Friday, June 29, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

*Robert Pinsky's An Explanation of America

from Part Three: Its Everlasting Possibility

Strangers: the Foreign who, coupling with their cousins
Or with their livestock, or even with wild beasts,
Spawn children with tails, or claws and spotted fur,
Ugly--and though their daughters are beautiful
Seen dancing from the front, behind their backs
Or underneath their garments are the tails
Of reptiles, or teeth of bears.

So one might feel--
Thinking about the people who cross the mountains
And oceans of the earth with separate legends,
To die inside the squalor of sod huts,
Shanties or tenements; and leave behind
Their legends, or the legend of themselves,
Broken and mended by the generations:
Their alien, orphaned, and disconsolate spooks,
Earth-trolls or Kallikaks or Snopes or golems,
Descended of Hessians, runaway slaves and Indians,
Legends confused and loose on the roads at night...
The Alien or Creature of the movies.

As people die, their monsters grow more tame;
So that the people who survived Saguntum,
Or in the towns that saw the Thirty Years' War,
Must have felt that the wash of blood and horror
Changed something, inside. Perhaps they came to see
The state or empire as a kind of Whale
Or Serpent, in whose body they must live--
Not that mere suffering could make us wiser,
Or nobler, but only older, and more ourselves...

On television, I used to see, each week,
Americans descending in machines
With wasted bravery and blood; to spread
Pain and vast fires amid a foreign place,
Among the strangers to whom we were new--
Americans: a spook or golem, there.
I think it made our country older, forever.
I don't mean better or not better, but merely
As though a person should come to a certain place
And have his hair turn gray, that very night.

An Explanation of America by Robert Pinsky: Princeton University Press, 1979.

*This book-length poem was written by Pinsky to his young daughter. He says in the first stanza, "...I want to tell you something about our country, / Or my idea of it: explaining it: / If not to you, to my idea of you." I had never read it, but I came upon a copy while prowling around Faulkner House Books in New Orleans last April, and I've been slightly obsessed with it ever since. If you've been reading my blog very long, you'll understand why.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Another tattoo

As promised, John Rogers has sent pics of his latest (possibly last?) tattoo, created by David Digby. I'll let John explain:

“it is a photo i took when i was a ten year old kid in summer camp in north carolina. it was probably aside from the band i started later the only real happiness i had as a child. the fall after this summer i was off to military school in southern alabama. this photo was part of a huge wall collage i made when i was in nashville. i admit that one night i was pretty wasted (dont drink anymore 6 years clean) and i was moving. i had all these pictures in a garbage bag and accidently threw them all away. this picture was one of maybe 3 or 4 to survive. also it was really the first photo i ever took where i was really proud of it, and i am still proud of it. it takes me back and reminds me (as do the ornette and coltrane pieces) that life has valleys and peaks, highs and lows.”

Although this tattoo seems very different from the other two, it's really another instance of John using his body as a canvas to document his life--his spiritual journey, for want of a less trite phrase. I love the fact that he has sought out David Digby as the artist for each tat. John's body art is an extended collaboration between the two men. John sets the theme, but it's up to David to realize its form, and then John takes it back to give it a life in the world. There's a lot of resonance in that, because music, so important to John, is a fundamentally collaborative art form. That's especially true of jazz. By creating the tattoos the way they have, John and David have turned John's body into an improvisational duet.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Phydeaux Speaks

Shakesville remains down under DOS attack, alas, so you still can't read all of MM's great screed against rape jokes. But in the course of trying to find some info on what's up with Shakesville, I came across this wonderful blogger who is part of Shakesville's cohort. I love this guy!

Friday, June 22, 2007


It's too hot and muggy here to think, so I thought I'd do a lazy picture post. These are a few of the critters I've encountered in the past few days on my trail walks. No rarities among them, but they were all a pleasure to meet. The big water bird is a Great Blue Heron. I see them pretty often. In fact, they fly low over my house every now and then, drawn to my neighbor's pond. They have a wide wingspan and cast a large shadow as they pass, which sometimes freaks out the dogs. The one I saw yesterday was about 50 feet up, cruising along with characteristic grace. You can see a clip of a heron flying here.

