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*POETRY WARNING* For Michael, Proper - Alles Gute zum Ihren Geburtstag!

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For Michael, Proper

My friend, My son,
Confidante, Sometimes-secret soul:
On your day Everybody passes hearts Like a telephone game
Hoping to get one in pocket With its message Still recognisable.
It looks like fun, sometimes, But nobody seems to read The secret words of hearts.
I put my heart in your pocket Knowing it's safe there While I wait for my can to ring.

I missed my own Anniversary

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Well, this is awkard.  I was mentally prepped to be excited about living here at Tiny Cottage for two years, and then it happened.  Rolled right by.  Last week.  

Here's the win, though:  it didn't register.  That's how comfortable I am in life right now.

Remember that first time you forgot it was payday because you weren't desperately hanging on until it arrived? No, seriously, I've done that.  Not quite there at the moment, but I remember.  That's how I feel right now.

Very Adulty. 

In a way, I did celebrate.  I cooked a lot of things, including a stellar rhubarb-pear pie with smoked almonds, and my signature dish: Shepherd's Bhai.  This is the traditional shepherd's pie with an Indopak twist to it - the meat is seasoned with Shan's spice pack, and the potatoes are mashed with butter, garlic/ginger paste, turmeric and yogurt.  I layer mint, cilantro, and this time tomatoes between the queema and the potato topping like a biryani.  Bhai means brother i…

How Much Is My Caring Worth?

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These are myriad "things" that are easy for us to recognize, point to, love or hate, and, in many cases, manipulate or even create." - Daniel C. Dennett, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: the Evolution of Minds
We build archetypes without even thinking about it:  you visualise your dreams, your goals, your friends, your self.  You make decisions based largely on the mental models  you've created with data you collected to build that archetype. 

If you're emotionally invested in the advice you've lent someone, you may take their failure worse than they do. If your knowledge is currency and you need to keep ledgers on where you spend it, then do that before spending, not after.

Give without strings attached, and that includes advice.

If you love someone, let them fail.  If you can't afford to clean them up after the fall, tell them.  Let them know you love them but you can't afford it right now.  Answer their questions honestly.

That's all you owe anyon…

*POETRY WARNING* Saturdays

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I miss you Saturdays... 

while busy people shuttle
back and forth 
on busy streets

and the laundry van honks loud
and the radio summons
us to other things


nobody stops to offer a good word


here or there

late at night
with just the moon and the may-beetles
I breath a sigh and grin

Saturday is almost over
and Sunday will begin again...


-for Richard Robert Erdmann on his graduation from CMU

Celebrate Your Existence. Tell us about it, or not.

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Life is to be celebrated. 

There is nothing else. 

Do that. 

You are here, and that's all that matters. Seriously.

And That's Why I can't Go to the Library

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It all started with a bottle cap.

In those days I worked at the Holiday Inn on Sprinkle Road. I used to meet coworkers at Bell's Brewery about once a month; we called it a Front Desk Meeting even though I worked in housekeeping at the time.  Tim could no longer work or play guitar, so he spent a lot of time watching TV.  He'd usually have thoughtful questions for me by the time I got home.  This is how I could tell what he'd been watching.

"If you could take any person out of history - and it can't be someone easy, like Hitler - who would it be?" He looked at me placidly, waiting for an answer.

"Just a second," I said, looking at my hands still full of things brought in from the car. "I have to think. Any other clues?"  His face remained static so I went to the kitchen to put things down. I heard him respond from around the corner.

"For me, it would be the guy who invented bottle caps." So it was the History Channel. As I came b…

For Two Emilys

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This morning a raven - maybe a rook - was walking on the parking deck railing I can see from my cube window. He had something in his mouth and he seemed very pleased about it. He hopped down behind the wall, like he wanted to hide his prize from other corvids nearby, or maybe find a place where he could crack it open.

