Category Archives: Today Is…

Valentine’s Day Advice

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Since today is Valentine’s Day and I’m not qualified to speak about romance, I’ll let the Grateful Dead offer advice in matters of love through the video for their song “Foolish Heart.”

If you want to follow along with the singing, here are the lyrics from https://play.google.com/music/preview/Tcu6tifbkyp3snodrbo6j7ijoym?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics&u=0#:

Carve your name
Carve your name in ice and wind
Search for where
Search for where the rivers end
Or where the rivers start
Do everything that’s in you
That you feel to be your part
But never give your love, my friend,
Unto a foolish heart

Leap from ledges
Leap from ledges high and wild
Learn to speak
Speak with wisdom like a child
Directly from the heart
Crown yourself the king of clowns
Or stand way back apart
But never give your love, my friend,
Unto a foolish heart

Shun a friend
Shun a brother and a friend
Never look
Never look around the bend
Or check a weather chart
Sign the Mona Lisa
With a spray can, call it art
But never give your love, my friend,
Unto a foolish heart

A foolish heart will call on you
To toss your dreams away
Then turn around and blame you
For the way you went astray
A foolish heart will cost you sleep
And often make you curse
A selfish heart is trouble
But a foolish heart is worse

Bite the hand
Bite the hand that bakes your bread
Dare to leap
Where the angels fear to tread
Till you are torn apart
Stoke the fires of paradise
With coals from hell to start
But never give your love, my friend
Unto a foolish heart

Unto a foolish heart [Repeats]

Built to Last
”Foolish Heart was released on the final Grateful Dead studio album Built To Last which came out in 1989.  It was written by Jerry Garcia (music) and Robert C. Hunter (words). The video was directed by Gary Gutierrez .

According to http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0349359/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm, Gutierrez graduated

from the San Francisco Art Institute, [and] apprenticed at John Korty’s Mill Valley studio as an animator of children’s films, creating and directing live action and animation for Sesame Street and The Electric Company.

(So there folks, is the connection between The Grateful Dead and Sesame Street I always suspected existed.)

[He] create[d] the 8 minute animated opening for The Grateful Dead Movie…

Gutierrez also directed the music video for the Grateful Dead song “Touch of Grey,” which was the introduction to the Dead for many people, especially those of the MTV generation.

The American Book of the Dead
The American Book of the Dead by Oliver Trager says the movie footage in the “Foolish Heart” video is from a 1903 film by Georges Méliès called Kingdom of the Fairies.

According to http://www.earlycinema.com/pioneers/melies_bio.html,

Maries Georges Jean Méliès was born in Paris in 1861…

Méliès’ principle contribution to cinema was the combination of traditional theatrical elements to motion pictures – he sought to present spectacles of a kind not possible in live theatre.

He pioneered the first double exposure (La caverne Maudite, 1898), the first split screen with performers acting opposite themselves (Un Homme de tete, 1898), and the first dissolve (Cendrillon, 1899)…He was also one of the first filmmakers to present nudity on screen with “Apres le Bal”.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kingdom_of_the_Fairies) says of the film,

…film historian Georges Sadoul suggested that the film was freely adapted from La Biche au Bois, a popular féerie by the brothers Goignard, which had been first produced in March 1845 at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin and which was frequently revived throughout the nineteenth century.[4] A publication on Méliès’s films by the Centre national du cinéma cites Charles Perrault‘s story “Sleeping Beauty” as the most direct inspiration for the film, with the seven fairies in that tale reduced to four.[4]

The film’s cast includes Georges Méliès as Prince Bel-Azor, Marguerite Thévenard as Princess Azurine, and Bleuette Bernon as the fairy Aurora.

I like the whimsical, but also slightly creepy vibe of this video.  Skeletons playing records, Victorian era toys, ghostly band members, black and white film footage of devils with pitchforks and torches, Bob Weir’s hair, I like all of these aspects of the video while they make me a bit uncomfortable too.

 

Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton

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Today is the birthday of Dolly Rebecca Parton. I’m sure everyone knows who Dolly Parton is, so I won’t even bother with autobiographical details. Instead I will share a review I wrote of a Dolly Parton biography I read last summer.

