Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The A, B, C of it.

Dear Print-Readers and -Makers,

Oooh, such a lot of good things to see and watch and read and think on.  Here are the three I am considering today:


Two.   Or, this, if you don't like paper.


Friday, March 8, 2019

Play to Me Only with Thine Straw.

Dear Project-minded,

Oboe, and I am not sure if I have already mentioned it to you, is one of my favorite words.  I also love 'bassoon.' 

Some time ago, I found this recipe for straw oboes, and just lately, I discovered a character making them in a book I am really loving:  Mrs. Miniver.   Which is how I knew it was time to send you the instructions for making the oboe.  In the book, a young character desires grown straw, but is in a place and time with the wrong kind of pasture grasses available.  (I wonder if the insides of our house of straw would have been suitable for making billions of oboes instead of walls?  I might hear some of their unmet potential if I listen carefully to my own walls talking).  As cultivated straw is unavailable to this young person, she gets a box of the manufactured kind of straws (as the book was written in 1939, I expect they were paper straws), and eventually gets the openings cut just well enough to play Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, which shall be our song for today. 

Once the song is over, and the oboe is made, I encourage you to read Mrs. Miniver- it's filled with fabulous words I enthusiastically looked up:  minims, crochets, piquet, mesembryanthemum, tumbril, woodcraft, tourbillions, skewbald, pyridine, post-prandial, boak, tricoteuse, eupeptic, billeting, vieux jeu, subfusc, dactyl, widdershins, trochaic, secateur, and degringolade. 

Here is the book, right here, if you want to read it this very instant.  I think maybe you should skip all the stuff there at the beginning, just for now, you can read later about Mrs. Miniver and the author.  Go right on to the first chapter, and let them both speak for themselves, even after 80 years.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Hey, Girliecakes.

Dear Feminists,

Today for you a song, and a place to go to play at mixing color and shop.  It seems to me that a custom shade of lipstick would make a mighty fine party favor....  Or maybe custom cosmetics could commemorate all kinds of events: quinceañeras, book publishings, record releases, births, matrimonial ceremonies, and maybe deaths, too.  One thing I hope they add soon is nail polish!

I adore the clattering rhythms of Peek A Boo, and you might want to hear it again, too, here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019


Pelican, a dance performance by Robert Rauschenberg.

Dear Curious,

Today, I am hoping to send you searching for a small piece of writing, a prose piece that I am mad for: see a smattering of it below.  You won't be able to read it on the big bad internet; I already tried to find it for you.  You will have to visit a bookshop, or library, and even then, you will probably have to special order it.

I got mine from this good place for getting things, in a collection of essays called On Dolls.

*  *  *  *

The Marionette Theatre
by Dennis Silk

Part One


"Shutters shut and open.  So do queens."
- Gertrude Stein.

The Japanese writer, Saikaku, has a tricky story about umbrellas.  Twenty of them hung outside the temple at Kwannon.  People borrowed them in bad weather.  In spring, 1649, an unlucky umbrella-borrower had it blown out of his hand by a divine wind.  Travelling further maybe than Saikaku, the umbrella landed in the village of Amazato.  No one there had seen an umbrella.  But from its ribs, numbering forty, and the unusual luminosity of its oil-paper, they knew the sungod had landed at Amazato.  They built a shrine to the umbrella.

Saikaku does not describe the landing of the umbrella.  But it must descend slowly on Amazato from up there, slowly and in considered spirals, as a god should.  After the vigorous theophany of its descent, it lies stranded in the market-square.  Yet everyone understands the umbrella is latent.  A farmer closes his fingers around its handle as around a staff-hook.  They travel gingerly up the limb of this god, they feel a metal obstruction then a yielding.  The umbrella shuts.  Deus absconditus.
But what shuts opens, like fingers.  Open shut.  This farmer becomes the attendant of the opening and shutting god.

*  *  *  *

For some footage of Pelican, and two other Rauschenberg performances, go to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Friday, February 22, 2019

A better time.

Dear Ones,

I am sorry to bother you again, with another thing I think you really must read.  Yesterday I read about the selection of an engagement calendar and I thought I'd have to come over and get you up out of bed it was so good, but I figured it could wait, maybe, until a better time.

Who knows when this better time will come, and we all know that it might not come at all.  I should have given that coffee boy the cobalt blue glass mug that he admired and now I cannot.  I have no mug, I have no coffee boy, I have no status for such an exchange at all.  What, you wonder, does that have to do with coming here and waking me up now?  It's just that it's that good, and that real, and that important that you read this little thing, this very short thing, that won't take hardly any of your time.

I have given you books and instructions and admonitions for reading Tove Jansson before; because she is an absolute favorite of mine.  I cannot understand at all why she isn't a Major Literary Figure.  She ought to be on the shelves with all those damned guys that you are supposed to read:  Melville, Faulkner, Joyce, Steinbeck, and a bunch of others that I don't even bother with at all.  The good news is that you, dear friend, are here, and so you can read this wonderful bit of writing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heart Broke

Untitled (Gossip), Jim Dine, 1970-71
collage, mixed media, 60" x 40"

Dear Broken Hearted,

This is your day, actually, because although we have promoted this façade of celebrating love between two people, we must acknowledge the shadow side, the obverse, the un-love between two people.  In fact, I'd wager that Valentine's Day, on the individual level, is focused much more on the un-love, the end of love, and the love that never was, than whatever the other kind is.  Consider one of the messages in evidence:  Be mine.  This is really an entreaty, a statement of longing.

Still, you won't find me giving up on telling people that I love them; so this pair of songs for today is dedicated to the ones feeling the un-love, and I send it SWAK.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Anniversary 6

Hello Again World,

This day marks the anniversary of the (person that I used to be) first post.  It's been six years- what do you think of that?

It's the end of the 6th year, not the fifth, and this has bent my mind for decades- how many years has a baby who is 2 lived?  Two years.  Yes?  Seven days from today will be, what?  The 17th, or the 16th?  Do we count today, or only tomorrow?

I'll tell you what else is new, sometime along about the 4th year of trying to contact you here, coming twice a week to this empty booth, late at night, hoping you'll come in for a cup of coffee, I stopped really worrying about what I'd say to you if you did come in.  I started caring less and less if you read my messages, if you got my meaning, if you were listening at all.  Now, and it doesn't mean that I love you any less, but now, I want to write to you more for the writing than for the reading you may or may not do.  I think this is an improvement in our relationship, because it means that I have no expectations of you, that I give you all of this, and more, freely.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Near and The Far

Dear Readers,

I will now publish (in the blog post sense) the world's shortest novel for you, dear reader! 

You recall my project for this year of writing a novel, which came about from being inspired by the Novel in a Month folks.  I decided February was ideal for a month-long project, because it is short; the shortest, even. 

On February first, I began.  I typed into my computer for a good long time, trying not to judge my work, but unable to keep the promise of never hitting the delete or backspace key.  I just couldn't move on down the sentence with 'herad' there instead of 'heard.'  After a while of never going much of any place, as in following a line this way, then cutting it off, and heading down another path, I thought, yes, this is writing a novel and I can do it.  After more time, I thought I'd stop and review, just to see how many of the 2,000 daily words goal I had set down; surely something like 4,000 by now, I imagined.

522.  Yes.  I was done already, with only a quarter of the quota.  I think I am done in fact, with novel writing, but I give it to you anyway, unedited, but fairly deeply and perhaps too harshly criticized:

The Near and the Far

They came in plaid dresses, six of them. They came to tell of what they’d seen and heard. The first asked if they ought to begin. No one said a word

The far.  It was a long view.  The light was coming in low and slanting under clouds. The hills had taken on a furzy appearance, like a mist was rising up from them. They seemed blurred, warm, and giving. This was to be the place of The Telling.

The near.  As the women approached the hillside, they fidgeted with their cuffs, and straightened their hems. A few of the women were quite young, and wondered how The Telling would go. They asked each other questions and murmured encouragements. What did they have to tell that anyone would want to hear?

The far.  The walk had been long from the shore. They had met the boat, the ship, the birds that carried the messages. They wore plaid, because they’d made their dresses of old draperies that had been scavenged from abandoned seaside hotels. Simple sheaths, without sleeves, and wraps to cover their arms from the cold. Shoes were out of the question.

The near.  One was the daughter of an older one- she would hold her mother’s hand as they walked. The mother and the daughter would talk more than the others. They said: when you see a sad thing, you feel sad, but when you think a sad thing, your feelings pass along ridges in your mind, changing into a story, and then, what does it become? Is it sadness anymore? Are sad stories more true than the happy ones, she would ask her mother. The others would listen, but they said very little in response to this pair and their conversation at first. Later, the other four would come to contribute to their conversations.

The far.  It happened a long time ago, that the people moved away, most of them, to a far place that after a time, stopped sending messages back.  It’s an old story, some of the tribe heads off to find a better land, a better way. Sometimes they return, some of them. But many evaporate into time and space. The distances, really, even between two people standing quite close are astronomical. They can’t be measured at all. Distance isn’t very easy to fool, or shorten, or shrink, despite what you may read.

The near.  Sewing by hand, with dull needles, is slow. The space between where the needle slips under, and then back up again can be large or small, but if it is large, the wind can come through. So, they made the spaces small, and their fingers and hands would cramp and shake.

The far.  When things first began to look lonely, they’d tell each other not to worry, that the others would return. Then, they spoke less and less of it.

The near.  "When they come back, we will clear this debris, we will mend these things, and begin to organize.” They felt less and less like organizing, so they didn’t. They arranged rocks to make pathways, and lined up sticks in patterns. They wondered at their future and they made patterns. As before. The sticks had fallen from the trees for many years and they were of many lengths. Some would sort them by color, or texture. Many would arrange them by size.


Dear Little Darlings,

What you want, I daresay, is a big, poufy skirt!  I wore a black net petticoat the other day to the museum lecture of a photographer.  It was a boughten one, from Sock Dreams.  At the lecture, I wore it with boots, a knit top, a windowpane plaid scarf, and a striped wool skirt.  Last January, in London, I wore it over tights, without a skirt, because in London a girl can dress that way, and that's why I love London.  California loves a bare midriff, but they still don't know what to make of under wear as outer wear; it's sad and conformist really, but there isn't much of a dialog about the politics of exposure in women's wear right now.

Here is a little history of the crinoline as the successor to the petticoat.  The terms are used a bit indiscriminately nowadays.  Because the crinoline was named for the stiff horsehair fabric of the same name, I call my stiffer underskirts crinolines and the softer ones petticoats.

I made a nice petticoat of silk and vintage lace from this fine pattern for a crinoline, from Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing.  Voluminous, 100 yard, square dance petticoats can be found on Ebay, or Petticoat Junction, and another place to buy underskirts of varying pouf, is Unique Vintage.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

About Lidia.

Dear Reader,

It's well after the gift-giving holidays* and I hope you enjoyed the book I gave you, The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch.  She's a badass of the sort I want around, because she doesn't make many excuses.  It's the Year of the Sudden Surge of Confidence and I don't want to offer any more explanation or defense for my ideas, choices, and thoughts.  I don't really even know what made me such a second guesser in life, but I do know that I have wasted tons of the sands of time on analyzing the why and how of my own petty little preferences.  Pfft.  What a silly waste.

* Our fir tree is still up and I might make an excuse or an explanation here, but because I want to walk the walk, I won't.

Friday, January 25, 2019


Dear Beloved Listener,

I have been gritting my teeth over how many tasks there are on my list.  Here, now, today, I am on number 5, and getting a quick message off to you is number six.  Of course, these items are not being handled in the order of their importance.  If they were, this would be number 2.  In any event, here are some more numbers for you; versions of today's song of the day.

Number One.

Number Two.

Number Three.

Number Four.

Number Five, a petite reprise of Two.

The composer, eden ahbez, is an interesting fellow, if you care to know a little more about this song.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Car Hop

Dear Skaters,

Man, what can we do about this?  There is no way they are going to hire me at Sonic, and I think I could have loved a life of slinging shakes on skates.  This kind of thing, when you find a job you should have had years ago, really hits me hard.  I need at least one more lifetime to do and try all this stuff I want to do.  There just isn't enough time, and I resent deeply the responsibility of having to work at spending what time there is so very carefully.

I wanted to get a law degree, for one thing, just so I could show it to the kind of ultra maroons that think being an artist is for people who aren't 'smart,' and I wanted to have a bakery, and to go to pastry chef school, and to learn to speak Italian, and to play piano more, and own a bookshop, and have a little motel in Lee Vining.  Yes, I know, there is still time for some of this, but I don't see how I can cram all that in while I open and operate a roller rink, which is the ne plus ultra, of course.

I wanted to band birds in Borneo, and document cave paintings in France.  I wanted to design wall paper and fabrics, to learn to make leather boots, and to write articles for magazines.  I wanted to spin records at a radio station, and help brides pick out a dress.  I wanted to run a little sandwich shop across the street from the nursing home, and serve up egg salad on wheat toast to little old ladies.  I wanted to have a cow to milk, and to learn to make wine.  I wanted to have a gallery, with beautiful white paintings in it.

Sonic has a useful series of skate training videos, on how to skate with a tray, and through a sticky soda spill.  They also have one for going up and down curbs.  If you don't want to skate at Sonic, you might be interested in eating there, and this link recommends the onion rings and coconut limeade.

Monday, January 14, 2019


Dear Atmosphere,

Here is a thing, a piece, that I have been looking for since 2008.  I lost it, see, on a little slip of paper.  Back then I tuned into a terrific classical music show called The Aeolian Impromptu.  I adored this program; I miss it still.   I used to build my week around its airtime.  It was a fascinating and compelling show, with music one could paint to.  I would tape it, and play the tapes over and over. 

Still, time moves on, doesn't it?  I thought, ten years ago, that the DJ had said this John Adams piece was called The Great Divide.  Just a few weeks ago, looking again, I finally found it, and my error:  the missing word "on."

I wonder if maybe you too have been looking for this music?  It's so great to find it again after so much time has passed.  It's filled with the kinds of things I love in music:  crashing waves of chords, layers of atmospheric and spacious sounds, wordless and babbling angelic choirs, and crescendos of overlapping rhythms that head off into the sunset on a long journey.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Another Molly Song

Dear Mollies,

This is one to watch.  It gives me all kinds of ideas about stop-motion film-making and feminism.  It's a treat.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Dear Fans,

It's David Bowie's birthday today; I have been celebrating it since I was 14.  Have a slice of cake, a glass of champagne, and this song, Blackout.  The image above is the "cut up" lyric for the song; for more Bowie-ana, look here.

A demonstration:

Dear David Bowie,

Happy Birthday Blackout.  Since today, I have been fourteen.  Celebrating the lyrics for the song, cut up a slice of cake and look here: Above, fans demonstrate découpé in this glass image of Bowie-ana and champagne.    

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Year of...

Dear Darlings,

I forgot to tell you the good news:  2019 is The Year of the Sudden Surge of Confidence.   Plan big and bold!

Last year, I found out from a pal, rather late into it, was The Year of the Grocery Bag.  I loved that year, too, but this year promises unexpected outcomes, because when you surge with confidence, you never know what you might get!

For myself, I want to try a novel in a month and baking challah together for the Shabbos Project. I also plan to get some loaner roller skates in your size, so we can skate together once or twice a month.  Meet me at the top of the parking garage, or the new skate park- don't worry, I have extra helmets and knee pads, too.

Oh there's good plans in the making all around-  I just sent you a letter postdated for December 25- I
know you are going to love your Christmas post!  I can't wait for you to open it!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Our First.

Dear New Year,

Here we are, in our first meeting of this new year.  Yes, yes, I know how arbitrary it all is, but I love a little ceremony and mark making.  And so I present the first song of the day for the year on Radio Dodo.  In honor of the newness, this is a song I only just heard, for the first time.  My DJ just played it for me. 

Let's meet back here next year, and see what we think about this song of today.