He looked up over the wall, and then hopped onto it, and then lost his footing on the ice.  He slid a few paces, scrambled a bit, then hopped up to the pipe railing and down again - the metal was probably colder than the concrete.  All the while he held that round thing in his mouth.  I wonder whether it was something to eat, or something to covet.

The sun is trying to melt the world, but it's just too cold.

I felt disappointment that I wasn't able to get your attention so you could see for yourself.  That corner is an empty space of hope.  It was a flying spell, that pocket-magic, I tell you.

How is your world today?

Postcard from the Beach

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The most adorable thing happened today - my landlords sent me a postcard. They're away in warmer climes, and I'm feeding the cat, tending the plants, raiding the liquor cabinet once in a while. Okay, once. I was bored.

I don't have a return address, so I'm responding to them here.

Things are fine; it hasn't snowed much at all, really.  I had one big day where I shoveled from my door to the car, and then from the big tree to the road, and then shoveled the road.  The foxes laid tracks all over the yard. I stayed home from work today but I won't have to move snow at all.  Today we had what must be called sun-snow.  Either there were secret clouds or it was so bitterly cold that the snowflakes had drifted gently and intact onto leaves and were thence lifted by the wind.  I couldn't capture the effect by camera. Let me know when you open the whisky from Holland.

Tigger's been good; Barb left him catnip and I will bring him some more later in the week.  Tak…

Breakfast With Parmenides - Who Reads This Stuff Anymore?

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"Meet it is that thou shouldst learn all things; as well the unshaken heart of well-rounded truth as the opinions of mortals, in which is no true belief at all." - Parmenides I really love waking up to stuff like this in emails.  The Venn diagram of my social circles would look like a bubble bath, but if you consider the whole bathtub you'll see I collect diverse and well-read people. Together our book collections could rebuild Alexandria.

A young girl who called herself Stencil Fox suggested I read The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie.  I was amazed.  How could Salman Rushdie be world-famous?  Could it really be that other people in the world, enough other people, like the same things I like?  Do readers not only follow complex sentences but relish them?  Sure, there was that fatwa-thing...and the hot wife with the cooking show.  But really, are there enough lovers of words to redeem humanity from my judg(e)ment?

There are.

I braved the masses at the 2016 Nati…

Finding Normalcy (also my biggest fangirly moment with Joshua Bell)

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I've been living where I am for 2 years on February 1.  The timing was very intentional:  Joshua Bell was playing the Kennedy Center on February 11th.  I was still married until February 27th (ish - I'm not good with dates really) and I didn't want to go see my favorite violinist with a guy who was on his way out the door.  I didn't want to have to come home and put on my game-face after such a wonderful evening.  So I moved.

The first year was like a jon boat at sea; sometimes the waters were calm, but in all cases the sides of the boat are unnervingly low and it's difficult to find faith in that flat bottom.  I mean, even the Titanic sank, right?  After the one year mark I felt more confident, like getting out of the boat and hiking up into the trees.  The idea has been, I think, to enter the jungle alone and come back a few weeks later with scalps.  Sometimes I feel like I'm back in the boat, though, sailing for the New World, with no shore on the horizon.

Thoughts on Art: Empathy and TMI

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Artist Sherise McKinney says in this 2013 interview for RAW Seattle:
"...I realised I actually draw everybody else's emotions."  Though what I took from it may not have been exactly what she meant, the message really resonated with me. That's how art works, kids.

I never believe people should ask what the artist was thinking. For one, I want the receiver to preserve the personal experience. I don't want to give the impression anyone was wrong, or actually didn't find a connection with the artist.

Also, I'm afraid the truth is going to be disappointing.

I'm good at  extrapolating scenarios from very little fact.  I can start with one thing someone says or does and, if my mood is right, build a world around that.  This is where art comes from.  If I am writing or drawing in the first person, so to speak, it would be folly to assume the message is autobiographical.

Even if it is about me, it  might not be about just me but my assessment of humanity; pr…

On Sticking With It - Do That, Yes.

