Sunday, January 31, 2010

Grab The Rope

The earth is still here, the water is still here. And we are still here.

Billy Tayak (Piscatawan)
Why are we still here? Revenge, road rage, kidnappings, murders, the dumbing down of students, the banning of books, stupid, damaging decisions by our courts and congresses, poverty, deprivation, instituted opposition to all progress, suicide bombers, terrorism, torture, weapons of mass destruction, the hydrogen bomb. Why haven't we blown ourselves up long before this? And how close are we to doing it today?

The fact that we are still here is an energy cell of hope. Why hasn't some irrational fellow said "Let's push the button to begin the final war, just to teach people a lesson." Why didn't the invasion of Iraq, the destruction of the World Trade Center or the rise of Al Qaeda start the Big One?

I have heard a lot of interesting (and some bizarre) reasons given from various sources, but I have yet to hear one that satisfies my yearning to know.

Let's say, for the sake of discussion, there are two types of humans. There's a giant tug of war going on. The A team is comprised of reasonable, intelligent, compassionate, positive, forward thinking, humanitarians who seek health, bounty, security and a good life for themselves and their fellow creatures, The B team is comprised of the vicious, unfriendly, untrustworthy, negative, dishonest, ignorant, backward thinking, fanatical, bullies and other morons, who seek to get the better of others and have a constant dislike for everyone but themselves. In between them the rope is wrapped around the neck of civilization. Who's going to win the contest?

We won't know if the B team wins because, if they do, we'll all go up in a puff of smoke. To the victor belongs the spoiled. That's a depressing thought. But also depressing is that if the A team wins, the tug of war will still go on because other morons will come along to fill up the gap, pick up the rope and start tugging again.

The only answer I can see for such a scenario is if enough good people, the intelligent, benevolent seekers for the triumph of humanity get up and join the team. grab the rope and don't let the careless, mindless destroyers have their revenge.

These are serious times, my friends and fellow journalists. You know, if you are a regular reader of Vagabond Journeys, that I avoid polemics as much as possible. But this country is in a mess and the forces that are trying to clean up the mess and restore the nation to a healthy state are being vigorously opposed by forces which are trying to prevent it, the destroyers, the setters up of barricades and idols of stagnation. That opposition comes in a great part from ignorance. But whether it's simple irrationality or gross malevolence it makes no sense and it must be countered every moment by the A team. Complacency won't do.

I know which side I'm on. My frail and feeble fingers are graspomg the rope on the A team side.. Join me.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Tomorrow: Relinquishing the bad.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lesson #27

Successful artistry is also a form of self-discovery - it is the discovery, in the lawfulness of one's actions, of the innermost character of one's intentions.

Aaron Ripley
Every actor has theatre stories, which they will tell on a moment's notice. The longer an actor stays in the business the more stories he will accumulate. This one happened fairly early in my career so I'll call it Theatre Story Number 27.

Acting is doing something. An actor is one who does something. An action is something that is done. It all seems so simple and logical. Right? Then why do some people have such a hard time learning that?

This took place on the stage during a performance of The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov. It was at a moment in the play when most of the characters are getting ready to return to Moscow after having spent the season in the country. The main action was going on in the center of the stage. I was sitting in a chair in the corner near the front. At one moment a servant girl came in, brought me my overcoat and walking stick, I rose, she helped on with the coat, handed me the stick, I thanked her and sat back down. It was a simple moment and didn't detract from whet else was going on.

One night I turned, looked her right in the eye and said "Thank you." she smiled and left. When I sat back down it was one of those moments of realization when your life goes from black and white to technicolor. What had happened?

Wht happened was that she really helped on with my coat and I really thanked her. She didn't pretend to help me with the coat and I didn't pretend to thank her. I really thanked her, genuinely. It was a moment of real contact between two human beings. This flesh and blood was talking to that flesh and blood, person to person. And it was, for that moment, the only thing happening in the universe.

I don't remember the girl's name. In fact I don't think I ever knew it. She was probably a student brought in to take care of a few simple tasks during the play.

What that experience taught me was that acting is doing something. Not pretending to do it, not acting as if you were doing it, not showing the audience that you're doing it, but actually doing it.

Naturally, on the stage we shoot blanks and choreograph fights. But the real intention to kill or harm has to be there to make anything real.

After that experience I was able to play any scene with the honest intent to act out the events. And when I worked with other actors, particularly older, experienced actors. I could actually look them in the eye and genuinely talk to them, genuinely listen to them, genuinely respond to what they said, genuinely feel the intensity of the emotions and let the audience eves drop on the event. I'll never forget that moment, which happened every night after that, and that girl, whoever she was and wherever she is, who helped me learn a great lesson in acting, and gave me Theatre Story Number 27.

DB - The Vagabond
Tomorrow: A desperate tug of war.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Stand Up Tregedy

Only when we have drunk from the river of darkness can we truly see.

Brother Theodore
In 1906 Theodore Gottlieb was born to a very wealthy Jewish family in Germany. Around 1940 he was taken prisoner by the Nazis and sent to Dachau concentration camp where he witnessed German soldiers laughing as they watched prisoners being tortured to death. He never saw his family again.

He signed over his wealth to the German government to obtain his freedom. In Austria he found Albert Einstein, a family friend who arranged for him to come to America. He did janitorial work in California, but was also an expert chess player and made money at chess tournaments.

He appeared in a few films, made many TV appearances and eventually, back in New York, had a regular nightclub act as a comedian. In his 80's he was a regular guest of David Letterman.

His humor was dark and strange. One of his famous monologues was about why people should not eat food. He frightened some people with his intensity, but he had a loyal and dedicated following of fans. His gallows humor did not appeal to everyone. But those who know that there isn't anything in life that doesn't deserve to be laughed at, including me, appreciated and enjoyed his work.

"I'm the bride at every funeral, the corpse at every wedding."

"I don't understand music but I like the noise it makes."

"I've always aimed at nothing and I've always hit it."

"I find it hard to still in one spot and impossible to sit still in two spots."

"Fear of life is only matched by fear of death. I have both."

"Doctors are quacks and so are their patients. Only the Coast Guard is honest."

His tombstone reads "As long as there is death there is hope."

His humor may sound morbid to some, but in the dark, cruel, vicious and macbre world it's the comedy of one who knows what's in the shadows and can laugh at it. Bless him.

The title of his act was "Stand Up Tragedy."

Brother Theodore, may he rest in pieces.

Tomorrow: Theatre Story #27
(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
15 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shake Down The Trash Bag

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

Alvin Toffler
I am a member of the human race. sometimes I wish I had a choice in the matter. With the human mind as grand and powerful as it is, why do people insist on not using it? I read the liberal press and the conservative press because I feel I have the right to know what people think. And what I find out is that most people don't think. They react and call it action. They hold beliefs which they call knowledge. They express opinions which they call truth. They condemn and call it justice. They hate and call it righteousness. They provoke and say it's civic duty. They practice vengeance and say it's equal rights. The attempt to deprive others of their civil liberties under the name of family values. They slap simplistic labels on just about everything so that they don't have to think about it. Instead of being original they settle for being a carbon copy. Instead of being an independent thinker they join a gang. They are squeamish, cowardly, depraved and morally corrupted, and they don't even know it.

There are those living today whose beliefs and opinions are solidified, cast in stone and set up in the cemetery of the mid 20th Century. One hopes and expects that worn out prejudices have disappeared from society only to find them cast up on the shores of the world like detritus from some sunken ship.

There are still cloudy minded folks who claim that the reason for homeless people is that they refuse to work. Others are certain that every effort to improve society and make it more compassionate is a move toward communism. I have read articles that claim any differing point of view as a conspiracy. People are stuck in the mud of old fetid ideas, washing in the swamp and eating the garbage they are fed by those who refuse to "learn, unlearn and relearn."

It's not that people don't look. It's that they don't see. They listen but they don't hear. They criticize everyone's behavior but their own. They make the same mistakes expecting different results, and when they don't get them they blame someone else.

I am a 20th century man. I was born during the second World War. I was in high school during the Korean War and the McCarthy witch hunt. I was a young man during the Viet Nam War and the revolution of the 60s. As I grew up I watched the amazing rise of technology. I know that old ideas were once new ideas, but now those ideas belong on the Antiques Road Show, not on radio, TV, the pulpit and the Congress.

Tomorrow: Brother Theodore

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Few words

A multitude of words is no proof of a prudent mind.

As I approach my 71st I find I have three real pleasures: writing, painting and reading. When I sit down here to write, even though I'm a mediocre typist and have to do a lot of editing, I enjoy it so much I don't want to stop. Hence my emails and journal entries can be verbose, a multitude of words. Terseness is not my forte.

When I'm painting I also don't want to stop. Each dab of the brush leads to the next one and I love to see the forms and colors rise in front of me.

