Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mermaid Scales


Wounded Healers

In the words of Jalaja Bonheim: "[M]ake no mistake: those who tell us we can have whatever we want, be whoever we want to be, and have full control of our lives are merely playing into our desire to avoid the discomfort of feeling our vulnerability. True wholeness has nothing to do with getting what we want. Paradoxically, we achieve true wholeness only by embracing our fragility and sometimes our brokenness. Wholeness is a natural radiance of Love, and Love demands that we allow the destruction of our old self for the sake of the new. 'If anyone needs a head, the lover leaps up to offer his,' says the mystic and poet Kabir. Life did not intend for us to be inviolable, but to be used for fodder for its workings. We are meant to be chewed up and digested and transformed into the blood and sinews of the world."

Dogs in Lap

The secret to staying warm in our 40 degree house is to use the hotshot. It works really well, just like King Charles Cavalier dogs in your lap.

Strong Suit

“I studied architecture and urban design, but something was always missing,” he said. “And what was missing is that no one cared if I did a good job or not. Unless you’re the star in the show, it’s a thankless job. These people are just so thankful.”

Interview: Glen Hansard

OLOIZIA: That must be one of the most amazing things about having some success is getting to a place, especially as a musician and a songwriter, where you can sort of rub your hands together and realize that you have access to all these amazing musicians.

HANSARD: Well, that's exactly it. It's a classic thing of the, you know, the fisherman who catches the magic fish, and the magic fish says to him, "Let me go and I'll grant you whatever wish you want." And the fisherman says, "Well, I'd like you to fix the hole in my hut so the rain doesn't get on me, and I'd like my soup bowl to be filled." And the magic fish, of course, honors him the gift, and the fisherman goes home and his roof is fixed and his bowl is filled with the most fantastic soup, and then of course he goes off and he gets greedy and he decides he wants to have a fleet of boats and he wants to live in a proper house, and before you know it he wants to marry the king's daughter. And suddenly, the magic fish gets pissed off at him when he decides he wants to be king and sends him back to his hut with a hole in the roof and an empty bowl. And so, it's like, given access to the perfect scenario, you might just get it right and then you might just completely offend the magic fish, you know?

OLOIZIA: [laughs] Yeah.

HANSARD: So it's a toss-up. I guess what I'm trying to say is, you can give that perfect situation to a younger guy or girl songwriter, but they might miss the point. And for me, there's something about being 41 years old and finally finding myself in a situation where I was working with big, incredible musicians where I was truly able to appreciate it and actually make it work for me, rather than sort of go, "Oh, check me out, man." Know what I mean?

OLOIZIA: Absolutely. It always amazes me when young musicians come up through YouTube or whatever, and they end up playing with some of their musical idols within a year of being discovered.

HANSARD: That can give you great confidence, or it can kind of skew and pervert your perspective, and that's the only thing I'd worry about. Because youth is full of self-belief and full of desire, but success is stormy weather. No matter what way you look at it, success fucks with your foundations. And so, you might be blessed and you might be young and very grounded, but I kind of know from myself—was when I was 20, I was in a film called The Commitments, and it wasn't the biggest thing that ever happened, but it was pretty big. And I kind of rejected the experience because I wasn't grounded enough to deal with that at the time. So when success came to us when we won the Oscar, I was 37, and man, was I ready it for it. [laughs]

OLOIZIA: I take it you're someone who probably doesn't resent people who have quick success as much as you're just appreciative of the way it happened for you.

HANSARD: Oh, absolutely. I try to believe—maybe naively, maybe not, but I sort of believe it's there for us all. All you've gotta do is get right with your own path.


Friday, November 29, 2013

35th Anniversary of Running Away from Home


A Little Book about the Human Shadow

In Robert Bly's book: A Little Book about the Human Shadow Bly explains that when a couple gets married, another wedding is taking place simultaneously in the cellar. I feel this way about the holidays. At every holiday there's a traumatic childhood holiday playing out simultaneously in the cellar. This is why it is a relief when it is a normal day.

Happy Birthday Carl Finch

Today is the birthday of Carl Finch founder of Brave Combo.
More here.

Miranda Donkeys

Since 2003, the large and docile Miranda donkey, named after the area where it lives, Tierra de Miranda, has been listed as an endangered breed. The Miranda, which has white markings around its eyes and a thick coat that it sheds as it grows old, has steadily been displaced by the tractor and other modern farming equipment.

Even in Northern Europe, where donkeys serve more often as pets, they are misunderstood, Ms. Kugler said. They are often kept in meadows, where the grass is ill suited to their digestion, and the soft soil is bad for their hooves, which are designed to withstand rocky ground.

“Modern society has completely forgotten what made the donkey unique in the first place, which is that it originates from the desert and is used to difficult ground and having little fodder,” Ms. Kugler said.

Those attributes make the Miranda donkey especially well suited to Portugal’s highlands. Farmers here speak Mirandese — an officially recognized language in Portugal — and the region sometimes appears frozen in time. One older woman, dressed in a widow’s traditional black, explained that she still used her donkey because her family could not read or write and had never applied for driver’s licenses.

Luis Sebastião, a 22-year-old military police officer, said he regularly made the eight-hour bus trip from Lisbon, where he is stationed, to spend weekends in his native highlands, where he hopes to retire.

“I’m very lucky to have a job in Lisbon, but where am I going to have a better life once that work stops?” he asked. “This is where I really feel at home, alongside the donkeys and everything else that makes this place so special.”


Perhaps we should all just stop what we are doing and go raise Miranda Donkeys!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Care

The care that you show for people in the first moments of their arrival in your home will set the mood for the afternoon or evening. Disregard their comfort and they will begin to worry that they’re not going to have a good time. The niceties inspire their confidence.

When I was in college I'd nervously drive the three hours from Providence to my parents home in Larchmont NY for family events. I'd be greeted by my mother with an air kiss. I'd then be told to hurry up and put on an apron and get to work stuffing lobster tails in the kitchen even before I had a chance to take off my coat or say hello to the rest of the family. Nobody would ask about my ride or how I was. I had entered THEIR WORLD, I was supposed to leave mine behind, and I would already be wanting to turn around and go home.

I'd measure the consequences and usually ignore my mother's command. I'd decide that it was my privilege to greet favorite members of the family who were lounging in the living room and also keeping far away from the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


“So you think you have time for a cup of coffee?” Sybil asks finally. “If I make it instant?”

I am laughing. I am doubled over, laughing. Here is my big insight: You can have a Stage 3 cancer but when a friend cracks you up, you are as alive as anyone else.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Microcosm of our Nation


A.R. Gurney

They made us write. They didn't make us write particularly well. And they didn't always give us important things to write about. But they did make us sit down, and organize our thoughts, and convey those thoughts on paper as clearly as we could to another person. Thank God for that. That saved us. Or at least it saved me. So I have to keep writing letters. If I can't write them to you, I have to write them to someone else. I don't think I could ever stop writing completely.
― A.R. Gurney, Love Letters

Monday, November 25, 2013

Glen Hansard

Being 'present' is a good way to live your life. If you live your life in the moment, something in the air gets 'charged' and it allows the possibility of newness to take place.
- Glen Hansard

Fortune is an innocent and beautiful thing, almost like a fawn or a child. You can't chase it because it will only run. It's very fragile and it has to be attracted to you before it will come to you. And the only way to attract fortune is by sticking to your guns and ignoring it.
- Glen Hansard


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can't sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

That's the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not pratice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, his audiences would know.

A variation of this is true for writers. Not that your style, whatever that is, would melt out of shape in those few days.

