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Showing posts from May, 2013

A place of dangerous wonder. Or, the alembic of me.

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Every once in a while, I get a bee in my bonnet about this quote from Emerson's Nature: "Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic of man," but I can never remember the word "alembic." I think and I think. "Limbic?" I wonder. "Lambic?" And knowing that it means somethin about straining or distilling I go on a search for synonyms of these words or I try to comb my way through Emerson until finally I find it. (An alembic is a kind of still used in the Middle Ages.)

I think I first encountered the quote in an undergraduate classical rhetoric class, but why my professor brought it up I'm not sure. Perhaps the point was the rhetoric was part of the distilling process? I'm not sure that's what Emerson was getting at, but I'll go with it.

The quote occurs to me when I am trying to figure out why artmaking matters. This can be a position of despair. Human ugliness overwhelms me and I wonder what possible good art can do in th…

Contagious and outrageous.

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I was knocked out on Thursday with a stomach bug/food poisoning/something yucky. Friday, I felt totally human again. Now, on Saturday, I am coming down with a cold. Z is a day ahead of me in the cold, and she is miserable; more so with the knowledge that there is a sleepover party she may or may not make it to tonight.

During the same time, I got to go to Z's school choir concert, for which she wore a sheriff's costume she has had since she was 4 for the Village People number, and I got to go see an amazing and delightful play. There is a Happiness that Morning Is by Chicago playwright Mickle Maher, in production through tonight (! get your tickets now!) at CPT, is simply a joy. My friend Brian Pedaci does some of the best acting I have ever seen him do, and he is matched by his fellows, Deirdrui Ring and Matthew Wright.

The play is a comedy in verse about two Blake scholars forced to apologize for having sex on the lawn ... but that doesn't even really describe how outra…

Thor Enchanted - important lessons in comparative literature

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As a family, we are slowly consuming the Avengers movie franchise. Last night, we finished watching Thor. When Thor's pals "Sif and the Warriors Three" show up to try to bring him back to Asgard, Z exclaimed, "Oh, so this is like Enchanted."

Mythical being cast out of their own world arrives on Earth through a magical portal to find themselves baffled by ways of the mundane, other creatures good and bad from the mythical world come in search of the outcast, hijinks ensue.

Yes, Z. Thor is just like Enchanted. (This sounds like something some of my friends would have written undergraduate seminar papers on.)

Reading: One of the things that Annie Dillard meditates about in For the Time Being is how we think about or fail to be able to think about tragedy on a large scale. A garment factory collapses in Bangladesh. A tornado causes "atomic bomb like" devastation in Oklahoma, leveling neighborhoods and schools. Outside my window the goldfinches serenade th…

O Overwhelmingly is 8

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"Mom? Have I ever told you I'm proud to be your son?" said the new 8-year-old this morning. It kind of doesn't get any better than that, right? Nice to get this the day after one of the most successful, and least planned, kids birthdays I have presided over.

The day began with a fishing trip, during which we caught a lot of trees. And once, two in our party caught the same fish at the same time. Poor fish. The day ended in a glitzy restaurant in Little Italy watching our goofy and multi-talented friend Tim play stand-up bass in a doo-wop band. We were with Leah, who was overwhelmed by the fabulous weirdness of the whole scene. Also, I had amazing parking juju. In between the O got to play with friends, play with a Legos, play with a new video game, and eat his favorite dinner. Z got to go to the Hessler Street Fair with one of her favorite people, and see a friend on stilts. I got to putter around the house, tidy a few things, and continue the Great Book Rearrangeme…

Looking forward on a Friday morning

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This is not an apology post for not posting (David would hate that), but it is a brief reflection on what not posting means to me.

So, as I have explained previously (and might return to provide links for here), the goal of this particular blog is to record the things that capture my interest or pique my emotions and the often fleeting chains of thought that go with them. I had a good stretch of doing this daily, and I really value that. But I am not going to get bent of of shape for not doing it as regularly. Life intervenes. I am lucky my days are so full.

But what of all those details of the past several days? The time I was listening to a tribute to Sidney Bechet on college radio when I turned into a parking lot and when I returned to my car 20 minutes later, after the top of the hour, someone was playing a Talking Heads song the name of which I do not know? Or the conversation I had with Z about friend angst and not prying but being here if she needs to talk? Or the hilarious wa…

Notes from a whirlwind weekend

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Whirlwind weekend - Friday night David and I went to see children's theater without our children (!!!) and took in a lecture by international children's theater sensation Tasmanian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer. Haven't you always wanted to know a Tasmanian playwright? David did a workshop with him last year that really opened up stuff for him creatively, so he was eager to hear him speak. Fin gave a great talk about emphasizing the "what" of playwriting over the how or the why -- really, this could apply to the what of any storytelling endeavour - a sort of call to arms to be true to the story and to let it go where it needs to go. While I was listening there were all kinds of great sentences that I wanted to capture, but I brought nothing to take notes. Alas. Still, I found it an inspiring reminder of the importance of story. And I liked that he used storytelling within his speech about storytelling. And when I met him afterwards, he kissed me on the cheek, i…

The usurping banana seat and pants in the afterlife

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This morning, O put on pants which looked to be 2 sizes to small for him. At first I told him we would put them in the giveaway "pile" (a euphemism for a slatternly variety of randomly tucked away bunches of outgrown things that need badly to be consolidated so that they may in fact be bestowed on someone else before humanity stops producing children). Then I realized there was a big hole in one knee, so I told him we would throw them away. He argued that ripped jeans are popular, but I insisted. (Yes, we could've saved them for some noble reuse project, but I have several of those "piles" as well, so you and your crafty self just need to step back, OK? Jeesh.)

Before we put them in the trash can, he wanted to kiss them and thank them for being his pants. I made the pants talk back and thank him for letting them fulfill their purpose. It was a beautiful, heartfelt moment, and so much healthier than my own tragic guilt when as, what an 11-year-old? even younger…

DeFoe, Dillard, and roasted asparagus ravioli

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Last weekend, I went to New York for work (I apologize if I did not contact you will I was there. I was busy most of the time). The city without children, even for a few brief hours, is a gift, and that is not to say I don't like being in the city with Z&O. They are wonderful travelers and delight in a big city, but as an ex-New Yorker I felt so free and connected to myself while at large in the city.

I got to see the Jay Defoe retrospective at the Whitney (which I had read about in the NYer and wrote about recently). I had a funny moment walking across 55th St. when I realized, "Hey, that show I read about and have been thinking about for two weeks, it is happening RIGHT NOW in THIS CITY. I can go see it!" So I did.

Defoe's "White Rose" painting is the center of the exhibit and it has a compelling story (took 8 years to complete and then only finished when she had to move out of her studio and a hole had to be cut in the wall to get the monumental thi…