Monday, February 27, 2006

Elephants on Parade

Every six months or so, the Asian Art Museum takes a small room between the Korean and Japanese galleries, and turns it into a curated "theme" room with so far not very interesting results.

Previously, the theme was Shadows and Masks: Performance Something-or-Other.

Presently the room is devoted to mostly East Indian representations of elephants.

I don't usually covet objects in museums particularly, but this elephant rug is an exception.

There is a great West Coast science-fiction writer named John Varley whose future tales are set after superior aliens arrive on Earth to communicate with intelligent life. However, that category consists of whales and dolphins. Humans are regarded as ants, who are quickly forced into outer-space exile in underground shelters on the moon.

It was probably just an oversight on Varley's part, but my version of the tale would include elephants along with whales and dolphins as earth's wise, beautiful, intelligent life.

In India, elephants have long been worshiped, decorated, and even turned into warriors.

Though there's absolutely nothing Asian about it...

...I still longed to see a large blow-up of the great "Dovima with Elephants" photo, one of my favorite images in the world.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating. My first view of the Dovima photo. Thanks for sharing and the trip to the Aisian and to think I lived right behind the New Aisian.

Anonymous said...

Varley sounds interesting...although I must admit I'm a little leery of having to identify with another species against my own. As pathetic as we can be, I still hate to give up on us as a species. It's like turning against the home town team. But there one of his novels you would recommend in particular?

Civic Center said...

Dear Kit: Totally agree with your hometown species prejudice, though the irony is that the large creatures whose habitat we continue to so blithely destroy have certainly never done us any harm, so there would be a certain rough justice if it was our species that was kicked off the planet.

As for Varley, he's written a bunch of novels, the most famous of which are a trilogy called "Titan" "Wizard" and "Demon." Where he truly excels, however, is as a short story writer. There's a collection from 1981 that is published as either "Picnic on Nearside" or "The Barbie Murders" and contains his award-winning tale, "Equinoctial." Cannot recommend this collection highly enough. It changed the way I think about the world.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I'll look for the short story collection. Anything called "The Barbie Murders" sounds good to me.

Anonymous said...

I just love your photos! You have no idea how many people I've sent to your site just to look at your whale watching photos! Everytime someone mentions whale-watching, I send them over.

Keep up the good work. It's much appreciated.

sfwillie said...

Sometimes I find myself near a guy who's normal looking except he's huge, like 6'10" 375lbs. I feel like I want to go stand next to him. I'd be safe. No one would mess with me.

I wonder if that's how mahouts feel when they're with their elephants. Are elephants protective of their mahouts? Or are they always looking for the right moment to attack? Which would signal greater intelligence?

About coveting--that's why museums really do need guards. Great pictures!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mike,

I am totally busted up, learning today that West Coast science fiction author Octavia Butler died on Saturday. Nooo! The article said she didn't think of herself as a science fiction writer, she just created characters who had 'special powers'. She also started writing when she was 10 years old a classic rite of passage time when girls begin to go silent and start forgetting who they are and start becoming someone else.

I'm sending her peace and love where ever she is ...