Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This Snow Leopard Wants to Steal Your Wallet

Plush Toys, Marketing Ploys, and Background Noise

It's catalog time: in my house, since I get not only my own junk mail but mail addressed to my late parents, the Christmas catalogs pile up daily. On a bad day, I might get six or ten catalogs. Hard to hear yourself think, over the blizzard of visual static coming in with all that mail.

Today's catalog from the top of the stack comes from WWF, World Wildlife Fund, a conservation group which does, so far as I know, good work. Save the pandas, save the tigers --- that's WWF.

Each year they need a new animal to feature: maybe a koala, maybe a baby gorilla --- something K & K (cute and cuddly). This year's "panda" is a snow leopard. The nature organizations never seem to be interested in trying to save ugly animals, really really tiny animals ("save the endangered polio virus!" --- I think not), or animals that only live in the dark.

I'm all for snow leopards, of course. One of my good friends has just seen one this week I hope: he's on an expedition in the Himalaya right now, and I await his email from the airport, once he's on his way home, to say yes or no if they saw any in the wild.

My problem is that this catalog lies. The group is about wild animals (emphasis added), which is to say, it's not about zoos or captive breeding efforts, not directly anyway, but about habitat enhancement so wild animals stay wild. Their name is not "World (Tame) Wildlife Fund." Yet this photo on the cover almost certainly is a tame snow leopard, in a game park. Why do I say that? The fluffy, immaculate fur, the wispy flakes of snow, the kind yet concerned look on the animal's face, and the tack-sharp focus on its eyes, as the body fades away in a very shallow depth of field...these are all the things that make a perfect shot a perfect shot.

In a wildlife photo course, this is an A+.

Well it is, other than the optional view that in an ethics class, it's an F. All those tigers romping in the snow, in the calendars for sale at the AV Mall? Captive critters, shot in enclosures. Just the reality of reality. You can't get a shot like that any other way. There are very few tigers in places where it snows, and those that are there are so rarely seen that most photographs show animals being tracked from helicopters, woozily dozing under the effects of a tranquilizer dart, dead after having been poached, or auto-captured passing by a camera bolted to a tree. Head-on, perfectly focused, perfectly lit shots just don't happen, not of snow leopards or tigers in the snow, anyway.

But I could be wrong. Never want to be too hasty, especially in accusing somebody of cheating. So I looked in the credits.

The gift catalog doesn't provide credits, but if you check in the back in very small print it says you can go to a particular website and find out. It lists an address.

Google search for their provided address: nothing.

Go to the WWF site itself, nothing.

The catalog lies: they do NOT provide captions, photo credits, or sources. There's no site matching that description or address. (If I were the stock photographer who had supplied this shot to them, I would be annoyed. And in fact, WWF may be violating its licensing contracts with their source photographers. Normally a sale includes specifications on what credit or byline needs to appear. Even the AV Press captions and credits all of its photos!)

Wild shots of true and real snow leopards do exist, of course. I can't say for sure this is a tame animal performing inside a game farm. I can though say it's very suspicious. Even I can go to a zoo and get a good picture, as this shot shows, from Santa Barbara.

There are some technical flaws here, most obviously the blown-out highlights, but still, we all know what it is, right? Hmm, maybe if I photoshopped in a bit of snow, maybe a few prancing fairy elves or a Russian snow panda, maybe I could get my photo delivered to the doorsteps of America, too.

Other pages in the current WWF catalog were taken in nature. Well, kinda sorta.

Here's the spread from pages 4 and 5.

The yearling polar bear on the left almost 99.99 % certainly was photographed in Svalbard, in the Arctic region of Norway.

Here's my shot of a wild cub, probably taken in the same group of rocks.

And not only was this polar bear picture of mine and the one in the catalog each probably taken at the same place, they may even have been taken from the same ship, the attractive and rather famous Noorderlicht.

Looks like a postcard or a brochure, but this is my shot, taken on a lucky day of perfect light.

This is a ship with an ice-breaker hull that each summer does wildlife cruises around the Arctic. Before we were stopped by pack ice, the year I was on board, we got within 600 miles of the North Pole. Probably more published polar bear pictures were taken from its decks than from any other ice floe, helicopter, or National Geographic-sponsored Zodiac on the planet.

What do we make of a shot like this from the WWF catalog? Are we trying to save nature or just getting juiced up for a run to Toys R Us?

The caption says, "Give $50 or more and receive a plush version of your symbolically adopted animal." I get a lot of art museum gift catalogs and wish they had this --- a stuffed Vincent van Gogh, or maybe a late-in-life Picasso, wearing a beret and a striped sailor shirt and about to paint a nude woman, but drawfed down to be pudgy and cuddly-sized, and not at all chain smoking and irritable.

It's not that little stuffed toy animals are not cute: of course they are. So are kittens, too. My wife has a new cat, a demon from hell named Kinsey. As a kitten, Kinsey was cute as a freakin button, I gotta admit. Here she is really small, and then in the dog's food bowl when a bit bigger, and now nearly grown.

Cute kittens work, and so the nature catalogs are going to feature them (if not kittens, then baby unicorns or doe-eyed seal pups or ultra-well-groomed koalas --- whatever it takes). Hard to believe, looking at this three-image sequence, that this is the same cat that can pull extension cords out of the wall or bite all the way through the covers of hardback, first edition books.

In contrast, here's the shot you will NOT see in the wildlife organization Christmas mail.

Yes, not asleep, but dead. As you can perhaps see, it's below the high tide line, and adjacent to this deceased polar bear was a very sturdy tripod with a camera on it. I assume it was set to take a sequence of shots as the tide came in and slowly covered the bear with water. What a great concept, and, potentially, a sober way to end a nature program or a wildlife art show. If anybody has ever seen a published version of that shot, do please drop a comment on this blog.

This shot more than anything else is reality, grim and unadulterated. We used to have a better capacity for reality, and in religious art in Europe in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, people would have themselves painted with skulls or other emblems of mortality visible on the background. (That will be a provocative visual survey, so expect a blog on it another time.)

And now? Now we open the mail, see the panda, write the check. That's okay and all, but what about a chance to provide education? This mailing, as I said earlier, went out to tens of thousands of households. It's a presidential campaign season besides being the run-up to the holidays. We are lied to daily, hourly. Doesn't the American public deserve to see a real snow leopard at least, and not one that eats Purina feline chow and lives in somebody's (very large) back yard?

Reducing nature just to postcards and plush toys diminishes the world for all of us.

AVC's blog is curated by Charles Hood, Language Arts, and does not represent the views of the Board of Trustees on cute animals, bright red sailing ships, or the ethics of keeping animals in zoos in India, as seen in the last shot, above. He can be reached by email at

Monday, October 22, 2012

Doctors, Meteors, Assessment Tests, and When to Wear a Lab Coat

(and a brief note about why your next doctor probably won't be an AVC graduate)

The world is full of sad news --- car bombs, presidential candidates bashing on each other with clubs like two disgruntled cave men, the latest view of prices as you drive past the gas station.

Here's a number that seems especially discouraging: 91%.

We've heard a lot about Romney's 47% and Occupy Wall Street's 1%, but the number 91% refers to something very direct and personal to me at AVC.

That is the number of students who take the AVC assessment test (a fair and validated instrument, with appropriate cut scores, or so various accreditation bodies verify) and who (big sigh) cannot go directly into college-level math.

Nine out of ten folks who start at AVC need remedial math. Most are graduates of high school, and yet most can't do college-level math. In fact, some cannot really do any math. (Is it just me or has anybody else had this experience? Let's say my Coke at McDonald's comes to $1.92. I don't want back more pennies, what I want back is a dime, so I give the clerk two bills and two one-cent coins, which is to say, $2.02. This sometimes causes great confusion . . . "but you have given me too much," etc. I want to say, "Hmm, just give me back the amount the cash register is telling you to give me. It will all work out in the end: trust me.") And so okay, reality is reality and so we offer Math 70 and various stepping stone courses to work up to higher levels.

There is no shame in this: my father had severe learning disabilities, and if I took the assessment test today myself, I only put my own odds of a good score at 50-50. (I do though know what "50-50" means. But maybe that's just because of the 50-50 Raffle I enter each Christmas at the AVC Foundation fundraisers.)

It seems to me from a social aspect this score remains grim for several reasons. One is money: remediation --- this is NOT the politically correct term, by the way, but John Hall told me it was okay to use it --- is expensive. Not that we pay teachers much money (compared to most things, we don't); but we do have to pay them something, and we have to keep on the lights and heat the buildings and buy dry erase markers and all the rest of it. Even the assessment test costs taxpayers money: about five bucks a throw, if memory serves. Education ain't cheap.

And what about lost opportunities? All these non-math-doing folks are presumably also not bringing their own insights and stories and solutions to technical fields. They are not helping to design planes or build bridges or send rovers to Mars. There's an expression, "brain drain," about US firms having to plunder the upper middle class of other countries, in order to get the doctors and engineers they need to run a business. If we won't teach math well, India will, or South Korea, or somebody on Mars. This is not to say that lots of AVC students don't start low and work their way ever higher. They do, and we have very good retention and very good matriculation rates in our entire math sequence. But math-challenged people certainly are less likely to become microbiologists or tax accountants or surgeons: that's just plain truth. Society loses out.

And of this 91%, some or most folks are probably not making good choices as financial consumers, in the credit card rates they agree to or their auto loans or even votes for what they will or won't support on a bond election. Mathematical ignorance costs everybody.

It makes me wonder even who my next doctor will be.

After all, I am getting up in years, so sooner or later I will begin to need doctors on a fairly frequent basis. (Me and about a zillion other baby boomers.) Robots just don't seem like the answer yet. ("Excuse me, but do you have a robot doctor made by Apple? I really don't trust seeing a Windows operating system robot for this visit.") In the ad above from an issue of Life magazine in 1962, a young man, studying to be a doctor, has fallen asleep while burning the midnight oil. I bet his math scores were just fine.

His wife, prim and modest in her buttoned-to-the-neck nightie, hovers above him, worried. The poor dear is working himself to death, she seems to be thinking. (Let's hope this is not the Halloween version, and that she is not thinking, Ah, finally he's asleep! Now I can pour hot coffee down his collar to get even for what a jerk he has been all day!)

One question this ad makes me wonder is what is HER math assessment test score? In 1962, women made coffee and sometimes babies, but were not supposed to be thinking about medical school. Yet let's just be rational: apparently the man here is some kind of narcoleptic slacker who can't stay awake long enough to finish his chem midterm. She in the meanwhile has her hair done and seems alert and ready to go. Let's send HER to school in his place ---- she's the one I want taking care of me during an all-night 12 hour operation.

In fact, in 1962, women apparently solved a lot of problems. Here's another loser doctor, one page later.

He looks less like he has a headache and more like he's been hit on the head with a club during a presidential debate. Luckily for him, God's gift to medicine is steady at hand: there's a woman, right nearby. Of course she's the size of a Barbie doll but she brings with her a plate of magic pills. Frankly, I don't want to go to see any doctor who can't manage to get his own aspirin without assistance, but she looks so happy and confident (in contrast to how he looks so grim and befuddled), that the ad leaves me with hope for the medical establishment yet.

Of course, if I don't like how he looks, that makes me wonder, what should a doctor look like?

Here is an illustration from a medical school textbook in 1899. The doctor handles a difficult birth, and the green post-it is your AVC blogger covering up a rather graphic and distorted vagina. (This is, knock wood, still a family-friendly blog.) Here is the illustration:

He has no gloves (I am old enough to remember when my dentist did not wear gloves, nor his assistant, and nobody in his office wore a plexiglass welding mask, either), our 1899 doctor probably has not used any kind of sterilizing antiseptic, and they are probably doing this delivery on plain household linen. He looks ready for business though, with a determined air and his sleeves pushed back. What's most interesting is the haircut and mustache. He probably rode a velocipede too, and sang in a barber shop quartet. Ah, those were the days.

How would you feel to wake up on an operating table facing this inquisition?

Well, of course, as soon as you got the wool out of your head, you might wonder why nobody has a mask on or gloves. Since Dr. House himself is there, this must be a serious case indeed. It's probably hard to tell in this blog version, but blue eyes predominate (welcome to one of the movie star cliches that Hollywood just won't let go), and on the men three out of the four have a beard or sexy stubble. From a photographic standpoint, I admire the blues and white --- great art direction here on this DVD case for the show House, M.D. --- and I wonder too about the choice to give the women such very striking lipstick. I guess we don't mind if doctors now are women (and to update the first ad, then it would be the worried husband bringing Starbucks to his exhausted wife), but if our doctors are going to be women, then we want them to be 10s, in the lab and out of it.

As these things go, Greg House is pretty hot himself. Is this what we now what our doctors to look like? No tie, no lab coat, gorgeous, maybe able to play the blues (he can, anyway), sexually active? True, his sex partners are often paid companions, but if he doesn't have any guilt about it, then maybe I should not mind so much either. America likes informality, after all. I can't decide if he looks like the new generation doctor or if he's just some bored indy film director about to give yet another press conference at Sundance.

