Christmas 2006 photos click here.
For Photos of Andy's Honoring Gala, click here.
House full of Joel, Joel's friends Doug and Alex last night, watching 3 overtime Knicks beat the Pistons. I'm a fair-weather fan, but enjoyed that exciting forty-five minutes.
... is almost over, and we've had an incredibly packed an social couple of days. Briefly: Andy and I went to to New York for two days with Ken and Linda, saw Don Carlo at the Metropolitan Opera, ate much spent time with Ethan and his friend Vanessa. Came back and plunged into Christmas preparations, picked up Joel and Sarah at the airport, came back and did more cooking, slept a night, got up and started cooking, did gifts, had Takeshi and Chiaki and Howard, Alice and Molly for big dinner, mucho desserts (Oh dear! raspberrypie, plum torte, Junior's cheesecake brought by Takeshi and Chiaki, Andy's chocolate mousse with whipped cream-- how lovely to have them all!
Tomorrow, December 22 is the Winter Solstice, least amount of daylight of the year. I've got a depressing sonnet and a beautiful photo:
The shortest day of all is creeping near,
The spirits lag, the sun sinks, early, low.
The light is slant, strikes sidelong and slow–
The hours of lead, the darkness that we fear,
Morning light whitens trees to bone–
Do light and sky, branch, tree, and bird depend
On me? My consciousness hold off the end?
The blue silk sky has a coffin lining tone.
I woke today bereft, just wanting peace.
I once believed without me was no All,
But now I see I’m only part: my lease
Is like one twig’s, one crimson leaf in fall.
The slow return of reason: content to live
Until I’ve given that which I have to give.
I just took my mother to the plane for the next part of her winter visiting. There were enormous tremendous huge colossal lines at Newark airport for check-in-- more than I've ever seen, and a real reminder that this is a terrible time to be traveling. Much worse than even yesterday when Joel and Sarah flew to Florida to see her family.
We walked about a quarter mile--very close to that, literally, to the end of the line to check the baggage, and then I went to some official looking people and said, "My mother is 87, what can you do for her?" And they put her at the head of the Elite check-in line. I was pretty assertive, and I don't know what worked--probably her skinny little gray haired appearance. Then I stood with her on the security line and finally left her at security feeling a little bad about not getting her to the gate (which I see now is theoretically taxiing to the runway, probably in a line of 40 like Joel and Sarah's yesterday. Then, once she was on her way, I started feeling bad about jumping the line, which brought me to the thought that when pressed we always take care of our own first– this is the default setting, as it were, and probably an ethically neutral fact because it is so much at the basis of how we act. Thus, the desired attitude for us as individuals is to move as much as possible towards thinking of our own’s best interests as associated with the greater good.
At the social level, we need to work as hard as possible to create extreme fairness for the Greater Good, to make sure that line-jumping is controlled. Although I have to say that mom going to the head of the Elite line doesn't bother me all that much as I see no reason why old age shouldn't trump money, or frequent flyer miles, or whatever way you get the advantage of the short line. I’m happy to argue in favor of old age trumping money.
Meanwhile, my mother seemed to enjoy herself during her five weeks: she wrapped and decorated @ 3 dozen gifts and did the tree as well and the wreath on the door!
I often enjoy Sherry Chandler's blog. Look for the December 17 entry: it's about Christianity. Of related interest, maybe, here in Jersey is a high school student I know from when his family used to belong to our Ethical Culture Society who is embroiled (with lots of support from his father) in a struggle over a prostelytizing teacher.
Click here for latest Books for Readers newsletter on books--and reading!
December 12, 2006
I'm off shortly to do a speaking engagement with Carol at the Presidents' Council-- that's the PTA and HSA presidents. This morning I had a meeting way out in Mendham that I was almost late for because of a massive traffic jam where a tractor trailer had ended up on its side. Leaving Morris County, I ran over a squirrel: it seems like dozens of deer, squirrels, and furry things-- pets, coyotes, or raccoons--were dead on the road. I've been so busy since then with errands, doing a wash, returning a book to the library, mailing things, getting groceries-- so much today that I haven't really thought about the little ca-lun-crunch. Meanwhile, we have more budgie bonding in progress, my mother and Taxicab.
Tree shadow slices,
Black angles across sidewalks.
Sun says, “Cold! Cold! Cold!”
I am getting desensitized to all these airplane flights, at least a little and at least for other people. I know it’s about lack of control, but having Joel dart back and forth to California for job interviews and down to Florida with Sarah to visit her family and all that– I am so struck with how we don’t know what’s coming, and how hard we try to. “We” being the species here. The animals don’t know either, of course, cheerful little Taxi Cab Budgerigar and the English sparrows and the Rusty Grackle out on the feeder and the jays and the crows and the dogs and cats and deer and raccoons and ‘possums. Our enormous burden, our tragedy perhaps, is that we know. We build granaries, temples, create weapons, religions, philosophy, great gilded art works. We fill our cabinets with emergency candles and bottled water and sealed tins of rice and beans. This is all touching, sometimes stirring, and it’s all about controlling the future. It is our tragic flaw, our original sin: to be aware of the looming of the future. Oedipus has a terrible prophecy to live out; Eve eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge. I have a nice line or two from Jorge Luis Borges on this topic: click here.
December 3, 2006
The NJ Arthritis Foundation Gala last night was super-- lots of friends, lots of incredibly kind words, people who cornered me to say Andy was the one doctor they would turn to if they needed a rheumatologist, patients who bought ads, patients who sent in kind words for the souvenir program, Elliot's funny and lovely intro, Andy's voice pitched high and tremulous in his emotional state as he began speaking, but increasingly strong as he spoke of patients who inspired him. David and Ellen there, Joel and Sarah looking charming as they danced together. It was wonderful to see Andy so honored. Most of what he does is one-on-one. To see someone you know so intimately in the everyday way held up high, turned to the light, glowing.
Photo by David Weinberger. Joel and Sarah in background. Andy happy, MSW singing along with the band.
December 2, 2006
This is the night Andy get's honored as doctor-of-the-year by the Arthritis Foundation of New Jersey. He's in the bedroom working on tying the bowtie that goes with his tuxedo! His brother and sister are driving down right now with Joel, and Sarah is already here.
Yesterday, my Mom and I went into the city and met Takeshi and Chiaki for coffee at Rafaella's on Ninth Avenue--I think this is the same place we went to back on Bleecker Street, not sure. It was nice anyway--they let us sit for an hour an a half visiting, eating cake, capucchino, and a glass of wine for Tak.
Two Views of November
I’m sad today or disappointed:
Sun dime-sized, obscured by gray–
Fog, mist, and clouds– one thick layer.
Heads down, the people passing on
Or will soon. Loneliness much worse
Than I foresaw. I knew all this
So why despair? It’s how
The colors fade and hope retreats.
Never satisfied, wanting more,
Rejecting loss– when loss is what we have.
Unexpected reds rise from the dun
And gray, scumbled branches newly bare.
They say the best of autumn’s past and done,
But I say this November’s blue and sun–
A day completely new, both rich and spare–
Is fine as any splendor I can bear.
I'm spending a lot of time with my mother these days. She's here for another three weeks, the longest she's been here, and she gets up at 5:00 a.m. to do her Bible study, then sleeps for a few hours. By the time she gets up, I've been writing for a couple of hours, and we take a walk, play with the parakeet, and eat lunch. Bought groceries today. She naps, then we make dinner, and on my teaching nights, she's been putting it out for Andy. She also folds clothes, wraps gifts, and does crossword puzzles and reads a lot. On the one hand it's sad that she's here with little to do, but she says she just likes being in a house with people going in and out. Last week-end we had Joel and Sarah, and they're coming back this week-end for the Gala with Andy's honoring along with Ellen and David, so we'll be hopping again. The Gala is the Arthritis Foundation's big fund-raiser, and the main honoring will be of some drug company person who brings in a lot of money, but this is special for Andy to be recognized by people who know he's done a lot of work for that foundation. So Yay Andy.
Books for Readers Newsletter
November 25, 2006
Friends: Are you looking for holiday gifts? I’m collecting a special list of under-publicized books, most from small presses, but some out of print. Take a look at this list for all ages. Each book recommended by someone. There are lots of good books at Barns & Noble too, but for a change of pace, consider supporting the future of literature as you delight your friends: go to Gift Books.
A couple of recent literary deaths: Ellen Willis died in early November, as did William Styron. Willis was a leftist and a feminist who always did interesting work, but I had a personal relationship to her work: I read a book, called I think QUESTIONS FRESHMEN ASK. It was probably her first one, because she was only a few years older than I, and I was in high school. The book was about going to college, and it was terribly sophisticated and funny and stunned me with a whole world view. It both made me feel I would never survive college and paradoxically made me think how wonderful it would be. She also had the same name as my father's cousin Ellen Willis, too. Not to mention the same last name as me.
Styron was of course one of the ones who tried to write the Great American Novel. He was what I think of as a quintessential Heroic Novelist. SOPHIE’S CHOICE and LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS are well worth reading– ambitious and moving and self-consciously profound. I also admire his memoir pieces, especially his memoir of depression DARKNESS VISIBLE. The thing about the Heroic Novelists is that they always had the enviable seriousness of writers who truly believed that novels are the most serious form of art, and that art is the most serious form of human endeavor.
Now I’ve given a great deal of my life to writing novels, and as a writer and a reader I find novels to be one of the supreme expressions of meaning in human life. For me, however, especially from my thirties on, novel writing had increasingly appeared to be one human activity– perhaps the best ever invented for exploring mental states and emotions and for connecting the individual to society, and the past to the present and ideas to emotion– oh, I could go on and on. But I no longer see this as a heroic struggle of an individual artist, but rather something human beings do. Furthermore, the practice of novel writing is a privilege that generally requires financial support, especially in a time when you can’t depend on making a living as a fiction writer. Also, it is, in the end, a safe and relatively healthy occupation: writing novels might give you carpal tunnel syndrome, but it won’t give you black lung.
Of course I have a lot of envy of the Heroic Novelists like Styron, but I now see myself as less like them (and I’m speaking here of attitude rather than accomplishment!) Than like, say, Chaucer, who was a diplomat and business man and wrote his poems in his leisure hours, not for money. Shakespeare of course famously spent much of his time as actor and theater owner, and at least sometimes wrote primarily to supply his business with content, as they say in th computer biz. This in no way downgrades the value of Shakespeare: on the contrary, to me it supports my argument that genius, too, is a human activity, and likely more common than we think. In other words, whatever the personal cost and struggle to write– and it can be a huge one (see Tillie Olsen’s book SILENCES), it is one of many human struggles, many human activities.
A couple of years back, we had some discussion of Styron and his work in this newsletter ( see 28 and 29) and I expressed my admiration and ambivalence there. Some wonderful books, always ambitious, and a life full of struggle and pain like all human lives.
Notes on my recent reading: THE ROMANTICS:ENGLAND IN A REVOLUTIONARY AGE, by E.P. Thompson, is a collection of book reviews and articles by the late British historian, unfinished at his death. The book gave me a lot of new ideas. It is about those years in the late 1790's when Wordsworth and Coleridge were writing the LYRICAL BALLADS. It was also a time when it could be threatening to one’s freedom and even ones life to be British and support the French Revolution, which included most of the Romantic poets in their twenties. The book then talks about the rejection of the French Revolution by Wordsworth and Coleridge, the abstracting of ideas from politics by William Godwin (Mary Wollstonecraft’s husband), and also introduced me to an interesting new figure, the overly self important bad poet and rabble rouser, John Thelwall. I wish some of these articles had been included in my Romantic Literature class at Barnard back in the late sixties.
For something completely different, I read the incredibly light and good-humored THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY by Alexander McCall Smith. This was a gift from my friend Petrina Livecchi who volunteers at her library and is the first of a popular series about a Botswanan woman who decides to become a detective. I wonder what people in Botswana think of it? The author Alexander McCall Smith, a white man, says they like it...
Also for entertainment, I reread the redoubtable DUNE by Frank Herbert. The great sand worm “makers” are a wonderful invention, and the story is a grand old ride. The religion seems pretty derivative, but I can’t complain about borrowing, as I see now how much of my science fiction novel THE CITY BUILT OF STARSHIPS is influenced by my first reading of DUNE years ago. Oh well, I’m the one who insists it’s good to imitate.
I also want to recommend two books by writers I read with recently. I had the great honor of being the featured writer in APPALACHIAN HERITAGE magazine this fall. (For information on how to get a copy, e-mail email@example.com or call 859-985-3699 or 859-985-3559. Mailing address is Appalachian Heritage, CPO 2166, Berea, Kentucky 40404). There are articles by Keith Maillard, Phyllis Moore, and West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty.
I was then invited to participate in the first ever Featured Author Reading at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, on Friday, November 10th to honor the magazine. The reading included the two other living featured writers for 2006, Crystal Wilkinson and Jeff Mann. (The person who died was the National Book Award winning West Virginian author, Mary Lee Settle.) I definitely want to recommend books by the other readers at that event: Crystal E. Wilkinson’s BLACKBERRIES, BLACKBERRIES is a collection of short stories told in a wonderful voice that sounds both black and Appalachian, which is no surprise as the stories are set in small town Kentucky with mostly African American characters. There are some real knock-out stories including “Waiting for the Reaper” about how a woman’s life is colored by how she’s always expecting/wanting to die and be with her loved ones. “Peace of Mind” is a monologue during one afternoon while a woman tries to have some time to herself and gets called by her ex husband and her kids and camp at her best friend while her lemonade melts; “Tipping the Scales” is a novel-in-miniature. See the publisher’s website at http://tobypress.com. I am also reading LOVING MOUNTAINS, LOVING MEN by Jeff Mann, who is probably the first self identified literary gay mountain man. The book does a really wonderful job of delineating one man’s precise place in the world. It also has some harrowing stories of suffering adolescence and a number of powerful poems. See Mann.
Both of these books would make excellent gifts (for yourself too!)and I’ve listed them on my special page of recommended books from small presses at giftbooks.
Finally. Don’t miss the continuing discussion below of the state of publishing in almost-2007.
– Meredith Sue Willis
MORE CAT PLESKA ON PUBLISHING
Cat Pleska sends some of her notes from a writing conference in Columbus, Ohio:
The NY editors/agents were definite about having a platform. They all talked about it at the Columbus conference (and I'm sure any other where they appear). It's a built-in audience for you, in whatever way that can be counted: on radio? Great! Published clips– of course. Got a hobby? Do you knit, snowboard? Then they can market you to these areas of interest, regardless (almost) of what you write). Areas of interest? Are you into certain groups? The ACLU, the underwater basket weaving association? Labor History? All these they'll consider. The more numbers you can give them as to your potential or actual audience is the more they'll consider your proposal.
We're not going to talk them out of this. Quality of writing is a given and the quality of writing has improved steadily for a couple decades. So, what is a writer to do? If a great book of any type isn't enough?
I personally feel the publishing industry dropped the ball and now the bean counters drive what's published. What sells the most? Chick lit? Romances are always good sellers. Mysteries, other genre writing. All good sellers. What happens if you happen to write literary works? While the occasional literary work does make it big time, it's rare and becoming more rare.
Regardless of the state of publishing (I also have a sneaking suspicion that the publisher may be letting the fall guy be the bean counters and that they haven't done enough to keep the public interested in reading. Why not? We have to morph to get published so why don't they work harder?) But that's history. It is what it is now. The question becomes what do people do about it? How can we outfox the fox?
IRENE TIERSTEN ON THE STATE OF PUBLISHING
Responding to the discussion in the October issue of BOOKS FOR READERS, Irene Tiersten shares this true story: “This past June, I met with an executive editor of a major publishing company. Over lunch in New York, she educated me about the current state of publishing, which was exactly what Cat Pleska described. I am a writer of fiction and non-fiction as well as a playwright. Two of my books, a novel and a collection of related short stories, were published by the editor’s company: she, in fact, edited them and we became friends. Since that time, I have concentrated on playwriting, but now I have completed a new novel, which was the subject of our lunch meeting. She educated me about the new practice of publishers having to pay bookstores to display new books. She was genuinely distressed at the limitations this practice placed on her ability to buy new manuscripts. She asked to see mine, saying she had very little hope that she would be able to buy it no matter how good it was. Some weeks later, she told me ruefully that she liked the book, but…..I have gone back to writing plays.”
BLOG AND PEAR BUTTER
Cat Pleska has a new essay on her web site– plus a recipe for pear butter related to the essay! Also photos and of caves and a new book review. Go to Mouth of the Holler.
Shelley Ettinger recommends Emile Zola’s classic GERMINAL, “a novel that I think might interest you, if you haven't read it already.... published around 1885 I believe. It's the story of a French miners' strike in the 1860s. I found it fascinating in a number of ways. The prose is certainly of the 19th century– plenty of telling rather than showing, sort of flowery in some passages– yet where I sometimes find this style tedious I didn't here. The portrayal of the miners and their families as well as of the bourgeois and their families and their respective living conditions, and most of all the incredibly vivid, horrifying scenes down in the mines, the work and the disasters, were engrossing, as were the chapters detailing the action of the strike itself, which is the heart of the book. I was also very interested in Zola's depiction of sex roles and sexuality, not at all what I might have expected. The women do work in the mines– who knew?– and when the strike breaks out it's the women who are its most radical proponents, and who lead every mass action, including the turn toward violence. At the same time, there is a total sort of (hetero) sexual freedom with little or no regard for religious or bourgeois social mores; women couple with whomever they please at no real peril to their reputations. It's complicated, because it's borne of the brutal, packed living conditions that break down any of the usual restrictions, and it can as easily result in wife beating, rape and yearly pregnancy as in free love, so it's not that Zola presents it as the ideal, but the way the sexes relate to each other in and out of the mines and the way the mines are really the controlling factor in both is very very interesting.”
COAL: A POETRY ANTHOLOGY
... is just out from Blair Mountain Press. It is an important and timely collection. The ISBN is 0-9768817-1-3; price $15.00; Chris Green, Editor.
Shelley also draws our attention to a newly published college poem of Sylvia Plath’s at an interesting online magazine, Blackbird http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/
MY 100 MILLION DOLLAR SECRET
David Weinberger is a well known journalist, NPR commentator, blogger and book writer (SMALL PIECES LOOSELY JOINED)has a new book due out this spring. If you feel really insecure about your knowledge of the web, see his primer at http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/metaphysics/. You can also Google the name “David Weinberger” and he comes up ahead of Michelangelo’s statue! He’s also my husband’s baby brother, and he has been my private tutor for all things Internet– this newsletter, for example, would probably never had happened without his example and advice. He has now published his first children’s novel, a longish chapter book, MY 100 MILLION DOLLAR SECRET.
