I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Sunday, November 18, 2007


David Byrne's 1986 film True Stories is absurd and satirical-- but there's more to it than that. It's sad and haunting too-- and genuinely fond of its subjects.
In this scene, a woman-- Kay Culver-- sings a song to accompany a fashion show. She has petrified hair and Fox News makeup, and wears a prim Nancy Reagan dress that is way too old for her. Still, she can carry a tune, and her voice is sweet. Her song, Dream Operator has a catchy melody; the lyrics are pretty-- if in a candied, Thomas Kinkade kind of way. "Shopping is a feeling," Kay says rapturously. Later she sings "Let the children do the shopping." Kay's song builds to a climax that is both grandiose and authentically grand.

When I drive through landscapes of strip malls and McMansions, I find these places artificial and horrific. But there's a stark, surreal beauty to them too-- and to the people who live there, those places are home sweet home; the Culvers are entitled to no less. If ecosystems must be spoiled to green their lawns, animals tortured to fill their refrigerators, and soldiers killed to keep them free, they can accept and even defend that.
Why shouldn't the Kay Culvers of this world have their dreams? It's likely too difficult for them to face the fact that their lives are wasteful and destructive-- unfair to expect them to concede that animals and the poor pay the price for their luxuries. A revolutionary hates all Culvers, and doesn't mind killing them-- but a reformer has to find a way to talk to them-- and a saint or an artist must love them. The artist's task is hard, but the saint's is harder. It's easier to love in fiction. With no pretensions to sainthood, I can love Kay Culver from afar.

Monday, October 08, 2007

From The Way of Ignorance (2004) by Wendell Berry:
I have no large solution to offer. There is, as maybe we all have noticed, a conspicuous shortage of large-scale corrections for problems that have large-scale causes. Our damages to watersheds and ecosystems will have to be corrected one farm, one forest, one acre at a time. The aftermath of a bombing has to be dealt with one corpse, one wound at a time. And so the first temptation to avoid is the call for some sort of revolution. To imagine that destructive power might be made harmless by gathering enough power to destroy it is of course perfectly futile. William Butler Yeats said as much in his poem “The Great Day:"
Hurrah for revolution and more cannon shot!
A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.
Arrogance cannot be cured by greater arrogance, or ignorance by greater ignorance. To counter the ignorant use of knowledge and power we have, I am afraid, only a proper humility, and this is laughable. But it is only partly laughable. In his political pastoral “Build Soil,” as if responding to Yeats, Robert Frost has one of his rustics say,
I bid you to a one-man revolution—
The only revolution that is coming.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

early autumn Sunday morning in Philadelphia

It was about a year ago this weekend Jane and I took a little road trip out to Germantown, to attend the service at Germantown Mennonite. I go a couple times a year.
I walked through Center City to find my car, and photographed the alley above.
We got to Germantown and saw these great flowers:

I am crazy about the color blue so these flowers really got me going.
The Mennonites do all a-capella singing in four part harmony. There is no choir. Germantown Mennonite meets in an old Meetinghouse with a wood floor, so the sound is great. Beautiful but also plain and authentic.
After church Jane and I went to Mugshots, a cafe in Manayunk. The sky over Manayunk was really blue.

It was a good day for blue.
I wore my Uncle Albert's mohair jacket. It has so much personality. Like it spent so much time hanging around with my uncle it picked up some of his humor and style. Here it is in the cafe:

I love this time of year, when you can feel summer losing its grip, and fall coming in.

Thomas Merton on the US: missing our great chance

I have a book of excerpts from Thomas Merton's journals. Today I found this riff on the United States, including a great, horrible metaphor. The passage is as apt today as it was when Merton wrote it, sadly.
I fear the ignorance and power of the United States. And the fact that it has suddenly become one of the most decadent societies on the face of the earth. The body of a great, dead, candied child. Yet not dead: full of immense, uncontrolled power. Crazy.
If somebody doesn’t understand the United States pretty soon—and communicate some of that understanding to the United States—the results will be terrible. It is no accident that the United States endowed the world with the Bomb.
The mixture of immaturity, size, apparent indulgence and depravity, with occasional spasms of guilt, power, self-hate, pugnacity, lapsing into wildness and then apathy, hopped-up and wild-eyed, inarticulate and wanting to be popular. You need a doctor, Uncle!
The exasperation of the other nations of the world who know the United States thinks them jealous—for what they don’t want and yet fascinates them. Exasperation that such fools should momentarily be kings of the world. Exasperation at them for missing their great chance—this everyone finds unforgivable, including America itself.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Blade Runner mortals at Comic Con

Android alert, originally uploaded by Aunt Christina.
One of the wonders of my San Diego adventure this summer was attending Comic Con, the biggest comic book and sci-fi/fantasy convention in the world. The SD convention center had booths with amazing rare books, and I met two of my favorite comic artists, Joe Phillips and Mike Mignola. I think I saw Brian Froud but was too awed to approach him.

