"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

28 February 2011


Edward Hopper, Marshall's House, 1932

Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world. No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.
- Edward Hopper


Robert ParkeHarrison, The Sower, 2002

To keep desire alive a flourishing, we must renew our vision for what lies ahead. Desire is kept alive by imagination, the antidote to resignation. We will need imagination, which is to say, we will need hope.
- John Eldredge


Titian, Flora, 1515

. . . He on his side
Leaning half raised, with looks of cordial love,
Hung over her enamoured, and beheld
Beauty which, whether waking or asleep,
Shot forth peculiar graces; then with voice,
Mild, as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes,
Her hand soft touching, whispered thus: "Awake!
My fairest, my espoused, my latest found,
Heaven's last, best gift, my ever-new delight.

- Milton

Debussy, "Gardens In The Rain"

27 February 2011


Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Led Zeppelin, "The Rain Song"

This is the springtime of my loving - the second season I am to know
You are the sunlight in my growing - so little warmth I’ve felt before.
It isn’t hard to feel me glowing - I watched the fire that grew so low.

It is the summer of my smiles - flee from me Keepers of the Gloom.
Speak to me only with your eyes. It is to you I give this tune.
Ain’t so hard to recognize - These things are clear to all from time to time.

I’ve felt the coldness of my winter
I never thought it would ever go. I cursed the gloom that set upon us…
But I know that I love you so

These are the seasons of emotion and like the winds they rise and fall
This is the wonder of devotion - I see the torch we all must hold.
This is the mystery of the quotient - Upon us all a little rain must fall.

Eric Clapton, "Let It Rain"

The rain is falling through the mist of sorrow that surrounded me.
The sun could never thaw away the the bliss that lays around me.

Let it rain, let it rain,
Let your love rain down on me.
Let it rain, let it rain,
Let it rain, rain, rain.

Her life was like a desert flower burning in the sun.
Until I found the way to love, it's harder said than done.

Let it rain, let it rain,
Let your love rain down on me.
Let it rain, let it rain,
Let it rain, rain, rain.

Now I know the secret; there is nothing that I lack.
If I give my love to you, you'll surely give it back.

Let it rain, let it rain,
Let your love rain down on me.
Let it rain, let it rain,
Let it rain, rain, rain.


Constable, Seaside Study with Rain Cloud, 1824

I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may - light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.
- John Constable

Heavy rain is coming.

George Winston, "Rain," from Winter Into Spring

26 February 2011


‎A noiseless course, not meddling with the affairs of others, unattractive of notice, is a mark that society is going on in happiness. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.
- Thomas Jefferson


An enchanted life has many moments when the heart is overwhelmed with beauty and the imagination is electrified by some haunting quality in the world or by a spirit or voice speaking from deep within a thing, a place, or a person.
- Thomas Moore

Chopin/Liszt, My Joy, Op. 74


Centuries ago in the deserts of North Africa, people used to gather for these moonlight dances of sacred dance and music that would go on for hours and hours, until dawn. And they were always magnificent, because the dancers were professionals and they were terrific, right? But every once in a while, very rarely, something would happen, and one of these performers would actually become transcendent. And I know you know what I'm talking about, because I know you've all seen, at some point in your life, a performance like this. It was like time would stop, and the dancer would sort of step through some kind of portal and he wasn't doing anything different than he had ever done, 1,000 nights before, but everything would align. And all of a sudden, he would no longer appear to be merely human. He would be lit from within, and lit from below and all lit up on fire with divinity ...

But, the tricky bit comes the next morning, for the dancer himself, when he wakes up and discovers that it's Tuesday at 11 a.m., and he's no longer a glimpse of God. He's just an aging mortal with really bad knees, and maybe he's never going to ascend to that height again. And maybe nobody will ever chant God's name again as he spins, and what is he then to do with the rest of his life? This is hard. This is one of the most painful reconciliations to make in a creative life. But maybe it doesn't have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you. But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you're finished, with somebody else. And, you know, if we think about it this way it starts to change everything.

Here's the rest ...

25 February 2011


We each have a dream, a vision of life that corresponds to our convictions, embodies our uniqueness, and expresses what is life-giving within us. Whether altruistic or ignoble, the dream gives definition to our lives, influences the decisions we make, the steps we take, the words we speak. Daily we make choices that that are either consistent with or contrary to our vision. A life of integrity is born of fidelity to the dream.
- Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Sergei Rachmaninoff plays Chopin's Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 in E-Flat

Goodnight ... sleep warm.

George Strait, "Twang"

Well, I like a lot of kinds of music
I try to keep an open mind
Depending on the mood to strike me
If I'm gonna stay till closing time
So when I wanna lift my spirits to get me feeling worth a dang
I know I'm gonna have to hear it
'Cause I gotta have some Hank to hang


My sister is keeping her eye out for breeding activity ...

... don't worry, it's "part of her job."

(I didn't want you to think The Hammock Papers had become an internet dating site.)

Way to go, Buff! I love ya!


Rothko, Untitled, 1958

When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing. No galleries, no collectors, no critics, no money. Yet, it was a golden age, for we all had nothing to lose and a vision to gain. Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, consumption. Which condition is better for the world at large I shall not venture to discuss. But I do know, that many of those who are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where we can root and grow. We must all hope we find them.

— Mark Rothko

Don't miss this panoramic tour of 2008-2009 Tate Gallery Rothko exhibition.

Synthescape, which powered the Rothko virtual tour, provides an amazing look at wonder. Take a closer look at the Diego Rivera piece, Industry, here.

Happy Birthday Renoir.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on this date in 1841.

Renoir, Chemin Montant, 1877

The work of art must seize upon you, wrap you up in itself and carry you away. It is the means by which the artist conveys his passion. It is the current which he puts forth which sweeps you along in his passion.
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir

A clip from the movie, Modigliani ... Picasso takes Modi to meet Renoir.

24 February 2011


From Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River, Part I" ...

He watched them holding themselves with their noses into the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge. At the bottom of the pool were the big trout. Nick did not see them at first. Then he saw them at the bottom of the pool, big trout looking to hold themselves on the gravel bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand, raised in spurts by the current.

Nick looked down into the pool from the bridge. It was a hot day. A kingfisher flew up the stream. It was a long time since Nick had looked into a stream and seen trout. They were very satisfactory. As the shadow of the kingfisher moved up the stream, a big trout shot upstream in a long angle, only his shadow marking the angle, then lost his shadow as he came through the surface of the water, caught the sun, and then, as he went back into the stream under the surface, his shadow seemed to float down the stream with the current unresisting, to his post under the bridge where he tightened facing up into the current.

Nick's heart tightened as the trout moved. He felt all the old feeling. He turned and looked down the stream. It stretched away, pebbly-bottomed with shallows and big boulders and a deep pool as it curved away around the foot of a bluff.

Nick walked back up the ties to where his pack lay in the cinders beside the railway track. He was happy. He adjusted the pack harness around the bundle, pulling straps tight, slung the pack on his back got his arms through the shoulder straps and took some of the pull off his shoulders by leaning his forehead against the wide band of the tump-line. Still, it was too heavy. It was much too heavy. He had his leather rod-case in his hand and leaning forward to keep the weight of the pack high on his shoulders he walked along the road that paralleled the railway track, leaving the burned town behind in the heat, and he turned off around a hill with a high, fire-scarred hill on either side onto a road that went back into the country. He walked along the road feeling the ache from the pull of the heavy pack. The road climbed steadily. It was hard work walking up-hill. His muscles ached and the day was hot, but Nick felt happy. He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs. It was all back of him.

Read the rest here.

I received a marvelous birthday gift from my parents last year ... Picturing Hemingway's Michigan. It is a pictorial history of the Ernesto's early years in The Great Northwoods of Michigan.

