Monday, April 21, 2014

Beauty Museum

Influenced by my excursion in New York last month, I started to think about a beauty museum, which exclusively looks at beauty in its many capacities. The book that I am working on could be a working plan for this museum/study center.

Simply calling it a "Beauty Museum" should attract a bigger crowd than the usual fine arts people. Beauty touches everyone, and with clever targeting, even the Walmart crowd might come for a visit.

In any case, this is the idea I am mulling around. My website Reclaiming Beauty can be a forum for further discussions.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Light fixture on ceiling of the Design Exchange, Toronto
[Photo by KPA]

Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Descent From the Cross

The Descent from the Cross, c. 1435
Rogier Van der Weyden (1399 or 1400 – 1464)
Oil on oak panel
86in x 103.5in

Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Friday, April 18, 2014

This Good Friday

Andrea Mantegna, Calvary

The above image is posted at Laura Wood's The Thinking Housewife. Laura has posted paintings depicting Christ's ordeals through these holy days.

Also, on this Good Friday, Laura reminds us of the darkness of our times, by posting an article titled New York: City of Mohammed:
NEW YORK CITY becomes more and more congenial to Islam by the day. The Police Department recently announced that it will disband a surveillance unit that sent undercover detectives into Muslim neighborhoods for the purpose of identifying potential terrorists. The program, started in the wake of 9-11, was dropped in response to civil rights complaints, including civil rights complaints by Muslims.

And, Bill de Blasio continues to pledge to put Muslims holidays on the school calendar. According to one estimate, ten percent of New York public school students are Muslim
It is not enough to "observe" Good Friday this Easter, nor to optimistically wish each other Happy Easter on Sunday. Our calling now is bigger than words and songs. We have our enemies to ward off. We have to prepare for this.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Art Thieves

No Title
Annie Macdonell
"The images in this series are scans of found 35mm slides. I came across a box of them next to the trash a few months ago. They were unlabeled, undated, and unsourced. I’ve put together a selection of 15, which now form a slideshow you can click through on your computer monitor. Maybe you will recognize some of the images. Others you may not recognize specifically, but you will certainly be familiar with their sources – art monographs, fashion magazines, notebooks and textbooks, technical manuals." [Annie MacDonell, Interview in Either/And] on her work Split Screen
MacDonell was a former classmate of mine at Ryerson University, where she received a BA in photography. She went on to get a Master of Fine Arts in Lefresnoy, a university in France. Here is more on her statement of her work Split Screen in Either/And:
The slides were produced on a copy stand which, before the flatbed scanner, was the simplest means of reproducing images. Each one contains an interruption of the image by the spine of the book in which it originally appeared. The visibility of the spine is what attracts me to them. It marks only one of the many transformations these images have undergone since they were produced by the original photographer or artist. But in doing so, it places the histories and genealogies of these images in the foreground. The slides were shot for pedagogical purposes, to be projected large in front of a classroom and discussed as a group. Before that, they were published in books and magazines, to be purchased and leafed through by individuals. And before that they were, perhaps, images matted and framed behind glass on a wall. Now we may be browsing effortlessly through them, each on our slick backlit monitors. But the spine’s interruption of the image reminds us of where they came from in the first place, and how our ways of encountering them continue to shift along with the technology that delivers them to us.
That is a lot of words for simply showing pictures from magazines which spread across two pages (split by the spine of the book).

Such is the verbose nature of contemporary "artists" who have a lot to say about their vapid works.

MacDonell's Master of Fine Arts thesis was "about representation itself, which has always seemed to me a more interesting conversation," as she explains in the Either/And interview.

What this means is that MacDonell, for all her "artistic" vision, is not an artist. When tested, she's probably not very skilled at any of these artistic fields either: Film making (taking out the camera, shooting images, editing those images, producing a coherent whole), painting, drawing, or sculpture (she's big on "installations" which to her probably constitutes sculpture). All her works are borrowed, which I term as stolen, from various sources. And of course, not from real artists, which would have given her some exposure, and eventually something to emulate, but from the photographs and films she finds in people's garbage bins.

What a macabre and nihilistic way to represent the world! And it shows in her disjointed, cut ups, collages and installations.

Art for this conceited individual is about talking about art, rather than making art. And these "found objects" have been her means of "conversation" rather than creation.

Below is a photograph I took about two years ago which is around a similar theme of displaying cultural and sexual messages through contemporary cultural signs. The original post, with my commentary is in Camera Lucida under The Sexy Escape.

The Sexy Escape, 2010
Kidist P. Asrat

Here is how I see the superiority of my work:
a. My photograph shows:
- Context
- Humanity - how ordinary people look next to these iconic images
- Architecture - how images are placed in or on buildings
- Real life - the images show ordinary people juxtaposed with the images, mannequins and shop windows
- Poetry - I try to reference these views to come up with some kind of visual poetry

b. Macdonell's images show:
- Disjointed images, shapes and forms: Her cut-off hands of the mannequin, her burlesque dancer revolving in a few frames of a film, have no connection to the real world, and rotate within the image's confines
- Focused on phallic: Almost all her work, at some point, narrows in on the male or female sexual organs
- Cut off from real life: Even though she says she finds these "objects" in people's trash, she isolates them from the owners, and creates her own, insulated world out of them
- Morbid: Her objects form a collection of "found" items which have been thrown away, and which had no use for their owners. She doesn't salvage them and bring them back to their original use (building a new mannequin to of the hand, for example), or elevate them by creating something worthwhile, but uses them to further degrade them.
- Nihilistic: She says in an interview: "The work becomes about representation itself, which has always seemed to me a more interesting conversation [than talking about the work]." The objects, the images, the sculptures no longer count, which means what they represent does not matter either.

Macdonell, and the string of "artists" of her era, are clever wordmongers. They have not talent in art, but somehow decided that they wanted to work in art. This proved difficult, and their way out is to "have conversations about representation," as they spitefully malign art and creation.

Here are links to Macdonell's works and interviews:

- Commentary on film installation Time is a One trick Pony.

- Cinema and Visual Pleasure at the 2006 Viennale

- Interview at the Mercer Union: Originality and the Avant Garde (on Art and Repetition)

- Grange Prize short-list interview

- Macdonell's website
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Easter and Passover

Moses and parting of the Red Sea, from Cecil B. Demille's The Ten Commandments

I wrote the article below in 2010, and it was published at Frontpage Magazine.

It is a critique of religion, contemporary American politics, multiculturalism, and Christianity. I am not a politician (nor a student of politics), but I'm surprised at how prescient some of my points were back then (this is four years before Obamacare becomes part of American health care)


Reclaiming Religion From the Left
Published in Frontpage Magazine
April 19, 2010

[Commentary on the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film The Ten Commandments should be screening this Easter on television, as it is an annual tradition. "Please check you local listings."]

Two television networks showcased Cecil B. DeMille’s epic 3 ½ hour The Ten Commandments this Easter: ABC and Canada’s CBC. The 1956 film had no need for our 21st century Computer Generated Imagery to convince us that the Red Sea was indeed parting, and that the “bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). I wondered if the networks made this choice because there is really no superlative modern narrative of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection? We have Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, but its gore and blood is too hard to take at Easter. The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorsese is too idiosyncratic, and would be something to watch and study at another time in the year. There are plenty of bland and insipid made-for-television versions of Christ’s story, many of which are programmed during Christmas, but for some reason they were not screened this Easter.

Perhaps these channels chose to commemorate Passover rather than Easter, which fell around similar dates this year. Or they’re simply following the ritual of politically correct inclusiveness. Even President Obama has made Passover Seder-at-the-White House a new tradition, hosting it for the second time as President. No other President before him has hosted the Seder at the White House. Obama’s Seder started on a whim, it seems. During his campaign trail, two young Jewish aides were celebrating their Seder in a basement of a Pittsburgh hotel, away from home and family, when Obama joined their festivities.

Obama’s interest in Jewish celebrations may indeed be a liberal’s outreach to cultural diversity – after all, the White House now hosts Ramadan dinners. But, it fits his narcissistic personality, conforming the Seder to any situation he may be experiencing at the time of the holiday. At the first, impromptu, Seder in Pennsylvania when his campaign was steeped in the Reverend Wright controversies and was “in the desert,” as another campaign aide put it, Obama proclaimed “Next year at the White House” as an addition to “Next Year in Jerusalem” commonly said at the end of the dinner. Perhaps, as suggests Judi Kantor from the New York Times, this year’s focus could have been one of the universalist themes that Obama is so fond of: to free Americans from the bondage of capitalist healthcare and to give them the abundance of Obamacare.

The Center for American Progress has another suggestion. In it’s article on Obama’s Seder celebration this year, CAP cleverly used the Bible’s New Revised Standard Version to quote from Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Almost all the other versions use “stranger”, “foreigner” or “sojourner” in lieu of “resident alien,” clearly portraying a temporary dweller and not the long-term inhabitant that “resident alien” implies. The CAP’s advice to President Obama is that he treat Mexican illegal aliens with the same compassion they interpret from the NRS, and pass comprehensive immigration reform. But when we parse the words, it is clear that illegal aliens are not the “resident aliens” implied by CAP, but emboldened Mexicans, foreigners and strangers, who wish to take advantage of the lax rules and borders that makes it possible for them to enter and reside in the country with impunity.

One has to marvel at the President’s Seder chutzpah after his dismal treatment of Prime Minister Netanyahu during his recent visit to the United States. It is one thing to celebrate an ethnic festival, but another to respect the significance that the celebrants give their rituals. The Israelites that Obama commemorates in these Seders were freed from bondage in Egypt, and their descendants later received their Promised Land. Yet, Obama seems intent on removing this sacred land from the Jews, and forcing on them new enemies who are probably far more ruthless than the Egyptians.

Modern Christians are in as much danger as modern Jews. Our liberal neighbors, with their feel-good, made-up Christianity are destroying our religion and our communities. Liberal church leaders support issues ranging from comprehensive immigration reform to same sex marriage. Atheists, who have nonetheless constructed their own religion, now have their prophets. In the April 2010 publication of Vanity Fair, atheist Christopher Hitchens performs an iconoclastic dismantling of the Biblical Ten Commandments and then gives us his own petty ten. Like the Old Testament’s Jews, we have to trust that God will free us from our current tribulations.

