THE GRAY, but transparent evening, rather shaded than obscured the scene—leaving its stronger features visible, and even improved, by the medium through which I beheld them. The volume of water is not very great, nor the roar deep enough to be termed grand, though such praise might have been appropriate before the good people of Rochester had abstracted a part of the unprofitable sublimity of the cascade. The Genessee has contributed so bountifully to their canals and mill-dams, that it approaches the precipice with diminished pomp, and rushes over it in foamy streams of various width, leaving a broad face of the rock insulated and unwashed, between the two main branches of the falling river. Still it was an impressive sight, to one who had not seen Niagara. I confess, however, that my chief interest arose from a legend, connected with these falls, which will become poetical in the lapse of years, and was already so to me, as I pictured the catastrophe out of dusk and solitude. It was from a platform, raised over the naked island of the cliff, in the middle of the cataract, that Sam Patch took his last leap, and alighted in the other world. Strange as it may appear—that any uncertainty should rest upon his fate, which was consummated in the sight of thousands-many will tell you that the illustrious Patch concealed himself in a cave under the falls, and has continued to enjoy posthumous renown, without foregoing the comforts of this present life. But the poor fellow prized the shout of the multitude too much not to have claimed it at the instant, had he survived. He will not be seen again, unless his ghost, in such a twilight as when I was there, should emerge from the foam, and vanish among the shadows that fall from cliff to cliff. How stern a moral may be drawn from the story of poor Sam Patch! Why do we call him a madman or a fool, when he has left his memory around the falls of the Genessee, more permanently than if the letters of his name had been hewn into the forehead of the precipice? Was the leaper of cataracts more mad or foolish than other men who throw away life, or misspend it in pursuit of empty fame, and seldom so triumphantly as he? That which he won is as invaluable as any, except the unsought glory, spreading, like the rich perfume of richer fruit, from virtuous and useful deeds.
Thus musing, wise in theory, but practically as great a fool as Sam, I lifted my eyes and beheld the spires, warehouses, and dwellings of Rochester, half a mile distant on both sides of the river, indistinctly cheerful, with the twinkling of many lights amid the fall of evening.
* * * *
The town had sprung up like a mushroom, but no presage of decay could be drawn from its hasty growth. Its edifices are of dusky brick, and of stone that will not be grayer in a hundred years than now; its churches are Gothic; it is impossible to look at its worn pavements, and conceive how lately the forest-leaves have been swept away. The most ancient town in Massachusetts appears quite like an affair of yesterday, compared with Rochester. Its attributes of youth are the activity and eager life with which it is redundant. The whole street, sidewalks and centre, was crowded with pedestrians, horsemen, stage-coaches, gigs, light wagons, and heavy ox-teams, all hurrying, trotting, rattling, and rumbling, in a throng that passed continually, but never passed away. Here, a country wife was selecting a churn, from several gaily-painted ones on the sunny sidewalk; there, a farmer was bartering his produce; and, in two or three places, a crowd of people were showering bids on a vociferous auctioneer. I saw a great wagon and an ox-chain knocked off to a very pretty woman. Numerous were the lottery offices—those true temples of Mammon—where red and yellow bills offered splendid fortunes to the world at large, and banners of painted cloth gave notice that the “lottery draws next Wednesday.” At the ringing of a bell, judges, jurymen, lawyers, and clients, elbowed each other to the court-house, to busy themselves with cases that would doubtless illustrate the state of society, had I the means of reporting them. The number of public houses benefited the flow of temporary population; some were farmers’ taverns—cheap, homely, and comfortable; others were magnificent hotels, with negro waiters, gentlemanly landlords in black broadcloth, and foppish bar-keepers in Broadway coats, with chased gold watches in their waistcoat pockets. I caught one of these fellows quizzing me through an eye-glass. The porters were lumbering up the steps with baggage from the packet-boats, while waiters plied the brush on dusty travelers, who, meanwhile, glanced over the innumerable advertisements in the daily papers.
In short, everybody seemed to be there, and all had something to do, and were doing it with all their might, except a party of drunken recruits for the western military posts, principally Irish and Scotch, though they wore uncle Sam’s gray jacket and trowsers. I noticed one other idle man. He carried a rifle on his shoulder and a powder-horn across his breast, and appeared to stare about him with confused wonder, as if, while he was listening to the wind among the forest boughs, the hum and bustle of an instantaneous city had surrounded him.
Tara Donovan has an exhibit up at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston (on the Silver line, at the World Trade Center stop). Her pieces in the exhibition consist mainly of organic structures (stalactites, mountains, molecules, drops of water) and intangible things from nature (haze, fog, clouds) made out of everyday materials. The result is very very cool. Plus, she was just named a 2008 MacArthur Fellow, which if you don’t know what it is, is a huge deal. Also known as the “Genius Grant”, the foundation picks out people in a variety of fields and give them a shit-ton of money to keep doing what they’re doing, with the expectation that their intellectual juices will flow better if they don’t have to worry about money. Sounds good to me. But geniuses aside, Tara Donovan’s work is amazing.
Untitled, 2003. Ace Gallery, Los Angeles. Styrofoam cups and hot glue
A friend of mine told me that she doesn’t make the works herself, that she does the Sol LeWitt thing and the actual “work” is the instructions, so that each time a work is assembled and installed, it looks a little different from all the other iterations of the same work. The Conceptual thing is confusing and sort of turns a lot of people off, but that’s what I love about art: just when you think it couldn’t get any more “meta,” it does. It’s like philosophy put into (usually) tangible form.
I saw “The Dark Knight” last night. In IMAX! All I can say is holy effing ess, it was so awesome! The first scene with the bank heist was mindblowing because you can see all the way down to the street when the two henchmen are zip lining across to the other building. It was just so… BIG!
In other news, you know how the Superman franchise has pretty much sucked since the ’70s? Well, while I don’t disagree with that statement, I kind of feel like the movie people just haven’t found the right person to tell the story. Like, if you want a “Dark Knight”-style epic way of telling Superman’s story, you need someone who can really get into the psychology of Superman. REALLY make the Man of Steel all dark and shit. Someone like Quentin Tarantino. Remember the part in the end of “Kill Bill Vol. 2” when Bill goes off on this whole diatribe about Superman? THAT is the kind of psychological treatment that Superman deserves. I’ll admit, I personally find Superman kind of lame, but if the whole “he views humans as weak and cowardly” angle were pursued more, it could be kind of bad-ass. Just sayin’, you know?
In the meantime, enjoy the hilariously and patently non-bad-ass nonadventures of Wonderella.
Happy No-Class-Having Monday!
Despite the fact that I am currently in the library, allegedly studying law, I wanted to take a second to talk about fashion. In light of the theme of today’s (and every following Monday’s) mashup-inspired post, Anna Sui is a perfect foil for today’s song. I’ve always loved her clothes, though I’ve never owned a piece by her because well, I’m po’. Her aesthetic is very mashtastic, my favorite being her Fall 2008 Ready to Wear line, where she used elements from Art Nouveau, the Aesthetic Movement, Medieval art, Tiffany lamps, Gustav Klimt, pre-Raphaelites, AND the Native American art of the Pacific Northwest. The effect is dazzling without being dizzying, because while she has a passion for fusing all these disparate elements together, Sui’s overlooked but most important talent is her ability to edit. Every piece in this collection is pitch-perfect, aside from some long gowns that I didn’t particularly care for (mainly because I’m not a fan of gowns in RTW lines in general).
I feel like mash-ups are becoming so common these days, in every medium. Anna Sui isn’t the only designer to incorporate a million different influences (see Marc Jacob’s eponymous label’s Spring 2009 RTW) but I think that she does it better than anyone else. Jacobs’ line was visually interesting, but the separate pieces couldn’t really go together as a complete outfit without looking like Mary Poppins, even without the crushed straw hats. The sheer Middle Eastern fabrics were gorgeous, but they lose their punch when worn with plaid box jackets. While the idea is really cool, I don’t think it’s really practical for today’s world— the knockoffs of this line (probably by Forever 21) will be much more wearable without losing the fun-ness of the original line. This was kind of a departure for Jacobs, who really only did the mashup thing in his younger line, Marc by Marc Jacobs. It just seems like he’s trying to jump on the mashup zeitgeist bandwagon before he gets left behind and the upper crust start favoring Heatherette and Baby Phat (like that would ever happen, poor Kimora).
Plus, I’ve got such a girl-crush on Agyness Deyn. Anyway, if you ever come across a few thousand dollars, send it to me so I can buy something from this collection and then never take it off. Also, enjoy today’s mash-up, which should be posted later today when I get home from the 9th ring of law school 1L hell.
Seriously though, flossing is pretty important. More than a few people I’ve talked to (and myself included) have recently had to get fillings because of multiple cavities that are all the result of not flossing. I got my wisdom tooth out (yes, “tooth”. Thank God it was only the one because I would not have been able to go through that more than once) a few weeks ago, and let me just say: make them turn the laughing gas way up because it did not work for me. At all. Also, novocain —especially when injected directly into your gums— is a real motherfucker. All I wanted to do for the rest of the day was chew on the inside of my mouth and rub different textured things on my cheek because it felt so weird. That second part may have been more a result of the codeine. Regardless, getting dental work done sucks real bad, so try and avoid it by brushing and flossing every day! This has been a public health message from my mouth to yours. And also just a setup for this great song about brushing your teeth from Of Montreal.
cavities = no fun (also embarrassing, because who the eff gets cavities after fifth grade?