Monday, January 30, 2012


A collaboration between Dali and Disney, which I find incredibly beautiful.

The original collaboration was completed in 2003, after Disney's nephew found the storyboards and 17-second clip and saw the project through to completion. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Postmodern Hymn: Free Will

I love it when a song I've heard before suddenly leaps out as a revelation. That's what happened with the chorus to "Free Will" by Rush:

"You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. 
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. 
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill; 
I will choose a path that's clear- 
I will choose Free Will."

I don't so much feel like I don't have free will, but I don't particularly live with the agency that free will promises. I have so many cases of indecisiveness in any given day that it's ridiculous; I think this song may become my new mantra!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Food for the Soul: Bibimbap

via Mrs. Ryeong

Bibimbap (빕임밥; "mixed rice") is a beautiful dish to look at, with colorful vegetables arranged in a wheel around an egg in the middle. It also happens to be really healthy, and good comfort food.

You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, over white rice, cooked a little drier than the usual Asian-style rice. I like to use carrots, spinach, zucchini, bean sprouts, cucumber, and, if I can find it, fernbracken (고사리).

The key to beautiful, tasty bibimbab is cooking each vegetable separately. Carrots get cut into matchsticks and are seasoned lightly. Other vegetables can get paired with garlic and some green onion. Add sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds to the vegetables, or to the dish as a whole for a lovely warm flavor. (Don't skimp on the sesame; it is truly divine.)

Add some Korean pepper paste (고추장), mixed with water and more sesame oil until it's a nice saucy consistency, plus a fried egg.

Then, destroy your beautiful arrangement by mixing. Eat with a large spoon. Life is good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Messy, Alchemical Art

Sugar Bowl, by Adele Shaw
via Inclusions Gallery

I met Adele Shaw at a museum I visited in San Francisco years ago. I remember thinking how amazing it was to talk to an artist about her work and how important it was to not say anything stupid. I remember her smiling.

At the time, she was working on a project called "oology." Luckily I've saved my postcard, because I can't find images online anywhere. I thought it was beautiful work; I still love how embodied and playful it is, and how delicate it is, too.

Scanned postcard from Adele Shaw's "oology" exhibit

Now it seems she works mainly on canvas, but still with beeswax. In her own words:

"My painting is a influenced by the power of nature and inspired by the chaos of people’s chronic search for order, space, and story. 

I paint first with water colors, then with encaustic paint, layers of hot beeswax, pigment and resin. I coerce it onto paintings as a hot, drippy, excitable mess. . . . 

Encaustic painting is an alchemical process of extreme versatility. It is both additive and subtractive. It can be painted, sculpted, or moulded. Between the layers the process is quite unpredictable."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Robertson Davies' Magian World View

Love, Desire, and Death, by Georges Barbier
via Orbs of Zenith

"[The Magian World View] was a sense of the unfathomable wonder of the invisible world that existed side by side with a hard recognition of the roughness and cruelty and day-to-day demands of the tangible world. It was a readiness to see demons where nowadays we see neuroses, and to see the hand of a guardian angel in what we are apt to shrug off ungratefully as a stroke of luck. It was religion, but a religion with a thousand gods, none of them all-powerful and most of the ambiguous in their attitude toward man. It was poetry and wonder which might reveal themselves in the dunghill, and it was an understanding of the dunghill that lurks in poetry and wonder."
    —World of Wonder, by Robertson Davies

Have you read any of Robertson Davies' books? Or seen any of his plays? I just finished the Deptford Trilogy, and I really love his orientation toward the world. I have tried to find good quotations to share, but I find his ideas surprisingly difficult to whittle down into a simple excerpt; the one above just doesn't do him justice. So, you must read some of his works for yourselves!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Postmodern Hymn: Simple Life

Life moves so quickly it's frightening sometimes, and that's when you've got to pause and sing a song like this, breathe, and smile.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Admiring: Creators with Thread

When so many women have produced such beautiful works of art, it's hard to focus on a particular craftswoman. But here are two women whose work inspires me. The hours they must have worked astounds me. Here I sit, cutting and pasting images—quite a different task than the quiet, patient work they did!

Erica Wilson, with her PBS show and books, rejuvenated the art of needlepoint in the years after the Second World War.

Erica Wilson 
Queen Mary created this rug over eight years, sometimes working seven hours a day. It has a million stitches in it.

Queen Mary's needlepoint rug

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Humility of Religious Minimalism

Psalm Print: Exaudi. Domine, by Damien Hirst

How do we reconcile science and religion? How do we reconcile a plurality of religions? 

Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp, in "Science, Religion, and Religious Minimalism" offer their advice:

"All of us, no matter what we believe, stand outside traditions to which the vast majority of other human beings belong. The lesson to draw from this inescapable fact of the human condition is the need for a profound humility about one's own beliefs, especially when they are the kinds of beliefs that one cannot fully test in the company of others. . . . We suggest that the humility of religious minimalism is the right stance for everyone, believers and non-believers alike, to adopt."

What I like about this call for minimalism is that it leaves so much space for day-to-day experience. Perhaps a more minimalist view would allow us to enjoy each moment as it comes, without a bulky mythology added.

Friday, January 13, 2012


The metaphorical end is truly coming. Are you prepared?

The Pretend Is Near, by Nick Nelson

What if we put our energies into the pretend, the future-now, instead of the usual future end time?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dream Keeper

Interdependent Cycles, by Martin Hill

"True power and wisdom comes from within: When a man realizes his oneness with all creation. When he realizes that at the center of the universe dwells a power greater than his self. This center is everywhere. It is is within each of us. Go now, and walk the good red road."

(A disclaimer: The "good red road" means something unattainable to me: it means bravery, sacrifice, and often, violence, because being connected to the earth isn't all flowers and rainbows. I don't think that the "red road" is just another name for a unified spiritual path; it's tied to a specific life-way. This post is just an attempt to honor the wisdom that I see, without appropriating it.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How to Be a Good Pine Tree

The Last Gleam, by Charles Warren Eaton

Sometimes we just need a simple reminder:

"Imagine a pine tree standing in the yard. If that pine tree were to ask us what it should do, what the maximum is a pine tree can do to help the world, our answer would be very clear: 'You should be a beautiful, healthy pine tree. You help the world by being your best.' That is true for humans also. The basic thing we can do to help the world is to be healthy, solid, loving, and gentle to ourselves. Then when people look at us, they will gain confidence. They will say, 'If she can do that, I can do that too!'

"So anything you do for yourself, you do for the world. Don’t think that you and the world are two separate things. When you breathe in mindfully and gently, when you feel the wonder of being alive, remember that you’re also doing this for the world. Practicing with that kind of insight, you will succeed in helping the world. You don’t even have to wait until tomorrow. You can do it right now, today."

    —excerpt from "Imagine a Pine Tree," an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Sun, January 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Habits in Space

Photograph from the collection Modern Life of the Soul, by Melanie Bonajo
via The Ornamism Project

Have you heard the NPR story "What Vietnam Taught Us about Breaking Bad Habits"? The gist is that our habits can be tied to specific places, as in the couch as a place to sit and eat ice cream, and that changing the environment can give you a chance to consciously change your behavior. 

The story makes me see my home in a new light. What behaviors am I reinforcing? (Rather than worrying about New Year's resolutions, I think I'd better start by seeing things a little more clearly!)

It also makes me think about building an altar more seriously; they're one place in the home that can help you re-mind yourself and "alter" your habits. The altar wouldn't need to be sculptural—it could also be a flat work of art—it seems like the important part of such a space would be your response to it.


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