Sunday, October 27, 2013

Noise Please, I'm Meditating

Spotted on the way home from the Whole Foods this morning: a guy meditating in full lotus position on a traffic island in the middle of Union Square, the busiest intersection in Somerville. And of course, this is right. What does it mean to meditate in a controlled environment like a monastery? Not much. Our practice, our serenity, our enlightenment, means so much more when it means something in the noise, both figurative and literal, of daily life, life as it is lived when we are going about the business of life.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Success Cube

Have you heard of the success cube? It's a way of gauging in a more holistic sense the value of one's endeavors and achievements.
  • The height is the amount of successes
  • The width is the variety of successes
  • The depth is how much we we enjoy them
You could easily imagine a person with many successes in their field, be it business, sports, or even art. But if they have lives that are otherwise empty and they are miserable to boot, you have a cube that is more like a vertical stick. Someone who excels in just the first two has a wall that could be blown down in the wind.

Reflecting on the success cube enables us to see in ways often not acknowledged by the wider, less imaginative culture what we have actually accomplished in our lives. This model puts friendship and family and other hard-to-quantify modes of being on equal footing with more the predictable money-oriented modes celebrated in our popular media.

Try the cube today! You'll feel better about yourself but also be more motivated to create a nicely proportioned cube, one that's rock solid and looks good from every angle.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Quick Heads Up

When you are browsing at the magazine stand you should know that Out Magazine is not the same as Outside Magazine.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Beauty of Merle Oberon

Merle Oberon, 1911 to 1979

I was watching the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights the other day, the one with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, and thought, man, she has to be one of the most beautiful actresses in the history of cinema. It's interesting to compare ideals of beauty from 75 years ago with today's ideals. I think I prefer the older version. This might make me either an anachronism or a person of exceptional taste, or both.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Leadership Boondoggle

Perusing the stacks of new books at the local library I noticed that the glut of business leadership and management books continues unstanched. The reason this field still thrives is because these books don't work. If it were simply a matter of implementing a few key actions and principles, an insane amount of people would be successful by now, obviating the need for the advise of the gurus.

Am I saying that their advise is no good? Not at all. Their advise is solid, and all successful entrepreneurs and organizational leaders probably do these things. So, while all good leaders do X, Y, and Z, doing X, Y, and Z doesn't ensure success. Success always contains major elements of good timing and luck. Plenty of people enact the vision of the business books but still fail due to a whole raft of random factors -- a situation that will keep the gurus flush for a good long time.

A related issue is America's mythologizing of the entrepreneur. Most people aren't going to succeed that way. Those that do often have a financial cushion, often inherited, that allows them to fail once or twice before hitting on a winner.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Berkshires in Autumn

Stream on the Alander Mountain trail, southwest Massachusetts, 10-12-2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

All of Them. I Read All of Them.

Whenever I'm asked what I'm reading I go blank, in the manner of Sarah Palin's infamous Katie Couric train wreck of an interview of 2008. So I thought I best proactively seize the opportunity now to lay it out there for you. You're welcome.


For the arts I read The Rumpus, Slant, PopMatters, AllMusic, Robert Christgau, Metacritic, and some others.

For news, politics, and commentary I read Andrew Sullivan, Slate, The Daily Beast, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Daily Kos, The New York Review of Books, Daniel Larison, and some others.

For sports I read ESPN (everyday!)

Print Media:

Boston Globe, New York Times, The New Yorker, JazzTimes, and Downbeat.


Jennifer Egan, TC Boyle, Michael Connelley, Jim Harrison, Richard Ford, and lots of "hard boiled" genre crime fiction, especially when flying.

In the last year I also tackled Henry Miller's massive Sexus, Junot Diaz's celebrated The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Don Lee's novel of Asian-American cultural paradoxes The Collective, among a few others.


Much of the non-fiction I read is in the context of my work. For example, over the summer, to prepare for an interview I read Nel Noddings' superb Peace Education: How We Come to Love and Hate War. I also read arts-related books such as The Poets of Tin Pan Alley, by Phillip Furia.

Every now and then I dip into the poetry of Afaa Michael Weaver, Leonard Cohen, Denise Levertov, and many others.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Amy Sillman at the Boston ICA

Boston Institute for Contemporary Art, 10-6-2013

The lead for stories about the new Amy Sillman show at the Boston ICA is that she's part of a renaissance in painting, which is very good news, though for me and my friends it's never gone away. At any rate, the show is superb . . . and huge. It features dozens of works from the middle-aged, Brooklyn-based Sillman, and none of them are weak. They range from small ink and water color portraits of friends to witty, cartoonish pieces to massive paintings that effortlessly incorporate every major strand in abstraction along with Guston-like figuration. I'm not sure if I know what's new about what she does, but her masterful integration of all that has come before is really something. The show is just plain fun to view, and there's too much to take in, so a return is called for.

The New York Times has a nice review and slideshow.

BTW, that's me in the picture, which isn't out of focus. That's what I look like.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jung on Limitation and the Creation of Consciousness

C. G. Jung, from the conclusion of the chapter "On Life After Death," in his memoir Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Vintage Books, 1989; first published 1961):

The feeling for the infinite, however, can be attained only if we are bounded to the utmost. The greatest limitation for man is the "self"; it is manifested in the experience: "I am only that!" Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious. In such awareness we experience ourselves as limited and eternal, as both one and the other. In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination -- that is, ultimately limited -- we possess the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite. But only then!
In an era which has concentrated exclusively upon extension of living space and increase of rational knowledge at all costs, it is a supreme challenge to ask man to become conscious of his uniqueness and his limitation. Uniqueness and limitation are synonymous. Without them, no perception of the unlimited is possible -- and, consequently, no coming to consciousness either -- merely a delusory identity with it which takes the form of intoxication with large numbers and an avidity for political power.

Our age has shifted all emphasis to the here and now, and thus brought about a daemonization of man and his world. The phenomenon of dictators and all the misery they have wrought springs from that fact that man has been robbed of transcendence by the shortsightedness of super-intellectuals. Like them, he has fallen a victim to unconsciousness. But man's task is the exact opposite: to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. Neither should he persist in his unconsciousness, nor remain identical with the unconscious elements of his being, thus evading his destiny, which is to create more and more consciousness. As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Relative Popularity

Just the other day I decided to YouTube Macklemore, the young rapper we've been hearing about. I clicked on his hit "Thrift Shop," only to discover I was viewer number 430 million or so. Million. At least that was better than when I decided to get hip to the "Gangnam Style" sensation, where I clocked in as viewer 853,562,031. That's almost a billion viewers who got out front on that one before me. Compare that with the Fountains of Wayne video of  "Fire Island" I linked to a few days ago. That one had about 7,400 views. I'm am resigned to never again being current with music, and that's OK with me.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Understanding Mingus

Charles Mingus (1922 - 1979)

He was a piece of work whose body of work is second only to Ellington and Miles in the 100 year history of the jazz art form. He was mercurial, aggressively opinionated, prone to anger and self-mythologizing. He was also a virtuoso bass player and a genius of the first order. He merged the past and future of jazz into his work as no one else had. He blended composition and raucous improvisation into his compositions. He invited great beauty and violence to sit down side by side.

At The Nation website, Adam Shatz has a long-form essay up on Mingus that is among the best I have read on this elusive subject. He understands Mingus as a person and a musician, and weaves his insights into both sides of the man compellingly. Check it out.