Amsterdam hits back at Mr. O'Reilly

NRC International reports that film student, Robert Nieuwenhuijs, strikes back at Mr. O'Reilly's reporting on Amsterdam. Both the accusation(s) and Mr. Nieuwenhuijs' clip are on the paper's international site.

More than 2,500 people have viewed the video in 3 days.

Looking back, then ahead at Vampires

A short opinion piece on Vampires; one worth reading, and possibly exploring

Living under a bridge in Providence, RI

Living in a tent in California may be doable twelve months a years, perhaps, maybe, uncomfortable, but not cold.

Living in a tent community under a bridge, off route 195 in Providence, Rhode Island, can't be an address anyone wants to maintain come Winter.

More than 80 people are living together now, but I am concerned for their welfare as the weather worsens, and as the novelty wears off.

Tent cities are not new, but news of them is infrequent, and this article in the New York Times, with many colour photographs of the residents really turned my day around--and not for the better.

I remember all too clearly the Winter of 1993--blankets of snow, impassable roads, windows shuttered and taped, and temperatures below freezing.

I remember the quick, unruly, and seemingly unlikely hurricane that caught Eddie and I on South Main Street without provisions, no electricity and severe warnings from the Mayor.

The hurricane hit on the Wharf, just a short walk from this same spot off route 195, and was probably only contained by the barriers put up some years early after a similar event.

These folks are unprotected in more ways than one.

A new weapon: knitting needles

I am one of those Americans who can't understand and doesn't accept that liquids, shoes, art supplies, yoghurt, and now knitting needles are a danger to our safety.

In fact, I am so appalled by the rules and regulations on air travel that I could scream.

I've been held up and nearly arrested at DC's Ronald Reagan airport in '01 for my art supplies. I've had my new cup of yogurt confiscated at Pittsburgh's lush airport and have had two pairs of small art scissors confiscated at that same Pennsylvania airport.

Now a woman sitting in a government office knitting--knit one, purl two, is asked to remove herself and/or her knitting because it is dangerous.

The atmosphere of fear that erupted and continues in this country post 9-11 is self perpetuating, but in my view it is also fool hardy.

Amazing Watercolours from a 6 year old

These watercolours are amazing.


Books: Some good reading

This new entry in South American literature, a combination of magical realism and romance by Carolina de Robertis,"The Invisible Mountain" might be worth a read.

Clara's War, taken from a young girl's journal, might be a must read for its stark look at Poland during World War II.

Graphic novels reviewed here spark my interest as visual art intersects with the written word in a genre that is getting more and more mainstream attention.

And here's another look in the New York Times.

Particle Tarot, Dave McKean ©

I was introduced to the graphic and comic book world through tarot, first with Dave McKean's Vertigo Tarot, then Neil Gaiman's wonderful children and adult fictions. I was thrilled when I was able to trade a piece of art for Particle Tarot, then difficult to obtain.

Over the ensuing years I have followed some of the better known contributors, and most recently I've added Barron Storey's blog to my artfuller list.

On the opposite side of the writing spectrum Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges' latest book, captures my intellectual curiosity. Among progressive thinkers and writers, I rank Hedges as among the most elastically brilliant. He reminds me of Bill Buckley, but with a liberal rather than a conservative perspective. Some of Hedges in depth pieces explore society in ways infrequently examined and undoubtedly this recent book will not be a disappointment.

An interview with Mr. Hedges here.

And a look back at Jane Austin's "Pride and Prejudice" had me searching my own bookshelves to ensure I still have my own copy.

Peru, the Amazon and the Global Economy

Crossing Lake Titicaca (Peru)

Another scandal of social injustice, financial opportunism and racism is developing in Peru.

Never Underestimate a Comedian gone Senator

The newest Senator in Congress, Al Franken says in excellent judicial language what others should have said, could have said, didn't say and remain loathe to say: the Supreme Court has wrested power in more than one instance and in one instance that shifting balance of power altered the course of the Presidential Election of 2000.

I hope other Senators, equally bright, brave the planks and take out their flashlights and shine some sanity, honesty, decency and integrity into the darkened rooms in Washington halls and in their own chamber.

Politics is not as usual, it has rather become a mockery of our Constitution, our inalienable rights as citizens, our pledges to be of the people, for the people. Our officials have instead become representatives of themselves for themselves as sole beneficiaries.

From "C Street" to Montana, from Alabama to Georgia, we are facing some of the crises in consciousness I haven't felt or experienced in 40 years. Some of these crises were swept under tables during President Bush's tenure, and some of these crises are erupting because of our present President's colour, and political persuasion, but regardless of their origin, we are due a change for the better as things appear for the worse.

Not only must we implore and insist our elected officials clean their houses, it is imperative that we require our journalists to take responsibility for inflaming the fires of extremism.

If hate begets hate, perhaps measured reasoning can beget reasonable men and women.

And if not, we are in for a moral decay not experienced in this country.

NB - Another set of eyes on the same general topic here.


Pro-Active Senator Udall Sends Health Care Message

Although I no longer live in New Mexico, I am proud to learn that Senator Tom Udall is taking the time to send out a clear message on the health care reform issues in an email today to his constituents:

Setting the Record Straight on Healthcare
There's a lot of noise in the healthcare debate right now. All too often the voices of reason are drowned out by the misinformation of special interests and those who believe that inaction is the answer. In reality, the basic objectives of healthcare reform are very clear. Here's a breakdown of some of the myths that I've been hearing:

MYTH: Health reform will force me to accept a public plan.

FACT: If you like your health plan, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep her. All health reform will do is help lower your costs by cutting wasteful administrative spending and boosting competition.

MYTH: Congress will not be forced to accept the public health insurance plan that they will force on everybody else.

FACT: This myth gets it exactly backwards. Right now, members of Congress have access to a quality health care plan that other Americans cannot buy into. One thing Barack Obama and I want to do is to give Americans and small businesses the ability to buy into a plan like the one I have. We also want to give all Americans access to a quality, affordable public health insurance option. No Americans will be forced to accept the public option, but right now millions of Americans are forced to accept no option.

MYTH: A public health insurance option will put private plans out of business.

FACT: More than 30 states, including New Mexico, offer state employees a choice between private insurance and a state-backed public option. These states have not seen either private or public plans forced out of the market. Their employees just have more options.

MYTH: Health reform will put a bureaucrat between me and my doctor.

FACT: Once again, supporters of the status quo have it exactly backwards. Right now, if you have private insurance, a private bureaucrat is paid to decide whether you can get the care your doctor recommends. Worse, the insurance company that person works for will often make more money if he denies your claim.

Health reform will not add a government bureaucrat to your private plan. It will make it illegal for that private bureaucrat to deny you coverage because your illness was the result of a preexisting condition. And it will make sure that your insurance company has to compete for your business, so they are less likely to make you jump through hoops just to get the care you need.

MYTH: Health reform will hurt Medicare.

FACT: Health reform will do a number of things to help Medicare recipients. As part of discussions surrounding health reform, the drug industry has pledged to provide seniors facing the "donut hole" gap in Medicare drug coverage with a discount of at least 50 percent, saving thousands of dollars for some seniors. Health reform will also simplify the application process for financial support for low-income seniors. It will also increase premium subsidies and decrease some copayments for Medicare's drug benefit. Finally, health reform will protect Medicare doctor payments and institute a number of measures to cut bureaucratic hurdles and improve the quality of care.

Medicare is more than a program; it is a commitment that America makes to its senior citizens. I would never support a health reform plan that betrays that commitment.

MYTH: Health reform will hurt small businesses and the economy.

FACT: Actually, small businesses who want to provide health insurance will be some of the primary beneficiaries of health reform. Small businesses and individuals now pay an additional 30 percent in health care costs to cover the price of red tape, compared to just seven percent for large businesses. By helping small businesses to work together, health reform will cut costs dramatically and make it possible for small businesses to provide employees with health care just like the big ones. Health reform will also provide tax credits to small businesses, allowing them to provide the care their employees deserve.

Right now, American car companies pay roughly $1500 per car in health care costs for their employees. Japanese car companies pay about $150. Health reform won't just make America healthier; it will make us more competitive in the global marketplace. That means more jobs for American workers and a more prosperous future for our children.

Dr. Orly Taitz Esq - Gets it wrong twice

I was hopping around Huffington and discovered Mr. Colbert had interviewed Dr. Orly Taitz Esq, one of several birther birthers.

Not only is she saying President Obama has not proven his citizenship by submitting a birth certificate, she fumbled the law on citizenship.

Why do I know this?

My children were not born in the US. I had to do some research on their status as a result and learned:

- in their country of birth, the Netherlands, the father's nationality prevails; hence although my children could seek dual citizenship, they are US citizens with two birth records. One record is an international birth certificate issued by the U. S. Department of State acknowledging birth, while the other is a Dutch record of birth with all the details a traditional certificate contains in the US.

- all children born in the United States are automatically American citizens. Any child regardless of their parents' nationality, immigration status or citizenship is automatically issued a certificate of birth and naturalised.

I also have a friend with three passports because of the wide differences in ascribing citizenship. Daniel has an American birth certificate having been born during a visit to Louisiana by his parents. He has a British passport and certificate of residence because his father is British. And he has an Australian passport and recognition of Australian citizenship because his mother is a citizen.

So, drum-roll for me:

Not only are the birther's quacking and squawking, this lawyer is incompetent and should check her facts.

No to Health Care, Why not Senator?

Senator Lifetime contributions from Insurance/Pharma
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) $1,203,205
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) $206,297
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) $442,165
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-NV) $342,228
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) $702,595
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) $161,706
TOTAL: $3,058,256

Credo posted these Senators' names and how much they've received in industry contributions.

Any correlation? Recognize the hold-outs or hold-ups?

Darn right!


Ray Charles, Bright Sun shiny day

It has again been overcast, grey, greyer and threatening storms for days.

Today is bright, light and a sun shiny day!

Don't Tick Me Off: Lyme Disease

It is a rare day that my eye does not take in a deer, and often those "dear deer" are on my property or on an adjoining neighbour's land.

These sensitive creatures are trying to survive on what little vegetation exists here in rocky land.

With no natural predators they multiple. And with their population growth comes more Lyme Disease.

Knowing that many of my neighbours have contracted the disease, and several who did not get diagnosed for ages, I find myself separated from my own desire to spread my wings or even sit in the grassy areas where the deer roam.

What I wonder can we do to alleviate the disease and protect the "dear" deer?

Let's Dance: Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham, a legacy discussed and viewed here.


Birthers on the Hill

I was disappointed by the number of elected officials who have been contributing to this birth-er issue, but now I am more saddened by the disingenuous, ignorant responses by these men (and few, or one woman).

5 Year old Phoebe Raises $ for San Francisco Food Bank


Gates in the Eyes of Fish

Professor Fish, a notable white educator, speaks plainly about his own observations in North Carolina, at yet another prestigious hall of academia, of how a prestigious black educator, can be mistreated.

This story won't go away because racism is very alive in this country, and because too many Americans can't talk about it with honesty and without prejudice.

And Eugene Robinson, journalist, says it so well on the Morning Joe Show, when he distinguishes between "racial bias" and "racist" in an exchange with Mika Brzeznski.

Interesting watch here.

Where is that blue mailbox?

They are disappearing,

just like their friends,

the telephone booths.

And I miss them!


Political Laff: Jon Stewart Wins Time Poll

I can almost hear Mr. Stewart laughing when he discovers he is the most trusted newsman after Walter Cronkite, with Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric following behind in a on-line Time Magazine poll.

And if Vermont didn't go for Stewart, it may be like Stewart himself, they don't consider Mr. Stewart a newscaster, but a comedian or political satirist.

Gates Arrested at Home

Each time I hear or read about Professor Gates' arrest in Cambridge, my internal visual screen sends signals of how it may have occurred and how often racial profiling occurs.

A neighbour calls. The police arrive. Gates is indigent. Indigent? Yes, after all he is entering his own home. Who is challenging that right. Angry! Yes, angry to learn that not only did a neighbour call the police, the police were challenging him and his bona fides.

Apparently he has been cleared of charges ... read here.

"But what charges," I am certain the Professor is wondering. Overwrought, embarrassed perhaps (some reports say he was with someone), masculine pride attacked, another black man is pulled up short by the realities of prejudice.

And not prejudice in Alabama, but in Cambridge, near Harvard, in Boston, in New England, in America.

My visual memory continues to operate on overdrive, but I will spare myself and you of all those unpleasant details.

And hope against hope we'll improve not only racial relations, but all relations.

NB: An then as I thought I was finished with the subject, the Globe ensnared me with this piece today.

Do you mean pentimento?

Example: Pentimento

If you ever look up your name, you'll discover, common or uncommon, your name is not yours alone.

The same is true for titles of blogs.

If I look up Pentamento, Google asks me, "do you mean, "pentimento" and directs me to paintings that have been altered here and here. Or Titian's change here.

When I move on to Pentamento, ignoring Google's nudge, I discover music, restaurants and various other references.

What's in your name?

Books: Camus, A Romance

Never quite as taken with Camus as Elizabeth Hawes, biographer and author of "Camus, A Romance" I admit I read all his books, went to Paris to find him, years too late, and cling to the notion that in his steps I'd find a literary path.

A must read for those who thought existentially and live absurdly.

And a memorable quote: "In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

NB: @ 25 November 2009 - It appears France's President is requesting permission from Camus' children to change the writer's burial place. Like so many issues, it has become a political football, a news item and a controversy.


Review: Clairefontaine Watercolour Book

Clairefontaine Watercolour Book**

Clairefontaine watercolor books remind me of Arches Carnet de Voyage Travel Book, sturdy, 300 g/ acid free cold press paper, with what appears to exhibit a high concentration of surface sizing. The Clairefontaine 20 sheet books come in both side wire bound and top wire bound with a rigid backboard and an assortment of decorated see-through covers. (** You can see some of my colour tests showing through (above) on the first sheet of the book.)

My favourite cup July 2009 ©
Clairfontaine Watercolour Book
Assorted Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton watercolours

Clairefontaine Watercolour Book

I believe they come in 3 or more sizes, and I am experimenting with the top bound 8" x 8" version.
Arches Carnet de Voyage

The Arches which I referred to above is also 300 g/m, 140lbs, but 6" x 10" (15x25 cm) and has 15 sheets, 5 less than the Clairfontaine. However, it not the size but rather the consistency and feel of the paper that aroused my curiosity and had me comparing the two.

Onion, A Light Red Study, August 2004 ©
Arches Carnet de Voyage Watercolour Book
Winsor & Newton watercolours

Many artists favour Arches and rank it the best. For those artists the Clairefontaine should be an excellent choice both for its finish and pricing.

However, preferences among water colour artists, or dabblers like myself, vary greatly. With three primary choices: hot press, cold press and rough, various weights and more than a dozen manufacturers, we are fortunate to be able to pick and choose the paper that suits us best.

I am of the less sizing school and gravitate more to Saunders Waterford,
Lanaquarelle, Fabriano and occasionally Bockingford papers. While I generally buy cold press, I also like rough press and have just started to use hot press and stick almost exclusively to 300 g/m, 140 lbs.

I discovered my preferences quite a few years ago after a visit to New York Central's Paper Department where I was able to touch, feel, pet and then order samples of more than 20 different papers. As I bought 22" x 30" full sheets and several custom made blocks and books, I've had some of these well stored, and continue to enjoy a wide variety of good quality paper for various projects. New York Central has a paper only catalogue and paper can be ordered on line.

The last time I checked, the Arches Carnet de Voyage were on sale at Cheap Joes for just under $8.00.

The Clairefontaine watercolor books can be purchased at the Writers Bloc for $11.50, a more than decent price for a very good watercolour book. Also check Exaclair for other resources.

For more info on paper, you might enjoy Handprint's write-ups here.


Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies

Discovered this gem at Something to Say, a blog with much pizazz and among my favourites.

Get a glimpse at some of those supplies but not before you get out your "back in time" travel machine!

Review: Uni-ball Watercolour Pencil set

Exterior Uni-ball watercolour pencil set, series #3
Photo courtesy of Jet Pens

Interior Uni-ball watercolour pencil set, series #3
Photo courtesy of Jet Pens

On the look out for the smallest of small watercolour pencil sets, I was thrilled to discover the Uni-ball sets at Jet Pens for an extremely reasonable price. I purchased the #2 series and see that other watercolourists must have swamped the Jetters with orders and their stock is down to only one of the three (3) colour series, series #3.

Uni-ball watercolour pencil set, series #2

I tested the 12 colours in a Exaclair 9" x 6" (15.2 x 22.9cm) Esquisse sketchbook I've had around for a very long time: 90 g/m (55 lb) acid free paper, medium tooth, a good compromise weight for drawing and writing both, and an excellent sketchbook for testing various art media.

The series #2 contains the following colours: lemon yellow, canary yellow, dark orange, rose carmine, light cobalt blue, dark phthalo blue, night green, moss green, dark sepia, gold ochre, burnt ochre, pompeian red.

The watercolours are rich, work well on this lighter weight paper, take water immediately, blend easily and have vibrant colours. In searching for another source for these pencils, I stumbled on several reviews, and an excellent side by side test of the Uni-ball and Faber Castell Albert Durer watercolour pencils at this Flickr member's page. It appears the Uni-Ball pencils compare favourably with the Faber Castell Albert Durers.

And if you check out this page here, you can see a close up of the frills that come with the tiny 5-1/4" x 4-1/2" (13.3 x 11.4 cm) set: 12 coloured pencils, a pencil extender, sharpener, water brush and permanent container to hold them all together.

The upside of this set is how pocket ready it is for road trips and sketch crawls. It appears to be excellent quality something I've come to expect from Uni-ball products and Mitsubishi Pencil Co. Ltd.

The downside is I don't know if it is refillable, although I suspect not and I am already wondering how another cut down watercolour pencil would fit into the case.

And I am also concerned about the longevity of the case. It is well designed but the latch that keeps it closed is a little fussy, hard to close quickly and may not last as long as the pencils themselves.

But overall I more than got my money's worth, and if Jet Pens restocks, I recommend folks give them a try.


Books: Dave Egger's "Zeitoun"

I rarely step out of my comfort zone of book review reading but recently have started to seek out reviews from sources other than my two staples, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times and discovered some terrific reviews of books that might not ordinarily come to my attention.

Dave Egger's book, "Zeitoun" is one that I might have missed if I hadn't gotten so fed up with politics as usual, and checked out Salon's book section.

With so many books on my wish list, I don't know which or how many I'll actually get to read, but I do know that the subjects of Egger's book, "Katrina, the hurricane and prejudices in the United States" are two subjects that personally engage me and get me thinking--always dangerous.

After four days of halfheartedly listening to the Sotomayor interrogation, and the apparent overt and covert racism in the Senate questioning, it comes as no surprise that a family in New Orleans would be scapegoated in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 in the midst of a natural and horrific disaster in our country 4 years later.

As I was on the scene, so to speak, for both events, they are indelibly etched in my mind.

I was on foot by half past twelve on September 11 in New York City, pondering as all of us did what to do next. I chose to be with the only person I loved who was in the City at the time, and in a neighbourhood most familiar to me: Greenwich Village. In these familiar surroundings and with my god-daughter I felt I had chosen the best of all possible courses for that horrific day.

But when Katrina hit New Orleans and its environs, I was stranded in Raleigh, North Carolina. I had been headed for Asheville, but the pumps went down both to the West and the East of me, and I stayed put in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers. I wasn't frightened as much as challenged by my inability to get out of town, and back to New York City.

Others undoubtedly have their own strong memories of the two events, but how many of us got caught up in how the two instances linked up.

It did for the Zeitoun family in ways that speak poorly on our national consciousness and Egger brings it together for us to listen to in a third person voice.


Books: The house at the end of the road

Another memoir, a different subject, but one that again resonates with questions about the literal truth, and a potential fictional mask. While Ralph Eubanks writes The Story of Three Generations of An Interracial Family in the American South, I myself ponder the external veracity of the memoir but bow to the inner conviction of its truth.

Whether in the South or the North, interracial relationships, especially marriages, were illegal until the late 60s. Furthermore, any child born within an interracial relationship, regardless of the fairness of their skin, was pronounced black (Negroes).

And the author's conclusion that we have reached a place in American society where colour doesn't matter is to discount all the racial murmurings that surround us daily, and those loud noises we have been hearing since President Obama took office.

Rarely do I hear the President referred to as white, interracial or even that old word, "mulatto," but rather he is our first black President.

My memories of the South as a student in the 60s, my personal experiences that crossed colour barriers convince me that Mr. Eubanks' recollections, like all memories are constructed as internal devices to shield and serve us in living our lives.

Without some fairytale component added, we might perish from the burden of Hegel's absolutism.


Fonts, not Founts

When I first got a personal Macintosh, a SE, I collected fonts by the barrel full and boy did they take up room.

It appears that these days most Macs come with many terrific fonts already installed and that folks like these and these offer others for free.


A turtle in New Hampshire

Not your ordinary turtle, but the Ninja, a little background on Laird and how it all began in Northampton (MA).

I love reading this kind of back piece especially when they are about people I might have known or met. No, I don't recall ever meeting Mr. Laird but in Northampton environs it was and probably still is impossible not to run into nearly everyone within a 30 mile radius.


Dean on the "Health Care" Plan

It is possible that something happened, behind closed doors of course, between the President and former Governor Howard Dean, but when he talks health care, I listen intently and wonder why he wasn't asked to represent health issues in any number of the appointments made this year.

Recycle and Reclaim that ole book

Trumpet Vines

Paper and Threads has a good demonstration of how to take an ole book and make it a journal here.


What a Hoot: Daily Show on...Palin!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Half Baked Alaska
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

A small but noteworthy victory: Sotomayor

Trumped at his own game, I see some egg on the Senator's face in this exchange.

Senator Sessions let it go, least you embarrass yourself more than have us embrace your point(s) of view.


Happy Days: Michael Arthur

Michael Arthur, a transplant to Brooklyn, reminds me a little bit of Danny Gregory, not the work, but the spirit of making those precious moments count when we illustrate not just our own lives but those around use.

His work came to my attention in this New York Times piece. Mr. Arthur also has a blog which I am following here.

Gaggle of Geese

Geese Marching, July 12, 2009, mid-day ©

Yesterday, mid-day, I heard the call of geese. When I rushed out I saw them flying south of our country road. But a half hour later, as I was looking out my window, I saw one lone goose heading north.

Geese Retreating, July 12, 2009, mid-day ©

I grabbed my camera, and discovered that an entire gaggle had shown up on M's property. I followed them into the bushes, and sighed heavily that I didn't catch them with a telephoto lens.

Bill Moyers, the Washington Scam


Sotomayor, Up Tomorrow

I am hoping, hoping that we will not hear or for that matter see the kind of unpleasantness that has circulating before the hearing tomorrow on Judge Sotomayor's nomination.

Books: Eduardo Galeano (Audio)

Have you ever visited South America, a vast continent, rich in history, breathtaking vistas, diverse heritages and continuous struggles?

South America, a continent unlike its northern neighbours, often brings its writers to my doorstep, speaking in Spanish, Portuguese and occasionally the indigenous Quechuan, languages I am not fluent in, but nonetheless speak with emotions I seem to understand.

This interview with Eduardo Galeano, part of the Washington Post series "Writing Life" brought a sneak preview into Galeano's most recent book "Mirrors." If Maria Arana's reading of the vignette "South" is any indication of the depth of Galeano's writing, a bifarcation of a mercury plain, we may all need to step back and peer intently into our own cracked mirrors, most especially now, in such troubling times. Other brief recollections by Galeano can be read here.

And, not incidentally, it was Galeano's book, Open Veins of Latin America, written more than 40 years ago, that President Chavez, Venezuela, gave President Obama, United States in April '09.

I can see clearly now

We've had more rain in the last month than ever before, and while the grasses are green, and the flowers were blooming, we needed a bright shiny day!

Opinions: Colour, Ethics, Politics

A touchy subject, but one that needs airing out in the general public and among those who self-identify as a person of colour.

Another opinion on Palin, but with a twist: who is to blame or take the credit for the emergence onto the national stage of the Governor?

I don't envy the Attorney General in his balancing act, and judicial conundrum.


Books: The Palace Room, Memories and Memoirs

This piece in the Washington Post about memory and Karl Taro Greenfield memoir struck a nerve especially after hearing the fictional television character Patrick Jane's (the Mentalist) remark in a recent episode how he perceived memory as a palace-sized room.

In a rush to judgement memoirs are scrutinized for accuracy, and often challenged or labeled as a lie while prodigious memory, eidetic or otherwise, is often over-rated or misunderstood.

As a child I was often praised for my memory. As a teenager I was often criticized for distortion or exaggeration. As an adult, and a senior one at that, I am often astonished at my own memory and how tiny little bits of yesterday arrive in sudden, unbidden bursts into my mind's eye.

I also know that I often search for hours or even days for a kernel to resurface as I work my way through colours, sounds, sights and alphabetic chants. Once a psychologist asked me, "how do you call up memory." Often I can just go there, the place of the event, other times I circle tangential threads until I can exclaim, "yes, that's it."

Often guided in my search for personal truths, I recall reading Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Hellman's Pentimento, Grass' Tin Drum, Kosinski's Painted Bird and just recently putting Amos Oz' new book, "A Tale of Love and Darkness" on my wish list, without doubts about the writers authenticity. A memoir is not, or rather should not be judged as evidentiary, but rather as a journey, a fleeting recollection, often coloured by time, space, wishful thinking and deliberate personal camouflage.

Kosinski, Grass, Oz and Hellman have been criticized for distorting the truth. Their role in their personal history was larger than life, but it is also their writing that rocketed them to fame, and created a body of literature, most often fiction, worth reading.

Greenfield faces his own truth, his parental mirror and the act of distortion head on in the WP interview.

Make your own Moleskine-like journal

Michael Shannon's instructions and illustrations make it all easier than saying, "journal."

And here's another how-to that makes it very clear.


Amazing News: Ban lifted on Needle Exchange

What an amazing piece of news! The Democratic Congress has lifted the ban on federal funds for needle exchange programs.

As a former member of the Harm Reduction Movement, I am thrilled that another path is possible for reducing HIV and AIDS through the safe exchange of clean needles with potential federal funding.

Heretofore, initiatives have been set up on a State-by-State basis, underfunded or privately supported and caused internal and external wrangles that often created public health nightmares.

Scientific studies, conducted as early as the 90s, concluded that needle exchange programs were effective and as the name implies, "harm" reduction that would save lives.


Roz' Superstitions and an Exacompta Sketchbook

Photo via Writers Bloc ©

I have been comparing, contrasting and most importantly using my sketchbooks and journals almost daily. I've started a new sketchbook a few days back, although I have a few others in use, for those moments I want to say something in words and images that is project driven. Spurred on by Roz' superstitions, and how these have occasionally worked against me, I am arting through the gut while using my head.

Here's an example:

Sketchbook, 25 June 09 ©

In '01 I broke my wrist, and a tendon in my thumb. The torn tendon went undetected for weeks and in December of the same year I had surgery. Recently I have been experiencing a great deal of discomfort and pain in that hand and arm.

Instead of just thinking about it, I celebrated it with a journal page using an Exacompta Sketchbook.

The Exacompta Basics Sketch Book, described on the The Writers Bloc, contains heavy weight 100g paper. If you like to sketch using a fountain pen, this is the book for you! The off-white paper is pH neutral, made up of 25% cotton and has a bit of texture to it. The cotton fibers and a water mark can be seen when the paper is held up to the light. The binding is sewn so that no pages will fall out and the journal lays flat when open. The board cover is available in black with silver cloth binding and silver edging. Includes 100 sheets of blank paper and one ribbon marker. Size: 5 1/2" x 8 1/4". E9920.

Thus far I'd say this is a terrific sketchbook. It took watercolour washes, some heavy acrylic (not shown), Noodler's HoD fountain pen ink with a Safari, Slicci doodling and a plain ole pencil.

The sketchbooks run about $12.00 and can be bought at several online outlets: The Writers Bloc, Vickerey, Wetpaint Art, Swisher Pens and many others.


HIV Testing: possibly standardized

The issue of routine testing for HIV has been on the table at most health departments and at the CDC for at least ten years. This article seems to imply that Massachusetts, and its DPH, will move forward with such standardization.

If confidentiality is retained, and destigmatisation is moved forward, I am all for it. However, as each State has its own confidentiality law, some of the issues that have prevented the routine administration of a test with other blood work has always been prohibitive because of those laws.

It seems from the few statistics in this article, the number of new cases has not decreased in a decade, and the serious and warranted concern of transmission remains a severe challenge for health and social services without new testing procedures.

Massachusetts changes will most likely affect other health departments, and those changes if introduced with care might well prove efficacious in decreasing the number of people infected and potentially affected--providing prevention messages are retained and enforced.

VF and beyond on Palin

Courtesy of AP photo / J. Scott Applewhite

I am late to the party with my words below, because since 1 July when I started to think and write about the Governor from Alaska, her latest news conference--I am quitting--hit the airwaves.

It isn't news in Germany or the Netherlands and doesn't appear to be among the top stories in Britain (although another Governor seems to be getting press).

And I have been following it with great interest. Why? Why? Why?

And while I have not found an answer that satisfies my curiosity, I did find Ruth Marcus' remarks here at TruthDig worth thinking about in light of my own disdain for the almost former official. As a woman I'd like to see more women reach the top of their fields, any field. Something irks me about the Governor's role in how women are viewed in her shadowy rambling perspectives.

And this new piece at Huffington Post on narcissism, and the Governor is quite telling and cautionary.

Written on 1 July: Vanity Fair, once a magazine to miss, now provides some excellent reading material and has offered some of the best journalism articles in print.

Its story on Governor Sarah Palin here covers some of the high and low points of the nearly one year the Palin name appeared on the Republican ticket.

I not only dislike the Governor's stands on most issues, I detest almost everything she stands for: the dumbing down of America, conservative hypocrisy, religiosity at its extreme, using a pretty (or beautiful) face to sneer at foes, wink at debating partners and whine when she is criticized. She is now threatened to sue, yes sue, several news reporters and blogger for suggesting that rumours are floating around about her sudden resignation.

What is even more troubling is all the press she gets, some good, some bad, some nasty, but continuous, unrelenting looks into her twittering babbles.

The coverage gives her credence.

But it seems that sensational or tawdry sells. If we take a quick peek at what stories are read most at Yahoo, Huffington et al., they invariably are articles like the Governor of South Carolina's dalliances.

In fact, Motown, salacious emails, celebrity deaths and the like pushed the Iran election controversy off the front page(s), and buried troubles in North Korea, a coup in Honduras, the economic crisis and the importance of health care reform in the United States.

The article seemed somewhat measured. While it did attempt balance, it did not include a personal interview with the Governor (she declined), but did address her political past, both in Alaska and on the national stage.

Yet it seems that I may have a lowered reading level than some as this Yahoo piece implies prejudice on the part of the writer.

But whether my reading level has decreased or not, it is my contention that the Governor does not deserve the air time she receives, that Senator McCain made a huge professional and personal mistake in bringing her onto the world stage and elevating another narcissist to contend with on the political right of center.

Perhaps what irks me the most is the Governor's disparagement of the mind. If she had one perhaps she'd embrace it rather than reduce her sound bits to gushy platitudes and meaningless populism.

But who am I to condemn either the right or the Governor, after all more Americans watch FOX news than any other channel, and lap it up as if it were the newest ice cream flavour.

Liz Trotta on FOX....seems to agree with me:

And the Governor of Pennsylvania, speaks out here.


Books: A Copyright Collage

Salinger sues, and is granted an injunction to stay the publication of a parody (says the Swedish author) of Holden Caulfield of "Catcher in the Rye" from a teenager to a 76 year old.

The book has been published in Britain, where apparently the talk by its author is that the suit denies Americans the opportunity to catch up on Caulfield's life.

I don't recall many incidence of copyright dispute of this nature, but it is one that often occurs in visual art translations, collages in particular and iconic images frequently. Mickey Mouse was among the first to meet his doppelganger in copyright court and Disney won roundly.

Perhaps if Mr. Fredrik Colting, pen name John David California, had asked, Mr. Salinger may have granted him the right for this purported sequel.

A Book Club Friendship

Boston Common, courtesy MIT ©

A most remarkable story, one that makes me smile and gives me hope, hope that folks are still talking and reading, and making remarkable friendships.

A Boston attorney and a man without a home meet in the Boston Common, and start a book club.

What an inspiring read, literally and figuratively in the Globe.


Book Review: A Mercy, Toni Morrison

When I ran out of my own reading material in Pittsburgh, I went through R's stack of unread books and randomly selected Toni Morrison's "A Mercy." The New York Times review from November '08 here; mine below.

I've read the Nobel Prize winner's books before, but never really took to her as a writer. However, this book has captivated me in small and big chunks.

The language is neither English, prose or poetry, but rather a combination of each, with a stream of consciousness approach to sentences and whole chapters. This flow can occasionally be difficult to follow, but nonetheless creates a profound connection to the characters' voices. And the characters' voices change, readjust and gather in spirit, if not always on a physical or linear plane, in resonance.

Morrison will spare you nothing. She digs into souls and resurrects the pestilence of 17c slavery.

Sorrow becomes Complete. Florens turns to Wildness. Sir dies. Mistress becomes Cruelty. Lina drowns in silence Alone.

But it is Mother who calls for Mercy, and it is Morrison who takes it away.

Whether a fan of Morrison, an avid reader or a searcher of unsung songs, a must read book.


Ann Goldstein coming to the Stedelijk Museum

Undergoing renovation and closed for many years, the museum will reopen with a new artistic director, Ann Goldstein, now at the LA MoCa. The first buitenlander (foreigner) and first female.

In the year I lived on the P.C. Hoofstraat, around the corner from the Museumplein, I spent 3 of 5 weekdays drinking coffee in the cafe, chatting with my good friend Beppi, then a curator of prints and admiring contemporary art.

Most businesses, including museums, gave their employees two coffee breaks, one in the mid-morning, the other around half past three. The length of the breaks permitted us quite a bit of chatter.

I loved those coffee hours!

But I suspect all these years later, years of renovations and reconstruction, I might not recognize my old neighbourhood.