In fact, End Time preachers use the exodus as an allegory for our liberation. Our ultimate release is entry into God’s heavenly land. But the Passover and Easter stories are also our personal stories. The journey from bondage to freedom reflects our own mundane ordeals. And we experience death and resurrection with each sin and atonement. Celebrating these holidays each year gives us the hope that we too will inherit our particular Israel.

The liberal, politically correct television stations were right after all. The story of Moses, recounting a people’s freedom from slavery, and culminating with the abiding Ten Commandments, was an apt choice for these holidays. Would that our leaders understand and practice its significance. Not just as at religious celebrations, but throughout the year.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Poppy Blossom

Coach, which started out as a luggage store, is now selling perfume (and handbags, purses, wallets and other leather paraphernalia - minus shoes). So far, I think it's become quite successful. I bought several years ago the Coach signature scent, but I found it too sweet. I remember finding Coach Poppy Blossom, but for some reason, I remained unimpressed.

Recently, I went to my favorite perfume store Sephora (where they give samples of scents for the undecided, or the searching), and got a tiny flask (worth about ten sprays) to test. It usually takes several minutes for the scent to release its notes, and even longer for the middle and base notes to come out. Many current perfumes lose their scent within a few hours, but the good ones persist for days.

I asked a shop assistant (a man, unusual for stores these days) what he thought of the perfume. He started a conversation by saying that he recognized the New York Public Library's pin I was wearing on my coat lapel (a logo of the library's lion head). "I worked there for a while last year," he said. "Oh really, what section?" "In the Judaica section, in the Dorot." "Yes, I'm aware of it, but I haven't visited that section... Are you Israeli?"

I asked him his national origin because he had a peculiar name (to me), and a clear Israeli accent.

"No, I'm Moroccan. But I speak fluent Hebrew." he answered.

This didn't ring true (or honest). He did not have an Arab accent. I figured then that he must be one of the many ethnic Arabs who live (or lived) in Israel.

"Do you speak Arabic?" I asked him.


"Are you Muslim?" I finally asked.


Then I thanked him and left.

In any case, he had no idea about the perfume I was asking him, as is the case with most of the staff I ask for assistance at Sephora. What do these people have to do all day but stand around? A smart manager would have them go through all the perfumes, section by section, and study all the basic information about them. And the smart employees would go home online and read up more on the collections.

Which is what I did.

Poppy Blossom was disconnected from the Coach line for a while, but it is back as a limited edition in some of its stores, and Fragrantica and the Bay also carry the line. It is a modest $45 for 30ml.

I have to add, though, there is no poppy flower notes in the perfume, despite the name. It seems like a branding strategy, where the collection's bottles come with cloth poppy flowers for hair or dress decoration: Orange/red flower for the original Poppy Blossom), green for the Poppy Citrine Blossom, and violet/red for the Poppy Freesia Blossom.

The "Poppy" seems to be the name of the woman this perfume was designed for. But what kind of woman is called "Poppy?"

Here are the notes for the Poppy Blossom:
Top: Lychee, Strawberry, Orange, Freesia
Middle: Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Tubrose, Gardenia, Jasmine
Base: Pralin, Vanilla, Musk, Woody notes

It has the lily-of-the-valley that I wrote about here.
The scent does last several days. Its final notes are a light combination of the floral and fruit, with the floral dominating slightly.

It is the perfect scent for late spring and summer.

Osmoz says this about the perfume:
Description: Poppy Blossom by Coach begins with fruity notes of mandarin, strawberry and lychee. The heart is a bunch of muguet, centifolia rose, tuberose, jasmine and gardenia. The warm and gourmand dry-down mixes praline, vanilla, blond woods and white musks.
At a glance: A playful and optimistic scent
History: After Poppy, and Poppy Flower, a citrusy and sparkling fragrance, Coach introduces Poppy Blossom, a more floral and fruity scent. According to the brand, the perfume combines the vivacious energy of Coach Poppy and the floral femininity of Poppy Flower. The fragrance embodies a whimsical, modern and sophisticated woman with an exhilarating personality.
Bottle: Poppy’s signature flacon is reinterpreted with a red poppy-like ribbon and a golden juice.
The era of the individual perfumer is over. Although Karyn Khoury is attributed as Poppy Blossom's creator, she worked with a large team of perfumers to make the scent. She says about the process:
...We spent many hours with Reed Krakoff (Coach’s executive creative director) and his team, listening to their vision of the brand and customer.


The result is a beautifully blended fragrance with great presence, signature and diffusion, which represents modern beauty, elegance and charm.
But, the "nose" of the original Poppy is Celine Barel, who has a modest collection of perfumes, including one nice one she designed for Jessica Simpson (modern pop star).

This original bottle has no corresponding flower, and is a darker bottle with a chocolate brown ribbon, perhaps referencing that "modern woman," with notes which include light and stronger elements, such as cucumber, gardenia, jasmine, and "decadent" marshmallow.

