Monday, May 12, 2008

(Has anyone noticed that Quincy is always relegated to the back seat of Rocket? Poor little black kid...)

Turned on the news this morning: tornado, wildfire, cyclone, earthquake, flood, politicians. Weather report: sullen, gray overcast. Plus, they're on the brink of war in Lebanon. Famine, anyone?

So I was forced to view Little Einsteins with my daughter. She made me sit there with her this time. It wouldn't be so bad EXCEPT THAT I'VE SEEN EVERY EPISODE A BAJILLION TIMES. Oh well. She got scared last week when the kids climbed a tall bean stalk into the clouds where they entered a castle painted in the manner of Van Gogh (to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth, no less.) They had to rescue a musical golden goose from the "Forte Giant", who is an extracted element from one of Vincent's paintings. The Little Ditchman is afraid of the Forte Giant, and who can blame her? A children's program based on images culled from an epileptic Dutch post-impressionist who went insane, hacked off his ear, and committed suicide? Are you kidding me? It keeps me up at night, too, sometimes. And then add the music: dun dun dun DUNNNNNN, dun dun dun DUNNNNNN...

Horrifying. Really. I looked up the Van Gogh paintings to find the Forte Giant. (The show uses cutouts of the artwork sometimes, and then manipulates them in paper-puppet fashion.) I found it.


The painting is "Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity)". Not exactly kids' faire, if you ask me. The Forte Giant spends most of the episode stomping around the house and holding his head in his hands. (And I wonder why she screams every time she seems him.) Anyway, here's the set of the castle on that episode:

Look familiar? Of course, it's a Van Gogh classic! It's a giant's castle in the show, so to make the whole thing more terrifying, Rocket is tiny and is hiding under the chair along with a trembling Annie, June, Quincy, and Leo. Don't worry, they make it out without shooting themselves in the chest (like Vincent did.)

When I was in my twenties, I really loved Van Gogh, which puts me in the company of most everyone else who likes art, but it's all so depressing. It could be the most beautiful thing in the world but if it's depressing... ? What of it? I mean, it doesn't exactly elevate the human condition, it merely reflects a negative one (however brilliantly.) When I was in Amsterdam I went to the Van Gogh Museum and wandered slowly from painting to painting one morning, appreciating it thoroughly and totally mesmerized. Picture me with long curly hair, worn leather boots, my grandfather's dark coat, scribbling notes to myself and talking to no one -a typical young American in the Netherlands. By noon I had arrived at the end of the exhibit and found myself transfixed, standing before "Wheat Field with Crows". It knocked me down onto the gallery bench, the weight of its despair so totally overwhelming. It's no wonder he committed suicide. Paint stuff like that and you're just bringing it on yourself. (Yes, I know, his art reflects his emotions. Well, it doesn't help to dwell.)

Incidentally, I left the museum utterly depressed and walked down the street to the Heineken Brewery where I was five minutes too late for the last tour of the day. It's a popular tour because you get all the beer you can drink for free in twenty minutes. The guy locked the doors right in front of me. Now, that was when I really wanted to kill myself.

Have a nice day!