June 07, 2007
Bernard Cooper On Sighing
Bernard Cooper on The Fine Art of Sighing. Excerpt below:
"You feel a gradual welling up of pleasure, or boredom, or melancholy. Whatever the emotion, it's more abundant than you ever dreamed. You can no more contain it than your hands can cup a lake. And so you surrender and suck the air. Your esophagus opens, diaphragm expands. Poised at the crest of an exhalation, your body is about to be unburdened, second by second, cell by cell. A kettle hisses. A balloon deflates. Your shoulders fall like two ripe pears, muscles slack at last.
My mother stared out the kitchen window, ashes from her cigarette dribbling into the sink. She'd turned her back on the rest of the house, guarding her own solitude. I'd tiptoe across the lino-leum and make my lunch without making a sound. Sometimes I saw her back expand, then heard her let loose one plummeting note, a sigh so long and weary it might have been her last. Beyond our backyard, above telephone poles and apartment buildings, rose the brown horizon of the city; across it glided an occasional bird, or the blimp that advertised Goodyear tires. She might have been drifting into the distance, or lamenting her separation from it. She might have been wishing she were somewhere else, or wishing she could be happy where she was, a middle-aged housewife dreaming at her sink.
My father's sighs were more melodic. What began as a somber sigh could abruptly change pitch, turn gusty and loose, and suggest by its very transformation that what begins in sorrow might end in relief. He could prolong the rounded vowel of OY, or let it ricochet like a echo, as if he were shouting in a tunnel or a cave. Where my mother sighed from ineffable sadness, my father sighed at simple things: the coldness of a drink, the softness of a pillow, or an itch that my mother, following the frantic map of his words, finally found on his back and scratched."
Ah yes, on the fine art of sighing. His writing brings it all together and then some.
May 17, 2007
Launch of Canteen Magazine
I attended the launch party for Canteen Magazine this week at San Francisco's Foreign Cinema on Mission Street. Canteen is a new literary magazine that comes with instructions, including insight into why it’s easier to earn money teaching creative writing than practicing it.
Canteen aims to engage readers with both the arts and the creative process. In their inaugural issue (below), Andrew Sean Greer confesses to his early novels, the first written at age 10; Po Bronson examines a suicide attempt by a reader; Julie Orringer and Ryan Harty make couple’s poetry from a kit; and Dennis Leary pulls off his chef’s jacket to design restaurants of the future.
Lack of Imagination
May 16, 2007
By Imagination We Live
I blogged this very quote a couple of years ago. It's time to post it again.
"By logic and reason we die hourly; by imagination we live."
-- W. B. Yeats
May 15, 2007
How Much Does a Man Live, After All?
How much does a man live, after all?
Does he live a thousand days, or one only?
For a week, or for several centuries?
How long does a man spend dying?
What does it mean to say "for ever?"
April 24, 2007
On Science & Spirituality
"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."
April 06, 2007
A Glimpse of What We Might Be, Our Best Selves
The below excerpt was taken from McEwan's Saturday which I wrote about earlier this week in more detail. His passage that articulates the power of those rare moments in music where you are taken to another dimension, hoping never to be waken, was so powerful that I have to repeat it here. It has been on my mind all week.
"He walks into the middle of the dark auditorium, towards the great engine of sound. He lets it engulf him. There are these rare moments when musicians together touch something sweeter than they've ever found before in rehearsals or performance, beyond the merely collaborative and technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything you have to others, but lose nothing of yourself.
Out in the real world, there exist detailed plans, visionary projects for peaceable realms, all conflicts resolved, happiness for everyone, for ever -- mirages for the workers' paradise, the ideal Islamic state. But only in music, and only on rare occasions, does the curtain actually lift on this dream of community, and it's tantalisingly conjured, before fading away with the last notes."
March 30, 2007
Tribute to Art Buchwald
How did I miss Art Buchwald's death? Can you say information overload? And it just seems to be getting worse. Things like Twitter (and that was my point of my blog post) only add to the fire. Aggregators help but they're not 'narrowly defined' enough and search isn't the method I want to use for things like this.
I feel like I'm continually swimming in a sea of information and it is increasingly harder to sift through what I really want to know about in the moment -- for processing then and there and what I want to process later.
And so, Art Buchwald died two months ago and I missed it. I first saw Art at some cocktail gathering in New York (can't recall the month or year) and then later had an opportunity to meet and talk to him at great length in 2002.
Perhaps I was so endeared to him because his personality reminded me of my grandfather in some ways. Perhaps because I believe everyone should have grandparents, even if they have passed. Perhaps because we shared a motherless life start. Perhaps just because he was so funny, wise, interesting and engaging. And on top of it all, a great writer.
As a prize-winning US writer, who was among the best loved and most widely read columnists of his age, he is not even listed in Wikipedia. (perhaps someone from the iPod and Wiki generation forgot to add him? or never knew who he was? or that he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1982?)
According to the BBC, his column "appeared in more than 500 newspapers in the US and abroad. He was known for his wit, which was sharp but never cruel, and which aimed to deflate the rich and powerful. Richard Nixon was a favorite target, with Buchwald saying he worshipped "the very quicksand he walked on."
Thanks for the warm memory I have of you Art if you're listening from Heaven, which you traveled to from Washington Dulles on Virgin was it not? You should have met my grandfather -- perhaps you now can. Hats off to your amazing humor, writing, candor and a helluva saucy personality so many of us loved.
Update from someone who just commented to this post and sent along a fabulous video link that the New York Times ran about his death.
Update 2: Strange that when I wrote this, I tried Art Buchwald several times in wikipedia and nothing came up for him. Here's the link - under Arthur Buckwald; it was in fact created in 2004. He will not be forgotten.
March 25, 2007
Designing the Future
Start thinking creatively and constructively. You can analyze the past, but you have to design the future.
--Edward de Bono
It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.
When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.