Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Book That Wants To Be Written

"You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

-- Madeleine L'Engle

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Surpassing the Creativity of All Other Ice Cream Makers

Photo by Michelle MaguireIt's true. Anyone who has tasted it knows the Denver Post and the New York Times aren't exaggerating. Even Al Roker, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, and Dean & Deluca are in the know.

In today's New York Times, Marian Burros writes, "Jeni’s of Columbus, Ohio, has surpassed the creativity of all other ice cream makers with its versions like goat cheese and Cognac fig sauce....Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ intense, offbeat flavors would be worth a drive to Ohio. My favorites were the goat cheese, salty caramel, coffee, Thai chili and torrone, plus lime cardamom lingonberry frozen yogurt and forest berry and pear riesling sorbets. Six pints start at $70;, (614) 488-3224."

My favorites are pistachio, pumpkin five spice, dark cocoa mint gelato, and the pear riesling sorbet. You have to try her ice cream sandwiches with a thick slab of ice cream squished between traditional Parisian macaroons. I'm sure they will be world famous one day.

Deadline for ordering in time for Christmas delivery is 12/19.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Imminent Threat

The Siege of Antioch, from a medieval miniature painting, during the First Crusade.From today's The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor:

It was on this day in 1095 that Pope Urban II, while on a speaking tour in France, called for the first Crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the Turks. There was no imminent threat. Muslims had occupied Jerusalem for hundreds of years. But Urban II had noticed that Europe was becoming an increasingly violent place, with low-level knights killing each other over their land rights, and he thought that he could bring peace to the Christian world by directing all that violence against an outside enemy. So he made up stories of how Turks in Jerusalem were torturing and killing Christians, and anyone who was willing to join the fight against them would go to heaven.

About 100,000 men from France, Germany, and Italy answered the call, formed into several large groups, and marched across Asia Minor to the Middle East. Nearly half of them died from exhaustion and sickness before they ever reached their destination. They began sacking cities along the way, and they fought among each other for the spoils of each battle. When they reached the trading city of Antioch, they killed almost everyone, including the Christians who lived there. By the time they got to Jerusalem, it had recently fallen into the hands of Egyptians, who were friendly with the Vatican. But the crusaders attacked anyway, killing every Muslim they could find. The Jews in the city gathered in the temple, and the crusaders set it on fire.

Pope Urban II died two weeks later, never hearing the news. But the crusading would go on for the next 200 years. In the fourth and last Crusade, in 1202, the crusaders never even made it to Jerusalem, but got sidetracked and wound up destroying Constantinople, which was at the time the last great city left over from the Roman Empire.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy covers Mariah Carey:

Brokeback Christmas

Winning isn't funny

"Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than we are with winning. Winning is great, but it isn't funny."

-- Peanuts creator Charles Schulz (Nov. 26, 1922 – Feb. 12, 2000)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A History of Doubt

Jennifer Michael Hecht"...right now the truth is I don't think that there is much pride in doubt or much recognition that it has a rich history. And I think that that's really crucial right now, especially because of the way that belief is coming up again as part of policy. That kind of idea, it's got to be met with the voices of people who are looking at things from the other side. And right now, you know, well, I think I'd like to contextualize this a little bit and say that America in the beginning of the 20th century was a wonderful time to be a doubter. You know, Thomas Edison tells The New York Times he doesn't believe in an afterlife. You know, that's something that most people believe in an afterlife wouldn't tell The New York Times today. It was thought of as — the whole idea of nonconformism, of questioning, of bucking the dominant idea was celebrated as part of what democracy desperately needed, really, from John Stuart Mill and Harriet Mill onward, that idea of liberty as being something you have to keep enacting, otherwise you'll lose it.

"And that was celebrated in the beginning of the 20th century. And we really see that close down with the Cold War because the United States felt that it had, well, it had a violent, tense enemy in the communist world, and that communism was equated with making legalist gestures of atheism. Well, that made it seem that atheism was treasonous. And that's when 'Under God' went into the pledge and 'In God We Trust' went on all the money. And when you look at the congressional record, it's very specifically against communist atheism that those things were done.

"Well, we live in a very different world now. In the early 21st century, the murderous tension that we have in the world is with fundamentalist religion that's willing to commit terror. And so it's time to change our stance a little bit."

-- Jennifer Michael Hecht, poet and writer of Doubt: A History and The Happiness Myth in conversation with Krista Tippeett on Speaking of Faith (5/3/07)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey Poacher

Steve Kelley, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ultimate Constituents

"The doctrine that the stuff of the world is fundamentally mind-stuff goes by the name of panpsychism. A few decades ago, the American philosopher Thomas Nagel showed that it is an inescapable consequence of some quite reasonable premises. First, our brains consist of material particles. Second, these particles, in certain arrangements, produce subjective thoughts and feelings. Third, physical properties alone cannot account for subjectivity. (How could the ineffable experience of tasting a strawberry ever arise from the equations of physics?) Now, Nagel reasoned, the properties of a complex system like the brain don’t just pop into existence from nowhere; they must derive from the properties of that system’s ultimate constituents. Those ultimate constituents must therefore have subjective features themselves — features that, in the right combinations, add up to our inner thoughts and feelings. But the electrons, protons and neutrons making up our brains are no different from those making up the rest of the world. So the entire universe must consist of little bits of consciousness. "

-- From Mind of a Rock an essay by Jim Holt written for the New York Times Sunday Magazine (11/18/07)

Ansel Adams

Late Bloomer

"I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky...Many lives don't allow that, the good fortune of being able to work at it, and try, and keep trying."

-- Poet Sharon Olds, who published her first book of poems when she was 37 years old. In 2005, she wrote an open letter to Laura Bush declining an invitation to read from her work at the National Book Festival in protest of the Iraq War. Her poem "I Go Back to May 1937" opens the recent movie Into the Wild.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Song of a Man Who Has Come Through

by D.H. Lawrence

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine, wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.

Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.

What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.

No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.


" is useless, at least when compared, say, to the work of a plumber, or a doctor, or a railroad engineer. But is uselessness a bad thing? Does a lack of practical purpose mean that books and paintings and string quartets are simply a waste of our time? Many people think so. But I would argue that it is the very uselessness of art that gives it its value and that the making of art is what distinguishes us from all other creatures who inhabit this planet, that it is, essentially, what defines us as human beings.

"To do something for the pure pleasure and beauty of doing it. Think of the effort involved, the long hours of practice and discipline required to become an accomplished pianist or dancer. All the suffering and hard work, all the sacrifices in order to achieve something that is utterly and magnificently...useless."

-- Paul Auster, from his accceptance speech for the Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters (Spain's highest literary honor) last year.

The Discipline of DE

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reading is a Debt We Owe to a Collective

Junot Díaz discussing his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, on KCRW’s Bookworm:

A book is a gift. No matter how poorly written it is, or if we don’t like it—we think it’s simplistic or if we find it to be odious—someone did spend time working on this. Someone did take a part of their lives to make this happen. Even in the most kind of nonsense, banal books there is a note of grace in it…As a kid, I was just reading. And I never lost that sense that sometimes there are terrible books which for me produce really pleasing results in my mind and in my heart. And sometimes there are incredibly brilliant books that don’t do any of that. And I think I had to have a much more generous sense of what reading means and what it can do.

If you think about it, curses are narratives. They’re narratives that bind us and follow us. They’re shadows that even when we think we’ve escaped them, they’re there. History follows the same pattern. We can deny all the history we want and yet history will still reach up across time and shape our choices or behavior and our possibilities. And I think that it’s hard to be a person and not want to be independent from all those invisible forces that we can’t even begin to grasp. Through the tales that we tell ourselves, the ones that exclude those invisible forces—whether it’s history, curses, our ancestors, our parents, our earlier selves—are those stories more worthy, are they more beneficial than the stories that accept this, that embrace this, that in some ways make it deterministic—in other words, that we are cursed. Which is the better, more productive, more human story? We’re cursed or there are no such things as curses?

Junot DíazIn the end, why is it that it’s okay for me to have been a little person and I’ll use that to explain my world and to be like, this is why I act this way and this is why I resist and this is why I’ve struggled so hard. But what’s always extraordinary is that we’re usually not very tolerant of other small lives, even if our lives have been small. Sometimes we’ll be tolerant of a small life and the next thing we know, we’re no longer tolerant. One of the thing Oscar’s character keeps asking is, Is being human something that you do once—you make one choice and it proves that you’re human—or is it a choice you have to keep making through your whole life? And what an incredible struggle, what an incredible challenge, what a journey that is.

What I want is people to read and remember that reading, while we may practice alone, in solitude, it arose out of a collective learning and out of a collective exchange…Return to the notion that it’s not just you, a monk alone in a chamber. That it’s you reading out of a collective, from a collective. I love that idea because I never forgot how I learned to read…With a group of people, with teachers. I learned to read in Kindergarten when I first moved to the United States, watching other kids make mistakes, do things right, and having access to a group of teachers who were committed at that moment. And in It’s a Wonderful Life, do you remember the husband of the teacher who punches [Jimmy Stewart] goes, “My wife taught your children to read.” And it is a debt. Reading is a debt we owe to a collective, while we may practice it alone.

What Would Jesus Buy?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Into the Mystic

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don't have to fear it

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And magnificently we will flow into the mystic

When that fog horn blows you know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows I got to hear it
I don't have to fear it

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic
Come on girl...

Too late to stop now...

Stressed Out and On Edge

“My experiences are not pornography for my friends or for anyone else. I use the word pornography because I feel like it is just the ... exploitation of my personal experiences for someone else's entertainment ... I dehumanized people ... I don't even know how many raids I did while I was there. But during raids you're throwing them up against the wall, you're tying their hands behind their back, you're dragging them out of the bed. You're dehumanizing them in front of their wives and their kids and, you know, the women are crying and the children are crying and you're just like, whatever. Put a bag over their head or blindfold, drag them into the Humvee. Certain exhibitions of violence on my part that were probably unnecessary — were definitely unnecessary. But I was really stressed out and on edge at the time and I conducted myself ... like that."

Demond Mullins, a young man from Brooklyn who spent a year in Iraq with the National Guard and has found academics helpful in dealing with the effects of his experiences in the war (From Morning Edition, NPR, 11/14/07)

Not What We Say

Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Peter Hedges
Writer-director Peter Hedges discussing his latest movie, Dan in Real Life, with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW's The Treatment (11/07/07):

"Good writing is often what you don’t write…My stories are always about people—usually good people—trying to do the right thing, but not necessarily capable of doing it. Theater at its best teaches us how to talk to each other again and film at its best makes us feel less alone. For me [with] movies I love, I go, Oh, I know. I know what they’re feeling. I’ve felt that way. Oh, I’m afraid to feel that way. Oh, now I’m not so afraid to feel that way because I saw them feel that way.

I like stories that are not hard to understand. At their best, they may be difficult to handle, but not because they’re cryptic. They’re very clear. What’s interesting is when a character can’t speak, we find ourselves wanting to speak for them. We know what they’re saying. So I feel that those silences pull and audience in. Not from a manipulative standpoint, it’s more from this is what’s true…Ultimately it’s what we do in film, and not what we say, that matters."

Dan In Real Life director Peter Hedges and Sondre jamming in between scenes on set in Newport, Rhode Island, December 2006.

I Lived on the Moon

A musical video clip by Yannick Puig

I Lived on the Moon
official website

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Three Big Things

"You have your three big things that you can talk about, basically, if you’re going to write something that actually means something to you as a human being, which is Love, God and Death. That’s basically the thing. Love, which occupies a lot of our time, because we don’t like being lonely. God, because everyone wants to know that there’s a reason behind what they’re doing and what the hell is going on. And death is just the reality of your finite time here...

Whatever gets your creative juice flowing. Some people write amazing protest songs because they want things to be right. That doesn’t float my boat but I say that there’s three things, there’s three guideposts, but it’s not like a math problem where you touch on one of them and it’s a decent song. I have lots of other interests, but there’s something about when you sit down to write something you want to sing over and over again, it usually comes down to one of those three things.”

--Sam Beam, from Growing a Bard (Paste, Issue #36, October 2007)

Naked As We Came

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's the dose that makes the poison

From "Too Much Information? Ignore It" (Alex Williams, New York Times, 11-11-07):

After reading Mr. [Timothy] Ferriss’s recent best seller, The 4-Hour Workweek, Jason Hoffman, a founder of Joyent, which designs Web-based software for small businesses, urged his employees to cut out the instant-messaging and swear off multitasking. From now on, he told them, severely restrict e-mail use and conduct business the old-fashioned way, by telephone.

“All of a sudden,” Mr. Hoffman said of the results, “their evenings are free. All of a sudden Monday doesn’t feel so overwhelming.”
“BlackBerrys and e-mail aren’t inherently bad,” [Ferriss] said. “It’s just like medicine: it’s the dose that makes the poison.”

Our Real Work

"It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."

Wendell Berry

The Smooth Flow of the Soul

"Emptiness feels empty not because there is nothing present, but because whatever it is we're doing has no egotistic interference. The subtle arteries have no ego plaque in them, nothing to resist the smooth flow of the soul. Without our getting in the way, the life of the soul is rich and full, though unpredictable. But it isn't easy to trust strong desire and the life that keeps pouring into us. We always think we know better what should be and how it should all turn out. That is why the death principle—avoiding, worrying, being moralistic—is so popular."

--Thomas Moore, The Soul's Religion

Sailing to the Moon

"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous."

-- Thomas Merton

King Jeff The Magnificent
The Old Trout Puppet Workshop

Music: Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Penalty


More videos from The Flying Club Cup. More Take-Away Shows from Blogotheque.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pale Blue Dot

From The Writer's Almanac today:

It's the birthday of Carl Sagan, born in Brooklyn, New York (1934), who did more to promote space exploration than almost any other single person. He was a young astronomer advising NASA on a mission to send remote-controlled spacecrafts to Venus, when he learned that the spacecrafts would carry no cameras, because the other scientists considered cameras to be excess weight. Sagan couldn't believe they would give up the chance to see an alien planet up close. He lost the argument that time, but it's largely thanks to him that cameras were used on the Viking, Voyager, and Galileo missions, giving us the first real photographs of planets like Jupiter and Saturn and their moons.

Sagan also persuaded NASA engineers to turn the Voyager I spacecraft around on Valentine's Day in 1990, so that it could take a picture of Earth from the very edge of our solar system, about 4 billion miles away. In the photograph, Earth appears as a tiny bluish speck.

Sagan later wrote of the photograph, "Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives... [on] a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

Pale Blue Dot
[Thanks Kit!]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Non-Threatening Relationship with Loneliness

From Six Kinds of Loneliness by Pema Chödrön:

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we've been avoiding uncertainty, we're naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there's a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.

The middle way is wide open, but it's tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don't want to sit and feel what we feel. We don't want to go through the detox. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me.

Meditation provides a way for us to train in the middle way—in staying right on the spot. We are encouraged not to judge whatever arises in our mind. In fact, we are encouraged not to even grasp whatever arises in our mind. What we usually call good or bad we simply acknowledge as thinking, without all the usual drama that goes along with right and wrong. We are instructed to let the thoughts come and go as if touching a bubble with a feather. This straightforward discipline prepares us to stop struggling and discover a fresh, unbiased state of being.

The experience of certain feelings can seem particularly pregnantwith desire for resolution: loneliness, boredom, anxiety. Unless we can relax with these feelings, it's very hard to stay in the middle when we experience them. We want victory or defeat, praise or blame. For example, if somebody abandons us, we don't want to be with that raw discomfort. Instead, we conjure up a familiar identity of ourselves as a hapless victim. Or maybe we avoid the rawness by acting out and righteously telling the person how messed up he or she is. We automatically want to cover over the pain in one way or another, identifying with victory or victimhood.

Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It's restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a non-threatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

-- Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (Niebuhr wrote what has become the Serenity Prayer for a sermon in the 1930s, "God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other." The prayer was written on cards that were carried by soldiers during World War II before being adopted in a modified form by Alcoholics Anonymous.)

Yesterday is all that does count

Call it, Friend-OFrom No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy:

He looked at her. After a while he said: It's not about knowin where you are. It's about thinkin you got there without takin anything with you. Your notions about startin over. Or anybody's. You dont start over. That's what it's about. Ever step you take is forever. You cant make it go away. None of it. You understand what I'm saying?

I think so.

I know you dont but let me try it one more time. You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday dont count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it's made out of. Nothin else. You might think you could run away and change your name and I dont know what all. Start over. And then one mornin you wake up and look at the ceilin and guess who's laying there?


I read in the papers here a while back some teachers come across a survey that was sent out back in the thirties to a number of schools around the country. Had this questionnaire about what was the problems with teachin in the schools. And they come across these forms, they'd been filled out and sent in from around the country answerin these questions. And the biggest problems they could name was things like talkin in class and runnin in the hallways. Chewin gum. Copyin homework. Things of that nature. So they got one of them forms that was blank and printed up a bunch of em and sent em back out to the same schools. Forty years later. Well, here come the answers back. Rape, arson, murder. Drugs. Suicide. So I think about that. Because a lot of the time ever when I say anything about how the world is goin to hell in a handbasket people will just sort of smile and tell me I'm gettin old. That it's one of the symptoms. But my feelin about that is that anybody that cant tell the difference between rapin and murderin people and chewin gum has got a lot bigger of a problem than what I've got. Forty years is not a long time neither. Maybe the next forty of it will bring some of em out from the ether. If it aint too late.

Combined to a Unique Degree

From The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better, by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee:

Your right frontal insula “lights up” when you feel all the quintessential human emotions—love, hate, disgust, gratitude, resentment, self-confidence, embarrassment, trust, distrust, empathy, contempt, approval, disdain, pride, humiliation, truthfulness, deceit, atonement, guilt. It also lights up when you feel strong sensations, from physical pain to a fluttery stomach to tingling loins.

This dual physical-emotional sensitivity is not just a coincidence. The right frontal insula is where conscious physical sensation and conscious emotional awareness co-emerge. Consider this amazing fact: the right frontal insula is active both when you experience literal physical pain and when you experience the psychic “pain” of rejection or the social exclusion of being shunned. It lights up when you feel someone is treating you unfairly.

In every brain-imaging study ever done of every human emotion, the right frontal insula and anterior cingulate cortex light up together, [Arthur] Craig [a neuroanatomist at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix] says. He takes this to mean that in humans, emotions, feelings, motivations, ideas and intentions are combined to a unique degree, and that this is a key element of our humanity.