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PostA Bear Walking Around the Lobby of a Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado (Richard Hancock, USA, 08/28/18 3:50 am)
I wonder how many WAISers saw the TV news showing a black bear walking around the lobby of the Stanley hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The bear simply walked around, getting up on a sofa and looking out the window and then leaving without doing any kind of damage.
Nancy and I have been to Estes Park on three occasions and, in the 1970s, we spent several days in the Stanley hotel while attending a conference. The Stanley was founded in 1909 by the man who invented the Stanley Steamer automobile. Mr. Stanley came to Estes Park because he was suffering from tuberculosis. Estes Park is the gateway to the the Rocky National park, which is fourth most visited park in the US, after the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite. The Stanley was famous for being the site where the movie The Shining was filmed, telling a story about a haunted hotel. The film was directed by Stanley Kubrick and featuring the actor Jack Nicholson. It is a large Victorian structure and is very believable as a haunted hotel.
In July of this year we hosted a Hancock family reunion at the Estes Park YMCA, which is the largest Y in the world. It has an 800-acre campus and has a capacity to host 5,000 visitors. The elevation of this YMCA is approximately 8,500 ft. and it offers all kinds of activities to the guests, including rock-climbing, zip lines, horseback riding, golf, tennis, baseball, swimming, bow-and-arrow shooting, and endless views of beautiful mountains and all kinds of wild animals, including elk, bear, moose and deer. We spent a couple of days participating in these activities. We even went on a five-mile hike through rough country which was quite a trial for this 92-year-old.
On the last day, we had hired a bus to take us on into the Park and on the highest and longest paved road in all the Rockies. We drove about 40 miles on this road which was mostly above 12,000 ft. It was all above timberline and offered some gorgeous mountain vistas. We ended up at a station called Alpine, which had rock steps leading up to a summit of 13,005 ft. I had not experienced such a high altitude since our visit to Cusco, Peru in 1993. We walked up impressive rock steps which had been built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. These steps themselves were worth the hike because we couldn't imagine how the CCCs were able to build them.
I was worried about this trip because I had suffered from pneumonia three weeks before and had to be hospitalized for one day. I was pleased that neither the high elevations nor the vigorous hikes had materially affected me. It made me realize why this high, dry atmosphere had attracted people like Mr. Stanley.
The Rocky National Park normally has one million visitors in July and August and we feared that we would be pained by the crush of tourists. There were many people in downtown Estes Park, but we were not crushed by crowds in the YMCA. The Y had many visitors but they were not bothersome because of their widely scattered habitations.
The Hancock family has experienced reunions in many places through the west including Norman, Oklahoma. I will say that this was the best reunion site that we had ever enjoyed, probably even superior to the one held at the Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico many years ago.
JE comments: Richard, you are an inspiration. You prove time and again that the frontier-era Hancock pluck is stronger than ever. Congratulations on a great family reunion.
Anyone have a punch line for our bear joke? How about "Sir, shirts and shoes are required in the lobby." (OK, that's not funny.)
Bears in Hotels; Bears in Art
(Edward Jajko, USA
08/31/18 4:54 AM)
Richard Hancock's post of August 28th about the bear walking in the lobby of a Colorado hotel has called a couple things to mind.
The first is a painting seen a couple of weeks ago in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, my photograph of which I show below.
This is a 1901 painting by Henri Rousseau, entitled "Mauvaise surprise." It is in so-called "primitive" style, which I take to be fancy art-world jargon meaning "expensive piece of crap." I studied this painting for a long time, trying to figure out what it could mean. It shows a crudely drawn female nude; a rather childishly depicted bear; and to the left, a hunter or gunman in a bear suit, holding a rifle and shooting the bear in the back. One can just see the puff of smoke from the barrel of the gun. I studied this French painting for the longest time and then it came to me that it has to be interpreted not in French but as an exclamation in Midwestern or Southern American English: "Shoot! A bare nekkid lady!"
Around Christmas time maybe ten years ago, my daughter, then living in Boston, was injured and in need of assistance. My wife and I flew back East to help her. Where she was then living could not accommodate all of us so my daughter, highly experienced at putting together high-level business conferences, cranked up her computer and phone and very quickly found a large conference hotel a few blocks from the site of the Boston Tea Party that was mostly shut down for the holiday season but agreed to rent us a suite on an otherwise unoccupied upper floor at a very reduced rate. We were there in that spooky silence for over two weeks, with many grim jokes about "redrum" and seeing little girls and bartenders at the end of the corridors as we waited for elevators. But no bears.
In mid-July, the San Francisco Chronicle had a front page article about an 80 lb. mountain lion that was seen walking around in the streets and back yards of a suburban city in San Mateo County, in mid-day. San Mateo is the county just south of San Francisco and north of Santa Clara County, where I live. A large Catholic church that was running a summer day camp was put on lockdown. San Mateo County sheriff's deputies and animal control set up a moving cordon around the lion, moved in, tranquilized it, fitted it with a radio tracking collar, caged it, and returned it to the mountains, which are not far away. There they released it, no doubt with a stern lecture. This is just one of a surprisingly large number of appearances of mountain lions all around the Bay Area in recent years, some with fatal results for people.
Bears are found in the mountains to the East and possibly the West. Bare nekkid ladies? Well, shoot.
JE comments: Tasteful nudity, or bearly legal? One thing's for sure: the Rousseau painting catches your attention. Isn't that what art is supposed to do?