This site describes this dichotomy best with:
Poppy Blossom combines the vivacious energy of Poppy with the floral femininity of Poppy Flower. This luminous and warm fragrance is inspired by the modern beauty of the Poppy Woman.
But, as I said earlier, if left to its own qualities, Poppy Blossom is light, fresh, fruity and floral, and is perfect for spring and summer.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dancing with the Stars

Maksim and Meryl, dancing the Foxtrot

Meryl Davis is the Olympian figure skater from the US,who came back from the 2014 Winter Olympics with two medals, one gold and one bronze.

Derek Hough, the star dancer and instructor of Dancing With the Stars, choreographed the Ice Dancing routine, for which she won gold with her partner Charlie White (who is also competing in Dancing with the Stars this year)

Meryl is partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the competing "star" instructor of Dancing with the Stars, for the 2014 season.

Below is the video for week two, with her and Maksim doing the Foxtrot:

In week three, there was a "switch-up" of partners, and Meryl danced with Maksim's brother Valentin.

Here is the video, with her and Val doing the Tango:

Meryl is the talent to watch. She's received some flack for competing in Dancing With the Stars with her dancing background, but dancers are quick to point out that figure skating might actually be a disadvantage, for the kinds of moves that make up that discipline.

Derek won an Emmy for Choreography at the 2013 awards. For this episode of Dancing with the Stars, he choreographed the Dancing With The Stars Macy's Stars Of Dance. Below is the video:

It is a dark and sombre piece. But what is to be expected of young artists today influenced by vampires and dark fairy tales?

Still, the weavings of Derek's choreography shows true talent. Perhaps, at some point, he will find a better subject then death and destruction (or nihilism). The glimmer of hope is the beautiful young woman in the dance, who might be the muse trying to get out of the horror story.

But, at some point, beauty will have to stand side-by-side with talent, as I hoped at this posting in 2011 on another television dance competition, So You Think You Can Dance. One step at a time.

Dancing With the Stars is also one such show, where amateurs train for weeks to perform like graceful dancers. Some even succeed. And they can all go home and spread the message of beauty.

The Coveted Mirror Ball
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Lily of the Valley

From: Faberge from the Matilda Geddings
Gray Foundation Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York
November 22, 2011–November 27, 2016
[Photo by KPA]

Lilies of the valley are late spring flowers, but they reminded me of snowdrops, which are one of the first flowers to come out in spring.

Here's a closer look at the design of the lily of the valley (from the Faberge exhibition):

Snowdrops are slightly larger, and their flowers are more open:

Snowdrops may indicate that spring (true spring, not the calendar spring) is around the corner, if it hasn't arrived yet, but the lily of the valley is a more poignantly beautiful flower.

According to Christian legend, it is:
...known as Our Lady's tears or Mary's tears from Christian legends that it sprang from the weeping of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus. Other etiologies its coming into being from Eve's tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden or from the blood shed by Saint Leonard of Noblac during his battles with a dragon.

The name "lily of the valley" is used in some English translations of the Bible in Song of Songs 2:1, but the Hebrew phrase "shoshannat-ha-amaqim" in the original text (literally "lily of the valleys") doesn't refer to this plant. It's possible, though, that the biblical phrase may have had something to do with the origin or development of the modern plant-name.

It is a symbol of humility in religious painting. Lily of the valley is considered the sign of Christ's second coming. The power of men to envision a better world was also attributed to the lily of the valley. [Source: Wikipedia]
Here are some symbolic meanings of the lily of the valley:
-Return of happiness
- Purity of heart
- Sweetness
- Humility
- Happiness
- Love's good fortune
- It is also believed that this flower protects gardens from evil spirits. [Source]
These are the verses from Song of Solomon (2:1-17), which mention the lily of the valley:
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.

As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.

His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.

My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Flowers (Bring April Showers)

Flower on the Atrium (across from the Coach Terminal)
Downtown Toronto
[Photo by: KPA]

It's not quite time for these flowers (they are from a Camera Lucida post from last May), and we're having a wet and cold March, and April started off the same. But, the showers should bring us flowers, soon.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Sunday, March 30, 2014

An American Foxhound in New York

A Winning Spirit

I saw a dog which looked to me like an American Foxhound near the Duane Reade on 106th and Broadway, when I was in New York last week. The second time I saw this happy and active dog, I asked the owner what kind of a dog he was. The young man told me that he didn't know, and that the dog was a "rescue dog" which he'd only had for a couple of months. The young man looked like he could do with a rescue more than the dog. As I was talking to his owner, the dog became friendly, but possessive, as though to ward me off his master. I took this as a greeting, and stroked him gently, while asking the man what he called the dog. "Grant," he said. "What a name you have," I told the dog, who by now looked like he just wanted to play.

"He looks like an American Foxhound," I said. "You should have him tested. George Washington's dog was an American Foxhound." I left Grant with his owner, still playful and rambunctious. I wonder where his owner got "Grant" from, the movie star (Cary), or from President Ulysses Grant? Either way, this Grant is a member of a prestigious group.

John Ward Dunsmore (1856-1945)
The First Gentleman of Virginia: George Washington at the Hunt (c. 1777)
Frances Tavern Museum, New York City

Information on the painting is on page 20 of:
Images of America: Woodbrook Hunt Club
Joy Keniston-Longrie
Arcadia Publishing, 2009

I've written about Jewel, an American Foxhound, who won several dog shows. And my post George Washington and his Dogs discusses how Washington bred the American Foxhound from English and French hounds, and the names he gave his large menagerie of hounds.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Monday, March 24, 2014

Rembrandt's Esther

The Jewish holiday of Purim ended last week. It commemorates:
...the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them...

