July 9th-Monday

After a weekend of independent activities, spanning visiting Paris to participating in London Pride day to shopping in Oxford to working on class (the last was me), we all came back to class this morning.  Well, two of the students got stuck in Paris.  Poor them, right?

Holy Trinity Church-Headington Quarry

Our chapter theme was C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein and the quadrant of the city was just east of us up St. Clemens Road to Headington.  C. S. Lewis is buried in Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry and I had visited the site early last week on my own.  It is a quiet place and quite moving. 





photo of shark in roof This chapter told the story of the Headington Shark, a full size model of a shark which sticks out of a house in Headington.  When first “installed” there was a huge uproar but over time the ruckus died down and now there is a movement to save the shark.  The fascinating question that did capture the students attention was whether this was art and if yes, did that give it a sacred status of some sort?  That is, versus an eyesore that we would argue should be pulled down for the good of the community and property values.  From there our conversations ranged afield:



  • What is the difference between art and propaganda?
  • Can anything be art?
  • How do we judge the quality of historical accounts, past and present?
  • How have corporations taken over so many aspects of our culture in places and activities that eveything has a logo promoting that company?
  • What is the difference between overbearing corporate sponsorship and philanthropy?
  • What do we need to be able to make clear judgements as to the quality of the information given us by the media, scholars, anyone?
art from RA Summer Exhibit

art from RA Summer Exhibit

I may have been alone in advocating for some notion of truth or standard for truth claims–and claims about art and beauty.  Somebody has to be the rationalist in the group. Despite the delightfully lively discussion, I fear we may not have made any progress.  I think that may be a theme for tomorrow:  when has a discussion brought about more clarify, changed minds, or simply seemed productive in the end?  How can we construct those?  Clearly this issue is not one simply for our SJC class but is sorely needed at every level of community and organization.

The gull is reborn

The new version

the old version

the old version

How lovely to refresh the gull that hangs on our front porch.  We were enchanted by him when we first visited the house and while I am not a huge fan of real gulls, the delightful metal version was a nice touch.  Over the past five years the weather had caused rust and general degradation so it was time to attempt a repainting.  He now glows happily in the autumn light with fresh white, grey, and yellow markings.

Marshall Goodman-an artist

Marshall Goodman painting


Growing up in New York City my brother and I were privileged to know my parents’ wide assortment of wonderful theater friends, some of whom babysat my brother and I (Angus and Rufie), others who drank screwdrivers for breakfast (name withheld for obvious reasons), some who ‘hated children’ so keep-a-low-profile-kids (Fred Tobey) and then there was Marshall.  Marshall Goodman was an artist who always lived on the edge.  He was bigger than life, flamboyant, a known ladies man, and an elf.  Loud, exuberant, he would burst into our house and everything just got more colorful.

He struggled, painting fanciful images in Lord & Taylors, doing sketches down at the Courts for newspapers, and annual Christmas cards, usually featuring cats.  He adored cats.  He once had an ocelot that when it became too big and began to scratch him, he donated to the zoo.  Alas, it was attacked by the big cat in the next cage and bled out.  He was devastated.

After my father died he came to the memorial service. He was back in New York City after a stint in Jersey City (cheaper rent) and I began to visit him periodically in his city apartment.  He was a Buddhist at that point–interesting choice but he honored all living things. He would regale me with tales of his time at the RISD in his youth.  When he became sick and ended up on the hospital I visited him.  When he passed away, I was genuinely sad and met his lovely brother Seymour, who was as rational as Marshall had been the opposite.  Seymour had to empty out his flat, full of art, sketches, tons of stuff.  At the time I saw a painting that struck me as simply beautiful. He featured a slim young woman with a Siamese cat.   Seymour has arranged with a gallery to buy all of Marshall’s artwork in bulk to sell.  I tracked the painting and years later, it seems to still be for sale.  But the price is now listed at $15,000!  Marshall, the quintessential artist, never had any money at all and I cannot help but regret both that there is no way that I can afford that painting, and that Marshall cannot know how much they are asking for it.  I am sure he would be astonished.  I hope my father and he are toasting it with cocktails in heaven’s bar.