But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

In your reading, find books to improve your color sense, your sense of shape and size in the world.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Write. Don't think. Relax.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

We have our Arts so we won't die of Truth.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Now that I have you thoroughly confused, let me pause to hear your own dismayed cry.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

And metaphors like cats behind your smile,
Each one wound up to purr,
each one a pride,
Each one a fine gold beast you've hid inside (...)
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Life is like underwear, should be changed twice a day.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

I came on the old and best ways of writing through ignorance and experiment and was startled when truths leaped out of brushes like quail before gunshot.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Think of Shakespeare and Melville and you think of thunder, lightning, wind. They all knew the joy of creating in large or small forms, on unlimited or restricted canvases. These are the children of the gods.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

We need our Arts to teach us how to breathe.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

It is a lie to write in such way as to be rewarded by fame offered you by some snobbish quasi-literary groups in the intellectual gazettes.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

We never sit anything out. We are cups, quietly and constantly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Through neglect, ignorance, or inability, the new intellectual Bourgeois cram hairballs down our throats and refuse us the convulsion that could make us well. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, the ancient knowledge that only by being truly sick can one regain health. Even beasts know when it is good and proper to throw up. Teach me how to be sick then, in the right time and place, so that I may again walk in the fields and with the wise and smiling dogs know enough to chew sweet grass.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

We all are rich and ignore the buried fact of accumulated wisdom.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

If you have moved over vast territories and dared to love silly things, you will have learned even from the most primitive items collected and put aside in your life.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

I take this continent with me into the grave.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

What is the greatest reward a writer can have? Isn't it that day when someone rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire with admiration and cries, "That new story of yours was fine, really wonderful!
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today-explode-fly-apart-disintegrate! The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, by reading your story, will catch fire, too?
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Claire Needell

Claire Needell is an English teacher at a public middle school in Manhattan and the author of the forthcoming collection of short stories for young adults “Nothing Real.”

Loved this piece she wrote for the NYT today. A Novel Scorned

When I was in middle school, I read Margaret Mitchell’s epic romance, “Gone With the Wind.” Not once. Not twice. But continuously. Each time I finished the novel, I began again, flipping open the broken-spined paperback so many times the book split in half, yielding two portable sections of text. I preferred a break of at least several hours between readings, but sometimes compulsion forced me to begin again only moments after finishing it.

I told myself that I could resist, that I’d read some other book, some “real” book, that I could read on the couch in front of family members without raising eyebrows. For my parents, it was the repetitive reading of a single text that seemed deranged, and for my brothers it was reading such an enormous tome in the first place, but my own sense of shame arose from my deep ambivalence about the novel itself.

Even then, I knew that reading “Gone With the Wind” was not transformative; that its portrayal of romantic love as the only prize worth having was wrong; that the book presented a distorted view of womanhood. My obsession was based purely on titillation, the excitement of following the fatally flawed Scarlett O’Hara through her breathless, war-torn, starvation-marked pursuit of love. “Gone With the Wind” was my “Twilight” series.

At the same time, the book was also a repository for all my adolescent loathing, of both self and others. The beginning section represented everything I hated about middle school. Scarlett was the perfect stand-in for my arch enemy, a girl who resembled her in each particular — green-eyed, brunette and brutal. The first line of the novel dazzled me with its concise encapsulation of a distinct feminine mystery: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

Mason Curry: Daily Rituals

I think this book is great!

Mason Curry's Daily Rituals

Franz Kafka, frustrated with his living quarters and day job, wrote in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912, “time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”

Kafka is one of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks. Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his “male configurations”. . . Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day . . . Descartes liked to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.”

Here are: Anthony Trollope, who demanded of himself that each morning he write three thousand words (250 words every fifteen minutes for three hours) before going off to his job at the postal service, which he kept for thirty-three years during the writing of more than two dozen books . . . Karl Marx . . . Woody Allen . . . Agatha Christie . . . George Balanchine, who did most of his work while ironing . . . Leo Tolstoy . . . Charles Dickens . . . Pablo Picasso . . . George Gershwin, who, said his brother Ira, worked for twelve hours a day from late morning to midnight, composing at the piano in pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers . . .

Here also are the daily rituals of Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, John Updike, Twyla Tharp, Benjamin Franklin, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, Anne Rice, and Igor Stravinsky (he was never able to compose unless he was sure no one could hear him and, when blocked, stood on his head to “clear the brain”).

Brilliantly compiled and edited, and filled with detail and anecdote, Daily Rituals is irresistible, addictive, magically inspiring.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cold-Blooded Cognition



Food and Friendship or Nicknames in Heaven

Lori told me about calling her mother-in-law and saying "What are you cooking today?"
I loved that. It's the best way to greet a friend.

Years ago when Slim and Lil lived next door we'd stand on the sidewalk and talk about our favorite things to cook. Lil said she made cabbage rolls, Slim made pan fried liver and onions for his blood, he'd say. Food is the thing that connects us all. I miss Slim + Lil A.K.A. Ernie and Lillian. I hope they are reading this from heaven. Do they go by their nicknames in heaven? Of course they do!

Christina Bothwell

In my work I am drawn to the processes of birth, death, and renewal. What lies below the surface fascinates me and I try to capture the qualities of the “unseen” that express the sense of wonder that I feel in my daily existence. I am attracted to glass because it can do everything that other sculptural media can; in addition, it offers an inner space and transmits light.
- Christina Bothwell

View portfolio 4


Courtney rushed over to me as I was walking by with Lily. "Have you seen Glen? We don't know where he is, if you see him tell him he got into the school! He has to call them by Friday or he won't be able to go."
"Wow, this is great news. What do you mean you can't find him?" I asked.
"He takes off for a few days with his friends and doesn't always call home. If you see him tell him to call home right away," she said breathlessly.
"Okay I will. I know he is friends with the guy who lives in the apartment behind us. I've seen him on the porch visiting with him and walking their dog." When I got home I told the good news to Bill and said, "I'm going to find Glen."
"You mean if you see him you'll tell him to go home?" Bill asked.
"No, I'll find him. He knows the people in the apartment behind us so I'll ask them."

After dinner I jumped up with my iced coffee in hand. "I have to go find him right now!" I ran out the door and down the driveway. I saw some kids passing on the sidewalk who I didn't recognize, and then the back end of a brindle pit bull being led by a blue leash. The leash led to Glen.
"Oh my god, Glen, I am so glad to find you, I have great news for you. You got into the school. I know your family should be telling you, not me, but we're so happy for you."
"That's okay," he said, smiling sheepishly. His white baseball cap was on backwards. I gave him a hug. He was a little bit in shock. "Do you know why I got into the school? Because I have a clean record."
"That's great! You have a terrific opportunity here and we don't want you to miss out. I think this is one of those important crossroads in life. It's a big deal and it will open up new possibilities for you. It's scary to have a big change but it's going to be great. Your family wants you to call them as soon as possible."
"I'll have to go home and pack," he said.

The next morning I was walking Lily and a little maroon Ford Taurus slowed down and stopped next to us. A freckled woman in a white short-sleeved shirt leaned out of the open car window. "I just want to say thank you so much for sending Glen home, I really appreciate it," she said.
"No problem, we're glad to help. We are so excited for him. I know he's been struggling and teetering. It's a crucial age for him."
"Yes, I've been worried about who he's been hanging out with."
"We love your whole family; Harry, Courtney, your oldest daughter and her new baby, Glen, and Casper-dog. It takes a village they say, and we are honored to be part of yours." I paused. "You know, Glen reminds me of my nephew Nathan who took his life on January first this year." My eyes filled with tears.
"I'm so sorry," she said.
"I wish I had been more able to help my nephew, that he hadn't been so far away. I didn't want to miss out on being able to help Glen."


In the warm weather I walk over to Saint Germain, the high-rise for the elderly, to see my favorite characters gathered under the two birch trees in the shade. "This one spot always has a breeze no matter how hot it is," Gary said one time. "It must be the cool air falling off the brick building, turning at the corner," I offered. I sat down on a bench.
The old man in the canvas golfing hat opposite me was talking about his foot that he has had to treat for 40 years. "It was a surgery on a plantar's wart that went bad," he said, "so I can't walk distances anymore, but I take good care of my foot every day. It's my best friend." He laughed. He was slender with thick glasses. He had a warbly voice and was very animated, waving his crooked fingers when he spoke. "I'm ninety four you know. You want to know the secret? Take good care of yourself and most important, don't forget to brush your tongue, that keeps all the germs out of your throat." I saw him a few days later when I was walking Lily across the grounds of the high-rise and he flagged me down, "Hello, hello!" He waved both arms enthusiastically. I stopped and he said, "Did you brush your tongue?" I smiled. I was glad to see him, but this was the most bizarre greeting I think I had ever received.

Jon Frankel on Dorothy B. Hughes

-The So Blue Marble

If you are looking for a hard boiled, noir author of the highest order, one you’ve either never heard of or haven’t read, then find books by Dorothy B. Hughes. In the 1940s she wrote about a dozen crime thrillers, then took care of her family before returning, in 1962 with the superb ‘wrong man’ book, The Expendable Man. Most of them are out of print, but the best are available through Amazon. Go right now and order them!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds writes poems from her apartment on the Upper West Side, in a rocking chair with a view of the Hudson River. She uses different colored ballpoint pens to compose poems, and sometimes puts stickers on the pages of her drafts, which remind her of the stained glass windows of her religious youth. She said that she loves "odd" or "strange" words. She said: "By the time I see that it's a poem, it's almost written in my head somewhere. It's as if there's someone inside of me who perceives order and beauty — and disorder. And who wants to make little copies. Who wants to put together something that will bear some relationship to the vision or memory or experience or story or idea or dream or whatever."