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus...planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing [more here].
Rembrandt painted a series of paintings depicting Esther. Below are what I think it is a complete list:

Haman and Ahasuerus at the banquet with Esther

Haman Prepares to Honour Mordecai

Haman Begging Esther for Mercy

Esther is Introduced to Ahasuerus

Esther before Ahasuerus

Esther with the Decree of Destruction

Esther Preparing to Intercede with Assuerus

More paintings of Esther by various artists can be found: here, here, here and here.

A special holiday cake called hamentashen is served for this holiday. I mention my first encounter with hamentashen in my post Kidist's Best of New York City (Best Hotel Bakery Item: The Hamentashen at the Plaza Hotel (apricot filling), which I discuss more here.

I'm not sure how the greeting goes, but I will just say: Happy Purim!
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Reclaiming Beauty Newsletter: New York in Spring

Below is the email newsletter I sent out for March 15, 2014. If you would like to be included in the list, please send me your email to


March 15, 2014

Dear Friends of Western Civilization,

Thank you for those who made my upcoming trip to New York possible.

I will spend six days in New York City from March 17 - March 22. Actually, it will be four days, since on two of the days I will spend travelling from and to Toronto, a 12-hour trip by Greyhound. And before you feel sorry for me, it is a wonderful ride through western New York, parts of Pennsylvania, crossing New Jersey, before reaching Port Authority. The ride is mostly through rural and farm land, and we pass by some small towns. I blog about the route here at Camera Lucida in 2009. Here is post I did with photos I took of the mountain ranges I travel through. And here is a poston the Finger Lakes, with photos of Lake Cayuga. Customs at the American border is at Buffalo, and I am always surprised at the grand buildings in the center of the city.

In New York, I will join the roundtable group I mentioned in my last newsletter for dinner and discussion. I will spend most of my time at the New York Public Library to continue with my research for my book Reclaiming Beauty: Winning Back Our Civiliztion.

I am also going through various guides to find exhibitions that would be worth visiting (some might even be "essential viewing").

Two so far:
Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral
At the Cloisters, Feb 25-May 18
The History of the Dressing Table
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, through April 23

And Lincoln Center. When I was a student in New Jersey (in Rutgers) I used to make day trips to New York to listen to the free concerts. Actually, they were rehearsals open to the public. It was very intereting to see how the pieces were put together, and how the condictor went about doing so. Now, these rehearsals (called Open Rehearsals) cost $20, and the reviewer at the New York Philharmonic site agrees with me, saying:"An Open Rehearsal is a fascinating opportunity to watch the New York Philharmonic at work, and see how a piece of music is shaped and polished by the conductor and the musicians."

There's an Open Rehearsal on Thursday, March 20, at 9:45 am, at Avery Fisher Hall for:
- Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major
- Weill: Symphony No. 2
- Gershwin: Concerto in F

With Jeffrey Kahane conducting.

I had mentioned (in passing) on my blog that I had been through a long series of medical tests this past year. My latest doctor's visit (two days ago) showed that I have a clean bill of health. This is great news, and I believe that St. Michael, of St. Michael's Hospital, where I have been going through most of my tests, is watching over me.

St. Michael Slaying Satan  St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto
[Photo by KPA]

Friday, March 7, 2014

Support to Reclaim Beauty

Dear Friends of Western Civilization,

It has been a while since I've updated you on my book and website project, but that doesn't mean I've been idle.

Here are some of my recent activities:
- I continue to update my website Reclaiming Beauty regularly, with the aim that it becomes an online record of activities that includes a wide range of contributors, and eventually develops into a "Beauty Movement."

- An American publisher has shown interest in my book, and is reviewing some sample chapters and the website Reclaiming Beauty.

- I have applied for a research grant at the New York Public Library.

- I have traveled to the New York Public Library several times to use the library's great research facilities.

- I have also traveled several times to New York to meet with a "round table" of friends and like-minded people to discuss literary, cultural and social topics, and to have a good meal together.

- My most recent trip was at Christmas 2013.

- I visited some first class exhibits while in New York, including an exhibition of clocks at the Frick Collection, which I discuss at Reclaiming Beauty.

- I walked through the city's various neighborhoods, and toured the city using the city's buses as my own personal tour buses (I recommend this method highly!).

- I have read several books, including re-reading Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow, and recently started a delicate piece of fiction titled: On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry (obtained from a book store's bargain bin - don't ever under-estimate bargain bins!).

- I continue to take photographs with the aim of using some for my book chapter headings.

- I have a separate photography site at Kidist P. Asrat Photographs.

- I have articles published in various magazines, which I've posted at Kidist P. Asrat Articles.

- My design show-case website, Well-Patterned, provides me with designs for various projects.
Camera Lucida, an art and culture blog which I maintained for eight years until I started Reclaiming Beauty last year, is still online.

- And for more on my regular observations, opinions, reviews and critiques, please visit Reclaiming Beauty.

