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ARTISTIC VENTURES

“We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded [completed] with a sleep.”  –Shakespeare.  The Tempest 4.1.156-58

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”  –E. A. Poe

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream . . . life is but a dream.”  –Children’s rhyme

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens into that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was a conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.”  –C. G. Jung

[Music: The Everly Brothers, 1958] :  “Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream … Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream … Whenever I want you, all I have to do is / Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream … Anytime night or day / Only trouble is, gee whiz / I’m dreamin’ my life away … Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream…”

“A dream is a personal experience of that deep dark ground that is the support of our conscious lives, and a myth is the society’s dream.  The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth.”  –Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth.

[Music: Man of La Mancha, November 1965] :  “The Impossible Dream” : “To dream the impossible dream / … To bear with unbearable sorrow / … To right the unrightable wrong / To love pure and chaste from afar / To try when your arms are too weary / To reach the unreachable star / This is my quest, to follow that star, / No matter how hopeless, no matter how far / … And the world will be better for this…”  Songwriters: Joe Darion / Mitchell Leigh.  “The Impossible Dream” lyrics © Helena Music Company

“Wishing and hoping come directly out of the function of dreaming and making myths.”  — Rollo May, The Cry for Myth.

[Music: “I Dreamed a Dream” is a song from the musical Les Misérables.  It is a solo that is sung by the character Fantine during the first act.  …  The song is a lament, sung by the anguished Fantine, who has just been fired from her job at the factory and thrown onto the streets.  See Wikipedia for more history and analysis] :  “I Dreamed a Dream”/Anne Hathaway :  “There was a time when men were kind … There was a time when love was blind … And the world was a song … And the song was exciting.  There was a time…  Then it all went wrong.  I dreamed a dream in times gone by / When hope was high and life worth living / I dreamed, that love would never die / I dreamed that God would be forgiving…  I had a dream my life would be / So different from this hell I’m living / So different now from what it seemed / Now life has killed the dream / I dreamed.”  Songwriters: Alain Albert Boublil / Claude Michel Schonberg / Herbert Kretzmer / Jean Marc Natel.  “I Dreamed a Dream” lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

“Dreams are a private application to one’s life of public myths in which we all are participants.”  –Rollo May, The Cry for Myth.

“What happens to a dream deferred?  / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun?  … / Or does it explode?”  –Langston Hughes

LET THE DREAMS BEGIN! 

“Hold fast to dreams / For if dreams die / Life is a broken / winged bird / that cannot fly. . .  Life is a barren field / Frozen with snow.”  –Langston Hughes, “Dreams.”

 

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

Destry Rides Again is a 1959 musical “comedy”–a Western with music and lyrics by Harold Rome and a book by Leonard Gershe.  The play is based on the 1939 classic film of the same name, starring Marlene Dietrich and Jimmy Stewart.  The musical starred Dolores Gray and Andy Griffith.  Tom Destry (Griffith) abhors guns but becomes sheriff of the town of Bottleneck.  There, The Last Chance Saloon singer, Frenchy, proves a distraction in his mission to bring the bad guys to justice.  Poker, swindle, shooting, murder, and “bad women” form the substance of the drama–somewhat of a “classic” Western.  As the story goes, the character Gyp Watson has been arrested for the murder of Sheriff Keogh early in the play.  [See Wikipedia and other sources]

[The video clip is “Are You Ready, Gyp Watson?” performed on a TV variety show, featuring the original 1959 Broadway cast.  The great Dolores Gray appears as Frenchy, and Michael Kidd did the choreography.  Songwriter Harold Rome’s counterpoint melody inspired Kidd to turn this into a major dance number, which contributed to his winning the Tony Award for Best Choreography.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG4Mjq0H6Ic

I had never heard of the play nor heard the music until I was in college “back then.”  I was attending a men’s college, a small Roman Catholic seminary in Missouri.  Part of our curriculum, and a large part of our spiritual life, was song, and Gregorian chant.

Haec Dies Quam Fecit Dominus gregorian

Songs and hymns during liturgical services took place almost daily with the entire group of students.  One of my classmates, Ray Repp, approached me one day with an offer to join him and a few others to have a musical audition in a classroom.  He wanted to start a group to perform for the students.  Ray got us together, worked us, found us music, chose us a name, and set up a practice schedule during our free time.  We would sing when the school had time allotted for various entertainment activities, like one-act plays, songfests, movies, and amateur nights.

The Princetons were formed.  We were a timely group, with our musical repertoire for the ‘60s:  “Lemon Tree” “The River Is Wide, I Cannot See” and other ballads requiring good voices and one guitar.  And, of course, Gyp Watson’s funereal hymn which I still hum–and cannot ever get out of my head!  “Are you ready, Gyp Watson?  Are you ready, for to die?  Are you ready, Gyp Watson, for the last big roundup in the sky?”

And The Princetons had their “outfits”: black pants/trousers, black shoes, and white shirts, sleeves rolled up twice.  However, the distinguishing feature had to be our haircuts.  “Seminary” haircuts?  That would never do.  Not military cut, either.  Better, the “Princeton” cut:

princeton classic haircutA Princeton haircut–an Ivy League, or Harvard Clip–could be a kind of crew cut with enough hair styled on top for a side part.  Many individual variations came about.   

The hair on the sides and back of the head is usually tapered, short to medium.  (An Ivy League is traditionally groomed with hair control wax, sometimes called “butch wax”–a bit stronger than Dapper Dan pomade used by Ulysses Everett McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

princetons haircutsFAMOUS WEARERS OF PRINCETON HAIRCUTS

The Princetons of St Louis had their time, and made their mark.  And it was fun.  Ray thought we were good–and wanted us to make a recording of some of his music.  We did go to a small recording studio in St Louis and sang our best.  A tape was made.  Each of us had to contribute dollars for the master to be sent to various radio stations and critics.

Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, and other groups were similar in some respects.  (Some memory tripping here: the Brothers Four, The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The New Christy Minstrels.)  “As noted by critic Bruce Eder in the All Music Guide, the popularity of the commercialized version of folk music represented by these groups emboldened record companies to sign, record, and promote artists with more traditionalist and political sensibilities.”  We certainly were in good company, but were not very popular.  And so ended my “semi-professional” music career, though I did not cease to sing. 

I had always loved to sing, was always told I had a good voice–good enough for church choirs, high school chorus groups, and men’s choirs and choruses.  I sang the full range from young castrati-type soprano (with a Michael Jackson voice) to first tenor, like that of my Chicago Opera-singing friend, Jimmy Pappas [from Pappas Ice Cream Shop]  (who helped me love classical music and Lakmé and La Boheme, among other operatic works), to second tenor.

I have sung in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas, Washington, Texas, Florida–at churches and sporting events, at weddings and at funerals.  I can still be “choked up” at “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave // O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

All this has been good.  I have had few bad experiences with song, or with reading music, or with hitting the proper notes.  There is, however, one forever-lasting impression of my place in the music world.  Once, in mid-life, I answered an ad, a call for auditions to the Florida Symphony.  I submitted all the proper paperwork, and found my way to the audition hall.  I was dreaming of tuxedos and travel and concert halls.  The audition practice began with Handel’s Messiah.  Some members of the chorus I already knew; some were like me, novices with the chorus, trying out, trying it out.messiah for satb

I knew I had to banish thoughts of black ties, patent-leather shoes, tuxedo tails when I realized pages of music were being turned–and I had not gotten there yet.  More tries.  More pages and notes and directions than I had ever experienced.

“Buddhism considers humility a virtue that must be won through a long process of self-observation.  It requires a healthy measure of self-confidence and courage to achieve a realistic and humble understanding of the self.”  (Sam Keen)

O say can you see how humble an understanding of myself I had at that time?!  At the break, I told the director that I could not do it.  End.

I am a hoarder, an addict, a collector: once upon a time, I probably had a thousand music CD’s, long after I had a record collection of classical and other music, choruses and operas included.  Downsized now, I still surround myself with music as much as I can. 

And, from time to time, Poor Jud Fry in Oklahoma, Tony in West Side Story, Gyp Watson, and a few other characters bounce around in my life–coming from I-don’t-know-where.  Though I am glad I have them to remind me of my days of song, and my brief musical career, and to bring me such memoriesofatime.

©  James F. O’Neil  2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.”  –Anon.

Once upon a time, as the story goes, there were three bears, a Lorax, and seven dwarfs.  They all planned to sit down on the forest lawn one late spring morning for a leisurely brunch, complete with honey, biscuits, green eggs and ham (this was a typical New Orleans Brennan’s-style meal), and some good apple pies baked by the old hag who also built gingerbread houses.  Well, because of the whims of Thor and the other gods, the brunch party was called on account of rain.  But they all lived happily ever after, for they knew behind every rain cloud there was a silver lining.

THE END.

SO IT GOES.

HEIGH, HO!

Narration is to entertain, by storytelling, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Mostly.  There is FACTUAL narration and FICTIONAL narration.  (Some get them mixed up.)

FACTUAL presents a sequence of events (and people involved) as they are, CONCERNED WITH TIME AND ACTION.  The events have significance or meaning to the teller of the tale, even though he or she may not have been directly involved in the event (what I might know from a historical happening). 

(Sometimes, though, narration or storytelling is used to make a point, or even to make an argument, as in a parable, a fable, or in a sermon [or at a political rally]).  In telling, tellers capture and use DETAILS and organize and present with FEELINGS and EMOTIONS, yet ordering with reason-ableness.  (A reader or listener wants to hear or read details that emotionally involve–“Yeah!  That happened to me!”; details that are understandable; details that present a sense of time and past-ness to make it all ring true–memoriesofatime)

TELL A GOOD STORY.  BE HONEST AND TRUE.  PUT IT ALL IN GOOD ORDER: incidents, anecdotes, memories, nostalgics, milestones, autobiography, biography, family history. 

Jean Piaget told some teachers once upon a time that most people usually do not reflect upon their lives–and maybe cannot–until they are 18 or 19.  (He said some writers need to be taught how to reflect.)

Finally, once upon a time, the author Flannery O’Connor remarked that anybody who has survived childhood (the 18 or 19 mentioned by Piaget?) has enough information about life to last (to write about?) the rest of his or her days.

THE END.

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

how to read a book by mortimer adler old

What a great book for me!  While a senior in high school, I belonged to the Book Club.  A group of us would meet once a month to discuss a book chosen by a faculty advisor.  He prepared questions for our comments.  Our first reading was Adler’s book.

This now-favorite and well-used book (first published in 1940) is still available in both “real” print and “electronic” print.  I have gone through two or three copies–and have given copies as gifts.  Were I to point out a most influential book in my life, Adler’s would be one of the three (followed by The Power and the Glory [1940] and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn [1943]).

Often I see Adler’s book staring at me from its place on my bookshelf.

Looking through this book not long ago, I was searching for an answer to some question about my teaching career and about students: “…although the teacher may help his student in many ways, it is the student himself who must do the learning.  Knowledge must grow in his mind if learning is to take place.”

At that point, in a special mental instant, memory-filled, I became so aware of how far I had come in my learning and discovering, by reading.  Then there occurred a light-bulb “Ah-ha!” kind of connective moment,

light of reason

not about reading but about my own discovering, by do-ing.  I stood before my bookshelf, holding Adler, musing: What have I done? 

When I was being presented with my retirement gifts and honor plaque, “For his twenty years of full-time service…,” I stood there–really–thinking about my grandfather teaching me how to do “hands-on”: the practical, not the theoretical.  Nailing and sawing and shoveling and painting and gluing.

So much of my teaching career was not “hands on”–except, of course, when I would finger paint with my Head Start students; except, of course, my writing class notes on black, green, and white boards; except, of course, for correcting-annotating-commenting upon hundreds and piles of student papers; except, of course, for typing lesson plans, calculating and entering grades and achievements.  (Late in my career, though, I was doing “hands-on” computer instruction.)

Adler’s how-to book came long after some of my how-to experiences.

While in grammar school (elementary school), I did babysitting duties: bathing, feeding, and bedding (and changing diapers).  Yet I also was able to get a “real” job at a local grocery story.  I put up stock, helped clean up, but most importantly (since I was an experienced newspaper delivery boy), I was able to be trusted to deliver groceries.  Not as easy as it sounds, considering the delivery vehicle:

grocery bicycle

DELIVERY BICYCLE [RUSTED]

Careful and skillful, I did not let the bicycle tip or turn, spilling the contents of the basket–well, not often.  I learned then about center of gravity.  (The turning bike wanted to pull me over.)

Sometimes “all thumbs” at changing faucet washers, and driving nails, I still managed to be “hand-y”: knowing how to paint, scrub floors in the local school with a temperamental scrubbing machine, do dishes (glasses, knives and forks first; dishes, pots and pans last); mow lawns, shovel snow, change tires (automobile and bicycle).  (Later in life, in my automotive-mechanic stage of life, I actually installed water pumps, changed brakes, and even added a Holley 4-barrel carburetor to my 1954 Ford!  What achievements!)

1954 ford

I could tie a tie, long after learning how to tie shoelaces; shave my face, handwrite, and sign my name.  I hate to dust, but I can organize dirty clothes and do laundry.  And from observing and reading, I could/can make a “signature” meatloaf!

While working in a foundry, handling a swing grinder and hand tools, I made, fashioned, and finished dies for plastic companies, or was grinding off mold-edges on fire hydrants or small engines, still hot from the casting.  This work was dirty, sweaty, and hands-on. 

Yes, I have been a doer, with hands and fingers.  And I am pleased. 

