The Mel Brown Septet

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L to R: George Mitchell (subbing for Gordon Lee), Stan Bock, Tim Gilson, John Nastos, Derek Sims, Renato Caranto. Invisible, behind the drums, the fabulous Mel Brown. Performing at Christo’s Pizzeria Lounge June 9, 2018.

What a joy and an inspiration it has been to hear these master musicians once a month at Christo’s! If you live within an hour’s drive of Salem, Oregon and you miss one of their performances, shame on you.

Old-fashioned printing and book-binding

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This wonderful brief video on Facebook shows clearly how printing presses worked in the days of hand-set type, and how the pages were then turned into books.

A few key points are missing, however.

  1. Notice how the letters must be placed backwards in the press.
  2. Notice why the printing press was called a “press.”
  3. The small letters were traditionally stored in a lower-level rack, while the capitals were above—hence our terms “lower-case” and “upper-case” to describe them.
  4. The paper was printed on both sides, not just one as the video seems to show. Each page had to be positioned so that when the sheet was folded, as you see in the video, the pages were right-side up and in the correct order. Try that at home, and let me know how it goes!

The Poet

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The poet has no talent.

Can’t sing. Can’t dance. Cannot play a musical instrument. Can’t juggle. Can’t paint.

The poet has only words.

And so the poet uses words to sing, to dance, to make music—and other sounds.

Juggles with words.

Paints with words.

Creates motion, odors, tastes, physical sensations of all sorts.

Unlocks our memories. Makes us aware of what we have previously sensed only dimly.

Makes us wonder . . . about so many things.

All of this with words alone.

For the poet, alas, has no talent.

Lu Ping

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On Sunday I went to meet Lu Ping, a wonderful Suzhou artist who works in Beijing but who has just built a country vacation home for himself and his wife in the nearby ‘water town’ of Luzhizhen.

You can see some of his work from the 1990s here:

I bought several of his woodcut prints before I knew who he was. Then the man at the frame shop said, “You really like Lu Ping, don’t you?” I said, “Who is Lu Ping?” Later he said, “Well, I know Lu Ping. Next time he comes to Suzhou I will call you.” And that’s what happened.

His wife He Zhen served us tea, and a pear from the tree in their garden. He showed us some of his more recent work, and we talked about art.

What a treat!

Forster on Van Gogh (and Picasso)

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E.M. Forster on the Van Gogh exhibit at the Paris Exhibition of 1937:

Van Gogh . . . is housed in the corner of another palace between maps of Paris and intellectual hopes for the future, and the space suffices him. Well content with his half-dozen rooms, he displays his oddness and his misery to tired feet. “Sorrow is better than joy,” he writes up upon the white walls of his cell. Here are pictures of potatoes and of miners who have eaten potatoes until their faces are tuberous and dented and their skins grimed and unpeeled. They are hopeless and humble, so he loves them. He has his little say, and he understands what he is saying, and he cuts off his own ear with a knife. The gaily painted boats of Saintes Maries sail away into the Mediterranean at last, and the Alpilles rise over St. Rémy for ever, but nevertheless “Sorrow is better than joy,” for Van Gogh. What would the Eiffel Tower make of such a conclusion? Spinning in its alcove for millions of years, the earth brings a great artist to this. Is he just dotty, or is he failing to put across what is in his mind? Neither, if we may accept historical parallels. Every now and then people have preferred sorrow to joy, and asserted that wisdom and creation can only result from suffering. Half a mile off, Picasso has done a terrifying fresco in the Spanish Pavilion, a huge black and white thing called “Guernica.” Bombs split bull’s skull, woman’s trunk, man’s shins. The fresco is indignant, and so it is less disquieting than the potato-feeders of Van Gogh. Picasso is grotesquely angry, and those who are angry still hope. He is not yet wise, and perhaps he is not yet a creator. Nevertheless he too succeeds in saying something about injustice and pain. Can one look through pain or get round it? And can anything be done against money? On the subject of moeny, Van Gogh becomes comprehensible and sound. He has got round money because he has sought suffering and renounced happiness. In the sizzle surrounding him, his voice stays uncommercial, unscientific, pure. He sees the colour “blue,” observes that the colour “yellow” always occurs in it, and writes this preposterous postulate up upon the white walls. He has a home beyond comfort and common sense with the saints, and perhaps he sees God.

—from “The Last Parade” (1937), in Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)