Like the BBC television series of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. House is supposedly some kind of off the charts genius, somebody with an emotional life more damaged than the nerves and muscles in his bad leg and with an on-going addiction issue, but somebody who (we assume) doesn't need a calculator to balance his checkbook. The "real" House, actor Hugh Laurie, grew up in Oxford but went to Eaton and Cambridge, where he was an Olympic-quality rower, and, according to Wikipedia, became somebody who "plays the piano, guitar, drums, harmonica, and saxophone." Well now, top that, Tom Hanks.

When we're not voting with our Nielsen boxes, maybe we don't care what our doctors look like. The actor who played house was making something on the order of a third of a million dollars per episode. Go, blue eyes. He doesn't need to know math, so long as his portfolio broker does. For the rest of us, we will trust the AMA to do the certifying, and trust, too, AVC's fabulous RN program to have done its job. Somebody out there must be able to do some math, and maybe even figure out a pharmaceutical prescription or two, along with how to read an x-ray machine and what to do if a meteor lands on one's head. That doesn't happen too often, true, but you can never be too confident. After all, lightning hardly ever strikes twice, but as Gary Larson points out, there are always those statistical anomalies....

AVC's blog is curated by Charles Hood, Language Arts, and does not represent the official position of the Board of Trustees on meteorites, math scores, or the attractiveness of major movie stars. His email is

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Phantom of the Opera

Life Lessons from Andrew Lloyd Webber

My wife and I have an online Netflix account --- we don't get magic movie gifts in the mail, but occasionally when we boot up the system to download another episode of Dr. Who, the log-in page tells us that something new has been added to the available choices. Last night it said, surprise, you now can see Phantom of the Opera, recorded live at Royal Albert Hall in a special 25 Year Anniversary performance.

Since she and I both have lived in London, various UK venues have a place in our hearts, so as much for the theatre as for the program, we said sure, give it a go.

Now it bears revealing that prior to the Netflix version, I already had seen the play live four times, and I even have endured the movie version too, and in each instance I have come away thinking, "Ummm, so what's the big deal?"

I just don't get the enduring appeal. The problem seems to me that Phantom of the Opera violates the usual laws of story telling.

In a regular hero quest, we have a princess in a tower or enchanted sleep, and to earn her love, the questing knight has to overcome a series of obstacles, usually by combining courage and mental agility with a spiritual purity. He is supposed to be rich and handsome, but that's not why he gets the girl: it's because he tracks down the Holy Grail or locates a Horcrux or blows up a Death Star or two. Society is better off with the hero around: fewer dragons, more talking donkeys.

Phantom violates this. I don't get it. The hero who gets the girl doesn't do much more than stand around and look pretty, and once in a while sing something or other. He is rich, but that's as far as it goes. It's the Phantom himself who solves puzzles, writes operas, overcomes adversity. And apparently he's a hell of a music teacher to boot. He's the force of creative energy, yet in every single production, the creative, ambitious genius is killed (mostly for the crime of being ugly as a baboon's backside) and the standing-around-with-hands-in-his-pockets schmuck wins the princess.

I don't get it.

Of course Andrew Lloyd Webber himself doesn't really need me to get anything. As the man behind Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat, and Cats, he can laugh all the way to the bank. He owns Watership Down (famous for a novel about rabbits) plus has almost as much money as J.K. Rowling --- and a better art collection.

Even in the 25th Anniversary version the audience was weeping with joy when he came out and strutted around the stage. He got more applause than the main actors of that performance.

True, if you Google "I Hate Andrew Lloyd Weber," you will get a long list of hits. That does not negate the enduring appeal of this particular musical.

If you can't beat em, join 'em. So I have decided to embrace my inner Carlotta and live life according to the morals modeled in Phantom of the Opera.

Lesson 1
Never Take Off Your Mask

Phantom's downfall begins when he takes Christine to his secret lair the first time and, ungrateful wench that she is, she rips off his mask. At the end, a second mask removal brings down an angry mob and the end of the Phantom empire, if not his life. (Phantom's final fate remains ambiguous. Perhaps he escapes to Argentina with Evita.)

Moral of the story? Never let anybody see inside your mask.

Even the lead stars know this, during the curtain call. KEEP THE MASK ON.

Do not let people know who you are: always hide your true motives, your real self, the inner you. This is true even while rock climbing, as this shot of a mystery guest below reveals. This is one of the star teachers of the AVC Language Arts team --- but who, who, who is it? Wisely, he does not take off his mask, and all we can do is admire his masculine hands in their athletic tape, and the colorful patterns of his mask. Never let anybody ever see the real you, or they will reject you, marry a dork, and call down an angry mob to defile your secret lair.

