Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Deepest Spring

Recently, I ran into an interesting fiction about the origin of Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching. An episode of Xena: Warrior Princess entitled “The Debt” (Please don’t give me grief about this embarrassing indulgence.) fictionalized that Lao Tzu was, in fact, a viscous tyrant—which he may have been—who didn’t write the Tao Teh Ching at all. The episode suggests that Mao Tzu, Lao’s wife, a concubine purchased from the neighboring Ming kingdom kept the dying Lao alive with ancient Chinese secrets—rolling him out into the garden occasionally to abate suspicious servants and guests. During this period of artificially maintained coma, having no desire for fame—no desire at all—Mao wrote the icon of Eastern wisdom in Lao’s name. I’ll say it again, this is pure fiction. I’ve never heard or read of any such myth regarding the admittedly mysterious Lao Tzu. But, it’s an interesting fiction and, I would argue, an appealing one.

I’ve read many translations of the Tao Teh Ching. John C. H. Wu’s translation, which contains the original Chinese characters, is brilliant and beautiful. But I believe the most satisfying is Ursula K. Le Guin’s poetic translation. Le Guin took much license to create a translation that is appealing and understandable to the broadest possible audience of English-speaking Westerners. She writes, “Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water. To me, it is also the deepest spring.” And to me as well.

4 Sourceless*

The way is empty,
used, but not used up.
Deep, yes! ancestral
to the ten thousand things.

Blunting edge,
loosing bond,
dimming light,
the way is the dust of the way.

yes, and likely to endure.
Whose child? born
before the gods.**

*The chapters of the Tao Teh Ching are not titled. Le Guin uses titles of her own invention.

**Le Guin’s note: Everything Lao Tzu says is elusive. The tempatation is to grasp at something tangible in the endlessly deceptive simplicity of the words. Even some of his finest scholarly translators focus on positive ethical or political values in the text, as if those were what’s important in it. And of course the religion called Taoism is full of gods, saints, miracles, prayers, rules, methods for securing riches, power, longevity, and so forth—all the stuff that Lao Tzu says leads us away from the Way.

In passages such as this one, I think it is the profound modesty of the language that offers what so many people for so many centuries have found in this book: a pure apprehension of the mystery of which we are part.

Technorati tags: Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Ursula K. Le Guin

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Century Of Leaves

A Century of Leaves
by Ernest Kroll

Not looking for you under their bootsoles,
The people do not find you now, a century gone
By, who wove your leaves for them.
A young dog on the springy green
Knows more the special presence that I mean
Though his master watches and sees nothing.
You said that you could turn and live with animals,
And it is animals, I think, would not have wrecked,
Lacking the world-destroying intellect,
The vision woven of your leaves.
It is animals for whom your meaning lives,
Who are not so clean obtuse
As not to perceive a certain use
Within the world, and use it
Circumspectly, as they would not prefer to lose it.

The open road leads only into space,
By rocket poised against the void.
Riders to the stars might take your leaves along
For guidance elsewhere. This is the wrong
Planet. The love of comrades is a hopeless case.

Technorati tags: Poetry

Santa Fe

Santa Fe
by Ernest Kroll

While iron cast in Spain
Rings Christ across the plain,
Dry bells of pepper pods
Whisper of other gods.

Technorati tags: Poetry


by Langston Hughes

Sometimes a crumb falls
From the tables of joy,
Sometimes a bone
Is flung.

To some people
Love is given,
To others
Only heaven.

Technorati tags: Poetry

A Kind Of Rigorousness

Boynton: Why do you write so often about children?

LeBlanc: The perspective of children enhances my consciousness; imaging their perspective requires a kind of rigorousness. Say something happens on the street—a fight, or a flirtation, some kind of transaction—and children are watching. I often try to imagine how they make sense of what they see. Children also generally don’t edit their reactions the way adults learn to do…Also, the reader tends to be sympathetic to children. The natural sympathy that the public used to extend to adolescents involved in the criminal justice system has eroded. It’s practically a requirement that I have to keep getting younger and younger subjects in order to generate a human connection.

Robert Boynton interview with Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
from The New New Journalism

Technorati tags: New Journalism

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Lobotomizing Literature

When matters of race are located and called attention to in American literature, critical response has tended to be on the order of a humanistic nostrum—or a dismissal mandated by the label “political.” Excising the political from the life of the mind is a sacrifice that has proven costly. I think of this erasure as a kind of trembling hypochondria always curing itself with unnecessary surgery. A criticism that needs to insist that literature is not only “universal” but also “race-free” risks lobotomizing that literature, and diminishes both the art and the artist.

—Toni Morrison
from Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

Technorati tags: Toni Morrison

Friday, June 09, 2006


Writing and reading are not all that distinct for a writer. Both exercises require being alert and ready for unaccountable beauty, for the intricateness or simple elegance of the writer’s imagination, for the world that imagination evokes. Both require being mindful of the places where imagination sabotages itself, locks its own gates, pollutes its vision. Writing and reading mean being aware of the writer’s notions of risk and safety, the serene achievement of, or sweaty fight for, meaning and response-ability.

—Toni Morrison
from Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

Technorati tags: Toni Morrison

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lessons Of The War

Lessons of the War: Naming of Parts
by Henry Reed

Vixi duellis nuper idoneus
Et militavi non sine gloria*

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have naming of parts.

*I have lived of late in a manner suitable to the wars, and have followed the military life not without glory.

Technorati tags: Poetry

A Transcript Is Not A Story

For several days, I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of recording interviews. Reading Robert Boynton’s interview with Lawrence Weschler (The New New Journalism), I discovered a perspective, which, for me, tips the scale. Boynton says Lawrence Weschler is a storyteller—an author of what Weschler himself coins “writerly nonfiction.” He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and has published numerous examples of his particular brand of journalism/ literature. Weschler’s book Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Mr. Weschler’s ideas about the exactitude of quotation and location are interesting, but what strikes me today is his opinion on recorded interviews:

Actually, the tape recorder falsifies the situation in two ways. First of all its presence falsifies the encounter. As any writer knows, the moment you turn the tape recorder off you get all the really good stuff. And that is even true in those cases where it seems that it no longer matters, that the person is completely relaxed about the thing’s presence.

The second way in which a tape recorder falsifies the record is that the transcript is an entirely false record of what has taken place between a subject and a journalist. For what is actually taking place is a series of communication events, which really makes it a symphonic interaction. These include your expression, my response to your expression (seeing you are bored, interested, excited), my voice going up, my voice going down, your voice going up, your voice going down…And none of that is conveyed in the flat transcript. The words themselves don’t approximate what actually took place between us. Phrased differently, what took place between us was a narrative, a story, and a transcript is not a story.

Technorati tags: Interviewing, Narrative, New Journalism

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Desert Places

Ladder to the Moon
Georgia O'Keeffe

Desert Places
by Robert Frost

Snow falling and night falling fast oh fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it—it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less—
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Red Tree Yellow Sky
Georgia O'Keeffe

Technorati tags: Poetry

Friday, June 02, 2006

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Allow me to lighten the mood with some Percy Bysshe Shelley.


Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belov├Ęd’s bed;
And so they thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.


One word is too often profaned
For me to profane it,
One feeling too falsely disdain’d
For thee to disdain it;
One hope is too like despair
For prudence to smother,
And Pity from thee more dear
Than that from another.

I can give not what men call love;
But wilt thou accept not
The worship the heart lifts above
And the Heavens reject not,—
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?

Technorati tags: Poetry

In Lieu Of Originality

Well, due to neglect, my blog has become a complete bore. Currently, I’m working on two non-fiction pieces (magazine stuff); just beginning a collaborative, book-length project; reading a few things: Toni Morrison’s critical work Playing in the Dark, Beverly Singer’s Wiping the War Paint Off the Lens, Robert Boynton’s collection of interviews The New New Journalism, Lynne Truss’s grammar Eats, Shoots & Leaves, and an old anthology of poetry compiled by Lynn Altenbernd and Leslie Lewis (1969).

In lieu of original posts, please enjoy some poetry from Altenbernd and Lewis’s introduction to poetry.

