Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No Time

Check out Jeff Scher’s blog, The Animated Life.

From “The Parade,” June 29, 2009:

The streets of the city are a non-stop parade of humanity. It’s a kind of grand, unchoreographed ballet of human locomotion. One of the great pleasures and measures of being urban is losing yourself in the crowd, with your feet and mind wandering, alone in your head but elbow to elbow with an inexhaustible supply of strangers…

We can’t help it. We are fascinated by faces and bodies alike. Every face tells a story, and the story is a mystery. The clues abound and we read them instinctively in the blink of an eye. We categorize one another as bums, businessmen, tourists, models, etc., almost unconsciously. But what fun it is to stare, and revel in the passing faces, reading wardrobe, ethnicity, posture, age. Indeed, it’s a feast with every possible variation of the species on parade. By walking in their midst we too become a part of the constantly changing people-scape and offer our own version of the mystery.

Read the whole post and watch the related video...

[Thanks Kit!]

The Gradual, Lifelong Construction

“The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.”

~ Glenn Gould

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Beginning of Language

W.S. Merwin in conversation with Bill Moyers (June 26, 2009):

One of the great themes that runs through poetry, all poetry, and I think is one of the reasons for poetry, one of the sources of poetry, one of the sources of language, is the feeling of loss. The feeling of losing things. Not being able to hold, keep things. That's what grief is -- the feeling of having lost. Of having something being out of reach. Gone. Inaccessible... But I think that language itself and poetry are born the same way.

The Shadow of SiriusI think poetry's about what can't be said and I think that language emerges out of what could not be said. Out of this desperate desire to utter something, to express something inexpressible. Probably grief. Maybe something else. You know, you see a silent photograph of an Iraqi woman who's husband or son or brother has just been killed by an explosion. And you know that if you could hear, you would be hearing one long vowel of grief. Just senseless, meaningless vowel of grief. And that's the beginning of language right there.

Inexpressible sound. And it's antisocial. It's destructive. It's utterly painful beyond expression. And the consonants are the attempts to break it, to control it, to do something with it. And I think that's how language emerged.

* * * * *

from Shadow of Sirius

Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for

or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I

have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me

as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let

me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I

began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already

part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you

from what we cannot hold the stars are made

[Thanks Kit!]

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Communication Technology Triage

James Estrin/The New York Times“To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question. But answering it invokes a larger conundrum: how to perform triage on the communication technologies that seem to multiply like Tribbles — instant messaging, texting, cellphones, softphones, iChat, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; how to distinguish among those that will truly enhance intimacy, those that result in T.M.I. and those that, though pitching greater connectedness, in fact further disconnect us from the people we love."

~ Peggy Orenstein, from “The Overextended Family,” The New York Times Sunday Magazine (June 28, 2009)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

This Small Container for a Lot of Stuff

Don't Cry "I remember when my father died...He didn't die quickly. I was with him and it lasted a few weeks. I was so astonished at the levels of feeling that I discovered in myself which I really wasn't aware of. It almost began to seem to me like people were like cans almost, that a lot substance was sort of squished into. That the form of our personalities and characters is sort of like this small container for a lot of stuff and it has to be compressed into this small thing and we can only be aware of what's on the surface at any given time. But then something like that happens, something that kind of forces the container to break a bit, a deep life-altering event, and suddenly all these feelings come to the surface that you weren't aware that you had. And because of having that experience and also other things -- it wasn't just my father's death, there've been other things that are complex to explain -- but just becoming aware of all the different layers in myself and in other people. Because once you see that in yourself, you begin to be aware of it in other people."

~ Mary Gaitskill, discussing her new collection of short stories, Don’t Cry, with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW’s Bookworm


A short film by Bang-yao Liu

The Making Of

Wednesday, June 24, 2009



“Be ardent in your work and you will find God in your cooking pots.”

~ St. Teresa of Ávila

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Convenient Solutions

train "To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally
convenient solutions; both dispense with the need for thought."

Henri Poincaré (1854-1912), Science and Hypothesis

The Sun Grows In Your Smile

by Linda Rodriquez, from Heart’s Migration

When you smile, the air grows warm and soft,
the earth is watered with gentle mists,
seeds sprout and spread leaves above the dark, damp soil,
earthworms pierce the crust and frolic across the surface
to the delight of fat, happily hunting robins,
lilies of the valley unfurl beside purple, grape-scented irises,
fat pink and maroon peonies, and gay California poppies,
damask roses hurl their rich fragrance to the wind,
the crazy-with-sheer-joy song of the Northern mockingbird
echoes above other chirps and sweet winged notes,
gardeners join the worms in the warm, rich dirt,
children gallop across yards and grab handfuls of dandelions
to present to mothers who will set them in glasses of water
in kitchen windows or on dining room tables, weeds
glorious after the dark of winter with the color of the sun
that grows and warms and heals in your smile.

