AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

30 November 2015

Ancient.


The maidenhair or ginkgo tree is described as a 'living fossil.' It is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that is said to be older than dinosaurs.

Transform.


I set out to discover the why of it, and to transform my pleasure into knowledge.

Charles Baudelaire

Chris Squire, "Days of Wonder/Hold Out Your Hand/You By My Side"

Marvel.


I have often wondered at the extreme fecundity of the press, and how it comes to pass that so many heads, on which Nature seems to have inflicted the curse of barrenness, should teem with voluminous productions. As a man travels on, however, in the journey of life, his objects of wonder daily diminish, and he is continually finding out some very simple cause for some great matter of marvel. Thus have I chanced, in my peregrinations about this great metropolis, to blunder upon a scene which unfolded to me some of the mysteries of the book-making craft, and at once put an end to my astonishment.

I was one summer's day loitering through the great saloons of the British Museum, with that listlessness with which one is apt to saunter about a museum in warm weather; sometimes lolling over the glass cases of minerals, sometimes studying the hieroglyphics on an Egyptian mummy, and some times trying, with nearly equal success, to comprehend the allegorical paintings on the lofty ceilings. Whilst I was gazing about in this idle way, my attention was attracted to a distant door, at the end of a suite of apartments. It was closed, but every now and then it would open, and some strange-favored being, generally clothed in black, would steal forth, and glide through the rooms, without noticing any of the surrounding objects. There was an air of mystery about this that piqued my languid curiosity, and I determined to attempt the passage of that strait, and to explore the unknown regions beyond. The door yielded to my hand, with all that facility with which the portals of enchanted castles yield to the adventurous knight-errant. I found myself in a spacious chamber, surrounded with great cases of venerable books. Above the cases, and just under the cornice, were arranged a great number of black-looking portraits of ancient authors. About the room were placed long tables, with stands for reading and writing, at which sat many pale, studious personages, poring intently over dusty volumes, rummaging among mouldy manuscripts, and taking copious notes of their contents. A hushed stillness reigned through this mysterious apartment, excepting that you might hear the racing of pens over sheets of paper, and occasionally the deep sigh of one of these sages, as he shifted his position to turn over the page of an old folio; doubtless arising from that hollowness and flatulency incident to learned research.

Washington Irving, from "The Art of Book-Making"

Untranslatable.


52
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Walt Whitman, from "Song of Myself"

Divine.


And as for the vague something --- was it a sinister or a sorrowful, a designing or a desponding expression? --- that opened upon a careful observer, now and then, in his eye, and closed again before one could fathom the strange depth partially disclosed; that something which used to make me fear and shrink, as if I had been wandering amongst volcanic-looking hills, and had suddenly felt the ground quiver, and seen it gape: that something, I, at intervals, beheld still; and with throbbing heart, but not with palsied nerves. Instead of wishing to shun, I longed only to dare --- to divine it.

Charlotte Brontë

Happy birthday, Twain.


Mark Twain was born on this date in 1835.

Be good and you will be lonesome.

Mark Twain, from the opening page of Following the Equator

Simple.


Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.

Albert Einstein

God's Fingerprint: The Fibonacci Sequence ...



Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension ...

Prefer.

Rinehart, Omaha Dance Bonnet, 1899


I prefer not to.

Herman Melville, from Bartleby, the Scrivener

Happy birthday, Palladio.



Andrea Palladio was born on this date in 1508.

Beauty will result from the form and the correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other, and of these again to the whole; that the structure may appear an entire and complete body, wherein each member agrees with the other, and all necessary to compose what you intend to form.

Andrea Palladio

PALLADIO: The Architect and His Influence in America ...

27 November 2015

de Milán, "Pavane & Galliard/Concentus Aria"

Performed by Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI ...


Well.

Wyeth, Jamie, Pumpkinhead, 1972


Sonnett 73

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
   This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare

26 November 2015

Elevating.



The title Telemann gave his publication, “Table Music,” may lead us to believe that the work only served as pleasant background to various gastronomic activities. Apart from the fact that the music, as was often the case with chamber works, may have performed such a duty, a title such as Overtures, Concertos or Sonatas would have probably had less impact from a publicity point of view. Indeed, musical works written and published with a reference to the table had been legion since the beginning of the 17th century. The Taffel-Consort published by Thomas Simpson in Hamburg in 1621, the Partitas of Heinrich Biber’s Mensa sonora (1680) or the Simphonies pour les souper du Roy of Michel-Richard Delalande, among other examples, were all written in accordance with the idea, typical of Baroque aesthetics, that all human activities should coincide and that life’s delights should meet, but were also conceived with the aim elevating the arts to princely heights.

Experience.


Gratitude takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.  For the Grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay, but by experience.  And that is what makes all the difference.

Thomas Merton

25 November 2015

Scarecrow.

Walt Disney's Scarecrow of Romney Marsh is an adaptation of a series of English stories featuring "Doctor Syn," aka Christopher Syn -- a Vicar by day, and the fearsome Scarecrow by night. The Scarecrow series of novels was written by Russell Thorndike.



Richard Vobes is the Bald Explorer and in this episode he is searching for the free traders on the south east of Britain. The Romney Marshes were notorious for ancient tradition of smuggler because of its close proximity with Europe.

Earthy-tasting.


Hard to find outside the districts where it is produced, with a name that is often mispronounced, marc is a heady, earthy-tasting French relative of moonshine. It makes some people gag. A few nuts like me love it.

CONNECT

Going.


Going is important, not arriving.

Thich Nhat Hanh

24 November 2015

Watch.


A Smuggler's Song

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again - and they'll be gone next day !

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more !

If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you " pretty maid," and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been !

Knocks and footsteps round the house - whistles after dark -
You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie
They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by !

'If You do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance,
You'll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood -
A present from the Gentlemen, along 'o being good !

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie -
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!

Rudyard Kipling

Splendid.

Steinlen, Cat in the Moonlight, 1900


Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
  With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
  Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
  And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
  Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
  Outstretched with benedictions o'er the land,
  Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
  So long beneath the heaven's o'erhanging eaves;
  Thy steps are by the farmer's prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
  And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
  Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sense.

Van Allsburg, Third Story Window, 1984


Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

John Keats

Happy birthday, Toulouse-Lautrec.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Simpson Chain poster, 1896


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born on this date in 1864.

I paint things as they are. I don’t comment. I record.  In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new; they see their value and their justification in this newness. They are deceiving themselves; novelty is seldom the essential. This has to do with one thing only; making a subject better from its intrinsic nature.  I have tried to do what is true and not ideal.

Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec

Typography.

23 November 2015

Cameras.

Artist David Hockney reveals startling evidence which suggests that cameras have been a secret tool for artists since the 15th century, a discovery that solves century-old mysteries surrounding famous paintings. 

Part 1



Part 2

Wreckage.


Throwing toilet paper requires force and finesse, arch and accent, the power of a Hail Mary and the touch of a fadeaway jumper. It also takes speed. Within seconds of us pulling onto the grassy shoulder in front of Erin’s parents’ place, the trees paralleling the road at the property bottom were turning white.

The moon was up. No one who had wheels was home. What rolls the wind didn’t slap across the two-lane unspooled quick fast from our red fingers, looped over bare branches, and rappelled down the flip side in long, taut, unbroken belts. We dressed trunks. We scribbled in tissue along the front yard all manner of stall-wall worthy enjoiners. The wreckage was compact but not inconsiderable. The tree row had become a mob of resurrected mummies.


Any serious, midnight-running prankster knows ... corn is better.

- Ed.

Astonishingly.


The universe is an astonishingly big place, with everything moving in different directions at different speeds. With all that going on, the movement of a single planet a tough thing to get a grip on.


Compassion.


Do it, out of compassion for yourself.

Rameau, "La Dauphine"

Olivia Steimel, accordion ...

Lovable.


One could mention many lovable traits in Smee. For instance, after killing, it was his spectacles he wiped instead of his weapon.

J.M. Barrie, from Peter Pan

20 November 2015

Bad Co., "Deal with the Preacher"

Happy Friday!

Work.


Work without effort.

Jim Harrison

Techniques.

Caravaggio was extraordinarily secretive about the techniques he used to create his ingenious and revolutionary art. He didn't employ assistants and hardly let anyone into his workshop. Although jealous rivals offered rewards to anyone who could discover his trade secrets, he took them to his grave. Or so everyone thought.

In this documentary, experts examine his life and the artistic techniques suggested by the revealing inventory. 

Persistence.


Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge

Secret.

Williams, Emerald Pool, 1906


To enjoy anything, we cannot be attached to it.  What we usually try to do is capture any joy that comes our way before it can escape.  We try to cling to pleasure, but all we succeed in doing is making ourselves frustrated because, whatever it promises, pleasure simply cannot last.  But if I am willing to kiss the joy as it flies, I say, 'Yes, this moment is beautiful.  I won't grab it.  I'll let it go.'  And I live with a mind at peace and a heart untroubled.  Pleasure comes and goes.  When it goes, we don't need to cling to memories of the past happiness or dwell on when it may come again.  When we turn to the past yearning, we are running away from the present.  When we propel ourselves into the future in anticipation, we are running away from the present.  This is the secret of the world's spiritual tradition called detachment:  If we don't cling to past or future we live entirely here and now, in "Eternity's sunrise."

Eknath Easwaran

Parrot.

Wyeth, Long John Silver leading Jim Hawkins, 1911


Ever since Long John Silver clomped around on a wooden leg with a parrot on his shoulder, the literary and pop-culture conception of pirates has involved the parrot. But at this point, fact is very hard to separate from fiction. What, exactly, about a classic pirate Halloween costume—the parrot, the peg leg, the eyepatch, the bandana, the snarling vaguely Scottish accent—is actually real? Is any of it real?

“The parrot trope is almost certainly grounded in reality,” says Colin Woodard, author of The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Long John Silver, the star of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, was the first major fictional pirate character to walk around with a pet parrot, but this, according to Woodard and other experts in the field of classic piracy I spoke to, was based on real truths. And the reasons why the parrot became associated with pirates actually give us a pretty good glimpse at the real, true-life existence of a pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy.

19 November 2015

Eisenstaedt, Children Watching St. George Slay the Dragon at the Puppet Theater in the Tuileries, Paris, 1963


Two hundred years ago elementary level education included Greek & Latin. Today we have to put “DO NOT EAT” on silica gel packs that come in shoe boxes.

18 November 2015

Harrison.

Jim Harrison interviewed ...

1993



1995



I thank GOD for YouTube.

And Jim Harrison.

Sensible.


On one of those sober and rather melancholy days in the latter part of autumn when the shadows of morning and evening almost mingle together, and throw a gloom over the decline of the year, I passed several hours in rambling about Westminster Abbey. There was something congenial to the season in the mournful magnificence of the old pile, and as I passed its threshold it seemed like stepping back into the regions of antiquity and losing myself among the shades of former ages.

I entered from the inner court of Westminster School, through a long, low, vaulted passage that had an almost subterranean look, being dimly lighted in one part by circular perforations in the massive walls. Through this dark avenue I had a distant view of the cloisters, with the figure of an old verger in his black gown moving along their shadowy vaults, and seeming like a spectre from one of the neighboring tombs. The approach to the abbey through these gloomy monastic remains prepares the mind for its solemn contemplation. The cloisters still retain something of the quiet and seclusion of former days. The gray walls are discolored by damps and crumbling with age; a coat of hoary moss has gathered over the inscriptions of the mural monuments, and obscured the death's heads and other funeral emblems. The sharp touches of the chisel are gone from the rich tracery of the arches; the roses which adorned the keystones have lost their leafy beauty; everything bears marks of the gradual dilapidations of time, which yet has something touching and pleasing in its very decay.

The sun was pouring down a yellow autumnal ray into the square of the cloisters, beaming upon a scanty plot of grass in the centre, and lighting up an angle of the vaulted passage with a kind of dusky splendor. From between the arcades the eye glanced up to a bit of blue sky or a passing cloud, and beheld the sun-gilt pinnacles of the abbey towering into the azure heaven.

 As I paced the cloisters, sometimes contemplating this mingled picture of glory and decay, and sometimes endeavoring to decipher the inscriptions on the tombstones which formed the pavement beneath my feet, my eye was attracted to three figures rudely carved in relief, but nearly worn away by the footsteps of many generations. They were the effigies of three of the early abbots; the epitaphs were entirely effaced; the names alone remained, having no doubt been renewed in later times (Vitalis. Abbas. 1082, and Gislebertus Crispinus. Abbas. 1114, and Laurentius. Abbas. 1176). I remained some little while, musing over these casual relics of antiquity thus left like wrecks upon this distant shore of time, telling no tale but that such beings had been and had perished, teaching no moral but the futility of that pride which hopes still to exact homage in its ashes and to live in an inscription. A little longer, and even these faint records will be obliterated and the monument will cease to be a memorial. Whilst I was yet looking down upon the gravestones I was roused by the sound of the abbey clock, reverberating from buttress to buttress and echoing among the cloisters. It is almost startling to hear this warning of departed time sounding among the tombs and telling the lapse of the hour, which, like a billow, has rolled us onward towards the grave. I pursued my walk to an arched door opening to the interior of the abbey. On entering here the magnitude of the building breaks fully upon the mind, contrasted with the vaults of the cloisters. The eyes gaze with wonder at clustered columns of gigantic dimensions, with arches springing from them to such an amazing height, and man wandering about their bases, shrunk into insignificance in comparison with his own handiwork. The spaciousness and gloom of this vast edifice produce a profound and mysterious awe. We step cautiously and softly about, as if fearful of disturbing the hallowed silence of the tomb, while every footfall whispers along the walls and chatters among the sepulchres, making us more sensible of the quiet we have interrupted.

Washington Irving, from Geoffrey Crayon's Sketchbook

Phalèse, Bransle

Royal Wind Music performs ...



Wind music.

Great.

NASA, Pluto, 2015 


Cold and dark, but still a great vacation spot.

Chimes.

An education on wind chimes ...



"Breezy Night" ... here.

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15

Murray Perahia performs with the the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir George Solti ...

Child.

van Gogh, Mountainous Landscape Behind Saint-Paul Hospital, 1889


The Wind

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass--
                  O wind, a-blowing all day long,
                  O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all--
                 O wind, a-blowing all day long,
                 O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
                O wind, a-blowing all day long,
                O wind, that sings so loud a song!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Venture.

Poortvliet, Fox in a Winter Field, 1963


Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.

Horace

17 November 2015

Haydn, Symphony No. 39 in G Minor

Giovanni Antonini leads Il Giardino Armonico ...

Precision.

Ortelius, Islandia, 1590


... [I]t seemed to me the height of arrogance to mock people for not knowing what we do now. How much do we take on faith today? Living five hundred years ago, I would surely have trusted the scholars who made these maps, who wrested some idea of the world from others who had sailed for weeks and months and kept charts with all the precision they could muster.

CONNECT

Happy birthday, Bronzino.

Bronzino, Lute Player, 1534


Agnolo Bronzino was born on this date in 1503.

14 November 2015

Listen.


November Night

Listen.
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

Adelaide Crapsey

Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Stone Blind Horses"

Stories.


His stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were--about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever allowed upon the sea, and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described. My father was always saying the inn would be ruined, for people would soon cease coming there to be tyrannized over and put down, and sent shivering to their beds; but I really believe his presence did us good. People were frightened at the time, but on looking back they rather liked it; it was a fine excitement in a quiet country life, and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a "true sea-dog" and a "real old salt" and such like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.

Robert Louis Stevenson, from Treasure Island