Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Painting

I just posted a new painting called Fruit Goddess.
Have a peek here.

Henri Matisse

Today is the anniversary of the birth of painter Henri Matisse in 1869, in Le Cateau, France. As a young man, he had no interest in art. He went to law school in Paris and never visited a single museum. Had it not been for a case of appendicitis, he might never have become an artist. Bedridden for several weeks during his recovery, he took up painting as a way to pass the time. It was a revelation. He said, For the first time in my life I felt free, quiet, and alone . . . carried along by a power alien to my life as a normal man. At 22, he quit the law to begin work as a full-time artist. He was a revolutionary who dressed like a bourgeois, and he once said, It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.

-Writers Almanac

Bette Calman

Yoga master Bette Calman.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Alden Nowlan

Fair Warning

by Alden Nowlan

I keep a lunatic chained
to a beam in the attic. He
is my twin brother whom
I'm trying to cheat
out of his inheritance.
It's all right for me
to tell you this because
you won't believe it.
Nobody believes anything
that's put in a poem.
I could confess to
murder and as long as
I did it in a verse
there's not a court
that would convict me.
So if you're ever
a guest overnight
in my house, don't
go looking for
the source of any
unusual sounds.

-Alden Nowlan

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

Samuel Beckett

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
-Samuel Beckett

Somerset Maugham

The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.

-Somerset Maugham

Kim Addonizio

Mermaid Song
for Aya at fifteen

Damp-haired from the bath, you drape yourself
upside down across the sofa, reading,
one hand idly sunk into a bowl
of crackers, goldfish with smiles stamped on.
I think they are growing gills, swimming
up the sweet air to reach you. Small girl,
my slim miracle, they multiply.
In the black hours when I lie sleepless,
near drowning, dread-heavy, your face
is the bright lure I look for, love's hook
piercing me, hauling me cleanly up.

-Kim Addonizio


Charity creates a multitude of sins.
-Oscar Wilde

Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity.
-Albert Camus

Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.
-Saint Augustine

Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself.
-Walt Whitman

Samoa and Tokelau

Due to a change of time zone this day is being skipped in Samoa and Tokelau.

James Baldwin

I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.
-James Baldwin

You know, it's not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.
-James Baldwin

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
-James Baldwin

Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.
-James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Passion is not friendly. It is arrogant, superbly contemptuous of all that is not itself, and, as the very definition of passion implies the impulse to freedom, it has a mighty intimidating power. It contains a challenge. It contains an unspeakable hope.
-James Baldwin

To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.
-James Baldwin

People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.
-James Baldwin

All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.
-James Baldwin

It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.
-James Baldwin

In my case, I think my exile saved my life, for it inexorably confirmed something which Americans appear to have great difficulty accepting. Which is, simply, this: a man is not a man until he is able and willing to accept his own vision of the world, no matter how radically this vision departs from others.
-James Baldwin

There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.
-James Baldwin

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Painting Sold!

My painting titled Everyone's Left Handed, has sold.
View here.

Bohumil Hrabal

It's interesting how young poets think of death while old fogies think of girls.
-Bohumil Hrabal, Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age

To spend our days betting on three-legged horses with beautiful names.
-Bohumil Hrabal

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Morning Dreams

I beat up a clerk for taking my three pairs of sunglasses. I grabbed her by the hair and banged her head on the floor.

An angry neighborhood girl was in the street throwing rocks at me. She had her younger brother with her. I grabbed her by both wrists and said maybe I will be the nicest person you meet today. Then I noticed pieces of flattened rusted metal in the street and I picked them up - they were shaped like mermaids and dolphins. Look at this! I said.

Then the three of us noticed a beached black and white dolphin. We threw the dolphin into the sea from a window and I was sure it was dead but then it became a living blue dolphin in the sea below. Then a whale jumped inside through the window. It could fit because it was rectangular, I realized. It was coming after me and I was afraid of its big human-looking teeth. A young Indian man, about 20 years old, came out of the whale with a black rectangular suitcase that he had lived in while he was inside the whale. I could see in the bag that he had an assortment of breakfast cereal boxes. Before he left we exchanged e-mail addresses and then the girl and her brother and I helped him back into the whale. The three of us lifted the whale and dropped it back out the window. It landed in the sea and continued its journey.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Helen Frankenthaler

There is “no formula,” she said in an interview in The New York Times in 2003. “There are no rules. Let the picture lead you where it must go.”

She never aligned herself with the feminist movement in art that began to surface in the 1970s. “For me, being a ‘lady painter’ was never an issue,” she was quoted as saying in John Gruen’s book “The Party’s Over Now” (1972). “I don’t resent being a female painter. I don’t exploit it. I paint.”

A really good picture looks as if it's happened at once. It's an immediate image.
-Helen Frankenthaler

I wanted things that I couldn't at times articulate.
-Helen Frankenthaler

One really beautiful wrist motion, that is synchronised with your head and heart, and you have it. It looks as if it were born in a minute.
-Helen Frankenthaler

The landscapes were in my arms as I did it.
-Helen Frankenthaler

There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.
-Helen Frankenthaler

John Cheever

Art is the triumph over chaos.
-John Cheever

Fear tastes like a rusty knife and do not let her into your house.
-John Cheever

Fiction is experimentation; when it ceases to be that, it ceases to be fiction.
-John Cheever

I can't write without a reader. It's precisely like a kiss - you can't do it alone.
-John Cheever

. . . after taking the dogs walking deep into the rainy woods, returning & listening to Bach's Concerto for Two Violins on headphones, while the wet and muddy dogs dry on the porch.
-John Cheever

Wes Markusfeld

Drummer for Robin Hood The Band

10,000 Blades, Elison Jackson, The Science Fair, Circle Circle, and Robin Hood

Performing Wed 28 December 2011
Lyric Hall
New Haven Connecticut

Indra Sinha

The pace of change is huge and the wealth in the country is enormous. What is sad and in fact sickening is that the well off seem to have closed their eyes to the vast majority of the population, who do not benefit from globalisation, the booming stock market, et cetera. The long-term result of this can only be fascism and repression; it will be the only way to preserve the continuing luxury of the wealthy at the continuing expense of those who have nothing. Writers have a duty to speak out about this and Arundhati [Roy] has recently written an excellent article on this very point.
-Indra Sinha

quoted from Peter Griffin's Your Cheque is in the Mail; The serenade all freelance writers are sung

Simms Taback

Kids books have to have something for the adults as well as the kids, since the adults are doing the reading.

Be persistent about what you do. Keep faithful to what you're interested in and eventually something could happen. I've had a wonderful career as an illustrator. I always found work. There were some little pet projects that I had faith I'd be able to do something with. I kept trying to convince people to publish Joseph and never, never stopped. I felt vindicated when I won the Caldecott Gold Medal.

I'm basically a commercial artist. A lot of people are talented, but not many take it seriously enough or work at it. I applied myself seriously over a long time. It took persistence. An essential part of being an artist is finding ways of supporting one's self. You just have to keep at it.

-Simms Taback

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Lily has a brand-new red coat she got for Christmas. She is wearing it because it's so nice and cold in the house! At bedtime I'll slip between the covers wearing my big black furry Russian hat and thick wool oatmeal socks and striped Indian pajamas until the electric blanket kicks in.

For supper we sipped hot cabbage, ham, and bean soup and for dessert we ate chocolate mints with our hot black coffee. After the meal we stared at our flickering votive candles on the table. I love the bloody magical martyrs and saints. I grew up with Freud and Jung, but wrinkly old men smoking cigars are not as much fun as colorful saints.

William Shakespeare

Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.

-William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ultra Violet

I found a pair of ultra-violet light protected Ray Ban style black and white checkered rimmed sunglasses at Job Lot for two bucks. They are so fun! And now the sun is out!

Winter Holiday Loaves

I've mixed up a whole wheat sourdough bread batter and thrown in dried cranberries, Job Lot's bargain cashew pieces, pumpkin puree, dark molasses, rolled oats, and kosher salt. The dough looks great. It will probably need 30 hours of slow cold rising before it is baked.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bill Harley

Bill Harley

Merce Cunningham

You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.

Dance is an art in space and time. The object of the dancer is to obliterate that.

The only way to do it is to do it.

Merce Cunningham

Jonathan Ames

Well, first of all, I love books. Anthony Powell once titled one of his novels “Books Do Furnish a Room.” In my case, it’s more like “Books Do Overwhelm a Room.” I have a thousand or more novels and works of nonfiction, but not enough shelves, so I have uneven stacks of tomes everywhere, all teetering in an intoxicated manner. But I don’t care. I’m a middle-aged old fart who steadfastly refuses to ever read on an electronic device, if for no other reason than I’m a frightened, small-minded technophobe. Also, these gadgets are going to change the way novels are written and conceived, and I’m against change when it comes to things I do.
-Jonathan Ames, NYT

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dolphins in Mythology

Click here.


Five thirty am
I walked downtown in the dark with Lily,
Put my library books into the book drop.
On my way back I saw what looked like black bags on a bench.
When I got up close I saw that it was a homeless man bundled up
Sleeping on his back behind the Rent-A-Center.
I kept walking a few more miles to the Harris Pond reservoir
Enjoying the sky slowly brightening.
When I came home I ate leftover garlic broccoli for breakfast
And a chocolate peanut butter cookie.

Audience or Peer

Definition of AUDIENCE
: the act or state of hearing
: a formal hearing or interview b : an opportunity of being heard
: a group of listeners or spectators b : a reading, viewing, or listening public
: a group of ardent admirers or devotees : following

Definition of PEER
: one that is of equal standing with another : equal; especially : one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status
archaic : companion
: a member of one of the five ranks (as duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron) of the British peerage

-Merriam Webster Dictionary

Steve Ragatz

The performer is the one that has to control the conversation, leading the audience along through the collective experience. If the performer is unable to lead, then the audience will go where they want to go, and the performer is the one being led.
-Steve Ragatz, juggler


Generally, dolphins sleep with only one brain hemisphere in slow-wave sleep at a time, thus maintaining enough consciousness to breathe and to watch for possible predators and other threats. Earlier sleep stages can occur simultaneously in both hemispheres. In captivity, dolphins seemingly enter a fully asleep state where both eyes are closed and there is no response to mild external stimuli. In this case respiration is automatic; a tail kick reflex keeps the blowhole above the water if necessary. Anesthetized dolphins initially show a tail kick reflex. Though a similar state has been observed with wild sperm whales, it is not known if dolphins in the wild reach this state. The Indus river dolphin has a different sleep method from other dolphin species. Living in water with strong currents and potentially dangerous floating debris, it must swim continuously to avoid injury. As a result, this species sleeps in very short bursts which last between 4 and 60 seconds.

Dolphins also display culture, something long believed to be unique to humans (and possibly other primate species). In May 2005, a discovery in Australia found Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) teaching their young to use tools. They cover their snouts with sponges to protect them while foraging. This knowledge is mostly transferred by mothers to daughters, unlike simian primates, where knowledge is generally passed on to both sexes. Using sponges as mouth protection is a learned behavior. Another learned behavior was discovered among river dolphins in Brazil, where some male dolphins use weeds and sticks as part of a sexual display.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

James Beard

In the beginning there was James Beard . . .
-Nora Ephron.

Designing hors d’oeuvres is not different from designing sets and costumes . . . Food is very much theater.
-James Beard

We’re Americans and can do as we please.
-James Beard

When I walk into a market I may see a different cut of meat or an unusual vegetable and think, ‘I wonder how it would be if I took the recipe for that sauce I had in Provence and put the two together?’ So I go home and try it out. Sometimes my idea is a success and sometimes it is a flop, but that is how recipes are born. There really are not recipes, only millions of variations sparked by someone’s imagination and desire to be a little creative and different. American cooking is built, after all, on variations of old recipes from around the world.
-James Beard

A cookbook should reflect the personality of the author along with his or her kitchen technique. Some cookbooks are put together like paper dolls. There is no feeling of humanness in them. I write about things I like and the way I like them.
-James Beard

Hands are our earliest tools. Cooking starts with the hands which are so sensitive that when they touch something they transmit messages to your brain about texture and temperature.
-James Beard

Freshness in vegetables is more important than anything else.
-James Beard

Richard E. Kelly

A full life is created not by what happens to us, but by how we make sense of events over which we had no control.

-Richard E. Kelly

Mark Bittner

From Stage Fright
by Mick Berry and Michael R. Edelstein

MARK BITTNER Born in 1951 in Vancouver, Washington. Mark graduated from high school and spent four months in Europe hitchhiking and taking trains, then moved to Seattle and spent three years learning music. He moved to Berkeley, California, worked as a street singer and ended up in North Beach in San Francisco, spending fifteen years on the streets studying Eastern religions, history, Italian, guitar, and clarinet.

In 1988, he took a job as the caretaker of a house. Two years later he spotted four parrots nearby. Eventually the flock grew to 26, and he was in love. Making friends and learning their ways, in 1996 he began a book, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (Harmony Books, 2004). Mark starred in a documentary of the same title, released in 2005, written and directed by filmmaker Judy Irving. Mark and Judy are now married and living in the gardens of Telegraph Hill. Mark is currently working on a book about his years on the street.

Mick B: What was the first time you were were nervous in front of a crowd?

Mark B: Well, that would be all the way back in eighth grade. I was in this little four-piece band, and, uh . . . terrified! I used to have a real problem with stage fright, but not much anymore.

Mick B: If you don’t have a problem anymore, can you attribute that to anything?

Mark B: Well, for one thing, I think I’ve matured. But when I was doing music, I always felt that I was doing something that I shouldn’t be doing. I worked hard at it, and I got to be okay. But I always had to force myself to pick up my guitar — and I always figured a “real” musician had to force himself to stop. So when you feel like you’re not really doing what you should be doing, you get nervous about it.

Another part of it was wanting to be a star. When you want to be a star, you’re into it for sort of an ego reason, and that will make you nervous, too. You really worry about how you’re going over.

Mick B: You said, you were terrified when you first started performing in eighth grade. What were your thoughts about being terrified?

Mark B: I think being nervous on stage comes from two things. For one, you’re worried about your ego — how you’re coming across, and whether people are liking you.

The other thing has to do with being on stage and having all of that energy directed at you. If you’re not selfish with it, if you’re feeding it back to the audience, and it’s continually going back and forth, you shouldn’t be nervous.

I always use the moment that I’m on stage to try to focus. And if people are giving you a lot of energy, it makes it easier to focus. And when you’re focused, and you’ve gotten rid of all the crap that’s in your mind, then you can give people back something that’s more real.

Mick B: And the crap in your mind would be?

Mark B: Oh, just all kinds of neurotic thoughts. You might start thinking that person over there doesn’t like you, if you spot someone particular in the audience. And it’s purely paranoia. Most people want to like the performer on stage, and I think most performers even know that. But once you’re in the midst of performing, it’s hard to deal with that thought if you’ve got it going already.

Shunryu Suzuki

Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars that you see. You are still one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true than you can hear.

-Shunryu Suzuki


Early to bed, and early to rise,
makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
-Benjamin Franklin

Sleep is better than medicine.
-English Proverb

The beginning of health is sleep.
-Irish Proverb

In sleep we are all equal.
-Spanish Proverb

Disease and sleep keep far apart.
-Welsh Proverb

I never use an alarm clock. I can hardly wait until five a.m. In the army I always woke before reveille.
-Isaac Asimov

Animals sleep


Mythological anecdotes

Monday, December 19, 2011


Yesterday we went to the New England Bonsai farm down the road in Bellingham Massachusetts. We met up with Hitoshi and Teddi and their three cats who led the tour. It was very inspiring and calming to sip green tea and look at the hundreds of miniature trees spread over their five greenhouses. Definitely worth a repeat visit.


Saturn is the ruler of Capricorn. In Greek Mythology, Cronus was one of the Titans, and the father of Zeus. Cronus ate his children to prevent himself from being dethroned as the King of the Gods. That is until his wife, Rhea, tricked him into swallowing a stone when Zeus was born.

In astrology, Saturn is associated with restriction and limitation. Where Jupiter expands, Saturn constricts. Although the themes of Saturn seem depressing, Saturn brings structure and meaning to our world. Saturn knows the limits of time and matter. Saturn reminds us of our boundaries, our responsibilities, and our commitments. It brings definition to our lives. Saturn makes us aware of the need for self-control and of boundaries and our limits.

Saturn is often associated with our fathers or father/authority figures. In childhood, the discipline, rules, and regulations imposed on us by our authority figures - parents, teachers, and the like - were not always pleasant, but they actually helped us to understand the world around us. Similarly, Saturn's lessons actually help us to grow.

In the chart, the position of Saturn by sign and house reveals our own limitations, fears, and sense of responsibility. Saturn brings definition, and often limitation, to the planets it aspects.

from Cafe Astrology

Wake Up!

Bill's alarm went off at 4:30 and Lily jumped on me! We woke to the smell of the breads I had baked before going to bed. I don't always get up with Bill and Lily but this morning I got up and went out in to the yard with Lily. I spotted the waning crescent moon overhead tilting on its back, and the three stars of Orion's belt were directly overhead.

I am trying to catch up with my zooming days. I am dreaming of taking my friends from Puerto Rico to Jamie's butcher shop, Fernandes' produce market, and the River Island Park ice skating rink.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not so Little Drummer Boy

Every year the family next door puts up a very elaborate holiday scene in their yard. It makes me think of Calder's Circus - it must use a lot of electricity! Our favorite character in the scene is the little drummer boy. He is outlined with white lights, like the Christmas reindeer nodding its head nearby. The drum is not the usual deep snare drum, but very shallow, maybe two inches in depth and about nine inches across. Each night the animated drummer beats on his drum slowly, like in a dream. He is all white-lit silhouette.

An optical illusion is created that you can only see if you are walking by and you'd surely miss if you were driving. Thank god or we'd have wrecks! Because this is a family blog, I'll try to be circumspect. His drum, seen from the side, looks for all the world like a part of his anatomy that you would not normally display on your front lawn. It's so life like, I say to Bill, and huge, I think to myself, and we laugh so hard we are crying as we walk by. Every time. We look forward to this festive occasion each year.

