Friday, February 29, 2008



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

-- John O'Donohue

John O'Donohue

"The Unseen Life that Dreams Us," The Sun Magazine Interview with Diane Covington (4.5.07)

"The Inner Landscape of Beauty," Speaking of Faith interview with Krista Tippett (2.28.08)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Excessive Connections

Synesthesia is "a neurologically-based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway“Vision” by Carol Steen, 1996.This painting was inspired by Steen's visions during an acupuncture treatment. It is the first painting she created using only what she saw synesthetically.."

-- Wikipedia

A fetus has millions of excess connections throughout its brain, but it's almost like the brain prunes itself as it develops. This keeps our senses separate. Mostly. But synesthetes have a gene or genes that allow some of these branches to grow wild. But why?

V.S. Ramachandran has a clue. Synesthesia is eight times more common in artists, writers, and musicians. And his theory is that those wild branches in synesthetes' brains help them create metaphors. "You've got excessive connections throughout the brain, that in turn provides a neural substrate [which] gives you the opportunity to link seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts, which is the basis of metaphor."

-- Michael May for Studio 360 (2/1/08)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You Know How This Works

herbie_hancock"I like the idea of having something that comes from someone else  or some other medium and finding myself in it. I like that process. To me it's intriguing. It's like a puzzle. You have pieces of a puzzle to put together. When it's from yourself, you've got nothing. You gotta make the pieces.

"On the rare occasions when I do write something, once the juices start to flow, I always say to myself, Okay, Herbie, you know how this works. If you stop doing this, the juices will stop flowing and the next time you're gonna have to start up from scratch again. Keep writing. Keep writing. And I always fall down and stop. I always -- but I know the secret is to keep doing it.

"There is something I do now, and I have been doing actually for the past thirty-five years, that I can use to stimulate the production of the pieces. Buddhism. We chant Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, that's the phrase we use, but it's a sound and what happens is that it opens up your core and is the source for elevating your life condition and getting you in sync with the universe. Where do the songs come from? They come from life. And when life is illuminated, and you feel more illumination from life, then the inspiration is there. It's been sitting out there all along. You just couldn't see it. So I feel more inspired when I chant."  

-- Herbie Hancock talking with Kurt Andersen on Studio 360 (1/18/08).

Listen to an excerpt from "Edith and the Kingpin" with Tina Turner, from Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters which recently won Grammy awards for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Jazz Album.

In the Absence of Struggle

Call Off the Struggle
by Adyashanti

Most people are in a constant state of struggle with themselves. Tremendously burdened by the past and in constant anticipation of the future, most human beings are rarely able to be fully present for more than very brief moments. The tremendous openness and intimacy that is required to be fully present is beyond most people's ability to sustain for more than a few moments before they habitually contract back into the familiar condition of separateness and struggle that so characterizes the human condition.

Adyashanti This constant state of struggle manifests as a compulsive and addictive relationship to the movement of thought, emotion, and time. There is great reluctance to stop struggling because in the absence of struggle you suddenly begin to lose your boundaries and definitions of who you are. For many people this causes fear to arise as they experience the loss of their familiar sense of self. Struggling is how the ego-personality maintains its existence. When you cease to struggle, identification with the personality begins to break down and you become aware of your emptiness and lack of boundaries.

The most difficult thing for spiritual seekers to do is to stop struggling, striving, seeking and searching. Why? Because in the absence of struggle you don't know who you are: you lose your boundaries; you lose your separateness; you lose your specialness; you lose the dream you have lived all your life.

Eventually you lose everything that your mind has created and awaken to who you truly are: the fullness of freedom, unbound by any identifications, identities, or boundaries. It is this locationless freedom of being that spiritual people are seeking, and at the same time are running away from because its faceless nature gives no fixed reference point for the personality to hold onto or to seek security in.

As long as you remain identified with the personality, you will always be seeking security to the exclusion of the Truth, and will remain in a constant state of struggle. It is only when your love and desire for Truth outweighs the personality's compulsive need for security, that you can begin to stop struggling and be swept up into the arms of an ever unfolding revelation of the Truth and Freedom of Being.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Capacity to Find the Hidden Light

"...this was my fourth birthday present [from my grandfather], this story.

In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

remen Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It's a very important story for our times. And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It's the restoration of the world.

And this is, of course, a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world. And that story opens a sense of possibility. It's not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It's about healing the world that touches you, that's around you."

-- Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen in conversation with Krista Tippet ("Listening Generously," 12/27/07) on Speaking of Faith.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Goddess of the Avant-Garde

Tilda Swinton photographed by Raymond Meier for The New York Times."One of Tilda Swinton's ancestors on her very posh, very military Scottish family tree was painted by John Singer Sargent, and it is easy to imagine Swinton, with her alabaster skin, otherworldly green eyes and regal 5-foot-11 bearing, captured in oils...Her unique looks, her ease with herself and her voracious interest in the more esoteric worlds of cinema and style have made Swinton a kind of goddess of the avant-garde. In her movies, she has continually transformed herself -- changing class, nationalities, gender."

-- Lynn Hirschberg, "White Mischief," The New York Times (8/28/05)

Fair Play

Markéta Irglová "The fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, it's just proof that no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible. And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream, and don't give up. This song was written from the perspective of hope, and hope, at the end of the day, connects us all, no matter how different we are."

--Markéta Irglová, during her second chance at an acceptance speech. The song "Falling Slowly" from Once won the Oscar for the best song. The band started playing as soon as Glen Hansard finished his comments, but after the commercial break, Jon Stewart brought her back out so she could "enjoy [her] moment."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Life Is But a Dream

One who in dreams sees things good and bad, high and low, favorable and fearful, thinks that they are actually real, and never for a moment thinks that they are unreal while dreaming. Even so is this world till the dawn of Self-Knowledge.
-- Shankara

Why the Chicken Crossed the Road & Other Hidden Enlightenment Teachings from the Buddha to Bebop to Mother Goose"The sage Vasishtha said there are two kinds of dreams: the short ones and the long one. We call the short ones 'dreams' when we wake up from them each morning; we call the long one 'reality' till we wake into enlightenment. The short dreams are really dreams within a dream. Each has its own self-validating logic, its own physics, its own built-in history...Similarly with Vasishtha's long dream...There can never be evidence for any 'real' universe outside the mind; any such 'evidence' is only one more experience within the mind...By challenging the reality of a dream, however, we may start to see through it."

-- Dean Sluyter, from Why the Chicken Crossed the Road & Other Hidden Enlightenment Teachings from the Buddha to Bebop to Mother Goose

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Leaving Kansas City

Kansas City depends a lot on the way
You look at it. If you approach from the West,
It takes on a certain weary beauty:
Misguided, uninspired, familiar.
But driving through from the East,
It's just another group of grubby people
After you thought you'd passed all that.

Lying partly on ground that considered
Being a bluff, and partly on the plain,
It's a city where different states are possible
For people who don't often get that kind of choice.
In the middle, running nowhere from nowhere,
Is the Missouri, a river that moves off
Like a lake that got a little restless.
There are a few office buildings, from the late
Thirties, which is when the government stopped
Giving them away, and when folks here stopped
Worrying about keeping up with the times.
The city pumps out smog, absentmindedly,
Because that is what big cities do.

You don't know you loved it till you left it;
From now on there isn't much of anything:
Several towns like Abilene, which mean a lot
In the movies, and one or two ghost towns,
If you want to be where other people
Decided not to be. Steadily, inexorably,
The desolation opens out in front of you...
There is some satisfaction in realizing
That it's just as bad as you heard it was.
The sun burns everything jackrabbit brown,
And nothing grows high enough to be noticed.
Infrequently, and in questionable taste,

There are garish green spots of irrigation
Where someone just gave it up and stayed.
Before long you have traveled to the point
Where it would be pointless to turn back.

The next point of reference is twenty miles off,
An ill-defined part of the horizon,
A slight rise like the one twenty miles back.

You find so much ground to pass over
That covering it quickly isn't much help.
On the only radio station, a voice explains,
In an accent you wouldn't have thought possible,
The most practical way of doing something
It would never have occurred to you to do.
The voice is distant and doesn't seem aimed at you.

By now you've lost track of precisely
What you had in mind. You move on because
For some reason you have come here to do that,
Although what you are doing is completely
Unremarkable. You wouldn't know to look around,
But they take this route every day; incredibly,
People far worse equipped than yourself
Did the same thing a long time ago.
You move on because somewhere up ahead,
If you remember right, if you're going the right way,
If everything they told you was true...
There is a place called Colorado where you will,
Of course, be very glad to arrive, where the others
Wanted to go; and you will sit smug in the shade
High up on a mountain, feeling the wind
Send shivers over your body, looking back
At the great sickening swoop of the plain
And think it part of a grand design:
Satisfying, necessary, even beautiful.

-- By George Bradley, from Terms to Be Met. © Yale University Press, 1986.

Crossing Kansas by Train

The telephone poles
have been holding their
arms out
a long time now
to birds
that will not
settle there
but pass with
strange cawings
westward to
where dark trees
gather about
a waterhole. This
is Kansas. The
mountains start here
just behind
the closed eyes
of a farmer's
sons asleep
in their workclothes.

-- By Donald Justice from Night Light. © Wesleyan University Press, 1963.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Sound of Spreadsheets

Ten Things You Never Knew

...about George Washington, born on this day in 1732:

  1. His dentures were carved from a hippopotamus tusk. They were drilled with a hole to fit over Washington's one remaining tooth, and they rubbed against his natural tooth in such a way that Washington was in constant pain, and so he used an alcoholic solution infused with opium.

  2. Baron von Steuben (left) walks with Gen. George Washington through the Continental Army camp at Valley Forge in 1778, shown in an engraving after Howard Pyle. By the time he reached 30, he had survived malaria, smallpox, pleurisy, dysentery. He was fired at on two separate occasions — and in one of them, his horse was shot out from under him and four bullets punctured his coat. He also fell off a raft into an icy river and nearly drowned.

  3. During the last night of his life, a doctor friend came over to perform an emergency tracheotomy on Washington. Arriving too late, the doctor tried to resurrect Washington by thawing him in cold water, then wrapping him in blankets and rubbing him in order to activate blood vessels, then opening his trachea to inflate his lungs with air, and then transfusing blood from a lamb into him.

  4. He enjoyed playing cards, hunting foxes and ducks, fishing, cockfighting, horse racing, boat racing, and dancing. He bred hound dogs and gave them names like "Sweet Lips" and "Tarter."

  5. Building Mt. VernonHis favorite foods included mashed potatoes with coconut, string beans with mushrooms, cream of peanut soup, salt cod, and pineapples.

  6. He snored very loudly.

  7. He did not wear a powdered wig, as was fashionable at the time. Instead, he powdered his own red-brown hair.

  8. Washington had a speech impediment and was not good at spelling. He would often mix up i's and e's when speaking and in writing.

  9. There are 33 counties, seven mountains, nine colleges, and 121 post offices named after Washington.

  10. He delivered the shortest inaugural address ever. It was only 133 words long and took 90 seconds to deliver.

From The Writer's Almanac (2/22/08)

Be Still

while you worry about what each note means,
the band plays on.

you are running from a dog
who only chases because you run.
turn and face him.

though you hear the buzzing of the bee grow louder
be still.
do not fear a sting you have never felt,
you just might be a flower.

do not worry
about things falling into place.
where they fall
is the place

-- Mark Hartley

Perfection of Wisdom

"Every single mundane structure is the astonishing lion's roar of perfect wisdom."

-- Prajñāpāramitā Sutras

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It Either Feels Right Or It Feels Wrong

"I really go off of my gut as a filmmaker. I feel like I have an inner barometer that kind of works for tone and realness and I basically approach every decision that way. For me, directing is really simple. You basically watch something and it either feels right or it feels wrong. And it's that way if you look at props, if you're looking at location, if you're looking at performance, if you're looking at an edit, you're reading a screenplay. It either feels right or wrong, and if it's wrong, why and how do you fix it? That's the whole job in a nutshell.

-- Jason Reitman, discussing Juno with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW's The Treatment (2/13/08)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Neural Activity

A neuro-headset which interprets the interaction of neurons in the brain will go on sale later this year.

"It picks up electrical activity from the brain and sends wireless signals to a computer," said Tan Le, president of US/Australian firm Emotiv. "It allows the user to manipulate a game or virtual environment naturally and intuitively."

...The headset implements a technology known as non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG) to read the neural activity.

-- From "Brain Control Headset for Gamers," by Darren Waters, Technology Editor, BBC News


[Thanks Dōshin!]

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Band's Visit

"Stranded in the Israeli desert, the eight Egyptian members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra look a bit like a joke in search of a punch line. If The Band’s Visit were any other kind of film — a little more pat, say, and rather less knowing — these eight souls might quickly transform into mere props in a small-scale sermon about Middle East man’s humanity to Middle East man, minus the politics of course...[Israeli writer and director] Kolirin, it emerges, is wrenching comedy out of intense melancholia."

-- Manohla Dargis, "Strangers in a Land That’s Not So Strange," The New York Times (12/7/07)

They Don't Make Great Reality Shows

"I know so many chefs who are thoughtful and creative and like balance in their lives, but they don’t make great reality shows...I get home most workdays around 10:30 p.m. and go to bed instantly. I’ve always worked nights. I am fourth-generation restaurant people. When I get home, I can walk into the house and be in bed asleep within seven minutes...I do ballroom dancing every week. I love it. Our restaurant is right across from a dance studio, and they asked me to do a dance contest. I practiced real hard and won, and I’ve danced ever since."

-- Chef Rick Bayless, "Midwest Mex," Domains interview by Edward Lewine (New York Times Sunday Magazine, 2/17/08)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

From a Huge Mess to a Proper Script

michael-clayton-poster"Every script is different, but I sort of have an accumulation stage where I gather lots and lots of material. And I sketch. And I make a huge, huge mess. A big compost pile of scenes and dialogue and research and this huge, huge, mess. And at a certain point, that's over. And then I try to write and outline very, very quickly. Really as quickly as I possibly can -- four days or a week or something -- that's almost every scene of the movie...Films are pretty brisk, it's a two-hour experience...There's sort of a pregnant moment where you can't accumulate and you can't waste time any more and it's finally [time to] do it...I try to rush through, scene by scene by scene. And then I'll take a long time turning that into a proper script...As I get rolling, I don't want to stop working. I go from not being able to work to not being able to stop working."

-- Tony Gilroy, writer and director of Michael Clayton, in conversation with Elvis Mitchell on The Treatment (2/6/08)

Tony Gilroy direction George Clooney in Michael Clayton

Thursday, February 14, 2008

To Celebrate in Private

My Mistress Sparrow is Dead: Great stories, from Chehov to MunroJeffrey Eugenides: One of the first things my wife Karen and I decided when we got together was that we would never celebrate Valentine's Day. One of the first things that made me fall in love with her was our mutual mutual antipathy for Valentine's Day.

Michele Norris: What? Wait a minute. An author who puts together a collection of love stories has a total antipathy towards Valentine's Day?

JE: Oh, yes. Don't you think it's the cheapening and commodification of something rare that we'd all like to celebrate in private and at our own time? 

MN: I personally like flowers and chocolate.

-- From 'My Mistress's Sparrow' Gives Love a Bad Name, All Things Considered (2/13/08)



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Miniature Moons

Miranda July has been playing the typewriter during live performances of this song from The Sads, typing up poems and tossing them into the audience.

With Briony's typing being used a central component of Atonement's soundtrack, I'm wondering if this suggests a trend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Snow Man

A Cardinal sits in a snow-covered tree in Port Washington, New York February 22, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (US)

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

-- Wallace Stevens

Everything Is Writable

Sylvia PlathAnd by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

Zach Condon (Beirut) and Alma Har'el

Elephant Gun

Zach and I spoke on the phone and I asked him: ‘Zach, who is singing the song?’ and he said ‘a safari hunter’. That’s how it started.” - Alma Har’el

Postcards from Italy

"All the footage with Zach Condon was shot in our back yard and around Silver Lake, California."

In The Middle

radianceof a life that's as complicated as everyone else's,
struggling for balance, juggling time.
The mantle clock that was my grandfather's
has stopped at 9:20; we haven't had time
to get it repaired. The brass pendulum is still,
the chimes don't ring. One day I look out the window,
green summer, the next, the leaves have already fallen,
and a grey sky lowers the horizon. Our children almost grown,
again how to love, between morning's quick coffee
and evening's slow return. Steam from a pot of soup rises,
mixing with the yeasty smell of baking bread. Our bodies
twine, and the big black dog pushes his great head between;
his tail, a metronome, 3/4 time. We'll never get there,
Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.

-- Barbara Crooker, from Radiance

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More Than Just Hair and Make-Up

Phillip Toledano

"For me, fashion photography is like writing. Sometimes it's a short story, sometimes it's a one-liner, but it's always more than just hair and make-up."

-- Phillip Toledano

PS The images below are the ones I spotted in Interview Magazine (3/08). They are just now showing up on his web page in the fashion section.

Phillip Toledano for Interview Magazine.

Phillip Toledano for Interview Magazine.

Phillip Toledano for Interview Magazine.

Phillip Toledano for Interview Magazine.

We Fly Too Much

Julie Christie photographed for the New York Times by Ryan McGinely"I think we fly too much—we all know we fly too much and move around too much. We go to many other places, and although that was once my life—I wanted nothing more on earth than to travel and travel and travel—it's a question of getting older. I have been to so many incredible places, I have seen so many incredible things, and now I've got to deal with the inside of my head."

-- Julie Christie in conversation with Elvis Mitchell, Interview Magazine (March 2008)

What does it mean?

It is the nature of stone
to be satisfied.
It is the nature of water
to want to be somewhere else.

Everywhere we look:
the sweet guttural swill of the water
Everywhere we look:
the stone, basking in the sun,

or offering itself
to the golden lichen.

It is our nature not only to see
that the world is beautiful

but to stand in the dark, under the stars,
or at noon, in the rainfall of light,

wringing our hands,

half-mad, saying over and over:

what does it mean, that the world is beautiful—
what does it mean?

-- Mary Oliver, from Gravel

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Nessun Dorma

"It was Grammy night, 1998. Luciano Pavarotti was scheduled to perform Nessun Dorma at Radio City where he was being honored with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Twenty-five minutes before his performance, the maestro was in a state of panic; he knew he could not go on stage; he had been stricken with laryngitis. Aretha Franklin agreed to step in with one stipulation: all the air conditioning must be turned off. True to form, Aretha—a 17-time Grammy Award winner—performed a rendition of Nessun Dorma that was so electrifying it moved Pavarotti to tears and led to one of the greatest ovations I've ever heard. This marked one of the most memorable moments in Grammy history."

Phil Ramon & Danielle Evin, Dog Ears: Grammy Awards 50th Anniversary Edition, The Huffington Post (1/25/08)

[Thanks Matt!]

Unprepared for Long Wars

"Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980, according to a draft internal study obtained by The Washington Post. Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006."

"At the same time, the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan."

"The Army was unprepared for the high number of suicides and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among its troops, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued far longer than anticipated. Many Army posts still do not offer enough individual counseling and some soldiers suffering psychological problems complain that they are stigmatized by commanders. Over the past year, four high-level commissions have recommended reforms and Congress has given the military hundreds of millions of dollars to improve its mental health care, but critics charge that significant progress has not been made."

