Monday, May 4, 2015

Word of the Week - 61

Word of the Week:  MIXTAPE

Not sure what they call them anymore since we, meaning they, don't use cassettes.  I still prefer CD to digital and I still have mixtapes from decades ago and they haven't (or hadn't) lost their shape or sound.  I also continue to believe that a mixtape is an accurate representation of (a) the moment, (b) a very finite number of our favorite songs or (c) our ability to use other people's words to deliver our message.   For my (b), the problem if there was one would be how to keep it from being Van Morrison-heavy.

Here are two non-Morrison samples from my potential (b) mixtape:

To be known, is there any part of life less easily conquered?  First to be known to ourselves, not confused nor self-deceiving, then to find the means of communicating that, either by living it, writing it, speaking it, acting it out in pantomime, to significant others.  Our human ability to misconstrue is without limit, as though existence were a cinema noir classic in which we each play a protagonist of limited vision who only dreams of the big score.  Yes, I have recently been watching and thinking about noir.  I can tell you this, the cartel always wins.

With the discovery of Pinterest, I found knitting artists who produce non-matching socks by the pair.  They are jewels for the feet, rare and beautiful and, it seems, frequently made from last small bits of yarn leftover from other projects.  I know I am one of those pair, not one row like another, disparate parts scattered all over the landscape.  I believe most of us are.  Our songs will be as divergent as our thoughts and favorite foods.  A mixtape can be the microcosm, the linear presentation of peaks and valleys, a map of preferences in a way the brain can process it, us as a medley of our greatest hits which we feel no compulsion to explain.
Source unknown.

It might have to be a video mixtape, what with Lou Reed and all.

Two mixtapes, one video, one audio.  For now.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Woman at the window

"Alupka," painting by Sergei Arsenevicha.
A cursory study of paintings of women tells me that windows are significant in women's lives.  In Los Angeles it is every bit the spring morning I might have wished for.  The heat that made sleep difficult a day or so ago seems to have lessened, there are no clouds though yesterday's sky gave me a sense of altitude, mimicking a mountain summer edging toward fall.  The apartment window, slid fully open, lets in Saturday suburban noise but it is the wind, the breeze, that I hear, especially through the palms.

Space and time, as I've written possibly too often, can grow imprecise for me.  If there is a veil which protects us from seeing too deeply into matters not presently residing in this reality, that veil at times can thin.  It feels like stepping from the fixed and comprehensible bank into the river and surrendering to the unknowable current.  From the separate self to merging with everything, all that was, is and might be.   My present indoor existence would shrivel without the breath and vision delivered through an open window.

Winter stunts me as I wrap in layers and watch everything beyond the sill through glass.  I know other influences sparked today's communion with the cosmic whole, yet what the skin perceives plays a part.  Beyond that, I think my greatest wisdom is the product of a knowing that circles outside the ordinarily identified senses.  Once I chose to trust the clear, specific guidance that speaks to me in unexpected moments, I felt I had an ally, a mentor, a really smart sidekick who knew things I could not.

I daydream through my window, hypnotized as I am this morning by what is green and swaying or by a fog bank, by drifting clouds, by jetliners preparing to turn and land at LAX.  Even when closed, the window is permeable.   When open, no obstacles exist between me and what might be possible.  I am not sure that would be true at ground level but here in the sky there is unfettered access.  Now it is May and what stirs the branches stirs me.  I sail, I soar, if only in my mind.
"Summer in Cumberland," painting by James Durden.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Notes to self

To live authentically, expressively, first, sit down.  Clear the decks, clear your mind.

Many, many years ago there was a tv commercial for PanAm,  which said, in part, "Leave the phone off the hook, teach the cat how to cook."  Do those things.  Come to know, without being obsessive about it, what matters.  And what doesn't.

Complete, within reason, every possible task that cannot be postponed or ignored.  Give yourself a time, and if not an hour or minute, then at least a date on which you will bring all of you to the table.  Narrow the deadline down as finely as possible.  Find the balance between flexible and determined. 

Taking ourselves seriously can be a rugged assignment.  Treating our dreams and possibilities like the rare blossoms they are means kicking other stuff to the curb.  A certain sort of ruthlessness is stimulating, even when no one but us knows of its existence.

Don't put up with the shilly-shally, the dither, the general farting about for which you are almost famous.  If you DON'T know, this moment, what to draw (or write), you soon will.  Believe in that and the fact that you WILL be able to do it.

I no longer fool myself with notions of doing it all.  That didn't work when I was young, or did work but to my detriment.  Now each moment brings a choice, each minute is legal tender that can only be spent once.  We can but make our best guess about how to use this fleeting resource.  What I work at is practicing patience, acceptance of my imperfection and how I invest myself.  Life is a bossy partner, it insists on leading when we dance.    I simply try to keep up in reasonably good humor.

There are projects of varying sizes that I actually dream, or at least daydream about, trails my heart urges me to follow.  Writing, drawing, painting, crafting, being.  I do what I can.  Too many measures of what might be called success exist to let ourselves be bullied by just one.  Our first allegiance is to our own star, the following thereof.  I offer this because it is essential that I believe it myself.  We will not, we cannot do it wrong.  Trust that.  Just trust that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sophie Blackall, Illustrator

"Coney Island," by Sophie Blackall, available here.
Furiously scanning my mental index cards, "Arcana that could become blog posts," the name Sophie Blackall lept forth.  Among the photos on my desktop is one of her illustrations.  I think of her, if briefly, every day.  With the chance, not to mention purpose, of exploring her work in greater detail, it occurs to me that illustrators, like poets, are translators, taking our human experiences and returning them to us in forms we can absorb, process and even enjoy.

I suggest you Google her, in text and images.  I will share some links, such as this Brain Pickings article that offers interview excerpts.  At her website I could sit indefinitely and watch her subway riders glide past.  She has one blog about her "Missed Connections" project and subsequent book, another about more current goings-on.
From "Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children" by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
At this late date, it seems unlikely that I will ever grow too old for picture books  Or toys, for that matter, but I digress.
Find a review here.
Here, in her own words, a bit more about Sophie. 
And, in closing, more fine thoughts from Brain Pickings.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Word of the Week - 60

Artist, Troy Brooks.
Word of the Week:  RED

I left you notes on pages from old ledgers, tucked into manilla coin envelopes with your name, "Red," written with a brush-tip pen after practicing over and over, getting the lines just thin enough here, thick enough there so it mimicked Copperplate which I haven't quite had time to master.

The correspondence couldn't be called anything but mash notes, professions of love from the moonstruck, the spellbound, the captivated fan.  We couldn't date in any usual sense though I would be so proud to escort any of your manifestations anywhere.  I've worn you as a scarf, a zippered and  hooded sweater, ballet flats, a Norma Kamali shirtwaist with shoulder pads and side-seam pockets.  You've become my favorite shade of lipstick and I'd still choose you for lingerie, just another eccentricity.  My response is Pavlovian when I see you in a painting not seen before, in a newly-designed couture gown, in exotic textiles.  You make me want a pair of Converse hi-tops and the shorty coat I had in 1963, the one with big buttons and deep patch pockets.  For you I would wear nail polish.
To the best of my detective ability,  I think the art is by femme hesse.
Because of you, mostly, Valentine's Day remains a dreamy holiday.  Red roses rock, ditto cinnamon red hots.  Without you, romance would be a sad, pallid business.  Dear Red, Do you even know how hot you are? Sound of sizzling, followed by a tango.
Silk painting by Alice Vegrova.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The relevance of dinosaurs

Kaylee's Pink Dinosaur, with thanks.
Situations arise which remind me I have become a dinosaur.  I have become a quill pen, high-button shoes, a hoop skirt, a car with no computer anything that also requires high octane gas, a 50-cent grilled cheese and Coke lunch at a Woolworth's lunch counter, the lunch counter itself.  I am happy among the unhappy characters of MAD MEN because we are almost contemporaries, my age at the time falling between Sally's and Peggy's. That is a world I knew.  We were alternately baffled and dazzled by protests, a war, assassinations, then men landing on the moon.  I have become a time capsule.

I am happy, though sometimes thwarted, being analog in a digital environment.  In the ways of master craftsmen who preserve and perpetuate skills nearly lost to the machine age, I suspect that some of us are needed to play the role of relics, like directors who still shoot their projects on film.  Arm signals seem, to me, a reasonable method of alerting other drivers to pending turns.  That is not my practice yet it still feels natural, the way my foot sometimes seeks the long-absent clutch.

Products that vanish, businesses that close, remind me that change is inescapable.  Becoming accustomed to it is not the same as becoming comfortable.  I like to talk with service departments on the phone, I get to ask questions and take notes.  I get a name and an extension to call again, should I need to.  The Edison Company still operates this way.  I know from our frequent and on-going power outages.   They may be eligible to join me in the Dinosaur Hall of Fame

Life as I experience it calls to me to seek the wider view, the higher path, the softer response.  It reminds me, in a gentle way, to slow down, do one thing at a time, be in the moment.  It has taught me to value silence, either by refraining from speaking all my thoughts or by sitting still and doing what appears to be nothing.  There is no up side to being in a hurry, nor any I can find for what I refuse to refer to, except in this instance, as multi-tasking.  Even when young, I believed I heard a different drummer.  I had no idea just how different it would become.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Secretly in love

I acknowledge that I am inclined to do romantic love badly.  We mistake it for things that are close or familiar in shape or size.  Love causes visual impairment.  A horse, seen at a distance in a field, ought not to be mistaken for a cow.  So much energy, way too much time are devoted to trying to make it, what we think is love, come out the way we want it to.  Doubt, suspicion, insecurity, jealousy, lack of control over the actions of the swoon-inducing other, fault-finding, impatience, under-developed compassion, estrangement from one's true self, spoiled and bratty demands and expectations, self-involvement, fragile ego, childhood issues, and general confusion turn what we like to think of as love into the war zone of disappointment we've created.

When we mistreat love we harm ourselves and any hope of the connection we believe we desire.  It takes a true veteran, of this lifetime or something previous, to maintain the balance of trust and surrender necessary for love to be anything but a dream and one's love object to be anything but the victim of an attempted hostage situation.  Mature, patient, accepting love is not often seen and because of that is frequently misunderstood by observers.  As with the rest of life, love requires being comfortable with what is not shown or said but simply known.  Simply applies to love in so many ways, chief among them acknowledging that love simply is.
For these reasons, and probably dozens more as yet unnamed, I took the above quote to heart.  There IS romance to being secretly in love, even as a two-way street, meaning secret to others but known to those involved.  There is the primitive fear of angering old gods by speaking aloud of something at once fragile and enduring, of diluting red passion to a watery shade of peach with too much talk.  Not all who love are shown a clear path of action for such does not always exist.  In a state of no apparent next move, we decide it must not be love because we can't see where it might go.  It doesn't have to become anything.  It is already there.