Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Written for Nina Simone

Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood was written for Nina Simone.

Until just now, I thought Eric Burdon wrote it, and that Bob Dylan was thinking of Eric Burdon singing that song and was being both playful and ornery with his remark. What do I know?

"We have to learn what we can, but remain mindful that our knowledge not close the circle, closing out the void, so that we forget that WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW remains boundless, without limit or bottom, and that what WE KNOW may have to share the quality of being known with what denies it. What is seen with one eye has no depth ..."

(Quote from Always Coming Home, by Ursula Le Guin, but the capitalization is my mother's. She typed that out for me on a little piece of notepaper with a drawing of Rattlesnake Grass from California's North Coast and enclosed it in a letter she wrote to me during the 1980s)

"A mistake is to commit a misunderstanding."
(Bob Dylan)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Talking Fertile Land with Ocean

(Gouache and watercolor, 18" x 24", from the 1980s, by am)

What's so bad about being misunderstood?
(Bob Dylan)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Walking down to Bellingham Bay / Thinking about Luis Bunuel and Dalton Trumbo

Johnny Got His Gun and Dalton Trumbo are still on my mind. After re-reading Johnny Got His Gun, for the first time since Richard recommended it while he was in Vietnam in 1970, I've been checking out related DVDs from the public library. A few days ago, I watched "Trumbo"(2007) and was reminded that Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplays for "Exodus" and "Spartacus." Yesterday I watched "Johnny Got His Gun" on DVD. Although it was first released in 1971, this DVD with additional features was released in 2009. I don't remember seeing "Johnny Got His Gun" when it was released on September 22, 1971, but I am guessing that Richard did see it.

Richard's last weeks of life in a VA hospital in spring of 2008 appeared to be much like those of Joe Bonham in Dalton Trumbo's 1971 film, "Johnny Got His Gun."

In 1971, when Dalton Trumbo directed "Johnny Got His Gun," he added to and changed the story from what he had written in his book in 1939. Scenes with Joe Bonham's contemplations on Jesus were written by Luis Bunuel.

Of all the changes and additions that strengthened an already powerful testament against war, what stood out for me was the scene near the end of the film where the military hospital doctors and staff were standing at Joe Bonham's bedside after Joe had finally been able to communicate with them by banging his head on his pillow in Morse code, "S.O.S. Help me." The commanding officer had asked Joe what he wanted, and Joe had replied, and the commanding officer had denied Joe's requests. At that point, Joe began to bang his head against his pillow, saying "Kill me" over and over again in Morse code.

The commanding officer then turned to the chaplain and said, "Don't you have some message for him, Padre?"

The priest shook his head.

The officer said, "You could at least tell him to put his faith in God, couldn't you?"

The priest said, "I will pray for him for the rest of my days, but I will not risk testing his faith against your stupidity."

The officer said, "Well, you're a hell of a priest, aren't you?"

The priest said, "He is a product of your profession, not mine," and walked out of the hospital room.

Now that is a mysterious statement. The koan here is, "What is the product of the priest's profession?" Certainly Dalton Trumbo had given some thought to that when he wrote that scene and asked Luis Bunuel to write words for Jesus to say earlier in the film.

The two following paragraphs are from a Wikipedia article about Luis Bunuel:

In a 1960 interview with Michele Manceaux in L'Express, Buñuel famously declared: "Thank God I'm an atheist."

However, he repudiated this statement in a 1977 article in The New Yorker. "I'm not a Christian, but I'm not an atheist, either," he said. "I'm weary of hearing that accidental old aphorism of mine, 'I'm an atheist, thank God.' It's outworn. Dead leaves. In 1951, I made a small film called "Mexican Bus Ride," about a village too poor to support a church and a priest. The place was serene, because no one suffered from guilt. It's guilt we must escape from, not God."

I'm feeling Richard's serene presence today. It is nearly four years since he died. We are not suffering from guilt. We are too poor to support a church and a priest. We do not walk alone anymore. I think that the word God is a koan.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Three Trees / Alive Alive-O/ First Love

Listen to this mystical song:

“No, this trick won’t work…How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”
(Albert Einstein)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A book you might want to read

I've just finished reading Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, by Rebecca MacKinnon.

From Rebecca MacKinnon's introduction:

"The Internet is a human creation. Power struggles are an inevitable feature of human society. Democracy is about constraining power and holding it accountable. The Internet can be a powerful tool in the hands of citizens seeking to hold governments and corporations to account -- but only if we keep the Internet itself open and free."

Ai Weiwei's words from an interview by Rebecca MacKinnon in January 2009 (page 249):

"Why do I want to take any responsibility? Democracy is not a political ideal. Democracy is a means of handling problems. This method is effective--why? Because everybody in society takes responsibility. If nobody is taking responsibility, it shouldn't be called "society." Or it's a slave society anyway...."

TateShots: Ai Weiwei in New York from Alison Klayman on Vimeo.

From comments on the book from the back cover:

"The Internet poses the most complex challenges and opportunities for human rights to have emerged over the last decade. Rebecca MacKinnon's book is a clear-eyed guide through that complexity." -- Mary Robinson, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and President of Ireland.

The view from home this morning:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

No Cat

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.”

-- Albert Einstein

(trackpad drawing by am)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day 2012 / Wislawa Szymborska 1923-2012

Nothing Twice
(translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
you can’t repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you’re here with me,
I can’t help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It’s in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we’re different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

Poem via Alive On All Channels via

Valentine's Day first sunlight on a breaking wave at the Lost Coast Webcam

Monday, February 13, 2012

Johnny Got His Gun, Revisited /A man who carries within himself all the seeds of a new order of things / The Heart Sutra

If you'd like to know more about this trackpad drawing, read here.
When I did that drawing in December 2007, I had no idea that Richard had experienced a brainstem stroke and had been in a VA hospital for three months and that he was painting again.

Nearly two weeks ago, while in savasana (the corpse pose) at the end of my home yoga practice, thinking of Richard's last breath, I suddenly remembered Dalton Trumbo's anti-war novel written in 1939, Johnny Got His Gun.

A few days ago, the $7.99 copy I had ordered arrived at our local independent bookstore. It had been my intention to read the edition I had read in 1970 at the urging of Richard, who had read the book while in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1970. I didn't want the edition with the foreward by Cindy Sheehan because I had checked out our local library's audiobook version of Johnny Got His Gun, read by William Dufris, and been unable to listen to that particular man's irritating voice read a book that I had read so long ago and had "heard" in Richard's voice. William Dufris' reading of Cindy Sheehan's foreward was particularly annoying to me. I wanted the edition with the introduction by Dalton Trumbo. I thought that was what I was ordering.

It turns out that, for the edition I had bought, the publisher had removed the introduction by Dalton Trumbo and inserted an introduction by Cindy Sheehan. With further Google research, I found that in 1991, there was an edition with an introduction by Ron Kovic, a well-known Vietnam veteran who felt the book told his story. That introduction was followed by Dalton Trumbo's original introduction from 1939 and an addendum by Dalton Trumbo in 1970. If you'd like to read those introductions, take a look here.

Now I'm puzzled. This is getting curiouser and curiouser. Dalton Trumbo was alive when the introduction by Ron Kovic was added and clearly chose Ron Kovic to write an introduction.

Why were those two introductions removed and Cindy Sheehan's introduction inserted? Why not just add Cindy Sheehan's introduction to this newer addition?

On the publishing history page of my $7.99 copy, it reads:

This edition contains the complete text
of the original hardback edition.



Introduction copyright © 1970 by Dalton Trumbo.

What is going on here?

It was wrenching to reread Johnny Got His Gun. When we read it the first time, Richard and I were 20 years old, in the midst of the Vietnam War. I am convinced now that Richard was remembering that book in the last few days of his life when he was blind in one eye, not focusing well with the other eye, and barely able to move.

From page 83 of Johnny Got His Gun:

He was blind.

It was funny how calm he was. He was quiet just like a storekeeper taking spring inventory and saying to himself I see I have no eyes better put that down in the order book. He had no legs and no arms and no ears and no nose and no mouth and no tongue. What a hell of a dream. It must be a dream. Of course sweet god it’s a dream. He’d have to wake up or he’d go nuts. Nobody could live like that.

From page 240-241:

Why? why? why?

And then suddenly he saw. He had a vision of himself as a new kind of Christ as a man who carries within himself all the seeds of a new order of things. He was the new messiah of the battlefields saying to people as I am so shall you be ... He saw a world of lovers forever parted of dreams never consummated of plans that never turned into reality ...

That was it he had it he understood it now he had told them his secret and in denying him they had told him theirs.

He was the future he was a perfect picture of the future and they were afraid to let anyone see what the future was like. Already they were looking ahead they were figuring the future and somewhere in the future they saw war. To fight that war the would need men and if men saw the future they wouldn't fight ...

From the Heart Sutra:

No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind, no color, no sound, no smell no taste, no touch, no object of mind, no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness.

Cindy Sheehan's introduction ends with the words: "Why, why, why?"

(cover of first edition, 1939)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Meditation / A young man who was staying drunk on fear in the wilderness / A young woman who was not afraid of him

Johnny: [opening narration from "The Wild One"] It begins here for me on this road. How the whole mess happened I don't know, but I know it couldn't happen again in a million years. Maybe I could of stopped it early, but once the trouble was on its way, I was just goin' with it. Mostly I remember the girl. I can't explain it - a sad chick like that, but somethin' changed in me. She got to me, but that's later anyway. This is where it begins for me right on this road.

During the 1960s, upon looking at some promotional photos of himself, Bob Dylan laughed and said, "I look like Marlon Brando, James Dean or somebody..."

What's my point here? Something about fear and courage. That series of film clips from "The Wild One" moved me this morning. This may make more sense after watching the entire YouTube video above. Maybe not.

"I always have respected her
for doing what she did and getting free."
(Bob Dylan, from "If You See Her Say Hello")

"How long can I stay drunk on fear
out in the wilderness?"
(Bob Dylan, from "When He Returns")

"Time heals, after all -- although the clock that marks that kind of time has no hands."
(Suze Rotolo, from A Freewheelin' Time, 2007)

(2007 trackpad drawing by am and February 2012 trackpad drawing by am)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Joy / Little pencil drawing (3 x 4-1/2 inches)

"... go for walks, do mundane chores, never letting go of the koan of stymied creativity. And I still show up at my desk or studio when I normally would. Sometimes I just sit and do nothing. Sometimes I just read or stare out the window. Then, eventually, but always, I find the words, the colors, whatever music it is I need to go on. Then comes the joy."

(Terrance Keenan, from interview at the blog called Writing Our Way Home)

Here is where I found the above interview via Whiskey River.

My plan is to use my little drawing of a few days ago as a starting point for a computer trackpad drawing with working title of "Girl with Crow, Orion, and Cat on a Starry Night."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Antidote / "Kindness at the Crossroads"

It took me years to realize that waiting for someone else to change is not fruitful and, besides, it's unkind to all involved.

Here's one wildly creative antidote to that, with lyrics here.

Thanks to Doonesbury's Featured Video.

And to Sabine for this:

Don't go into the tangled jungle
looking for the great elephant
who is already quietly at home.
Nothing to do,
Nothing to force,
nothing to want -
and everything happens by itself.

("Kindness at the Crossroads," a computer trackpad drawing by am from 2005)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of imagination. What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth - whether it existed before or not."

-- John Keats, English lyric poet (1795 - 1821)

("Reconciliation Dream," gouache and watercolor, painted by am in 1999)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

generosity and humility

"Generosity can be as simple and sweet as a song worth sharing."
(quote from Sight Psalms)

The source for the photo is my sister in Mississippi who is a Methodist and sent me a link to Sight Psalms.

I remember the final Bob Dylan concert I attended in the late 1990s in a stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia. During what was to be the last encore, I was moved to get up from my seat, and I made my way down as close to the stage as I could get -- a long way from where our seats were. My friends remained seated. Bob Dylan was singing, "Girl From The North Country." Others had quietly left their seats as well, moved perhaps in the same way I was . As I recall, we were a small group of women, allowed to be as close to the stage as was possible.

Unlike the rest of the concert, the volume of the loudspeakers had been turned down to a level that was not excruciatingly painful to listen to. Bob Dylan began to sing clearly, unlike the way he had sung throughout the rest of the concert.

Bob Dylan would have been in his late 50s then. To my eyes, he was a surprisingly fragile-looking man. I was struck by a sense of the courage it took for him to put himself in such a vulnerable position. Then the words generosity and humility came to me spontaneously.

To me, in that moment, Bob Dylan was the embodiment of generosity and humility.

When I saw the above photo this morning, it occurred to me that Bob Dylan could have easily been that man at the piano in New Orleans except for a simple twist of fate. I see them as kindred spirits.

The gift of the encore for the last Bob Dylan concert I am likely to see has been a lasting gift.

If you have time and the inclination, listen to Bob Dylan in 1994 (a few years before we saw him in Vancouver), accompanied by the Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra.

"I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred"
(from "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall")