Abstract Engravings and Wartime Letters of John Buckland Wright.  Denby Dale [England]:  The Fleece Press, 2000.

 Note:  Buckland's range, versatility and subtle humor is impressive.  The series of aquatints he created to accompany the Folio Society edition of Boccaccio's The Decameron, translated by Richard Aldington, is highly enjoyable.  A large amount of Buckland's work can be seen and appreciated at the website:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Lizard On The Block; Baby Fruit Bats (Benjamin and Zephirina)

ACravan, Outlier Entertainment Partners, Tenerife, Mombassa, Mexico City, New York.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Avalon, New Jersey, Stardate 0417.7; Bibelskaese (From The Gilroy Garlic Association Cookbook)

Treasure to share:  


A traditional Alsatian recipe from Andre Soltner.

2 cups small curd cottage cheese, sieved through a chinoise.
1/2 cup heavy cream.
3-5 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped.
1 to 2 1/2 tsp. chopped parsley
Pepper, finely ground

Combine all ingredients and mix smooth with a wooden spoon, pressing cheese against side of bowl.  Refrigerate several hours before serving.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reasons To Leave Town Early On A Fast Train or Sailboat

New York PostUpdated: Fri., Apr. 16, 2010, 2:20 AM
Art feeding frenzy
Last Updated: 2:20 AM, April 16, 2010
Posted: 2:20 AM, April 16, 2010
CULTURE vultures will be able to play with their food at the Brooklyn Museum's Brooklyn Ball next Thursday. Jennifer Rubell, niece of Studio 54 impresario Steve Rubell, has designed hors d'oeuvres consisting of suspended cheese sculptures in the shape of human heads and surrounded by heat bulbs, which cause them to drip onto pedestals of crackers. Event co-chairs including Mario Batali, Hamish Bowles and Zac Posen will drink from four Marcel Duchamp-inspired champagne fountains and from "drip" paintings (in homage to Jackson Pollock) where guests serve themselves cocktails from a spigot poking through the canvas. The main course references Joseph Beuys' work, "Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare," and features rabbits, pigs, turkeys and legs of beef to be carved by guests who will then sit at 100-foot tables. The evening will culminate with guests taking turns smashing a 20-foot-tall piñata head of Andy Warhol.
Well, the technique of melting the cheese to drip onto the crackers kind of has something to recommend it, I suppose. But "Iron Chef" Batali has something to answer for.

ACravan, Prop.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Favorite Song -- Till The End Of The Day

As everybody knows, selecting a “favorite song” seems pointless.  Most people, I think, love music (whether they know it or not) and treasure countless songs and melodies.  That being said, my favorite song and record is “Till The End Of The Day”, written by Ray Davies and recorded by The Kinks on November 3-4, 1965 in Pye Studios (Studio 2), London.  When released as a single, the song reached the No. 6 position in the UK charts and the No. 50 position in the US charts.  The song was used by The Kinks as their set opening number for years and concluded  the first side of their magnificent The Kink Kontroversy lp, the group’s first (unacknowledged) “concept” album.
Unlike other “favorite songs” of mine, including “Police Car” by Larry Wallis and “Shouting In A Bucket Blues” by Kevin Ayers, both masterpieces of structure and expression, and different from anything else under the sun in the rock music universe, “Till The End Of The Day” lifts the soul in its several verses by setting the table of life’s opportunities and painting a picture of an original, perpetual and reoccurring morning.  All we need to know and do is to be here and be ready.   We are not alone in the song (there are two of us – “you and me”), but we are and remain free, separate and self-determined individuals.  Without cribbing, counterfeiting or in any way “deriving”,  Ray Davies is stating something that comes very close to  John Keats’: “beauty is truth, truth beauty/that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know".

“Till The End Of The Day” is a magnificent song, which apparently resulted from the great American songwriter Mort Shuman’s advising Ray to “work with chords you like” when Davies was beset by his first bad case of writer’s block following the period of the early big hits and prior to the famous “Sunny Afternoon” nervous breakdown.  Dave Davies’ guitar solo is the best of his career and retells the story of the song in a few taut, incisive notes and phrases.  It would be his song as much as Ray’s (as so many Kinks songs are) except for the fact that Ray Davies’ depressive, yet determined, energetic personality is the song’s musical and lyrical fingerprint.
Till The End Of The Day
Baby, I feel good
From the moment I rise
Feel good from morning
Till the end of the day
Till the end of the day

Yeah, you and me
We live this life
From when we get up
Till we go sleep at night
You and me we're free
We do as we please, yeah
From morning, till the end of the day
Till the end of the day

Yeah, I get up
And I see the sun
And I feel good, yeah
'Cause my life has begun
You and me we’re free
We do as we please, yeah
From morning, till the end of the day
Till the end of the day

You and me we’re free
We do as we please, yeah
From morning, till the end of the day
Till the end of the day
Till the end of the day
Till the end of the day
Till the end of the day
Till the end of the day
D5 C5 A (intro)

C5 D5 F5 C5 D5 (Baby I feel good)
C5 D5 F5 C5 D5 (From the moment I rise)

(feel good)

F G Bflat A ( from Morning, till the end)
C5 D5 F5 C5 D5 (of the day)

Dmin C F C (you and me)
Dmin C F C (we live our life)
Dmin C F A7 (from when we get up till we sleep at night)

Dmin C F C Bflat (you and me we're free, we do as we please yeah from)
F G Bflat A Dmin C (morning till the end of the day)
Dmin C (till the end of the day)

Oh – did I mention how much I like “Feel A Whole Lot Better”?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Remarks Before The Society, September, 2006, Tuxedo Park, New York

Good (morning)(afternoon) everyone.

My name is Jane B. Cravan and today I am going to speak to you about one of the greatest and most famous mysteries in the field of cryptozoology, which is the study of still unknown species of animals. The cryptid, or unknown animal I am going to tell you about is the Loch Ness Monster.

The Loch Ness Monster, or "Nessie" as many people refer to her, is said to live in Loch Ness in Scotland, which is the largest and deepest lake on the island of Great Britain. It is more than 900 feet deep in some places – deep enough that if you stood Big Ben – the famous clock tower in London – end-to-end three times it still wouldn't reach the surface. It is almost as deep as the Empire State Building in New York is tall, and it is very, very cold and very, very murky.

The first person we know about who saw the Loch Ness Monster was Saint Columba, the man who brought the Christian religion to Scotland. In the year 565, Saint Columba heard that the monster murdered a man and the saint rowed out into the middle of the lake and told the monster never to do that again. As far as we know, the monster obeyed Saint Columba, and since then she has lived peacefully in the lake.

Many people have seen the creature since then, but it was only since the invention of photography that the whole world became interested in the Loch Ness Monster and learned what she looked like. In 1934, a doctor from London took her picture and after looking at her 50-foot body, humped back and long, thin neck, scientists began to say the monster was probably a plesiosaur, which is a swimming dinosaur from the Cretaceous period – 145 million years ago -- who survived in the isolated deep, cold lake. Many other people have taken her picture too and some people have taken movies. Some people think that the photos are fake and believe that the Loch Ness Monster is a log or a big otter or even an underwater wave that looks like a sea creature on the surface of the lake.

Last summer, I went on a search for the Loch Ness Monster. My Mom, Dad and I traveled to Loch Ness. We walked on the shoreline and took a boat down all 24 miles of the lake. When we were walking back to our hotel from the pier, we saw exactly what looked like a baby "Nessie" feeding on some vegetation on a small island near the shoreline. It looked happy and very peaceful. Unfortunately, it was too misty to get a picture, but I'm sure that what we saw wasn't a log, an otter or a wave. It had a humped back and a long, thin neck and looked just like the photos we'd seen.

Next summer, I am going to go back to Loch Ness and will try to bring back better evidence that the Loch Ness Monster exists. And when I grow up, I would like to be a cryptozoologist and look for the Yeti (or Abominable Snowman), Sasquatch (or Bigfoot) and other cryptids.

Thank you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Soul Of Indiscretion; Spaghetti Con Uova Di Pesce; Za Jiang Mein – The World’s Oldest Pasta Dish?

"Francis Wheen's comic portrait of one of the 20th century's great characters, Tom Driberg: wit, parliamentarian, serial cottager, alleged communist spy and friend to the Kray brothers.  There are few people for whom marriage was so ill-suited yet well attended: at Tom Driberg's were cabinet ministers and mobsters, Betjeman and Waugh, but it was Osbert Lancaster who commemorated the sheer extraordinariness of the occasion, and with it celebrated the social life of Driberg, and an era of Englishness now passed into history when the Brideshead generation sang the Red Flag."

Spaghetti Con Uova Di Pesce (Spaghetti dressed with a fish roe sauce)
From Alan Davidson, Mediterranean Seafood.

This dish is the invention of Massimo Lorato of Lerici.

Heat olive oil in a pan and add a few cloves of garlic and some parsley.   When the garlic has turned golden, add a suitable amount of fresh fish roe (removed from the enclosing membrane) and a little fresh cream.  Sprinkle the mixture with paprika and moisten it with fish fumet.  Add salt to taste and cook gently for 5 minutes.   Then pass it all through a sieve and use as the dressing for the spaghetti, which you have cooked separately.  (If you have used soft roe, sieving will not be necessary.)   Highly recommended.


This is a simple, but extraordinary, recipe from Alan Davidson, the pre-eminent modern author on fish cookery.   When cooking this dish, we buy flounder roe from the fish seller.  It’s inexpensive, mild and perfect for the dish.  I’ve read previously that this and similar dishes made using the roes of relatively inexpensive commercial fish (i.e., not shad, salmon, etc.) were prized by fishermen, who reserved the delicate roes for their own use while sending their fish to market.  

Za Jiang Mein – The World’s Oldest Pasta Dish?
From Bruce Cost,  “Ginger -- East To West”

This spaghetti with meat sauce can be traced back to around 100 BC.  Although jiang is the Mandarin word for ginger, the jiang in the title of this dish refers to the bean sauce, literally bean pickle, which is a staple of northern and western Chinese cooking.

As with any ancient recipe, versions are nearly as numerous as the cooks who make it.  The authentic versions, such as the one included below, tend to be somewhat salty and oily for Western tastes, but the Chinese intend that a little of this sauce go a long way compared to what a Westerner is used to.  Adjust the oil and bean sauce to taste.  This dish is wonderful served with a platter of shredded garnishes such as sweet or hot peppers, carrots, cucumbers, celery, fresh coriander, or whole bean sprouts.



½ cup peanut or vegetable oil

1 lb. ground pork, the fattier the better

¼ cup chopped ginger

6 tbsp. bean sauce

1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorn powder

1 ½ tsp. sugar

1 lb. Chinese fresh noodles (mein)

1 tsp. sesame oil

½ cup scallions cut into ½ inch lengths

Heat the oil in a wok or heavy skillet and add the pork.  Stir and mash the pork in the oil to break up any clumps.  When the granules have separated, add the ginger and stir for 1 minute.  Add the bean sauce, the peppercorn powder, and the sugar and stir until the sauce is bubbling hot.  Turn off the heat while you prepare the noodles.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add the noodles.  Turn the heat down slightly and stir the noodles with a large fork to make sure they’re separated.  Cook for just 3 ½ minutes.  Drain in a colander.  Dribble the sesame oil over the noodles and toss briefly.  Reheat the sauce and stir in the scallions. Serve the sauce and the noodles separately, with any or all of the suggested garnishes.  Serves 4-6.