XXVI from Amoretti
by Edmund Spenser

Sweet is the Rose, but growes upon a brere;
Sweet is the Junipere, but sharpe his bough;
Sweet is the Eglantine, but pricketh nere;
Sweet is the firbloome, but his braunches rough.
Sweet is the Cypresse, but his rynd is tough.
Sweet is the nut, but bitter is his pill;
Sweet is the broome-flowre, but yet sowre enough;
And sweet is Moly, but his root is ill.
So every sweet with soure is tempered still,
That maketh it be coveted the more:
For easie things that may be got at will,
Most sorts of men doe set but little store.
Why then should I accoumpt of little paine,
That endlesse pleasure shall unto me gaine.

Technorati tags: Poetry

Monday, May 22, 2006

Masturbation And Insurgency

I haven’t seen The Da Vinci Code, and I haven’t read the book. I don’t intend to do either. I’m annoyed with Dan Brown’s outrageous success; alright, alright, already…envious of his success; I’m jealous! There, I said it. I do find it amusing, though—the uproar that the book and subsequent film have caused. Brown’s narrative has shaken and shocked Christians all over the globe.

I, myself, haven’t been sleeping lately; I spend most nights on the couch with the television making noise in the background. But trust; trust me when I tell you that my insomnia has nothing to do with Dan Brown, Da Vinci, Jesus, or even his apparently much-overlooked bride. This morning I awoke to—of all things—the 700 Club. Before I could find the damn remote to shut that crap down, I had suffered through the tail of one report and the beginning of another.

Evidently, prayer packages are absolutely essential for our troops in Iraq. But not to help the troops accept the horrors of war, but to keep their minds off infidelity. That’s right. The 700 Club has uncovered an insurgency that could very well undermine our peace effort in the Middle East. Flirting is forbidden. Troops are told to overt their eyes when encountering an attractive female. And, yes, masturbation is out of the question. It’s my understanding that many Christian troops use music and prayer to stay their adulterous tendencies. “I usually keep a Christian song bobbing around in my head so I don’t think about cheating” one soldier told a 700 Club correspondent. All I have to say is “Amen, brother! Could you pass the ammunition?”

The second 700 Club report I saw had to do with, of course, The Da Vinci Code. Is it really necessary for every Christian organization the world over, to shore up their congregations against Brown’s heresy? Are there really people out there, whose religious beliefs could possibly be called into question by Tom Hanks? I’m sorry, but I have to borrow a line from Oprah: “That’s about the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Technorati tags: 700 Club, The Da Vinci Code, Masturbation, Iraq

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What's The Big Idea?

Not long ago, I read a passage from Alexander Argyros’s A Blessed Rage for Order: Deconstruction, Evolution, and Chaos that has since interfered with my quiet times. Sometimes an idea is so "big" that I can't easily let it go.

In his discussion “Narrative and Chaos,” Argyros makes a number of startling statements:

I propose to claim that not only is narrative a stubbornly universal manifestation of human culture, but that it constitutes one of the most remarkable and desirable inventions of biological evolution.

Argyros’s claims are controversial:

I believe that a chaotic sociobiological view of human culture suggests that narrative is both a product of, and a selective pressure for, our evolution into Homo sapiens.

Argyros says that traditional narrative is “characterized by an overall causal frame, the general plot, which is itself composed of a frequently tangled hierarchy of nested plots and subplots”—a complex system. He says that humans require such a system, that “one way or another, any text will be made into narrative.” He says that the human concept of time has evolved in a manner that is “essentially futural.” He asks, “why else do our brains take up so much space for memory, if not to help us in the difficult work of choosing a future?”

So, we see that narrative is a dynamic system, operating in an aparently chaotic fashion, where input and output are continuously circulating and interacting. We see that humans appropriate vast arrays of information by encoding that data into narrative forms. We see humans operating in a temporal framework which is futural. With these presumptions in hand, Argyros looks further:

Our evolution into human beings undoubtedly entertained a feedback/feedforward relation to creation cosmologies and eschatologies. That is, the ability to imagine nonempirical first causes, infinite ends, and explanatory totalizing cosmologies—that is, grand narrative—requires an enormously intricate neocortex, whose gradual selection allows for even more complex cosmologies.

Those are some big ideas—definitely something to think about—and certainly the basis for a response the next time someone tells you, “Oh, I haven’t read a book since high school.”

Buy A Blessed Rage for Order:

Technorati tags: Chaos Theory, Narrative, Systems Theory

Saturday, May 20, 2006

So, There!



Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Prospero's Books


"Signs. Stories. Systems. Spirit."

Technorati tags: James Joyce, Personal, Shakespeare, Systems

Monday, May 15, 2006

Akbar And Jeff's Guide To Life

Akbar and Jeff's Guide to Life
by Matt Groening

Buy Akbar and Jeff's Guide to Life:

Technorati tags: Comics, Matt Groening

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Three Cheers For Jim Martell

This bear should not be confused with the polar bear I “shot” with my camera at the Indianapolis Zoo (see below). This bear is a polar bear/grizzly bear hybrid. From what I understand, the hybrids have been suspected to exist in the wild for some time. Now it’s a fact! Idahoan, big-game hunter Jim Martell paid $45,000 U.S. for a license to kill a polar bear on Banks Island, Northwest Territory, Canada, and this is what he got. Wow, Jim, you’re my hero!

Read all about it:

Technorati tags: Animal Rights, Grizzly Bears, Hunting, Polar Bears

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's A Zoo Out There!

Rummaging through photographs, I found these shots of flora and fauna at the Indianapolis Zoo. The zoo is…well, it is what it is—nice on cool days. Last year we lost several animals to a rogue pack of wild, street dogs, but there’s plenty left to see. Frankly, I find the whole zoo thing a little depressing. Note to self: never write advertising copy.

Visit the Indianapolis Zoo online:

Technorati tags: Animals, Zoos

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Telling Your Secrets


"PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard."

Technorati tags: Art, Secrets

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Art Of Laura Brink

“My work is the continuous path of my imagination, inspired by love and longing and placed upon a recognizable reality. Each painting is the product of aligning focus, will and intention which is everchanging. Through the people, objects, ideas and places that I have experienced and felt passionately about, I have and continue to develop my own visual language which transcends both the fantastic and realistic. With each painting I seek to provide the view with a vision of what I like to call a heightened reality.” (All artwork copyrighted and courtesy of the artist Laura Brink)

—Laura Brink

Corner of Water and Guadalupe*
Oil on canvas, 2005
20” x 30”
(Private collection of Pierr Johnson)

Children of the Sun*
Oil on canvas, 2005
40” x 20”
(Private collection of Carl Moore)

Release* (Mainline Series)
Oil on canvas, 2005
40” x 40”

Oil on canvas, 2003
40” x 20”
(Private collection of Rebecca Carter)

Push* (Mainline Series)
Oil on canvas, 2005
40“ x 23“

Angel of Action*
Oil on canvas, 2005
40” x 27”
(Private collection of Angel Quest, Inc.)

Storm Chasers*
Oil on canvas, 2005
60“ x 40“

High Angel of Leadership*
Oil on canvas, 2005
40” x 27”
(Private collection of Angel Quest, Inc.)

Oil on canvas, 2005
60” x 50”

Enter the Windriders*
Oil on canvas, 2004
60” x 40”

View and purchase Laura Brink creations:

Visit Laura Brink’s blog:

*All artwork copyrighted and courtesy of the artist Laura Brink

Technorati tags: Art

Friday, May 05, 2006

Toni Morrison

I belong to a considerable group of people that believes Toni Morrison is the greatest living writer. I will admit that it is a subjective platform, but one I could easily justify. Regardless of your level of affection for Toni Morrison, I encourage you to read and listen* to the lecture she delivered to the Swedish Academy as a Nobel Laureate. Toni Morrison received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

Read and listen to Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture:

*Requires RealPlayer. If you don’t have RealPlayer, it’s a free download:

Technorati tags: Literature, Toni Morrison

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Blogs Of Note


“My ongoing bid to dissect and skewer all that needs it and some things I clearly haven't thought out.”


“In-Di-Visual edge on James Joyce
fine art engraving and work on paper”

Technorati tags: Art, James Joyce , Personal, Rants