Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cue the Woodpecker, or I am a camera

Speaking of Walter Winchell, the mid-twentieth-century American broadcaster/newsman always began his radio programs by saying, “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea” with the sound of a telegraph in the background.

After beginning this blogpost with a reference to the previous one, I now continue it by saying, “Damen und Herren, Mesdames et Messieurs, Señoras y Señores, Ladies and Gentlemen and children of all ages, please direct your attention to the center ring this blogpost has absolutely nothing to do with Walter Winchell, ships at sea, or telegraphs.”

No, friends, the subject of this blogpost is still lifes.

I know, I need to work on my segues.

According to the well-known but admittedly non-authoritative online encyclopedia Wikipedia, “A still life (plural still lifes) is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, flowers, dead animals, plants, rocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on).”

There are an amazing number of paintings entitled “Still Life with...” and the subjects are many and varied. Some of the ones I found online are:

- Still Life with Pie, Silver Ewer, and Crab (Heda)
- Still Life with a Globe and a Parrot (Boel)
- Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Rembrandt)
- Still Life with Fruit, Flowers, Glasses and Lobster (de Heem)
- Still Life with Bouquet and Fan (Renoir)
- Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle (Meléndez)
- Still Life with Silverware (Manieri)
- Still Life with Apples, a Pear, and a Ceramic Portrait Jug (Gaugain)
- Still Life with Cherub (Cézanne)
- Still Life with a Beer Mug (Léger)
- Still Life with Sunflowers (Gaugain)
- Still Life with Geraniums (Matisse)
- Still Life with Chair Caning (Picasso)
- Still Life with Eggplants (Matisse)
- Still Life with Goldfish Bowl (Lichtenstein)

They go on and on and on.

Not to be outdone, here are three still life photographs I took in our home:

1. Still Life: Kitchen corner with Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), 1940s-era Wooden High Chair, Fruit Plaque, Ceramic Duck, and Grapes Painting by Renowned New Zealand Artist Kate Steeds:

2. Still Life: Cherry-Pineapple-Coconut-Pecan Dump Cake with Ice Cream and Aluminum (British: Aluminium) Foil:

3. Still Life: Coffee Mug with Methodist Hymnal on Blue Tablecloth:

The Methodist Hymnal above was given to me by Mrs. Joan M., who found it among her mother’s belongings after her mother died. It is quite small and contains lyrics only, no musical notes. The oldest item in my home, its title page shows a publication date of 1845:

In composing this post and sharing some of our still lifes with you, I felt my heart strangely warmed.

[Editor’s note. The last sentence is an allusion to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. It’s okay if you didn’t get it. --RWP]


  1. Love your still lifes.
    I suspect the cake didn't stay still for long though.
    And no, I didn't get the allusion, and am grateful for the forgiveness.

  2. John Wesley was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire where my beloved wife went to high school.
    "Still life" is a term that might be interpreted differently. You could say that a Buddhist priest lives a "still life" or a torture victim in some dank Islamic State dungeon might say to his complaining celllmate, "It's still life my friend!"

    Your spindly cactus is on a child's high chair. Is that where the little Bragues sat to be nourished?

  3. Elephant's Child, you are correct. The cake disappeared in an instant.

    Yorkshire Pudding, my children were not nourished in that high chair but their children were. We found it at an antiques store in Marietta about the time our oldest grandchild was born. He will be 20 on his next birthday.

  4. Thank you for the post. For more on John Wesley and early Methodism, I would like to invite you to the website for the book series, The Asbury Triptych Series. The trilogy based on the life of Francis Asbury, the young protégé of John Wesley and George Whitefield, opens with the book, Black Country. The opening novel in this three-book series details the amazing movement of Wesley and Whitefield in England and Ireland as well as its life-changing effect on a Great Britain sadly in need of transformation. Black Country also details the Wesleyan movement's effect on the future leader of Christianity in the American colonies, Francis Asbury. The website for the book series is Please enjoy the numerous articles on the website.

  5. Your hymnal has liver spots.

    I don’t know why everyone doesn’t love old things. Peggy has a few buttons in her collection from the 1700s, so they would be the oldest things in our house aside from my 40-million year old collection of igneous and sedimentary rocks.

    I love your pencil plant. It’s in the Euphorbia genus, as you might know, and the specie’s name is tirucalli. Is it your plant, your wife’s plant, or do you both claim it? I’m also wondering if you have other houseplants. Here are a couple of interesting articles about pencil plants:

  6. Freeborng, thank you for your website reference. Are you a regular reader of my blog? If not, I am wondering how you found this post since there are no labels associated with it. I may go back and add some.

    Snowbrush, as does its owner (have liver spots, I mean). Of course the pencil plant is Euphorbia tirucalli; I said so myself in the post! I suppose it is "our" plant. It began as three very small pieces that were broken off from a larger plant and given to us several years ago by Jenny B. (a Chinese seamstress who has done all of our clothing alterations for a very long time) after Mrs. RWP admired the parent plant in Jenny's place of business. Mrs. RWP professes to like unusual, quirky things, which is probably why she consented to become Mrs. RWP in the first place.

  7. “Of course the pencil plant is Euphorbia tirucalli; I said so myself in the post!”

    Obviously, I was testing your memory of what you had written.

    “Mrs. RWP professes to like unusual, quirky things, which is probably why she consented to become Mrs. RWP in the first place.”

    This calls for a post! Given her likes, I suggest that you buy her a Kalanchoe daigremontiana. I rescued one that was dying in a vegan restaurant years ago, and it has become the most vigorous and weird-looking plant that I have.

    Have you been watching any of the 25-year anniversary replay of Ken Burns’ series on the Civil War? It’s even better the second time around, my only complaint being that it’s not twice as long in order to include even more information.