Iron fists in velvet gloves and the like

My friend William Benzon posted a photo on his New Savannah site today, and it prompted me to make this post. Here’s Bill’s photo, under his post’s title:

Cruise with Moss



The moss is a bit untidy, and so is the cruise ship, as you can see more clearly by clicking on the image above and viewing it at higher scale on Flickr — perhaps we could even say the levels of untidiness (entropy?) are somehow parallel. But it’s the juxtaposition that interests me. Why does the good doctor Benzon chose to phosograph this scene, and present it on his blog? And I think the title spells out what the picture invites us to see: a contrast between “opposites”.

Opposites? If I’d asked you what the opposite of a ship was, “moss” would be unlikely to be the first word that sprang to mind. And yet they are opposites, as our response to the image may suggest, and as the title Bill gave the picture suggests in a different “cognitive octave”.

The opposition “water craft, land cover” would describe many a dockyard or seaside photo, of course. But it’s the softness of moss set against the harshness of iron and steel, I’d suggest, that is the real opposition we sense in looking at Benzon’s image. And that’s effectively the same contrast that powers the phrase “an iron fist in a velvet glove”…


As many of you may know, President Valdimir Putin of Russia took to the air in a motorized hang glider a year agao, “as part of a project to teach the endangered birds who were raised in captivity to later follow the aircraft on their migration south to Central Asia.” Well, one of the birds went astray, was discovered and returned to Moscow, and is now safely ensconced in a wildlife reserve.

What interested me, though, was the name of this particular bird, as reported by the Associated Press:

The white bird, called Raven…

Ha! Ravens are preeminently black birds!

All of which is simply to say that dissimilars and oppositions can be as fascinating, to the artist’s eye, as parallelisms and semblances.