She once described poetry as coming from her lungs, and said that to her, "Poetry is so physical, the music of it and the movement of thought." She said that over the years, she has noticed that ideas for poems will come to her when she's dancing or running, and that these ideas seem to come to mind with the act of breathing deeply, with the intake of oxygen. She said, "Suddenly you're remembering something that you haven't thought of for years."

Her advice to young poets is this: "Take your vitamins. Exercise. Just work to love yourself as much as you can — not more than the people around you but not so much less."

She once said: "I'm not asking a poem to carry a lot of rocks in its pockets. Just being an ordinary observer and liver and feeler and letting the experience get through you onto the notebook with the pen, through the arm, out of the body, onto the page, without distortion."

-Writer's Almanac

Monday, November 18, 2013

Nothing Else Will Do

Our neighborhood pal Glen who is 16 got into the Job Corps sleep away technical school in Massachusetts and he has become a welder. I almost didn't recognize him when we saw him walking down the street on Saturday. Bill and I both gave him a big hug. He is standing tall and has confidence and eye contact. He loves welding. He's a new man. I told him that's great because when something needs to be welded nothing else will do! And we laughed imagining bridges and cars held together by rope, glue, or chewing gum.

Tomi Ungerer

Excerpts from Publisher's Weekly Interview By Antonia Saxon

Welcome back to the United States! It's been a long time—over 10 years—since you've been here, right?

Oh, it’s a pilgrimage! I’ve so much wanted to see New York again. It’s more difficult for me to travel nowadays, you know, but the needle cannot avoid the magnet, this huge magnet that is New York City. I love it here. It’s wonderful to be back. New York is just like a big battery, you know, it gives you such energy. There are so many languages being spoken here that if people don’t understand each other they smile at each other instead—the smile does the work of a whole dictionary!

And I’m very much looking forward to seeing Jules [Feiffer]. He’s an old friend of mine. We’ve known each other for a long time—and I’m at the stage where I have to write little crosses next to some of the names in my address book, so I’m very happy that he’s still here.

Yes, I had to look at my books again. I don’t know why I feel this way, but I’m never satisfied with the artwork. I desperately draw and draw and I want it to be perfect. I sometimes do 30 sketches—I never use an eraser, I just make another drawing—and yet even after all that it’s never perfect. I don’t feel that way about writing; I’m very pleased sometimes with the writing. But when the last chapter is finished I’m too self-conscious; I don’t want to look at it anymore. I am much less insecure than I used to be, though. It’s taken me 60 years to polish my act. Now instead of writer’s block I have only chips on my shoulders.

So you do the artwork first?

No, no; when I do a children’s book I always write the story first. And for some reason, although I write in three languages [French, German, and English], I always write children’s books in English. It’s because for every one word in French there are 10 words in English; there are so many synonyms, so many shades of meaning. I like to call things what they are. I never say “a tree”; I say “a willow.” I never say “a carriage”; I say “a tilbury.” Adults always talk to children like [little squeaky voice] “yipity yipity yipity.” We have to take children seriously.

Anyway, so a children’s book is always 32 pages, and I always have my little [storyboard] squares. I always say that my story is a salami and I just have to find out where to slice it to put in the pictures.

I have to use my hands! I make my own furniture. I used to have a forge, and an anvil. I haven’t been able to acclimate myself to all the modern electronics. And with all those modern gimmicks we’re working in a vacuum. You know, after five or 10 years there’s not going to be any way to read those files anymore, like the way you can’t use tape recorders anymore. It’s really ephemeral. I need my solid values here: paper, pen, tools, elements. The most important things I own are books. I love them: I love the page, even the smell of the book, the sensuousness of them.

You’ve done as much work for adults as you have for children. You were awarded the Franco-German journalism prize in 2008—was that for work on editorial cartoons?

Oh, that and more. For articles and speeches and in posters, for organizing events between France and Germany, and the work I’ve done for Franco-German friendship. I’m sort of at the ambassador level. You know I grew up in Alsace, on the border between France and Germany, and that when I was still a boy the Nazis came; Colmar [the biggest town in the area where he lived] was where one of the last battles of the war was fought. My book Otto [Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear, the story of a teddy bear lost amidst the violence of WWII, published here by Phaidon] is taught in French schools. I fought for the teaching of the Shoah in schools. That stuff cannot be forgotten. I can be awfully brutal and hard; I made a poster for classrooms of a big swastika with a hand that comes down and grabs little children. I really think children’s book artists should think more about reality, and about how to make children conscious that there are bad things in the world and that we have to fight against them.

I’ve worked to convince the Germans to teach French as a foreign language in their schools. I had convinced the French education minister to teach German, too—but then they had an election and the minister changed. I’ve always been politically engaged; when I was in the U.S. I protested segregation and the Vietnam war. Every artist should have some causes to fight for—or fight against.

When I hear you talk and when I think about how you create some work that is suitable for children and other work that challenges even adults, I’m reminded a bit of the writer Shel Silverstein.

Oh, yes! He was a good friend of mine. I was the one who introduced him to Ursula Nordstrom [Ungerer’s editor at Harper & Row in the 1960s]! He was writing wonderful songs for children. I said, “Let’s go see Ursula!” She fell in love with him. That’s how he got started writing children’s books.

How did you meet him?

I think it was Billy Cole [editor of Ungerer’s work for adults] who introduced us. We were all against the war, and in those days a friend of a friend was your friend, too. It is great to have you mention his name.

What’s next for you?

Oh, I have about 12 books going; it’s madness. I’m working on big collages; I have some sculptures going. And I’ve just finished a children’s book for Phaidon called Fog Man, set in Ireland.

You have a house in the southwest of Ireland, isn't that right?

The extreme southwest—in fact, it is the nearest point in all of Europe to North America. We went with six suitcases when my wife Yvonne was eight months pregnant. People were placing bets that we wouldn’t last a year. We’ve been there for 40 years. I can’t be away from the sea! I need my horizon line. And, after the canyons of Colorado, the storms that batter the cliffs where we live are the most magnificent works of nature I have ever seen.

We’re close to reality every day there. If you have the woods, you don’t need a museum. Old age is an age of discovery if you still have your mind. If you have all your marbles, you know. [Laughing] If you have all your marbles, you can shoot them with greater accuracy!

Twyla Tharp: I Read for Growth

I read for growth, firmly believing that what you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature – all are lottery tickets for creativity. Scratch away at them and you’ll find out how big a prize you’ve won.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

When you're in a rut, you have to question everything except your ability to get out of it.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

You may wonder which came first: the skill or the hard work. But that's a moot point. The Zen master cleans his own studio. So should you.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

When I walk into [the studio] I am alone, but I am alone with my body, ambition, ideas, passions, needs, memories, goals, prejudices, distractions, fears.

These ten items are at the heart of who I am. Whatever I am going to create will be a reflection of how these have shaped my life, and how I've learned to channel my experiences into them.

The last two -- distractions and fears -- are the dangerous ones. They're the habitual demons that invade the launch of any project. No one starts a creative endeavor without a certain amount of fear; the key is to learn how to keep free-floating fears from paralyzing you before you've begun. When I feel that sense of dread, I try to make it as specific as possible. Let me tell you my five big fears:

1. People will laugh at me.
2. Someone has done it before.
3. I have nothing to say.
4. I will upset someone I love.
5. Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind.

There are mighty demons, but they're hardly unique to me. You probably share some. If I let them, they'll shut down my impulses ('No, you can't do that') and perhaps turn off the spigots of creativity altogether. So I combat my fears with a staring-down ritual, like a boxer looking his opponent right in the eye before a bout.

1. People will laugh at me? Not the people I respect; they haven't yet, and they're not going to start now....

2. Someone has done it before? Honey, it's all been done before. Nothing's original. Not Homer or Shakespeare and certainly not you. Get over yourself.

3. I have nothing to say? An irrelevant fear. We all have something to say.

4. I will upset someone I love? A serious worry that is not easily exorcised or stared down because you never know how loved ones will respond to your creation. The best you can do is remind yourself that you're a good person with good intentions. You're trying to create unity, not discord.

5. Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind? Toughen up. Leon Battista Alberti, the 15th century architectural theorist, said, 'Errors accumulate in the sketch and compound in the model.' But better an imperfect dome in Florence than cathedrals in the clouds.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

A lot of habitually creative people have preparation rituals linked to the setting in which they choose to start their day. By putting themselves into that environment, they start their creative day.

The composer Igor Stravinsky did the same thing every morning when he entered his studio to work: He sat at the piano and played a Bach fugue. Perhaps he needed the ritual to feel like a musician, or the playing somehow connected him to musical notes, his vocabulary. Perhaps he was honoring his hero, Bach, and seeking his blessing for the day. Perhaps it was nothing more than a simple method to get his fingers moving, his motor running, his mind thinking music. But repeating the routine each day in the studio induced some click that got him started.

In the end, there is no ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn't scare you, doesn't shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it. To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that's habit-forming. All preferred working states, no matter how eccentric, have one thing in common: When you enter into them, they compel you to get started.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

But obligation, I eventually saw, is not the same as commitment, and it's certainly not an acceptable reason to stick with something that isn't working.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Without learning and preparation, you won't know how to harness the power of that kiss.
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Doris Lessing

It has stopped; I don’t have any energy anymore. This is why I keep telling anyone younger than me, don’t imagine you’ll have it forever. Use it while you’ve got it because it’ll go; it’s sliding away like water down a plug hole.
- Doris Lessing



Flocking starlings are one of nature’s most extraordinary sights: Just a few hundred birds moving as one is enough to convey a sense of suspended reality, and the flock filmed above the River Shannon in Ireland contained thousands.

What makes possible the uncanny coordination of these murmurations, as starling flocks are so beautifully known? Until recently, it was hard to say. Scientists had to wait for the tools of high-powered video analysis and computational modeling. And when these were finally applied to starlings, they revealed patterns known less from biology than cutting-edge physics.

Starling flocks, it turns out, are best described with equations of “critical transitions” — systems that are poised to tip, to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling in a flock is connected to every other. When a flock turns in unison, it’s a phase transition.

At the individual level, the rules guiding this are relatively simple. When a neighbor moves, so do you. Depending on the flock’s size and speed and its members’ flight physiologies, the large-scale pattern changes. What’s complicated, or at least unknown, is how criticality is created and maintained.

It’s easy for a starling to turn when its neighbor turns — but what physiological mechanisms allow it to happen almost simultaneously in two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds? That remains to be discovered, and the implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may simply be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological criticality that also seems to operate in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.

For Siblings, Inequality Starts at Home


Dalton Conley is director of the Center for Advanced Social Science Research at New York University and author of The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why.

Take the case of Skip, 56, and Jim, 50, two brothers from a middle-class household who matured at different points in the 1960s (these case studies and others are from in-depth interviews). Their family history shows just how subject the American family is to cultural trends.

When Skip entered high school in Fairfax, Va., Kennedy was in the White House, and America was still very much as it had been in its postwar halcyon slumber. It was the age of the space race and the missile gap -- really still the 1950s -- and the family reflected that: Skip and Jim were raised in a strict household dominated by Robert, their critical and demanding father, who was a career Army officer. Robert was the only son of a South Boston Irish Catholic family. His escape from a tough neighborhood came with his World War II experience: He was a fighter pilot who was shot down more than once and spent significant time in an internment camp. He returned from the European campaign a hardened man, resentful of the limited opportunities that Irish people from scrappy backgrounds enjoyed, despite his sacrifices for the country. So he stayed in the Army and treated his sons as if they were soldiers in his command, offering a hand to shake in lieu of a hug or kiss -- up until the day he died in 1994.

Skip met or exceeded all of Robert's expectations: starting on the Fairfax High School football team, being named All-State, and then gaining admission to the U.S. Air Force Academy. At first, father and son had trouble getting a congressman to sponsor Skip's entry into the relatively new military academy, since local congressmen were already committed to other candidates. Then they sought the help of Rep. John W. McCormick of Massachusetts, speaker of the House at the time, who also happened to be from South Boston and had known Skip's grandparents from the old neighborhood. They finally gained his ear, only to have their hopes dashed when he told them that the slots had already been taken for that year. But then, an hour or two after they had returned home disappointed, the phone rang. It was McCormick, informing Robert that one of his nominees had been disqualified for medical reasons.

Skip's timing had been impeccable -- and it continued that way. Since his pilot training took so long and since deployments were based partially on experience, he escaped doing any time in Vietnam, other than flying a few airlift missions in 1974, after formal U.S. involvement had ended. After a distinguished career as an officer, he retired to the private sector in 1989, working as a highly paid lobbyist for the Northrop Grumman Corporation, one of the largest defense contractors. (Of course, now he says that he wished he could have been an artist or a guitarist.)

Jim, by contrast, came of age after the countercultural revolution of the '60s and found himself caught between his father's values and those of his peers. It was the early '70s, and even playing sports was not considered cool at the time. Drug use was rampant, tie-dye was the fashion of the day, and the antiwar movement was raging. Jim's behavior reflected the new trends. He dressed too casually for his father's taste and practically made his old man's blood boil with his long hair. But he tried his best to please his father -- he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps, first at a junior college and then at a four-year institution. But by then, ROTC students who wore their uniforms on campuses were often jeered at or worse. The Army was hitting a low point in terms of morale and respect. Jim ended up torn between the expectations of his father and the social unrest that surrounded him.

As a result, he was ambivalent about everything his brother had pursued. Set by his father on the same path, Jim's career never matched that of the golden boy Skip. Though he eventually did become an Army officer, he held a series of low-status positions, and after leaving the service ended up teaching high-school-level Junior ROTC in Florida. Today Skip makes two to three times what Jim makes and has significantly more wealth.

The consequences of their distinct trajectories are not just economic, however. The siblings rarely speak. "My mother is sort of the intermediary," Skip relates. "I'll ask her how my brother's doing." Both brothers are at a loss for why they don't communicate more, chalking it up to the age difference, spaced just a few years apart -- but separated by a generation gap. Siblings in American society already have less contact than those in most other countries, so when a relationship is fraught with social and economic differences, nothing is written in blood -- so to speak -- saying that siblings have to stay in touch. Of course, with an emotionally distant father, family psychological dynamics probably didn't help matters between Skip and Jim.


The Rude Mechanical Orchestra

The band, whose 30-odd revolving members dress in green and black, usually donates its services. One exception came in 2008 when it accompanied the indie-rockers Matt and Kim at the McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn. The proceeds enabled them to buy a biofuel bus that transported the musicians and their instruments to St. Paul, Minn., where they joined protests during the Republican National Convention.
The band’s repertoire includes Balkan marching tunes, Brazilian sambas and klezmer dirges. Some compositions sound as though they could be played during the halftime of a college football game, but for their unapologetically polemical edge. Commonly performed songs include “The Internationale,” “The Smash-a-Bank Polka” and “Which Side Are You On?,” which was popularized by Pete Seeger and is performed with a syncopated swing.

“We are interested in the idea of using music strategically to challenge power,” said Sarah Blust, a bass drummer and original member of the group. “We try to play music that harmonizes our mission and our politics.”


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Puerto Rican Poodle Gangs

An older man and his wife recently moved into the house that was being refurbished. Shortly after moving they had a yard sale. I rescued a bunch of canning jars and children's books from the post-yard-sale trash pile. He was happy that I was excited about his trash. I even told Sylvia about the big green painted metal parrot with a glass eye, and she ran down to get it for her yard.

I see the couple now and again on my walks. They have two dogs, one a white shepherd and the other a white poodle. He told me that his wife always has to have two dogs so that they have each other. The poodle is blind from diabetes, but his wife is a nurse practitioner so she can give him insulin shots, one in the morning and one in the evening.

My husband and I saw him yesterday, and talked about our dogs. "Our poodle came from a rescue," he said. She had been rescued in Puerto Rico, then sent to Georgia. "There are all these abandoned dogs running in gangs in Puerto Rico." We were sure he meant packs of dogs, but we couldn't help chuckling at the thought of gangs of poodles running wild in Puerto Rico terrorizing the locals.

