Les Mis week


This last week has lasted a very long time. The last two weeks have been like decades.

My situations, how I live, work, and the small comforts I have, seem precarious states, suddenly endangered. Standing alone in an imagined court, I am like an innocent whose life hangs in the balance. An undereducated jury or a crooked judge weighs my fate. The stability of my world appears flimsy, wobbly, Jean Valjean’s predicament closer now to me that I had ever thought.

I am not sure why. The death of a character in a series, the very real death of a student, the grave illness of another: all bolster my fear of the unforeseen. The fates are fickle and their temperament, volatile.

I turn on the TV only to see more unpredictable conclusions. A woman shops in a grocery store, a child plays in a classroom, a couple enjoys a movie. Benign environments have turned malignant.

The irrational now is viable, toxic, and arbitrary.

no words


This was his post on FB, the night before he died. Pat was a former student from the 90’s who had made a wonderful life for himself. His death took everyone by surprise. Around Thanksgiving, he noticed a gash on the back of his head and some blood on a pillow. Doctors whom he visited told him he was in perfect health. They still do not know the cause of his death.

This post honors you, Pat. I will call your Mom and give her some meagre words to help her get through these days.

now i remember

As hubby and I settled in to watch Downton Abbey last night, I immediately remembered what I had intended to say. The opening scene in the credits is of a dog’s butt. Wagging tail but a definite butt. It seemed such an odd image to start such a visually opulent series. I said something to my husband and he dryly replied that it must be a nod to the American audience. If that is true, I don’t mind at all. I love every scene that Isis, the dog, trots through. And, as much as I am amused by hubby’s conjecture, I doubt that is it. There must be something more.

Could it be that the dog is a metaphor for the faithful and subservient relationship between poor employee and rich employer? In looking for a picture to attach, I find quite a few others on Google have asked the same question. Even Hugh Bonneville, the lead actor whose name appears with the dog butt, has spoken with dismay about the pairing.


After all, using a servant to walk with the owner of the Abbey would hardly be believable or as funny. Yes, I believe I understand the reason now and it satisfies me. And, it relates to something I have felt.

As a teacher in America, I am always reminded that I am replaceable, disposable, menial. That is not the message from my students. They have made me feel valuable or, in some cases, loved. I still keep in touch with a group of students in South America when I first started sharing what I had learned with passion. That was 1979. The implication that teachers are minions comes from Admin. Upstairs, Downstairs. The curious part of it is that faculty are the most devoted members of the educational community. Admin and students come and go, but, at least where I teach, the faculty are the core, the vital nucleus of learning. In the classroom, bright minds on both sides of the desk collide and create brilliant sparks.

I apologize for not allowing comments on the blog itself. Posts by some readers on other blogs have convinced me that I would rather leave it as is. But WordPress has cleverly allowed readers to comment privately. That is always welcome.

feast or famine

Sorry for the days without posts. For some it may be nothing at all, not even noticed. For others, it may bring up abandonment issues. Truth be told, I just had to go back to work in the coal mines.

I am still on a Downton Abbey binge fest. Only now I have hooked my husband. We watch on my iPad at night before bed. He is not a glutton so two episodes are the most we watch at a time. I called the Principal at work “milord” yesterday, partly in fun, and partly because I do identify with the kitchen staff. Admin generally see faculty as dispensable as servants.

There was something I was wondering about and finding rather confounding. I cannot remember now; maybe it will come to me as I write.

How about the incredibly gross commercials on TV aired at dinnertime? People across the continent, young and old, have to hear about vaginal atrophy, erectile dysfunction, and the like. I don’t know what is worse, the condition, or the often life-threatening side effects for the medications. I cannot imagine growing up eating supper with such explicit references to uncontrollable bodily fluids. If we were lucky enough some nights to not have to eat at the table, it was time for a Swanson TV dinner, always the fried chicken. If my mother overcooked it, and that was not unusual at all, the browned chicken crust would stick to the aluminum tray. I can still taste it. Now my grandchildren are subjected to overactive bladders and Depends.

They are discovering that there are some additives to fast food that create addiction. No duh. I used to shake like a alkie with DTs when my mom was late with our cheeseburgers from McDonalds. The fries cause serious dependency.

I will post a little jpeg once in a while of pictures I am working on for a book. The photos are of my dogs and their magical ability to enter the paintings they love. I am looking forward to writing the stories they tell when they exit the artwork.

If I think of that thing I was going to tell you, I will need to make a note. I am fearful of the day when I forget where I have parked my car.



I probably have spent one hour outside in the last week. I mean, outside, fresh air outside. In the car, in the grocery show, in TJ Max, in the post office: none of them count. People talk about cabin fever and it might hit me any time but so far, I’m good. Monday Land of Cogs did not happen because of snow. I hope Tuesday Land of Cogs gets cancelled, too.

“Hi, I’m Laura Linney and this is Masterpiece Classic.” I love to say that along with her. Whenever I am watching PBS on my iPad, I stare into the screen during the introduction and try to imitate the eyes and lips like Gillian Anderson, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren. I can see my reflection on the screen and I have no dramatic eyebrow movement like them, absolutely none. I try but I look a little more like Bea Arthur, without any eyebrow movement, other than a Groucho up-and-down forehead stretch.

I started Downton Abbey, Season 2. I have been avoiding it, because I knew it would be another addictive commitment; but, I succumbed because I am weak, weak, weak, a pleasure hound.

Tomorrow is supposed to be 40 to 50 degrees below zero. I may go out tomorrow, out of sheer perversity.


Eeech. Dread Sunday is almost here, the day before Dread Monday.  Back to the salt mines.

What I need to try to address tomorrow, before returning to the Land of Cogs, is the enormous amount of short glass jars that live eternally in my refrigerator. They have multiplied to the extent that there is no longer any room for food in there. I have been smashing loaves of bread on top of the milk gallons.

I cannot bear to throw any of them away. There are gourmet mustards, gourmet jams and jellies, rich concentrates of curry, garlic, tomato, roasted red pepper, wasabi, horseradish, lemon and other densely flavored basils, huacatay, and ají. There are fine salad dressings for every discerning palate, tartar sauces, seafood sauces, BBQ sauce, hoisin, Asian plum sauces, cherry and cranberry seasoning goop and god knows what else.

I have room for a dozen eggs, mashed bread, two milks, and some sugar-free jello. WTF.

We have to buy fresh food constantly, cook it and eat it right away because there is no room to store it. I don’t have room for leftovers unless I smash those in with the odd fresh item in the bottom drawers. At Thanksgiving, and thank the gods it was cold enough, we put the turkey in the middle of the covered hot tub outside, so the dogs wouldn’t get to it, until we could stuff and shove it in the oven.

I remember the culture shock of visiting friends in NYC in the 60’s and every day they bought fresh stuff, but they had nothing in the refrigerator. Their view was also the brick wall of the building opposite them. And this was Riverside Drive. Karl Malden lived in that building, I know because I rode with him in the elevator. I could never look at him in a film again without knowing he had that same brick view.

I am a condiment hoarder. I am like those people on TV whose children visit and cry when they have to walk on top of the boxes and random paraphernalia. Only my abundance resides in a cold dark place. At least nobody can walk in there.

1.03.14 Random, totally random

What an odd morning.

That said, I cannot sit in front of the computer screen in my pajamas any longer. Snow and cold cannot deter me from stirring the stumps because I think my muscles will seriously atrophy.  After this post, adios.

I got some interesting emails today and a post from a fellow artist on FB with the Justin Timberlake SNL skit called Dick in a Box. If you have not seen it, watch it on Vimeo or YouTube. My education was so incomplete without this.


American humor is curious. It is self-deprecating and, when not totally stupid, derives some of its absurdity from British humor which is tops. I like Justin Timberlake even more.

My cockatiel Doofus, the gray companion of yellow Goofus, has learned to say “Good Morning” so well enunciated that it is impressive. Goofus sings the Cubs anthem, though, so he’s not an underachiever.  They are males, about 15 years old, and get on very well. I have never had any bird live this long. They like the light in the room, I feed them good stuff, and keep them clean. They do not fly around or leave their cage. Once one got out by mistake. We both almost had strokes.

Someone posted on FB something about an odd Japanese fad among teenagers called Oculinctus.


Where do people come up with these things? Whether it is a tabloid hoax or not, it was put out there for people to consider. Then there are Japan’s “hikikomore” hermits.

“They’re mostly disaffected teenagers and twenty-somethings, withdrawn almost completely from society. There is no precise explanation to account for the rise in hikikomori, though there are several known contributing factors, including the rise of the internet, intense academic pressures, and parents willing to shelter their children well into adulthood.  Psychiatrists (many of whom are forced to make house calls to visit their patients), have only recently set upon the task of helping the group dubbed by some as “the missing million.”

There’s more.

“There is a growing trend among young women for yaeba (literally “double tooth”) caps on the canines, which lends their smile a kind of crowded appearance. ” Orthodontists, pack your bags.




I am not singling out the Japanese but there seem to be as many crazies there as here or in North Korea.


So odd how photographs of winter and snow can be so appealing especially during the summer, and less so in winter.

This leads me to think about types of pictures I do not like:

  • Pictures of naked people in bed. If that is the cover image for a film, it will never make it to my queue.
  • Nudes in general. I am not prudish but I do not like seeing the idealized human figure unclothed, be it female or male
  • Boring images that look very good
  • Boring pictures that look bad
  • Abstract images, unless the photographer has been very clever and non-imitative
  • Photographs that reveal nothing about the photographer

Picture types I do like:

  • “Snapshot Aesthetic” street images, if the composition and dynamics are perfect
  • Images from extreme angles and perspectives
  • Images with unusual composition, that at the same time, have a deeper meaning or context
  • Images with different kinds of humor, dry, ironic, etc.
  • Boring pictures that look very bad
  • New approaches to the usual, showing me things in ways I have never seen before

Mind you, these are just broad categories.  Do not attempt to see if your work fits in one or the other because I may love your image or hate it, despite what I said above.


The good and the bad

The good news first. The new issue of PH magazine, a Canadian photography publication, came out today with the January 2014 issue featuring my work. I am happy to be alongside some wonderful photographers and hope you take the time to take a look. I love that it is a free download so people can take their time to read and view, as well as share it with students.

Here is the link:


This aspect of digital information sharing is potent. One reason I take photographs is to share a real moment past with others. The ability of a two dimensional image on paper to move another to feel something from a different space and time is remarkable.  It is the abfab best. I can have a momentary intimacy with a total stranger with a camera between us, and the photograph allows another to be there with me, even decades and decades later.

Being able to communicate with another drives me, makes me feel it is all worth it, even the inevitable rejection and solitude.

I hardly ever sell my work. That does not bother me. It is the reality of my personal situation. If I were to depend on photography to bring me money, it would ruin everything. Of that I am sure. Perhaps it is foolish, or superstitious, but I need to make photographs from a simpler place. Thoughts of money or success are hindrances to me. Do not be offended if your situation is a different one. There are those who do brilliant work and can make a living from it. Just not me.

Which brings me to an entry by Frank Rodick on his blog:

http://frankrodickblog.com/2013/08/13/on-making-art-and-feeling-like-shit/ – more-398

Sometimes it does make me feel like shit. I am not alone and feeling like shit might actually impel me forward as an artist, Mr Rodick says. I believe he has something there.

Okay, now the bad news. About a week ago, the IRS sent me a notice that I owe them lots of money from back taxes for 2011. I was shocked. I always pay my taxes and am scared shitless of the IRS. So, I immediately wrote them a letter with copies of all the information I could, decrying my innocence.

Long story short, I was wrong. The information I had relied on from the accounting firm and an executor was inaccurate. I do owe the money.  I don’t care about money, (the root of most problems, along with religion) and I am sure I can work it out with the Feds but, in the process of figuring this out, I discussed the mess with two people whom I trusted, and they refused to take responsibility for giving me the wrong information.

I went to bed sick. Firecrackers at midnight did not help. This is a very personal blog, as you can see. Time for the Serenity Prayer, a wise mantra for many of us who know.

So goods news and bad news, readers. Happy New Year.