Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Virtuous Versatility 3/31/09

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.

Welcome. I salute you.
It seems one of the experiences in this rough and tumble human life that can get people genuinely riled up is to come across someone who disagrees with them. I know very well the trouble with disagreement. I used to be one of those people who would go on the attack when I found myself having to confront the stupid, ignorant, non-thinking, intellectually challenged morons of the world, in other words, those who disagreed with me. Since I was clearly right on the issue and knew it, it was inconceivable to me that the other guy couldn't see it once I had explained it. There was nothing to be done except to shout the idiot down and make him shut his stupid face.

What a wallop to my conscience to find out that sometimes the other guy was right, or at least nearer to right than I was.

The human mind, it goes without saying, is a very complicated thing. It's something like a three dimensional mosaic with a vast number of tiles. There are facts, opinions, observations, memories, ideas, fantasies, doubts, realizations, beliefs, fears, views, hopes, failures, conclusions, habits, dreams, experiences, cares, favorites, judgments, synchronizations, jokes. idols, relationships, integrations, wonders, recipes, regrets, challenges, loves, lessons, losses, quotes, successes, rumors, formulas, superstitions, songs, ideals, etc. Some of the tiles are bigger than others and some are more colorful (usually the fantasy tiles). That's a lot of mosaic to bring to focus on any decision. And the tiles are arranged in a specific order endemic to the individual. The next guy has the same number of tiles but they are arranged differently. It's a wonder two people can agree with each other on anything.

But they do. "The mightiest space in fortune nature brings to join like likes" Shakespeare says. Two or more tiles match up and you've got a consensus. But then again sometimes they disagree. The tiles don't match up. Then what? You can't rearrange someone else's mosaic and, in fact, you have no right to.

Hold on to your own mighty intellectual space and let the other fellow have his. But always be prepared to redesign your own mosaic should you get more wisdom.

Okay Spring, now grow up and act your age.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Universal Urge 3/30/09

It is only those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.

Evelyn Underhill
Read on my friend.
An artist is an artist because he has to be. Science tells us what the facts of life are. Art tells us what they mean. It is the forever, infinite search for those meanings that propel an artist into places that few people know about. It is a window and a door to the invisible truth of our existence. It is an exploration into a cave of an imagination that becomes a reality to anyone awake enough to realize it.

An artist knows what the painting looks like and keeps painting until it looks like that. The composer Hindemith once wrote that he hears the entire composition in his head in a flash, like a bolt of lightening lighting up a landscape, and then he sits with a pen carefully putting musical notes on a page until the score says what the flash of inspiration showed him.

I know the ending of my Brian and Christine story and every day I make inches toward it. I had to stop to do my taxes, but when they were done I was able to pick up writing just where I left off, because the story and the writing of it were the more important things in my head. I don't ask if it is important to the world. It was given to me in a flash. It has to be written.

What that means is that the real deep inner life of someone such as an artist takes the place of the mundane, petty tasks of the day and thus renders them easier to do.

The uncomfortable road some people find themselves on is one where life is defined by those simple tasks. When the deeds are done, then what? If there is no other life going on those people will start looking around for other simple tasks until life is filled up with them, tiredness easily sets in because there is no excitement in doing them and the person has become robbed of the chance to really explore something deeper and more important, some flash of inspiration that reflects off a distant planet from the universal mind into the only mind on earth capable of receiving it.

One doesn't have to be an artist to have "a deep and real inner life." There are deep, intellectual, philosophical, spiritual, technological, natural, scientific roads to travel . There are inventions and discoveries to be made everywhere. The early steps of the journey are to admit that the unseen and unknown are there waiting for you, that you have the right to the discoveries along the way and that pursuing is the joy and not proving anything to the world.

We all live on the crusts of the most sublime wisdom and there is no more exciting place to be,

Vagabond Journeys
May your light shine bright today.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

True Test 3/29/09

The way to write American music is simple. All you have to do is be an American and then write any kind of music you want.

Virgil Thomson
Howdy Pardner.
I am frequently puzzled over people's attempts both here and abroad to define what is American and what is not. How on earth, in this hybrid country, do you define what is truly American? What is the American way of doing things, the American style?

Our food. I've recently written about our coffee which comes from Africa and South America. Our tea comes from Asia. But the hot dog. Is that American? Then why is it called a frankfurter (something from Frankfurt). Or the hamburger, which is not made from ham (something from Hamburg). "Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener." Wien = Vienna. In some places you get a taco instead of a hot dog. "As American as apple pie" Apples are grown in almost every place on earth. I learned that when I wrote a commercial for an orchard. In Alabama you get grits with your meal. That's the American way. You get no grits in Vermont. You may get a potato instead. Ask the Irish about potatoes. In New York it's American to have a bagel with your breakfast, or a croissant. More European food. Beer? Talk to the Germans. Nobody is really sure about the donut.

Okay forget the food. How about other things. Dungarees, denims, what's un American about those? Denim is a French fabric. We're driving Asian cars, or American cars with Asian parts. Look at the gadgets in your kitchen or tool shed and see how many of them are "Made in China."

"Three cheers for the red, white and blue." We have a grand old glorious red, white and blue flag. So do the British.

What about our music? Jazz? African rhythms to European melodies. Country music, blue grass? More old European tunes, some of it played on a mandolin, an invention from Italy. The guitar? Spanish. "My country 'tis of thee" = "God save the Queen" Even our national anthem was once a British drinking song.

So what's American? If I had to name something that is really, identifiably American I would say baseball. But now the Japanese are playing baseball. The day one of those Japanese teams wins the World Series we'll have to let go of that bit of Americana.

I think Virgil Thomson has it right. If you're an American, in America, and you do something, you are doing it the American way. America is a mixture of all kinds of people from all over the world and they do things the way they do them. Three cheers for our nationwide diversity, and Vive La Difference.

DB Vagabond Journeys
Lion or lamb. March is heading for the door..

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sacred Sadness 3/28/09

Life is like an onion: we peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes we weep.

Carl Sanburg
Be my guest.
The older we get, the more of those onion skins we have peeled off, the closer we have gotten to the juicier parts and hence the more likely we are to weep. We weep for many reasons; for loss, for regrets, for things we have forgotten or tried to forget, failed love affairs, the ingratitude of children, friend's betrayals dashed hopes, the loss of faith, all sorts of things that didn't work out in life, for injustices, insults, slanders, lies, thefts, cruelties, shame, fears, missed opportunities, doubts, depression, confusion and a feeling of having lived not enough.

There are other reasons to weep, good ones. We may weep when suddenly coming upon something indescribably beautiful, the unexpected kindness of someone, a vigorous expression of approval for who we are, the recovery of a treasure we thought we had lost, a reminder of past happiness and goodness, the surge in our hearts for the love of someone, a baby's smile, an old familiar song.

Tears are the mind's rain storm that washes the ground and makes it sparkle so that new experiences are allowed to grow in it. You are not less of a man nor too much of a woman if you weep. The hot fires of overwhelming feelings will seek the dousing of tears. The epitome of devotion is found in the weeping of joy and sacrifice. As Washington Irving wrote "There is a sacredness in tears."

Fear not the onion.

DB - The Vagabond
May you win more than just the lottery.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Right Rhetoric 3/27/09

No one has a finer command of language than the person who keeps his mouth shut.

Sam Rayburn
I actually met Sam Rayburn one day. When I was in high school our class took a trip to Washington D. C.. It was a very educational experience. We met some interesting people and went on some tours, a few of which were fun. We had a guided tour of the FBI which was fascinating and a tour of the Treasury Building which wasn't, (at least not to me since I don't know anything about money).

We met with one of our Senators, Jacob Javits, who spoke about how the Senate was reaching out to governments around the world from a position of bipartisan strength.

We met with Justice Harold Burton of the Supreme Court who explained how he went back over other relevant Supreme Court decisions since the beginning to help him reach a decision.

We had a brief chat with Margaret Chase Smith, who was the first and only female Senator at that time. She was from Maine. (Leave it to the New Englanders to kick down walls. My New England friends will agree.)

We got to watch the Senate in session which was by far the least interesting thing we did. Unlike members of the House of Representatives, who have a time limit, Senators can basically speak for as long as they want to. It takes a vote of the whole Senate to shut them up.

Sam Rayburn was a man of few words, but they were eloquent ones. During the few minute we were with him he described the machinations of Congress and what his responsibilities were. as Speaker of the House. I came away with the impression that the country was run by conversations in private, over the telephone and by inter-office memos, what today would be emails and faxes, and that a lot of it takes place in what they call "behind closed doors" and not on the floors of the House or Senate. Those are where the votes take place, of course. But by the time things get to a vote there are very few surprises.

All in all it was a fascinating venture into the jungle of big government and anyone who can should do it.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Blessings on your day.

Quick Quip 3/26/09

I don't know how people live without coffee, I really don't.

Martha Quinn

Most American think they have a divine right to a cup of coffee in the morning and at certain times during the day. Ironically, coffee beans only grow near the Equator. So coffee is not an American product. There is only one state in our nation where they grow. If you want the true, red, white and blue American brew you have to go to Hawaii. Of course, there may be other benefits to doing that. I don't know, I've never been there.

We have the Muslims to thank for our coffee. It was first discovered in Ethiopia in the 9th Century. Some curious Arab pried open a pod and found two beans inside. He sniffed, tasted and decided it was good. Coffee spread throughout the Muslim world quickly. And eventually reached Europe. The Europeans brought it over here with them but, alas, it wouldn't grow in stubborn North American soil. As a result all of our coffee is imported, from Africa and South America.

Coffee houses were the rage when I was in school. You could order fancy things like cafe au'lait, mokka mit schlag, espresso, cappucino and feel very sophisticated and upper class. My friends and I favored the Mozart Cafe in Harvard Square where every time we entered we caused a sensation. (But that's another story.)

Today you can go into Starbucks, pay way too much money for a well ground and cooked cup of large coffee which you get in a cardboard or styrofoam cup. Be careful taking off the lid, you might scald yourself. Milk and sugar is on the side. You have to serve yourself and clean up after yourself. How's that for class?

One day I was on my way to a recording session and I wanted a cup to lubricate my vocal chords. I stopped in a place and asked for a coffee to go. They pointed at a row of urns with various titles; maple, nutmeg, mocha, blueberry, I don't know. I turned and walked out. I found the Greek place. I was in and out in 3 minutes. If you want a coffee, without all the fashion frills, find the Greeks or the Arabs. They know from coffee.

Think happy thoughts about old friends as I just did.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Precious Plenty 3/25/09

Life always spills over the rim of every cup.

Boris Pasternak
It was a very unpleasant trip to the post office today. For one thing it was cold, and it was depressing mail that I had to send, the state of my hip made it extremely painful to walk more than a hundred feet or so and the post office is a long distance from my home. This town has almost no pedestrian benches and none en route. So by the time I got back here I was exhausted, in pain and in a very bad mood. I wanted to have a bite to eat and take a nap.

But I saw what appeared to be a white spot on the floor. I thought I had spilled some milk or flour or something. The last thing I wanted to do was to clean up a dirty spot . But I got a sponge and some water and sat down to clean it. Then I discovered that it wasn't a spot of dirt but a spot of sunlight. I sat looking at it and admired this one patch of sunlight smiling up at me. I thought how amazing it was that the sun will find it's way through all the nooks and crannies of the world to shine it's light, how every available spot on earth gets its share of sunlight, some more, some less, even if it's only for one day and a few minutes.

Then I thought about how it's the same with ideas. Wherever they may come from, we all get our share of ideas, some more, some less. The problem is that we so often ignore them, we don't take note of them, we don't take the trouble to think about them, to observe them.

In Anton Chekhov's play "The Seagull" the character of Trigorin, a writer, tells how he always carries a piece of paper in his pocket in order to jot down descriptions and ideas. Picasso used to make drawings on paper restaurant napkins and hotel stationary. I once saw a TV interview with Harold Arlen, the composer of the songs in "The Wizard Of Oz" who took a piece of music paper out of his jacket pocket to show that he always carried it with him in case he got the idea for a melody.
Then I remembered that I do the same thing myself. I always have a small note pad in my pocket to write down ideas I get from reading or thinking. I have a box full of those note pads. Some of the entries are excellent, some good, some not so good, some dreadful. Some of the good ones (I hope) make it onto my journal, Vagabond Jottings.

All these memories and realizations came to me because instead of lazily falling into bed for a well needed nap I decided first to clean up a spot.on the floor. Later, when I woke from my nap, the sun had moved on and the spot was gone. But the journey had been successful.

There's a hymn that reads:
The useful and the great,
The thing that never dies,
The silent toil that is not lost, -
Set these before thine eyes.

DB The Vagabond
I don't care what the "meteorologist" says, It's spring.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama's Opproprium 3/24/09

Every speaker has a mouth.
An arrangement rather neat.
Sometimes it's filled with wisdom.
Sometimes it's filled with feet.

Robert Orben
Come in. Have a seat.
So Barack Obama made an inappropriate comment did he? Well Mr. President, join the club. One could publish an extensive book filled with nothing but silly remarks made by United States Presidents. Imagine what it would be like if you were held accountable for every stupid thing you've said in your life, especially if you were in a position of authority when you said it. How many not so clever things would you like to take back?

You have probably heard of the blooper tapes. If you haven't actually heard one you're in for a good laugh if and when you do. Every radio and TV station in the land is required to keep a recording of the day's broadcast. When something strange happens on the air there is a record of it. If it's an amusing mistake it will be rerecorded and put on a blooper tape. One of the radio stations I worked for had such a tape and here are my two favorite extracts from it.

NBC News was covering a story about two engineers who went down into a missal silo to do some repairs and couldn't get out again. The news announcer began the program very seriously by saying "This is NBC News trapped in a missal silo."

A woman was being interviewed on the radio whose job was to design very high class, beautiful bathrooms. At the end of the show, the interview thanked the woman for being on the show and the woman replied "So glad to wee with you."

Another example of this sort of idiocy is the man who was announcing the end of a very important coast to coast broadcast of a live symphony orchestra concert. Evidently he was nervous or unprepared or something, but he concluded by saying "And now this is announcer's name speaking. Good night."

I have to confess to you that I am on one of those blooper tapes. I was working for a major radio station in New York City. It was political convention time. I have no idea why I said this and, in fact, I didn't even know I had said it until I came in the next day and they played the tape for me. I have a copy of the goof, and I can play it whenever I want to laugh at myself. I said "Last night Ronald Reagan was nominated for a second term as President in front of thousands of cheering Democrats."

Never measure a person by his failures and mistakes. Measure him by his successes. Because that's the way we want to measure you.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Check out the results of the WINTER QUIZ and the invitation to the SPRING QUIZ below. And have yourself a springtime day.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nurtured Nonsense 3/23/09

Woe to the thinker who is not the gardener but only the soil of the plants that grow in him.

Good spring day to you.
Check below for the answers to the WINTER QUIZ. You'll find them fascinating.
A former colleague of mine, Gregg, used to refer to some people as vacuum cleaner brains, going around sucking up all the scrappy, dusty thinking that is lying around and not paying any attention to right, wrong or value.

It is indeed a woeful state of affairs for the human race that so many people are willing to take what comes along as truth without really thinking about it. Furthermore, it often happens, too often in fact, that the same people will convince themselves that the garbage that exists in their minds are they're own thoughts and ideas. But worst of all, and a product of that kind of lazy mentality, is the fact that those same people won't do any mental planting of their own. Mental mimicry is the rule.

Along with life we have been given the wonderful gift of human consciousness, the matchless ability to observe, ponder, compare, evaluate, reason and imagine. Why do people refuse to use it? Who turned out the lights?

We are faced daily with so many images, expressions, beliefs and contradictions it is very perplexing for people to sift through everything and find something to believe in, so they would rather have some simplistic doctrine to hold onto like a stick of wood in a flood and not bother their busy little heads about figuring anything our for themselves. Ask the doctor, ask the pastor, ask the mechanic. Or find out what everyone else is thinking. A school of fish is a very interesting thing to see as it swims and turns like one creature. Until it swims into a net. A flock of birds is a fascinating thing also until it flies into an airplane.

One of my favorite wise cracks comes from Isaac Bashevis Singer who, when asked if he believed in free will, said "We have to believe in free will, we have no choice." We have no choice because we have been given the ability and right to it. Furthermore, I think we have the obligation.

A good philosopher doesn't tell me what to think. He tells me what he thinks and then asks me to think for myself, So does a good teacher, a good pastor and a good politician.

You wouldn't want people to move their excess, dirty furniture into your home, so don't let someone plant their ideas in your mental soil. Exercise your natural right to pull up the weeds of nonsense and plant only what you want to see blossom.

Vagabond Journeys
Today's assignment:
Watch spring come,

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Murky Milestones 3/22/09

By the time I'm 90, I hope to have it together.

Herbie Mann
Greetings Dear One.
Well now, at last, I'm 20, independent, with my whole life ahead of me, what shall I do with it? Let's see. I've been learning music and playing drums here and there. I can be a musician amd spend my life fussing over drum skins. But then I really enjoy drawing and painting. I should go to art school and be a painter, making sure I always clean my brushes. But I also love the theatre and people say I'm good at it. I could play great Shakespearean roles. "Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear." Then the captain asked me if I wanted to join the police force here. A life in law enforcement isn't a bad life, chasing and arresting bad guys and rescuing little boy's puppies. My father was a ranking Army officer. I could join the Army. He'd be pleased if I did that. Maybe I would go into battle and become a hero as he did. I don't know. I've also written a couple of short stories. Maybe I could be a writer, with a bottle of scotch, an Olivetti and be like Kerouac. Oh well, I guess I'll hitchhike to California and think about it.

Now I'm 30. Married, with financial responsibilities. Working as a radio announcer isn't bad. The pay is good. Of course, it's fairly boring work compared to theatre. But I get to meet interesting people and interview them, "Tell me maestro what brings you to our fair city?", and every now and then I get to do a show that uses my creative abilities, a little bit. I guess I'll just settle down and live out my life as a broadcaster. "At the tone the time will be...."

Now I'm 40, in the prime of life. No longer married. On my own and wishing I had something more interesting to do. I'm an excellent broadcaster, everyone says so, but for some reason it isn't enough. I keep bumping my head on the ceiling and I keep looking for love and not finding it. Everyone around me seems to be troubled, wishing things were different and wishing they were some place else. "Some people sit on their butts, got the dream, yeah, but not the guts" I think I'll move to New York and get back into show business.

Now I'm 50. My acting career is going quite well. I'm not rich or famous but I work all the time and make a living at it, much to the surprise of my brother, my sister and a lot of other people. I feel as vibrant and alive as ever, no vitiation or abatment of my talent and abilities in spite of a less than circumspect life. I've had a few brief but interesting love affairs along the way. "So long D, J, K, N, H, it's been good to know ya" But I've lived half a century, where is all the wisdom I thought I would have accumulated by now? Well, maybe by the time I'm 60 I'll know something.

Now I'm 60. I'm still a busy actor, but I've also discovered that I'm a fairly good painter. I've had some formal training, as I had wanted for many years, and I enjoy painting when I have the time. I've won some awards and even sold a couple of things.
along the way. I found someone I thought was the right woman for me and settled down for a few years. I was wrong. I moved on. She got married. "It was great fun, but it was just one of those things." I travel all over New England and the east coast of America now, acting, and I enjoy it, most of the time. But I'm getting tired of this vagabond life and "these vagabond shoes.". I wish I could settle somewhere.

Now I'm 70. I've retired and settled down in a small town. There's a theatre here I used to work for, but they don't want me anymore, so I have nothing to do. Besides I got a few illnesses that prevent me from working anyway. It's quite painful to stand for a long time or to walk any distance. So now I sit and write everyday and occasionally do some painting. I have no social life here. My housemates are nice, particularly Patrick, but I seldom ever see them. No one visits me or invites me to their home. It's quiet and lonely, but I still have urges. Maybe if I got healthy again I'd go back to the stage. "This old man came rolling home." Who knows?

By the time I'm 80 I will expect I would have more paintings to sell and that some of my stories would have been published, maybe even a novel. I certainly plan to keep writing some more. I enjoy writing and will gladly do much of it if I don't go back to the theatre. I will love to read and listen to music. I will be wondering still what life would have been like as a musician, a policeman or a soldier, what it would have been like if I had done anything but be an entertainer "there's no people like show people," I will be wondering if my life could have been anything else but the life of a vagabond.

