“It’s all about going from reality to dreams and subconscious. It’s about memory—lost memory. And animation is perfect for that because you can really stream the events easily, go from one dimension to another with no interference at all. It looks like one story line. And I do believe that life in general is this story line that goes between reality and fantasy all the time.”
Saturday, February 28, 2009
“Architecture is supposed to be the location of security and certainty about where you are. It is supposed to protect you from the weather, from darkness, from uncertainty. Blind Light undermines all of that. You enter this interior space that is the equivalent of being on top of a mountain or at the bottom of the sea. It is very important for me that inside it you find the outside. Also you become the immersed figure in an endless ground, literally the subject of the work.”
Antony Gormley, Blind Light, 2007
Fluorescent light, toughened low iron glass,
ultrasonic humidifiers, aluminium, water
© Courtesy of the artist and Jay Jopling / White Cube
Photo Stephen White
Friday, February 27, 2009
“What all of us long for, I suspect, is to love the places which we live and live in places worthy of love. Not every place where people are forced to live or have been set down by work or family circumstance, not all places are lovable. But there are a lot of places that have been either polluted or economically ruined. There are a lot of places that have been homogenized out of existence by franchises and big box stores and so forth. But I think anyone who’s had a taste of a distinctive place, a real place—whether it’s a place where they themselves have or simply a place they have visited—everyone who has had such a taste of what a distinctive home place might be longs to have one of their own.”
“When I’d get started putting something down and Charlie’d play chords and I’d get the melody in my head from his chords. I got to keep thinking anybody could do it, cause it’s like you talk. It’s like you talk. And if you do that, it just sort of writes itself.”
~ Rose McCoy, from “Lady Writes The Blues: The Life Of Rose McCoy,” Radio Diaries, NPR (2.27.09)
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I believe that the best way to create good living conditions for any animal, whether it’s a captive animal living in a zoo, a farm animal, or a pet, is to base animal welfare programs on the core emotion systems in the brain. My theory is that the environment animals live in should activate their positive emotions as much as possible, and not activate their negative emotions any more than necessary. If we get the animal’s emotions right, we will have fewer problem behaviors.
That might sound like a radical statement, but some of the research in neuroscience has been showing that emotions drive behavior, and my own thirty-five years of experience working with animals have shown me that this is true. Emotions come first. You have to go back to the brain to understand animal welfare.
Of course, usually — though not always — the more freedom you give an animal to act naturally, the better, because normal behaviors evolved to satisfy the core emotions. When a hen hides to lay her eggs, the hiding behavior turns off fear. But if you can’t give an animal the freedom to act naturally, then you should think about how to satisfy the emotion that motivates the behavior by giving the animal other things to do. Focus on the emotion, not the behavior.
So far, research in animal behavior agrees with the neuroscience research on emotions. A really good study on whether animals have purely behavioral needs was done with gerbils. Gerbils love to dig and tunnel, and a lot of them develop a corner-digging stereotypy when they’re around thirty days old. A stereotypy is an abnormal repetitive behavior (ARB for short), such as a lion or tiger pacing back and forth in its cage for hours on end. Pets and farm animals can develop stereotypies, too. Stereotypies are defined as abnormal behaviors that are repetitive, invariant (lions always pace the exact same path in their cages), and seemingly pointless.
An adult gerbil spends up to 30 percent of its "active time" doing stereotypic digging in the corner of its cage. That would never happen in nature, and many researchers have hypothesized that the reason captive gerbils develop stereotypic digging is that they have a biological need to dig that they can’t express inside a cage.
That shows that the motivation for a gerbil’s digging stereotypy is a need to hide inside a sheltered space, not a need to dig. The gerbil needs the emotion of feeling safe, not the action of digging. Animals don’t have purely behavioral needs, and if an animal expresses a normal behavior in an abnormal environment, its welfare may be poor. A gerbil that spends 30 percent of its time digging without being able to make a tunnel does not have good welfare.
All animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain. Most pet owners probably already believe this, but I find that a lot of executives, plant managers, and even some veterinarians and researchers still don’t believe that animals have emotions. The first thing I tell them is that the same psychiatric medications, such as Prozac, that work for humans also work for animals. Unless you are an expert, when you dissect a pig’s brain it’s difficult to tell the difference between the lower-down parts of the animal’s brain and the lower-down parts of a human brain. Human beings have a much bigger neocortex, but the core emotions aren’t located in the neocortex. They’re in the lower-down part of the brain.
