Thursday, January 30, 2014

Andrew Solomon

I am loving this book. I already know I need a copy to own. Andrew Solomon is a genius!
I’m going to love my child whoever he is, and let’s see how he turns out.

Andrew Solomon’s enormous new book, “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity,” is about children who are born or who grow up in ways their parents never expected. It’s a subject Mr. Solomon knows from experience. He was dyslexic as a child and struggled to learn to read. As he described in “The Noonday Demon,” which won a National Book Award in 2001, he once suffered from crippling, suicidal depressions.


Barbaric, Racist and Arbitrary

It is bad enough that the death penalty is barbaric, racist and arbitrary in its application, but it is also becoming less transparent as the dwindling number of death-penalty states work to hide the means by which they kill people.

In the end, the argument over what is the most “humane” way to kill someone only obscures the larger point, which is that, in the 21st century, the United States has no business putting people to death by any means.


The Working Poor

Nobody who is employed should ever have to raise a family in poverty.

We can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.

Most Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents — understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.

The president has had failures and missteps, to be sure. Every administration has some. None are perfect. But the idea of grinding government to a halt in opposition to one leader — as Republicans have done — has been an extraordinary and infuriating thing to behold.

And it has been sad to watch a president full of hope and promise be stymied at nearly every turn and have to reframe his objectives.

And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn’t been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.


Toxic Triangle of Death, a Tragedy


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hans Selye

Find your own stress level — the speed at which you can run toward your own goal. Make sure that both the stress level and the goal are really your own, and not imposed upon you by society, for only you yourself can know what you want and how fast you can accomplish it. There is no point in forcing a turtle to run like a racehorse or in preventing a racehorse from running faster than a turtle because of some 'moral obligation.' The same is true of people.
-Hans Selye

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


In the great loneliness of the world, when a writer's voice makes you feel befriended, you want more of it, even after the person is gone.
I feel this way about Laurie Colwin, Marion Cunningham, MFK Fisher, and Oscar Hijuelos.

Walking Ecosystem

The sloth is not so much an animal as a walking ecosystem. This tightly fitting assemblage consists of a) the sloth, b) a species of moth that lives nowhere but in the sloth’s fleece and c) a dedicated species of algae that grows in special channels in the sloth’s grooved hairs. Groom a three-toed sloth and more than a hundred moths may fly out. When the sloth grooms itself, its fingers move so slowly that the moths have no difficulty keeping ahead of them.

Pete Seeger, RIP

My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.

Young Pete became enthralled by rural traditions. “I liked the strident vocal tone of the singers, the vigorous dancing,” he is quoted in “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a biography by David Dunaway. “The words of the songs had all the meat of life in them. Their humor had a bite, it was not trivial. Their tragedy was real, not sentimental.”

Although he recorded more than 100 albums, Mr. Seeger distrusted commercialism and was never comfortable with the idea of stardom. He invariably tried to use his celebrity to bring attention and contributions to the causes that moved him, or to the traditional songs he wanted to preserve.

Mr. Seeger saw himself as part of a continuing folk tradition, constantly recycling and revising music that had been honed by time.

Shut out of national exposure, Mr. Seeger returned primarily to solo concerts, touring college coffeehouses, churches, schools and summer camps, building an audience for folk music among young people. He started to write a long-running column for the folk-song magazine Sing Out! And he recorded prolifically for the independent Folkways label, singing everything from children’s songs to Spanish Civil War anthems.

“The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”

-Pete Seeger


Baker's Hours

I am on a new pattern: asleep at 7 up at 1:30. Baker's hours. The colder it is the more I bake. Now Lily wakes me at 1AM, drooling.

It might be time to keep a sleep diary.

Monday, January 27, 2014

David I. Kertzer

On Pope Pius XI's character

Some people who had been friendly before [he was pope] thought a new personality had really emerged from him because he wasn't previously known as quite so authoritarian or having such a temper. He was someone who had a keen sense of the dignity of the papal office. He, for example, insisted on eating alone. He wouldn't allow his assistants or other priests or other clergy to eat with him. He insisted that when his sister and brother wanted to see him once he became pope, they had to refer to him as "your holiness" and not by his name. They could only see him by appointment. The cardinals and others that came to see him really lived in fear, not only of his temper, but he was also very demanding, [had] very high standards and did not tolerate any behavior that he regarded as not up to those standards.

- David I. Kertzer is a professor of social science, anthropology and Italian studies at Brown University.

Paul Krugman: Paranoia of the Plutocrats

. . . the rich are different from you and me.

And yes, that’s partly because they have more money, and the power that goes with it. They can and all too often do surround themselves with courtiers who tell them what they want to hear and never, ever, tell them they’re being foolish. They’re accustomed to being treated with deference, not just by the people they hire but by politicians who want their campaign contributions. And so they are shocked to discover that money can’t buy everything, can’t insulate them from all adversity.

I also suspect that today’s Masters of the Universe are insecure about the nature of their success. We’re not talking captains of industry here, men who make stuff. We are, instead, talking about wheeler-dealers, men who push money around and get rich by skimming some off the top as it sloshes by. They may boast that they are job creators, the people who make the economy work, but are they really adding value? Many of us doubt it — and so, I suspect, do some of the wealthy themselves, a form of self-doubt that causes them to lash out even more furiously at their critics.


Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.

Children are all foreigners.

Colleges hate geniuses, just as convents hate saints.

Conversation is an art in which a man has all mankind for his competitors, for it is that which all are practising every day while they live.

Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Face It

I see cars as having people faces and people as having dog faces.

Bill Calhoun

Fear as Entertainment

With the recent scares about airline safety, the discussion has come up (again) about the use of fear as a way to manipulate and exploit people. Here's an example of such a discussion from Glenn Greenwald's blog:

Personally, I don't blame anyone for having irrational thoughts and fears prior to flying. Our brains generate irrational fears in all sorts of different situations, and particularly with the fear-mongering and relentless media hyping of every rumored terrorist threat, it is hardly surprising that people will have these thoughts.

But the point here is best illustrated by analogy. "Courage" is not the absence of fear, but is instead the taking of action notwithstanding that fear. Identically, "rationality" is not the absence of irrational fears or thoughts, but is instead the choice not to allow those fears and thoughts to dictate behavior. The blame lies not with those who entertain such fear, but with those who allow it to govern their conduct, and more so, those who purposely stoke and exaggerate those fears due either to their own fears and/or because doing so is to their advantage.

Why does it seem so easy to agitate people, thoughtful, well-meaning people, with fear? One explanation is often overlooked – fear is entertaining.

Actually, any strong emotion can be entertaining. People enjoy the stimulation of a strong emotion even if the emotion (or the event that triggered it) is regarded as negative. This is, of course, a built-in attribute we share with many animals. My dog once quite dramatically charged a plastic lawn deer until she realized it wasn't going to move. I was pretty embarrassed (my vicious little doggie!) but she wasn't. She wagged her tail and was obviously invigorated and pleased by the whole event.

We are entertained by fear when we watch a scary movie, or ride a roller coaster, or imagine terrorists sitting next to us on the plane. Television provides such a wealth of entertaining fear, especially on the news, that I call it The Fear Machine. We seek out such entertainment, and actually invite specialists (entertainers, salesmen, politicians) to entertain us. If we train ourselves (through, say, daily television viewing) to expect constant entertainment, we can become obsessed. We can actually believe that something isn't important or serious or necessary unless it is entertaining. We work to extract entertainment out of our most mundane, or most sublime, experiences, and in the process miss out on more subtle, important benefits. You can eat candy for dinner – it entertains your mouth plenty, but don't expect any nutrition.

