Friday, February 28, 2014

Dead Rugs

The New England division launches an initiative to give community members an anonymous and easy way to help clean up the streets.

Urban Planning

In our little City people travel on foot many of whom are elderly. I urge them to wear bright colors so they are visible.
We have roadways designed around the car, in a city teeming with ever more people on foot.

Rutland Vermont Heroin Epidemic

A Call to Arms on a Vermont Heroin Epidemic NYT


“You can’t separate child abuse, domestic violence and opiate abuse because in many situations, it all resides in the same house,” Chief Baker said. “Now we’ll set up an intervention, not just wait for something to happen.”

Two-thirds of the homes in the target area are multiunit apartments; Project Vision hopes to reduce that number to 50 percent within three years by buying back properties, perhaps having nonprofit groups restore them and resell them to owners who would live in them.

Mayor Christopher Louras has been going door to door with work crews as they install brighter streetlights.

“A byproduct of that outreach is to talk to neighbors and let them know that we’re interested in their quality of life and giving them a greater sense of security,” said the mayor, whose own nephew was arrested in 2012 on drug-related charges.

Greg Hampikian


Cold Dough Rising

February is my favorite time of year. When the ground is still frozen and the light is coming back.

Cold dough rising.

The last few times I've baked bread I set up my previously refrigerated dough to rise as grapefruit-sized boules inside a cold oven, and then when it warmed to room temps (which is 50 degrees in my house), I turned on my electric oven to 450, rather than preheating. It worked! If you have a gas oven it might heat up too fast to do this method so try this: turn to 200 degrees place dough in oven for 20 minutes and then turn it up to 450.

The slow kill reminds me of my grandmother cooking lobster. She placed a live lobster in in a big pot of cold water and then turned on the gas flame below. As the water temps heated up the lobster became uncomfortable so he crawled out of the pot. You can't blame him! My grandmother, never having cooked a lobster before freaked out, she climbed onto her yellow dinette kitchen chair and stood there screaming in her Brighton Beach apartment until my grandfather rescued her. The fact that Jews are forbidden to eat lobster is another story.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Leonard Cohen

On That Day, Dear Heather (album)
by Leonard Cohen

Some people say
It's what we deserve
For sins against g-d
For crimes in the world
I wouldn't know
I'm just holding the fort
Since that day
They wounded New York
Some people say
They hate us of old
Our women unveiled
Our slaves and our gold
I wouldn't know
I'm just holding the fort
But answer me this
I won't take you to court
Did you go crazy
Or did you report
On that day
On that day
They wounded New York

Villanelle For Our Time
by Leonard Cohen, Dear Heather (album)

From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.
We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.
The lesser loyalties depart,
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.
Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.
Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.

-Leonard Cohen

Canary in the Coal Mine


An allusion to caged canaries (birds) that mining workers would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.

1. (idiomatic) Something whose sensitivity to adverse conditions makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of greater danger or trouble by a deterioration in its health or welfare.


Targeting the Johns


Nathaniel Rich

The first time Ben Novak saw a passenger pigeon, he fell to his knees and remained in that position, speechless, for 20 minutes. He was 16. At 13, Novak vowed to devote his life to resurrecting extinct animals. At 14, he saw a photograph of a passenger pigeon in an Audubon Society book and “fell in love.” But he didn’t know that the Science Museum of Minnesota, which he was then visiting with a summer program for North Dakotan high-school students, had them in their collection. He was shocked when he came across a cabinet containing two stuffed pigeons, a male and a female, mounted in lifelike poses. He was overcome by awe, sadness and the birds’ physical beauty: their bright auburn breasts, slate-gray backs and the dusting of iridescence around their napes that, depending on the light and angle, appeared purple, fuchsia or green. Before his chaperones dragged him out of the room, Novak snapped a photograph with his disposable camera. The flash was too strong, however, and when the film was processed several weeks later, he was haunted to discover that the photograph hadn’t developed. It was blank, just a flash of white light.

- Nathaniel Rich, The Mammoth Cometh, NYT

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Anita Long

We have to practice getting older so we can do it well. I am lucky I have a wonderful mentor Anita, who is 98, sharp as a tack, writes letters daily, and does crossword puzzles all the time. I met Anita years ago at the YMCA pool. She began swimming at age 40 and swam fifty minutes a day for forty five years. She is still amazing and beautiful. I love her.

Jose Quintero

Mr. Quintero was born in Panama but came of age in the theaters of New York.

Mr. Robards, considered by many critics to be the quintessential O'Neill actor, recalled how Mr. Quintero, an avid gambler, picked horses. ''Jose said, 'I always bet on a horse with an Irish name and a Panamanian jockey,' '' Mr. Robards said, drawing hearty laughs.

Mr. Robards also recounted how Mr. Quintero's eye for detail helped add to actors' performances. During rehearsals for the 1956 production of ''The Iceman Cometh,'' Mr. Robards said, he snapped his fingers into an open palm in a moment of frustration over forgetting a line. Mr. Quintero noticed the gesture and asked Mr. Robards to add it to his portrayal of his character, the unhinged salesman Theodore Hickman.

''He said it was like the rattle on a snake,'' Mr. Robards said. ''It's the only note I never forgot.''

One by one, speakers told of Mr. Quintero's piercing eyes, deep, rumbling laugh, and his almost psychic connection to O'Neill.

Barbara Gelb, an O'Neill biographer, said the parallels between Mr. Quintero's life and O'Neill's were so ingrained that Mr. Quintero's sister had once berated her brother after seeing a performance of O'Neill's ''Long Day's Journey Into Night.''

''She screamed at Jose: 'How could you write such a terrible play about our family?' '' Mrs. Gelb said. (Mr. Quintero patiently explained that he was not the author, but was flattered.)

Mrs. Gelb also said Mr. Quintero swore he had been visited by O'Neill's ghost during his production of the playwright's ''Moon for the Misbegotten'' and that cutting O'Neill's writing caused him ''nightmares.''

Several acting and directing students who had studied with Mr. Quintero also spoke of his influence, a fact that Mr. Albee took note of. ''All of the rest of what Jose has done is extraordinary, but I don't know many other people that can claim that profound effect,'' Mr. Albee said.

Eugene O'Neill

The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O'Neill

Mark Twain

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning.
- Mark Twain

The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.
- Mark Twain's notebook, c. 1902-190340

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
- Mark Twain's notebook

There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind—the humorous. I will talk mainly about that one. The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter."The humorous story is strictly a work of art—high and delicate art—and only an artist can tell it; but no art is necessary in telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it. The art of telling a humorous story—understand, I mean by word of mouth, not print—was created in America, and has remained at home."The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it; but the teller of the comic story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever heard, then tells it with eager delight, and is the first person to laugh when he gets through. And sometimes, if he has had good success, he is so glad and happy that he will repeat the 'nub' of it and glance around from face to face, collecting applause, and then repeat it again. It is a pathetic thing to see.
- Mark Twain, 1895 essay "How to Tell a Story"

John Cleese

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.
-John Cleese

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.
-John Cleese

We need to be in the open mode when pondering a problem — but! — once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the closed mode to implement it. Because once we’ve made a decision, we are efficient only if we go through with it decisively, undistracted by doubts about its correctness.

To be at our most efficient, we need to be able to switch backwards and forward between the two modes. But — here’s the problem — we too often get stuck in the closed mode. Under the pressures which are all too familiar to us, we tend to maintain tunnel vision at times when we really need to step back and contemplate the wider view.

This is particularly true, for example, of politicians. The main complaint about them from their nonpolitical colleagues is that they’ve become so addicted to the adrenaline that they get from reacting to events on an hour-by-hour basis that they almost completely lose the desire or the ability to ponder problems in the open mode.
-John Cleese


Sarah Silverman

Duck “Doug” Silverman came into my life about 14 years ago. He was picked up by the State running through South Central with no collar, tags or chip. Nobody claimed or adopted him so a no-kill shelter took him in. That’s where I found him — at that shelter, in Van Nuys. Since then we have slept most every night together (and many lazy afternoons.) When we first met, the vet approximated his age at 5½ so I’d say he was about 19 as of yesterday, September 3, 2013.

He was a happy dog, though serene. And stoic. And he loved love.

Over the past few years he became blind, deaf, and arthritic. But with a great vet, good meds, and a first rate seeing-eye person named me, he truly seemed comfortable.

Recently, however, he stopped eating or drinking. He was skin and bones and so weak. I couldn’t figure out this hunger strike. Duck had never been political before. And then, over the weekend, I knew. It was time to let him go.

My boyfriend Kyle flew in late last night and took the day off from work to be with us. We laid in bed and massaged his tiny body, as we love to do – hearing his little “I’m in heaven” breaths.

The doctor came and Kyle, my sister, Laura and I laid on the bed. I held him close – in our usual spoon position and stroked him. I told him how loved he was, and thanked him for giving me such happiness and for his unwavering companionship and love. The doctor gave him a shot and he fell asleep, and then another that was basically an overdose of sleeping meds. I held him and kissed him and whispered to him well passed his passing. I picked him up and his body was limp – you don’t think about the head – it just falls. I held him so tight. And then finally, when his body lost its heat, and I could sense the doctor thinking about the imminent rush hour traffic, I handed him over.

14 years.

My longest relationship.

My only experience of maternal love.

My constant companion.

My best friend.


-Sara Silverman


. . . during my first visit to Seattle in 1977. The water was calling me to her. I could taste her and the light drew me near. I kept remembering the bliss of that day as I sank deeper into the lake my last breath bubbling to the surface and the incredible softness and beauty of the afternoon sun reaching below the surface and I in total surrender, enveloped by her. My brother pushed me to the surface that afternoon and with the aid of the lifeguard revived me. It wasn't my time.

In Praise of Morning

When I have had ample sleep the morning is truly sacred. My intuition and receptivity to words is sharp and pure. I try to follow every lead. I now work my whole life around having a good morning. The combination of ample rest and the slow awakening, dreaming mind is valuable and I find it is the most magical time of day. My inner hauntings and inhibiting thoughts visit my consciousness at night. At at the early hours, my inner giants and ogres are still sleeping.

This morning I woke with advice to a friend that I had seen yesterday. Another friend got me reading about Pythos after my Python dream. The word friend had me recalling the Gabrile Garcia Marquez interview in Paris Review where he speaks of his friendships. Read it. Every paragraph is a gem!

A Privilege


I’ve got a photography book that I’m going to show you. I’ve said on various occasions that in the genesis of all my books there’s always an image. The first image I had of The Autumn of the Patriarch was a very old man in a very luxurious palace into which cows come and eat the curtains. But that image didn’t concretize until I saw the photograph. In Rome I went into a bookshop where I started looking at photography books, which I like to collect. I saw this photograph, and it was just perfect. I just saw that was how it was going to be. Since I’m not a big intellectual, I can find my antecedents in everyday things, in life, and not in the great masterpieces.


Do your novels ever take unexpected twists?


That used to happen to me in the beginning. In the first stories I wrote I had a general idea of the mood, but I would let myself be taken by chance. The best advice I was given early on was that it was all right to work that way when I was young because I had a torrent of inspiration. But I was told that if I didn’t learn technique, I would be in trouble later on when the inspiration had gone and the technique was needed to compensate. If I hadn’t learned that in time, I would not now be able to outline a structure in advance. Structure is a purely technical problem and if you don’t learn it early on you’ll never learn it.


Discipline then is quite important to you?


I don’t think you can write a book that’s worth anything without extraordinary discipline.


What about artificial stimulants?


One thing that Hemingway wrote that greatly impressed me was that writing for him was like boxing. He took care of his health and his well-being. Faulkner had a reputation of being a drunkard, but in every interview that he gave he said that it was impossible to write one line when drunk. Hemingway said this too. Bad readers have asked me if I was drugged when I wrote some of my works. But that illustrates that they don’t know anything about literature or drugs. To be a good writer you have to be absolutely lucid at every moment of writing, and in good health. I’m very much against the romantic concept of writing which maintains that the act of writing is a sacrifice, and that the worse the economic conditions or the emotional state, the better the writing. I think you have to be in a very good emotional and physical state. Literary creation for me requires good health, and the Lost Generation understood this. They were people who loved life.


Blaise Cendrars said that writing is a privilege compared to most work, and that writers exaggerate their suffering. What do you think?


I think that writing is very difficult, but so is any job carefully executed. What is a privilege, however, is to do a job to your own satisfaction. I think that I’m excessively demanding of myself and others because I cannot tolerate errors; I think that it is a privilege to do anything to a perfect degree. It is true though that writers are often megalomaniacs and they consider themselves to be the center of the universe and society’s conscience. But what I most admire is something well done. I’m always very happy when I’m traveling to know that the pilots are better pilots than I am a writer.

-Paris Review

Garcia Marquez: on Power Solitude Friends


The more power you have, the harder it is to know who is lying to you and who is not. When you reach absolute power, there is no contact with reality, and that’s the worst kind of solitude there can be. A very powerful person, a dictator, is surrounded by interests and people whose final aim is to isolate him from reality; everything is in concert to isolate him.


What about the solitude of the writer? Is this different?


It has a lot to do with the solitude of power. The writer’s very attempt to portray reality often leads him to a distorted view of it. In trying to transpose reality he can end up losing contact with it, in an ivory tower, as they say. Journalism is a very good guard against that. That’s why I have always tried to keep on doing journalism, because it keeps me in contact with the real world, particularly political journalism and politics. The solitude that threatened me after One Hundred Years of Solitude wasn’t the solitude of the writer; it was the solitude of fame, which resembles the solitude of power much more. My friends defended me from that one, my friends who are always there.




Because I have managed to keep the same friends all my life. I mean I don’t break or cut myself off from my old friends, and they’re the ones who bring me back to earth; they always keep their feet on the ground and they’re not famous.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

From that trip to the village I came back to write Leaf Storm, my first novel. What really happened to me in that trip to Aracataca was that I realized that everything that had occurred in my childhood had a literary value that I was only now appreciating. From the moment I wrote Leaf Storm I realized I wanted to be a writer and that nobody could stop me and that the only thing left for me to do was to try to be the best writer in the world. That was in 1953, but it wasn’t until 1967 that I got my first royalties after having written five of my eight books.


Do you think that it’s common for young writers to deny the worth of their own childhoods and experiences and to intellectualize as you did initially?


No, the process usually takes place the other way around, but if I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him; it’s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told. Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says “God help me from inventing when I sing.” It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.


Whom were you writing for at this point? Who was your audience?


Leaf Storm was written for my friends who were helping me and lending me their books and were very enthusiastic about my work. In general I think you usually do write for someone. When I’m writing I’m always aware that this friend is going to like this, or that another friend is going to like that paragraph or chapter, always thinking of specific people. In the end all books are written for your friends. The problem after writing One Hundred Years of Solitude was that now I no longer know whom of the millions of readers I am writing for; this upsets and inhibits me. It’s like a million eyes are looking at you and you don’t really know what they think.


What about the influence of journalism on your fiction?


I think the influence is reciprocal. Fiction has helped my journalism because it has given it literary value. Journalism has helped my fiction because it has kept me in a close relationship with reality.

-Paris Review

Gabriel García Márquez

How did you start writing?


By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home. The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends. At the university in Bogotá, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories. They are totally intellectual short stories because I was writing them on the basis of my literary experience and had not yet found the link between literature and life. The stories were published in the literary supplement of the newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá and they did have a certain success at the time—probably because nobody in Colombia was writing intellectual short stories. What was being written then was mostly about life in the countryside and social life. When I wrote my first short stories I was told they had Joycean influences.

-Paris Review

Sleep is Medicine

I was falling apart, exhausted. I slept 8PM - 6:30 AM and I am now glued back together.
Sleep is medicine.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


I hitched a lift down the street in the back of a Ryder box truck with a friend. There were people packed inside with furniture piled up around them in a chaotic mess. An infant, a nude black baby, rolled out between two pieces of blond furniture and fell into my arms. "Keep him, he's yours," a man said, staring at me. This has happened before, people trying to give me their children, I thought. I handed the baby back to the man. "This is not a thing, this is a human being," I said to him. "Are you going to live your life like a nun?" the man said, angrily. He seemed to know that I didn't have any kids. "Let's get out of here," I said to my friend traveling with me and we jumped out before the light. I turned the corner. I was walking down East School Street and the parking lot was flooded. It was an urban pond. Then I saw a dead man in the water facing up, smiling. I recognized him as one of the locals. I ran inside my house and frantically looked for the police phone number. When they answered I said "Are you sitting down, this is gruesome, a dead man is in the water."

Monday, February 24, 2014


In New York, Push for Market-Rate Housing Pits Landlords Against Tenants

Olivia Judson

Memory Stone

Wonderful Crazies

One morning in late January, Jacques-André Istel woke up at his home in Felicity, Calif., did 100 push-ups and 125 squats, swam in his elegantly lit lap pool, then went back upstairs, where he took a light breakfast in bed, as has been his custom since his boyhood in Paris.

I Dreamed

I dreamed I was wading in the Blackstone River when a huge red black and white head of a snake came swimming by making a drumming sound. It was a python and I had been forewarned. I should have jumped into the canoe but I didn't move and it swam away. I called to my friends "He didn't get me," but he circled back and bit me in the ball of my left thumb. I knew this was it. "I am left handed, I am an artist, I am going to die," I said to anyone who would listen. On the way to the doctor's office my car door fell off its hinges. It was a door like an old 1950's Philco refrigerator door. Bill wanted to try to fix it but we kept going anyway, we were close. "I am going to die" I said to everyone in the waiting room. "I was bitten by a python in Pawtucket." Someone in the waiting room told me the medicine will kill you anyway. My breathing became labored, my body was beginning to tingle and go numb. Then Bill woke me up to tell me he had made coffee and he was on his way to school. I am alive and my thumb is fine. And I was not bitten by a python in Pawtucket.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Brené Brown

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
― Brené Brown

If we can find someone who has earned the right to hear our story, we need to tell it. Shame loses power when it is spoken. In this way, we need to cultivate our story to let go of shame, and we need to develop shame resilience in order to cultivate our story.
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

One of the reasons we judge each other so harshly ... we perceive anyone else who's doing anything differently than what we're doing as criticizing our choices.
― Brené Brown

Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

[I] never talk about gratitude and joy separately, for this reason. In 12 years, I've never interviewed a single person who would describe their lives as joyful, who would describe themselves as joyous, who was not actively practicing gratitude.
― Brené Brown

Of this, I am actually certain. After collecting thousands of stories, I’m willing to call this a fact: A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men, and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Saxophone Dream

A guy named Shen was playing my baritone saxophone
I woke up in a sweat, and raced up three flights of red carpeted stairs
in my red-brick childhood home,
"Please do not play my saxophone without my permission," I said
taking my horn off his neck.
I feared a strangers teeth marks on my black mouthpiece.
"I speak from experience," I said.

"You were always stubborn, beginning at age two. Your sister was a
goody two-shoes"
Her one hand gripped me and the other tried to eviscerate me.
My self-portraits were a pile of body parts.
"Is this how you see yourself?" my teacher asked.
"Absolutely," I replied.

after a cold pond swim
hopping heart
black coffee and cinnamon toast
tongue dances
skin sings
mind shocked awake,
body is content, cozy
a vivid sensory world

a love affair with sky, wind, soap,
and clotheslines
I escaped prison in a laundry cart.

Anaïs Nin

You live out the confusions until they become clear.

The earth is heavy and opaque without dreams.

All of my creation is to weave a web of connection with the world; I am always weaving it because it was once broken.

— Anaïs Nin


My hat goes off to everyone who does it because they are trying to be true to themselves. It takes an enormous amount of courage. And if an army can’t respect courage, then there’s something wrong.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Brené Brown

Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness—the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness—that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging—lives inside of our story.
― Brené Brown

Compassion is not a virtue -- it is a commitment. It's not something we have or don't have -- it's something we choose to practice.
― Brené Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame

If you own this story you get to write the ending.
― Brené Brown

One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on "going it alone." Somehow we've come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we're very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It's as if we've divided the world into "those who offer help" and "those who need help." The truth is that we are both.
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

It's in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.”
― Brené Brown

E.E Cummings wrote, "To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight- and never stop fighting.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart.
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

If we don’t allow ourselves to experience joy and love, we will definitely miss out on filling our reservoir with what we need when. . . . hard things happen.
― Brené Brown


"There was a raid in the summer in the little blue house," she was pointing to the cute house in view out her office window. "I got a call from both of my sons, they're both cops, "Get down on the floor, Ma, away from the window, it's a raid," they told me. I saw the Ninja guys on the roof with their guns out. They came and got the pit bulls first, then DCF came and got the kids. I wanted to go over and comfort the little kids but I was told not to. So, I was very worried when Doreen was out chatting with the FBI team the other night during the storm. It was another raid and they were all parked back here, in the church parking lot."

We Read about Fire

She was staring up at the hundreds of starlings in the bare trees.
He's hungry, she said pointing to my dog Lily.
Make him eat them so they'll shut up. She grumbled.
I chuckled.
It's not funny, she shouted.
I locked eyes with her.
Her eyes black rings, like a raccoon mask. Her skin was translucent, hair disheveled and she wore next to nothing on this winter day.
She's been working the long street behind the abandoned park,
it cuts east west and is famous for drugs and prostitution.
And it's the only way home from the other side of town.

Yesterday a man waved hello from the stone house and we chatted since it has been months since we've seen each other. I heard there was a fire I said pointing to the high rise across the street. Do you know how it happened? How is he? The paper said burns over 75 percent of his body. I can't imagine how excruciating that must be.

It depends on what kind of burn it is; first degree second degree third degree. I was a fireman.
Really, around here?
No, up in Burrillville. I was a volunteer.
How did you deal with what you saw doing that kind of work? Did you get nightmares?
The worst were drowning victims when they pull a body from the water after months. Those were the hardest to see.

I dreamed of onions potatoes carrots and radishes sprouting

in my darkened room

a raised bed of dirt

my friend was going to help me plant.

I woke up thinking about Magritte whose mother committed suicide.
She was found in a pond with her nightgown over her head
Many of his paintings have this recurrence of the gown covering faces.
It all makes sense.

We read about fire and we dream of water.

Farmers and Hunters

I can't claim to be a real farmer, but we do farm and I like to work outside.
- E.B. White

I suppose I am a sparrow, a stay-at-home bird.
- Gladys Taber

The hunter vs. farmer hypothesis was proposed by Thom Hartmann about the origins of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults, suggesting that these conditions may be a result of a form of adaptive behavior.

Hartmann developed the hunter vs. farmer idea as a mental model after his own son was disheartened following a diagnosis of ADHD, stating, "It's not hard science, and was never intended to be." However, more recent molecular and clinical research has given support to the hunter vs. farmer hypothesis, and some researchers use the hunter vs. farmer idea as a working hypothesis of the origin of ADHD.

Hartmann notes that most or all humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, but that this standard gradually changed as agriculture developed in most societies, and more people worldwide became farmers. Over many years, most humans adapted to farming cultures, but Hartmann speculates that people with ADHD retained some of the older hunter characteristics.

A key component of the hypothesis is that the proposed "hyperfocus" aspect of ADHD is a gift or benefit under appropriate circumstances. The hypothesis also explains the distractibility factor in ADHD individuals and their short attention span for subject matter that does not trigger hyperfocus, along with various other characteristics such as apathy towards social norms, poor planning and organizing ability, distorted sense of time, impatience, attraction to variety or novelty or excitement, and impulsiveness. It is argued that in the hunter-gatherer cultures that preceded farming societies, hunters needed hyperfocus more than gatherers.


Faith Shearin


by Faith Shearin
For Henry and Irene Spruill

My great grandfather had some fields in North Carolina
and he willed those fields to his sons and his sons
willed them to their sons so there is a two-hundred-year-old
farm house on that land where several generations
of my family fried chicken and laughed and hung

their laundry beneath the trees. There are things you
know when your family has lived close to the earth:
things that make magic seem likely. Dig a hole on the new
of the moon and you will have dirt to throw away
but dig one on the old of the moon and you won't have

enough to fill it back up again: I learned this trick
in the backyard of childhood with my hands. If you know
the way the moon pulls at everything then you can feel
it on the streets of a city where you cannot see the sky.
My mother says the moon is like a man: it changes

its mind every eight days and you plant nothing
until its risen full and high. If you plant corn when
the signs are in the heart you will get black spots
in your grain and if you meet a lover when the
signs are in the feet he will never take you dancing.

When the signs are in the bowels you must not plant
or your seed will rot and if you want to make a baby
you must undress under earth or water. I am the one
in the post office who buys stamps when the signs
are in the air so my mail will learn to fly. I stand in my

front yard, in the suburbs, and wish for luck and
money on the new of the moon when there
are many black nights. I may walk the streets
of this century and make my living in an office
but my blood is old farming blood and my true

self is underground like a potato. At the opera
I will think of rainfall and vines. In my dreams
all my corn may grow short but the ears will be
full. If you kiss my forehead on a dark moon
in March I may disappear—but do not be afraid—
I have taken root in my grandfather's
fields: I am hanging my laundry beneath his trees.

- Faith Shearin, from The Owl Question. © Utah State University Press, 2002.

Also published on the The Writer's Almanac

René Magritte

I am fascinated by this story about painter René Margritte's early life and how it shows up in his imagery.
René Magritte was born in 1898, in the province of Hainaut, Lessines. He was the eldest son of Léopold Magritte, a tailor and textile merchant, and Régina (née Bertinchamps), who was a milliner before she got married. Little is known about Magritte's early life. He began lessons in drawing in 1910. On 12 March 1912, his mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the River Sambre. This was not her first attempt at taking her own life; she had made many over a number of years, driving her husband Léopold to lock her into her bedroom. One day she escaped, and was missing for days. Her body was later discovered a mile or so down the nearby river. According to a legend, 13-year-old Magritte was present when her body was retrieved from the water, but recent research has discredited this story, which may have originated with the family nurse. Supposedly, when his mother was found, her dress was covering her face, an image that has been suggested as the source of several of Magritte's paintings in 1927–1928 of people with cloth obscuring their faces, including Les Amants.

NY Rethinks Solitary Confinement

The New York State prison system has for years been among the nation’s worst when it comes to the overuse of solitary confinement. At any given time about 3,800 inmates across the state are held in windowless isolation for 23 hours a day, the vast majority for disciplinary infractions. The average length of a stay in solitary is five months, and from 2007 to 2011, nearly 2,800 people were in solitary for a year or more.

On Wednesday, corrections officials took a major step toward reform by agreeing to new guidelines for the maximum length prisoners may be placed in solitary. The state will also curb the use of solitary for the most vulnerable groups of inmates: those younger than 18 will receive at least five hours of exercise and other programming outside their cell five days a week, making New York the largest prison system yet to end the most extreme form of isolation for juveniles. Solitary confinement will be presumptively prohibited for pregnant women, and inmates with developmental disabilities will be held there for no more than 30 days.

These changes come after a similar reform in the New York City jail system. In January, jail officials announced that they had stopped sending mentally ill inmates to solitary, where they spent an average of nearly eight weeks. Those inmates are now being diverted to psychiatric treatment in jail.

Wednesday’s agreement was the result of lawsuits by three prisoners, one of whom spent more than two years in solitary confinement for filing false legal documents.

But it shouldn’t take two years to confirm what has long been evident about the widespread and frequently unjust use of solitary confinement. While it may be necessary in very rare instances, it is almost never effective at changing an inmate’s behavior for the better.

Rick Raemisch

When I finally left my cell at 3 p.m., I felt even more urgency for reform. If we can’t eliminate solitary confinement, at least we can strive to greatly reduce its use. Knowing that 97 percent of inmates are ultimately returned to their communities, doing anything less would be both counterproductive and inhumane.
- Rick Raemisch


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club

Amazing Article


All families are cults, strange islands, and dictatorships to some degree.

All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its
own way.
— Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina principle
From Wikipedia

The Anna Karenina principle describes an endeavor in which a deficiency in any one of a number of factors dooms it to failure. Consequently, a successful endeavor (subject to this principle) is one where every possible deficiency has been avoided.

The name of the principle derives from Leo Tolstoy's book Anna Karenina, which begins:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

In statistics, the term Anna Karenina principle is used to describe significance tests: there are any number of ways in which a dataset may violate the null hypothesis and only one in which all the assumptions are satisfied.

Example: failed domestication

The Anna Karenina principle was popularized by Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs and Steel. Diamond uses this principle to illustrate why so few wild animals have been successfully domesticated throughout history, as a deficiency in any one of a great number of factors can render a species undomesticable. Therefore all successfully domesticated species are not so because of a particular positive trait, but because of a lack of any number of possible negative traits.

From chapter 9 of Guns, Germs and Steel, six groups of reasons for failed domestication of animals are:

* Diet - To be a candidate for domestication, a species must be easy to feed. Finicky eaters make poor candidates. Non-finicky omnivores make the best candidates.
* Growth Rate - The animal must grow fast enough to be economically feasible. Elephant farmers, for example, would wait perhaps 12 years for their herd to reach adult size.
* Problems of Captive Breeding - The species must breed well in captivity. Species having mating rituals prohibiting breeding in a farm-like environment make poor candidates for domestication. These rituals could include the need for privacy or long, protracted mating chases.
* Nasty Disposition - Some species are too mean and nasty to be good candidates for domestication. Farmers must not be at risk of life or injury every time they enter the animal pen. The zebra is of special note in the book, as it was recognized by local cultures and Europeans alike as extremely valuable and useful to domesticate, but it proved impossible to tame. Horses in Africa proved to be susceptible to disease and attack by a wide variety of animals, while the very characteristics that made the zebra hardy and survivable in the harsh environment of Africa also made it fiercely independent.
* Tendency to Panic - Species are genetically predisposed to react to danger in different ways. A species that immediately takes flight is a poor candidate for domestication. A species that freezes, or mingles with the herd for cover in the face of danger, is a good candidate. Deer in North America have proven almost impossible to domesticate and have difficulty breeding in captivity. Horses, however, immediately thrived from the time they were introduced to North America in the 17th century.
* Social Structure - Species of lone, independent animals make poor candidates. A species that has a strong, well defined social hierarchy is more likely to be domesticated. A species that can imprint on a human as the head of the hierarchy is best. Different social groups must also be tolerant of one another.

Ecological risk assessment

Moore describes applications of the Anna Karenina principle in ecology:

Successful ecological risk assessments are all alike; every unsuccessful ecological risk assessment fails in its own way. Tolstoy posited a similar analogy in his novel Anna Karenina : "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." By that, Tolstoy meant that for a marriage to be happy, it had to succeed in several key aspects. Failure on even one of these aspects, and the marriage is doomed . . . the Anna Karenina principle also applies to ecological risk assessments involving multiple stressors.


Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
- Helen Keller

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.
- John Wayne

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.
- Anais Nin

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.
- Amelia Earhart

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.
- Orison Swett Marden

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.
- John Quincy Adams

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.
- Erica Jong

The highest courage is to dare to appear to be what one is.
- John Lancaster Spalding

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before you embark on any path ask the question, does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it and then you must choose another path. The trouble is that nobody asks the question. And when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart the path is ready to kill him.
- Carlos Castaneda

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
- Kahlil Gibran

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
- Dale Carnegie

Invisible War

This article triggered it for me
Separated for over six decades, tears and joy at Korean reunions
I have not seen my brother for almost 20 years. The parental regime, and family script is still ongoing. At this point I am pretty sure things will not progress. I never imagined my siblings would be under the spell for this long with all of their intelligence and resources. It is beyond tragic. They are victims of an invisible war.

More on the Overdose Epidemic


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Haldol and Hyacinths

I am reading the memoir Haldol and Hyacinths by Melody Moezzi and it is fantastic memoir of a brilliant Persian-American woman who also has bipolar. I stayed up and read the whole book. I am telling everyone to read it. This is a must own book, to be read again a few more times. Thank you, Melody!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Elephant Empathy

When one Asian elephant gets stressed — by a strange noise or a hidden animal, for example — others come to its aid, responding vocally or through touch to make the animal feel better.

Building a Plane while Flying it

In 2002, Mr. MacLean was a 28-year-old Fulbright scholar visiting India to research a novel. It wasn’t his first trip; he had gone a few years earlier and stayed for months. But this time around, his anti-malaria medication touched off a break with reality as sudden as it was severe.

He hallucinated angels and demons, and felt his thoughts “puddling in the carpet near the doorway and sloshing down the hall.” Delirious, he agreed with the police officer who surmised he must be a drug addict, and apologized profusely for misdeeds he had never committed. At the hospital, a nurse called him “the most entertaining psychotic that they’d ever had.” Article

A Farmer of Poetry

I enjoyed those six months of being famous. Fame is a lot of fun, but it's not interesting. I loved being noticed and praised, even the banquets. But they didn't have anything that I wanted. After about six months, I found it boring. There were so many things to do, to live.
-Jack Gilbert

It's not a business with me. [...] I'm not a professional of poetry; I'm a farmer of poetry.
-Jack Gilbert

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tatiana of Rome

From Wikipedia

Saint Tatiana was a Christian martyr in 3rd-century Rome during the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus. She was a deaconess of the early church.

According to legend, she was the daughter of a Roman civil servant who was secretly Christian, and raised his daughter in the faith, and she became a deaconess in the church. This was dangerous, and one day the jurist Ulpian captured Tatiana and attempted to force her to make a sacrifice to Apollo. She prayed, and miraculously, an earthquake destroyed the Apollo statue and part of the temple.

Tatiana was then blinded, and beaten for two days, before being brought to a circus and thrown into the pit with a hungry lion. But the lion did not touch her and lay at her feet. This resulted in a death sentence being pronounced, and after being tortured, Tatiana was beheaded with a sword on January 12, around AD 225 or 230.

Tatiana is venerated as a saint, and her feast day is on January 12 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, January 12 currently falls on January 25 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). The miracles performed by Saint Tatiana are said to have converted many people to the fledgling religion. Saint Tatiana is patron saint of students. In Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, Tatiana Day, also known as "Students Day", is a public holiday.

Amazing Memoir

Read the whole article, it's amazing!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Overdose Epidemic


Shoveling the Roof

We just finished shoveling the roof of the garage. There was a foot or more of icy slushy snow weighing down and another foot expected today. We prefer to prevent disasters.

Stay home with a good book and hot chocolate. Check on your neighbors and make sure they have food and heat.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

Forget wine, chocolate, and negligees, I want a snow plow, L.L. Bean boots, yellow rain coveralls, and fifty Labradors to slobber me!

Shoveling the Roof

The rain on top of the snow makes it very heavy and dangerous. We'll be spending the day shoveling the roof of the house and garage.

Russian Propaganda Posters

Here. (scroll down)

More Covers

More pulp cover art here. The titles are great too.

In art school the painting department people dismissed my work because I was into storytelling, narrative art. I wanted to transfer into photography because I loved being in the world taking documentary photos of people at their workplaces. I graduated 28 years ago today Valentine's Day 1986.

Experience is about seeing what’s around you, not going different places and putting yourself in danger—it’s about being attentive, seeing how things work, what they add up to.
-Tobias Wolff

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ex Votos

I love these paintings.

Here's a show of medical imagery in ex votos paintings.

More Cover Art

Sci Fi Sexy!Here.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The Tame Bird vs The Free Bird

by Rabindranath Tagore

The tame bird was in a cage,
the free bird was in the forest.
They met when the time came,
it was a decree of fate.

The free bird cries,
"O my love, let us fly to the wood."
The cage bird whispers,
"Come hither, let us both live in the cage."

Says the free bird,
"Among bars, where is there room to spread one's wings?"
"Alas," cries the caged bird,
"I should not know where to sit perched in the sky."

The free bird cries,
"My darling, sing the songs of the woodlands."
The cage bird sings,
"Sit by my side, I'll teach you the speech of the learned."

The forest bird cries,
"No, ah no! songs can never be taught."
The cage bird says,
"Alas for me, I know not the songs of the woodlands."

There love is intense with longing,
but they never can fly wing to wing.
Through the bars of the cage they look,
and vain is their wish to know each other.

They flutter their wings in yearning,
and sing,
"Come closer, my love!"

The free bird cries,
"It cannot be, I fear the closed doors of the cage."
The cage bird whispers,
"Alas, my wings are powerless and dead."

- Rabindranath Tagore

Inside this Clay Jug by Kabir

Inside this clay jug
there are canyons and
pine mountains,
and the maker of canyons
and pine mountains!

All seven oceans are inside,
and hundreds of millions of stars.

The acid that tests gold is here,
and the one who judges jewels.

And the music
that comes from the strings
that no one touches,
and the source of all water.

If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth:
Friend, listen: the Beloved whom I love is inside.

Why should we two ever want to part?
Just as the leaf of the water rhubarb
lives floating on the water,
we live as the great one and the little one.

As the owl opens his eyes all night to the moon,
we live as the great one and the little one.

This love between us goes back to the first humans:
it cannot be annihilated.

Here is Kabir's idea :
as the river gives itself into the ocean,
what is inside me moves inside you.

- Kabir
version by Robert Bly
From The Kabir Book: forty-four ecstatic poems by Kabir (1977)

George Simenon

I wanted to be not just myself, so young and insignificant, but all people, those of the land and of the sea, the blacksmith, the gardener, the bricklayer, and all those to be found on the different rungs of the ... social ladder.
-George Simenon

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Full Snow Moon

February's full Moon is traditionally called the Full Snow Moon because usually the heaviest snows fall in February.

Hunting becomes very difficult, and so some Native American tribes called this the Hunger Moon.

Other Native American tribes called this Moon the "Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon" (Wishram Native Americans), the "No Snow in the Trails Moon" (Zuni Native Americans), and the "Bone Moon" (Cherokee Native Americans). The Bone Moon meant that there was so little food that people gnawed on bones and ate bone marrow soup.

Vintage Poster Blog


Pulp Book Covers

The best of the worst.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ernest Ephemera

Ernest Hemingway was a hoarder. His own prose style may have been spare and economical, but he was unable to part with the words, printed or written, of just about anyone else. According to his fourth wife, Mary, he was incapable of throwing away “anything but magazine wrappers and three-year old newspapers.” A trove of some 2,500 documents collected and preserved at Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s farm outside Havana, and now digitized and newly available at the Hemingway Collection in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum here, includes diaries, letters, lists, telegrams, insurance policies, bank statements, passports, tickets to bullfights and the Longchamp racecourse in Paris, a brochure from a swimming pool filter company, a page of his son Patrick’s homework and seemingly every Christmas card Hemingway ever received.


Morning Venus, Evening Jupiter

February is my favorite month. The family holidays are behind us, there's no bugs, and the ground is frozen and there's usually some real amounts of snow!


Scientists refer to global warming because it is about, well, the globe. It is also about the long run. It is really not about what happened yesterday in Poughkeepsie.

The Grip

She was in the grip of something beyond her control, but I would get angry and I would feel shame,” Ms. Hale said. “My friends would be bragging to me about their kids’ getting accepted to college, and what was I supposed to say? ‘She only put one needle in her arm today’?


Caleb Daniloff

My Intoxicant of Choice
by Caleb Daniloff

Caleb Daniloff is a Cambridge, Mass.-based writer. His memoir "Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past One Marathon at a Time" explores how he used running to navigate sobriety.

When I describe running as my sobriety tool, some recovering alcoholics tell me I’ve simply swapped addictions and that they’ll keep an Alcoholics Anonymous chair warm for me. They miss the point.

In fact, after 15 years of chronic drinking and drug use, I found running to be a powerful healing agent — a therapist’s couch, confessional and pharmacy counter rolled into one.

Sure, when I haven’t laced up for a few days, I can get jittery, dull-minded, even depressed. Seeing another runner on a rest day can spark pangs of jealousy. And there was a time when I got caught up with the numbers — on my stopwatch, on the scale. Does that mean I’m still self-destructive, out of control? "Addiction" is such a dirty word.

But running is so transformative that it flips the term on its head. Yes, there is the swoon of endorphins, but what I’m hooked on is forward motion and progress, on overcoming and becoming. With its demand on the body and mind, there’s no room for false thoughts. I sweat out my anxieties and insecurities and parse through job and family challenges instead of drowning them in booze. Grinding out miles has never turned me into a monster, never once filled me with shame or regret.

In fact, after 15 years of chronic drinking and drug use, I found running to be a powerful healing agent — a therapist’s couch, confessional and pharmacy counter rolled into one. The head space that opened up during my predawn runs allowed me to embrace all the people I used to be, even the ugly ones, replacing callousness and narcissism with humility and clarity. My apologies to those I’d harmed were all drafted at six miles per hour.

So, yes, a trade has taken place. Instead of drawing the shades against the rising sun, I hurtle toward it. Endurance is measured in miles, not empties. I’m feeding a need for well-being. In fact, my history with addiction—the single-minded focus, the internal deal-making, the ease with solitude — contributes to my running skills and I often channel them during a marathon. The run is my go-to intoxicant, whose only hangover is weight-loss, sculpted calves and triumph. I pound it every chance I get.

Monday, February 10, 2014

More Tobias Wolff

And the beauty of fiction is that you don’t have to be loyal to memory, and you don’t have to be answerable to anybody for your version of things.

Writers, to my way of thinking, are no more free in their choices than most people. Our material chooses us; certain things engage us, certain things do not. Certain subjects call me out and I feel like my feet are on the ground when I’m writing about them and no doubt this has led here and there to apparent repetitions and correspondences that may be deceptive in that they lead the reader to assume an autobiographical basis for the work. There’s not really much I can do about that. I take comfort in the way that, say, Flannery O’Connor would tend to revisit the same situations without losing much in the way of her power or variety. You know, you have the surly daughter who is driven nuts by her mother’s cheer and simplistic piety and common sense, and a shiftless handyman around somewhere. There are recurring patterns in her work, but she manages to refresh them each time out. I suppose I hope to achieve something like that.

I don’t deliberately choose violence the way you might pick a wrench out of a tool kit, or dip my brush into that color rather than this color. It has to arise in some way from the demands of the story and the people and the milieu I’m writing about.

As Milton says, “The mind is its own place.”

When I was young I idealized writers like Hemingway, Jack London, Orwell, writers who were active in the world. There’s no question at all that when I joined the army there was a kind of literary impulse behind it. I’d learned all the wrong lessons from Hemingway and Erich Maria Remarque and James Jones, all these writers I admired—they were telling me, Don’t be such a fool as to get yourself in a position where you’re going to get shot for nothing by some other fool. And all I could think of was, Jeez, they wrote these great novels because they put themselves in danger and traveled to places where nobody cared if they lived or died. Great! That’s for me! I’m not saying I thought this out in so many words—I didn’t, I’m not an idiot— but the appetite for “experience” is natural to young writers. I’ve seen it often, and surely I had it, no question. But to get back to Flannery O’Connor, what kind of experience did she have, afterall? She spent, what, one year away from her farm in Milledgeville? Yet her stories are full of life and drama and real humanity, and it’s because she kept her eyes open. Experience is about seeing what’s around you, not going different places and putting yourself in danger—it’s about being attentive, seeing how things work, what they add up to.

For better or worse, it’s become second nature—this habit of detachment and constant judgment. It’s an occupational hazard of the writing life, the sense that life is here for you to review in some way, to apply a rubric to. I have a story, “Bullet in the Brain,” about a book critic who is so jaded, and so filled with allusion and literary reference, that even when his very life is threatened he hears the threat as a series of clichés that he thinks are risible. This habit of being at a distance from life can remove you from what’s real, if you’re always stepping out of the stream of life in order to look at it. It is something that writers have to be alert to. Paying attention is certainly part of the problem, but it’s also the antidote. If you’re really paying attention, you will be reimmersed in life.

We all tell stories. The merest child comes home and tells the story of how the evil teacher has abused him, or how he defeated a bully in class that day; people come home from work and tell stories about their fatuous boss and we’re all ears. We love hearing stories of other people’s misfortunes—not terrible misfortunes, we don’t like that, but if somebody has taken a really expensive holiday, we don’t mind hearing that their flight was canceled and they had to sleep on the airport floor, and that there was no snow on the slopes when they finally arrived, and that the heating crashed in their hotel and that they had to wear several layers of clothing to bed every night. We live by stories. It’s the principle by which we organize our experience and thus derive our sense of who we are. We’re in an unceasing flow of time and events and people, and to make sense of what goes past, we put a beginning and an end to a certain thing, and we leave things out and we heighten other things, and in that way we break the unbroken flow into stories, because that’s the only way we can give it significance. And that’s why people will never agree that a friend’s or relative’s memoir is accurate. We have left things out without even realizing it, and heightened other things, but to our friend the missing moment was paramount and the heightened moment of no importance at all.

Writers wait for that moment when the material starts to carry them. It happens more rarely than one wants to think, and you’re a fool if you don’t give in to it when it does—drop everything else and go with it.

-Tobias Wolff, Paris Review

Tobias Wolff

I have a study in the basement of the university library. They offered me a nice place to work with a view of the Stanford hills, and I turned it down for this dump in the stacks because I’m so easily distracted. All I need is a window to not write. The only books I keep with me are a dictionary and some other reference books. If I have a good novel in the room with me, I’ll end up reading that. Writing’s hard. You’ll take any out, if you can. I work best away from the house because I’m too tempted to check for calls and my mail and deal with tradesmen and run an errand, go out for lunch.

Routine becomes invaluable to writers, and that’s why once they hit their stride, their biographies make very poor material.

I like not having a car, living in the center of a city where you can walk everywhere. All the errands that seem to consume one’s life become very few, and you find yourself with great stretches of time for reading, wandering, and yes, working.

I’ve always had very good experiences with my editors, Gary Fisketjon especially; I find it immensely helpful to be given different ways of looking at something I’ve done. And though she doesn’t edit my manuscripts, Amanda Urban has given me twenty-five years’ worth of advice and encouragement, and done her damnednest to get my work out in the world. I guess the point is, as you go on in this life you become aware of the folly of thinking you did something all by yourself. We’re held up by others all along the way.

I write to please myself, which is not to say that I don’t care if others read it. Here’s the thing—if I could imagine a smarter reader than myself, then I’d be smarter than I am. And if I could imagine a more sensitive reader than myself, I’d be more sensitive than I am. Those are my limits.

I don’t have a lot of advice to give. The one thing I would say to a young writer who wanted counsel is to be patient. Time, which is your enemy in almost everything in this life, is your friend in writing. It is. If you can relax into time, not fight it, not fret at its passing, you will become better. You probably won’t be very good at the beginning, but you will become better, and eventually you may actually become good. But it doesn’t help to be afraid of time, or to measure yourself against prodigies like Conrad or Crane or Rimbaud. There’s always going to be somebody who did it better than you, faster than you, and you don’t want to make comparisons that will discourage you in your work. In fact, most fiction writers tend to graybeard their way into their best work.

Not everything I said in these cars was truthful, and I’ll bet that the things that were told to me weren’t in every case truthful, either. But you know, they are wonderful theaters, automobiles, and the intensity of intimacy doesn’t become embarrassing because you’re supposedly doing something else—one person’s driving, and you’re both looking ahead, not at each other, and you’re going somewhere, and it gets dark and there’s a kind of trance one gets into, and something lifts, some reticence lifts. It’s just amazing what people will say to each other.

I had an idea of myself as someone free and unencumbered, and virtuous for being so. Of course, one cannot live like this— I can’t, anyway. And in fact, I find that all the best things in my life have come about precisely through the things that hold me in place: family, work, routine, everything that contradicts my old idea of the good life. For years I lived mostly out of a backpack, traveling light and living cheap, often bestowing my mendicant presence on my brother, Geoffrey, and his wife, Priscilla, on my patient friends. But, you know, it seems as time goes on that the deepest good for me as man and writer is to be found in ordinary life. It’s the gravity of daily obligations and habit, the connections you have to your friends and your work, your family, your place— even the compromises that are required of you to get through this life. The compromises don’t diminish us, they humanize us—it’s the people who won’t, or who think they don’t, who end up monsters in this world. I’m not talking about dishonesty, I’m talking about having some give, sometimes letting go of things that you aren’t inclined to let go of, that you may even have attached the name of principle to, to justify your fear of bending.

-Tobias Wolff, Paris Review

Paul Krugman

So how can politicians justify cutting off modest financial aid to their unlucky fellow citizens?

And this imperviousness to evidence goes along with a stunning lack of compassion.

The result is that millions of Americans have in effect been written off — rejected by potential employers, abandoned by politicians whose fuzzy-mindedness is matched only by the hardness of their hearts.





Sunday, February 09, 2014

Hand to Mouth

I plan to sell my car to buy a few gallons of heating oil so we don't get charged a late fee again on mortgage. I hate cars anyway!

Vice Squad


Billy Joel Interview

Everybody is different. Some writers can write reams of great books and then J. D. Salinger wrote just a few. Beethoven wrote nine symphonies. They were all phenomenal. Mozart wrote some 40 symphonies, and they were all phenomenal. That doesn’t mean Beethoven was a lesser writer, it’s just some guys are capable of more productivity, some guys take more time. Mozart pisses me off because he’s like a naturally gifted athlete, you listen to Mozart and you go: “Of course. It all came easy to him.” Beethoven you hear the struggle in it. Look at his manuscripts, and there’s reams of scratched-out music that he hated. He stops and he starts. I love that about Beethoven, his humanity shows in his music. Mozart was almost inhuman, unhuman.

Yeah, I relate to Beethoven. I write backward — I write the music first and then I write the words. Most people write the words first and then they write the music. Keith Richards was explaining his method of songwriting. He calls it “vowel movement.” They come up with a riff, and it’s like sounds, and whatever sound . . . like “start me up” — “up” works because it has a consonant at the end of it, but if you go “take me home,” it wouldn’t have worked. I kind of subscribe to that. It has to sound right sometimes even more than being a poetic lyric. It’s a struggle to fit words onto music, and I want it to be really, really good, so I take a long time. I love having written, but I hate writing. So then I go through postpartum depression, and it’s: “Ugh, I gotta start all over again? Where am I going to get the” — what do you call it? Sitzfleisch

If I don’t think I’m any good, I don’t care how much I can make, I don’t care how many people want me to, I’m going to stop doing it. It has to be fun. You have to feel good about it.


James David Jacobs

Classical music is a transformative experience, and I'm honored to be a small part of making that transformation happen for our listeners.
- James David Jacobs, WCRB FM radio

Background: I was born in New York, and moved to California when I was five. My older brother played the bassoon and the recorder. He taught me how to play recorder and when I was 11 the two of us would earn money by going out and playing recorder duets on the street -- we did well playing arrangements of Mozart's horn duets. I started cello in public school and ended up moving in with my cello teacher, Millie Rosner, when I was 13. While living with her I met lots of great cellists and learned most of what I know. I was a working musician through my 20s and early 30s, playing in orchestras, chamber groups, rock and Klezmer bands, Shakespeare festivals, and lots and lots and lots of weddings. I moved back to New York in 1993, composed and played music for theater, film and dance, and it was in 1999 that I got both my first steady teaching job (at the Brooklyn Conservatory) and my first radio job (at WNYE).

Nickname(s): I'm pretty much James. I was Jimmy as a child. I was once in a band where I was known as Kenmore, but that's a long story.

First album I ever owned: I think it was Karl Leister playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto on DG.

Five desert island albums: Pablo Casals playing the Bach Cello Suites, Carlo Maria Giulini conducting Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Yale Quartet playing Beethoven's String Quartet in A minor op. 132, Pierre Boulez conducting Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Tallis Scholars singing Josquin's L'homme Arme masses...and can I sneak in the complete Robert Johnson delta blues recordings? .

Favorite podcast: Um...not there yet. I still listen to actual broadcast radio, static and all.
Greatest place to see live music: If you want to hear an orchestra, you can't beat Symphony Hall, and I say this as someone who used to live in Carnegie Hall (it's a long story.)

Most memorable concert: Seeing the Juilliard String Quartet perform the Beethoven C sharp minor quartet when I was 11 was a formative experience.

Favorite movie about music/musician: Does Bergman's film version of Mozart's Magic Flute count? Tamino and Papageno are musicians...

Favorite book about music/musician: Don't get me started. Pablo Casals' Joys and Sorrows. John Cage's Silence. Maynard Solomon's Beethoven. Bernstein's Unanswered Question. Alfred Einstein's Mozart. Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory.

When not listening to classical music, I listen to Alan Lomax's field recordings. John Coltrane. Tibetan monks. I enjoy listening to pretty much any student who's studying any kind of music.

Finest moment on the air: When I'm not having my most embarrassing moment on the air, I'm happy.

Most embarrassing moment on the air: It's a long story.

If I weren’t a radio host I’d be a cello teacher, or conducting a youth orchestra.

The best part of my job is when I've heard that the music I've presented has transformed someone's day.


Marion Cunningham

He doesn't like homemade bread and he doesn't like vegetables. The only green thing he says he likes is money.
-Marion Cunningham

Amazing woman of food


I dreamed I was driving in my reading glasses so I could see.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Speak Out

Cheers to Dylan Farrow who has the courage to speak out about her childhood abuse. In my family when I spoke up about my mother's abuse of me, she sent me articles on False Memory Syndrome. Luckily I was strong and stood by my emotional, physical, intellectual, visceral, knowledge. My family was run like small dangerous country equipped with dictators and terrorists.

Brighter Earlier

I woke up 5:15 and noticed the sunlight hours are noticably increasing.
Feb 8, 2014

6:50 AM Sunrise

5:10 PM Sunset

10 h 19m 39s length of day

Sage is a Sage

“I really want to medal just as much as the next guy, but my attitude in the run, if I land, that’s cool,” he said. “If not, I need to try harder obviously. That’s just how I snowboard.

“I’m super mellow, laid-back. I’m not like the normal guy that goes in the gym and trains. I haven’t been in the gym since September."


Friday, February 07, 2014


by David Ignatow

I am leaving earth with little knowledge of it,
without having visited its great cities and lands
I was here for a moment, it seems, to praise,
and now that I am leaving I am astounded

So what does cruelty mean in these circumstance
and what does triumph, empire and domination,
but waves upon the still sea beneath.
And what does failure mean but to sink below

-David Ignatow

On Freedom

by David Ignatow

In a dream I'm no longer in love. I breathe deeply this sense of freedom,
and I vow never again to seal myself in, but I am reminded it is myself I love
also and that too is a kind of sealed condition. I am committed to taking
care of my body and its home accommodations, its clothes and neat
appearance that I admire in the mirror, yet I would like to know what it
would be like freed of brushing my teeth, washing my neck and face and
between my toes. I'd like to know, as I neglect to move my bowels, and
stay away from food that could sustain my health, and do not change my
underwear, and let odors rise from my crotch and armpit. I stick out my
tongue at the image in the mirror showing me my ragged beard and sunken
eyes and hollow cheeks, free of my self-love at last, and I sink onto the
bathroom floor, feeling life begin to seep out of me, I who haven't eaten
since last month. I'm dying and I'm free.

-David Ignatow

My Skeleton, My Rival

by David Ignatow

Interesting that I have to live with my skeleton.
It stands, prepared to emerge, and I carry it
with me—this other thing I will become at death,
and yet it keeps me erect and limber in my walk,
my rival.

What will the living see of me
if they should open my grave but my bones
that will stare at them through hollow sockets
and bared teeth.

I write this to warn my friends
not to be shocked at my changed attitude
toward them, but to be aware
that I have it in me to be someone
other than I am, and I write to ask forgiveness
that death is not wholesome for friendships,
that bones do not talk, have no quarrel with me,
do not even know I exist.

A machine called skeleton will take my place
in the minds of others when I am dead
among the living, and that machine
will make it obvious that I have died
to be identified by bones
that have no speech, no thought, no mind
to speak of having let themselves be carried
once around in me, as at my service
at the podium or as I lay beside my love
or when I held my child at birth
or embraced a friend or shook a critic's hand
or held a pen to sign a check or book
or wrote a farewell letter to a love
or held my penis at the bowl
or lay my hand upon my face at the mirror
and approved of it.

There is Ignatow, it will be said,
looking down inside the open grave.
I'll be somewhere in my poems, I think,
to be mistaken for my bones, but There's Ignatow
will be said. I say to those who persist,
just read what I have written.
I'll be there, held together by another kind
of structure, of thought and imagery,
mind and matter, love and longing, tensions
opposite, such as the skeleton requires
to stand upright, to move with speed,
to sit with confidence, my friend the skeleton
and I its friend, shielding it from harm.

-David Ignatow

Arms Length

We’re always searching for new ways of finding love that don’t involve having to feel insecure and vulnerable, because who wants to feel insecure and vulnerable?


Earth Hard

by David Ignatow

Earth hard to my heels
bear me up like a child
standing on its mother's belly.
I am a surprised guest to the air

-David Ignatow

At This Moment

by David Ignatow

I'm very pleased to be a body. Can there be someone without a body?
As you hold mine I feel firmly assured that bodies are the right thing
and I think all life is a body. I'm happy about trees, grass and water,
especially with the sun shining on it. I slip into it, a summer pleasure.

I have hurt the body. That's when I know I need it most in its whole
condition. If I could prove it to you by giving pain you would agree
but I prefer you with your body pressed to mine as if to say it is how
we know. Think, when two must separate how sad it is for each then
having to find another way to affirm their bodies. Knock one against
another or tree or rock and there's your pain. Now we have our arms
filled with each other. Could we not grow old in this posture and be
buried as one body which others would do for us tenderly?

-David Ignatow


by David Ignatow

Wherever he looks, standing still in the city,
are people born of coupling, walking in gray suits
and ties, in long dresses and coiffed hair,
speaking elegantly, of themselves and of each other,
forgetting for the moment their origin,
perhaps wishing not to know or to remember.
They dress as if having been born in a clothing store.

They were born of men and women naked
and gyrating from the hips
and with movements up and down
and with climactic yells,
as if losing their lives
in the pleasure and so glad,
so wildly glad.

From this rises the child
from between the wet crotch, blood and mucus,
He stands upright and pronounces himself
humankind and steps from bed and clothes himself
in a gray suit and from the next room of birth
steps a woman in a long dress. They meet
in the corridor and arm in arm walk its length
in search of one room, empty of inhabitants
but prepared for them.

-David Ignatow


by David Ignatow

Standing beside you,
I took an oath
to make your life simpler
by complicating mine
and what I always thought
would happen did:
I was lifted up in joy.

-David Ignatow, from Listening

Moving Picture

by David Ignatow

When two take gas
by mutual consent
and the cops come in
when the walls are broken down
and the doctor pays respects
by closing the books
and the neighbors stand about
sniffing and afraid
and the papers run a brief
under a whiskey ad
and the news is read
eating ice cream or a fruit
and the paper is used
to wrap peelings
and the garbage man
dumps the barrel
into the truck
and the paper flares
in the furnace and sinks back
charred and is scooped up
for mud flats and pressed down
by steam rollers for hard ground
and a house on it
for two to enter

-David Ignatow


by David Ignatow

Whatever we do, whether we light
strangers’ cigarettes—it may turn out
to be a detective wanting to know who is free
with a light on a lonely street nights—
or whether we turn away and get a knife
planted between our shoulders for our discourtesy;
whatever we do—whether we marry for love
and wake up to find love is a task,
or whether for convenience to find love
must be won over, or we are desperate—
whatever we do; save by dying,
and there too we are caught,
by being planted too close to our parents.

-David Ignatow

Walking Around

by Pablo Neruda

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That's why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

- Pablo Neruda, Translated by Robert Bly

An Ecology

by David Ignatow

We drop in the evening like dew
upon the ground and the living
feel it on their faces. Death
soft, moist everywhere upon us,
soon to cover the living
as they drop. This explains
the ocean and the sun.

-David Ignatow

Against The Evidence

by David Ignatow

As I reach to close each book
lying open on my desk, it leaps up
to snap at my fingers. My legs
won’t hold me, I must sit down.
My fingers pain me
where the thick leaves snapped together
at my touch.
All my life
I’ve held books in my hands
like children, carefully turning
their pages and straightening out
their creases. I use books
almost apologetically. I believe
I often think their thoughts for them.
Reading, I never know where theirs leave off
and mine begin. I am so much alone
in the world, I can observe the stars
or study the breeze, I can count the steps
on a stair on the way up or down,
and I can look at another human being
and get a smile, knowing
it is for the sake of politeness.
Nothing must be said of estrangement
among the human race and yet
nothing is said at all
because of that.
But no book will help either.
I stroke my desk,
its wood so smooth, so patient and still.
I set a typewriter on its surface
and begin to type
to tell myself my troubles.
Against the evidence, I live by choice.

-David Ignatow

The Earth is Calling

As I grow old, I find myself more bold in writing about death. My more recent poems treat the subject from almost every angle: without anger, with study and contemplation. Writing about death and dying calms what underlying fears impel me to bring the coming event out into the open. I think of this writing as a kind of triumph over time that remains to me. I look out upon trees and recognize my relationship to them, as organic quantities, in which I feel a satisfying companionship. Earth itself is for a time being, the universe no less. In short, I am a participant in a worldly epic, if significance can be found in living and dying, together with everything and everyone else. I bow to my higher self.
-David Ignatow

Father and Family

I am amazed and confounded by the audacity of his ingratitude. He, and all of them, look upon me as a something to be plucked and torn to pieces for their advantage. They have no idea of, and no care for, my existence in any other light. My soul sickens at the thought of them.
-Charles Dickens

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Russell Edson

She had fallen in love with her doctor's stethoscope, the way it listened to her heart.
- Russell Edson

Nothing But Death

by Pablo Neruda
translated by Robert Bly

There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I'm not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.