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31.5.09

Politics as Usual, but who will lose?

The American people have a great deal to lose if this see-saw approach between the Republican talking heads (Cheney, Rove, et al) and their Democratic counterparts as Frank aptly describes in his Sunday New York Times Op-Ed piece here continues.

Just imagine that bully in the school yard, egged on by other bullies, and by-standers, to throttle the new boy in town, and we have the perfect picture of former VP Cheney standing over newly elected President Obama.

What continues to sadden me is the spineless Congress, elected officials--read the Principal or the Student Advisors--who allow this fear and hate-mongering to continue.

The bluster goes unchecked, and more often than not, applauded by the peanut gallery--read Press--as day after day attempts are made to undermine the new Administration.

30.5.09

Boyle comes in Second

Whatever place, Susan Boyle has a truly crystal voice!

What's the Fuss: Parker Penman Sapphire

Penman Sapphire Scribble on Staple's Bagasse Tablet

More Sapphire Scribbles on Staple's Baggase Tablet

After all the talk, most positive, some bemoaning and forlorn at the ink being discontinued, raves about its colour, I was offered a bottle--for a price.

It is a beautiful colour, resembles several others, but is perhaps more of a pure sapphire.

But, and there is a but, among those raves were the original complaints about its clogging pens. Sure enough I had it in my white Lamy Safari, B nib, and although I use this pen often, it went unused for a couple of days. While this is generally not a problem with Lamy pens, this time, the pen went all cranky on me. It didn't seem to want to write unless I held it vertically.

When I dipped the pen in some cool water, a sea of blue floated to the surface and I was able to write normally--for awhile.

In my Sailor Sapporo with a music nib, the very same Penman Sapphire seemingly adapted better, didn't exhibit writing nausea and the ink colour looks delicious.

So the moral of the story on Parker Penman Sapphire is while it is a beautiful, luscious color, it is also an ink that contains properties that causes clogging in some pens and probably the manufacturer thought it best to withdraw the product from the marketplace.

I am withholding my own vote as to whether this is a keeper.

PS - I sold the ink for the price I paid for it.

Book Reviews: An Illustrated Life

Marijke's First Shoes, 2004 ©
Khadi Watercolour Journal, Assorted Watercolours

When I entered the Internet world more than ten years ago, I went looking for groups talking about subjects I was familiar with and loved. One of those subjects was tarot, and one of the first groups I joined was Comparative Tarot. Frequently one of the members would make reference to artist journals.

Well, I've always had a notebook, and I can't remember not having a sketchbook, but rarely did the notebook and sketchbook share any common space. The idea of an art journal had my head spinning but I soon found myself checking the reference out and became a member of the artist journals group.

Over the years the group seems to have lived the life of a phoenix in yahoo-land, with many ups and downs, new moderators and various levels of participation. But during the height of the group's life, some interesting projects and fabulous exchanges took place.

It was at the artist journals group that I was introduced to Roz Stendahl and her work, Danny Gregory, Gwen Diehn, Ru Temple, Red Dog Scott, among others. My relationship with each of these talented artists ranges from good friend to distant acquaintance, but my exposure to their work, thoughts and exchanges have been and remain invaluable.

Danny Gregory came on board almost at the end of one burning in 2004, and shortly thereafter started his own now extraordinarily successful yahoo group, named after his first book, Everyday Matters. During these five years, Danny has written several other books.

In a two book splurge, I bought his latest book, "An Illustrated Life."

I just started to read it, word for word, soaking in the enthusiasm that Mr. Gregory exudes in his introduction.

And like his introduction states, the journals and sketchbooks included in the book are as varied as one can imagine.

The Illustrated Life significantly differs from one of my favourites, Gwen Diehn's The Decorated Journal, in that the voices of the sketchers, journal keepers, are as strong, and in some cases, stronger than their visuals.

When I received the book, I sat down immediately at my rosewood dining room table and started to read. Some of the participants' words caught me off guard, not in a negative way, but in that "got ya" kind of way as each contributor shared, not a secret, but a personal revelation or understanding of the why and how they keep their illustrated life.

Some of those thoughts that truly resonated and I paraphrase:

  • I don't want a book that is too precious
  • I have one book where my "better" work goes, and another for the quick sketches
  • Paper is important to me
  • My journals are scattered all around my house
  • I love to have my journal close to me
  • There is something different about putting pen (pencil) to paper
  • I use a fountain pen, pencil, charcoal, watercolour, markers
  • I use my sketches to meditate
  • I journal to put down my ideas not to create a good piece of art
  • I journal to capture the moments and the drawings provide the record

I haven't finished reading each participant's pages, yet, as I am savouring them all, stopping to absorb the words, and with new eyes see the drawings.

I am trying to become the recorder of images I had hoped I'd become back in 2000, unabashedly unashamed of doodles, outlines, scratches on a blank page and a keeper of memories.

Perhaps by listening to Roz' words on journal superstitions, absorbing Danny Gregory refreshing "Illustrated Life" and a constant refresher course of Gwen's "Decorated Page," I'll succeed.

But whether I personally succeed in achieving an illustrated life or not, Danny Gregory's book is one I highly recommend any journal keeper, or recorder of facts or doodles, adds to their library.

Danny Gregory's introduction to the book here:

28.5.09

Books: Mannahatta


Tompkins Square Park, NYC

Tompkins Square Park, NYC

Here's a book I'd like to own, Mannahatta, a rediscovery of New York at the time of Henry Hudson's landing 400 years ago.

Many years ago when I was considering buying an abandoned house facing Tompkins Square Park with no for sale sign, I went downtown to see if I could find the owner.

I never found the owner, but what I did find were the most intricate, aged, fascinating maps of the City of New York. Where the Park is now, filled with trees, had once been the site of a long, narrow stream.

27.5.09

Books: and in the Margins

Example: Marginalia
University of Massachusetts Library



Marginalia has always fascinated me in other people's books, and so the idea of writing a novel and including notes in the margins has more than average appeal. In fact when I was researching the art of altered books, it was marginalia that appears to be the earliest form of alteration, most especially in 19th & 20th century logs (many at the American Folk Arts Museum).

Reif Larsen's TS Spivett appears to be somewhat unique and definitely one of those books I'd like to see and touch, and not just buy.

And not surprisingly, I learned via notebookism that the author has a web site

A look at Artist, Charles Benefiel

"Wingman" Charles Benefiel ©

I was going through a very old, but not finished, notebook where I kept artwork I admired and re-discovered the work of Charles Benefiel.

Introductory piece to Charles Benefiel's work

I first saw his work on the cover of a journal, perhaps Orion.

I didn't know much about him, and have only today learned he suffers from OCD, and stipples his large sized work.

Much of his work is lean, a figure, numbers, I believe black and white, huge and penetrating.

A seach on the internet revealed he may now be living in Philadelphia but I don't see any evidence of new work, or an exhibit for the last several years.

I'd like to see more of Mr. Benefiel's work and have reached out to him.

Back to Fountain Pens

After one year focused on fountain pens, I find that what I started with, & what I have now differs, while the number has not changed.

Another offer to the children of one or more pens resulted in the same dialogue, and with their lack of interest, I am thinking of selling a few more fountain pens that I infrequently use.

Waterman Gentlemen, Blue Lacquer (right)

In particular, I might consider selling a Waterman Gentleman, a beautiful looking pen, but one I haven't touched in more than five years except to clean, admire and photograph.

Jean-Pierre Lepine Casanova (top); Dore (bottom)

My Jean-Pierre Lepine Casanova gets little attention from me and while it has only been in my keeping since '02, it might find more comfort elsewhere.

I also bought and have rarely used a French pen I bought in '03, a stunning translucent purple fountain pen that was much admired the year I used it. But it too lays dormant in its box.

Another pen that I had adjusted but find gets little use is a Sheaffer Vac-Fil. I love the look and feel of the pen but rarely use it.

It isn't that I don't like or even love most of these pens, it is more a question of life style.

When I was off each day to work, often briefcase and papers in hand, dozens of meetings to attend and hundreds of reasons to own a fine writing instrument, all these pens had purpose.

Now I find many of those citified items serve no real purpose in a rural environment and in fact when I took out my pen pouch with two Sailors and a Pelikan inside to write a cheque to JF the other day in her shabby-chic country house, I nearly felt ostentatious.

So, with another mercury retrograde in our midst, always a good "getting rid of the past" cycle, I am thinking these four pens may have to go on the block.

It is Torture! Or Not! In Doubt!



A slight confrontation at the opening of the segment between Keith Olbermann and Matthew "Mancow" Muller, a self-proclaimed Libertarian, but when it comes to the question is "waterboarding" torture the two agree.

Update: Today reports say that the entire waterboarding incident was a hoax, and that Olbermann was aware of it.

And Olbermann goes on air here:

26.5.09

CA court upholds Prop 8

Ban in effect in California for same sex marriages, but stipulating that those who did marry before the Statewide Proposition 8 vote will be deemed married.

So my friends Lise and Ru are married, but any other friends I may have who wish to get married in California who are of the same sex won't see the legal benefit(s) of marriage or be permitted a civil union.

Do I sense a schizoid decision here?

Lionizing a Leo: President Obama

Robert Kuttner sums up some accomplishments and weaknesses of the President here.

One of the thoughts that floated through my head (recently Alexandered by JF) was who the three people were on the platform today when President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

The President, Joe Biden and Judge Sotomayor all come from family backgrounds that are rich with stories, grounded in every day lives that resemble one's neighbours, one's friends, one's country(wo)men as regular folk.

None of the three had silver spoons, 2 parent families, financial opportunities, and other privileges we've seen among other elected or appointed officials.

Getting into ivy's like Princeton and Yale is not easy, I know, and reaching the top of one's class, and editing law journals, takes determination, personal courage and intelligence.

Reaching high office, sitting on judicial benches is not all that common among the folks, but these three folk have all striven for and reached that American Dream that is often seen in movies, and rarely played out on the battlefield we call life's journey.

Seeing these three Americans on the same stage today gave me a glimmer of re-newed hope for our country as the every(wo)man is our lifeline to liberty, equality and justice for all.

Sotomayor Up for Supreme

News agencies are saying that Judge Sonia Sotomayor will be selected by President Obama as his candidate for the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor, a New Yorker, a female, a moderate, well educated and a self-defined NewYorkrican seems like an excellent choice.

President Obama introduces her several hours after breaking news announcements here.

Sketchbooks

I am always intrigued by other people's lists of good, great or perfect--especially artistic supplies.

Via everyday matters, Jon Harl gives a short list of the sketchbooks he likes best now and why.

25.5.09

Getting Married in California

Tomorrow can bring officialdom to those gay couples that got married in California and for those who wish to or be the first day in a long battle between those that define marriage as only between a man & a woman, and those that define marriage as a union between two people who love each other and wish to marry.

Which way will it go?

Showman or Solipicist?


Iran's President, if re-elected, wishes to debate the President of the United States at the United Nations.

Not discuss, not meet, but debate.

In the political game of chess, President Ahmadinejad is hereby knighted buffoon.

A Boston Globe editorial takes the offer of a debate more seriously and sets out a plan.

A new pedia on the web

I thought it was a joke when I saw an article at Huffington Post with the catchy phrase at "Dickipedia.org."

But after pursuing it farther I see there is an entire pedia growing right here.

Under a Microscope and Ethics

Ethics is something that can be taught, bought or just plum understood from life's experiences.

And ethical behavior is something I hope we all strive for in our daily lives.

However, lynching folks for making mistakes is not part of ethics, nor should the media rush to judgment without facts.

That being said, I find living under a microscope a form of distortion, thus forcing ethical issues where ethics may not play a role in the issue(s) at hand.

Did Maureen Dowd break an ethics rule in rephrasing, and not crediting another journalist? Probably!

Did Ms. Dowd neglect to check her sources? Probably!

But does this neglect, benign or intended warrant a lynching? A mistake of this kind surely doesn't call for a resignation!!

And a call for lynching of this sort could not occur if we didn't have 24/7 news reporting (or commentary), a rush to judgment of all those in the public eye, and a real mean streak surfacing for all those with a pen or a platform and the need for self righteousness.

These relentless searches for "news" often causes more unethical behavior than one would suppose and places some 0n an overly lighted stage where their very breath is scrutinized.

I don't envy the Maureen Dowds facing this sort of dissection!

24.5.09

Susan Boyle at 22

Susan Boyle Wins, Scores the Semi

Gay Couples at State to Receive Full Benefits

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes a first step in government by announcing all State employees, regardless of their family practices, will receive full benefits.

A big round of applause for the Secretary!

Now if we can get rid of "don't ask, don't tell" and a million other small minded concepts we might actually become "for the people."

23.5.09

Memorial Day 1 a Success

As part of my new "get healthier" plan I found and made an appointment with a Alexander Method practitioner in Long Eddy. My first visit was a huge success for both my neck, spine and thoughts. I have another appointment on Monday.

But before I made it to JF's house for this session I dashed off to my friend Tom's for his Art Feast Yard Sale.

Generous Tom gifted me with an assortment of goodies: bottles of prepared transfer medium, stencils galore, a box of treasures I haven't peered into yet, a Shop-Vac and a baby table top straight up easel.

Tom is a gifted art professor at one of NYC universities whose specialty is materials so I am certain this transfer medium will be better than any I could buy, anywhere.


After I left JW's I found rte 94, and made my way to Roscoe (Sullivan County) for an advertised "bigger than better yard sale." My daughter M has asked that I find some furnishings for her new house.

I scored a ceiling fixture with intact milk glass domes for one buck, and after grabbing something to drink in town, I headed home on a different series of back roads where I scored again: 1950s, double fixture floor lamp in excellent condition for a tenner.

Exhausted after all these 3-digit roads I vetoed joining NW on a trek to Livingston Manor for an art opening.

Four hours of country roads had me flushed and happy.

21.5.09

Big City Art, Small Town Feel

Check out ArtBistro's "10 Great Places for Big City Art, Small Town Feel" here to see one version on this subject, the slide show is the best part of the piece.

JC Appointed to Supreme Court

Nearly funny, almost funny, could be funny, is humourous!

20.5.09

Moment by Moment: Maruman, Graham and Me

Maruman, Cover Note B6, 5x7" (Soft, flexible cover)

A month ago I pulled out a Maruman B6 Cover Note journal, 5x7, 7cm lined and decided to use it to track what I ate, how I slept and how I felt on a daily basis.

This record keeping didn't last more than two weeks, but it is my intention to be more attentive to what I eat, how I sleep and how I feel so I'll be going back to this notebook with greater frequency in the weeks to come. One of several reasons for this exercise is to discover what it is that contributes to my allergies.

In fact, after reading this list of 33 obtainable fresh foods, I am more than ever determined to see if I can turn some negative habits into positive ones and possibly eliminate the side-effects I experience with certain, as yet unknown, foods or more likely combination of foods.

The only way to know rather than guess is to make a notation of it, least it fly out of the window when the day has ebbed into the night.

So I am not surprised that Bob Graham kept a list of what, where, how in his little reporter(s).

And if his meticulous record of his day, from how much he weighed in the morning to what meetings he attended and what was presented, isn't good fodder for evidence nothing else will serve to put the issue of "who knew what when and what he/she did about it."

Maruman Cover Note B6 (Refillable)
(photo courtesy Jet Pens)

My notebook, Cover Note B6, does not appear to be available online. But I see a notebook that is refillable at the Jetters here that may be similar or a replacement for mine.

I'd rank this notebook with a "B" better than some, but not excellent. The paper is smooth, not glossy, it takes fountain pen ink well enough, but there is quite a bit of see through, and a smidgen of bleed through with a wider nib. It is an off-white, nearly cream coloured paper, and is ruled where I prefer unruled.

Maruman Cover Book B6, opened, with ribbon marker

It is however a handy size, has a marker ribbon, was rather attractive new and probably far less expensive than the newer refillable version.

I bought mine from an acquaintance who had purchased a few dozen notebooks in Asia, particularly Japan, and sold me an assortment of half a dozen for about $25. Buying this and a few other Asian brand notebooks (journals) turned out to be a good way to try Japanese paper and at a very reasonable cost per journal.

