Friday, July 31, 2009
Contrast Ed's reporting with the Guardian's. Easy to see which is better.
He listened in silence
As though for someone,
Or only a voice
It would sound, he thought,
Like the water in the stream
At the foot of the hill
Below the house, echoing
In daytime the plangent
Antiphony of sunlight and trees
And at night the promissory
Ground of darkness.
He listened and waited,
Season upon season,
And came to know
Waiting and listening
You can hear me read this poem in the Podcast block to the right.
Thanks also to Wil D and PoetGrrrl for their fine work in covering The Gathering. The did it on short notice and did themselves proud.
The blog will be mostly out of commission today as Laura Mikowychok will be by shortly to continue aiding me in souping it up. More about that later.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
"I'm Italian, and in Italy and France we have the same approach to cookbooks – they take a lot of things for granted because people learn to cook at home ... "
Well, where the hell do the English learn to cook? I learned mostly from my mother and grandmother.
It would have been nice if this article had included a recipe - or some sample of what's in the book.
I have a number of those wonderful David Munroe recordings.
Well, we are skeptical of today's weather forecast, but scads of people seem to think we can predict what the long-term trends in climate are, even though climate is as complex and dynamical system as there is.I'm always amazed why we (humans) think that we can predict to any degree of accuracy what's going to happen tomorrow. We seem to accept the fact that we can't predict the weather very well but sure believe that the stock market will make a comeback ...
And here's a classic observation:
To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures, evoke
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm
And tragedy from fingers; release omens
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable
With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams
Or barbituric acids, or dissect
The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors—
To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual
Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:
And always will be, some of them especially
When there is distress of nations and perplexity
Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road.
Oh, and here's what a physician thinks of one reform idea: Stop Paying the Crooks.
What is it with these so-called policy gurus? Knowing little or nothing about how health care really works, they haul out the bromides and throw around statistics based on taking small numbers and projecting them across large populations, to come up with scary percentages which then echo around the web and inside the hollow heads of the parrots in media newsrooms. Oh, and our politicians then use this crapola to formulate policies, which always end up having massive unintended consequences and which never achieve the results promised.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I think this is absolutely on target. I remember when I was an undergraduate (more than four decades ago) reading an article in MLA Journal about Blake's The Marriage of Heven and Hell that was far and away more difficult to parse than Blake himself. Of course, the MLA Journal has long specialized in publishing crap.
See also Diminishing Returns in Humanities Research.
[Cheever] spent most of his time in group therapy correcting his counsellor’s grammar. “Displaying much grandiosity and pride,” they wrote in their notes. “Very impressed with self.” Eventually he fell silent. Four weeks later he emerged, shaky, fragile and subdued. “Listen, Truman,” he told Truman Capote. “It’s the most terrible, glum place you can conceivably imagine. It’s really really, really grim. But I did come out of there sober.”
Gee, the place I went to was pretty pleasant, actually. What Don Newlove says is right on the money (and Those Drinking Days is probably the best book on the subject):
First you hang on to all your old romances about your illness, then you suck your old grandiosity for every drop that’s still in it, you vigorously emphasise your uniqueness among the clods who might be recovering with you, and then you defend to the death your right to self-destruction…Starting afresh meant that a massive part of his work so far was self-pity and breast-beating. That was the last mask he couldn’t rip off. It was like tearing the beard from his cheeks.The copyeditor in me compels me to point out that the palpitations associated with liver disease are heart palpitations not liver palpitations. You can palpate the liver, though that is something quite different. The liver does not palpitate.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
In this connection, here is something for Sam Harris, who is so concerned about scientific illiteracy: Resisting climate hysteria.
The fact that the developed world went into hysterics over changes in global mean temperature anomaly of a few tenths of a degree will astound future generations. Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public ...
This has much to say, actually, about what we might call the decline in standards of discourse.
See also Getting a grip on Greenland's future.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Our authority for this is Sam Harris, whose scientific credentials and achievements are ... I forget. Oh, he doesn't have any.There is an epidemic of scientific ignorance in the United States. This isn’t surprising, as very few scientific truths are self-evident, and many are counterintuitive.
I will have to think about this (we're still on the road).
By the way, while on vacation I read Mark Vernon's After Atheism. Highly recommended.