By the time I'm 90, I hope....

Laugh, and I'll laugh with you.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Love Lesson 3/21/09

Relationships do not preclude issues of morality.

Jhumpa Lahini
So, we meet again.
"Love thy neighbor as thyself." This ethic is found in every major religion. In the Judeo/Christian tradition it dates all the way back to the Biblical book of Leviticus (19:18). In my boyhood I was taught by example to be prejudicial, judgmental and critical of other people. The habit of automatic criticism was found even within my own family. It took me many years to finally work my way out of that habit. I'm still working at it.

At first, partly out of self defense and partly out of self righteousness I drew circles around myself which excluded almost everyone. I didn't like or trust anyone. The circle became so small that I didn't even like myself much. That caused me to do things that I would eventually regret. As the years went by and the regrets piled up, I soon realized I had to learn to forgive myself. I had been practicing the dangerous technique of self-justification which isn't as powerful or long lasting as the realization of wrong doing and the resultant regrets. Once I stopped that I began to find a way of forgiving myself, and that way lead me to understand how important it was to forgive others. How could I come to any degree of peace with my own errors, miscalculations and wrong thinking if I wasn't able to see the same causes in other people's actions? So I began to embrace the possibilities of regrets and realizations in other people. The angry tide was going out.

But when the tide came back in I also realized that maybe, in many cases, I didn't have to forgive others. There was something beyond tolerance and forgiveness. Why would I have to forgive someone who was being true to a personal ethic he believed in, even if it seemed to be harmful to other people? Why couldn't I give that person the right to straighten out his own thinking? Just as I expected space for myself to grow, other people deserved the benefit of my believing that they could change and redeem themselves. And what better way to begin to assist in the lightening of the mental horizon than by example. After all, that was the way I first learned to hate. Surely it can be used to teach love. Besides, just because a guy thinks differently about certain things than I do doesn't make him wrong.

The courts are busy trying to decide who is guilty and who is not guilty. But they spend no effort on determining WHAT is guilty. No court has any jurisdiction over the way we think, We are very clever at hurling carping criticisms and sarcastic descriptions at people we don't like. But even a casual negative thought is a chip in the wrong side of the scale. People have a right to their errors, their regrets and their efforts to improve. Life is a learning process.

Are there people who are so evil they are totally unredeemable? Quite possibly. You may disagree with me, and you may be right, but I choose to believe that anyone can come out of the darkeness of hate and cruelty no matter how far they have sunk into evil. I believe the anti-ethical, wrong thinker and doer is reformable. I believe the most heinous villain walking the earth today has in him at least a seed of righteousness and that reason, conscience and compassion are stronger than anyone's genetic structure. If I did not believe that I would have no reason to write this journal.

Those who are closest to us are particularly the ones who need to be encircled in our thoughts and cares, No excuses for wrong doing will be of any help to anyone. But drawing attention to the results or possible results of an action based on wrong thinking can be of great benefit to the ones we love if it is not accompanied by the damaging impulse to ridicule and humiliate. In fact, I think it is essential to friendship and it should never destroy that friendship if given and received with love and respect. I learned that from other people.

Over the years I have been very thankful to those friends who were willing to risk my wrath in order to point out some dark wrinkle in my thinking. It's not so much a question of right and wrong, good or evil. Those are concepts very difficult to define and usually depend on circumstances. It's a question of whether there will be harm or benefit to others or to oneself.. It's right, tough or gentle, to love thy neighbor.

Think Spring. Please!
By the way, I'd like to announce that today begins my second year of being a journalist. On March 20, 2008, I received my first comment from an AOL blogger, Robin, and I was so surprised and curious I answered "Who are you?"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kinkily Knack 3/20/09

I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.

Garrison Keillor
Hello special friend.
What is this with reality? It keeps changing. Today's brick wall is tomorrow's mirage. I have seen too many things in life appear to be what they aren't not to be suspicious about the reality of anything.

Reality must certainly be looked in the eye. Let's face facts, as the saying goes. But in the facing of them it's amazing how many of them disappear. I think the focus goes in the wrong direction sometimes. While we are busy facing what we think is the reality of things the true facts are overlooked and silently slip away.

Elizabeth Perry, the actress, once said to me that for her the first thing she needed to know about any role she took was where the play takes place. Place, the physical environment of the story, is one of the most vital elements in preparing a script. A scene played in a kitchen is going to be very differently affected than one played in a field.

I was doing a play in New York and in the play there was a line which read something about working to buy a house and then when you move into the house where are you? One day in rehearsal the director, whose name I have forgotten, said to us that before we start she wanted to deal with some of the realities, so I raised my hand and asked where we were. Were we still in the apartment or had we moved into the house? Her answer was "Oh, I don't care. It doesn't matter where you are." Well, so much for dealing with the realities, I thought. It's a good thing Elizabeth wasn't in the production.

I was looking out of the window of my apartment in NYC one day and across the street there was a restaurant. In front of it was one of those double metal doors, flush with the sidewalk, that leads down into the basement of the building. It was open and a small crowd of people were standing around looking into it. Soon a couple of police cars arrived and the police put a yellow caution tape around the open doors. An emergency vehicle from the fire department showed up.

I had to go out briefly to get something from the local store. While there I asked them what had happened across the street and was told that an old lady had tripped and fallen into the basement. Back upstairs I saw that the crowd of people had grown. The police were holding them back and the owner of the restaurant was there wringing his hands. Shortly an ambulance arrived, two paramedics got out with a stretcher and went quickly down into the basement. They were down there for a long time. People were getting anxious. I was getting anxious. Finally they came back up with the stretcher. No one was in it. They got back in the ambulance and drove off, the police removed the caution tape, the manager closed the double doors and the crowd dispersed. There was no old lady in the basement. There never had been.

When I was a kid every phone call that came into the home was a real one. That reality has gone.

(Journeys of the Vagabond)
Spring is here. What are going to do about it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Joyful Jamming 3/19/09

If they give you ruled paper write the other way.

Juan Jiminez
Fancy meeting you here.
There is a difference between laws and rules. Part of wisdom is knowing the difference, There are civil laws and natural laws. If we disobey the civil laws, there will be chaos in the streets. If we disobeyed the natural laws, the beans won't grow. Some rules are also laws, but other rules are nothing more than habits.

"This is the way to do it," "Why?" "Because we've always done it this way." "Why?" "Because this is the best way to do it." "Have you ever done it any other way?" "No." "Then how do you know it's the best way?"

There are some rules we have to follow. When filling out our U. S. income tax form we have to put the proper information in the proper box or the IRS gets very uppity.

In the arts the rules are broken all the time, thank goodness. I know I wrote about one of my favorite directors, Charlie Hensley, who came into rehearsal one day with a button which read "There are no rules." When I saw that I knew it was going to be a good, productive rehearsal session, which it was. We wrote our own rules.

Arts are not the only place where ignoring and rewriting of rules can take place. Science, business, sports and education are some areas where writing a different way on the ruled paper gets results.

Of course, we have to know the rules before we can break them. My Uncle Harold Cole loved playing baseball when he was young. He carried a rule book in his pocket whenever he played. When there was a dispute about a play, he could take out the book and settle it. He went on to become a scout and coach for a Major League team.

Rules will get changed or discarded when they become useless, out of fashion or improved upon. But we will never know if they become old unless we challenge the use of them and think up a better way of doing things. Writing the wrong way on the paper may not yield good results but it says that you are not being led around by the finger and following the trail of the ordinary everyday traveler.

Don't mistake rules for laws. Follow the rules you choose to follow, otherwise write your own. They may call you eccentric, paradoxical and unorthodox. So what? That's what they call me. And it doesn't hurt.

Spring is coming. Hold your breathe.

Inspired Identity 3/18/09

The cool wind blew in my face and all at once I felt as if I had shed dullness from myself.

Burl Ives
"Each person has one grand life story to be learned, and once learned, must be told." DB - The Vagabond

I think everyone's life is worth at least one book, maybe more. But a book may not be the best or most appropriate way to tell you're story. It may be that you need to tell it in a journal or with songs, poems, pictures or some other art form. It could be told on a sports field or in a business, or an enterprise, maybe in a classroom, a laboratory. or your home.

I thought my life story was being written on the stage until my life turned a corner and disabled me to do any more acting. That forced me to go back to the grid, the ground plan, the blueprint, recollect myself and have another look. It was a cool wind in my face that made me stop and reconsider. It isn't a simple thing to be an actor, heaven knows, but maybe there was more to my identity that I had been overlooking.

It's not easy to understand ourselves. It takes courage, patience, persistence and fact facing. But, thankfully, it also involves being aware of our real values and allowing them to become present in our lives. Even the simplest, homiest life has treasure in it without which the world would be lacking something. The gradual, unchallenged life has courage in it which no one knows about. The famous thinkers of history don't have a monopoly on wisdom. Movie stars don't own all the beauty.

Every person has a vision of existence unlike any other. That's something to be cherished.

In the quiet, mundane moments of life, or in the downward depressed moments when we think that we don't amount to anything, that we aren't worth much and that we really don't care that much about ourselves any way, everything valuable and interesting about us is taking a nap. When it wakes up and starts to function, nothing changes. We are still the same person, the same boring, useless person we thought we were a few minutes ago. But the bubbles start ascending in the glass, the sparklers are lit and the joyful genie is staring back at us in the mirror.

Get to know yourself. Let the cool wind of spring slap you in the face and tell you that underneath that cotton housecoat and polyester jumpsuit you are a fascinating person.

DB (King of the Vagabonds)
Try on a good laugh today and see if it fits.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hiding Harvest 3/17/09

No one wants to know how clever you are. They don't want an insight into your mind, thrilling as it may be. They want an insight into their own.

Mark Haddon
Top o' the mornin' to you.
Aeschylus, if you don't know him, was an ancient Greek playwright. He wrote great tragedies filled with poetry and drama. The world is blessed that some of his plays survive. Many years ago there was a cartoon in The New Yorker of two men in togas at an ancient theatre, standing and talking during intermission. And one says to the other "Oh, Aeschylus is all right, I suppose, but I go to the theatre to relax."

There are many reasons why people go to the theatre or to a concert or an art museum or read a novel. Relaxation may be one of them, but the really great works of art will make you think, maybe not at the moment, but eventually. A true artist knows he has to leave something for the audience member, the viewer, the listener, the reader, to do. When I first started painting I thought I had to completely fill up the canvas with details, until I saw some of the more interesting works by artists like Picasso and Braque. As a viewer I was being asked, no told, to supply information that seemed to be missing. In bookkeeping and other such precision tasks one has to dot every I and cross every T, but not in art.

A good story will leave it up to you to decide certain things from your own knowledge and imagination, if you've been following the story. There is more to the music than the musician plays.

In theatre there is something called "mysteries," but not mysteries in the detective story sense. The playwright doesn't tell the actor everything about the character. It is up to the actor, from his imagination and knowledge of acting and of the play, to fill in details. And at the same time we, as actors, don't give you all the details. We withhold some thoughts, feelings and expressions. We give you 75 to 90%, depending on the play, and let you construct the rest. Next time you see a film or TV drama notice if you are wondering what some character is thinking or feeling. If it's a good performance, with a good script you may not be told. Watch Marlon Brando in almost any film but particularly Mutiny On The Bounty. Every time I watch the film I'm fascinated by what his character is thinking and how he arrives at the decisions he makes.

Look at some delicate Japanese art. There may be a tree and a bridge with a mountain in the background. How you get from the bridge to the mountain is up to you.

Shakespeare, the great and unfathomable, sometimes invites you in to build the drama for yourself. In Henry the Fifth one character says to the audience "Think when we talk of horses that you see them printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth." He tells us to participate in the performance. There will be no horses on the stage, so we had better supply them.

Good artists will not hit every note, write every word nor paint every blade of grass. So you may go to the theatre to relax but if it's any good you'll go home thinking.

DB - Vagabond
Oi'll toon me fiddle and oi'll rosin me bow
And oi'll have music wheriver oi go.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Garnered Genius 3/16/09

Art is either plagiarism or revolution.

Paul Gaugin
Here again are you? Good.
I was a member of the Art Students League of New York City. When I first started life drawing, I was terrible at it. Some of my drawings were embarrassingly bad. There was a woman in the class whose drawings were excellent. Not only did she have a near flawless rendering of the figure but she also managed to capture a sense of life in each piece she did. I would get to the class early, wait until she chose a seat and then sit next to her. I copied. I plagiarized. Out of the corner of my eye I watched to see how she started a drawing and how she continued it, to try to learn from her how to approach the whole problem of drawing the human figure. Thanks to her and my persistence at learning how, I eventually got very good at it, in my own style and manner. Then I noticed that some of the younger students were always sitting next to me and watching me. Okay. It was pay back time.

Artists have always used other artists ideas, all through the centuries. If you listen to 17th Century music you will hear a lot of composers trying to sound like Bach. In the 18th Century there were Mozart copiers. And so on. Today, how many rock bands play in the style of some other band?

But every now and then someone breaks through the tradition. Arnold Schoenberg was well trained in the tradition of Late Romantic German music but one day he decided that all twelve tones were of equal importance. He set aside the tradition of harmonic and intervalic progression and made what became known as twelve tone music, The dancer Isadore Duncan came out on stage, threw herself on the floor and gradually rose up. Something happened then that finally got called Modern Dance. Pablo Picasso drew a portrait one day that showed the face looking front and sideways at the same time. Jackson Pollock took his brush and dripped paint on his canvas. Andy Warhol painted a picture of a soup can. Samuel Beckett wrote a plotless play and some poet, I don't know who, let go of strict meter and let the words dance around themselves.

Each time those things happened there was a massive, silent crack in the sky which almost no one noticed. The world would never be the same. Revolutions had taken place. Right at this moment, somewhere in the world, it is about to happen again.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Get your taxes done. Then celebrate.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Front Facing 3/15/09

It is ungrateful to be wishing you were doing something else at the moment you are living.

Suzanne Farrell
Hello again.
As I am fond of saying: "What's the next step in life? It's the one right in front of you." Life is unfinished business. There is always something to worry about or something to regret. We spend too much time trying to make things go the way we want them to or fruitlessly trying to fix things that weren't right when we did them. And while we're doing that we are missing out on the real life that's going on. The past is stuff for historians who hardly ever agree with each other, and the future is for prophets who are hardly ever right. So where does that leave us? With both feet planted firmly in the "now,"

It's good to make amends if you can and it's good to plan for the future. We all do that. But floating along on a cloud of "maybes" deprives us of the joy of living in the energy beams of the palpitating present.

"Where did it all go?" older people ask. It went right in front of your eyes and you didn't notice it. When I was learning to be an actor, I learned about observation, about seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching as much as I could. Then I asked myself why I was so busy doing that. Soon I learned that it wasn't just to gather information and images but to make a form of personal sense out of them. Like a giant puzzle I was storing up bits and pieces of the world around me to eventually help me put together a meaningful life as a man and an artist. Not a complete picture, certainly, but fragments that could lead me to understand more and to share what I knew with those around me and to learn what their observations had given them. That pleases me, because if we knew everything there is no know there would be no point in living or being with other people, would there?

The great doorway of the mind should always be open for the big and small things to flutter in. Yearning to be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else is a betrayal of where I am, whom I'm with and the life I am actually living.

DB - The Vagabond
Smile at someone who looks sad, even if it's yourself.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Entertaining Enterprise 3/14/09

I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun.

Thomas Edison
Don't stand there. Come on in.
I was talking with a young actor years ago who said that he loved performing but that he hated auditions. I told him that if he wanted to be an actor he had to learn to love all aspects of it: having his picture taken, making up a resume, mailing it out, cold calling, interviews, auditions, memorizing lines, rehearsing, performing. And I told him the following story.

I had an audition one day for a role I eventually got. At the audition there was a reader. Union theatres will provide a reader to help with an audition by reading the other role or roles in a scene. The reader was a young actress. She was sitting to the side. After meeting all the people auditioning me, I took my seat up front where they could see me clearly. The director said to turn to a certain page in the script. As we were doing that the script accidentally slipped out of the reader's hand and fell on the floor. So I threw mine on the floor. Everyone got a chuckle. We picked up our scripts and read the scene. After I read a few more scenes they thanked me, I thanked them, thanked the reader and left.

It was a bright, beautiful winter morning and I felt like walking. So I turned down the avenue and started to stroll along. As I did I said to myself "I really liked what I did in that audition. I was good. I don't care whether I get this job or not, I just had a great time. I enjoyed myself."

Well, as I said, I did get the job, but more than that I learned a great lesson. From that moment on I knew what it was about. I don't go to an audition to get a job. I go to put on my show. To do some acting. To entertain people. Because that's what I do.
And my career picked up after that. I looked forward to auditions because they gave me a chance to please people and to please myself. "It was all fun."

Give yourself some day dream time today.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Defining Device 3/13/09

The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.

Charles Darwin
Happy day to you.
First let me thank everyone who sent me those beautiful birthday greetings. I will get to responding to each one of them individually, because I'm very appreciative.
70 years old? Nonsense! I don't believe it. I must have made it up.
So here we have the great secret, the hidden wisdom, the philosopher's stone, the oracle of wisdom, the arcane knowledge and esoteric truth, the end of all searching, the mother liquor, the universal panacea, the missing link, the holy grail, the chicken soup.

Everything depends on how we think.

In my huge stack of quotations I have one from someone who says "Think before you think." I'll find it and post it one of these days. No doubt you've heard the old saying "You always get what you want, so be very careful about what you want."

The amazing thing is that our thoughts do so mysteriously affect our lives in ways that seem impossible to understand merely because we don't really understand ourselves that well. Now there is nothing mere about understanding oneself. It requires disclipline, effort, patience and facing up to some uglies and facing them down.

Life should come with a warning label: WARNING - Every good thought you have has a negative counterpart which will enter in and try to steal away the good one. Bad, evil, depressing, fearful, hateful, sickening, angry, morbid thoughts are empty things that want to be filled, black holes that draw light into them, worthless travelers that need a place to live, hungry parasites that want to occupy and busy themselves in your mind. And the worst thing about them is that they are very good at masquerading as your own thoughts.

They will create a problem for you and then convince you that you can't solve it. Why do they do that? Because they're nasty. They will persuade you to do something rotten and convince you that you've a right to do it. They will cause you to be negative, pessimistic and depressed and then give you a big bouquet of reasons why you should be.

These are the gremlins of negativity and the only power they have is the power we give them. They will even try to convince us that we don't have any power over them.

Well, forget it. We all have the right to think what we want to think and reap the results. I want my life to be like a sundial, recording the bright hours, Which has more power and permanence? The sun or the clouds?

But what about my feelings? Inexperienced actors will strain, fumble and do some strange and useless things trying to make themselves feel something. A master actor knows that emotions come from images of the mind; thoughts.

Examine thoughts. Accept the ones you want and throw the others out with the trash. "I set before you blessing and cursing" Moses said. Choose wisely.

DB - The Vagabond
May angels dance on your head today.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cheerful Creation 3/12/09

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.

Albert Camus
Greetings invisible friend.
I used to live in the up country of northern New England. The summers there were hot and filled with foliage of all kinds. The mountains.were wrapped in green forests and up above the bright sun would light up the summits. Down below the grass, the bushes, wild things, fields of vegetables and fruits, back yards of flowers were all, humbly or grandly reaching for the sky.

But the winter is an entirely different matter. People who live there know that in the summer and autumn they have to prepare for the winter. Have you got the wood in and the hay, is your furnace working properly, are the car and truck in good shape, is there a shovel in the back just in case, do you have the proper coats, boots, scarves, hats and mittens for your kids? Because when the winter comes, it comes in fierce and it doesn't go away. The snow piles up. Driving is treacherous. Everything freezes. Low lying unoccupied buildings simply disappear. Every day is cold. The evergreen branches are embraced by ice. It seems like the grand forests, the singing fields of corn and the joyous gardens were never there. As though it was all a dream.

But the people know it will be back and that you have to prepare for summer also. Leon Bibb has a song: "one day another spring." It sings about ancient fingers poking seeds into the earth. The "invincible summer" is coming, because it's always there in the hearts of us. The time always comes when the fields are once again filled with life.

There are winters everywhere. They may not last half a year as they do in some places, They may not be outside the door. They may be in the cold of grief and despair, poverty, confusion, disappointment, failure, fear, gloom and doubt. Those are winter winds that blow an angry message to the heart, ice storms we weren't prepared for.

I know what I'm writing about. And as impossible as it may seem, in the midst of winter, "in the depth of winter," caught in a storm of sorrow. is the time to start preparing for joy. Get the seeds ready because "one day another spring" and then "invincible summer," with forests of green, rivers fast and robust with the melting mountain snow, brave, small green things taking the place of the fields of ice, the reappearing happiness that was buried for a while and rejoicing, rejoicing, because that is what we are supposed to do.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Now repeat after me:
Happy Birthday Vagabond

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Basic Boyhood 3/11/09

To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.

Bernard Baruch
Howdy, old timer.
What is this nonsense about age? This week I'm moving from one decade to another. But I don't feel any different. We have become brain washed into measuring our advancement by years. What are years? Numbers. Ridiculous. According to the numbers I am now too old to play some of the roles I used to play when I was too young to play them.

Why don't we have a different measurement for our growth and development such as wisdom, accomplishment or energy level? "How old are you?" "I'm at the 7.42 energy level." "Oh, you're so young yet!"

While it's true that growing old is not for the cowardly or squeamish, I don't think a person really gets "old" in the classical sense, until they decide to. With some men it happens in a strange back door manner. As soon as the specter of age starts creeping up on them they will do outrageous and undignified things to preserve the illusion of youth. Change their apparel, change their social life, swim the Hudson River, bungee jump blindfolded, etc. What Shakespeare calls "second childishness>" All that means is that they have decided to get old but refuse to admit it.

Others will go the opposite route and jump into old age with both feet, start noticing and complaining about every creak, crack, rough and wrinkle, practice the art of the thorough curmudgeon and generally annoy everyone around them.

But then there are others who will go calmly into advanced energy levels with grace and a sense of humor. I knew an old lady who used to laugh at herself with benign amusement when she couldn't remember someone's name.

As for me, I can no longer do some of the things old folks do. I'm not as old as I used to be.

DB - The Vagabond
Do something nice for an ancient one today.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Aggressive Adventure 3/10/09

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing, it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it.

Lord Aston
So I fought, am fighting, will fight.

The Godzilla of debt is not dead but it has been seriously wounded.

I began the day staring at a mighty pile of facts, figures, invoices, letters, credit cards, names and phone numbers. My macho man desire was to go charging into the army of creditors, with my saber slashing right and left, up and down, to see how many of the barbarians I could slay before I was finally cut down.

But instead I decided on the surgical strike method. I let my intuition wander over the pile of information and chose to make a few carefully placed phone calls. It took about 3 hours talking to people all over the country (who are very glad to still have a job, and thus were being friendly), but everything is now under control,or will be by the end of the month.

I learned that being in debt is a terrible thing, though more and more people are falling into that pit everyday, and will be until the new liberalism finally grabs the reins. But fear and intimidation are worse. When you are in debt you just owe money. But to be frightened you give up ownership to your life. Circumstances that threaten you have to be met and dealt with or there will be no rational behavior. Fear is like a trap, which, once you're caught in it, prevents any movement forward or back. If I'm caught in a tub of boiling water, get me out of it, then we'll talk.

I think it's a question of rights. No one has a right to intimidate you or frighten you, and you have a divine right to do whatever you have to do to prevent them. Period. End of sermon.

I want to thank everyone who left me such encouraging comments and emails. I appreciated every one of them very much and I will respond to each one individually and also get back to reading your journals.

DB - The Vagabond
March on.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Zinging Zeros 3/05/09

If you love your life, you have to fight.

Michael Zaslow
Good day, dear friend
"Aye, there's the rub." Do I love my life enough to fight for it?

I knew Michael Zaslow. I worked with him a few times. He played a villainous character on Guiding Light, but he was, in fact a very nice man, a great gentleman and a solid, self assured actor. We were both members of the Circle Rep Lab in New York. Michael finally succumbed to Lou Gehrig's disease but he kept fighting all the way down.

The question on the table is: Do I love my life enough to fight for it? My fight is continuous and I'm surrounded by enemies. To fight is to receive blows, but not to fight is also to receive blows. So what's the point? My only hope is that if I get in enough blows I will weaken the enemy. False hope? Maybe.

But to fight for it? I have debts that are approximately 175% of my yearly income and growing. I can't handle them. I don't answer my phone because the messages are all from people who want their money. Some of the calls are threatening me. And now I have a letter from a savage, notorious Georgia law firm that specializes in taking debtors to court.

Do I love my life enough? I had to walk to the market today to buy a few things. Walking is very painful because of my bad hip. I had to stop and rest twice and there are no benches in this town. It's put down the bags, stand and hold on to a street sign. I have an uncontrollable cough that sometimes has me gasping for breath. I have no teeth left and my eyesight is getting dimmer every year. I have no health insurance.

Do I love my vagabond life? I don't know why I live here. I have no friends or family here. In the 7 1/2 years I've been here no one from this town has ever come to visit me or invited me to their home. There's no work for me here. I checked out the senior center and found no one to talk to. There is no cultural life available to me. I have no joy except in writing.

But do I love it? Ten years ago I was a vital, working actor, in demand on some levels and respected. Over the decade I've watched my life deteriorate into illness, debt and loneliness. And what if I had the money I need? After the debts were paid it would pour into a bottomless bucket of doctors' and hospital bills, drugs and other therapies. And then what? A life of lonely old age. What's to love?

And do I? I'm frightened, poor, sick, very depressed and unable to cope with things any more.

Do I love my life enough to fight?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yearning Yell 3/04/09

All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions.

Set a spell
Hear me yell.
An extremist is one who has all the answers tied up in a nice, neat bag, expressed in broad, dazzling, simple terms, with all of life's problems neatly placed inside a theoretical fur-lined box. An extremist is one who has a vision of the world which is four square, neat, trimmed and clean. An extremist is one who has taken a tack in a direction that does not include the nasty business called tacks of brass. Everything outside of that neat, clean, foursquare view is not a different opinion. It's just wrong.

You can usually tell a group of extremists because they all look alike. They eschew any kind of original thought or behavior for fear of being outside the four square clipped lawn world where every thing is simple and right. Anyone who doesn't adhere to the line and think the way the others do is decidedly dangerous and must be convinced, contained, submerged or destroyed.

Religious extremists, of course, are the worst because whatever they think, they have God on their side. And if they come upon a group of people she don't worship the way they do, those people are mistaken, deluded and, at worst, instruments of Satan. "Hang 'em. Burn 'em at the stake."

Wouldn't life be grand if everyone agreed with everyone else? No. Frankly, it wouldn't. It's the rigorous, respected, commerce of different opinions and ideas that makes civilization work, when it works at all.

One day a group of young people marched down the sidewalk past my building, singing away in unison about something. I didn't catch the whole song but I heard one line that said "for all mankind." I looked out the window and saw that they were obviously on their way to an inspirational meeting of some kind and they were letting everyone know about it. "Let's all join hands and praise the Lord" my way. Those who think they have the solution for all mankind in their pockets and all they have to do is tell people, are on a sidewalk going nowhere.

What is so great about the human race is that there are so many different kinds of people, different races, names, languages, handwritings, occupations, activities, music, traditions, interests, products, styles, hopes, flags, families, dreams, fears, skills, opinions and ideas. They also have souls, and I yearn that they don't give away their souls to some fanatical extremist preaching the "truth" for all mankind.

The Vagabond
Send a prayer.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Xenionic Xylograph 3/03/09

We struggle to mine the ore of experience and to express thee inexpressible, and from the struggle art, poetry and music are made.

DB - The Vagabond
Welcome back.
My first real acquaintance and understanding of that struggle came when I was a teenager and went to see an exhibit of paintings and drawings by Arshile Gorky. Gorky was not his real name. He was born Vostonik Adoyan in Turkey sometime in the early 20th Century, the date is not certain. He was Armenian and when the cruel genocide of Armenians took place he fled to New York City. He had a short life (44 years), his works spanned from Impressionism, through Cubism and into Abstract Expressionism and in that mode he became a pioneer and great influence on other painters.

Gorky had a troubled life. His mother died in his arms from starvation. He and his father were separated. He never achieved financial independence, although his works were well known in art circles and he could not have the family he always wasted. The struggles of a sensitive, creative man to express the inexpressible are clearly seen in his paintings. I saw them that day in the museum.

Since that day I have come to find the same struggle in other artists, like Hoffman and de Kooning, composers like Beethoven, Bartok, Schoenberg and in myself. The artist is always reaching. There is a reaching down into the ore of one's life, trying to bring up sense, answers, truth and something beautiful, and a reaching above to grasp and understand the inextinguishable fire that flashes with spirit and genius and is always just out of reach. As a result the artist is a Tantalus. The art lover, the audience member can never experience the artist's desperate reaching, all they know are the results of that struggle. But that's where the art comes from.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Find some joy today, and share it.

This is not a contest.

What one person, living or not, would you most like to have dinner with?
What is the first question you would ask them?

You have the winter to answer. Please leave your response on my email or journal with your name, or journal title or email address. Thank you.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Weird Ways 3/02/09

One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing.

Morris West
Here we go.
One of the strangest places I was ever in was a small city in the Southwest that was built literally in the middle of the desert. There was a road that came into town, but it didn't go through it. I walked to the end of the road and I was on the edge of the city, There was a sidewalk. Houses were built along the side walk. It turned a right angle and there were more houses, with back yards, trees. bushes and children playing in the yards But when you stepped off the sidewalk you stepped immediately into the desert. If you turned your back to the houses all you would see in front of you was desert. I don't remember the name of that city or what state it was in, but I imagine it has expanded out into that desert by now.

I often think of that experience of taking a single step from civilization into wilderness. To me it was the same as taking a step from the safe and known into the dark world of ignorance. Ignorance is not a bad thing. Stupidity is bad, ignorance is not the same thing. When able to admit my ignorance about something, I am poised to step into the wild world of darkness and doubt. If I take that step it could be scary. What some people call foolishness, other people call courage. One has to agree to walk in darkness before one can see the light.

If some did not have the courage to peer into a telescope or a microscope, to crawl around in dark caves or on the ocean floor, or peek into the machinations of the human mind, we wouldn't know anything.

I once visited a Museum of Philosophy. In it there was a computer program that asked me a series of questions about my beliefs and opinions. Then it came up with a list of philosophers whose writings, more or less, conformed to my own philosophy of things. I thought, how nice, I can read the works of great writers who agree with me. I could bask in the easy sunshine of coordinate thinking.

It didn't take but a few days before I became bored with that idea, and went searching out the rare and troublesome works of thinkers who were antagonistic to my easy, sunny, back porch studies and who posed ideas that were difficult to understand and even harder to harmonize with what I thought was true. I began to grapple with new ideas. Some of them were very ancient, but they were new to me. And I found dark and doubtful places in my own thinking that needed to have a microscope trained on them.

Oh, I'm still ignorant. Who isn't? But that part of my vagabond journey has been fascinating, fulfilling and infuriating. And I won't stop until I know something.

May you hear the silent, distant winds of Spring.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Versatile Voids 3/01/09

At the end of the day it really comes down to the quality of what you're doing.

Michael Vartan
Are you ready? Good.
There was an item in the news about a teenager who lost her job because she complained on her face book about how boring and tedious it was and her boss read it.
That's too bad. But there's a life lesson or two involved in that unfortunate event. One of them, of course, is "keep you big mouth shut" but that's not the important one.

I don't know of any enterprise in life that doesn't have tedious details connected with it that have to be done in order to get to the interesting parts, even in order that some one else can get to the interesting parts.

Unless you have been among the very rare lucky (or unlucky) ones you have had to face a pile of uninteresting details to handle, tedious, time consuming and well beneath your intellectual capacity. No one likes to admit it, because it sounds like a justification of some sort, but the care and excellence with which those tasks are done eventually affects the way the whole enterprise turns out. Another part of that lesson is to learn that excellence itself is the real task and the more one can practice and achieve it the more likely is one to be given the more important tasks.

Yeah, yeah! We know all that! But the fact is you never get away from those little things. What you do is to learn to keep the big objectives in mind.

I have spent my life as an entertainer, but in the beginning I stuffed envelopes, alphabetized address labels, mopped floors, washed dishes, rotated stock, kept files, added columns of figures, usually for businesses that had nothing to do with my career. But I learned to do things correctly and efficiently. I learned what quality of work was.

I played the bass drum in a town band. It takes very little versatility to do that. You just have to keep a steady beat. But the band depends on hearing that beat.

When I got into theatre I found myself doing things like mopping floors, washing dishes and keeping files. And if you think there is no tedium involved in being an actor, try memorizing a major role in a 200 page script. The other actors and the production itself depend on you getting your words right.

It's a matter of respect. Respect for the work, respect for others and self respect. The stage is cleaned, vacuumed or swept, before every performance. Why? It's a matter of respect. The actors get there words right. Why? Same reason. The painter cleans his brushes, The musician keeps his instrument in tune.

To learn to do all things well, and not in a haphazard way, can be learned at the envelope stuffing table and there should be no complaints about it. And that's a lesson in quality that many of our late business leaders evidently never got the chance to learn.

I know people who "can't be bothered" with the details, and then one day their shoes don't fit or their careers don't fit. On the other hand I know an actor who will spend hours with the costume designer .making sure every detail of his clothes is just right so that when he walks on the stage he looks and feels exactly the way his character does.

Excuse me now. I have to wash my dishes.

Carry on.