However and this is one of several reasons I am using this as an "at home list only" notebook is that all the journals I bought had an imperfection or a minor blemish. This Cover Book B6 has a few untidy sticker marks--no biggie but it took that "new" out of it that I love.

Pregnancy Prevention

This young 18 year old knows better than anyone that it takes more than words to prevent pregnancy, and that the on and off use of condoms doesn't work.

So with first hand experience, Bristol Palin chooses an abstinence message rather than a multi-pronged prevention approach. I wonder why.

She says that if a young woman had a trial baby in her hands all day long, she'd restrain herself and not have sex.

Well, it don't work that way, Ms. Palin.

Abstinence only programs are an abysmal failure.

Robotic dolls have been used in teen programs for numerous years that cry, need diapers changed, and seem as real as a new born.

Planned Parenthood did an international study of teen pregnancies, perhaps 7 or so years ago, and I sat down with one of their study group leaders over coffee in the summer of '02 in Portland to discuss the findings.

European teens were less likely to get pregnant and more often delayed sex. A large percentage of American teens had sex as early as 14 years of age.

The study delved into the whys.

Several differences in philosophy came to light:

- abstinence only programs are not touted as the be-all, end-all in most Western European countries
- European teens appeared to set higher, long term personal goals
- planned pregnancy seemed more likely in some of the Western European countries
- sex was seen as normal and
- not having sex also appeared normal when in school or preparing for a future in at least 2 to 5 of those Western European countries observed (see 2 above)

With little attention paid to prevention of any kind is it any wonder we have so many unplanned pregnancies?

It has been demonstrated in repeated studies that espousing (and funding) unrealistic goals contributes to more unintended pregnancies than healthy, inclusive, prevention programs that offer the introduction of birth control practices.

Can we change our health care system to include more prevention programs, and a fully funded program for teen pregnancy, STDs/STIs, etc?

Movies: Soloist

I haven't been to a movie theatre here in my newish community until last night.

Three of us went to the local premiere of the Soloist and I must say it was a better than average film.

Downey was very convincing as Steve Lopez; Foxx somewhat less as Ayers; the backdrop of Los Angeles realistic; the issues surrounding mental health and street life extremely authenic and the pace sufficient to keep my attention.

Working in public health, with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS prevention, brought me into regular contact with those on the street, and while in NYS, in particular with youth.

Lopez' relationship with a street person appears genuine but it is infrequent that one can establish such intimate, and lasting contact with someone as unstable as the Soloist. The tenacity of Lopez is at the heart of such a union rather than the accessibility of his new found, violin-cello playing friend, Nathaniel Ayers.

But for whatever its flaws, and I can find them, this is a movie well worth seeing.

19.5.09

Books: Gabriel García Márquez, A Life


Jonathan Yardley reviews Gerald Martin's biography of Gabriel García Márquez with an eye on literature and a ear for politics. Perhaps the emphasis is due to some degree because it appears in the Washington Post, or perhaps Yardley is judging Martin for his pro-Latin biases.

I don't know which, but what I do know is after having worked with Latin and South Americas on and off for twenty years, and read, often by introduction by one of these colleagues, dozens of books is that it is not easy to separate love and art from the power of politics.


Context is essential in understanding why a writer is left, right or a centrist, just as it is with the humble reader. Experiences move us gently or forcefully in the winds that tousle our emotions and those experiences inform how we live and write.

If I had not broken bread or shared a lab bench with men and women whose lives were shaped by dictators, I may not have any appreciation for the insinuation of politics in much of South American literature.

But I did share those moments and I do appreciate, if not fully understand, how the border between North and South America is a wider gulf than just a land mass or the degree of latitude.

As a result, it is likely that Martin, who spent nearly two decades interviewing
Márquez was also influenced by the man's cultural and historical past as he was enchanted with his literary oeuvre.

Perhaps less crystallized, Márquez' work like Solzhenitsyn's is a direct result of that very culture and climate--fear and self protection, two manifestations of living in a restrictive, stifling, stultifying environment.

Books: Jumbled or not, Alger Hiss

Although I consider myself political, or politically inclined, I don't read as much non-fiction, history or biography as I do fiction.

However, this review, which I find jumbled and confusing, about a new Alger Hiss book caught my attention.

I find it interesting for two reasons: one it is more than 60 years later and we are still debating the same jumble that was the Hiss-Chambers case, but two because I had the opportunity to briefly meet Mr. Hiss in the 60s.

I was working at the New York Academy of Medicine, probably scribbling away on a manuscript or plotting my next series of medical symposia.

And in walks, after a brief knock on my office door, this middle-aged, extremely attractive man. He offered me his hand, told me who had sent him to me, and gave me his card.

What was he doing?

He was selling stationary!

I was half his age and blissfully ignorant until later that night when his name and reputation came together.

Did I buy stationary from him? I can't remember.

I do remember that he was charming, and well mannered.

But my observations of his manners probably don't measure up to much in the way of edification of his role in anti-American behavior. However, I gather that Susan Jacoby's book doesn't necessarily make it all that clear, either.

Missing Link in Evolution

Photo via Guardian, UK

Ida, a 47m year old, female primate fossil will be unveiled in New York, then London, where Sir David Attenborough will narrate a BBC special on the find.

I do hope the special reaches these shores and makes clear how this find differs from several others, including a small 55m fossil discovered in the US discussed not too long ago.

Books: Aharon Appelfeld

One year after buying Aharon Appelfeld's books at Webster's in State College (PA), the leisure presented itself to read, absorb and digest all three like small morsels of dried biscuits after a hunger strike, not necessarily palatable but a necessity.

Translated from Hebrew into English, they read like school books, peppered with repetitions, simplifications and a staccato pitch. That is until the final pages, where often other books falter, Appelfeld's books take on a stark reality, an unspeakable shattering climax that leave you helplessly enthralled

In To the Land of the Cattails, we encounter a woman and her adolescent son traveling from Austria to Ruthenia by horse and carriage. Throughout the book, the voice of the unnamed son alternately speaks lovingly and reproachfully about his mother, determined to reach home, the village of her parents. Separated hours before reaching their destination, the mother vanishes. Was she rounded up in the countryside? The son, together with another lost soul, search for the missing woman. In despair they arrive at the symbolic railroad station where they await their fate.

Badenheim 1939, perhaps Appelfeld's best known novel outside of Israel, is set in a resort town, not far from Vienna, and populated by a group of mostly unattached vacationers who have come for the music, the good food and each other's company.

During the spring and summer months, town liberties shrink, registration becomes a requirement, and supplies and communication beyond the town disappear. With the coffers bare and psychological disturbances prevailing, the villagers and vacationers, alike, quietly walk to yet another railroad station. Symptomatic of the characters failure to understand the patterns in the changing seasons as more than weather, the main character observes as the group boards the train, "if we were going far the railway cars would be cleaner."

Lastly, For Every Sin, a stark parabolic, without nuance, introduces us to Theo, a young man wandering through the Ukraine seeking the correct footfalls home, again to Vienna. Alienated and alienating, the youth finally gives up his idea fixe, settles on a refugee's bundle and falls asleep.

After reading these three novels, I was hungry to learn more about the writer and discovered one or two good reviews here and here of the author's memoir, The Story of a Life and an interview with the author when he sojourned in the States.

Fortuitously, a friend from Israel called on Sunday and we had an opportunity to discuss the books, Appelfeld's work and share our individual responses to his writing. The conversation brought me some satisfaction: the translations are accurate, the mood of the writing riveting and the author acclaimed in his adoptive country.

I shall see if I can get Appelfeld's latest book, All Whom I Have Loved, reviewed here, from the library.

Mayor July at 73

At the age of 73, Mayor July, aka Mayer Kirshenblatt began painting his memories of Apt, a small village in Poland, where he lived with his family until 1934.

Running through October, perhaps I'll be able to see this exhibit on a visit to New York this summer.

17.5.09

Books: Posthumous Frame

Janet Frame's novel, "Towards Another Summer " reviewed here once more reminds me of how the back-story of a writer, painter, artist, traveler, person, can propel them into the lime-light.

Although I've read several Frame books, I would hardly say she is as memorable as suggested by Gates' review, or as noteworthy an author that some of the awards she received might indicate.

What appears to have skyrocketed her writing career is her mental health status. Was she suffering from one form of derangement or another, or did she possibly have a form of autism? Nether of these questions has been adequately answered.

When I learned she was associated with John Money, the sexologist, I felt more satisfaction than skepticism in my own hypotheses about the author. Money is one of those psychiatrists I'd like to challenge face to face for his purported destruction of several youngsters with his twisted views on human sexuality. As a result, his connection to Frame raises doubts in my mind about the seriousness of Frames' possible diagnoses.

So, instead of Money, I look to my old friend, Anthony Storr.

Storr wrote many accessible books on human behavior, one of which is about creativity and mental health entitled, "The Dynamics of Creation ." In it he postulates other pressing human motivation for creativity than depression or inadequacy.

So while interesting to read that a Frame book has been published posthumously, it is unlikely I'll add it to my never ending reading list.

16.5.09

Books: Growing up Buckley, Part II

A totally different take on Christopher Buckley's book, "Growing Up Buckley" by James Rosen in the Washington Post here.

I suppose in a memoir, one can be damned for too much or too little.

Mr Rosen seems to think the book went too far, and contained too many facts, facts that showed the elder Buckleys in their nightgowns rather than in their evening wear.

Nantucket in Straits

Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institute Archives, late 1890s

From the poor, to the middle class, to the rich, straits can be seen in housing, lifestyle and personal choices.

Nantucket, this Boston Globe article implies, was seen as foreclosure proof; but it appears nothing is safe from a recession.

When I was traveling through New England the Spring and Summer of 07, I spent a considerable amount of time on the Cape, and later in Wood's Hole and Martha's Vineyard.
Photo courtesy Backroads, Martha's Vineyard

I reckon that while little has changed, visually, in this part of our American landscape, with its dependence on tourism for more than 50% of its livelihood, times will be tough for this and many other US vacation treasures.

The Wonderful World of Stamps


Thanks to Missive Maven's post here, I discovered my mailbox filled with beautiful stamps of various denominations from 3¢ to 41¢ from California today.

I recognize many, but some of the older stamps are a complete and wonderful surprise.

Thank you Errol Murphy & thank you Missive Maven for posting the info.

Jockeying Politics

Rand Paul, physician and son of Ron Paul (2008 Presidential candidate) announced on the Rachel Maddow Show and reported here is considering a run for the US Senate in Kentucky.

You can see the interview here at Video Cafe (scroll down).

What is most interesting about the possibility of Dr. Paul's candidacy is the obvious splintering in the Republican Party and how it will play out.

We have the Baugh-Boys. Conservative and to my mind outrageously Bachmann.

We have those anti-Baugh-Boys who are Fraidy-Boys who apologize for their moderate positions, like Steele.

We have the few remaining near-Moderates, like Crist, who are taking a beating.

And now we might have another maverick Libertarian, like Rand Paul, who might see an upsurge in voter numbers in 2010.

Who knows where it will all lead!

I for one want good candidates who keep their word, have creative ideas and the means to solve difficult challenges. I'd like to see some serious moral integrity,and a clear understanding of ethics, not wordy moral bashing and sheer hypocrisy that makes my stomach get all squeezed into a tight ball.

I'll try to remain hopeful that more Republicans will join more Democrats in fulfilling the criteria I've enumerated.

15.5.09

Poet Laureate: Carol Ann Duffy

It took 341 years to nominate a female poet laureate in Britain and it appears they've chosen well.

Here is an interview on NPR with Carol Anne Duffy.

Home Births as safe as Hospital Study

One of the best experiences of my life was giving birth, naturally and in the safe hands of a midwife in Amsterdam.

This study supports home births. Although Max (Wessel), friend and colleague, advised in favour of home delivery, I chose to deliver in a mid-wife school--ten glorious days of pampering. If I had known better or been educated differently I would have taken Dr. Wessel's advice.

Drawing Room Auction: London


Andrew Bick – #2 2006/9 ©
ink, pencil, marker pen, watercolour on cut paper

Photograph: Andrew Bick


Via the Guardian,

More than 200 top contemporary artists, including Dinos and Jake Chapman, Antony Gormley, Peter Blake, Damien Hirst and Gavin Turk, have donated new work to a fundraising auction that celebrates drawing. The Drawing Room is at Tannery Arts, Brunswick Wharf, 55 Laburnum St, London E2 8BD from 30 April. The auction is at 6.30pm on 20 May.

Angels and Demons

Thus far, I haven't read one good review of Ron Howard's new movie, Angel & Demons, and so I wasn't surprised to read this unflattering review in the New York Times today.

Although I read the book in Sicily, having picked it up on a lark at the airport in '03, I can't remember one word of it.

I do, however, remember nearly everything else about the trip.

35,000 Year Old Ivory Scupture Found

I have always been fascinated by the depiction of the female form in antiquity.

Here we see one possibly from 35,000 years ago, found in a German cave.

Books: Joyce Carol Oates & the Short Story

Oates gets the full ride with her latest short story collection, with reviews here at the New York Times, in the New York Review of Books and elsewhere.

I was first introduced to Joyce Carol Oates when I read her novel Expensive People (1968), and followed her prolific writing career for at least ten years thereafter. Then suddenly, she seemed repetitive, long-winded and quite frankly boring.

However, I continued to admire her output, her tenacity, her liveliness and her ability to sit down at her desk, day after day, and in long-hand, write from early morning to lunch time.

Perhaps like many of her characters, she has grit, that saltiness that comes from climbing ladders, hardscrabble roads and rural living. It was these qualities that first draw me to her work, and which seemed lost with the sheer weight of her meeting a schedule of two new books each year.

But, good, bad, boring, long-winded or repetitive, she like Iris Murdoch, are writers to be valued for bringing the daily lives of their characters to the written page and permitting a glimpse into their psychology, sex lives and interpersonal relationships.

The Case of Demjanjuk Goes On

NRC reports on the Case of Demjanjuk, recently extradited from the US to stand trial in Germany for war crimes.

At 89, Demjanjuk, is purportedly responsible, in part, for the death of more than 25,000 Dutch Jews.

Of those transported from Westerbork (a Dutch transit camp) to Sobibor, 18 survived.

Danny Gregory Updates Web

If you don't get Danny Gregory's updates, he sent out a notice that he's changed his website to make it more user friendly.

14.5.09

30+ Years Later the book went home

I love stories like this.

A library book gets returned after 30-odd years as reported in the Washington Post.

The Written Word: Newspapers


In 1963, New York City had more than eleven (11) newspapers, morning and late editions.

Back then I had a part-time job that included reading all these papers, reviewing articles of interest and writing synopses for an oft out-of-town mogul who didn't read quickly or well.

It paid well and helped me get through school and life.

Now with 3 major newspapers left in the Apple, it seems that not only the Globe, but the New York Times and my local newspaper are in peril.

I am one of those old fashioned readers.

I prefer print.

I scoff when folks want me to go paperless.

And I have to squint too much to enjoy on line reading.

I was in heaven when I was able to read both the New York Times* magazine section and the book review section in Pittsburgh last weekend. I liked it so much I took the two sections home--to fondle.

*The New York Times does not deliver to my local area.

Pittsburgh Art Supply Shopping

It was raining, and I was cranky when we visited the South Side, and so no purchases at Utrecht but I did manage to make it over to South Craig Street in Oakland, find a perfect parking spot, and purchase a few random items at Top notch, including two plastic containers with handles--better to sort and carry my projects in.

And just before I left Pittsburgh I scouted over to Artists & Craftsmen on Hobart Street, and got lucky.

Fabriano Uno hot press was on sale for $1.50/per sheet, about 60% off and I got gifted a Khadi journal by the manager--my all time favourite carry watercolour book

I only bought the essentials, skimped on the number of Uno sheets I bought and now wish I had felt more flush. Who can beat $1.50/per sheet of quality watercolour paper.

Roberta McCain Speaks Up (and Out)


I believe in a two-party system.

I understand the basic tenets of the Republican Party, or at least the Republican Party I knew in the Northeast, but I don't understand the direction it appears to be taking.

So when people like Roberta McCain, mother to the Senator, speaks out, or Maureen Dowd, writes scathing, but seemingly accurate pieces in the New York Times, I feel as if I am not alone in this confusion.

I don't know exactly when Republicans took this new slander-smearing approach, permitting people like Limbaugh to be spokesmen for its philosophy, or when former elected officials, like Vice President Cheney, got the green light to speak from the pulpit and smear a newly elected administration.

In fact, I'm not certain I can put a handle on politics at all--anymore, any day, by reading literally dozens of articles or hearing hundreds of sound-bits.

I do know that if I were still a member of the party, I would feel dirtied, disgusted and alienated.

I can only image how General Colin Powell must feel. Or how threatened Snowe (ME) and Collins (ME) might feel.

It's hard to imagine the Republican Party with no representation from the Middle or the Left.

I was saddened to the point of tears when Lincoln Chafee lost in Rhode Island, not because he was the best of the best but because he represented New England and North Atlantic Republican values.

It is a no wonder Senator Arlen Spector switched up.

But is switching up the way to move the party back to its normative values and philosophy? I doubt it.

Yet if the Republican Party representatives, at large, continue to play out this hand, we might see some strange bedfellows in politicians, more strange than we've experienced heretofore.

Some are expanding: Art Institute of Chicago


Even with assets shrinking, and money tight, the Art Institute of Chicago--one of my favourite museums--is expanding its wing(s).

A new wing of more than 200,000 square feet will make the Art Institute of Chicago the second largest museum in the country. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York ranks first.

The Financial Squeeze

Graduation recession style in an article here is one of many cost saving attempts by many, including me, to keep to a solvency pattern.

Traveling between the UDV and Pittsburgh last year I stayed in a hotel in State College with a friend. The year before I stayed in an upscale hotel in State College alone.

This year, tired as I was coming home, I drove through the nearly 400 miles, stopping only for a coffee. On my way to Pittsburgh when I saw signs for State College, the mid-way point, I was alert and rested and kept going.

All the while, I told myself the hundred plus dollars ($100+) I was saving would be used for gifts for the children and grand-children, and more eating out in Pittsburgh.

But when I arrived in Pittsburgh, we ate out less frequently, fewer gifts were exchanged and only a wonderful Mother's day dinner could be classified as a luxury.

I so commisserate with the graduates and their families in wanting to tighten their belts by not staying at hotels.

However, I realized yesterday that my new sense of parsimony is also resulting in decline in consumer spending. Consumer spending is one of several indexes to weigh the health of an economy.

Am I starving the economy? Or am I just being prudent?

13.5.09

Nostalgia: Sleeper Cars

It appears Amtrak is bringing back sleeper cars on its Chicago-Boston run--something I've never experienced in the US.

And pleased to read it makes a stop in Pittsfield, MA.

What does your birth number mean?

Seven of Nine, Star Trek

Discovered this via biffybeans (on facebook) but did it outside the network:

#7 The Intellectual

7's are the searchers. Always probing for hidden information, they find it difficult to accept things at face value. Emotions don't sway their decisions. Questioning everything in life, they don't like to be questioned themselves. They're never off to a fast start, and their motto is slow and steady wins the race. They come across as philosophers and being very knowledgeable, and sometimes as loners. They are technically inclined and make great researchers uncovering information. They like secrets. They live in their own world and should learn what is acceptable and what not in the world at large.

Famous 7's: William Shakespeare Apr 23, 1564, Joan Baez Jan 9, 1941, Princess Diana July 1, 1961, Franz Liszt Oct 22, 1811 Winston Churchill Nov 30,1874, Ludwig van Beethoven Dec 16, 1770, Marilyn Monroe June 01,1926.


Poetry Jam at the White House

The world becomes a better place, with more light at the windows, when officialdom can celebrate poetry, music and the arts.

The guests varied in age, colour, creed, temperament, religion, background and speciality.

Congratulations again to President and Mrs. Obama for lighting up the path in spite of the long dreary days of war, pandemics, poverty and bail-outs.

Disassembling Dis-integration

Blowing in the Wind,
Dis-integration Bundle, 1 May 2009

When I left for Pittsburgh, the Dis-integration bundle was riding high, blowing in the wind and intact.

On my return, I found it scattered across the lawn, ready to take flight. I rushed out the back porch door to gather the loose papers into my arms and bring them indoors, examine them and take a few photographs.

The top of the bundle

Cardboard Frame Backing, Interior Bundle


Prayerbook, Tarot Stamps

Italian Journal Page, 1939


Some observations: The older papers, circa 1930s, exhibited less deterioration than newer ones. Mold and colour dispersion were evident on more than half the papers.

Of those papers hung, and then scattered, it seems the Bagasse disappeared. I will search for it again and perhaps put out another bundle of this paper for testing.

Challenges: To meet Seth's final or possibly penultimate challenge, I will use a heavier, sturdier substrate to create a collage and use as many of the bundle elements that conform to my idea of unity and composition.

Deadline: It is my intention to make June Art Month.

This project, together with several others, will take my entire focus--housecleaning be damned!

Homage to Aaron Suskind





While waiting for the marathon runners to get their medals, cool off and relax enough to go home, I walked around the periphery of the Pittsburgh Convention Center, occasionally taking a photograph.

Here are a few I took, homage to Aaron Siskind, an American photographer, who took pictures of the lines in our lives in concrete, and beyond.

12.5.09

Can you image the US without cars? I can!

Some towns, and it appears here in this new community in Germany, are car-free.

I don't know of many here in the US, but I do remember a visit to Fire Island--no cars, but bicycles, wheelie carts, toy sized wagons and darn, feet!

Having just driven nearly 800 miles across Pennsylvania and back, the notion of no cars is so appealing I would consider moving, again, to be able to walk.

Here in the Upper Delaware Valley unless you literally live in one of the larger towns, you can't get a quart of milk without going 5, 10, 15, as much 30 miles. It's a wee bit better than when I lived in New Mexico where you can go more than 50 miles and not find a neon sign of any kind, no less a grocer, cafe or petrol station.

For a person born in a big city, who lived in other big cities, for more than half my life, rural living is a constant reminder of how towns, villages, cities and counties are too spread out and perpetuate the use of the automobile, fuel and human resources.

Two towns, one actually a city, I lived in were sheer delights.

In Williamsburg (MA), we had within easy walking distance one of the States finest libraries, a full service grocery store, a country store known for its home made breads, jams and cheeses, easy access to the Post Office, and taking Route 9 from Williamsburg to Northampton, wide bike friendly roads.

In Amsterdam, I could walk or bike to any shop I wanted or needed from a laundry, purveyors of poultry, meat, bread, fresh vegetables, great brown bars, ample cafes and more.

Here with a newly cleaned refrigerator, and no food, I will have to either go to the local New York State town for minimal supplies, or take myself up and down windy roads to a larger town--50 miles round-trip--where I have some grocery choices.

Again, I wish I had wings!

Pandemics: Ill informed speak foolishly

Illustration Ris & Colette via NRC

Killing pigs wasn't an answer.

Instituting extreme measures and laws ludicrous.

Guatemala's President Álvaro Colom Caballeros declares a state of emergency, and measures that threaten civil liberties, while in Massachusetts, Hilltowns reports the State's intent to issue martial law, but stating, and categorically, that a potential epidemic did not warrant pandemic ranking is foolhardy, ignorant and consequently unconscionable.

Having worked in infectious and tropical diseases in various capacities, and with numerous diseases, i.e., malaria, HIV, leprosy, etc., I know from epidemiology, public health and history, it is best to be prepared for a more serious outbreak than to ignore signs of potential widespread transmission.

And in public health lingo, pandemic terminology is warranted when a disease (flu, in this case) moves across borders. A frightening expression, perhaps, but apt in the case of H1N1 (swine flu).

Miquel Ekkelenkamp's view on the issue here at NRC.

And M.C.P. Braat's rebuttal here.

Outrage Premiers in New York City

Photo via Closet World

A documentary outing those in the closet (and not mine which is too crowded with clothes & art supplies) opened last night in New York City.

Of course we'll have some back-lash, but from whom?

The single reason I see for this outrage is hypocrisy--the hypocrisy that is of folks who are gay but vote against gay rights.

How counter-productive, self-hating and ridiculous can a politician get and still find their shoes in that same closet?

And will this documentary make inroads into self-disclosure?

Sophie Duner

Sophie Duner

What a lovely voice.

What a wonderful collection of music.

All brought to me via WJFF radio with Gandalf at Afternoon Classics.

While listening to Sophie Duner, I realised how much music plays a positive role in my life and must keep that mind when I mindlessly go silent.



11.5.09

Museums at Night

Potsdamer Platz Berlin 1914, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)

The London National Portrait Gallery is having a "museum at night" evening--unfortunately I will miss the event.

But it reminds of me of other museum events that were lush, lavish, lovely and lively.

Most recently, I had a 5 star dinner at Raleigh's Art Museum. The NC Museum has quite a good collection.

And dinner is ~ $20.00 for members.

Pendemonium Ships



Frank notified me just before I left for Pittsburgh that the Violet Vote and Legal Lapis were both in and would be shipped last week.

Well, this morning I went to collect my mail from the Damascus Post Office and sure enough they were there in a big box of other mail and parcels.

I put the Legal Lapis in two Senators, one with a B nib and another with what appears to be a narrow M.

The Violet Vote went into my Pelikan M215.

Now all I have to do is write!

Kelly's Pen List

Kelly Kilmer, artist, teacher, and blogger talks pens here.

It is fascinating how an artist in California and pen addicts nationally all buy at the Jetters.

Vintage Stamps are Envelops for Missive Maven



A very good selection of vintage envelops at Barizaki Ardour Press.

Journalist will be freed (is freed!)


I am thrilled to read that Roxana Saberi will be freed.

Updates confirm she has been released!

A Yellow and Green World


The Upper Delaware Valley has turned to yellow with dandelions, green with lush grass and is splashed with a few lilac dots in and around my neighbourhood roads.


In my own garden, yellow prevails.


And the maple has opened her wings to display her lovely colour.

The value of keeping a sketchbook

Via EDM (everydaymatters yahoo group), a short blog piece at Illustration Academy at Ringling College of Art and Design is well worth a read.

It stresses the value of establishing one's own style beyond the technical expertise we all strive for in our drawing and painting.

Back at the Rijkmuseum:

The Berckheyde painting is back home at the Rijksmuseum getting acclimatized, contrary to fears that its visit to the US may have given JPMorgan the opportunity to confiscate it in lieu of outstanding debts.

Marijke's New House

Portland Front, Porch View
Portland Front, Upper Floors

Portland Rear, Upper Floors

Portland Rear, Lower View