Louis Vuitton The Greatest Words: Muhammad Ali

27/07/2012 § Leave a comment

In an amazing tribute featuring the unmistakable words of Muhammad Ali, and interpretations by spoken word master Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) and talented Calligraffiti artist Niels Shoe Meulman, Louis Vuitton has created a captivating digital experience called The Greatest Words.

Ali, a world-class athlete who is best known for his colorful personality and strong commitment to his personal beliefs, receives a breathtaking multimedia homage that seamlessly unites past with the present, sport with art.  When the trailer debuted last week, I was immediately transfixed by its use of newsreel footage (of course), but the experience itself — presented in Rounds 1 and 2 — is even better.  Touching and immensely affecting, The Greatest Words will undoubtedly lead new generations to explore the inspiring life of Muhammad Ali.

  Round 1

  Round 2

Be sure to visit The Greatest Words.

Beasts, beasts, beasts… {Rabbit Hole: Tudor Bestiary}

20/12/2011 § Leave a comment

I find myself drawn to the beasts in this lovely Tudor bestiary, c.1520.  Made popular in the European middle ages, bestiaries were large, illustrated compendiums of animals that provided the reader with a double dose of natural history and an instruction in Christian morality.  They are highly symbolic and a modern reader requires quite a bit of guidance to uncover the hidden meanings in these gloriously illustrated manuscripts.  Most interesting to me is the frequent, matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic animals.  It’s as if they actually existed…

Fear not, we are of the nature of the lion, and cannot descend
to the destruction of mice and such small beasts.
Elizabeth I

The Unicorn
Shel Silverstein

A long time ago, when the earth was green
and there was more kinds of animals than you’ve ever seen,
and they run around free while the world was bein’ born,
and the lovliest of all was the Unicorn.

There was green alligators and long-neck geese.
There was humpy bumpy camels and chimpanzees.
There was catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you’re born
the lovliest of all was the Unicorn.

But the Lord seen some sinnin’, and it caused him pain.
He says, ‘Stand back, I’m gonna make it rain.’
He says, ‘Hey Brother Noah, I’ll tell ya whatcha do.
Go and build me a floatin’ zoo.

And you take two alligators and a couple of geese,
two humpy bumpy camels and two chimpanzees.
Take two catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you’re born,
Noah, don’t you forget my Unicorn.’

Now Noah was there, he answered the callin’
and he finished up the ark just as the rain was fallin’.
He marched in the animals two by two,
and he called out as they went through,

‘Hey Lord, I got your two alligators and your couple of geese,
your humpy bumpy camels and your chimpanzees.
Got your catsandratsandelephants – but Lord, I’m so forlorn
’cause I just don’t see no Unicorn.’

Ol’ Noah looked out through the drivin’ rain
but the Unicorns were hidin’, playin’ silly games.
They were kickin’ and splashin’ in the misty morn,
oh them silly Unicorn.

The the goat started goatin’, and the snake started snakin’,
the elephant started elephantin’, and the boat started shaking’.
The mouse started squeakin’, and the lion started roarin’,
and everyone’s abourd but the Unicorn.

I mean the green alligators and the long-neck geese,
the humpy bumpy camels and the chimpanzees.
Noah cried, ‘Close the door ’cause the rain is pourin’ –
and we just can’t wait for them Unicorn.’

Then the ark started movin’, and it drifted with the tide,
and the Unicorns looked up from the rock and cried.
And the water come up and sort of floated them away –
that’s why you’ve never seen a Unicorn to this day.

You’ll see a lot of alligators and a whole mess of geese.
You’ll see humpy bumpy camels and lots of chimpanzees.
You’ll see catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you’re born
you’re never gonna see no Unicorn

They very soon came upon a Gryphon, lying fast asleep in the sun (If you don’t know what a Gryphon is, look at the picture.) “Up, lazy thing!” said the Queen, “and take this young lady to see the Mock Turtle, and to hear his history.  I must go back and see after some executions I have ordered;” and she walked off, leaving Alice alone with the Gryphon.  Alice did not quite like the look of the creature, but on the whole she thought it would be quite safe to stay with it as to go after that savage queen: so she waited.

The Gryphon sat up and rubbed its eyes: then it watched the Queen till she was out of sight: then it chuckled. “What fun!” said the Gryphon, half to itself, half to Alice.

“What is the fun?” said Alice.

“Why, she,” said the Gryphon.  “It’s all her fancy, that: they never executes nobody, you know.  Come on!”

“Everybody says ‘come on!’ here,” thought Alice, as she went slowly after it: “I never was so ordered about before, in all my life, never!”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Panther
Ranier Maria Rilke

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

For more Tudor beasts, head here.

The Wanderlust

16/12/2011 § Leave a comment

Image via National Library of Wales.

Islwyn Roberts of Llanbedr, Merionethshire, a Welshman who would hitchhike his way around the world and then return home to sit on a bench in town and read stories about his adventures to anyone who would listen.  A mostly deaf war veteran, Islwyn managed to get all the way to Algeria on £6 in 1949.  He returned home to Wales, but set out again in 1958 for a year-long trip that included stops in Egypt, South Africa, Patagonia (in South America) and Canada.

The Wanderlust
by Robert W. Service

The Wanderlust has lured me to the seven lonely seas,
Has dumped me on the tailing-piles of dearth;
The Wanderlust has haled me from the morris chairs of ease,
Has hurled me to the ends of all the earth.
How bitterly I’ve cursed it, oh, the Painted Desert knows,
The wraithlike heights that hug the pallid plain,
The all-but-fluid silence, — yet the longing grows and grows,
And I’ve got to glut the Wanderlust again.

Soldier, sailor, in what a plight I’ve been!
Tinker, tailor, oh what a sight I’ve seen!
And I’m hitting the trail in the morning, boys,
And you won’t see my heels for dust;
For it’s “all day” with you
When you answer the cue
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has got me . . . by the belly-aching fire,
By the fever and the freezing and the pain;
By the darkness that just drowns you, by the wail of home desire,
I’ve tried to break the spell of it — in vain.
Life might have been a feast for me, now there are only crumbs;
In rags and tatters, beggar-wise I sit;
Yet there’s no rest or peace for me, imperious it drums,
The Wanderlust, and I must follow it.

Highway, by-way, many a mile I’ve done;
Rare way, fair way, many a height I’ve won;
But I’m pulling my freight in the morning, boys,
And it’s over the hills or bust;
For there’s never a cure
When you list to the lure
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has taught me . . . it has whispered to my heart
Things all you stay-at-homes will never know.
The white man and the savage are but three short days apart,
Three days of cursing, crawling, doubt and woe.
Then it’s down to chewing muclucs, to the water you can eat,
To fish you bolt with nose held in your hand.
When you get right down to cases, it’s King’s Grub that rules the races,
And the Wanderlust will help you understand.

Haunting, taunting, that is the spell of it;
Mocking, baulking, that is the hell of it;
But I’ll shoulder my pack in the morning, boys,
And I’m going because I must;
For it’s so-long to all
When you answer the call
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has blest me . . . in a ragged blanket curled,
I’ve watched the gulf of Heaven foam with stars;
I’ve walked with eyes wide open to the wonder of the world,
I’ve seen God’s flood of glory burst its bars.
I’ve seen the gold a-blinding in the riffles of the sky,
Till I fancied me a bloated plutocrat;
But I’m freedom’s happy bond-slave, and I will be till I die,
And I’ve got to thank the Wanderlust for that.

Wild heart, child heart, all of the world your home.
Glad heart, mad heart, what can you do but roam?
Oh, I’ll beat it once more in the morning, boys,
With a pinch of tea and a crust;
For you cannot deny
When you hark to the cry
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust will claim me at the finish for its own.
I’ll turn my back on men and face the Pole.
Beyond the Arctic outposts I will venture all alone;
Some Never-never Land will be my goal.
Thank God! there’s none will miss me, for I’ve been a bird of flight;
And in my moccasins I’ll take my call;
For the Wanderlust has ruled me,
And the Wanderlust has schooled me,
And I’m ready for the darkest trail of all.

Grim land, dim land, oh, how the vastness calls!
Far land, star land, oh, how the stillness falls!
For you never can tell if it’s heaven or hell,
And I’m taking the trail on trust;
But I haven’t a doubt
That my soul will leap out
On its Wan-der-lust.

Burning Bright

28/09/2011 § Leave a comment

Dreams of Rousseau’s  jungle scenes and Blake’s tyger.
Is it all this talk of travel and adventure…?

French painter Henri Julien Felix Rousseau (May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910) is the most celebrated of the naïvist artists.  Largely ridiculed in his lifetime for his simplistic style, Rousseau’s fame came posthumously.

“Picasso could never have painted Guernica without that gentle innocent, Henri Rousseau.” (See: When Henri Met Pablo)

From the verdant density of the jungle, to the wide eyes of the wild cats, to the streaming mane of the woman, of the gypsy, of the horse…it is like Rousseau has a secret window into my sleeping mind.  Rousseau paints my dreams, dreams that are always just slightly too surreal to be real…

Rousseau’s final masterpiece, The Dream (1910).

[Rousseau’s] …best known paintings depict jungle scenes, even though he never left France or saw a jungle. Stories spread by admirers that his army service included the French expeditionary force to Mexico are unfounded. His inspiration came from illustrated books and the botanical gardens in Paris, as well as tableaux of “taxidermified” wild animals. He had also met soldiers, during his term of service, who had survived the French expedition to Mexico and listened to their stories of the subtropical country they had encountered. To the critic Arsene Alexandre, he described his frequent visits to the Jardin des Plantes: “When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream.

Rousseau’s big cats have been stalking my mind.
The leopard, the lion, the tyger…

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake, 1794

Like Rousseau, English poet William Blake (November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) was largely unrecognized during his lifetime.  He has since been recognized as an important member of the Romantic Movement.

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