I did, though, have my creative artistic attempts, like drawing flowers that looked like lollipops; then had twenty good years using my hands with glass, colored and contoured, fabricating flowers and shapes and geometrics that let the light shine through: my stained-glass years.

The Maltese Blue--One of the Best

THE MALTESE BLUE

All this and more.

My story of learning and discovery, however, cannot end without mention of one of my other greatest accomplishments of manipulative making.  I was privileged, honored, to be able to use my hands in a bookbindery.  Now how is that for a Mortimer Adler segue?

As a college junior, I found a place in the college bindery, an opportunity for me to come in contact with paper, cloth, glue, drill presses–to love books even more and realize the sacredness of pages put together.  There I folded and bound papers and pages into sets, the fascicles; sewed and pulled and tightened using needles and “thread” to sew units, not unlike Shakespeare’s quartos and octavos.  I grouped, squeezed, and pressed together the clusters of papers, then glued and waited.  The ends of the pages were trimmed with large-bladed cutters; I lost no parts of any fingers or thumbs. 

I learned how to make covers of cardboard and cloth, uniting the covers to the sewed and glued pages.  I pressed all parts together, and waited for drying.  I even learned to print titles, imprinted, impressed, using fonts of type and gold leaf foil.  I bound magazines, students’ notes, paperback texts, library journals, old books.

book edge of grant memoirs

I was proud of my work; I did my job.  I was good at my work and all the work I have done “with these hands.”

From all of this–from my reading, from my doing, from my remembering–it is that when I consider this “do-ing,” I am well pleased, something akin to sticking in my scarred thumb and pulling out a plumb–and saying, “What a good boy am I!” 

I did well, with my fingers and my thumbs. 

©  James F. O’Neil  2016

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Each of us brings our personal history to the table of writing, revision, editing, and criticism.”  –Roy Peter Clark, HELP! for Writers [Little, Brown, 2011]

. . .

Writing movie reviews and book reviews in a journal or as a blog is an excellent opportunity to write briefly, succinctly, pointedly.  Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, and the New York Times can serve as good sources and models for their exposition and narration.

Writing reviews is, first, self-expression.  The author is able to use simple critical writing skills and the basics of criticism: to discover PURPOSE; to judge the WORTH; and to criticize the TECHNIQUE.      

Some movie critics remind writers first to enjoy and to realize the entertainment, then to express that enjoyment–or disappointment.

The review is a free form; for in a review virtually everything is relevant: subject matter, technique, social and intellectual background, biographical facts, relationships to other similar works, historical importance, and everything else.  Evaluation is only one of the aims; for there may be other elements of the work under discussion, special difficulties . . . to explain, and special features . . . to note.  –Edgar Roberts, Writing Themes about Literature (1964)

In addition, the reviewer can consider tone, ideas, characters, story, imagery, symbolism, style, music, and other aspects and techniques–and, of course, include a list of favorites, from time to time.

As time passes, the favorites list will change; new films and movies will be produced.  However, one thing for sure, “We’ll always have Paris.” –or we can always “Round up the usual suspects.”  A journal-er or blogger will never be at a loss to find a good movie to watch, and talk about, and think about:  a review.

Some All-Time Favorites: Casablanca  Love Actually  A Room with a View  Singin’ in the Rain  Girl with a Pearl Earring  Moonstruck  West Side Story  Forbidden Planet   Doctor Zhivago  Some Like It Hot  To Kill a Mockingbird  Fargo  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  Metropolis

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“We are what we believe.”  –Mary Hambidge [1885-1973]

A lifelong pursuit of creativity, along with a love of dynamic symmetry and natural beauty, led Mary Hambidge to develop an artist’s community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Rabun Gap, Georgia: Located in northeastern Georgia where the Blue Ridge and Nantahala Mountain ranges meet.  Hambidge is 100 miles from Atlanta, and 80 miles from Asheville, North Carolina.

Hambidge is the oldest artists’ residency program in the Southeast, and one of the oldest in the nation, founded in 1934, to provide artists and other creative thinkers with the setting, solitude, and time necessary to create,

HAMBIDGE CENTER

Meeting House from search Courtesy of Hambidge House

Mary Crovatt became involved with Jay Hambidge (1867–1924), an artist and writer who achieved fame with his books on design and “dynamic symmetry.”  Though they never married, she took his last name.  After his death, she had envisioned a place in the Georgia mountains where crafts and agriculture could be practiced according to the principles developed by Jay.  She expanded dynamic symmetry and imagined a self-sufficient lifestyle emerging from the practice of balance and proportion.  In his memory, she created the Hambidge Center, believing that creativity can best be nurtured through working closely with nature.

In the early days of Hambidge, she employed local women to create exceptional weavings, but with the industrialization of the 1950s and the availability of steady mill jobs, the weavers slowly disbanded.  Hambidge broadened the scope of the center and invited creative artists and friends to come for extended stays there.  

One landscape architect often brought his son along with him; Eliot Wigginton returned to the Hambidge Center while a teacher in the area in 1966. Discussions with other Hambidge guests inspired him to develop the Foxfire program, in which students explored their local and regional heritage for the magazine that they created under his guidance.   

Foxfire books  from eBay“The teacher’s approach put to action John Dewey’s progressive premise that classroom learning should be a form of democratic life in which students actively demonstrate their knowledge and skills by immediately using them to improve society.”  [in Carl Glickman, KAPPAN, Feb. 2016: p. 55]

Foxfire remains alive where it was created.  For others, “it is realistic and imperative to expect that students today can apply what they are learning in English, math, science, history, and the arts to making their communities healthier, more caring, economically viable, and aesthetically better places to live.  That would be the ultimate success for Foxfire and for our country.”  [Glickman, p. 59]

Mary Crovatt Hambidge, from native of coastal Georgia to New York model and actress, to student and creative artist and weaver, to builder and visionary to missionary for the arts, remains in spirit as a driving force at Hambidge today.

. . .

The Hambidge Center has gathered many of her writings and papers and put them together in a book Apprentice in Creation: The Way Is Beauty.

“Work is one form of worship.” 

“I’d rather be one little cog in the wheel of truth than the entire wheel in a machine of lies.”

“What the world needs today is love, not religion.  …psychological love.  Religion comes from love, not love from religion.  The world was created by love, not religion.  Religion is man made.”

“Never have the forces of the world met together with such power.  Shall it be for destruction or creation?  I believe in the divinity of man and the immortality of his soul, therefore I believe that creation will triumph.”

“All life is working towards a state of exaltation.  One does not stay in this state, but by means of it, one is led into that world of beauty where one remains.  Moments of ecstasy come when the divine inner beauty of things, of life, is overpowering.”

“One knows that everything that contributes to this life that goes on, this making of perfection, is important.  Everything we suffer, every shortcoming, every weakness we must struggle against is the result of someone who has gone before who has not conquered it.  If we abandon the fight, it is not only we who suffer but those who come after.”

“I know now that to lose one’s faith in humanity is to lose one’s faith in God.  Humanity is God.  Life only is God, and humanity is the highest expression of Life.”

© The Jay Hambidge Art Foundation Question_mark_(black_on_white)

 

 

“You can’t tell a book by its cover.”  “Read the book first.”  Really?

“Time traveling is very confusing.”  –Rachel McAdams

“A movie, for me, is a completely heart-, gut-level experience.  And occasionally, the mind comes into play to sort of engage what’s happening…but mostly movies are not observed in the mind.  And often, when your energy goes into your mind to watch a movie, you disengage from the story, and it takes a little while to get pulled back.” –Bruce Joel Rubin, Screenwriter

“The movie is gonna exist alongside the book.  But I think you can get in trouble if you don’t give the movie a life of its own.  If you don’t have time to tell it in the movie, you can’t assume the audience knows it, because you have to tell your story for people who haven’t read the book, and who are maybe gonna read the book later as well.”  “  Gomez,” Ron Livingston

“You can create the illusion of a novelistic feeling in a film, but it’s not really what film does best, for the most part.  I think films are probably closer to a short story.  Films work toward a single cataclysmic event…most of the time at the end, and that’s a short story: ‘When is it gonna happen?  How is it gonna happen?’”  –Robert Schwentke, Director

“…there is a presence that goes beyond death.  I play with that a lot in the movie Ghost.  I play with it a little bit in Jacob’s Ladder.  It’s a theme I really care about.  The great love stories are always stories that are ultimately about loss…about not being able to have forever, in the physical sense, the one you love. 

“As a writer, I get this enormous joy of knowing I get two hours at any given moment to talk to the world.  But I realized early on that each movie is like a sentence, an idea, one idea.  

“And a career, if you’re lucky to have a career, is a paragraph.  And that’s what I want.  I want to be able to have one paragraph of understanding that I can share with the world.  And all of these films put together, I think, create that paragraph.  And Time Traveler’s Wife fits into that paradigm perfectly for me.

“It’s not a full 100-percent statement of what it means to be free of death, but it is a real intimation of love continuing beyond time.”  –Bruce Joel Rubin

© 2008 Internationale Scarena Film.

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