The Scarlet Tanager is one of those common-as-dirt birds that I am still always excited to see. They are so beautiful, and they do a fine job of posing in the sun-dappled branches of trees--"Look how pretty I am!"

I was surprised to see a box turtle on the trail very early in the morning, well before 6:00 AM. The sun had just come up, and it wasn't really warm yet. He actually seemed half alseep, didn't even bother to retreat into his shell when I bent down to say hi. It was Solstice morning, so maybe he was up early to observe the holiday.

While the turtle was up early, the raccoon was up late. I almost never see a raccoon on the trail, because they go to bed long before it gets light. So I was surprised when I came around a turn and saw a smallish one nosing around the edge of the trail. He rose up and looked at me, which made me a little cautious (lots of rabies hereabouts.) I spoke to him and he retreated a few yards. After climbing a couple of feet up a tree, he turned his little bandit face to me and watched me walk by.

This big green dragonfly is a female Eastern Pondhawk--a very apt name. I saw her perched on a rock in a pond, and I couldn't understand why she didn't fly away as I leaned down to get a better look at her. Then I saw that she had a cricket locked in a death grip, and she was waiting for me to go away so she could chow down.

Speaking of chow, I was delighted to find the first ripe blackberries of the season on Solstice morning. I picked a few and ate them in honor of the day. The drought this spring has made them a little bitter and grainy, but I was still happy to find them. Apparently, so was somebody else. By the next morning some human or critter had stripped every ripe berry off the vines.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Did I say I was disenchanted with

I take it back, at least for today, thanks to this awesome rant from Melissa McEwan (Shakespeare's Sister.) It was a throwaway line from Jerry Seinfeld that set her off.

"This is one of those jokes that really tends to highlight what a different life one lives as a man in our culture than one lives as a woman. “A little rape isn’t that bad” might seem uproarious if you essentially never, ever have to worry about being raped. But if you’ve spent your entire life being told to be careful what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many guys you sleep with, what kind of guys you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be raped, “a little rape isn’t that bad” doesn’t seem all that funny. Maybe."

Bracing, no? See her entire post here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy Solstice!

Oh, look! It's a perfume post.

Since I immigrated to Blogger from Perfume of Life, I haven’t felt much desire to post about fragrance. That’s partly the result of being insulated from the scent-obsessed cacophony at POL, but it’s also because I have stopped—temporarily, anyway—chasing novel sniff thrills. I have a long wish list of familiar beauties that I covet, but I’m not terribly interested in meeting anybody new. And of course, it’s always the latest romance we want to yammer about. What is there to say about an old one?

Well, there’s always, “She gets more beautiful every day,” which is just what I was thinking a couple of days ago about Caron’s Muguet du Bonheur. MdB gets too little appreciation. It doesn’t have enough moxie for the perfumistas, who prefer the floral slap in the face that is Diorissimo. Its classic, sweetly noble character is also a turn-off to fragrance civilians, who’d rather wear the sheer-verging-on-undetectable LOTV of RL Blue, or one of the endless fruit punches that give a nod to real perfume with a forlorn Muguet note.

I have a little of the true perfume freak’s masochism (okay, maybe a lot; I love Fracas), but when it comes to Lily of the Valley, I want nothing but gentle purity. No screaming, no sneak attack of funk, no metallic wang. They simply won't do. I suspect that’s because I imprinted irrevocably on the tender face of Muguet when I was a little girl—at Vacation Bible School, no less.

To those not raised in the stony embrace of Protestantism, Vacation Bible School must sound like some kind of fundamentalist child torture. In fact, it’s the best thing about being a church-going kid, or at least it was in my day. Sure, we’d have to sit through a brief Bible lesson in the morning, and we’d sing a hymn or two, but after that it was all crafts and Red Rover and making homemade ice cream. And unlike summer camp, you got to go home at night to sleep in your own mosquito-free bedroom.

It didn’t hurt that our VBS was overseen by our preacher’s wife, a lady with very little competition for the title of sweetest woman on Earth. Even her name was sweet: Emmaline (long i). If the games got too rough, or the weather was too hot, I would sneak back into the church and go prowling around in the basement and the storerooms—forbidden behavior. She was perfectly aware of what I was doing and never said a word. She was one of the few adults in my world who didn’t seem to mind that I was kind of an odd, solitary kid.

