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Joseph E Bird

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art

give me leave to do my utmost

“I am going away forever – and I shall never, never see you again. For I have learned here that life is hard and cruel and that in this world there are things that are – impossible.” — Lt. Lorens Lowenhielm, from the short story and film, Babbette’s Feast, by Isak Dinesen.

“And, I shall be with you every day that is left to me. Every evening I shall sit down, if not in flesh, which means nothing, in spirit, which is all, to dine with you, just like tonight. For tonight I have learned that in this world anything is possible.” — General Lorens Lowenhielm Dinesen, from the short story and film, Babette’s Feast, by Isak Dinesen.

I’m not a fan of subtitled movies. I have a hard enough time following stories without trying to read the subtitles instead of watching the scene. Babette’s Feast is a 1987 Danish film (and a short story by Isak Dinesen) about two sisters who live in a small village in Denmark. It’s without dramatic action, crazy plot twists, or wildly eccentric characters. It’s subtitled for English speakers.

And it’s terrific.

The quotes above are from the same character, the first when he was young and impetuous. The second when he was older and wiser.

And then there’s Babette, a secondary character without whom there would be no story. Her motives are pure.

“Through all the world there goes on long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost.”

If you can find it, give it a chance. You won’t be sorry.

dreams of the past

The photo is a basement shoebox relic.  It’s old.  It’s bent and cracked. No Photoshop effects, here. Just a snapshot.

The subjects are familiar faces, but the photo was taken probably more than sixty years ago, before I really knew them. Maybe before I was born. Even in the older women there is youth I never saw in later years. From left to right, my Aunt Shirley; my grandmother Bettie Pearl, who I knew as Mom; my great-grandmother Tida, who we called Tidy; and my mother, Gloria, who looks to be with child.

The place, I believe, is my great-grandmother’s kitchen. If I had to guess, I would say it was breakfast.  There’s the coffee pot and toaster.  But I can’t imagine them gathering so early just for breakfast. Maybe lunch, which they called dinner.  Dinner would have included fried potatoes and tomatoes from the garden. Supper was the evening meal.  There would have been men in the picture by then.

There’s tension evident in the photograph.  Not a one could manage a smile, which is very unusual for my mother and Aunt Shirley, especially in front of a camera.  There’s a weariness, too.  Maybe they had been working.  Maybe canning tomatoes or beans.

They were all different.

My mother was the free spirit, enjoying every moment.

My aunt was sophistication personified, full of grace and elegance.

My grandmother, hardworking and kind, ready to share with everyone.

My great-grandmother, the strong, independent woman living by herself.

Maybe that was the source of the tension. Around the table love and respect, yet each one not quite understanding the other.  One dreams of this, another of that. And dreams, what are they for, anyway? another may think.  And Tidy, who has already seen enough heartbreak for all of them, keeps it to herself.

I’ll never know. They’re all gone now.  Not that any of them would give me a straight answer anyway.

I think that’ s the wonder of old photographs.  They tell a story, but never the entire story. A moment frozen in time that forces us to think about those who have gone on, to see if we can fill in the blanks. It forces us to remember them as they were, beyond the smiles and laughter. It forces us to remember who they really were.

you’re gonna make me lonseome

Never been a Miley Cyrus fan, but I love this version of Bob Dylan’s classic, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome.

melancholy morning

it’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Songwriter Lesson:

take a look at the second line of that verse.
it’s too long. the rhythm is off. it’s grammatically incorrect.
and he has to drag it out to make it work.
so what.
he’s just telling the story. the way it is.

hey, nate

my latest obsession. where da beat go?

somebody stole my car radio

speaking of twenty one pilots, i love this song and video.

wisdom

from Sharon Lyn Stackpole.
Thank you, Sharon.

Confidence. Most people only feel confident when they’re sure of themselves. The rest of the time, and generally the majority of the time, they’re faking it. It is impossible to tell the difference. Especially if you say less instead of more. Stand as straight as possible, and look people in the eyes during conversations.

Explaining. Don’t make explanations: Anyone who expects one has already come to his own conclusion anyway. Or, to quote a fortune cookie I got in Sacramento in 1992: Never explain. Your friends would never demand it, and your enemies will never believe you.

Be shrewd. Never go into business with a friend, or loan money if you expect it back.

Friendship. Very few friends last a lifetime. This is because people always change. This is the natural progression of life. When the shared experience is removed (school, work, community, club) there becomes no link or mutual appreciation. Expecting the friendship to retain the old mold will end in heartbreak. Move on and expect nothing. Appreciate the honor of glimpsing another human being’s life for a time – but keep growing.

Giving. A gift is not a gift without both hands open. If you expect something in return for a gift or favor, don’t give it. Give only for the good feeling of being able to share something. Anything else is usury.

Love. People are becoming afraid these days to make commitments and allow themselves to love others because they know the other person will either leave them or die. This is true. All the more reason to love them now. Change is the only thing we can depend on.

Reputation. Your name is the one thing no one can take away from you. It will be your most valuable resource. Make sure that when people hear your name they associate it with honesty and decency. This is more important than I can say here. Your word must be your bond.

Promptness.  Always be on time, if not early, for any appointment little or small. Keep no one waiting. It is rude and presumptuous. It implies that your time is more important than theirs. Which is not so. All time is equal.

Courtesy. Look people in the eyes when you talk to them. Smile and mean it. Make it a point to remember the name of everyone you meet. Everyone likes to be known and remembered.

Tact. Life is full of petty irritations – people who say and do rude things, forget your name, seem to exclude you in or from gatherings, or generally fail to remember your own humanity. Let it go. Things are not always what they seem. People often have problems going on in their private lives that we know nothing of but would explain their apparent self-involvement. Try not to judge. Let it go.

Diligence. Bosses never want to hear why something didn’t get done. They are only interested in what has been accomplished or how soon it will be.

Responsibility. There is no one to credit for your successes or failures but yourself.

Clarity. Fear exists to show us where we need to improve ourselves.

Foresight. You can follow your heart if you want to, but be sure to pack a survival kit. Millions have already perished believing they could live on passion alone. It does not hurt to be practical.

whitey on the moon

I just got around to seeing First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong, first man on the man. It’s the 60s. You remember the 60s. Maybe you don’t. Young’uns. Crazy times, the 60s, culminating in 1969, of course, a year crammed full of historic events.

The movie sets the scene and doesn’t gloss over the turbulence of the day. There’s a snippet of a song, a poem, really, by Gil Scott-Heron that plays for a few moments, to illustrate that not everyone was thrilled with the space race. We should be spending money on other things, they said.

Whitey on the Moon.

Yeah, it’s easy to get riled up by the words, whether you agree or disagree. It’s easy to be offended. It’s easy to scream, right on.

That’s the power of the piece.

And it’s powerful because it’s poetry. Urban poetry set to music.

It’s hip and cool. The forerunner of rap.

Set aside the message for a moment. Listen to it as art. Appreciate the rhythms and the cadence and the genius of the form.

Dig it.

it takes a thief

“Don’t worry about parking the car,” says the art thief. “Anywhere near the museum is fine.” When it comes to stealing from museums, Stéphane Breitwieser is virtually peerless. He is one of the most prolific and successful art thieves who have ever lived. Done right, his technique—daytime, no violence, performed like a magic trick, sometimes with guards in the room—never involves a dash to a getaway car. And done wrong, a parking spot is the least of his worries.

— Michael Finkel, from GQ Magazine.

A fascinating story by a great writer. It’s got to be a movie some day. Click the link below to learn everything about Stéphane Breitwieser and the art of the steal.

https://www.gq.com/story/secrets-of-the-worlds-greatest-art-thief

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