The narrator and his friends are middle school students, and the plot is both entertaining and idea-driven (David started life as a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a comedy writer). The protagonist-narrator is a boy whose father is a newspaper man who has a crusade against lotteries, and the boy wins a tremendous amount of money– in the lottery. So the story is about how to hide something from your parents without lying and how to spend and give away lots and lots of money. It also has an amusing sub-sub plot about how kids have to hire grown-ups to front for them in various business situations. There’s also just the slightest hint of love interest, an evil capitalist who runs the rival town newspaper, some mean girls who get a mild comeuppance, a little sister who picks up lice at school every year, and lots more. It would be an excellent gift for a thoughtful student and would make a great centerpiece in an Ethics for Children class. The adults I know who’ve read it were also highly enthusiastic.
BENNY-BE BOARD BOOK FOR LITTLE ONES!
Are you looking for a board book for the very littlest book people? Try Trish Bentley’s guide book to New York City–through the eyes of her pooch Benny-Be!
NORTH CAROLINA POSTS POETRY
The North Carolina Arts Council has a poet of the week that is well worth looking at:
LEORA SKOLKIN AND TOVAH FELDSHUH
Leora Skolkin reports that the gifted actress, Tovah Feldshuh has been reading from her novel EDGES, O ISRAEL, O PALESTINE, an original audio edition, in production set directed by Charles Potter, a three-time grammy award winner and director of Maya Angelou's audio poetry book.
Back from Ellen's for Thanksgiving:
Sarah, Joel, Ellen and Mom in photo. Joel Sarah and Mom came back to New Jersey. Sunny today, very cheerful weather. We got up at seven for the annual shopping at Clinton Corners mercy upon us, clothes with Mom's Christmas money, and Andy bought a giant George Foreman grill which he has been wanting for a long time!
The Feminist Leftist writer Ellen Willis died two weeks ago. She always did interesting work, but caught my attention when I was in high school and I read a book she'd written about going to college. It really grabbed me, stunned me with the possibilities. It made me feel I would never survive college, but paradoxically made me think how wonderful it would be. She had the same name as my father's cousin Ellen Willis, too. Not to mention the same last name as me.
More November 21
David Weinberger is a well known journalist, NPR commentator, blogger, and book writer– he’s one of the Cluetrain Manifesto people as well as the writer of SMALL PIECES LOOSELY JOINED and a new book is due this spring. Google the name “David Weinberger” and he comes up very close in rating to Michelangelo’s statue. He’s also my husband’s baby brother, and he has been my private tutor for all things Internet– this newsletter, for example, would probably never had happened without his example and advice. He has now published his first children’s novel, a longish chapter book, MY 100 MILLION DOLLAR SECRET.
The narrator and his friends are middle school students, and the plot is both entertaining and idea-driven (David started life as a Ph.D. in Philosophy and comedy writer)– a boy whose father is a newspaper man who has a crusade against lotteries, wins a tremendous amount of money, in the lottery. So the story is about how to hide something from you parents without lying and how to spend and give away lots and lots of money. It also has an amusing sub-sub plot about how kids have to hire grown-ups to front for them in various business situations.
It has just the slightest hint of love interest; it has an evil capitalist who runs the rival town newspaper, some mean girls who get a mild comeuppance, a little sister who picks up lice at school every year, and lots more. This would be an excellent choice for a gift for a thoughtful student, but it would also make a great centerpiece in an Ethics for Children class. The adults I know who’ve read it were also highly enthusiastic.
November 19, 2006
Sunday morning, and Andy just went off to Costco and the office. Mom is going to church, me to Ethical Culture. I’m in the living room with the Toshiba, which is acting up, full of little flashes of insight, thoughts, ideas for stories and projects, and an awareness that in my new human oriented life (since Joel was born, really), I am less attuned to those tiny bits of my interior floating up. There is a discipline to listening to those, to capturing them, and yet, the new life has more to give, I believe. That is to say, what does it matter, the tiny borings and flashes if they don’t bring something back, illuminate something in this larger world.
November 16, 2006
Well, and Joel made it to California last night, and he has to fly back to Providence tomorrow night. And if he makes that part safely, he has still another trip after Thanksgiving. It seems grueling and horrible to me, but the way they do their job searches.
Meanwhile, I spoke at the South Orange Library today, and it went very nicely. My mother came along and seemed to enjoy it. She said it was the first time she heard me speak since high school graduation!
November 11, 2006
I’ve been to Berea, Kentucky, for the Appalachian Heritage First Featured Writers Reading at Berea College. I'm back as far as Shinnston. I enjoyed meeting Crystal Wilkinson and spending a little time with Jeff Mann and George and Connie Brosi and their sons Glade and Eagle. Also, Libby McCord came down from Cincinnati with her friends Linda Orr and Danny Miller--all Berea grads, and they gave me a terrific tour of the college (Libby kept walking backwards tour guide style) , a lovely campus on a November Day in the seventies Farenheit, the colors all red and gray and gold. Berea with its value of labor (everyone works) on principle, and how it was integrated till 1904-- 1904! -- when Kentucky passed laws forbidding integrated education. How late that was, and how Berea, as soon as the law was partially reversed (for college students) reintegrated,and in the meantime used some of their money to found Lincoln University for the black kids who could no longer come to Berea. A truly inspired place.
MSW, Jeff Mann, Crystal Wilkinson
Oh, I had a really good time, a solid reading, too, Neva from St. Paul, Virginia was there with her Sawmill Boy husband. It all went fast. FInished this morning with George and Connie taking me and Jeff to a big breakfast at the Agriculture building at Berea (“Aggies Rule!”)– students grilling their own sausages outside, a line of boys making omelettes on little portable gas stoves, plus gravy and biscuits and apples and pears from some professor’s own pear tree. Something moved me about that place. The students who work at Appalachian Heritage were wonderful: Ashley introduced me.
A few Oradells sold, also In the Mountains. Afterwards, a party.
Driving back today, across Kentucky, across the river, hills ahead, those gray bare trees with splashes of that deep red and/or burnt umber the particular West Virginia hills – forget majestic, just happy home. I’m thinking how my mother won't always be here as an excuse to visit. I'll have to figure out ways to get down here, because I see I need to. I had a fantasy of renting a room like the Vulture did. Be a secret sharer in a town like the hometown.
Am I feeling the late afternoon sunlight of nostalgia on more and more of my memories?
November 8, 2006
This is a Big Push day, for me. I have my Prose Narrative class in a couple of hours, then Advanced Novel. I don't like to do two classes in a day, especially out in New Jersey and in New York, but I've got to head to West Virginia tomorrow and then Kentucky for the reading at Berea. I’m partly packed, but not finished.
Stayed up late watching election returns. And the Democrats have taken the House of Representatives! Wow! And the Senate race isn’t over yet, but even if the Dems don't prevail there, it was a big big change. I tried not to get my hopes up– one wants a victory so much for something other than sleazy right wing shennanigans– and it seemed so impossible. Well, this is a change. Now we can snarl at the wishy washy Democrats for a while. Sad for an anti-war Republican like Chafee in Rhode Island, but the good Republicans got sand bagged by the right wing just like the rest of us.
November 3, 2006
William Styron died November 1, 2006. He is one of the last of the generation of what I think of as Heroic Novelists. I still haven’t read THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER, but SOPHIE’S CHOICE and LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS are well worth reading, as are his memoir pieces and his memoir of depression. His work has the enviable seriousness of one who truly believes that novels aree the most serious form of art and that art is the most serious form of human endeavor. The ones left living include, probably most notably, Phillip Roth, ten year younger than Styron, who was old enough to be a marine in World War II.
When I speak of these Heroic Novelists, I speak of the ones who saw writing as a great proving ground for Men: books were serious, being a novelist was heroic, being a novelist thus was real men’s work.
I’m a little appalled at myself for writing this– I’ve given a great deal of my life to writing novels, but the truth is, especially from my thirties on, I’ve increasingly seen it as one human activity, an excellent one for exploring all sorts of states and ideas, but it is one of many human activities. And one that might give you carpal tunnel syndrome, but not black lung.
Of course I envy the Romantic-Heroic seriousness of writers like Styron, but also of course, as I’ve often said, I identify more with Jane Austen whose writing was an intense pleasure she took when free of family responsibilities– and, indeed, with Chaucer and his diplomatic work and even Shakespeare, who was an actor and businessman as much as a writer. In other words, whatever the struggle to write, and it can indeed be heroic (see Tillie Olsen’s book SILENCES), it is one of many human struggles. I suppose if writers weren't living out an ordinary life, they would have little to share with the people who don't write.
A couple of years back, we had some discussion of Styron and his work in my online newsletter, BOOKS FOR READERS: see http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/bfrarchive26-30.html#28 and http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/bfrarchive26-30.html#29 .
November 1, 2006
Halloween has come and gone, with not-so-many trick-or-treaters, but we still managed to hand out eight or so bags of candy plus a Costco box of Cracker Jacks. Here are some assorted princesses, Queen Elizabeth I, a sorceress, and a character from Little House on the Prairie. I do love Halloween, which is, at least as I celebrated it as a child, totally about imagination with no religious hoo-hah (although it's been pointed out to me that there are indeed religious implications: just not in my experience as a little kid: it was all for kids as I experienced it, with no subtexts except fun.) And we didn't start collecting for UNICEF until I was already into the holiday in a big way. You get to be excitingly bad-- a pirate, a sexy gypsy, a convict. For fourth grade, my mother painted a rubber ball black for me and chained it to my leg. I wore striped pajamas someone had given her and my father. An ugly mask, and I remember the wierdness of people not recognizing me. It was a heady, frightening sensation. And who is this? And why didn't they realize I was missing?
Another poem taking the train to New York-- drafted October 30, 2006
Escape me, run away, then
Return wearing tattoos and
Chewing betel nut.
They flee the sunny side
And howl at a crescent moon
At dusk when the sky’s still blue.
Words fail me– again and again:
O reflected light on that great skyline
O spectacular reminder of human loss
Like love: essential–
And so painful
October 28, 2006
It’s Saturday night, not a day I expected much of in a way, knowing Joel would be flying, and he’s on the final leg of the journey, having made it from SF to Philly and now en route to Providence where Victoria will pick him up at the airport. We went up Rt. 17 to CampMor where we got the Nordic Walking sticks for me, Lekis, and I tried them out, and they work just like cross country ski poles, but I didn’t really feel so much cardio-vascularly, I don’t think. I have to work on that. Also, it hurt my right bicep, which probably means I was doing something wrong.
But I was swinging along there on Summit Avenue among the yellow trees and wind with my chin up. Very nice. We shopped quite a while longer– Andy can shop forever– long and interesting conversations with an entertaining senior sales person there who does nordic walking AND skate-skiing and kayaking and likes an audience. He helped mke with the sticks and helped Andy try on nordic ski boots, and then another sales person came over to hear what the first was saying, and the second guy was into Telemark skiing (that’s the back country skiing with the funny kneeling turns).
Meanwhile, I bought some gloves for biking and a pale blue windbreaker (one of the neat-o ones with a hidden hood and iti packs in its own pocket) plus a really cheap winter head band. Then we went to the Kmart up there where I found some cheap ankle weights, so I’m all ready to roll with exercising the Knee and my cross-training, as in biking nordic walking maybe eventually running again.
So I suppose it was a nice day, with enough time at home to draft a recommendation for a former student and to bake a beautiful little blue hubbard squash (only 5 pounds instead of 15) from the store– sadly I can’t grow winter squash anymore. I just don’t seem to have the sun. So I pureed that with a spot of margarine, fried some pork chops, zapped broccoli, and already had some home made applesauce in the refrigerator.
Bu underlying it all, is that Joel is in the air in one of those ridiculous little aluminum lozenge-tubes that are so tiny compared to the great thunderheads and so huge in weight compared to birds and clouds and milkweed silk and other things meant to be in the air.
Sherry Chandler's blog reminds us that it's Dylan Thomas's birthday! Wow! As for me, I've had a solid day, with a bike ride (the continuing knee problem hasn't really let me run since before Labor Day! Is this how it all winds down? You lose one thing then another? Actually, I've run a little on the track at Underhill field, but it does feel like a loss. On the other hand, the cardiovascular biking is nice-- and new-- in its own way). I had a meeting with R., and a social get together with A. who really liked Taxicab. Andy has been in the Berkshires today, and is coming home. I'm going to boil up some past with red sauce.
My good news! The latest issue of APPALACHIAN HERITAGE magazine has honored me by making me their featured author for the fall issue. There is a story and an essay by me; a biographical essay by the doyenne of West Virginia literature, Phyllis Wilson Moore; a reappraisal of my 1981 novel HIGHER GROUND by Keith Maillard, the author of GLORIA and many other highly praised novels; and a personal essay about how we grew up by my oldest friend, West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty.
And! If you’re in you’re in Kentucky on November 10th, there will be a reading of all the featured APPALACHIAN HERITAGE authors from this year: Crystal Wilkinson, Jeff Mann, and me. More information at Appalachian Heritage.
DON’T FORGET: SEND YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE STATE OF PUBLISHING
Cat Pleska and I are waiting for your thoughts on the state of getting published at the end of 2006. To read her notes, click on http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/booksforreaders.html#cat .
To reply, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
SHELLEY ETTINGER’S LIT BLOGS
Shelley Ettinger has some comments on literary blogs: “They’re a mixed bag. Some--maybe most--are silly and sophomoric and a waste of time. Some I find do have more substance. Some are basically rehashes of news stories and links to literary coverage in newspapers and magazines, some are more interesting and original. I check a few of them most days if I get a chance. Your tastes might differ from mine but you'll find your favorites after sampling them
if you feel like it. The one I like best is Maud Newton's. You'll see that on her blog's homepage you can click on "Links" on the left. That'll bring you to a list of blogs and other literary websites, and from there you can surf around and find what you like. Also, every Monday afternoon she posts a listing of selected literary events for the week in NYC; it's called ‘The Smart Set’ and it's compiled by Lauren Cerand. Lauren Cerand is a literary publicist. I have the impression she's young and energetic, with a feminist slant, and effective, too, judging by some of her work. One of her clients is Tayari Jones, a gifted young writer who's published two novels and who credits Lauren Cerand with getting her noticed. Tayari Jones spoke at the writers' conference I went to in August, and she with Jayne Ann Phillips is on the founding fiction faculty for the new MFA
program at Rutgers-Newark. And Tayari has a blog too. Here are the links, to Maud Newton,
Maud Newton: http://maudnewton.com/blog/
Lauren Cerand: http://www.luxlotus.com/about.html
Tayari Jones: http://www.tayarijones.com/blog/
Also, here's one for Media Bistro/Galleycat, which has a lot about the publishing industry every day: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/ .”
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT– IF YOU’RE IN LONDON!
More Poetry Presented by ken Champion and Julie Jeana
Upstairs at Stoney Street Café– Borough Market 1 minute from London Bridge Underground
(Borough High St. west exit) next to Market Porter pub – 7.45pm Thursday 2 November
open mic. + Philip Wilson Poet Translator GOTH METAL LOVER, Author of BLESSED AND UNBROKEN BY THE FALL . Admission free – drinks included! Food available before and afterwards Contact: email@example.com .
EPIPHANY IS BACK
Willard Cook reports that “after a year of absence ep;phany lives to see another day. There is much to be appreciated in this issue. In her story ‘The Artists’ Caroline Huber explores the agony of being distracted when one is trying to create. Lewis Schrager’s ‘The Rivers of Analaroa’ is a heartbreaking tale of love against the backdrop of a medical clinic in Madagascar and John Mulderig’s ‘We Can Be Like They Are’ captures a youthful friendship with precision and élan. Elizabeth Bales Frank rails against material attachment in her essay ‘Against Bric-a-Brac.’ Tracy DeBrincat’s ‘Cletus Love Donatella’ asks what love is, and Charles Hassell’s ‘Monkey Eat Fiction’ is improvisational jazz. In Margeret Ingraham’s ‘Sleeping with Sorrow’ notice how the hydrangeas change from blue to rust. Dan Stryk’s poem ‘Meditation on the Nature of ‘Epiphany’ makes us wonder what art is and finally Kay Kenny’s images give voice to hidden passion.”
Here's an Animal Planet feature on the Monk Parakeets of Brooklyn!
Well, I certainly wouldn't say the week-end from hell because I had a LOT of fun, but it has been one when you don't dare sit down for fear of falling asleep. It started with teaching on Thursday, followed by writer's group Thursday night and getting up Friday to pack and go visit Joel at Brown. We went to a presentation on using advanced features of Google (one of the places Joel has been interviewing for a job), walked around in the rain, met Joel for dinner at a delicious bistro called Red Stripe (named after a beer); went back to his apartment to help put up posters (Dizzy Gillespie, Pulp Fiction, Johnny Cash, the Police). There was a whole crew there for the weekly Friday night potluck. Next a.m., breakfast at a Guatemalan place, then I had to take the train home-- enjoyed the marsh view in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut, did papers, got to NYC in time to catch the midtown direct home, walked up the hill, picked up Taxicab, dressed for the Coalition Gala which was huge! Almost 200 people! Home to bed, up early to prepare the platform at Ethical Culture, which went extremely well-- an interactive role playing session on the proposed Department of Peace . It was very satisfying. Then home to eat a bite, buy groceries, play with the bird, go out to meet candidates for Coalition Trustee-- and now I'm totally exhausted, but at least my papers are done for tomorrow. I'm waiting for Andy to come home, as he stayed another twenty four hours with Joel-- got to go out to dinner with friends and parents and see the famous tap dance rehearsal of Joel's group What's On Tap.
I've been thinking how I write less now and (IMHO) understand more and more deeply. And yet– then, all that writing. My real life was there. Much of my real self now is still in my head, in my creative work, but I've also got a lot of myself really in teaching and also friendships and other interactions with people. It's as if then (and the then I'm talking about is both my early adulthood and adolescence when I was writing and my childhood when I fantasized) I lived on sensation and imagination. The stories were good, but I feel, like all people in the second half of their lives I guess, that I have more to give now. And because I’m more engaged in the world, less and less time to do it.
October 14, 2006
After we got back from Washington, Joel went back to Providence, and our friends the Achiwas visited him there at Brown. Then they came back to New York and Andy and I met them for dinner at Petrossian in Manhattan, and they flew back the next day. Meanwhile, I started teaching a third class, and Andy keeps doing 18 hours of work a day, and I was in Philadelphia for the day today Saturday giving a writing workshop, and we have papers and meetings with the Coalition. I'm also going to Kentucky next month for a week-end, and it is shaping up to be a really busy fall, however you slice it!