But it is while reading that I feel my life is moving forward. For 50 years I was more interested in getting roles and acting them. Reading was an obligatory thing. I was considered by some to be not well read and intellectually behind the pack. It wasn't true, but since I only knew about things that interested me there were holes in the tapestry of my knowledge. I was never a well rounded student, thank goodness.

When I first became interested in philosophy I was drawn to the great old masters: Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. The first two left volumes of writing behind. Socrates who taught both of them never wrote down anything philosophical, as far as I know.

Then I became curious about what was happening before Socrates. Both Plato and Aristotle made reference to some early philosophers. Of course, as long as there were thinking humanoids, there must have been philosophers. It was then that I uncovered (as if they had been buried in ancient tombs) Anaximander, Anaximenes and Thales (pronounced th, as in think, long A, leez, more or less), who lived during the 6th Century BCE.

He was known as Thales of Miletus, the first Western scientist and Bertrand Russel said Western philosophy begins with Thales. So here was one important guy.

Two of his famous achievements were accurately predicting an eclipse of the sun which, when it occurred, stopped a war. and determining the height of an Egyptian pyramid by measuring its shadow at the same moment when his own shadow equaled his own height.

He must have written things but there isn't much left except fragments and quotes. He probably took his own advice and, unlike me, was a man of a few words.

DB - The Vagabond
Tomorrow: The Dumbed Down Human
(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
14 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

A Tale Of Two Russians

Let our artists rather be those who are gifted to discern the true nature of the beautiful and graceful.

These are the amazing stories of Arina Gordienko and Vladimir Dukelski. The lives of these two people fascinate me because they are stories about surprises, the unexpected and the happy results of being uprooted and having one's life drastically changed.
Arina Gordienko was born in a small remote village in for northern Russian, closer to Alaska than to Moscow. Wherever this little Cossack girl went she saw nothing but the fields of relentless arctic ice and snow. When she was 4 years old the family moved to the Ural Mountains. Upon awaking the first morning she was amazed to see, for the first time in her life, flowers. She was so astonished at the colors and so afraid they would be covered over by the whiteness of the snow she was used to that she went immediately to work trying to capture the colors before they disappeared. It was at that moment she became an artist

She painted everywhere she could, on walls, doors, furniture, fabrics, clothes. As she grew older she studied at art school and was very influenced by the Russian school of drawing and painting. Quite by accident she heard about the University of Arts in London, England. She applied, was accepted and eventually received a Masters in Fine Arts. Now she lives in England and exhibits in galleries in Europe and America.

" I believe that we all create the World within our energy and I do believe in the Power of the Universe."

Arina Gordienko

Vladimir Dukelski was born in a railroad station in Minsk. His parents were of the nobility and he received a good education which included a lot of musical training. He began composing serious music at an early age, symphonies, concertos and other works.

When the Bolshevik Revolution came the family fled to Turkey were they lived for a year or so. They then found passage to New York where they passed through Ellis Island. In New York Vladimir met George Gershwin. That meeting changed his life.
Vladimir continued to write classical music, much of it was performed by famous orchestras. He wrote a ballet for Serge Diaghelev in Paris.

Vladimir served in the US Coast Guard during the war.

Under the influence of Gershwin Dukelski began writing popular music, songs, some Broadway Shows and some film music. He eventually became an American citizen under his new, now famous, name: Vernon Duke.

Autumn in New York
The gleaming roofs at sundown
Oh, Autumn in New York
It lifts you up when you run down.

Vernon Duke
An artist is one who lives on the edge of discovery, who picks up the stone that others don't see, who dares to hear the silence and describe the invisible. An artist is one who must.

DB - The Vagabond

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Can anyone tell me how I can permanently block Anonymous from entering a comment on my journal? I can't even delete the current comment. I'm not posting another journal entry until I know. I deleted my whole last posting. It was the only way I could get rid of the Chinese pornography from anonymous.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Who's this DB?

I am better than my reputation.

Friedrich Schiller
One year I had a job conducting seminars in public speaking. A speaker who is attempting to convince others will face three different groups of listeners: those who agree, those who disagree and those who aren't sure. Those who agree will continue to agree, those who aren't sure can be convinced, those who disagree will probably continue to disagree but they might be turned into those who aren't sure.

One inharmonious fact of life is that the moment you put yourself out into the public, to any degree at all, you will create those who disagree, and sometimes that disagreement can be very damaging. Other than the degree of exposure, it doesn't matter whether you are an Internet blogger or the President of the United States. As soon as you put yourself out there you will be under attack, either by anonymous trolls or life threatening assassins. And character assassination is one of the cherished forms of offense by the offensive.

What does DB stand for? Desperate Bachelor? No. Dumb Bozo? Maybe. Deep Brain? Possibly. Dear Brother? I hope so. Dilapidated Bum. Most likely. When people learn my real name I advise them not to Google me because they will probably read all sorts of things about me that aren't true.

I was never a star. I never hit the pages of People or TV Guide. But I had a public face as all performers do and had to read and hear the gossip surrounding me from those who could only be described as enemies.

What causes that enmity? Envy, an inferiority complex or it's opposite, judgmentalism, orneriness or the absurd notion that if you're out there somehow they own you. I was on the air one night when a fellow called and told me he had opinions about my work and since I was a public person he could say anything he wanted to me. He really believed that. I politely cut the conversation short.

Some people think they have private information about your secret life which you are trying to hide and which they can "leak" to the press. And, of course, the press will eat it up whether it's true or not. They can always publish a disclaimer later. But in the meantime it has become legend and part of your archive and reputation.

The only way to avoid falling into the talons of such predators is to become a complete hermit. And there are a few people who have done that, I guess. I like living alone most of the time, but the hermit's life is not for me. I enjoy knowing other people. And if anyone wants to know the deep, dark, mysterious secrets of my life, they can ask me. And I might tell them. Or I might tell them to mind their own business.

In the meantime, eschewing the false faces pasted on my reputation by those whose lives are hollow otherwise, I remain:

Respectfully yours,
(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
15 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Puzzle

Sunday Puzzle
One. two
How do you do.
Below is a list of Jazz Greats, first two name only. You were asked to supply their last names.
There was only one response and it's a winner.
So the solid linoleum music stand goes to salemslot9 of the Blogspot Tigers.
David Warren - Dave Brubeck
Benjamin David - Benny Goodman
Edward Kennedy - Duke Ellingotn
Thomas Wright - Fats Waller
Earl Kenneth - Earl Hines
John Birks - Dizzy Gillespie
Nathaniel Adams - Nat King Cole
Francis Albert - Frank Sinatra
Gerald Joseph - Gerry Mulligan
Ernesto Antonio - Tito Puente
I'm going to quit these weekend contests. It seems that other bloggers have more interesting ones.

Shaving Day

I shaved off my beard and moustache today in honor of Winter. Now I no longer look like Sasquatch. It's night now, when daylight comes I'll have a look and see what I'v done. I know I no longer look like Bogart. Those days are over. But maybe there's something left.

Sanctum Sacriligium

I care not for a person's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.

Abe Lincoln
I am the beggar on the steps of the temple asking for and living on alms. There is no bench between here and the market. There is one stone about knee high. I sit on that to rest with my groceries at my feet, my cane in my lap and mutter out loud to myself as an old man should. Those who pass by think there's a crazy old man sitting there. And they;re right. I sit in the cave staring at the shadows on the wall. I am one who knows they are only shadows that others call realities. As with others before me and after me I try to interpret those shadows.

I am a caricature, a cartoon, a shadow on the wall that resembles an old man with a cane who mutters to himself and never goes to church.

I will remain on the steps and not enter the temple because I've been inside and I know it is a magnificent and beautiful chamber of hypocrisy. Inside is preached the negation of life, the removal of the vital forces of existence, the degrading of the innocent, the veil that covers true holiness,. The great door of the temple is an invitation to enter the sanctum of false security, to relax into the arms of unreason, to join in the celebration of a paradigm of delivery to an unknown source and to emerge cleansed and purged of the need to affirm any responsibility for ignorance and wrong doing.

Humanity is dressed in white robes of purity which cover up the sweat of true worship if there is any.. I no longer listen to what men in pious robes or everyman costumes tell me what God thinks, says, does or doesn't do. The simple fact is they don't know. They are staring at the shadows in the cave like everyone else. Concepts of God change with the flickering decades.

They can hang the Ten Commandments on the wall if they want to, but a plaque on the wall is not going to save anyone. There is no less paganism today than there ever was. Once outside the temple people go about worshipping the old gods of money, power, medicine, war, litigation, vengeance, hatred, exclusivity, status, prejudice, bias, ignorance: subtle sorcery, beliefs and practices of every shape, size and color.

