"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

31 October 2014

Beppe Gambetta & Bruce Molsky, "Church Street Blues"


That’s the place to get to—nowhere. One wants to wander away from the world’s somewheres, into our own nowhere.

D.H. Lawrence


One of our most innovative, popular thinkers takes on-in exhilarating style-one of our key questions: Where do good ideas come from?

With Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson pairs the insight of his bestselling Everything Bad Is Good for You and the dazzling erudition of The Ghost Map and The Invention of Air to address an urgent and universal question: What sparks the flash of brilliance? How does groundbreaking innovation happen? Answering in his infectious, culturally omnivorous style, using his fluency in fields from neurobiology to popular culture, Johnson provides the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how we generate the ideas that push our careers, our lives, our society, and our culture forward.

Beginning with Charles Darwin's first encounter with the teeming ecosystem of the coral reef and drawing connections to the intellectual hyperproductivity of modern megacities and to the instant success of YouTube, Johnson shows us that the question we need to ask is, What kind of environment fosters the development of good ideas? His answers are never less than revelatory, convincing, and inspiring as Johnson identifies the seven key principles to the genesis of such ideas, and traces them across time and disciplines.

Most exhilarating is Johnson's conclusion that with today's tools and environment, radical innovation is extraordinarily accessible to those who know how to cultivate it. Where Good Ideas Come From is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how to come up with tomorrow's great ideas.


Poetry doesn’t just help someone survive, it is a survivor itself: fluid, protean, as it passes through walls, and brings a particular beat to a way of thinking and being.


In many places, unpasteurized dairy is this generation’s bootleg liquor, and some governments treat it accordingly.

Yes, "Open Your Eyes"


The ability to "fantasize" is the ability to survive. It's wonderful to speak about this subject because there have been so many wrong-headed people dealing with it. The so-called realists are trying to drive us insane, and I refuse to be driven insane. We survive by fantasizing. Take that away from us and the whole damned human race goes down the drain.

Ray Bradbury

Ziggy Marley, "Black Cat"


Wyeth, Albinos Study, 2002

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.

Marcel Proust


Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing. There are objects and people that disappear from your sight or knowledge or possession; you lose a bracelet, a friend, the key. You still know where you are. Everything is familiar except that there is one item less, one missing element. Or you get lost, in which case the world has become larger than your knowledge of it. Either way, there is a loss of control. Imagine yourself streaming through time shedding gloves, umbrellas, wrenches, books, friends, homes, names. This is what the view looks like if you take a rear-facing seat on the train. Looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery. The wind blows your hair back and you are greeted by what you have never seen before. The material falls away in onrushing experience. It peels off like skin from a molting snake. Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.

To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away. To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.  Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.

Rebecca Solnit

Glenn Miller.

Forty-two minutes of real music …

Folks may say we're antiquated, If they do, who cares? So we're not sophisticated, Leave it to the millionaires! I'm gonna stick to the moon, Stay with the stars, That's my philosophy; Nature must have thought of Spring for People like you and me!


The three secrets of magic.

Reality is not what it seems to be.

Imagination creates reality.

Reality is made up of words.

Fernando Buscema

Ronn MacFarlane, "Indigo Road"

30 October 2014

Happy birthday, Sisley.

Sisley, Fog, 1874

Alfred Sisley was born on this date in 1839.

Every picture shows a spot with which the artist has fallen in love.

Alfred Sisley


The problem with reality is it’s so easy to see.

Look around. There it is.

Go outside. There’s some more.

You can’t leave reality’s presence. It’s always there to remind you and it all seems so tangible and permanent. So real.

In fact, it’s not permanent at all. Things are always changing and in the long term, everything is temporary. Also, our idea of what reality is is never complete – after all, we can’t know everything. On top of that, our idea of reality is usually inaccurate – some of the great moments in life are when we learn things and change our minds. That’s how we grow.

When we think about the future, this reality can get in the way. Our incomplete and incorrect ideas of reality, and reality’s persistence, end up tainting our imagination of what is probable in the world. The resulting visions of the future are tainted as well, and usually not very different than our current sense of reality.

It takes extra effort and imagination to set those tainted visions aside and dream up a reality we’d prefer, not to mention explore the innumerable futures that are possible.

But why do this? It is certainly more difficult.

Well, it’s definitely more fun. The world as it is could be a lot better. If you’re going to imagine the future, it’s a lot more joyful when you can escape from mistakes we’ve already made and envision something radically new. But there is another reason.

Utopia is a combination of three Greek words; Eu (good), Ou (not), and Topos (place). Utopia translated is “good not place”. It is important to remember, as a “not place,” it is impossible to arrive at utopia. The reason we imagine utopias is to provide a point on the compass that orients us on our travels. Without utopia, we’re lost – we are traveling without direction, guessing and hoping that we are moving forward. The purpose of utopia is not a destination, it is to give us direction so we can progress.

Steve Lambert

The Gourds, "I Want It So Bad"


When you see a cloud hanging in a clear blue sky, it looks like the cloud is wet, while the air around it is dry.

That's what you see, but that would be wrong.

The truth is, moisture is everywhere, whether you see it or not. Most of the time, it's floating about like vapor, it's a gas. Gaseous water is invisible. But when it becomes a liquid, that's when you see it.

In a nutshell, this is how a cloud is born. A cloud happens, wrote the great illustrator Eric Sloane, when moisture goes "from invisible gas to visible water droplets."

Like this:


A patch of "empty" space may look empty, but in fact, its nothingness contains all kinds of invisible somethings. "Empty" is always hiding secrets.



We speak of understanding a sentence in the sense in which it can be replaced by another which says the same; but also in the sense in which it cannot be replaced by any other. (Any more than one musical theme can be replaced by another.)

In the one case the thought in the sentence is something common to different sentences; in the other, something that is only expressed by these words in these positions. (Understanding a poem.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein 


Quidor, The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, 1858

It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crestfallen, pursued his travels homewards, along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was as dismal as himself. Far below him the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with here and there the tall mast of a sloop, riding quietly at anchor under the land. In the dead hush of midnight, he could even hear the barking of the watchdog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so vague and faint as only to give an idea of his distance from this faithful companion of man. Now and then, too, the long-drawn crowing of a cock, accidentally awakened, would sound far, far off, from some farmhouse away among the hills—but it was like a dreaming sound in his ear. No signs of life occurred near him, but occasionally the melancholy chirp of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural twang of a bullfrog from a neighboring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably and turning suddenly in his bed.
All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate André, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and was universally known by the name of Major André's tree. The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights, and doleful lamentations, told concerning it.
As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to whistle; he thought his whistle was answered; it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches. As he approached a little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst of the tree: he paused and ceased whistling but, on looking more narrowly, perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid bare. Suddenly he heard a groan—his teeth chattered, and his knees smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon another, as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in safety, but new perils lay before him.
About two hundred yards from the tree, a small brook crossed the road, and ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen, known by the name of Wiley's Swamp. A few rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge over this stream. On that side of the road where the brook entered the wood, a group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grape-vines, threw a cavernous gloom over it. To pass this bridge was the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate André was captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the schoolboy who has to pass it alone after dark.
As he approached the stream, his heart began to thump; he summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side, and kicked lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.
The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, "Who are you?" He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.                          

29 October 2014


How high is the sky?


John Scofield Trio, "How Deep is the Ocean?"


The work of great poetry is to aid us to become free artists ourselves. The art of reading poetry is an authentic training in the augmentation of consciousness, perhaps the most authentic of healthy modes.

Harold Bloom



Notice what Tyler Nordgren does in these posters. He's an artist, an astronomer; he's worked for NASA. He's an expert in dark matter, and a full professor at the University of Redlands. He knows much, much more than I do about astrophysics and stars, and yet, look at these night skies — a series he created to promote America's national parks at night ...


Gipsy Kings, "Ami Wa Wa"

On heavy rotation in Room 136 …


The idea is to develop sympathy for your own confusion.

