Showing posts from 2019

Definitions for Typos: Sunglower vs. Migraine

I'm on day two of migraine, which almost never happens to me.  The sun is shining but I can't enjoy it because it's too bright; the letters on my screen are doubling as I type but less so than yesterday.  I'll take it slowly.

My signature stiff neck is loosening and actually hurts, which is better than the usual feeling which defies explanation - like my body chooses to stop existing and I'm unsure where I'm attached.  It's not pain, exactly, but something more horrifying.  When I feel it coming - when sounds and lights are becoming sharper - I can usually duck out with a lot of Ibuprofen and benadryl and sleep until it passes.  I haven't gotten to day 2 in years.

But I am dedicated to #draweveryday, so last night I did some work I thought I could manage by rote, more birds to the murmuration on my painting The Zorya.  My initial vision for this painting suggested it would be finished by now and I'd be working on a new one in the series.

To Ramble, or Not to Ramble - Fighting Migration

I've always been this way - I feel an overwhelming drive to pack up and leave town. Be somewhere else. Take my circus on the road.  It's downright painful, sometimes, this feeling - my legs hurt from trying to uproot.

There have been times in my life when I heeded it.  My [ angels, ancestors, voices in my head ] have told me very loudly: DON'T MOVE.  And I got this message before, this time, the feeling hit.  So I'm not moving; I feel like I'm melting in my stasis.  It's very weird.

My brother and I joke about The Ewing Gene, and we didn't really think we were joking, but Daniel C. Dennett has pointed out potential basis for our observation in his book Bacteria to Bach and Back:

Interestingly, when there isn't enough stability over time in the selective environment to permit natural selection to "predict" the future accurately (when "selecting" the best designs for the next generation), natural selection does better by leaving the ne…

I Want To Believe - Why We Need Science Fiction and Psychedelic Therapy

I'm working on a commissioned art project, and to set the mood I'm streaming The X-Files Season 4.  I'm up to the Bruce Campbell episode (I love him so much.) So now I'm digressing, because if you should be painting then apparently you write.

There's so much social media hype telling us to back away from social media.  It's Orwellian, right?  Connecting with people who are not proximal but share interests isn't wrong; connecting with bots and arguing moot points is.  Instant gratification builds unhealthy addiction to instant gratification.  We need to practice focusing on long-term goals. We need to remember how to process long sentences and find definitions in the context.

We need actual Science Fiction.  Also, we need actual science.

 In my angsty pre-teen years, I found solace in the worlds created by Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein.  Heinlein gave us the word grok, a very useful term for this blog's subject matter.  Bradbury's work stood…

Gloria - How Poetry Happens

As a part of my ongoing effort to Get Over Myself, I'm sharing with you  here my process and notes for writing a poem titled Gloria.

Gloria was my father's second wife, my brother Michael's mom.  She was truly one-of-a-kind.  It's whispered in the hallways that my gay Uncle Thom was so impressed by Gloria that he gave her orchids he'd grown himself - twice.

"I'm part Indian," she once told me, blue eyes twinkling. And then she lifted her pants leg. "See my Black Foot?"  I think she was serious about being part Blackfoot, though; she had a funny sense of humour.  We sometimes fought.  She borrowed my hippie clothes when she was pregnant.  And she could outdrink my dad.  Gloria went on to marry several times after divorcing my father.

"Seventh time's a charm," she quipped.  I could hear her eyes twinkle over the phone.  That was probably the last time I talked to her.  We weren't close, but she was important.

But these aren&…

Wayne, the Badass Typewriter Table

My craving for wood furniture colluded with my need to optimize minimal space in my Tiny Cottage, and I found this table on craigslist.  It looked steampunky-gorgeous, and the seller thought it would clean up nice.

He brought it to me Sunday, and told me I'd hit one out of the ball park.He'd dug around on the internet for some history on this piece, maybe underbid himself a bit.

IDEAL was a popular typewriter company. Sherman and Manson were both bicycle manufacturers. BICYCLES. If you've known me for a long time, you know I am crazy about bicycles as an art form, just as much as I love chairs.  What are bicycles but chairs on wheels, right?

 In high school I rode 25+ miles a day regularly, and did all my own maintenance on my Schwinn.  When I lived in California, I got an old Motobecane; an old French guy actually stopped me on the street to look it over.  At the moment I'm a bad bike-mom to a Bianchi.  I had to let someone else change a tire because I couldn't g…

Unreasonable Heart - Desperately Seeking Purpose

This is one of my cruelest demons:  the nagging feeling that somewhere, somehow, I've done something wrong and it's coming back to haunt me.

That I've hurt someone with my obliviousness, and  I should be punishing myself for knowing better.  For doing it yet again.  Because I probably have - I've met me - but maybe I haven't.  I'm practicing Mindful STFU, but it's slow going.  I'm used to regret.

When things are too calm, I start waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I wait for the secret pleasure of resolution in that moment when I find out what went wrong, and I can say Aha! There it is - that place where I failed to hold up my corner of the universe.

There is no math to support my belief, but if I wait long enough, I'll be able to draw an inaccurate conclusion, congratulate myself for missing the mark.

We are pattern extractors, and the worst pattern is the one where we spend every minute it takes, all the way to a lifetime, creating reas…

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

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

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?

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 MindsWe 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 those archetypes. 

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 any…


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.

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

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

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

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?

"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)

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

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.

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?

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…