The Tornado of 1844

Scene 11 – The Tornado of 1844 – Destruction of Indian Settlement – Horrid Loss of Life (Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley), John J Egan, 1850

This scene is part of a panorama that John J. Egan painted to accompany the lectures of Montroville W. Dickeson. Think of it as PowerPoint for the mid-19th-century. In this scene a ferocious wind whips through, creating a natural disaster. This subject reference a specific tornado that struck near Kansas City, killing 20 people. The fearsome storm, along with Egan’s exoticized portrayal of African and Native American figures would have created the perception of an unknown and dangerous American West in the minds of his eastern audiences. This panorama is on display in the main hall of the Saint Louis Art Museum. Its rollers are advanced scene-to-scene once a quarter.

Some days you wake and immediately start to worry. Nothing in particular is wrong, it’s just the suspicion that forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble.

—Living: Some days you wake up and immediately…, Jenny Holzer, 1982

Jenny Holzer is an American neo-conceptual artist, based in Hoosick, New York. The main focus of her work is the delivery of words and ideas in public spaces. You cannot just look at her art, you have to read it. Holzer presents us with idiosyncratic, everyday thoughts and phrases and presents them using a modest voice and language. This stands in contradiction to her presentation of the work on bronze plaquesthe type that are often used to commemorate important people or events with an air of authority.

Both artworks were chosen, because they both evoke a sense of dread and were selected to commemorate this week’s theme. Last week in Washington DC was Infrastructure week. This week is Doctor’s week around here. Through an unfortunate accident of scheduling, I have appointments most days this week. On Monday, I had my annual physical, where my new young physician pops the hood and proceeds to root around down there. Except that didn’t happen. I didn’t have to take off my pants or even my shirt. No cold stethoscope on skin for me, thank you very much. I didn’t sleep well the night before, worrying about what the doctor might find. As it turned out there was no need to worry. What with Weight Watchers, both my weight and blood pressure were way down. My doctor was quite pleased with me. This was a Medicare annual physical, which means it is always accompanied with lots of leading questions that foreshadow the trials and tribulations of old age that thankfully are still yet to come.

The other source of my concern was the blood draw that always follows the examination. Not the needle, but the lab tech who jabs the jab. Anne thinks that he is great. Me not so much. Last time, he jabbed me unsuccessfully twice and then just gave up. Fortunately, he is no longer employed at my doctor’s office. Unfortunately, this means that the convenience of getting your bloodwork done at the doctor’s office is also gone. I had to go to the hospital instead. It was noon when I got there and found a crowded waiting room and no idea of how long it would take. I decided to punt and came back today. There was still a fair number of similarly thinking people there, but the wait was not near as long. When it was finally my turn, I got my jab and then the lab tech proceeded to root around in my arm for more than a minute hunting my elusive vein. She finally nailed that slippery sucker and I was soon good to go, at least until tomorrow.

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