When people are suffering mentally, they want to feel better — they want to stop having bad emotions and start having good emotions. That’s the right goal with animals, too.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
by George Bilgere
Perhaps, in a distant café,
four or five people are talking
with the four or five people
who are chatting on their cell phones this morning
in my favorite café.
And perhaps someone there,
someone like me, is watching them as they frown,
or smile, or shrug
at their invisible friends or lovers,
jabbing the air for emphasis.
And, like me, he misses the old days,
when talking to yourself
meant you were crazy,
back when being crazy was a big deal,
not just an acronym
or something you could take a pill for.
I liked it
when people who were talking to themselves
might actually have been talking to God
or an angel.
You respected people like that.
You didn't want to kill them,
as I want to kill the woman at the next table
with the little blue light on her ear
who has been telling the emptiness in front of her
about her daughter's bridal shower
in astonishing detail
for the past thirty minutes.
O person like me,
phoneless in your distant café,
I wish we could meet to discuss this,
and perhaps you would help me
murder this woman on her cell phone,
after which we could have a cup of coffee,
maybe a bagel, and talk to each other,
face to face.
[More by George Bilgere.]
You spend so much of your time
expecting to become
who will be different
someone to whom a moment
whatever moment it may be
at last has come
and who has been
met and transformed
into no longer being you
and so has forgotten you
meanwhile in your life
you hardly notice
the world around you
sirens dying along the buildings
your eyes intent
on a sight you do not see yet
not yet there
as long as you
are only yourself
with whom as you
recall you were
to be left alone for long
“I wanted to be a movie star. You can’t say about work that I didn’t try very hard. That really wasn’t true. I’ve always been a great opportunist, but the opportunity was not always there. I had a difficult set of circumstances to deal with, particularly for a movie career. Being gay...just doesn’t work.”
“Everybody sabotages their careers to a certain extent, not consciously, but I don’t think I have more than anyone else. People get distorted ideas of themselves; being in this business, you can’t fail to. Suddenly you think you should be playing the Marlon Brando role in ‘On the Waterfront’ when you should really be playing a Noël Coward role. I think success in show business is a very heady wine when you’re a kid, particularly if it happens small, because you’re always trying to make it grow. There’s no happy moment in it, because you’re just grasping and elbowing, elbowing, elbowing your way to the next stop. And you make lots of wrong decisions because of it.”
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and
over to the same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the
light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs—
all this resinous, unretractable earth.
Monday, February 23, 2009
“In all sharp moral disagreements, maximalism is the constant temptation. People dig in, positions harden and we tend to convince ourselves that our opponents are not only wrong-headed but also malicious and acting in bad faith. In such conflicts, it can seem not only difficult, but also wrong, to compromise on a core belief.”
“But clinging to extremes can also be quite dangerous. In the case of gay marriage, a scorched-earth debate, pitting what some regard as nonnegotiable religious freedom against what others regard as a nonnegotiable human right, would do great harm to our civil society. When a reasonable accommodation on a tough issue seems possible, both sides should have the courage to explore it.”
~ “A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage,” David Blankenhorn, author of The Future of Marriage, and Jonathan Rauch, author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.
~ Danny Boyle, responding to a question from David Carr of The New York Times, who asked him what lesson Hollywood could learn from the little movie made for under twenty million dollars in Mumbai, India.
I liked how the top Oscars were awarded last night. Having a pantheon of previous category winners, each carefully matched with a nominee, was a satisfying blend of grandiosity and tenderness. It did ride a fine line between cool and awkward, but the words of praise from the respected role models with established reputations were more moving and memorable than most of the acceptance speeches. I was moved by the reactions of the nominees. I can’t think of any other consolation prize that has allowed participants to walk away with such affirmation and dignity.
What a curse it must be for the entire world to know you crave something that you do not get. Most of us are fortunate to experience a significantly smaller circle of praise and embarrassment.
We live in a niche market world now. It’s a silly tradition to select one performance from the year and pretend it was the best. If you see movies outside the mainstream, you know that many truly artistic performances go unnoticed by the majority. So much talent never finds a large audience.
But we like to build pedestals. I’m not sure that’s an entirely bad thing. Around the time of the presidential election, I heard Harry Shearer talking about how he can’t do worthy impersonation of Barack Obama until he figures out who Obama is impersonating. It’s true, isn’t it? Consciously or unconsciously, we are all emulating the people we admire.
