May 31, 2009
Here, now, the birds start up early. The first sleepy chirp sounds at 3:30. A real chirpfest by four am. Head under pillows, what’s left but to push back the percale and stumble out and make coffee and sit watching the light come. The white sky deepens to clear blue--the green of new leaves, the climbing rose spilling yellow blossoms over the balcony.
People have their favorites, but when sleep is not an option I read Rilke. I go back to Letters to a Young Poet. It's not just for the young. In the face of these clear words, everyone is young.
Here’s something from Rilke about criticism. It may seem strange coming from me, since I write criticism. But I agree with him.
“… And let me here promptly make a request: read as little as possible of aesthetic criticism— such things are either partisan views, petrified and grown senseless in their lifeless induration, or they are clever quibblings in which today one view wins and tomorrow the opposite. Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just to them.
Consider yourself and your feeling right every time with regard to every such argumentation, discussion or introduction; if you are wrong after all, the natural growth of your inner life will lead you slowly and with time to other insights. Leave to your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything.
Everything is gestation and then bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life: in understanding as in creating.”
May 30, 2009
Yesterday I got an envelope in the mail and in it was a poem from my father. He's edging up on ninety-one, just to give you some context. But no wimped-out guy, he. Still painting, writing, calling me on his cell phone to make sure I'm eating. Here's the poem:
They say now that the Dialogue in Heaven
Of whose stark end we are the flying grit,
Was won by Satan, whose triumphant hordes
Unfurled red banners and with furious zeal
Plunged outward into space to spread his power.
He left the Loser dead upon a cross,
To live again, but now to be confined
In silvered ikons glinting in the light
Of true lampadas and of sleeping children--
Or now to be displayed on penthouse walls
With other accent pieces-- yet to bless
Alike the infant and the gracious liver
And the director of the KGB
And the most distant, barren galaxies
Forever hurtling on their outward course
Since Satan's victory on that mighty day.
May 25, 2009
I come from a family of writers. Growing up, it sometimes felt as though writing was the family business. It was discussed around the dinner table, sort of like a generational practice in dentistry, or auto repair. My Russian grandmother, Olga Ilyin, my father’s mother, wrote memoir and novels about her youth, and spent months with us every year, “in ze country,” which was actually in ze suburbs. She, with her Chekhovian mindset, didn’t choose to see the white rocks, the tract houses, the cheap stucco.
I grew up with her routine: breakfast at eight; writing from nine to twelve; lunch; a reading of what she had just written for critique by my father, who had spent the same time in his studio, painting; afternoon tea, then friends over for dinner and conversation in the evening. Sadly, growing up with this going on in the house, I missed the fact that most people were not retired, not painting and writing, not critiquing over the Earl Grey but in fact working for a living.
Consequently, I have spent my life trying to resolve these two lives, mixing tea and writing one day with hunkering down and hammering out work with clients the next. It’s been Dreams of my Russian Summers Meets Marketing For the Small Design Firm all my life, and for this reason I now offer up this nugget of advice to those who would be design writers: be born wealthy, marry wealthy, or invent something early on, because the bifurcation of spending time in the total concentration of writing, the other world of it, followed by the slam of reality that is business is one of the hardest things I negotiate.
The transition is akin to the grinding of gears, and it is a transition I make every day. When I look around at other design writers, it is only lately that I notice that a good deal of family money is floating around backing up the career choice. Heed my wise words. or the grey hair you see at my temples shall be yours at my august age.
May 21, 2009
Sun. All of Seattle is pinned down by it, all of us lizards upon rocks.
Although the deadline looms for my manuscript, I have settled down again in the sun-splotched studio with Dr. Zee’s, “Fearful Symmetry: the Search for Beauty in Modern Physics.” As I said in my Amazon review, I avoided reading Dr. Zee’s book, fearing I wouldn’t understand it. But Anthony Zee is a storyteller as well as a theoretical physicist, and his book is about the beauty and simplicity of the design of the Universe. For people like me, schooled in the modern and post-modern agendas, this book serves to strip away much theoretical dross. I recommend it wholeheartedly to the thinking designer. I also suggest that my students read it leisurely over the summer, because it will be a part of our conversations in the Fall.
May 6, 2009
Well, to make a long story short, it was fabulous. Country Capers got the music going early as people arrived in full regalia-- I have to say that men, always nice to have around, really look especially good in evening clothes. Fleece, although it has many merits, does not hold a candle to a cut-away.
In flowed women in ball dresses and we got a full look at everyone's ensemble during the Grand March, which dissolved into a bit of a Conga line at the end.
King of the Ball: Eight Fingered Dick, (normally a very nice guy who runs the local art store, but something quite appealing happens to him when he lets his hair down and wears all black and little tiny dark glasses.) Queen of the Ball: one Kate Ebert, whose bustled gown of chartreuse green mattress ticking combined with orange silk collar, red and white striped stockings and bloomers made her costume not only amazing, but, darn it, flattering as heck.
Even though this is the recession of all recessions, we made almost twice what we made the last time we did this party. And all of that money goes to microgrants for Burmese living on the Thai Border. Double success-- double happiness. Pictures to follow.