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Back in Berkeley Blog


Back in Berkeley Blog

More than a month has passed since I posted my previous blog, announcing my permanent move back to Berkeley and delivering some other bits of news. I am getting  close to settled in my comfortable old house in the best flatland neighborhood of this great city, within walking distance of the Gourmet Ghetto (Cheezeboard,  Peet’s Coffee, Saul’s Delicatessen, Chez Panisse--where my collaborator Rand Chatterjee, visiting Berkeley from Vancouver to set up the back-and-forth communications system for continuing our video-lecture project, took me and an old & cherished student, Sheila Keppel, to dinner--at the downstairs restaurant , that is. Very much enjoyed, more so that when I ate there before, long ago. As I tell people, it’s great to live in a city where, as recently as when this restaurant was founded (and I remember when),  had enough people in it who knew who Panisse was to allow that naming of the restaurant. (Alice Waters also has a Café Fanny, elsewhere, and for a time had a Marius café or something like that nearby.)

Something new posted for the interested among you to read: the China Review International’s latest issue (vol. 17 no. 3) has as its  lead review one of my book Pictures for Use and  Pleasure, the one on vernacular painting. After reading it with much anticipation and not being as pleased with it as I had hoped (although it isn’t a negative review, and says polite things about the book) I wrote a long Letter To the Editor--which won’t be printed, they  don’t print responses; but you can read it on this website as CLP 198, one of the CLPs under Writings of JC. I recommend it to interested people as another example of a Chinese historian’s reluctance to accept visual evidence as real scholarly data--nothing that isn’t published already in a book, they feel strongly, is really reliable. I cite there earlier examples of this attitude that I’ve encountered, and could have cited another: the early China specialist Noel Barnard complaining, as we worked on the Freer bronze catalog,  that studies of style are all “purely subjective, with no solid basis.”

(But, as noted there, Max Loehr famously used them to chart the early development of bronze décor, against the counter-beliefs of the book-readers, before archaeology proved him right, and them wrong.)

Our new video-lecture series, titled Gazing Into the Past: Scenes from Later Chinese and Japanese Painting, will soon be launched on the web, with the first half-dozen or so  lectures posted on the IEAS  website and on this one, for free viewing,  like the PRV lectures. And another dozen or so are far along in preparation, and should follow shortly. The first GIP will be about a great landscape painting by Wang Meng, shown at length with many details, along with a few related works for context; the second GIP will be a long (slightly more than an hour) talk, with  lots of images both of his paintings and from photographs of him and others, about this recent Shanghai artist who became my good friend, and why I think he merits more attention than he has received as an artist. Then lectures on Huang Gongwang, Shao Mi, the Hikkôen album in the Tokyo National Museum (in two parts, each an hour or so long, showing the  sixty leaves of this remarkable collective album,  with  lots of  comparative material; and everybody’s favorite album by  Shitao, now whereabouts-unknown but viewable in great slides & details I  made from it long ago. And  more will  follow, on a major but little-known Shen Zhou album, Zhou Chen’s great “Beggars and Street Characters” album/handscrolls, and lots more, including several on Japanese Nanga painting. All will feature the treasury of images I’ve amassed over the decades in the form of super-sharp color slides mostly made by myself and not accessible anywhere else. And watch especially for the ten-minute-long, me-on-camera bit that opens the second GIP lecture, identifying the painting and the music used for our opening and closing credits, as well as the major pianist who plays the music, and relates why I chose these.

Other news--and there is more--I will save for future blogs.

James Cahill, June 15th, 2012

PS. Those of you in the Bay Area who enjoy innovative music and poetry and other performances in a highly unusual and glorious setting (a columbarium designed by Julia Morgan) should not miss Sarah Cahill’s Garden of Memory event on Thursday of next week, June 21st. For information on how to get there, how to buy tickets in advance, etc. go to Children are welcome, dogs not. You will never forget it, and like a great many other people, will keep coming back in future years. You will find me there, although not climbing through its multi-storey spaces, where the groups will be performing, as I once could.

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