A Sabbath

We roasted a turkey yesterday outside-- since it was 60 degrees and they were on sale. Yummy. I made pumpkin waffles too, after years of waiting to fix the waffle iron and I made coleslaw-- Yes, a very strange assortment of foods. I feel like I rarely get to see Bill with his schedule being what it is. But the weekend has promise. So we try to make food and take the big walks. A sabbath is crucial!

News Flash

A right to bare arms. The best way to deal with hot flashes.

Art and Vulnerability

Art always takes you back to the vulnerability of human existence.
When you paint something, you’re not just painting the subject, you’re painting something of yourself.

Katie Commodore

Where are the philanthropists to help this woman. Katie Commodore, 35, a printmaking artist whose Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis has caused her to lose some motor functions, has hired a physical trainer to rebuild her strength but she can no longer afford it.

William Stafford


It could happen any time, tornado, earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen. Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That’s why we wake and look out–no guarantees in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening.

–William Stafford

Laura Munson

We can all bloom, no matter what’s going on in our lives. Life doesn’t make sense. But the action of paying homage to the pain, creating something that builds community and reverence out of the inevitable ashes of life, feels essential in our healing.
- Laura Munson

Loved This Story by Laura Munson

You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.
- Laura Munson, NYT

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beings from Saturn Spoke to Him

One day in the late 1930s, Herman Blount, an African-American music student in Alabama, had an unusual experience.

Beings from Saturn picked him up and carried him off to their planet. “They had one little antenna on each ear,” he later recalled. “A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me.”

What did they say? They told him to forget school and start making music on his own, that the world was falling apart and that people needed to hear what he played. He took their advice. To compress a long story, he started composing and playing a highly unorthodox way - beyond-freestyle jazz. He formed a symphonic-size band. He made himself robes and crowns and called himself Sun Ra, said he had always been Sun Ra, and that outer space had always been his home, always would be.

Did he make this all up? Did he believe it? Who cares. Sun Ra revolutionized contemporary music. He gave African-American identity a new, loose, utopian way to go. And he inspired an interdisciplinary cultural movement called Afrofuturism, which is the subject of a fabulous exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The show’s title, “The Shadows Took Shape,” is a phrase from a Sun Ra poem. And the musician himself, who died in 1993 at 79, is represented by archival souvenirs: a ballpoint pen drawing for the cover of the 1960s album “Other Planes of There”; his annotated copy of a 1950s religious tract called “Let God Be True”; and a photograph of him by Charles Shabacon, in which he seems to have a high-beam headlight for a face.


I was walking Lily down Social Street yesterday afternoon and I heard a hello. A guy was at the Hess station pumping gas into a blue van. He called me over and gave me a hug. I didn't recognize him at first because he had a black beard. But then, wow, it all came back to me. He had been one of my art students when I was a part-time teacher at Beacon. He introduced me to his three kids and wife and their big shaggy dog. They were all strapped into their seats in the navy blue family van. I told him that Heidi, also from Beacon, was working at the Hess station booth. Yeah I just saw her, he said. I asked him what he was up to. He pointed to the logo on his sweatshirt. I'm an asphalt paver now. I spotted a smear of black tar on his yellow workboots. Great, for the city? I asked. Sometimes the city but mostly private. I said my turkey looks like asphalt after I'm done grilling it outside over hardwood charcoal. He said his mom prefers to deep fry the turkey. Does she live around here? I asked. She lives off Park Ave. I love that neighborhood, I said. I used to live over there and I loved those little streets. I love drawing outside near the pond over there, he said. As we parted I said It was so great to see you! I see you all the time with your dog, he replied.

Andrea Barrett

I love research ... I describe a character who has to go belowdecks, and I think, 'So what is belowdecks?' ... Then I have to get books about ship building, ship history, immigration history, so I can write a little more ... I love learning that way — lurching from subject area to subject area. When you're lit by your own purposes, it's astonishing how easily you can leap into a new field and get to that center of passion.

I think science and writing are utterly the same thing. They are completely rooted in passion and desire, if they're any good at all. You can fall in love with the natural world in the same way you fall in love with a person. There's that same sense of helplessness, of lacking control over how much of your life you want to devote to it.
-Andrea Barrett

Louis Jenkins

Tin Flag, Louis Jenkins’ latest book, is a collection of new and selected prose poems, including all poems from Nice Fish, the play.

“The language is often plain and the settings familiar but with love and humor and a fisherman’s patience, he masterfully opens a crack between worlds. His poems create, as Stanley Kunitz said poetry must, the telling of stories of the soul.”--Patricia Kirkpatrick

“The poems Tin Flag are as solid and smooth as a Lake Superior stone you read one out loud and you want to keep turning it over in your mind, knowing it is the key to something just beyond the horizon. I especially like the way they combine humor and heartbreak so that neither one overwhelms the other. Louis Jenkins is our Dostoevsky, our Chekhov. He tells us where we’ve been and helps us imagine where we might be going.”--Joyce Sutphen

“[T]he true artist pulls aside some comforting, humanly made veil, so that the face of the universe appears for an instant. Artists as distinct as Goya and Basho do that, revealing a face that unsettles us. I honor Louis Jenkins, who is one of the best poets of his generation, for his ability to do that again and again.”--Robert Bly


Louis Jenkins’ poems have been published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies; his most recent books are North of the Cities (2007), European Shoes (2008), Before You Know It: Prose Poems 1970-2005 (2009), Words and Pictures, with Richard C. Johnson (2012), and Tin Flag (2013), all published by Will o’ the Wisp Books. Mr. Jenkins was awarded two Bush Foundation Fellowships for poetry, a Loft-McKnight fellowship, and was the 2000 George Morrison Award winner.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Frankie the Pomeranian Shi-Tzu

Yesterday on my walk to get figs and greens at the Bellingham Stop and Shop, a worker was taking a break on the bench wearing a white bloody coat. Lily jumped into his arms. You must be the butcher, I laughed. A woman I recognized came up to me to talk. Then suddenly she said let me show you my puppies, and she ran to her car. She came back and placed a puppy in my arms. He was an adorable Pomeranian Shi-Tzu blend. I held him and he piddled on me. I didn't mind. I told her I was falling in love. This woman has five of these puppies and the two dog parents. I met them all.

Then a woman came over with her husband and talked to me like she knew me. She took out a photo of her son and showed me. Trevor is 4 now, looking way too grown up in this photo, she said. Adorable, I said. She looked vaguely familiar but I was still wondering who she was. So where are you guys living now? I ventured, hoping her answer might clue me in. We got out of that hell-hole with the scumbag landlord, what's his name, she said. Then I knew who she was, my former next door neighbor!

Dylan Welding


Crazy Thrill Seekers

Run with angry stampeding bulls!Read

Shadows Took Shape

One day in the late 1930s, Herman Blount, an African-American music student in Alabama, had an unusual experience.

Beings from Saturn picked him up and carried him off to their planet.
“They had one little antenna on each ear,” he later recalled. “A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me.”

What did they say? They told him to forget school and start making music on his own, that the world was falling apart and that people needed to hear what he played. He took their advice. To compress a long story, he started composing and playing a highly unorthodox way-beyond-freestyle jazz. He formed a symphonic-size band. He made himself robes and crowns and called himself Sun Ra, said he had always been Sun Ra, and that outer space had always been his home, always would be.

Did he make this all up? Did he believe it? Who cares. Sun Ra revolutionized contemporary music. He gave African-American identity a new, loose, utopian way to go. And he inspired an interdisciplinary cultural movement called Afrofuturism, which is the subject of a fabulous exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The show’s title, “The Shadows Took Shape,” is a phrase from a Sun Ra poem. And the musician himself, who died in 1993 at 79, is represented by archival souvenirs: a ballpoint pen drawing for the cover of the 1960s album “Other Planes of There”; his annotated copy of a 1950s religious tract called “Let God Be True”; and a photograph of him by Charles Shabacon, in which he seems to have a high-beam headlight for a face.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Amanda McCracken

I have always been a saver. When I was a child, I saved my Halloween and Easter candy for over a year. By the time I finally took a bite, the candy was hard and stale. I still have gift cards that are over eight years old. By the time I get around to using them, I realize they’ve already expired. My fridge is full of exotic jams, untouched and unsavored but certainly spoiled. Full bottles of French perfume decorate my dresser, their fragrance fading every year.
-Amanda McCracken

If I Were to Die Tomorrow

If I were to die tomorrow
I would turn on the heat today
and bake a turkey in the oven
and clear off the desk
and write letters to all my friends.

The Afterlife

Louis Jenkins

Older people are exiting this life as if it were a movie… "I didn’t get it,"
they are saying.
He says, "It didn’t seem to have any plot."
"No." she says, "it seemed like things just kept coming at me. Most of the
time I was confused… and there was way too much sex and violence."
"Violence anyway," he says.
"It was not much for character development either; most of the time
people were either shouting or mumbling. Then just when someone started
to make sense and I got interested, they died. Then a whole lot of new
characters came along and I couldn’t tell who was who."
"The whole thing lacked subtlety."
"Some of the scenery was nice."
They walk on in silence for a while. It is a summer night and they walk
slowly, stopping now and then, as if they had no particular place to go.
They walk past a streetlamp where some insects are hurling themselves at
the light, and then on down the block, fading into the darkness.
She says, "I was never happy with the way I looked."
"The lighting was bad and I was no good at dialogue," he says.
"I would have liked to have been a little taller," she says.

From North of the Cities (Will o’ the Wisp Books, 2007) © Louis Jenkins.

The Bear's Money

Every fall before he goes to sleep a bear will put away five or six
hundred dollars. Money he got from garbage cans, mostly. Peo-
ple throw away thousands of dollars every day, and around here
a lot of it goes to bears. But what good is money to a bear? I
mean, how many places are there that a bear can spend it? It's a
good idea to first locate the bear's den, in fall after the leaves are
down. Back on one of the old logging roads you'll find a tall pine
or spruce covered with scratch marks, the bear runes, which
translate to something like "Keep out. That means you!" You can
rest assured that the bear and his money are nearby, in a cave or
in a space dug out under some big tree roots. When you return
in winter, a long hike on snowshoes, the bear will be sound
asleep. ... In a month or two he'll wake, groggy, out of sorts,
ready to bite something, ready to rip something to shreds ... but
by then you'll be long gone, back in town, spending like a
drunken sailor.

from The Winter Road: Prose Poems by Louis Jenkins. © Holy Cow! Press.

Spoon Flower

I have always wanted to make my own fabric!

It's Best Not to Remember these Things

Polar bears swim in the tank
at Roger Williams Park Zoo.
You can see them in the turquoise window,
they have huge black claws,
they look snuggly.
I love them,
I want to swim with them.
But one bit a guy's head off
in Canada when he answered the door,
and a Brooklyn boy in The Bronx jumped in to cuddle
and was eaten.
It's best not to remember these things.

Before You Know It


by Louis Jenkins

All those things that have gone from your life,
moon boots, TV trays and the Soviet Union, that
seem to have vanished, are really only changed.
Dinosaurs did not disappear from the earth but
evolved into birds and crock pots became bread
makers and then the bread makers all went to
rummage sales along with the exercise bikes.
Everything changes. It seems at times (only for
a moment) that your wife, the woman you love,
might actually be your first wife in another form.
It's a thought not to be pursued….Nothing is the
same as it used to be. Except you, of course,
you haven't changed…well, slowed down a bit,
perhaps. It's more difficult nowadays to deal with
the speed of change, disturbing to suddenly find
yourself brushing your teeth with what appears
to be a flashlight. But essentially you are the
same as ever, constant in your instability.

"Change" by Louis Jenkins, from Before You Know It: Prose Poems 1970-2005. © Will o' Wisp Books, 2009.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy Birthday Joe Mantegna

Joe Mantegna by Nathan Rabin

The actor: Joe Mantegna first burst into the public consciousness as the favorite leading man of playwright/screenwriter David Mamet, who gave Mantegna a career-making role in Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway, then cast him as the lead in Mamet’s first two films: the 1987 cult classic House Of Games and its well-received 1988 follow-up, Things Change. Mantegna continued to work with Mamet, most recently in 2008’s Redbelt, but he also found considerable success outside their partnership. He earned a place in the hearts of Simpsons fans as Fat Tony, Springfield’s Mafia don, and played less-comic mobsters in The Godfather: Part III and the Mario Puzo-derived television movies The Last Don and The Last Don II. On television, Mantegna starred on the beloved cult drama Joan Of Arcadia,and he can currently be seen on Criminal Minds. In 2003, Mantegna starred in the gentle family comedy Uncle Nino, which just came out on DVD.
Uncle Nino (2003)—“Robert Micelli”

Joe Mantegna: Uncle Nino, it’s kind of funny how that came about. A friend’s ex-wife calls me from Chicago that I hadn’t heard from in probably 25 years. Tracked me down through mutual friends and said “As you know, I’m divorced from your old friend, but I’m remarried to a guy who’s a film producer, and he has another partner who’s a writer-director, and they’ve written this script, and they basically wrote this part for you. You inspired them to write this role. Would you consider looking at the script?”
So it was like one of those phone calls I get on Friday night, didn’t come through an agent or anything like that, and was totally out of the blue. And since I did know this girl and had known her for many years prior, I said, “Look, sure, send the script.” But I really didn’t think anything of it at the time. I thought “I’m just being courteous. I’ll give this thing a read and probably just have to call back and say, ‘You know, thanks, but it’s just not going to pan out.’” But when I got the script, there was just this very sweet kind of—I don’t know, it touched me. I related to it because it very much paralleled many things in my own life. And then ultimately my daughter wound up playing my daughter in the film, because when I got to page three, there was a daughter named Gina who was within a year of the real age of my own daughter, whose real name is Gina. And these people didn’t know that I even had a daughter Gina, or anything like that. I had lost contact with them. And in talking to the guy later, I thought, “Well, maybe he just kind of snuck that in there to kind of hopefully…”

Hot Shot Mystery

Somebody mysteriously sent us hot shot rechargeable heating pack warmers. My husband and I charged them up and then sat at the dinner table with our new warmed pouches. Just like those King Cavalier dogs bred to warm laps, he said.

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is the descendant of a small toy spaniel depicted in many 16th, 17th and 18th Century paintings of northern Europe. This dog was originally bred to warm laps in drafty castles and on chilly carriage rides. A prescription written in Olde English for the Queen of England directs her to keep this "comforte dog" on her lap to treat a cold. The Cavalier's other job was to attract fleas and thereby spare their masters the flea-transmitted bubonic plague.

During Tudor times, toy spaniels were common as ladies' pets and, under the Stuarts, they were given the royal title of King Charles spaniel. King Charles II was seldom seen without two or three Cavaliers at his heels, and he wrote a decree — still in effect today — that his namesake spaniel be accepted in any public place, including the Houses of Parliament, which were generally off-limits to animals.

In the early days, breed standards were not recognized, although toy spaniels generally had flat heads, pointed muzzles and high-set ears. By the mid-19th century, the English fashioned a new look for the toy spaniel and standardized its appearance. These modern King Charles spaniels, also known as "Charlies," had flatter faces, undershot jaws and domed skulls. In the early 1900s breeders attempted to recreate the earlier version of the breed; they were largely successful and so was born the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Breeding of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel in the United States took hold on a limited basis in the 1950s, but the breed was not fully recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1996.

Cassini Solstice Mission

The day the earth smiled.

Looks like a huge eye looking back at us!!

Propolene on Titan

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Finds Ingredient of Household Plastic in Space

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected propylene, a chemical used to make food-storage containers, car bumpers and other consumer products, on Saturn's moon Titan.

This is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than Earth.

A small amount of propylene was identified in Titan's lower atmosphere by Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS). This instrument measures the infrared light, or heat radiation, emitted from Saturn and its moons in much the same way our hands feel the warmth of a fire.

Propylene is the first molecule to be discovered on Titan using CIRS. By isolating the same signal at various altitudes within the lower atmosphere, researchers identified the chemical with a high degree of confidence. Details are presented in a paper in the Sept. 30 edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"This chemical is all around us in everyday life, strung together in long chains to form a plastic called polypropylene," said Conor Nixon, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of the paper. "That plastic container at the grocery store with the recycling code 5 on the bottom -- that's polypropylene."

CIRS can identify a particular gas glowing in the lower layers of the atmosphere from its unique thermal fingerprint. The challenge is to isolate this one signature from the signals of all other gases around it.

The detection of the chemical fills in a mysterious gap in Titan observations that dates back to NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft and the first-ever close flyby of this moon in 1980.

Voyager identified many of the gases in Titan's hazy brownish atmosphere as hydrocarbons, the chemicals that primarily make up petroleum and other fossil fuels on Earth.