My camera was broken so the Comic Con photos you see in this post and the two that follow are from Flickr!, which offers multifarious points of view not controlled by big media. I love Flickr! It feeds my image addiction without enslaving me to consumerism.

The crowd of Blade Runner fans above was possibly the most miraculous thing I saw at Comic Con. Like the film they idolize, these fans stand at the nexus of hipness and nerddom. They are obsessed and geeky, yet magnetic and beautiful. Blade Runner is such a lovely film, it has the power to unite subcultures.

The Blade Runners at the Con were three times as numerous as the group you see in the photo. I was coming down the escalator when I saw them, assembled to honor the 25th anniversary of the film. The men were genuinely handsome, and the women were beautiful. I looked and looked, astonished that so many of them lived up to my expectation of what the perfect android characters of the film should be.

Unlike Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Darryl Hannah, and Joanna Cassidy-- forever preserved in cinema-- these mortal fans will change. Few will remember the glamor they gave off as they stood at the base of the escalator in the San Diego convention center. This thought satisfied my taste for the elegiac, and gave me a pleasing melancholy buzz as I walked past them.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Kater's notebooks

I attended Clarion with Kater Cheek. At critiques, I started noticing Kater drawing in her notebook. Then I noticed that her drawings were really good. I especially liked some images of crows in flight she was doing one day.

It turns out that in addition to being a very skillful writer, Kater has an unstoppable ambition to master every conceivable medium in the visual arts. She has agreat website where she shows her creations.

The more I got to know Kater, the more interesting things I learned about her. She has written a ton of books, and she can build habitable buildings from bread. She is married to a Morris Dancer. Here is what she said when I asked if I could post images of her journals:

Glad you like the art journal. There are actually two. My sister and I have been working on them for over a year now, we take turns doing stuff in each other’s books.
On her website, Kater explains more about the journal pages:
I used copies of the notes I took at Clarion for the background, and the brown paper are tea-stained scraps of two short stories I wrote.
The title of the piece is Rewriting: An Armful of Tomatoes. My analogy is that carrying an armful of tomatoes is like trying to write a good second draft; how do you get more without losing what you’ve got?
The fox is drawn in colored pencil. Why a fox? I like foxes, and they’re easy to draw.

This is another page from Kater's journal. On the right is her self-portrait as the Wicked Queen from Snow White. At Clarion, Kater and I became known as dark lords of deadpan and black humor. This pleased me, but of course, I savor approbation of any kind.

One of the inspiring things about Clarion was getting to know some creative people, people who not only make cool art, but live in novel and creative ways.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Madeline L’Engle

Madeline L’Engle has always been there for me.
Her space/time fantasies, her memoirs, and her book on faith and art—have been resources for me throughout my life. If I decide to be a Christian of any kind, she is the sort I would want to be. She was frank about her doubts and frustrations, and even in old age spared no fire for what she called the “fundalets.”
I got to meet her once. I waited in a line, and by the time I got to the front she looked really tired. Last week I was organizing some stuff and came across a 3” by 5” card of the notes I took from her talk.
The first thing on my card is the maxim she branded onto my mind that day. “We owe our readers the best book we can possibly write.” Maybe it’s self-evident. L’Engle’s son-in-law once remarked that she tended to state the obvious as if it were a profound insight. But sometimes the obvious must be stated. (Rebecca West said “The tragedy of man is that he cannot learn complex truths, and forgets simple ones.”)
According to my 3” by 5” card, L’Engle also said:
“Fairy tale is the blueprint of the human soul.”
“Anthropomorphism helps us to know ourselves.”
“Intellect and intuition must work together.”
“Stay a child forever and grow up.”
And, she criticized “people who think truth and fact are the same thing,” saying:
“Truth can transcend fact."
L’Engle understood understood how to live a good life, and how to create community for herself. She understood that relationships are horribly difficult but worth it. She understood that science and faith are not naturally at war, until we force them to be. These things I grasp. But there are things L’Engle understood about God that I am not able to grasp—things that my mentor, Obi-Wan-- the gay Christian sage who has done so much for me—also understands. I don’t know how to resolve faith and doubt, how to allow God to be mysterious. I am determined to square the divine with reason, and if I can’t, I don’t think I can have God at all. I’d like to be a mystic, but I am still a modern.
Because my dialog with Madeline L’Engle is open ended, I don’t feel as though she's lost to me. 