So yes, fear mongers can manipulate and exploit us while we are occupied by our fear, but don't discount our own role in accepting and asking for fear mongering, and in maintaining an environment where fear is valued for its entertainment quality.

by Bill Calhoun

François Villon

The Ballade des dames du temps jadis ("Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past") is a poem by François Villon
Thanks to Henry Gould

Sunday Morning 4:AM

Sound of smashing glass
in the alley at 4AM
Too dark to investigate
I called the police
Dispatcher Flynn answered
She was very kind,
suggesting maybe it was
Falling icicles

Bill Calhoun

from We Are All Apes

Dear Classmates,

It has been some time since my last update, my apologies. My wife and I continue to be quite busy with our project, and I am pleased to report on our success.

As you may remember, we undertook our Downward Mobility Project some twenty years ago, in a determined effort to balance the income distribution for the members of our class. Though some of you have made the ultimate goal impossible (we would have to have quite a large negative income to achieve any real balance), we have continued to maintain the project.

I have successfully managed to avoid any form of gainful employment for the full term of the project. Being self-employed has had its ups as well as downs, and though I have had a number of embarrassingly successful quarters, especially during the 90's, I have managed to remain in the lower 50% income bracket.

Despite all the effort of agents and publishers to lower my wife's income over the years, we decided it would be best to break off that income stream. My wife has, therefore, embarked on selling her own paintings. I think you will agree that this is a splendid move in the right direction.

We are very excited to report our most recent initiative - becoming professional musicians. As far as downward mobility goes, this is a little like shooting fish in a barrel, and that's why we held off making this move for so long. It was simply too much fun, however, to pass up. Fun is not inconsistent with downward mobility!

Our home, strategically located in the "bad" neighborhood of a small mill city, has until recently succeeded in resisting any appreciation in value. The recent run-up in house values has brought us in line with the rest of the state, unfortunately, but we look forward to a correction in the near future.

I know some of you may be concerned that the current political climate has made our work too easy. Though this is partly true, I would like to reassure you that we are not just coasting on the political realities. We are actively building on what has been a strong political foundation in support of downward mobility.

Please do not be alarmed by some of our recent activities in web design, graphic design, and music production. Though they are traditionally successful income-producers, we are actively exploring the lower financial reaches of these activities. We believe that, in time, and thanks to information technology, these activities will become a commonplace in the exercise of downward mobility.

In conclusion, I would like to share with you some of our plans and dreams. We continue to hone our skills in the exciting field of blogging, which we feel has real, untapped potential in the pursuit of downward mobility, more so even than, say, novel writing. And we are just in the planning stages of our next endeavor, the Retirement is Impossible Project, which we feel will be a natural extension of the current project.

Downwardly Yours,

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Brian Christian

In some ways the interesting character in a novel for me is the author—as revealed by the type of world that they're portraying.
-Brian Christian

The Dream Watcher by Barbara Wersba

The book that made me a reader:

The Dream Watcher by Barbara Wersba

This novel should be read to all ages, because it gives you confidence, and opens your eyes to what is good and beautiful. The budding relationship between Albert and his neighbor gladdens the heart, it reminds Harold and Maud. We are witnessing exciting discussions on literature and theater, it's great. And below there is the small narrow life of the boy and his family. It's ugly, pretty sad and pathetic but it brings weight to the hidden ambition of Mrs. Woodfin, found in Rilke quote: "If your daily life seems poor to you, do not accuse, accuse you rather, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call the riches ..."
- Clarabel at Goodreads

Ce roman devrait se lire à tous les âges, car il vous donne une confiance en vous et vous ouvre les yeux sur ce qui est bon et beau. La relation naissante entre Albert et sa voisine met du baume au coeur, cela rappelle Harold et Maud. On assiste à des échanges passionnants sur la littérature et le théâtre, c'est grandiose. Et en-deçà il y a la petite vie étriquée du garçon et de sa famille. C'est laid, assez triste et pathétique mais cela apporte du poids à l'ambition cachée de Mme Woodfin, qu'on retrouve dans la citation de Rilke : "Si ta vie quotidienne te semble pauvre, ne l'accuse pas, accuse-toi plutôt ; dis-toi que tu n'es pas assez poète pour en convoquer les richesses..."
- Clarabel at Goodreads

Esta novela deberías leer para todas las edades, porque te da confianza y te abre los ojos a lo que es bueno y bello. La incipiente relación entre Albert y su vecino alegra el corazón, se recuerda a Harold y Maud. Estamos siendo testigos de interesantes discusiones sobre la literatura y el teatro, que es genial. Y más adelante se encuentra el pequeño estrecha vida del niño y su familia. Su objetivo feo, muy triste y patético Trae peso a la ambición oculta de la señora. Woodfin, que se encuentra en Rilke cita: "Si tu vida cotidiana parece pobre para ti, no te acuso, que acusan más bien, se diga que no eres poeta suficiente para llamar a los ricos ..."
- Clarabel at Goodreads

The Book that Made Me a Reader

My name Igor Shteyngart. I refugant to Kew Gardens, Queens, nine years old. Now they say I also name Gary. I like to read many book, but only Russian book because English not so good. My favorite book in Russian is Adventures of Tom Sawyers by the Mark Twain. It writes about sad time in America history with slave. Soviet edition say America bourgeois country which is bad, but I like American because there is cigar made out of pretzel that you can smoke and then you eat it and it is 5 cents at Te Amo store on Union Turnpike.

Tom Sawyer is bad boy but he is not afraid nothing. I afraid of many things and I dont know how to make people do what I say like paint fence. Tom Sawyer has what I like in book, in that boy has many adventures. I would like to write about boy who has many adventures also. Maybe I am boy I write about one day because I have many adventures alredy. I come from Soviet Union to Italy and then here, so it is adventure. But I would also like girl like Becky Thatcher to like me. And I want such friend as Geckleberry Finn, because I have only one American friend and she has one eye. She lost other eye some how. I wish also to travel to Misisipi River which is much bigger river than we have in Queens and also bigger than Neva River in Leningrad from which I am from. Thank you Mister Marks Twain for writing such good book. Next I read Geckleberry Finn story which I sure am also good.
-Gary Shteyngart

I guess the book that really made me a reader was The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Doctor Seuss. It was my first encounter with a horror story, because poor Bartholomew was going to get his head chopped off if he couldn't take off his hat for the king. Every time he doffed one, there was another beneath. Of course I didn't understand the existential nature of his dilemma when I first read the book (I was in the second grade), but I never forgot how the hooded headsman, with his gigantic ax, made me feel. That story had it all: suspense, danger, an intrepid, good-hearted hero, and…best of all…a happy ending. I couldn't wait to find other stories that so completely engaged my heart and mind.
-Stephen King


