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

18 August 2017

Happy birthday, Lewis.

Peale, C.W., Meriwether Lewis, 1807

Meriwether Lewis was born on this day in 1774.

How he led is no mystery. His techniques were time-honored. He knew his men. He saw to it that they had dry socks, enough food, sufficient clothing. He pushed them to but never beyond the breaking point. He got out of them more than they knew they had to give. His concern for them was that of a father for his son. He was the head of a family.

These are some of the qualities that make for a good company commander. Lewis had them in abundance, plus some special touches that made him a much-loved commander. He had a sense, a feel, for how his family was doing. He knew exactly when to take a break, when to issue a gill, when to push for more, when to encourage, when to inspire, when to tell a joke, when to be tough. He knew how to keep a distance between himself and the men, and just how big it should be. He knew his profession and was proud of it and one of the very best at it.

Stephen A. Ambrose on Meriwether Lewis, from Undaunted Courage



Vasari, Six Tuscan Poets (detail), 1544

Perhaps our modern world is not so far gone as yet, but it is easy for us to imagine the painful longing in Petrarch’s heart as he stood on the Capitoline Hill in Rome on Easter Sunday in 1341. Looking around him at the cultural desolation of a land and its people ravaged by war, famine, civil unrest, epidemic, and economic collapse, he was nevertheless so sure of his vision, so inspired by his love of something greater than his self or his time, that the words he spoke that day come down to us as the first manifesto of the glorious Renaissance:

Someone then might say: “What is all this, my friend? Have you determined to revive a custom that is beset with inherent difficulty and has long since fallen into desuetude? And this in the face of a hostile and recalcitrant fortune? Whence do you draw such confidence that you would decorate the Roman Capitol with new and unaccustomed laurels? Do you not see what a task you have undertaken in attempting to attain the lonely steeps of Parnassus and the inaccessible grove of the Muses?” Yes, I do see, oh my dear sirs; I do indeed see this, oh Roman citizens. “Sed me Parnasi deserta per ardua dulcis raptat amor,” as I said at the outset. For the intensity of my longing is so great that it seems to me sufficient to enable me to overcome all the difficulties that are involved in my present task.

There in the ruins of an ancient Roman Empire, Petrarch accepted his crown of laurels – the first offered a poet in over twelve long centuries. The tradition was all but dead. The age was indeed dark. The slopes of Parnassus were dauntingly steep and deserted. But from somewhere beyond the shroud of gloom that enveloped him, the Muses called to Petrarch and he followed, inspired by the love and the sweet longing of one going home.

It is easy for us to imagine because our modern age seems to be dimming before our eyes. We are reminded at every turn that the world is a new and alienating place, unfit for the traditions that evoke some past and irrelevant golden age or a society we no longer recognize. We discard or neglect the Canon’s great works when it is easier to do so than to dig for the treasures hidden therein; what is difficult or laborious to understand is sacrificed for the sake of accessibility to the modern mind.  Like Petrarch we marvel that:

This age of ours consequently has let fall, bit by bit, some of the richest and sweetest fruits that the tree of knowledge has yielded; has thrown away the results of the vigils and labours of the most illustrious men of genius, things of more value, I am almost tempted to say, than anything else in the whole world…


17 August 2017


van Hoogstraten, The Reader, 1630

We men of study, whose heads are in our books, have need to be straightly looked after! We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.

Nathaniel Hawthorne


Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer's work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book.

Marcel Proust

Duran Duran, "Lonely in Your Nightmare"


Elvis Costello ...

David Bowie ...

Elton John ...


2. Aesthetic Enthusiasm
Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

George Orwell, from the essay, "Why I Write"

Robert Plant, "In the Light"


van Gogh, Flowering Plum Tree, 1887

If we study Japanese art, we see a man who is undoubtedly wise, philosophic and intelligent, who spends his time doing what? He studies a single blade of grass.

Vincent van Gogh

16 August 2017


I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, this year and forever.

Neil Gaiman


School starts right now ...

Handel, Atalanta, HWV 35

Alison Balsom performs the Overture with Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert ...


School starts today ...

15 August 2017


What can be explained is not poetry.

W.B. Yeats

Ella Fitzgerald, "How High the Moon"

Tommy Flanagan accompanying ...


Huber, Summer Storm over Quandary Peak, n/d


Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of—was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Downhill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they’re gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt,
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength

To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

Robert Frost


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth-
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witch’s broth-
A snow-drop spider, a flower like froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth hither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?-
If design govern in a thing so small.

Robert Frost


Bruce Cockburn recorded in performance at the Fur Peace Ranch, June 1, 2017 ... HERE.


The life of an apple when it is a delicate flower to the moment when, golden russet, it drops from the tree to the grass, is as mysterious and as great as the perpetual rhythm of the tides. And a poet must know this. The magic virtue of a poem consists in always being daemon-ridden so that it baptizes with dark water those who look at it.

The daemon? Where is the daemon?

Federico Garcia Lorca

Charles Dalton, "Poetrusic"


Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Robert Plant, "Worse than Detroit"


Thanks, hopeleslie.


Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

T.S. Eliot, from ¨The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock¨



Shelby Foote and the nobility of conquering the past, at Cultural Offering.


The end of days is upon us.

Eagles in 1973 ...

... and today ...

14 August 2017


... And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream ...


An excellent book ...

Barber, Agnus Dei

Marcus Creed conducts the Vlaams Radio Choir ...


Sonny Rollins, "There Will Never Be Another You"


Routine, repetition, tedium, monotony, ephemeracy, inconsequence, abstraction, disorder, boredom, angst, ennui—these are the true hero’s enemies, and make no mistake, they are fearsome indeed. For they are real.

David Foster Wallace


Conservatism is what its name says it is: the attempt to conserve the community that we have — not in every particular, since, as Edmund Burke put it, “we must reform in order to conserve”, but in all matters that ensure our long-term survival and mutual support.

We enjoy valuable assets: peace, security, democracy and historic liberties. And these good things, which depend upon the uncoerced co-operation that they also encourage, are both easy to destroy and, once destroyed, hard to rebuild. Moreover, they all depend on other, deeper and less easily comprehended things. They depend on a shared sense of belonging among strangers whom we nevertheless can trust. They depend on traditions of education, co-operation and compromise.

They depend on the Christian legacy of neighbour-love. They depend on a tradition of tolerance — not only towards those who disagree with us but also towards those whom we might easily resent for their success or despise for their failure.

Most of all they depend upon specific institutions and forms of life that have come down to us not as the universal inheritance of humanity but as the legacy of our long-standing attempt to live together as a nation on the island that is ours.

Roger Scruton



All things are ready, if our mind be so.

William Shakespeare

13 August 2017

Al Bowlly, "The Very Thought of You"


Worried that your child is "ungifted?" Relax.


I need therefore I imagine.

Carlos Fuentes


Listen, now. Read this carefully, because I am going to tell you something important. More than that: I am about to tell you one of the secrets of the trade. I mean it. This is the magic trick upon which all good fiction depends: it’s the angled mirror in the box behind which the doves are hidden, the hidden compartment beneath the table. It’s this: There is room for things to mean more than they literally mean. That was it.

Neil Gaiman

Bach, Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243

Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Concentus Musicus Vienna and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir ...

12 August 2017


Yon rising Moon that looks for us again --
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden -- and for one in vain!

And when like her, oh Saki, you shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand teach the spot
Where I made One -- turn down an empty Glass!

Omar Khayyam


Katz, Late Light, 2004

One of life's quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful even if it is only a floating ash. I had as yet no notion that life every now and then becomes literature—not for long, of course, but long enough to be what we best remember, and often enough so that what we eventually come to mean by life are those moments when life, instead of going sideways, backwards, forward, or nowhere at all, lines out straight, tense and inevitable, with a complication, climax, and, given some luck, a purgation, as if life had been made and not happened.

Norman Maclean

Frank Sinatra, "Body and Soul"



Sir Roger Scruton on neuroscience, "aboutness," and the invasion of the humanities by natural science ...

Pärt, Fratres for Violin, String Orchestra and Percussion

Neeme Järvi conducts the Gothenburg Symphony ...

Happy birthday, Bellows.

Bellows, Shore House, 1911

George Bellows was born on this day in 1882.

The artist is the person who makes life more interesting or beautiful, more understandable or mysterious, or probably, in the best sense, more wonderful. The ideal artist is he who knows everything, feels everything, experiences everything, and retains his experience in a spirit of wonder and feeds upon it with creative lust.

George Bellows

11 August 2017

Robert Earl Keen, "Amarillo Highway"

Plug 'er in and turn 'er up ... Happy Friday!


And now for as much as five years, perhaps, I don’t know exactly, I’ve been more or less without a position, wandering hither and thither. Now you say, from such and such a time you’ve been going downhill, you’ve faded away, you’ve done nothing. Is that entirely true?

It’s true that sometimes I’ve earned my crust of bread, sometimes some friend has given me it as a favour; I’ve lived as best I could, better or worse, as things went; it’s true that I’ve lost several people’s trust, it’s true that my financial affairs are in a sorry state, it’s true that the future’s not a little dark, it’s true that I could have done better, it’s true that just in terms of earning my living I’ve lost time, it’s true that my studies themselves are in a rather sorry and disheartening state, and that I lack more, infinitely more than I have. But is that called going downhill, and is that called doing nothing?

Perhaps you’ll say, but why didn’t you continue as people would have wished you to continue, along the university road?

To that I’d say only this, it costs too much and then, that future was no better than the present one, on the road that I’m on. But on the road that I’m on I must continue; if I do nothing, if I don’t study, if I don’t keep on trying, then I’m lost, then woe betide me. That’s how I see this, to keep on, keep on, that’s what’s needed.

But what’s your ultimate goal, you’ll say. That goal will become clearer, will take shape slowly and surely, as the croquis becomes a sketch and the sketch a painting, as one works more seriously, as one digs deeper into the originally vague idea, the first fugitive, passing thought, unless it becomes firm.

Vincent van Gogh

Oscar Peterson, "There Will Never Be Another You"



People are moving big milk cans around in
The storeroom, and I am there. Each day I move
Barrels full of nothing to a different spot.

I want to charge you for the rustmarks on my pants.
When greed comes by, I hitch a ride on the truck.
You'll see nothing but my backside for miles.

Every noon as the clock hands arrive at twelve,
I want to tie the two arms together,
And walk out of the bank carrying time in bags.

Don't bother to associate poets with saints
Or extraordinary beings. People like us have already
Hired someone to weep for our parents.

We have a taste for ignorance, and a fondness
For the mediocre dressed up as fame. We love
To go with Gogol looking for dead souls.

Counting up the twelve syllables in a line
Could make us allies of the stern Egyptians
Whose armies were swallowed by the Red Sea.

Robert Bly



If I wasn't drawing, then I would have then sense that I wasn't seeing.

Milton Glaser lectures and draws about learning ...


R. Carlos Nakai, "Whippoorwill"

With the Akaira String Quartet ...

10 August 2017



At this stage, it feels like Wilco has headlined nearly every festival — including its own Solid Sound Festival. But the band's sunset Saturday Newport Folk Festival demonstrated why, year after year, Wilco gets top billing: Twenty years in, the Chicago band has staying power without sacrificing a sense of sonic exploration.

Despite a lack of banter ("I don't feel like talking today," Jeff Tweedy, his hair parted with two braids visible beneath a hat, told the audience), Wilco knew exactly how to delight a familiar crowd. After opening with a track from the band's 2016 release, Schmilco, Tweedy and company dove into the messy "Via Chicago," a daring and dynamic track that felt triumphant.

Even after so many years, in concert, the band's expansive catalog takes new shape. "Bull Black Nova" felt propulsive, even more manic than the studio version, when given the space to project. The live staple "I'm The Man Who Loves You" grooved with fresh ease. Nels Cline's guitar work on "Impossible Germany" elicited cheers.

The band's performance of "One By One," a track from its collaborative record with Billy Bragg, Mermaid Avenue, foreshadowed what seemed inevitable: The set concluded with a performance of "California Stars," with Bragg himself joining on vocals. It proved that even after all these years, Wilco's still got a few tricks left.


Thank You, Jess!