Saturday, March 28, 2009

integrity and imagination

I found this quote at Keri Smith's site; I have not managed to spend much time there but like what I have seen so far.

I am wondering when I will be happy with something I draw again. Posting this in the hope that if my sketches ever improve I'll be able to see some sort of progress.

make a face

Holy Tryptich, from French photographer JR

I love the scale of his work and the energy that goes into making it and the challenge that comes out in all the wonderful, beautiful human faces.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

look out below max

Another post on a film I have not seen. I have no idea how this will be as a movie - from the trailer, I think things could go either way (though I think Spike Jonze has been making better and better movies). I like that this, while completely different from the book (as it would have to be), has some of the same primal feel in the forest scenes. And the howling at the end makes me laugh. Also, I love the song. So together, trailer and soundtrack work for me, make me wonder and smile, which is enough of a reason to post.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Flannery O'Conner, who said, "I doubtless hate pious language worse than you because I believe the reality it hides." (I took the drawing from a woodcut by Barry Moser).

She has been on my mind because a new biography is being reviewed everywhere at the moment. I like this review. She wrote about an upside down world, which is this world. I find it hard to spend time there (and have not for a long while) but am helped by the poking and prodding that happens when I think about her stories - especially the one (I think it is at the end of A Good Man is Hard to Find) about the the one that ends with a woman witnessing a long procession of people she has despised ascending to heaven, herself at the end.

David Dark likes her a lot. I just finished his book, The Gospel According to America. I thought it would be a challenge to America. It is, but it has also challenged me a lot. I am trying to face up to that now.

Now on to Surprised by Hope.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

when you're baking the pie

In case you were wondering...

Before baking the base. At this point I was quite nervous about how it would all turn out. I like that one of the future pie ingredients is in the background (not part of some grand artistic plan).

Before the final bake. I felt better by this stage, but only after the blueberries had gone on. Like the Dude's rug, they bring the whole thing together.

Clearly I was so excited by what came out the oven that I could not focus the camera. Apples, pears, blueberries and a fig jam glaze.

All in all this was a happy experience. Think I'll lay off blogging kitchen exploits for a wee bit. I really want to draw.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

when you're making the bread...

I baked some midweek bread on Wednesday...

Before the last twenty minute rise...

After the last twenty minute rise...

In the pans immediately after the hour long bake...

Freed from the pans...

Almost everything I know about baking bread, so far, I learned from The Tassajara Bread Book by Ed Espe Brown, a zen monk who for a long time ran a monastery kitchen, and then Green's restaurant in San Francisco. I found out from a friend of my wife today that he stumbled into the cooking and baking somewhat by accident shortly before encountering Zen...the resort he had started in as a dishwasher was taken over to be a monastery and he decided to stay. I like his books a lot and have learned a bit about slowing down from them - not sure what it says about me but mantras like, 'When you are washing the rice, you are washing the rice' help me try to thankfully do what I am doing, which I need more of. I am caught up in the fastness of modern life as much as anyone, with a very skewed sense of time - this spills out into right and wrong, values, friendships, thinking, lack of love, everything. The blog might help with this as I go on. The writing and baking do. Right now I am waiting for the dough from what will be my first pie crust to chill. I don't think of my time on the computer as multi-tasking, while the dough cools. I stopped the baking activity, started the blogging activity, will post the post, and then start the baking again.

My drawing of Ed Espe Brown is very bad. Here's the picture I drew from, which is in the back of this book...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

getting up again

I've been in on my own this evening. Pottering around the apartment and baking some bread - maybe I'll post some pictures.
A short while ago I started thinking about Andrei Rublev again. Mainly the three short scenes focused on horses. They sum up a lot.

Monday, March 16, 2009

all the people dreaming in the immensity of it all

"...I'd like to recall a moment on fifties-era American television when Steve Allen asked Jack Kerouac, something of a spokesman for the Bea Generation, for a definition of the term "Beat." Almost before he'd finished the question, Kerouac responded, "Sympathetic." The posture of the Beat Movement is one of mutual beatness before the world, and to feel worn down, tempted toward melancholy but not despairing, is to be heartbroken in the direction of increased sympathy for all creation groaning and awaiting redemption. And if the alternative to this brand of beat is unsympathetic posture, uncompassionate and not prone to solidarity, then the venom with which a Kerouac says a word like "Square" seems pretty well justified. Right up there with "hypocrites," "blind guides," "racist," fascist," and "brood of vipers."
David Dark, The Gospel According to America, p. 58

I think I started reading Jack Kerouac at a point when my balance was already tipping towards a commitment to Christ. He entered the mix somehow. (I remember that he described the subterraneans as being like Jesus, which was very appealing.) There was a purity to his writing that made Buddhism appealing. That has stayed with me to some extent (on and off) and so has his compassionate enthusiastic writing style. I recorded the documentary this video is excerpted from on to the end of my copy of Bladerunner and watched them both a lot over a couple of years before going to University (often with my friend Richard). My feelings about Kerouac have become a lot more conflicted over the years and I have gone for long periods without thinking about him but he is like an old friend and I find myself wanting to get back in touch with him now and again. Reading David Dark on the train this morning reminded me of what I like, and miss, most about him.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

a kind of steve mcqueen

So...this does not actually look like the portrait of Steve McQueen, the artist and director, who was featured in the New York Times this past weekend - but I get attached to these drawings. And, as I said when I was painting it, 'It looks like someone', which is often the most that I am able to say about my pictures. In this one I particularly like his right hand.

I just started reading The Gospel According to America, by David Dark. I think I'll be quoting from him a lot for a long while. The following is from the first page of the introduction (actually, Instead of an Introduction), where he writes about his father:
'The Bible was always in the back of his mind. Like a leather-bound black hole, it pulled on his thoughts, painted the matter-of-fact a different color, called into questions whatever anybody nearby described as common sense, and uproariously unsettled the agreed-upon obvious of every scenario. It was the measure of authenticity for all speech, and speech that presumed to have its backing ("It's biblical," "According to the Bible," "God says...") was to be viewed with particular scrutiny and suspicion, because the Bible belonged to everyone and no one. It was nobody's property. Always dangerous, a double-edged sword. Like absolute truth, it's out there, but anyone who presumed to own its copyright was criminally insane.'

And from the second page, an inherent challenge that I need to hear and that encourages.
He spent too much time exchanging jokes and anecdotes at our near-by Waffle House and holding forth in conversation with Muslim gas station attendants for the public/private distinctions in political and religious matters to ever really hold absolute sway. And in the deepest sense, he didn't think it polite or even friendly to pretend that certain elephants aren't in the room; that Jesus of Nazareth has very little to say about a nation's wars on terror or that the demands of Allah or Jehovah upon humankind can be conveniently sequestered with the "spirituality" section of the global market. Without a costly commitment to candor among family and potential friends, the possibility of truthful conversation (a preprequisite for the formation of more perfect unions) begins to tragically diminish, and responsible speech that communicates what we're actually thinking and believing has become a lost art.'

Sunday, March 8, 2009

apartment bread

We have been baking for seven months or so. Because of our cats I need a room with a door, where I can leave the bread to cool. This being a New York City studio apartment, my choices as to where I leave the bread to cool are limited to the bathroom and our 'office'. This being a New York City studio apartment, our office is one of the cupboards in the hall.

We have a painting on our wall of St. Pasqual (the patron saint of the kitchen) contemplating the night air from his kitchen doorway. Cats sit next to him and, further back in the picture, eat food from bowls on the floor. On a large bench there is bread laid out to cool. On a table there are pies fresh from the oven. There are no cats on the bench or the table

This is not the way things work in our home.

Gus, one of our 3 cats, has the mandatory curiosity and is a healthy disrespecter of convention. I like to think the bread benefits from his attention.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

the age of stupid

The Age of Stupid: final trailer Feb 2009 from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

There is a wonderful documentary detailing the making of this film - which looks to be on a grand and global scale but filmed on the cheap - at the Guardian website, which you can watch here. There are so many crises at the moment and they all need attention. This can all feel quite overwhelming, so I am glad for the wit and humanity being brought to this one.

I seem to be in the habit of posting on films I have not seen. The structure of The Age of Stupid looks to be similar to Level 5, which I wrote about in a previous post. The global and the dearly personal aspects of the world intimately linked together.