Close Call

I'd been up since three AM, by 6:30AM Lily wanted to go out. So I let her the yard. I almost ran back inside as I do often, letting her roam and explore for just 5 minutes. I always fear someone could steal her. So I stood out there for a while staring at Venus and the crescent moon. I turned around and called Lily, I didn't see her or hear her. I noticed the front wooden gate wide open. Lily was gone! I ran through the open gate and I called for her softly since it was Sunday morning and neighbors were still asleep. I spotted her rump and tail in the front hedges 10 feet from the gate. Thank God she didn't get far! She was chowing down on cat poop. I've never been so happy that she eats cat shit. I tore through the shrubs wearing just my gray long underwear with red fleece blanket wrapped around my waist, and green sweatshirt and clogs. I gently grabbed her by the ass hoping she wouldn't run. We bushwhacked through the shrubs to the front granite stairs. Whew. The wind must've pushed the gate open or maybe a person left it ajar, trying to cut through. Now the gate is locked.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Paul Kalanithi

I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed both nothing and everything.
- Paul Kalanithi


Aubade in Autumn

This morning, from under the floorboards
of the room in which I write,
Lawrence the handyman is singing the blues
in a soft falsetto as he works, the words
unclear, though surely one of them is love,
lugging its shadow of sadness into song.
I don’t want to think about sadness;
there’s never a lack of it.
I want to sit quietly for a while
and listen to my father making
a joyful sound unto his mirror
as he shaves—slap of razor
against the strop, the familiar rasp of his voice
singing his favorite hymn, but faint now,
coming from so far back in time:
Oh, come to the church in the wildwood . . .
my father, who had no faith, but loved
how the long, ascending syllable of wild
echoed from the walls in celebration
as the morning opened around him . . .
as now it opens around me, the light shifting
in the leaf-fall of the pear tree and across
the bedraggled back-yard roses
that I have been careless of
but brighten the air, nevertheless.
Who am I, if not one who listens
for words to stir from the silences they keep?
Love is the ground note; we cannot do
without it or the sorrow of its changes.
Come to the wildwood, love,
Oh, to the wiiildwood
as the morning deepens,
and from a branch in the cedar tree a small bird
quickens his song into the blue reaches of heaven—
hey sweetie sweetie hey.

-Peter Everwine


Bravo to the Runaway Farmer

Mr. Ableman climbed out the window of his parents’ house when he was 16 and ran away. He was soon managing a 100-acre orchard, and then a 12-acre farm in Southern California, which grossed close to a million dollars. He now farms on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, and travels to Vancouver to oversee urban farms he developed for people coping with addiction and mental illness. They are paid to work the land, and they sell their food to 30 restaurants and at six farmers’ markets.

We went out of our way to give everything to the earth, and the earth gives back to us, said Jack Lazor, who started his organic dairy farm in the 1970s. The earth doesn’t always give cash, though.


Peter Everwine

I love this poem from Writer's Alamanac today:

A Story Can Change Your Life

by Peter Everwine

On the morning she became a young widow,
my grandmother, startled by a sudden shadow,
looked up from her work to see a hawk turn
her prized rooster into a cloud of feathers.
That same moment, halfway around the world
in a Minnesota mine, her husband died,
buried under a ton of rock-fall.
She told me this story sixty years ago.
I don't know if it's true but it ought to be.
She was a hard old woman, and though she knelt
on Sundays when the acolyte's silver bell
announced the moment of Christ's miracle,
it was the darker mysteries she lived by:
shiver-cry of an owl, black dog by the roadside,
a tapping at the door and nobody there.
The moral of the story was plain enough:
miracles become a burden and require a priest
to explain them. With signs, you only need
to keep your wits about you and place your trust
in a shadow world that lets you know hard luck
and grief are coming your way. And for that
—so the story goes—any day will do.

- Peter Everwine, Listening Long and Late
University of Pittsburg Press

Naming + Growing

When farmers changed the name of Mandarin Cross tomatoes to tangerine tomatoes, sales soared. A farmer who had trouble selling her misshapen potatoes labeled them “Ugly Potatoes” and cut the price. They sold.

Friday, January 24, 2014

When the Men Go Off to War

by Victoria Kelly

What happens when they leave
is that the houses fold up like paper dolls,
the children roll up their socks and sweaters
and tuck the dogs into little black suitcases.
Across the street the trees are unrooting,
the mailboxes rising up like dandelion stems,
and eventually we too float off,
the houses tucked neatly inside our purses, and the children
tumbling gleefully after us,
and beneath us the base has disappeared, the rows
of pink houses all the way to the ocean—gone,
and the whole city has slipped off the white earth
like a table being cleared for lunch.

We set up for a few weeks at a time
in places like Estonia or Laos—
places where they still have legends,
where a town of women appearing in the middle of the night
is surprising but not unheard of. The locals come to watch
our strange carnival unpacking in some wheat field
outside Paldiski—we invite them in for coffee,
forgetting for a minute
that some of our own men won't come home again;
and sometimes, a wife or two won't either.
She'll meet someone else, say, and
it's one of those things we don't talk about,
how people fall in and out of love,
and also, what the chaplains are for.

And then, a few days before the planes fly in
we return. We roll out the sidewalks and make the beds,
tether the trees to the yard.
On the airfield, everything is as it should be—
our matte red lipstick, the babies blanketed inside strollers.

Only, our husbands look at us a little sadly,
the way people do when they know
they have changed but don't want to say it.
Instead they say, What have you been doing all this time?
And we say, Oh you know, the dishes,
and they laugh and say,
Thank God some things stay the same.

Hafiz: Laughing At the Word Two


That Illumined

Who keeps
Seducing the formless into form

Had the charm to win my

Only a Perfect One

Who is always
Laughing at the word

Can make you know



From The Gift
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

I Know The Way You Can Get

I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:

Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
And nose.

Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.

Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
The innocent
And into one's self.

O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:

You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.

You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.

You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once

I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love's

That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
And Wanting,
Just Wanting to help.

That is why Hafiz says:
Bring your cup near me.
For all I care about
Is quenching your thirst for freedom!

All a Sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love!

-Hafiz, I Heard God Laughing - Renderings of Hafiz
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

No More Leaving

Some point
Your relationship
With God
Become like this:

Next time you meet Him in the forest
Or on a crowded city street

There won't be anymore


That is,

God will climb into
Your pocket.

You will simply just take



-Hafiz, from The Gift
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Memoirs of Grief

Joan Didion has made a career as a canary in the American coal mine.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pope Francis I

I love tango, and I used to dance when I was young.

Money has to serve, not to rule.

-Pope Francis I

The Threat by Denise Duhamel

my mother pushed my sister out of the apartment door with an empty suitcase because she kept threatening to run away my sister was sick of me getting the best of everything the bathrobe with the pink stripes instead of the red the soft middle piece of bread while she got the crust I was sick with asthma and she thought this made me a favorite

I wanted to be like the girl in the made-for-tv movie Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring which was supposed to make you not want to run away but it looked pretty fun especially all of the agony it put your parents through and the girl was in California or someplace warm with a boyfriend and they always found good food in the dumpsters at least they could eat pizza and candy and not meat loaf the runaway actress was Sally Field or at least someone who looked like Sally Field as a teenager the Flying Nun propelled by the huge wings on the sides of her wimple Arnold the Pig getting drafted in Green Acres my understanding then of Vietnam I read Go Ask Alice and The Peter Pan Bag books that were designed to keep a young girl home but there were the sex scenes and if anything this made me want to cut my hair with scissors in front of the mirror while I was high on marijuana but I couldn't inhale because of my lungs my sister was the one to pass out behind the church for both of us rum and angel dust

and that's how it was my sister standing at the top of all those stairs that lead up to the apartment and she pushed down the empty suitcase that banged the banister and wall as it tumbled and I was crying on the other side of the door because I was sure it was my sister who fell all ketchup blood and stuck out bones my mother wouldn't let me open the door to let my sister back in I don't know if she knew it was just the suitcase or not she was cold rubbing her sleeves a mug of coffee in her hand and I had to decide she said I had to decide right then

From Girl Soldier, Garden Street Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission of Denise Duhamel.