Lesson 2
Like Toddlers, Women Need to be Watched Closely

Phantom reminds us that women need to be protected, even duped if necessary. Men need to watch over women, control them, plan their lives for them. Women can be laughed at if necessary and made to croak like frogs but always have to be managed or manipulated. A woman is never intact on her own or allowed to be an autonomous free agent. A woman is never to be trusted.

The Phantom trusted the stern ballet teacher, who initially (since she wears black), seems to be on his side. Nope, in the end, for no particular reason, she betrays him. Typical woman!

Christine Daae (please insert an imaginary accent mark over the final "e" of her name since Blog Spot won't do it for me) has her life managed by a series of men, each in turn. Her dead father has told her she needs an angel of music (presumably, a MALE angel of music), which, luckily for her, the Phantom himself agrees to be. He in some slightly devious, unexplained way can appear to her in her mirror, and without any sexual hanky panky (we assume he is a gentleman and averts his eyes when she's adjusting her nether garments in that same mirror), is able to give her voice lessons. And boy, they really have worked --- Christine can just about sing the chandelier off the ceiling.

Is she now set up, ready to become the next Sarah Brightman and maybe even marry Andrew Lloyd Webber himself? Or maybe she likes girls, plans to run off with the ballet-meister, Miss Giry. Alas no, since the play insists she can't have the world-class performing career the Phantom has prepared her for. Why not? I guess he won't be able to manage her affairs well enough, since he can't go to Wal-Mart in the daylight. (He has to wait until after dark, like the other zombies.)

So instead of a partnership with the angel of music, and instead of, say, a solo career, the plot wants us to think that Christine needs a husband, and so it's implied, once Raoul marries her, she will disappear into the vast kitchens of his presumed estate and then spend the rest of her life in pearls and heels, perfecting her meatloaf recipe. (Rocky Horror Picture Show fans can insert her the famous audience tagline, "What, Meatloaf again?")

The death of the Phantom and the utter ruin of the opera house is somehow the desired goal of the production, the thing we all applaud. That it will put all the ballerina girls out on the streets and deprive the Parisian audiences of a venue for public entertainment is no matter. So long as we get Christine safely busied with Tuperware and tykes, that's all that counts.

Gentlemen of AVC, take note. Andrew Lloyd Webber has sanctified it: the 1950s were right, and whatever happens, keep your wife off the stage, don't let her hang out with creepy older men, and if you meet overweight divas with foreign accents, it's okay to mock the pants of of them.

Lesson 3
It's Not Okay to Kill People, But if You Do Kill People, Kill Fat People

Excluding the Phantom himself, whose fate we are not sure about, in this musical two people die. In the old World War II movies, if there was a squad of soldiers, usually it was the African American soldier who would die first. If that racial profiling is not followed (since this is play without people of color), next on the usual list are social deviants --- foreigners, people of more than acceptable weight, loners. The first death in the play combines a figure who embodies all three deviations from the norm. Alone in the flies, the overweight props guy has been dismissing the possibility of the Phantom being real plus annoying the ballet girls with his hangman's noose antics. He is alone, probably unshaven, and in the productions I have seen, not slim and young but pot-bellied and older.

That's it. He's doomed. If you're not going to be one of the beautiful people, singing on the stairway in a glittery costume in the "Masquerade" sequence, at least try to be FRIENDS with beautiful people. Otherwise, it's a pauper's grave for you.

The other murder victim is Carlotta's partner, the fat and foreign Ubaldo Piangi. His first name even sounds like Pig Latin for somebody who's bald --- another social crime.

So that's it, ladies and gents, that is the moral universe of Phantom of the Opera: keep your mask on, control your women folk, and drink your Slim Fast.

For this we each dressed up fancy and paid a hundred bucks a seat?

Call me Old School, but I am going to stick to the true heroes in this world... people who know their left hands from their right, who live by a cuticle code of honor, and whose light sabers are always ready and bright. Yes, I am talking that most significant of cultural icons, Thumb Wars.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Picasso, Shark Week, Hot Wax, and Laundry

What the AVC Art Gallery Shares in Common with the Norton Simon Museum of Art

On the very comprehensive website run by the Academy of American Poets, there's a side feature that organizes poems by category. Heartbreak of course is near the top, as is whatever holiday will approach soon --- yes, there's an icon to click for a list of poems about Halloween --- and this master list of options (one assumes) caters to what the Academy thinks the average person might need, poetry-wise. These pre-sorted lists reflect social expectations, not an actual survey of what poets these days most often do (there is no link for poems about semiotics or roadkill or even the painter Cezanne, even though all of those subjects are ever-present in English-language poetry), and so, because of that expectation, it's not surprising that there is even a link for poems about sharks.