What's the Deal with Bears? From Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
09/02/18 3:49 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
Edward Jajko's hilarious post about bear art observes that the bear painting
in question was done in "so-called 'primitive' style, which I take to be
fancy art-world jargon meaning 'expensive piece of crap.'"
this terminology should in all fairness be tweaked, I believe the art
catalogs specify, more technically: "an expensive piece of scatological
But, seriously, what is it about bears, those lovable and intrusive dangers? In my
own experience, at the height of excitement over the Rosewood atrocity case in Florida,
I made the mistake of calling up a journalistic enthusiast who had announced that the
swampy site of the Rosewood events was swarmed by dangerous bears, "even to this day."
At that point I hadn't learned that absurdities on that particular story would be too many
for such conferences, so I couldn't resist telling the guy, sarcastically, that any lingering
bears had been trapped out of those swamps as early as 1916. And just like that, I made
a determined enemy. So, after all, there are dangers in bears.
JE comments: The 2015 film The Revenant features a grizzly nearly ripping Leonardo DiCaprio to shreds. It's one of the goriest scenes in Hollywood memory, and not good bear PR. Yet on the other hand, every suburban mall has a Build-A-Bear Workshop. Children take ownership of the toymaking process, develop their work ethic, and get a glimpse of what manufacturing looked like when it still existed in America.
So what's the deal with bears? They are cute, and they can be deadly. Meanwhile, Wyoming and Idaho are trying to introduce the trophy-hunting of grizzlies to Yellowstone National Park. Boo and hiss:
- Bears, Banquets, and Henri Rousseau (Enrique Torner, USA 09/04/18 6:24 AM)
All this bear discussion reminded me of the unusual recent sighting of black bears in southern Minnesota, including one in the city of Mankato this past June, the first one ever in this city, as far as I can tell. Somebody spotted it while taking a walk in Rasmussen Woods, less than a mile away from Minnesota State University, where I teach.
This is mostly valley country, with a few hills, and not very big woods, so everybody was very surprised to hear the news.
Most black bears in this state are up north. Here is a map of Minnesota that shows where the bears are supposed to be, and where they have been seen astray:
Regarding paintings and photographs with bears in them, they are very popular in Minnesota. As I was looking for a better painting than the one shown by Edward Jajko on August 31st, I found one that John (our dear editor) and other lovers of jazz (including myself) would like:
I like this painting better than Rousseau's, and I bet it's way cheaper! It's also rated G.
Now, speaking seriously, French artist Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) came from the family of a plumber, and was forced to work from the time he was a boy. Later in life, he would work as a toll collector, for which reason he was nicknamed "Le Douanier" (customs officer) by his friends in the Parisian avant-garde. He taught himself to paint in his early 40s, and his style came to be known as "naïve" or "primitive," though the painting Ed Jajko presented us with was called "Mauvaise Surprise" (a "bad surprise" in French)--that's what the bear experienced upon seeing that lady! If we continue with bad jokes, we could say that the painting in itself is a bad surprise for the viewer!
We are in no way alone when we criticize Rousseau's paintings. Many of his contemporary critics (those belonging to the conservative and official art school) ridiculed and made fun of his art because of his amateurish technique and his unusual compositions. If he hadn't been born when he was, but in an earlier era, he wouldn't have had a chance to succeed. However, by the time he started to paint (in the 1880s), Impressionism (1870-1900) was in full bloom, which marked the beginning of Modern Art. Rousseau is inscribed in the Post-Impressionistic school, which included Pointillism, Divisionism, Chromoluminarism (bright colors and light), or Neo-Impressionism. After this came Symbolism (1880-1910), and Fauvism (1905-1908). Does this sound familiar? The latter school was represented by the famous Henri Matisse (1869-1954), who influenced Pablo Picasso's (1881-1973) early art.
As a matter of fact, Rousseau owes his fame to Picasso, who, upon encountering a painting of his being sold on the street as a canvas to be painted over, recognized his genius and went to meet him in person. The result of this encounter would be a banquet--half serious, half burlesque--that Picasso organized in his honor in his own studio at Le Bateau-Lavoir in 1908. Wikipedia describes this banquet like this:
"Le Banquet Rousseau, 'one of the most notable social events of the twentieth century,' wrote American poet and literary critic John Malcolm Brinnin, 'was neither an orgiastic occasion nor even an opulent one. Its subsequent fame grew from the fact that it was a colorful happening within a revolutionary art movement at a point of that movement's earliest success, and from the fact that it was attended by individuals whose separate influences radiated like spokes of creative light across the art world for generations.'
"Guests at the banquet Rousseau included: Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Metzinger, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, Marie Laurencin, André Salmon, Maurice Raynal, Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler, Leo Stein, and Gertrude Stein."
Rousseau exerted a great deal of influence on Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, and, especially, the Surrealists. The juxtaposition of elements that don't have any relationship with each other, the importance of psychoanalysis (Freud's influence), the presence of dreams (or paintings looking like one), the power of the unconscious, the obsession with sex, the irrational, disdain for rationalism and realism, all mixed together with an abundance of imagination (which links him to the Romantic period in some general terms) are all surrealistic characteristics that we can see in Rousseau's paintings, even before Surrealism officially started in 1924 with "The Surrealist Manifesto," written by André Breton, who would become known as the pope of Surrealism.
JE comments: The more I study it, the more I like Rousseau's "Bad Surprise." What is life, after all, but a series of them (bad surprises)? Let's run it again. See below.
Enrique Torner is presently experiencing the greatest pleasure of academic life: the semester-long sabbatical. Enjoy, Enrique, and check in with your WAIS friends...often!
- Bears, Banquets, and Henri Rousseau (Enrique Torner, USA 09/04/18 6:24 AM)
- What's the Deal with Bears? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 09/02/18 3:49 AM)