I find it hard to talk about the things I care about most, even to my family and friends, and poetry is my way of telling them what I feel. I try to approach an audience as if it's made up of friends, or people who would be my friends if we knew each other. 'No communication is possible except between equals' as Illuminatus! teaches us. I write my poems for love - love of language, love of my family, friends and animals, love of the planet, love of life, and I'd be a damned fool if I didn't.

-Adrian Mitchell, Adrian Mitchell's Greatest Hits

Adrian Mitchell

Elephant Eternity

Elephants walking under juicy-leaf trees
Walking with their children under juicy-leaf trees
Elephants elephants walking like time

Elephants bathing in the foam-floody river
Fountaining their children in the mothery river
Elephants elephants bathing like happiness

Strong and gentle elephants
Standing on the earth
Strong and gentle elephants
Like peace

Time is walking under elephant trees
Happiness is bathing in the elephant river
Strong gentle peace is shining
All over the elephant earth

-Adrian Mitchell

I love Pope Francis!

Pope Urges Business Elite to Use Wealth to Serve Humanity

Source: VOA News

Pope Francis has called on the world's business and political elite to use their skills and immense resources to alleviate global poverty.

The pontiff's message Tuesday opened the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In it, the pope praised the fundamental role that modern business has played in improving health care, education and communications. But he also said it is "intolerable" that hunger continues to grip many struggling economies. He urged forum delegates to "ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it."

The papal plea came as the human rights group Oxfam released a study showing the wealth of the world's 85 richest individuals equals that of 3.5 billion people - a full one-half of the global population.

A co-author of the report, Nick Galasso, tells VOA that wealthy elites have used their political power to get lower tax rates, hide wealth offshore, and otherwise serve their own interests.

"High levels of inequality actually corrode democratic processes. What we have seen across the globe and what the report documents is how wealth concentration is used to influence the political process to create laws and regulations that benefit the rich over everyone else," said Galasso.

Oxfam said that "by some measure, the riches of billionaires are now unparalleled in history." Last year, Forbes magazine calculated the combined fortunes of the 85 wealthiest at nearly $1.7 trillion.

The report did not name the world's 85 richest individuals, but cited lists compiled by Credit Suisse bank and Forbes. It said the income alone derived from the $73 billion fortune of the world's richest individual, Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim, could pay the yearly wages of 440,000 Mexicans.

The report lists financial deregulation, tax havens and secrecy, and diminished public services as examples of political maneuvering by the wealthy. It said the effect of these policy changes is not only to concentrate wealth and political influence in higher income brackets, but to ensure it stays there for the next generation.

Oxfam says that in the past decade, the number of billionaires in India has increased tenfold, while in Europe, austerity measures mainly affect the middle and lower classes. It says in Africa, global corporations exploit their political influence to avoid taxes, reducing government resources to fight poverty.

Oxfam is calling for those business leaders and government delegates at the forum to support government programs that strive to help under-served middle and lower income levels, support development of fair wages and crack down on tax dodging and financial secrecy.

Tess Taylor


Q. How does a poem begin for you?

Sometimes as a title. Sometimes as a rhythm or set of phrases. Often these happen when I’m doing something else, like gardening, hiking or taking care of my baby, and a little phrase will spin around. I’ll jot something down and it will occur to me that it’s connected to something else. Right now I am writing this in front of a window where all morning a spider has been capturing a bee, in an elaborate undulating net. How impossible not to want to watch not only the spider but the mind attending to the spider, and then noticing that the mind has slipped elsewhere and the bee is eaten. Now the spider is gone. There’s something there, I’m sure, about how poetry gets made.


Derek Walcott

For every poet it is always morning in the world. History a forgotten, insomniac night; History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.
-Derek Walcott

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Dream Dreamt through Me

In The Family Reunion, the protagonist is told, 'It is possible You are the consciousness of your unhappy family, Its bird sent flying through the purgatorial flame', and comes to see his life as 'a dream Dreamt through me by the minds of others'.

More Merrill Markoe

I remember what you wrote about your mother. She was pretty critical when you showed her your first scripts. What was it she said? “It’s not my taste, but maybe someone will like it”?

“I don’t happen to care for it, but I pray I’m wrong.” That’s one of the most reliable pieces of comedy. When she said it to me, it was searingly painful. What I later learned on the stage was that it was an instant laugh-getter. It kind of reorganized my entire childhood. Strangers agreed it was the wrong thing to say to a hopeful artist.

That’s what I love about comedy, the way you navigate yourself through a horrible situation. You paint an exit tunnel and walk out of it. You reconceive the facts you find unpleasant and untenable in a way that is tenable and makes you laugh. I think it is the greatest invention of mankind.

-Merrill Markoe


Merrill Markoe

Here’s what I learned: First thing in the morning, before I have drowned myself in coffee, while I still have that sleepy brain I used to believe was useless — that is the best brain for creative writing. Words come pouring out easily while my head still feels as if it is full of ground fog, wrapped in flannel and gauze, and surrounded by a hive of humming, velvety sleep bees.

And I have a theory about why. Although I am not really known for my scrupulous neurological research and have only personal experience to back me up, what I believe may be happening is that before you are fully awake, your right brain continues to dominate for a while, allowing you access to the pleasant sensation of right brain creativity. Or maybe it’s because during the phase of sleep known as REM the brain becomes more active while at the same time the muscles of the body become more relaxed. And since tests have shown that REM periods become more prolonged as we progress toward waking, maybe a bit of the old “active mind/relaxed body” afterglow lingers on in a helpful way.

Conversely, the relentlessly negative voice that comes from your critical parent seems to be a left brain resident and doesn’t like to wake up too early.

I’m happy to report that these days I can walk just fine again. But having learned this lesson, I now get up in the morning and immediately start writing. I recommend using a pen as often as possible because it seems to maintain the right brain connection better. I am only trying to help you start the writing process. I can’t guarantee your ideas will be good or reduce the need for endless rewrites. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m at the end of my four hours. I’m going back to sleep.

-Merrill Markoe


Andrew Solomon

If you wake up feeling no pain, you know you're dead. (Russian expression)
― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.
― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair.
― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

It is important not to suppress your feelings altogether when you are depressed. It is equally important to avoid terrible arguments or expressions of outrage. You should steer clear of emotionally damaging behavior. People forgive, but it is best not to stir things up to the point at which forgiveness is required. When you are depressed, you need the love of other people, and yet depression fosters actions that destroy that love. Depressed people often stick pins into their own life rafts. The conscious mind can intervene. One is not helpless.
― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

You are constantly told in depression that your judgment is compromised, but a part of depression is that it touches cognition. That you are having a breakdown does not mean that your life isn't a mess. If there are issues you have successfully skirted or avoided for years, they come cropping back up and stare you full in the face, and one aspect of depression is a deep knowledge that the comforting doctors who assure you that your judgment is bad are wrong. You are in touch with the real terribleness of your life. You can accept rationally that later, after the medication sets in, you will be better able to deal with the terribleness, but you will not be free of it. When you are depressed, the past and future are absorbed entirely by the present moment, as in the world of a three-year-old. You cannot remember a time when you felt better, at least not clearly; and you certainly cannot imagine a future time when you will feel better.
― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.
― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Antonin Artaud wrote on one of his drawings, "Never real and always true," and that is how depression feels. You know that it is not real, that you are someone else, and yet you know that it is absolutely true.
― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Claudio Abbado

La cultura è un bene comune e primario, come l'acqua: i teatri, le biblioteche, i musei, i cinema sono come tanti acquedotti.

― Claudio Abbado, Marches and Dances

Denise Duhamel Poetry + Collaboration


Two-Minute Memoir


Identified Patient: My Childhood Explained

My childhood has a name, identified patient!

My Childhood Explained

Identified patient

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Identified patient, or "IP", is a term used in a clinical setting to describe the person in a dysfunctional family who has been subconsciously selected to act out the family's inner conflicts as a diversion; who is the split-off carrier of the (perhaps transgenerational) family disturbance.

The term is also used in the context of organizational management, in circumstances where an individual becomes the carrier of a group problem.

Origins and characteristics

The term emerged from the work of the Bateson Project on family homeostasis, as a way of identifying a largely unconscious pattern of behavior whereby an excess of painful feelings in a family lead to one member being identified as the cause of all the difficulties - a scapegoating of the IP.

The identified patient - also called the "symptom-bearer" or "presenting problem" - may display unexplainable emotional or physical symptoms, and is often the first person to seek help, perhaps at the request of the family. However, while family members will typically express concern over the IP's problems, they may instinctively react to any improvement on the identified patient's part by attempting to reinstate the status quo.

Virginia Satir viewed the identified patient as a way of both concealing and revealing a family's secret agendas. Conjoint family therapy stressed accordingly the importance in group therapy of bringing not only the identified patient but the extended family in which their problems arose into the therapy - with the ultimate goal of relieving the IP of the broader family feelings they have been carrying. In such circumstances, not only the IP but their siblings as well may end up feeling the benefits.

R. D. Laing saw the IP as a function of the family nexus: "the person who gets diagnosed is part of a wider network of extremely disturbed and disturbing patterns of communication". Later formulations suggest that the patient may be an 'emissary' of sorts from the family to the wider world, in an implicit familial call for help, as with the reading of juvenile delinquency as a coded cry for help by a child on his parents' behalf. There may then be an element of altruism in the IP's behavior - playing sick to prevent worse things happening in the family, such as a total family breakdown.


In a family where the parents need to assert themselves as powerful figures and caretakers, often due to their own insecurities, they may designate one or more of their children as being inadequate, subconsciously assigning to the child the role of someone who cannot cope by themselves. For example, the child may exhibit some irrational problem that requires the constant care and attention of the parents.
In Dibs, an account of a child therapy, Virginia Axline considered that perhaps the parents, "quite unconsciously...chose to see Dibs as a mental defective rather than as an intensified personification of their own emotional and social inadequacy".
A child may be regarded as a bully and a troublemaker in school and labeled a "problem child," when he may in fact be expressing conflicts and problems, such as abuse from home, by acting out and being "bad."
Gregory Bateson considered that sometimes "the identified patient sacrifices himself to maintain the sacred illusion that what the parent says makes sense", and that "the identified patient exhibits behavior which is almost a caricature of that loss of identity which is characteristic of all the family members".

Jung independently concluded that a neurosis "comes from the totality of a man's life...from his psychic experience within the family or even his social group", and saw himself as something of a case in point: "I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents and grandparents and more distant impersonal karma within a family, which is passed on from parents to children".


'The anti-psychiatry movement of the Sixties...proposed the theory that it was families that were mad rather than simply the individuals who were scapegoated by them as the "sick member"',thereby extending the original boundaries of the IP concept. 'From this position, it was a short hop, given the ethos of the Sixties, to doubting the normality of normality itself...the mad were the super-sane'. Laing might insist overtly that it is 'not necessarily the case that the person who is "out of formation" is more "on course" than the formation. There is no need to idealize someone just because he is labelled "out of formation"'.In practice, however, he and his followers tended to claim that "more often than not, a person diagnosed as 'mentally ill' is the emotional scapegoat for the turmoil in his or her family or associates, and may, in fact, be the 'sanest' member of this group...the least disturbed member of the entire group."

Later family therapists would insist by contrast that 'you mustn't take anyone's side....That's why I believe the ideas of R. D. Laing and Cooper have done a lot of harm. It's natural, from an emotional point of view, to side with the scapegoat, doesn't work. Supporting only the scapegoat makes the rest of the family less secure, more paranoid, even less able to "own" their bad feelings'.

Literary analogues

In The Family Reunion, the protagonist is told, 'It is possible You are the consciousness of your unhappy family, Its bird sent flying through the purgatorial flame', and comes to see his life as 'a dream Dreamt through me by the minds of others'.
See also

Dysfunctional family
Family therapy
Martti Olavi Siirala
Münchausen syndrome by proxy
Narcissistic parents
Psychological projection
Role suction
Sacrificial lamb

Woonsocket Fashion

I look like an outer Mongolian princess. I'm wearing my summer flip flops with oatmeal socks and my long johns. I'm wearing my black fleece hat, my three yellow, red, and purple scarves, with my thick black bathrobe; the one with the red, yellow blue, stars and crescent moons. I should take a photo! I walked Bill to the car at 6:00 AM secretly hoping someone from the 'hood would see me!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Inner Barbie Anatomy


When Children Become Criminals

New York channels nearly 40,000 adolescents a year into the criminal courts — most of them charged with nonviolent crimes like fare-beating in the subways, marijuana possession and shoplifting. The consequences have been especially disastrous for black and Latino young people, who are overrepresented among those arrested and disproportionately at risk of having their lives ruined by encounters with the criminal justice system.

Much has been learned since the 1960s. Federally financed studies, for instance, have shown that minors prosecuted as adults commit more violent crimes later on and are more likely to become career criminals than those sent through juvenile courts, where they receive counseling and family support. Beyond that, neurological science has shown that adolescents are less able to assess risks and make the kinds of mature decisions that would keep them out of trouble.

Connecticut wisely adopted a strategy based on rehabilitation, not lockups, reducing arrests and saving the state money.


Life as a Female Journalist

This kind of vitriol is not designed to hold reporters accountable for the fairness and accuracy of their work. Instead, it seeks to intimidate and, ultimately, to silence female journalists who write about controversial topics.

Morning Musings to Share With Love

I worked as a prep chef in restaurants. I made vats of chili, and
chicken soup, marinades for grilled chicken and pork, grandma's
chocolate pudding, greek spinach pies and pecan pies. I love to feed
but when I cook in huge quantities in the soup kitchen's Alice in
Wonderland pots and pans, my appetite shuts off. I have to go home
and take a walk and when my appetite returns, cook something
completely different. This is how I learned to cook way back then. I
would wake up and want to make something I cooked the week before but
this time I had to figure out how to make it for just me.

