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Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

Josephine Baker - Kees van Dongen, 1925

Josephine Baker – Kees van Dongen, 1925

I saw her a year before she died. She was greeting people at the Rainbow Sign in Berkeley, California. Ntozake Shange, a poet and playwright, coaxed me into the receiving line because I was shy. And when it came my turn I presented her with a copy of [Mumbo Jumbo,] the novel on whose cover I had used an old photo of her to represent two sides of the Vodoun goddess Erzulie. And she flashed that famous smile and squinted those famous eyes and she said, ‘Do you know the young man who wrote this book?’ I was so awestruck, I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I knows him,’ forgetting that that young man was me. That was Josephine Baker. Such a divine presence she made you forget yourself.

– Ishmael Reed in the New York Times Book Review, December 12, 1976

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Ominous - Nicholas Roerich, 1901

Ominous – Nicholas Roerich, 1901

I think prophecy is an important part of writing, at least as important as technique or form. I think there are magical processes going on in writing. Like this raven thing. I’d been writing using the raven myth, and when I went up to Sitka in Alaska, the ravens disappeared. It was very unusual. Then the day before I left they all returned and flew around the totems. It was a strange experience.

Ishmael Reed, in an interview with Jon Ewing for The Daily Californian, 1977
(from Shrovetide in Old New Orleans, 1978)

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billy-joel-didnt-start-the-fire

Press play & sing along.

Barack ObamaBeyoncé,
Matthew McConaughey,
Lena Dunham, Boko Haram,
Bill deBlasio

Polar Vortex, Richard Sherman,
True Detective, Immigration,
Pete Seeger, Derek Jeter,
Maya Angelou

Neil deGrasse Tyson,
Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Battle in the Ukraine,
and Malaysia’s missing plane

Colorado’s legal weed,
Daft Punk’s got a Grammy,
Malala Yousafzai,
Donald Sterling, goodbye!

 

(more…)

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Sketch for "Truth Rescued by Time, Witnessed by History" - Francisco Goya, 1797 - 1800

Sketch for “Truth Rescued by Time, Witnessed by History” – Francisco Goya, 1797 – 1800

…Einstein had said, “Evolution has shown that at any given moment out of all conceivable constructions a single one has always proved itself absolutely superior to the rest,” and let it go at that. But to Phaedrus that was an incredibly weak answer. The phrase “at any given moment” really shook him. Did Einstein really mean to state that truth was a function of time? To state that would annihilate the most basic presumption of all science!

But there it was, the whole history of science, a clear story of continuously new and changing explanations of old facts. The time spans of permanence seemed completely random, he could see no order in them. Some scientific truths seemed to last for centuries, others for less than a year. Scientific truth was not dogma, good for eternity, but a temporal quantitative entity that could be studied like anything else.

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), Vincent van Gogh (1890)

The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), Vincent van Gogh (1890)

As the F train ran under the river into Brooklyn, I wiped my runny nose with a tissue and saw a spot of blood. By the time we pulled into Jay Street I had to plug the tissue into my nostril like caulk in a broken pipe. I get little nosebleeds sometimes, especially on cool dry winter days when I’m blowing out mucus every 15 minutes, but this was getting ridiculous.

At Bergen Street I got off the train, lest I freak out the other rush-hour commuters with my non-clotting stream of blood-snot. I huddled next to a trash can with my head down as the blood soaked every inch of the only two tissues I had, and began to paint all my fingers a deep, slick red. The G train rolled in, passengers came off, many of whom walked right past me. Couple minutes later another F train, a minute later another G. Part of me hoped no one would notice me, and part of me was angry no one was stopping to offer me more tissues.

I was about to leave the station and start phoning friends who live in Carroll Gardens when a guy in his early 40s asked if I was OK. Apparently I was shaking. I honestly didn’t know when the blood would stop flowing. There was so much blood he thought maybe I’d sliced up a finger. When I told him it was just a nosebleed he invited me to his brownstone just a couple blocks over. For a second I thought I shouldn’t follow him home, but then I figured that a guy who offers help to a bloody stranger during rush hour *has* to be a good person, right?

His name’s Ted. Studied theater at SUNY Purchase in the early 90s, now works IT for Verizon. The way he remained so calm and warm despite all my blood, and more importantly, the way he kept *me* calm despite all my blood, I was surprised he’s not a nurse or an EMT.

The bleeding stopped by the time we got to his place. After I washed myself up, I stuffed some paper towels and cotton balls in the pockets of my hoodie for the ride home, just in case. Ted gave me a chilled bottle of Blu Italy sparkling natural mineral water, with orange, lemon, and pink grapefruit flavor. He said I should probably hydrate myself. (I’m drinking it now. It’s sublime.) Then I shook his hand, thanked him very much, and we parted ways.

So yeah, Ted from Carroll Gardens is a super-cool guy.

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Last month, my beloved wife & I enjoyed a good old American road trip between Brooklyn, New York and Louisville, Kentucky. My dear friend Todd Pate, the self-proclaimed hobo journalist behind El Jamberoo, asked me to write a little something about the trip for his website, so I did. Here’s the result, “Autumn In America,” which covers America’s most famous battlefield, a West Virginia lunatic asylum, why the government shutdown is like “Redneck Crazy,” and much more:

Smells like burning wood, my wife notes as we roll through Gettysburg in our little gray Honda Fit, a third of the way between Brooklyn and Louisville. Not sure if it’s the homey aroma of autumn hearth-blazes, or maybe a burgeoning forest fire.

Click here for the whole thing

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Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller, just shootin the shit about living death, dream continuation, the romanticism of neurotics, and molecule rearrangement, among other heady topics. From Robert Snyder’s 1974 documentary Anaïs Nin Observed.

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