…and those minor skirmishes and small victories should be savored and enjoyed…


© Jim Benton

Benton’s full site is here

Isaac Asmiov explains in a memoir by his wife:

Homo sapiens alone of all the known objects in the universe can look forward to inevitable death; he alone can sigh for the might-have-beens. It is the penalty of humanity. Shall we accept the gifts of humanity; the consciousness of beauty; the exaltation of abstractions; the knowledge that makes gods of us; — and not accept the penalty, too?

To refuse the penalty is to refuse the gifts; to live in a false world of our own making is to deprive ourselves of the real world—and in the real world, with all its faults, has a grandeur and glory for which there is no substitute.

The chapter in the book this came from is “Imagination” – and to put this all in context, it comes from a section that discusses our telling of tales whether they be poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. That we are the only living species on this earth that can tell those tales since we are the only ones capable of the grief of the past and the dread of the future.

It’s a bit of a devil’s bargain – light doesn’t exist without dark, joy doesn’t exist without pain, love doesn’t exist without indifference. We need one to understand the other, to see the other.

This was brought home recently in a discussion among cancer patients and caregivers about diagnosis, treatment, and the long recovery, when someone asked “when can I be called a survivor?”.

The actual definition is that you’re a survivor at the moment of diagnosis. You have cancer. You’re still here.

But the question itself is much more complex since the diagnosis of cancer carries with it the deepest threat—and greatest dread—that we’ve ever felt. Because it is at the moment of diagnosis that we suddenly realize the most sudden and deepest grief of loss. The loss of what we have and what we might have in the future.

It is also in that moment, that we become human.

And as we become human, we become vulnerable.

As as we become vulnerable, we are open to all that is around us, both the light and the dark.

Some of us are changed physically more than others. Others face more physical difficulty post-treatment than others. But all are changed emotionally and are more aware not only of the difficulty of what we face, but the wonder of drawing breath and living in the moment.

The cancer patient that asks “when am I a survivor” is really asking “am I going to die”. With that question, comes the heavy burden of the grief of loss, but ultimately the sudden recognition of the preciousness of what we have. The future is important but we also become more demanding of the here and now.

No one can tell the future. No seer, no physician. But one thing for certain is that the sun will rise and the sun will set and in between is the grandeur of all that we have and all that we are capable of.

And all the tales that can be told…

 cassatGathering Fruit
Mary Cassatt, 1893

[Book excerpt from Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing by Janet Jeppson Asimov…]

The New York Times goes big:

The artist Hanna Liden, from Stockholm, was unfamiliar with bagels until she moved to New York. Now she has fashioned her own in styrene and polyurethane in an installation sponsored partly by the Art Production Fund. On Monday, two towers of bagels — plain, everything, sesame and pumpernickel — rose at Hudson River Park, seen here, and the Ruth Wittenberg Triangle in the West Village.

The hope is that New Yorkers will identify and interact with them: chomping photo ops are welcome. They’re five foot around, and they don’t come with a schmear. “I like them simple,” Ms. Liden said.

bagel art

We’re gonna need a bigger coffee cart…


[image Bryan Derballa for The New York Times…]

Jack Kerouac writes the intro to Robert Frank’s photo-essay, The Americans (1958):

The humor, the sadness, the EVERYTHING-ness and American-ness of these pictures! Tall think cowboy rolling butt outside Madison Square Garden New York for rodeo season, sad, spindly, unbelievable—Long shot of night road arrowing forlorn into immensities and flat of impossible-to-believe America in New Mexico under the prisoner’s moon—under the whang whang guitar star—Haggard old frowsy dames of Los Angeles leaning peering out the right front window of Old Paw’s car on a Sunday gawking and criticizing to explain Amerikay to little children in the spattered back seat—tattooed guy sleeping on grass in park in Cleveland, snoring dead to the world on a Sunday afternoon with too many balloons and sailboats—Hoboken in the winter, platform full of politicians all ordinary looking till suddenly at the far end to the right you see one of them pursing his lips in prayer politico (yawning probably) not a soul cares—Old man standing hesitant with oldman cane under old steps long since torn down—Madman resting under American flag canopy in old busted car seat in fantastic Venice California backyard, I could sit in it and sketch 30,000 words (as a railroad brakeman I rode by such backyards leaning out of the old steampot) (empty tokay bottles in the palm weeds)—Robert picks up two hitch hikers and lets them drive the car, at night, and people look at their two faces looking grimly onward into the night (“Visionary Indian angels who were visionary Indian angels” says Allen Ginsburg) and people say “Ooo how mean they look” but all they want to do is arrow on down that road and get back to the sack—Robert’s here to tell us so—St. Petersburg Florida the retired old codgers on a bench in the busy mainstreet leaning on their canes and talking about social security and one incredible I think Seminole half Negro woman pulling on her cigarette with thoughts of her own, as pure a picture as the nicest tenor solo in jazz…

Kerouac had the poetry down. But it was Frank who captured the images of the road that both traveled on…get this book…[buy it | borrow it ]…

trolley-new-orleans_1955Trolley—New Orleans, 1955
© Robert Frank

[NY Times Magazine, 7/2/2015, article that led me to his book…]

dagwood 7_19_15Blondie
by Dean Young and John Marshall

Stay hydrated – gonna be a hot one today out in the ballpark. And no bunt plays – get out there and swing for the fences!

Only the Dead Know Brooklyn
Thomas C. Wolfe

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“You come wit me,” I says. So when we gets onto duh train I says to him, “Where yuh goin’ out in Bensonhoist?” I says. “What numbeh are yuh lookin’ for?” I says. You know – I t’ought if he told me duh address I might be able to help him out.

“Oh,” he says, “I’m not lookin’ for no one. I don’t know no one out deh.”

“Then whatcha goin’ out deh for?” I says.

“Oh,” duh guy says, “I’m just goin’ out to see duh place,” he says. “I like duh sound of duh name – Bensonhoist, y’know – so I t’ought I’d go out an’ have a look at it.”

“Whatcha tryin’ t’hand me?” I says. “Whatcha tryin’ t’do – kid me?” You know, I t’ought duh guy was bein’ wise wit me.

“No,” he says. “I’m tellin’ yuh duh troot. I like to go out an’ take a look at places wit nice names like dat. I like to go out an’ look at all kinds of places,” he says.

“How’d yuh know deh was such a place,” I says, “if yuh neveh been deh befoeh?”

“Oh,” he says, “I got a map.”

“A map?” I says.

“Sure,” he says, “I got a map dat tells me about all dese places. I take it wit me every time I come out heah,” he says.

And Jesus! Wit dat, he pulls it out of his pocket, an’ so help me, but he’s got it – he’s tellin’ duh troot – a big map of duh whole goddam place with all duh different pahts mahked out. You know – Canarsie an’ East Noo Yawk an’ Flatbush, Bensonhoist, Sout’ Brooklyn, duh Heights, Bay Ridge, Greenpernt – duh whole goddam layout, he’s got it right deh on duh map.

“You been to any of dose places?” I says.

“Sure,” he says. “I been to most of ‘em. I was down in Red Hook just last night,” he says.

“Jesus! Red Hook!” I says. “Whatcha do down deh?”

“Oh,” he says, “nuttin’ much. I just walked aroun’. I went into a coupla places an’ had a drink,” he says, “but most of the time I just walked aroun’.”

“Just walked aroun’?” I says.

“Sure,” he says, “just lookin’ at t’ings, y’know.”

“Where’d yuh go?” I asts him.

“Oh,” he says, “I don’t know duh name of duh place, but I could find it on my map,” he says. “One time I was walkin’ across some big fields where deh ain’t no houses,” he says, “but I could see ships oveh deh all lighted up. Dey was loadin’. So I walks across duh fields,” he says, “to where duh ships are.”

“Sure,” I says, “I know where you was. You was down to duh Erie Basin.”

“Yeah,” he says. “I guess dat was it. Dey had some of dose big elevators an’ cranes an’ dey was loadin’ ships, an’ I could see some ships in drydock all lighted up, so I walks across duh fields to where dey are,” he says.

“Den what did yuh do?” I says.

“Oh,” he says, “nuttin’ much. I came on back across duh fields after a while an’ went into a coupla places an’ had a drink.”

“Didn’t nuttin’ happen while yuh was in dere?” I says.

“No,” he says. “Nuttin’ much. A coupla guys was drunk in one of duh places an’ started a fight, but dey bounced ‘em out,” he says, “an’ den one of duh guys stahted to come back again, but duh bartender gets his baseball bat out from under duh counteh, so duh guy goes on.”

“Jesus!” I said. “Red Hook!”

“Sure,” he says. “Dat’s where it was, all right.”

“Well, you keep outa deh,” I says. “You stay away from deh.”

“Why?” he says. “What’s wrong wit it?”

“Oh,” I says, “it’s a good place to stay away from, dat’s all. It’s a good place to keep out of.”

“Why?” he says. “Why is it?”

Jesus! Whatcha gonna do wit a guy as dumb as that! I saw it wasn’t no use to try to tell him nuttin’, he wouldn’t know what I was talkin’ about, so I just says to him, “Oh, nuttin’. Yuh might get lost down deh, dat’s all.”

“Lost?” he says. “No, I wouldn’t get lost. I got a map,” he says.

A map! Red Hook! Jesus!

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davidson_brooklyn gangNew York City. 1959. Brooklyn Gang
photo by Bruce Davidson

[Short story originally published in The New Yorker,June 15, 1935…read it all over at the Southern Cross Review…]

…time to dress down, dress up, and feed it some gas…

helena-christensen-wild-at-heart-peter-lindberghHelena Christensen, dressed in leathers, channeling Brando
For Vogue Magazine, 1971
photo © Peter Lindbergh

Had to do it…I am such a boy…and she is such a Brunette…

[…more over at The Selvedge Yard…the places I’ve been…]

The NY Times tells us how we can turn off our technology…by wearing our technology:

In a recent survey of smartphone use by Bank of America, about a third of respondents said they were “constantly” checking their smartphones, and a little more than two-thirds said that they went to bed with a smartphone by their side…Those habits have prompted enough soul searching that a slew of new companies see a business opportunity in helping people cut back.

“Technology has evolved so quickly that we have spiraled out of control and nobody has stopped to think about how this is going to impact our lives,” said Kate Unsworth, the founder of a British company, Kovert, that also makes high-tech jewelry to filter out everything but the most urgent stuff.

Many of these distraction-reducing products fall into the growing “wearable technology” niche. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch are designed to encourage more glancing and less phone checking. Last month Google and Levi’s announced plans for a line of high-tech clothes that will allow people to do things like turn off a ringing phone by swiping their jacket cuff.

“If there is a chance to enable the clothes that we already love to help us facilitate access to the best and most necessary of this digital world while maintaining eye contact with the person we’re eating dinner with, this is a real value,” said Paul Dillinger, Levi’s head of global product innovation.

Nothing up my sleeve…wait…wrong shirt…

We’re doomed.

cone head
(Image: Liam Walsh for The New Yorker]


From videographer Corey Shaff…his film on kinetic sculptor Tim Prentice…what imagination can become:

Reminds me of the work of Andy Goldsworthy…both artists living, working, and creating within their environments…

…and the Brooklyn Museum has some kicks under glass:

The show features lots of sneakers — about 150 pairs from the mid-19th century to 2015 — and the show’s introductory text panel asks some good questions: “How have some sneakers come to be valued more highly than others? How have sneakers expressed both privilege and inclusion? How were specialized sports shoes transformed into staples of street fashion and, in turn, icons of masculinity? How is it that at a single glance, a pair of sneakers can reveal nuanced social information?”

I’ll tell you how:

It’s Monday kids! Let’s power up!

© Bill Israel

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