Category Archives: Arts: Writing

I So Thought I was Done With This, But I’m Such a Sucker . . . . .

The Guardian

Friends, actually: the truth about the couple who hit it off queueing to see the Queen’s coffin

Zoe and Jack met in the 5-mile line for the Queen’s lying in state, then spent 13 hours bonding over crisps and chat. Before long, their so-called ‘love affair’ had gone viral …

We would have been very amused .. . .

19 September 2022

Name: Queue romance.

Age: Newly sprung, but short-lived.

Appearance: Like love, but also like a journey.

Isn’t love already a journey of sorts? Yes, but this was an actual 13-hour journey. On foot.

Where to? To pay one’s respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

And did people find love in the queue then? Is that what’s going on here? Well, that’s what everyone wanted to believe. There was one couple, Jack and Zoe, who met in line to see the Queen’s lying in state at 10.30pm on Friday, when the growing queue was already edging over the 5-mile mark.

And they hit it off? By the time they were interviewed by Channel 4 the next day, they had been together in the queue all night.

It’s not as if they had a choice. Maybe not, but as they bonded over “crisps and chat”, there was clearly a spark. Zoe called their chance meeting “a blessing in disguise”.

Any awkward moments? Apparently not. “I thought I was going to be exhausted but it’s just gone so quickly in the queue,” said Zoe.

Which left the British public rooting for them? Absolutely. As you can imagine, the news clip of the smitten couple became a bit of a viral hit.

With people making jokes about the romcom possibilities offered by this unlikely meeting? Exactly: “Queue, Actually”, “Four Queues and a Funeral”, etc.

That doesn’t really work, because there was only one queue. How about “14-Hour Queue and a Funeral”?

It’s better, except earlier you made it clear the queue was only 13 hours. This is Richard Curtis’s job, not mine.

So will Jack and Zoe meet again? They already have! The pair went to watch the Queen’s state funeral in Hyde Park together.

That’s quite a weird second date. Ah, but here is where the romance ends. It turns out that they both have long-term partners and met up just as friends.

Gutted! I know, right? “Jack is a great guy, we get on brilliantly, but we both have long-term partners – in fact, I am getting married next year. Not only that, but there’s also a 10-year age gap between Jack and I!” Zoe told the Daily Mail.

Devastating. As a nation we needed this. “It is nice to think we may have cheered people up during a period of mourning, but I am sorry for anyone who hoped that we might get together to say that it is purely platonic between us,” added Jack.

Well, hopefully another couple who met in the record-shattering queue to view a long-serving British monarch’s coffin will come forward? We’ll have to wait and see.

Do say: “And I will walk 5.1 miles, and I will walk 5.1 more …”

Don’t say: “She went to the loo and never came back, but I’ll search the kingdom until I find the girl who fits this wristband.”

Garrison Keillor – Autumn is Coming: Prepare to Be Bold

 

She told me out of the blue that she adores me. I was there, in a chair, listening; she was standing by the grandfather clock. She didn’t sing it but she said it clearly. This should answer any remaining questions. But Mister Malaise and Madam Miasma are ever on our trail, skulking in woodlands and meadows, waylaying the vulnerable, requiring us to drink discouragement and despair, and they got me a few days ago, two weeks after mitral valve replacement, walking tall in Transitional Care, transitioning back to normal life when I was hit (in the time it takes to tell it) by abject weakness, dizziness, nausea, and had to be locked up in hospital and tubes put in my arms for blood and antibiotics, and then released in a weakened semi-invalid state. It’s a lousy feeling. I look out at Minneapolis and imagine it’s Odessa, which it is not. I worry the Swiss banks will fail. Water mains will burst. Bacon will be banned, leaving us with vegan substitute

.The body wants to heal and it has felicitous intuitions how to go about doing it but meanwhile I ache and shuffle around like an old grampa and hike the hallways and work at maintaining a cheerful outlook (false). My wife is a worrier and when we promised to love and honor each other 27 years ago, diarrhea and vomiting weren’t mentioned in detail, so I walk carefully. Continue reading Garrison Keillor – Autumn is Coming: Prepare to Be Bold

Cartoon/Comics Artist Lynda Barry: interview & Profile

New York Times– Sept. 2, 2022
A Genius Cartoonist Believes Child’s Play Is Anything But Frivolous

By David Marchese
Photograph by Mamadi Doumbouya

For nearly 30 years, the cartoonist Lynda Barry published her adored comic strip “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” which told the whimsical, hardscrabble story of the young sisters Marlys and Maybonne, in alternative papers across the country. (An anthology, “It’s So Magic,” was published earlier this month.)

She has since written acclaimed plays and novels and even a beloved book on making comics. (That would be the straightforwardly titled “Making Comics,” from 2019.)

For the last two decades, she has often led drawing, writing and creativity workshops in prisons, at schools, online — wherever will have her. And since 2012, Barry, a 66-year-old who in 2019 received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship — the so-called genius grant — has been at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has held various positions and now does cross-disciplinary teaching on creativity.

So when it comes to self-expression, to making art, it’s fair to say that she’s an expert. But in many ways, not nearly as much of an expert as your average little kid, which is something Barry has been thinking about a lot lately. “Adults think that kids playing is some nothing thing,” she says. “But play is a different state of mind, and it can help us do so many things if we just allow ourselves to get back to it.” Continue reading Cartoon/Comics Artist Lynda Barry: interview & Profile

A Network of Good Deeds: Providing Asylum to Threatened Writers

New York Times — September 2, 2022

I Was Onstage With Salman Rushdie That Day, and What I Saw Was Remarkable

Violence against writers was the topic I was about to interview the novelist Salman Rushdie about at the Chautauqua Institution on Aug. 12. We were being introduced onstage when out of nowhere, like a scene from Mr. Rushdie’s novel “Shalimar the Clown,” a knife-wielding man rushed onto the stage and began to stab him.

Immediately audience members ran to the stage to defend him.

It was a remarkable response. That rush of people leaping from their seats was the opposite of the so-called “bystander effect,” when individuals do nothing, relying on others to help. I would call it “the reader effect.” Reading creates empathy, and Chautauqua is an intentional community of readers. The intuitive response of an empathetic community is to help.

The “reader effect” was the reason I was onstage with Mr. Rushdie in the first place. He had given a talk in Pittsburgh in April of 1997, during which he said that the true fight “is not just about my right to write. It is also about your right to read.” My wife, Diane Samuels, and I, both avid readers, were in the audience that day, and his words moved us to action.

We were renting out a house in our neighborhood that we had bought and renovated. Mr. Rushdie’s words suggested a better way to use the house — as a temporary home for an exiled writer. When persecuted writers flee their homes, they often do so in a rush and can bring little with them. They need to start from scratch.

Continue reading A Network of Good Deeds: Providing Asylum to Threatened Writers

Borowitz Twofer: Trump’s Diet & an Attack on Gas Priced

Satire from The Borowitz Report
Dr. Oz Claims That Eating Classified Documents Was Essential to Trump’s Healthy Diet

By Andy Borowitz — August 29, 2022

Andy Borowitz, satirist

PITTSBURGH (The Borowitz Report)—Eating classified documents was “an essential part of President Donald Trump’s super-healthy diet,” Dr. Mehmet Oz has claimed.

Oz, the longtime television host and, more recently, Pennsylvania’s G.O.P. nominee for the U.S. Senate, said that “classified documents, including the nuclear codes, provided the roughage necessary to keep President Trump’s digestive system humming along at the highest possible level.”

https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/dr-oz-claims-that-eating-classified-documents-was-essential-to-trumps-healthy-diet

Tucker Carlson Accuses Biden of Lowering Gas Prices

By Andy Borowitz — July 11, 2022

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a blistering takedown of the President, Tucker Carlson accused Joe Biden of cynically leveraging the power of his office to lower gasoline prices.

“For weeks, Biden has been saying that he’d do something about the price of gasoline,” the Fox News host said. “Now, lo and behold, gas prices are lower. Joe Biden has been acting in plain sight.”

“The American people aren’t dumb,” Carlson continued. “When they fill up their tanks, they notice that it costs less. They can tell that something’s going on, and they’re not going to put up with it.”

After gas prices showed their biggest one-day drop in almost fifteen years, Carlson said, “It’s time to call out the man behind this conspiracy: Joe Biden.”

Carlson demanded that Congress “stop investigating January 6th and focus its attention on a real scandal: Joe Biden’s corrupt plot to lower gas prices.”

“This is worse than anything Hunter has done,” Carlson charged.

 

Damn. Garrison is Definitely Losing it. I’ll Let Him Break the Bad News

The Column: 08.19.22

It was a week of crazy change, a couple of big wallops, and here I am still standing, head bowed but marching forward. An ace ophthalmologist broke the news that my dimming eyesight is the result of glaucoma, which makes me grateful that I’m 80 because if I were young this would be very bad news but at my age I can see a way around it.

And on the same day, the University of Michigan found out that its prized Galileo manuscript is a fake, in which Galileo noted his observations of Jupiter, which led him to challenge 17th-century dogma that the universe revolves around Earth, which made him a heretic — it’s the work of a 20th-century forger — which means (Yes!) that the universe does revolve around Earth and that FBI agents attempting to distract the nation from the Galileo hoax planted top-secret papers at Mar-a-Lago in hopes of unseating the one truly elected (by a landslide) president, Mr. Trump, who is the center of the center of the universe.

If you step outside and look at the night sky, you see clearly that indeed we are the center. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a loser.

The glaucoma news was definitive and I was glad to have it. No need to sit in more ophthalmologists’ chairs, chin on the chinrest, looking at the doctor’s earlobe as he or she peers through the scope into my dilated eyeball — I have the answer: I am (very) slowly going blind. So look to the future and make the best of the deal.

I never was a sight-seer. I know too many amateur photographers who compulsively take pictures of dewy meadows, sunsets, sunrises, wildlife, birds, more birds, and they bring out portfolios of pictures and you’re required to glance at each one and sigh — well, they don’t pass their portfolios to a blind man. He is free of it.

My wife loves fine art. I don’t. Andy Warhol exposed the art world for the sham it am and who needs it? When I gain my blindness, I’ll accompany her to the Met and I’ll wait in the coffee shop and overhear young women discussing their relationships. Mark Rothko is an empty shell compared to women’s descriptions of their partners. They know more about humanity than Van Gogh ever guessed at.

I’ve always preferred music and conversation to the visual arts. Dance is a bore, all the extensions and twirling and dippy-hippy moves. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lakeis all you need to know, and Mahler’s Fourth and the Brandenburgs and some Chopin. Listen to them in the dark and you feel the emotional force full-strength.

My new career, beginning now, is octogenarian stand-up performance and I look forward to the day — in ten years, maybe twenty — when I walk onstage wearing black glasses, carrying a cane, and feel a wave of sympathy from the crowd and I sing:

The blind man stood in the road and cried,
Crying, O Lord, show me the way to go home.

The song is so heartfelt, people get teary-eyed and no longer do they see a white man of privilege, they see a fellow sinner in trouble, and when I have them on the verge of anguish, I go into my storytelling. Homer was a blind man who gave us the Iliad and the Odyssey and in his honor, I shall proclaim:

Speak, Memory, of myself the hero,
Lost time and again, at sea, confused,
Blinded by reckless ambition, and now,
I the wanderer have, by loss of sight,
Regained my memory and found my way
Home to my wife.

It’s a great opening. I’ll tell of my own history — I’m 80, I’ve got buckets of it — and recite poems and sing and when needed go into some blind-man jokes, many of them dirty. A sighted man couldn’t tell them, he’d be lynched, strung up, only a blind man can tell them, so I will.

Blindness is an opportunity, not a problem. Other writers give readings; I don’t. I have no paper, I let memory speak and it does and I’m amazed at what it recalls. My Crandall ancestors were driven out of the colonies in 1776 by my wife’s ancestors, the Spencers and Holmans and Griswolds, and my grandpa James Crandall came to Minnesota where his descendants crossed paths with my wife’s Holmans, and ancient enmity was buried and I fell in love with the family that stole our silverware and drove us to Canada.

So when my blindness is complete, so long as the sun keeps going around the Earth, I’ll be the greatest glaucomedian of all time. You read it here first.

 

Frederick Buechner: Religious Novelist

NOTE: I was not much of a fan of Frederick Buechner, a writer who died last week at 96. I tried his quartet of novels about a semi-charlatan-but-maybe-a-saint preacher in Florida, but Buechner lost me with his character’s name, Leo Bebb, which is bar none the most uneuphonious & off-putting monicker in my experience of what is said to be serious fiction.

But on the other hand, his work did hit me a glancing blow once, glancing but perhaps mortal.

It happened when a woman friend named Patricia, assigned to do a reading, pulled a slim book from her purse and opened it somewhere in the middle. The book is called Peculiar Treasures, and in it Buechner collected short sketches of various biblical characters. Here is what Patricia read, complete:

Isaiah

There were banks of candles in the distance and clouds of incense thickening the air with holiness and stinging his eyes, and high above him . . there was the Mystery Itself . . . and the whole vast reeking place started to shake beneath his feet . . .and he cried out, “O God, I am done for! I am foul of mouth and the member of a foul-mouthed race. With my own two eyes I have seen him. I’m a goner and sunk.”

Then one of the winged things touched his mouth with fire and said, “There, it will be all right now,” and the Mystery Itself said, “Who will it be?” and with charred lips he said “Me,” and Mystery said, “GO.”

Mystery said, “Go give the deaf hell till you’re blue in the face and go show the blind Heaven till you drop in your tracks because they’d sooner eat ground glass than swallow the bitter pill that puts roses in the cheeks and a gleam in the eye. Go do it.”

Isaiah said, “Do it till when?”

Mystery said, “Till Hell freezes over.”

Mystery said, “Do it till the cows come home.”

And that is what a prophet does for a living, so starting from the year that King Uzziah died when he saw and heard all these things, Isaiah went and did it.

— Frederic Buechner, “Peculiar Treasures, A Biblical Who’s Who.”

NOTE: I’ve forgotten when and where the reading took place, and lost touch with Patricia. But I hunted down & bought the book, and hung on to it for years. Just one sketch like that can put a reader in permanent debt to a writer, even if the guy published 38 other books (as Buechner did) which were over my head or didn’t speak to my condition.

As a writer, I should be so lucky.

New York Times

Frederick Buechner, Novelist With a Religious Slant, Dies at 96

He drew on his theological credentials in essays and memoirs, and his fiction, full of colorful characters, was admired for its elegance, wit and depth.

Frederick Buechner, who wrote 39 books, exploring the human condition from inspirational and sometimes humorous perspectives.
Credit…Alan Fortney, via Buechner family

Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian minister who never held a church pastorate but found his calling writing a prodigious quantity of novels, memoirs and essays that explored the human condition from inspirational and often humorous religious perspectives, died on Monday at his home in Rupert, Vt. He was 96.

His son-in-law and literary executor, David Altshuler, confirmed the death.

Drawing on literary and theological credentials over six decades, Mr. Buechner (pronounced BEEK-ner) published 39 books, many of them well-received fictional excursions into the adventures of charlatans, lovers, historical or biblical characters and ordinary people who take on self-imposed superhuman challenges and stoop to only-too-human skulduggery, all in the name of God.

Continue reading Frederick Buechner: Religious Novelist

Let Prisoners Read More Books!

 

Reading While Incarcerated Saved Me. So Why Are Prisons Banning Books?

Credit…Ben Denzer

Mr. Blackwell is an incarcerated writer.

SHELTON, Wash. — During my first decade in prison, I busied myself with exercising and hanging out in the big yard. I hardly grew as a person, aside from developing muscles that I really used only to intimidate others.

I stopped going to school at around 14. After multiple stints in juvenile detention, I was too far behind all my classmates to catch up. By my mid-20s, I was sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison, first for a robbery and then for taking the life of another person during a drug robbery. Every day I regret what I did. It wasn’t until I began college in prison in my 30s that I started to realize my full potential.

In my classes, I met people who were intelligent, spoke with confidence and understood structural forces I had almost no knowledge of, despite the huge role they played in my life. I realized I didn’t want to feel like the most ignorant person in the room. I, too, wanted to participate in an intellectual conversation and have people think I was smart and well spoken.

Shyly, I asked a classmate and fellow prisoner in my class if he’d be willing to help me. He jumped at the task. Before I knew it, I was absorbed in David Foster Wallace and Michel Foucault and using concepts and terms in conversations that were previously far over my head.

Continue reading Let Prisoners Read More Books!

Guest Post: Profile of A Renegade Quaker Artist – Edward Sorel

[NOTE: Friend Gary Sandman, of Roanoke Meeting in Virginia, has long been collecting and distributing short articles about artists and performers who are Quaker, or Quaker adjacent.
His latest profile is of the longtime illustrator and artist, Edward Sorel. It was so appealing that with his permission, we are re-posting it here, with some addenda we found online.]

GUEST POST: Gary Sandman on EDWARD SOREL

Edward Sorel (b. 1929) is an American cartoonist and writer.  His work usually focuses on political topics, though occasionally it touches on other subjects, and it is enlivened with his sardonic humor. 

The cartoons are pen-and-ink sketches, filled out with watercolors and pastels.  The best of them, in his words, are “spontaneous drawings”.  Among the numerous magazines in which his work has appeared are The Nation, The Village Voice, Esquire and Vanity Fair.  
Sorel has published children’s books, Hollywood histories and autobiographies, in collaboration with others or on his own, including Johnny-on-the-Spot, Superpen: the Cartoons and Caricatures of Edward Sorel and Profusely Illustrated: a Memoir. He is also known for his mural at the Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village.  
Sorel has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, the Art Institute of Boston and Galerie Bartsch & Chariau.  His honors include the Auguste St. Gaudens Medal for Professional Achievement, the Page One Award and the National Cartoonist Society Advertising and Illustration Award. 

Sorel began attending Morningside Meeting in New York City in 1963.  After he separated from his first wife and lost his job, he went through a long dark period. Ed Hilpern, his therapist and a member of the Meeting, recommended that he explore Quaker worship.  

Sorel’s sketch of Morningside Meeting circa 1965. Morningside then gathered on folding chairs in a room at Columbia University. On that morning, Sorel (at far left) noticed Nancy Caldwell (far right). After meeting, Sorel introduced himself, and one thing led — well, Sorel gives details below.

He met Nancy Caldwell, the love of his life, at the Meeting, and they were married there in 1965.  (Above is a cartoon of the Sunday morning they met).  

Sorel participated in anti-Vietnam War marches in Washington DC with Friends and joined with them when they walked across the Peace Bridge at Rochester to deliver medical supplies for North and South Vietnamese civilians to Canadians Friends, who had agreed to forward the supplies.  

When he and his family moved upstate in the early 1970’s, they attended Bulls Head-Oswego Meeting.  A gleeful atheist, Sorel is known for his anticlerical cartoons and has sat on the board of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  He felt, however, that he could become a member of the Friends because of Quaker social witness.

I have always loved Edward Sorel’s cartoons.  I first saw them in Ramparts magazine in the mid-1960’s and enjoy them still in The New Yorkermagazine.And I was delighted to see the cartoon above.  I had worshiped at Morningside Meeting several times when I lived in New York City.

A quote from Sorel about his first Friends Meeting for Worship:

“What I remember best is the silence.  It seemed to charge the room with a connectedness of yearning”.  

Gary Sandman

[ Gary has published an extensive collection of his artist profiles in a book titled QUAKER ARTISTS. Copies can be ordered (hard back or e-book) through his website, at: http://garysandmanartist.com/ ]

Continue reading Guest Post: Profile of A Renegade Quaker Artist – Edward Sorel

New Quaker Arts Journal Issue: “Types & Shadows”

NOTE: I’ve been a member of the Fellowship of Quakers in the arts since the late ’90s. It’s a small, scattered and anarchic network [confirming its Quaker character], which has done a lot with a little, and should be better known. Here’s an intro to its newest journal issue (online for free; but consider joining), from FQA member and noted guitarist, Keith Calmes.

Issue #92, front cover

Friends—
The new issue (#92) of “Types and Shadows,” [a journal of Quaker-connected art published by the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts], Summer 2022, is now available electronically on our recently revamped website:
www.fqaquaker.org
I hope you enjoy seeing what many fellow Friends are up to in the arts in this beautiful issue. Many other Quakers are doing art. We’d love to heer from you and, as way opens, share your work.

While I have your attention: have you explored our website? There are many opportunities for Friends to share their work, events, opportunities, and connect.
Be well,
Keith Calmes

[FQA Board member Keith Calmes is a classically trained guitarist, educator, composer, and author. He has transcribed several works for Mel Bay Publications, including Guitar Music of the Sixteenth Century and The Eight Masterpieces of Alonso Mudarra. Click the link below for a sample of his music.]

FQA-Why “Types & Shadows”?

Why Types & Shadows? by Esther Greenleaf Mürer, writer and editor of the first years of T&S. This article is excerpted from the first issue published in 1996. The theology is hers; the philosophy is Plato’s; the name is ours:

Quaker lore does not exactly teem with pithy phrases about the arts–at least not the sort calculated to encourage artists. Our title–more fully “Types, figures and shadows” is perhaps the kindest term our ancestors might have used. It comes from the Epistle to the Hebrews, a book beloved of early
Friends.

The idea was borrowed from Platonic philosophy, which posits a realm where the ideal forms of everything that exists are kept. Somewhere there is, say, an ideal balloon of which all earthly balloons are but pale copies or shadows. (At the age of two my daughter Phoebe really began to believe this.)

The writer of Hebrews gives the Platonic idea a Jewish twist. For him the forms, events and institutions of the Old Testament are antitypes which prefigure or foreshadow the coming of Christ, the true Substance which makes the types and shadows obsolete.

From Types & Shadows in 2005, Friend Elizabeth Hallmark performs.

For early Friends the idea of the primacy of “Christ the Substance” came to mean a near-total rejection of sensory means of grace, and of symbolism. The immediate experience of God was the goal, and symbols were felt as obstructions.

And yet, as Thomas Kelly writes in his essay “Quakers and Symbolism”, immediacy cannot be communicated to others except through the mediation of symbols. A symbol by definition points to something beyond itself. If I point to the sunrise, I mean you to look at the sunrise, not at my finger.

Symbols, of course, easily become idols–ends in themselves. Our gestures become ever more mannered, the sunrise is forgotten. The danger is ever-present that I may become obsessed with “My Ministry” not because it heals, not because it speaks truth, but because it’s mine.

This is a pitfall for any ministry. Are artists more prone than others to fall into it? Certainly it’s harder to avoid the trap when the possibility that one’s art might be ministry is not acknowledged in the first place. What if early Friends, instead of shunning the arts, had recognized art’s healing and prophetic powers and had sought ways to help artists grow in the spirit?

Roses, thorns, and more Roses. By Jennifer Elam.

The realm of sense and symbol–of “types, figures and shadows”–is where we, as artists, live. This is as it should be. The Truth which we as Friends are called to publish can never be anything but fragmentary, for we cannot publish Truth-in-general any more than we can speak language-in-general. We must speak a specific language, work in a specific medium. And however great our skill, the nature of the medium will set bounds to our ability to convey our vision.

And yet we must go on trying to convey it. For as Thomas Kelly said, “Where there is no impulse to communicate the good news, there it is doubtful whether there is any living good news to share.”

Our types and shadows are needed. If we are faithful, they may provide islands of unity and meaning  in the jangling sea of cynicism and discord which surrounds us. If we can point others to the sunrise, we do not labor in vain.