On Titan, hydrocarbons form after sunlight breaks apart methane, the second-most plentiful gas in that atmosphere. The newly freed fragments can link up to form chains with two, three or more carbons. The family of chemicals with two carbons includes the flammable gas ethane. Propane, a common fuel for portable stoves, belongs to the three-carbon family.

Voyager detected all members of the one- and two-carbon families in Titan's atmosphere. From the three-carbon family, the spacecraft found propane, the heaviest member, and propyne, one of the lightest members. But the middle chemicals, one of which is propylene, were missing.

As researchers continued to discover more and more chemicals in Titan's atmosphere using ground- and space-based instruments, propylene was one that remained elusive. It was finally found as a result of more detailed analysis of the CIRS data.

"This measurement was very difficult to make because propylene's weak signature is crowded by related chemicals with much stronger signals," said Michael Flasar, Goddard scientist and principal investigator for CIRS. "This success boosts our confidence that we will find still more chemicals long hidden in Titan's atmosphere."

Cassini's mass spectrometer, a device that looks at the composition of Titan's atmosphere, had hinted earlier that propylene might be present in the upper atmosphere. However, a positive identification had not been made.

"I am always excited when scientists discover a molecule that has never been observed before in an atmosphere," said Scott Edgington, Cassini's deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "This new piece of the puzzle will provide an additional test of how well we understand the chemical zoo that makes up Titan's atmosphere."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The CIRS team is based at Goddard.

For more information about the Cassini mission, visit:

Dick Cavett




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mason Currey

The Death of Letter-Writing
By MASON CURREY New York Times

In recent years, a number of journalists and critics have lamented the death of the literary letter. The publication of Saul Bellow’s letters in 2010 and William Styron’s last year were accompanied by waves of speculation about how many more such collections we can expect.

Letters were not only a way to stay in touch with colleagues or test out ideas and themes on the page, but also a valuable method of easing into and out of a state of mind where they could pursue more daunting and in-depth writing.

John Updike, for instance, often began his writing day by answering a letter or two. Cynthia Ozick has said that she does the same thing, answering letters after breakfast, before beginning her real work. Ernest Hemingway, by contrast, turned to his letters when his fiction wasn’t going well; they were a welcome break from what he called the “awful responsibility of writing.” Iris Murdoch worked on her fiction in the morning, wrote letters in the afternoon and then returned to her fiction for a couple hours in the early evening. Thomas Mann’s days followed much the same pattern: serious writing in the morning, then letters, reviews and newspaper articles in the evening.

For these writers, and many more like them, keeping up with their correspondence was a valuable para-literary activity — not quite “real” writing, but something that helped them warm up for or cool down from the task. (And, of course, it should go without saying that many of these letters were beautiful works of literature in their own right.)

This is not to say that all writers found dealing with their correspondence pleasant. H. L. Mencken replied to every letter he received on the same day that it arrived — out of politeness, he said, and also for more selfish reasons. “I answer letters promptly as a matter of self-defense,” Mencken once explained. “My mail is so large that if I let it accumulate for even a few days, it would swamp me.”

Charles Darwin was similarly compulsive. He made a point of replying to every letter he received, even those from obvious cranks. If he failed to do so, it weighed on his conscience and could even keep him up at night.

. . . don’t think of them as letters at all — think of them as telegrams, and remember that you are paying for every word.

Fernando Pessoa

Tobacco Shop

But the Tobacco Shop owner has come to the door and stands there.
I look at him, straining my half-turned neck,
Straining my half-blind soul.
He'll die and so will I.
He'll leave his signboard, I'll leave poems.
A little later the street will die where his signboard hung,
And so will the language my poems were written in.

-by Fernando Pessoa

Luis Alberto Urrea

I believe God is a poet; every religion in our history was made of poems and songs, and not a few of them had books attached. I came to believe the green fuse that drives spring and summer through the world is essentially a literary energy. That the world was more than a place. Life was more than an event. It was all one thing, and that thing was: story.

I was in a small house in Cuernavaca with old healer women. We were eating green Jell-O. One of them told me this: "When you write, you light a bonfire in the spirit world. It is dark there. Lost souls wander alone. Your inner flame flares up. And the lost souls gather near your light and heat. And they see the next artist at work and go there. And they follow the fires until they find their ways home."

Aside from thinking my old Baptist preacher would not be amused by this kind of pagan talk, I recognized the beauty and awe, the deep respect in a woman who didn't read, for the act of literary creation.

Now, if it is all story, I believe we are the narrators. Many writing instructors will tell you that to be a great writer, you must be attentive. Shamans will tell you the same thing: If you want to be a good person, a whole person, wake up! Pay attention! Be here now! Zen monks will go so far as to hit you with a stick. Look!

I used to approach writing like a football game. If I went out there and aggressively saw more, I'd know more and I'd capture more, and I'd write better. Hut, hut, hut: First down and haiku! But I found out something entirely different. I learned that if I went into the world and paid attention (in Spanish, you "lend attention," presta atencion), the world would notice and respond. I would have demonstrated my worthiness to receive the world's gifts. It's a kind of library where you lend attention and receive a story. Or God will toss off a limerick for your pleasure.

In South Carolina recently, I was telling my hosts before a speaking engagement all about this idea. I told them that Story comes on the wings of hummingbirds and dragonflies. My host told me to turn around. A hummingbird hovered outside the window, three inches from the back of my head. After the event, I was in the street enjoying the silence. A dragonfly came and hovered over my head. Both times, all I had to do was look.

- Luis Alberto Urrea, This I Believe

Eve Birch

I used to believe in the American dream that meant a job, a mortgage, cable, credit, warranties, success. I wanted it and worked toward it like everyone else, all of us separately chasing the same thing.

One year, through a series of unhappy events, it all fell apart. I found myself homeless and alone. I had my truck and $56.

I scoured the countryside for someplace I could rent for the cheapest possible amount. I came upon a shack in an isolated hollow, four miles up a winding mountain road over the Potomac River in West Virginia.

It was abandoned, full of broken glass and rubbish. When I pried off the plywood over a window and climbed in, I found something I could put my hands to. I hadn't been alone for 25 years. I was scared, but I hoped the hard work would distract and heal me.

I found the owner and rented the place for $50 a month. I took a bedroll, a broom, rope, a gun and cooking gear, and cleared a corner to camp in while I worked.

The locals knew nothing about me. But slowly, they started teaching me the art of being a neighbor. They dropped off blankets, candles, tools and canned deer meat, and they began sticking around to chat. They'd ask if I wanted to meet cousin Albie or go fishing, maybe get drunk some night. They started to teach me a belief in a different American dream — not the one of individual achievement but one of neighborliness.

Men would stop by with wild berries, ice cream, truck parts and bullets to see if I was up for courting. I wasn't, but they were civil anyway. The women on that mountain worked harder than any I'd ever met. They taught me the value of a whetstone to sharpen my knives, how to store food in the creek and keep it cold and safe. I learned to keep enough for an extra plate for company.

What I had believed in, all those things I thought were the necessary accouterments for a civilized life, were nonexistent in this place. Up on the mountain, my most valuable possessions were my relationships with my neighbors.

After four years in that hollow, I moved back into town. I saw that a lot of people were having a really hard time, losing their jobs and homes. With the help of a real estate broker I chatted up at the grocery store, I managed to rent a big enough house to take in a handful of people.

It's four of us now, but over time I've had nine come in and move on to other places from here. We'd all be in shelters if we hadn't banded together.

The American dream I believe in now is a shared one. It's not so much about what I can get for myself; it's about how we can all get by together.

-Eve Birch, This I Believe

Amy Tan

I didn't used to believe in ghosts, but I was trained to talk to them. My mother reminded me many times that I had the gift. It all stemmed from a lie I told when I was 4. The way my mother remembered it, I refused to get ready for bed one night, claiming there was a ghost in the bathroom. She was delighted to learn I was a spirit medium.

Thereafter, she questioned anything unusual — a sudden gust of wind, a vase that fell and shattered. She would ask me, "She here?" She meant my grandmother.

When I was a child, my mother told me that my grandmother died in great agony after she accidentally ate too much opium. My mother was 9 years old when she watched this happen.

When I was 14, my older brother was stricken with a brain tumor. My mother begged me to ask my grandmother to save him. When he died, she asked me to talk to him as well. "I don't know how," I protested. When my father died of a brain tumor six months after my brother, she made me use a Ouija board. She wanted to know if they still loved her. I spelled out the answer I knew she wanted to hear: Yes. Always.

When I became a fiction writer in my 30s, I wrote a story about a woman who killed herself eating too much opium. After my mother read a draft of that story, she had tears in her eyes. Now she had proof: My grandmother had talked to me and told me her true story. How else could I have known my grandmother had not died by accident but with the fury of suicide? She asked me, "She here now?" I answered honestly, "I don't know."

Over the years, I have included other details in my writing I could not possibly have known on my own: a place, a character, a song. I have come to feel differently about my ghostwriters. Sometimes their clues have come so plentifully, they've made me laugh like a child who can't open birthday presents fast enough. I must say thanks, not to blind luck but to my ghosts.

Ten years ago, I clearly saw a ghost, and she talked to me. It was my mother. She had died just 24 hours before. Her face was 10 times larger than life, in the form of a moving, pulsing hologram of sparkling lights. My mother was laughing at my surprise. She drew closer, and when she reached me, I felt as if I had been physically punched in the chest. It took my breath away and filled me with something absolute: love, but also joy and peace — and with that, understanding that love and joy and peace are all the same thing. Joy comes from love. Peace comes from love. "Now you know," my mother said.

I believe in ghosts. Whenever I want, they will always be there: my mother, my grandmother, my ghosts.

- Amy Tan, This I Believe

Joyce Carol Oates

Getting the first draft finished, is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor.
- Joyce Carol Oates

Quartz Heater is a Miracle

The quartz heater is a miracle. It heats your ass without drying the air or your sinuses. We have one circa 1970.

Other People's Trout

We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be diffident, just this side of self-effacing (‘You’re the least important person in the room and don’t forget it,’ Jessica Mitford’s governess would hiss in her ear on the advent of any social occasion; I copied that into my notebook because it is only recently that I have been able to enter a room without hearing some such phrase in my inner ear.) Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout.

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.

-From Joan Didion’s 1968 anthology Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Stop that Right Now

We went to Stop and Shop last night for oats, kale, and figs. On the way out a boy was making squeaks with his sneakers on the shiny white waxed polished linoleum floor. I smiled turning to the mother. She had straight strawberry-blond hair. She did not smile back. She yelled ahead to her son Stop that right now, stop that right now or you'll have to stay in your room for the night.
Wow, that's harsh. He was just having fun, I said to Bill.
What she means is stop that right now or you won't grow up to become a successful investment banker!

Home Heat Fundraiser

I should have a bread for oil party.

Gabrielle Hamilton

For me the most moving and powerful and creative act of courage of all is to fully live your life and do your work and offer all of yourself, even in the margin. Waiting to get on a list, working to get on a list — this is a time- and soul-suck with no good end. To slip the leash and leave the master standing there holding it while you meanwhile are around the corner throwing an awesome party with all of your friends is the greatest act of defiance I can think of.
- Gabrielle Hamilton, chef of Prune and the author of "Blood, Bones and Butter, The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef."


Last Rites at the Paperback Rack

A NYC graphic designer caught in a holdup in a drugstore. While ducking behind the paperback rack he vowed "If I ever get out alive I must make better book covers than these," and he did!

Mr. MaGoogle Glass


Traitor to His Class

No one can imagine the hardships of the years from 1930 to about 1942 for the American people. Rich and poor alike lost their money in the banks when the banks failed and could not pay off depositors. My parents lost their savings of $5,000, which in those days was about like $50,000 now. The failure of the banks left people destitute and starving.
-Joan A. Adamak, review Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".[1] It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印, sanbōin?), specifically impermanence (無常, mujō?), the other two being suffering (苦, ku?) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空, kū?).

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

Sarah Williamson

My new favorite NYT illustrator.


Sarah Williamson was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has a degree in political philosophy from the University of Wisconsin Madison and a degree in illustration from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She lives in New York and likes getting emails.

Julius Lester

The interesting thing about this story is that it taught me that sometimes I act like Cupid and sometimes I act like Psyche. Stories don’t much care who’s male and who’s female, because everybody has a little of both inside them. That why this story and my story and your story, well, they’re all the same story.
- Julius Lester, Cupid

It's Snowing!!!


Amazing Story


Neil Young, We Love YOU!!


As the sun rises today I wonder. How hard should I try? As I spread awareness of Climate change and make that my priority, am I losing sight of day to day life? Is this more important than making music?
Why should it matter so much to me?

I know what I feel. I am always seeing ways I could improve my own behavior towards preserving Planet Earth. Today I took a ride in a cool old car but I was thinking about the pollution I was causing, not care free like I once was. Then I looked ahead and saw all the other cars. They were mostly brand new but still just like mine. They ran the same way and burned the same dirty fuel as my fifty-five year old car.
Why should I blame myself?

Anyway, there is no other fuel available at gas stations. Big Oil still has the monopoly there.
No Freedom of Choice on that decision exists anywhere near here in corporate run
America. That's odd, I thought to myself. Wasn't the president elected on
promises of a cleaner renewable energy future?
Isn't Freedom of Choice part of Liberty?

Then I thought about my family. My daughter was just married
and I may be a grandfather some day. What about those
kids? What will I be doing to make sure they have
a better world? The sun rose over the horizon
then, blinding me when I looked at it.
How hard should I try?

Neil Young
West Coast of California

Beyond the Sands

Beyond the sands lies the future of mankind. Thinking about our daily concerns can only be a small part of life compared to the greater goal of change. Renewable energy, clean as a baby's first sip, is the only way to tomorrow.

We saw it in Toronto, in Calgary and other parts of Canada and the world. Extreme weather is tied to our Climate Chaos moment, developing right in front of our eyes, now in its first blush. Let's not think
about hurt feelings as everything we have built must now change and adapt to reality.

Oil is only one of the causes, and those who prosper from it are not our enemy, they are
our early opportunity for change you can see. CO2 levels climb, surrounding
our home, a blue speck in the universe. They can either be our death knell
or our wake up call.

Join us or deny us. The choice is yours. Time is not on our side in
either case.

Become a futurist. There is a lifetime of work to do,
refocusing and prioritizing on survival through
clean and shared solutions.

Neil Young

Nashville, Tennessee
September 16, 2013


The Moment we begin to Fear . . .

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.

- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Today is 11.12.13, Neil Percival Young's Birthday

Today is 11.12.13. Neil Percival Young's birthday. AKA Bernard Shakey, Phil Perspective, Shakey Deal, Clyde Coil, Ol' Neil, Joe Canuck, Joe Yankee, Marc Lynch, Pinecone Young


Today there is good news on climate change. Good foods bring carbon back down to earth where it belongs.

According to soil scientists, transitioning from industrial agriculture practices to organic farming
and ranching could sequester thousands of pounds-per-acre of climate-destabilizing CO2
every year, while nurturing healthy soils, plants, grasses, trees and animals that are
resistant to drought, heavy rain, pests, and disease.

Today's global food system, with its intense dependence on biotechnology,
chemicals, water and fossil fuels, is destroying the natural capacity of
plants, trees and soils to sequester excess greenhouse gases.
That food system is what is creating almost all of the food you
buy at mainstream food markets like Safeway. (funny name)

Shoppers, you can help by purchasing and consuming
low impact organic and sustainably grown foods
and abandoning all of the junk foods advertised
and packaged by industrial food corporations.
You can be on the front line of fighting global
warming and climate change, just by eating
and serving good food.

Neil Young
Big Sur, California

Random acts of Blindness

Loved these articles.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Philip Carter

Instead of showing compassion for these troops who were carrying the invisible wounds of war, their commanders kicked them out. These troops’ getting pushed out under such circumstances would be enough of a blow, but these commanders compounded the injury by giving them bad paper, instead of merely administratively separating them from the service.

While assessing the needs of veterans in the Western United States, my research team met with community leaders and nonprofit agency staff members in seven cities with the largest populations of veterans, and interviewed others in outlying cities and rural areas as well. Across these communities, veterans with bad paper were believed to be significantly overrepresented in the at-risk veterans populations. All too frequently these veterans become part of the nation’s chronically homeless or incarcerated populations.

When they end up in distress or on the streets, their communities must bear this burden alone.

We have a moral obligation to those who serve, especially those who serve us in combat. At times, the military must discharge those who can’t perform or conform. However, commanders should exercise far greater discretion and compassion in trimming the ranks. Bad discharges indelibly mark veterans as damaged goods and cost society a great deal too.