Hemingway’s life of hunting, fishing and writing, and travel from Europe to Africa and Cuba shows that Hemingway was a restless soul, seeming to be always searching for something.

“I think in some ways he was looking for something in Michigan,” (Picturing Hemingway's Michigan author, Michael) Federspiel said. It provided an inspiration for his life that his hometown of Oak Park couldn’t.

“In some ways, I think, fame corrupted him,” Federspiel said. “He lost the better person that he might have been in Michigan.” The boy and young adult hanging out with friends in the woods, lakes and streams, “To my mind that’s the most likable person... from there he gets a little more boastful and callous in a lot of ways.”

Maybe what Hemingway found in Michigan — and then lost — was a sense of peace. “You get up here and it’s just quiet. It lends itself to solitude and reflection,” Federspiel said.

Read the rest here.

Happy Birthday Homer.

Winslow Homer was born on this date in 1836.

Winslow Homer, Incoming Tide, Scarboro, Maine, 1883

You have the sky overhead giving one light; then the reflected light from whatever reflects; then the direct light of the sun; so that, in the blending and suffusing of these several luminations, there is no such thing as a line to be seen anywhere.
- Winslow Homer


What is most striking about the Serios thoughtographs is the power of their imagery as a manifestation of the creative process. In these strange pictures, real objects or places appear to have merged with (or been altered by) the material of Serios's unconscious. Some of them juxtapose target images (of familiar buildings, monuments, houses, and hotels) with what appear to be images of day residue, haunting shadows of unfamiliar forms and structures. Others seem to incorporate both past and future events in an odd, shadowy collage. On one occasion, for example, the target image appeared superimposed on a second image that resembled the space probe Voyager 2. After the session, Serios, a space buff, confessed that he had been preoccupied with the progress of the space mission at the time and was unable to clear it completely from his mind.

Read the rest here.


Pine tree tops

In the blue night
frost haze, the sky glows
with the moon
pine tree tops
bend snow-blue, fade
into sky, frost, starlight.
The creak of boots.
Rabbit tracks, deer tracks,
what do we know.

- Gary Snyder


Andrew Wyeth, Winter Corn, 1948.

There was a lovely cornfield near Lafayette’s headquarters in Chadds Ford where I loved to go and sit alone in quietness. The corn was abandoned; it had been allowed just to go to seed and stood there like the lances held by a line of medieval knights. This is the best painting of corn I ever did, I think. Sere, dry, very much in the spirit of Albrecht Dürer. Funny, I looked upon the two ears almost as portraits – one of a toothless person and the other with every tooth in his mouth.
- Andrew Wyeth

Van Morrison, "Ballerina"

Great shower music.

... all ya gotta do is ring the bell.

23 February 2011


The romantics, on the other hand, replaced judgment and grace with imagination and originality: “The power of acting creatively under laws of its own origination,” in the words of Coleridge. Notice that, genuine romantic that she is at heart, Sand backtracks when Chopin himself protests against the suggestion that he’s just monkeying the sound of the rain. She says, “His genius was full of mysterious harmonies of nature, translated by sublime equivalents into his musical thought, and not by a servile repetition of external sounds.” Both writer and composer agree it is Chopin’s wild reverie (or hallucination) that actually birthed the composition he was playing. Chopin was not just tinkling around to the sound of the rain; he had been seized by the sublime.

Read the rest here.


Explained by Werner Herzog.

Thanks, Veerle.

21 February 2011


The Detroit Institute of Arts presents Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries. Watch as museum experts solve the DIA's greatest art mysteries.


In September, at Monticello, Mr. Jefferson was never far from his wife's side. While she slept, he worked on Notes on the State of Virginia. While she was awake, he sat nearby, holding her hand. This, however, was an illness from which she would not recover.

