Thursday, March 31

simple enough

But I don't think you express clearly enough what it is you want us to feel: the certainty which one seems to have, and which one can, in any case, prove, of the nothingness, the emptiness, the treachery of the good or beautiful things one desires; and how, despite this knowledge, we allow ourselves to be eternally deceived by the charm cast over our 6 senses by the external world, by things outside ourselves, as though we understood nothing, and especially not the difference between objectivity and subjectivity. Luckily for us, we remain in this way both stupid and full of hope ...

There are so many people, especially among our pals, who imagine that words are nothing: but, on the contrary, it's as interesting and as difficult to say a thing well as to paint it, isn't it? There is the art of lines and colours, but the art of words exists too, and will never be less important.

Here's a fresh orchard, simple enough as a composition: a white tree, a small green tree, a square patch of green, lilac soil, an orange roof, a big blue sky.

-- Vincent Van Gogh Letter to Emile Bernard 20 April 1888
Translated by Douglas Lord

Wednesday, March 30


Orchids by Robert Mapplethorpe

Orchids by Robert Mapplethorpe

Perfection means you don't question anything about the photograph. There are certain pictures I've taken in which you really can't move that leaf or that hand. It's where it should be, and you can't say it could have been there. There's nothing to question as in a great painting. I often have trouble with contemporary art because I find it's not perfect. It doesn't have to be anatomically correct to be perfect either. A Picasso portrait is perfect. It's just not questionable. In the best of my pictures, there's nothing to question -- it's just there. And that's what I try to do....

-- Robert Mapplethorpe Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment


Without feeling or with feeling,
without light and in darkness living,
all of me is slowly burning

-- St. John of the Cross
Translated by Antonio T. de Nicolas

In the spiritual practice of San Juan de la Cruz there is a laborious and dedicated effort to strip the writer away from any background that is not the ultimate, or in his words, the Will of God. The images of the mystic and the poet coincide in this ultimate region, where we find the Trinity, the images of origin, the ultimate marriage of union, the ultimate eroticism of the soul (which happens to be also the original one). These are all images not borrowed from the senses, but built through interior sensitizations that flow from the senses to the image and back, transforming them and yielding the inspired poetry we know.

-- Antonio T. de Nicolas St. John of the Cross: Alchemist of the Soul

Tuesday, March 29


Aus unbeschreiblicher Verwandlung stammen
solche Gebilde --: Fühl! und glaub!
Wir leidens oft: zu Asche werden Flammen;
doch, in der Kunst: zur Flamme wird der Staub.

Hier ist Magie. In das Bereich des Zaubers
scheint das gemeine Wort hinaufgestuft...
und ist doch wirklich wie der Ruf des Taubers,
der nach der unsichtbaren Taube ruft.


From indescribable transformation flash
such creations --: Feel! and trust!
We suffer it often: flames become ash;
yet, in art: flames come from dust.

Here is magic. In the realm of a spell
the common word seems lifted up above...
and yet is really like the call of the male
who calls for the invisible female dove.

-- R.M. Rilke
Translated by John J.L. Mood

Monday, March 28


Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others. To seek in the real beauty, or real deformity, is as fruitless an enquiry, as to pretend to ascertain the real sweet or real bitter. According to the disposition of the organs, the same object may be both sweet and bitter; and the proverb has justly determined it to be fruitless to dispute concerning tastes. It is very natural, and even quite necessary to extend this axiom to mental, as well as bodily taste; and thus common sense, which is so often at variance with philosophy, especially with the skeptical kind, is found, in one instance at least, to agree in pronouncing the same decision.

-- David Hume Of the Standard of Taste

evening walk

On the evening I am thinking about -- it was breezy there on Ilingnorak Ridge, and cold; but the late-night sun, small as a kite in the northern sky, poured forth an energy that burned against my cheekbones -- it was on that evening that I went on a walk for the first time among the tundra birds. They all build their nests on the ground, so their vulnerability is extreme. I gazed down at a single horned lark no bigger than my fist. She stared back resolute as iron. As I approached, golden plovers abandoned their nests in hysterical ploys, artfully feigning a broken wing to distract me from the woven grass cups that couched their pale, darkly speckled eggs. Their eggs glowed with a soft, pure light, like the window light in a Vermeer painting. I marveled at this intense and concentrated beauty on the vast table of the plain. I walked on to find Lapland longspurs as still on their nests as stones, their dark eyes gleaming. At the nest of two snowy owls I stopped. These are more formidable animals than plovers. I stood motionless. The wild glare in their eyes receded. One owl settled back slowly over its three eggs, with an aura of primitive alertness. The other watched me, and immediately sought a bond with my eyes if I started to move.

I took to bowing on these evening walks. I would bow slightly with my hands in my pockets, toward the birds and the evidence of life in their nests -- because of their fecundity, unexpected in this remote region, and because of the serene arctic light that came down over the land like breath, like breathing.

-- Barry Lopez Arctic Dreams

Sunday, March 27

The Servant-Girl at Emmaus

(A Painting by Velázquez)

She listens, listens, holding
her breath. Surely that voice
is his -- the one
who had looked at her, once, across the crowd,
as no one ever had looked?
Had seen her? Had spoken as if to her?

Surely those hands were his,
taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
Hands he'd laid on the dying and made them well?

Surely that face --?

The man they'd crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
The man it was rumored now some women had seen this
morning, alive?

Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
don't recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she in the kitchen, absently touching
the winejug she's to take in,
a young Black servant intently listening,

swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.

-- Denise Levertov

read about Diego Velázquez

Saturday, March 26


Love unannounced goes in to God,
Hath instant audience:
Long in the antechamber wait
Wit and intelligence.

--Angelus Silesius
Translated by J.E. Crawford Flitch


The virtues of art, like the virtues of faith, are such that they reach beyond the limitations of the intellect, beyond any mere theory that a writer may entertain.

-- Flannery O'Connor (b. 25 March 1925) Mystery and Manners

selected quotes from Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners

Friday, March 25


So what is it, this force which makes saints, heroes, geniuses, which makes men pursue their destinies to the end? It seems to me that attention is the state of mind which allows us to perceive what has to be. It is a form of the vision experienced by the great mystics, on days when they were granted a profound concentration. I have the impression that the more I try to think of the essentials of music, the more they seem to depend on general human values. It's all very well to be a musician, it's all very well to be a genius, but the intrinsic value which constitutes your mind, your heart, your sensibility, depends on what you are. You may have to lead a life in which no one understands who you are. Nevertheless I believe that everything depends on attention. I only see you if I pay attention. I only exist, in my own eyes, if I pay attention to myself. One always comes back, willy nilly, to the great words. Have you or have you not received grace? Saint Teresa of Avila, afflicted despite everything with arid prayer, has visions; we say to ourselves, "She is mad, it is hysteria." That's very convenient! Was [Yehudi] Menuhin hysterical while playing sublimely a sublime movement of a Brahms sonata? No, he received the power to penetrate a thought which is neither Brahms's nor his, nor mine; a thought floating in the world, above the world, bearing light.

-- Nadia Boulanger, quoted in Mademoiselle: Conversations with Nadia Boulanger by Bruno Monsaingeon
Translated by Robyn Marsack

Thursday, March 24


The sunlight hit Jean-Rene. The sepia half-moon of a mole by his right cheekbone glistened, steaming coal in a fast car gliding through the hills of Morocco. We stopped to have a very French picnic: kisses. Shadows of lips and teeth against luxurious auburn soil. The sun always slipping in and out of the bends of limbs, wine from Lisbon dancing mouth to mouth, tongues tracing patterns of clouds, scents of goats, sheep, and the last of my Opium, somewhere near Meknes. I wanted to stay in Paris I'd thought, but no. He said he'd have to have me somewhere I'd never been. I'd laughed. I woke in Casablanca to morning prayers and croissants.

-- Ntozake Shange Liliane


I stayed there on my own, gazing at the sea. I never will forget that morning. It moved me as much as any love-affair. The colours on the sea-bed, because of the shells and the shell-fish, the madrepores and the corals, etc., the colours are more various than an April meadow covered in primroses. And as for the surface of the sea, every possible colour played across it, all shimmering and fading and melting into each other, from chocolate to amethyst, pink to lapis lazuli and the palest shade of green. It was extraordinary, and if I'd been a painter, I'd have been exceedingly peeved at the thought of how false any reproduction of this reality (granted that such a thing were even possible) would seem. We left Kosseir that afternoon at four, feeling very sad. There were tears in my eyes when I shook hands with our host and climbed up onto my camel. It is always sad to leave a place you know you'll never see again. Such are the melancholy pleasures of the traveller's life, perhaps the most valuable thing it has to offer.

-- Gustave Flaubert Letter to Louis Bouilhet 2 June 1850
Translated by Geoffrey Wall

Wednesday, March 23

the world

The world is a tree growing from a jewelseed planted in raw nothingness. Its roots are water and wind, its trunk the earth. Its branches the sky, its leaf-tips the stars, none of which resemble the original seed. Oak trees do not look like acorns. Each tree, every growing thing, has two roots, one in the visible, another in the unseen. Many acknowledge only this visible. They do not understand that the juice, the taste, the thickness of the trunk, and other qualities come not from this palpable place but from the mystery, out of the hidden root.

-- Bahauddin, Father of Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne

happy birthday jb3

Tuesday, March 22

Every Day You Play (Poema14)

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.

I want to do with you
what spring does with the cherry trees.

-- Pablo Nerudo
Translated by W.S. Merwin

Read this poem in Spanish and French here


He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher -- shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such -- such beautiful shirts before."

-- F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby

Monday, March 21


I have been much concerned that in this world we have so largely lost the ability to talk with one another. In the great succession of deep discoveries, we have become removed from one another in tradition, and in a certain measure even in language. We have had neither the time nor the skill nor the dedication to tell one another what we have learned, nor to listen nor to hear, nor to welcome its enrichment of the common culture and the common understanding. We hunger for nobility: the rare words and acts that harmonize simplicity and truth.

-- J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1960 address in Berlin, quoted in Oppenheimer by I.I. Rabi et al


Behind his back his friends said
he was crazy when he fled from them
to be a poet,
once the best physicist in the world
and now, when the atomic bomb is almost ready!

-- Leszek Czuchajowski

Electronic Green Journal

the poet

The excommunication of the arts, when it was found necessary, took the form of pronouncing the artist mentally degenerate, a device which eventually found its theorist in Max Nordau. In the history of the arts this is new. The poet was always known to belong to a touchy tribe -- genus irritabile was a tag anyone would know -- and ever since Plato the process of the inspired imagination, as we have said, was thought to be a special one of some interest, which the similitude of madness made somewhat intelligible. But this is not quite to say that the poet was the victim of actual mental aberration. The eighteenth century did not find the poet to be less than other men, and certainly the Renaissance did not. If he was a professional, there might be condescension to his social status, but in a time which deplored all professionalism whatever, this was simply a way of asserting the high value of poetry, which ought not to be compromised by trade. And a certain good nature marked even the snubbing of the professional. At any rate, no one was likely to identify the poet with the weakling. Indeed, the Renaissance ideal held poetry to be, like arms or music, one of the signs of manly competence.

-- Lionel Trilling "Art and Neurosis" Partisan Review Winter 1945

Sunday, March 20


Lilacs and Peaches ©Melody Phaneuf

Lilacs and Peaches by Melody Phaneuf

Perhaps lilac is the most abundantly feminine of flowers. It came from Eastern Europe and was imported into the West in the sixteenth century. A Slav flower.

Among the mountains here, the lilac trees flower at the time when the first cuckoos sing. Cuckoos and lilac come as a pair. The cuckoo is pure impudence. Later when he falls silent after mating, he eats grubs and caterpillars -- even those which are poisonous for other birds -- with impunity ...

The days are becoming long, and in the evening I sit in the kitchen reading without a light. On the windowsill is a jug with a flowering branch of lilac, which I cut in a friend's garden. It is pale purple, the color of a much-washed ultramarine blue shirt ... When I glanced up a moment ago, the branch of lilac in the fading light looked like a distant hill of blossoming trees merging into the dusk. It was disappearing.

The walls of the house are thick, for the winters are cold. On the window embrasure, close to the windowpanes, hangs a shaving mirror. As I look up now, I see reflected in the mirror a sprig of the lilac branch: each petal of each tiny flower is vivid, distinct, near, so near that the petals look like the pores of a skin. At first I do not understand why what I see in the mirror is so much more intense than the rest of the branch which, in fact, is nearer to me. Then I realize that what I am looking at in the mirror is the far side of the lilac, the side fully lit by the last light of the sun.

Every evening my love for you is placed like that mirror.

-- John Berger And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

Saturday, March 19

Ballade des Äusseren Lebens

Ballad of the Outer Life
Und Kinder wachsen auf mit tiefen Augen,
Die von nichts wissen, wachsen auf und sterben,
Und alle Menschen gehen ihre Wege.

And children grow with deeply wondering eyes
That know of nothing, grow a while and die,
And every one of us goes his own way.
Und süße Früchte werden aus den herben
Und fallen nachts wie tote Vögel nieder
Und liegen wenig Tage und verderben.

And bitter fruit will sweeten by and by
And like dead birds come hurtling down at night
And for a few days fester where they lie.
Und immer weht der Wind, und immer wieder
Vernehmen wir und reden viele Worte
Und spüren Lust und Müdigkeit der Gleider.

And always the wind blows, and we recite
And hear again the phrases thin with wear
And in our limbs feel languour or delight.
Und Straßen laufen durch das Gras, und Orte
Sind da und dort, voll Fackeln, Bäumen, Teichen,
Und drohende, und totenhafte verdorrte...

And roads run through the grass, and here and there
Are places full of lights and pools and trees,
And some are threatening, some are cold and bare ...
Wozu sind diese aufgebaut? und gleichen
Einander nie? und sind unzählig viele?
Was wechselt Lachen, Weinen und Erbleichen?

To what end were they built? With differences
No less innumerable than their names?
Why laughter now, now weeping or disease?
Was frommt das alles uns und diese Spiele,
Die wir doch groß und ewig einsam sind
Und wandernd nimmer suchen irgend Ziele?

What does it profit us, and all these games,
Who, great and lonely ever shall be so
And though we always wander seek no aims?
Was frommts, dergleichen viel gesehen haben?
Und dennoch sagt der viel, der "Abend" sagt,
Ein Wort, daraus Tiefsinn und Trauer rinnt

To see such things do travelers leave their homes?
Yet he says much who utters "evening,"
A word from which grave thought and sadness flow
Wie schwerer Honig aus dem hohlen Waben.

Like rich dark honey from the hollow combs.
-- Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Translated by Michael Hamburger

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Michael Hamburger

Friday, March 18

radio on

Initially it was relatively easy for artists to simply walk in the back door and onto the airwaves of public radio unobstructed. For a brief time they traversed unmonitored airwaves like guerillas in the night, beaming into automobiles across the urban sprawl. And they developed an audience, an odd cross-section of the populace scanning the broadcast band for a signal amongst the babble in Babel.

-- Jacki Apple "New American Radio and Radio Art"

Will we someday look back on blogs this way?

New American Radio



We reserve a whole type of eating experience for "out of doors," where for once we eat seated on the ground. We are very self-conscious about picnics, and the freedom we grant ourselves to lounge about on a blanket eating cold food with our hands. We travel long distances and put up with a thousand risks and inconveniences to reach this state ... People often think that "there is nothing like the out of doors" for lending one an appetite. Fresh air and natural beauty, adventure, no cooking, and no tables and chairs -- a good picnic is a thrilling reversal of normal rules ... The general feeling of relief from normal constraints might even lead to the kind of liberty depicted in Manet's painting Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, a faint and distant echo of the shocking behaviour of ancient Greek Bacchanals, who escaped the constraints of city living by going wild in the woods.

-- Margaret Visser The Rituals of Dinner

Thursday, March 17


In the dark pine-wood
I would we lay,
In deep cool shadow
At noon of day.

How sweet to lie there,
Sweet to kiss,
Where the great pine-forest
Enaisled is!

Thy kiss descending
Sweeter were
With a soft tumult
Of thy hair.

O unto the pine-wood
At noon of day
Come with me now,
Sweet love, away.

--James Joyce Chamber Music

ever changing

I discovered the potential of sour milk by accident. It was at a special period in my life, when I was married in Iceland, -- that I sneaked out at night to draw what you might call "dirty pictures." I was very ashamed of this bent and to destroy these pictures I once poured sour milk over them. Then I noticed that they became very beautiful. Subsequently I always pour sour milk over picture that weren't beautiful or didn't work out. Sour milk is like landscape, ever changing. Works of art should be like that -- they should change like man himself, grow old and die.

-- Dieter Roth Dieter Roth

Roth Time at Moma

Wednesday, March 16

Sounds of Lamination

Lamination Rituals - Recordings

a kiss

Ah, hush!

A kiss, when all is said, is -- what?
A compact sealed, a promise carried out.
An oath accomplished and a vow confirmed.
The rosy dot upon the "i" in "loving."
A secret for no ear, but for the lips.
The velvet humming of an amorous bee:
The endless moment of infinity.
The heart's communion cup that tastes of flowers.
The breathing in a little of the soul
When the pure spirit rises to the lips.

Ah, hush.

-- Edward Rostand Cyrano de Bergerac
Translated by Louis Untermeyer

Tuesday, March 15


Having misunderstood soul in this fashion (just as we often misunderstand God) we become disappointed when we cannot find it and dismiss it an illusion, another fraud perpetrated by religion. But soul is not a thing; it is a dimension of depth in a thing. Like justness in a judge's decision, or beauty in a painting, soul is a quality of absoluteness in something relative ...understood profoundly, people are connected to the holiness of the world in such a way that they reveal a dimension of holiness in themselves, a dimension of depth that is absolute.

-- Barbara Sproul Primal Myths

Monday, March 14

Moving Water

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river
moving in you, a joy.

When actions come from another section, the feeling
disappears. Don't let

others lead you. They may be blind or, worse, vultures.
Reach for the rope

of God. And what is that? Putting aside self-will.
Because of willfulness

people sit in jail, the trapped bird's wings are tied,
fish sizzle in the the skillet.

The anger of police is willfulness. You've seen a magistrate
inflict visible punishment. Now

see the invisible. If you could leave your selfishness, you
would see how you've

been torturing your soul. We are born and live inside
black water in a well.

How could we know what an open field of sunlight is? Don't
insist on going where

you think you want to go. Ask the way to the spring. Your
living pieces will form

a harmony. There is a moving palace that floats in the air
with balconies and clear

water flowing through, infinity everywhere, yet contained
under a single tent.

-- Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Sunday, March 13

one big soul

"No," she said. "No. When I was a little girl I use' ta sing. Folks roun' about use' ta say I sung as nice as Jenny Lind. Folks use' ta come an' listen when I sung. An'-- when they stood--an' me a-singin', why, me an' them was together more'n you could ever know. I was thankful. There ain't so many folks can feel so full up, so close, an' them folks standin' there an' me a-singin'. Thought maybe I'd sing in theaters, but I never done it. An' I'm glad. They wasn't nothin' got in between me an' them. An'--that's why I wanted you to pray. I wanted to feel that clostness, oncet more. It's the same thing, singin' an' prayin', jus' the same thing. I wisht you would a-heerd me sing."

And perhaps a man brought out his guitar to the front of his tent. And he sat on a box to play, and everyone in the camp moved slowly in toward him, drawn in toward him. Many men can chord a guitar, but perhaps this man was a picker. There you have something -- the deep chords beating, beating, while the melody runs on the strings like little footsteps. Heavy hard fingers marching on the frets. The man played and the people moved slowly in on him until the circle was closed and tight, and then he sang "Ten-Cent Cotton and Forty-Cent Meat." And the circle sang softly with him. And he sang "Why Do You Cut Your Hair, Girls?" And the circle sang. He wailed the song, "I'm Leaving Old Texas," that eerie song that was sung before the Spaniards came, only the words were Indian then.

And now the group was welded to one thing, one unit so that in the dark the eyes of the people were inward, and their minds played in other times, and their sadness was like rest, like sleep. He sang the "McAlester Bues" and then, to make up for it to the older people, he sang "Jesus Calls Me to His Side." The children drowsed with the music and went into the tents to sleep, and the singing came into their dreams.

And after a while the man with the guitar stood up and yawned. Good night, folks, he said.

And they murmured, Good night to you.

-- John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath

Orphic rites

We are all aware that most of life escapes our senses: a most powerful explanation of the various arts is that they talk of patterns which we can only begin to recognize when they manifest themselves as rhythms or shapes ... during the war the romantic theatre, the theatre of colours and sounds, of music and movement, came like water to the thirst of dry lives. At that time, it was called escape and yet the word was only partially accurate. It was an escape, but also a reminder: a sparrow in a prison cell. When the war was over, the theatre again strove even more vigorously to find the same values ... it was the theatre of a battered Europe that seemed to share one aim -- a reaching back towards a memory of lost grace.

Walking along the Reeperbahn in Hamburg on an afternoon in 1946, whilst a damp dispiriting grey mist whirled round the desperate mutilated tarts, some on crutches, noses mauve, cheeks hollow, I saw a crowd of children pushing excitedly into a night club door. I followed them. On the stage was a bright blue sky. Two seedy, spangled clowns sat on a painted cloud on their way to visit the Queen of Heaven. 'What shall we ask her for?' said one. 'Dinner,' said the other and the children screamed approval. 'What shall we have for dinner?' 'Schinken, leberwurst ...' the clown began to list all the unobtainable foods and the squeals of excitement were gradually replaced by a hush -- a hush that settled into a deep and true theatrical silence. An image was being made real, in answer to the need for something that was not there.

-- Peter Brook The Empty Space

Saturday, March 12

How to Meditate

Jack Kerouac, ©1997 Burt Goldblatt
— lights out —
fall, hands a-clasped, into instantaneous
ecstasy like a shot of heroin or morphine,
the gland inside of my brain discharging
the good glad fluid (Holy Fluid) as
I hap-down and hold all my body parts
down to a deadstop trance -- Healing
all my sicknesses — erasing all — not
even the shred of a "I-hope-you" or a
Loony Balloon left in it, but the mind
blank, serene, thoughtless. When a thought
comes a-springing from afar with its held-
forth figure of image, you spoof it out,
you spuff it off, you fake it, and
it fades, and thought never comes — and
with joy you realize for the first time
"Thinking's just like not thinking —
So I dont have to think

-- Jack Kerouac, b. 12 March 1922

"Come back and tell me in a hundred years," Kerouac commanded — his koan.

"What was the face you had before you were born?"

— that question was always at the heart of Beat poetry. It could be called the "Golden Ash" school, as Kerouac qualified existence. Thus Beat: "a dream already ended ... " Thus beatific, "the Golden Ash" of dream.

-- Allen Ginsberg, Introduction Pomes All Sizes


What land, what Eldorado, what Eden flames with this wild brilliance, these floods of light refracted by milky clouds, flecked with fiery red and slashed with violet, like the precious depths of opal?

-- Joris-Karl Huysmans (1889), "Turner and Goya" in Certains

Friday, March 11


Once caught, a human male is studied by the huntress as thoroughly as if he were a diamond. She looks at his ear lobes and his fingernails after he has eaten of rare beef, and if the former are plump and ruddy, and the latter rosy pink, she knows his glands to be both satisfied and active. She analyzes his motor reflexes after he has downed a fair portion of jugged venison, and if instead of showing a pleasurable skittishness he yawns and puffs and blinks, she nevermore serves that gamy dish. She notes coldly, calculatingly, his reactions to wine and ale and heady spirits, as well as to fruits, eggs, cucumbers, and such; she learns his dietetic tolerance, in short, and his rate of metabolism, and his tendencies toward gastric as well as emotional indigestion. And all this happens whether she be a designing farm girl in Arkansas or a slim worldly beauty on the Cap d'Antibes.

-- M.F.K. Fisher An Alphabet for Gourmets

Thursday, March 10


He went on to explain how each totemic ancestor, while travelling through the country, was thought to have scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of his footprints, and how these Dreaming-tracks lay over the land as "ways" of communication between the most far-flung tribes.

"A song," he said, "was both map and direction-finder. Providing you knew the song, you could always find your way across country."

"And would a man on 'Walkabout' always be travelling down one of the Songlines?"

"In the old days, yes," he agreed. "Nowadays, they go by train or car."

"Suppose the man strayed from his Songline?"

"He was trespassing. He might get speared for it."

"But as long as he stuck to the track, he'd always find people who shared his Dreaming? Who were, in fact, his brothers?"


"From whom he could expect hospitality?"

"And vice versa."

In theory, at least, the whole of Australia could be read as a musical score. There was hardly a rock or creek in the country that could not or had not been sung.

-- Bruce Chatwin The Songlines

Peter Lindberg discusses The Songlines


For God's sake, please give it up. Fear it no less than the sensual passions, because it, too, may take up all your time and deprive you of your health, peace of mind and happiness in life.

-- Wolfgang Bolyai (1775-1856) to his son Janos Bolyai regarding the study of hyperbolic geometry, quoted in Cabinet

Wednesday, March 9

the same

Love lays siege to each being and seeks to discover an opening, a path leading into the heart, by means of which Love can permeate everywhere. The difference between the sinner and the saint is that the sinner closes his heart to Love while the saint opens himself to this same Love. In both cases the Love is the same and the pressure is the same.

-- Lev Gillet The Burning Bush


I believe that people need and want more than fashion and titillation. We will always have the need to recognize mystery, to take time to experience and express it, to discover ideas of beauty. Mystery involves an element of "not knowing," and may be frightening, but not only in the old expressionist way, Beauty, in art and life, is not necessarily pretty.

-- Bruce Adolphe Of Mozart, Parrots and Cherry Blossoms in the Wind

Tuesday, March 8


If you should ask me why I dwell among green mountains,
I should laugh silently; my soul is serene.
The peach blossom follows the moving water;
There is another heaven and earth beyond the world of men.

-- Li Po
Translated by Robert Payne

Monday, March 7

dinner for two


Buddy-boy is bending over a hot stove, preparing an Italian dinner. He takes a saucepan of spaghetti off the fire, and picking up the tennis racquet with the other hand, pours the spaghetti on top of the racquet strings. Then he turns on the faucet, runs water over the spaghetti. With the combined technique of Brillat-Savarin and Pancho Gonzales, he gently agitates the racquet, letting the water drain off the spaghetti. As he works, he hums a theme from Tchaikovsky's Italian Capriccio.

Fran walks in, still in her robe.

Are we dressing for dinner?

No – just come as you are.

(watching him)
Say, you're pretty good with that racquet.

You ought to see my backhand.
(dumping spaghetti into platter)
And wait till I serve the meatballs.

Shall I light the candles?

It's a must – gracious-living-wise.

As Fran starts into the living room, Bud begins to ladle meat sauce onto the spaghetti, humming operatically.

In the living room, the small table has been set for two, and prominent on it is the champagne bottle that Mr Kirkeby left behind, still in its cardboard bucket, but freshly iced. As Fran lights the candles, she notices the napkins on the table, peels a price tag off the corner of one of them.

I see you bought some napkins.

Might as well go all the way.

He carries the platter of spaghetti and meat sauce in from the kitchen, sets it on the table, sprinkles some cheese on it. Then he crosses to the coffee table, where a full martini pitcher stands in readiness, fills a couple of glasses. Fran seats herself at the table.

You know, I used to live like Robinson Crusoe – shipwrecked among eight million people. Then one day I saw a footprint in the sand – and there you were –
(hands her martini)
It's a wonderful thing – dinner for two.

You usually eat alone?

Oh, no. Sometimes I have dinner with Ed Sullivan, sometimes with Dinah Shore or Perry Como – the other night I had dinner with Mae West – of course, she was much younger then.

-- Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond The Apartment

Thursday, March 3


Even as a boy I liked to wander along deep paths in the fields, especially along those which — carved into the terrain — followed its rolling waves. Once, unobserved, I stood at the edge of a small cherry orchard in which my uncle was cultivating trees. The image of a solitary orchard keeper, whose hands lovingly touch small branches as if they're conversing together, the image of an individual and nature at the moment they're mutually sharing secrets, has always stayed with me, as has the image of fields of rye and sugar beets, and childish curiosity about what might be happening in the middle of a hidden world with its little paths and animal burrows. Perhaps it was this curiosity that later kept urging me to think about a plan for suspended walkways in the crowns of trees ... In other words, I was fascinated by any defined space, its beautiful sensuousness.

And then I came to the realization that space could be captured on drawing paper; not only the space that I could see but also space that I imagined. And the hardest lesson of all: it's possible to calculate how to make a bridge that won't collapse, but it's impossible to calculate how to make a thing beautiful.

-- Josef Svoboda The Secret of Theatrical Space
Translated by J.M. Burian


At the moment, I am busy with blossoming fruit trees; pink peach blossom, white and yellow pear blossom. I don't keep to any one technique. I dab the colour irregularly on the canvas and leave it at that. Here lumps of thick paint, there bits of canvas left uncovered, elsewhere portions left quite unfinished, new beginnings, coarsenesses: but anyway the result, it seems to me, is alarming and provocative enough to disturb those people who have fixed preconceived ideas about technique ... While working directly on the spot all the time, I try to secure the essential in the drawing -- then I go for the spaces, bounded by contours, either expressed or not, but felt at all events: these I fill with tones equally simplified, so that all that is going to be soil partakes of the same purplish tone, the whole of the sky has a blueish hue and the greens are either definitely blue-greens or yellow-greens, purposely exaggerating in this case the yellow or blue qualities.

Anyway, my dear old friend, there's no attempt at perspective.

-- Vincent Van Gogh Letter to Emile Bernard Early April 1888
Translated by Douglas Lord

Tuesday, March 1


I was knocked over with a rush of relief and thankfulness at the obvious clarity of the figures, the clarity and fluidity of shape and line, the design of the monumental bodies composed into the rock shape and landscape, figure, rock, and tree. And the sweep of bare rock sloping away on the other side of the hollow, where you can go back and see different aspects of the figures ... I don't know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination ... It says everything; it needs nothing.

-- Thomas Merton The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton