Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Utter Utterance 12/31/08

Wisdom is divided into two parts:

(a) having a great deal to say, and

(b) not saying it.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trusted Transfiguration 12/30/08

Knowledge is the spirit that saves the heart from the darkness of ignorance, it is the light that saves it from the darkness of iniquity.

Abu Ali Thaqafi

Yesterday was the Islamic New Years Day. May you have lasting peace.

The only times during the day when I feel everything is all right is when I'm sleeping or I'm writing even though I'm a wretched typist.

My long story, Brian and Christine, occupies me everyday. I know how the story ends but I don't yet know how to get there. I'm discovering the pathway as I go, one or two jumps ahead of my readers, cutting my way through the jungle of troubles, misunderstandings and injustices.

One of the big discoveries I've made along that route is that a lot of the trouble Brian has to deal with has come about through ignorance, his own and other people's. The story unfolds and conflicts get resolved by gaining bits of information, putting them with other bits of information, clearing up misunderstandings and thus gaining knowledge.

Backing away from my computer and looking out the window to the street below I see children going to the library. I note how fortunate they are to live in a country where there are libraries accessible to them, where they have schools and teachers, where they can easily gain information which will give them knowledge, and hence understanding and possibly even wisdom.

I also note how much iniquity there is in the world. Wrong doing by people who should know better and who would if they had the ability to learn right doing or who took advantage of the opportunity to gain the information that is available to them.

When I first began reading philosophy my main interest was in the field of ethics, a topic that has occupied philosophers since the beginning. It's a very complicated subject, it seems. And yet it's one of the most outward looking practices of the philosopher. It is germane to the subject of ethics that it address a conscientious and coordinated system of behavior toward other human beings and all living things. It necessarily focuses thought away from the self and onto one's place in society.

The world seems to be so filled with abuses: domestic violence, street gangs, robbery, rape, fathers attacking their sons' soccer coaches, teachers abusing their students, managers abusing their workers, child slavery and prostitution, owners abusing their animals, torture, graft and corruption in government and business, careless wasting of money by the rich, terrorism, racism, religious intolerance, fanaticism, revenge, the gouging of people's incomes by government, the shameless waste of natural resources, overpricing of necessary items, hatred, war and all other iniquities too many to name, that it seems most of the human race has never heard the word "ethics."

People will talk about ethical behavior on the left side while they are cheating their neighbors out of something on the right side. Or what is even worse, they will use the idea of ethics to justify some unethical behavior: "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

My story has given me a chance to look some of this immorality in the face and explore it directly or indirectly. I'm not a great writer but I'm learning. I'm gaining knowledge. And one of the things I've learned is that in order to convey knowledge and understanding a writer must tell the truth and reveal things about himself. Secrets must be told. While it's true that he who has more knowledge can do more evil, he can also do more good. There is no such thing as generic good or generic evil in this life. It all comes down to the individual, his knowledge of the world around him and his behavior in it.

Vagabond Journeys

Monday, December 29, 2008

Strategic Stepping 12/29/08

One man's ceiling is another man's floor.

Paul Simon

The metaphorical meaning of this Paul Simon line was very important to me about 20 years ago. I had been, for two years, a staff announcer for one of the most important radio stations in the country. I had reached the apex of my career in my specialty. I worked with some of the most intelligent, cultured and entertaining personalities in the business. I was paid very well and, because I worked in the mornings, from 6 to noon, I had up towards a million listeners on any given week day.

For my colleagues it was a thrill to go on the air. And so it was for me, for a while.
But one day the thrill was gone. Nothing changed. I just began to realize that the work I had wasn't enough for me. I was bumping my head on the ceiling.

I used to say that if I ever wrote an autobiography I would add a chapter about my broadcasting career and title it "Talking to Myself in a Small Room."

The radio studio was a secure, comfortable and lucrative place to be. But it wasn't enough for me. I wanted the danger of the stage. So I gave my notice.

Almost immediately three things happened that told me I had made the right decision.

First, the manager of the station called me into his office for a final chat during which he said that he thought I wanted to do something more "noble" than radio announcing. Broadcasting can be and often is a very noble profession and if he didn't think so what was he doing being in the business himself. I've written about him before. He did not specialize in intelligence.

Second, the management didn't want me to work my last day. They gave me the day off, with pay, just as I was finishing my day's work. The only reason for that would be that they thought I would go on the air and make critical remarks about the place. That is not what a professional would do. I thought if they don't know what a professional is then I have no business working for them.

Third, within two weeks after I left I had an Off-Broadway show which ran for a long time.

Now I'm retired and I don't have the fancy 401K I might have had, the luscious pension or the constantly splitting stock of the company. And suffocating in a barrel of invoices is hardly noble. But, hey, they say, you've had an interesting life. I suppose that's true. But everyone's life is interesting if they take an interest in it.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Right Response 12/28/08

Love and trust in the space between what's said and what's heard in our life can make all the difference in the world.

Fred Rogers

When I was studying my craft I had to take up the issue of speech and found it much more complicated than I at first thought.

Writing is tricky because the writer has to carefully choose the right words so as not to be misunderstood.

As an actor I was responsible for speaking the playwright's carefully chosen words.

But in conversation we choose our own words, and we have to do it so that we are not misunderstood. Every word exists in time and has certain qualities of which we are usually not aware. It's a sound that has an attack, a timbre, a duration, a stress, a finish and a relationship to the words around it. Those are a set of dynamics that apply to every spoken word and they will determine what the word conveys and how it will be interpreted. Think of how many different ways you can say "I want to go with you."

Then there's a statement made up of words. That goes through at least 5 stages: intention, invention, articulation, reception, interpretation. And all of that takes place, at lightning speed, before the person you're talking to responds, In other words, you have a thought, you decide how you're going to express that thought, you speak it, a person hears it and then interprets what you said according to their own mental and emotional state. That sounds like a very complicated procedure just to say "Good morning" and it is. But in most conversation it all takes place automatically and unconsciously. It's when we have something we feel is important to say like "I want to go with you." that we become more aware of the process. Or at least we should.

Think how much trouble, perhaps even wars, might have been prevented if someone had been more careful about how he said something, or, as Fred Rogers suggests, someone would have been willing to interpret what was said to him in a kindlier manner.

DB Vagabond Journeys

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Quick Quackery 12/27/08

It is not the same to talk of bulls as to be in the bullring.

Spanish proverb

I can talk about acting because I have been on the stage. But I won't. Instead I will surmise that almost any occupation in life whether a profession or a hobby, is too often looked upon and thought upon as being much simpler than it is.

I'm not much of a sports fan but I will occasionally watch a baseball game. I enjoy watching the pitcher before the pitch because I know something about the thinking going on. It's a battle of brains between the pitcher and the batter. When the pitcher winds up to throw the ball a decision has been made. There is an agreed upon tactic between the pitcher and the catcher based upon observation, study, intuition and the character of the game up to that point. Many factors come into play with each pitch. But most people are probably totally unaware of the thinking that is going on. Don't talk of bulls.

If you go to a tennis match you will see everyone watching the ball. The heads all go back and forth, back and forth, great exercise for the neck. My head goes back and forth in the opposite direction, or more likely I look at only one of the palyers. I like to watch the thinking of the one who is receiving the ball because it doesn't matter so much if he hits it, it's where he hits it that counts. Don't talk of bulls.

I had a nasty neighbor once who said that I looked tired. I told him I was double shifting. He wanted to know what I did. When I told him I was a radio announcer he said "Oh, well, that's not hard work." I wondered if he had ever been on the air in a radio studio. I think probably not.

No doubt there are jobs that are harder than broadcasting but don't talk of bulls. It sounds easy because we make it sound easy.

Ballerinas float effortlessly through the air on their toes. Have you ever seen a ballerina's toes? Don't talk of bulls.

One day a building on my block in New York which was still under construction caught fire. Burning pieces of the building were blowing off and falling to the street below. It was a tall apartment building about 50 stories of it had been completed. The fire was on the top floors. The only way the fire fighters could get to it was by the construction elevator on the side of the building. But that elevator stopped two or three stories above the blazing inferno. I watched in awe as those people jumped into the fire, at the risk of life and injury, not knowing what was underneath them, to put the fire out. Don't talk of bulls.

A well kept garden is a beautiful thing, lush, fecund greenery and many colored flowers, delighting the eyes and offering sweet aromas to the air all the way down to the ground. But what's under the ground, where all the work is being done, only the flower and the gardener know. Don't talk of bulls.

The Vagabond

Friday, December 26, 2008

Precise Procedure 12/26/08

I'm always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

Pablo Picasso

I once knew a very religious fellow who, with almost no experience, got a job as a home construction worker. I saw him one day and asked him how it was going. He replied "Well, today the Lord taught me how to install a ceiling."

Several times in my life I have taken on the challenge of doing things I knew almost nothing about. In my late teens I was hired as an actor. I had talent and some ability but very little experience. I went to work carefully observing the other, more experienced actors around me. I bought books on the subject to give me an idea of the scope and dimensions of what I should be doing. I did a lot of homework with the script and the director's notes. I was slowly learning the craft. I did well enough to be hired again and again, and so spent most of my life as an actor. I got good enough so that a New York City critic wrote "His versatility is awe inspiring."

When I first got a job as a radio announcer, I didn't even know how to turn the microphone on. I sat down in front of a control board with a row of knobs and switches and a few meters. I tried turning them on and off while saying "Hello." Finally one of the meters flapped so I knew I was on the air. I introduced the first record, turned all the other knobs up, started the record and turned all the knobs down, one by one, until I found the one that made the meter move. From there I figured out where the next turntable was attached. By the end of my shift I knew 100% more about broadcasting than I did when I started, which was nothing. I learned even more by watching the other announcers and engineers work. Broadcasting was a part time job for me when I wasn't acting, but I was eventually welcomed as a part timer for a major market radio station in New York.

I took life drawing classes at an art school in New York. On my first day the model was a big man, over 6 feet tall and very husky. It was a 10 minute pose and what I drew was about 4 inches tall in the middle of the page. I used to keep it around just to show myself what I didn't know. I became annoyed with myself because I couldn't do it. I was at the point when most people would give up. But I signed up for classes all day, everyday, 6 days a week. When I wasn't working I was at the art school drawing. Until one day I finally saw what the instructors had been trying to show me about the human figure. Soon, the school was putting my drawings up for exhibit along with the more advanced students. And people in the class were moving over to sit next to be to see what I was doing so that they could learn from me.

I'm retired now, but in all of those areas, acting, broadcasting and drawing I can still do better. I'm no Picasso. But almost everything I've done in my life I did Picasso's way. You have to go into the water if you want to learn how to swim.

Macbeth said "And if we fail?"
His wife answered "We fail. But screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail."


DB - Vagabond Journeys

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Overwhelming Opportunity 12/25/08

There is a spirit in us that makes our brass to blare and our cymbals to crash.

Lawrence Olivier


May the life that knows no trouble
Wrap around you everyday.
May your blessings all be double,
All your cares be blown away.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Necessary Navigation 12/24/08

I would not tread these perilous paths in safety, if I did not keep a serving sense of humor.

Horatio Nelson

It took me many years before I learned to laugh at myself and at the absurdities of the world around me. I was a sensitive, serious and somber kid. Not appreciating what others found funny, I was easily offended when people would laugh at me. In spite of the loving attempt by friends to point out the big red clownish bulb on my mental nose, I maintained my right to my own self-importance.
I don't remember exactly what it was or when it was that I finally learned to laugh at life and at myself. But I know that one day, when I was in some serious difficulty and had problems that I thought were too much for me to handle, I suddenly saw the funny side.
Humor is more than telling jokes It is the positive against the negative, the ability to see light where the darkness is gnawing, to spot the subtle thing that's alive in the wasteland, to see the end of the tunnel before you enter it, to breathe fresh air and life into an oppressed and suffocating spirit.
It must seem strange to one who hasn't developed a proper sense of humor to see someone laughing at their own troubles, but humor will minimize the troubles and the sufferer's reaction to them, piling up defenses against the fear and pain and freeing the soul to face up to them and solve them, That is a law of life.
One day in June, several years ago, my phone service went out. It knocked out my phone and my computer. I went to a pay phone and called the company. They said they would send someone around to fix it. That night there was a severe summer storm that caused flash flooding and knocked down phone lines all over the county. I was frustrated and almost in a frenzy. People were trying to reach me, friends, who were used to getting email from me everyday were getting very concerned about me.
It took a whole week for the repairman to finally get to me. When he got my service back up and running, there were two messages from the phone company telling me why they couldn't come to fix my phone.
I could grind my teeth in rage over the stupidity and silliness of that, or I could laugh.
What would you do?

DB The Vagabond Elf

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Miracle Management 12/23/08

Blessed be the poet, the artist who knows how to keep alive his sense of wonder.

Ella Maillart

An actor is one who observes other people all the time, not critically nor judgementaly, but with curiosity. We observe how someone stands, sits and walks. We notice, movements, gestures and facial expressions, actions and reactions. We listen to the voice. Hear tones, pauses, stresses and breath. Those things can tell a story about people. We are trying to read the story so that we can tell a similar story on the stage.

Human beings are endlessly fascinating creatures to observe. There is hardly anything in the universe that is more complicated and in greater variety than the human race.

One of the reasons why we observe people so carefully is just because on the stage nothing is done in general. Everything is specific. There is no such thing as reacting to a rain storm in general. It's how my character reacts to it that matters. And that starts with a sense of wonder. I wonder what this man is really like, this man who depends upon me to give him life?

I was doing an Off-Broadway show years ago, the story took place in a New York City apartment. In one scene I had to look out the window at the weather and see that it was raining. I knew that there were other buildings partially blocking my view so I took that into consideration. My character was hoping to get on a flight out of town and was worried that the rain would interfere with his plans. It was one very short moment in the play.

An actor friend, who had every right to be critical of my performance, came to see it. He enjoyed it and he made mention of that moment and how completely believable it was. "I saw you looking up at that gray and rainy sky and I knew exactly what you were feeling." The fact is the window was right up against the bare wall of the theatre. There was nothing to see out of it. I simply said if I was looking out of an apartment building window at the rain, I wonder what it would look like? I invented it in my own imagination, believed in it and made it come alive.

Describe a storm. The poet writes it, the painter paints it, the actor plays it.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Lively Language 12/22/08

We don't know all the answers. If we knew all the answers we'd be bored, wouldn't we?

Jack LaLanne

On my first day at college the president and head master at the school gave a speech to the freshman. I don't remember much of what he said, but one statement has stuck with me all my life, "Curiosity, and in particular, intellectual curiosity is the basis of all learning."

Over the years I've thought about the undeniable truth of that remark. Taking that truth to heart and mind, living with it every day, applying it and practicing it equals at least four years of college.

In my career I met some intelligent actors and directors who were not interested in any ideas that were outside their realm of occupation. I often felt like a stranger in their midst. Because of that teacher's true remark and it's permanent place in my thinking, I was always poking into things that surrounded the play I was working on, thus giving myself an education on the side. I would read up on the history or society of the characters, about the playwright and anything else I thought about, because I was curious.

I knew a violinist, a concert musician, who would talk about subjects like linguistics. He played music, he didn't talk about it much. But philosophy fascinated him, On the other hand I had very interesting discussions about music from a fellow who taught Greek and Latin.

Then I had the best lesson in curiosity when I met and got to know a real philosopher who looked intensely into everything he came across. Whatever there was around him to know he wanted to know. He was a calm, friendly, intellectual fellow with an imagination and the curiosity to match it. He could talk intelligently on almost any topic. He had a lot of information and very few opinions. He taught me that I could learn anything I wanted to if I was really curios about knowing it.

It seems like a simple rule of life, but sometimes the simple ones are the hardest to learn.

DB - The Vagabond

"If Winter comes can Spring be far behind?"
Well, if you live in the northern climate as I do the answer is: Yes!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Knowing Knock 12/21/08

Rabbi Zuska said that on the Day of Judgement God would ask him not why he had not been Moses, but why he had not been Zuska.

Walter Kaufmann

Here's another look at the troublesome business of being true to yourself. The first step, even before you decide how important it is, is to understand who you are. Who is this person you are attempting to be true to? The answer to that question seems to take a life time to find. Even the search for the answer can be an elusive thing. How can a creature with the size, scope and dimensions of a human being be so difficult to see? So you start small, with one mere tid bit of information and that leads you to another one and another one after that, until you find yourself in a dilemma that resembles trying to count the leaves on a large tree.

"Okay, so I'm a very complex creature. How am I supposed to understand all of me?"

As you get older and wiser you start measuring things, comparing this tid bit of information about yourself with that tid bit to determine which is more important. Then you discover that they are all interrelated somehow. Now it's even more confusing than it was before.

"This is too complicated for me. I'm going to be someone else. Then I won't have to deal with it."


"I don't know. I always wanted to be a cowboy, so maybe I'll buy some boots, a big hat, a guitar and tell everyone I'm from Texas. I may even change my name just to make sure."

Okay, Tex. It sounds good. But how are you going to convince another cowboy?

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that."

Why not paint your face green and tell them you're from Mars? It isn't likely you'll meet another Martian to challenge you.

"You think that would work?"

No, So now you take yourself off to a professional to tell you who you are. But he doesn't know who you are. He wants you to discover it on your own while he charges money to listen.

"I'll just pick out the best person I know and be like him."

Okay. But do you really know who he is? Do you think he really knows who he is? And if you know who he is, about whom you know less than you know about yourself, than why don't you know yourself?

"You're making this very difficult for me."

I said it was difficult way back in the first paragraph. Why don't you just try being yourself? I think you're a great guy. I like who you are.



"Who am I?"

(Vagabond Journeys)

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Without researching you have one minute to name all of Santa's tiny reindeer.

Hint: Rudolph is NOT one of them.

Ready? GO!

Just Juice 12/20/08

Men are like wine - some turn to vinegar - but the best improve with age.

Pope John XXIII

It's frightening to look down the tunnel of my past and wonder why so many things are not the way they were. It seems the milk of kindness and mercy that followed me has curdled. The strong right arm has rusted and the joints are stiff. There are hollow places where the bricks of power used to be. The sure words of effectiveness and result now seem weak and lacking. Shunning guilt and failure is now the major move in every day's search. Do the messes matter? There's no going back, Some of them will never be cleaned up. They are the stuff of archeology. The light still shines in my heart. No one to love does not affect the love. The truth is here someplace, I know that. I still search for it. When I am finally broken bread and poured out wine will it still be good or will I be vinegar? Outside my temple I am just a man in the street, But inside I am still a hero to myself. I will not turn on those who have it better than I do. I will not blame the rich nor the poor. I will not blame myself for anything but too few discoveries. I will carry my song through the forest though no one is there to hear it.

Tonight I walked 4 blocks in the dark and freezing rain. When I got here I realized that I had been thinking all the way, not about the treacherous journey to get here nor the nasty weather nor how cold I was, but that everything I do, the walk in the rain, the washing of the dishes, even typing this entry, is not life. They are all the things that go on while real life is happening. I need to become more alert to that.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ingenious Inquiries 12/19/08

Every great inspiration is but an experiment.

Charles Ives

I once heard imagination described as taking something and putting something else with it that other people wouldn't think of putting there. Such as attaching a motor to a goat cart to make the wheels turn.

Who was it that first attached a piece of movable wood to the bottom of a ship so that it could be steered through the water without having to keep adjusting the sails?

Who was it that mounted a large balloon on the top of a small cabin and let it float through the air with a motor attached to propel it?

Who fastened his sock to a post to show where the wind was coming from and how hard it was blowing?

Who sewed his bag onto his trousers and thus invented the pocket?

Who stretched an animal hide across a large kettle to make a loud drum?

Who was the baker who started selling sliced bread? And, as a matter of fact, as someone recently asked, what was the greatest thing before sliced bread?

The list is endless. Put this thing with that thing and see what you come up with.


(After Sunday the days will be getting longer, think of that.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Harmonious Harvest 12 /18/08

Be true to your characters and they'll be true to you,

Laurell Hamilton

This is advice to the author, but it can be equally applied to the actor.

One day I performed a scene for a directing class at a well know theatre school in New York. The teacher of the class was ill equipped to teach. He knew next to nothing about directing and, apparently, nothing at all about acting. He wanted the character I was playing to "do nothing." Actors do not go out on the stage and do nothing, that's not what acting is about.

Twice in my career I played men I did not like. Playing heroes and villains is fun for an actor. If the play is good the author has given you the tools to express your own inner heroism, or to dig down and find the potential villainy in yourself. But to play characters that are neither good nor bad but appear on the surface to be inane is a real challenge.

The first time I faced this problem was on a soap opera. I played a doctor who was treating a baby girl. He had absolutely no compassion for the little girl's parents. He was cold, clinical, professional and uncommunicative. It was important to the plot that he be that way and so that's the way I had to play him, truthfully. But it wasn't "nothing."

The other time it was a play in which one character was written with many clever and funny lines and the opposite character was not. I felt that the part was underwritten. But he was a man of few words and had his own strength. I didn't like the guy but I played him truly. I know that because the playwright came to see it and went out of his way to thank me for my performance. He had, after all, been true to his character and so had I. I never did really like that character but I must have played him well because I was hired to play him three times at three different theatres.

The theatre is allegorical, yes, and part of the story is that life is action, ever changing and usually not what it appears to be. But the only way to safely rudder through it is to be active and alert and shun its inanities. Being true to our own characters is essential, even though it means looking behind the masquerades we have written for ourselves and facing them without fear.

As Shakespeare put it:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Vagabond Journeys
(Ease into winter, if you can.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Grasping Guidance 12/17/-9

It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

Ursula Le Quin

So what if the trip is filled with troubles? So what if my journey takes me up to my chin in swamps, picking my way through nests of vipers, up against high cliffs that must be scaled, over blazing hot, shifting, desert dunes, through disappointments, depressions, sorrows and a sense of failure? There's no turning back. I might as well go on.

What, after all, are joy and happiness? Joy comes and goes like the weather. It is a fleeting thing. Happiness is something to be made, with trial and error, adjustments to life's changes, cold, hard, sensible thinking and taking advantage of opportunities and the rare and illusive moments of good luck.

Today I took a leisurely stroll through the freezing rain. A wise one once said that old age is a privilege denied to many.

Throw snow balls at me.

What? There's no snow where you are? Okay then, throw love.

Vagabond Journeys

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fate Facing 12/15/08

I'm just looking to get through the day.

Peter Falk


The days never end because there is unfinished business and trouble that doesn't get resolved on the following day.

I always thought that some day I would do something important with my life. Well
there's not much left of it and what I have is a big cardboard box full of skimmed off artifacts of my 50 year career in show business, some memories and a lot of regrets. And now, I am just what my mother said I would be: a lonely old man.

Illness, poverty and large debts have brought a stop to all my hopes and plans.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Distant Directions 12/13/08

Your heart shall not cling to the high and mighty, but turn to the good and humble folk.

The Didache

The Didache (Koine Greek: Διδαχή, Didachē, meaning "Teaching"[1]; IPA: /ˈdɪdəkiː/ in English, IPA: [ðiðaˈxi] in Modern Greek) is the common name of a brief early Christian treatise (dated by most scholars to the late first/early second century[2]). It is an anonymous work not belonging to any single individual, and a pastoral manual "that reveals more about how Jewish-Christians saw themselves and how they adapted their Judaism for gentiles than any other book in the Christian Scriptures."[3] The text, parts of which may have constituted the first written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian lessons, rituals such as baptism and eucharist, and Church organization. It was considered by some of the Church Fathers as part of the New Testament[4] but rejected as spurious or non-canonical by others,[5] eventually not accepted into the New Testament canon with the exception of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church "broader canon". The Roman Catholic Church has accepted it as part of the collection of Apostolic Fathers.

(from Wikipedia)


Friday, December 12, 2008

Careful Crescendo 12/12/08

First you leap, then you grow wings.

William Sloane Coffin

First there was the primitive man peering out from his cave and contemplating a bright light in the sky. Soon his buddies began to worship it. It seemed to have some control over life. Then they gave it a name and as paganism arose it took on the persona of a goddess. Folks knew it was, because they could see a face in it. But it was a fickle goddess, sometimes she was there, sometimes she wasn't and she came and went gradually.

Then came the scientists, the astronomers with their telescopes trying to get a closer look at the goddess. With them it wasn't a goddess at all, but a planet. And since they could tell that it was moving around the earth. the earth must be the center of everything. That made some sort of biblical sense, so people settled for that for a while. Until some uppity scientists tried to suggest that the earth was not the center of it all. in fact it was just another planet like the one they were contemplating. And if that was so then what was the relationship, since the other one hung around all the time, or most of the time? And why did it come in gradually changing shapes? Someone proposed the absolutely prepostorous idea that it wasn't the planet itself that changed but it was the shadow of the earth on it. Now things were getting very confusing.

Then folks thought that if it was a planet like ours then maybe there was life up there. The only way to find out was to go there, but how could anyone do that?

Then Jules Verne wrote a book about going there which depicted the travelers sitting aloft in a Victorian living room. Verne was a science fiction writer. Nobody was going to take it seriously.

But then with the improvement of air flight a few deluded souls did start to take it seriously and tried to think of ways to get there.

Rocket science was born and men tried with some success but mostly failure to put something up there into the vast area which, for want of a better name, we call "space."

Then there was sputnik.

Then there was Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.

Then there was John Glenn, the first man in orbit.

Then there was the Apollo Program and trips around to the goddess' backside.

Then there was Neil Armstrong's "One small step."

I think the primitive man, peering out of his cave at the bright light in the sky, is pleased and proud that he took a leap.

DB - The Vagabond

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A thought

What if your mortal, physical self is only a replica, like a statue made out of clay to depict you?
Thank of that.

Bashful Blessing 12/11/08

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

Ray Bradbury

There has been a bit of talk concerning my last entry about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. A consensus strikes at the combination of having knowledge and knowing how to use it.

We are all receptacles of information, too much sometimes. The passing fads and the gossip tend to take up too much importance in our lives. Well, all right, in some people's lives. It almost seems that you don't know anything if you don't know the latest bit of superficial information that passes into oblivion almost as soon as it emerges from the public fog.

I like gathering information, that's why I'm a addicted reader of everything that passes before my eyes. I like to know what's in my can of beans as much as what the historians say about Thermapolae. But when does it become knowledge? When does it get tucked away in the tool box or the paint box for later use?

That's where the artist steps in, the artist that lives inside everyone, the maker of things. There's art and there's art. There are simple songs and symphonies, embroidered samplers and murals, limericks and novels. teaspoons and temples The woman who collect yarn of different colors because she knows what to do with them is going to turn her knowledge into something beautiful. It's because she wants to make something beautiful that gives her the wisdom.

To echo what I wrote yesterday, in the process of turning knowledge into wisdom,, whether in art or in life, settling for less than the best you can do is not an option.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dear Brian and Christy fans.

I so enjoy reading your opinions and assumptions as to how the story is going, what's happening, what's going to happen and what the various characters are up to. I think of you as archers: one gets close to the mark, another one misses the target. And since I'm the only one who knows how it's going to fadge, I'm feeling quite smug.


Analogous Authenticities 12/10/08

Endowed with wisdom, women and men are led through visible realities to those which are invisible.

Saint Ambrose

So what is wisdom and how do I get it? We live now in what's known as the information age. We are pummeled with facts and figures, opinions and advice. One sage analyzes things one way and another sage another way. And yet the word informed means to be formed from within. Ah ha! you say, that requires thought. You betcha.

T. S. Eliot once said that information is different from knowledge, and it has nothing at all to do with wisdom. Wisdom is a real pathway to the invisible and perhaps unknowable and once attained becomes true information.

One of the vagabond's favorite lines is "Search for the invisible." What do you do when your foot suddenly reaches the edge of the cliff, the edge of your known world, the knowable? Is there something beyond? At this point the uninformed turn back. The risk is too great. Others may sit and stare into space.

What I want to know is that which I cannot see nor measure, that which is neither under my feet nor over my head. I want to know the heart of the invisible.

A certain Kabbalist scholar described God this way: If the universe is a tree, then God is that which is behind the power that moves the sap.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zesty Zaniness 12/09/08

Doing your best is a process of trying to do your best.

Townes Van Zandt

This was the question I would ask myself often as an actor: Are you doing the best you can? The rehearsal period is a confusing and frustrating time for every one. It is particularly frustrating to watch, which is probably why so many directors get cranky. A good director has to recognize process and development when he can't see results.

For the actor the frustrations are myriad. Early on there is getting to know the play and the other actors and how they work, if you don't know them. If one is lucky to have enough table time to discuss the play and hear everyone's thoughts, that process can have long lasting and important results.

Then comes the staging part where one gets to move around and be placed by the director. This is also the period of learning the lines and that has a built in frustration. If you learn 8 pages after the rehearsal one evening, you may know them cold when you go to sleep. But when you wake up the next mooring they're gone. The brain has tucked them away in some hidden chamber and you have to start doing something that resemble relearning them. But it doesn't take long. Pretty soon they reappear. I always liked to know my lines as soon as possible, it's very frustrating to try to develop the play and find the character while holding a script. Some actors don't put the script down until the last minute which is very frustrating for the other actors.

Later in rehearsal is when the details, dynamics and subtleties of the production are worked out. It is frustrating because it requires constant repetition. Sometimes theatre patrons will ask if they can come and watch rehearsals. They think they are going to see a performance in the rough, but what they see is a rhearsal in the rough. They generally leave after half an hour or so.

The tech rehearsal comes close to the performance night. The actors run through the play, but they have to stop frequently while a light is refocused, a costume is adjusted, the phone bell has to be rewired, the glass is changed to a mug, etc. If one is lucky the tech rehearsal only lasts one night. Then comes a dress rehearsal where everything is finished and working properly, one hopes. After that comes opening night.

All the way through this process I keep asking myself if I'm doing my best, my best for the play and the director, my best for the other players and most of all am I doing my particular best.

Even after opening when the play is running I still look for ways that I can be better. Not to remove anything from the production or add anything, but to perform my role with as much color, energy, depth and honesty as I can.

In the arts, settling is not doing one's best.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Monday, December 8, 2008

Youthful Yearnings 12/08/08

I would ride with you upon the wind
and dance upon the mountains like a flame.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Xenophilic Xenion 12/07/08

We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seeded refusal of that which others have made of us.

Jean Paul Sartre

I had a freshman English teacher in college, I shan't name him, who was in many ways the epitome of Bob Newhart's "buttoned down mind." He rarely smiled, seemed to have no sense of humor, had us reading boring novels by obscure authors and deferred embarrassingly to his favorites in the class. I tried my best to respect that man. He was the teacher assigned to our class and therefore deserved my attention and as much honor as I could give him, which wasn't much.

The biggest problem I had with him was his habit of easily categorizing all of his students. If he made up his mind that one was brilliant then he would praise everything that one said, even if it was ignorant. If he decided that one was stupid then nothing that one said would receive any respect.

But it was even worse when he got to labeling us and putting us in neat little philosophical boxes: this one was an idealist, that one was a pragmatist, the other one was an empiricist, the one over there was a liberal, the one in front a conservative, and so on. And we were expected henceforth to follow whatever ethical, intellectual line we were assigned by him. It was as if he felt obliged to describe ourselves to us in simple, clearly defined terms, like photographs hanging on a wall, and to declare his findings loudly to the class.

I finally locked horns with him one day when I turned in a paper on the subject of opera. I was a music major. He was a music lover, or so he said. I made certain statements in the paper with which he disagreed. It didn't matter to him that I had plenty of research to explain my statements, and he wasn't going to concern himself with the quality of my writing, he just set out to tell me I was wrong because he considered himself a better musicologist than I. In the process he missed the whole theme of my paper. He had made up his mind early on that I was of substandard intelligence and that therefore I couldn't do well at any writing project. But that I happened to step on the sensitive toe of his belief in himself as a superior scholar of opera, just made matters worse. I classified him as a jerk.

It would have been impossible, I think, for the two of us to ever become friends, but now, older and with more experience in my bag, I can admit that there was probably more to the man than just "jerk" and I hope that he is considering that there is more to other people than he wants to find.

It is vitally important to our emotional survival that we kick down the sides of the box that others want to tuck us into and claim a rangy and complex individuality for ourselves. There is more to every human being than meets the opinion of others. And it is equally important that we don't prepare a box for anyone else.

No one has authority over another person's identity.


Saturday night is a lonely time.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Whimsical Weighting 12/06/08

The reader's own life "outside" the story, changes the story.

David Wallace

Now that I'm writing stories I can see the truth of this statement, but only because my stories are serialized. I can read from emails and comments how readers are variously affected by the tale as it unfolds. I can sense one person's reaction to a certain character as compared with someone else's reaction to the same character. I can read how people are taking sides on certain issues as they arise. In fact, I can even appreciate and incorporate suggestions as to how the story should progress. I'll bet any serial writer has experienced the same energy from his readers.

The title of my main journal is Vagabond Journeys. One reason is that I have always thought of life as a journey, at least my life is. Whether it was hitchhiking across the country, following trails up and down the mountains of the Northeast, going from one theatre to another, walking along the sidewalks of New York City as if I was treading on the ledges of the universe or even going from one room to another, it has always been a journey to me.

This is the way I write. I have a beginning and I have a destination. I know how the story is going to end. Getting from the beginning to the end is the journey. That's where the creative work is done. Characters are introduced along the way as they are needed, some stay, some don't. Some are mentioned before they appear. But in every case readers will let me know how important they think those characters are.

The long story I'm writing now, Brian and Christine, is not about a plane crash, a small town in Utah, a major motion picture, an orphanage or the terrors that are coming. It's about a very unlikely relationship between two people. The last character to appear in this story has already been mentioned. I always appreciate the comments I get because I want the readers to be involved with the lives of all the characters, and to go along with me on this journey, and perhaps even point out some sign posts along the way.

My thanks to you.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Vivacious Visions 12/05/08

The history of thought may be summed up in these words: it is absurd by what it seeks and great by what it finds.

Paul Valery

"If God had meant us to fly He would never have given us the railroads." Michael Flanders - At The Drop Of A Hat

He: "If God had meant us to fly He would have given us wings"
She: "Didn't give us wheels neither." Hume Cronyn - Foxfire

Harking back to Mr. O' Conner, my elementary school science teacher, who told me that man could never fly to the moon, I can imagine what the prejudices must have been in the late 19th, early 20th Centuries when men were actually contemplating and experimenting with machines that would enable them to fly through the air. "Man can't fly, it won't work." "It is a well known medical fact that if the human being gets too far above the earth's surface he will die." "Men don't fly. Birds fly. Bees fly. Men don't" "It is a mortal sin to build such a machine. If you try it the Lord will strike you down." "You will burn in hell if you try to fly."

"Did you hear about these two guys in Ohio who think they can build a flying machine?.....No, that they can sit in it and fly around.....They own a bicycle shop, that's all.....What do you think?.....Nah! It'll never work."

Can you imagine the feeling in the hearts of those two brothers when on that December day in North Carolina their machine actually took off, stayed up, and for 12 marvelous seconds, flew!

Now we have private planes, helicopters, intercontinental jets and ships that fly us to the moon (Mr. O' Conner), because two bicycle boys from Ohio had the ridiculous idea that they could build a flying machine. How absurd!

Note: The 105th anniversary of that flight is coming up on the 17th of this month. If you happen to be getting on board a plane on that day, tip your hat to Orville and Wilbur, and tell them I said hi.

The link to Vagabond Tales:

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unified Understanding 12/04/08

I think you have to refill the well at some point.

Skeet Ulrich

Those who are looking for my stories you will find them at:

I know actors who go off and see the latest film or play (if they're in a theatre town) just because they enjoy it. Maybe I'm odd (I guess there's no question about that) but I've never been like that. I tend to chose what I see carefully, because I'm more interested in the performance than the piece.

When I was a youngster, long before I ever knew I would become an actor, I became very much enamored of Barbara Stanwyck and saw as many of her films as I could. It wasn't her or the characters she played, it was the acting that she did.

Later on I became equally fascinated by James Mason. And as time went by I began to notice more and more people whose work inspired me.

I can see a film or a play and not be able to tell you all the intricacies of the plot. But I can talk about the acting, because that's what I watch.

In college I discovered the films of Ingmar Bergman and saw as many of them as I could, some of them many times. "Wild Strawberries" is still my favorite film. It didn't matter to me that they were in Swedish, it was the language of the splendid acting that I enjoyed. I grew up listening to opera without understanding the language because opera is about the music, not the words.

My favorite all time actor is the late Paul Scofield. The first time I knew of him was when I went to see "A Man For All Season" on Broadway. I said "Wow! This guy is good!" I went back to see it again with a different actor in the part, who was equally excellent, but who didn't astonish me as Scofield had done. After that I saw as many Scofield films as I could, just to watch him work.

There's a certain kind of training experience that comes from watching someone do what we do and do more with it. It shows us what is possible and so we can set out to achieve more.

There are a lot of very poor actors out there, and some of them are stars. They
can teach me what not to do. But there are many excellent actors in the world. Those are the ones that can teach me to know what I am capable of. They refill my well.

DB - The Vagabond

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Terse Truth 12/03/08

What we need is to love without getting tired.

Mother Teresa

Even if you don't like them much, your relatives are always your relatives, family is always family, no matter what. But it's not the same with friends. They come along, but they can also go. Sometimes they just die. Sometimes they move away and you lose contact. I was talking with someone this afternoon who remarked that she feels she lost a bunch of friends when we moved from "the A word" over here to Google Land and I think that's true. "What ever happened to so and so? Where did she go?" If we didn't grab or send an email address in time a friendship is lost.

Also, it is more difficult to keep in touch with people over here with this cumbersome Google system. Soon I will put all the blogs I want to read on my favorites list as I did in "the other place."

But there are other ways to lose a friend. Sometimes one of them will marry or otherwise settle down with someone who doesn't like you. That's happened to me twice. You try to keep up a friendship, but it's torn.

Then there are those who are the unfortunate receivers of lies and gossip about you. Malicious people who have nothing better to do than to fabricate false information about you out of jealousy or some other sub-human motive, can destroy a friendship. That has happened to me three times.

What can be said for the friend who suddenly turns unfriendly and becomes malignant. That also happened to me in a very heartbreaking manner. Suddenly, for no stated reason, a friend of many years wasn't a friend any more.

Then there are those who simply disappear. Where is my friend George C.? We were sending emails back and forth and then mine began the DAEMON route. I don't know what happened to him. I don't know if he's dead, in jail, changed his name, won the lottery and moved to Portugal, or what. George, my dear friend, where are you?

One day I started to make a list of all the people I used to know and like that I don't know anymore. It was a very long where-are-you list. In fact it was so long I had to stop. There are too many of them. It made me sad.

Some friends are closer and more important to you than others but my advice is love all of your friends as much as you can because you never know when you might lose one.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Striking Surprises 12/02/08

The artist's vocation is to shed light into the human heart.

George Sand

First of all here's some newsy updates. My stove and oven are back on. I have a new can opener so I could enjoy my beans and tuna for thanksgiving. The heat is on, but it's rather pathetic. I borrowed a space heater from someone. I have to return it so I'm thinking of getting one for myself. I have a monitor that works very well. I have a Marie Antoinette Award and a second NeoCounter. They are both buried way down at the bottom of my journal entries and on the wrong side. I was told I could click and drag them but that is not happening, Any advice?

I asked if anyone knew the author of yesterdays quote and someone did.

the shore
the ship's cat

- Raymond Roseliep

(Thank you George)

If you are not one who reads my stories you can skip this part. A full day of battle on the field at Agincourt has brought the result that all of my stories are now in a blog called Vagabond Tales, Oddly, someone else also has that title but has not posted an entry in 3 years. The best way to find me is to go to my extended profile and click on Vagabond Tales. All the Brian stories are there and The Lodge. Part One of the long story, The Long Walk, is there from beginning to end (with no cliff hangers). And all the entries of Part Two, Buffalo Gap, are there in reverse order the way they appeared in Vagabond Journeys. Don't worry about the numbering, It got all messed up, I'll fix it. I will soon have Vagabond Journeys unencumbered from Brian and Christine who will then reside solely on Vagabond Tales. The next entry of the tale will be tomorrow.

I started this journal, Vagabond Journeys, a little under a year ago. All I did was to put quotes from the famous and not so famous, brief slivers of light I thought would be helpful to people. Daily Dollops, I called them. I had some email friends reading me but no one read my journal until the amazing Linda in Washington State came upon it one day and started telling people, Then I had some readers and some other journals to read. So I started writing brief essays about the quotes I was using. From there I began sending News From The Burb every now and then, bits of information about the silly things that were happening in my neighborhood. That reached it highest level with the serial story of Blackie the town python. After that I started writing fictional short stories about Brian Sims. Now I'm writing a long one. All of them were an attempt to shed some "light into the human heart."

What's next?

DB - The Vagabond

Monday, December 1, 2008

My stories

Beginning tomorrow all of my fiction will be on another journal called Vagabond Tales That way if you don't want to read about Brian and Christine you don't have to plow through it to get to my entry. On the other hand the story will be over there uninterrupted. Thank you. DB


Trying to manipulate through this Google system and make it work has given me a stomach ache. Why is it so irrational?

Remarkable Reconsideration 12.01.08

Poetry often enters through the window of irrelevance.

M. C. Richards

"Pacing the shore, the ship's cat." Unknown

It isn't usually the obvious that slaps us in the face. It's the realization that we have missed the point.

Most people would probably pay no heed to such a cat, and if heed was paid one might say that there was a cat down by the shore. Some might opine that it was looking for a fish. But since when do fish jump out of the water and invite themselves to dinner? And if such an event were to occur due to some lunar influence why aren't there other cats down there to enjoy the repast?

But this is no ordinary cat. This is a ship's cat. How did the cat and his ship get separated? Did the ship sink? In which case how did the car survive? Or did the ship sail off and the car "missed the boat?" Anyone who knows cats knows how territorial they are. It's not likely the cat would stray too far from its home. Or did the captain get tired of the cat and throw it overboard. No, the cat has duties on board that ship. It's an essential part of the crew or it wouldn't be the ship's cat in the first place.

But lets assume the cat and ship got separated somehow and the cat is waiting for the vessel to return. But the cat is not just waiting, it's pacing. This is an anxious cat. And pacing means back and forth over the same part of the shore. Why is that? It must be where the ship is accustomed to dock.

Maybe the ship is on its way in and the cat knows it before any local humans do, Or what if its a female cat with babies on board. That's enough to make her pace.

See how the author of this simple 6 word line of verse has opened up a world of questions and taken us on a journey of investigation.

Any good poem will do the same. I'm not a poet, but I appreciate fine poetry because it does turn my mind inside out and blow perfume at it.

BTW, if anyone knows who wrote that line of verse, please let us know. I used to know but I've forgotten his name.

DB - Vagabond