As the end drew near for Mrs. Jefferson - so the story is told - the couple read some of their favorite passages from Tristram Shandy. Then, too weak to read any more, she began to write the passage which deals with death:

Time wastes too fast: every letter
I trace tells me with what rapidity
life follows my pen. The days and hours
of it are flying over our heads like
clouds of a windy day never to return -
more every thing presses on -

Too weak to finish, Mrs. Jefferson could not conclude the passage. His own pen in hand, her husband (who knew the words from memory) wrote what she could not:

- and every
time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, every absence which
follows it, are preludes to the eternal separation
which we are shortly to make!
Their last writing survives. Soon after it was finished, Mr. Jefferson's "Patty" was gone.

For the remainder of his life, Jefferson kept this paper with a lock of Martha's hair entwined around it.

More here.

Jimmy Buffett, "Turn Up The Heat & Chill The Rosé"

It's Happy Hour ... we've got plenty of ice.


An excerpt from The Tom McGuane short story "Ice" found in the collection of short stories titled, Gallatin Canyon.

In January, Lake Erie froze nearly to Canada. One evening, standing before its ominous expanse in my ice skates, with a wool cap pulled over my ears and a long scarf wound around my neck and crisscrossed over my chest beneath my blue Navy-surplus pea jacket, I left the shore. I planned to face down the spectre of my fear by going as far as I dared toward Canada, or the Livingston ship channel if the icebreaker had been through. I hoped that my love of skating would propel me through the worst of my worries.

I struggled over the corrugations of the shore ice, and then ventured onto smoother, glassier terrain that rewarded me with long glides. I could see bubbles below me, and the white bellies of upended perch and rock bass. I began to dream of landing in Canada, on that foreign shore from whence, according to Mrs. Andrews, the redcoats had once launched sorties against our Colonial heroes. I began to imagine a visit to the old British fort at Amherstburg. I would skate home with tales of imperial ghosts and whatever other secret existences I might discover in those places where only the most courageous ventured. I would tell Mrs. Andrews what I had done. These dreams enlivened my skating, and I raced on, stroke after stroke. One day, years afterward, I would come to view this night as the template for the many disasters I later created for myself, but, at the time, risking my life in the gathering darkness on a day when I had cowered at the thought of a paper cut or an infected pimple produced no awareness of contradiction. I felt only the allure of the hard, perfect ice, cold-snap ice unblemished by wind during its formation. It was impossible for me to imagine the drum major out here in his shako like an animated Q-tip—there would be no prancing among the crows and ice-killed fish for him, I gloated.

I kept going. If I turned back, I told myself, if I let the falling dark turn me back, I would never be any good and the fog of cowardice would envelop me forever.

The ice seemed to rise before me and disappear into the twilit sky, as though they were one and the same. The lights that had shone briefly on the shore were gone now, and I had yet to see my first Canadian light or the outlines of the fort. I reached for the old compass in my pocket.

When I stopped to reconnoitre, I felt the cold penetrate and I adjusted my scarf. It was time to go home, and I knew it, but I couldn’t leave at the first wave of panic. I would press on into the blackness just long enough to prove that it was I who had elected to return and not those forces which were always rendering me worthless in my own eyes. Such thoughts produced an oddly inflexible gait in my skating; I reached my feet stiffly through a space that I couldn’t confirm with my eyes. Suddenly, the sound of my blades, which had seemed to fill the air around me, was replaced by another, more murmurous tone, like a church congregation heard from afar. I was gliding toward the sound when a vast aggravation of noise and physical turbulence erupted and a storm of ducks took flight in front of me: it was water. The lake heaved a gloomy sigh, and I found myself, after some minutes of agitated effort, almost at the edge of the ice. I skated off in a panic, and when I was once more standing squarely on black ice I stopped and recognized that I was lost. A step in any direction and I could drown in freezing water. I was becoming claustrophobic, too—I had an incongruous sense of airlessness, as though I’d been locked in a windowless room. I knew that I was going to die.

I lashed out first at my own entangling fantasies—the hated redcoats, the pursuing ostrich—and then at death itself. My bowels began to churn, and I squatted on the ice with the pea jacket over my head, my pants around my knees. I recited the Lord’s Prayer in a quavering voice. I was answered: a deep, rhythmic throb gathered slowly into a rumble. A light emerged from the blackness in front of me, followed by several others, until they formed a line streaming toward me like comets. Then, just as the sound was at its most intense, an enormous black shape rose before me, causing the ice to groan. It was not the god I had expected. The lights streamed away and all was silent again. A freighter bound for Lake Superior.

I extracted the compass from my pocket and began to bargain with death. It took some concentration to rotate the battered brass case until I had north pinned down; then, staring at the cloudy glass held almost under my nose, I began to skate as rapidly as I could, placing all my faith in the ornate “W.” I moved fast on the cold mirror beneath me, creating my own wind, knowing that if the compass was faulty after all its years in the ground I would skate straight off the ice into a world from which I would not return. But a kind of faith conveyed from the freighter god to the compass kept me peering into my cupped hands as I pressed on with all I had. In a short time I could make out some shapes in my path, fishermen’s shanties—a series of small houses positioned over round holes spudded through the ice, through which the occupants could angle for perch or hang for hours, iron spear in hand, to await the great pike, drawn to them by a hand-whittled wooden perch decoy. By night, these shacks were all deserted.

But one shanty revealed a flickering light, and to it I attached all my hopes. At its door, I made out voices, and I stopped before knocking. They were voices from my classroom, and I listened, as if dreaming, to what sounded like a quarrel. First, the drum major, his voice cocky, bantering. The other seemed to plead and whimper, and was, of course, Mrs. Andrews. And then there were different sounds, less precise than words. I skated off as silently as I could, afraid that if they caught me they would have to do something terrible to me, whether they wanted to or not. I had no business knowing what I knew.

I hit land a long way from where I’d put on my skates, and I was obliged to traverse a considerable distance tottering on my blades across pickerelweed and pebbles, waving my arms for balance, while thanking everything around me for the continuation of my days on earth. But, in a scrap of tangled beech woods, my pious thoughts soon crumbled beneath a lurid, new vision, something as dark as the woods around me. It was as if, as I conquered one fear, another had risen to take its place—even more daunting than the last.

Light from the small houses that lined the narrow road to the shore made wild shadows in the leafless trees. I heard dogs barking behind closed doors, and one homeowner let his beagle out while watching me from his doorway. I tried to manage my movements, but there was no way to walk normally, nor any way for an observer to see that I was wearing skates. The beagle approached to within ten feet of me and sat down, emitting a single reflective bark as I passed its lawn. The owner remained in the doorway and watched me pass in silence. I gave him a little wave, which he didn’t return.



"I'll tell you how the sun rose
A ribbon at a time..."

It's a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn't matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were . . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?

— Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

Jon Swift, "River Run"

Winslow Homer, The Rapids, Hudson River, 1894

Run, run river
Carry me to my home in the ocean
Carry me away
I know I have a home
Somewhere far
And I'll move like the stars that make you feel like you got friends
Stars will make you feel like you got friends

Follow the empty valley
Past the hill
To the marshes of the estuary
Come in peaceful river
In the light of the moon with the river
I do run in the hope that one day I will die
Beneath the ocean

And at this river we'll forever run




Twilight is spacious, near things in it seem far,
And distant things seem near.
Now in the green west hangs a yellow star.
And now across old waters you may hear
The profound gloom of bells among still trees,
Like a rolling of huge boulders beneath seas.

Silent as though in evening contemplation
Weaves the bat under the gathering stars.
Silent as dew, we seek new incarnation,
Meditate new avatars.
In a clear dusk like this
Mary climbed up the hill to seek her son,
To lower him down from the cross, and kiss
The mauve wounds, every one.

Men with wings
In the dusk walked softly after her.
She did not see them, but may have felt
The winnowed air around her stir;
She did not see them, but may have known
Why her son's body was light as a little stone.
She may have guessed that other hands were there
Moving the watchful air.

