Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Do-Nothing House Revival

The Do-Nothing House 'zine is available as a scanned (not great quality) pdf!
I made this 'zine many years ago and recently found it, and a bunch of other goodies, in my record stack.

Download Here and Enjoy:
The Do-Nothing House PDF

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reading in the Year of the Book (Part 7)

The year of the book is drawing to a close. We have almost made it back around to December and I have read so so so many books. This post is highlighted by some more recent classics as well as one of my favorite novels I have ever read. I am still finishing up a few stragglers and have more books coming...however, I feel that 2014 will be a slightly different year of reading. Peace and Love and Reading.

An Armenian Sketchbook - Vasily Grossman
        




Armenia = stone and the first and last sights of this decayed stone land seem to have given the author a bit of a bathroom emergency. Grossman does an excellent job drawing parallels between the life of the people in Armenia and the traits unique to human beings. Interspersed in the chapters are lessons drawn from the landscape and applied to the human condition: "I think that a perfect theory will be understood by a schoolchild; that perfect music will mean something not only to people but also to wolves, dolphins, grass snakes, and frogs…" Here he is speaking about the perfect simplicity of the Armenian stone churches. Grossman applies the same wonder to all the events he witnesses.



Fiskadoro - Denis Johnson
      



This book is about memory and its relation to death and loss. The survivors of the atomic apocalypse exist, several generations later, in a still temporary society fabricated out of the last remaining bits of cultural identify from the pre quarantine times. But these people are forgetting. Fiskadoro goes through a rebirth and is named, by his clarinet teacher, a "leader." Is this because his rebirth enables him to forget all about the forgetting and only move forward? The quarantine will end, everyone knows this, but it has been three generations of living in the quarantine. Bob Marley, the savior, will return.




Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell


 
  Nesting doll novel destroys human nature and sets "progress" and "civilization" out to pasture. The switching narratives are really well done and very entertaining. I'm not so sure about the "Old Georgie" as devil comparison as the man who caused the atomic fallout of mankind. I'm terrified of the coming corpocracy for sure, even though it is already here and has been for a very long time. I wonder what the author's understanding of Buddhist philosophy, karma, and reincarnation might be? There are several Buddhism references and, in the future when clones are processed as bad as the processed food industry, the big hope are the nuns living out in the shadow of Siddhartha. hmmmm.I bet Bill Moyers loved this one.




The Jeffersonian Transformation - Henry Adams
     


In this abridged version of, and thankfully I didn't have to read them all, Adams' nine volume history of the period between 1800 and 1817 there develops a narrative on the course of American character. The author portrays an early nation that is well divided in all aspects from wealth, politics, art, literature, and religion. This era represents the schisms of character between New England and the South, for example. Adams' America at 1817 is just starting to show its promise and upward slope. There have now been authors, pastors, artists, and politicians to show that the American sensibility is decidedly different from any European model. Americans of 1817 are defined by their intelligence, quickness, and scientific minds…and oh yeah: their accumulation of wealth. The Nation held together and was quickly coming up with heroes to fill the needed divisions.


Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior - Chogyam Trungpa
   
 



I'm glad I finally read this. I know that it is an important work in the development of Buddhism in the West. There is still a part of me that resists the Chogyam Trungpa teachings because of his complicated life history. The path of the warrior follows a Tibetan Tantric line of development with the symbols being paired down and often replaced by ones that may be more easily grasped by a Western mind. I think he was successful in some of these and not others. Changing a fearful mind into a compassionate and brave mind is the hardest challenge in our society and the path of the warrior presents an equally forceful set of instructions to meet that challenge and be a whole human being with fully developed kindness and realized basic goodness.



Stoner - John Williams
     


It seems very fitting to draw closer to the end of the Year of the Book with this great novel. Stoner comes as near to perfection as anything I have ever read. The story is simple with graceful twists but the pace, voice, and sheer beauty of the language are what make this novel so fantastic. Poor Stoner, he knew so much suffering and only the briefest glimpses of love in his difficult career as a Medieval Latin Poetry professor. "He heard the silence of the winter night, and it seemed to him that he somehow felt the sounds that were absorbed by the delicate and intricately cellular being of the snow." This is a great American novel and it is sad as hell. However, the moments of love, triumph, beauty, and passion are so rich that they can never be forgotten. 10/10. 5/5. whatever.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reading in the Year of the Book: (Part 6: Halloweeen Special...)

Welcome to the Halloween Edition of the Reading in the Year of the Book.  Fall is a magical time and it has been delightful to get deep into some spooky vibes. I do miss the woods and the fall spectacular show in Maine. Plus the apples...

Creative Symbols of Tantric Buddhism - Sangharakshita
       





This is a wonderful step into the history and use of creative symbolism in the development of Tantric Buddhism. The author described the imagery and etc of Vajrayana in a way that helps create a roadmap to the jungle of forms. Sangarakshita does a great job illuminating a few key aspects while providing a lot of helpful advice in to developing your own understanding of the symbols. Set up your own mandala: the figures are for play and in a true J. Campbell sense; if something does not resonate with you, then throw it out. I especially like the chapters on the history of the vajra and the Wheel of Life mandala as mirrored levels of insight. 





The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson


    I wish more happened in this book. I love the characterization of the house and the idea of evil being implanted geographically but the action is a little bit lacking. Jackson's backstory for Hill house is great and there are some spooky moments for sure and I am very fond of the maze like quality of the rooms in the house and how the very structure seems to not want to let you go. Overall a very quick and good October read.








Salem's Lot - Stephen King

  


  This is one vampire story that is creepy and a very enjoyable read. I love Stephen King and 'The Lot' hits all the right notes. The best part of it is that the gory stuff is mostly suggested with a few very bloody exemptions. Also, the small town politics play out in a wonderful way as the pattern of victims grows - the circle of the damned grows but those inflicting the harm are limited by their thirst with the exception here being the centuries old ring leader. King also does a smart thing by adapting the concept of 'evil' straight from Shirley Jackson and the Haunting with the character of the Marsten House whose original evil inhabitants could have easily been the original inhabitants of Hill House as well. Some places stand out…I had haunted places in my neighborhood we would not go in to as kids and this book does a great job bringing that feeling up.
 


It - Stephen King

    This book was long and surprisingly deep. My favorite thing about King is his ability to bring up the old feelings of the monster in the crawl spaces and dark places of childhood. The style of momentum building by creating parallel  story lines between the 27 year difference. The final confrontation seems a bit crazy…I mean…outer macroverse void spaces and the giant turtle who is incapable of helping? Weird. 










The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving

    The legend of the smashed pumpkin! It must have been bold Abraham "Bones" what did the schoolmaster in right? This is classic and to think that when it was written the references to Hessian Soldiers and hung Revolutionary traitors was not so far removed (even with the mention of the "ancient city of Manhattoes"). This story makes me miss Fall in New England; the juxtaposition of the bounty of the late harvest (apples) and the oncoming fear of the dark cold winter.










Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury

    Bring forth the bright antidotes to fear and suffering! It is with laughter that the acceptance of being truly alive comes through. Mr. Dark and his twisted carnival prey on people's knots. These knots are woven out of a fear of time and a stubbornness to accept the march of life. Mr. Holloway-the janitor at the library-is the hero in the end. This book was great and it much surpassed the early teen name I had given it in my head. The way Bradbury moves through a scene by putting the descriptions just enough out of reach is beautiful. So many images seem turned on their heads and yet they fit in so well with the overall feel of the "October people". I know what that means and it suits the season so perfectly as the year progresses in to winter and those things that were green go away. Cool book. 






The Green Man - Kingsley Amis


Lord Underhill has a messenger on the prowl to do his bidding while Mr. Allington of the Inn "The Green Man" has another whiskey to contemplate his wishful damsel bedding. Allington is a drunk and this blocks his ability to communicate the state of ghostly affairs going on in his Inn. The novel does a great job setting a devious ghost mystery in a social commentary framework touching drink, lust, the role of the priesthood, and unsatisfied desires. Plus: does God show up and give a little lecture? Weird. It took a while to get going on this one but it was well worth it in the end.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reading in the Year of the Book (Part 5)

Summer is in full swing and I have managed to get a little bit of reading done between trips up to MDI, PEI, Woodstock, BVT, and planning the big move out west. The next entry will be from Colorado! Yikes.

Moravagine-Blaise Cendrars

"I had raised and nourished a parasite at my own expense." This is true of the narrator of the novel but written in explanation of the  troubled process of writing Moravagine by the author. This book is about death, idiocy, and adventure-characteristics behind the murderous revolutions and wars of the early 20th century. There is even a bit of a POCIII reference in a malarial episode up the Orinoco basin involving a tribe of "amazons" adopting Mora as their sex king. The most disturbing episodes of this book are two: the sauerkraut train ride suicide escape and the first meeting of Moravagine (hint: masturbation and a fishbowl). Whats up with the weird self-referencing when the author appears as a very minor character? Alter egos of alter egos of a pseudonym (maybe the original Fight Club...)




Pinochio - Carlo Collodi


 Poor Pinnochio. What a rascal and miscreant. He treats everyone like crap, kills the friendly Cricket in their first encounter, and thankfully has a blue haired fairy godmother to clean up his messes. Gepetto has to spend the whole book eating hardtack in a shark gut because of this little twerp. Perhaps this 19th century children's tale is not quite as PC as it would have to be today (dead schoolmate, brutal donkey bashings, the ghastly hanging of a puppet by a recently handless cat) but the point gets across: study, work hard, be generous, and listen to good advice.





The Japanese Chronicles - Nicolas Bouvier 


 The author in Japan is noticeably an older man from the person who wrote The Way of the World. Bouvier steps widely into the emerging world of "East meets West" during his time living and traveling around Japan. I especially like the 1/3rd of the book on traveling around Hokkaido with excellent commentary on the disappearance of the Ainu, the loneliest fog-bound north coasts, and the finely developed dance of a drunken all night small village party. This was a quick and simple read and very enjoyable for Spring night relaxing.





Names on the Land - George R. Stewart


An old school romantic history of the names on the map in America. This book is interesting because the author, through an obvious obsession, goes deep into the processes and perspectives that lead to the variety of names on the American continent. It is truly amazing to look deeply at the unique circumstances surrounding the "discovery" of the continent from the earliest Spaniards, through the heavy colonization, revolution, native and classical renaissances, and gold rushes. My favorite sections deal with the Dutch and Swedish naming along the Southern (Delaware) river and mid-Atlantic areas (especially since I read much of these sections deep in the Catskills along the Hudson river). Gotta love names and maps and history!




Weather Predicting Simplified - Michael William Carr


 A great resource for information on understanding longer weather patterns and the nature of frontal systems, pressure systems, the jet stream, and wind factors. An essential part of my new weather fascination.








Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart - Mark Epstein


 In this "Buddhist perspective on wholeness" Epstein does a wonderful job on weaving aspects of psychotherapy with lessons from Buddhism and meditation practice to shed light on what makes us, as human people striving through life as all do, miss the key points to feeling complete. The key being to cultivate the ability to "go to pieces" without "falling apart." To work with our emotions and situations as the tools of the trade on the path to wholeness. I especially like the imagery of the temple or mandala as unfolding outwards from a complete center with even the seemingly disparate objects on the far petals containing traces of that central radiance.




Roumeli - Patrick Leigh Fermor

The last of the Fermors! Done and I am very sad to see it go. These books will make a wonderful addition to my collection right next to the Heyerdahl's. Roumeli is PLF's final mark on the majesty and diversity of Greece as it appeared through his war, love, meditation conquests, and extensive ramblings. This is the good stuff. I love the section of seeking the source for the boliari language of the beggars and swindlers from a specific region. These swindlers created their own language to remain in contact with each other as they rambled, perhaps, all the way up to Siberia and back in single voyages. Amazing! These Fermor books are wonderful.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Low Tide v. High Tide in the Bay of Fundy




These photos show the difference between Low and High Tide on the same day at Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park in New Brunswick Canada. Amazing tidal range (46ft! because of June Super Moon!)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bradford Graves Sculpture Park - Kerhonkson, NY

 



Bradford Graves (d. 1998), American sculpture, created a lasting and unique impression on the southern Catskills with his stone works reflecting the archaeology of our shared past and exciting solar/stellar future. 




The pieces displayed around the grounds and inside specially constructed pavilions show the weather and wear of an outdoor life bringing home the relationship between a "finished" sculpture and the continual changes acted out through time on works in stone.
 The sculpture park is a great stop over if you find yourself in the Southern Catskills south of the Ashokan Reservoir. Just look for Chipmunk Hollow Road in Kerhonkson, NY.
Kerhonkson is an ideal and dreamy spot if you are in need of a place with lighter energy than the heavy witch and warlock vibes of the Catskills north of the reservoir. Go down to Chipmunk hollow and follow the streams to see the gnomes and little goblins. (Fun fact: Kerhonkson, a tiny hamlet of a town, is known as the safe haven for important documents during the Revolutionary War in 1777.)


Friday, May 17, 2013

Emily and Horses by Jacob Cholak


Emily and Horses by Jacob Cholak
as read by Scott Sell and produced by Old Fat God

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Acadia National Park, MDI, Maine History


  Jamie and I climbed to an advantageous spot to observe the first Jesuit settlement area and you can see across to the Northeast Harbor point that was the old Abenaki Village where Chief Asticou lay on his deathbed. He granted the land of the open grass field and natural spring to the French Jesuits in 1613. The settlement, however, lasted only four months before being destroyed by an English scoundrel with an open letter of marque from King James to make any French settlement north of Jamestown disappear. Some of the French sailors escaped in a longboat in time to hide just to the right of the island in the back right of the photo as the English sailed, guns out, around the left side of Greening just passing the native village and still others fled to Valley Cove (see next two pictures). Thus began a long and sometimes very bitter fight over control of the Downeast waters and the Gulf of Maine. (Just behind us runs 'Man O' War Brook', the fresh water supply line for British warships making ready to fight the French off 'Frenchman's Bay'.)






(Valley Cove from Sea Level looking North)











(Valley Cove from above looking across to Abenaki Village area (Manchester Pt. Northeast Harbor)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Reading in the Year of the Book: 2013 (Part 4)

April and may reading. I only have one more Patrick Leigh Fermor book to read...exciting times!

Memoirs of Hecate County - Edmund Wilson


[This collection of novellas focuses on the passing life of the narrator as he cocktails his way through the upper class elite in the beginning of the 20th century. There are two living situations "Greenwich village or the forest." Most characters exist in a class just above the narrator and are therefore subject to the most harsh criticisms. His eye lamentably catches the passing of decades as high life culture gives way to straighter sober times. Supposedly banned for a long time because of its sexual frankness, I found that the sex scenes were pretty tame. Final word: excellent read and some final advice: "Don't pack your bad nights in your luggage". ]





Dharma Bums - Jack Kerouac




 [I don't know exactly how many times I've read this in the 13 years that I've owned this copy (given to me by a very nice High School advisor upon graduation). I wanted to read it now, not only because it is quick and entertaining, but also because I am getting ready to undertake an adventure in moving spaces and this book provides the right kind of attitude. Just go for it! and always remember the infinite dharma radiating out of the the experience.]




Mani - Patrick Leigh Fermor



 [PLF is always an amazing read. This book on the lower Spartan peninsula has one major flaw: a long section toward the end about Greek painting that I found pretty boring. An apogeios to the mpatis of centuries bridged with refreshing waves of information.  Fermor is at his best linking the history of a place with its current residents. A minor detail about the daily ambrosia ceremony can launch a fantastical lecture linking the invading Goths with the once turkish overlords and a passage of Homer. Mesmerizing portrayal of a place supposedly composed only of harsh sun and rock. ]



Train Dreams- Denis Johnson


[A small novel with a huge scope tying on hard working man's odyssey through the big events of the west, local and universal. A sober, sweat, and disturbing Forrest Gump tale of years of loneliness and backbreaking labor. Oh…and a misplaced daughter/wolf.
]

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reading in the Year of the Book: 2013 (Part 3)

March was the month of vacation and travel. I've been to Florida, Colorado, and North Carolina on a long string of plane rides. Fortunately there has been ample time for backporch sunshine reading. Keep reading in the Year of the Book!

Three Letters from the Andes - Patrick Leigh Fermor


[A simple and quick read that has some wonderful flowing sentences and is also a bit more personal (perhaps less edited) than the other Fermor travel writings. His writing is like sitting in on a history class given by a much add professor who only uses texts from before 1950. The details Fermor notices in Lima are the old Castillan flourishes and dates from the 1500's with not much detail given to the inhabitants of the 1970's. The mountain climbing pieces are interesting for sure.]





Jamaica Inn - Daphne DuMaurier 


[Jamaica Inn was so good. I wish there was a whole Jamaica Inn novel series. The environment of damp cold coastal inn in the lonely Scottish highlands is very enthralling. I burned out on the other DuMarier matieral but this book kept going! Perfect reading for a vacation too. Poolside, beachside, back porch, and open window delight. FYI: so much better than the movie, the movie does zero justice to the greatness of the read.]






Salt Sugar Fat - Michael Moss


[This book provides some deep insight into the manufacturing and engineering of processed foods and their relationships to overeating and obesity. Through case studies of specific processed foods the author relates how the three big manipulators are combined by the all the major food companies to seduce us into eating more and more and more and….the point being: the grocery store is a war zone and you have to equip yourself to better be able to defend yourself from the salt, sugar, and fatty onslaught.]





 Of Walking In Ice (Munich-Paris 23 November-14 December 1974) - Werner Herzog


[An amazing window into the wit and vision of Herzog. "The fire-thought of ice creates the ice as swiftly as thought. Siberia was created in precisely this manner and the Northern Lights represent its final flickering. That is the Explanation" I'm surprised he didn't choose "The Explanation", although who knows what the incredibly long complex word for it is in German…probably the perfect word for Herzog's meaning. His way of direct and self-assured expression is always refreshing in print and movies and, as he would say, has Guts. A must read every few years]





The Way of the World - Nicolas Bouvier


[A brilliant and engaging ode to the road. The overall grand scope of this book fills me with the courage of travel. The characters, boredom, body ailments, and majesty of the traveling experience are laid bare in a very effective style. This is one of the best travel books I've read and the illustrations are amazing too. This book also has the added bonus of being a geographic sequel to where the writings of P.L. Fermor leave off (see Between the Woods and Water).]






The Murderess - Alexandros Papadiamantis


[A simple short novel filled with the horror of having baby girls in late 19th century Greece. The grandmother goes on a terrifying killing spree and ends up on the lamb hiding with ignorant shepherds and amidst the craggy ruins of her original depressing dowry landscape. A bleak book with lots of baby ghosts.]








Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reading in the Year of the Book: 2013 (Part 2)

     February has proved to be another heavy reading month. Strong NYRB contributions make the hours between the pages fly by. March is a vacation month and may be a little bit light on reading. Selections from Thoreau, Fermor, and Bouvier are first on the list!

Nature Stories - Jules Renard 



[Shorts with illustrations about everyday life in the countryside. Some melancholy and some whimsical. Would be great to share with kids and help open up some of that inherent observation and self-discovery that goes along with being a human being.]







The Thirty Years War - C.V. Wedgewood



 [History books with lots of names, dates, and place names are often difficult to get through. The beauty of this one is that the author is able to pick the narrative up in places and create a sudden flow of information that leads you deep into the history. This is a great book and provides clear insight into the causes and effects of the many crazy movements and shifts that wrecked the German areas for so many decades. Not a "people's history" for sure, but a very good review. I love reading history!]



 
Don't Look Now (and other stories) - Daphne DuMaurier




 ["Don't Look Now" and "The Birds" were good and entertaining stories but I found getting through the rest of the stories a bit tedious.]







Poetry of the Late T'ang - A.C. Graham (trans.)



[My interest in Buddhism started with a chance finding of the Cold Mountain poems and ever since the magic of Tang Dynasty poetry has held my imagination. So much drifting and sorrow set in a million different places. This collection is a good introduction to some of the the other, more standard and formal, poets from the late T'ang. Some are great and some are a quick read. "What's so urgent about this business you waste your heart on?" - Li Shang-Yin]





Warlock - Oakley Hall



[The classic western story. So many Deadwood and Bob Dylan parallels it is crazy. This book took a little bit of time to get in to with some of the plot lines and endless conversations seeming just to add pages instead of substance but all the loose ends come together in an epic final showdown! Outlaws, rustlers, gunfighters, marshalls, saloon owners, miners, prostitutes, lonely deputies, and the aging cavalry all play major roles.]





Peking Story - David Kidd


[This short book is a fascinating picture into the complete and swift destruction of the ancient elite cultural traditions of the once majestic imperialist China with communist takeover. David Kidd, an American, had a first hand taste of the Red Army's ideology and the rising cultural war that would play out in the horrific circumstances of the cultural revolution. The stories about the garden and the 600 year old incense burners are really sad.]

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ballad of the Voyager

Sea voyager, on Heaven's winds,
In his ship, far wandering.
Like a bird, among the clouds,
gone, he'll leave no trace.

- Li Po
(J.P. Seaton trans)


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reading in the Year of the Book: 2013 (Part 1)

 So far this new year has proved to be a great reading odyssey...I have been hitting the New York Review of Book Classics library very hard and have yet to be let down. Some of the following titles have notes from me but it is mostly just a list. Read them too! and call me.

Butcher's Crossing - John Williams



 [An excellent starting off book! This quick read about the fading of the American West follows a young Eastern college boy on a tragic hunting expedition for the last remaining herds of bison hidden in an untouched Rockie's glen. A good companion read for some historical perspective would be Andrew Isenberg's Destruction of the Bison. I can't wait to read Stoner by John Williams]





The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll - Alvaro Mutis



 [This collection of very entertaining stories follow Maqroll, a man with no country, through his adventures on and off tramp steamers around the world. So steamy! Highly recommended]







The Traveler's Tree - Patrick Leigh Fermor



 [Patrick Fermor was definitely one of the best travel writers out there. I have been making a slow study of travel writing for many years and have done Chatwin, Iyer, Theroux, and many others so I was excited to get hold of the NYRB Classics Fermor library. I plan on reading all of his writings this winter and, hopefully, the final part of his European trilogy will come out this year. The Traveler's Tree was a bit tedious at times but presents a very unique view of the Caribbean in the mid-20th century as power was being transferred to self rule from colonial rule.]



A Time of Gifts - Patrick Leigh Fermor


 [At 19, Fermor set off on foot through pre-WWII Europe from the Netherlands to Constantinople. This first book sees him through Holland and Germany, following the Danube all the way to Romania. Fortuitous wanderings!]







Between the Woods and the Water - Patrick Leigh Fermor



 [Book Two! But he doesn't get to Constantinople (spoiler alert). This book reflects less wandering and more of a detailed study of Danube history through Romania and Transylvani as the young Fermor stays with Barons and friends. Very good.]






A Time to Keep Silence - Patrick Leigh Fermor



 [Short little study of life in a few European monasteries. Reflecting on silence and religious study. Sweet and simple]





 

A High Wind in Jamaica - Richard Hughes



 [This is a strange book and I did not particularly like it while reading. Upon reflection, however, I like it more and more! Some kids from an estate in Jamaica get kidnapped by strange pirates on their way to school in England. Weird.]






The Radiance of the King - Camara Laye 



 [This book, written in Africa in the 50's, turns the expected European African novel actions on their head. Clarence, a European man in debt and out of luck everywhere, is sold by a beggar to an aging village chieftan to serve as a baby making machine. He is everywhere duped and bewildered. This book is great and highly recommended.]






The Long Ships - Frans G. Bengtsson


 [Epic viking sagas! Need I say more? Highly entertaining and provides everything one might expect from a Viking narrative. I wish there were more stories of Red Orm and his clan.]






 

Tun Huang -Yasushi Inoue


[Hsing-te misses his exam and is compelled into wandering the western frontier of the empire by a woman and a piece of paper. A new threat to imperial China is being born and Hsing-te gets caught up in the war hard. This is a historical supposition explaining the possible origin of the thousands of Buddhist scrolls found centuries later hidden in the Tun Huang caves. Not my fav book thus far in the odyssey.]






More books coming soon! Just gotta get reading.