In order to feed we have to be balanced and fulfilled ourselves.
Perhaps hungry chef is passing along his deprivation. Maybe not.
Maybe the hungry chef is feeding, and tending to his deprivation. As
a child my mother was stuffing us with her hungers and neurosis and
greed and then pulling them out of us with laxatives and enemas. I
was sick to my stomach at every meal. I became phobic about the table
and the toilet, and terrified of my mother's mouth. She had perfect
teeth and wore red lipstick and sunglasses to the breakfast table. I
became fearful of digestion, the mysterious plumbing system we all
carried inside.

I remember walking into the kitchen while my mother was making
meatballs and she gave me a blob of raw hamburger the side of a large
marble. I poured myself a glass of Welch's grape juice to wash it
down. Two minutes later I vomited the purple mixture right into the
big white porcelain kitchen sink! Most days if I walked in while she
was making breakfast, scrambled eggs, she handed me a blob of cream
cheese. She always put a heaping tablespoon of Philadelphia cream
cheese inside the mixture sometimes she added kidney beans or
spinach. Food was love and food was the love we all craved and chased
after. I would sit in our kitchen pantry on the green vinyl step-
stool and hide. The pantry was slightly larger than a phone booth but
packed like the library stacks, with everything including a few
strange items like tiny cans of turtle soup. It was security to be in

I wear a thin white kitchen apron all the time to cover my
vulnerable gut antennae. I still feel more secure being inside the
pantry. I am vaguely traumatized carrying my supper plate out to the
table in the next room. If I could I would have my kitchen table,
next to the oven and inside the pantry. When I lived on Smith Hill I
had a pantry with glass cupboards. The big enamel sink had a window
above it and while I washed dishes I had a view of a big maple tree.
The golden winter light would light up my rows of mason jars full of
rolled oats beans and corn kernels and decorative teacups. I sat in
there for hours. It was where I met my husband. He came to a party
at my house and we stayed in the pantry talking the whole night.

I am fifty three now, and my journey of food has taken many twists
and turns. I am back in the kitchen residing over the gigantic
Garland stove, in the church basement on my street feeding my
neighbors soup and bread, the universal language.

Inside the theatre of the kitchen, we perform and practice love.

I want my table to be a safe and lively place. In my fantasy painting
of the last supper it is the first supper of many. It is a round
table and seated there are John Lennon Ghandi BBKing Loinel Poilaine
Martin Luther King, Jimi Hendrix, all of the poets and writers and
dancers, all of the people in my city, my ancestors, your ancestors,
maybe the table goes around the earth! Maybe the table has troughs
for the cats and dogs birds goats and antelopes, and of course my
veterinarian and your veterinarian, my dentist, the police chief, the
Mayor, the street sweeper, the maintenance man, the garbage man, the
asphalt pavers, Dolly Parton, Willy Nelson, Willy Lowman, Edgar Allen
Poe, Mozart, Lucille ball. Everyone is invited to my table.

I am a journalist. I write in my journal every day. The magic alchemy
of sleep after waking and walking makes words be. Perhaps I am a
journalist on Jupiter or Saturn. The words come out of my feet while
walking and fly up through my oxygenated lungs behind my eyes and
into my brain. Just like I must take off my shoes while playing my
saxophone. I feel the music of the spheres swirling around us the
way flavors of the soup, must 'land' as the broth cools. Sometimes
the thoughts and scents land in us but they are always swirling by
like a river or the city's plumbing sewers and subways beneath us.
All we do is reach out and open our heart, and hand and look through
the microscope or telescope.

Go Upstairs

The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

"The Song of Wandering Angus" by William Butler Yeats

As a child I wanted to go to the Catholic School,
Saint John and Paul's on my street, only 5 houses away!
They wore uniforms and had a basketball hoop
in the parking lot that I used by myself on Sunday afternoons
when nobody was around.
At 13 I started copying religious paintings into my sketchbook.
My parents laughed at me.
I fell in love with old timey spirituals - "I saw the light."
I became obsessed with ex votos
and collected saint candles.

After decades of being a vegetarian
I started clipping pictures of meat from supermarket circulars.
I finally met a butcher who made it all okay
to bake meatloaf and eat a roast and make home-made sausages.

Now I cook in the church down the street for the soup kitchen,
with my butcher's donated meat.
Perhaps I will start learning the stories of the martyrs
and listen to the bilingual sermons
and gaze at the saints
on the stained glass windows upstairs.

Come Prepared

When we moved up the hill I thought I'd have to change
my cake recipes for altitude.
I was afraid using the blender would disturb the neighbors
or drain our bank account.
When my friend Matthew died I waited for an invitation
to the wake,
not knowing funerals were open
to the public.
I thought I'd be electrocuted fishing toast out of the toaster
even unplugged.
I tried to pay attention in school in case I had to explain
to the Martians
how airplanes fly.

J.D. Salinger

"Publication tends, for me, at least, to put all work still in progress in dire jeopardy. One reason being that I distrust the finality of publication," Salinger said.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

James Baldwin's Paris

Baldwin was only 24 when he arrived in Paris, with just $40 in his pocket. Virtually unpublished, he had left New York to escape American racism — an escape that he believed literally saved his life and made it possible for him to write.

In “Giovanni’s Room” Baldwin describes Les Halles as a place with “choked boulevards and impassible streets, a place where leeks, cabbages, oranges, apples, potatoes, cauliflowers stood gleaming in mounds all over, in the sidewalks and streets in front of metal sheds.”


June Squibb

I’m electrifying, and I ain’t even trying.


Sweet Anthony

Friday I met sweet Anthony when he was standing guard over the rotorooterish truck cleaning the sewers on our street. He was surprised that I love the city. I told him Let me count the ways. He smiled in agreement and said, I have a new friend.

Get Me

"I used to care so deeply about what people thought of me,” she said later in her dressing room, a kale salad awaiting her. “I just wanted to be liked. Now, I care that people get me. I want to be understood.”
I had to pick myself up and stop feeling sorry for myself,” she said. “I didn’t have any money coming in.”

Saturday, January 18, 2014

May Sarton

One must believe that private dilemmas are, if deeply examined, universal, and so, if expressed, have a human value beyond the private, and one must also believe in the vehicle for expressing them, in the talent.
-May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

Subversive Imagination

On Etgar Keret

He’s most effective when he strips away the constraints of realism and gives rein to his subversive imagination. In “Unzipping,” a woman named Ella finds a small zipper under her lover’s tongue as he lies sleeping. When she pulls it, her lover opens up “like an oyster,” revealing a second man. Ella soon realizes she has a zipper under her tongue as well, and the story ends with her fingering it uncertainly, trying “to imagine what she’d be like inside.” It’s an eerie meditation on the instability of identity, and spans all of five paragraphs.

In gems like this, Keret evinces what the psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim called “the uses of enchantment,” an ability to compel readers to experience their hidden terrors by means of symbolic narrative. Bettelheim used the term to describe fairy tales. It’s a testament to Keret’s unorthodox gifts that his dark evocations read with the same disarming allure.

Book Review

Go Deep

Going deeper does mean forgoing immediate gratification more often, taking time to reflect and making more conscious choices. It also requires the capacity to focus in a more absorbed and sustained way, which takes practice and commitment in a world of infinite distractions.
-Tony Schwartz

Julia Baird

I were your friend, and New York were a man, you would slap me and stage an intervention.

Australia is sunny, certain, prosperous and beautiful. Dolphins and turtles swim in the bay at the bottom of my street.

Stepping out of a cab in Manhattan is like licking your finger and sticking it in an electrical socket.

New York is a stoker of dreams, a disreputable, charming, buoyant rake.

I will always be torn. There is a word for the pain of homesickness in German, “Sehnsucht,” which is a certain longing, a pining that is both pleasurable and difficult.

This is what New York does, for all its flaws: It models reinvention, motion and constancy all at once. New York perseveres through everything.

And this is what lures so many of us back: the idea that we can simultaneously grow, transform and be our better selves.

As E.B. White wrote, “the city is buoyed by the hopes and ferments of so many awakening millions rising — this vigorous spear that presses heaven hard.”






Jack Munroe

“Last night when I opened my fridge to find some leftover tomato pasta, an onion, and a knob of stem ginger, I gave the pasta to my boy and went to bed hungry with a pot of homemade ginger tea to ease the stomach pains.”

Her son would ask: Why aren’t you eating, Mummy?

“I’m not hungry,” she would reply, praying that he would leave the crust of his toast.

For eight months, she did not tell anyone. There was shame and a residual hope that one of the 300 job applications typed out on her mobile phone would come through. Above all, there was the fear that child services would take away her boy. “He was the reason I was still getting up in the morning,” she said. “A cuddle on the sofa is free, reading a story is free. I didn’t want to lose him.”

WHEN she could no longer afford a haircut, she told her friends that she was growing it out. She kept her apartment tidy, her son’s clothes clean. “You become really good at hiding things,” she said.

It was not until July 30, 2012, when she wrote “Hunger Hurts,” that she officially came out as poor. Her parents dropped off bags of food and clothes, and berated her for not telling them sooner. But with two young adopted children to feed, they could only help so much. That August, Ms. Monroe had a sale, parting with almost everything she had left, raising almost $3,300 to pay off her debts and put down a deposit for a cheaper house share.

“Where is my dinosaur toy?” her son asked when he came back later from a day with his father, who helps look after him.

“Mummy had a tidy-up,” she told him.


Anne Lamott

You are going to have to give and give and give, or there's no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.
- Anne Lamott

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Isaac Bashevis Singer

We all play chess with Fate as partner. He makes a move, we make a move. He tries to checkmate us in three moves, we try to prevent it. We know we can't win, but we're driven to give him a good fight.
― Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer

Life is God's novel. Let him write it.
― Isaac Bashevis Singer

There are 500 reasons I write for children... Children read books, not reviews. They don't give a hoot about the critics... They don't read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff... They don't expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they are, they know that it is not in his power. Only the adults have such childish illusions.
― Isaac Bashevis Singer

When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer.
― Isaac Bashevis Singer

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Martha Knox

Words on Woodcuts

Breathing in Spacing Out

For some people who begin mindfulness training, it’s the first time in their life where they realize that a thought or emotion is not their only reality, that they have the ability to stay focused on something else, for instance their breathing, and let that emotion or thought just pass by.

. . . physicists and writers alike came up with their most insightful ideas while spacing out.

. . . the challenge is finding the balance between mindfulness and mind wandering.

. . . there is a time for using mindfulness to discover inner truths . . . and a time to let go of mindfulness so that the mind may wander the universe.


Woonsocket on It

Cheers to Wednesday, mid-week mid-month January thaw and full moon!

Woonsocket is such a cool name I have for decades imagined a local company called "Woonsocket on it" that would sell items with the name.

Also, in my crazy fantasy I would love to see a custom made pizzelle maker with our City seal imprinted as the cookie pattern. It could be used for local fundraising events and the cookies sold in town.

Under a Hoodoo Moon

I loved this book because the language is sheer music!
Because that for all we know, we may never meet again But before you go, make this moment sweet again. We won't say goodnight, until the last minute. I'll hold out my hand, and my heart will be in it.

... The Funk of a thousand swamp dives. Like its African predecessors, New Orleans music has always been built from the bottom up: drums first, bass second, followed by the guitar, horns, and other goodies. As the New Orleans showman and pianist Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack wrote in his autobiography, “In New Orleans roots music, the drummer is crucial, chronic to our thing because he lays down the foundation of what New Orleans music is all about: The Funk.‎

One of the first of my serious contacts with the reverend mothers happened a bit before I did the Gris-Gris album. I ran into Mother Shannon, a well-known reverend mother, and told her I wanted to cut some voodoo songs. She said, "Oh, no, you can't do that.‎"

One of the gangs was made up of all the whores and pimps from Perdido Street; their parade was called Gangster Molls and Baby Dolls. Everyone in this group dressed as outlandishly as possible: The women wore eye-popping dresses; the ones who looked highest-priced wore ultra-sharp women's suits, but with see-through bras underneath.‎

In New Orleans, everything — food, music, religion, even the way people talk and act — has deep, deep roots; and, like the tangled veins of cypress roots that meander this way and that in the swamp, everything in New Orleans in interrelated, wrapped around itself in ways that aren't always obvious.‎

The closest thing I could ever find to his style among the earlier cats was a guy named Joseph Spence, who was a guitar player from the Bahamas who played rhythms like Fess.‎

One of the reasons those highs were so tremendous was that the stuff that came through New Orleans was real, 100 percent Corsican junk that came straight off the boats from Cuba uncut.‎

I was twixted and tweened and jacked up

What the owners did was rotate the customers so that at least one club was always packed with some kind of action. The nature of the action was dictated by the time of day.‎
-Dr. John, Under a Hoodoo Moon: The Life of the Night Tripper
by Dr. John, aka John Mac Rebennack with Jack Rummel

Full Moon Dream that woke me up at 3:15

I was driving a little Volkswagen beetle on a sandy path in a beach community, I was being followed by an angry and curious driver. I came to a small wooden staircase blocking the path. I got out and carried the car over the stairs and jumped back in and kept driving. I did this a few times, each time I got out and carried my VW bug over a small set of wooden stairs and jumped back in and kept driving. I arrived at a communal living spot. The veranda had tall ceilings with archways, and rugs on a tiled floor. One huge round rug had fifty-two pairs of shoes! I noticed pointy-toed black leather fashion boots and heels amongst them. I knew who they belonged to. I was still racing to get away. I was on the sandy path at an intersection in Tiverton complaining about illustration to my friend. He got bored and drove off in a vintage gold-colored El Dorado with a rumbling muffler. Apparently a strip mall was being planned at this intersection and everyone was upset about it. I tried on a men's gold corduroy jacket at a thrift store. It had a hole near the cuff. I noticed a checkbook and money in the breast pocket. I hurried to buy it but couldn't find my wallet. I woke up searching for my little "Change comes from within" purse.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Laurie Colwin

Cookbooks hit you where you live. You want comfort; you want security; you want food; you want to not be hungry; and not only do you want those basic things fixed, you want it done in a really nice, gentle way that makes you feel loved.
- Laurie Colwin

Lyrics on Trial


Ruby Tuesday

She would never say where she came from
Yesterday don't matter when it's gone
While the sun is bright
Or in the darkest night
No one knows
She comes and goes
Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you smile with every new day
Still I'm gonna miss you...
Don't question why she needs to be so free
She'll tell you it's the only way to be
She just can't be chained
To a life where nothing's gained
And nothing's lost
At such a cost
There's no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you will lose your mind.
Ain't life unkind?
Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you smile with every new day
Still I'm gonna miss you...

-The Rolling Stones



Next Frontier


Pope Francis

A Harley-Davidson motorcycle donated to Pope Francis last year and signed by him on its tank will be sold at auction in Paris to help raise funds for a soup kitchen and hostel for the homeless in Rome.

The Bonhams auction house noted Francis' "preference for modest modes of transport" in a statement Monday. It says it will also be auctioning off on Feb. 6 a Harley-Davidson 110th anniversary leather motorcycle jacket, size XL, signed by Francis. The auction sales will raise money for Caritas Roma, a Catholic charity based in Rome.

Francis, who says he wants to lead a "poor church," uses a Ford Focus rather than fancier Vatican cars.



I love drinking black coffee while standing in the dark backyard at 4 AM. I stood out there this morning admiring the city of sleeping windows.

Jay Neugeboren

As I began to write, I realized that though this story would be about him, it was also about me. What was it like to love someone and to be helpless to help that person?

. . . the fact that he could trust anyone seemed, then and now, as remarkable as anything I would or could ever write about us.
- Jay Neugeboren


the alarm goes off at 4AM for my husband to prepare
for teaching school
our schedule is what I call monk's hours
it's like having permanent jet lag
today I woke at 3:45 dreaming of two tarantulas
in a glass tank on top of a white fridge
the glass broke
and they got out
loose tarantulas!!
black coffee at 4:15

Bald Street

On the bald street breaks the blank day.

- Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam (VII)

Madeline Arakawa

Madeline Helen Gins (her surname is pronounced with a hard “g”) was born in New York City on Nov. 7, 1941, and reared in Island Park, N.Y. In 1962 she earned a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, where she studied physics and Eastern philosophy. She later studied painting and began her working life as a poet.

With her husband, with whom she collaborated for nearly half a century, Ms. Gins practiced an idiosyncratic and highly personal brand of art that sought to deploy architecture in the service of large essential questions about the nature of being.

The couple’s vision, as articulated in their published writings and their buildings, was beyond Utopian. It sought not merely better living — but, ideally, eternal living — through design.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Maria Konnikova

Sleep, it turns out, may play a crucial role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor: It’s clearing out all of the junk that has accumulated as a result of your daily thinking.
- Maria Konnikova

Annie Dillard

The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.

- Annie Dillard

Alan Watts

The real reason why human life can be so utterly exasperating and frustrating is not because there are facts called death, pain, fear, or hunger. The madness of the thing is that when such facts are present, we circle, buzz, writhe, and whirl, trying to get the “I” out of the experience. We pretend that we are amoebas, and try to protect ourselves from life by splitting in two. Sanity, wholeness, and integration lie in the realization that we are not divided, that man and his present experience are one, and that no separate “I” or mind can be found.

To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening.

- Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity


Alain de Botton + John Armstrong

One of the unexpectedly important things that art can do for us is teach us how to suffer more successfully. … We can see a great deal of artistic achievement as “sublimated” sorrow on the part of the artist, and in turn, in its reception, on the part of the audience. The term sublimation derives from chemistry. It names the process by which a solid substance is directly transformed into a gas, without first becoming liquid. In art, sublimation refers to the psychological processes of transformation, in which base and unimpressive experiences are converted into something noble and fine — exactly what may happen when sorrow meets art.

Art can offer a grand and serious vantage point from which to survey the travails of our condition.

Few of us are entirely well balanced. Our psychological histories, relationships and working routines mean that our emotions can incline grievously in one direction or another. We may, for example, have a tendency to be too complacent, or too insecure; too trusting, or too suspicious; too serious, or too light-hearted. Art can put us in touch with concentrated doses of our missing dispositions, and thereby restore a measure of equilibrium to our listing inner selves.

Art can save us time — and save our lives — through opportune and visceral reminders of balance and goodness that we should never presume we know enough about already.

We are not transparent to ourselves. We have intuitions, suspicions, hunches, vague musings, and strangely mixed emotions, all of which resist simple definition. We have moods, but we don’t really know them. Then, from time to time, we encounter works of art that seem to latch on to something we have felt but never recognized clearly before. Alexander Pope identified a central function of poetry as taking thoughts we experience half-formed and giving them clear expression: “what was often thought, but ne’er so well expressed.” In other words, a fugitive and elusive part of our own thinking, our own experience, is taken up, edited, and returned to us better than it was before, so that we feel, at last, that we know ourselves more clearly.

Engagement with art is useful because it presents us with powerful examples of the kind of alien material that provokes defensive boredom and fear, and allows us time and privacy to learn to deal more strategically with it. An important first step in overcoming defensiveness around art is to become more open about the strangeness that we feel in certain contexts.

One of our major flaws, and causes of unhappiness, is that we find it hard to take note of what is always around us. We suffer because we lose sight of the value of what is before us and yearn, often unfairly, for the imagined attraction elsewhere.


Saturday, January 11, 2014


Although he describes his protest in mainly political terms, his explanation for returning despite the possible danger is tinged with a hint of emotion. He describes his horror on visiting abandoned farms where he found rows of dead cows, their heads fallen into food troughs where they had waited to be fed. In one barn, a newborn calf hoarsely bawled next to its dead mother. He said his spur-of-the-moment decision to save the calf, which he named Ichigo, or Strawberry, was his inspiration for trying to save the others left behind.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Cognitive Neuroscience of Insight

Cognitive research on insightful problem-solving.


My Sister's Thumb

I thought I'd moved past my visceral disgust with my abusive mother years ago. Then I saw my sister's arched and ambitious thumb holding a decorative bowl of food in a snapshot. One look and it all came flooding back to me. My sister's thumb triggered the visceral disgust. Why? Perhaps the thumb is the face of the hand and now my sister's thumb embodied the face of my mother. So my reaction was as if I was seeing my mother's hands again, the very hands that abused me.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

John Patrick Shanley

I came back to New York and went into rehearsal. As the actors and director took the play, I watched the world I’d created leave me and felt the supreme loneliness of that. For a moment though, through the spell of storytelling, I had a home. I was Irish. And then the moment faded. That’s how it is with writers. We keep getting evicted from our own imaginations. We are wanderers, dreaming, and then our dreams become real and push us out.
-John Patrick Shanley

Monday, January 06, 2014

Kahlil Gibran

When you are sorrowful look again in
your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been
your delight
-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Saturday, January 04, 2014


She painted eyes on her bare knees using her mother's black eyeliner. When she heard the kitchen door open she slipped on her baggy carpenter's blue jeans and came downstairs. Unload the car Janet, her mother said angrily. Mom's always crabby, she thought as she unpacked the bags: paper towels, boxes of yellow Dial soap to match the upstairs bathroom, frozen orange juice, raisins, a block of sharp cheddar cheese, a whole chicken, a head of celery, baby shampoo, and rye bread. While she put things away she remembered the eyes, a secret she could contemplate. She imagined being able to see through her drawn eyes even though they were in the dark.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


Yesterday I walked Lily along the pond and ran into Sue, who lives there. We talked about the winter blues and hating the holidays and then we looked around and talked about our love of trees and poetry and words. She said "A tree that looks at God all day/ And lifts her leafy arms to pray," from this poem.


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray,

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair

Upon whose blossom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems were made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.

- Joyce Kilmer (1913)