[Thanks Garrison!]

The Way We Orient

From TED Talks (June 2009): “Psychologist Philip Zimbardo says happiness and success are rooted in a trait most of us disregard: the way we orient toward the past, present and future. He suggests we calibrate our outlook on time as a first step to improving our lives.”

Philip Zimbardo knows what evil looks like. After serving as an expert witness during the Abu Ghraib trials, he wrote The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. From Nazi comic books to the tactics of used-car salesmen, he explores a wealth of sources in trying to explain the psychology of evil.

A past president of the American Psychological Association and a professor emeritus at Stanford, Zimbardo retired in 2008 from lecturing, after 50 years of teaching his legendary introductory course in psychology. In addition to his work on evil and heroism, Zimbardo recently published The Time Paradox, exploring different cultural and personal perspectives on time.

Still well-known for his controversial Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo in his new research looks at the psychology of heroism. He asks, "What pushes some people to become perpetrators of evil, while others act heroically on behalf of those in need?"

Monday, June 22, 2009

How to Fly

Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor on trying to explain her song writing process:

“To try to go back and take it all apart, then try to put order on it, is almost not fair to it. Let’s say somebody actually knows how to fly, but people just can’t deal with that, they’re constantly looking, going, ‘But where is the button, the propeller, the jet?’ And eventually the person has to strap on the jet and say, ‘Here’s the button.’ I think that’s what happens with people having to explain their songs. The song was flying, and now I’m being pushed to make up shit about it. Sometimes it’s almost like people take it as an insult, like you’re being facetious or pretentious. Or, and this upsets me even more, people say, ‘Random’, ‘Puts together really cool sounds’. It’s not random, it’s very specific, and when I’m writing it, it feels like life and death. It would be so much more fun if people went, ‘Wow, that’s cool, he just flew.’”

[Thanks JC!]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Inspirational Reading

From “Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times (May 16, 2009):

Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.

…I read aloud to my writing students, and when students read aloud to me I notice something odd. They are smart and literate, and most of them had parents who read to them as children. But when students read aloud at first, I notice that they are trying to read the meaning of the words. If the work is their own, they are usually trying to read the intention of the writer.

It’s as though they’re reading what the words represent rather than the words themselves. What gets lost is the inner voice of the prose, the life of the language. This is reflected in their writing, too, at first.

[Thanks Kit!]

Tiny Swallowable Pieces

by David Eagleman

In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together.

You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet.

You take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it. Bones break, cars crash, skin is cut, babies are born. Once you make it through, it's agony-free for the rest of your afterlife.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives But that doesn't mean it's always pleasant. You spend six days clipping your nails. Fifteen months looking for lost items. Eighteen months waiting in line. Two years of boredom: staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal. One year reading books. Your eyes hurt, and you itch, because you can't take a shower until it's your time to take your marathon two-hundred-day shower. Two weeks wondering what happens when you die. One minute realizing your body is falling. Seventy-seven hours of confusion. One hour realizing you've forgotten someone's name. Three weeks realizing you are wrong. Two days lying. Six weeks waiting for a green light. Seven hours vomiting. Fourteen minutes experiencing pure joy. Three months doing laundry. Fifteen hours writing your signature. Two days tying shoelaces. Sixty-seven days of heartbreak. Five weeks driving lost. Three days calculating restaurant tips. Fifty-one days deciding what to wear. Nine days pretending you know what is being talked about. Two weeks counting money. Eighteen days staring into the refrigerator. Thirty-four days longing. Six months watching commercials. Four weeks sitting in thought, wondering if there is something better you could be doing with your time. Three years swallowing food. Five days working buttons and zippers. Four minutes wondering what your life would be like if you reshuffled the order of events. In this part of the afterlife, you imagine something analogous to your Earthly life, and the thought is blissful: a life where episodes are split into tiny swallowable pieces, where moments do not endure, where one experiences the joy of jumping from one event to the next like a child hopping from spot to spot on the burning sand.

Eternal Whimsy,” review by Alexander McCall Smith, New York Times (June 14, 2009)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We’re Caught in a Story

“I know the human spirit. My line is, we all love each other and there’s nothing we can do about it. And any thought that opposes that, we feel as stress. And stress is a gift. It says that we’re caught in a story that may not be true for us. Time to question your mind. Stress is like an alarm clock that says, It’s time to wake the baby, the innocent one who is caught in a dream.”

~ Byron Katie, from My Mother Is…

Night Train

Train de Nuit 
Chanel N°5 film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring Audrey Tautou and Travis Davenport

I Lose Interest

Photography for Interview by Vinoodh Matadin, Inez Van Lamsweerde “I feel like my last album was really very much about this emotion to want justice. And maybe I go with this emotion as a way to get at how it is to feel injustice—to want justice and to demand it. It’s very strong, this image of a person with a flag, declaring independence. But I’m not interested in politics. I lose interest the microsecond it ceases to be emotional, when something becomes a political movement. What I’m interested in is emotions.”

~ Björk, from Interview Magazine (June/July 2009). Voltaic, a two-CD, two-DVD box set of live recordings from Medúlla and Volta, will be available June 23 from Nonesuch.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


French artist Invader’s solo show opens June 27th at Jonathan LeVine Gallery.

Teaching is a Kind of Learning

Teaching is a kind of
learning, much like loving,
mutual goings-on,
both doing each to each;
mutual forbearance;
life itself, you might say.

~ George Johnston, from Farewell to Teaching

Order from Chaos

M.C. Escher's "Print Gallery" (c) 2004 The M. C. Escher Company - The Netherlands.

"We adore chaos because we love to produce order."

~ M.C. Escher

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Laughing With

Regina Spektor’s CD Far is due out next week (6/23). 
[Stream it. Explore it.]

God can be funny
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

Love and Its Near Enemy

From The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance by Polly Young-Eisendrath:

The Self-Esteem Trap Most of us think of love in terms of the comfort, passion, closeness, or beauty it will bring us. We imagine the enjoyment of passing hours and days with our beloved, who pleases us in touch, smell, and conversation. Perhaps we even think of living happily ever after. Unfortunately this is not love but its intoxicating sibling, idealization. Buddhists use the term “near enemy” to mean a superficial or misleading twin of a valuable state or attitude. In Buddhist parlance, then, we could say that idealization is the near enemy of love. If we mistake idealization for love, we can be harmfully misled in our connections to others and ourselves.

The special self is the creation of idealization. Exceptional, extraordinary, perfect: these are not the descriptions of any real human being, a person with weaknesses as well as strengths. If we have heard repeatedly how talented, beautiful, smart, or promising we are, we may grow up with an intolerance for weakness and difficulty in others, and a greater intolerance for imperfections in ourselves. Within such a self-esteem trap, we are unable to connect with others or embrace ourselves in the messy ambivalence of love.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hope Must Remain

"Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensable virtue inherent in the state of being alive. If life is to be sustained, hope must remain, even where confidence is wounded, trust impaired."

~ Erik Erikson

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Trying Hard is One of the Problems

The Great Poem
by Lawrence Raab, from The History of Forgetting

The History of Forgetting The great poem is always possible.
Think of Keats and his odes.
But we shouldn't have to be dying,

What I'm writing now is not
the great poem. After a few lines
I could tell. It may not even be

a particularly good poem, although
it's too early to decide about that.
Keep going, I say. See what happens.

But trying hard is one of the problems.
since it shows in the lines as a strain
or struggle that reminds the reader

too much of the writer, whereas
most readers want to listen alone.
The great poem, I think, will arrive

when I no longer care. Perhaps
I'll have abandoned art altogether,
and I won't even want to write

the poem down. But then I'll remember
what I once would have given
for this moment, and I'll go back

to my desk. And I'll write the poem
as though I were another person,
someone I will never be again.

[More by Lawrence Raab]

Friday, June 12, 2009

Asking for Permission

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Listening for the Pauses

From “What the Land Says,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg, The New York Times (June 10, 2009):

Being a writer, in my experience, means putting up with an inner voice — a maker of sentences — that is always clamoring to be heard. More and more, I find myself listening for the moments when that voice lapses.

After a dozen years on this farm, I can name most of the plants and nearly all the birds. But what’s the word for the wake the pileated woodpecker leaves as it dips, flying across the pasture? How can I imagine that land speaks in a language when I’m surrounded by animals whose wordless attention is at least as great as mine? All I can do is put a period to this sentence and hope I can live, for a while, in the pause that follows.

[Thanks Kit!]

A Fine Warm Feeling

William Styron in 1998. Photo by Kathy Willens/The Associated Press "I get a fine warm feeling when I'm doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let's face it, writing is hell."

~ William Styron

Monday, June 08, 2009

Night in Day

by Joseph Stroud, from American Life in Poetry

The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light's great
triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun—
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Watching Time Fly

Congratulations Alex! We are all very proud of you. It has been a joy to watch you grow so far. Now it’s time to begin savoring a new chapter. Enjoy!

First day of first grade, Ecole Kenwood.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Workshop is a Process

From "Show or Tell: Should Creative Writing Be Taught?" by Louis Menand, The New Yorker (June 8, 2009)

The New Yorker June 8 & 15, 2009 Creative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem. The fruit of the theory is the writing workshop, a combination of ritual scarring and twelve-on-one group therapy where aspiring writers offer their views of the efforts of other aspiring writers. People who take creative-writing workshops get course credit and can, ultimately, receive an academic degree in the subject; but a workshop is not a course in the normal sense—a scene of instruction in which some body of knowledge is transmitted by means of a curricular script. The workshop is a process, an unscripted performance space, a regime for forcing people to do two things that are fundamentally contrary to human nature: actually write stuff (as opposed to planning to write stuff very, very soon), and then sit there while strangers tear it apart. There is one person in the room, the instructor, who has (usually) published a poem. But workshop protocol requires the instructor to shepherd the discussion, not to lead it, and in any case the instructor is either a product of the same process—a person with an academic degree in creative writing—or a successful writer who has had no training as a teacher of anything, and who is probably grimly or jovially skeptical of the premise on which the whole enterprise is based: that creative writing is something that can be taught.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Original Buttons

From “Mister Jalopy,” Studio 360 (April 3, 2009):

Mr. Jalopy transforms garage sale junk into extraordinary machines. He's a hero to the Maker's Movement — a community of DIY-ers who mix science, technology, and art. Kurt spent an afternoon with Mr. Jalopy at his workshop in Los Angeles, and saw one of his inventions.”

Trying to Get Something Real

An excerpt from The Brothers Bloom by Rian Johnson:

Rachel Weisz as Penelope in The Brothers BloomBLOOM
Stephen enjoyed it. He loved the idea that we were internationally infamous art smugglers, but I think deep down, same as me, he felt like we were putting on a persona, faking it.

Telling a story.

He’d love to die on a job. Cornered at midnight on a run to Jakarta. That’s his dream, to tell his story so well it fulfills itself. It somehow would make it finally real for him.

That’s kinda the thing we all want, right?

Trying to get something real by telling yourself stories is a trap. Trust me on that one.

Original Human Mind

"Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private."

~ Allen Ginsberg

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

True Happiness Lies Within

“When I first heard about meditation, I had zero interest in it. I wasn't even curious. It sounded like a waste of time.

What got me interested, though, was the phrase 'true happiness lies within.' At first I thought it sounded kind of mean, because it doesn't tell you where the 'within' is, or how to get there. But still it had a ring of truth. And I began to think that maybe meditation was a way to go within.”

~ David Lynch, from “Deep Thoughts by David Lynch,” Utne Reader (May/June 2007)

Hope, Promise, and Loss

“Kevin Lee and Matt Zoller “ReWatch” Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, finding the hope and promise buried in its story of loss.”

~ Film In Focus

Driving Straight Through

Jim Knipfel photographed by Rachel Bradley, blackarrowpress.com "Before I begin, before word one is typed, I need to have the complete story in my head. That's the important thing. Then I'll take what vacation time I can get from the paper, parcel out what needs to be done given what time I have available,  lock the apartment door, sit down and type eight to 10 hours a day (with regular cigarette breaks). I start with the first chapter and drive straight through to the end. I guess this comes from a deep love for the pulps."

~ Jim Knipfel, describing his marathon writing style

Get Some Plaster

Excerpt from Tinkers by Paul Harding:

Tinkers George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died. From the rented hospital bed, placed in the middle of his own living room, he saw insects running in and out of imaginary cracks in the ceiling plaster. The panes in the windows, once snugly pointed and glazed, stood loose in their sashes. The next stiff breeze would topple them all and they would flop onto the heads of his family, who sat on the couch and the love seat and the kitchen chairs his wife had brought in to accommodate everyone. The torrent of panes would drive everyone from the room, his grandchildren in from Kansas and Atlanta and Seattle, his sister in from Florida, and he would be marooned on his bed in a moat of shattered glass. Pollen and sparrows, rain and the intrepid squirrels he had spent half his life keeping out of the bird feeders would breach the house.

He had built the house himself—poured the foundation, raised the frame, joined the pipes, run the wires, plastered the walls, and painted the rooms. Lightning struck once when he was in the open foundation, soldering the last joint of the hot-water tank. It threw him to the opposite wall. He got up and finished the joint. Cracks in the plaster did not stay cracks; clogged pipes got routed; peeling clapboard got scraped and slathered with a new coat of paint.

Get some plaster, he said, propped up in the bed, which looked odd and institutional among the Persian rugs and Colonial furniture and dozens of antique clocks. Get some plaster. Jesus, some plaster and some wires and a couple of hooks. You’d be all set for about five bucks.

Yes, Gramp, they said.

Yes, Dad. A breeze blew through the open window behind him and cleared exhausted heads. Bocce balls clicked out on the lawn.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Lillian Waugh says playing the cello is a mindfulness technique she practices."The one thing I came away with was the ability to put myself in a place where I could gain perspective on everything I was doing at the moment."

~ Lillian Waugh, describing the impact of mindfulness practice, from “Mindfulness Training Busts Stress,” by Val Willingham, CNN (June 1, 2009)

[Thanks Dyan!]