And it turns out, this has indeed been a fruitful area of inquiry for modern writers, and the website editors are able to present to the Internet public not just an essay about sharks in poetry, but clickable links to about 35 examples of shark poetry.

Alligators and tigers, one hopes, will soon be added next.

What there is not up yet is a category or link for laundry poems. This seems entirely unfair. First, of course, it's something we all do --- except I suppose the very rich. On the opposite end, the poorest side of society may do more than their fair share of laundry, since in American history, it was something we farmed out to the marginalized and the disenfranchised, including African-Americans, widows, and recent Chinese immigrants. I once read in a history of the U.S. cavalry about a fort whose laundry was all done by a local woman, assisted by her loyal husband. It all came to a furious stop when it turned out the laundress was a man as well, in drag, living in happy harmony with another man. They moved away and set up shop elsewhere.

In London two hundred years ago the wealthiest of the central Londoners shipped their laundry out to the then-rural woodlands of Hampstead Heath, where a soot-free breeze could air-dry laundry washed in artesian springs. While it solved a necessary problem, the rich though were a bit uncomfortable about this, being upset by the idea of their intimate sheets and fine undergarments laid out to dry on bushes for all to see. There might have been a good market for some kind of service that would have guaranteed confidentiality, a service advertising, let us imagine, that the work would only be done in an enclosed courtyard, with the linens being only handled by disgraced aristocrats who had fallen on hard times. If you have a time machine, feel free to go back to those days and make your fortune. Please bring back an original Turner or two for me, as finder's fee.

The second reason the poetry site's exclusion is unfair is that it turns out laundry remains a very productive subject for art to explore. Luckily, the AVC art gallery is helping us to appreciate this fact.

The current show features work done in encaustic, a two-thousand-year-old method that uses heated wax to blend and bind color and, sometimes, collage or fabric. It's a two-person show, quite nicely framed and hung. Here is the announcement card.

Both artists work with interior spaces, but Erin has an especially poetic subject: piles of dirty laundry. Why laundry? You can read her Artist's Statement (on display in the Gallery on an east wall) to find out. Meanwhile, here are some shots from the show up now.

Colors may be muted a bit here, as I did not want to use flash inside the Gallery. In the actual show things are more vivid, more present. Laundry never looked so interesting or so good.

This is a show that bridges several traditions. Encaustic, of course, has its own history, one that the show encourages students and visitors to investigate. (I hate to say it, but Wikipedia is not a bad place to start on this topic. There is also a narrative panel inside the Campus Art Gallery itself.)

Meanwhile, laundry itself is a noble and worthy subject for art. Picasso painted laundry workers in his blue period, and an images search for the subject of women and laundry or women and ironing shows his painting, along with work by Degas. Here's a typical search hit.

If one had a magic museum that could assemble work from major lenders world-wide, this could be a very interesting show to curate. I am not an expert, but I have picked up a few reproductions myself, including from a museum in Madrid. Here's a shot from the laundry room at my house:

 We have very good laundry art locally, the most famous of which is The Ironers, 1884, by Degas, usually on display at the Norton Simon in Pasadena. Here is a scan of that painting, taken from one of their "masterpieces" books.

The Shakers, in their purity and industry, never saw a household task they couldn't make more efficient or more elegant. Back when irons had to be heated on the stove, one at a time, they figured out a way to heat the laundry room and keep multiple irons ready at once: a large, central, furnace.

This image comes from a lovely 1987 book titled Shaker: Life, Work, and Art, by Sprigg, Larkin, and Freeman (whose names sound like a law firm out of Melville). It was borrowed from the book donation cart by Santi Tafarella, and then borrowed from him by me --- yes, it is on its way back to the donation cart very soon! Until then I have to face a terrible choice: of my "to do" chores today, which comes first . . . grading papers, or doing my laundry. Uncertain how to prioritize, I sent an email to ace English teacher Scott Covell. "Oh, that's an easy one," he answered back. "Don't do either. It's nice out today. Just go ride your bike!"

Never one to ignore input from my esteemed colleagues, off I go.