Friday, July 31, 2020


Dear Wings to the Flame,

Look at these gorgeous painted specimens!  Each is a marvel, and their are hundreds of thousands of these kind of biological and botanical illustrations all around the world.  Think of the great and varied efforts of these naturalists painstakingly locating every little spot and smudge on these wings, just to catalog all the flora and fauna they could find. 

Isn't it a kind of funny idea?  To catalog?  Imagine, for example, if you decided as an illustrator, to draw every kind of food package you encountered in a month of groceries, say?  Or, if you decided to catalog all the hands you'd shaken, or socks you had worn. 

To see the ponderous scale of skilled illustration efforts the the 18th, 19th, and 20th, centuries have produced in the pursuit of the cataloging of species, go here, to be directed to the Biodiversity Heritage Library's collection of illustrations; available to admire and download for free.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Écoute bien.

Dear Poetry-Lovers,

This wonderful poem comes to me from the far and wide ranging tentacles of the Dodo correspondents.  To think that I have been bumbling along in the dark without this lovely poem for so long gives me a twinge of regret.  However, we have committed ourselves to looking forward, and so on we go with this Jacques Prévert poem in hand; the original French follows the Ferlinghetti translation.

To Paint the Portrait of a Bird

                                                       To Elsa Enriquez

First paint a cage
with an open door
then paint
something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
something useful
for the bird
then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
without speaking
without moving...
Sometimes the bird comes quickly
but he can just as well spend long years
before deciding
Don't get discouraged
wait years if necessary
the swiftness or slowness of the coming
of the bird having no rapport
with the success of the picture
When the bird comes
if he comes
observe the most profound silence
wait till the bird enters the cage
and when he has entered
gently close the door with a brush
paint out all the bars one by one
taking care not to touch any of the feathers of the bird
Then paint the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful of its branches
for the bird
paint also the green foliage and the wind's freshness
the dust of the sun
and the noise of insects in the summer heat
and then wait for the bird to decide to sing
If the bird doesn't sing
it's a bad sign
a sign that the painting is bad
but if he sings it's a good sign
a sign that you can sign
so then so very gently you pull out
one of the feathers of the bird
and you write your name in a corner of the picture.

(translated by Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

 From Paroles, by Jacques Prévert

Pour Faire Le Portrait D'un Oiseau

                                                               A Elsa Henriquez

Peindre d'abord une cage
avec une porte ouverte
peindre ensuite
quelque chose de joli
quelque chose de simple
quelque chose de beau
quelque chose d'utile
pour l'oiseau
placer ensuite la toile contre un arbre
dans un jardin
dans un bois
ou dans une forêt
se cacher derrière l'arbre
sans rien dire
sans bouger...
Parfois l'oiseau arrive vite
mais il peut aussi bien mettre de longues années
avant de se décider
Ne pas se décourager
attendre s'il le faut pendant des années
la vitesse ou la lenteur de l'arrivée de l'oiseau
n'ayant aucun rapport
avec la réussite du tableau
Quand l'oiseau arrive
s'il arrive
observer le plus profond silence
attendre que l'oiseau entre dans la cage
et quand il est entré
fermer doucement la porte avec le pinceau
effacer un à un tous les barreaux
en ayant soin de ne toucher aucune des plumes de l'oiseau
Faire ensuite le portrait de l'arbre
en choisissant la plus belle de ses branches
pour l'oiseau
peindre aussi le vert feuillage et la fraîcheur du vent
la poussière du soleil
et le bruit des bêtes de l'herbe dans la chaleur de l'été
et puis attendre que l'oiseau se décide à chanter
Si l'oiseau ne chante pas
c'est mauvais signe
Signe que le tableau est mauvais
mais s'il chante c'est bon signe
signe que vous pouvez signer
Alors vous arrachez tout doucement
une des plumes de l'oiseau
et vous écrivez votre nom dans un coin du tableau.


If all this puts you in the mood for French, try this Serge Gainsbourg song to Jacques Prévert.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Secret Messages

Hand of Buddha in Mudra Abhaya, 
between 17th and 18th century, copper alloy, Thai, 
in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Dear Many,

I send you your song for today.  This is a beautiful piece of music; the kind that seems to be beyond words.  Maybe you will want to play it, while you read on.  Or, maybe you are in a hurry, and you will not stop for song or story; I hold my hand up to you in a mudra that signifies you go on with my encouragement and well-wishes.

I have been thinking of words and in words a lot, even though you haven't heard from me lately.  The thing you must remember is that I think of you at least once a day, but I don't always compose myself and address you.  I ask myself why not; and the answer is sometimes this:  I don't have anything good enough to give right now; it's just fog and murk and low-level complaining.  Or this:  I cannot pretend that I believe things are okay, and that isn't a nice rumor to spread. 

I dreamed that I stopped staying at a particular hotel, because every time I stayed there, in its beautiful old rooms with views, I was harangued by ghosts- they turned the light on and off all night; they opened and shut doors; they tried to get into the bed. 

I dreamed that I had a very lovely studio, a huge space, and for some reason, I had hung up three or four large signs in the middle of the wall.  In the course of showing someone my studio, I saw how stupid it was to put these big signs in the middle of the wall; the walls ought to be filled with visual information, with paintings:  I had wasted all these years and this space on three big signs that were just some kind of didactic information that had been on walls in exhibits of my work; they were an explanation, the written validation of the works having been shown; just artifacts and evidence, a shred of paper streamer left after a parade.

Back in the world of thinking again, now, I ask you, if we decide to eschew even more of these absurd values that press down like billowing choking clouds of smoky obligation; if we aren't trying to be good, or right, or smarter, or better, or faster, or richer, just what are we going to be doing with our days?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

A song finds its true home.

Dear Singers,

Oh!  My DJ played this song for me recently, and I think it has never sounded better!  Listen to that descending staircase of horns!  It is perfect!  To compare, and to pay our respects to the original, here is Ms. Hynde and The Pretenders.  Oh, but wait you say!  What about the uuhh aahh?  Who writes a song about being back on the chain gang?  Someone who has heard Sam Cooke, that's who.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

This thing is real.

Dear Listeners,

Oh!  Here is a song for today that you don't want to miss- it comes to our attention from the vast network of discerning Dodo listeners.  A sort of ersatz 'listener request.'  Here is another version, with just Mavis.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Submitted for your approval.

Dear Art Collector,

I send these 15 x 11 inch prints with collage elements to you for your consideration.  When I think of our long standing relationship as artist and patron, of the decades and the many pieces you have purchased from me, I am in awe, and I wonder if it is not true, that maybe I imagined it?  It fills me with satisfaction that you have wanted these works, these physical manifestations of my thoughts and hands for so long. 

Artists make things, because they like making, and they see and feel things they would like to share, but, I believe that most artists are continually surprised that someone else would want to live with these things.  It isn't that artists don't like their own work, it is more that they can see so clearly how it falls a little short of what they were hoping to say.  It comes off as a reflection of a thing, but not the thing itself.  It is much like my writing: I keep on trying to tell you how gobsmackingly beautiful one thing or another is, and I know that, try as I might, I can't quite represent it to you in all its glory. 

In any event, I have some paintings too, that might work in your new space;  I will not accept bitcoin for my work, but I am in a position to consider a payment in olives, for one of the aforementioned prints, if you find the work and the terms agreeable. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Stay close to me.

Dear Radio Dodo Listeners,

Here it is, two fine versions of one fine wine song:  One and Two.  It is your song of the day!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Independence from Dogma:

Dear July Fourth,

Did I eve tell you about the time an elderly French gentleman (with a tie, jacket, and cane- un flâneur véritable) met me in the door way of a Paris bistro?  Il sortait alors que j'entrais.  He was being aided down the stone step by a waiter in striped pants and a long white apron.  The staff knew him by name;  he might have been dining at that place for 60 years.  We made way for him to leave, and he asked me where we were from, in English, and I said "California," and he said "Oh!  America!  I love America!"  I think my expression must have been comme ça:  A puzzled Pourquoi?  He asked me didn't I love America?  I muttered that it was "all right," because I didn't think he meant what I might have by loving America.  He kept prodding me to to agree with him on the lovable-ness of America, and I kept deferring.  You can make your own list of what you don't like about America, but the biggest two items on my list are oppression and Capitalism.

But, what made me uncomfortable about being asked to join in a few harmless, neighborly, and kind words about my native country?  I ask you, how would you feel if asked to celebrate your country?  Would you think of the mistakes and cruelties?  Or, some other intangible, some kind of pride or idealism? 

Here is what I truly love about America:  roads, the great Native American West and South West, the rocks, the trees, the mountains, the gorges, rivers, beaches, milkshakes, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, doughnuts, bowling alleys, roller skating rinks.  I love the land and occasionally I love a few of the people, and I like some of its junk food.  But I don't love these phony ideologies, and even kind, well meaning, cultured French men from another era can't make me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

blue skies

Dear Tomorrow,

It was nice seeing you yesterday.  Here is your song for today. 


Dear Scribblers,

Of course, I was in love with this project at the mention of the name: Chalkroom.  What could that be, I wondered.  A room which can be marked and erased?  A dusty interior?  I spent several month wondering about it, savoring its possibilities, until I finally pushed the button. 

It's a treat to hear Laurie Anderson talk about anything, so don't worry, you will enjoy the film.  The idea of walking into the words of a story is a compelling and enigmatic notion.  It might be that I like the idea of the Chalkroom more than the reality of its virtual reality.  I will need to go and 'experience' it in person someday.  I wonder if virtual flight might be a little dizzying....

This channel is often tuned to Laurie Anderson; here at the Dodo we don't believe that you can have too much of a good thing.  More is more, so to speak, and here is a song for today by Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet.