Quote of the day: FETCH

November 24, 2015


Who knew that the sweetest pleasure of my fifty-eighth year
would turn out to be my friendship with the dog?

That his trembling, bowlegged bliss at seeing me stand there with the leash
would give me a feeling I had sought throughout my life?

Now I understand those old ladies walking
their Chihuahuas in the dusk, plastic bag wrapped around one hand,

content with a companionship that, whatever
else you think of it, is totally reliable.

And in the evening, at cocktail hour,
I think tenderly of them

in all of those apartments on the fourteenth floor
holding out a little hotdog on a toothpick

to bestow a luxury on a friend
who knows more about uncomplicated pleasure

than any famous lobbyist for the mortal condition.
These barricades and bulwarks against human loneliness,

they used to fill me with disdain,
but that was before I found out my metaphysical needs
could be so easily met

by the wet gaze of a brown-and-white retriever
with a slight infection of the outer ear
and a tail like a windshield wiper.

I did not guess that love would be returned to me
as simply as a stick returned when it was thrown

again and again and again—
in fact, I still don’t exactly comprehend.

What could that possibly have to teach me
about being human?

–Tony Hoagland

tony hoagland

Quote of the day: UNDERNEATH

November 17, 2015


Mythologist Michael Meade says there are three layers of experience. The first is the social layer: “Hey, how’s it going?” “Fine, how about you?” The second layer is difficult emotions such as grief, anger, rage, envy, violence. The third layer is deep soul contact, true intimacy. Meade says that you can’t go from layer one to layer three without going through layer two, and we avoid layer two at all costs. We stay on the surface, where we talk about the weather and who’s doing what on Capitol Hill. We need a way, as a community, to get through layer two. Otherwise, when there’s a tragedy, how are we going to deal with it? If we don’t chew on these subjects, they chew on us….

It’s up to us to devise our own rituals. One of the values of ritual is that it has the capacity to derange us, to shake us out of the old forms. We need that derangement, because the current arrangement isn’t working. We have ceremonies, yes – weddings, graduations, church services — but we come out of those pretty much the same as we went in. You’re supposed to emerge from a ritual wondering what the hell just happened. Ritual connects us to spirit and soul. It can shift us out of our usual state of mind. Ceremony works to maintain and renew social bonds. We needs both, but we rarely have access to rituals that are potent enough to break us open.

–Francis Weller, author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow, interviewed in The Sun

weller book

Good Stuff Online: Eve Ensler on gender diversity and THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES

November 16, 2015

Playwright and activist Eve Ensler has long been a courageous and articulate advocate for the rights of women facing oppression and physical violence from every direction. Recently, there has been some brouhaha generated by students at Mount Holyoke College who have objected to Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues on the grounds that it fails to affirm transgender experience. Ensler has responded with an essay published on Time magazine’s website, of all places. In it, Ensler models with exceptional grace the art of responding to criticism with engagement, intelligence, respect, and not a shred of defensiveness. Check it out here and let me know what you think.


Events: Gamelan Kusuma Laras at Roulette

November 16, 2015

Gamelan Kusuma Laras, the Javanese music ensemble I’ve been playing with for several years, will give a concert Saturday night at Roulette, the prestigious new-music venue in Brooklyn. Javanese gamelan is stately, meditative, polyphonic, sometimes shockingly rowdy, quite exotic and not for every taste. You can check out samples online but you can never really get a true sense of gamelan music except by experiencing it live. This concert officially begins at 8 pm but we will start playing at 7:45 with a couple of pieces traditionally used to welcome the audience. Then we’ll play three long-ish pieces, one of them composed by our music director, the phenomenal I. M. Harjito. And the show ends with a dance piece featuring guest performers Anang Totok Dwiantoro and Triwi Harjito in full costume and makeup. Check it out and let me know what you think.

11-16 postcard front11-16 postcard back

Culture Vulture/Photo diary: Friday afternoon at the Whitney Museum

November 16, 2015

(click photos to enlarge)

Brent was visiting from San Diego, so we met for lunch at Gansevoort Market, where we chatted up vendors at two different food stalls who were Peruvian. By the time we’d finished our delicious ceviche and arepas, the street outside was on lockdown because a movie crew was running vintage cars up and down Gansevoort.

11-12 gansevoort movie set
Eventually released from Manhattan-movie-set bondage, we strolled down to the Whitney Museum to check out the Frank Stella retrospective. I was underwhelmed. The only piece that really excited me greets you when you get off the elevator — the gigantic, textured, psychedelic Earthquake in Chile.

11-13 brent don stella sculpture11-12 stella earthquake detail 311-12 stella earthquake detail 211-12 stella earthquake detail 111-12 earthquake in chile wallplaqueBrent had never been to the Whitney, so I made it a point to show him around. On our way to the spectacular views from the terrace, we came upon an exhibition by a painter I’d never heard of. “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” contains a generous sampling of beautiful portraits and several rooms of Motley’s richly hued scenes from black American life, full of vitality and humor.

11-12 motley hokum11-12 tongues plaque
By the time we got outside it was a little chilly but the setting sun licked the urban landscape with its golden-hour magic.

11-12 downtown golden hour11-12 whitney rooftop


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