GoogooshWas I the last person to find out that the Iranian pop diva Googoosh is making a comeback and living in the United States and Canada now? I have painted her portrait in honor of this exciting news. There are all sorts of delectable websites devoted to Googoosh, including her own, official site, and Googoosh TV which includes loads of MP3s.

I first learned about Googoosh about six years ago, when I saw a terrible documentary about her. The film was focused on post-Revolution suppression of her voice and, more importantly, the filmmaker’s obsession with Googoosh as an absent presence and a pop icon. He was unable to or not allowed to interview Googoosh for the film, so the whole thing ends up being about her absence and her silence, only not in a way that could be described as interesting or artistic. The overall effort reminded me of a translation of a Marathi short story I read years ago by Vilas Sarang, in which a historian takes a tape recorder around to all the Indian monuments and ‘records the silences’ of the historical sites. Continue reading “g∞g∞sh”

Pretty in Pontiff

Pretty in PontiffWhat the Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City needs are some bright colors to lift his mood. I have depicted him here surrounded by a warm bath of candy pink to brighten up his outlook. Pink is a great color for Pope Benedict XVI, who is undoubtedly a summer. Usually in my portraits I have eschewed the use of flesh tones, but in this case, the papal visage is so pleasingly pink and fleshy that it seemed appropriate to go with verisimilitude for his skin.

Some days I feel sorry for the Bishop of Rome. He used to look so very pleased when he stood before crowds of the adoring faithful with his hands outstretched. Now he doesn’t look so good. We all know what it’s like to gun for that perfect job for a really long time, maybe decades! And then you get there, you don the ecclesiastical robes and that scrumptious golden mitre (finally!). Maybe you even crack a few too many I’m-not-a-Cardinal-anymore jokes with your old buddies: “Oh, no, I don’t think cardinal red will suit me today, but do you have anything in the gold?” And for a short time, you look in the mirror every morning and you tell yourself that it’s all paid off. It was all worth it: the stint in the Hitler-Jugend, those years in the seminary, making friends with all the right people, mastering the professional buzzwords and id√©es du jour, the lifetime of celibacy. This is it! You’re not just the Pontifex, you’re the Pontifex Maximus, and no one can take that away from you, not ever! You won’t have to live the humiliating life of a former Commander-in-Chief and go around building libraries and visiting Africa all the time. There’s not going to be the retiree’s fade-out in the golden twilight of Boca with a Sea Breeze in one hand and a bocce ball in the other. Continue reading “Pretty in Pontiff”

UbL Art Round-up

Usama bin LadenOn the occasion of this past Monday, I decided since everyone else was doing it, I might as well hold my own little 911 observation. It occurred to me to paint a portrait of UbL, since I’ve been working on portraiture lately (by which I mean ‘making portraits’ rather than in the academic sense of ‘working on’). The result is to the left (click for a larger version). In order to prepare for my 911 observation, I embarked on an image search, hoping to find a nicely pixellated photograph of the man in question. I was surprised to find that there are basically three photos of UbL floating around on the web. They are below, with some minor variations (and of course the variations between these three is minimal; the second two were probably taken on the same occasion): Continue reading “UbL Art Round-up”

Benjamin Aislabie

Benjamin Aislabie (1774-1842) was a wine merchant with holdings in the West Indies. He was a devout cricketer. In 1802, he joined the Marylebone Cricket Club and became one of the game’s premier administrators. He was made President of the MCC in 1823 and did even more to bring regulation and organization to the game. He helped turn cricket from a game notorious for betting and illicit activities [?] into a gentile pastime and symbolic of ‘musular christianity’. Tom Brown’s School Days has a brief appearence by Mr. Aislabie and his “best speeches that ever were heard”.

Regretfully, Mr. Aislabie was a horrid cricketer. Weighing over 250 lbs, he needed a substitute while batting or fielding. In forty years of cricket, he averaged four runs an inning and took eight wickets. History has no record of those who succumbed to his bowling. Surely, the signs of a benevolent spirit animating this universe. It does appear that the man was a jovial, genial fellow who really loved the game of cricket.

Mr. Aislabie makes an appearance in the Old Bailey as well. In 1808, Richard Cowley, an employee in his business was convicted of stealing “three bottles of red port, part of a bottle of rum, and a bottle of brandy”. Cowley was sentenced to three months in Newgate and a fine of one shilling.

Mr. Aislabie died from an abcess in the throat.


*Inspired by a talk last night, that was akin to a DNB entry read aloud, I thought this could keep this blog chugging. So, now and then, I will do some data-mining in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and bring you some oddities. And to keep me honest, I will do similarly from various Persian and Arabic biographical dictionaries.