Pema Chödrön


Critical thinking has long been regarded as the essential skill for success, but it’s not enough, says Dr. Puccio. Creativity moves beyond mere synthesis and evaluation and is, he says, “the higher order skill.” This has not been a sudden development. Nearly 20 years ago “creating” replaced “evaluation” at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning objectives. In 2010 “creativity” was the factor most crucial for success found in an I.B.M. survey of 1,500 chief executives in 33 industries. These days “creative” is the most used buzzword in LinkedIn profiles two years running.

Traditional academic disciplines still matter, but as content knowledge evolves at lightning speed, educators are talking more and more about “process skills,” strategies to reframe challenges and extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity.


28 October 2014


Author's Road interviews Tom McGuane, a notorious daydreamer


Pollock, No. 31 (detail), 1950

Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.

Jackson Pollock


In the shadow of the temple my friend and I saw a blind man sitting alone. And my friend said, “Behold the wisest man of our land.”

Then I left my friend and approached the blind man and greeted him. And we conversed.
After a while I said, “Forgive my question, but since when hast thou been blind?”
“From my birth,” he answered.
Said I, “And what path of wisdom followest thou?”
Said he, “I am an astronomer.”
Then he placed his hand upon his breast, saying, “I watch all these suns and moons and stars.”

Khalil Gibran

27 October 2014


Homer, Trappers Resting, 1874


Walking back on a chill morning past Kilmer's Lake
into the first broad gully, down its trough
and over a ridge of poplar, scrub oak, and into
a larger gully, walking into the slow fresh warmth
of midmorning to Spider Lake where I drank
at a small spring remembered from ten years back;
walking northwest two miles where another gully
opened, seeing a stump on a knoll where my father
stood one deer season, and tiring of sleet and cold
burned a pine stump, the snow gathering fire-orange
on a dull day; walking past charred stumps blackened
by the '81 fire to a great hollow stump near a basswood
swale - I sat within it on a November morning
watching deer browse beyond my young range of shotgun
and slug, chest beating hard for killing -
into the edge of a swale waist-high with ferns,
seeing the quick movement of a blue racer,
and thick curl of the snake against a birch log,
a pale blue with nothing of the sky in it,
a fleshy blue, blue of knotted veins in an arm;
walking to Savage's Lake where I ate my bread
and cheese, drank cool lake water, and slept for a while,
dreaming of fire, snake and fish and women in white
linen walking, pinkish warm limbs beneath white linen;
then walking, walking homeward toward Well's Lake,
brain at boil now with heat, afternoon glistening
in yellow heat, dead dun-brown grass, windless,
with all distant things shimmering, grasshoppers, birds
dulled to quietness; walking a log road near a cedar swamp
looking cool with green darkness and whine of mosquitoes,
crow's caw overhead, Cooper's hawk floating singly
in mateless haze; walking dumbly, footsore, cutting
into evening through sumac and blackberry brambles,
onto the lake road, feet sliding in the gravel,
whippoorwills, night birds wakening, stumbling to lake
shore, shedding clothes on sweet moss; walking
into syrupy August moonless dark, water cold, pushing
lily pads aside, walking out into the lake with feet
springing on mucky bottom until the water flows overhead;
sinking again to walk on the bottom then buoyed up,
walking on the surface, moving through beds of reeds,
snakes and frogs moving, to the far edge of the lake
then walking upward over the basswood and alders, the field
of sharp stubble and hay bales, toward the woods,
floating over the bushy crests of hardwoods and tips
of pine, barely touching in miles of rolling heavy dark,
coming to the larger water, there walking along the troughs
of waves folding in upon themselves; walking to an island,
small, narrow, sandy, sparsely wooded, in the middle
of the island in a clump of cedars a small spring
which I enter, sliding far down into a deep cool
dark endless weight of water.

Jim Harrison


In October, St John, in Clerkenwell, east London, will be 20 years old. In itself, this should not be an extraordinary thing. Two decades: it's hardly a lifetime. But restaurant years, like dog years, are different. The capital has a handful of longstanding dining institutions: bustling Sweetings, in the City; Rules, purveyor of game in Covent Garden; Wiltons, where one may eat oysters in Mayfair, assuming one has first remortgaged one's home. Pretty much everywhere else is in constant flux, joints opening and closing, chefs arriving and leaving, the crowd descending and then, ever-fickle, moving on: an exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking spin cycle of briefly modish ingredients, cuisines and cooks.
How, then, to explain St John's long, happy and singular life? Its proprietors, Fergus Henderson, formerly its chef, and Trevor Gulliver, his business partner, are damned if they know. "We just quietly go about our business," says Gulliver, coffee slopping over the side of his cup as he slaps the table. "We don't do vision." Henderson contemplatively sips his mid-morning madeira. "Yes, and there's still lots to do," he says. "There's always tweaking to be done." Better to list the things they don't believe in than those they do. Set menus? Not even when business is bad. Posh wines from around the world? France will suffice. Bawling out the staff? Not necessary. The lure of MasterChef? No, thanks. Finally, they come up with a word: rigour. "There is a rigour here," says Gulliver. "You have to be quite stubborn to do something like this."



Botticelli, Portrait of a Young Lady, 1480

The task of understanding is not to replicate in conceptual form something that already exists, but rather to create a wholly new realm, that together with the world given to our senses constitutes the fullness of reality. 

Rudolf Steiner


If I ask myself what makes us human, one answer jumps out at me straight away – it is not the only answer but it is the one suggested by the question. What makes us human is that we ask questions. All the animals have interests, instincts and conceptions. All the animals frame for themselves an idea of the world in which they live. But we alone question our surroundings. We alone refuse to be defined by the world in which we live but instead try to define our nature for ourselves.

The intellectual history of our species is to a great extent defined by this attempt. Are we animals like the others? Do we have souls as well as bodies? Are we related, in the order of things, to angels, to demons and to gods? All science, all art, all religion and all philosophy worth the name begins in a question. And it is because we have questions that human life is so deeply satisfying and so deeply troubling, too.


26 October 2014


A philosopher who has evolved his entire thinking from the fundamental themes of the philosophy of science, and followed the main line of the active, growing rationalism of contemporary science as closely as he could, must forget his learning and break with all his habits of philosophical research, if he wants to study the problems posed by the poetic imagination. For here the cultural past doesn't count. The long day-in, day-out effort of putting together and constructing his thoughts is ineffectual. One must be receptive, receptive to the image at the moment it appears: if there be a philosophy of poetry, it must appear and reappear through a significant verse, in total adherence to an isolated image; to be exact, in the very ecstasy of the newness of the image. The poetic image is a sudden salience on the surface of the psyche, the lesser psychological causes of which have not been sufficiently investigated. Nor can anything general and coordinated serve as a basis for a philosophy of poetry. The idea of principle or "basis" in this case would be disastrous, for it would interfere with the essential psychic actuality, the essential novelty of the poem. And whereas philosophical reflection applied to scientific thinking elaborated over a long period of time requires any new idea to become integrated in a body of tested ideas, even though this body of ideas be subjected to profound change by the new idea (as is the case in all the revolutions of contemporary science), the philosophy of poetry must acknowledge that the poetic act has no past, at least no recent past, in which its preparation and appearance could be followed.

Gaston Bachelard


22 October 2014


Partial solar eclipse in North America on October 23.


O'Keeffe, Blue Sky, 1941

Tonight I walked into the sunset — to mail some letters — the whole sky — and there is so much of it out here — was just blazing — and grey blue clouds were riding all through the holiness of it — and the ugly little buildings and windmills looked great against it.

The Eastern sky was all grey blue — bunches of clouds — different kinds of clouds — sticking around everywhere and the whole thing — lit up — first in one place — then in another with flashes of lightning — sometimes just sheet lightning — and some times sheet lightning with a sharp bright zigzag flashing across it –- I walked out past the last house — past the last locust tree — and sat on the fence for a long time — looking — just looking at — the lightning — you see there was nothing but sky and flat prairie land — land that seems more like the ocean than anything else I know — There was a wonderful moon.

Well I just sat there and had a great time all by myself — Not even many night noises — just the wind —


Water is life. It constantly moves around this planet changing form and effecting landscapes. Time-Lapses up to half a year long are combined with extreme high-speed photography to allow us to journey visually through the water cycle. The power and grandeur that surrounds on this Earth is magnificent.


Happy birthday, Coleridge.

Northcote, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1804

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born yesterday ... in 1772.

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions - the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heart-felt compliment, and the countless infinitesimals of pleasurable and genial feeling.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge


… (T)he qualities of vision, courage, curiosity and enthusiasm with the cocksureness of a swashbuckling adventurer, the coolness of a gambler and the cunning of an American backwoodsman.



Are you smarter than a 19th-century fifth grader?


Happy anniversary, Garnerin.

On this date, in 1797, French balloonist Andre-Jacques Garnerin made the first parachute descent, landing safely from a height of about 3,000 feet.

On October 22, 1797, the sky was enlivened by a sky-warrior uneasily floating upwards. A hush fell over the expectant crowd as Garnerin’s hot-air balloon rose above the silvery, bright trees of Parc Monceau and gradually replaced the dying sun.
Garnerin reached a height of 900 metres (3000 feet) in his hydrogen balloon and then started to cut the rope connecting his parachute to the balloon. Garnerin later recalled the enormity of this moment: “I was on the point of cutting the cord that suspended me between heaven and earth and measured with my eye the vast space that separated me from the rest of the human race.”

20 October 2014


We probably don't have to explain just how importantJ.R.R. Tolkien was to fantasy literature. In fact, it's probably wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that nearly all of what we accept as being the standards of the genre derived from the man and his work. Case in point, go ahead and open up a random fantasy novel. If at any point you're treated to the sight of a hand drawn map you can go ahead and thank Tolkien who also helped establish that as one of the things you do when you decide to write a story about magic, swords and folk with pointy ears.

Enter Stentor Danielson.

A "lifelong mapmaker," Danielson wasn't content to let the fantasy genre have all the fun and, in turn, created his own line of Tolkien-esque "fantasy maps" based on real-world locations. 



 Dawson, A Roll to Leeward, 1956

Everything you desire in life has a price and you have to be willing to accept that price. If you desire to do great work, it will cost you. Likewise, security and comfort will cost you.


OK Go, "The Writing's On the Wall"

Thanks, Jennilyn.


“It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing, and without enjoying swearing,” he attests. Some would call swearing unnecessary, and Fry recontextualizes their argument like so: “It’s not necessary to have colored socks. It’s not necessary for this cushion to be here. But is anyone going to write in and say, ‘I was shocked to see that cushion there! It really wasn’t necessary’? No. Things not being necessary is what makes life interesting.”


The Gourds, "Cracklins"

Happy birthday, Rimbaud.

Carjat, Rimbaud, 1871

Arthur Rimbaud was born on this date in 1854.

The poet, therefore, is truly the thief of fire. He is responsible for humanity, for animals even; he will have to make sure his visions can be smelled, fondled, listened to; if what he brings back from beyond has form, he gives it form; if it has none, he gives it none. A language must be found … of the soul, for the soul and will include everything: perfumes, sounds colors, thought grappling with thought.

Arthur Rimbaud

17 October 2014

Lucinda Williams, "Essence"


Two hundred years ago, eight Londoners died in one of the oddest ways imaginable. Or, to invoke the thoroughly British words of The Times' news report on the incident, "The neighbourhood of St. Giles's was thrown into the utmost consternation on Monday night, by one of the most melancholy accidents we ever remember."

On the evening in question—October 17, 1814—one of the vats at the Meux and Co. brewery burst, blowing apart the building's timber walls and sending the equivalent of 3500 barrels of beer cascading onto the streets.


I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.

Gaston Bachelard

Where's your house?

16 October 2014

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 73, "Emperor"

Friedrich Gulda performs and inspires the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

Enthusiam. Now, this looks like fun ...


Eagle-eye view …

Happy birthday, Wilde.

Sarony, Oscar Wilde, 1882

Oscar Wilde was born on this date in 1854.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. 

Oscar Wilde