Now, unless persuaded by searching music
Which suddenly opens the portals of the mind,
We guess no angels,
And are contented to be blind.
Let us blow silver horns in the twilight,
And lift our hearts to the yellow star in the green,
To find perhaps, if, while the dew is rising,
Clear things may not be seen.

- Conrad Aiken


All our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. Be not the slave of your own past. Live in the sunshine, drink the wild air, plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Coltrane, "After The Rain"

Patient endurance attains all things.
- St. Teresa


"Don't you like a rather foggy wood in autumn? You'll find we shall be perfectly warm sitting in the car."

Jane said she'd never heard of anyone liking fogs before but she didn't mind trying. All three got in.

"That's why Camilla and I got married, "said Denniston as they drove off. "We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather. It's a useful taste if one lives in England."

"How ever did you learn to do that, Mr. Denniston?" said Jane. "I don't think I should ever learn to like rain and snow."

"It's the other way round," said Denniston. "Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up. Noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children - and the dogs? They know what snow's made for."

"I'm sure I hated wet days as a child," said Jane.

"That's because the grown-ups kept you in," said Camilla. "Any child loves rain if it's allowed to go out and paddle about in it."

- C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength


The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition.
- Albert Einstein

If you would be more creative stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.
- Jean Piaget

You have to ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The emphasis on standardized testing, on attempting to constantly monitor, measure, and quantify what students learn, has forced teachers to spend more of the school day engaged in so-called direct instruction and has substantially reduced or eliminated opportunities that children have for exploring, interacting, and learning on their own. Recess has, in many districts, vanished from the schedule entirely. After school, parents shuttle their kids from activity to activity, depriving them of unstructured time alone or with friends.

That matters, according to researchers, not just because play reduces stress and makes children more socially competent—which evidence suggests that it does. It matters also because play supposedly improves working memory and self-regulation; in other words, it makes kids sharper and better-behaved. So, ironically, by shortchanging them on play in favor of academics, we may actually be inhibiting their development. Hirsh-Pasek, a psychology professor at Temple University, considers the move away from play to be a crisis, even comparing it to global warming, in the sense that it may take years for the consequences to be felt. When it comes to the value of play, she declares: "The science is clear" ...

...Vygotsky explained, when a child can pretend that a broomstick is a horse, he or she is able to separate the object from the symbol. A broom is not a horse, but it's possible to call a broom a horse, and even to pretend to ride it. That ability to think abstractly is a huge mental leap forward, and play can make it happen.

Among the many who have been influenced by Vygotsky is Deborah J. Leong, the author, along with Elena Bodrova, of Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education, an attempt to turn his theories into practical classroom techniques. Leong, a professor emerita of psychology at Metropolitan State College of Denver, points out that when young children are pretending, they often use bigger words than they normally would and fully inhabit their roles, like mini Method actors. If they're playing doctor, for instance, they might say "injection" or "thermometer." Recently she watched a group of preschoolers pretending to work at a well-known chain hardware store. "Welcome to Home Depot," a 4-year-old said. "You can do it, we can help." Meanwhile another group of children, who were pretending to be airport screeners, informed a would-be passenger that a bottle she was carrying was larger than the permitted three ounces.

Pretend play isn't just about vocabulary. A 2007 study published in Science looked at how 4- and 5-year-olds who were enrolled in a school that used the play-based, Vygotsky-inspired Tools of the Mind curriculum measured up to children in a more typical preschool. The students in the play-based school scored better on cognitive flexibility, self-control, and working memory—attributes of "executive function," which has been consistently linked to academic achievement. The results were so convincing that the experiment was halted earlier than planned so that children in the typical preschool could be switched to the Tools of the Mind curriculum. The authors conclude: "Although play is often thought frivolous, it may be essential."

With evidence like that, you might think that the kind of guided pretend play that Vygotsky favored would be universally embraced. In fact, according to Leong, it's fast disappearing, as the idea of learning becomes synonymous with memorization and standardized tests. Play is steadily losing out to what play proponents refer to as the "drill and kill" method. "We drill more because they can't pay attention, but they can't pay attention because they don't have these underlying play skills, so we drill more," Leong says. "It's pathetic."

Read the rest here.


Wolfgang Bloch, No. 913, 2010

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.
- Raymond Inmon


Beloved, Let Us Once More Praise The Rain

Beloved, let us once more praise the rain.
Let us discover some new alphabet,
For this, the often praised; and be ourselves,
The rain, the chickweed, and the burdock leaf,
The green-white privet flower, the spotted stone,
And all that welcomes the rain; the sparrow too,—
Who watches with a hard eye from seclusion,
Beneath the elm-tree bough, till rain is done.
There is an oriole who, upside down,
Hangs at his nest, and flicks an orange wing,—
Under a tree as dead and still as lead;
There is a single leaf, in all this heaven
Of leaves, which rain has loosened from its twig:
The stem breaks, and it falls, but it is caught
Upon a sister leaf, and thus she hangs;
There is an acorn cup, beside a mushroom
Which catches three drops from the stooping cloud.
The timid bee goes back to the hive; the fly
Under the broad leaf of the hollyhock
Perpends stupid with cold; the raindark snail
Surveys the wet world from a watery stone...
And still the syllables of water whisper:
The wheel of cloud whirs slowly: while we wait
In the dark room; and in your heart I find
One silver raindrop,—on a hawthorn leaf,—
Orion in a cobweb, and the World.

- Conrad Aiken

Happy Birthday Segovia.

Andres Segovia was born on this date in 1893.

Here he plays five pieces by Henry Purcell ...

20 February 2011

David Gilmour, "Dimming Of The Day"



... where thin shafts of light
chisel down into blue-black;
beneath willows and sycamores;
in northern rivers
where salmon lie
in deep viridian hollows.
It is always the dark water
which promises the most.

- Russell Chatham

Hildegard von Bingen, "Hodie Aperuit"

Performed by one of my favorite ensembles, Hesperus.

Happy Birthday Adams.

Ansel Adams was born on this date in 1902.

Simply look with perceptive eyes at the world about you, and trust to your own reactions and convictions. Ask yourself: "Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream? Can I visualize a print - my own personal statement of what I feel and want to convey - from the subject before me? When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
- Ansel Adams

Adams was the subject of a 1981 documentary produced by PBS. It's excellent.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4 (Playing Beethoven; with O'Keeffe)

Part 5 (With O'Keeffe)

Part 6

Part 7

Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter.
- Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams, Thundercloud, Lake Tahoe, 1938

The Ansel Adams Gallery is here.


Ordinary people think that talent must be always on its own level and that it arises every morning like the sun, rested and refreshed, ready to draw from the same storehouse; always open, always full, always abundant new treasures that it will heap up on those of the day before; such people are unaware that, as in the case of all mortal things, talent has its increase and decrease, and that independently of the career it takes, like everything that breathes ... it undergoes all the accidents of health, of sickness, and of the dispositions of the soul; its gaiety or its sadness. As with our perishable flesh. talent is obliged constantly to keep guard over itself, to combat, and to keep perpetually on the alert amid the obstacles that witness the exercise of its singular power.
- Charles Baudelaire

19 February 2011


Andrew Wyeth, Wind From The Sea, 1947

Cultural Offering has distracted me ... again.

Don't extinguish the fire of your imagination by being a slave to your ideas.
- Vincent van Gogh

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.
- Emile Chartier

Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake? He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.
- Leonardo da Vinci

When we're faced with a difficult problem, the most obvious solution—that first idea we focus on—is probably wrong. At such moments, it often helps to consider far-fetched possibilities, to approach the task from an unconventional perspective. And this is why distraction is helpful: People unable to focus are more likely to consider information that might seem irrelevant but will later inspire the breakthrough. When we don't know where to look, we need to look everywhere.

Read the rest here.

Or, when all else fails ...

Get outside!
- Dad

Merle Haggard, "Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star"

Kenny Chesney, "Live A Little"

One of Zuzu's favorites ... "live a little, love a lot."

Hoagy Carmichael, "Winter Moon"

Art Pepper, alto sax


van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1887 (for a treat, click on the image)

The fisherman knows that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found those dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. They leave that philosophy to those who like it. Let the storm arise, the night descend; which is worse ... danger or the fear of danger? For my part I prefer reality, the danger itself.
- Vincent van Gogh


We all need our space to work. Growing up Cultural Offering had the coolest room of any of my buddies ... he knows a thing or two about inspirational workspaces and is collecting pictures of them here.

It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.
- Rainer Maria Rilke

Amedeo Modigliani's studio


Violinist Victoria Mullova left the USSR twenty years ago. The last twelve years she has spent in London with her husband and three children. By coincidence she performed her first solo concert in the Large Hall of the Moscow Conservatory during the Second Easter festival. And now, the one-time winner of the Tchaikovsky competition has finally managed to perform on stage at her alma mater.

Always a welcomed guest at the largest of music festivals, Victoria Mullova performs with the most well-known orchestras and conductors in the world. Originally a classical violinist, she is constantly expanding her fields of expertise: from experimenting with jazz interpretations to complete dedication to authentic performances of baroque music; and recently she made her debut as a conductor.

Victoria’s parents still live in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, and on her rare trips to Russia that is where she spends most of her time. But she still manages to catch a glimpse of how Moscow has changed since the days when, as a girl, she would first walk twenty minutes to the train station, then ride an hour on the train, plus a little more in the Metro, before arriving with her violin at the Central Music School, and in later years, at the Conservatory.

Following Mullova’s emigration – just after she had won the Tchaikovsky competition – and the scandal which ensued upon her failure to return from a tour in Finland, her parents went through serious difficulties. “My mother and father were called in to the corresponding authorities, where they were excluded from the Communist party and almost had their jobs taken from them. They were happy for me, but we had no idea, when we’d ever see each other again,” recalls Victoria.

The decision to emigrate was spurred by a hunger for freedom and the desire to be master of one’s own fate. “The main thing was just to get out. I just wanted one thing – freedom.

Read the rest here.

On defections and gypsy music ...

Performing the Largo from Bach's Violin Sonata No. 3. Sublime ...


David and Gaetano transported the meat, a hindquarter, to the Italian Culinary Academy for Dario's lesson on Panzano-style butchering. The auditorium and aisles were packed with students, butchers, and fans. Dario began with a little history of his family's traditions, handed down from father to son for 250 years. I translated. He spoke of the animals he worked with, which should lead good lives, eat healthy food, and have a merciful death. He talked about respect for the entire animal, utilizing each piece to its maximum, wasting nothing. And he said that his guiding principal was that one only possesses what one can give. Dario explained as he worked, boning the shank, which would be stuffed with the marrow from its bone, tied, braised with shallots and extra virgin, a Christmas specialty of his shop. He prepared a cut for a simple roast, carved his special steak, the Panzanese, while Gaetano and David tenderized meat for sushi.

Everyone got a taste, paired with a sip of Fontodi's Chianti Classico, the perfect accompaniment for beef. Standing ovation and cheers concluded the class, and we raced back to Del Posto.

Read the rest here.


From the brush of Vincent van Gogh.


The ragamuffin who sees his life as a voyage of discovery and runs the risk of failure has a better feel for faithfulness than the timid man who hides behind the law and never finds out who he is at all.
— Brennan Manning


The Fresh Aspect never disappoints.

Happy Birthday Galileo.

Galileo Galilei was born on this date in 1564.

Sustermans, Galileo Galilei, 1636

But of all other stupendous inventions, what sublimity of mind must have been his who conceived how to communicate his most secret thoughts to any other person, though very far distant, either in time or place? And with no greater difficulty than the various arrangement of two dozen little signs upon paper? Let this be the seal of all the admirable inventions of man.
- Galileo

Don't miss the Galileo Project ... here.