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Here's the secret to my productivity:  almost every blog post starts as an email to someone who is kind enough to tolerate my wordvomit.  I love you guys.

Sometimes my emails spill over from one Venn circle to the next, and I wind up filtering ideas through friends who don't know each other. The following wisdom was spawned thus:
"...I wrote it because I felt like I shouldn't, and so I stuck with it until it honestly felt constructive. " - Jim McCormick I feel like I should tattoo this on my thigh, though I probably will opt for a raven instead.

You know that nagging from between your ears; I know you do.  That moment of hesitation when you aren't really sure if you're on track, whether your thought is being translated clearly from subconscious to masterpiece.  You aren't sure if you're gonna piss somebody off.

Forget about that last one. Completely disregard it.  Repeat after me:  someone else's piss is not your problem.

Whether they have c…

Boundary vs. Interface - Which do you need?

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We need to stop using the word boundary when  defining human relationships.  Maybe not stop, but our society needs a bigger vocabulary.  Once boundaries are established, we need means of getting across them safely. 
Your village-of-one scenario is only in your mind.

A cell touches its environment.  Your home has doors.  Minds meet.  We use computers to type our messages into the twitterverse, and we anticipate response.

If you just said, "I don't care  if anyone responds," you anticipated.  And it isn't what you mean - you do care, but you're preparing yourself for the possibility that you threw a rock over your boundary and nobody threw it back.  Maybe you were hoping they'd throw a rock at you, because that response feels normal.

Our society is learning to defy systemic bullying.  We are, in singular form, feeling the authenticity of our true selves.  We're deprogramming the negative self-talk that tried to protect us from stabby mixed messages we abso…

Thoughts on Art: How It Feels To Give Birth

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My daughter was born the day before my 27-week prenatal check-up.  Her father noticed at 1:00 AM in a hotel room on Airline Highway in New Orleans that I was literally crawling to the bathroom every half hour because, I said, I had to pee.

"No, you are not having that baby now," he muttered into his pillow. But I did.

I went by ambulance to Charity Hospital, got stuck with a needle, and held the nurse's hand so she could tell me when to push because I was no longer feeling contractions. By 3:00 AM, Baby Yaya slid out and screamed at the world - not fearful, but annoyed. She was cold and wanted people to stop messing with her. She's still that way.

I knew she would be okay despite being early; that she was a complete entity of her own, not a part of me. I was just the vessel.

There's a moment like that in the creative process, if I'm lucky. Sometimes I'm focusing so hard on the details of my work that I am absolutely dumbfounded by the final product; I ha…

Just Trying to Get Through This Like Buddha

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A girl of about 14 came up the driveway and offered to shovel - from my car straight to the road, she specified, not the full circular drive - for $40.00.   I laughed.  That's a $50 job at least, just my side, and she doesn't know about the gravel and the carpet. There was $3 in my wallet;  I gave it to her for taking the time to come up to the cottage.

My snow shovel was rescued from the side of the road this summer. It's sturdy and can hold more wet snow than I should lift.

I developed a snowplough method of push-and-dump.  I learned that leaves are easier to shovel with snow on top of them.  Also, the carpet in the driveway makes for easy snow removal.  I was happy to see the green moss, but wondered whether it was actually harmful to uncover it and let it be snowed over again.


I'll admit I had a little bit of fun. Deer were hiding under the trees, and the foxes ran through the yard too fast for me to take a picture of their frolic. Even the cardinals seemed pl…

Goodbye, Dr. Hofstadter...Book Club vs. The Next Series of Digressions

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Today was our official last discussion on Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid - kind of like an Ozzy Farewell Tour, because we've already agreed to go back and discuss sticking points once we've cleansed the palate, so to speak.  Also, we didn't really talk about GEB's content, but about our group.  We talked about talking about GEB.

I'm impressed that after spending 2.5 years reading one book we're eager to go on and tackle another one.  This is a great collection of people who digress well. Excellently, even.  We asked our ringleader, Lee, whether her initial vision of the study group matched what actually happened.  Not so much, but she's pleased with the outcome.

We brought to the table - literally - the following books:
Bacteria to Bach and Back, Daniel DennettThe Mind's I, Hofstadter & DennettKant & The Platypus, Umberto EcoThinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman The Order of Time, Carlo RovelliThe Great Unknown: Seven Journeys to…

On Jazzmen and How the Light Gets Out Again

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Being creative is like pursuing the Golden Fleece. It's a challenge to pin down the visions floating in your head, put them into a language that hopefully others can read and discuss. Getting to the end, actually completing the project, is the next trial. Once your ugly is baby outside your body, you have to be brave enough to share with people. If that goes well - if enough people can read your language - you will be asked to talk about yourself. Ouch.

But then there you are:   the light came in through your cracks and reflected outward, taking your soul into the world with it. 

Jerry Jazz Musician ran their first Short Fiction Contest in 2002, with my story Coloring Outside the Lines. In preparation for the 50th Contest, Joe Maita is running brief interviews with previous winners beginning Monday, March 7, 2019. I highly recommend you submit your best short fiction to this online magazine. But this is not why we're here.  We're here to talk about Wynton Marsalis.
The f…

Carving the Light - How to De-focus the Negative

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I've come to a crossroads in my creative spurt -  there's a skunk to be drawn on scratchboard.  I have a colored pencil project to finish first, and the ink on canvas will have to wait.  Scratchboard requires me to turn my head completely around.

Here's the stuff.  A fine coat of clay is applied to thin cardboard, and then India ink is layered on top of that. The artist uses a stylus  to scrape away the ink and reveal the clay underneath, which is usually white.  I had a tiny artistic tantrum after I accidentally bought a sheaf of rainbow-coloured scratchboard, but I own my mistake.  I did it to myself by not reading carefully. I can use the rainbow to practice without wasting the good black and white board; it's been a while since I worked in this medium.

When I took photographs at The Academy of Advanced Imagery I focused on light and shadows, the interplay between them.  I'm very figure/ground oriented - I see both concurrently, always, seeking balance with o…

Refrigerator Magnets: A Team-Building Exercise

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My friend Meg played the catalyst this time. She bought me a Zombie Magnetic Poetry Kit and informed me I was to take it to work.

"You have a kitchen at your job; I don't," she said. "So this is for your work-kitchen." Roger that.

I scooped up a few words, sidled into the break-room and stuck them on the refrigerator door, trying to guess how many minutes I'd be blamed. Even if someone else had done it, my reputation would precede me. By the time I got back to my desk, I was envisioning HR's gentle admonishments in my head, so I went back and pulled all the death, corpses, and creepiness.

Not an hour later, I found a new message:
find out how unstoppable you canbe
...and then I realised someone had gone and found the word be in a different set of magnetic poetry, and in fact had severed it from a longer word, in order to complete her message.

I say her, because I knew it had to be Roxanne Jackson, who happens to be a wise person and Certified Profession…

Update on Things: Deconstructed Corvid 1 - Fibonacci

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Due to...logistics? Technique? My innate laziness?...there does not exist an original of this drawing.  To have it on my wall I had to order it from myself via Zazzle. So this is the first and therefore most valuable copy of Fibonacci Raven. I will try to explain. I started this project on blue grid-lined paper (you know, the one that doesn't really render the lines invisible like they said it would.)
In a fit of inspired doodling, I started inking the original sketch.  And then I kept going.  Before I knew it, I had an almost fully-inked drawing on the wrong paper. I decided to try scanning it anyway.  To be honest, I like the gridlines.  They feel architectural, or something.

Also, I'm messy.  There was a blob of purple paint on the page, as well as several wrinkles.  And I'm lazy and didn't want to re-ink what already looked pretty damned good.  I did some judicious scissoring; it took a few scans and cuts to excise the blue lines I didn't want to show up on the f…