October 8, 2006
We're just back from Washington D.C. where we celebrated Andy's birthday (Joel and Sarah and Sarah's room mate Lori made the cake) and also ate tapas and dim sum and enjoyed a gorgeous blue and gold Indian Summer day on the Washington Mall and saw the National Portrait Gallery and some great dino bones and black and white photos and generally disported ourselves happily. On the way home, I-95 showed its usual colors and Andy and I got stopped in traffic. But home now, all better.
The latest parakeet photos-- for gluttons for avian imagery, click here.
Taxicab on Cuisinart Taxi Up Close and Out of Focus
I don't know much about Lou Dobbs, but isn't he a pretty mainstream kind of financial guy? Here's a recent column online in which he says-- like a red tinged pinko Commie!--that the rich are getting richer and the middle class are losing their shirts and medical insurance. Indeed, he uses the phrase "class warfare." What are we to think when mainstream financial commentators begin to describe the world in Marxist terms? Personally, I think they're beginning to get smart...
October 3, 2006
The Express Train
Raising yellow-gray dust
That diffuses and obscures
The autumn light.
I am writing with a fountain pen
In a bound journal.
It might as well be 1938.
We are all innocent
Always of where
The next train
Will take us.
October 2, 2006
If anyone has been noticing the quick color changes on my web site, it has to do with my new hobby which is learning to use CSS or cascading style sheets. My son Joel the computer science hot shot informed me a few months ago that the code underlying my pages (you can see the code if you care to by clicking on "view" and "source" or "page source" on the bar at top) was a mess. "Why aren't you using CSS?" he said. "It's the only way to go." There aren't many things I can actually talk to him about in his major (he's also majoring in History, which I can talk about at least a little), so I decided to look into CSS. I can't do a lot with it, but I can do this much: I can now upload a file that leaves everything the same except the colors and backgrounds and fonts! It is really a neat trick: in ten minutes or less I can change all the pages on site from pink to lavender or blue or whatever.
When I was a little kid, I used to be about as good at drawing (horses and faces, anyhow) as I was at writing; like most of us, I found that growing up meant specialization which included loss. But these web pages allow me to fool around with colors and design in a way that comes out relatively mature and professional looking. Ergo, I'm calling it my hobby.
October 1, 2006
Final changes this morning to the tenth issue of the Hamilton Stone Review . This has actually been a good journey, figuring out how to do the web pages without exhausting myself totally, working with Halvard Johnson, our most excellent poetry editor, and Lynda Schor, the sharp writer of stories who works very hard being gatekeeper for the prose. Next year is the press’s tenth anniversary, if you count from my publishing of Trespassers. The coop formed a year or two later.
I watched Not As A Stranger last night. I read the book or maybe a Reader’s Digest condensed version was a kid, but I don’t think I ever saw the movie. The doctoring stuff was fascinating, and it was a kick to see Frank Sinatra as a sympathetic hard working if wise-cracking doc. Olivia De Havilland as a dowdy older nurse with a Swedish accent– well, it worked if you accepted the whole suspension of disbelief, the shiny smooth fifties style, dramatic black and white, Gloria Grahame being sultry with the crazy long upper lip. Robert Mitchum, of course, is still the sexiest male presence ever. It was on Channel 13 with no breaks, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, waiting for Andy to come back from doing chores at the lake in Massachusetts.
I’m looking at the next six weeks and thinking I am unlikely even to make it to Costco (I need some things we keep around the house like pine nuts to make pesto with the last of the basil), I’m so overbooked and busy. I spent all day yesterday on desk work, and today I have papers and recommendations. When I go away for a couple of days, it really takes me a week to catch up.
I seem to write so much less now and (IMHO) know so much more. So what does it mean that I wrote more then? Then it was all based on the sharp physical sensations of youth and the pretty clear observations, plus a big imagination. But it was as if I was so busy writing, I never really put my weight down in the world. And as if now I believe I have more to give because I’m much more engaged in the world, and I have less and less time to do it!
Phyllis Moore took some of the the photos below. She had some trouble with the camera, but you can still see eveyrone's having a great time! Also, for another perspective, see Cat Pleska's blog.
West Virginia friends at the festival singing West
Virginia Hills:Back row:Maggie Anderson, MSW,
Phyllis Moore, Front row: Cheryl Denise, and Sandy Vrana.
Sixteen of the seventeen writers at the 25th Emory & Henry Literary
Festival (Lee Smith had to go to her high school reunion in Grundy!)
Front row, left to right: Sharyn McCrumb, Lisa Alther, Gurney Norman,
Denise Giardina, Fred Chappelle; Middle row, left to right: Jeff Daniel Marion,
Jo Carson, George Ella Lyon, Kay Byer, MSW; Top row, left to right: Ron Rash,
John Ehle, Robert Morgan, Maggie Anderson, Michael McPhee, and David Huddle.
Banquet table at Emory & Henry: front row, Maggie Anderson,
Denise Giardina, George Ella Lyon, backrow, MSW, Ann
Olsen, Anna, Phyllis
Phyllis Moore & MSW
September 24 in the waning hours, back in the garden state
It was a long, long drive, most of it in I-81, all those great views of green farms and Blue Ridge in the background. I listened to lots of tapes and was remarkably alert after a groggy first hour or two (see the wee hour one a.m. note below). I was fine after I had breakfast at an Omlet Shop, a sausage and egg sandwich on toasted white bread! I promise that’s the end of my very bad eating! I had a salad for lunch, and Andy made pasta with red sauce when I got home.
Five #$%!! deer waiting for me in the back yard, the young ones gamboling again. They had not been in my garden, but the slugs have-- they've eaten most of my lettuce. I have some started in pots that I hope I can save for winter and spring salads.
Someone at the conference-- I think maybe Denise Giardina-- offered to bring up a dozen friends with rifles to cull the herd and take the meat back to people who could use it back home. I like that idea! It was so good to be with someone as deeply ethical as she who doesn't see deer as Walt Disney tear jerkers but as animals who as a group would do far better with some predators in their lives.
Thirty miles from home when I got caught in a forty five minute traffic jam from a big accident, medical helicopters and the whole thing. But I’m home now, and I think the parakeet said “Taxi!” I’ve been trying to train him to call a cab or say his name or whatever that would mean.
I’ll have to do my debriefing in the morning– it was a truly wonderful conference-- moving on so many levels, to hear the voices of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia home, a few from the far south.
September 24 in the wee hours
It's after midnight, and the conference is over--what a couple of days! Utterly amazing. Lunch with Maggie Anderson, and Phyllis Moore was my dinner date for the banquet, at which we had a great time with Maggie and Anna and their friend Jeannie, and George Ella and Ann Olsen and Denise Giardina. I wish I were a real blogger like my brother-in-law-- I'd have been sitting in the readings and panels with Trusty Toshiba on my lap, noting down all the neat ideas from the religion panel this a.m, our Tall women panel (Maggie, George Ella, me, and Sharyn McCrumb), the readings-- oh my. So many conversations. Finale a generous party at Barbara Kingsolver's terrific rebuilt and expanded farmhouse. I had fun learning about the tricks of driving and writing about NASCAR from Sharyn McCrumb.
Now I have to get a little sleep before facing the enormous long drive tomorrow.
Special fun moment: WV crew having our photo taken singing "The West Virginia Hills."
Mercy upon us.
I'm writing this from the Quality Inn in Abingdon, Virginia. I'm here for the Writers Festival, and we've got Fred Chappelle and Lee Smith (and Robert Morgan and Sharyn McCrumb) coming and Phyllis is here and I had dinner with Karen Morgan, that was intense, and David Huddle and his wife brought me home and breakfast today with the Dancing with God poet and George and Connie and George Ella and Joyce Dyer and Maggie-- oh this could turn into a list fast.
I'm off tomorrow to West Virginia and then farther south to Abington and Emory, Virginia for the Appalachian Writers Festival -- it should be a lot of fun. I'll be exhaused when I get back, and NYU starting, but always revivifying to do these things.
Always interesting to me when people who are also writers get into politics. JamesWebb, the author of Fields of FIre, and a Secretary of the Navy under Reagan has gone democrat and is challenging the incumbent senator. I do politics too, but I'm much more grass rootsy. Maybe I just don't have the connections.
My brother-in-law the internet guru David Weinberger always as interesting things to say about a lot of things, but this time it's about what he calls "freechasing" to rhyme with "purchasing," and it's about copyright and sampling and stealing. He's a big supporter of making things available online.
I'm getting all geared up for my big trip next week to the Appalachian Writers Festival at Emory & Henry College. It's their 25th anniversary, and we've got a great crowd of people coming, including a lot of old literary friends of mine: Maggie Anderson (she organized a big reading/sing in NYC in like 1982 and was a writer-in-residence in Shinnston and got my mother to write); George Ella Lyon who I know from the Appalachian Writers Workshop at Hindman, plus a bunch I've met there or elsewhere: Lee Smith, Gurney Norma, Denise Giardina, Robert Morgan, Michael McFee, David Huddle, plus people I haven't met but am looking forward to: Lisa Alther, Sharyn McCrumb, Fred Chappell-- plus Phyllis Moore is coming down from Clarksburg (and will be my date for the banquet since Andy can't come!) and also George Brosi who's trying to bring copies of the Appalachian Heritage with articles about me in it.
All very exciting, and also nervous-making: what to read? How to run the panel I'm moderating, what to wear (I'm sorry, it's true! there's both late September Appalachian weather and one's interior weather: who am I projecting this time?) Have to pick which lectures to listen to as I drive down, too. I've been working on the early history of Christianity, but I have Buddhism and others as well.
On the political front: I worked for a couple of hours last night with Audrey Rowe of the Coalition and a girl scout troop on the giant 2200 piece mailing about the Coalition's Tenth Anniversary gala. I know it's about integration, but this is going to be an Event!
Latest photo of Taxicab and the tomato harvest, which has been late but substantial. I've been getting a large paste tomato called Big Mama and something delicious that is either Prudens Purple, Brandywine, or Black Krim. Unless it's a Cherokee Purple. I used labels with ink that washed away! I do love those big purple/red/blackish tomatoes though. The deer haven't been here in a couple of days--I think the ones we've had this year are more occasional, wanderers. Which would only be improved by them going away altogether. An article in the News-Record today about how the untrammelled herd in the South Mountain Reservation is eating any new trees and generally destroying the ecosystem up there. What we need is a nice pack of wolves in Essex County.
It's my sister's birthday today. My gift to her was the West Virginia Encyclopedia! Happy Birthday, Chrissie!
Yes, it's the fifth anniversary, and I'll be speaking briefly at an event at the South Orange Library this evening, representing the Coalition, but what I'm feeling most strongly today is that it's cool and sunny and the deer ate my zucchini and we had a great block party yesterday. I've been to a bunch of them in my 19 years on Prospect Street, and this one felt the best, maybe because we didn't have one last year, or maybe because of today's anniversary. Crowds of kids and dogs and old and new friends and the limbo and the great shared food. It was the kind of event that reminds us of what ties us together as communities, what we need more of, especially in sad and dangerous times.
Boe Meyerson gave a talk on freedom today at Ethical Culture, and made some interesting distinctions– external coercion or no coercion as distinct from internal freedom which may best be had through knowledge and discipline ( an idea from the Western tradition) or through self-rule (an idea of Gandhi).
I realized as she was talking that when people wave the flag about Freedom, they want each of us to have our own emotional image of freedom, and mine is an image of myself at six bursting out of my repressive old school on a sunny June day. The sun is in my face, and wind, and I am free free free! It’s an ecstatic feeling, but of course what is happening is not that I am going wild, but rather that I am using my legs naturally, at will, to walk or skip or run, to read a book or play with my parakeet or tease my sister: a whole world of activities that I’ve been trammelled and unable to do. Sometimes, of course, we think we are free– we do exactly as we please– and we are actually doing things we are being forced to do internally– addictions to, say, alcohol or love. Or things we’ve been trained to do like shop.
I drifted a little, thought of the line from the song, “Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose...” And then there were Roosevelt’s rather wonderful political four four freedoms, and how long since George Bush ever imagined anything as graceful as these?
From Roosevelt’s speech Jan 1941:
“The first is freedom of speech and expression --everywhere in the world.
“The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-- everywhere in the world.
“The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants --everywhere in the world.
“The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the wold. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.”
Freedom from fear? They delight in fear as a way of controlling us.
September 8, 2006
Yesterday evening I went to a book party for a publication that I had the great privilege of helping bring to life. This book from Teachers College Press is a collection of the stories of teachers who were working in New York CIty on September 11, 2001. Some of the teachers literally had to flee with their students with ash from the collapsed buildings falling on their heads. Some had to set up four different classrooms during the coming year. There is a piece by a young woman who was a student at Stuyvesant High School at the time who, with her classmates, saw people jumping off the buildings. There is a piece by a Muslim teacher who was threatened afterwards because she wears the hijab head scarf. These are wonderfully written stories of witness, and it was my great good fortune to have been called in as a writing coach for several sessions in late 2003 and early 2004.
This is one of the most satisfying teaching assignments I have ever had. I had felt wildly useless after the attacks on the World Trade Center. I wasn't a trained EMT. I didn't have anyone close who had a direct death there. I lived near enough to see the smoking site but not to feel that I had been attacked the way my friends who lived in New York City did. So when I was called in to do workshops with skilled teachers and administrators who didn't necessarily aspire to be writers, it was frightening but deeply gratifying. Some of these pieces I had nothing to do with (the Stuyvesant student, for example, I never met till the book party). But others actually began their pieces with writing exercises I offered, and I see that many took my suggestions. There was also, of course, a two and a half year long editorial process for most of the contributors with a special editor, Maureen Grolnick, who worked long and hard. The pieces are powerful, even stunning, and I am so proud and gratified to have been even a small part of this project.
Teachers were heroes, too. And the ones who don't count as heroes (they literally saved children's lives-- all 20,000 public school students in the immediate Ground Zero area lived) have important things to say about surviving trauma, about helping young people deal with trauma, and perhaps especially about a facet of human experience that most Americans know only most abstractly: the direct effects of human caused disaster: terrorist attacks, acts of war-- things that our nation has cruelly continued to perpetrate on others even as we have been largely spared, with a handful of terrible exceptions.
September 7, 2006
A teacher named Jeanette Stricklen has a piece on Ron Pramschufer's website “Writers—Beware of Subsidy Publishers, Vanity Publishers, and Poetry
Websites." It’s an interesting personal experience, straightforward, although at the end Ms. Stricklen does give a plug to Mr. Pramshufer’s business, Self-Publishing.com . She seems to feel that iUniverse and Authorhouse and the others pretend to be publishers while Mr. P. represents honest old fashioned self-publishing. This may simply be her increasing sophistication. At any rate, it’s worth taking a look at.
September 6, 2006
Well, it's been my medical day. I rushed up to Livingston to Dr. Evans' office to get my referral for Dr. Richmond the orthopedist, and there I got (a) a lot of question asked; (b) x-rays of my knee taken; (c) a lot more questions asked and an exam; (d) removal of fluid in my knee and a shot of cortisone. Now I have to get some physical therapy for the knee, do exercises at home, go back to see the doctor and not run till then, but I can walk if it doesn't hurt and bike. The diagnosis appears to be wear-and-tear, and the doctor made an analogy: "It's sort of like gray hair of the knee," he said. Mercy upon us. Gray hair, kept clean and styled properly can be quite lovely. Knees hurt and stop you from moving easily. I think maybe he needs a poetry workshop.
September 4, Labor Day 2006
We're back from the lake, lovely lake, quiet and cool and closing in on itself today. I suppose a gray Labor Day week-end leads you to be less sad at closing the house. We had a typical busy Weinberger week-end with lots of laughter from David and Nathan, Ann study to teach a class on the book of Jonah at her shul, everyone alternating between computers and eating and a rousing game Saturday night of Fictionary. Today we divided up the food, vacuumed, changed beds, brought in the hammock and the docks, put away the rowboat, etc. etc.And all got off by noon! Andy and I had some traffic, but not terrible, and went over to Tony and Mary Sciaino's to catch the end of their Labor Day barbeque, Marygrace and Bill Robinson, Helen and Mike Dalbey, Ryan, Jane Rauen, Heather McNamara and her husband-- they were ready for dessert, but Tony tossed burgers on for us. I'm tired, enjoyed all the folks.
August 31, 2006
We've settled Joel in his apartment at Brown, more or less. The apartment is nearer the main campus and his classes than, I believe, any of the so-called on-campus housing he had. Last year's students left a huge amount of furniture that Joel and his friends didn't buy or want in the apartment, to the point that Joel's room didn't get painted or carpet-cleaned, so he's unhappy with what he calls the gross walls and floor, but it's a big room, very airy, two windows living room and kitchen, two other people, one male one female. That's one of the greatest changes in people his age: it's totally normal for men and women to be housemates and friends and nothing more. I think it's terrific, but then I think back to when I was at Barnard and students Linda LeClair and Peter Behr caused a total front-page-of-the-times scandal by sharing an apartment. That, of course, included a sexual relationship, and what's amazing now is living together without a sexual relationship. Much healthier, much better. Simultaneous, of course, with some of Joel's friends becoming fundamentalism in their religion and eschewing sex out of sacred marriage altogether.
August 28, 2006
Joel just got back from his week-end at the lake-- he had Ryan Sciaino up there, Christian Sahner, Doug Parsons, Andrew Ehrlich, Alex Kellner, and Doug's roommate who I've never met. They had rain every day, but managed a little grilling, a little swimming, s'mores around the fireplace and a visit to Shakespeare & Company's Hamlet.
Tomorrow we take him to Ellen's overnight, then on to his new apartment at Brown on Wednesday.
We had a visit last night from Charlene (Joel's old babysitter when she was at Seton Hall) and her Tyrone and kids Xavier and Madysen. Charlene is doing better after some leftover problems from an auto accident. She called from West Orange and stopped off after dinner--I was hot and sweaty from running, trying to repair the garden covering and chasing the @#!! deer who are back and broke into the garden. Anyhow, it was fun to see Charlene and her family, Xavier looks to be a talented artist, Madysen loves books, Tyrone talked about writing one of his own about his experiences as security in night clubs. Almost like a Shinnston visit--friends dropping by.
August 26, 2006
I've put in a little too much time the last few days working on CSS-- not that I'll ever master something like that, but I adore being able to have some control over my areas of the web. Joel figured out something for me that I had been trying to do for a long time, which was be able to make global changes within table cells. But here's the thing I can do now: I can change everything from pinks, as they are now, with my biggest letters in the funny "Andy" font, to lavender with big red Arial font, very, very easily. Joel actually is learning to write the CSS code: I'm doing a mix of Dreamweaver and code, but it is a feeling of great power, like stapling my little Black Horsey books together when I was seven.
Today: wet Saturday morning, feels somehow like Sunday. Andy off in the rain to see if the bike ride went, the chondromalacia in my knee immeasurably and unaccountably better. Always mysterious how this improves and gets worse.
We watched Revenge of the Sith last night on the new t.v., and it looked splendid, especially the volcano planet. But-- t what stupid character names! How self-indulgent George Lucas is! I'm totally convinced that he has gone over to the dark side himself as far as artistry and fresh ideas go. Extremely bad dialogue and a fair amount of bad acting. Beautiful work by Pixar, of course, and excellent action especially in the light saber duels. Also satisfying to get the back story on Darth Vader and little twin infants Leah and Luke, but oh the stupid, stupid dialogue. A real case of the media being all there is– the message, the content as we say today, having all the texture and nutrients of cotton candy.
One interesting throwaway line in Revenge was something about how the fear of loss turns you to the dark side: i.e., that you will do anything to save your beloved– this is the ostensible motivation for Anikin becoming Darth Vader, although of course he is fooling himself and simply wants mucho power, an infantile obsession, trying to hold on to childhood passion and delight when you are an adult (may be Lucas's problem too? His high point was 30 years ago?) . Anything vaguely interesting in the movie, though, was totally heavy-handed.
Why didn’t they put some more intellectual content in that movie? It would have made just as much money, because the people who watch for the flash would have had it still.
And why didn’t they get an actor to play Anikin/D.V. who could act as well as brood hunkily.
My brother-in-law David Weinberger, who publishes popular books about the philosophy of the Web that are sometimes filed in the business section, has also written a book for children called My Million Dollar Secret . He talks about it on his always-enlightening online newsletter Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization .
Some upcoming events and classes in New York and the blogosphere:
Bob Heman and others reading at High Chai ( 18 Avenue B in the East Village) part of Mike Graves' re-emerging Phoenix series: Sunday, August 27, 2006 and Sunday September 10, 2006. Readings start at 5:30 and run til about 7:30. You Should expect to buy a drink or something.
Roberta Allen has two spots in her fall workshop on West 16th Street, NYC that
start Wed. Sept. 20th, from 7:30-10:15 PM. Classes meet every 2 weeks for 8 sessions or 4 months. Call 845 679-8239 or leave a message at 212 675-0111.
New poem online by Barbara Crooker
Joel and I went into the city today and met Tak and Chiaki at the old Caffe Reggio ("since 1927"), still dark and dingy with impossible-to-see Old Masters on the walls. It also still has the big espresso machine (behind Chiaki!) and had interesting Italian frappes and good little almond cookies. Joel and I headed back to New Jersey and overshot South Orange to meet Andy at the Millburn train station--only the train went directly on to Summit! He picked us up there, and we had dinner in Springfield at Hunan Spring. I remembered that I like their pan fried noodles with chicken and spinach-- the noodles in a crisp bed, chicken, spinach and the long black-red peppers on top. And home to watch one of Joel's many favorite movies,Wet Hot American Summer something of a comedy cult classic, and we giggled a lot, but mostly the fun is just hanging out.
August 20, 2006
Admiration for Weeds
I squat in red overalls
And mosquito net shirt,
Too low to be seen,
Soaking up rank rich odors of
Wet dirt dying foliage,
Assaulted by sage and lemon balm
Mint tomato leaves cilantro--
Turn slowly to face the enemy
Knot up in both hands
The node of the flattening
crab grass. I tug
Till I hear the wrench
Of roots choosing
Wholeness over their grip
On the soil.
My sweat drips on salt hay,
Suffused with mild vegetative elation
I thrill to have won this one–
Though the plant I pulled
Squats on top of the weed heap
Ready to slide back
Into the garden or suck
Nutrients from the compost.
August 18, 2006
This 21st century is something else. Joel called from the great mall in Washington D.C., you know, the one with the Washington Monument at one end, to ask me the name of the guy who sculpted the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. This isn't as random as it sounds-- we go to his summer estate Chesterwood in the Berkshires from time to time. I couldn't think of his name, so while I'm on the phone I go to Wikipedia, look up the Lincoln Memorial, find Daniel Chester French, find his other famous statue, the Minuteman in Lexington, Mass. Then said good bye to Joel who continued his day.!
August 16, 2006
Well, Joel is here for less than 24 hours, picked him up at the plane last night, he's leaving in a couple of hours by train for D.C. to see Sarah. He and I've been watching the end of The Incredibles on TV, playing with taxi cab (see photo below), meeting with the girls from across the street , Hannah and Maggie. Maggie had Mrs. Khan at Clinton School last year adn watned to talk to Joel about fourth grade at Clinton School. Hannah is the one going into seventh grade who gardens, and I may have found a gardening friend!
Okay, gang, everyone up here in the northeast asks about the cuisine of my home state, and I always used to say either fresh corn and tomatoes (but that's summer food everywhere east of the Mississippi), and sometimes I mention the famously smelly ramps that have their own festival. Although I've never eaten them, I do own a bottle of ramp wine, But the real West Virginia state food, at least in Northern West Virginia where I grew up, has got to be pepperoni rolls, creation of the local Italian-American population, and now there is a website especially for them including where to buy them! Yum!
August 13, 2006
Lazy Sunday-- well, it didn't start out lazy. I spent a long time in the garden which I had wet down ripping up two fisted big clumps of crab grass. This has gotten way out of control this year what with my teaching into the middle of July plus a trip to West Virginia plus the week and a half at th lake, plus cutting grass and all that. Anyhow, I've got more than half the garden under crabgrass control now, and when I close my eyes I see my hands wrestling with it, the red color at the base. Very satisfying, though, when the roots begin to come loose and I hear/feel that creench of the plant choosing to keep roots and top together and thus losing the grip on the dirt. It's a mean opponent but an admirable survivor, propagating by seed and by sideways movement sending out shoots. A winner, like us human folks.
August 10, 2006
There's a red alert on, airplanes in London threatened, and Dick Cheney and his gang in Washington are thrilled to have imminent terrorism so they can show Americans what happens when they reject pro-war candidates. I'm not doubting that the terrorism threat is real, by the way, but Cheney's office did imply that the Democrats were giving aid and comfort to the Enemy by voting against Joe Lieberman. Meanwhile, I've gotten the day off to a serious start by taking new photographs of the parakeet. Note Taxi's darker face markings-- (see archives for comparision ) the sign of puberty or whatever you call it in birds. Yes, he's looking more and more like a pretty boy rather than a girl, if only because he isn't very aggressive the way female budgies are. The cere is getting bluer too.
August 8, 2006
For some reason, I have trouble remembering the exact dates that the U.S. dropped the atom bombs (still the only times ever used against civilian populations) on Japan. Hiroshima anniversary was Sunday August 6, and tomorrow, August 9 is the Nagasaki anniversary. I was skimming over the articles in Wikipedia to get the dates and discovered that there is, as always, controversy. Someone has been insistently editing the articles to indicate that the bombings were not necessary, and someone else changing it back. So they've got a "semi-protected" status on the articles to stop the back and forth. The articles say that American public opinion is that the bombs kept more people from dying; Japanese public opinion is that they were not necessary to end the war. My opinion today is that we are a grim species killing each other in large numbers then and in large numbers now.
August 5, 2006
Well, Joel called today to say he and Sarah and five of his roommates are driving to Sonoma for wine tasting, general festivities. He only took one pill, sounded totally cheerful, glad to have her there of course. It's after eleven p.m. and I am wearing a sweatshirt! Is that amazing or what after all this superhot weather?
I'm planning to go home maybe early Monday. We have two cars and thus can leave separately.
August 4, 2006
It has been some vacation week for the Willis-Weinberger-Geller crew. It started with Andy's brother's two week old cute red car getting rear ended on the Mass Pike on the way to meet us at the lake. This required hours of phone conversation with insurance companies, estimate companies, and repair people. Later, David left his wallet in a movie theater.
But none of that compares to the phone call from Joel on Tuesday morning to say he had a terrible stomach ache, thought he’d had food poisoning. I was panicked by the fact he was across the continent and Andy was on his longest bike ride ever, heading for Pittsfield. I told Joel to get a cab and go to the emergency room. I’m not sure why I told him that. Maybe just blind luck, maybe because the pain woke him and got worse overnight. His apartment is near Stanford University, so he went to that emergency room.
Meanwhile, I drove to Pittsfield to pick up Andy and the bike at the Ben and Jerry's, and it was the hottest day so far, really miserable. We drove on as planned to the Clark Museum in Williamstown, calling Joel's cell phone often and getting his machine over and over. Andy said not to worry, it was a stomach virus, emergency rooms take forever, you aren't allowed to use cell phones while you're there, etc.etc.
Meanwhile I got more and more worried, and finally, as we continued our plan, which was to meet David, Ann, and Nathan for dinner, I got hold of Joel's girl friend Sarah, and she said she too had spoken to Joel but not since he got to the emergency room (by cab). She was reassuring too, like Andy.
I finally stopped waiting to hear from him and obtained the Stanford Hospital emergency room number through information and got through to a place where they had heard of Joel who was, they said, "talking to a doctor.” I was ecstatic that he was alive, and finally got him after a few more calls and he said, "Didn't you get my message at the cottage?" (No, because David and Ann and Nathan had left too soon to meet us for dinner and movies).
They were, Joel said, admitting him for an appendectomy, and he couldn’t talk long, standing hurt too much.
This conversation took place in the food court at the Pittsfield mall while the others were in various movies still believing that Joel had simply been made to wait for six hours in the emergency room to be sent home for a stomach virus.
From then on it was frequent calls, by cell phone as long as we had service, then later from the house phone at the lake, Joel now on a floor in a room where you could talk to him (all alone! three thousand miles from family and friends except for his roommates, one of whom came to the hospital to see him). He wanted Andy, who was reassuring. More hours, he waits in the room. We talk to nurses, ask for doctors. Finally at midnight (nine in California) I got a nurse who said he'd been taken to surgery, the doctor would call us. The doctor didn't call us, we all waited one by one went to bed, including me, but I couldn't sleep, and at three thirty a.m., in bed but still awake, hot and sticky and tossing and turning, I called the floor again and got the same nurse who said they'd just brought him up from surgery, and I could talk to him! Which was amazing in itself, and of course the doctors had STILL NOT called. It turned out I couldn't call his room directly, and the nurse couldn't transfer my call in, finally Joel called back, was groggy but alive and said he felt better than he had in two days, well that was because he was still anaesthesized, I guess, or at least his belly was. It was done laparoscopically, and the doctor finally called, a resident, not the surgeon, who said he was fine, it would all be fine.
By this time all I wanted to do was sleep. They released him only twelve hours later! and yesterday that's Thursday he woke up miserable and called us and Andy said he should call the surgeon (who he had never met in a waking state). He never got the surgeon, but did get one of the residents he had met who basically told him "Duh we cut you open 36 hours ago what did you expect?"
By the end of the day, taking his narcotics, he was making dinner for his housemates (it was his turn, he'd already bought the ingredients), hot wings, potato salad, and mojitos! And today Friday he says he's still not better, he still hurts, but sounds much, much better and is on the phone with everyone, waiting for Sarah's visit, planned long afo, and I'm so glad she's going to be there. Grateful, grateful. On all counts.
July 30, 2006
Gone fishing! Actually, swimming eating rowing and Goldberg Variations at a local concert series on a harpsichord. We're at lake Buel in the Berkshires, with Ellen, Greg, David, Ann, Nathan and Leah yet to come! Internet access is by dail-up via aol, and I've already used up this month's allottment of minutes, so we won't be on here much. Weinberger week is always fun, though, lots of talking and laughing, and we're scheduled to go see Hamlet at Shakespeare and company.
I actually watched television tonight! Well, I tried to. Joel called us in the middle of my program. He's trying to arrange a week-end in the country with his buds during his brief vacation between internship and back to school. Also thinking about the GRE's for heavensake. We're having a family discussion about whether or not Habitat for Humanity is a Christian protelytizing organization. But-- back to the t.v. program, not a DVD and not the food channel and not Jon Stewart and the gang. Yes, I actually read a review in the Star-Ledger and went to the trouble of figuring out what station it was on and watched, some of it anyhow: 30 Days, the Morgan Spurlock docu-reality show that challenges people's beliefs, in this first episode taking a Cuban American Minuteman named Frank and putting him in East Los Angeles with an undocumented family. He even goes to see where they came from in Mexico, and stays with the man's brother and smashes big cucarachas on the wall with a sneaker. A lot of touching stuff, and Frank is still a Minuteman, but more symathetic. Interesting program, at least what I saw.
July 21, 2006
It was a rough night what with heat and trying to stay under the sheets so I wouldn’t be aware of any bats that decided to explore (my mom had a bat down in her bedroom the night before) , and then, when I was finally finding my way down the well into sleep, there was some pretty terrific thunder and lightning– wham crack and whoosh, sharper sounds up on the top floor of my mother’s house in Shinnston than in New Jersey. We’re in a flat place here, between hills, whereas the house in New Jersey is on a long slope downhill. But I slept badly, and got up and went for a damp run, it’s bright and gray today here, storms expected, a front coming through.
I had a dream about meetings, long involved organizing of meetings in a big rambling house, and it was going okay except at the very end of the dream I went out the front door to greet some people, and three or four inches of snow had come down! Night time, and this glitter of white underfoot, on bushes and trees, and everyone commenting on snow in mid July my my! I had a feeling it was a meaningul symbol of something– that it’s been a hot summer?
My mom and I are going shopping after she gets her hair done. We’ll go to Wal-Mart, which I only patronize in West Virginia.
Shinnston looks lovely and very quiet, I think it's the quiet that strikes me most: Even when I talk to people it seems quiet. Everyone waits a little while.
I'm getting a wifi connection from time to time. Wow! I wonder whose system out here in East Shinnston is open??
I’ve got a lot to do today to get ready for my four days going to coming from and being in West Virginia. I just worked on three questions about integration for the Coalition website, and that felt good, I always like these concrete tasks with beginnings and middles and ends. I’ve got a lot of those tasks today: cutting the grass in the front of the house, cleaning the parakeet’s cage, etc.
The heat has broken, although I’m still pretty hot this morning: a sunny day up in the eighties. Deaths in Iraq now hitting over a hundred a day.
To all those who said: Aren’t those poor Iraquis better off with Saddam Hussein gone? I say: ask the ones whose children and mothers are dead in the chaos over there what they prefer. Maybe they do prefer war lords and religious militias over a brutal dictator. But did anyone ever ask them? In particular, did our administration ever ask?
I'm going to make a dash to Shinnston, back soon, but no blogging till I'm back.
Photo of Shinnston from High School Hill looking north by Phyllis WIlson Moore.
We've got a heatwave coming at us. I sort of wish we didn't have accuweather, or maybe I just wish I ignored it. Maybe if you grow up in the city or the suburbs, especially if you grow up with air conditioning (and have it now! or work in an air conditioned space!) you don't pay any attention. But, maybe honoring my dear departed father, I always check the weather, so now I know we're going to have high nineties the next couple of days, and I'm going to be up in my office at least one of those days sweating with my online class. And if I didn't know, would I just then greet each day with hope and expectation of pleasant skies? Proably not.
Speaking of poetry, Phyllis Moore paid me the high compliment of using some lines from this blog as found haiku!
3 Haiku created from words on Meredith Sue Willis’s blog
July 12, 2006 2006 Phyllis Wilson Moore
Speckled white and brown
Beautiful bean seeds on dirt
Winter’s protein meals
Gentiles outnumber the Jews
Make matzoh ball soup
Lost in cyberspace
Two large chunks of yesterday
Reward to finder
Then here is one of her own with a photograph by her husband Jim Moore:
On the Frost Line
Sentinel pine trees
Bereft of left branches
Speak to me of loss
And finally, one more Phyllis Moore poem about Sex and the Nineteen-fifties!
ON HER 68TH BIRTHDAY DAY SHE RECALLS HER 16TH
Phyllis Wilson Moore, 2003
She thinks of the 50s,
those pre-pantyhose, pre-Elvis days.
Marilyn Monroe made it big in the 50s.
Playboy pictured no pubic hair.
Masters had not left his wife for Johnson.
Dictionaries did not contain the F word.
In movies, married couples
slept in separate beds.
Deep in the jungle, Jane
wore a bathing suit.
So did Tarzan.
Virgins didn’t ride boys’ bikes
or use tampons.
Discrete druggist dispensed condoms
from under the counter.
The “Pill” was an experiment
on women in Mexico.
In high schools,
knocked home runs.
aborted their educations.
In the 50s
when boy met girl, girl set the rules.
No drive-in movie on a first date.
No kiss until the third date.
No hands beneath the sweater.
Going steady meant parking,
necking, petting, and eventually French kissing.
When the sun went down,
doing it was not an option.
My best friend said girls walked differently
after they did it.
I remember watching the way friends walked,
I'm reading Bill Zavatsky's new book of poetry from the wonderful Hanging Loose Press (celebrating its fortieth birthday this year!), and most of the poems are on the long side, although very readable, but I liked this short one:
What skeletons most want
is to have their lips back
so that they can stop smiling
that horrible bony smile
of eternal dead teeth
and can kiss someone
or something once in a while,
a cheek, a key, a flower,
while they hang around
waiting for the rest
of their bodies to grow back.
Bill Zavatsky in Where X Marks the Spot
That's Andy and me on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Andy and I had a lovely day at the museum-- a Raphael exhibit focussing on what the Met has in its collection, a lot of nineteenth century engravings of Raphael work showing his incredible popularity, also stories of who collected the works etc. Then, for something completely different, one about a queen of Egypt Hatshetsup in the mid 1400's B.C.E. who became a king-- co-king with her nephew, who, after her death, destroyed most of her sphinx monuments and other statues. So exotic, so distant, so strange. People who believed they were gods. Who were those people? They made the serene other-worldly madonnas and fat baby Jesuses with Cousin St. John seem like the family next door. Then we had lunch in the fancy fourth floor dining room with a view of central park, very expensive, a nice treat. Then went out on the roof garden for the view (see photos above) and also an exhibit of work by Cai Guo-Qiang. My favorites were his two fourteen foot resin crocodiles, thoroughly realistic, suspended at eye height, and pierced by dozens of sharp objects confiscated at air port check points! scissors, dinner knives, carving knives, the works. Very funny and grim. Gosh I love art-- it always seems to me to be the most direct way into the lives and concerns of whatever culture it is a part of.
Here's a funny column on cell phone use done in the form of ten commandments. Now that I'm a cell phone user myself, I'm a little more tolerant, but overall they certainly are annoising-- especially when I'm trying to take a nap on the train.
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