Soup's On

This morning it was 20 degrees when I got up. I heard the downstairs office radiators clanking. It has to get very cold for the heat to come on by itself. We keep the thermostat at 50 all winter. We are used to being wrapped up head to toe, wearing hats, scarves, layers of colorful vests, thick wool socks, blankets and robes, looking like we live in outer Mongolia.

I decided I was ready to make a pot of oatmeal in my baby cast iron pot. I boiled the salted water and added the oats with a handful of raisins - they plump up! The oats practically cook themselves in this sturdy iron pan. I added milk and a sprinkle of salt and ate it for breakfast. I noticed when scooping out the oats from the 50 pound bag that it's almost empty. It's been occupying major real estate in our chest freezer for 11 years. I spotted a frozen gallon-container labeled Lamb Stock Feb 3, 2011. So I defrosted it and am now simmering it with a pound of freshly chopped collard greens, a pound of cooked black beans, a pound of cooked garbanzo beans, and yesterday's (burnt) jasmine basmati brown rice. I baked a big double batch of yellow cornbread in my square cast iron skillet. Bill had it for breakfast with his tea.

I am fantasizing about buying one of the the small spiral-cut hams on sale at the supermarket today. Perhaps Bill and I will walk Lily over to the store and I will run in. They're only 12 dollars. I tell my friends, we use meat as a spice! A little bit of sliced ham sprinkled in my simmering soup would be just the right thing to spruce it up.

Today is our last chance to get apples this season from our favorite orchard, the Big Apple orchard in Wrentham. While we're on the road, we'll also stop by the New England Bonsai nursery before it closes for January.

A sweet Sunday.

Sigmund Freud

It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.
-Sigmund Freud

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Robert Gary Lee

Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.
–Robert Gary Lee


I am either high (in transmit mode) or low (in receive mode) and when I am in transmit I can hardly keep up with my joy. I get up sometimes at 2 or 3 AM and bake bread and write letters and walk all evening and then go to bed exhausted at 7 or 8 PM.

This morning I witnessed a Maxfield Parrish dawn. I woke up with joy in my belly. My energy mood cycle lasts three months, often triggered by the full moon and changing seasons. After transmit mode I will have three months of wretched self-doubt and melancholy. It is called cyclothymia. It is how I am made. It is the brain chemistry I inherited. I often feel that I am from another planet, probably Saturn. I require daily asthma medicine to breathe normally, so that proves it.

I am lucky to be able to nurture and tame myself by grounding the highs and lows so I do not end up destroying myself, getting put on drugs forever, or being locked up in a hospital. I avoid drink, drugs (both legal and illegal), even travel to other people's houses for any length of time. My cure is writing and walking and playing my saxophone, baking, cooking, having solitude, drinking hot tea, and snuggling with Lily dog.

Nin Andrews

reposted from Nin Andrews' Blog.
Doctor Phobia

I have doctor phobia. Whenever I feel ill, my first thought is I hope I don't have to see a doctor. I've waited until I could barely breathe before seeking a diagnosis, and I've never bothered to X-ray various body parts when I've fallen despite the insistent pains. I think this Plume poem, "Plume Had a Sore Finger," by Henri Michaux explains my phobia perfectly. It opens like this . . .

Plume's finger felt a bit sore.
"Maybe you should see a doctor," said his wife. Often it's just a matter of lotion . . . "
Plume took her advice.
"Take off one finger," said the doctor, "and everything's perfect. With anesthesia, the whole thing takes six minutes at most. And since you're a rich man, you really don't need so many fingers. I'll be delighted to do the operation right away, and then I'll show you several sorts of artificial fingers, some of them truly exquisite . . . "

Translated by Richard Howard
From Someone Wants to Steal My Name, CSU Press, 888-278-6473

Friday, December 16, 2011

Frances Moore Lappé

Recent science shows that when we observe an action it affects our brains, via "mirror neurons," as if we ourselves were acting. It literally changes us. So, in a basic sense, seeing courage in action can actually makes us braver . . . one person's courage has such unpredictable power.
-Frances Moore Lappé

Christopher Hitchens

I personally want to do death in the active and not the passive . . . and to be there to look it in the eye . . . when it comes for me.

Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me.

-Christopher Hitchens

Local Adventure

Yesterday my pal Teddi, who runs New England Bonsai, took me on an adventure. We set out to get mat board from the lovely folks at Woodshed Gallery in Franklin. We took a detour to visit the Trappist Nuns who have their own windmill for generating electricity, and who make their own chocolate. There's a little shop on the premises filled with books and chocolate. Then we drove over to the Woodshed Gallery and admired the paintings and hand-painted silk scarves, and picked up the mat board. On the way home we stopped and had a peek into the Shire Bookshop in Franklin to browse and say howdy to Teddi's pals Jean and Jack. The whole bookshop was divinely aromatic. Jean was baking cinnamon buns in the kitchen in back. Bookstores coincidentally always make me hungry. Jean fed us warm cinnamon buns painted with Nutella, and we drank piping hot Earl Grey tea. There was even a well-loved upright piano right in the middle of the room overflowing with sheet music, ready to be played. They had a collection of big black cast-iron book presses scattered about and kitchen implements in amongst the books. I felt like I was in Heaven. This environment couldn't have been closer to my heart. I recommend a visit to all of these great spots.
Shire Bookshop
Trappist Candy
Woodshed Gallery
New England Bonsai

Mark Strand

Eating Poetry

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

-Mark Strand, Reasons for Moving

Daniel Kahneman

It is much easier to strive for perfection when you are never bored.

-Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

Daniel Ladinsky

Once a young woman asked Hafiz, What is the sign of someone knowing God? Hafiz remained silent for a few moments and looked deep into the young person's eyes, then said, Dear, they have dropped the knife. They have dropped the cruel knife most so often use upon their tender self and others.

Drop the knife. Those are profound words to me, for they encapsulate and distill the essence and goal of spiritual aspirants, and anyone who has entered a recovery program. Surely every human wants to avoid suffering, though self caused afflictions are complex. Most everyone is a kid in God's chocolate factory (this earth) with a belly and soul ache and gas. There is a poem in The Gift where Hafiz says I have found the power to say no to any actions that might harm myself or another. Think about that a moment. My take is that one's experience of God - one's joy, one's creative potential - is in direct proportion to the ability to no longer harm oneself and others physically, mentally, emotionally spiritually.

-Daniel Ladinsky, The Subject Tonight is Love

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gustave Flaubert

I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon removing it.
-Gustave Flaubert

Talking into the Ear of a Donkey

by Robert Bly
Read Mark Gustafson's book review here.

Gustave Flaubert

It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes.
-Gustave Flaubert

Monday, December 12, 2011

Edward Said

All families invent their parents and children, give each of them a story, character, fate, and even a language. There was always something wrong with how I was invented and meant to fit in the world with my parents and four sisters.
-Edward Said, Out of Place

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Naguib Mahfouz

If the urge to write should ever leave me, I want that day to be my last.
-Naguib Mahfouz

Events at home, at work, in the street - these are the bases for a story.
-Naguib Mahfouz

The writer interweaves a story with his own doubts, questions, and values. That is art.
-Naguib Mahfouz

Without literature my life would be miserable.
-Naguib Mahfouz

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.
-Naguib Mahfouz

I accepted the interviews and encounters that had to be held with the media, but I would have preferred to work in peace.
-Naguib Mahfouz

Two Dreams

I dreamed I was in a duo about to go on stage and realized I didn't have any pants on, just a black shirt and panties. I frantically looked for my black slacks. Then I saw someone else go on stage wearing blue jeans so I reached over and grabbed a pair that were folded in a pile. When I tried to put them on, I discovered the pant legs were filled with my white ice skates and other shoes. I frantically struggled to get them out because the next song was my cowboy song! I was to play electric bass. I wondered if the night was cursed since it was already all wrong. I went out on stage and a bunch of our musical pals were ready to perform with us, including my brother-in-law who was tilted back on his chair while smoking a cigarette. I was relieved that everyone was relaxed. Then I noticed my jeans were on backwards.

I dreamed that my eyeglass arms came directly out of my temples and I wondered if the operation to have this done had hurt. I couldn't recall. Then I was in Japan wondering if the bunnies there spoke Japanese.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Anne Lamott

But the fact of publication is the acknowledgment from the community that you did your writing right. You acquire a rank that you never lose. Now you're a published writer, and you are in that rare position of getting to make a living, such as it is, doing what you love best. That knowledge does bring you a quiet joy.

But the truth is that there can be a great deal of satisfaction in being a writer, in being a person who gets some work done most days, and who has been published and acknowledged. I carry this around in my pocket, touch it a number of times a day to make sure it is still there. Even though so much of my writing time is stressful and disheartening, I carry a secret sense of accomplishment around with me, like a radium pack implanted near my heart that now leaches a quiet sense of relief through my system. But you pay through the nose for this.

Yes, the price is high. Deadly days of pounding out words and wondering if they make any sense ... if they will ever connect with another human being. It's a lonely work, full of self doubt that culminates in allowing people, most you've never met, skewer you and your work in public. Some fun, eh?

Being a writer is part of a noble tradition, as is being a musician - the last egalitarian and open associations. No matter what happens in terms of fame and fortune, dedication to writing is a marching-step forward from where you were before, when you didn't care about reaching out to the world, when you weren't hoping to contribute, when you were just standing there doing some job into which you had fallen.

-Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott on mothers who love too much.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Shifting Up

I woke dreaming of the scent of cat spray. A molecule on my pillow I'm sure. It was one AM and my head was writing. I had to get up and write. I went to my studio and wrote letters until dawn. Apparently others were sleepless from the storm, and the full moon.

I will spend my life trying to understand and come to grips with my cycle. As I shift up it is like someone has put drugs in my tea. Everything is poignant and beautiful. My sensory experiences are magnified. Words are sweets and spices on my tongue. I lose track of time. I could hear a mouse fart. Music energy pours out of the radio. I am glad to be alive.

At two PM, still in my seat, I realized that the mail had not come, so I ran with Lily, loped actually, to the post office to mail one of the letters. An elderly couple were waiting at the bus stop on the way. The woman had white straight hair, and the hood of her pale blue jacket was up to protect her from the rain. She smiled, showing one black tooth. She was beautiful. Lovely dog she said. Yes she is a real sweetheart I replied. How old? Five in March. She seems like a puppy. We walk a lot, it keeps her young. The couple reached to pet her. I noticed that the woman's finger was frozen. I can't move my finger she said. She showed me her stuck middle finger. Is it arthritis? I asked. They call it trigger finger she said. I get cortisone shots from the doctor. They don't know what causes it. I have it in both hands. Same finger? Yes. Well, at least you're symmetrical. We both laughed. The husband leaned in and said I tell her she can't give me the finger anymore. I was thinking that too I said. We all laughed. You must be doing something right I said, you look beautiful. Guess when I was born? she asked. The year Gone With the Wind Came out, 1948. I was named Olivia, after the film. The husband spotted their bus coming down Social Street. Olivia, nice to meet you, I hope I see you again.

I forgot about the letter. I didn't even care about the rain. I hadn't noticed it soaking my fleece jacket. On my way home I met the lady who wheels the bottles and cans in a shopping cart. She lives in the tents in the woods behind the cemetery. I love this dog! she said, and Lily jumped into her arms. Her face was thin, browned and leathery from years outdoors. I'm hungry. Are there meals here? she asked, pointing at the building. I think it's the next block over, at the church I said, pointing to the steeple poking up over the roofs. Oh wow, I've been waiting at the wrong place. I'm soaked to the bone she said.

When I got home I couldn't remember if I had taken a shower yet. I couldn't remember if I took my inhaler. I was having an Alice in Wonderland day, a day of no gravity, time floating, speedy, fleeing.

Good News

My after school printmaking class got approval to run next semester at Woonsocket High School. They will pay for supplies: ink, linoleum blocks, brayers, paper, tools, etc. The semester begins January 9th. They're giving me my own classroom.

I Sold Another Painting!

Holiday secret! I will reveal the title after Christmas.

Albert Camus

MOTHER died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday.

-Albert Camus, The Stranger

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Power in Our Hands

by John Romano
Originally Posted on May 12, 2011 by New England Bonsai Gardens

It is funny how a seemingly inconsequential event or conversation can evolve into an insightful progression of thoughts. I was leading a class at the nursery and one of the students was looking for gloves to cover their hands while working on their bonsai. Although I occasionally will wear thin latex gloves I kind of cringe when thinking of wearing anything on my hands when I work on trees or in the garden. Even when I encounter the sting of thorns or the itchiness that I get from working with Juniperus species, I find that there is something visceral in my touching plants, soil and water. When I was quite young, my Italian grandfather, whom I lived with, had an incredible vegetable garden and fruit trees. His hands during the spring, summer and fall were quite callused – ‘gardeners hands’ as I later described them. I have always remembered the toil and creativity in those hands and the loving touch he had with his plants. It has always signified something healthy and healing when I encounter those kinds of hands.

It is not only a badge of honor to have those healing hands but it provides us with a more direct contact with the trees we are cultivating. If we do not love our trees, we will not be as successful with bonsai as we can be. Hitoshi once said that to at least touch a tree(s) when you pass it will help make that tree more beautiful and healthy.

In our quest to develop a ‘cleaner’ and disease resistant society, we have sacrificed some of that human, healing touch with nature. People are all to eager to wear gloves all the time in the garden. Me, after repotting hundreds of trees during the spring, I wear my callused hands with pride. Of course, my wife may not always feel the same way!

During a subsequent class I was discussing callused hands with another student and he shared with me a hand cream he found very useful in softening the skin of his hands. It is made by a local, New England company (which I also liked) and contained Olive Oil, lanolin, etc (olive oil was one of the things my grandpa would rub on his hands in the evenings after working in the garden). I ordered some and use it regularly. I think I would rather do that than wear gloves all the time.

