Tuesday, January 29, 2008


"Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out."

-- Anton Chekov

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Father

The actor Max Von Sydow photographed by Julian Schnabel.

“After Julian sent me the script, we didn’t discuss it very much. He didn’t tell me that, in some ways, I would be playing his father. But movies are like that — I had never met Mathieu Amalric until the day of our first scene, and he had to shave me. It was rather intimate, and he did cut me. But it’s always that way: you’re supposed to be involved with someone in the film and you’ve just met them for the first time and then, 10 minutes later, you say, ‘I love you,’ and you are in bed.”

“When I was making the film, it was impossible not to think about my father. I was born in Sweden, and my father, who was a professor of Scandinavian folklore, was 50 when I was born. When I was 20, he was 70, and on the day of his 70th birthday, he had a little stroke. Small strokes followed for the next four years. That changed him. And I regret that I was not more curious about him at that time. All the questions I would like to ask today, I haven’t asked.”

-- Max Von Sydow discussing his role in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly with Lynn Hirschberg (The New York Times, 1/27/08)

If We Were Quantum Particles

"Our convincing feeling is that time is absolute. It is a very convincing feeling...Our convincing feeling is that there should be no limit to how fast you can travel. We just go faster and faster and faster. Our convincing feelings are based on our experiences because of the size that we are — literally, the speed at which we move, the fact that we evolved on a planet under a particular star. So our eyes, for instance, are peak in their perception at yellow, which is the wave band the sun peaks at. And so it's not an accident that our perceptions and our physical environment are connected. And so we're limited, also, by that."

"That makes our intuitions excellent for ordinary things, for ordinary life. And that's how we evolve. That's how our brains evolved and our perceptions Janna Levinevolved, was to respond to things like the Sun and the Earth and these scales. And if we were quantum particles, we would think quantum mechanics was totally intuitive.  And it's not intuitive for anybody else that we would think that things fluctuating in and out of existence or not being certain or whether they're particles or waves or — these kinds of strange things that come out of quantum theory would seem absolutely natural."

"And what would seem really bizarre is the kind of rigid, clear-cut world that we live in. So I guess my answer would be that our intuitions are based on our minds, our minds are based on our neural structures, our neural structures evolved on a planet, under a sun, with very specific conditions. So we reflect the physical world that we evolved from. So I guess our intuitions are good, our intuitions are good for a lot of things. And that's why they're good...It's not a miracle."

-- Theoretical physicist and novelist Janna Levin in conversation with Krista Tippett on Speaking of Faith (1/10/08) "Mathematics, Purpose, Truth"

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


shadow_dance"Perhaps people who choose suicide for emotionally devastating reasons really want to commit egocide, to kill off fear-based habits, inner assailing voices, pointless quarrels with the conditions of existence, and besieging griefs. They may believe that they have no corresponding resources at their disposal to deal with these dismaying asperities. The practice of befriending the shadow provides just such a set of resources."

-- David Richo, Shadow Dance: Liberating the power and creativity of your dark side

The Code

Marie-Josée Croze in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

"The jumbled appearance of my chorus line stems not from chance but from cunning calculation. More than an alphabet, it is a hit parade in which each letter is placed according to the frequency of its use in the French Language. That is why E dances proudly out in front, while W labors to hold on to last place. B resents being pushed back next to V, and haughty Jwhich begins so many sentences in Frenchis amazed to find itself so near the rear of the pack. Roly-poly G is annoyed to have to trade places with H, while T and U, the tender components of tu, rejoice that they have not been separated. All this reshuffling has a purpose: to make it easier for those who wish to communicate with me."

"It is a simple enough system. You read off the alphabet (ESA version, not ABC) until, with a blink of my eye, I stop you at the letter to be noted. The maneuver is repeated for the letters that follow, so that fairly soon you have a whole word, and then fragments of more or less intelligible sentences. That, at least, is the theory. In reality, all does not go well for some visitors. Because of nervousness, impatience, or obtuseness, performances vary in the handling of the code (which is what we call this method for transcribing my thoughts). Crossword fans and Scrabble players have a head start. Girls manage better than boys. By dint of practice, some of them know the code by heart and no longer even turn to our special notebookthe one containing the order of the letters and in which all my words are set down like the Delphic oracle's."

-- Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Art and Truth

"All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster's autobiography."

-- Federico Fellini

Giulietta Masina being photographed by Federico Fellini on the set of La Strada (1954).

"The only time Federico blushes is when he tells the truth."

-- Giulietta Masina, wife of Fellini, starred in many of his films

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fleeting Beauty

"A self-taught chef and artist, Jim Denevan draws inspiration from the earth to create sensual works of fleeting beauty—culinary installations in sunny farmlands across America and large-scale art pieces on the wave-swept sands of coastal beaches."

Jim Denevan

"When I'm doing a drawing, I'm personifying the place that is empty. A place that is unmarked." -- Jim Denevan

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Looking Out the Window

"All the desks of my life have faced windows and except for an overwrought two-year period in the late Photo of Michael Pollan's Writing House taken by John Peden1980s when I worked on a word processor, I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming or brooding. Most of the so-called imaginative life is encompassed by these three activities that blend so seamlessly together, not unlike reading the dictionary, as I often do as well, entire mornings can slip by, in a blissful daze of preoccupation. It's bizarre to me that people think that I am 'prolific' and that I must use every spare minute of my time when in fact, as my intimates have always known, I spend most of my time looking out the window. (I recommend it.)"

-- Joyce Carol Oates, In the Studio (The American Poetry Review, July/Aug 2003)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Truth Waits

Tao Te Ching

Truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing.
Those who are bound by desire see only the outward container.

-- Tao Te Ching

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Link to Humanity

The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. I'm not even talking about unpleasant outer circumstances, but that feeling in your stomach of I don't want this to be happening. You try to escape it in some way, but if somehow you could stay present and touch the rawness of the experience, you can really learn something...Go to your body and connect with the physical sensation. It always feels really bad; it's usually a tightening in the throat or the heart of the solar plexus. Stay with that and say to yourself, 'Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort, fear--I don't even have to call it anything--this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link to humanity.' Connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world."

-- Pema Chödrön, O Magazine (Feb. 2008)

I need it to satisfy me

Mo'Nique: We've gotten so used to beating people up because they don't look like what we think they should look like and I'm just saying, you know, I'm not buyin' it no more. I got double bellies, my legs rub  together, my arms flap, I got a chubby neck -- hell, I got it all, baby, but I got a smile on my face and a Snicka in my pocketbook.

snickersFaith: Now, here's a question: Would you share it?

Mo'Nique: My Snicka'? You know, that's a great question, because it depends, okay. Sharin' a Snicka depends on what's happenin' at the situation.

Faith: Mmhmm.

Mo'Nique: If it's early in the mornin' and you just wakin' up and you got that cravin' for a Snicka cuz it's gonna be a long day and Rhonda looks at me as if she wants a bite -- I look back at her with a little violence in my eye! Like, this is a Snicka, I need it to satisfy me. It's gonna be a long day.

Faith: Go get your own Snicker, Rhonda.

-- Mo'Nique speaking with Faith Salie on Fair Game (1/15/08)

Ripening Like a Tree

"Leave to your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development, which, like all progress must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything. Rainer Maria RilkeEverything is gestation and then bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist's life.

Being an artist means not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap, and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide."

-- Ranier Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet

Monday, January 14, 2008

Destination Bookstores

Here are nine bookstores that are worth a trip according to Beth Harpaz, Travel Editor for the Associated Press. Read the details on the USA Today site. I didn't specifically build a trip around them, but I've somehow been fortunate enough to make it to all of these except the ones in Florida and Arkansas. From Rachel Leow's A Historian's Craft blog

Here are a couple of international additions to her list:

Shakespeare & Co.Shakespeare & Co.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“Hold fast to the human inside you, and you will survive.”

The critics aren't exaggerating. It's brilliant. It's the kind of movie that as you're watching, you are immediately aware it will be impossible to forget.

Looking Closely, Seeing Through
A stroke left magazine editor Jean-Dominique “Jean-Do” Bauby locked inside his paralyzed body, forcing him to live primarily in his mind. His only means of communicating was to blink his left eye in response to the alphabet being recited. The details of his story offer a glimpse into some key aspects of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the ability to keep track of the components of sensory experiences as they arise in various combinations, moment-by-moment. The basic building blocks of sensory experience include physical-type sensations in the body, emotional-type sensations in the body, external visual stimuli, mental images, external sounds, and internal sounds and conversations.

The tagline for The Diving Bell and The Butterfly says, “Let your imagination set you free.” The word imagination comes from the Latin imāginārī meaning to form a mental picture to oneself. With his body having become a closed door, Jean-Do’s only escape is through the window of his left eye and his mind. The movie screen becomes the viewer's window into seeing the world from his perspective.

It is through the visual component of the thinking process that we experience memories, plans, and fantasies. In Julian Schnabel’s film, as in the practice of mindfulness, Jean-Do experiences a blurring and merging of his internal (subjective) experience and the external (objective) world.

As Jean-Do reluctantly accepts his physical paralysis with greater and greater degrees of equanimity, his prison gradually becomes a home. Through concentration, clarity, and acceptance, Jean-Do was able to see the world more clearly and, fortunately for us, to patiently communicate his story one letter at a time.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ready to Accept Truth

"I am looking on benches and streets, in logic and code. I am looking in the form of truth stripped to the bone. Truth that livesmadmandreams independently of us, that exists out there in the world. Hard and unsentimental. I am ready to accept truth no matter how alarming it turns out to be. Even if it proves incompleteness and the limits of human reason. Even if it proves we are not free.

"They are here in our minds, Turing's luminescent gems, Gödel's platonic forms. There are no social hierarchies to scale. No racial barriers given to us along with our brains, built into the structure of our thoughts — no bullying into blind faith, no threats of eternal damnation — just honesty, truth, and reason."

-- Janna Levin, from A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

Listen to Krista Tippet's conversation with Janna Levin on Speaking of Faith (1/10/08) "Mathematics, Purpose, and Truth"

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Drunk History Vol. I

Featuring Michael Cera

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Ones that Have the Most Power

Photo by Marc Hom"I’ve always been a bit more comfortable with my subconscious and not so comfortable when I think about things too much. It’s like when I doodle. That’s when I know it means something to me on some weird level, as opposed to sitting down with the idea of drawing a skeleton. Say I’m on the phone, just sitting around, doodling. I’ll look at what I’ve done and think, Oh, that’s a strange character. Then I’ll notice myself doing it over and over. Those are the ones that have the most power for me, because they’re coming from within."

-- Tim Burton, from What I've Learned (Esquire, Jan. 2008). More interviews on this topic.


It wasn't all that easy when you up and walked away.
But I'll leave that little story for another rainy day.
I know your burden's heavy as you wheel it through the night;
The guru says it's empty but that doesn't make it light.


So let’s drink to when it’s over
and let's drink to when we meet.
I'll be standing on this corner
where there used to a street.

-- Leonard Cohen

You can listen to a conversation about his collection of poems, Book of Longing, on Fresh Air (1/1/07).