-- Dana Priest, "Soldier Suicides at Record Level," The Washington Post (1/31/08)


"The diving bell is an image of his stroke, the prison in which he is forever trapped, what neurologists call 'locked-in syndrome.' The butterfly is his imagination and his memory, flying free."

Ronald Harwood at his home in London. Photo by Jean-Philippe DeFaut for The New York Times

"But no butterfly for me. My imagination nestled in his diving bell, inert. For two weeks I agonized and finally came to the conclusion that I would have to tell Kathy [Kennedy, the film's producer] she had misplaced her faith in me. No alternative but to return the money. Now, nothing concentrates a writer's mind more wonderfully than the thought of having to give back the money. I stared at the phone, gathering courage to call my agent when, like a thunderbolt, literally, an idea exploded in my head. What if the story unfolded from Jean-Do's point of view? What if the camera did the blinking? Audiences would not have to gaze endlessly on this pitiful human being but instead see everything as though they themselves were locked in. I rushed to my desk, set the scene in his hospital room, and started: 'Blackness. Silence,' and when I came to write in bold: THE CAMERA IS JEAN-DOMINIQUE BAUBY, KNOWN AS JEAN-DO, I knew the screenplay was possible."

-- Ronald Harwood, who received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly writing in Script (Jan./Feb. 2008)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Suffering Bodies

"First of all, we don't know what to do with our own pain, so what to do with the pain of others? We don't know what to do with our own weakness except hide it or pretend it doesn't exist. So how can we welcome fully the weakness of another if we haven't welcomed our own weakness?...And there are some elements despicable in ourselves, which we don't want to look at, but which are part of our natures, that we are mortal."

Jean Vanier"We are very fragile in front of the future. Accidents and sicknesses is the reality. We are born in extreme weakness and our life will end in extreme weakness. So this, people don't want to hold on to that. They want to prove something. They want security. They want to have big bank accounts and all that sort of stuff. But then also, a whole lots of fear is within us...We are a frightened people. And, of course, the big question is, why are we so frightened of people with disabilities?""

"The balance of our world frequently is seen as a question of power. That if I have more power and more knowledge, more capacity, then I can do more...and when you have power, we can very quickly push people down. 'I'm the one that knows and you don't know,' and 'I'm strong and I'm powerful, I have the knowledge.' And this is the history of humanity."

"And that is all of what I'd call the whole educational system, is that we must educate people to become capable and to take their place in society. That has value, obviously. But it's not quite the same thing as to educate people to relate, to listen, to help people to become themselves. So the equilibrium that people with disabilities could bring is precisely this equilibrium of the heart."

Krista Tippett's Interview with Jean Vanier "...You see, maybe our father is a very strong man. A businessman. And when he comes home, if he gets down on his hands and knees and plays with the children, it's the child that is teaching the father something about tenderness, about love, about the father looking at the needs of the child, the face of the child, the hands of the child, relating to the child."

"...the incredible thing about children is they're unified in their body and in — whereas we, we can be very disunified. We can say one thing and feel another. And so as a child can teach us about unity and about fidelity and about love, so it is people with disabilities."

"You'll find lot of communities which are based on the word, thus to say we speak of an ideal Becoming Human, Jean Vaniertogether and we are committed to an ideal or to a vision and so on. But L'Arche is based on body and on suffering bodies. And so they are seen as useless, and so we welcome those who apparently are useless. And it's a suffering body which brings us together. And it's attention to the body. You see, when somebody comes to our community and is quite severely handicapped, what is important is to see that the body is well. Bathing, helping people dress, to eat. It's to communicate to them through the body. And then, as the body can become comfortable, then the spirit can rise up. There's a recognition. There's a contact. There's a relationship."

-- Jean Vanier in a conversation with Krista Tippett on Speaking of Faith (12/20/07) The Wisdom of Tenderness

Eastern Standard Time

The Trouble with Poetry and Other PoemsPoetry speaks to all people, it is said,
but here I would like to address
only those in my own time zone,
this proper slice of longitude
that runs from pole to snowy pole
down the globe through Montreal to Bogota.

Oh, fellow inhabitants of this singular band,
sitting up in your many beds this morning—
the sun falling through the windows
and casting a shadow on the sundial—
consider those in other zones who cannot hear these words.

They are not slipping into a bathrobe as we are,
or following the smell of coffee in a timely fashion.

Rather, they are at work already,
leaning on copy machines,
hammering nails into a house-frame.

They are not swallowing a vitamin like us;
rather they are smoking a cigarette under a half moon,
even jumping around on a dance floor,
or just now sliding under the covers,
pulling down the little chains on their bed lamps.

But we are not like these others,
for at this very moment on the face of the earth,
we are standing under a hot shower,

or we are eating our breakfast,
considered by people of all zones
to be the most important meal of the day.

Later, when the time is right,
we might sit down with the boss,
wash the car, or linger at a candle-lit table,
but now is the hour for pouring the juice
and flipping the eggs with one eye on the toaster.

So let us slice a banana and uncap the jam,
lift our brimming spoons of milk,
and leave it to the others to lower a flag
or spin absurdly in a barber's chair—
those antipodal oddballs, always early or late.

Let us praise Sir Stanford Fleming
the Canadian genius who first scored
with these lines the length of the spinning earth.

Let us move together through the rest of this day
passing in unison from light to shadow,
coasting over the crest of noon
into the valley of the evening
and then, holding hands, slip into the deeper valley of night."

-- Billy Collins, from The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Great Tragedy of Speed

"Speed in work has compensations. Speed gets noticed. Speed is praised by others. Speed is self-important. Speed absolves us. Speed means we don't really belong to any particular thing or person we are visiting and thus appears to elevate us above the ground crossing_the_unknown_seaof our labors.  When it becomes all-consuming, speed is the ultimate defense, the antidote to stopping and really looking. If we really saw what we were doing and who we had become, we feel we might not survive the stopping and the accompanying self-appraisal. So we don't stop, and the faster we go, the harder it becomes to stop. We keep moving on whenever any form of true commitment seems to surface. Speed is also warning, a throbbing, insistent indicator that some cliff edge or other is very near, a sure diagnostic sign that we are living someone else's life and doing someone else's work. But speed saves us the pain of all that stopping; speed can be such a balm, a saving grace, a way we tell ourselves, in unconscious ways, that we are really not participating.

"The great tragedy of speed as an answer to the complexities and responsibilities of existence is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We see only those moving in the same whirling orbit and only those moving with the same urgency. Soon we begin to suffer a form of amnesia, caused by the blurred vision of velocity itself, where those germane to our humanity are dropped from our minds one by one. We start to lose sight of any colleagues who are moving at a slower pace, and we start to lose sight of the bigger, slower cycles that underlie our work. We especially lose sight of the big, unfolding wave form passing through our lives that is indicative of our central character. On the personal side, as slaves to speed, we start to lose sight of family members, especially children, or those who are ill or infirm, who are not flying through the world as quickly and determinedly as we are. Just as seriously, we begin to leave behind the parts of our own selves that limp a little, the vulnerabilities that actually give us color and character. We forget that our sanity is dependent on a relationship with longer, more patient cycles extending beyond the urgencies and madness of the office."

-- David Whyte, from Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a pilgrimage of identity

[Thanks Kit!]

Monday, February 04, 2008

Acting Paradox


"I thought of Karen as a bad actress poorly cast."

-- Tilda Swinton, regarding the conniving corporate lawyer she portrayed in Michael Clayton (Entertainment Weekly, 1/29/08). This was one of my favorite performances of the year.

Cashing In


"It quite honestly never occurred to me. Somebody said, 'Is making a film like silver prospecting?' and I thought, It's exactly like that. You hack away. You hack away. You're not sure what it's going to be worth or if you're going to find anything. And then maybe you find something that you like that gives you an indication that something else might be there. So you figure, Well, I could just take this stuff and crawl back up to the top of the hole and go to the assay office and maybe that'll be it. But instead, you think, Maybe there's even more underneath there. So you light a stick of dynamite. You stick it in. You blow it up and you just keep after it. I mean, I know that's how I feel -- sure -- in approaching a film or writing it and making it, whatever it is. And then cashing the silver in and finding out what it's worth never really ends up being as satisfying or as fun as it was to be down in that hole."

-- Paul Thomas Anderson discussing his film, There Will Be Blood, with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW's The Treatment (1/30/08)

The Ability to Change

"In a sense, stories are about change. And the measuring stick that savethecattells us who succeeds and who doesn't is seen in the ability to change. Good guys are those who willingly accept change and see it as a positive force. Bad guys are those who refuse to change, who will curl up and die in their own juices, unable to move out of the rut their lives represent. To succeed in life is to be able to transform. That's why it's the basis not only of good storytelling but also the world's best-known religions. Change is good because it represents re-birth, the promise of a fresh start."

-- Blake Snyder, Save the Cat!: The last book on screenwriting you'll ever need

Friday, February 01, 2008

Adjectives of Scale

Photograph by Michael Yamashita for National Geographic

“Avoid adjectives of scale, you will love the world more and desire it less.”

-- Former poet laureate Robert Hass paraphrasing Japanese haiku master Matsuo Bashō. Howard Norman recently traveled the 17th century Japanese poet's path for his National Geographic article, "On the Trail of a Ghost." See more photos taken for this project by Michael Yamashita.

[Thanks Dōshin!]

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth

"This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome — there's no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment."

-- From the beginning of Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

What is true?

"I think that film is, in a way, a dead medium. In that with theater you've got accidents that can happen, you've got performances that change, but this is a recording. And so what I try to sort of do is infuse my screenplays with enough information so that upon repeated viewings, you can have a different experience.

Rather than the movie going linearly to one thing and at the end it tells you what the movie is about, I try to keep it kind of like a conversation with the audience. With each individual member of the audience, hopefully...

I have this averse reaction to Hollywood romances. They've been very damaging to me growing up, I feel, in that I had these expectations in the world of what my life was going to be like, and what my romantic life was going to be like. And as I got older and I realized my life wasn't like that, it became kind of depressing. And then I thought, real life is more interesting and maybe I should try to explore that and not put more damaging stuff into the world.

And so I'm always sort of trying to think, What is true? -- I mean true to me, which is all I know -- and then try to sort of reject the ideas which come from other movies. Which is a very hard thing to do because you often don't know that your ideas of a scene or a relationship come from movies, not from your real life."

-- Charlie Kaufman

Below is the IMDB summary of the plot of Synecdoche, New York, which he wrote and directed:

synecdocheTheater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. Fresh off of a successful production of Death of a Salesman, he has traded in the suburban blue-hairs and regional theater of Schenectady for the cultured audiences and bright footlights of Broadway. Armed with a MacArthur grant and determined to create a piece of brutal realism and honesty, something into which he can put his whole self, he gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in Manhattan's theater district. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a small mockup of the city outside. As the city inside the warehouse grows, Caden's own life veers wildly off the tracks. The shadow of his ex-wife Adele (Catherine Keener), a celebrated painter who left him years ago for Germany's art scene, sneers at him from every corner. Somewhere in Berlin, his daughter Olive is growing up under the questionable guidance of Adele's friend, Maria (Jennifer Jason Leigh). He's helplessly driving his marriage to actress Claire (Michelle Williams) into the ground. Sammy Barnathan (Tom Noonan), the actor Caden has hired to play himself within the play, is a bit too perfect for the part, and is making it difficult for Caden to revive his relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton). Meanwhile, his therapist, Madeline Gravis (Hope Davis), is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. His is second daughter, Ariel, is retarded. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his autonomic functions, one by one. As the years rapidly pass, Caden buries himself deeper into his masterpiece. Populating the cast and crew with doppelgangers, he steadily blurs the line between the world of the play and that of his own deteriorating reality.

synecdoche (sĭ-nĕk'də-kē) pronunciation

Schenectady (skə-nĕk'tə-dē) pronunciation