Sunday, September 02, 2007

two are better than one

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4 v 9-12

I had thought all of that was original to Solomon, or whoever wrote Ecclesiastes-- that most existential of all bible books. I was surprised while reading Gilgamesh, to come upon these fragments in the context of the love of Gilgamesh and Enkidu:

A slippery path is not feared by two people who help each other.
A three-ply rope cannot be cut.
The Babylonian epic Gilgamesh predates Ecclesiastes. It is interesting to think of these germs of wisdom being passed around the ancient world, from one culture to the next-- more interesting than mistaking ancient cliches
for the unique wisdom of God...

Ancient idiom or divine utterance, it doesn't matter. Phrases like this endure because we live the truth in them.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Trent Reznor, The Perfect Drug

My favorite video, for now. If you don't know already, it will be fun to guess what beloved book illustrator this video cribs imagery from.

Friday, August 31, 2007

human remains in my cubicle

I never liked August. Not a summer guy, so by August, I've just about had it.

This August was no exception. I got back from paradise, aka San Diego, on a Friday night. August 3rd. A day later, Sunday the 5th, I was awakened by the phone-- there was no staff in the exhibit I manage. I had to go to work.

The city is quiet and almost sort of holy on Sunday mornings. The streets are empty and everything has that clean, quiet look-- as if repentance itself has washed through and scoured everything from the sins of the weekend.

It takes me ten minutes to walk to my office. Every morning I pass the intersection of 20th and JFK, which crests a little rise, and where I once saw a man my age lying on his back in the street, looking at the sky, rescue crews milling around and looking at him with almost idle curiosity.

When I got to work, my first day back after six weeks, there was a human skeleton at my desk. The
skeleton was wearing khaki pants, blue moccasins, an employee shirt, and a Santa hat. And she had no arms.

It's not as weird as it sounds. There are a lot of odd specimens where I work. We are an educational institution. The skeleton is just another teaching tool. Her arms were borrowed to do comparisons to dinosaur fossils, and never returned to her.

But, though this isn't as weird as it sounds, it is exactly as disturbing as it sounds.

The skeleton, the dead lady, gets moved around our office.
She was in the lunchroom for a while. Sometimes she visits cubicles. She lives on a wheeled platform, suspended by a metal pole that ends in a screw that goes through her head. So, she is always upright, but shrugging, as if to say: Hey, I'm doing the best I can. Give me a break. I mean, Christ, I'm dead. She probably got wheeled into my cubicle while I was away, more for storage than for a prank. I've rolled her into empty cubicles myself, plenty of times.

Yet, though I have seen her many times, and, before I left for Clarion, had come to understand her almost as a silent co-worker-- her tense grimace expressing perhaps what all of us feel on occasion-- I was not prepared to encounter human remains on my first day back on the job.

Yes, the skeleton in the office is funny-- like the disco ball and the taxidermied snowshoe hares. But when I came back from Clarion, it hit me so powerfully that this is actually a dead person. It was a punch in the gut, seeing her at my desk, like discovering a crime scene. I recognized her at once as an omen-- or at the very least, just about the worst feng shui conceivable.

And sure enough, I did have a truly horrible month at work.

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus - Bar Scene

I found this clip on Your Daily Awesome. Life imitates David Lynch.
My favorite quote from this clip?

"And then she got throwed back in the winda."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stan Robinson's point

Kim Stanley Robinson was a student at UCSD , both undergrad and PhD, and was one of the readers who selected our Clarion class. He had been a Clarion student with our first week instructor, Greg Frost. As I understand it, he was instrumental in bringing Clarion to UCSD for 2007. He came to see us our first day at UCSD. This bluff was a favorite spot of his, and he urged us to visit it. I took the photo above on our first trip.

We made many trips to this beautiful spot. I visited the bluff during Karen Joy Fowler's week, and twice with Cory Doctorow. Cory referred to it as "Stan Robinson's point."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

death of a master

This Playboy interview with Ingmar Bergman really sheds light on the man. Here's an excerpt:

BERGMAN: ...You know, I used to think that compromise in life, as in art, was unthinkable, that the worst thing a man could do was make compromises. But of course I did make compromises. We all do. We have to. We couldn't live otherwise. But for a long time I wouldn't admit to myself - although, of course, at the same time I knew it - that I, too, was a man who compromised. I thought I could be above it all. I have learned that I can't. I have learned that what matters, really, is being alive. You're alive; you can't stand dead or half-dead people, can you? To me, what counts is being able to feel. That's what Winter Light - the film of mine that people seem to understand least - is trying to say. Now that you've been in Stockholm in midwinter for a few days, I think you can begin to understand, a little, what this film is about. What do you make of it?

PLAYBOY: We're more interested in learning what you make of it.
BERGMAN: Well, it was a difficult film, one of the hardest I've made so far. The audience has to work. It's a progression from Through a Glass Darkly, and it in turn is carried forward to The Silence. The three stand together. My basic concern in making them was to dramatize the all-importance of communication, of the capacity for feeling. They are not concerned - as many critics have theorized - with God or His absence, but with the saving force of love. Most of the people in these three films are dead, completely dead. They don't know how to love or to feel any emotions. They are lost because they can't reach anyone outside of themselves.
The man in Winter Light, the pastor, is nothing. He's nearly dead, you understand. He's almost completely cut off from everyone. The central character is the woman. She doesn't believe in God, but she has strength; it's the women who are strong. She can love. She can save with her love. Her problem is that she doesn't know how to express this love. She's ugly, clumsy. She smothers him, and he hates her for it and for her ugliness. But she finally learns how to love. Only at the end, when they're in the empty church for the three o'clock service that has become perfectly meaningless for him, her prayer in a sense is answered: he responds to her love by going on with the service in that empty country church. It's his own first step toward feeling, toward learning how to love. We're saved not by God, but by love. That's the most we can hope for.
PLAYBOY: How is this theme carried out in the other two films of the trilogy?
BERGMAN: Each film, you see, has its moment of contact, of human communication: the line "Father spoke to me," at the end of Through a Glass Darkly; the pastor conducting the service in the empty church for Marta at the end of Winter Light; the little boy reading Ester's letter on the train at the end of The Silence. A tiny moment in each film but the crucial one. What matters most of all in life is being able to make that contact with another human. Otherwise you are dead, like so many people today are dead. But if you can take that first step toward communication, toward understanding, toward love, then no matter how difficult the future may be - and have no illusions, even with all the love in the world, living can be hellishly difficult - then you are saved. This is all that really matters, isn't it?

death of a master II

death of a master III

While I was away at Clarion, not reading the papers, Ingmar Bergman died.
I watched Fanny and Alexander when I was fifteen, which was the perfect age and the perfect film, for an introduction to Bergman. "Introduction" seems ridiculous, though, because that film is a world in itself. Many of the events in the film paralleled my own life. I still remember the room I watched it in and the way the light came through the windows. It took all afternoon; the video was on two tapes.
I minored in medieval studies in college and our professor screened Seventh Seal for us. The last scenes of that film go to a place so spiritual, eschatological, and so freakily transcendent, I don't know if anyone has equaled them. I had never seen anything like it and I still haven't.
Bergman's Magic Flute helped me finish my fiction thesis for college. I stayed up all night and I don't know how I could have done it without Bergman and Mozart.

For me the only artists who can get to that place of Nordic metaphysical starkness with Bergman are Andrew Wyeth, Isak Dinesin, and late Ibsen-- who influenced Bergman.
Maybe Caspar David Freidrich:

And of course Kierkagaard.

I feel like Bergman has left a giant hole in the world. He directed fifty films or so, and at least as many plays. He was so old, and so prolific, I thought he would never die. He was often parodied, and I guess a lot of people didn't get him. I'm struggling to sum up what I feel about him, but I keep thinking about the line Marlene Deitrich has in Touch of Evil: "What does it matter what you say about a man?"
Here's a quote from Bergman himself:
"I want very much to tell, to talk about, the wholeness inside every human being. It's a strange thing that every human being has a sort of dignity or wholeness in him, and out of that develops relationships to other human beings, tensions, misunderstandings, tenderness, coming in contact, touching and being touched, the cutting off of a contact and what happens then."
(from Ingmar Bergman Directs by John Simon).
I'm not sure that I will ever be able to commit in my writing as totally to a personal, idiosyncratic vision as Bergman did in film, and I feel sad and frustrated about that.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

talking to Peter in the San Diego Airport, palm trees outside

Peter told me not to come back to Philadelphia.
"It's not here any more," he said.

I was waiting to get on the plane, and getting a last look at the palm trees and white haze of San Diego out the window.

"Then where are you now?" I said.

"Tulsa," he said. "Calls are being rerouted to Tulsa. The Philadelphia Underground is in Tulsa. Philly's gone."

"What did you guys do with it?"