Thank you to those who have funded my various activities, including my travels to New York, and other recent contributions.

Which brings me to the important part of my email.

A contribution towards my projects would be much appreciated.

As you can see, book writing is a long effort. But, every part of it has so far been enjoyable, interesting and immensely educational. I do hope that it will be the same for others once it is finished.

And maintaining a website with almost daily postings for this number of years is unusual, where blogs are abandoned with regular frequency. But, I think I have found the "magic ingredient." It is to expand the posts to a larger social

The donations button is at Reclaiming Beauty, on the side margin under "Support."

Thank you for your support.


Kidist Paulos Asrat

Sculpture of St. Michael in the front lobby of
St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael is slaying Satan,
with his finger pointed up at God.

[Photo By: KPA]

More at:

Reclaiming the Beauty of
St. Michael's Hospital


St. Michael's Foundation

Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reclaiming The Beauty of St. Michael's Hospital

Mural of St. Michael's profile on the front wall
of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto

Sculpture of St. Michael
in the front lobby of St. Michael's Hospital.
St. Michael is slaying Satan,
with his finger pointed up at God.

[Above photos by KPA: 2014]

Above are photos I took of St. Michael's hospital, and more specifically, the mural of the angel's profile, and the sculpture in the lobby.

Here is the background to the sculpture:
For almost a century the statue of Saint Michael the Archangel has graced St. Michael's as a symbol of hope for employees, patients and their families. The artist and date of creation of the statue are unknown, but the name of 'Pietrasanta' chiselled on the back of the statue indicates the stone is from the same quarry in Italy where Michelangelo procured the marble for his famous 'Pieta'.

How the statue made its way to Canada is unclear, but what we do know is that during the latter part of the 19th century the Sisters of St. Joseph found this statue, dirty and blackened, in a second-hand store on Queen Street. Recognizing its value, they wisely bought it for the sum of $49 - money they had accumulated from the sale of old newspapers.

The statue now stands in our Cardinal Carter lobby, meticulously restored, a symbol of hope and healing for all who visit. It is why St. Michael's is affectionately known as Toronto's Urban Angel.
[Source: St. Michael Hospital's website]

Key chain I received from the St. Michael's foundation,
after I gave a very modest contribution.
(Here is the foundation's webpage for online contributions)

I had taken photographs of a side street entrance to the hospital at Bond Street several years ago. St. Michael is the sculpture above the entrance door. The sculpture was designed by Frances Loring.

St. Michael's entrance on Bond Street
The sculpture above the doorway is stiffer
than the life-like sculpture in the lobby

Archway above Bond Street entrance
[Above photos by KPA: 2012]

Here's the hospital's history at its website:
In 1892, in an old Baptist church on Bond Street, the Sisters of St. Joseph operated Notre Dame des Anges, a boarding house for working women. Responding to the need to care for their own and the poor population in the south end of Toronto, the Sisters founded St. Michael's Hospital.

The hospital opened its doors with a bed capacity of 26 and a staff of six doctors and four graduate nurses. Within a year, accommodation was increased to include two large wards and an emergency department. By 1912, bed capacity reached 300, and a five-room operating suite was added.

As early as 1894, St. Michael's Hospital received medical students and, in 1920, negotiated a formal agreement with the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto that continues to this day.

Between 1892 and 1974, St. Michael's school of nursing graduated 81 classes, totalling 5,177 graduates. The school was closed in 1974 when nursing education was moved into the province's community college system. Later, the hospital opened a school for medical record librarians, the first in Canada, and also participated in the preparation of dietitians and X-ray and laboratory technologists.

As Toronto grew and expanded, so did the hospital. Ongoing physical expansion, most prominent in the 1960s, increased the original 26 bed facility to a high of 900 beds.
I have criticized the hospital's latest wing, completed in 2011, and its funding source here. But, the St. Michael's Hospital legacy is long and sustained. There is Saint Michael's Cathedral, and St. Michael's Choir School for boys, both in the vicinity of the hospital (more here), giving it moral support.

St. Michael's as it appeared in 1892 - the year of its founding.
[Image Source: St. Michael's Hospital Archives]

The plaque at the Bond Street entrance:

[Image Source:Toronto's Historical Plaques]

There were three architects involved in the original design of the hospital (more detailed biographies here - pdf file):

- Albert Asa Post (1850-1926):
Albert Post was born in Pickering, Ontario, and attended St. Michael's College in Toronto before entering an apprenticeship with Henry Langley...In 1879, Post opened his own practice in Whitby, Ont. before joining A. W. Holmes to form Post & Holmes in Toronto.

- James Patrick Hynes (1868-1953)
James Hynes was a Toronto-born architect...He was president of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, The Ontario Association of Architects, The Architectural League of America, and The Town Planning Association of Ontario. He was a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, president of the Ontario Association of Architects, and writer for the Canadian Homes and Gardens magazine.

- William Lyon Somerville (1886- 1965)
Willima Somerville, born in Hamilton, and responsible for designing McMaster University, practiced in New York before opening an office on Bay Street in 1919.

These architects continued to expand and renovate the hospital into the late 1960s. The original design and aesthetics of the building were never compromised, and the new additions fitted seamlessly with the original building.

The addition of the newest wing, completed in 2011, is an eye-sore. Glass, the preferred style of post-modernist architects, is the main material. Carefully patterned brick and delicately carved stone are substituted by relentless sheets of blank glass. Glass doesn't leave much for ornament, and instead exposes messy interiors, or to avoid that, empty interiors:

Li Ka Shing Knowlege Institute's empty interior, exposed by the sheets of glass.
Rather than fill the area with objects, both ornamental and functional,
it is left empty. This is a deliberate strategy, both for safety reasons
(exposing antique cabinets for all to see?), and for aesthetic reasons,
since the over-exposing glass will accentuate and magnify any object,
thus visually confusing the space.

With this new addition, the hospital's original aesthetic and design is destroyed.

[Image source: Diamond Schmitt Architects

The stark contrast of this post-modern structure with the rest of the building might alert people, patients, doctors, donors and other city folk, that this new addition is a mistake. And since the hospital is still undergoing renovations, future projects can still reclaim the beauty and dignity of the original ideas.

St. Michael's Foundation webpage for online contributions.

Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Four Good Reasons for Marriage

The Basics:
British Army folding bed: ca. 1860

More of the above at:

Royal Warrants, Circulars, General Orders and Memoranda
Issued by the War Office and Horse Guards
August 1856 - July 1864


Allan Roebuck, over at The Orthospehere writes on the topic of marriage:
I argue here that most men should attempt to marry, for several basic reasons. First, marriage is necessary for the survival of a people. Second, men (and women) need to be a part of a good order if they are to live well and a good social order includes marriage. And three, men were designed for leadership, as they are more attuned to the practical application of truth and justice, and are more able to impose their will on a situation, than women are.[Bolds are mine, for clarity]
He forgot one important point:
Fourth: Wives have a civilizing influence on husbands. Other than the desire to protect their wives, and the children that ensue, the very character of women civilizes men.
I think this is noticeable in the home. Regardless of the domestic influence of the wife (making the house habitable, the environment clean, and the atmosphere peaceful), a husband behaves far more civilly in his home than when in his workplace or other exterior environment.

And if his home life is civil and peaceful, and he has a trustful wife to tend to that, then his external behavior is also affected.

Think of soldiers, who have been away from their homes for months, and whose only company are other soldiers. Their existence, outside of the brutality of war, is a camaraderie of loud, boisterous interactions. They would not behave this way towards woman, and would most likely not behave this way with each other if they were in their homes with their wives and children nearby.

Or think of bachelors. Even those with erudition and great education are victim to the infamous "bachelor's pad," which is really more about having the proper environment to accomplish a purpose, whether it is to write the novel, or to have a place for whisky and frolics. They are content with the basics of domestic life: food, shelter and sleep.

When the purpose is to protect his wife and children, and their upkeep, the man's behavior and environment change accordingly. This domestic civility manifests itself with social and cultural civility, upon which societies, and countries, are built.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Friday, February 21, 2014

Young and Lesbian: An Epidemiology?

Photo from article: "Why Are So Many Girls Lesbian or Bisexual?"
From: Psychology Today, April 3, 2010
By: Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.
These look just like the "college best friends" I write about below

Camille Paglia would be intrigued, and horrified, at this epidemiology of young lesbians, cheerfully "coming out."

Ellen Page

A few days ago, a young and pretty Canadian actress, Ellen Page, declared herself to be a closeted lesbian, that is until that moment when she dramatically announced to whomever bothered to listen: I am gay. She's twenty-six years old at this announcement, but according to her testimony, had been "gay" for years.

I found her video on New York Post's online magazine. It was hard to miss on the side column, with a large photo of her, and the headline: Tired of Hiding: Actress Ellen Page Comes Out as Gay.

Page is claiming that her "coming out" is "a personal obligation and a social responsibility [direct quote from the Youtube video here around the 6:15 minute point]", and is otherwise a "traumatic event."

It is interesting to see that "coming out" in the 21st century is such a traumatic event. I thought we had taken care of stigmatizing gays and had built such a "gay-friendly" world that people were declaring their "true selves" left and right.

Well, not so, apparently. Page tearfully declares: "I suffered for years because I was scared to be 'out'." Didn't Ellen DeGeneres, pernicious model for this young Ellen, present us with her "secret" in a similarly tearful declaration seventeen years ago? Her career hasn't diminished one bit, and in fact has climbed since then.

Page with "girlfriend"

Page was brought up in Eastern Canada, in Nova Scotia. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her father remarried. She lived with her mother. At about fifteen, Page enrolled herself into a "Buddhist" school, with no academic structure, which emphasized "the arts." And her parents let her do this! Divorce is hard on any child, but a structureless one must be harsh. And worse, letting a young teenager decide on her intellectual and spiritual development is bizarre and cruel.

This is the best I could find of Page with her father.
Notice the impish quality of the father, who looks like he's out with his young son.
But then, what young boy would cling to his father like that?
Such is the ambiguous world of tomboys.

Page with her mother, looking dishevelled and tomboyish.
It looks like they were both out at some film premier,
where Page should be the star, but is upstaged
by her glamorous mother instead.

But homosexuality is still a social stigma, if "celebrities" have to make such a spectacle about their revelations. Normal, ordinary people, those that pay the films and shows to keep DeGeneres and Page in the business, will momentarily forget a gay person his abnormality as long as he entertains well. And if homosexuality is still a social stigma, despite all these efforts to normalize it, then it will always remain a social stigma.

And just in time for Obama's homosexual agenda of equality, the PBS program To The Contrary "for women, by women, about women" (my quotations), recently included on its panel an articulate black women, Danielle Moodie-Mills. I wondered who she was, with her caked make-up and twisted stringy hair.

Moodie on the PBS program To The Contrary, which aired a couple of weeks ago

I found her profile all over the internet, since then. She is a black lesbian, whose "marriage" to another black woman was profiled in the black magazine Essence. They "married" in 2010, Mills at 32 and Moodie 31, and had "been together" for six years before that, which means they started this "relationship" when they were in their early twenties.

Danielle Moodie, on the right, is:
Advisor, LGBT Policy and Racial Justice
Center for American Progress
Nonprofit; 201-500 employees; Think Tanks industry
(LinkedIn Profile)

and Ayisha Millis is:
...a Senior Fellow and Director of the FIRE - Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality - Initiative at the Center for American Progress, where her work explores the intersections of race, class, and sexuality.
(Center for American Progress profile)

They both have those fluffy jobs just right for the Obama administration.

There must be dozens around of these "lesbians" around. Girls walking around the mall, chattering and laughing: are they "young lesbians"? Two young women eating in a restaurant, fancily dressed: are they on a date? A couple, women, picking up a young child at school or at a day care: are they "two mommies"? And so on.

I won't go into the pshychological, sociological, cultural, School of Camille Paglia, analyses of what I'm seeing here, so here's my take, at least on Page, Moodie and Mills.

There is very little information forthcoming from Moodie or Mills. I've gleaned what there is available from various websites and their limited profiles in their professional biographies.

Danielle Moodie

Danielle Moodie's only reference to her parentage (from searches around the web) is a photo of hers which appeared on Essence magazine's profile of her "marriage" to Mills. Here, she is standing with a white man, named as Michael Newton, with the caption:
Dance with my father:
Danielle’s dad Michael Newton was close to tears as he danced with his daughter on her momentous day.
Below is the photograph:

(Source: Essence)

I can only assume that she is adopted. Where is the mother (adoptee)? Why isn't she included in this wedding photograph? Is she white, black, other? What kind of life does Moodie live where she has to call a white man as her father? How hard was this for her as a young girl (assuming she was adopted young)? How much harder did it get as she became conscious of her surroundings? How did the "black identity" culture affect her identity? How does she relate to whites, and to the ominous White Male?

Aisha Mills

Mills posted this photo collage on her Twitter page

Mills was raised by her grandmother. She says: "My entire life, I have been a variety of 'others'." According to this post, her mother had "Asian" roots, but she was raised by her Black Southern Baptist grandparents, as the photos above indicate. The young, light-skinned boy in the photo collage could be her brother. Or is it her dressed in a suit and tie (as a young boy)? Yes! It is her, dressed as a young boy! So there you have it.

And here below, she is with her MIU (Missing in Upbringing) father at her "wedding."

Source: Essence
Caption reads:
Proud Father
Aisha's father James Mills kisses his baby girl and wishes her well on her big day

The Mills-Moodie "elegant affair" of a wedding included baskets of chopsticks. The ominous absence of her Asian mother must make even the most mundane of Chinese objects into bouquets of roses.

Chopstick elegance: Reaching for some ephemeral roots
Chopsticks, from the wedding album by Essence
The caption reads:
Cocktail Hour:
"The entire wedding was an elegant cocktail affair," Aisha explained.


So what is it with these young women?

- A chaotic home life?
- A dearth of masculine young men?
- Feminism pushing young women into competitive and masculine roles, where they clash with young men, both the feminized ones, and those standing their ground and refusing to give in easily to a woman-centric environment?
- Black men, unavailable, either through their dropping out of society, their criminality, or their immaturity?
- Men refusing marriage, for fear of repercussions by feminism, and feminist women and wives?
- Men refusing to mature, and instead delaying marriage and family?
- The culture pushing, through mass media, that marriage is not necessary?
- Divorce rates, and divorce costs, high, especially (uniquely?) for men, so many opting out of marriage?
The "otherness" of the other becoming too much to deal with for young people these days, who are not used to natural competitions, and eventually some awe for differences.
- The desire by contemporary people to make everyone the same, to avoid this natural alienness or otherness of people?
- The desire to make everything "nice" and non-combative?

In any case, this "best friend" type of coupling is well suited for girls in college and high school. Under normal conditions, these girls will find staunch mothers or grandmothers who will diminish that seductive environment, give them the education they need, and place them in situations where they can lead a normal life, including building their future families.

The women I've described above are traumatized orphans, both in society and in family. They have been dealt with difficult beginnings. Since their families didn't come through for them, then it should have been up to the larger society to see that they didn't normalize their ambiguities and abnormalities. Now, as adults, they are seeped in their iniquities, and will only further terrorize society. Our job now is to see that they don't do that, and that they don't amass more vulnerable innocents along their way.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat