Sunday, July 31, 2011

Playback Theater

Jonathan Fox is the founder of Playback Theater, an improvisational experience in which members of the audience tell personal stories, and witness performers act out those stories on the spot. Human rights groups, organizations that help the homeless, and disaster recovery groups have all hosted Playback performances. Playback Theater began in 1975, and now there are troupes all over the world, including the United States, Germany, Australia, Britain, Japan, and Brazil. . . Memphis [is a city that] struggles with racial and economic segregation, and earlier this year Playback visited a community center there that seeks to build bridges between different groups.

Exercise and Nutrition Tips from Harvard School of Public Health

Nutrition tips:

1. Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.

2. Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.

3. Choose whole grain cereals for breakfast.

4. Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.

5. Substitute legumes for meat two to three times per week in chili and soups.

6. Experiment with international dishes (such as Indian or Middle Eastern) that use whole grains and legumes as part of the main meal (as in Indian dahls) or in salads (for example, tabbouleh).

Exercise tips:

1. Choose activities you like. A lot of different things count as exercise: dancing, walking, gardening, yoga, cycling, playing basketball. To make it easier to get moving, choose whatever gets you moving. Also, choose an activity that fits your self-identity. Do you see yourself wearing attractive clothes and bicycling comfortably to work, or wearing workout gear at the gym?

2. Piece your workout together. You don't need to get all your exercise at one time. Ten minutes morning, noon, and night can give much of the same benefit as 30 minutes all at once.

3. Exercise with a friend. Finding a workout partner can help keep you on track and motivate you to get out the door.

4. Keep it brisk. When you walk, make it brisk, since this may help control weight better than walking at a leisurely pace. What is brisk enough? Walk as though you are meeting someone for lunch and you are a little late. You can also time your steps for one minute: 120 to 135 steps per minute corresponds to a walking pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour, a good goal for many people. If your steps are not quite that quick, trying picking up the pace for short bursts during your usual walk, on different days of the week. Over time, you’ll stride your way to a faster walking pace.

5. Take lunch on the move. Don't spend your lunch time sitting. Grab a quick meal and hit the gym or take a 20-minute walk.

6. Try a pedometer. Step-counters (pedometers) are cheap and easy to use. Best of all, they help you keep track of how active you are. Build up to 7,000 steps a day—or more.

7. Take the stairs. Use the stairs instead of elevators and escalators whenever possible.

8. Turn off the TV, computer, and smart phone. Cutting back on screen time is a great way to curb your “sit time.” Trade screen time for active time—visit the gym, or even just straighten up around the house.

9. Walk an extra stop. During your bus or subway commute, get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way.

10. Hunt for the farthest parking space. If you drive to work or to run errands, purposefully park your car a little farther from your office or the store. It may not seem like much, but over weeks and months, these minutes of exercise add up.

11. Make it your own. Consider buying a piece of cardiovascular equipment for your home, such as a treadmill, stationary bicycle, or elliptical machine. Home models can be more reasonable than you think, and you can't beat the convenience. Keep in mind, though, that cheaper models tend to be less sturdy.12. Make it fun. Try a new sport like tennis or rollerblading. The more that you enjoy exercise, the more likely you are to stick to it.

13. Make it social. Walk with a friend, your spouse, or your family in the morning or evening.

14. Sign up for a class. Check out the fitness course schedule at your local gym or community center, or the dance or yoga class schedule at a nearby studio. You may find that having the structure of a class helps you learn a new activity and keeps you on track.

15. Turn sit time into fit time. When you get busy, try to combine your cardiovascular exercise with a sedentary activity that you do already. Hop on that piece of home equipment while watching TV, reading, or returning phone calls.

16. Keep an exercise log. Monitoring the amount of activity you get each day will help to make you more accountable.

17. Walk or bike for errands around town. Leave the car at home for trips that are less than a mile or two. Cross something off your to-do list while getting in your physical activity.

18. Ask the experts. Hire a personal trainer for a session or two to help you with your weight training and flexibility training. Then you'll have the confidence to branch out on your own.

19. Plan exercise into your day. Set aside a specific time in your schedule to exercise and put it in your planner.

20. Reward yourself. Set short-term goals—and reward yourself for achieving them. Try targeting a specific event, such as a road race or a walk-for-charity, to participate in—this can help keep you motivated. Choose fitness-focused rewards for reaching your goals, such as new workout gear or a heart rate monitor.

-from The Nutrition Source - Harvard School of Public Health

Pink Flamingos

I just found out pink flamingos are pink due to their diet. This rocks my world view!

As preposterous as it sounds, flamingos are pink from eating shrimp. Cecil Adams, the famed researcher and writer of the weekly column, The Straight Dope, put these feelings into words best when he said, “This knowledge causes me some distress, because it reinforces the cartoon view of the universe.”

It turns out that both the shrimp and blue-green algae that are the staples of the flamingo diet contain a pink pigment based on beta carotene that goes through their bloodstream and turns their feathers from white to pink. The more carotenoids in the shrimp, the darker pink the flamingos will become. When flamingos were first captured for display at zoos and parks, they didn’t have sufficient supplies of the flamingo’s favorite shrimp, so they substitute other food. By the end of the season, all of the flamingos were white. To make the flamingos more natural-looking, the keepers had to feed them vegetables high in beta carotenes, such as beets, carrots, and bell peppers. Today, captive flamingos are fed a chemical substitute called canthaxanthin that keeps them a nice shade of pink.

People have known for a long time about the colorizing properties of beta carotene. In Europe, people used to eat massive amounts of carrots to reproduce suntanned skin. Of course, their skin became an alien-like orange color that doesn’t look anything like a suntan, but they were happy with it. Smaller amounts of beta carotene are still used today in tanning oils and sunless tanning creams.

Flamingos are not the only animals affected by carotenoids. Wild salmon are orange-tinted because of their love of carotenoid-rich crustaceans. To prevent farm-raised salmon from becoming a sickly gray, they are fed a chemical carotenoid, astaxanthin. Canaries can also change color from yellow to red if they eat foods containing beta carotene.

-from Strange

Punctuated Equilibrium

Punctuated equilibrium (also called punctuated equilibria) is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most species will exhibit little net evolutionary change for most of their geological history, remaining in an extended state called stasis. When significant evolutionary change occurs, the theory proposes that it is generally restricted to rare and geologically rapid events of branching speciation called cladogenesis. Cladogenesis is the process by which a species splits into two distinct species, rather than one species gradually transforming into another.

Punctuated equilibrium is commonly contrasted against the theory of phyletic gradualism, which states that evolution generally occurs uniformly and by the steady and gradual transformation of whole lineages (called anagenesis). In this view, evolution is seen as generally smooth and continuous.

In 1972, paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould published a landmark paper developing this theory and called it punctuated equilibria. Their paper built upon Ernst Mayr's theory of geographic speciation, I. Michael Lerner's theories of developmental and genetic homeostasis, as well as their own empirical research. Eldredge and Gould proposed that the degree of gradualism commonly attributed to Charles Darwin is virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species.

-from Wikipedia

Stephen Jay Gould

Poets, extolling the connectedness of all things, have said that the fall of a flower's petal must disturb a distant star. Let us all be thankful that universal integration is not so tight, for we would not even exist in a cosmos of such intricate binding.

-Stephen Jay Gould, Five Weeks

Stephen Jay Gould

Humans are storytelling creatures preeminently. We organize the world as a set of tales. How, then, can a person make any sense of his confusing environment if he cannot comprehend stories or surmise human intentions? In all the annals of human heroics, I find no theme more ennobling than the compensations that people struggle to discover and implement when life's misfortunes have deprived them of basic attributes of our common nature.

We tend to understand how the physically handicapped cope, but we rarely consider the similar struggles of the mentally handicapped. We must all order the "buzzing and blooming" confusion of the external world — and if we can't understand stories, we have to find some other way. This young man has struggled all his life to find regularities that might anchor and make sense of the surrounding cacophony. Many of his efforts have been dead ends and wild goose chases.

Since he reads faces so poorly, he struggled for years to find an additional clue in the pitch or loudness of voices. Does high mean happy? Does loud mean angry? He would play the same record at different speeds, converting Paul Robeson at 33 rpm to the sound of a woman's voice at 78 rpm — always hoping (or so I inferred) to induce some rule, some guide to action. He has never found it, though he still tries. When he was quite young, he developed some mathematical skills, and he put them to immediate use. He would time all his 33 rpm records, trying to find some rule that would correlate the type of music with the length of the recording. He got nowhere and eventually gave up.

Finally, he found his workable key - chronology. If you cannot understand stories, what might work next best as a general organizer? The linear sequence of time! You may not know why, or how, or whether, or what, but at least you can order all the items in a temporal series without worrying about their causal connections — this came before that, that before the other, the other before this-thing-here. He had triumphed. This young man can tell you something that happened on every individual day for the last twenty years of his life. Since he does not judge importance as we do, the event that he remembers often seems trivial to us, so we do not recall and therefore cannot verify his accuracy — "On that day, Michael Ianuzzi said 'Wow.'" But when we can check, he is never wrong — "On July 4, 1981, we saw fireworks on the Charles River."

-Stephen Jay Gould, Five Weeks

Kim Addonizio

What I've learned is simple: if you nurture it, it will expand, and it will nurture you in return. I have also learned that it is a kind of salvation. Sometimes it's more than enough and sometimes it's not enough — by that I mean one's own creativity. If you can truly tap in to the creative process, you know it's there all the time, and then you probably don't need saving.
-Kim Addonizio

Lauren Agnelli

BURN SLOW (song) by Lauren Agnelli + Carl Finch

The night that you first touched me
You shook me from my peace, then
You took me from a safe place
And you stole my heart's ease

You act like a mortician,
Presiding at a wake
I close the lid on passion
Knowing well what's at stake

Your love consumed me wholly
At times I could not breathe
I daren't love you solely
Always felt you might leave

I offered you my soul
Like a humble sacrifice
You put it under a glass
Then you put it
On ice, on ice, on ice,
on ice, on ice, on ice,
on ice, on ice

And now that love has burned me
I'm waiting by the pyre
I thought my eyes were open
When I started the fire

And then to pile on insult
After the injury
You said my soul was tarnished
How you rubbed off on me!

Well now that all's been done and
We've had our last farewell
I'm burning all your letters,
Watching them all
Burn slow, burn slow, burn slow,
burn slow, burn slow, burn slow,
burn slow, burn slow

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lynda Barry

One of the things I’ve finally learned is that you can’t just walk up to kids and ask them about that object that they’re playing with. I’ve tried, because I got really interested in it. So I’d just go up to them when I’d see one. And I saw this girl in an airport and she had this little dolly. She was 9. A little bit too old. Her mom was kind of embarrassed about it. It had a shut eye. And it had Bic pen on it. And I went up to her and I said, "That looks like a very good friend of yours." And she took it and put it behind her back and backed up. And I realized it would be like somebody coming up to me and saying, "That looks like a good bra you’re wearing." It’s a private thing.

I figured it out that what I could do though if I wanted to talk to kids was to just start drawing in front of them. If you start drawing in front of a kid or an adult or anybody they’ll come up and talk to you. So I was sitting on an airplane. You know everybody’s like "I hope you don’t mind that my kid’s in the middle." Not at all. There’s your kid. She puts on her headphones and goes to sleep. He’s looking at his Jumanji book. He’s like 8. And I start drawing. So he gets interested and I tell him I’m a cartoonist. And then I play this game with him, which you all have played, which is you make a scribble and you pass it to the other person and they turn it into something. Then they make a scribble and they pass it to you and you turn it into something. Well it turns out if you play this with a kid you’re going to get a story. I had read that from a really smart child psychologist. So I said I’ll give it a try. So then I did it. I passed it around two passes and all of a sudden this kid, he goes, "Oh, I have a story. I have a story and you can make it into a comic strip." And you could tell all he knew was he had the feeling of having a story. And I said, "Okay, I got it, we’ll write it down." He said, "The story’s called," – this kid was named Jack – "The story’s called Chicken Attack by Jack." And I said, "Alright, let’s go." Okay, so this is it verbatim from Jack: "One morning a chicken was eaten by a man. The man went to work. His stomach felt funny. He went to the Port-O-Let. And then he went. The chicken came out. The man was surprised. The chicken was also surprised. The chicken ran from the Port-O-Let. To the construction site. They made the chicken boss. And from then on the chicken was in charge." Isn’t that an oddly satisfying story?

The one thing almost every human being knows, all around the world, is that if you have a little kid, you have this little baby, and you say, "I’m going to raise this baby, this baby is going to get everything that it wants but this child will not be allowed to play at all until that person is 21 years old." Everyone around the world can tell you what that kid’s going to be like by the time he’s 21. He’s going to be crazy, right. That’s the kid that tells you, "I smell clams through the dirt. That’s why I’m a shoot you." And everybody knows that around the world. Which means that we have some tacit understanding of the connection between play and mental health. And in fact if you think about when you started to go crazy it’s about the time that play and art became an elective, about middle school. That’s when people started to loose their minds. It’s also interestingly a time when music becomes this huge, huge thing, the radio becomes this huge thing.

Then you might have this feeling – I remember hearing stuff like this and it would really bum me out – you start hearing it about the time you’re 10. The radio will be on and some guy will say, "You know if you want to be a ballerina, you have to begin when you’re 3. You must begin when you’re 3." And you’re like, dang, I guess I can’t be a ballerina, it’s too late. Then you hear somebody say, "If you want to play the violin, you should have started by age 5." And you’re like, dang, it’s too late for me now. And then you hear some novelist say, "I began writing novels when I was in the first grade." Dang. So by the time you’re 12, it’s all too late and you get this feeling that it’s best left to professionals – like Jessica Simpson. . . And that is the situation that most of us are in right now as adults. We gave up at some point, thinking that the only way we could do this stuff is if we are professionals. And the only singing that’s left is the saddest, singing "Happy Birthday." . . . The only movement that’s left for us is exercise, the saddest movement of all time. In fact, you need an outfit or nobody knows what the hell you’re doing. . . The only sculpture that’s left to most of us is peeling labels off beer bottles while somebody else is telling us about a dream.

A lot of times if you’re writing, you’re thinking "Oh where is this getting me? This is dumb." I still have that and what I do is I imagine I’m in a bar writing and it’s a guy coming up to me going, "That’s stupid. That’s dumb." You’d know he’s an ass, right. That guy’s an ass. But if it’s in your head, it’s the voice of reason.

You all know what phantom limb pain is? That’s that thing where you lose part of your limb but you still have the sensation that it’s still there. There was a guy who had a particularly intractable case of it. He had lost his hand from here down. But his sensation was that his hand was not only there, but it was in a really painfully clenched fist. He was in misery, the pain was constant. His life was really deteriorating. They didn’t know what to do for him. And there’s this brilliant neurologist named V.S. Ramachandran who has done a lot of amazing work with imagery on the brain. And he had this idea, and his idea was, well, let’s make a box and we’re going to put a mirror in that’s slanted this way and there’s a hole on this side so that the guy can put his hand into the hole on this side, and then when he looks down it’s going to be the illusion of seeing two hands. You follow me on that? And so the guy did it. So he sees two hands. And Ramachandran says, ‘Open your hand.’ And he did. And he saw the other one open. And the pain went away. And I believe that’s what images do. That there’s something about – whether it’s in another book, or it’s something that we make – there’s something about seeing something – and I don’t mean literally, necessarily, although with art that’s true – there’s something about working with images that can unclench something that we have no other way to get to.

-Lynda Barry

Stanley Kunitz

Poetry is ultimately mythology, the telling of stories of the soul.

The old myths, the old gods, the old heroes have never died. They are only sleeping at the bottom of our minds, waiting for our call. We have need of them, for in their sum they epitomize the wisdom and experience of the race.

-Stanley Kunitz

Jenny Debell

This morning during my run, a couple of my favorite birds were performing in their preferred Carnegie Halls: one was balanced on the front and center tip of a roof, a glorious songbird, unnamed (my young student defines glorious as 'great x 2'), and a shadowy woodpecker was in full throttle over at the peony church. It's kind of amazing that creatures so small carry voices so large. Think about it.

I sat on the porch afterward and read, Back to the World, and listened to the riot going on in the trees behind me. I just imagined what was happening. The squirrels are feisty little witches, like, who else would fight over a twig? The birds make the tree tops their rush hour blitz, the equivalent of coffee, getting the kids up, brushing teeth, finding junior's favorite jeans, scarfing a Poptart, and making the bus on time. Because it's silent again by 8.

Then the dogs come out to pee, bark, sniff, yell, mark their territory like it's some manufactured international border, count their bones and put them back in their wallets, and then their hiding places (like I can't see), shoot me the evil eye, and then just like that, shit in public.

Anaïs Nin

We have to work on ourselves because, as Loren Eisley said, every time we come to terms with hostility within ourselves we are creating the possibility of someday not having war. In other words I'm putting back into the self the responsibility for the collective life. If each one of us took very seriously the fact that every little act, every little word we utter, every injury we do to another human being is really what is projected onto larger issues; if we could once begin to think of it that way, then each one of us like a small cell, would do the work of creating a human self, a kind of self who wouldn't have ghettos, a kind of self who wouldn't go to war. Then we could begin to have the cell which would influence an enormous amount of cells around you. I don't think we can measure the radius of the personal influence of one person, within the home, outside of the home, in the neighborhood, and finally in national affairs.
-Anaïs Nin, A Woman Speaks

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Perhaps love is my leading you gently back to yourself.

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Thích Nhất Hạnh

How can you be alive when only your body is here but your mind still wanders in the past or future? You are not really alive. You are not available to you. You're not available to your beloved. So come home to yourself in the here and the now.
-Thích Nhất Hạnh

Pay attention to all the leaves, the flowers, the birds and the dewdrops. If you can stop and look deeply, you will be able to recognize your beloved manifesting again & again in different forms. You will again embrace the joy of life.
-Thích Nhất Hạnh

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dr. Jeff Combe

Good teachers are good motivators.

Good teachers make difficult things seem do-able - even easy.

A good teacher is able to ask for silence and get it, but rarely wants it.

Good teachers know what it looks like when the little light bulb goes on above a student's head, but they don't get discouraged if it takes a long time for the bulb to warm up, and they are patient if the bulb flickers.

My self esteem is the result of the process, damaged though it sometimes was DURING the process. To have wasted time trying to build my self esteem without the process of teaching me to play the piano, would have been counterproductive.

I like to keep my rules simple: Be respectful; do your duty; respect the community.

-Dr. Jeff Combe (

To Draw, To Sing

To draw you must close your eyes and sing.
-Pablo Picasso

Perhaps to sing you must close your eyes and draw?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shel Silverstein

Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.
-Shel Silverstein

How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live 'em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give 'em.
-Shel Silverstein

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.
-Shel Silverstein

I cannot go to school today
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox.

And there's one more - that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue,
It might be the instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in.

My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my toes are numb,
I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There's a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is ...
What? What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is .............. Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

-Shel Silverstein

Buddhism is Great Until Your Mother Calls.

Buddhism is great until your mother calls.

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy was asked once to compose her epitaph. She wrote, Excuse My Dust, Later, she penned another: This Is On Me.


I went to a pig roast a few weeks ago. My friend Tony Makalinaw invented and constructed a motorized rotisserie which is suspended over an oil drum which has been sliced in half horizontally and painted black. He calls it the OINKMASTER. The name is sculpted in metal script on the lower right side of the metal drum like on an old 60's Buick. After the pig was roasted it was parceled out into large trays set up under a buffet tent like troughs, but the pig's head was still sitting upright on the cutting table. A 7-year-old boy asked Tony for the pig's eyeball. Tony proudly and masterfully dug the eye out with a thin sharp knife and dropped the cooked eyeball into the boy's outstretched palm. The boy was ecstatic and popped it into his mouth and ate it with complete satisfaction. "A meat grape!" Tony said. The boy's mother squealed and said to the boy, "No bedtime kiss from me!" "Can I have the other one?" the boy asked.

It Was Here First

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
-Mark Twain

Don't let schooling interfere with your education.
-Mark Twain

Bring Her On

Don't say, "The old lady screamed." Bring her on and let her scream.

-Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.
-Mark Twain

Everything has its limit - iron ore cannot be educated into gold.
-Mark Twain

Be careless in your dress if you will, but keep a tidy soul.
-Mark Twain

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
-Mark Twain

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
-Mark Twain

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
-Mark Twain

Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary.
-Mark Twain

Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.
-Mark Twain

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.
-Mark Twain

A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.
-Mark Twain

A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read.
-Mark Twain

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
-Mark Twain

Buy land, they're not making it anymore.
-Mark Twain

Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
-Mark Twain

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
-Mark Twain

Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.
-Mark Twain

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
-Mark Twain

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.
-Mark Twain

Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
-Mark Twain

Don't tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish.
-Mark Twain

Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.
-Mark Twain

All Children Are Artists

Action is the foundational key to all success.
-Pablo Picasso

Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.
-Pablo Picasso

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
-Pablo Picasso

Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.
-Pablo Picasso

It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.
-Pablo Picasso

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.
-Pablo Picasso

Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.
-Pablo Picasso

I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
-Pablo Picasso

More Difficult

To make oneself hated is more difficult than to make oneself loved.

-Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.
-Pablo Picasso

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web.
-Pablo Picasso

You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.
-Pablo Picasso

When you start with a portrait and search for a pure form, a clear volume, through successive eliminations, you arrive inevitably at the egg. Likewise, starting with the egg and following the same process in reverse, one finishes with the portrait.
-Pablo Picasso

Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?
-Pablo Picasso

Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? no. Just as one can never learn how to paint.
-Pablo Picasso

There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
-Pablo Picasso

What might be taken for a precocious genius is the genius of childhood. When the child grows up, it disappears without a trace. It may happen that this boy will become a real painter some day, or even a great painter. But then he will have to begin everything again, from zero.
-Pablo Picasso

To draw you must close your eyes and sing.
-Pablo Picasso

To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.
-Pablo Picasso

The older you get the stronger the wind gets - and it's always in your face.
-Pablo Picasso

The chief enemy of creativity is "good" sense.
-Pablo Picasso

The more technique you have, the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is, the less there is.
-Pablo Picasso

The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.
-Pablo Picasso

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.
-Pablo Picasso

Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.
-Pablo Picasso

I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.
-Pablo Picasso

I have a horror of people who speak about the beautiful. What is the beautiful? One must speak of problems in painting!
Pablo Picasso

Chelsea Gibson, Painter

Chelsea Gibson

Painter Chelsea Gibson

My new work deals with observation in its most fundamental form, and asks the question "what is realism to me?" For years I have been a figurative painter, and in many ways, I still regard myself in that way. However, I believe that the question of and the pervasiveness of "realism" can seriously limit a painter like myself. Because of this limitation to what is easily understandable or recognizable one can become numbed from experiencing the world or the act of painting in any really realistic way. What has been conventionally understood as realism, such as a Vermeer painting of an interior, is no more or less real than the observations of De Kooning. What is real is paint, canvas, time, color, the person that uses these things, and the person who looks at it.

My experience of painting portraits is still a large part of my current work, though it is becoming more important to me that the work be based on looking within myself and in my life with paint to make something real. I admit to myself that what I want from figuration is a very abstract thing, and vice versa. My hope is to have both as equal partners in my work, because who I am and what I want is never just one thing, it's often many things and always changing.

-Chelsea Gibson, Painter

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Juan Ramón Jiménez

If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.

-Juan Ramón Jiménez

Steve Sanfield

even better than
these six words
––– silence

-Steve Sanfield

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bill Harley's Blog


by Tony Hendra

Go placidly amid the noise and the waste and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.

Avoid quiet and passive persons unless you are in need of sleep. Rotate your tires. Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself and heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys; know what to kiss and when.

Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do. Wherever possible, put people on hold. Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment and despite the changing fortunes of time, there is always a big future in computer maintenance. Remember the Pueblo. Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle and mutilate.

Know yourself; if you need help, call the FBI. Exercise caution in your daily affairs, especially with those persons closest to you -- that lemon on your left, for instance. Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet. Fall not in love therefore; it will stick to your face.

Gracefully surrender the things of youth, birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan; and let not the sands of time get in your lunch. Hire people with hooks. For a good time, call 555-4311; ask for Ken. Take heart amid the deepening gloom that your dog is finally getting enough cheese; and reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot, it could only be worse in Milwaukee.

You are a fluke of the universe; you have no right to be here, and whether you can hear it or not, the universe is laughing behind your back.

Therefore make peace with your God whatever you conceive Him to be -- Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin.

With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal, the world continues to deteriorate. Give up.

by Tony Hendra
performed by National Lampoon
on National Lampoon Radio Dinner LP
(1972 Blue Thumb Records)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dental Aggression

Another term I like.

Binocular Rivalry

I heard the word binocular rivalry on public radio yesterday. I love the term. I'm still trying to understand what it means.

from Science Magazine:
Gossip is a form of affective information about who is friend and who is foe. We show that gossip does not influence only how a face is evaluated—it affects whether a face is seen in the first place. In two experiments, neutral faces were paired with negative, positive, or neutral gossip and were then presented alone in a binocular rivalry paradigm (faces were presented to one eye, houses to the other). In both studies, faces previously paired with negative (but not positive or neutral) gossip dominated longer in visual consciousness. These findings demonstrate that gossip, as a potent form of social affective learning, can influence vision in a completely top-down manner, independent of the basic structural features of a face.

Ann Beattie

It’s not consistent fun like being on a roller coaster, but I can hardly think of anything that pleases me more than writing a sentence that surprises me.

After I finish the third draft or so I show it to Lincoln. I hand him the manuscript and then I sit down in the chair across from him and stare at him while he reads. If he has a look of consternation on his face, I say, “What’s the matter?” And if he laughs, I say, “What’s funny?” Now he’s gotten ­really adept, and he’ll say, “I didn’t tell you I have to go meet so-and-so now.
-Ann Beattie, Paris Review


If you want work well done, select a busy man - the other kind has no time.
-Elbert Hubbard

A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours.
-John B. Priestly

Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.
-Charles Caleb Colton

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.
-Louis Hector Berlioz

Let not the sands of time get in your lunch.
-Tony Hendra, Deteriorata

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

James Baldwin

Those kids aren't dumb. But the people who run these schools want to make sure they don't get smart: they are really teaching the kids to be slaves.
-James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kim Adonizzio

Now that you're finally happy
you notice how sad your friends are.

-Kim Adonizzio, Aliens

Gerald Stern

Lucky life isn't one long string of horrors
and there are moments of peace, and pleasure, as I lie in between the blows.
-Gerald Stern, Lucky Life

Jessamyn West

There is no royal path to good writing; and such paths as do exist do not lead through neat critical gardens, various as they are, but through the jungles of self, the world, and of craft.
-Jessamyn West

Diana Nyad

Diana Nyad at 61 is Swimming 103 miles Florida to Cuba. Ms. Nyad no longer swims in anger, as she did in her youth, when she was working through the sexual abuse she said she suffered as a teenager. Now, she said, she swims in awe of the world around her.

Gillian Welch

In college, a roommate played an album by the bluegrass band The Stanley Brothers, and I had an epiphany:

The first song came on and I just stood up and I kind of walked into the other room as if I was in a tractor beam and stood there in front of the stereo. It was just as powerful as the electric stuff, and it was songs I'd grown up singing. All of a sudden I'd found my music.

-Gillian Welch

Beets and Coltrane

by Bill Harley

My whole childhood I was told that I should be open-minded about food. My father’s line when I refused food because of its appearance or texture, or taste was “You don’t know what you’re missing”. Of course I did know what I was missing - I’d been forced to try it and I was only missing something I didn’t like. I realized my intolerance was a character defect on my part. In my eyes, my all-knowing parents had tried every kind of food - they served them all, they ate them all. This was also true of music - if we didn’t have it at home -it wasn’t worth listening to. The Rascals were not music, and I knew it. What I later discovered was that I never saw or heard the things my father didn’t like. A beet had never appeared on our table. Nor a turnip. Nor a green pepper. Nor squash. Spaghetti with red sauce only appeared when he was absent. And John Coltrane never graced the turntable.
I never thought about my parents hating food, until I got to college. The second night at the dining hall I looked at the salad bar at these slices of maroon sitting in a serving bowl. What are those?
I asked aloud, and Jeff, a new acquaintance answered, helping himself. “Beets.”
I had heard of beets. I guess I had seen them.
“What do they taste like?”
“They’re good” he said.
I was immediately suspicious. This was a standard line by my parents.
“How come I’ve never seen them?” I wondered. Probably they were exotic - like the bagels I had just learned about, or the green peppers, which were mid-eastern, I guessed. My parents simply didn’t have access to small ethnic food markets.
They looked like they should taste sweet - they looked like spiced apple rings from the elementary school cafeteria. I put one on my plate. It immediately bled all over the macaroni salad. And it didn’t taste red at all. It tasted like dirt. This was a food at odds with itself, and spreading its confusion all over the plate. It was messy and earthy. And I didn’t eat it because I was in college and no one could make me.
After dinner, I went up to Jeff’s room where he showed me his new stereo. Jeff had a huge record collection. He was into jazz. I knew some jazz. My dad listened to Louis Armstrong. I had a Les McAann albumn. But I wasn’t ready for this. A saxaphone screeched and squealed. It ran up and down some kind of scale I would never recognize. Jeff sat back in the old couch and tilted his head back, nodding to the music.
I tried not to sound too stupid.
“Who is this?”
“Coltrane. A Love Supreme. It’s a masterpiece.”
“Oh,” I said. Like the beets, it was earthy and messy and I had no idea what its point was.
It’s out there I said.
“Yeah, he said. We both agreed it was out there. Whether we liked it was another question. It was, to me, a bunch of noise. I was polite. But like the beets I left it on my plate.
I could say I trained myself to overlook the strange color of beets and learned to like them, or I grew in my appreciation of Coltrane that year. I didn’t. There was no one to make me do anything. And I didn’t touch a beet or buy “A Love Supreme”. I learned about some jazz, but if Coltrane was on the album, I stayed away. It was scary.
Last month I was out to dinner and at the salad bar and I saw those same beets there. They’d been sitting there waiting for me for twenty-two years. My wife took some. “You like those?” I said.
“Sure they’re good. I love ‘em.”
I tried them again. I put them on a separate plate so they wouldn’t bleed over my pasta salad. I held my nose. I tasted them. They were okay. They really were. Maybe my taste buds had deadened, or my vision had blurred around the edges and they didn’t have to behave like spiced apple rings anymore
I ate them. All of them.
Later that evening, at a friends house, he put on a compact disc. A piano started playing chords, and then a sax blew up and down a scale, chanting a theme over and over. It was pretty - clear and unattached to where it should have been going - venturing where it wanted to.
“Who’s this?” I asked.
“Coltrane,” my friend answered. “A Love Supreme.”
“Oh yeah, I know that album.” I said. “It’s nice.”
“Yeah, he said, “it’s out there.”
What had I done to develop an appreciation for beets and Coltrane? Apparently nothing. It was a little gift for hanging around the planet for so long.
I went out and bought the album. I brought it home. I got some beets. I was making dinner, putting the beets in a dish with some salad dressing, with Coltrane on the stereo. My son came in. What is that, he asked, his lips, nose, teeth, hair and ears curling in disgust.
They’re beets, I said, they’re good. You don’t know what you’re missing.
No, he said, that noise coming out of the stereo.
“It’s John Coltrane. It’s a masterpiece.”
“Sure Dad.”
“That’s okay, I said. You don’t have to like it.”
My son left the room shaking his head at what he had to put up with, and I thought to myself that perhaps, really, we don’t grow older, but better.

© by Bill Harley All rights reserved. Reprints only with permission.

Trick for Staying Cool

Wear a cold wet bandana on your neck. Just like the cowboys! Wash it with soap every few hours to avoid mildew.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Martín Espada

Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper

by Martín Espada

At sixteen, I worked after high school hours
at a printing plant
that manufactured legal pads:
Yellow paper
stacked seven feet high
and leaning
as I slipped cardboard
between the pages,
then brushed red glue
up and down the stack.
No gloves: fingertips required
for the perfection of paper,
smoothing the exact rectangle.
Sluggish by 9 PM, the hands
would slide along suddenly sharp paper,
and gather slits thinner than the crevices
of the skin, hidden.
The glue would sting,
hands oozing
till both palms burned
at the punch clock.

Ten years later, in law school,
I knew that every legal pad
was glued with the sting of hidden cuts,
that every open law book
was a pair of hands
upturned and burning.