Dolly Daughter of the South
The book in question is Dolly: Daughter of the South,  written by Lola Scobey.

Where to begin?

I picked this book up at a thrift store for a dime. I wouldn’t say I’m a big Dolly Parton fan, but I do like some of her music and when I’ve seen her being interviewed on TV, she seems like a really nice person. So I figured, what the hell?, and forked over the dime to buy the book.

Several things about this book are suspect.

#1 It has no ISBN. Did books in the 70s and 80s not have ISBNs? What does it mean that this book has no ISBN? I dunno. (Oh, wait. I did find the ISBN, in tiny print on the spine, and again in tiny print on the right side of the front cover, right next to the price of $2.50)

#2 There are photos in this book, but no photo credits. Don’t most reputable authors give credit, if not to the photographer, at least to the person who provided the photo? No one is credited with the photos in this book.

#3 The following disclaimer is given on the book’s credit page: Sections of Chapters 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, and 18 are dramatizations based upon facts about the characters’ lives and/or attitudes they have expressed. Dramatizations? As in made up? As in fiction? Ok, the author made up some of the shit in this book, and while she admits to making up some shit, she doesn’t tell us what shit she made up. So how can the reader really know what is true and what is not?

#4 The author never says where or when she actually interviewed Dolly Parton. At the end of the book, she does “acknowledge” some “fine people of Sevierville” (the town near where Dolly Parton grew up). Throughout the book, the author does mention situations in which some of those “fine people” told her about Dolly Parton’s past, so I do believe the author interviewed and got quotes from those “fine people.” And although the author presents the reader with many direct quotes attributed to Dolly Parton (with quotation marks and all), I think the author read a bunch of other interviews other people did with Ms. Parton and cobbled together quotes and included them here. For some of the quotes, the author of this book even says who did the interview and in what magazine it appeared (but no dates or issue numbers). I think this book is akin to a term paper, where the author read a lot of other people’s writing, then put it all together hoping for something bigger than the sum of its parts, but without any endnotes or footnotes or citations of any kind. I think any of my high school English teachers would have called that plagiarism.

This book is has a copyright date of 1977, with a first printing in October 1977, and additional printings in January 1978, August 1978, August 1979, January 1981, and February 1981, so I guess it sold a lot of copies. I’m sure Dolly Parton had a lot of fans at the time who wanted to know all about her and were willing to shell out a few bucks to get all the info in one inexpensive, paperback package. (I thought my mom had a copy of this book lying around the house when I was in middle school, but nothing in this book seemed the least bit familiar, so if my mom had it, I somehow didn’t read it.)

Great literature, this ain’t. Consider the first sentence of the book: “Kicking the damp, sticky sheets away from her legs, Avie Lee stared with plucky brown eyes into the sultry morning darkness that still filled the hot rooms of the cabin.” “Plucky brown eyes”? “Sultry morning darkness”? I haven’t seen such overwrought use of adjectives since 10th grade English class. I suspect this is some of the stuff author Lola Scobey dramatized, since I doubt she was in Dolly Parton’s parents’ bedroom before Ms. Parton was even born to experience for herself how sultry that morning darkness was or to witness the pluckiness of Ms. Parton’s mother’s brown eyes. Sheesh!

I like trashy biographies. I really do. But this one was kind of disappointing. I didn’t get swept up in the writing, and nothing really juicy is shared here. I did learn that Dolly Parton has been working as a singer ever since she was a little girl of nine or ten years old. That was interesting.

Really, the best thing about this book is the cheesy photograph of Dolly Parton on the front cover.

To really celebrate Dolly’s birthday, let’s watch a video of her singing “Jolene,” circa 1975.

Remedios Varo

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I first learned of Remedios Varo while reading an article in a feminist newspaper about a rare exhibit of her work. I became fascinated with her and her work and started learning more about her. Remedios Varo was soon one of my favorite artists.

UNEXPECTED JOURNEYS: The Art and Life of Remedios Varo
I learned a lot about Varo by reading the book Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys by Janet A. Kaplan. Here’s a review I wrote of the book:

This book is incredible, awesome, amazing, fantastic, and wonderful. I do not have the words to say how good this book is.

It’s the biography of Remedios Varo, a female surrealist painter of whom most people have never heard. I found out about her when I read an article in the now defunt Sojourner newspaper about a very rare exhibit of her work in Chicago. From that moment, I was fascinated.

I don’t understand why I have heard of Magritte and Dali and Duchamp, but never Varos. Her work is just as good (better) than theirs. Hmmm, I wonder if it’s because she is a woman and hasn’t been taken seriously.

In any case, this book is a biography, and also includes many full color reproductions of her work. I go back to it again and again and just look at the pictures, which are mesmerizing and beautiful. This is one of those books that I want to hang on to forever.

Unfortunately, I was not able to hang on to the book forever, so I had to do some internet research to find information to share about Varo today, the anniversary of her birth.

Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista

Image of Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista (Woman leaving the psychoanalyst) by Remedios Varo from https://theartstack.com/artist/remedios-varo/mujer-saliendo-del-psicoanalista

According to the Totally History website (http://totallyhistory.com/remedios-varo/),

Remedios Varo Uranga, one of the world famous para-surrealist painters of the 20th Century, was born in 1908 in a small town called Angles in the province of Girona in Spain.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remedios_Varo) says,

Remedios Varo Uranga  was a Spanish-Mexican para-surrealist painter and anarchist.

Born in Girona, Spain in 1908, she studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement. She met her second husband, the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret, in Barcelona. She was forced into exile from Paris during the German occupation of France and moved to Mexico City at the end of 1941. She died in 1963, at the height of her career, from a heart attack, in Mexico City.

Nacer de nuevo

Image of Nacer de nuevo ( Born again) by Remedios Varo from https://theartstack.com/artist/remedios-varo/nascer-de-nuevo

A website dedicated to Varo (http://www.remediosvaro.org/varo.html) lists her influences:

Remedios Varo’s artistic influences included the work of Hieronymus Bosch…She was also influenced by styles in other realms including Picasso, Francisco Goya, El Greco, and Braque. Andre Breton was a formative influence in Varo’s understanding of Surrealism. Further artistic influence can be seen in her paintings of the modern Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. While in Mexico, Varo became influenced by the primitive art ancient Columbian culture…

Philosophically, Varo was influenced by a many [sic] mystic traditions of both Eastern and Western society. She studied the ideas of G. I. Gurdjieff, C. G. Jung, Ouspensky, Sufis, H. Blavatsky, and Meister Eckhart. The legend of the Holy Grail fascinated Varo along with sacred geometry and alchemy. She believed that through each of these there was a path self-enlightenment and the transformation of consciousness.

Although I was most attracted to the beautiful yet creepy quality of Varo’s art, I was also attracted to her as a person. She had a variety of lovers throughout her life (although she never divorced her first husband), and she was an anarchist and a feminist. The aforementioned Totally History webpage says,

[Varo] was not only a surrealist but also an anarchist. She believed that the state was an unnecessary evil that opposed the conduct of human relations…This philosophy was also reflected in her isolationist art style…

Feminism was another school of thought that influenced the art style of [Varo]. At the time when she was a surrealist painter, the male surrealist did not see their female counterparts as talented. T[h]is created an environment where female artists were isolated. The misconceived talents of the women were reflected in her art as images of sad women in isolated and confined places. This was her way of responding to the feminine injustices in the world of art at the time.

Although nothing can replace viewing art in person, it’s easy to see much Varo’s work just by doing a few web searches. In honor of the birth of Remedios Varo, I hope you will seek out more of her art and maybe come to a better understanding of why I appreciate it so much.

 

 

Emily Dickinson

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Today is the anniversary of the birth of Emily Dickinson.

According to an article on Poet.org (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/emily-dickinson),

Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts…  Throughout her life, she seldom left her home and visitors were few.

By the 1860s, Dickinson lived in almost complete isolation from the outside world, but actively maintained many correspondences and read widely. She spent a great deal of this time with her family.

Dickinson’s poetry was heavily influenced by the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England, as well as her reading of the Book of Revelation and her upbringing in a Puritan New England town, which encouraged a Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity.

In an extensive article on Dickinson, the Poetry Foundation (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/emily-dickinson) asserts,

Like writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman, she experimented with expression in order to free it from conventional restraints.

While I probably ran across some of Emily Dickinson’s work as a young reader or in middle school, the first time I remember reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson was during high school. In 11th grade English, we studied American writers, which in those days meant we studied mostly white, male writers. During that year, Emily Dickinson was a breath of fresh female air for me.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
I enjoyed Dickinson’s unconventional punctuation. It was sometimes maddening, but I appreciated that she wasn’t afraid to break the rules. (In all my years in public school English classes, there were big penalties for breaking the rules.) About Dickinson’s punctuation, Poets.org says,

[her]handwritten poems show a variety of dash-like marks of various sizes and directions (some are even vertical)…many early editors…removed her unusual and varied dashes, replacing them with traditional punctuation. The current standard version of her poems replaces her dashes with an en-dash, which is a closer typographical approximation to her intention.

I liked Dickinson’s rhyme schemes too. Her slant rhymes were surprising and exhilarating to this girl who’d been living a life of rhyming perfection

Dickinson’s poetry appealed to my adolescent depression as well. While many of her poems are uplifting, just as many are about loneliness and unrequited love and death. While Dickinson and I were physically separated by over one hundred years, when I read her poems, it was as if we knew each other.

As a teenager, I  appreciated Dickinson’s spunk and her dedication to her writing; I still appreciate those qualities today.  Here was this woman who hardly ever left her father’s house, yet she wrote and she wrote and she wrote and she wrote. According to Poets.org,

[u]pon her death, Dickinson’s family discovered forty handbound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems…

Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them
Only a few of Dickinson’s poems were published during her lifetime. She was not publicly recognized as a poet while she lived. Her first volume  work was not published until four years after her death. Yet, she kept on writing.

Sometimes I feel as if my writing is drifting off into a void. (This blog was originally called Throwing Stories Into the Ether.) Is anyone reading? Does what I write matter? Will I be remembered? Then I think of Emily Dickinson, and I keep on writing.

 

Happy Birthday, Weird Al

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Today is the birthday of Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic.

To help folks separate the truth about Weird Al from the fiction, here’s a Diffuser.fm video:

To hear songs by Weird Al, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/05/national-grammar-day/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/10/23/happy-birthday-weird-al/.

Happy Birthday, Mickey Hart!

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There’s another Grateful Dead birthday to celebrate this week: today is the birthday of Mickey Hart, one of the Dead’s two drummers.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Hart,

Mickey Hart (born Michael Steven Hartman, September 11, 1943) is an American percussionist and musicologist. He is best known as one of the two drummers of the rock band Grateful Dead. He was a member of the Grateful Dead from September 1967 to February 1971 and from October 1974 to August 1995. He and fellow Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann earned the nickname “the rhythm devils”.

Dead.net (http://www.dead.net/band/mickey-hart) says,

Practically born with drumsticks in his hands — both of his parents were champion rudimental (marching band-style) drummers — Mickey Hart committed to percussion from the beginning. After experience in both high school and military (Air Force) marching bands and a brief stint working for his father at a drum shop, he encountered Bill Kreutzmann one night at the Matrix. On September 30, 1967, he sat in with the Dead… and joined the band. His influence over the next year was to push the band into complex, multirhythmic explorations. A student of Ustad Allah Rakah (Ravi Shankar’s tabla player), he added various strains of non-Western music to the Dead’s general atmosphere. Over the years, he has been involved in many musical and archival projects, most notably the band Global Drum Project, and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress’s “Endangered Music Project.” He is the author of several books, including Drumming at the Edge of Magic and Global Drum Project.

According to the aforementioned Wikipedia article,

Hart joined the Grateful Dead in September 1967 and left in February 1971 when he extricated himself from the band due to conflict between band management and his father.[4] During his sabbatical in 1972 he recorded the album Rolling Thunder. He returned to the Dead in 1974 and remained with the group until their official dissolution in 1995. Collaboration with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead continued under the name “The Dead“..

I’ve never experienced Mickey Hart’s drumming in person, but it’s not too late, right? Maybe I’ll get the chance, somehow…

Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion