Saturday, January 29, 2011

The discrete charms of icicles....

After a few days' reprieve with temperature highs in the springlike twenties (Farenheit, natch), the thermometer is diving back to teens and single digits for the next few days. And it snows nearly every day. My clunky Bean boots do not make for good striding walks, so I'm deprived of aerobic exercise and, as a result, am deathly pale. I certainly can't complain about the view, (like they say in Joisy, "If that's watcha like..") but have decided that cold, raw, grey winters, not unlike the ones I used to experience in Jersey, are for mooses. Let's face it, the snow is only white and fluffy til the plows arrive, then the slush, brown mess everywhere, can't see out the car windows. Depressing.

I mean, you can't just sit around watching Eddie Murphy movies on the comedy Channel to keep your spirits up! One simply longs for a broad splash of vibrant color, magenta walls! some genuine body warmth (I spent an hour planted before a sunny window yesterday, the first sun in days), and a bit of Latin chacha in the air. Something to make you wanna get up and dance! Verdad?

In the meantime, there are things of which I have taken note. (At the moment I'm willfully ignoring the news after last week's nonsense – unless that wall-eyed Michele Bachman decides it's been too long since she last made a fool of herself, that's just too good – in the interest of getting ready to write again.)

Life tends to carry on whether I'm paying attention or not. To wit:

Cuba is going through huge changes . What might Che say about them? And hey! When will our own government allow us to go there? Personal bankrupties hit a five year high in the US last year. Pourquoi? Anything to do with healthcare costs? We spend more than is admitted on defense and war (despite Secretary Gates' noble efforts to cut back on nonsense materiel); and there's what John le Carre sez is his last TV interview. He wrote his first novel in six weeks. I wanted to hang it up after hearing that. He used to be MI-6. Who knew?

So you ever wonder what it takes to have a successful marriage/relationship ? Well, apparently the key is "sustainability". Just like with global survival of the species. Beyond that, within such unions, what might render the two 'parties' involved not only more empathetic toward each other, but toward the human race in general? Why, that's easy! Meditation, of course! And why might that be? Well, this will tell you what happens to brains when they meditate regularly. The news is so marvelous that I plan on starting right away. If you do the same, we're all likely to get along better.

If you can manage to make time for daily meditation (a challenge, to be sure, since the very fact that we've known this forever and haven't "managed" to find the time is a sure sign that we need to!), the Yoga Rebel girl, Tara Stiles, has 184 YouTube videos chock full of doable moves to help you get and stay fit that are easy to work into your day, no matter how tight your schedule or your pants – from airplane yoga to weight loss routines, and here, beginners too, sans the religious dogma. Just good-for-your-bod-and-spirit stuff. I like her, even though she, in her girlish – dare I say 'mindless'? – ignorance insists on calling me a 'guy' and has that teenybopper/ Valley Girl thing going (errgghh). She means well and her workouts are good ones. They build strength and don't pretend to any spiritual guristic nonsense. Check her out. I'm picking one 8 minute routine and working at it every day til i can do it without falling over or hurting myself in any kind of humiliating permanently damaging way.

Moving on...

No time to read the news every day? Ignore the TV. Just go to this great condensed resource I've added to my Bookmarks Bar. Those who wish to keep up with all the political shenanigans that affect you : RealityChex is all you need to be truly in the know all the time, with links to full stories. This Constant Reader covers the all the important news, and much that gets swept under the rug in other media. And the last fews days' news is right there as well, for reference, – a nice counterweight to the wave of political amnesia sweeping the country.

And speaking of news: whatever happened to the, deservedly so, Grand Dame of Journalism Helen Thomas after she was ostracized for telling it like it is? Here's the shameful story on that, and shame on those who perpetrated her demise. Why does it take Aljazeera to tell us this? Hmmm, cuz our own print journalism moguls are to blame? I hope Helen is sitting right there at the Pearly Gates when those SOBs arrive and try to get in, staring them down with her gimlet eye when St. Peter turns to ask her opinion.

Sometimes the old broads are the ones who really know what's what! (I plan on being one of them soon.) Two women in their eighties, Margaret in Texas and Helen in Maine, are blogging about national news and politics, with the cajones to tell it like it is! Delightful is the only word for these frank, witty gals. "Sarah Palin is a bitch." Works for me, but it's their comments about Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, and his plan to shove more government regulation up all our vaginas that is journalistic brilliance at its best. Why don't the Dems hire these gals as speechwriters?

And speaking of good journalism, Chris Hedges gives us some insight into the current thinking of one of my personal heros, Ralph Nader, in a recent interview he conducted at Ralph's home in Connecticut. This is a truly insightful piece (no surprise to me, as Ralph has always been one to cut to the chase on any issue.) Read his take on what's left of the american Left, the cowardly Democratic party and the equally cowardly American voter: "a cowardice that has further empowered the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party".


“The left has nowhere to go,” Nader said. “Obama knows it. The corporate Democrats know it. There will be criticism by the left of Obama this year and then next year they will all close ranks and say ‘Do you want Mitt Romney? Do you want Sarah Palin? Do you want Newt Gingrich?’ It’s very predictable. .. But because they do not make any demands, they are complicit with corporate power. ... By having this nowhere-to-go mentality and without insisting on demands as the price of your vote, or energy to get out the vote, they have reduced themselves to a cipher. They vote. The vote totals up. But it means nothing.”

God love ya, Ralph.

Here's an insightful bit from a recent commenter on the NY Times. Nails it.

"To call the Republican members of the House “Representatives” is false advertising. The polls show that when it comes down to it there is only a superficial connection between the evangelical conservatism that Republicans preach and the actual sense that most Americans have about what is truly important. Dangle enough shiny objects in front of ordinary folks and you’ll get their attention for a minute or two, but when people start to realize they may actually have to live in the world that Republicans want to build (or rather destroy), they have second thoughts.

Republicans are not working for the people. They’re working for corporate and financial interests that view the citizenry as cattle, best tied to a post and periodically milked until they’re dry. Of course they want to dismantle regulations on everything. Safe products are expensive products, which reduce profits. Of course they’re anti-science and pro-religion. Science costs money, requires an educated public, and makes it harder to get away with belching carbon at will into the atmosphere. Religion is free, and all the consequences don’t manifest until the voters meet their eternal reward. Let ‘em complain then.

Speechifying by Republicans is mysteriously void of facts, and constantly portending doom over things that never actually happen. It seems strange unless you realize what their true motives are, and then it makes perfect sense. Their mission is to mislead the public and foment discontent, finding ways to relate everyone’s general unhappiness and free floating anxiety to debt ceilings and the liberal elite. The disconnect between what the G.O.P says and what it does is the elephant in the room, and while you can’t always see it, you can smell it a mile away."

One final thing, and this guy is way cool:

A medical man/philosopher name of Iain McGilchrist has written a book (The Master and his Emissary) that calls into question traditional notions about exactly how the two sides of our brains actually function. He postulates that the right brain, having been dominant for much of human history, has given way to left brain (self involved and self referential) dominance in the west, and that this is most definitely NOT a good thing for the future of humankind. Go to the link above and read the description and PDF introduction. It's fascinating. Dr. McGilchrist is a true visionary.

But if you're not in the mood for any such heady stuff, if you just need a good laugh, here the politically incorrect video that's getting harder to find: a visit from Pearl, the old Pearl the Landlady/ Will Ferrell skit that never fails to entertain. Soooo politically incorrect.... and delish.

ciao for now from the snowy north

[HI! Meg!! thanks for tuning in!]

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive."

Robert Louis Stevenson

frozen river

fat cardinal

january moon

First things first: let's just send out a


to the universe today.

[shouting with hands cupped around mouth]

We MISS YOU !!! (Auden's Funeral Blues come to mind just now, how were we to know "she was my north, my south"?)

And just because she had such a wonderful, bone dry sense of humor and a devilishly contagious chuckle, and would prefer we all light up and party rather than grieve, here's a laugh to start your Sunday from that sublime nutcase of a writer over at Hyperboleandandahalf. Oh- my- God -Wet- your- pants- laughing funniness...

Ok, now secondly I wanna say thanks to the tiny circle of friends who read my blog and have insisted I NOT stop simply because I am temporarily "at rest" by the St. George River (i.e., not technically "on the road"), frozen in place , as it were, like some ancient mariner in the middle of a Maine deep freeze (6 degrees, that's Farenheit, out there today). I don't really mind as I need some time to collect my thoughts, tending as they do to scatter mercilessly like startled roaches, try and find an agent, a promise I have yet to fulfill and which strikes me as priority number one, and get ready to head south, probably -of the Border, and I do not mean the Maine border, to start the next novel and do some long postponed research in the state whose very motto is Friendship.

So it's Sunday, a day I generally like to put to some spiritually uplifting use. (Those old Catholic habits die hard. But if there's one commandment I like it's the one about the Lord's day, one of rest, and "keeping it holy", which may or may not include glazed donut "holes" from Dunkin.)

So what'll it be? Sopranos reruns on A&E? No, not quite "the thing", is it?

And it's wonderful. God, such amazing minds, talking to moi right here on my laptop from across the pond! (do turn your volume up, love.) Technology to the rescue. It is most certainly a godsend when you're out here in the boonies. My little imaginary circle of thinkers, my friends. My stimuli. Like books, they are. Friends just sitting there on the shelf, keeping you company, whispering interesting things among themselves, waiting for you to turn to them for consultation.

So what does it mean to be mindful, and why should we care?

Here's a sampling:

"The worst things that human beings do to each other really come out of a mind that doesn't know itself... and is therefore driven by, you know, greed, hatred, delusion [oh, surely not!], and all sorts of energies like that. And when the mind does know itself then you have what happens in symphony orchestras... in the Louvre... and this comes from a mind that is willing to befriend itself... and that's what awareness is all about.

The quality of our life is no better than our quality of awareness."

".. it's the genetic repertoire of our species... that we have disregarded in favor of thinking [rather than awareness of the thought]... mindfulness harkens back to the best of the Samurai tradition."

What is it to be "task and interruption driven"? What do they mean by the "full catastrophe of the human condition". What is wakefulness, self-compassion? (did you know every cell in your body has 30,000 genes? I mean, thirty thousand!?)

These little chats are only 15 or 20 minutes long, so have a time out of whatever muddle you're engaged in at the moment and choose instead to go somewhere else, somewhere uplifting. The planet will thank you.

And if you like, carry on down the list of BBC Fora (is that not the plural of forum? someone correct me please) to this one on Creativity (as I am about to embark on that inner journey again) and, lo! More good stuff! What is creativity? Can it be seen? "Great artists are instinctive neuroscientists"? Huh? One of the guys in this discussion sounds like Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, a little creepy. Still, I was all ears.

"Music is time made aesthetically perceptible" (Hermann Hesse). Just wrap your brain around that one for a few. Here's more:

What is the role of memory in creation? How often are creators satisfied with what they create? Dante said all artists must fail. Why? So research shows us that beauty is experienced in the pleasure centers of the brain. (Alcohol, a depressant, can preempt such appreciation, btw, while mindfulness can enhance it.) But these "appreciator" brain cells respond more to the expectation of pleasure than the actual experience of it! Let's hear it for anticipation, which seems to be the best part of pleasure. Is delayed gratification therefore good? What role does 'concept' play in creativity, if any?

The poet Charles Simic, one of the folks in the discussion, talked about how he has no "concept" when he starts a poem. That a few words just seem to end up on the page, and then over time, days maybe, "begin to make love". I LOVED that. A perfect description of the best part of creativity. Sometimes you're just the witness to what comes out of you.

Finally, what is "schizophonia"? There's a sound analyst in Canada who coined the term to explain what you experience when what you hear and what you see are "dislocated". Like when people around you are talking animatedly on cellphones. The appearance is one of conviviality, of folks interacting on phones, next to you talking, but you're not part of it. You're just there.

And so I am "traveling hopefully" as Stevenson suggested. At the moment I am still, or trying to be, traveling inwardly. Trying to remain faithful to myself, my best self, the one who practices self-compassion. Sometimes that person is very hard to find. So many "interruptions", many self- inflicted. Easy to see how the idea of devils proliferated throughout human history. We are always "bedeviled" by one thing or another, mindless fear and worry that destroys our deep appreciation of the small moments that make up the totality of our life. To travel (through life) "hopefully" one must practice mindfulness, to be aware of fear when it tries to invade your thoughts, and thus your body. It is most assuredly not easy, but well worth the effort.

Beyond everything else, we must believe that the world is good. That if we end up with nada that can be measured in material terms, alone and lying in a Medicaid bed in some low budget nursing home in a seedy part of town in the middle of nowhere, that there will be someone there to care, to see into our soul. Someone we don't even know will be kind. One thing's for sure, a fat bank account will never spare you the fear of loneliness. Only the sense of having lived a full life, a life of loving compassion, one that was true to who you were born to be, that will give you peace in the end.

I just wanna get right with that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"I hate writing, I love having written."

Ever find yourself thinking "Oooh, I wish I'd said that!" ... This Jersey gal likely never had that experience in her entire life! She always nailed it, on the spot.

So when you think of women you admire, here's one who will never steer you wrong.

"Lady, lady, never start
Conversation toward your heart;
Keep your pretty words serene;
Never murmur what you mean.
Show yourself, by word and look,
Swift and shallow as a brook.
Be as cool and quick to go
As a drop of April snow;
Be as delicate and gay
As a cherry flower in May.
Lady, lady, never speak
Of the tears that burn your cheek-
She will never win him, whose
Words had shown she feared to lose.
Be you wise and never sad,
You will get your lovely lad.
Never serious be, nor true,
And your wish will come to you-
And if that makes you happy, kid,
You'll be the first it ever did."
Dorothy Parker

She who also said:

"The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity."


"You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."

And my personal favorite:

"If all the girls at the Yale prom were laid end to end, [wait for it]

I wouldn't be a bit surprised."

So, ladies, if you find yourself in need of a nice quip to hone the edge of your tongue, try this site on for size. Dorothy witticisms guaranteed to make you feel sharp as a tack.

I mean, who else gets up in the morning, "brushes her teeth and sharpens her tongue"?? just yummy!

Oh, and PS

A HUGE thank you to Margie for reading my novel and loving it so. Onward! I think I'll start the next one now.

Hmmm.... where did i put that list of agents?

Happy Birthday, Paul Cezanne!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Have not abandoned you... will be back soon.

Exactly what was Boehner looking at here?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year? 1/1/11

She said despondently.

All you need to do is look at that smug mug on that spray tan face below and think about what the next two years might be like for those of us who care about what happens to what's left of the Reaganized/Bushwacked People's Government and, hence, to regular people in this country, the "under $250,000 a year" crowd, the little guys... toi et moi.

Will his plans to completely disassemble what's left of the government this year sound the wake up call for average americans? Or the death knell, the one only dogs, small animals and true progressives can hear? Just look at that bugger's face. He can't friggin wait to get his hands on the Constitution and wring its scraggly, undernourished little neck.

Back in 2001, when W and his band of gypsies "occupied" (in the old SDS meaning of the word) the White House, knowing what a cretin he was I figured it wouldn't be long before the folks who – in a weak moment of lonely longing for a drinking buddy – voted for him, would realize what a huge mistake they'd made and throw the bastards out in the next election. And W's approval ratings did indeed tank markedly that first year. Until of course that fateful day in September when the nation was (deliberately?) driven to distraction.

Suddenly, literally overnight, he became the hero of quivering Americans, their go- to guy, Daddy come to protect them from the dark face of "the Other", as terror became "the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves."

When 2004 rolled around, I figured there was no way, even given Kerry's fey effort, that W could be re-elected, no way they'd have the nerve to engineer another victory and get away with it, this time in Ohio (uh... Boehner's home state). Kerry caved, and the American people, silent as ever, got, once more, what they deserved for choosing fear, cowardice and silence over a fight to "keep" the Republic Franklin warned them against losing.

And here we are again, incredulous that anyone could vote for these pathologically mendacious maniacs, lessons unlearned. (Those "undecided voters" everyone panders to – slightly more than a margin of error percentage in every election – are really just plain too stupid and lazy to have a political perspective and have far too much power considering how uninterested in politics they are the rest of the year during which I'm guessing they are busy hoarding or compulsively shopping.)

If you have any doubt as to what the future holds for the citizens of the US, especially considering the new crowd in charge of things, read what Chris Hedges, an intelligent and thoughtful writer, has to say here. Send it along to friends who still believe things will work out on their own if we're just calm and patient. How much longer can I carry on believing my fellow citizens will wake up and smell the fascist java being brewed for their consumption?

In the words of the old blues tune:

How long? How much more long? How long?

Those students in the UK put us all to shame. And the Germans! Did you see them in the streets? tens of thousands of 'em! Well?