Monday, May 30, 2011

Blackout and All Clear

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
~ T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (also quoted in All Clear)

I should have saved my post about military bands for this Monday, it being Memorial Day and all, but I didn't plan ahead.

I will tell you about Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, which are primarily set during World War II. They are really one book divided into two parts. I wouldn't say these books about time-traveling historians are for everybody, but they were completely my cup of tea. I enjoyed the puzzle aspect of them. They are some seriously complicated books. I loved learning details about life during the war.

At the heart of these stories, though, is an exploration of what it means to be a hero. Really beautiful books for Memorial Day, or any day.

Can't wait to share these books with my dad! Thank you, Connie Willis.

Addendum: I didn't mention Willis' Doomsday Book because it didn't fall under my Memorial Day theme, but I *loved* it. It explains how the time-travel process works, and I'm sending it to my dad first.

SoundScape and a Singing Tree

Two bits of musical public art for Music Monday:

The Singing Ringing Tree, a wind-powered sound sculpture in England
designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu
photo by Leah Makin Photography

Miami's SoundScape/New World Center:

The New York Times' Anthony Tommasini describes the opening of SoundScape: "A much larger audience [than the one inside with the orchestra] watched the concert as the video was relayed live on the 7,000-square-foot white wall next to the center’s inviting glass entryway."

The outside audience can hear it through "167 high-quality speakers tucked neatly into a rectangular network of horizontal and vertical tubes. It looks more like an enormous tubular sculpture than an array of speakers."

"The big news here is the high quality of the sound, the best outdoor amplification I have ever heard. During Mr. Thomas’s performance of Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” Overture, the orchestra came through with remarkable presence, body and clarity. Sitting in the park watching the broadcast you do not detect the music coming from any particular set of speakers. Rather, it permeates the space."

You can read the complete article here.
Schubert on the Beach: The New World Symphony’s radical new home, The New Yorker.
Grand Opening Miami Beach SoundScape/Lincoln Park
More photos from the Open Architecture Network

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Let's Hear It For Editors!

I've heard Jason Mraz's I'm Yours a lot. Heard it some number of times approaching infinity, in fact, but this week was the first time I noticed that one of the lines doesn't make any sense: "And it's our God-forsaken right to be loved..."

I think the reason that I didn't notice "God-forsaken" was the wrong word was that I knew what Mraz meant to convey ("God-given"). The mistake hasn't hurt the song's popularity any, but he might wish that someone had noticed ahead of time so he could have fixed it.

Which brings me to what I really wanted to say: Editors are terrific. I am so happy that, in addition to the professional editors who read over my drafts, my family and friends are willing to help me out. I appreciate their comments greatly! They help me with my books, articles, and poems, but everybody needs another set of eyes to go over what they've written sometimes. For instance, signs, flyers, trophies, birthday cakes, tattoos. You don't want those to be misspelled.

If you'd like to boost your own editing skills (or laugh at someone else's lack of them), there are a lot of interesting sites/blogs you might like to check out:

* A helpful overview of editing and proofreading from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
* 10 Words You Need To Stop Misspelling from Oatmeal, plus more grammar posts
* Everything You Need To Know About Grammar from The Truth About Grammar
* A previous post about the Daily Writing Tip
* The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks
* Apostrophe Catastrophes

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chemical Ghosts

Gillian K. Ferguson wrote a poetic exploration of the mapping of the human genetic code. Really! It's called The Human Genome: Poems on the Book of Life (and it's a thousand pages long). The introduction alone is fascinating. Here are some samples of the poetry:

An excerpt from Blood Poems
by Gillian K. Ferguson

The heart is the house of blood,
whose rooms will never be full;

whose red chambers are never silent,
as the ear of a shell is never emptied

of the sea. Where experience never
triumphs over hope or faith in love.

Cultured for millennia like an exotic flower,
heavenly adapted rose clotting light into red,

to become the clockwork pump, wound
powerhouse of scarlet stems, blue roots;


Genes are the chemical ghosts of the dead
by Gillian K. Ferguson

Genes are the chemical ghosts of the dead;
each of us bearing graveyard on graveyard,

back to primaeval swamp. No wonder
these strange senses - being stared at -

intuition, supersition; the supernatural
surviving through the ages of atheism,

electric light, science, such long ages as humans.
Even when there is no need, our genes remember;

even in centuries of sleep, dreams, nightmares,
recorded over and over in irreducible grooves.


an excerpt from T. rex Genome
by Gillian K. Ferguson

His dreamless museum clutch of bones
washes white from soft mud sheets -

ribbed like a small Gothic church,
death temple; black hole of his eye

riveting – broken jaw roaring
a sandy sound that echoes still

after a million years of sleeping -
the brute noise of his sudden end

in the drum of your mammal ear.
The King was Dead - Long Live

The King. Rudely hooked from time,
he is archived by his own skeleton -

dictionary found for his hieroglyphs.
And who will dare to read his page?


Heidi's hosting a juicy little Poetry Friday round-up today.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Remedios Varo

On second thought, I think I am more crazy than my goat.
~ Remedios Varo

Spanish-Mexican surrealist artist Maria de los Remedios Varo Uranga lived from 1908-1963.

The artist herself:

by Remedios Varo

Bordando bel Manto Terrestre
by Remedios Varo

Star Catcher
by Remedios Varo

The Alchemist
by Remedios Varo

by Remedios Varo

Creation of the Birds
by Remedios Varo

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Last Hundred Grown-Ups

I thought of my recent post about what it means to be civilized when I saw The Onion's alarming article, May 19th:

Nation Down To Last Hundred Grown-Ups: 'Mature Adults Could Be Gone Within 50 Years,' Experts Say.

On a lighter note, we can feel good knowing Maple Syrup Reactors Safe, Canadian Prime Minister Reassures.

For fellow Alan Rickman fans, the news in photos: Alan Rickman Ends Pizza Delivery Order With Ominous 'So Be It'

(Not familiar with The Onion? It's a satirical news source.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Country's Finest

Follow these links for audio and video clips:

The U.S. Air Force Band
The U.S. Army Band
The U.S. Marine Band
The U.S. Navy Band

Beethoven Found presents A Tribute to The Wounded Warriors, with a concert that features the participation of the Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force Bands, a medley of patriotic songs, and other celebratory selections. Jun 27, 2011 at 8 p.m. at the Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Poetry/Song Match-ups

The idea I played with today is from Traci's 35th List of Ten: Ten National Poetry Month Activities:
[MATCHING SONG] Find a song that pairs well with a poem we've read. The song and the poem may share the same theme, similar symbols, or a related series of events. Write a comparison paper that explores the two pieces and explains why they are a good match. What things are similar in the two pieces? What things were left out? How closely matched are the theme, symbols, and/or events? How similar are the things that are described and the emotions that are expressed? (Be sure to turn in a copy of the song lyrics with your paper.)
I made a bunch of poetry/song match-ups. It felt like I was playing poetry tag, in a way:

Who Understands Me But Me By Jimmy Santiago Baca
with Hate on Me by Jill Scott

Only In Sleep by Sara Teasdale
with I Wish by Stevie Wonder

Have You Forgotten by Christina Rossetti
with When I Fall in Love by Nat King Cole

Buckwheat's Lament by Cornelius Eady
with The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby

Miss Blues' Child By Langston Hughes
with Get Up by Amel Larrieux

The Time I've Lost in Wooing by Thomas Moore
with Clumsy by Fergie

Rain by Raymond Carver
with Singing in the Rain, lyrics by Arthur Freed, music by Nacio Herb Brown

What about you? Got any match-ups?

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is at The Drift Record.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Between two worlds life hovers like a star, twixt night and morn, upon the horizon's verge.
~ Lord Byron

May Night
by Willard Leroy Metcalf

Past and Present Number Three
by Augustus Leopold Egg, 1816-1863

Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea
by James McNeill Whistler, 1834–1903

Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket
by James McNeill Whistler

Coming to the Call
by Frederic Remington

The Hunter's Supper
by Frederic Remington

Christ and the Woman of Samaria (1659)
by Rembrandt van Rijn

Moon River
by Elen Christof

And a different kind of nocturne:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sack Art

Have you heard about feedsack and floursack fabric? explains, "Initially farm and food products were shipped in barrels. Between 1840 and 1890 cotton sacks gradually replaced barrels as food containers ... Women quickly discovered that these bags could be used as fabric for quilts and other needs."

Tuscan Rose Feedsack ATCs

Feedsack Dress
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian

Feedsack Patchwork Chook
by Shula

French Feedsack Footstool


* A feedsack quilt from 1931
* Feedsack print package tag kit
* A Feedsack Quilt, A Doll, and a New Online Exhibit
* An Our State: North Carolina article about feedsack history
* Some feedsack books.
* Flour Sack Art Museum
* Collectible Feedsack Cloth: The Past Revisited by Patricia L. Cummings.
* Chris Hammacott explains the quirky allure of quilts made from antique American feed sack fabric.
* Zaroga remembers wearing flour sack dresses as a child.
* Feedsack Friday

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Hairy Odyssey

"I rather think I shall soon be setting out on the upward journey."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven to Ferdinand Hiller, in the days before Beethoven's death

In 2000, Russell Martin's Beethoven's Hair: An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved was published. It traces the travels of a lock of Beethoven's hair that a young fan (Ferdinand Hiller) cut as a memento after Beethoven's death.

The movie version, which was produced by Bullfrog Films, came out in 2005 and won a number of awards.

You can learn about Beethoven's hair here and you can actually see the lock itself at The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University.

* A map of the journey of Beethoven's lock of hair.
* More Beethoven-related posts from The Opposite of Indifference.
* Another Bullfrog Film about a composer: Ravel's Brain.

Lastly, a performance of a Beethoven composition:

Friday, May 13, 2011

What Does It Mean To Be Civilized?

Pretty often when I hear news reports (or when I read comments that anonymous readers leave regarding news reports), I wish people would be more civil.

What does it mean to be civilized? What are the greatest achievements of civilization?
As a great democratic society, we have a special responsibility to the arts. For art is the great democrat, calling forth creative genius from every sector of society, disregarding race or religion or wealth or color. What freedom alone can bring is the liberation of the human mind and a spirit which finds its greatest flowering in the free society. I see of little more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than the full recognition of the place of the artist.
~ John F. Kennedy
When are we the most civilized? When are we the least?
Civilization rests on the fact that most people do the right thing most of the time.
~ Dean Koontz
Are there situations when it is desirable to be uncivilized?
We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
What can we learn from history? What do we imagine an ideal civilization to look like?
Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term 'we' or 'us' and at the same time decreases those labeled 'you' or 'them' until that category has no one left in it.
~ Howard Winters
Today's poem:

by Naomi Shihab Nye

"A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his
my father would say. And he'd prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn't have one.
After that, my father told me who he was,
"Shihab"­"shooting star"­
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, "When we die, we give it back?"
He said that's what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a toy truck on the front page.
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?


I would love to hear your take on what it means to be civilized. Can you share a poem (original or otherwise), thought, or link?

Jama is hosting today's Poetry Friday round-up.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Irrepressible Inventions

Last weekend, American Visionary Art Museum's eight-hour Kinetic Sculpture Race lit up the streets, mud, and water of Baltimore. AVAM's Kinetic Sculpture Race is a "celebration of Creativity, Ingenuity, Community Involvement, and Irrepressible Spirit." There is an impressive amount of irrepressible spirit involved in this event. Spectators are as festive as the entrants.

Scientific Helmet

Thinking Cap

Awards include the most coveted Mediocre Award (for the entry that finishes right in the middle) and the highly prized Next-to-Last Award (for the entry that almost came in last) and serious art and engineering prizes.

The Platypus team, who won the Mediocre Award

All photos by M.V. Jantzen:

Go Ask Alice

Ankh-ers Away


Lobe Trotters


~ More photos here and here.
~ Guidance about how to build a kinetic sculpture
~ One of the most interesting rules: PERSONAL SECURITY RULE
"Each Sculpture must carry at all times 1 comforting item of psychological luxury heretofore referred to as the “Homemade Sock Creature” (HSC). Homemade Sock Creature must be made in a home, from a not-too-recently-worn sock from the home, and resemble a creature homemade from a sock."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Link Round-up

Some random links from my "neat stuff" file:

~ How To Steal Like An Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me) by Austin Kleon

~ Echoism: "There is a myth, some say a science, suggesting people who have more symmetrical faces are considered more 'attractive'..." (This site freaks me out a little bit, I admit.)

~ Find a special day in Pi. Today (5112011) occurs at "position 11,008,290 counting from the first digit after the decimal point." (You needed to know that, right?)

~ Find out what is on the opposite side of the Earth from you (or from any point you choose).

~ Geography + Tetris

~ One more: Guys Lit Wire is having a book fair for a school in Washington D.C. that is in dire need of books (they have less than one book per student). You pick a book from the school's Powell's book list and have it shipped to them-- it's easy!

~ Not from the file, but...I liked listening to Garrison Keillor read Anne Sexton's Riding the Elevator into the Sky this morning.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Music Monday Miscellany

* Prof. Oddfellow (Craig Conley) has an interesting collection of music posts, which includes everything from a record player made of paper to a text-based musical notation system that he invented himself. There's also a version of the Moonlight Sonata that was really bounced off the moon.

* A song for today by Kaki King:

* Also, have you heard of Billy McLaughlin? He's a guitarist who lost the ability to play, due to an illness, and relearned his songs left-handed. Here's a video about his experience.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Best Books for Boys

Spending time with Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys K-8: How To Engage Boys in Reading In Ways That Will Change Their Lives today. Allyn discusses "Key Questions and Answers" about boys and reading, and makes recommendations about books with appeal. I like that she makes connections, such as "If you like this book, try that book."

One quote from the book that I'd like to have made into a poster or cross-stitched on a pillow is:

"Reading deeply is more valuable than constantly being drawn back to a task."

If children spend their reading time with Post-its in hand and a job to do, will they associate reading with fun?

When my son, who is about to turn thirteen, was starting to read, what was more important than what he read was that he felt positively about books and reading.

My son's reading trajectory went like this: First, he read non-fiction, exclusively. In particular, nonfiction books about animals. When we went to the library, I wondered whether he might like to go to any other sections, but for a while, that was it, that was all. That was his thing.

Then he branched out a bit into Matt Christopher's sports books and the Magic Tree House series. Reading the Harry Potter series was something of a revelation and seemed to open up the world of books for him.

I think Allyn's book is helpful for its suggestions about how to make reading time positive for different reading styles. I have a friend who said that her son "hates" reading. That sounds so final. I don't believe it's true. He used to enjoy reading, but something happened.

This idea might have been helpful for him: "Have [students] record their changing reading preferences throughout the year in their readers' notebooks or on sticky notes you record together on a wall in the classroom ("Our Changing Reading Lives").

My friend's son might have benefited from thinking of himself as someone with a "reading life" that he had preferences about. I encouraged my friend to think of her son's antipathy for reading as more of a phase than something absolute. I should tell her about this book.

Another bit that caught my eye: "Check your [classroom] collection; there should be at least 30 percent nonfiction books, 30 percent poetry and 40 percent fiction."

I was surprised by the percentage of poetry in this suggestion, but it makes sense -- kids connect to poetry very early on. Funny poetry in particular seems to go over well, and some students might appreciate it who haven't yet connected to other kinds of books. Recently when I gave a fourth grader a lucky clover, he ran to get a book with a funny four-leaf clover poem in it to share with me and his friends. He didn't know that I like poetry, and it was sweet to see that poem pop into his mind.

Out of curiosity, I checked Best Books for Boys' recommendation section to see how many of my son's favorite books were listed. Just wondered if they were there, and it turns out Allyn mentions nearly all of them. Her recommendations seem spot-on. The only ones missing were the Skulduggery Pleasant series, which is admittedly obscure.

My son likes the Skulduggery books so much that he had me order one from the U.K. when the latest book wasn't making it to the U.S. fast enough. If you have a reader who likes the Percy Jackson and Pendragon series, you might want to look into them.

One last side-note: My son's fifth grade teacher had her students run a presidential election featuring book characters. The kids picked the characters who would run and made posters and speeches on their behalf. It was great fun, and even became pretty heated. There are many routes to engaging kids in reading!

Pam Allyn's attitude toward helping boys (and all kids) become happy readers is both reassuring and encouraging. You can find Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys K-8: How To Engage Boys in Reading In Ways That Will Change Their Lives on Amazon, Powells, Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, and others.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Gift

When I asked my mother what she wanted for Mother's Day this year, she asked for a poem.

I was surprised, but I'm game. The one I wrote for her was inspired by an entry in the Dictionary of Imaginary Places, so it's become part of my Directory of Imaginary Poems. The entry was “The Island of The Fay” based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe.

by Tabatha Yeatts
for Ma

Whenever the Fay enter light or shade,
for them, it is the passing of a season.
Another summer passes with each swing into sunlight,
and they cross a winter as they fly through shadow.

As the first morning of May unveils itself,
the Fay make a journey –
they fly, smiling and breathless,
to a tree with bark like warm marble,
its leaves a feathery crown.

They clutch thick, smooth ribbons
in their small hands –
sky-meets-ocean blue,
surprised-laughter orange,
roaring yellow, first-kiss pink –
carrying the ribbons together,
each one holding a shiny, slick end.

The Fay swirl around this chosen tree,
braiding the luscious ribbons
around its golden skin.
They reach notes
they didn't even know they could sing,

As they bob around the tree,
slipping from light to dark,
and back again,
whole years go by.
Entire lives spent, dancing,
holding each moment
as a gift freshly unwrapped.


Happy Mother's Day!

Terry is hosting today's Poetry Friday round-up.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sophie Blackall

On her Missed Connections blog, Artist Sophie Blackall posts illustrations she created to go with messages posted on "Missed Connections" sites (sites where someone describes a person they saw briefly, in the hopes that the person will contact them). Blackall says "Every day hundreds of strangers reach out to other strangers on the strength of a glance, a smile or a blue hat. Their messages have the lifespan of a butterfly. I'm trying to pin a few of them down."

A White Hat of Indeterminate Origin
-m4w - 29 (Lower East Side)
I did a really bad job of trying to introduce myself on the subway. I asked about your white fur hat because I liked it, but then I didn't know what to say afterward . . . it was on the F train, from 2nd Ave to Jay St. Write me if you don't mind guys that fumble over their words when they're nervous.

Tree With Legs
-w4m (Prospect Park)
Nice pants. I'd like to see more of you...
BTW, your dog winked at me.

Anyone Know That White Girl With Black Hair & Old Fashioned Clothes?
-m4w (Throgs Neck, Edgewater)
I've seen her around Throgs Neck & Edgewater, she's gotta be in her 30s and wears older clothes. What's the deal with her? She single or what?

We Shared a Bear Suit
- m4w
We shared a bear suit at an apartment party on Saturday night.
I asked for your number and you gave it to me, but somehow I don't have an area code written down. I had a great time talking with you, and I don't trust Chance enough to wait until I see you in the elevators...

Passed You On Street, U Said Hi
- m4m (Upper West Side)
Passed by you around 11pm tonight on street, UWS in 70s. You said hi, and I said hi as well. We both went into our respective buildings.

Blackall is also illustrating episodes from her father Simon's life. This one is for "Applying for a Chinese Visa"

* An article in the NYT about Blackall's MC (which are going to be in a book, btw). Here's an NPR piece about her.
* Blackall has also illustrated books, such as Ruby's Wish and Meet Wild Boars.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Harp

Sculptor Augusta Savage was commissioned to create a work for the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Inspired by James Weldon Johnson's Lift Every Voice and Sing, Savage produced The Harp:

Wasn't it exquisite?

"No funds were available to cast The Harp, nor were there any facilities to store it. After the fair closed it was demolished as was all the art."

* More information from the 1939 New York World's Fair site
* In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage by Alan Schroeder, illustrated by JaeMe Bereal

Monday, May 2, 2011

Horn Call

As I mentioned on Jama's fine site, I like horn music.

In this first video, the music doesn't actually start until 40 seconds in, so you might want to forward it a bit.

Also, here's Radek Baborak playing Mozart horn concertos. He's pretty awesome.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dancing For Spring

Happy May Day! There's an informative page about Maypole dancing you might like to visit. It was put together by the late Barbara Marlow Irwin and has a lovely collection of Maypole dance postcards.

I remember Maypole dancing as a child -- very fun!