(The pic here is not the church of my childhood, which wasn't nearly so grand. It is one of the multitude of churches in my hometown, though. I got married in it, which is a post for another day. Back to topic below...)

I think it was my second year at VBS, I was probably 8, when one of our craft projects was making funny little foam bath toys filled with powdered soap. I vividly remember the weird turquoise color of the foam. After lengthy consideration, I chose to make an elephant, and I was deeply dissatisfied with my poor job of attaching its plastic eyes. I also spilled the soap everywhere, but I didn’t mind that at all. The soap was scented with, of course, Lily of the Valley. The sharp, clean-yet-slightly-fatty smell lingered on my hands and my clothes all that day and I couldn’t get enough of it. I kept leaning down to sniff the front of my shirt in a sort of full-body version of the perfumista salute.

I never actually used the toy, partly because it was too babyish, but mostly because I didn’t want to wash away the soap and lose that scent. I kept it in my sock drawer like a sachet, and I’d take it out occasionally and squeeze it to get a little tacky film of the scent on my hands.

So is it any wonder that I can’t get enough of Muguet du Bonheur, whose detractors invariably complain that it is “too soapy?” Soapy is the whole point, as far as I’m concerned. Meeting a Muguet scent that isn’t soapy is like reuniting with a best buddy from, well, Vacation Bible School, and discovering that she has become a Buddhist monk or a professional dominatrix. There’s nothing wrong with the choice, but it’s a little jarring, and it blocks a certain pleasurable nostalgia.

As for the specifics on MdB, there’s considerable confusion about the notes. The two lists I ran across were: Lavender, Jasmine, Rose, Carnation, Lily of the valley, Cedar, Tonka, Musk, Sandal (which shows up on a number of etailers); and Lily of the Valley, Lilac, Jasmine, Magnolia, Pear, Heliotrope and Musk (that one comes from NowSmellThis.) The Caron site admits only to Lily of the Valley, Lilac, and Heliotrope. The nose for MdB was Michel Morsetti, the same man who brought us that other ethereal Caron, Farnesiana.

Part of the confusion stems, I think, from a marked difference between the concentrations. The eau de toilette is an extremely light, sparkly, single-note Muguet—less sweet than some, but as one-dimensional as a Caswell-Massey cologne. I had a brief encounter with the parfum, which I suspect may be the source of that first note list. To my nose it was less Muguet than Lilac, and it seemed heavy, almost dark. I would not go so far as to say that it had the legendary (and much loved, by me at least) Caron dankness, but it was standing at the top of the cellar stairs.

I should try to get my hands on some more of the parfum for a second sample, but I really don’t feel much incentive, because I think the best concentration of MdB, hands down, is the eau de parfum. It lacks the slight fizz of the edt, but it still has that pure, potent hit of Muguet—and this Muguet is backed up with clear notes of Lilac and Jasmine. The Heliotrope is a little shy, but definitely there, and everybody’s sitting atop a bar of Ivory soap, like a quartet of pretty girls on a homecoming float.

The eau de parfum has been out of production for quite a while, but I understand it has been re-issued this year. I couldn’t find an American etailer with it, but it’s available from Les Senteurs in London, at least for the moment. I may cave in and snag another bottle. I hate to think of having to get through a summer without it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Just 'cause...

...sometimes it helps to remember that time has a way of taking care of things.

A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General

His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he's gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He'd wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old
As by the newspapers we're told?
Threescore, I think, is pretty high;
'Twas time in conscience he should die.
This world he cumbered long enough;
He burnt his candle to the snuff;
And that's the reason, some folks think,
He left behind so great a s---k.
Behold his funeral appears,
Nor widow's sighs, nor orphan's tears,
Wont at such times each heart to pierce,
Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that, his friends may say,
He had those honors in his day.
True to his profit and his pride,
He made them weep before he died.
Come hither, all ye empty things,
Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings;
Who float upon the tide of state,
Come hither, and behold your fate.
Let pride be taught by this rebuke,
How very mean a thing's a Duke;
From all his ill-got honors flung,
Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung

Jonathan Swift

(My thanks to

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rail romance

Lou has a great post on her blog today, Abandoned Stations, with a passionate little meditation on urban travel, and a link to the site of Joseph Brennan, a delightful obsessive who has a love affair with defunct railroad stations. It made me miss the Chicago El, and I never thought anything could do that. Go look.

Since we're wearing the scarlet "P"...

...we might as well live up to it. Go and visit the Museum page of to see some beautiful images of love between men--some explicit, some not. Just follow the links to the various galleries. (It's often necessary to click on the images to see them in their entirety.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I'm glad somebody said it

I've gotten pretty disenchanted with one of my favorite blogs, Shakespeare's Sister, especially since it became, but I must say that it is still a gateway to some of the most interesting content on the web, like this excellent post about Mike Nifong and the Duke rape case from Sports Law Blog.

I'm the last one to endorse out-of-control prosecutors. There's no case against the players, and I'm happy to see them walk. But the way they've been portrayed as innocent victims in all this makes me queasy.

What a menace

Apparently, this blog is a threat to public decency. I just checked my email to find this message from Dave, who is waiting for his flight home from Iowa:

"You'll be happy to know that the net nanny in the Chicago Admiral's Club blocks access to Bittergrace Notes -- because of pornography. You'd better watch those posts! Big Brother sure is."

Friday, June 15, 2007

In the interest of lightening up... about a little foolish romance?


The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever,
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle:--
Why not I with thine?

See! The mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ashley Gilbertson

Gilbertson is an Australian-born photographer who has been working in Iraq throughout the war. He did a great interview on Fresh Air yesterday, but if you don't have time to listen to that, go check out his article (with photos) in The Virginia Quarterly Review. Powerful stuff.

Sin of omission

If you are squeamish, or very sentimental about animals, this post will distress you. Read at your own risk.

I was driving back home from the park yesterday when I came upon a rabbit that had been hit by a car. Nothing unusual about that—the roads around here are a carrion-eater’s smorgasbord. Except this rabbit wasn’t dead. The back half of its body had been crushed, but its head was erect, and it was trying, futilely, to use its front paws to propel itself forward. Its eyes were open and alert, its ears twitching. It was clearly panicked by all the cars whizzing by. I thought of the stock nightmare, which I’ve often had myself, where you try to run from some bogeyman only to find that your legs are stuck to the ground. Bunny was living the nightmare.

The rabbit was right in the middle of the road, lying across the yellow line, so it was unlikely that anyone else would come along and inadvertently finish him off. Eventually he'd get exhausted and die, but it looked as if that was likely to take a while. I drove past him, already debating with myself: Should I or shouldn't I turn around at the next opportunity, and go back to put him out of his misery?

I didn't do it, and what troubles me is that I can't see any good reason why. It was clearly the most humane thing to do. I could have ended his life in a second and saved him any further torment. Given the nature of his injury, I suspect he was not really in pain, but he was obviously terrified. And absolutely doomed.

I'm not happy to say it, but I suspect my reluctance was nothing but a childish fear of death, and aesthetic revulsion for the act itself. I hate that. I hate being one of those people who can't face up to things. I hate the way we work so hard to insulate ourselves from the messy facts of life, and thereby starve our sympathy for the people (and other animals) who don't have the privilege of that insulation.

I know, I'm making a big deal out of a dead rabbit. I just can't quite get past the idea that I got a glimpse of my weak character yesterday, and it wasn't pretty.

Roadkill avoidance

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Bruno's siblings also left the nest late yesterday. I was interested to see that the two of them remained huddled together, while Bruno stayed off to himself. Apparently, with birds as with people, ambition tends to interfere with relationships. It's lonely at the top. There's no sign of any of them this morning.

John Rogers informs me that he plans to get one more tattoo, and then "quit for a while." He didn't say what it would be. He promises pics when it's done.

I said yesterday that husband Dave was winging his way to California. He was actually winging his way to Iowa. I never know where the heck that guy is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In honor of the music of the moment...

...and to get you in the mood for the post below, here's the man. Enjoy.

No Toys, Just Sex

Erotic Chinese Prints

The latest issue of Parabola magazine is devoted to sex, or rather, SEX, because everything in Parabola: Tradition, Myth, and the Search for Meaning is Profound, and worthy of bold caps. Even just bumping uglies.

Actually, it's an interesting issue, and worth checking out. There's a nice article by Trebbe Johnson, "Down Came the Door of Dharma" about the mythology of sex between humans and gods. Some nice art with that one (no color, but still nice.) There's a slightly appalling discussion of Christian notions of sex and spirituality by some guy named Eugene Myshkin (who he?), which includes this typical passage:

"One of Cain's descendants was Naamah, the daughter of Lamech. Her name means 'pleasant' and she is considered the first prostitute. Thus, through prostitution men joined pagan cults and became invisible members of the church of sin. For that reason, when Israel stopped worshipping Yahweh and turned to pagan cults with participation in their practice of prostitution, God said: 'you prostituted your beauty; and you spread your legs for every passer-by and you multiplied your whoredom' (EZ 16:25)"

Uh, thanks, Eugene. We couldn't have a profound discourse on SEX without reminding ourselves that girl=bad. Bad, bad, bad. Whores, all of us. Ever since Eve, etc. (For a look at who the real whores are, bop over and read "The Abstinence Gluttons" in the June 18 issue of The Nation.)

But there's not much of that particular theme, Parabola being generally devoted to a kumbaya view of the world. There's an obvious editorial effort to make sure the girls get theirs. In Rick Blum's "The Most Sacred of Places," Yahweh sets Moses straight on the fundamental righteousness of female desire, and a series of excerpts from various holy texts includes this gem from Igrot Moshe: "The duty of a man to engage his wife sexually is not contingent upon whether or not there is the possibility of pregnancy, for it is mandated in the responsibilities of marriage that she should receive pleasure and not suffer..."

Let's hear it for not suffering. Amen.

Sad to say, boy-boy/girl-girl pairings don't get much positive attention, although sacred texts that blather on about "abomination" and the like are carefully overlooked. There's a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" fable from Ireland (Ireland?), and a brief mention of guy love among the whales (whales?), but that's about it. Good ol' Eugene does allow as how deep friendship between men (aka, repressed homoeroticism) may be more pleasing to God than the sexual love of men and women, however spiritual--but I don't think we can count that as gay-friendly.

I thought the most moving contribution was the excerpt from Thomas Merton's journal, about his unconsummated, forbidden love for Margie Smith: "She will always be to me her soft voice speaking out of the depths of my own heart saying that the central reality of all is found in our love that no one can touch and no one can alter." Even though Merton clearly felt physical desire for Smith, and the denial of that desire was a large part of his torment over the affair, the passages from him paint the clearest portrait of the holistic nature of eros. Too often when we try to talk about the spiritual aspects of sex, we tend to get caught up in trying undo the false disconnect between the body and the soul. There's a lot of conceptual flailing around as we work hard at reconciling the down-and-dirty with our higher nature. But that approach only perpetuates the false disconnect, and obscures an important truth--that there is no separation between the down-and-dirty and our higher nature. We don't have to reconcile them, because they are the same thing, revealing itself in different ways.

Michael Sims, a terrific author I am lucky enough to know thanks to a shared association with The Nashville Scene, wrote something that suggested that totality of eros in a recent email to me. We were discussing the astonishing personal charm of a certain Famous Writer with whom we've both had incidental encounters:

"... It always seems to me that part of charm, in the most casual interaction or in dating or whatever, is the attentiveness. What is romance, after all, but being (seemingly) attended to as you secretly think you deserve? Then the attention fades and we say that the romance is gone. He has that romantic, attentive, charming way of peering at the world, in his writing, a somehow affectionate lust for description, for getting it all down. Lust and curiosity, those forbidden sins."

Every moment we are awake to the world and to each other, we are erotic creatures. Eros is the part of us that reaches out to engage another soul, or the face of the earth and all the beauty and horror in it. Sex is an inevitable, inseparable part of that. The moment you place a higher value on, say, the desire to see the Mona Lisa than on your curiosity about a potential lover's body, you lose a chance to understand either sex or spirit.

Bruno has left the building

Actually, just the nest--he's hanging out on the floor of the carport, feeling superior to his loser siblings who are still huddled up there in their crib. I'm sure they're relieved to see him go. They don't look too eager to see the world. I suspect Mama will have to cut back on the chow before they're ready to brave it. Meanwhile, I have to remember to park the car someplace else. (Sorry for the lack of pic--I've got Dave's camera, but can't load pics onto my Mac from it. Dave and his computer are airborne themselves, winging off to California.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Killer of Sheep

Has anybody else seen this amazing film? Click here to read about it and see a list of upcoming screenings. It is absolutely beautiful--also brutal, funny, and unexpectedly surreal. Husband Dave called it a "tone poem" and I think that is exactly the right word for it. It will transport you. The PETA contingent might want to take a pass--there are numerous scenes in a slaughterhouse--but nobody else should miss it.

What's the news worth to you?

Monday I read a Patrick Cockburn article in Counterpunch, "The War on Journalists," about the murder last week of Iraqi reporter Sahar al-Haideri. That led me to this site, which lists journalists assassinated or otherwise killed on the job so far this year. Via Alternet (thanks Lou, for that convenient link), I also found this excellent article from the Columbia Journalism Review about sexual assaults against journalists, and why the victims almost always keep silent. In late April, the Frontline Club in London held a panel discussion on the hazards faced by journalists as well as their fixers and translators--the video is still up on their site, and worth watching.

I'd encourage everybody to go take a look at some of this stuff, just because it's a useful reminder that there are a lot of people risking their lives to gather the disturbing facts that we get so tired of hearing--or worse yet, that we don't hear at all, because American corporate media has decided that we don't need to know.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Phoebe Update: A Casualty

Alas, yes, we have lost a Phoebe baby. I noticed this morning that competition was getting pretty intense among the chicks. The biggest one, featured in this pic--I call him Bruno--always muscled everybody else aside when the parents arrived with food. I've learned from watching other nestings that there's usually a bully in every brood, and this one is no exception. I went out about an hour ago and saw a chick on the floor of the carport. At first I thought he might be alive and I could restore him to the nest, but he was quite dead. I suspect he died earlier today, and most likely one of the adults pushed him out. That's not unusual.

It's hard to be sure, what with Bruno blocking the view, but I think there are still three chicks in the nest--so the dear departed was actually a fourth chick, who has remained in hiding all this time. The naturalist in me thinks this is just a sad reality of avian life. That little dude was obviously never very vigorous. Shit happens. But the conspiracy theorist in me wonders: What was the true mission of the unknown fourth chick? Who was he working for? Was he trying to come in from the cold when he was bumped off? Bruno's not talking.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Will Holshouser Trio

Those of you who visited the old POL blog may remember my post about trumpet player Ron Horton. In addition to his solo work, Ron collaborates with lots of other people. He's part of a trio led by Will Holshouser, a very cool accordion player. (Really, don't laugh--there is such a thing as a cool accordion player.) Their "Reed Song" is in my CD player right now, and it is delightful. Go have a LISTEN.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Join the club

As if we didn't already know, here's more proof that SEX TOYS are nothing but trouble.

PS. Be sure to click on the link to the Molly Ivins video.

Pure Self-Indulgence

I just love Dinah Washington. I found this nice clip of her on Youtube, so here she is. Hope you love her, too.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Lonely Guy

I’m seeing a lot of deer on my walks these days. I get out pretty early, before 6 AM, which seems to be prime time for foraging. There aren’t many people in the park at that hour, so I’m often the first biped on the trail, and I run across little groups of whitetail on their way to wherever it is they go. They always move as if they have a destination in mind.

The deer aren’t tame, but there’s no hunting in the park, so they stay pretty relaxed. When they encounter people they usually run a short distance, and then stop to look back with a “Why are you here?” expression. Occasionally I’ll come upon one lying down among the trees, and since I’m quiet, they usually just twitch a little and stay put.

A couple of weeks ago I startled a young buck, and he returned the favor by bleating at me. Deer aren’t generally noisy, so his outburst made me jump. He ran about 20 feet away and bleated again. He seemed quite ticked off. If he’d been a big guy with a full rack of antlers it might have made me a tad nervous—bucks do (very rarely) charge at people. But he was just a teenager with little velvety nubs on his head, so I laughed and walked on.

Since then I’ve run across him several times, always near the same spot, always alone. He has bleated and snorted in my direction almost every time. Two days ago, not really thinking about the fact that I was in his neighborhood, I walked off the trail and followed one of the many deer paths about 30 yards into the woods—technically forbidden, but you all know what a scofflaw I am. I was just standing there listening to the birds when I heard something rustling behind me. I looked around, and yep, it was my buddy.

I turned away and ignored him. After a minute, I heard some more rustling and I realized he was moving closer. Then more rustling and he was closer yet—not more than 10 feet from me. He stayed right there, just watching me. I could hear him breathing. Maybe he was feeling territorial and was letting me know it, but I think he was also a little lonely and bored. Bucks have a pretty solitary life most of the time, and this one is probably living his first year without Mama. Too young to compete for a mate, he’s forced to get used to being alone. It must be tough.

It reminds me of watching birds bring their fledglings to my feeders. Daddy (it’s usually the male) will deposit the kid nearby and patiently fly back and forth with the seed, while the chick flaps its little wings and cheeps for more. But a moment always comes when the grown-up goes deaf to the chick’s demands. He’ll just begin to feed himself, or fly away altogether. The chicks will often go on crying for what seems like a long time. Nature is full of necessary suffering.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mad Phoebe Report

About 3 weeks ago, a pair of daffy Eastern Phoebes decided they would nest on top of the light fixture in the ceiling of our carport. Fine by me, but the top of the fixture is sharply sloped, and seemed a very poor choice of building site. For 2 days they kept piling moss and twigs onto the light, and every speck of it fell onto my ancient Saturn, which began to look like something dug up by a truffle pig. Dave and I tutted over the sad decay of instinct in the birds, and I told Renee it was like watching the wedding of an idiotic young couple who you pray will never breed.

Which just goes to show how little I know, because somehow the mad Phoebes solved the engineering problem and put up this lovely cantilevered nest.
Their perseverance was impressive, but I still didn't have much faith in them or their construction skills. Even when Mama started sitting a clutch of eggs, I figured the whole shebang was likely to come crashing down any minute. Wrong again. The nest has stayed rock solid and now has 3 lively chicks.

Dave took this pic a couple of days ago. The babies were still all mouth at that point, but this morning they were poking their heads out of the nest. The nest is holding fast, and I think everybody will be just fine as long as I remember not to turn on the light and fry the little dudes.

If you check out the Cornell Ornithology page on Eastern Phoebes, you'll see this note: "...The Eastern Phoebe is a loner, rarely coming in contact with other phoebes. Even members of a mated pair do not spend much time together. They may roost together a bit early in pair formation, but even during egg laying the female frequently chases the male away from her." I'm not the only one who doesn't know everything, because my Phoebes are constantly together, and Daddy seems quite devoted to his brood.

Over at Moving and Shaking...

Lou (aka Vidabo from POL) has a great post today, "Someone Has To Clean Up," featuring the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska, along with the photography of James Nachtwey. I'm not saying it will make you happy, but it'll remind you of something about the world and our place in it. Be sure to click on all the links. LOU'S BLOG

Monday, June 4, 2007

Body and Soul

These are the tattoo-adorned calves of John Rogers. John's a musician and photographer who lives in New York City. He grew up in Nashville, and for a long time led a band here, the Transcendental Crayon Ensemble. The band was a fluid entity, with a shifting membership that included my husband, Dave. When John decided a few years ago to decamp to New York, he and Dave stayed in touch.

It's been a pretty tough transition for John. He didn't know anybody in New York, and didn't have any money. You can imagine. But John's a remarkable guy, and he has a profound devotion to music, which seems to be what sustains him. He's been working a day job at a bakery, and spending the rest of his time at the wealth of jazz performances in the city. He has taken some amazing pictures of musicians which you can see at his website.

The bright spot in John's New York sojourn has been meeting and spending time with jazz great Ornette Coleman. (If that name means nothing to you, learn about him here and here.) John's been able to talk with Coleman about his musical vision, and even hang out at rehearsals--a rare honor, and of course, heaven for any free jazz fan.

Which brings us back to the tattoos. The one on the top is John Coltrane, and was done a few years ago here in Nashville. JR has always had a devotion to Coltrane's music. That tattoo is a sort of ultimate fan gesture--Coltrane died before John was born, so there's no personal relationship there. The other tattoo is a different story, which I'll let John tell. This is an excerpt from his email to me:

"... i had been wanting another one but i hadnt had
that connection with any other musician that i had with coltrane.
then about a year and half ago i met ornette and started
hanging out with him about one night a week.
from hanging out with him i realized that any notion i had
of who he was and what he was about was far from the reality.
ornette sort of like became a symbol for me [of] going thru alot
of bs in nyc and coming out on top. he has shared with me
by letting me attend many reheasals some of the best
music i have ever seen in my life.
i will take these memories with me to the end,
so i wanted to get this as a tattoo.
david digby [who did the Coltrane tattoo] was very elusive he fell off the tattoo
scene and for two years lived off the land
in a cabin in east tn. finally he emerged and i was
able to track him down on myspace.
we set up a time and i flew up there [to Buffalo] to get this done.
he is the only person i know in the world
i would trust to do something like this..."

I have to admit, my first reaction when my husband told me about the new tattoo was that it was off-the-scale weird. A fan tattoo like the Coltrane is a little odd and extreme, but not that unusual. What seemed freaky about the new one was the fact that John knows Coleman. And Coleman knows about the tattoo, which made it seem freakier yet.

But the more I thought about the whole thing, the more it seemed both completely natural, and wonderfully subversive. Humans have always taken a lot of pleasure in adorning and reshaping their bodies. Like all our instincts and appetites, that impulse has often been corralled in ways that squelch individual expression. For example, people have decorated their feet with everything from mehndi to toe rings to beaded moccasins, but that more or less healthy fetish became a way to control women through the horrific practice of footbinding. The same thing happens in a much more insidious way when the modern cosmetics industry pushes a cookie cutter notion of beauty, and then tangles it up with issues of physical health and self-worth. Stepping off the pedestal of prettiness is regarded as evidence of pathology. Our ownership of our bodies is constantly being compromised in the service of social order and the drive for profits.

Seen in that light, the way John has declared his body a canvas to document his life is almost a revolutionary act. It's a slightly wacky, whimsical sort of revolution, but I think that's the best kind. Non-violent, joyful, driven by devotion to art--what better way to wage war against the powers that be? John's physical tribute to Coleman and his music is not an act of self-negation, though a lot of people might see it that way. On the contrary, it's his celebration of himself as a unique, loving consciousness.

Okay, enough bloviating. I think the tats are cool, and I'm glad John let me blog about 'em. The tattoo artist, David Digby, is offering his creations at Hero's Ink in Buffalo, NY, in case you feel like committing your own revolutionary act. Go to Youtube and listen to a little OC to put you in the mood.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Just for Mary...

...and for me, too, here's a few minutes with a man we love to remember. (BTW, the choice of tune is not a commentary on Mary's recent vacation. It was just the nicest view of Joe.)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Got any suggestions for Margot?

Margot Adler was kind enough to answer my email and take a look at my blog post about her dislike of perfume. With her permission, I'll share her reply:

"most of the scents just seem so artificial not like a walk in the all... the two perfumes at chandler's event that I thought were lovely were light blue and le jarden sur le nile... but when I put them on my skin, I didn't like the result. Most of the scents in candle stores just seem over powering... I am not allergic to anything... I like things like almond, amber, etc. but most of the perfumes I find over powering...I did a story on bond number 9 perfumes,a couple were eau de noho, and eau de soho, but most were yucky." Margot

When I asked if it was okay to reprint her email, I mentioned that there are perfumers who work exclusively in natural essences, and that their work might interest her. She asked for suggestions. So, BGN readers, now that we know something about her preferences, what do you think Margot should try? I can think of several of Ayala's scents she might like. Anya's Fairchild is a possibility, I think Pan would be stretching it. I don't really know the Aftelier line, but I suspect some of them might be promising. I'll forward any and all suggestions to my favorite NPR reporter.