"We blew it up. They put this glass dome over it. Like the ultimate gated community. You couldn't get in or out of Center City. We just got frustrated, so, you know..."
"It's lucky you told me this before I got on the plane," I said.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wilde on self-actualization, and a different take on Jesus

I was skimming Oscar Wilde for a quote I like a lot. He says something like, Every man is already the best self he can possibly be. I find that profound. Maybe it's obvious. If your disposition and circumstances allowed it, you would be more than you are. But as it is, you are the best self you can achieve.

I thought the quote was the Wilde's Soul of Man Under Socialism.
Did he really say it, or am I just remembering a Harold Bloom paraphrase? I didn't find the quote, but I found this one,-- Wilde's original take on the significance of Jesus.

"And so he who would lead a Christlike life is he who is perfectly and absolutely himself. He may be a great poet, or a great man of science; or a young student at a University, or one who watches sheep upon a moor; or a maker of dramas, like Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in a garden, or a fisherman who throws his net into the sea. It does not matter what he is, as long as he realises the perfection of the soul that is within him. All imitation in morals and in life is wrong. Through the streets of Jerusalem at the present day crawls one who is mad and carries a wooden cross on his shoulders. He is a symbol of the lives that are marred by imitation. Father Damien was Christlike when he went out to live with the lepers, because in such service he realised fully what was best in him. But he was not more Christlike than Wagner when he realised his soul in music; or than Shelley, when he realised his soul in song. There is no one type for man. There are as many perfections as there are imperfect men. And while to the claims of charity a man may yield and yet be free, to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free at all."

Here's another one, Wilde says the perfect man is more marked by peace than conflict:

"What I mean by a perfect man is one who develops under perfect conditions; one who is not wounded, or worried or maimed, or in danger. Most personalities have been obliged to be rebels. Half their strength has been wasted in friction. Byron's personality, for instance, was terribly wasted in its battle with the stupidity, and hypocrisy, and Philistinism of the English. Such battles do not always intensify strength: they often exaggerate weakness. Byron was never able to give us what he might have given us. Shelley escaped better. Like Byron, he got out of England as soon as possible. But he was not so well known. If the English had had any idea of what a great poet he really was, they would have fallen on him with tooth and nail, and made his life as unbearable to him as they possibly could. But he was not a remarkable figure in society, and consequently he escaped, to a certain degree. Still, even in Shelley the note of rebellion is sometimes too strong. The note of the perfect personality is not rebellion, but peace."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

giant justin with tiny keyan and shweta

We have been having a lot of fun at the Center for Magical Realism at UCSD. This giant writer is a nice guy, and has been great about not kicking down buildings. Sometimes he picks up cute guys and we have to yell at him to put them back where he found them.
He has a star stuck to his elbow and cubist butterfly wings on his butt.

The pixies are good writers too. One of them can hover! They keep turning stories in to the workshop in really small point sizes.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Pat Tillman, new information

Yesterday the AP recieved official documents which state that the doctors performing the autopsy on Pat Tillman suspected that he was shot from within ten yards away. The documents also show that no evidence was found at the scene of Tillman's death to support the "friendly fire" explanation.

Tillman was a professional football player who gave up his career to fight in Afghanistan
. He died in 2004, one month after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. The military covered up the circumstances around Tillman's death until weeks after his memorial service. His Silver Star citation was a fiction that stated that he had died in a battle against enemy forces. The Army knew at the time that this battle had never taken place.

Tillman is one of the more fascinating characters of the War on Terror era. By the time of his death, Tillman had become disillusioned and highly critical of the war in Iraq. He urged a fellow soldier to vote for Kerry and described the Iraq War as illegal.
He had gotten in touch with Noam Chomsky and made plans to visit him. Here's an article by Pat Tillman's brother Kevin that is really worth reading.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

shaman optometrist fights age, recalls scouting days, communes with stones

Today I got new glasses. My optometrist resembled William H. Macy in Fargo. His age was undefinable. Older, but energetic, and pleasantly brisk in that generic, Midwestern way. His hair had tight waves like it had been marceled, but I think the waves were natural. What wasn't natural was his comb-over. His low part was the tip-off. But his red-gold, marceled hair was so dense, it almost concealed the scalp underneath.

I sat in the chair in the
optometrist's office envisioning how the man had fought his feelings of sorrow over the loss of youth with a brave tonsorial stratagem. I empathized. We don't all grow old gracefully. Like Dylan Thomas, I believe in raging against the dying of the light.

I mentioned I was walking back to campus, and we talked about hiking.
The optometrist enjoyed hiking around California, and had vacationed in Hawaii with his sister, whom he referred to as Sis. We discovered that we both had been Boy Scouts. Like mine, his troop (in L.A.) had gone camping once a month. In his troop-- whose number he quoted-- the scouts planned all the year's events themselves. In my troop we were all misfits and burnouts. I was troop secretary, which brought me a surprising amount of prestige.

The optometrist told me he made Eagle at 13, which is pretty amazing. More amazing was his ability to rattle off the names of all the badges he had earned. The only badges I remember are Orienteering and Reptiles. I was not ambitious; I just liked the camping and camaraderie. I thought the whole rank system was manipulative and absurd. The optometrist named a bunch of knots he could tie, some behind his back. I could tie a square knot.

optometrist had had two uncanny experiences while hiking. Both involved rocks, which to me suggests that he is a natural animist, like the character Nakata in Kafka on the Shore. I believe this man, in a different time and place, could be a Shinto priest.

The first uncanny experience involved him putting his hand on a boulder in the wilderness and hearing classical music. He said it sounded like a crystal set, which is an old-time term for a radio. My grandmother used it when talking about her childhood. Her father worked at RCA. The
optometrist said he knew what station the boulder was playing by the symphony that was on. He even quoted the call letters of the station to me. That he thought he could identify a specific station by the symphony that was playing is more bizarre to me than a boulder that plays classical music in the middle of a forest.

In the second experience the
optometrist rested on a rock, put his hands on it, and received a powerful electric charge.

I am sure this man is a natural shaman.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Caravaggio painting; Goethe quote

"The Philistine not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own but also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own"


Monday, July 23, 2007

Ultimate Question, Nietzsche Family Circus, disturbing tree

Why is there something instead of nothing? For me that's the ultimate question. Even if you posit a God, it is irksome to be asked to imagine a God that has no origin.

The author of the Pooh stories wrote a poem about a girl named Elizabeth Anne, who runs around asking people how God began. Then her doll tells her. I still find this poem unsettling.

But, like Elizabeth Anne, and, I guess Newton, I accept the idea that something has to get things rolling. Aquinas' idea of the uncaused cause seems like cheating to me now, though I once accepted it.

For more deep thoughts, I recommend the Nietzsche Family Circus, which pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote.
Also, read Caleb's funny account of our encounter with a disturbing tree on the UCSD campus.

San Diego Mormon Temple

San Diego Mormon Temple, originally uploaded by bridgepix.
This building is down the road from us at UCSD and looks like the Childlike Empress' palace in Neverending Story. This post is my experiment with blogging photos from Flickr.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tintin, and Moorcock's open source character

Check out this this fantastic article from the London Times about Tintin.

Then read about this open source character created by Michael Moorcock, who partly inspired the most wonderful and fascinating comic book series I've never heard of, according to all the raves in this article.

Rossetti's Mnemosene and my favorite Yeats poem.

Lines Written in DejectionWilliam Butler Yeats

When have I last looked on
The round green eyes and the long wavering bodies
Of the dark leopards of the moon?
All the wild witches, those most noble ladies,
For all their broom-sticks and their tears,
Their angry tears, are gone.
The holy centaurs of the hills are vanished;
I have nothing but the embittered sun;
Banished heroic mother moon and vanished,
And now that I have come to fifty years,
I must endure the timid sun.


I saw this painting when I was a child. It was like someone had given me LSD. I became a Pre-Raphaelite that day.

The Delaware Art Museum contains the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the United States. I was lucky to grow up down the road from it. I still make pilgrimages to see these paintings when I need inspiration.

It was a weird and wonderful synergy that as I came west to study at Clarion, the Delaware Art Museum's Pre-Raphaelite collection also came west. Matt and I went to see them last Saturday at Balboa Park. He patiently listened to me lecture on the paintings, their meanings, the artists, and their lives and ideas. The Pre-Raphs believed that everyone could become an artist, and support themselves by creating beautiful things. Pre-Raphealite models, like Elizabeth Siddal and Maria Spartali, became accomplished artists themselves, in a time when few women attempted to become artists (Georgina Burne-Jones has some poignant words about this). The Pre-Raphs also win my affection through their belief in a classless society, and free love. They put nature and narrative at the center of their art. (For me, all art is narrative).

The woman in the painting is Jane Burden, later Jane Morris. She inspired some of Rossetti's greatest paintings. She was multilingual, a socialist, a weaver, and a supporter of Irish home rule. Here Rossetti has painted her as Mnemosene, goddess of memory.
The first time I saw this, I can remember feeling dominated and intoxicated by this image. The Pre-Raphaelites have always had their detractors, but you can tell, I have an almost completely uncritical view of them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Jim Boggia cover of "Somebody to Love"

You can download this gorgeous cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love" for free. Or, just listen to it. The artist is Jim Boggia, a local Philly musician. He recorded it to honor WXPN DJ Helen Leicht's thirtieth year on the radio. Boggia's cover combines celestial back-up harmonies with an earthy lead voice. It has an urgent, yearning quality.

 I also like George Michael's version at the Freddy Mercury tribute concert.

Above is a detail from a Yoruban chief's door. The artist is Arowogun d'Osi-Ilorin, a wood carver who made masks, doors, and house posts all around Osi, in Southwest Nigeria. His name means "He who makes his living by the knife."
The door is at the Nasher Museum of Art in North Carolina.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

niki de saint phalle dragon and my birthday

We visited Balboa Park in San Diego and saw this dragon by Niki de Saint Phalle. This is at least the third sculpture by her I've seen in San Diego so far.

Some of you know I have been spending the summer at the Center for Magical Realism at UCSD.

The CMR folks made me a birthday dinosaur.

My birthday was the day after our instructor's!
He is a Disney fan. I helped with this RoboMickey.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Beck - Nobody's Fault But My Own

Beck really puts his heart into this one. Lovely. Possibly my favorite Beck song.

Monday, July 16, 2007

UC Men's Octet - Bohemian Rhapsody

Is this the real life? This version of Freddy Mercury's magnum opus starts out a little silly, but becomes, for me at least, fairly mesmerizing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

the harrowing of hell

"A powerful class, by terror, rhetoric, and sentimentality may drive their people to war,
but the day draws near when they cannot keep them there..."

W.B. Yeats, 1922

This film got me thinking about the hopeless stupidity of occupation, and the tenacity of empire.

The painting is an alterpiece by a German or Netherlandish artist, ca. 1600, at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

flaming lips cover bohemian rhapsody @ the SXSW Music Fest.

The Flips are a marvel on their albums and a miracle live. Here they do Queen's mad glam masterpiece. What a sublime combination.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

wedding rehearsal

Peter asked me to do the prayer at his wedding. Last night was the rehearsal dinner; I told him, I think I'm becoming a deist.

He said, Oh no you don't. No deism till after 4 pm tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. Since the first two pass our comprehension, we must do what we can with the third."

Aubrey Menon

Monday, March 12, 2007

banksy's coppers

Click on the picture to read the article.

Banksy is the creme de la creme of grafitti art.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

hedgehogs, zombies, appetite

I dreamed about an opossum who was dreaming about eating a hedgehog. The opossum woke feeling great satisfaction at having eaten the hedgehog. But it had only been an opossum dream--the hedgehog was fine! I showed the opossum the hedgehog, and laughed. In the dream I felt glad the hedgehog escaped.

Now I feel a little sorry for the opossum.

We were on a  tropical island, and knew zombies were on their way when porkpie hats started washing up on shore. A sure sign of zombies. I kept an eye out for pale and creepy looking people with porkpie hats, though did not see any.
A reporter showed up and asked us about the invasion. "When did you first sense something was seriously wrong?" I said it was the hats. My friend said she sensed something weird was in the wind even before that.
When things start going wrong, sometimes it's tough to look back and pinpoint the exact moment you knew it.

I challenged Matt to interpret these dreams. He said since I am writing metafiction, now I am having metadreams. That was quick thinking on just waking up. I think they have to do with being a vegetarian. On some level, a vegetarian is at war with the natural order. Vegetarianism is an implied critique of the food web as it now stands, and, if there is a creator, an implied critique of the creator. God may prescribe violence to answer appetite, but I reject that violence and tame my appetite.

Still, there may be a lingering sense of ill ease at being out of step with the hungry universe, with all its greedy opossums and flesh-eating zombies.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

snowy rittenhouse


I took my car back to New Jersey to my mechanic-- it's not convenient, but I trust the guy not to rip me off.

That night, I stayed over at my mom's. The next morning, my friend Dwight waited with me at the bus stop. I couldn't face waiting out in the cold for the bus in the morning in my home town, where I never stopped feeling like the new kid. So I asked Dwight to wait with me, even though I know he hasn't been feeling so great lately.

Dwight wrote a book, a really passionate refutation of Calvinist theology. He binds each copy by hand and is selling it on Amazon. He dedicated it to me; this is a big honor for me. I think he sees me as one of the casualties of Calvinism, and it's true my faith has been stymied by the idea of an all-powerful, all-controlling God who allows suffering.

Writing the book exhausted Dwight. I've read of authors who write their magnum opus, then just collapse. Calvin has taken his toll on both of us.

Dwight's wife drove us to the bus stop and the three of us waited in the van. We waited twenty minutes; they kept the car running the whole time. Watching Dwight and Marcy's gas budget turn into fumes, I really regretted having asked them to do this for me. It wasn't even that cold.

Dwight has been selling some of his own collection of books on e-Bay to bring in a little money. His illustrated edition of Pilgrim's Progress brought seventy bucks. Dwight is self-employed and hasn't been able to be at his shop because of his exhaustion. When I learned Dwight was selling off his library it really got to me. My books are my treasure. Dwight and Marcy were on their way to the post office after waiting with me; some of the packages were on the back seat beside me.

The bus came and I took off for the city, which, thanks to the evening news, Dwight believes is filled with desperate criminals and the continual sound of gunfire. Dwight and Marcy really love me. I have some friends to whom I feel like I give back an equal amount, but Dwight is so giving and so encouraging, I am always in the red with him.

I left my gloves in the van; Dwight and Marcy mailed them to me when they sent off the books.

Monday, February 12, 2007

goodbye knuckles

I'm really going to miss you, buddy.

You had a simple life of eating and climbing.

And for a guy with no face, you had a lot of personality.

I'm dedicating this a-capella high school version of a Sufjan song to you.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Last night I listened to my favorite soundtrack album, the soundtrack to Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World. Normally I strive to be industrious, but last night I just listened to the entire album, start to finish.

Until the End of the Worldwas made in 1991, but set in 1999. Wim Wenders asked the musicians to give him a song that would sound like the music they would be making in 1999. Although they are by different musicians, the songs on the album have a similar flavor. Many are spare and have an emotionally detached quality. Many share a strangely empty quality, and don't feel like other music by these artists.

The soundtrack has a lot of the knights of alternative rock, everyone but David Bowie. I bought the soundtrack for Peter Gabriel's Blood of Eden, which underscores a sequence in which--after the two leads travel across ten countries using countless different technologies for travel and communication--all electronics are wiped out by a rogue satellite reentering the atmosphere, and they walk, walk through the Australian outback. When I got the CD home, I checked the track list several times before I could accept that Blood of Eden wasn't actually on the album!

The film has some strange and haunting lines in it. I can still hear William Hurt saying, with his characteristic halting delivery This camera takes pictures that blind people can see.

There's a song on the album by Depeche Mode called Death's Door. I was waiting for Death's Door, thinking that when I heard the song, it would somehow inspire me to find the solution to a short story I've been struggling over.

Until the End of the World is one of those enticing, frustrating, fascinating movies that you can never see in the definitive version, because of bad blood between filmmaker and studio or distributor. With these movies, the version you see is only a battered signpost pointing to the real version, which you can never see, because it is forever retreating over the horizon of possibility.

Orson Welles, with all his unfinished, mangled masterpieces, is the ultimate auteur of this particular genre of post-modern cinema.

Wenders' original cut of Until the End of the World was 8 hours. But he was bound by contract to deliver a film under 3 hours. The version that was released was 158 minutes. It felt long when I saw it; long and vague and cold, though beautiful, and like all Wenders' films, filled with enduring imagery and ideas.

I have a feeling the 8 hour version probably feels tighter and quicker and more engaging than the pruned version I saw. But I would be content to see the 280 minute version Wenders considers definitive. It has been shown only a few times. I sense that Wenders has fallen from grace with the supporters he won with his road movies and his angel movies, which are canonical arthouse cinema. Maybe I have drifted from him too, though recently I watched a short documentary he did about Yohji Yamamoto and was right back under his spell.
Last night I was telling Matt about Solveig Dommartin, how she was so beautiful, but ordinary looking, like Ingrid Bergman. She co-wrote and acted in Until the End of the World, was Wenders' partner, and was in the two celebrated angel movies. I looked online today on my lunch to see if Until the End of the World was available in its longer version and found a reference to the late Solveig Dommartin.

It's shocking when someone young dies, someone you unconsciously counted on to be around. When I feel discouraged I try to remember how fragile life is, what a privilege it is just to exist. I try to spur myself to write by telling myself how temporary my mind is. But on some level I feel that we are all granite, or at least the people that matter to me in one way or another are granite, permanent.

Dommartin died fifteen days ago of a heart attack, and it's hard to believe there could be such an early end for the beautiful, athletic body-- that mastered the acrobatic stunts of the angel movies so quickly-- and the mind-- that helped imagine a camera for recording dreams, and taking pictures blind people can see.

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