One may get to heaven by being good. Good is what we are supposed to be. But leave me the freedom to try to be better than good. Don't coax me to accept your faith. Don't pray for my immortal soul. No one has the right to do that. Don't quote scripture to me. I've read it over myself many times. I wonder how many pious pseudo deists, including the ones in the robes, visit the fatherless and widows and keep themselves unspotted from the world.

I will practice my religion, if I practice any, at home, away from the candles, choirs and cheering mobs. And I know my dog and cat, if I had them, would prefer it that way.

DB - The Vagabond
Sunday Puzzle
One. two
How do you do.
Below is a list of Jazz Greats, first two name only. Your mission is to supply their last names.
Good luck.

David Warren
Benjamin David
Edward Kennedy
Thomas Wright
Earl Kenneth
John Birks
Nathaniel Adams
Francis Albert
Gerald Joseph
Ernesto Antonio
I await your answers.

Weekend Puzzle.
Sing along.
It's fun and easy.



First prize goes to Just Plain Bill of the Blogspot Tigers
Second priae to Salemslot9 also of the Tigers
The Lion never left the holding pen.


Well, this is one of those songs that you hear now and then, you don't know just where and you don't know just when. It's one of those songs that are over and then its one of those songs that start playin' again. Yes it's one of those songs that you hear for awhile that comes into fashion then goes our of style. It's one of those songs that you think you forgot. But it's one of those you cannot.
Jimmy Durante
Good night Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tickle The Phantom

Everything has been figured out, except how to live.

October 17, 2009, a day of infamy in my life, was the day my computer abruptly stopped letting me on the Internet. During the 6 weeks I was marooned I spent a lot of money and logged many hours on the phone talking to tech support people from the computer company, the service provider and AOL. Some of them were nice people, some were not. Some were smart people, some were not. Some were knowledgeable about how to fix things, some were not.

One evening in the midst of my struggle and anguish I spoke to a fellow from Verizon who was obviously intelligent and who knew how computers work and how to be respectful and helpful. He did some tests and came up with a piece of information which eventually led to help solving a part of the problem. When he was finished he said "Is there anything else i can help you with?" I said "No. unless you can tell me the real meaning of life." He laughed and said he hadn't figured that one out yet. I told him that I was 70 and didn't have the answer either, so good luck. We both shared a laugh over that.

Jean-Paul Sartre, 1905 - 1980 was a French philosopher, playwright and novelist. I performed his play "No Exit" once years ago. Sartre was so important to the world that, even though there was no official count, it is estimated that over 50,000 mourners attended his funeral.

During the war he served in the French army, was captured by the Germans and spent many years as a prisoner. It was then that he started writing.

Sartre was an Existentialist, which means, among other things, that he had an understanding and appreciation for the absurd, an awareness of the idiosyncrasies of the human race, an ability to cheerfully face the mysteries and uncertainties of life, in short, a sense of humor.

I owe, in part, to Sartre my own sense of humor, which allowed me, even in the midst of terrible and seemingly unsolvable computer problems, to share a laugh with a stranger over this strange and impenetrable thing called life.

DB - The Vagabond
Try on a laugh today and see if it fits.

Weekend Puzzle.
Sing along.
It's fun and easy.



Good luck.
1 right ansawer so far
Have fun.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Here's a quicky.


If anyone is paying attention.

4 are new
1 is west
2 are north
2 are south

What are they?

Answer: States

3 responses. Winner: Sienna, of the email lions.
Second place the Just Plain Bill of the Blogspot Tigers

Her Moon, My Tree

When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.

Susan Sarandon
I once knew a teenage girl who said that she felt the moon belonged to her, that it was her moon. I understood what she meant. She was a sensitive, creative person. She wasn't a lunatic. Nor did she have a fantasy about holding the deed to a piece of heavenly real estate. It was that she related to the moon and the moonlight on a very personal basis, embracing it and being embraced by it.

Sometimes, rarely, I will look up to a window in an apartment building and I will know who lives there, I've never met them, I don't know their names and I've never been in the apartment, but somehow I feel like I am one of them. They are my family.

There is a painting by Henri Matisse called "The Piano Lesson." It resides at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. I know that picture. I know the little boy sitting at the piano. I know what he is thinking and how he feels and I know the patient concern of the woman sitting behind him. It is my painting. I joke that someday I'm gong to steal it. Which I would never do even if I could.

There is a tree growing out of the side of a cliff at the top of a hiking trail in Conway, New Hampshire. I had to get dangerously close to the edge of the cliff in order to look at it. It flourishes, It bends upward to catch the sun. Birds come and visit it. Every year it pulls back it's sap and sleeps and in the Spring it puts forth buds and grows. If it were to push away some of the rock on the cliff and send it falling, it would still thrive because it has purchased its life from the solid, vibrant earth behind the rocks.

I will never see that tree again. But I know it's there and I know it lives. It's my tree.

DB - The Vagabond

(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
13 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Letting Things Get Done

When you're young you rush to get it done.
When you're old you dwell on the doing of it.

DB - The Vagabond
Oh, woe is me, I have too much to do. When will I ever get it done?

The fact is a lot of what I have to do is stuff I've decided to do. That's a trick we play on ourselves. We make plans and then suffer under the burden of carrying them out. Then we complain about how much we have to do and how difficult our lives are. Growing older and thus slowing down gives one a perspective about the burdens of life.

I am sometimes amazed at what I do get accomplished during the day. It's a sunny day here and this afternoon I have to go to the market. If I don't I'll run out of coffee and other things. (No, no, that won't do.) Coming back from the market with a bag of groceries is a hard and painful thing. I have to stop and rest a few times, even though there is no place for a geezer to sit. This town evidently feels that if we sit down, we'll get comfortable and stay until the cobwebs form.. When I finally reach the house I sit an the front porch for a moment and say "I did it." I don't have to rush. The milk is not going to spoil on the way.

Another important perspective one will gain by slowing down and considering one's path is that if the opportunity is in place along with the resource to do it, the task is already done and one can enjoy the unfolding of it. The obstacles and interruptions along the way are not going to prevent the job from being done if the desire is there The milk is not going to spoil.

Oh, woe is me, I have stories to write, blogs to check on, a journal to keep, pictures to paint, books and magazines to read. Since when should pleasures become burdens? Yesterday I did two loads of laundry. The books didn't disappear. The milk didn't spoil.

Youngsters will rush off in a blinding snow storm or in the sizzling oppressive heat of summer to get the latest CD or DVD because they gotta have it. Now! The oldsters will drop in the next time they pass the record store and see if they have it and they'll do a bit of browsing while they're there. No spoiled milk yet.

You rush through school to get your diploma and how much of your education do you remember? Only what grabbed your attention. Then there are deadlines. If you don't get things done on time, even though you hurried, the boss will be upset. Who runs your life, you or your boss? It's your milk and it won't spoil.-

The best and only legitimate kind of discipline is self-discipline. The market here closes at 8, so I have to get there soon, but first I have to make a list. Oh, woe is me, I have to make a list. Why do I make a list? So I won't forget anything? Maybe. But also because, like most people, I enjoy making lists. It takes time to make a list, time away from getting to the market. I'm not worried. The market's milk won't spoil.

I make a journal entry every day. Oh, woe is me, I have to write another one. What will I write about?

The funny thing is I just wrote it. and on the way I stopped to have lunch and later to take a nap. Fresh milk here.


(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
13 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For The Land's Sake

Above all, try something.

Franklin Roosevelt
Every time I type the word "America" I'm aware that the word has two general meanings. One is the Untied States and the other is the Western Hemisphere. That duality poses an interesting fact for any thinking person to dwell on.

Many US citizens have a limited knowledge and point of view about who they are and where they came from. For one thing, the first immigrants to the western world did not come from Europe, but from Asia. No one is quite sure when that happened but the theories range from 10,000 BCE to 40,000 BCE. They probably crossed the Bering Sea into what is now Alaska, moving east and south. Some may have come on boats from the western coasts of the Pacific Ocean.

Around 1,000 BCE the Vikings came over into Greenland and Vinland but didn't stay. European migration to the new continent began in the 15th Century CE. They were relative newcomers.

The New World was supposedly first called America by a German cartographer named Martin Waldseemuller after Americus Vespucius, an explorer from Florence, Italy and the first man to see the New World. Amerigo Vespucci, to use his Italian name, probably never knew that the new continent was named for him. The name of the New World would be "Americus" but that Waldseemuller noted both Europe and Asia were feminine names, thus "America" it became.

Each new wave of immigrants brought their culture and traditions with them. Then they adapted, altered, improved, innovated, survived. They also brought their languages. All the world's languages are spoken in America, some are only spoken here, Spanish is the most important langusge, followed by English and Portuguese.

Everywhere and every time the immigrants came they explored and developed. That history has not always been a good one. The immigrants also brought diseases the local people were not capable of rejecting. They killed many. More were done in by war and enslavement. But that's history for you.

Exploration and development is still happening on various levels. There are probably parts of Canada that haven't been completely discovered. Every now and then a remote tribe is discovered in the Brazilian jungle, people who've never heard of cameras, cars or computers. There may even be places in the United States not seen yet and upon which no human has yet set foot.

So here are two continents and surrounding islands, still growing, still adapting, still innovating, still trying to survive.

Last week a small piece of America was almost completely destroyed. Thousands died, many more are lying in pain, the destruction of the nation was rampant, a finger of the great body known as America was almost amputated. Every American should rush to save it. America owns Haiti.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Choice Choices

Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.

Bob Dylan
I don't want to hear the world complain
I want to go out and feel the rain.

I don't need a religious path
I just need a nice hot bath.

I don't want a ring in my nose
I just want to don my comfortable clothes.

Let the others groan and gripe
I'll just sit and smoke my pipe.

I don't need those strange tattoos
I just want to wear my comfortable shoes.

I don't need to ride a motor scooter
I'd rather write on my computer.

I don't need long gray hair
I want to sit in my comfortable chair.

It doesn't matter how I look
I'll just sit and read my book.

I don't want to fret and fear
I'd rather have a glass of beer.

I don't need to own a gun
I'd be friends with anyone..

I don't want to be ordered and led
I want to lie in my comfortable bed.

Enough of trouble, strain and strife
Give me the serene and simple life.

DB - The Vagabond
May you have a joyful day.
(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
13 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK and The Meatball

There is a thing in New York City called The Meatball, not to be confused with the soft ball, the snow ball or the paint ball. The meatball is practiced by a certain element in New York society. It crosses color lines, political lines and can be found in the most unexpected places. To be sure the meatball can be practiced in other cities but not with the skill and tenacity of your average New York meatballer.

The meatball is a situation in which there is constant and purposeful lack of communication and misunderstanding. It's usually of a verbal nature. Once you're in the meatball it's near impassible to get out without help.

Because Martin Luther King was such an important person the city of New York named a high school after him. One day I had to talk with one of the teachers at that school. I didn't have the phone number for the school but I had the information number for the New York Board of Ed, so I dialed it.

"I'd like the number for the Martin Luther King, Jr. High School please."

"Sir, we have no Junior High School by that name."

"It's not a Junior High School, it's a High School,"

"What is the name of this school?"

"The Martin Luther King Jr. High School."

"Sir, I thought I explained that we have no Junior High School by that name>"

"It's not a Junior High School, It's High School named for Martin Luther King Jr."

Now even as I said that I knew I was up to my chin in the Meatball and she knew it and she wasn't going to let me out until she had had her fun. One ting of frustration in one's voice will tip off the meatballer, you see.

The conversation went back and forth like a game of squash until she finally had enough pleasure for the day.

"Oh, you mean the Martin Luther King Junior High School "


"Why didn't you say so. One moment please." She had a definite grin in her voice.

If you visit New York watch out for the meatball. But if you find yourself in one be patient,you will eventually get out,


Thank you.

Thank you Pacifica62, Salemslot9, Gerry, Wes and Just Plain Bill for your comments on OTHER VOICES. You folks really got the message. And thank you to everyone who read the entry. I didn't get the readership I was hoping for. Certainly not enough to match the work I and the other writers put in on it. We played to a small house,

But the entry is still posted here and still floating in Email land in case anyone wants to discover what some of my journal buddies did.


Friday, January 15, 2010


The reward of all high performance must be sought within itself, or sought in vain.

Nathaniel Hawthorne
There are moments of experience in a live performance which are transcendent. Though there is never anything ordinary about the performing arts, there are times when the scroll of the expected rolls back and reveals an unexpected and indescribable lifting up into a higher level, an inspiration beyond what is already there woven into the performance. The actor, singer, dancer is taken over by it and the performance appears to be happening on it's own, with the performer there to provide the voice and body. If you are in attendance at one of those moments, either on the stage or in the audience, you are invited into an experience the memory of which you will never forget. It may last for a few seconds or an hour, but for the time it lasts it is as if the world, with all its complications, has been left behind and you have been transported to the place where genius lives.

It can be experienced in a live performance. You may see strokes of excellence in a film or a recording but it is not the same. For one thing, you weren't there when it happened and for another you know what to expect. You know what to expect because the piece has been edited, shots have been taken over again and spliced together, music has been added and other elements have been involved in the final production. You are not facing the live, flesh and blood performer at the same moment in the same room. There is no substitute for that. Every actor I know has experienced those moments and yearns for them. That kind of inspiration is what all the hard work is for.

I made a series of appearances one month on the soap opera All My Children and on my last day of work, when my character was disappearing from the story, the three full time actors I had been working with wanted to take me out for a drink. I had to decline because I was in rehearsal for a workshop production elsewhere. It was a small, non paying, invited audience production. But when I told them they looked at me with envy and sadness, and one of them said "You're in a play??!!" Those actors had high paying steady jobs, but they never got to set foot on the stage.

I have had the great good fortune to have been in the audience during some of those magical moments: including: Paul Scofield in A Man For All Season on Broadway, The Newport Jazz Festival jamming in Carnegie Hall at about two o'clock in the morning, Rudolf Nueyev in the last act of Sleeping Beauty with the New York City Ballet, Mabel Mercer at the Cafe Carlisle when she sang "Both Sides Now,' Placido Domingo in Die Walkure at the Metroplitan Opera (about which Bernard Holland, the music critic of the New York Times, wrote that if you were at that performance you were in the presence of the stuff of legend), Percy Sledge at the band shell in Damrosch Park (which I have written about), The clown Otto Griebling, opening act of the Ringling Brothers Circus, Madison Square Garden, The Los Angeles Philharmonic performing the Symphony number 2 by Brahms at Carnegie Hall. These and others are all moments in my memory when I was taken by the heart and mind and lifted up into a spiritual place.

And I've had my own experiences over the years. The first one I remember was in a one character silent play by Samuel Beckett, the play and the role had taken over so completely I forgot there was an audience. I was startled when the applause came. When it was over I wondered what it was that had happened to me. Another time was the opening night of A View From The Bridge in New York when at the final moments the role took over. During one performance of Seymour, a play by Joe Pintauro, Off-Broadway in New York I gradually became aware of the audience because they were totally silent. I had been somewhere else and they came along. I could cite other examples.

But the point is this, enjoy your films, recordings and CDs, you may even witness inspiring performances, but it is not the same . You have to be in the same space. It may even be a live broadcast you see, but it is still not the same. You have to be where the performer is, either in the audience or on the stage, in order to really go on the journey.

I have asked some of my actor friends who have been on the journey to contribute their own thoughts, feelings, experiences and wisdom to this article. Please read on and enjoy what they have to say.


My dear DB -- you requested my experiences which transcended the ordinary performances which I have seen and been a part of in my career. Years ago in Cambridge I witnessed Robert Morse in "Tru" which as you know, is the fictionalized version of an evening in the life of Truman Capote. Watching Mr. Morse was an experience which has never been duplicated in my experience. It was truly a magical evening and gave meaning to the word artist as applicable to an actor.

I watched Rudolph Nureyev (sp?) in "Don Quixote" and was transported to another world and knew that humans were capable of transforming themselves into gods and goddesses.
I recall sitting on the stage because the house was packed listening to Bobby Short in Provincetown many years ago hearing him perform "Sand in my Shoes" and a medley of Cole Porter and knowing that this was a man I wanted to spend my life with or in lieu of that just listening to him sing. I soon learned that even spending one evening with Mr. Short was never an option.

As for my own experience in performance I can recall only one evening in the play "Adam and the Experts" which deals with Aids in which my character Ensemble Woman gives a speech which starts out rather comedic but then quickly turns into sorrow as she recalls the death of her only son. The audience was silent and then burst into applause at the end of my monologue. Apparently tears were streaming down my face of which I was unaware.
Be well

instances of inspiration and truth - and why

Father coming for a son without knowing his sonny boy's a man. *Old
Mahone's first entrance "Playboy of the Western 'World"

I was trying to find my way to get into Old Mahone, banging sticks
against trees, finally finding a good strong staff, and then
approaching the top of the amphitheater prior to descending, suddenly
realizing that the son I had come to find, and drag back home had
killed me with that last shovel blow to the head - I was a ghost, and
he was forever a man. My father always called me "Sonny Boy, stand
straight, you don't see me slouching. He was a hearty barrel chested
Swiss - met my mom on Mount Hood, where he was guide and carpenter.

Coming to an absolute certainty before entering the cell that I had
been proven by the death of a soldier that I was not able to do the
job I had sworn to do, protect, and only someone else or something
else could. *A Few Good Men"

After a terrible day teaching, feeling wholly inadequate to fulfill
the great need of students dependent on me, backstage my hands were
icy before our opening, and I was almost unable to be still at one
moment, or move for being frozen the next - five minutes, four
minutes, three minutes before needing to enter, I tried to breathe and
accept that I couldn't control what I was feeling, and as I stretched
out my body, I found myself becoming the dedicated, patriotic Captain
Matthew Andrew Markinson, acknowledging I could no longer do the job I
was hired to do, admitting my disillusion and despair, and made my

I agree with the transcendent moments of a live performance. I have always taught my acting students that there are four main components in training the actor's instrument. The head (intellect) the heart, (emotion) the body, (physical) and the soul,(spiritual). Most acting performances you see have plenty of the first three, but when you see a performance that includes the soaring away of the spiritual, something happens that takes you to another place.

Several years ago, I saw an actress perform Nora in 'A Doll's House' by Ibsen, on Broadway in NYC, ( the name of the actress escapes me) who so embodied that role that people were weeping in the audience. I will never forget that moment, that role, and of course why Ibsen was well, Ibsen. Of course, a great play can offer the opportunity for an actor to find this 'transcendence' but it is up to the actor to find the channeling nature of the role. Stanislavsky, the great Russian acting teacher believed that an actor could reach this transcendence by an actual 'possession' of the spirit of this character, which I always thought was a radical notion. After experiencing this a few times on stage, it was still radical, but oh so true. Of course he also taught that within the technique he was teaching, if King Lear was going to 'possess' you on stage, you also needed to know how to 'let him go' at the end of the performance. (or at least when you left the theatre). When I read this about his technique, I was stunned. Yes, I thought, that is it! I want to do this!

I have also seen it at The Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City. I've seen actors who I believed were channeling Hamlet, (I saw Hamlet three times that year) and most recently Brian Vaughan's channeling of Henry the Fifth, (which is as spiritual play as you will witness). The reason Shakespeare is Shakespeare is because he offers this opportunity. When you have witnessed an actor who completely embodies character, then you understand the reason, as DB points out, why live performance is so vital and why it can change a person's actual life.

The play I am currently doing offers me that same opportunity. Because the play is so personal, it enables me to do it a little easier, because I am playing a transcended version of myself. Still, on several occasions when I have done the play, I don't become aware of 'me' until the play is finished. Its almost as if I am taken to some alternative universe, and when I'm finished, I am not the same. Even though I've written the play, there are moments of discovery that lead me to believe that the material I have written was indeed guided by some fractured dimension of the universe. Yes, live performance is a vital part of our experience as humans, although we are becoming more and more disenfranchised from each other from all forms of communication that does not include the face to face encounter. It will be the undoing of our society and our culture if we continue to lose this personal connection.

Thanks to DB for bringing up this subject, it is important,

Raymond King Shurtz
Performer and Playwright


We will have to agree to disagree on this, my sweet and brilliant friend.

I believe that ALL of the arts are capable of taking both the artists and the patrons on a transcending ride. Whatever the medium may be, the ultimate goal is to suspend disbelief. One forgets what true reality they are existing in because they have been thoroughly transported to another.

I believe, for instance, that it is the ultimate goal in the recent breakthrough 3D technology of James Cameron's AVATAR. The objective is to put the audience right in the middle of the action like it's never been done before. Eventually we'll see holography succeed in doing this best of all.

Now, one would say, hasn't the "3D" of live theatre been doing just that since Ook, the caveman, told stories around the camp fire? Yes, of course. And if Ook's voice, his gestures, the content of his tale, all of the mediums available to him at the time, were used to the very best if his abilities, then he and his audience of fellow Neanderthals would have taken the same sort of ride that lots of Cameron's audiences are taking today.

Have I had transcendent experiences as an actor and audience member? You bet your "dollar bottom"! It is the very essence of why I continue to pursue my craft as well as patronize my local live venues, cineplexes, museums, jazz clubs, etc. Heaven knows, that despite the good year that I've had working in the theatre, it still is theatre, which, we know, for the most part, for the majority of us fortunates who are working, pays what it pays. A one day guest spot on a prime time one hour TV drama will pay you as much as you'd make in a month under some Equity contracts.

For me, some of my earliest memories of such transcending moments as an audience member were seeing Kirk Douglass slay the giant squid in Disney's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA; seeing James Stewart being pushed out of the window by Raymond Burr in Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW; and seeing my first live theatre performance at my grade school when the 5th graders put on (are you ready for this.....) a minstrel show, when such things were still politically correct. I was all of 6, 7 years old during these examples. I was unjaded, unencrusted with some of the garbage that life forces you to face which can get in the way of one's ability to suspend disbelief.

On a musical note,THE BEATLES transported us. For many of us, it seems like we'll never have THAT kind of musical transcendence again in our lifetimes.

As an actor, playing "Fagin" in the last production of OLIVER! that I did at The Fulton Theatre in my hometown of Lancaster, PA, was a religious experience for me. I was in the original Broadway show as a 12 year old and now here I was playing a lead in a role that seems written for me....IN MY HOMETOWN!

The recent production of GUYS AND DOLLS that I did (my fourth) in which I played "Nathan", was another amazing example of a transcending experience. I've played that role three times and played "Benny Southstreet" once (which was the first time I did the show in 1995).

This most recent production was a reprise of the role of "Nathan" after 13 years of having done it at the very same venue, Cabrillo Musical Theatre For The Performing Arts.

I met and married my second wife at this theatre who was playing a "Hot Box Girl"
Since then, I'd done two other shows for them through the years, the last of which was in 2000 playing "Moonface Martin" in ANYTHING GOES. It was on the heals of my wife and I separating. We were BOTH cast in this show. She as an "Angel", one of "Reno Sweenys" back up girls, which was, basically, the same role she played as a "Hot Box Girl" from GUYS AND DOLLS, as was the role of "Moinface" being very much like "Nathan".

The experience was a disaster for me.

So, to finally work at this theatre again after 9 years and do a role that I feel I own, with a terrific cast; and to get reviews in which it's claimed that I was born to play this role, was a sort of redemption and made for a "perfect storm" of wonderfulness, if you will.

So, there are some of my thoughts. Hope you've been transcended.

What is the purpose of art? And does it have one? Is it l'art pour l'art? Art for art's sake? Schopenhauer thought it might be for redemption. Others have said it's a way of making order out of life's chaos, or harmonizing the errors of one's past. It may be all of those, or none. In the long run, I suppose it's up to the individual artist to determine why he does it. But the best explanation I've come across si that an artist is an artist because he has to be.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Fast, furious, fearless and funny.

Go big or go home.

Eliza Dushku
This is about a play I did many years ago in North Carolina. It was a farce. A farce is supposed to be fast and funny.

It was a professional theatre. The producer was a professional. The crew were professionals. And the entire cast were professionals, most of us from New York City. The only one who wasn't a professional was the director. He was an idiot.

Not only was he a bad director, he was also argumentative and oppressive. It wasn't long before everyone disliked this guy very much. A day or two before we opened we did a run through for the producer. We weren't fast and funny. We ware slow and boring. That's the way we were directed.

After the run through the producer was sitting by himself on a sofa. I sat beside him and asked "What are we going to do?" He said "I'm taking over this production right now."

After lunch we all gathered together, including the director, and the producer said "From now on you take no notes from anyone but the stage manager." You could almost feel the walls quiver from the communal sigh of relief. Then he said. "I don't care if you step on each other's lines and run into the scenery I want you to do it as fast as you can, triple time."

We did and it was about a half an hour shorter. After it the producer said "Take a break and do it again." It was like sending a race horse out for a fast lap around the track on the day before the race or like a batter swinging three clubs before he steps up to the plate.

There is at least one person, probably reading this item right now, who was in that production and will remember what we went through. (Hi George)

The next night we opened and we were fast and funny.

If you're going to do something important, do it with energy, commitment, passion, enthusiasm and love. Otherwise stay home.


this weekend there will be a special edition of Vagabond Journeys. OTHER VOICES where actors talk about the transcendental art of acting. Be there or be square.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

Change lies within the very nature of existence, its being is to perish, and development is its reality and truth.

Frederick Weiss
Even though in my mind I have grown accustomed to the fact that things change, I'm still often surprised by the changes that take place. There are so many things I expect to remain the way they are, and, of course, they don't because nothing does.

Change seems to go through a cycle of three events, The first is decay and destruction. The second is reorganization and redesign. The third is appearance and ripening. There is usually no definite dividing line between one condition and another, but rather a melting or wedging from one into the other.

We know a seed has to come to rest on the earth, where it is acted upon by the forces of nature. We know that it decays and is destroyed, reduced down to its elemental parts before a new growth can emerge from it.

One day last Autumn I watched a large branch fall off a tree from high up and come crashing to the ground in front of me. The tree did not throw the branch to the ground in a fit of frustration. It simply let go of it when the last vestige of sap, of life, removed itself from the branch. The branch was no longer of any use to the tree, so the tree discarded it. It was gravity that brought it to the ground. The gravity was a different player in this natural drama.

It happened in a cemetery, appropriately. (No, nothing ghoulish, I pass it on my way to the market.) So a groundskeeper soon came and gathered up the branch. If it had happened in a forest the branch would have slowly disintegrated into a primordial dust and become earth itself, breeding ground for another tree.

It's strange but true that human relationships often follow the same patterns. We meet someone we like, we share interests and have a similar view point about things. It ripens into a friendship and over the years that friendship grows as we grow. Then one day something happens. An unexpected event occurs and a certain trust or respect falls away, the bond is broken, the friendship is changed or it's over. But the memories and experiences remain and develop into the ingredients for a new friendship with a different person.

If we fall in love we always think it's a forever thing. But that love affair is constantly being changed as it ripens. The early infatuation and desire for each other's company may develop into a partnership, a coordinated effort at living and finally a close friendship with mutual respect and admiration. Or it may not. It may last no longer than it was meant to last and falls into a state of decay or perhaps even death. At times we try to hold on to a disappearing condition of happiness, when it needs to dissolve into the earth to bring on the regeneration the world needs in our minds and hearts.

No where is the grasping and holding on more severe and dangerous than in the realm of theories and ideas about life. Given that everything is in a constant state of change why do we set up mental barricades against anything that challenges our religious or political beliefs? There is no growth in that behavior no development, no ripening. A scientist would be in a bad state if he jealously protected a theory even when the facts that seemed to confirm that theory were falling off the tree. Fortunately for the scientist and for the rest of us in this forest, we are adaptable.

Things are changing all the time. In our work places, our families, our personal relationships and in ourselves things are not today the way they were yesterday. We must first see where they are, then adapt. And that changes us.

DB - The Vagabond

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where is everybody?

Rules for Rules

All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.

Alexander Dumas
There is a difference between right and freedom. The United States is a nation of laws. Rule of just laws correctly administered by those with the authority to do so is how our nation is supposed to be governed. Ever since they sat down in their wigs and stockings in the 18th Century, Congress has been passing laws and so have the individual states. Those laws are designed to deprive us of certain freedoms while at the same time protecting our rights.

I have the freedom, if I have the ability, to come and take your property. But I don't have the right. The law has determined that it's theft and therefore punishable. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes, a 17th Century Englishman, describes a civilized society as one where we enter into an agreement with each other, in that I agree not to steal your property if you agree not to steal mine. In so doing we sacrifice our individual freedoms for the sake of our individual rights.

In a truly virtuous, harmonious society such an agreement would not be necessary. But, alas, we are human beings and the laws we pass and agreements we make are human and fallible. Philosophers have been trying to define what virtue means since the beginning and will probably continue long after any congresses are passing laws.

I am not an absolutist, thank heaven, and I wonder if there ever comes a time when theft is a virtue, when I have the right to take your property and not have it be theft. What if you are holding a loaded pistol to your head? Do I have the right to disarm you of your legally owned weapon?

Thou shalt not kill. When is killing a right? If you are holding the pistol to my brother's head, do I have the right to kill you to prevent you from killing my brother? Do I have the right to kill you because I think you MIGHT kill my brother? A soldier may be killed on his first day in battle before he has ever fired a shot.

The case of Scott Roeder is an interesting one in this regard. Roeder shot and killed Doctor George Tiller because Tiller was an abortion doctor. Roeder claims the legal "right" to kill one man to save the lives of unborn children and yet the state of Kansas, where this happened, gives the Doctor the "right" to perform abortions according to the state laws. It's a clash of the concept of rights.

Today's journal entry is not a forum for a discussion of the abortion issue and I will not enter into one. Any comments attempting to argue about abortion one way or the other will be summarily deleted. I have my own opinions about the subject and they will remain with me. I cite this case merely as an example of where the issue of rights versus freedoms becomes muddy.

One of our weaknesses as humans is the need to come up with simple solutions to life's dilemmas. We want a rule for living, a simple formula that decides the issue in every case, a recipe that will always produce the same results, a certain code of human behavior that insures virtue, a law that covers every act we perform and move we make. I have seen people trying to live by those rules to disastrous results. On the human stage there is no such thing as always.

On the courthouse wall down town it says "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." Well, damn it, sometimes it is. I know a city where you will be fined $1,000 for tying your bicycle to a tree, but not to a parking meter, a lamp post or a mail box. Imagine that.

In my personal profile it says "no rituals, no rules, no summations." One of the best directors I ever worked with came into rehearsal the first day with a button that read "There are no rules." Are there rules for art? I don't know of any. Are there rules for living? Maybe, but they seem to change every day.

In the panic of circumstances it is impossible to consult a rule book or consider a code of conduct. One can only hope to make the right decision. Roeder's act was premeditated. Is he guilty of first degree murder or voluntary manslaughter? Whichever way the court decides is liable to become a rule for the future. Unfortunately.

We need laws to protect our rights. But life cannot be generalized. It isn't easy to live. But we are all different, our circumstances are all different and we cannot cut out our lives to fit a pattern.

DB - The Vagabond
Don't forget the special edition of Vagabond Journeys this weekend. OTHER VOICES: Actors talking about acting. The entries I have are very diverse. It's fascinating.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Old Friend

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

Chinese proverb
For me, one of the most poignant moments in all of grand opera is in the last act of Puccini's "La Boheme." Four men live together in a cold attic apartment in Paris. One of them, Colline, decides to go out and sell his overcoat to buy medicine for his roommate's very ill girl friend in the hope of keeping her alive. He sings a short but sad farewell to his coat, the friend who has kept him warm and whose pockets always carried the poetry and philosophy that he loves. "Addio. Addio."

It brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it.

A few times in my life, for various reasons I have had to abandon my library. I love books and I hope that wherever mine have ended up they are loved as much I loveed them. But there is one book I have never parted with. It sits at my elbow when I am at my desk. If I go anywhere for more than a day it goes with me in my back pack or suitcase. It is one of my dearest friends.

I bought it brand new from a bookstore in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1957. It's almost as old as I am. I paid $6.50 for it. You can barely read the price, written in pencil on the inside. I wrote my name underneath the price in red ink which is still quite visible.

It's a small volume, very small considering what it contains. It's 7 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches and 1 inch thick. In all the bookstores I've been in over the years, I've never seen another copy of it. It was printed by Oxford University Press in 1947.

It is in very threadbare condition due to age and use. I've taped the inside of the hard cover to the pages, but the tape on the outside spine is coming loose again. The pages are very thin India paper and fortunately I haven't torn any of them.

What is it? It's my complete Shakespeare. And it is complete; all the plays and all the poems, including all the sonnets in one small volume. Shakespeare is a divine gift to the human race, and no matter what English professors and stage directors do to it, it remains a rare treasure, recognized the world over.

This book has been a continuous inspiration to me for 52 1/2 years. I need a magnifying glass to read it now, but, so what? Falstaff, Lear and Juliet still come alive whenever the book is opened. I would never part with it. If, heaven forbid, I had to move suddenly this book would be one of the first things I would grab.

I love it. It's my old friend. It's the garden in my pocket.


(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
12 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

Monday, January 11, 2010


I am just a candle in the dark lit by another's flame, but he who is truly enlightened shines with his own flame needing neither match nor wick.


Bits And Pieces

Not to know is bad, not to wish to know is worse.

African proverb
"Ah, now at last I'm retired. I don't have to work, I can sleep when I want to. I can watch my favorite TV, play with my grandchildren and now and then have a drink with my buddies. I don';t have to worry about figuring anything out, understanding any new ideas or getting any more wisdom. I don't have to think. What a life!"

I recently heard from a friend who said that when he retires he hopes to be like me, still investigating, pursuing, grasping new ideas about truth and beauty.

I'm sorry, Doctor, but I just can't help myself. I've tried, oh, how I've tried, to dumb myself down. I just can't manage it. I can't do it. Is there a medicine you can prescribe? Please!

If I've learned anything it's that knowledge, understanding, perhaps wisdom and maybe even enlightenment doesn't come all at once, with the flicking on of a switch. It comes in bits and pieces. When I was young, like most youngsters, I wanted to know everything all at once. As a result I gained superficial knowledge about a lot of things and no knowledge at all about others.

My lack of patience was cured once my career started. You can't learn a script in a day and really know it. It takes time and repetition to really know it. And so it is with anything worth knowing.

The unfortunate thing is that some people like to jump ship when it comes to getting any knowledge outside of their own small collection of facts. I was visiting a family one evening and we were watching television. A documentary came on about the history of one of America's most important universities. The man switched channels and said "I don't know anything about culture and I don't want to know." That was my first example of people who are ignorant because they want to be.

I no longer feel, or allow others to make me feel, embarrassed because I don't know something and I don't flaunt my knowledge in front of those who don't know what I know. Wisdom is a personal thing, a thing to be achieved on one's own terms. I really believe that.

If someone wants to be an idiot his whole life that's too bad, but as long as life allows him the freedom to do that, he will continue to change channels when the world of ideas gets too close or jump ship and swim to the safety of his own unchallenged notion of things.

We have to deal with the ignorant of the world. We have no choice. But we don't have to join them.

When I was a kid I wanted to be an explorer like Hudson or Coronado. I enjoyed walking down streets I'd never been on before and poking into odd corners of public parks. When I lived in New Hampshire I went hiking in the White Mountains as often as I could. I loved that.

Now I do my exploring in the pages of a book. Day by day, in bits and pieces, the world is revealing itself to me in small parts. I'm learning the script.

DB - The Vagabond
May Mother Nature open her freezer door soon.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fashioning The Infinite

Somewhere in the heart of experience there is an order and a coherence which we might surprise if we were attentive enough, loving enough or patient enough.

Lawrence Durrell
A few days ago in this journal I posted an entry entitled Behind The Wall in which I said that I know there is a meaning behind the words I write and that I keep writing to discover it. I know I didn't make myself clear. Comments came back to me saying that words mean one thing to one person and another to another person. That's true, of course, but that is not what I was hoping to put forth.

An artist draws inspiration from the universal bank of ideas, which is eternal and infinite in its varieties, as numerous as the stars and as vast as the distances between them. What the artist makes of those ideas depends partly on his talent and skill, partly on dedication and hard work and partly on the need to seek and find, to expose or not, the unknown reality of the existence of those ideas, the unheard sounds and unseen colors.

When searching through the universal mind of ideas and creations trying to find the reality of all realities, we artists are poor tailors, cutting out patterns and trying to fashion together something that fits. It never does and that's why we keep trying.

I know that what I write has a greater meaning and a greater purpose that isn't mine. Musicians know that also. There is no end to what can be discovered in music. In a certain way music is what all art is trying to achieve.

But as science is trying to discover the universal law of physics which will explain everything, and medicine is trying for the universal panacea, the door remains not closed and locked but undiscovered. Once the opening is found, and the genius can step out into the unknown, unheard and unseen, art my disappear or take a new form, science may also, but we will know that all of our efforts to find the truth and understand it, from the simple drawing of a flower to a monumental Russian novel were never done in vain.

Durrell is correct. The first important step is to pay attention, to carefully read the words, really listen to the music and really look at the painting, realizing that you are looking "through a glass darkly."

Next comes the love. "The mightiest space in fortune nature brings to join like likes and kiss like native things" says Shakespeare. The courage of honest desire to find the light and share it no matter what it may be is requisite to understand what is written. That honest, humble affection can't help bring a greater coherence into one's experience.

It is the nature of truth to reveal itself, especially to the waiting, expectant mind. The hidden secret truth of the universe is harder to find because it is so complex and so undefinable and yet so simple. The paintings, poems, songs and dances are merely the outward shapes and patterns of the gown. They are invitations for the immortal truth to visit us.

The patient, persistent search for the truth behind the truth will never end. It can't.


Next weekend there will be a special Vagabond Journey about the Art of Acting and the Actor's Life with special contributions from as many of my actor friends as I can inspire to write their thoughts and feelings, their experience and wisdom.

That's next weekend. Don't miss it. Tell your friends. Post a notice in all the crooks and nannies around town.

Weekend Puzzle
Weekend Puzzle

You are to identify the following references and tell me which one has the worm.
So get busy.

Cardinal Van Galen
Doctor Hogg
Early Joe
Imperial Gala
Janica Jonagold
Mendocino Cox
Porter's Perfection
Reverand Morgan
Somerset of Maine
Twin Bee Gala
Weatfield Seek-No-Further
Leave your answer on please.
4 responses so far.
I'm waiting.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Creative Construction

If you don't like the road you're walking on, start paving a new one.

Dolly Parton
I have an easier time following other people's advice than following my own. That's probably because my own gems of worldly wisdom emerge out of my own molasses mentality. One cannot live without facing confusion, bewilderment and doubt. Sometimes, some people manage to tie those together in a bundle, toss it into a back pack and get on with life.

The implication I read in this quote from Dolly Parton is a challenge to me and to others. It is easier to take a different road if life is not going where you want it to than to actually prepare your own way. And yet we have the right and opportunity to make the road go where we want it to go, to decide on a destination and make a way to get there.

William Jennings Bryan wrote "Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." I think too many people go through life just accepting what comes along and calling it luck, the will of God, circumstances over which they have no control, destiny. And I have certainly been guilty of that lackadaisical hallucination in my past.

I sometimes think of myself as suddenly plunked down in the middle of a jungle with nothing but an axe. I cut down trees, split logs and stank them up to make a dwelling to protect myself from the elements and the wild beasts. And once my creature comforts are taken care of I start to cut a trail through the jungle to get - where? Ah that's the problem. Where am I going?. Am I going to spend the rest of my life in the jungle, like Tarzan? Or am I going to get out somehow? And is the only goal I have to get out? Or is there a reason for getting out? And if so, what is it? That's when I start thinking about destiny. And that brings me ultimately back to the big and most important fundamental question: Who am I?

Am I what I look like? No. Am I what I eat? No. Am I what I do for a living? Not necessarily. The human being is a very complex creature and it probably takes a score of lifetimes to figure him out. I'm glad I'm not in the jungle. I do know a lot about myself that I didn't know before. The way to go becomes clearer every day. My destination is my destiny. And as long as I am not completely self-satisfied (heaven forbid) I have the right and freedom to make a better man of myself, in as many ways as I can.

I'm paving.

DB - The Vagabond

Next weekend there will be a special Vagabond Journey about the Art of Acting and the Actor's Life with special contributions from as many of my actor friends as I can inspire to write their thoughts and feelings, their experience and wisdom.

That's next weekend. Don't miss it. Tell your friends. Post a notice in all the crooks and nannies around town.


Friday, January 8, 2010

New Knowledge

Who controls the past controls the future.
Who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell
I have a lot of books and magazines about history. I enjoy reading them because an historical event looked at from different perspectives gives a many dimensional understanding of that event, of course. A single point of view about a time in history may have the strength of authority behind it, but it is never the whole story.

When I was in elementary school the text book on history gave the distinct impression that the Middle Ages, the so-called Dark Ages, was a long period of hundreds of years in which there were kings and illiterate serfs and, except for the Crusades, nothing much happened and nobody did anything. What a surprise to find out, when I finally got to do some reading on my own, how vibrant and active that time was.

One of the things people like to do and keep on doing is to rewrite history. There are two ways of doing that. One is the open minded manner of gathering together the confusing bunch of recently discovered facts, trying to organize them into a coherent whole, examining the possibilities, formulating theories about what actually happened and comparing them with the previous rounds of historical literature, present and past. Some statements by ancient writers are confusing to us because we don't know what they were referring to. When at last we do know a different interpretation of some event emerges.

The other way of rewriting history is the pernicious and closed minded method now being employed by the Texas Board of Education. That method involves rearranging the established facts, changing some of them and eliminating others. There is nothing new about this method. It has been going on for centuries. As a result it has kept historians busy trying to reconstruct what actually happened.

The most shameful part of this second method is that it influences the way people think and causes them to form incorrect opinions and beliefs, such as I did about the Middle Ages.

I've been doing a lot of fascinating research into the origins of western religions. And I've found out some interesting facts and probabilities.

The first book of the Bible ever written was probably Job, possibly written by him or one of his friends, or possibly dictated to a scribe by one of his friends. It predated Moses.

Abraham was not just a herder of livestock, but a powerful man who traveled throughout Mesopotamia and into Egypt as far as Heliopolis teaching as he went. What did he teach? (I will write someday about Heliopolis if I haven't already I may also write about the Templars the Merovingians and the Cathars, all of whom still exist on one form or another.)

There were, no doubt, several "Messiahs" crucified by the Romans. Some of the remarks Jesus made are right out of the Old Testament. Even the famous "My God My Go. Why hast thou forsaken me?" is taken verbatim from the book of Psalms. Was Jesus quoting David, or was it put in afterward by some historian or was the Psalm subsequently adjusted to accommodate? The possibilities are fascinating. And "The Da Vinci Code" aside, there is evidence that Jesus may have had children. There may be his blood line existing today in southern France.

There were many different versions of Christianity at the time and they didn't all agree with each other. The first Christian church ever built was probably the one in Cornwall, England. When the power struggle was over and Rome took control, the church fathers expunged from the literature everything that didn't agree with their version Sort of like what's going on now in Texas.

I continue my research. More bits of information are unearthed all the time. Facts lead to possibilities which lead to theories which lead to more facts. Uncovering the truth about one's religion should not diminish one's faith but should increase and strengthen it. for it removes one's worship from the realm of mythology and plants it firmly in the practical world of real knowledge and real life.

DB - The Vagabond

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I've got a little list.

Misery has enough company. Dare to be happy.

From a billboard.
(Thank you Cindy)
Oh, I know, I know. Believe me I know. There are plenty of reasons in life to be miserable. Come visit me, I'll show you my collection.

The shameful fact is that some people actually enjoy being miserable. They are addicted to it. If they don't have a good reason to moan and groan and be unhappy they will go out and find one and if their search is fruitless they will come back home and invent one.

If there are no raw materials around your house to patch together a good misery you can always turn on the news and see how much better other people are at being miserable, so you'll have something to copy.

Are you the kind of person who likes to make lists? Well, there you go. Sit down now and start making a list of the reasons you have to feel sorry for yourself. You can start with "I don't have enough money." That's a good one and very popular. Which reminds me, if you run out of ideas to put on the list, check the daily paper. It will give you some great suggestions.

Now how long is your list? 20 items? That's not enough. You can do better than that. Go back and try harder.

Now repeat after me "Oh, woe is me !! Alas ! I'm so miserable I don't know what I'm going to do."

Good. I'm glad that's over. Now about happiness: Does it take courage to be happy? You bet. It takes strength, patience, determination, hope, faith. It takes not giving up. It takes knowing there is a solution to problems, an answer to dilemmas, the understanding that things can change, things can BE changed. Things are fixable, disposable, renewable and improvable.

Don't compare yourself with people who are less fortunate than you are. That's frightening. Don't compare yourself with people whoa re better off than you are. That's depressing. In fact, don't compare yourself with anybody. "Comparisons are odorous" (sic) as Shakespeare said.

Go back to that list of miseries you so carefully made up, choose one item and cure it. Now you're one step closer to happiness. Eventually you will chase all the phantoms of misery out the back door (they don't deserve the front door.) Happiness isn't the end of trouble. It's the end of misery.

Now say "Thank you Mr. Vagabond. I feel a little happier."


(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
10 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Remember Me

How come you here, staffed wayfarer,
Part plunged in what a darkness,
But with remembered joy still singing in the heart?

Whatever happened to What's his name?
Sometimes AOL will put up a picture of some young celebrity of years gone by and tell where they are now. One of the strange things about being a public person is that when no one hears about you or sees you anywhere for a long time they don't believe you have a life. You've either passed along or your sitting like some manikin in a back room somewhere or up on a shelf. Life isn't really about what a celebrity does out in the public eye. Life goes on for them just as it does for everyone else.

Louis Thomas Hardin, better known as Moondog, was a New York fixture for many years. He could be seen standing on the sidewalk, usually on Sixth Avenue, in his Viking garb with a staff. He was a strange sight to see. A blind man, Moondog would listen. He listened to the sounds of the city and from those sounds he made poetry and music.

He was primarily a composer and musician. He wrote simple melodies with complicated rhythms. He played in various clubs around New York and made several record albums. His music was used by many well known recording artists of the day, including Janis Joplin. He was admired and respected by Arturo Toscanini, Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker. He also invented musical instruments. One of them, the trimba, is still played today.

And then one day in the 70's he disappeared. "Where's Moondog?" "What happened to Moondog?" "I wonder what became of Moondog." "Who?" "You know, that blind guy who used to stand on the corner in the funny costume." "Oh, yeah. Where did he go?" "I guess he died or something."

There was no more Moondog.

Then 14 years later I was walking down a street in lower Manhattan. I passed an obscure jazz club and out in front was a poster saying that Moondog was going to conduct the Brooklyn Philharmonic in a concert of his music. He was back in town just for that occasion. He was living in Germany and had been touring all over Europe. So much for "He must have died or something."

Life goes on and the heart still sings, even if no one knows about it.

DB - The Vagabond.


Happy New Year

May you inherit a big hotel with a thousand rooms and be found laughing in every one of them.

And may this be the best year of your life so far.


Behind The Wall

I'd like to think of my work simply as a cradle in which philosophy could rock itself to sleep, thumb in mouth.

Lawrence Durrell
Last Saturday night I went to check my mail box and found a letter from a law firm telling me I had defaulted in my negotiated agreement to pay so much a month on one of my credit card debts and that therefore they were going to begin steps to sue for the entire amount. I knew I wasn't in default but it was Saturday night, all day Sunday and half of Monday before I could make the inevitable three phone calls to clear up the mess. It was very stressful. It wasted a lot of time and gave me a headache.

One of my great pleasures in life is to read philosophy. I read as much as I can from before Plato to after Parsons. It thrills me to come upon a philosopher I haven't visited before and follow his or her thoughts into and out of life's dilemmas. And every idea I read I hammer on the anvil of my own experience to test its strength.

Distilled from all the books, essays, dialogues, critiques and monographs, and measured by my own wisdom, such as it is, my personal philosophy of life can be summed up in three words: "Never give up."

Carl Sandburg wrote about a group of wise people who were ordered to reduce all of human wisdom to a single word. They did, and the word was "Maybe."

It is that uncertainty that has made us create theories of art, science, religion, government, education, economics, medicine, and philosophy. The big question remains unanswered in any proven, practical way: Do we really ever know what we are doing? Every now and then we get something right, like the proverbial stopped clock. And with that encouragement we keep on repeating ourselves until the next happy accident comes along.

I've made two important observations in my studies. One is that brilliant original thinkers have come up with very practical answers to some of life's most perplexing problems with good sound suggestions as to how we should conduct our lives. And the other is that basically nobody ever pays any attention to them.

Through our ignorance of life's lessons we do things to mess ourselves up, as I did when I got into debt, or we will mess up someone else's life, as the law firm did over my debt payment to them. Then life becomes untangling the mess.

When I was in school I enjoyed learning how to parse a sentence. That's an exercise in grammar, sentence structure and so on. As an actor I had to learn scansion. That's an exercise in verse and how to speak it. Now I study semantics which delves into truth conditional statements and implicatures. It's a philosophical study of a more refined grammar, dealing with what is meant and what is not meant by what is said.

There is a meaning behind the words I write which is unknown to me. I keep on writing and never giving up until the meaning or meanings surface for me. Meanwhile I'm like a cat staring into a fish tank.

Once I understand what my words mean or don't mean in their true and beautiful music, I hope and believe philosophy will then be able to rest in my arms, thumb in mouth.

DB - The Vagabond

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tempting Trash

Regrets are just leftovers. Eat them up or throw them out.

DB - The Vagabond
One cannot live a life, particularly a vital, active life without collecting a truckload of regrets. If I tallied up all the time I've spent regretting things I did or things I didn't do it would probably amount to about 15 years of my life. What a waste of time!

Sometimes my mind acts like a mule hitched up to my wagon. If I sit back and let my mind wander sooner or later it will lead me into a swamp of negativity. I will start to think about things I don't want to think about. I call it The Law of Diminishing Enthusiasm. If you don't tend your garden it will start producing weeds which will choke the flowers. If one doesn't discipline one's mind it will eventually find the dark places of the past, and they will drive out the good thoughts one should be thinking.

I think of it as being in a row boat on a river. To go upstream you have to row. If you want to be self destructive you can row downstream. But if you sit in the boat and do nothing you'll go downstream anyway.

I try to discipline myself to not think about the past. Even though I have a lot of wonderful memories of an active and interesting career, some of those memories are too close to others that I would avoid. So, even though I may be remembering something that was fun I will stop myself and say "Why are you thinking abut that?"
Today, tomorrow and what is next is what I want to think about.

Sometimes regrets pop into a mind that is not wandering. That's because we aren't sure we have sufficiently learned the lesson we need to know in order to prevent the mistake from happening again. That's the moment to be articulate, to identify clearly what happened and why it happened under the circumstances. In my case it was usually a matter of not being alert to what was going on around me and so I said an ignorant thing or did an ignorant thing, or else, I was being selfish.

Most lessons have to be repeated in order to be properly learned. It takes time, like learning to drive or cook or increase one's vocabulary. But that doesn't mean the dumb thing you did that brought on the regret needs to be repeated. Eventually, as the new self knowledge becomes certain, the regret will abate and become a source of humor or else it will be forgotten. It disappears from the plate. It's been eaten up.

A regret is not a thing. It's a reaction to a thing. Stop doing the thing.

DB - The Vagabond

(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
9 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond