Happy New Year!

Although there is a terrific sounding party over at MP's today where many of my friends will be, there is bad weather predicted I am likely to stay in and cheer myself with a bottle of Porter.

Hope all are safe and looking forward to a New Year.


PS - Special greetings to Baby Jack, this his very first New Year!


Michelangelo's grocery list

It is amazing what mediabistro brings to my day.

via Bibliokept

Kelly McMasters first brought mediabistro to my attention in one of her Paris Review essays. 


Edgar Allan Poe and the mountain fog

The Morgan Library & Museum once more has a fascinating exhibit this month, and until January 26 of Edgar Allan Poe's works and related works by authors he influenced.

Energetic adventures not forthcoming, yet I might give a try for the Poe National Historical site, part of the Parks Department, in Pennsylvania, where Poe was most happy.

Dickens, too, is on exhibit.

At holiday season I do miss New York City.

And here in the lower Catskills on the Delaware we've had warm weather up until yesterday and today a light sprinkle of snow.   But for several days the fog was dense and nearly impossible to follow along even on the highway.


Writing in Isolation: Prison Memoir

It is remarkable to think that in 1858, an imprisoned man in Auburn (New York) could muster up 304 pages of life in prison, but Austin Reed did.

New York Times ©

Uncovered recently and now at Yale, the manuscript must be quite the eye full as it is handwritten, and undoubtedly a challenge to read, and now it is to be published.

It makes me think of my own struggle with writing.   Before the internet, I could sit down at a typewriter or an early computer, and write for ages.  Now I get distracted not by isolation but by popping emails, and searches for this or that.

When I had a place in the mountains, years ago, I would go there on weekends and write, often late into the night, with perhaps the radio on.  We didn't have much of a television.

I managed more than 300 pages, but these days it is difficult for me to meet my own schedule of one hour or 1000 words.

Yesterday, landlocked by snow and no car, I managed just over one thousand words, and the time seemed to fly by.

I am hoping to disengage and continue that pace.


Gifts for readers: non-traditional charities

Mediabistro published a list of 10 charities who encourage reading.

When I left New York seven years ago (time does fly) I donated more than 25 boxes of books to Books to Prisoners.

Two young strapping guys showed up, took the boxes with one arm, and carried them away, joyful at the bounty, and it wasn't even


Streetwise ©

So if you have books you aren't reading and want some book shelf, perhaps you'd consider donating to one of these charities.

Science Fiction the development stage

According to Wired [via mediabistro], we might have a Science Fiction Museum in Washington, D.C.

Jules Verne's studio © (via Wired)

In the early stages of raising funds.


So What about the Affordable Care Act is Working?

I just received two notices in the mail.

The first notice is that my insurance premium has gone up---not down.

And the second notice is that there are additional restrictions on my prescription plan.

New York State was touted as a State where insurance rates were decreasing.  Perhaps not so true as my plan is a retiree plan from New York State

So, how is the Affordable Care Act working?

Gobble, Gobble: Bread & Circus

Even after all these years I call "Whole Foods" "Bread & Circus" because I am stubborn and object to the gobbling up of the small or smallish in favour of the bigger, and biggest.

I first was introduced to Bread & Circus by my friend, Sherry Ryan, who lived on the East Side of Providence and could practically walk over, and perhaps she did.   When they opened I lived about 5 miles away but later I, too, lived in walking distance--at least on a good day.

One bad day, during a hurricane, one big enough to have the Mayor close the roads, Ed and I were stranded Downtown.  Being Ed, he got into that crazy jeep and rushed over to the grocer to get some provisions least we starve.   I worried when he didn't come back, quickly, phoned up and they paged him and sent him back to the studio, thus relieving my concerns and the Mayor's dictate.

I liked that.

I also liked the fact that when I moved to Western Massachusetts, they, too, had a Bread & Circus on rte 9, between Amherst & Northampton--so utterly convenient as I was working 3 counties and traveled that road almost daily, occasionally more often.

Brookline Store, 1975

I still have my two woven, bright green string Bread & Circus shoppers, and use them frequently.

But now I also have a yellow "Whole Foods" plastic bag I got in Pittsburgh.

Now it seems Whole Foods is opening all over, including Brooklyn.

What will it do to the Mom & Pop food stores all over Brooklyn who already sell "good food," "specialty items" and unusable vegetables and fruits.

Will they go out of business?  How much will they suffer for the turkeys that always gobble, gobble.


Early Kremer Pigments Palette

Certainly not the first, but among the early adopters of the Kremer palette, I was disappointed two times and remain disappointed.

I bought a palette somewhere between 2004-06, can't recall what year.  The first had cracked paint in a matter of days.  Returned it.   The second also developed the same issues.

Kremer Palette (closed)

Cracked colours

Full palette

Now here are photos of the third and last of the palettes.   Too late to return and I wonder what with so many talking about the Kremer and buying it, if it has improved.


Winter in the country side

Yesterday, it was cold but warm enough to go without mittens for a visit to Narrowsburg to see the Arts Alliance 6x6 show, and check out the Indie Market, second year, and this year with several of my friends having stuff to show & sell.

Daria Dorosh's great work © Dorosh
Surprisingly, Morgan also had a booth, manned by a student. 

J. Morgan Puett's clothing line ©

But by the time I had finished shopping at the market in my own town, my car stopped working altogether.  Not the battery.  Not the battery.   Something wrong, but what.

After an hour an unfamiliar car came up and it was a local AAA representative from another town with his two bright eyed children.   He tried the battery.  No dice.  I knew it wasn't the battery by this time because all the other elements worked, or at least that's how it seems to me.

He drove me home, 1.3m, with the groceries but all my paperwork is in the car and my walking around coat. 

He later towed it to my regular mechanic.  But it turns out my regular mechanic is unable to work on electrical issues and it may be the starter.  Now the car is 20m away and I don't know when it will be worked on, finished, and what is wrong.

The roads are nearly impassable; all the schools closed;  and I believe the library (a most unusual event).   Just now when I looked out the front door, I realized that a great deal of fog is coming up.

Pentamento ©

A good day to stay home. 

But when will my wheels be fixed?  And how much will it cost?

And are we in for a rough winter?

Watercolour Advice from Mark Holmes

Teoh Yi Chie  at Parkablog  has been interviewing artists about their tools of the trade--sketching.

Mark Taro Holmes, an Urban Sketcher and a very good one, recently shared his tools in an interview and made a few excellent points:

About the paint:

1) try the paints out in smaller size tubes until you know you "really like" the colour.

Pentamento's watercolours

I so wish I had been given this advice years ago when I started to paint with watercolour because now I have a huge collection of paint that will undoubtedly not get used.

About the paint brushes:

He says, and I often agree, that synthetics can be as good as the best sable.

My favourite synthetics these days are the Lowes Cornell 7020  & Utrecht's 228 sabettes.  

Both these synthetics hold a good point, are easy on the hand and inexpensive.


Keep those envelops: Dickinson Did!

Apparently, Emily Dickinson's trove of envelop draft poems have been recovered, published and on view at several museums, one of which is in NYC.

The Drawing Center
35 Wooster Street
New York, NY

Amazingly, the Dickinson/Walser pencil sketch book is on line to read (with good eyes) and view.  The Drawing Center (located in SoHo) is also selling the book for $20.00 plus postage.

For one brief moment, Mandela

I wrote this days ago but didn't post it.  Now Mr. Mandela has passed away.

Rest in Peace, Nelson Mandela and I for one will always remember you with a smile on my face.

Today, in the New York Times, a video, looking back at his life, here.

It seems yet another film has been made about Nelson Mandela's life, this time, however, with the blessings and support of his immediate family.

This New York Times piece reminds me so clearly of the brief moment I met Mr. Mandela, a moment that I may have repeated often, but stands out more clearly today as I watch the political folly here in the US.

It was easy weather and I was outside 5 Penn Plaza.  At that time both our NYC headquarters and the offices of CNN shared space on alternate sides of the building.  Because of CNN's presence in the building, it was a frequent occurrence that popular figures in the news would appear and disappear suddenly on the stairs or on the busy thoroughfare of 8th Avenue waiting to be picked up by a taxi or a limo.

I don't know if I recognized him or just sort of fell into conversation with him because of his stature or the fact that he may have been with one or another of the cameramen I knew well.

Mr. Mandela, then, now more than a decade ago, was an imposing figure, tall, lean, and with the brightest smile this side of the Atlantic.

He was among, if not the single most generous of those news worthy figures to pop into or out of my vision and outings to the fresh air, little that there was, on this Avenue, and at this juncture of the City where not only is there heavy traffic but Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.


Which Water Brush?

Top to bottom:  Pentel, Holbein, Caran d'ache

Traveling back and forth from Pittsburgh through Lewisburg (PA) and State College (PA) gets me up front art supplies rather than relying solely on internet suppliers and thus I was able to see up close & test the new(ish) Caran d'ache waterbrush at Brushstrokes (Lewisburg).

I bought the Holbein from Jet Pens a couple of months ago and was excited to see this brush pen in the States.  

I was equally excited to see a European model, especially from a manufacturer like Caran d'ache.

So, how do they compare to each other, and the other two water brushes, also in my collection, the Sakura and the Kuretake (Jet Pens also carries a full line of Kuretake & Pentel brush pens).

The Holbein comes in two sizes: Medium and Large.  I have the Medium.

The Kuretake's come in various sizes, including a flat, one of a few manufactuers that offer this type.  Kuretake flats was among the 1st water brushes I owned and used on a trip to Sicily.  I used it so much it totally wore out and I recently replaced it.

The Pentels also come in various sizes and have a range of disposable pens in colours.

The Sakura is probably best known as the water brush that accompanies the Koi watercolor set(s) but it also sells individual brushes.

Holbein & Caran d'ache after use

Holbein & Caran d'ache closed

Holbein & Caran d'ache opened

I am often captured by looks, a shallow quality I am certain, and the Caran d'ache is very pretty and looks well designed.  However, it is not as functional as any of the others, and not as easy to use as the (new to me) Holbein.

Filling the Caran d'ache is tedious;  the Holbein not.   Releasing the water from the chamber of the Caran d'ache is not consistent;  the Holbein is. 

And although not as important the bristles on the Caran d'ache does not clean nearly as well as some of the other water brushes.

At nearly $10.00 it is unlikely I will be buying another Caran d'ache, although I will certainly consider more Holbein brushes.

My favourites thus far are the Koi and the Holbein, runners up Kuretake and Pentel.

Nearly never without a Rhodia

All the new notepads, and/or journals just don't compare to Rhodia.  


They flip back easily without breaking the upper spine, tear out smoothly and provide a paper surface that takes any writing utensil.  

And these Rhodia notepads are not expensive, either and often available where I shop.

More on Detroit's Museum

So, it seems someone in Detroit wants to sell the collection inasmuch as they got an appraisal from Christie's according to this piece in the New York Times.

Bruegel © New York Times

The sum is nowhere near the social value of having this work together, and in Detroit.

I can easily see a European museum offering a heady sum for the Bruegel above.


Who will save Detroit & its landmark museum?

Detroit Art Institute © New York Times

With the default and declaration of bankruptcy of Detroit, who will save this magnificent museum, a landmark and among the most extraordinary in the country?


How small a palette?

The size of a business card!

I failed to mention this very small palette came from Maria Coryell-Martin at Expeditionary Art and that I ordered and should receive this week some slightly larger inserts.


Book Lover, Reader & Seller

I generally read the Washington Post, and in recent days they have had some excellent book reviews. 

I  do buy books at Amazon.

As many know the owner of Amazon, Jeffrey Bezos, not long ago bought the paper.

Reviews now at the Post often provide direct links to...yes...Amazon.

And Amazon buyers, have you noticed that they upped the free shipping from $25. to $35.


Pen Auction at Leigh Reyes for Typhoon Victims

Leigh Reyes, who has a marvelous collection of fountain pens, is auctioning several of her pens to raise funds for those affected by the recent, and horrendous, typhoon in the Philippines.

At present she has a Moore & a Platinum up.


Give-a-ways all over the Pen World

It seems that the pre-season spirit is riding high with many bloggers, and vendors giving away pens, paper, ink and more.

One of those generous givers is the Writer's Bloc.

And I wouldn't mind winning the TWSBI Vac as I have come to really enjoy my TWSBI 530.


Fountain Pen Day

Didn't use them as much as I could today, but then the day isn't over.

And here are some inexpensive user friendly Parkers.

For more info, you can check out the Fountain Pen Day website.


Hero goes on a Safari

Isellpens, one of my regular vendors to buy pens and accessories, is the go-to shop for Hero pens, especially the imported fudes.

It appears they are now carrying the Hero 359, a look alike to the Lamy Safari.

I bought one, and got it in seconds from Todd.  I selected the purple, and will write up a review soon comparing it to the Safari.

I've only used it for a week, and I've learned the hard way that one week is not long enough to test a pen.

Fountain Pen Day - November 1, 2013

Until I went back to The Well Appointed Desk's blog today, and visited My Pen Needs Ink, I didn't realize we had a Fountain Pen Day; but now I do, and I am excited.

Some great national and international sponsors are on board.

And quite a few bloggers and users.

I always try, often in vain, to get folks to join the fountain pen world, but in all the years I've tried, thus far, I believe I've only gotten two (2) real new users: a young man of 18 going off to college with a brand new Lamy Safari, and a senior citizen who had an older vintage pen she had inherited, which I fixed and encouraged her to use.

I also bought a Kaweco Ice for my 9 year old granddaughter, and it is my hope that she'll want my collection of fountain pens and use them.

From calligraphy-type pens like this Sailor

to a French pen I bought in Albuquerque, NM in 1992,

I have bought fountain pens as mementos, birthday presents to myself, on a whim, with forethought, and randomly.

I love the way they feel, and if lucky, how they write.


Serendipity, Synchronicity: The Goldfinch

As Donna Tartt's new book, "Goldfinch" arrives in bookstores and received rave reviews, The Frick will be exhibiting several of Mauritshuis' most valuable paintings, among them the Goldfinch, itself, starting October 22 until early January.

Goldfinch, Carel Fabritius, 1654

Strangely when I lived in the Netherlands, I avoided the Hague, and hence never made it to the Mauritshuis. More often I rested my feet on the small table where I drank my coffee at the Stedelijk (the Modern museum).  After all for more than one year I lived around the corner from the Museumplein, and one of my closest friends was a curator during those days.  Beppi and I often met, especially on sunny days, and it didn't take much effort to view any and all of the exhibits. 

I suppose I also avoided the Hague as it represented business and government which I left to my then other half.


Munro & the Nobel

Although I am known to be (or to have been) a voracious reader, it was only on Tuesday that I purchased Alice Munro's book, "Runaway" at Webster's in State College, and not for the obvious reason, Munro's potential as a Nobel Laureate.

Munro © New York Times

It was rather a whim, really, that I asked if the bookseller had a Munro as I have started to not only read but to study specific kinds of writing, and I have become very interested in the art of the "short story" for which Alice Munro is best known and appreciated that she won the Nobel Prize.

Congratulations go out to the Canadian and one of few women to win this most coveted prize!

Congratulations Ms. Munro!


Women Writers Unite in Hobart, New York

Hobart, New York claims and is the village of books.  It has after all six, yes, six bookstores.

And this year, after a two year planning stage, they hosted the first Festival of Women Writers, and writers they had: published, popular, inexperienced, very experienced, poets, non-fiction writers, former Time Magazine journalists, and more.

It was by sheer chance I learned of the festival, and after hewing and hawing, I got into the car, and drove the 78 miles, stopping first at Paper Moon to get grounded.

Paper Moon, Hobart, NY, via Facebook

At Amy Morris Pickens', Paper Moon proprietor, recommendation, I traveled back South to Table on Ten and it was worth it.  Their coffee is great and apparently comes from Irving Farms.  I bought 12oz and already made 2 pots of coffee since returning home.

Table on Ten via Remodelista
I took two workshops, Mary Johnson, author of "An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life. " presented, "Memoir: Remembering & Rewriting" early Friday afternoon at Liberty Rock Books.   Johnson's foundation in New Mexico, "A Room of her Own" sounds quite intriguing but I think I may be over arroyo.
On Saturday morning,  Sophfronia Scott, author of several books, including "All I need to get by," contributor to the Chicken Soup series and quite the dynamic offered, "The Big Fat Journal and Other Ways of Keeping your Creative Life,"  at Adams Antiquarian Book Shop.

Both workshops were terrific, but I was particularly taken by Ms. Scott's journal workshop and have already taken steps to not quite emulate, but use her system of a binder.  I ordered a Doane 1" binder with 150 sheets of graph paper last night, my first purchase from them.

Ms. Scott shared a great number of useful references and read this letter 

from the desk of

Chicken — a thought.
Strange, but I feel the world we live in demands that we be turned out in a pattern which resembles, in fact, is a facsimile of itself. And those of us who roll with the punches, who grin, who dare to wear foolish clown faces, who defy the system — well, we do it, and bully for us!
Of course, there are those who do not. And the reason I think is that, (and I say this with some sadness) those up-tight, locked in people who resent and despise us, who fear us, and are bewildered by us, will one day come to realize that we possess rare and magical secrets, and more — love.
Therefore, I am beginning to think that a few, (I hope many) are wondering if maybe there might be value to a firefly, or an instant-long roman candle.
Keep the faith

On leaving the workshop, I went to the Conference Center, the hub of the Festival, to look for a poetry workshop leader I had worked with more than 10 years ago.  I couldn't leave without seeing Cheryl Boyce Taylor.

Then I stopped for a second time at Table on Ten for a great cup of coffee, each cup individually made, and bought some flowers & vegetables from The Last Harvest Farm.

Sunflowers from The Last Harvest Farm ©
It took me less time to get home than to travel to Hobart, not that I speed, but I did fly.


Isaac Newton's notebook

Isaac Newton notebook 1660s

Read at Notebook Stories

via Wired


Library on the Beach; Free Book Kiosk in Pittsburgh

I find it so refreshing that even with the e-reader, books, paper, books, paper are still popular and that in France one can borrow a book at the beach.

Photograph via French blogger ©

And in Pittsburgh, after a super dinner in Regent's Square at Alma Pan, a Latin kitchen, I nabbed a book from the kiosk.

Photograph via Pittsburgh Gazette ©
The glories of books and in Pittsburgh the Carnegie.

It ain't coal, it's Amerika

The New York Times did a piece about McDowell County, West Virginia's

Coalwood Mountain (Postcard)
decline in population and wealth while still wanting to stay proud and bring back the glory days of prosperity from coal mining.

It reminded me that just the other day I was driving up country road 116, a back way to a friend's house, and thought, "This place was once a bustling lake community.  What happened to it."

Lake Huntington, off Route 116, W52 © Pentamento

The town is Huntington Lake.  Driving up towards the lake is a winding road, with more than one sharp turn.  Along the road are large, very large, houses, most of which are decrepit, several nearly falling down, and quite a few up for sale. 

At the lakeside itself, you can also find decrepitude, and a sense of the forgotten.

Few of the houses bordering the lake itself are in good condition.

Is this the future of Amerika? 


500 miles to Homer

On Wednesday I packed up the car and headed North.  It was a page turning day of memories as I haven't been to Williamstown since stock the summer of my twenty birthday and hadn't been to Bennington (Vermont) for five years.

So eager was I to get to New England that I didn't pay much attention to the roads I traveled and wound up on the wrong road.   I finally got off in Deposit, New York, a town of 1700.   With the assistance of two women in a local breakfast stop, I found myself going in the right direction: Northeast.

Already hours had gone by, and although I should have been in New England I was entering Oneonta, New York.  If Deposit is small, Oneonta is big, far bigger than I imagined, and a place I did not want to get lost in.  So not quite tired, and not quite hungry, but nearly time for lunch, I stopped at Alfresco's Cafe just before the Oneonta Bridge.

It was a garland of gorgeous flowering plants, and reminded me of a cafe in Sicily.   At first I passed it by and then turned around.   I stepped inside and asked for and got mussels in wine sauce, and iced water.   I sat outside although it was getting terribly hot.

Half an hour later, I was back on the road, satiated and headed to Bennington (Vermont).  I  had decided, willy-nilly to go to Bennington first because of the Midnight Sale at Bennington Potters.  I never made it to the sale. 

Bennington is the last town I was in before I came to the Upper Delaware Valley and perhaps it held some unconscious memories.

Different towns or cities in Vermont have a language of their own, and Bennington is White Bread.  It is clean, it has what to offer but is tame in comparison to Brattleboro or Burlington.  Brattleboro is trendy, Burlington is a monkey puzzle.

I hoped to grab a coffee and a snack in one of my former favourite cafes but it had gone out of business.  I swung the car around the corner and made a bee-line to the South Street Cafe.

South Street Cafe, Bennington, Vermont

I hadn't planned to stay in town, and had no idea where I would stay.  I pulled out my often out of service cell phone.   On the 2nd attempt I found a motel just around the corner.  It was clean, everything worked, it was more than I generally want to spend, but it was too hot, and I had travelled too many hours to keep going even the few extra miles to Williamstown, my ultimate destination.

I settled in at the motel, and then went to Madison's Brewery for dinner.  The barista at South Street had recommended it as the best of a small lot in town.  It was excellent!

Madison Brewery, Bennington, Vermont

Shortly after the birds chirped, and a second cup of coffee at South Street Cafe, I headed south on route 7 to Williamstown, Massachusetts and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. 

The institute (or museum) was showing the works of Winslow Homer and George Inness, two different kinds of painters, but both worth a 500 mile round trip.

Undertow, Winslow Homer © Clark Institute

I've seen Homer's before, but I hadn't seen a Homer since doing watercolour and it was those paintings I was most eager to see.

What did I learn?

Homer didn't erase.  Homer mixed media often.  He was not against using graphite with watercolor, watercolor with gouache, and pencil with everything.  He often used toned paper, text weave, I believe, and several of the paintings clearly had faded.  No mention was made of the fading, and inasmuch as the catalogue was $50.00 I passed it by.

Winslow Homer © Clark Institute
A great many etchings were on view, far more than paintings, and they were excellent and not usually exhibited.

The entire collection was delightful.

Homer's Studio was a destintation I had thought to visit last year, but I am not good on making reservations in advance;  too spontaneous I suppose. 

The Inness' were small in number, I believe, less than a dozen, but remarkable in their execution. 

Woodland Interior, George Inness ©
Where Homer is active, bold, striking down images with gestural strokes, Inness is dreamy, interior, nearly surreal, definitely a spiritual tone.

And if I was thrilled to see the show, I was also excited to be back in New England, and to see how Williamstown had changed.  The shops were glittering and the Clark off-campus shop one of the nicest, best stocked I've seen this side of the Atlantic. 

These are the things I brought home.

Lime green pocket journal, roomy collector bag and a magnifier

And perhaps with this, my favourite purchase, I'll find my way Northeast, and not just plum North!

Keychain Compass
I'm already looking forward to another adventure to New England, this time to places I might not get lost going to or coming home from.