Sunday, November 29, 2009


This afternoon I went to see the SpeakEasy Stage production of "Reckless." The Emmanuel Center had it's "talk back" at this Sunday's matinee. These are very worth attending and I give a link to the Emmanuel Center web site and suggest that you participate. The production was very good and very imaginative. I am all amaze at what they can do in that small theatre; the quality of the sets and the performances; but I am not a theater critic and so won't attempt a review. What I want to do is to share some thoughts on the themes of the play. Actually I'm "Talking Back" to the "Talk Back" with benefit of time and access to the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The O.E.D. becomes a factor here because one of the things I started to puzzle about was the word that forms the title. This is one of those very interesting words that is used very generally and frequently, the meaning of which is fairly well understood, we assume, but whose meaning is really understood when examined with a kind of peripheral vision. When we look directly at it it starts to get sort of fuzzy. What does it really mean. And why is there no "W?"

Clearly the "Less" is a suffix, lets remove it, we have "reck." Reck; wreck; wreak; I deal only with verbs here, and my mind starts playing all sorts of games of association. She wreaked a wreck-full recklessness. That's what happens in the play, by the way. Wreck comes from the latin wrecare and means "to cast on shore": "a1440 Sir Eglam. 894 He say that lady whyte as flowre, Was wrekyd on the sonde."

Wreak: to drive, press, force to move, from Old English, also to banish or expel, as the characters tried to do to the past, whether their passive or their active past. I said that I was dealing only with the verbs, but the noun wreak is so interesting I can't pass it by "1. Pain or punishment inflicted in return for an injury, wrong, offence, etc.; hurt or harm done from vindictive motives; vengeance, revenge.
In frequent use from c 1540 to c 1620." By the way wreckful means, not full of wrecks but full of vengeance!

But it is "Reckless" that is the main concern here, less the less: what is Reck?

I make an aside to tell you, in case you aren't aware, that you can access the OED online with your Boston Public Library card. Log into your account, go to electronic resources and select the oxford English Dictionary Online. you will need to put your library card number in the log-in box, which is easy if you copied it onto your clip board when you logged in to the BPL, you now simply paste it. I assume many libraries and academic institutions offer this access.

The etymology of "Reck" is very long and interesting, at least to me. The meaning, in each variant is short and clear, but they are preceded with this:

From its earliest appearance in English, the verb is almost exclusively employed in negative or interrogative clauses. In the former the simple negative may be replaced by nought, nothing, little, not much, etc.; in the latter, the pronoun what is most usual. Now chiefly arch. and literary.
1.a To take care or thought for or notice of something, along with inclination, desire, or favour towards it, interest in it, etc.; to think (much, etc.) of.
b. To take notice of or be concerned about something, so as to be alarmed or troubled by it, or so as to modify one's behaviour or purposes on account of it.

Now add back the "Less," and we have "without the concern about something, so as to be alarmed or troubled by it, or so as to modify one's behavior or purposes on account of it," exactly what has been driving, wreaking, the action in the play.

But there is one more thing to say- that this lack of "recking"- oddly reconing is a different root so won't do here- this driving on reckless is one thing when it is Lloyd, who was the perpetrator of the actions that wreak him and make his past a nightmare that he wakes up too; whereas Rachel was a victim and what appears to be the equivalent to Lloyds, or Pooty's, impulse is actually a very stark and quite accurate representation of a very severe post traumatic stress disorder.

The children were mentioned in the "Talk Back" session- they are a troubling factor- why did she run from them, why were they abandoned? I think that the comic aspects of the show, and in particular the comic portrayal of Rachel's character, tended to trivialize the enormity of the emotional shock she experienced. It is one thing to be left unexpectedly by one's mate, it is another thing to have a ones murder attempted, but the mate being the murderer is a thing so devastating that we can't credit it, we take it as absurd and trivialize it and proceed to equate Rachel's running away with Lloyd's abandonment of his family. This distinction was inadequately made in the play and the result was a real confusion of reality and dream.

It can come sometimes that reality and dream can be confused, but the confusion is a first person confusion. When was Rachel dreaming? Ever? Never? The incident with Lloyd and Pooty, or Lloyd's drinking and death? Or was her brake down a dream, or her recovery and final meeting with her son? Was the doctor really the bus driver- "The bus driver" or just a bus driver?

Life can be like that, I'm here to tell you. "A Serious Man" is like that. But Job isn't. Job wasn't dreaming, he knew and he persevered. He retained his integrity. We, the audience, the third person, are observers, and while there is some benefit to experiencing the confusion of the protagonist it is also inevitable that we will make judgments. If we are not allowed to see beyond the dream then we become like Job's comforters, who lack understanding and whose opinions are worthless. I don't like being put in that position.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

As I was saying to Ben Affleck.....

Those of you who know me will wonder that I, who always describe myself as "popular culture challenged" will bring up such a person as Ben Affleck. Ahhh! but fate plays all sorts of little games with us.

I give you photograph of a building in Boston's North End, and also a drawing of mine. In 2000 a client of long standing asked me to design a facade for this building he had just purchased. I don't talk about my design work very often in this blog, but this particular project is perhaps the best illustration of it. I have a very particular knowledge of classical detail. It is seldom that I have the opportunity to exercise that knowledge and work to my full potential. To do so requires a very intelligent and patient client and unfortunately that species of client is rather rare. The gentleman I refer to here is one of those and I have had a long and rewarding association with him.

When we started there was only stucco and aluminum and plate glass on the first two stories. You see what we did. Everything below the second floor cornice is new. The cast stone was fabricated in Nebraska and the mill work was done in Rochester NY. I designed the facade and worked with a local architect to execute the design and supervise the construction. It took years- the patient client was very committed- and it won the 2004 design award from the Cast Stone Institute of America.

So what are those plastic covered signs above the first floor windows all about? They were a surprise to me on a recent trip to visit my client. It turns out that the building has a new distinction. It is the "bank" that Ben Affleck robs in the movie "The Town" which was filmed here recently. Here is a link to a picture of him standing, rather heavily armed, in front of my windows. And a good thing too that they choose this building, because part of the design problem was to make the windows sound proof. We were thinking about fire engines at the time, not machine guns. Mon dieu!

I started designing buildings in 1974. I have a small but very faithful group of clients, but except for one book and the odd magazine article I have never received any public notice- until now. So watch the big screen in 2010!

Unfortunately no one has offered me any residuals... always the bridesmaid... as a friend of mine likes to say!


Thursday, November 12, 2009


This afternoon, before the Emmanuel Church Building commission meeting I had a few extra minutes and so was able to see a snippet of the dress rehearsal for Emmanuel Music's saturday evening concert. They will perform Schoenberg's Genesis Prelude and Haydn's Creation Mass. Even for Emmanuel Music it is spectacular. Amazing. Do not miss it! There is nothing more to say.

Oh, yes, it has been a long time.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

The farmer's Market, Copley Square.

Here in this great space, sandwiched between Richardson's Trinity church and McKim's library, In this place of sophisticated aesthetics erupts a celebration of Ceres. A dionynisia of fertility and plenty and beauty, beauty of fruits, beauty of light, beauty of people.

The sky is a pale cobalt cup, a Ming cup, still and translucent and radient.

The lowering rays of sun steal through the branches of the trees and explode in brilliance on the white marquees that shelter under them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The quality of mercy

"..... it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;

In the BBC on line news, as well as other sources, I see that the Lockerbie bomber is to be returned to Libya on humanitarian grounds. I am surprised to learn from the associated press that his conviction was not a life sentence but for only 27 years, that there is ground for an appeal, and that many in Britain think him innocent. This was not mentioned in the BBC report, and is rather important in forming an opinion about the situation. I find myself wondering what it means that the sentence was only 27 years, given the heinous nature of the crime, this in itself seems odd. further exploration of the BBC yields this report regarding the likelihood that he was simply a scapegoat. I encourage you to read it before forming an opinion regarding the release. It seems rather clear that the evidence was very tenuous, and even that may have been paid for by our own government, who are now vociferously protesting the release: he purchased clothing in the store of a Maltese merchant. Things often change there appearance when one starts comparing reports.

In the first BBC article, however, there is a statement that deserves careful attention. It is a statement from the Scottish Justice Secretary kenny MacAskill I quote the BBC
He said compassion and mercy were about "upholding the beliefs we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people, no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated".
There is an important concept in this, that we have values and be committed to live by them. In the post 2001 US it often seems to me that whatever the rhetoric about "The War On Terror" the fact is that in the aggressive curtailing of individual rights we give victory to the forces who attack our principles. I find myself asking what our principles are that the ideas of justice, of proof, of mercy and of compassion are so easily perverted by mass hysteria fanned by sound bites and the need for scapegoats. It is not very comforting, but Mr. MacAskill at least seems to have been paying attention to Shakespeare.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

DREAM. 10:45 am

ROW, ROW, ROW......

I'm walking to the garden in Bradock park;

To my little garden plot on this very still

Saturday morning, very still and calm;

And wafting through the air a sound is teasing my ears.

YOUR BOAT.......

I have always wondered that those words

Scan so well. The voice is light and sincere,

Maternal, it seeks my ears so very gently; I sense

A rhythmic movement in the playground at the top of the alley.


So gentle she is, gentle as my own mother

Sweet and simple under a porcelain sky.

Down the stream of life I've flown, gently;

Being gentle has never been hard at all for me.


But oh, my dear mother, the merrily part

That has so often been hard in this my life;

But I have pulled this heavy oar of mine

Happily, no matter how rocky and turbid the stream.

LIFE IS BUT A...........

On the August air the little response failed to carry;

Instead came the rident staccato chime of a child's laugh.

The Alley of the Giant Elm: 10:10am

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I step outside of my series on August to draw your attention to a piece on gay marriage that I encourage every one to read. It has been brought to my attention by "sticky stuff stew." it cuts a bit close to home and is too well written for me to want or need to say very much about it.

Except this: it was a year before the law in Massachusetts allowing gay marriage passed that Aramis and I found ourselves in the position of Bill and Mike in this story. Beth Israel never questioned my rights to direct Aramis's care. There was no searching for papers, only the full recognition of our commitment to one another and my place in his life. My own health problems have made Beth Israel a haven of safety for me, but even before, with Aramis, they had shown a human compassion and respect for relationships that, especially then but even now, was edifying.

My Window

“But about that day or hour no one knows...

And what I say to you I say to all:Keep awake.”

Mark 13: 35 and 37

Listen to me: you could lose this all

Not in the far off sense of environmental catastrophes,

But you, personally. I write this

In bed unable to go out and explore

The shifting meters of sun and cloud;

Hearing only from a distance the occasional bark of dogs

Or the distant wailing of a siren

Mapping the geography of tragedy

While the traffic murmurs.

All those things that never happen, will!

They have happened to me. The stalking specter

Of disease that robs the tongue of taste,

That makes light a searing threat,

That muffles sound and thought

And makes a prison of one's weariness;

Which trades the sky of moving clouds

For a stark white ceiling

And a desperate yearning.

A prisoner in one's own body,

An orphan in one's own city,

A voice crying in a familiar wilderness;

The hand of fate can open

And give you these things unexpected.

So I tell you, walk with your head raised,

Raised to the lofty and infinite sky.

Walk in awareness of the beauty of creation,

The mosaic of green and blue,

The tracing shadows and the jeweled puddles,

The voices of young and old in humanity's chorus;

Walk in this world with joy;

While you can!

Morning, 8:24 a.m.

Some Comments

This is the headpiece to the poem "Dawn"

Before continuing with the progress of this day in August I will make some comments. These images are all of the area immediately around my apartment, as will be the next few. You've seen these locations before. The man walking through the snow in "Orange Pink Sky" is walking on the same path as can be seen "8:26,"and the bollards with iron rings which appear in "Dawn" are also at in my last post showing snow. The have also, by the way, received the attentions of "The South End Knitters." I am fortunate that when I found myself unable to move around, the place I was confined to was so rich in beauty.

I have told you about my pictorial objectives before I started this series, and now that I have shown you some of them I'll tell how my intentions have changed. The change seems to have stuck because as you will realize the images since, since regaining my mobility, have continued to be informed by it. The image that will follow this post "Morning" was the turning point. I made it on a day when I hadn't any choice but to stay put, but you know the latin proverb, "nulla dies sine linea," even when laid low...

This view out of my window (all right, I'll confess, it is actually from the door) is of the yard which quite literally lies outside my window. There are a few spectacular trees and a lot of junk and clutter. I do, after all, look out onto a functioning, unpaved alley, albeit a very nice one. What to do with the beach chairs, cars and garbage pails? What to do with the telephone poles and low hanging wires? I made them a challenge for myself. The artist, in creating, faces a tricky dichotomy. Are the creation of beauty and the depiction of beauty the same thing? It is the difference between coming upon a beautiful view and making a record of it, on the one hand, or taking a much more prosaic view and arranging it in such a way that a formal beauty is achieved that the passerby might never have noticed on the other. What I had to work with included a lot of junk and wires so I decided to accept them as elements in the composition and see what could result. "Morning, 8:24 am" was the result. it was very stimulating to feel that I had created an image that I felt was beautiful from the mix of elements that I was confronted with. The beauty is not a fiction, I do truly experience it out there, but is created in a very complex process of visual selection and processing that the casual snapshot does not partake of. In fact I felt that I had recorded the beauty of my experience rather than the facts of the objects. I'm very proud of that and having done it, I have continued to work with the wires and signs and even the "pedestrian crassness of the playground with it's ground rubber pavement" which you will see shortly.

I have been asked about the word "rident" which appears in the "Dawn" poem and will appear in some others which follow. It is one of my "Thackeray" words. I had to go to the OED to find the meaning: "radiantly joyful"- what other word could describe a child's laugh or the rising of the sun after a storm. English has a huge lexicon of amazing words of which we use only a small percentage, many are duplicates, of course, but many are beautiful, subtle and very specific.

In the corners of the images you will see some lettering and a box. I design these images to be printed on my printer. The sheet size is 13 inches by 19 inches. they are archival prints and I limit the production to 50. Since I am printing them myself I have the ability to number the sequence of the edition in the file itself each time I print one, and I keep records of when and for whom each was printed. I deal with it in a traditional "printmaking" way. Perhaps one day that will matter to someone! The box receives my signature and the date of the print was made.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

8:26 AM

The morning sun grazes Carleton Street.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009


...shall I choose the wings of Dawn for my flight...

Cantata "Ich armer Mensch, ich Sünenknect" J.S.bach BWV 55

Dawn! Look, the ardent sun is rising,

Rising over West Newton street and the corridor;

Rising in the East, or at least seems to be so.

But you perhaps remember that it is we,

And with us this delicate, nacreous sky,

Pearl, mother of pearl, mother of us all,

We with our lungs, and with our fragile,

Our mysterious and powerful air,

We are rising as we spin, hurtling

Through the dark and starry void.

We are spinning on our wobbly axis

Like the top of some giant child.

Whirling so fast he couldn't even see us

As we crawl across the South West Corridor Park.

How rident would be that child's laugh-

And perhaps at our expense as we swarm

In our self absorbed festering across this globe;

As we trace our frantic orbit, spinning on our way.

Spinning, and West Newton Street

has just rushed to edge of light

Where the warm and the vibrant;

Where the massively energetic orb

Is glimmering into view to gild this August day.

And that man, do you see him there?

He is spinning at 1000 miles per hour

While being thrown through the track of our orbit

At sixty seven times that speed, and he is walking;

Being late for work he's charging at perhaps

Six miles per hour; my goodness!

What must the addition of his velocity be?

And he is still determinedly upright.

And what is stranger, he doesn't even notice!

The hours of my days

“In a summer season, when soft was the sun.”

Piers Plowman

Here, let me show you what is outside my door, mundane though it may seem, with its traffic signs and telephone wires and the pedestrian crassness of the playground equipment and its ground rubber pavement.

But it is also under the lofty infinite sky, and caressed by the eddies of breeze, gilded by the sun and jeweled with puddles. I want to show you, look and see the world that Courbet and Constable painted- it is right there, all around you, you are walking through it right now.

Hear the symphonic cacophony of our laughter, and chatter, and dog barks, backed by the murmuring continuo of the ever moving traffic and the percussion of our footsteps.

Even in the most ordinary view there is splendor, I invite you to see it, to swoon in it’s beauty; because,you see, tomorrow you, or it, may be no more.

Believe me, I know!

“August; the hours of my days” is a series of images and text which chronicle my daily journeys through the month of my birth. In it I attempt to depict the passage of the sun, the movement of clouds, and the feeling and beauty of the hours of my days.

GoudamentBricks is a typeface by Manfred Klien

Friday, July 31, 2009

Willow along the fenway

This image was made over a year ago, and I am posting it now because I want to illustrate the things I was concerned with prior to last August, just a year ago. I've made reference to my various health problems; I discovered during 2006 that walking was very therapeutic, both physically and mentally, and so became a dedicated walker in the parks, by ways, and neighborhoods of Boston. Boston is a wonderful city for walking and I'd like to tip my hat (you know about my hat) to Antonia Pollak, our parks commissioner. This willow tree is in the fenway, right in front of Simmons College. If you know the area you will realize that the roar of traffic is only slightly to the right of this tree.

The pastoral nature of the image is deliberate. I was immersing myself in the beauty of God's creation. I was consciously trying to mend the despair I've spoken of in earlier posts by praising the beauty I found around me, but I was doing that by pointing out the unadulterated beauty of the natural world without any reference to man's place in it. Fortunately subjects abound in Boston and I have a great many images like this.

Medically,I was also trying to build myself up as much as possible because I knew I was facing a very rigorous year of harsh treatments, which I was warned would leave me bedridden for most of 48 weeks. That started in December of 2007, and for quite some time I continued walking from Holyoke Street to Beth Israel for my weekly treatments- hobbling I should say, but still with my camera, then only one way, and then, by last summer I was on the "T." and no longer walking in Nature.

I have included the detail because I want to illustrate what I have been doing with the images. I hesitate to call them photographs because they do not respond to the technical formalities that really fine photographs should, and because I have never considered myself to be a photographer. I am a painter, and I have managed to learn how to take the raw material my digital camera produces and translate it into images that I would have painted. I hope you can see in the detail some of the levels of manipulation, both of the image and of colors. I actually combined many images to try to give the impression of the movement of the air, and an experience of a moving viewpoint. They are very consciously not a depiction of the place they were taken, but a more generalized and romanticized image.

When I came to the point last summer that I couldn't get around my focus had to change, and my attitude also changed. For me, when I get really, really, sick I become very aware of the fragility of life. I had spent years in despair- I refer to this period in "Lent, part 2," then I had come to treasure this life and immersed myself in it only too find myself to weak to participate. That is where I was last summer.

I am going to show you now what came of it. As with Kingfishers it became a suite of images and words that I think of as a book- so the graphic presentation is also an important part of it for me. I will try to give some sense of the graphic presentation in the following posts. Let me also say, that the treatment ended and I've been recovering from it nicely so don't worry if the tone in the poems seems a bit dark from time to time- all is well and I am in life with both feet- at least I think I am. I sometimes feel that after my last "Near death" experience they didn't quite get all of me back, but that's another story, and a very nice one too!

I call what follows a "Portrait of August." You will get commentary as well as the poems themselves.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The hatch shell was filled with Haydn

Clouds moving east above it

Growing as they did, roseate

Against the fading sky, and grey.

Brahms brought the waltzing night

And a flock of geese flew to the river

The fountain in Copley Square is still.

It's basin trembling with reflections

Of the tower of Old South Church

While 8 young women pass;

Tall as giraffes and lithe

Their silk dresses bright like jewels,

Short like flags above their heeléd legs.

Laughing, they wear plastic crowns

And party beads and two hold hands.

A bachelorette party they tell me,

I wish well and happy the bride.

The man making my meal

Is blond and wears a baseball cap.

And his skin is fine. Inside

His arm is a tattoo. Initials

And small dates rank up his arm.

As he hands me the bag

And says my name I see

The list is long. He wears it with grace.

Along the park the sky is deep

I see some stars, the horizon glows.

It is beautiful.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


"His front door refused to budge, which is why Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., just home from a trip to China filming a PBS documentary, set his luggage down and beckoned his driver for help."

So begins an article on Gates' arrest in this morning's on line edition of the Boston Globe, I encourage you to read.

Some of my readers know why this catches my attention. At least Gates still had a home to return to when the dust settled. The situation seems extreme, but it is only Gates' fame that makes it so. We have been convinced that the American values of liberty and justice are threatened, and I agree that they are, but not from without. They are threatened from within, and the threat is directed mostly, but I can tell you not exclusively at Blacks and Hispanics and Muslims. While Gates position makes us all sit up and take notice, and perhaps this will bring some much needed attention to the problem, the problem is a quiet cancer that grows in our society. We delude ourselves if we think otherwise. I am in a position to know.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hats off?

When I was young we had in our family a book of riddles. This was before computer games. It was called something very imaginative like "101 riddles for young persons" I may have the number wrong. As is so often the case, it is the perplexing ones that I remember, to whit:

Q. When is a boy not a boy?

A. When he is abed!

The syntax should date the publication, even in the 50's we had to seek out our septuagenarian baby sitter to explain. In my youth the proposition that one's essence could be changed by simply lying down was troubling. I have come to understand that it can, puberty helped with that, and I find that the world continues to be indefinite, filled with troubling questions about the nature of things, such as:

Q. When walking through Copley place, as I will be shortly, I'm having breakfast with "The Other Reader," am I inside or outside? Also, when leaving one building and crossing the bridge to the next, does that condition change and, which is really the pressing concern, at least to those of us who have managed to outgrow baseball caps, do I remove my hat or not?

I have actually watched the bifurcated video screen at the top of the Huntington Avenue escalator for clues, thinking that Louis Vuitton's models would know, but have been unable to ascertain what is hat and what is hair, except in the case of the black bunny ears, but they are on what we can assume is a woman. She keeps them on, but women do keep them on, being relieved by the sexism of our culture from having to fumble with their hat as well as their shopping bags while trying to open a door. Or pass through a revolving door in defensive posture (more on that later.) Or still yet, press an elevator button. I say nothing about men's rooms.

Keeping my hat on in the hallway does allow me to remove it on entering a shop, which still makes a pleasant impression, and under the skylights it can still serve the stated function of protecting my aged skin from the harsh rays of the sun. That answers fairly well in regard to the bridge, and as we know, in some contexts the dear bought fedora is never removed- but those folks have evolved a different taste that eludes me as yet.


I suppose this could be extended into a contemplation of the question "where are we really when we enter the mall, is it possible to ascertain in any real sense?"

Meanwhile, I'm at the revolving door so will sign off. As I said, you'll be hearing about that too!