-Martín Espada

The Neighborhood Line

This Sunday morning I looked out my window and saw that my sweet neighbor Mark had draped his large brown, blue, black, and white T-shirts over his back porch railing. Nearly all the neighborhood clotheslines have been taken down except ours, so people drape their clothes over fire escape railings and chain link fences, or they hang them by pinching them in their tenement storm windows.

I love to see clotheslines when we are out walking. "Look!" I say excitedly, pointing to a full clothesline, a poem blowing in the breeze. The line of clothes tells a simple story in fabric and shapes and colors: the row of wide white bloomers, the color wheel of Tee's, an assembly of children's jeans, the bedsheets of a Monday morning.

Beach Umbrella

I found my 1950's red canvas beach umbrella with thin yellow stripes. Now all I have to do is find my desire to go.

Inspiring Tabloid Titles

How to Look Smart When You're Really Stupid, Headless Body Found in Topless Bar and other inspiring tabloid titles.

Power of Its Offering

The basic rule given us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from the writer to the reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules.

-John Steinbeck

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Love Marinades!

I love a marinade! I think it's because I know it is working to tenderize and flavor the beef, fish, or chicken while I am doing other things. It's also why I love to simmer soups, soak beans, incubate yogurt, and cultivate sourdough bread, and why I love having a washing machine washing my sweaty clothes while I am working at my desk. It makes me feel good knowing something is happening while I am working. Something is ALWAYS happening while I am working even if it is just the continuous stream of public radio talk shows or the fan blowing at my ankles or the dog napping on my couch. But I feel doubly good if my food is preparing itself while I work. Don't get me wrong, I am no multi-tasker. I can't talk while driving a car. I can't measure flour or coffee while talking either. I can't have any outside sounds if I am on the phone. When I am interrupted I NEVER remember what I was saying. I can only do one thing at a time. I can't make three different sandwiches at once like a short order cook. I always wanted to be an actress but I can't memorize the lines. I am less capable than most people in this way. But I am imaginative, so I have learned how to maneuver around my attention deficits. I may be a bit hyper-active, but it is mostly out of joy and enthusiasm for this luscious weird and wacky world.

Back to marinades. Today I'm marinating chicken breasts. They are a bargain this week at $1.99 a pound at Jamie Sullivan's grocery. He owns Shaw's Meats on North Main Street in Woonsocket. Nobody in my circle is allowed to buy meat anywhere else because Jamie's is the best AND the freshest AND he exhibits my paintings! The marinade I just made is nearly everything found on the inside of my refrigerator door: home-made yogurt, fresh garlic, sesame oil, fresh ginger root, Rooster brand chili sauce, Gulden's mustard, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and my brother-in-law Marcus' home-made maple syrup.

Sally Sampson's CHOP CHOP magazine

Check out Sally Sampson's new cooking magazine for families. ChopChop's vision is to reverse and prevent childhood obesity. The magazine is filled with nutritious, great-tasting, ethnically diverse, and inexpensive recipes.

Peanut Butter and Fresh Basil Leaf Sandwich

Toast two pieces of whole-grain bread. Place fresh backyard basil leaves on one piece and spread natural salty peanut butter on the other. Assemble into a sandwich - delicious! It's not so crazy when you realize basil and peanut sauce is eaten together in Thai cuisine. Think of the delicious and popular Nim Chow and Pad Thai. In England they eat butter and cucumber sandwiches for high tea, so why not?

Hot Tips for the Summertime

Even though summertime is the most challenging time to hike in the desert, it is also the busiest time. Of course, the main reason for this is that the majority of people get their vacation during the summer months, and it is certainly when most kids are out of school. I will only say this once, if you can hike at any other time of year—DO IT! Even though the weather on the North and South Rims is glorious in summer, the heat in the Inner Canyon can be oppressive and downright dangerous.

Heat, heat, heat! I cannot stress enough just how hot it can truly be in the summer. Don't let the high country weather fool you into believing that it can't be THAT HOT.... People get complacent while lounging in the coolness of the rim and never realize that by the time they get to the bottom, it is likely to be 50 degrees hotter than when they started!

If you decide you just HAVE to hike in the summertime, I am providing some tips here to help you do it safely and more enjoyably.

* Hike Early. You can't start hiking too early! Get on the trail before dawn if at all possible. Take a flashlight and get started. The trail is wide and very obvious when hiking in the dark. Also, if there is any moonlight at all, you may not even need to use a light. The tiniest sliver of moon provides enough light in our dry air to light the way. During a full moon, you can even see all the layers of the canyon walls. If you just can't get used to the idea of hiking in the dark, be on the trail by dawn's first glimmer of light. Seriously!
* Wet T-Shirt. Pack a wet cotton t-shirt in a Ziploc bag to put on later in the day when you just don't think you can take another step. It revitalizes you and cools you off in a way that you wouldn't believe!
* Wet Yourself Down. Every chance you get, wet your clothing, hair and hat completely down. The air is so dry, your perspiration evaporates instantly. That sweat is trying to provide you with evaporative cooling. Unfortunately, it evaporates so quickly, it has little effect on how much it can actually cool you. By wetting yourself down, you are assisting your body in keeping cool.
* Bandanas are one of the most useful items for the trail! During hot weather, soak a bandana and wrap it around the back of your neck. Over 80% of your heat is generated at the back of your neck and head. A wet bandana goes a long way towards cooling you off. I also like to soak two more bandanas and wrap one around each wrist. This is very effective at cooling you since your blood vessels are close to the surface.
* Terry cloth wrist sweat bands work really well in the heat. Rather than use then as intended, rim to rim hiker Bill Huseman soaks them every stream he gets and puts them on his wrists. Dry, they weight next to nothing; wet, they provide effective cooling due to your blood vessels being so close to the surface. This is a variation of the bandanas I mentioned in the tip above.
* Bagged Ice. Phantom Ranch has bagged ice. Bill Huseman makes a great recommendation that you get a bag and fill your water bottles and bladders. Great idea!
* Spray Bottle. Carry one of those very small spray bottles and spray yourself down on the trail. Feels so good!!! As an Inner Canyon backcountry ranger, I would carry one on the trail and spray hikers. They were so appreciative of the cool moisture.
* Moisten Clothing. Nighttime doesn't cool down very much at Bright Angel Campground. You're lucky if it gets down to 80 degrees! Most people find it nearly impossible to get to sleep in that kind of heat. But there is something you can do that is very effective at cooling you down. Wet a t-shirt down and wear it to bed. I promise that it will cool you off so much, you may even have to cover up to keep from shivering. And once you get to sleep, it is usually pretty easy to stay asleep, even once you've dried off.
* Wet Cotton Sheet for Sleeping. In the hottest of months—June, July and August—you shouldn't need a sleeping bag. A cotton sheet should provide all the warmth needed in the coolest hours before dawn. And even more importantly, you can dampen the sheet to cool yourself down for sleeping; a variation on the wet t-shirt mentioned above.
* Shade. Pay attention to where you stop on the trail. ALWAYS stop in the shade, if possible. Many people get so hot and tired, they're not even aware that they are stopping in the sun. You've got to stay aware and as cool as possible!
* Eat and Drink Continuously. Salty snacks are best during the hottest summer months because they help replace all the body salts you loose sweating. Do not wait until you're thirsty to drink! Thirst on the trail means you are already dehydrated, and in this intense heat, you've got to stay ahead of the game. Also, keep your water and snacks handy so you don't have to stop and take your pack off to access them. You won't stop as often as you need to to keep yourself hydrated!
* Don't Hike North Rim to Phantom Ranch in One Day. During the scorching hot months of June, July and August, do yourself a huge favor and DON'T try to hike all the way from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground in one day. If you have to hike during these summer months, plan on staying at Cottonwood Campground to break your hike up into two halves. It is extremely important to get through the last four miles of the trail, known as the "Box", before 10:00 AM. If you have to do it in one day during this time, get a start from the trailhead by 1:00 AM to 2:00 AM. No joking! You don't want to be in the Box once the sun hits the black rock and heats up. It is literally like an oven in there! For those who have never hiked the Canyon, it is nearly impossible to know how hard hiking down (yes, down!) 14 miles will be. It is the longest 14 miles you will ever hike. I guarantee it!
* Take Breaks Often. When hiking down, be diligent at taking breaks and eating and drinking often. One thing happens way too much and needs to be emphasized. If you have dinner reservations at Phantom and find that your hike is taking longer than expected (very common I might add!), DO NOT forego breaks to get down faster. Even if you succeed in making it to Phantom on time for dinner, you'll be too sick to eat it!!! Phantom Ranch will often save food for someone who comes in late and had dinner reservations. They would rather you not get sick either!
* Freeze a Few Water Bottles. If you have access to a freezer the night before your hike, place a couple water bottles or an extra hydration bladder in the freezer and bury inside your pack the following morning for later as a cool treat. You won't believe how wonderful that water will be when you are roasting on the trail! (By burying them deep in your pack, they remain insulated and are likely to stay frozen much longer. But do check them in advance of needing water to make sure that they aren't so insulated that you have solid ice when you need water to drink! By checking them a little early, you can put them a little closer to the top of your pack to thaw and have them ready to drink when you're ready.) If you don't have access to a freezer, make sure you fill your water bottles with ice from the machines at your hotel to cool the water nicely. Again, put your extra water deep into your pack to insulate them and keep them cool.


Coals to Newcastle

Every summer my pal Gerardo brings those little boxes of dry Italian seasoning that you can find in the supermarket to his mom in Italy. I ask him, Isn't that like carrying coals to Newcastle? But, he tells me, She can't get this over there! I picture his suitcase popping open upon arrival, lined with boxes of it.

Nikki Jean

Just write from your heart — but really good.
-Nikki Jean

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ocean Moon

Last night at supper time we drove to East Matunuck Beach and sat against the dunes and stared at the dark blue ocean. We ate our cold mushroom-sesame noodles and watched people prance along the shore in the orange light. The full moon rose up in front of us on our way home.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Space and Time Inversions

From Morning Edition on the radio this morning:

The Mediterranean diet is dying. Italians are getting fat on hamburgers and soda. Sugar and meat are cheap! Olive oil, fresh vegetables, and fish are expensive. Now you have to be wealthy to eat like a peasant.

Space food is thermostabilized or dehydrated to be ready for space. There are 60 different varieties. A favorite is shrimp cocktail because it's spicy. The bomb is cheesecake, due to its unappetizing color, and ice cream just does not fly except for museum tourists. But Tang still works.

Beets in Space

A tube of borscht soup was produced in Estonia for the Soviet space program.

Space food is a food product specially created and processed for consumption by astronauts in outer space. The food has specific requirements of providing balanced nutrition for the health of individuals working in space, while being easy and safe to store, prepare, and consume in the machinery-filled low-gravity environments of contemporary manned spacecraft. In recent years, space food has been used by various nations engaging on space programs as a way to share and show off their cultural identity and facilitate intercultural communication.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Hunt

I love the hunt. I love to help a friend find a job, a dog, a hat, or a house. I'll go to the bargain food aisle just to feel the adventure of trying pomegranate seltzer or shittake mushroom rice crackers or coffee that has a cool retro label.

The hunt is about being resourceful. For instance, I'd rather bicycle or roller skate to work than have a gym membership. That I live close to the financial bottom doesn't mean I am lacking appreciation or imagination.

The other morning at summer school my student looked sleepy while we were playing theater games. So I offered her an imaginary cup of coffee. We both laughed, and she did seem a bit more awake after taking a sip.

Sometimes I want to be a tourist in my own house. Let's sleep under the piano I'll say. It's a cheap vacation! Lets make a cake out of beets. Let's put root beer in our iced coffee. Every place can be an adventure when you enter a different door.

I still believe in the power of one's imagination.

Wherever the Great Dilemma Exists is Where the Great Growth is, Too.

Wherever the great dilemma exists is where the great growth is, too.
-Anne Lamott

Article by Anne Lamott

I love My Tumbleweeds

I love my tumbleweeds of dog hair collecting under the bed and along the floor of the kitchen and clinging to all of the rugs. It means that I am writing and walking and not vacuuming in place of these things. But when my friend comes to stay overnight next week, I will prepare for her arrival by joyously cranking up the vacuum and putting clean sheets on her bed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ten Tips for Mindful Writing by Karen Maezen Miller

Read more. Words are the food of lively writing. Read everything you can get your hands on. Be greedy, but not picky. You never know what will flavor the meal you ultimately cook.

Think less. The kind of writing you want to do does not come from contemplation or analysis, not from self-judgment or second guessing. It comes by itself when you stare blank-headed at a blank page.

Practice. Writing is a job. Writing is a discipline. A famous author once said that discipline in a writer was overrated. That’s clever, but wrong. Overrating is overrated. Without stopping to judge, just keep going. Everything done well takes practice.

Have no goal. Other than to write. Examine your motivations and be clear. There are easier ways to become famous. Sing, dance, run for high office, make a sex tape. If your goal is to become rich, I have no career advice for you.

Use a net. A butterfly net. Words and phrases will alight in their own time and place, and not always on a keyboard. Keep a pen handy. Journal. Jot in the fog of a mirror or shower door. Catch what comes.

Write for yourself.
Write to yourself. Writing for others, to satisfy other people’s opinions and expectations for your writing, is folly. No one is as interested in your work as you are. You are already your worst critic. Now be your number one fan.

Know the reader. Approach your reader with fearlessness. Be honest. Be open. Say everything. Say anything. (Hint: the reader is you.)

Don’t know the reader. The world is vast and wide and does not fit on a Facebook page or Twitter list. Your true reader, like your true friends and fans and followers, is in the real world beyond social media. Let this comfort you, and redirect you to your real work.

Do not confuse talking for writing.
Writing about how to write is a waste of time for you and everyone who reads it.

Go back to it. There are no tips for writing, only tips to avoid writing. I apologize.


Ten Tips for Mindful Work by Karen Maezen Miller

Be on time
Self-discipline is the foundation of all success and the essence of self-respect.

Work is not a distraction from your life; it is not a detour, hindrance or necessary evil. If you think this way it is the wrong view. When you are working, work is your life. Care for it as you care for yourself. As Dogen Zenji says, “If you find one thing wearisome, you will find everything wearisome.”

Make a list
Start each day with a list of things to do. Control is an illusion, so wise up and keep the list short.

Forget the list

Do not mistake a list for the thing. Adapt to the flow of real events as they occur. Adaptation is innovation and innovation is genius.

Attend to what appears

What appears in front of you is the only thing there is. Respond appropriately as things arise, and crises will not overtake you.

Avoid gossip

Viruses spread. Keep your hands clean and cover your mouth.

The workplace is a theater, and the drama is make-believe. Everyone appreciates a good laugh. When you can do anything as though you work at nothing, you have the best days of your life.

Give credit
No amount of money is enough. Be generous with your kindness, courtesy and thanks. They will always be repaid.

Take the rest of the day off

Do your work, then set it down. Let others praise or blame.

Do it all over again

Rise and shine. An ancient teacher said, “A day without work is a day without eating.” Take every chance to do it differently.


Laundry Opportunity

Laundry presents a mountainous practice opportunity because it provokes a never-ending pile of egocentric resistance.
-Karen Maezen Miller

I love this quote and I love to plug in a few other words in place of laundry like painting!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Karen Maezen Miller

These quotes are from Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller

When we think we know someone, you see, we are already halfway to disappointment. . .

We can only love the world we wake up to. The world where things change, dishes get dirty, we age, we get sick and one day, we die.

There's an urgent truth to life, and yet most of us spend every moment trying to hide from it.

Someone has to make a change for good, and that someone can only be you.

If you tell me that you don't have one hour a day to spend in undistracted company with your children or your partner, I'll say it's about time. It's always about time.

One night the moon was full and I lay awake for a long while. I went into my daughter's bedroom and watched her sleep. I saw through the deep shadows and the midnight glow. She did not stir.

I went because the nights are numbered and I do not know the count.

Days and nights come and go without end, appearing and disappearing into thin air. Notice, and you'll always know what time it is. You'll always know what to do.

When I grow weary of what's undone or anxious about what's to come, I remind myself that I am not the maker or the order-taker in this life. I am this life, and it is unfinished. Even when it is finished it will be unfinished. And so I take my sweet time. Time is savored when you take it by the hand.

I've learned that it takes a mother to heal a daughter, a daughter to heal a father, and a dog to heal us all.

We have a saying in Zen: "When an object can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way." There is no one left to take offense. There is only one love, the love that never leaves.

Life is suffering. No one can make less of it. Pain finds us without fail. Hearts break; dreams die; hatred flourishes; sickness prevails; people and promises leave without a trace.

We must finally see that the light we seek streams from our very own eyes and always has.

Fulfillment derives not from lofty achievements, but from ordinary feats. It arrives not once in a lifetime, but every moment of the livelong day.

Human Powered Tuba Transport

My composer pal Chris Adams, tuba player extraordinaire, rode his bicycle to our July 4th Bristol Parade gig with his tuba tied to a bike trailer. He rode along the water on the bike path from Barrington to Bristol, which is the most direct and scenic route. So after riding ten miles and marching and playing songs for three miles, he pedaled home for a most well-deserved nap.

Two Morning Dreams

I dreamed I was being fitted for a dress for a Jewish holiday. The hem of the dress was filled with weights so I wouldn't float away. It was ivory-colored, and buttoned down the front with cloth-covered buttons held by little white loops.

Then I dreamed I could see out the window a big white cloud hugging the ground. It was approaching, overtaking the landscape, and was quite menacing. It looked like the recent photos of the Arizona dust storm. I could feel the moisture in my lungs.

John Cheever

Why did he love storms, what was the meaning of his excitement when the door sprang open and the rain wind fled rudely up the stairs, why had the simple task of shutting the windows of an old house seemed fitting and urgent, why did the first watery notes of a storm wind have for him the unmistakable sound of good news, cheer, glad tidings?

-John Cheever, The Swimmer

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Tonight we walked Lily to the pond and I stripped down like superman into my bathing suit. I've had this tank suit for 23 years. It's made of acetate or asphalt or linoleum or some darn indestructible thing. It looks so old fashioned, like what my grandmother wore. Bill threw the stick and Lily and I both jumped in and fetched. The water was clear and cold with a warm layer on top. Perfect. We fetched and swam for about twenty minutes then we dried off by walking the mile and a half distance to our house. When we got home I was inspired. I cooked Asian-style spinach onion garlic mushroom stir fry in the 12" cast iron pan and boiled whole wheat angel hair pasta and mixed it all together in the big skillet. We ate it on little blue plates with iced coffee and beer. The leftovers will make a delicious cold lunch tomorrow, or breakfast if I can't wait that long!


He's slick as deer guts on a doorknob.

He could cut himself with a picture of a razor.

He could shoot the eyebrows off a gnat.

He fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

He would want a new rope to be hung.

He was so ugly they had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dogs to play with him.

He wouldn't work in a pie factory.

Her driveway doesn’t go all the way to the road.

He's so poor he'd have to borrow money to buy water to cry with.

He's so tight he squeaks when he walks.

He's wild as a peach orchard hog.

I'd have to get better just to die.

If he fell into an outhouse he'd come up smelling like a rose.

I'll hit you so hard when you wake up your clothes will be out of style.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Life is Funny

As a child I had a recurring dream that I would make a new friend and one day I'd ask her who her father was and she would reply "Him!" pointing to my father. I'd say "No, that's MY father," and we'd argue and I'd be confused.

There are a few women who claim my father as their own, a claim that is actually true for my two fathers and four sisters. Only one of my sisters is at peace with my having the same father since we both didn't live with him as a father! I wasn't informed that he was seriously ill until a few days before he died. Neither were two other daughters, and so all three of us came together to say goodbye to him on his deathbed. Not surprisingly, we were also all strangers to each other. After my father died, his fourth daughter wrote me from Hawaii about how great a father he had been to her. I envied her experience, and realized that my childhood premonition had come true.

How Many Stomachs Does a Cow Have?

The basic answer that most people look for from this question is that a cow (or any other bovine such as a bull, a steer, a heifer, or even a bison or buffalo) has FOUR stomachs. However, physiologically speaking, a cow does not have four stomachs; it has four digestive compartments within their single stomach.

The four digestive compartments in order are:
Reticulum (the hardware stomach, where foreign objects collect that cannot pass through the digestive system; this compartment is also responsible for further breakdown processes from the rumen, and is the compartment where partly digested feed is collected to be regurgitated as cud.)
Rumen (where bacteria and protozoa break down cellulose, hemi-cellulose, lignin and fibre from plant material; this is where the process of fermentation takes place)
Omasum (absorbs water and digestible nutrients)
Abomasum (which would be the true stomach, as it is in humans)

One thing that should be noted is that because the abomasum is considered to be the true stomach (and the only functional stomach compartment when a calf, a newborn bovine, is born), the other three compartments are simply an extension of the esophagus. Thus the primary reason that a bovine only has one stomach and not four. The definition of a stomach is that it is an organ which secretes enzymes, acids and other digestive compounds which enable the ability to break down food to mere molecules. Since a cow does not have four of these types of stomachs, it is safe to say that, physiologically, a cow or any other ruminant only has one stomach with four compartments.

Dog Jealousy as Circus Trick

The other night we had four tennis balls for Lily and Jake up at Dog Mountain (The Pothier Monument) because I had brought two and Chris had one and I found the ball that had gone missing the previous week. With four balls the dogs got even more vigilant about keeping track of them. Jake corralled three of the four balls in a pile. Meanwhile Lily hung tight with her one tennis ball. Normally Lily loses interest in the ball after a few throws, but when Jake is there with his own ball she stays focused.

I came up with a game to play with the dogs. I would stand at the top of the green hill with a ball in each hand, Jake and Lily would sit like book ends waiting, and then they would jump into the air simultaneously to catch my twin pitches. I couldn't believe it. I felt like a circus trainer. We did this about eight times. Chris and Bill sat on the monument steps laughing, amazed that I was even more amused than the dogs playing this game.

Josef Pieper

Of course the world of work begins to become - threatens to become - our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.
-Josef Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture

Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Joseph Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial than it was when it first appeared fifty years ago. Pieper shows that Greeks understood and valued leisure, as did the medieval Europeans. He points out that religion can be born only in leisure-a leisure that allows time for the contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture. He maintains that our bourgeois world of total labor has vanquished leisure, and issues a startling warning: Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for nonactivity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture-and ourselves. These astonishing essays contradict all our pragmatic and puritanical conceptions about labor and leisure; Joseph Pieper demolishes the twentieth-century cult of "work" as he predicts its destructive consequences.

Multicultural Multiethnic

I love multiethnic environments. I feel claustrophobic when I am living with or teaching just one ethnic group. It's probably a throwback to my lily-white Larchmont upbringing. I prefer to be continually reminded of the BIG WORLD of multiple languages and cultures in order to be happy. I even listen to Spanish-speaking radio and do not understand a word except when they say Nueve York. I love to listen to Parisian radio to brush up on my high school French.

I am trying to learn more about mild autism, and about theater games, for the summer social skills class that I'm assisting. The kids are naturals at performing. I love PLAY as a learning tool. I may be able to continue with them after school in the fall!

I told my co-teacher that I think some of the school's regular teachers could use the social skills class. Not all of them know to look you the eye and say hello. I find this extremely rude, and it can throw a wrench in my day.

I am growing basil but I am like a woodchuck. I eat the leaves off as they are growing!

The Scoop

Lily gained five pounds since her last trip to our vet, Dr Belinsky. I have been thinking that the scoop we use for measuring her dry dog food has its own psychological impact on me. Just like I use a smaller plate for my meals so not to over-eat, I am now rethinking the measuring device I use for my dog's meals so I don't over-scoop! Today I discovered that the Eukanuba two-cup measurement (which is actually two-and-a-quarter cups) is harder to use accurately, especially first thing in the morning. Naturally their cup measurement is designed to sell more dog food! I am, as of today, using a spare one-cup kitchen scoop for measuring Lily's daily four cups. We did the same thing for Sammy our cat. His food is also extremely calorie-dense. We use just a quarter-cup scoop a day (approximately two mice!) for his dry Science Diet kibble, and he maintains a healthy weight.

Friday, July 08, 2011


We just went to paradise to visit my newly planted basil and check on my flat leaf parsley. A toddler's pair of pink sparkly shoes were left on the wooden bench under the grape arbor. A couple of women came in the garden gate with a little boy who ran joyously over to their garden. He harvested peas from plants taller than himself. I sat with Lily while Bill climbed the berm. I was reading Leonard Cohen's book of illustrated poems, which I had just gotten from the public library next door. Lily chewed grass and drank water out of a red wheel barrow. This piece of paradise is my new daily oasis. I visit ten minutes a day and hope to do so all summer long. I want to build a beehive oven and have a bread fest, pizza fest, and apple pie fest in the autumn. Maybe I'll even have a mask-making workshop and a storytelling festival for families at Harvest Weekend.

Middle English paradis, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin paradisus, from Greek paradeisos, enclosed park, from Avestan pairi-daēza, circumvallation, walled-in park: pairi, around + daēza, wall.

Leonard Cohen

The Book of Longing

My page was too white
My ink was too thin
The day wouldn't write
What the night penciled in

-Leonard Cohen, The Book of Longing

Arts Worker

What I love is working with special-needs kids, especially when pulling forth their GIFTS. If they have a meltdown I am not afraid of their intensity. So when I ask myself if I should become a social worker, I realize I'm an arts worker: one who is not afraid of the emotional issues that crop up when creating.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Bill Calhoun, Piano Man

Bill Calhoun, Piano Man!


This morning I photographed seniors for THE CALL playing bocce in Bouley park. One player was wearing a straw cowboy hat and his smile was so compelling. When I talked with him he recited his whole medical history; cancer survivor with surgeries on his hip and liver. He was 80 and healthy and very handsome and had been married fifty six years! His wife was playing bocce with him.

Then, I pedaled over BEACON high school to do theater improv games with kids who need practice with social skills. The skits were so hilarious. We laughed so hard we needed oxygen breaks.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

E. B. White

At the risk of seeming a very whimsical fellow indeed, I'll have to break down and confess to you that Stuart Little appeared to me in a dream - all complete with his hat, his cane and his brisk manner.

Since he was the only fictional figure ever to honor and disturb my sleep, I was deeply touched and felt I was not free to change him into a grasshopper or a wallaby. Luckily, he bears no resemblance either physically or temperamentally to me. I guess that's a break for all of us.

-E.B. White, National Public Radio

Marcus Tullius Cicero

A room without books is like a body without a soul.

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Writing and the Company of Animals

White's own lifelong struggle with anxiety. . . was soothed, in part, by writing and by the company of animals.

-Maureen Corrigan, NPR reviewing How E.B.White Spun Chartlotte's Web

I'll Play it First

I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning... Every day I find something creative to do with my life.
-Miles Davis

I was minding my own business when something says to me, "you ought to blow trumpet." I have just been trying ever since.
-Miles Davis

You can play a shoestring if you're sincere.
-John Coltrane

If you can't play in time and in tune the rest doesn't matter.
-Keith Ridenhour

There are no wrong notes.
-Miles Davis

Do not fear mistakes. There are none.
-Miles Davis

Don't play what's there, play what's not there.
-Miles Davis

I'll play it first and tell you what it is later.
-Miles Davis

It's always been a gift with me, hearing music the way I do. I don't know where it comes from, it's just there and I don't question it.
-Miles Davis

The thing to judge in any jazz artist is, does the man project and does he have ideas.
-Miles Davis

Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
-Miles Davis

When you’re creating your own shit, man, even the sky ain’t the limit.
-Miles Davis

Knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery.
-Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Buck Brannaman

Buck Brannaman is a true Wyoming cowboy who bends a horse's spirit with a unique language of training. It is a language of speech and harmony. Where other trainers "break" horses and force them into physical submission, Brannaman's remarkable relationship with horses is reliant on his understanding of their intelligence and sensitivity.

A horse is a kind and gentle animal. He's honest, and so sensitive he can feel a mosquito land on its back in a windstorm. You have to work with that sensitivity and nurture it. If you don't, you'll dull it and lose it.
-Buck Brannaman

Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will.
-Buck Brannaman

If you think about it, the most miserable people to be around are the people who have no direction, no purpose, no passion.
-Buck Brannaman

I help horses with people problems
rather than people with horse problems.
-Buck Brannaman

Brannaman’s parting advice is for us to care for animals, but not to the point where we forget our fellow humans. Every community needs foster parents who can offer kids a safe refuge, just like his did.

Joseph Epstein

Never suffocate a generous impulse, my grandfather used to say.
—Joseph Epstein, Beyond The Pale

Jacob Needleman

The fundamental thing about the Constitution is that it allows the United States to correct itself. It's always been a mess. America's always been a mess. It's always been full of contradictions. There's always been graft and greed and injustices throughout this huge country, but it's always been correctable. It still is correctable.
-Jacob Needleman

Myth is a way of speaking about great ideas that touches the heart as well as the mind. In all the world's great spiritual communications, traditions, almost always it's been through symbol and art, music and image and story. Myth is one meaning nowadays that means a lie, a fable, something wrong, something you shouldn't believe. That's a cheapened meaning of the word and certainly it's the way it's used now. "Oh, it's only a myth." But real myth is a way of speaking in symbol in a way that touches — it opens the feelings as well as the thought.
-Jacob Needleman


God gave us siblings so we can learn how to deal with other kinds of people.
-David Papadopoulos

We three have become far better friends as adults than we had been as children. I suspect that's because our mother was such a powerful force in our early lives. All spokes of our family wheel started with her and went outward. We only built the cross supports in later years.
-Lisa Belkin, NYT

Allow your kids to form relationships separate from you. That will mean letting them have secrets. And letting them have fights.
-Lisa Belkin, NYT

Raymond Williams

To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.
–Raymond Williams

What is a Beet?

Last night my young neighbor asked me What is a beet? I showed her. I said it looks like a clod of dirt but it is brightly colored under the skin. Then I brought out my potato beet salad for her to taste. Her two friends and her brother came over to see what was happening, and I gave them all forks. Help yourselves I said, holding the big pot over the fence. I am not afraid of germs.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Dog Mountain

At sunset we go to the Pothier Monument in Precious Blood Cemetery on the Woonsocket-Blackstone line. As we walk, the city retreats, along with the day's stresses and worries. We sit on the granite steps. The columns and clouds create a Maxfield Parrish backdrop while the dogs chase the tennis balls that we throw off the hill. My dog Lily and her best friend Jake run themselves silly. It's best when we have two tennis balls for them to chase. I think it's jealousy that keeps them playing. Jake always tries to fit both balls in his mouth. The green tennis balls disappear in the grass, and then it's a puzzle for the humans to find the camouflaged balls. We always threaten to buy pink ones, but they cost more! Jake has a wide smile, extra long tongue, and steep forehead. His body is lean and he's an agile, focused acrobat. He's one of the most handsome black Labradors I've ever seen. Lily is a long muscular blonde who is occasionally disinterested in chasing the ball. But she's always ready to ambush Jake when he comes panting up the hill with the ball in his mouth. She'll bark and block him from reaching the top. If I had thirty Labradors, would I, like the dairymen and their cows, know every detail of each animal? It's a fantasy I like to entertain. For now, though, I'm focusing my energies on my students at the school - their crises and traumas, and the struggling to be poets, chefs, painters, and musicians. I retreat to Dog Mountain at the end of each day to unburden myself of their pain and wounds.

Colorful Circulars

I love to see those little colorful advertisements for meat and other items in the circulars that come in the mail. For some odd reason they fascinate me, as if I were visiting from another planet. Maybe I never got over my love of miniature things like my doll house and my pet gerbils. Maybe I feel a strange sense of abundance, or of vicarious pleasure like when I babysat in junior high and tried the family's instant coffee for the first time. It's a novelty enjoying someone else's life.

My New Neighbor

My new neighbor Barry leaves his legs standing upright on the sidewalk, shocking the passersby. His ground-floor apartment has no windows so he leaves the front door wide open when he's home. Lily adores him and will drag me to jump in his lap.
The other night we had a band rehearsal, and our tuba player's gal Sally sat on the front porch having a smoke. Barry called to her Hey Emily, come over for popcorn. He wanted me to come sit and enjoy the band with him. He probably doesn't suspect that I'm the Bari player in the band.

The Chicken or The Egg

My neighbors down the street have two new puppies. One looks like a mixture of a Basset Hound and German Shepherd, the other is a very small black dog. I walk by every day with Lily to say hello to the puppies. Lily gets slightly jealous but mostly wishes she could play with them. This neighbor also has chickens, and I guess this is peak laying season for them - she gave me three dozen eggs! The shells are bluish and greenish white. I wonder what Lily would do if I had chickens?