Reb Zalman died today. I met him earlier this year, quite by chance. To see him --- to hear him teach and sing --- was to feel the heart opening. I thought the moment was important enough to note here. How strange to login and find my last post (private) was about him. I feel like I've been trying to find the words for the experience all year.

Here is a link to his obituary:

Here is a link to my last post, which I have now unlocked:
Venus transited the Sun and took one of our solar system's beloved authors with her:

I don't suppose I mentioned that I recently re-read Martian Chronicles and gave a copy to Carlos, which has since been passed around the Costa Rican office to much acclaim. Books are harder to come by in CR, so I sent a hardcover copy.

The 1997 foreward to Martian Chronicles features the following story about Bradbury meeting Aldous Hudley just after its 1950 publication. "Do you know what you are?" said Huxley.

Don't tell me what I'm doing, I thought. I don't want to know.

"You are a poet," said Huxley.

"I'll be damned," I said.

"No, blessed," said Huxley.
In other news, if the death of Maurice Sendak was not enough, this week Jean Craighead George died:

You've probably read some of her books, among them, My Side of the Mountain a classic wilderness novel and Julie of the Wolves.
I woke at stupid 'o clock this morning to the news that Vaclav Havel has died. I was actually just thinking about the legacy of communism, yesterday, and whether all the protest movements we've seen this your will come to naught. Sometimes it's difficult to see that freedom is not something bought, paid for, and won in a single instance, but fought for on a daily --- and ongoing --- basis. I have a half-formed essay on the topic that is not yet ready for the light of day.

So far coverage is mixed, a kind of 'flawed hero' thing. It will interesting to see how long it takes for him to become beatified.

The Times:

BBC World News has a pretty decent audio essay, but I can't seem to find it posted yet:
I got word this morning that Rev. Peter J. Gomes --- one of the great preachers of our time --- has died. In addition to being a high profile African-American preacher in the halls of Harvard, Gomes shocked the religious establishment when he came out as a gay and a Christian in the early nineties. Despite a long affiliation with conservative politics, Gomes became increasingly radical as he aged, issuing a clarion call for the social gospel of Jesus, preaching tolerance and social justice. His influence and work reached far outside the walls of his church or the halls of the academy.

Just last month I wrote about Gomes in the following post about Benefactors & Succession , which I re-post here because it seems appropriate for the occasion:

Read more... )
Someone gave me a copy of Hugh Prather's Notes on Love & Courage in high school. I still have it, along with the note she tucked inside it. I also still have that particular friend, which is kind of amazing in itself. I remember the book spoke to me at the time, even as it also felt a little self-indulgent. I don't know that she even read the book. I suspect she saw the title and thought of me. Which is enough.

The obituary is a little dull, but I thought I'd at least comment. As for the precedence for these kind of things, Marcus Aurelius, who I read this year, has made a big comeback as a self-help author. I can't decide whether this is hilarious or wonderful or just one of those things that is odd and strange. I think of Hadrian's general---later emperor in his own right---and what he would think of our lives... that one is always good for a laugh! As are is generally 'elitist' attitudes towards just about everything: "You're better than the rest of those losers; you live by a different standard," and how hilarious it is that I identify with this stance. Much less the ever present meditations on the nearness of death and the absolute lack of control we have on just about everything but our attitude. Why this has made me feel better I can't explain, but I'm giving it to Dad for Xmas. I think he's going to love it. And I have a sad little fantasy about us reading it together.
When I was a little girl I thought she looked like my grandmother who was a girl singer in Hollywood in the 30s:

Stormy Weather, her signature tune:

But this version of 'Just One of Those Things' is the way remember her and her voice. Lennie Hayton (the bandleader with whom she did this recording) was her husband and I've always liked the tempo and light-touch of these recordings.

The obit says that Billy Strayhorn was her best-friend and biggest influence. (I didn't know Strayhorn was gay!)

Here's the closing paragraph:

Looking back at the age of 80, Ms. Horne said: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.
... blaming death on parents... (a joke in poor taste!)

Like her or lump her, she shaped psychotherapeutic practice and theory for the latter portion of the 20C...
I just got news that Ai, the poet in residence while I was at CU, passed away this weekend. I didn't know her personally, but she wrote amazing 'monologue' driven poetry and kind of cracked open my ideas about how poetry should be written and read. (The BP now teaches Blake as 'monologues,' no sense of whether it might be due to Ai's influence.) Her poetry is frequently disturbing, violent, but strangely humorous, especially as she expanded into 'monologues' by public figures later in her career. Her collection Vice won the National Book Award in 1999, just after she left CU.

Here is an excellent overview of her work @ Poetry Foundation, which includes links to some of her poems:
In one of my rabbit-hole internet experiences, I came across something posted by one of the current creative writing faculty professors at CU. I had thought it was regarding an event for a visiting professor, a lecture series on 'Why We Write.' With a slight roll of the eyes I clicked through to find a very long paragraph by Jaqueline Jones LeMon on some of the usual romantic preoccupations with the daemonic.

It took me a moment to figure out that the post was not by the person posting it, that it was not about an event, and to sort through my own thoughts on the issue (I think that the reasons for writing are as varied as the persons writing, though I suspect it is something of a pathology, or the expression of it, at very least: daemonic perhaps, diseased most probably) before I noticed the "In Memoriam: Lucille Clifton 1936-2010" at the bottom of the post.

Read more... )
Leila's brother and an acquaintance of my own writes for the local newspaper. Here is his column regarding the death of a man who was present at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He considered suicide, but dedicated his life to nuclear activism instead.
He was only 40. One of fashion's up and coming designers. I looked forward to his collections every season! He loved staging these elaborate shows. There was the year his inspiration was They Shoot Horses, Don't They and the models danced down the runway in increasing disarray as the show proceeded. And his The Birds collection a few years back made a big splash. His designs were gorgeous, even without the arty production values, but I have to say it was the art-presentation that really made him stand out. One of his last collections mocked the recycling nature of fashion and featured mounds of trashbags and recycled material.

I am so upset by this! What is fashion coming to? We have these big conglomerates buying everyone up, there's uncertainty about the future of couture (my favorite aspect of fashion) and I hate to say it, but he really was the best and brightest designer that Britain had to offer.

Oh well, we still have Gaultier, Theyskens, and, of course, Francisco Costa.

The New York Times catches up with an obituary:

The 'They Shoot Horses Don't They' collection from Spring 2004:

(They Shoot Horses... was the McQueen collection that caught my attention and first made me a fan.)

Josh Patner @ Slate groks McQueen. This is probably the most accurate and moving tribute, yet:

Do you have a favorite Gumby cartoon? The one that has stuck in my head after all these years is the surreal and psychedelic Gumby on the Moon. Dig the trippy Forbidden Planet-style soundtrack.
Things have been going by so fast I feel like I am missing things. One of the things I missed was the death of Jeanne-Claude, long-term partner and collaborator of Christo. Their Over the River work here in Colorado is proceeding without her, but it is still something of a shock that I missed this news.

I don't know when it was that I started liking their work. Something of the scope and enthusiasm really caught my attention. They are a familiar presence of open-access television here in Squaresville, as the Squaresville Museum (which is mostly historical, but occasionally dabbles on art) did an exhibit on them and they were gracious enough to show up and talk about their work.

What I like about their large-format pieces is not just the rippling fabric itself, but a sense that the enormous bureaucracy that must be appeased to make it happen: permits, bulldozers, environmental impact studies, safety concerns, are all a part of the work today. We spend so much of our lives doing meaningless paperwork it's wonderful to see it amount to something both beautiful and entirely unnecessary. I like to think of their work as being like what a lion tamer does, except they seek to tame the permits and the paper.

Even more fascinating: their work---inviting controversy as it does---is entirely self-funded. So no one who disdains it can say they wasted tax dollars, except in the exchange of time spent in process, it costs tax-payers nothing at all. And that exchange is something so rarely commodified, yet costing us such an enormous amount of time. I like to think their work draws attention to that aspect, too: our interconnectedness even when it doesn't function on friendly, or economic terms.
What does it say that he outlived Jacques Derrida by a few years?

Even if you have never heard of him, the work of Claude Levi-Strass had a major impact on 20C thinking. You are probably carrying around some of his ideas and you don't even know it. The obituary is a fantastic overview of his life and his work, btw, so check it and diagnose yourself on the structuralist spectrum.

I will let you know if the Beloved Professor (from whom I learned about Structuralism, though he's more a follower of Derrida, himself) has any comment. Lately he's mostly been posting about lawns, and elegies. (Including Blue Velvet if it's the only way to get people to click through to the post.)

It's this bit about elegies that really stuck over the past few days:

It's an elegy for a dying Poet, and a dying politics; and like any good elegy it turns into a horror movie where we know what's going to happen before it happens, and then it happens.

I think this is a great description of an elegy. I wonder if obituary-writing has a similar quality... especially since most of them are written before the death of the subject.
The NYTimes has a fascinating range of obituaries today:

* John S. Barry - executive behind the spread of WD-40. I most often use it for stain removal. What do you use it for? An excellent answer to the question, "What did the space race do for you?"

* Sidney W. Bijou - Skinnerian child psychologist who spearheaded the idea of 'time out.'

* Leszek Kolakowski - Polish philosopher whose critique of Communism helped inspire the Polish solidarity movement:

His most influential work, the three-volume 'Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution,' published in the 1970s, was a history and critique that called the philosophy 'the greatest fantasy of our century.' He argued that Stalinism was not a perversion of Marxist thought, but rather its natural conclusion.
Read this, then go see Fog of War.

For an opposing viewpoint: Bob Herbert. I didn't know Herbert was a veteran.

Daniel Schorr on McNamara: 'consummate public servant.'

Errol Morris on McNamara.

Fresh Air interview of in which Terry Gross does not let the subject a word in edgewise, and Errol Morris (again) on McNamara after the making of Fog of War.

Finally, a question: Why does no one hold Kennedy accountable for Vietnam?
Most of you didn't know me when I used to dance. I was never particularly good, I just had a lot of fun and met a lot of people. I once saw Frankie Manning at a workshop. He was in his 80s then. I have never seen anyone move like that, and despite the utter lack of dance going on in my life right now, I hope I'm still dancing when I'm his age.

Also, tonight Edward James Olmos is speaking in Ft. Collins, but I am going to Beethoven's Ninth in Greeley. I've had a crush on Beethoven (the music, not the man) this winter. It's been one of the things that consistently lifts my spirits when nothing else can.
I am embarrassed to say I thought he was already dead. And my god, the Wyeth family, it was like a guarantee one would become some kind of artist:

His most famous painting is probably Christina's World:

I never knew the story behind it, which is included in the obit. How does it change the way you see the painting?
Since I've occasionally posted about ecological themes, I thought this item was worth noting. Arne Naess is best known for coining the phrase 'deep ecology,' a term that is usually used to suggest that everything in nature has the same rights to existence (and of existence) as people. He also wrote, among other things, about the ethics of mountaineering, of which he was a practician. You'd think that he'd be more widely read in this part of the world, but I don't think I've ever heard of the man outside Prof. Morton's classes.

Naess also had some interesting ideas about population control (always a dangerous subject: both in terms of curbing the rights and natural impulses of people, not to mention what do we do about animal rights in this subject, or the progression of noxious weeds.) And I thought the last paragraph of this obit was telling:

Surveying the continuing destruction of the environment, Mr. Naess was pessimistic about the 21st century but optimistic about the 23rd. By then, he predicted, population control would show results, technology would be noninvasive and children would grow up in a natural environment. At that point, he said, “we are back in the direction of paradise.

Somehow I'm always mistrustful of the move 'back to paradise.' If such a thing is possible, is it desirable? And why not move forward to it? But I am not really qualified to comment on Naess' work because, to the best of my knowledge, I haven't read it.

The professor has yet to comment on his death. I'll let you know if anything emerges.



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