My favorite acknowledgment last night came from one acting goddess to another. Sophia Loren said that Meryl Streep’s name has become synonymous with the highest standards of her craft. It made me think about how much influence we really do have in creating the perception of ourselves in the minds of others.
Who would you most want to summarize and approve of your efforts and accomplishments?
What would you like your name to mean?
What one thing could you do today to increase your odds of ever finding even a small audience of respect?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The spirit has infinite facets, but the body
confiningly few sides.
There is the left,
the right, the back, the belly, and tempting
in-betweens, northeasts and northwests,
that tip the heart and soon pinch circulation
in one or another arm.
Yet we turn each time
with fresh hope, believing that sleep
will visit us here, descending like an angel
down the angle our flesh's sextant sets,
tilted toward that unreachable star
hung in the night between our eyebrows, whence
dreams and good luck flow.
your ankles. Unclench your philosophy.
This bed was invented by others; know we go
to sleep less to rest than to participate
in the twists of another world.
This churning is our journey.
can only end, around a corner
we do not know
we are turning.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
A wise person told me that sometimes enlightenment happens all at once, like falling into a pond, but most of the time waking up happens gradually over time, like walking through heavy mist. It doesn't matter whether you fall into the pond or walk through the mist, either way you end up drenched.
When we walk through mist, it is difficult to look back and say exactly when we went from being dry to being wet. Mindfulness practice works in this way. We bring effort to noticing sensory experiences, just as they are and practice not trying to force them to be different. We work on breaking mundane experiences down into their component parts. We practice gently bringing our attention back to whatever we’ve decided to notice while letting other things operate in the background. We cultivate a persistent intention to savor the composition of our experience and loosening our grip on its content or meaning.
We practice day after day, breath after breath, touch after touch, sound after sound, image after image, emotion after emotion. Over time we notice that we have changed and that we continue to change. We are gradually eroding our constant interference with the natural flow of our lives.
Friday, February 13, 2009
From Our Life in Gardens, by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterwood.
“To consummate an affair with agapanthus, we fear you must resort to shoving and hauling, smashing and splintering, to a cold bedroom full of nasty, yellowing foliage, always anticipating the pure bliss that will come. Not so very different, after all, from any other love affair.”
* * * * *
If the management of any garden does not fall into a rhythm of comfortable routines, there will not be a garden at all but only an embarrassment and a reproach. We treasure the routines of our garden, all based on its seasonal demands, to which we play close attention, not only to assure its health and beauty but to give pattern to our days. It may help that any deep love one has—for a friend, a child, a dog, even a simple canary in a cage—is treasured essentially because it does that.
We have come to feel that an ordered movement through days and months and years is essential to happiness, or to our happiness at least, for we do not pontificate. Of all the many joyful obligations of our existence, the garden here has been the most sustaining just in part because it is the most rhythmic, through winter, spring, summer, and fall. It actually has taught us to love every day of our life. One cannot ask more of love for a garden than that.
But of course one might. One could ask that it all go on forever, that it last, as the Countess in Strauss's sublime opera Capriccio sings, "funfmalhunderttausend Jahre." There are some fine June mornings when one might wish for this, when all the roses are blooming and the year is new, and the garden's future holds infinite possibility. Such an impulse is usually the product of the moment--only a fool would ask that of any garden.
The vagaries of each season are an essential part of the gardener's experience, and the failure and decline of many a lusty specimen or fragile perennial that had done so well, and perhaps for years, teaches much. Gardens by their very nature are fragile beings that live in the two dimensions of time and care. for their very survival they are dependent on weather, on soil conditions, on predators that come silently in the night, on the neglect or inattention of their owners, for none of us lives forever or particularly wants to. And there, precisely, is the question posed by any intensely experienced life in a garden, however long or short it might have been: What is to happen next? Oh, not next spring or next autumn, for so far as we know, we are able to plan for that. But eventually. In the long run.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Joshua A. Grant, a doctoral student in the Department of Physiology, co-authored the paper with Pierre Rainville, a professor and researcher at the Université de Montréal. Grant says, “While previous studies have found that the emotional aspects of pain are influenced by meditation, we found that the sensation itself, as well as the emotional response, is different in meditators.”
~ From Science Daily, Feb. 6, 2009.
"The two books for Francis Bacon are the word of God and the works of God, the Bible and the works of God in nature.
It's very important to realize that in return for telling us how texts of the Bible should be interpreted, people who investigated nature, call them naturalists, were also expected to supply evidences of God's beneficence, power, and wisdom in the works of nature. So the marvelous way in which a bivalve shell is constructed or the wonderful joint in your elbow or the patterns of life, the beauty of butterflies, all of these things can be studied by naturalists and said to be evidence of the Creator's wisdom and beneficence.
Darwin's starting point were these wonderful adaptations of organisms to their environment. Things seem to be made perfectly to live where they are: fish to swim, ducks to paddle, and so forth. These traditionally were evidences of the Creator's wisdom and goodness. Darwin says, 'We can explain how nature produced these adaptations to environment. We can explain how the beauty of a butterfly is useful to that butterfly in pursuing its way of life. I can come up with causes for this and it's up to you to believe that God created these things through these causes or not.'
Darwin evokes the works of God, the works of natural theology, the greatness of nature at the beginning of The Origin of Species because he really does believe those works in nature are beautiful and astonishing, and the adaptations are there. He's at one with the spirit of natural theology. Just read his prose in The Origin of Species. It exudes wonder at nature, but he can explain how it happened…
…Darwin has a vision of nature and it takes quite a while studying Darwin from when he was in his twenties really until, at the end of his life, he's working on earthworms, of all things. I do have the most profound respect for the way he doggedly pursued his vision of the history of life on Earth and how great things are caused by little things. Mountains move up by small increments, the soil of the Earth is recycled through earthworms, coral reefs grow by tiny increments over tens of thousands of years. No one can see these things happening. One has to be able to imagine them happening. And Darwin had that wonderful imagination. He had the capacity to sit still or stand still in a field or in a wood, for an hour at a time, and just watch and listen. There are few of us who have that today, and we're the worse for it”
~ James Moore, from "Evolution and Wonder: Understanding Charles Darwin," Speaking of Faith, Feb. 5, 2009.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
I actually started Lark and Termite before I started MotherKind. Knopf decided they wanted MotherKind first, and I felt that I needed to write it first. I went back to working on Lark and Termite after MotherKind was published, having cleared the way for a very different, though I think related, book.
I work on my books for a very long time, in the sense that I have them in mind. In Shelter, for instance, I wrote the short italicized paragraph in the beginning of the book—which begins, “Concede the heat of noon in summer camps”—in graduate school. I kept it for many years, as a beginning, or prose poem, with the sense that there was a novel inside it. There was, but the passage of time, the layering of what Porter calls “the accumulated thousands of impressions,” seems to be an element for me, an unconscious working-out of material.
I’ve been thinking about the next book I’m going to do for twenty years, and I have research material going back that far, though I had no conscious intention to write a novel imagined around those stories and images. The process of writing is continual. Whether or not I’m working on the book, the book is working on me.
Friday, February 06, 2009
“All through my childhood, I felt certain that something extraordinary — absolutely amazing and out of the ordinary — was going to happen to me. The world seemed bursting with a secret that nobody would divulge, and someday this tremendous mystery would be revealed. Simply because they were older, I assumed that all adults had passed through this portal into the miraculous essence of existence, although they never spoke about it. As I approached adolescence, I began to suspect that my deepest hopes were going to be unfulfilled. By the time I went to college, I had realized, to my horror, that ‘maturity’ meant accepting constraints and being bound to a limited career path, rather than blossoming into a deeper dimension of possibility and wonder. This was a painful shock.”
Thursday, February 05, 2009
From Every War Has Two Losers: William Stafford on Peace and War, edited and with an introduction by Kim Stafford:
All his life William Stafford was witness for a comprehensive view. He believed in the fragile but essential community of the world, and he wrote on behalf of what he called “the unknown good in our enemies.” In his view, such a life of witness was both compassionate and profoundly practical—in the long term, wars simply don’t work as well as reconciliation. So every day of his life, from those years in World War II until his death in 1993, William Stafford would rise before first light to remember, to ponder, and to write—often writing about peace and reconciliation.
It would be difficult to overestimate the unusual importance of William Stafford’s daily writing practice. Most of us read or hear the daily news, beginning each day with a dose of another person’s truth. My father had a different way: to create the news of our common life by writing your own. This act is true freedom and constructive citizenship. It is available to all of us.
21 February 1951
To hold the voice down and the eyes up when facing someone who antagonizes you is a slight weight—once. But in a lifetime it adds up to tons.
19 May 1963
One must learn to waver.
4 April 1966
One should talk to people, not to “nations,” or “classes,” or “professions,” etc.
22 September 1967
Those who champion democracy, but also make a fetish of never accepting anything they don’t agree with—what advantage do they see in democracy?
25 September 1969
Tyrants depend on helpers.
12 September 1981
The wind you walk against but do not feel is ignorance. Your foolish face has happiness on one side, but the world pressed on the other.
16 September 1981
Winners can lose what winning was for.
14 October 1982
I don’t like to hear from victims. At one remove they remind me of oppressors. And I don’t like oppressors. Oppressors have become the way they are through damaging conditions. Like victims. I want to turn and start over again. As for myself, I don’t want to be an oppressor, nor be like a victim. There are probably ways to live so as to shut out chances to be victimized. Those ways are probably worse than being a victim.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Mary Doria Russell in conversation with Krisat Tippett, “The Novelist as God,” Speaking of Faith (Jan. 29, 2009):
Up until now the Big Bang has been the cosmology that has been working for most cosmologists for a long time. But there was this point at which the mathematics break down, and they can't quite make the leap from there was nothing and then there is the universe. Recently, there is a new cosmology that indicates that the universe both expands, as it did after what we've been calling the Big Bang, and also mathematically we can see a way in which it would then contract and it would continue to do this. It would expand and contract and expand and contract. And so over and over again. You're talking about really unimaginable stretches of time.
Now, the visualization of that idea in science news was to show a diagram that to me looked like, OK, now I'm going to ask you to visualize Steve Martin making a balloon animal. OK?
And he's got one of those long balloons and he twists it and makes it into a series of, like, sausages.
Expanded, contracted, expanded, contracted. When I looked at that diagram what came to my mind unbidden — I wasn't trying for this — I thought, "It's the breath of God."
That God breathes in and God breathes out. And when he breathes in, the universe is contracting, and when he breathes out, the universe is expanding. And I immediately was charmed by the metaphor. I liked that a lot. And then you get also that notion of God breathed over the face of the waters. Oh, poetically I really, really loved that. And so for me, I guess what it comes down to is that God is the largest, most complex, most inclusive, most explanatory idea that human beings are capable of imagining.
Now, that said, we're primates and our brains are like two and a half to three pounds. You know, we're doing the best we can.
‘[Poetry] awakens and enlarges the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought. Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar; it reproduces all that it represents, and the impersonations clothed in its Elysian light stand thenceforward in the minds of those who have once contemplated them, as memorials of that gentle and exalted content which extends itself over all thoughts and actions with which it coexists.”
“The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause.”
“Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all other thoughts, and which form new intervals and interstices whose void forever craves fresh food. Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb.”
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
“John Updike filled his 50 years of writing with probably seven or eight normal writing careers. He did so by fusing two artistic virtues that rarely meet in the same person: a frisky, easy, improvisational energy and a rigorous, workaday discipline. He was both the ant and the grasshopper, accountant and poet, Trollope and Rimbaud. His solution to the daily crisis of inspiration was simply not to have it: He wrote steadily, with very little angst, three pages a day, five days a week.”
From “Three Pages a Day,” by Sam Anderson, New York Magazine (Feb. 1, 2009)
Sunday, February 01, 2009
A ledge of ice slides from the eaves,
piercing the crusted drift. Astonishing
how even a little violence
eases the mind.
In this extreme state of light
everything seems flawed: the streaked
pane, the forced bulbs on the sill
that refuse to bloom...A wad of dust
rolls like a desert weed
over the drafty floor.
Again I recall a neighbor's
small affront — it rises in my mind
like the huge banks of snow along the road:
the plow, passing up and down all day,
pushes them higher and higher...
The shadow of smoke rising from the chimney
moves abruptly over the yard.
The clothesline rises in the wind. One
wooden pin is left, solitary as a finger;
it, too, rises and falls.
[Thanks Garrison Keillor!]
WE HAVE NOT COME TO TAKE PRISONERS
We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear,
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.
Bun like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”
For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom, and
* * * * *
Where we live
Is no place to lose your wings
So love, love,