japonisme: 12/18/11 - 12/25/11

23 December 2011

all glowing to you


22 December 2011

the yoshiwara of paris

with the help of two extraordinary websites, i would like to take you back to the pleasure quarter of montmartre, the yoshiwara of paris.

i feel drawn to the people, those side-liners who represented a working class aching for and gaining some personal liberties and leisure time with which to mingle with the swells and the song-and-dancers in what became one of the first venues where classes met and mixed, and only sometimes for money changing hands.

there has always seemed to me something more comfortable about unrefined folk; in high school i always said i yearned for squalor, and talked in the 'dead-end-kids' jargon. and even the greaser kids, the ones that went to viet nam right after high school, asked me to teach them how to dance.

but in the bohemian, artistic, rebellious fin-de siecle the times still echo in our times today; strikes were rampant, the taste of freedom creating the craving for more. Montmartre's remote location and inexpensive lodgings contributed to its transformation into a primarily working-class neighborhood in the second half of the nineteenth century. Known for its revolutionary politics and underground culture, its liberal reputation lured students, writers, musicians, and artists to the area in the early 1880s.* the geographical division of classes sent the upper class scurrying to the outskirts, looking for the women and wine, for the sin they likely couldn't find at home.

Replacing the Latin Quarter as the locus of the city's intellectual and artistic community, Montmartre boasted a thriving bohemian culture that was driven by its critique of deca- dent society. Its raucous café-concerts and cabarets featured satires and crude, often subversive, performances that mocked the Third Republic's bourgeois morality and increasingly corrupt politics. Cabarets and café-concerts were favorite spots for avant- garde artists, who sought to capture their celebrated performers, hazy atmospheres, and artificial stage lighting.*

i guess that, despite privilege, the follies of the bourgeoisie never fooled me. as the monocled stuffed-shirts ogled the can-can dancers, so the husbands of my parents' friends ogled us hippies. nobody had all the answers (though both sides thought they did) (of course), but one side had less to protect and appeared to have more fun.

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the appeal of the cabarets and café-concerts extended well beyond the borders of Montmartre. Its performance halls provided a rare opportunity for the mixing of social classes, particularly between bourgeois men and working-class women, whose interactions were often based on prostitution. The blurring of class boundaries contributed to Montmartre's reputation as a place for escape, pleasure, entertainment, and sexual freedom.

By the time of the World's Fair held in Paris in 1900, Montmartre had developed into a veritable entertainment industry, boasting over forty venues comprised of cabarets, café-concerts, dance halls, music halls, theaters, and circuses. The area's underground bohemian culture had become a part of mainstream bourgeois entertainment through the rapid commercialization and marketing of its venues and performers. As a result, Toulouse-Lautrec and his avant-garde contemporaries lost interest in Montmartre's nightlife and sought their modern subjects elsewhere. What had begun as a critique of decadent society had become a symbol of decadence itself.*

just like what happened with the hippies too.

the two sites i referred to up top are the always valuable Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History in italics with asterisk.* the second is an amazing compendium of theophile steinlen's work. i have never seen anything as comprehensive.

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21 December 2011

"Days grow longer!" scientists say.

Thanks, Chet. Yes, as all the kiddies out there know, this is the one day of the year that we use up our oil reserves -- Why? -- well, to oil the gears, of course. Yes, every year at this time this ole world has just been getting slower and slower.

Surely everybody out there has noticed the nights getting longer and longer. That's because the earth's gears are running out of lubricant! So let's all take a great big breath and, say it with me, "Spill baby spill!" as we pour that oil, and watch what happens. slowly but surely -- wait -- I believe I can already see... yes! I can feel it! the days are getting longer already! Back to you, Chet....
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