Thursday, February 27, 2014

Anaïs and Henry

"His passion runs through a chill, intellectual world like lava. It's his passion which seems important to the world today. It raises his book to the level of a natural phenomenon, like a cyclone, an earthquake. Today the world is chilled by mind and by analysis. His passion may save it, his appetite for life, his lust."

Anaïs Nin makes me want to read Henry Miller. I've only been reading women lately - Anaïs (we're on a first name basis, don't you know?), Lydia Davis, Alice Munro - and I should expand. Volume One of her diary is alive with Henry - he's living in it, and I feel I know him. I know that he didn't care to know other writers ("What would they see in me?"), that he watched acrobats dance naked in their slippers, that he slept in train stations and brothels, that he strained his eyes proofreading at a newspaper. Anaïs gave him her typewriter and bought him shoes, though her brother Joaquin, a concert pianist, didn't approve.

I'm looking forward to taking Tropic of Cancer on holiday with me next month.

photograph of Cascade Resort

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

there must be someone

"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.”

- Frida Kahlo

Also, I'm reading the diary of Anaïs Nin, and I'm pretty sure they would have been friends if geography had allowed.

 Rei Kawakubo

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

silence and noise

First off, a siren:

In college, I was a student liaison for the Yale World Fellows program. We welcomed, each academic year, some of the most talented and forward-thinking policy leaders from around the world to meet and dialogue in an effort to address pressing global issues related to political freedom, human rights, economic development, and the environment. Today, I learned that one of our Fellows, Carlos Vecchio of Venezuela, is in trouble. Carlos is currently the de facto leader of the Venezuelan opposition party, Voluntad Popular (VP), since the party leader, Leopoldo López, was taken into custody on February 18. There is an official warrant out for his arrest.

The World Fellows office is concerned for Carlos' safety. They say that he is in hiding in Venezuela with limited access to communication. They are worried that he is in danger because unlike Lòpez, he is not an internationally recognizable figure. They have asked us (citizens of the internet) to spread the word about Carlos' situation. Here are links to Amnesty's call for action and the Yale World Fellows' memo. Send them around. You can never know who you will reach.

What is the internet for, if not for this?

And secondly, a meditation I wanted to share with you. It's called "The Healing Power of Silence" (mind silence, distinguishable from political silence), and it's led by Sister Jayanti, a member of the Brahma Kumaris spiritual group. It's something I come back to when I have a prolonged period of anxiety (sometimes) or a sudden bout of devotion to self-care (less often).

Normally I don't like guided meditation (or meditation, for that matter), as the ambient sounds and gentle voices often have a paradoxically irritating effect on me. I'm also hopelessly restless, and as soon as I'm supposed to clear my mind, I want to think about which shoes would go best with my harem pants and whether I should bring my Criminal Procedure book home or leave it at school because it's heavy and I never actually read it at breakfast.

But Sister Jayanti's voice is wonderful (at least I react wonderfully to it), and when she leads me to that proverbial tranquil place, I find that I can follow her quite easily.

My mother joined the Brahma Kumaris a few years ago when she was living in Oxford. They have outposts around the world, and if you're in search of a supportive (and not at all dogmatic) spiritual community, you may want to look them up.

photograph/collage by Carlota Bird

Monday, February 24, 2014

consider the hummingbird

"The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons. It’s as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around it, head high, bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon."

-from Joyas Volardores, an essay by Bryan Doyle that you should read today 
(Thanks, Noah, for sharing!)

Godafoss Falls, Iceland from morte-vita

Friday, February 21, 2014

what are you watching?

I can't wait to see this - it's out March 7!

And on an entirely different note, what is happening in Ukraine and Venezuela?? 
All of this while the world watches the Olympics and I watch my movies. 
What are you watching, and what can be done?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hurray for the Riff Raff

Alynda Lee Segarra's band, Hurray for the Riff Raff, is one of my favorite New Orleans music groups. I found them hanging out at the Circle Bar one night when I was in high school. There were maybe eight people in the room, a small room, if you don't know the Circle Bar. Dark and so old with red velvet somewhere, fraying with the beer smells. I don't remember who she was playing with, but when Alynda sang Daniella, I would have followed her anywhere.

I learned later that she was from the Bronx, had run away as a kid and spent some time living on freight trains, that sort of life. She made it to New Orleans eventually and played washboard in The Dead Man's Street Orchestra before starting her own band with her banjo. After the Circle Bar, I heard her all over New Orleans and she became a living icon to me. When I was in college, I wore ripped colored stockings and men's collared shirts and thought of her.

Now her band travels the country in a van, and look, they occasionally appear on NPR! Make your day better and listen to this liveset along with whatever you're doing:

images by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee, Last FM, and Hurray for the Riff Raff

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Danse Russe

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees -
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades, -

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

-William Carlos Williams

Breeze by Xi Pan

Monday, February 17, 2014

the flower girls

I love florists in a way that I think about being one sometimes. Constantly touching petals and stems, hands damp, tying, cutting, carrying. It seems wonderfully tactile, and you get to go home smelling like flowers and earth and lingering sweat, which I think is so sexy.

It's a tough job, though, very physical and time-consuming. Of course I know all about that. I don't really know anything about it, but I like to watch people who do. Hence, my flower girls, and their blogs which I look at all the time.

The first one I found was Tigers to Lilies by Lili Cuzor, a florist/plant-stylist in LA. She makes me want to go to Southern California for the desert and white stucco houses and all the colors they reflect. Her blog is a collection of her own photographs, pictures of her work, and fantastic images from artists she finds and loves. Her installations pop up all over LA it seems, and I always wish I could go and see them.

After Lili came Amy Merrick, a writer/florist who used to work at Saipua in New York but now works on her own. She has a studio in Greenpoint but is often at her family's farmhouse, Elmwood, where she gathers wildflowers, charges her creativity, and takes care of old-house-things. She works all over the East Coast, and you can see her arrangements (luscious, sensual, luminous) and read what she's up to here.

Then, flowing from my Amy-gazing, I found Sarah Rhyanen of Saipua fame. She and her partner (and her parents!) make soaps and flower arrangements in Red Hook, and I just want to join their family. More realistically, I follow her blog, World's End, named for a flower/goat farm that she's growing. She's a funny and honest writer (farming is hard, man), and her photographs (of the farm, the goats, her peonies) are beautiful.

And to take our heads out of the flowers, this piece by Ta-Nehesi Coates, got me good this morning. I also wish I had something more to say about the killing of Jordan Davis. I don't think you can say enough.

images by Lily Cuzor, Amy Merrick, Sarah Rhyanen, and Riley Messina (who I just discovered this morning)

Friday, February 14, 2014

in the news

It's the end of New York Fashion Week, the city is beautiful in its icicles, and many people will be thinking happily or unhappily about love today.

In Venezuela this week, three people were killed while protesting the violent and destructive oil-fed regime of Nicolàs Maduro. My understanding (from Gabi, my incredible Venezuelan neighbor-sister) is that they were very young. Gabi told me the story of a young man she knows who was recently arrested and tortured for protesting. He was forced to sign a letter inculpating the opposition party for the violence on the streets. When he was released to a hospital for his injuries, his family was too afraid to pick him up. They didn't want to be associated and recognized. They were looking to pay someone to go get him. He'll survive, that's what we know.

double exposure photograph by Dan Mountford from The Modernist, published by Gestalten

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Anaïs and June

"When we walked the streets, bodies close together, arm in arm, hands locked, I was in such ecstasy I could not talk. The city disappeared, and so did the people. The acute joy of our walking together through the grey streets of Paris I shall never forget, and I shall never be able to describe it. We were walking above the world, above reality, into pure, pure ecstasy."

-The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume One 1931-1934

drawing by Hope Gangloff

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

on keeping a diary

Do you keep a diary? I started mine two years ago as an anti-anxiety exercise. Actually, I've started several diaries, but this one has been the most sustained. It's a document on my computer called "The Journal to Make Things Work", and it's now about 100 pages long - single spaced! Two years ago, as a New Year's resolution, I began to write in it every day.

I love my Journal for so many reasons. A tip for the anxious: it helps! Just the act ("le geste" in French, which I love) of sitting down and doing something entirely for yourself every day is important. For me, writing every night before bed, even if only for five minutes, had this wonderful psychosomatic effect where I just felt sort of untied - released from the anxieties that would crowd up my mind during the day, almost incapacitating me. Within a week, my anxious body (the brain is part of the body, correct?) knew that it would have its own time every evening, so it began to let me go.

Some nights I write a line, not even two. Most nights, a paragraph or three. What's important is simply to give myself that symbolic time and space and to do it habitually.

I began to read the diary of Anaïs Nin yesterday, and wow. So elegant! And honest at the same time. Also true, there are a lot of truths there. One of the wonderful things about keeping a record of your thoughts is that sometimes you wonder, who else has thought this thing, thought this way? And then you encounter that thought from someone else in conversation or in reading or in looking at a photograph, and you can go back to your own record and see the connection in your own words.

To close, below is a quote from my own Journal, one I think is sweet because it thinks about God.

"In Before Sunrise, Céline said God was the space between us. In What is the What, Achak finally concludes that the What is the space between us. I can feel these spaces, too, so palpable the threads and distance. The spaces between us are infinite in the galaxies they hold. So of course, if every other possibility is there, God must be there as well."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ms. 45

The movie I saw last night was something else. Ms. 45 by Abel Ferrara. Extraordinary in the hyper-literal sense, but also simply extraordinary. BAM is putting on a series, Vengeance is Hers, for the month of February, and this one got me in all the right places.