Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lewis Hyde, Berkman Center, and More

January 28

I just finished reading The Gift by Lewis Hyde, another Berkman fellow like Andy's brother David Weinberger. I'm just now beginning to get the importance of this institution, which we knew was an honor to David (author of Everything is Miscellaneous as well as co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto and more). But this book, one of your real public intellectual books like a book length article from The New York Review of Books is really helpful in figuring out about art and the market. Hyde writes in a new epilogue for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the book: “ begin by restating two of THE GIFT’s motivating assumptions....The first is simply that there are categories of human enterprise that are not well organized or supported by market forces. Family life, religious life, public service, pure science, and of course much artistic practice: none of these operates very well when framed simply in terms of exchange value. The second assumption follows: any community that values these things will find non market ways to organized them. It will develop gift-exchange institutions dedicated to their support.“

I guess I wanted reading it to be more fun than it was, but I read so often now when I'm tired, too much work of my own and also t. v. with the quick cut action and interactive internet.. But having said this, the book makes a really important distinction between what we do for money and what we don’t. It begins with folk tales and narratives about hunter gatherer and other societies with strong emphasis on gift exchange and the circulation of valuable things rather than private ownership, and goes on to long essays on Walt Whitman and one on Ezra Pound (who had lots of cockamamie economic schemes plus the brutally ugly anti semitism). Allen Ginsberg figures importantly (especially his late visit to Pound in Italy)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 24

Andy and I went to South Orange to the movies and the one we wanted to see was sold out, so we came home, talked to Joel on the phone, and watched Edward Scissorshands from 1990. Very charming, touching, all that. Edward and his naivety and snip snip evergreen art and hair cutting and dog grooming is the real normal, and the appalling tropical fruit colored ticky tacky suburban community is the freak show. Those houses and those people were exactly what I had a horror of finding if we moved to the suburbs-- identical houses, bored housewives, false good cheer. Johnny Depp is an absolute heart throb in this, an artist, a lover, a suffering outsider who tries to do good. His character is punk in style, the hair, the leather and studs, but the stance and general look is the same as Slovenly Peter of the old Der Struwwelpeter (1845) cautionary tales for kids. A related (?) images in the book is of a horrible man with enormous scissors cutting off a boy's fingers-- anyhow, these have got to have played into the imagery, in my mind, if not in Tim Burton's.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This Side Was Meant for You And Me: Pete Seeger and Bruce Springssteen sing Woody for Obama

Well, yes, we are going to be disappointed in Obama, and yes, he is progressive but not left wing, but --- BY GOLLY at the big concert today Sunday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, along with songs from everyone from Stevie Wonder to Beyonce to Bono, they had Pete Seeger up there leading the crowd in the full version of This Land is Your Land, including the No Trespassing sign with the blank back--"This side was meant for you and me!" Pete Freaking The Weavers commy pinko Seeger! So all I can say is GOBAMA!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Me and two favorites: Taxicab the parakeet, photgraphed by the webcam on my new Acer Aspired One
itty bitty tiny camera.

Ron P., who has his own self-publishing company, is biased, but this little piece from his newsletter/blog is interesting nonetheless. The bottom line is that IUniverse and Xlibris and Authorhouse and all of them are becoming more and more vanity presses. Other businesses are helping self-publishers in what appear to be much more satisfactory ways. See Marion Cuba's recommendation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


January 10

Friday night: Andy and I went to Jayne Anne Phillips’s book party for LARK AND TERMITE. She read, not long, a passage following each of her characters, and the section following Termite, the crucial brilliant consciousness of a developmentally disable boy, had a poetry that I hadn’t caught in reading by eye, with a mind to writing about the book. A ton of people came– her fans, and maybe more than might have come after the terrific review of the book by Michiko Kakutani. Among the folks there– local friends Dawn Williams and James Van Oosting, and, more of a surprise– Wesley Brown! He had come down from upstate to hear Jayne Anne, and said that a novel is such a long hard effort, it deserves to be celebrated– which is such a typical Wesley comment, wise and kind and appropriate.

And then I ran into Dawn again today, at the funeral for Rev. Roy A. Butler Sr. The funeral was a wonderful mixture of heavy hitters from the area churches, mostly American Baptist churches (Roy was active in the American Baptist Churches organization-- latest name of the Baptists I grew up among))– there must have been 20 or more ministers in attendance, along with his many, many friends and his large family, including one sister, a minister herself, who sang and got the crowd up and singing with her and generally roused. People talked about his preaching style and musical abilities and his passion, and of course how he is happy now that he’s gone home. It was also mentioned how he walked the walk as well as talked the talk about welcoming women into the ministry– his wife Marsha is now ordained, and she was an assistant pastor along with Sandra Pendleton-Rock who I’ve know from the earliest days of FAN when I first moved to this area and began to get involved in stable integration work.

I of course knew Roy as a founding trustee of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. He was an essential member– creating what became the Interfaith Outreach Committee, and participating in some of the deepest, most impassioned discussions of our early days. After he moved on to focus on building his church, he continued to be supportive to us in all ways he could, and I remember one of the last times I saw him, I had called to ask about distributing some of the Coalition’s flyers to his church, and he said, as he always did, Anything he and his church could do, anytime, please ask. You felt like your request was a compliment

So I drove the flyers over and put them in the mailbox as he'd said, and then drove around the building– and there on the other side was Roy, on his hands and knees, wearing a beautiful colorful short sleeved sports shirt and one of his elegant hats– planting flowers. I rolled down my window to speak, and he got up, brushing himself off, looking just a little rueful, then said, indicating the trowel and flowers, “It’s part of the ministry of service.”

We really do miss people when they go. Just speaking yesterday of Andy’s mom, Sherry, who my mother reminded us has been dead for sixteen years. Actually sixteen and a half. They live on, time goes fast, some cultures say the dead one is happier now, has transitioned to the other side! Some howl their mourning. Anyway you slice it, we miss them, and willy nilly carry them with us. And when we go? Do they go too? It would be nice to believe otherwise, but also helps to realize how many there have been, how many loved, how many sterling personalities, how many more precious ones yet living, yet to come.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year Begins

What a week! Joel and Sarah leave tomorrow, and it has felt like nonstop parties and socializing, the house rocking for almost two weeks. New Year's locally, a neat Prospect Street reunion with Mary and Tony and Anne and Gordon and Katherine and Ed and Joan and, oh, a ton of other people.

Yesterday, Mom, Andy, Joel, Sarah, and I went to Liberty Science Center . It was a mad house– Friday after New Year’s, the whole world off from work and school, and apparently everyone with children under ten at LSC! My mother loved looking at the kids and interacting with them when she could. We hadn't been there since long before their expansion. It’s enormous, with lots of things to see and do, and I could have used more time actually to explore some of the learning sections, but it was super crowded. Many artifacts, of course: a great folded beam from the World Trade Center; activities for kids: Suspended I-beams to walk on in the Skyscraper exhibit; Gila monsters, a Gaboon viper (Venom to kill 30 grown men!), a room full of interactive stuff that Joel remembered fondly from childhood. But the sensory deprivation tunnel has been gone for a long time.

Black widows, a floor map of the Hudson estuary so you can walk up to the Berkshires in four steps. Fifty foot tall wave-ladder; views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty. My mother reverential about Our Lady of the Harbo. Driving over, we had a long discussion about Judaism and the Jewish man’s morning prayer, which Joel, like Andy, thought said Thank you God I wasn’t born a woman but is actually mroe like “Thank you God King of the Universe who didn’t make me a woman.” So according to Sarah and Joel, this puts the emphasis on the thank you for everything including what You made me. And to Joel, this also was maybe also about someone writing the prayer and meaning a sexist world view but God Himself directing the man’s hand so that the words came out in a way subject to interpretation by future generations. Interesting hair splitting or profound Meaning?