Posted tagged ‘ManicDDaily blog’

Dancing in the Dark (Pink Elephants)

March 10, 2011

Followers of this blog may notice that I’ve descended into the world of elephants and iPhone art over the last few months.  (Those who disagree with my views on art and politics may consider this an ascension.)

I genuinely like elephants!  (I’m guessing you’ve noticed.)

I’m also having a hard time writing blogs lately.  Part of the problem is that the news feels almost as grim to me as the weather.  The outbreaks of protest and democracy in the Middle East are pretty amazing, but there still seems to be a pall over much of the world, or, over this country at least–bifurcated clouds of threat and slog.

Of course, there’s always poetry!  Fiction!  Important loves (besides elephants.)  However, in the face of a world of publishing which seems increasingly fragmented –divided between an impossibly crowded field of micro-sellers and a few celebrity blockbusters–even these have, for the moment, lost some of their glint/promise/appeal.

I tell myself: change happens!  Transitions are messy!   Dispiriting confusion is part of the mix!


And too, there are elephants.

Which, when they are not stampeding, have a certain timeless sweetness.

In my book;  on my iPhone screen; dancing, pinkly, through a (temporarily, I hope) darkened mind.

(PS – the elephant book is 1 Mississippi; the poetry is Going On Somewhere. Both are available on Amazon.  Check them out!)

Stress and–TaDa!

June 3, 2010


Bridge over River Kwai (Sort of)

I’ve written a lot on this blog about creativity and stress, and also about just plain stress. I’ve also written a fair amount about rhyme.  But what about something that rhymes with stress (sort of)?

Success!  (TaDa!)

Some people consider stress and success as opposite sides of the coin; some (particularly those who have good physical health) even seem to believe that success—I mean here, financial success, or, its great proxy in our culture, fame—will solve major problems.  We all know this isn’t really true;  we all know many successful people who are neither relaxed nor happy.   Still, if you are a creative person, success can feel like one sure way to reduce stress, especially if it means that you no longer need to hold onto your “day job”  and can, instead, devote your energies totally to your creative/artistic endeavors.

It’s certainly true that time, as well as acknowledgement, interest, praise, are great goads to creativity.  But if you do not have success, there are a few compensatory factors which it may help to keep in mind–factors other than a sense of martyrdom and/or the illusion that truly original art is never recognized in its time.

First, of all, day jobs (other than, perhaps, those that involve the postal service), often keep people sane. They tend to get you out of the house (unless you are a housekeeper), put roses on your cheeks (unless you are an office worker), keep your feet on the ground (unless you work for the airlines.)  Most people’s “day jobs” also involve some accommodation of others on a relatively frequent basis.  This interaction with people makes one more human (if more frustrated), and (unless you work for an investment bank) less grandiose.   The skepticism, impatience, and sometimes downright contempt, of co-workers, customers, students, can promote deep self-examination, always a useful pastime for the artistic.

Creative work, on the other hand, is often both solitary and unstructured, which can lead to real head-aches by late afternoon when you either simply have to (i) stop working, or (ii) get working.

Moreover, while a day job may involve a certain amount of self-discipline (i.e. getting there), it often (once you’ve held it for a while) requires little self-promotion.  Achieving and then maintaining even a modest artistic success, in contrast, seem to require vigilant self-aggrandizement; the image must be burnished; the door to opportunity propped open; staleness stubbornly refuted.   While the embarrassing failures of the unsuccessful can just sink into oblivion, the failures of the successful are known and mocked by all.  (Note, in this regard, Sex in the City 2. Even someone like me, who has never seen a single Sex in the City show ever, is making fun of it).

All of which goes to say (as was said in The Bridge Over the River Kwai, a really great film about the conflicted nature of achievement), be happy in your work.  Be glad of what you don’t have (yet.)

Longterm Focus – Stress and Creativity – Pearl!

May 31, 2010

Pearl - Habit and Engagement

The other day I worried that I really didn’t have a focus for this blog; something to orient  both me and any readers I may be lucky enough to snare.   What have I been I writing about?  What subject do I even have to write about?

Then I suddenly realized that the general subject of this blog has been stress and creativity.  If I wanted to sound official, I’d say the interface between stress and creativity, but since I can’t say that with a straight face (or interface), I won’t.

What does this mean?  I guess the question for me is how one, in this manically depressed stressful modern world, maintains some kind of creative effort?  How can one use stress as a source for creativity rather than as a wet blanket for its termination?  (How, also, can the manic avoid using creativity as a further source of stress?)

For my first conscious exploration of this subject, I turn to the teachings of my old dog Pearl.  Pearl was struck by a sudden spine problem a couple of weeks ago that paralyzed her from the dog-waist down, rendering her hind legs both insensitive and immobile.  Amazingly, with the help of steroids, she has recovered some use of her legs: she can wobble along now, though she moves like the proverbial drunken sail—dog.  (BTW, after reading several Horatio Hornblower books last week, I now feel enough “expertise” to understand that the unsteadiness of a drunken sailor is archetypical because it arises from at least two sources—(a) alcohol and (b) sea legs, i.e. legs accustomed to the sway of waves that are suddenly posited upon dry land.)

Pearl’s up in the country this weekend, and her reaction to it is a lesson in the maintenance of creativity under stress.  (For these purposes, I’ll consider Pearl’s outdoor explorations and general cuteness her “expression.”)

Pearl still has trouble even walking, and yet, here, in a country place she has loved since puppydom, she wobbles, skips, trots.  What motivates her, what keeps her going, seems to be two factors:  habit and engagement.

There are certain places (a long dirt driveway), and certain times of day, in which Pearl has always run here.  That habit (plus steroids) is so strong that when I put her down on these spots, and at those special times, her legs just move.

Where habit runs out, engagement takes over.  The scent of a place where a deer has recently bedded down will lure Pearl, sniffing, into tall grass, pull her through reeds, propel her into Heraculean effort.  I can only derail her lopsided enthusiasm by physically picking her up and putting her back on her track, where, out of habit, she quickly wobbles off again.

Which brings me back to the creative human mind dealing with stressful obstacles–all those drags upon the consciousness.  How to avoid paralysis?  How to dart and trot, dig and ferret?  How to just keep going?

This (I think) is this blog’s inquiry.

Thanks so much to those who have been following.  Stay tuned.

Trying to Think About Pie and Not Faisal Shahzad, Though Perhaps Not Hard Enough

May 4, 2010

Smoking Pie

I wanted to write about pie today—the fact that my mother (now nearly 87) sprinkles sugar on top of the slice she will serve herself, while, if I eat a slice of pie at all, I spoon on plain, unsweetened yogurt; while my daughters will take the time to whip up heavy cream.   All evening, I’ve been wondering, in snatches, whether this is the natural progression of life.

But I live in New York City, and even though I really would rather think about pie toppings, I find my mind taken up by the 53 hour saga that began with the smoking car in Times’ Square, and has led to the arrest of Faisal Shazad, the alleged car owner and bombsetter.

I have to start by saying (and I’m mainly addressing this to you, Mom, if you ever happen to read this blog) that the attempted car bomb has had virtually no effect on my particular New York life.

It seems actually not to have affected many New Yorkers very much.  I noticed the absolute ordinariness of my evening rush hour train:  in the bank of seats I leaned over, the three people front and center of me either had eyes shut below furrowed brows, or eyes shut below a hand shielding said eyes (from the delightful train lighting or, perhaps, my stare).  The next guy was playing solitaire on a electronic game player; the next two were smiling and talking with great animation.

New Yorkers’ natural tendency to put their personal fatigue, or personal conversations, over hyper-vigilence has probably been accentuated by the fact that the Times’ Square bomb does not appear to have been a really well-constructed device.  A sense of security has also been created by the fact that the authorities, amazingly, have already taken the guy into custody.  (Even though it seems that they almost lost him as he boarded a plane to Dubai.)

I congratulate the New York City police force, the New York City bomb squad, the Times Square vendors (!), the FBI, the TSA, Homeland Security, all those authorities who coordinated efforts so quickly.

Still, one very frightening question comes to mind–what would have happened if the bomber had stayed inside the car?   Had, in other words, been a suicide bomber?  Committed enough to his mission (due to political or religious zealotry, bitterness, brainwashing, craziness, drugs, duress, whatever,) to physically see it through?   Would a smoking car with a driver have seemed that extraordinary?   Would vendors have been as likely to question it, even if it did seem strange?

Hollywood tends to depict New Yorkers as “in your face”, but, in fact, New Yorkers are pretty good are minding their own business, the art of non-confrontation rather important when you are all squished together.

So what would have happened?  I, for one, would rather think about pie, but there’s smoke in the background.

Pattinson and Poetry

May 2, 2010

Comparative Hair - Billy Collins/Robert Pattinson

After a month of posting draft poems in honor of National Poetry Month, I have to say that there’s a certain payback to blogging about Robert Pattinson (the 23-or-4 year old star of the Twilight Saga movies).

The fact is that not that many people are interested in poetry, particularly the draft poems of an unknown blogger, while many many people are interested in Pattinson (as in gaga over, or contemptuous of). Sure, there are also a lot of people who are disinterested in Pattinson, but often disinterested in a way that borders on the self-righteously dismissive (e.g., a teeny teeny bit interested).

Lately, an important percentage of the fascination does not seem to be with Pattinson himself, as with the very interest he elicits (all those screaming girls.) He was recently named, for instance, one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Curiously, the commentator justifying this designation did not cite any particular example Rob sets, or influence he levers, so much as the fact that any information about Pattinson–public sighting or comment–is the immediate subject of a zillion tweets and retweets.

And why are people so interested in Rob? Okay, the looks—Nureyev cheekbones, tortured eyes, hair—this blog has already discussed those at length. More importantly, however, Pattinson is identified with a character (Twilight’s Edward Cullen) who is an escapist ideal—the perfect…oops! nearly perfect…oops! not quite man. Here Pattinson plays into a double fantasy of male perfection and vampirism, with each element vying for the most incredible. (Sorry, guys!)

Poetry is tremendously down to earth in comparison. A good poem tends to bring the reader more fully into the moment, or, at least, some moment, rather than out of it.   Even fantastical poems, such as those by Yeats or Keats or Robert Bly, deal in the real and human and very imperfect.

But people like perfect escapes. Which may be why poets, even those super popular poets, like Billy Collins, tend to earn much less than movie stars. That and the hair.

What’s Up With Robert Pattinson? Cartoons? Elephants? Is It All Just Coincidence? Hmmm…..

February 2, 2010

Rob Pattinson With Beard

Every once in a while, one is lucky enough to have confirmation that one really does exist in the world, and that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the little pebbles of one’s actions create ripples that are more extensive than one could ever have projected.

The confirmation of my particular ripple effect has come in the convergence of two extremely newsworthy events:

1.  Robert Pattinson is the subject of a new biography written in cartoon form for Fame magazine, and

2.  Robert Pattinson is  slated to star in the film Water For Elephants to be directed by Sean Penn and supposedly to be shot in upstate New York this summer.


I humbly submit that this blog has long combined writing about Robert Pattinson with

(i)  cartoonish depictions of same;

Rob Pattinson With Yankees' Cap

(ii)  elephants,

Vampire Elephant Contemplating New Moon

and (iii)  a dash of upstate New York (also with a couple of elephants).

A Couple of Elephants in the Catskills

The coincidences just mount up!

Coincidences?  Hmmm…..

Further investigation may be required.

Further Investigation

Rob–if, in fact. you are reading this, give me a call!

For more Pattinson, check out the Robert Pattinson category on the home page of this blog;  for more elephants, check out the elephant category.  And, for even more elephants, check out 1 Mississippi by Karin Gustafson on