"Since the Globe cannot reconfigure American university theaters to resemble its space here, Mr. Dromgoole said he planned to make small adjustments. The lights will remain on in the theater, to try to mimic the outdoor feel of the Globe, and characters will talk directly to audience members (or look at them as they talk to other characters) in the spirit of 'the democratic shared space and the talk-back quality that was a part of Shakespeare’s original Globe productions,' he said."
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
(A question: is there something of Rousseau's Confessions in Coetzee's Youth?)
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Jason began his life on the west end of Scranton. He rose to critical acclaim through the writing of play That Championship Season and the Priest in the Exorcist. His time in the spot light was brief and his downward spiral to obscurity was pitiless to his artist’s soul. He died as he lived his last years, sitting in a pub. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Miller_(playwright)
The film Rebecca has crafted is unflinching but gentle. She uses the controversy over a public sculpture in his memory as a vehicle to transport us through the poignant ironies of his life and the community he sprang from.
His meteoric rise was for a play written about men nostalgic for their brief time of glory. In retrospect his life’s experience followed the same path. Watching the film I wondered if at the end of his life he saw that connection too. Furthermore, his play can also be seen as a metaphor for Scranton herself – bursting forth from the coal industry then withering away to a shell of its former brilliance.
While this might sound like a depressing thing to watch, I was surprised and delighted by how much humor was in the film. I laughed out loud quite a few times. My favorite scene was of a young man aptly synthesizing why Scranton was the place Jason belonged while getting an Exorcist Tattoo.
Another thing that I appreciated about the film was how she allowed the characters of those on camera reveal themselves to the viewer. Seemingly without prejudice or value judgement the sentiments and pickadillos of the people featured in the movie are captured in equal measure.
She sets a tone that is warm but not smaltzy. She refrains from cynicism, sarcasm or any other ism that would browbeat the subject. For that I say - Bravo!
Ultimately she casts a portrait of a man and a city that are down on their luck, but still fiercely beautiful and worthy of our affection. Thank you Rebecca!
And so The Gathering comes to a close for another year – after a scrumptious brunch at the Hull Family farm. I know we were all heartened to hear that next year’s theme and lecturers are already in the works – "Chaos and Creativity – Where the Strange Crossroads Lie." Featured guestspeakers are as of now: Jennifer Armstrong, Gail Carson-Levine, Dara Sobo, and Billy Collins. Mark your calendars –July 15-18 2010.
And so, sitting in the shade in this bucolic setting, I am reluctant to rise to my feet and return to the spinning vortex that I call my life. But this weekend I was reminded by Salman Rushdie that no one’s life is ordinary. So away I go to embrace my story more fully. See you next year!
There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man's needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means.- Albert Jay Nock
Saturday, July 18, 2009
During the 1970's, 1.7 million of the Khmer people died under the oppression of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. She lost 20 relatives - including her father, mother and 2 siblings.
At 10 years old she was transported to Vermont and began a new chapter of her life. She grew up, went to college and began working to better the condition of her fellow Khmer countrymen. But how to make people listen? How to make things happen? She knew she must bring people into her story.
She asked herself 3 key questions:
1. How to access the heart of her story?
2. How to get people to care about her story?
3. How to get people to identify themselves within the story?
She found her answers -
1. At the heart of it all was a love story in the time of war, the kind of love that serves to sustain a family during the most desperate of times.
2. To get people to care, touch the central places in all of our hearts - the human need for love, familial connection, hope and compassion.
3. Through the voice of a vulnerable child, the reader connects with their own vulnerability and joins her on the journey.
And she hopes that once she has her readers walking beside her, her cause will become theirs.
Her 3 key questions are a gift to anyone seeking to use words as a means for navigating the human heart’s avenues.
Beyond a pearl of literary wisdom, she went on to provide us the guideposts for the most perilous terrains of the human heart - the pathways marred by grief, loss and terror.
"Although I am strong outside, being strong has taken a lot of will and energy. Inside me was like shattered pieces of glass. Each day I would restore myself, gluing the pieces back in place. One day recently (while attending the Khmer Rouge tribunals in Cambodia) I suddenly felt that I was not going to shatter anymore. I was strong with less force and effort. Life is light now. The glue finally took hold.”
So she stands before us tonight as proof. It is possible, even after unthinkable catastrophe to heal, repairing oneself one bit at a time, over and over until eventually, the mending takes hold.
Please go to her website and learn more about her story and also opportunities to participate in helping others in a meaningful way.
The two authors found common ground quickly as they talked about the shared experience of following David Sedaris on book tour. From there they moved on to a discussion of their mutual interest in The Wizard of Oz and it was determined that "grown-ups are not to be relied on." We also learned that if Captain Hook and The Wicked Witch of the West were to marry and have twins, they would be named Hookums and Snookums.
It sounds more surreal than it actually was (albeit not by much), but I think this gives you a taste of just how far ranging and fantastic the conversation was. Other touchpoints included:
- "The Hollywood Ending" and how it nearly destroyed the film of The Wizard of Oz
- The value, for authors (and, presumably, creative folk of all stripes), of using different creative media to rest the writing part of your brain while exercising other mental faculties
- How to recreate your creative "comfort zone" while traveling. (Carry a few special items with you and consistently arrange them around your work space.)
- The remarkable support Mr. Rushdie received during the years he was under Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, as people around the world wore "I am Salman Rushdie" buttons. Mr. Rushdie joked that he was able to stay hidden by wearing one of these buttons himself. (Just as an aside, I think it's important to note that Mr. Rushdie was extraordinarily patient with us in revisiting this subject. Last night he said, "If it hadn't been not at all funny, it would have been quite funny," and then addressed the topic with great humor. Today, when asked whether he would ever write a memoir about the episode, he gave us more insight into his wholly understandable desire to move past these unpleasant memories, even as he acknowledged the effects the notoriety has had upon his career. I got the sense that he never wanted to be the "poster child" for freedom of speech, but that he won't back down from the responsibility that has been thrust upon him, simply because he believes in free speech's crucial importance to the wellbeing of human civilization. As for the memoir, he said that he can foresee writing it, but that he has yet to discover the right way to make the story artistically interesting to himself.)
Note: I've heard through the grapevine that many of you would like to see images from The Gathering. It's my understanding that the web site will soon be updated with this content, and when it is I'll provide a link along with one of my posts.
What I encountered was a funny, articulate man capable of generosity to his mortal foes and deprecation of his self.
After he questioned the wisdom of letting authors such as himself speak out loud to a large audience, he challenged the concept that any life is ordinary. Behind the door of our "fine" lives and families, we all know both profound wonders and horrors. We all have a story and the right to give our stories voice.
One of the chief roles of the novel during the 18th Century was to be a beacon to society - informing about the human condition, promoting social change. He offered the example of Dickens’s Nicholas Nickelby and its impact on the reform of the deplorable conditions of poor children in England.
While some might suggest that the novel as literary form has grown less relevant as a social catalyst, he suggests the opposite. In the climate of today when truth is so imperiled by mass media, political talking heads and the general public's lack of focused discernment, it is as important to justice as ever. For it is one of the few bastions left for the detailed exploration of the truths those in powerful positions would prefer is left neglected.
Sir Rushdie knows too well that the tender care of truth does not come without high costs - both to the protagonists of stories and the artists that craft them. He deftly spoke of how character and it's juxtaposition against random events seals all our fates whether we are a figure in a story or the creator of the story.
Using the term "existential crime," he warned of the tyranny that comes when those in power restrain others from following the uniquely human impulse to tell stories. After all, we are the only storytelling animals; it is part of the fabric of what makes us human.
Citing the scene in Saul Bellow's The Dean's December an incessantly barking dog eloquently demands "For God's sake, open the Universe a little more!" Sir Rushdie asserts that it is the artist's weighty task to be the expander of the Universe - an effort not esteemed by the powers that be.
All of this was great stuff, but what I found most remarkable about the evening and about the character of this man was his treatment of the whole flap over Satanic Verses. Anticipating the curiosity around that time of his life, he raised the topic himself. He showed a gentle humor around his detractors. He speaks of the time when a Pakistani film depicting him as a villain was barred from release in the UK, he advocated against its censorship. Practicing his faith in the belief that the power of transparency allows for truth to win out and crappy movies to lose money at the box office. But when pressed during Q&A on why he didn't self censor to avoid the problem, his equanimity dropped and he briskly pointed out that crimes against humanity are committed by those holding guns not those holding pens.
Tonight I heard a man of great character speak and I believe my art and my life will be the better for it.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Today's journey started with poetry reading, and one poem in particular, "Eat Dirt" by Constance Garcia Barrio provided an outstanding perspective on the richness of dirt, while starting our metaphysical travels in a suitably grounded way (if you'll excuse the pun).
After the poetry, Nancy Willard gave the first lecture, entitled "The Secret Life of Doors." My fellow blogger from the event has already described the lecture in a previous post, so I'll just mention how impressed I was by Nancy's ability to turn very big ideas into very accessible words and phrases. She truly has a gift for language.
A panel discussion followed the first lecture, and as a group we explored the notions of time, place and story in relation to music and film. Moderated by Erika Funke, this freewheeling discussion ranged from concepts of the nature of creativity to the techniques and processes of creative expression.
This was followed by lunch, which lets me offer a quick word about meals at The Gathering. Not only is the food excellent, but by sitting down at meal time with authors, speakers, and fellow participants, you really gain an appreciation of the informal -- and yet always informative -- nature of this event.
The afternoon lecture by Joanna Rudge Long tackled the synthesis of our theme with books by Charles Seife, T.S. Eliot, Lewis Carrol and Peter Sis. No small task, but Joanna, ably assisted by her husband Norwood, rose to the challenge with aplomb. So, now I know how advanced cosmology, beginnings and endings, dreams, Galileo (to gather just a few of the strands of this far-ranging lecture) contribute to the cycles of creativity and existence.
Which brings us to tonight's appearance by Salman Rushdie. I think we're all well prepared to hear his thoughts about Time, Place and Story in relation to his own special brand of fiction -- I'll let you know how it goes.
The morning program brought us the sensibilities of Nancy Willard on a quest for adventure summoning the magical portals we have all been promised via fairy tales and fantasy fiction.
As she described her own yearning for something she could not have as a child - an opening to somewhere radically different, a place where magic resides. I felt like she was talking to me. Yes! I thought. I was always aggrieved that I did not find Lucy's wardrobe, Alice's Rabbit Hole, Coraline's door to no where.
Still I am not 100% convinced they do not exist in our physical realm, doesn't physics offer us black holes and worm holes? Surely there must then be that passage in a tree or old building waiting for us all if only we have the wisdom and courage to find it and walk through?
I am persuaded that that magic door is not outside of us, it is our own openness to conjure the journey of creation - a story, an artwork, an experience.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Thanks to the inventive mind of Gregory Maguire, the answer to this question is not "Umm, I'll just go and get you a doctor now, OK?" Instead, not-so-coincidentally, the answer is "Time, Place and Story," which happens to be the theme for The Gathering this year.
Greg kicked off this year's event with a very funny and entertaining lecture entitled "Backyard Babylon." In addition to bees and Dvorak, it also brought together elements from the work of each of this year's featured authors, Greg's own writing, autobiographical anecdotes, and numerous other seemingly disparate topics in a highly informative thesis. While defining his views about the relationships between time, place and story, Greg also provided fascinating insights into the genesis of his Wicked Years series.
Greg's lecture was the exclamation point on a delightful opening evening that started with a meet and greet on the Keystone College campus and continued on to a convivial dinner shared by authors, guests and staff. After dinner, brief welcomes and introductions were followed by the invocation, highlighted by a lovely Hindu dance performed by Sujata Nair Mulloth.
All in all, it was a fantastic start to a highly-anticipated weekend. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Keystone President Boehm spoke of the college's legacy. It lives today having started as a memorial to the fallen during the Civil War. How beautiful that those who fought and died to liberate the slaves are remembered by liberating minds over 140 years later.
Gregory Macquire then took the podium and our rapt attention as well. He knitted together the theme of the Gathering - There and Back Again - Time, Place and Story into a tapestry of sage words from other accomplished authors and his own journey from childhood to parenthood. And while his prepared speech was compelling, he was especially enthralling when he answered a question about how his Book Wicked was transformed into the award winning play.
I begin to go into detail about the importance of nurturing my creative process, but they roll their eyes and ask what there is to eat. "It is OK", I say to myself, "they do not have to get it. And they will be just fine without me, just fine."
I throw my luggage in the car and drive off 10 minutes down the road. Hooray! Fending off the slings and arrows of guilt hurling children, I have arrived at the Gathering once again.
The theme this year- "There and Back Again -Time,Place and Story" already is resonating with me as I navigate the first 10 minutes of my arrival.
I think back to my uncertainty in the first minutes of the Gathering last year and how this year I am transformed - striding confidently to the correct building, having parked in the most convenient lot, free of trepidation about the unknown. I immediately see the two coolest Librarians I have ever met - my suite mates from last year. I feel welcome, I feel at home.
I am simply overjoyed to be here and grateful that I have the opportunity to be part of such a special convergence on this day... in this place... a new chapter of the Gathering begins.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Early next month, Scribner, now an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is publishing a new edition of the book, what it is calling “the restored edition,” and this time it is edited by Seán Hemingway, a grandson of Hemingway and Pauline. Among the changes he has made is removing part of that final chapter from the main body of the book and placing it in an appendix, adding back passages from Hemingway’s manuscript that Seán believes paint his grandmother in a more sympathetic light."
Although this year's event is the 3rd Gathering, it will be my first. I'm really looking forward to it, especially since the featured speakers include one of my all-time literary heroes, Salman Rushdie, as well as Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked, Loung Ung, who has written a riveting autobiography about her childhood in Cambodia, and Nancy Willard, a poet and author of children's books.
I'm not really sure what to expect, though. I've never been to any kind of literary conference before, so I'm guessing I'll feel very much like a lost puppy, at least at first. But from everything I've heard, The Gathering is a very mellow and welcoming scene -- I picture it as a range of people discussing books, big thoughts and bold ideas, but without being pretentious. There are workshops as well as lectures, and apparently some really good food, too.
Whatever happens, I'll try to bring you along for the ride with posts to this blog throughout the weekend. Please be patient with me though -- in addition to this being my first literary conference, it's also my first blog. So I guess you could say that The Gathering is also about learning to exercise your creativity in new ways (well, for me, anyway). I think it's going to be a lot of fun.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Greetings from Cleveland...Mississippi. I'm attending a seminar here dedicated to a history of the blues - and blues culture - in the Delta Region. I hope to report throughout the week.
The first bit to note: It's 100 degrees. And humid.
"After leaving the Soviet Union in 1980 and being stripped of his citizenship, Mr. Aksyonov lived for more than two decades in the United States and taught Russian literature at George Mason University. He lived briefly in Biarritz, France, then spent most of his time in recent years in Moscow."
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
In case you miss the PDF link, here it is.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
What the state giveth, the state may just taketh away - when it suits the state to do so.
Those who "complain about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism" ought to actually read The Language of God.
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.
I've always admired this passage, particularly the concluding words.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Letter From the Publisher.
About ENC Press.
A Few Lessons Learned About Publishing in America.
A podcast With Olga Gardner Galvin, founder and publisher, ENC Press.
Finally, here's a bit about ENC's latest: Monkey See, by Walt Maguire.
It is a very great safeguard to learn by heart instead of writing. It is impossible for what is written not to be disclosed. That is the reason why I have never written anything about these things, and why there is not ans will not be any written work of Plato's own. What are now called his are the work of a Socrates embellished and modernized.Kathleen Raine notes somewhere that Plato also insisted that there was nothing original in his teaching, that he was simply passing on an ancient wisdom that had been handed down to him.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
At any rate, the current design is entirely Laura's doing. I was really taken with it when she sent me a picture of it Sunday night. It is is precisely what I was hoping for. You'll be hearing more about Laura here as I make progress in becoming a geratric geek.
Armstrong is not presenting a case for God in the sense most people in our idolatrous world would think of it. The ordinary man or woman in the pew or on the prayer mat probably thinks of God as a kind of large version of themselves with mysterious powers and a rather nasty temper.
I wouldn't be so fast to presume as to what the ordinary man or woman in the pew thinks. "A musicologist," Sir Thomas Beecham said, "is a man who can read music but can't hear it." The same is true of the person for whom religion is a strictly intellectual enterprise. Armstrong goes too far, it would seem to me, asserting in effect that the apophatic cancel out the kataphatic. It is true that an exclusive focus on the latter can be profoundly misleading, but someone firmly grounded in the former can make skillful use of the latter. Blackburn's is a very good review, though, which perhaps Gordon McCabe - who comments on a review of Armstrong's book here (hat tip, Dave Lull). "The Tao that can be named is not the Tao." What is so difficult about the notion that there is at the very center of being an unfathomable mystery?