-John Romano, New England Bonsai, Bellingham MA

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Bill Harley

There are three things in a performance – the performer, the audience, and the material. Depending on the kind of venue, the kind of performer, the kind of audience, and the kind of material, different things happen.

There is a constant tug in performance, as in life, between being and becoming. New material honors becoming. An old tale, well told, is about being.

And it’s a good place to be.

-Bill Harley, Song, Story and Culture

Louise Bourgeois

Art is a guarantee of sanity. That is the most important thing I have said.
-Louise Bourgeois

I have been to Hell and back and let me tell you it was wonderful.
-Louise Bourgeois

Everywhere in the modern world there is neglect, the need to be recognized, which is not satisfied. Art is a way of recognizing oneself, which is why it will always be modern.
-Louise Bourgeois

Employee or Independent Contractor

Federal and state officials, many facing record budget deficits, are starting to aggressively pursue companies that try to pass off regular employees as independent contractors.

Many workplace experts say a growing number of companies have maneuvered to cut costs by wrongly classifying regular employees as independent contractors, though they often are given desks, phone lines and assignments just like regular employees. Moreover, the experts say, workers have become more reluctant to challenge such practices, given the tough job market.

Employers deny misclassifying workers deliberately. The businesses say the lines are unclear between employee and independent contractor.

Workers are generally considered employees when someone else controls how and when they perform their work. In contrast, independent contractors are generally in business for themselves, obtain customers on their own and control how they perform services.

-NYT U.S. Cracks Down on ‘Contractors’ as a Tax Dodge By Steven Greenhouse

Paul Bertholet

Painter & Muralist
View his recent paintings here
and his murals here.


Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Bob Dylan

I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.
-Bob Dylan

Well I tried my best to be just like I am, but everybody wants you to be just like them.
-Bob Dylan, Maggie's Farm

Robert Ornstein

When this operation had been performed on children who had been born blind and who had remained so for their first decade, everyone expected that these children would be able to see normally because now not only were their retinas and brains in tact but the lenses were also restored to their normal functioning.

But what happened was this: the new eye signals that were now clearly focused on the retina annoyed the children; they perceived them as painful and dazzling. None of these children could use the new visual information. They couldn't learn to see, to process visual patterns, or to recognize anything. Instead of the operation giving them new life it almost killed them. All became depressed and some committed suicide.

The unfinished brain, developing after birth, wires up differently in different worlds, and this is why individuals in different cultures have such difficulty understanding each other: even their visual systems are not exactly the same. People who grow up in forests lack the depth perception that the rest of us have; those who don't inhabit the "carpentered" modern world of straight edges and lines have a different way of seeing things than those who do.

-Robert Ornstein, Roots of the Self

Great Visual

An advertizement I saw today.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Urban Cowboy

This morning I cut and gathered branches and made a little cowboy campfire in my old barbecue grill. I sat in the rusty lawn chair wrapped in a blanket staring at the smoke while Lily chewed sticks. The sun rose and slowly melted the frost on the leaves and lit up the tops of the neighborhood apartment buildings. The western sky was dark blue-gray clouds. It was unusually quiet.

Introvert Extravert

Hans Eysenck proposed that extraversion was caused by variability in cortical arousal. He hypothesized that introverts are characterized by higher levels of activity than extraverts and so are chronically more cortically aroused than extraverts. The fact that extraverts require more external stimulation than introverts has been interpreted as evidence for this hypothesis. Other evidence of the "stimulation" hypothesis is that introverts salivate more than extraverts in response to a drop of lemon juice.

Extraversion has been linked to higher sensitivity of the mesolimbic dopamine system to potentially rewarding stimuli. This in part explains the high levels of positive affect found in extraverts, since they will more intensely feel the excitement of a potential reward. One consequence of this is that extraverts can more easily learn the contingencies for positive reinforcement, since the reward itself is experienced as greater.

One study found that introverts have more blood flow in the frontal lobes of their brain and the anterior or frontal thalamus, which are areas dealing with internal processing, such as planning and problem solving. Extraverts have more blood flow in the anterior cingulate gyrus, temporal lobes, and posterior thalamus, which are involved in sensory and emotional experience.This study and other research indicates that introversion-extraversion is related to individual differences in brain function.


Definition of RECEPTIVE
1: able or inclined to receive; especially : open and responsive to ideas, impressions, or suggestions

Nora Ephron

Being a columnist is like being married to a nymphomaniac: Every time you think you're through, you have to start all over again.
-Nora Ephron

Jorge Luis Borges

In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.
-Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley

I wonder if we are not doing this very same thing in digitizing our world.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Auto Gal

His was a fixer-upper girlfriend.
A loud muffler,
   a slight pull to the right,
and a broken rear defrost.