Thursday, November 28, 2013


Because it's always time for a good story,


There was once a miller who was poor but who had a beautiful daughter.  And so it came to pass that he had an audience with the king, and in order to gain his esteem he told him, “I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold.”  The king said to the miller, “Now that is an art that pleases me well; if your daughter is really as talented as you say, bring her tomorrow to my castle and I will put her to the test.”  When the girl was brought to him, he led her into a chamber that was filled with straw, gave her a spinning wheel and a reel and said, “Now get to work, and if by tomorrow morning you haven’t spun all this straw into gold, then you must die.”  Thereupon he shut and locked the door, and the girl remained alone in the chamber.

There the poor miller’s daughter sat, and did not for the life of her know what to do; she had no idea how to spin straw into gold, and her fear grew ever greater, so that she finally began to cry.  Then all at once the door opened, and a little man entered and said, “Good evening, Maid Miller’s Daughter, why do you weep so?” – “Oh,” answered the girl, “I am to spin this straw into gold and I don’t know how.”  The little man said, “What will you give me if I spin it for you?” – “My necklace,” said the girl.  The little man took the necklace, sat down at the wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times around, and the reel was full.  He set another one on the wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times around, and the next one was full – and so it went until the morning, when all the straw had been spun, and all the reels were full of gold.  At sunrise the king came, and when he saw the gold, he was amazed and happy, but his heart became only more greedy.  He had the miller’s daughter taken to another chamber full of straw, this one much bigger than the first, and commanded her to spin the straw again in one night, if she valued her life.  The girl didn’t know what to do and wept, when the door opened again and the little man appeared and said, “What will you give me if I spin this straw into gold?” – “The ring on my finger,” answered the girl.  The little man took the ring, the wheel began to whirr again, and by morning he had spun all of the straw into shining gold.  The king was exceedingly pleased when he saw this, but was still not satisfied, but instead led the girl into an even bigger chamber full of straw and said, “You must spin this again in one night – and if you succeed, I will make you my wife.” – Even if she is only a miller’s daughter, he thought, in the whole world I’d never find a richer wife.  Now when the girl was alone, the little man came for the third time and said, “What will you give me if I spin the straw for you again?” – “I have nothing more to give you,” answered the girl.  “Then promise me your first-born child after you become queen.”  Who knows what will happen, thought the miller’s daughter, and so she promised the little man what he wanted, and in return the little man spun once more the straw into gold.  And as the king came in the morning and found all that he had wished for, he held the wedding and the beautiful miller’s daughter became queen. 

After a year she gave birth to a beautiful child and thought no more of the little man, until suddenly one day he stepped into her room and said, “Now give me what you promised me.”  The queen was frightened and offered the little man all the riches of the kingdom, if only he would leave her the child.  But the little man said, “No, something living is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.”  The queen then began to weep and plead, so much that the little man took pity on her and said, “I will give you three days.  If in that time you can guess my name, you may keep the child.”
So the queen pondered the whole night, thinking of all the names she had ever heard, and sent a messenger to inquire far and wide in the land after more names.  When the little man came the next day, she began guessing with Kaspar, Melchior, Balzer, and all the other names that she knew, one after the other, but after each one the little man said, “That’s not my name!”  On the second day she had all the names in the surrounding area collected, and spoke the most unfamiliar, oddest names to the little man:  “Is your name perhaps Rippenbiest or Hammelswade or Schnürbein?”  But he still answered, “That’s not my name!”  On the third day the messenger came back and told the queen, “I could not find a single new name, but as I approached a high mountain at the forest’s edge, where the fox and the hare make their home, there I saw a little house, and in front of the house was a fire, and around the fire a little ridiculous man was jumping, hopping on one leg and crying:

Heute back ich, morgen brau ich,
Übermorgen hol ich der Königin ihr Kind;
Ach wie gut ist, dass niemand weiss,
Dass ich Rumpelstilzchen heiss!

Today I bake, tomorrow I brew,
The next day I’ll fetch the Queen’s first child;
What luck it is that noone knows
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name!

Now you can well imagine how happy the queen was to hear this name, and when soon thereafter the little man appeared and asked, “Now, Your Highness, what is my name?” she first asked, “Is your name Kunz?” – “No.” – “Is your name Heinz?” – “No.”
 “Could your name be - Rumpelstiltskin?”

“The devil told you that, the devil told you that!” cried the little man, and he stomped his right foot in rage so deep into the earth that it was driven up into his body.  Then in his anger he grabbed his left foot with both hands and tore himself right down the middle in two.

Brothers Grimm, trans. Margaret Coote

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

san anselmo 2

In the spirit of Thanksgiving
Here are views that I am thankful for
(taken many Octobers ago)

wagners idee

At the risk of upsetting a friend of mine who loves Wagner, I submit this excerpt from "Lives of the Artists":

Also, I take no responsibility for having gotten the birthdate of the Leitmotiv right or wrong...
I blame my subconscious (for this whole thing, actually).


Sunday, November 17, 2013

another cup

My friend Marla is a potter. She gave me this beautiful little cup.

Here it is, in situ.

(by the way, I got up to adjust something very, very small in this drawing and promptly sat on a glass I'd perched on my chair. The glass fell on the floor and broke. This must be good luck, right?)

san anselmo

The sketch blog is in my hometown these 2 weeks. It is pretty incredible to see this beautifully familiar place through so many other people's eyes. 
Here are my contributions: 

My house, the house I grew up in:

The view down my street:

My version of a picture that appeared in the local newspaper after the big flood of 1982:

And, as an introduction, town hall, and San Anselmo Avenue: 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

how things sometimes go

A recent part of my life was spent manning, so to speak, the front desk at the Eastman House. It is a museum. It is also a research institution, a graduate school, a preservation facility, an archive, a library. One afternoon, a man came in and asked to see one of the employees. I gave a call, but the person was not in. I offered to let the visitor leave a message on this person's voicemail. "No need, we're friends, I'll just call him later," the man said.

With this our interaction should have been over. The man lingered, however. "What is that mark on your neck?" he asked, suddenly slightly belligerent.

"I play viola and violin. It's from my instruments."

"Oh, yeah?"

I looked down at my things. We are done here, I was signaling. The front desk is a small confined area -- there's really nowhere to go.

"It looks like something else."

I gave no response. There was no response to give.

My silence seemed to enrage him. "I mean, what if you want to get a job? WHO is going to HIRE you with that MARK on your NECK?"

Quietly but firmly: "Someone I want to work for."

The man practically foamed at the mouth. He got up very close to the desk, intimidatingly close, and, tripping over his words, half-screamed at me: "You're missing my point! You don't understand! No one will hire you, they'll think..."

I reached for the phone. The security guard standing nearby was doing nothing, so I figured I'd better take things into my own hands if this turned ugly, which it certainly seemed to be on the verge of doing. Luckily, he backed away. "In my country, you would be shot," he shot at me, and backed towards the door, still glaring at me.

Sometimes we enrage people simply by being.

Monday, November 11, 2013

time the dandelions

In Creative Power, Hughes Mearns tells this story:

"Once upon a time a determined visitor came swiftly into my ninth-grade class and objected because the boys and girls were absorbed in writing. [...] 'I have come from Illinois,' the visitor said, in a tone of almost benumbing authority, 'and have only a few hours in New York. I sail for Europe tomorrow morning. I came here to see creative appreciation, and I think I should be permitted to see it!'

'Do you expect me to turn it on and off -- like a faucet?' I asked, trying my best to warm this lady's professional hauteur.

She said, 'I am Professor of the Methodology of the Teaching of the Language Arts in the Blank Normal College' (I paraphrase the titles, but, my word for it, the original was even more comic), 'and therefore I know enough about the practice of teaching to request that you stop this written work and demonstrate creative activity.'

'But, my dear Professor of Methodology et cetera,' I told her quietly, 'though I should do just that and you should stay all morning you would see just nothing at all.'

'My own thought exactly!' she snapped back. 'Because exactly nothing would happen!'

[...] I lowered my voice still more, so as not to disturb the children. (They were really engaged on a creative job that had absorbed their complete attention, creative appreciation in abundance if the visitor had had any educational vision at all.) 'I have a good stop-watch in my desk,' I whispered and pointed out the window to Morningside Park. 'Do take it and go out, right away, into Morningside Park. Sit down on the grass for an hour and time the dandelions. As the seconds tick away, watch their growth and then come back and report to me. Do you know what you will say? Exactly nothing has happened.'

I found the watch in my desk and tried in dramatic whispers to press it upon her. She edged away from me. I stalked her. 'Do go out and time the dandelions!' I begged. But she would not. She did not speak. She would not even stay. She went quickly away from there."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

pages from a mini-calendar

These tiny creations are getting a new, bigger life in this post:

some items

on a table. Done in turquoise ink, swished around with a brush:

Saturday, November 9, 2013


This is actually one boat that I watched steadily as it drifted, turned, and furled its sails, first one, then the other, until it was just a boat's body with a mast.

Sailing practice on one of the Finger Lakes (and the edge of a different drawing in at the lefthand side)

Friday, November 8, 2013


Yesterday I heard myself say to a group of kids, "I loooove silence." It was a comic, slightly exaggerated statement, a way to quiet - even just a little - the inevitable din that happens when a whole bunch of spirited young ones and a whole bunch of little violins are together in one small room. Still, it felt weird.

I love silence? Historically, I've not liked silence.

One of the young ones launched into a story about how they practiced a lockdown drill at school that day. The teacher had told them to be very quiet, and to go wherever she pointed, either the coat closet or another closet. They turned out the lights and pretended they weren't there. "Because," the little one said, "It could be dangerous."

And then I started to realize: there are so many different kinds of silence. Some are velvety and soft. Some are sweet. Some are portentous. Some are full, rich. And some are icy and dangerous.

A little later on during class, after a mock exasperated look from me, one of them shrieked, "You love silence!!" Then, immediately, another (and this was the moment of grace): "And you love music!"

Thursday, November 7, 2013


an american in paris

It can be very humbling to try to communicate in another language...
I think it would be funny to apologize for and explain one's grammatical errors to complete strangers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

lives of the artists, part 2

lives of the artists, part 1

Vasari needs a little update. 

Also in the works, Lives of the Artists' Wives:

two views

This one was done on a crumpled cookie bag. Looking out at Lake Ontario.

St. Denis. This guy was beheaded, then picked up his own head and walked for miles, carrying it and still speaking all the while. Wow.