Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Teacher Mr. Parrish

When I went to high school I endured all my classes the first half of the day just for one class,
sixth period art class. Mr. Parrish was a thin birdlike man with pale dreamy blue eyes in a much too thin face with a much too high forehead, pale and hyperactive. Mr. Parrish never called roll, never wrote down that anyone was late, and in general didn't seem to keep tabs on his students at all. This was not to be as it appeared to be, for Mr. Parrish knew very well who was there and indeed, every thing there was to know about us. Here was a teacher unlike any other teacher I had ever known, and he was teaching us things that I didn't know had anything to do with art.
Mr. Parrish would ask us questions like why does a painting have to be square, why can't a painting be round? He told us that if we liked putting graffiti on the bathroom walls then why not put our original graffiti on canvas with acrylic oil? He showed us how to throw glaze on pottery already wet with glaze to make interesting designs, and how to batik fabric with iron and an ironing board and dye and beeswax. He told us to think outside the box before we knew there was a box, and he taught us that there were ways of thinking before we knew we could think. He was teaching us more than art, he insisted on being polite to us, and insisted that we be polite to each other. If we got stuck on anything he dropped what he was doing and was just there instantly, totally interested, happy to have been asked. If he minded dropping whatever project he was working on to help us he never let us know, I think he was just a natural teacher and was happy being where he was and doing what he was doing.
Mr. Parrish did not have the same approach to every class. He did not start out telling anyone to do anything, merely saying that paint and canvas and paper and all those things in the classroom were ours to use any way that we wished. When we did not jump in but rather sat around talking in small groups then he changed and gave us assigned work to do. He recognized that we needed this, that we had always been told what to do and didn't know how to discipline ourselves. When he asked us what we wanted to do once again we did not know, we had no suggestions, we had never been asked before in school what we wanted to do and were puzzled by his questions. Then he gave us a list of things to do, everything from playing with dye and fabric to painting to sketching to modeling with clay to still life drawings of a table piled up with fresh fruit. He was trying to cover all the bases, trying to give us a taste of everything so that we might find something that we liked doing. If we had no talent that was besides the point, he stood at his desk and acted very much like the teachers we had known and said that we had to do the work if we were to pass his class. Now that we understood! I understand now that he was putting on an act for us, that we wanted the familiarity of the teacher and student structures that we had known all our lives. He knew somehow, that he had to play the bad guy to get us going.
Mr. Parrish had said something he deeply believed in when he was pretending to be the kind of teacher that we were used to. He said that talent was besides the point. It didn't matter if we had one artistic bone in our bodies. What counted is that we express ourselves, that we do something representative of our identity, something that he said says, “ME”. He told us that art is personal. He told us that it didn't matter if he didn't like what we did, and in fact it didn't matter if anyone liked it at all. He told us to start working whether we felt like it or not and inspiration might come to us and again it might not. It didn't matter. It was, however, very important to try and if we tried we would not fail his class.
As I look back I now know there was a bit of a genius in Mr. Parrish. He had much more on his teaching list than Art. He was teaching us that conventional rules can and should be disregarded if they don't work for us, that being ourselves was the only way to get to good art, that it was okay to express negative emotions like anger, fear, or even fear of death in our art and he even encouraged this much to my amazement. He told us that we were already grown-ups even if the rest of the world didn't know it yet and that with freedom came responsibilities and his number one rule was NO WHINING.
The last time I saw him he was telling a story about how his wife always nagged him to take out the garbage and how it had become a pattern with her and him to have problems with his forgetfulness when he came to garbage removal. He made us laugh saying, “Honey, let's burn the garbage today. Let it be our day, garbage day, a day to celebrate together. Darling let us take out the garbage together, nothing says married like fighting over who is going to take out the garbage. Yea! It's garbage day.”
He was doing a little dance, making a holiday over taking out the garbage in this imaginary scene he was telling us with his wife. I will personally never forget seeing a teacher do a dance in the middle of the classroom on a fine May afternoon of my senior year in high school.
Mr. Parrish I think was trying to tell us that art is important for everybody, that this creativity of artists was something that everyone had if only just a little, and art is for everyone. He was telling us to be no one else but exactly who we are. I think that is pretty much the best lesson a teacher ever gave me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Through a fence or on a train or falling into a painting of a ship at sea, you never know when you are going to Narnia. It is where animals talk and the great Lion himself sometimes walks. These books were read to me by my 5th grade teacher and every one of us loved them. I loved Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy and details of a place I had forgotten I had ever heard of, England. C.S. Lewis tells a fairy tale and he is a Christian writer and there are elements of Christianity but we do not know that. We only wait to hear about Aslan, the Lion and the King of Beasts.
High up on a mountain, miles above even the clouds Aslan says he can speak freely and clearly. When we return to earth things become confused and things are not as we expect to find them and we do not have a clear path to follow. When danger threatens we are to take up our swords and never forget to clean them after a battle. We are not to fear death but know that the Lion is everywhere and with us at all times. You never know when he might appear. You never know when you might be snatched from one world to another.
I think that this guy knew things that I do not. I think there is more here than imagination. It is said that this author knew the power of Christianity personally, that he had made things happen in his life with the power of God. This is not something perhaps that should be shouted at everyone from rooftops, but I still think of it and write it. What else can I do? It is this that draws me to him, these ideas that God is here now at this very moment and always. I think that God is the most creative thing and that we may not recognize his movements. As the author of creativity I think that God would act in unconventional ways, but that is me isn't it?
As someone who has read many many books I am always drawn to children's books, where it seems the most positive messages and the most creativity seem to be. As I try to write myself and I read and I grow older and hopefully wiser, it seems to me that what counts is the quality of the writing itself. I live where romance novels are sometimes labeled "trash" and yet these young writers who are honestly and truthfully writing about life (and in between the yucky old romance scenes) are really getting it, they are really writing a good book. It doesn't matter if it is a children's book, a young adult or a romance, these writers who are reaching, always reaching for the highest star do reach it, 'cause they want to, 'cause they want to write a good book. It amazes me sometimes the way things can be communicated in writing that don't seem to be in the writing itself but in some mysterious but not unknown place because I have been there before, where things pass from the author to me in some telephathic way, where there must be invisible ink and invisible words in between the lines that I don't realize that I can see. That is because words are magic.

Monday, May 11, 2009


There is a vast amount of female bonding that goes on when you talk about diets. I find that I still talk about it even though I no longer need to diet. What is strange is that you can be as thin as Kate Moss and talk animately about dieting and no one will think a thing about it. I have been on any number of weird diets and healthy ones too but the one that worked for me I guess you would call it the "rice" diet.
I happen to love rice. Is that the reason for my success? I don't know, I know that I added butter to every portion I ate and it didn't matter. I still lost weight steadily. In Asia where they might be eating rice only they say you are hungry again in 2 hours and I think that is pretty much correct. When you diet you are always wanting to eat, and it seems that with rice you can always be eating and still lose pounds. Why did this diet work for me and not the grapefruit diet or the low fiber diet or that diet where you eat only meat? I do not know. I also ate brown rice, which fills you up so fast because of the bran. It tastes nutty to me, but actually I prefer the white rice I grew up eating. I must say that I was not really trying to diet, not very seriously at all and yet that was when I had the most success. I had sweets in the house, I ate doughnuts for breakfast. I think that when these things are there, it is better than not there. What I mean is you are not in a state of deprivation. There is a chocolate cake right there and if you want some cake then by all means eat it. I've learned that to eat well one evening does not mean that your diet is wrecked. I really think that diets do not work, that I really wasn't dieting, I just happened to get on the scale and see a tiny drop of 3 pounds and decided to continue eating rice.
Is there a "Rice" diet? Maybe, I don't know. There is one for me.

Target Your Audience

I think it quite funny that Google wants me to find my audience. How am I supposed to do that? Anyone can have a blog, this one is mine and if anyone reads it that is up to them. It makes me feel like a corporation or something, tagging my audience like so much wildlife, giving me statistics for how many people view my blog on any given day. Face it, most blogs really are not that good and I think were written just for family & close friends so that doesn't matter. I think that we as writers start with what we love. Here we are, in solitude, writing perhaps for months before anyone lays eyes on it, and then find to our surprise sometimes that other people like it too. As Stephen King said, you cannot target your audience and launch success like a heat seeking missle. Success and creative stuff doesn't work like that. Oh, what a terrible place the world would be if it did!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Goo-Goo Dolls

The Goo-Goo Dolls state they got their name when on a night of drinking they were throwing out all kinds of wild ideas for a name and the name they chose was the one that made them all laugh. As they knew the name doesn't matter what does is the music.
The lead singer has a marvelous voice that can fall down into deep registers and I love the air of authority he sings with. The songs have drama and wonderful lyrics and you immediately like these songs. I am a person who loves words, and this guy sings songs that mean something and it is never anything obvious and it is always something that makes you think. I like that. It reminds me of Kansas, and how the words made you think of other things. The Goo-Goo Dolls are interesting enough to listen to without doing anything else, to pay close attention to. I don't even know or care what these songs are about, they are so beautiful. The song "Name" is one of the songs requested most often to be played on the radio of all time I have been told and that does not suprise me. There are songs that I do not like, but the greatness of the ones I do is well-worth the cost of the CD.
I am interested that this band is about these two guys who were childhood friends. The song "Broadway" is not about New York City. It is the name of the surburban street these two friends lived on when they were growing up. There has been a great tradition in rock of bands with two guys writing songs. The most obvious duo is Lennon and McCartney, there is Aerosmith, Brooks and Dunn, Richards and Jagger, and many more than I know and can name. It seems like having 2 songwriters working together has brought us some of the world's greatest music. Maybe it is just the magic of friendship.

Twelth House of Secrets

I have studied the 12th house of the horoscope with some feelings of wonder and awe. It is not a place that is easily understood and you will find interpretations that seem to emphasize good things and others that empasize bad. There is one thing for certain, and that is the 12th house is most about secrets, including secrets we keep from ourselves.
We do not know how the ancients figured all this astrology stuff out. It is often thought that they did it one person at a time, and finding things true for all people born in certain months at certain times. We don't know how they did it but looking at the 12th house we can come to some conclusions of our own from the people we know.
The 12th is about imprisonment, hospitals, confinement and receiving what is due us from our karma. Okay the 12th is also about the collective unconcious, things done in solitude, what the public thinks, things that are hidden from others. Now this covers a lot of ground. It has also been said that the 12th is a money house!
Look at the horoscope of Paul Lynde, the guy from Hollywood Squares and Bewitched. He has his Moon in the 12th in Cancer. Cancer is all about the home and family and it is said that a little known fact known only by Lynde's closet friends is that he was a gourment chef. Lynde had a powerful horoscope for success despite the fact that he was a homosexual the public loves him.
Look at the horoscope of Barbara Streisand. She has Venus in the 12th house. Now Venus is about things that you buy to please yourself like jewelry or clothes and it also represents money itself. It is said that the 12th house has no boundaries and that this money planet in the 12th represents billionaires and people who are amazingly wealthy. In addition it represents someone who hides the love and affection that they feel for others.
A contradiction is the 12th is the public and also secrets. How can that be?
I think of it like this: Ms. Streisand is loved by the public and you are beautiful in your life wherever your Venus is. For instance, if Venus is in the first house ruling the physical body you have a beautiful appearance. Venus is in the first house for Angelina Jolie. However what is secret for her is her love life and hasn't she been single and not married most of her life? Venus in the 12th would be an aspect of someone who finds it extremely difficult to tell someone that you love them. It is an aspect also of someone who loves solitude and making decisions all by theirself and without anyone telling them what to do. It is someone who finds difficult to hug and kiss and if they do they do it in private. Venus may be the planet of money, but it is also the planet of love.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Alton Brown

Alton Brown likes power tools and cooking and why not? He is a guy who tries to understand cooking with science. Never mind that for millions of us women cooking is the job we most dislike, the daily grind of it day after day wondering again and again what in the world to feed your family. The terrible sinking feeling you get when your family does not like what you have made that makes you reach for the same tried and true but boring recipies over and over. Never mind all that. You are watching Alton Brown and for him cooking is fun.
There is a show on Food Network called "You Could be the Next Food Network Star". On that show Alton Brown says you have 10 seconds to grab the attention of your audience, and if you don't they will not watch your program. Alton Brown does that in a bizarre fashion, getting himself thrown out of places or being attacked by lawyers or giant squid. I really liked the show about avocados, did you know you can make healthy cake frosting out of avocados because they are very much like butter? I liked it when he threw the avocados at all the heart surgeons, symbolically chasing them away with a healthy food choice. That is an image you won't soon forget. Avocados are the good kind of fat and made for us people who just love fat like me, the heart friendly kind. When presented with a question off the subject of what the show is about he always says, "But that's another show."
Alton Brown is a self-made star, putting a show on the internet and a food network executive happened to see it and like it. The show is a perfect expression of himself because he made it, all by himself, long before he was ever on television, he made it the way he wanted it to be. Now we have the show "Good Eats" and I love it and not because I love to cook because I don't especially. What I do love is Alton Brown.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Writing Bananas

What do people want? You want to please your readers.
Maybe what people want is bananas.
No one at my house asks for me to buy bananas, yet if I buy bananas they are so quickly eaten that sometimes I don't get a banana at all. You want your prose to be like filet mignon, rich and steamy and meaty, and if you ask people what they want it is filet mignon but really it is far too heavy and rich for them and requires too much concentration and thinking. Maybe what people want is bananas, something familiar and comforting in that familiarity that they can gobble up without thinking. It is somewhat bland but with a hint of the comedic and just a touch of the tropics. You know exactly what you are getting when you bite into a banana, you are not suprised and you are not confused. We want something completely new they say and yet if you give it to them they will not read it. Sometimes I think I ask too much of my writing, demanding that it be filet mignon when what people want, what they really, really want, may be a simple banana. Sometimes the simple things are what enrich your life the most. I do not think any less of writing that is not perfect, what I want is to be caught up into the story and have a light moment in a life that is all too often contains too many worries and I think maybe that is what other people want too. The reason I read books is simply that reading is fun. Don't you?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

America Is a Sagittarius

There are so many Sagittarians who seem to embody what it means to be American that I think this zodiac sign best represents this country. There is a lot of disagreement about the birth time of the United States, if this country was born on July 4, 1776 then we are in a Leo country. I tend to think to myself that America is more like the Sign of the Archer.
Walt Disney is perhaps the most famous person born under the 9th sign of the zodiac. Mark Twain was a Sagittarius who said he believed in his luck because he had always been so incredibly lucky. Steven Speilberg is a Sagittarius. The great writer James Thurber was one. The expansive planet Jupiter rules Sagittarius and every one I ever knew thinks BIG. Disney wanted a whole dream city and he built one. Speilberg makes these sweeping movies with very large ideas. Thurber wrote a great deal about being henpecked but he did it in a BIG way. Sagis always believe the future will be brighter than yesterday and have their sights set on tomorrow. They believe that anything is possible, and nothing is more American than that.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Watership Down

Don't know what a down is? It's a field or meadow, in England. The rabbits are on a journey to a place good for rabbits, a place faraway from humans and the noises they make, a place on the high downs.
A rabbit named Fiver (he was the fifth in the litter and the author tells us that rabbits can only count to five)
has premonitions and the other rabbits don't think a thing about it. Then one day Fiver has a premonition that the warren is about to be destroyed and he feels it is only right that he warn as many rabbits as he can so that they can save themselves. He visits the chief rabbit but alas, he is not believed. He did not expect to be believed but he had to try. His next job is to convince as many rabbits as he can before he leaves to abandon the warren and go off into the wild. It is the right thing to do and yet he and his friend Hazel know it is dangerous, it is like mutiny to the warren and they expect to be attacked at any moment.
So starts the adventures Fiver, Hazel, Bigwig, Blackberry and maybe others that I have forgotten. I know however that I shall never forget this special book.
Fiver has one of his dreams that are visions and he sees a man standing by a sign with black marks on it. Fiver knows that the black sticks on the flat wooden surface mean something, but he does not know what it is. The man laughs at the frightened and trembling rabbit and says that is why the man hunts the rabbit, because the rabbit cannot read the black sticks. The sign actually says that the land is the new site of new homes and about to be bulldozed, but Fiver doesn't know that. He only knows that disaster is coming closer and closer to the warren.
What people remember though about this book are the beautiful descriptions in it, I never knew the names of so many different things that rabbits eat. The author really knows everything there is to know about wild rabbits.
My daughter's English teacher says this book is a classic, I never knew very many classics that I actually enjoyed reading. My daughter was forced to read "Lord of the Flies" for school and other books that quite frankly make me wonder "What are these people thinking?"
This book is not without danger and tragedy but it is so beautiful it made me cry.
I will never look at a rabbit the same way again.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I don't know what it is.
I understand that we need one another, I don't know what for but no one is an island or even a peninsula.
It was my habit with the only friend I ever had who really mattered to exchange confidences and to make confessions to one another. This is a pattern I keep falling into before realization strikes as I've done it again, I've fallen into the pattern of the only friendship that I have ever known.
This telling of my secrets to others is a lifelong habit that I cannot break. That is why my blog is called Confessions. I knew that would be a good title because I know me.
Still working on it, and often I go for long periods without dropping bits of personal information. After all, there really isn't that much to tell about me, I think myself ordinary and yet people look at me strangely. Maybe it is that I think so much, I love to think. I think things important that others do not, they only want to know about stuff that personally effects them. I know now that mental scampering around inside the brain is something that many people just do not do. And if something is on my mind that I am worried about, I want to talk about it. A lot. This helps me. Talking too much might not be the worst character flaw on the planet but it is a flaw. Then again I can go for long periods in total silence, just taking in what others say. I swing back and forth helplessly. Does anyone else do this?
Still this joy of words, this bright illuminating flower of time when you read a maestro of words, a virtuoso of verbs, remarkable sentences, am I the only one of any person that I now know?
I think the answer is yes.
It's loneliness perhaps that chills me when I see the Dicken's like mist outside, a literary thought that I cannot share with anyone. There are millions of things that remind me of literary things and no one to tell them to. That is the touch of being the only person here and not there, not their there, in the whole wide world.

Stephen King

"Eeeeek. It's HIM." said my friend Sherry pointing at the television. What was on was one of those commercials for a credit card and there for the first time Sherry was seeing what her favorite author looked like. My friend Sherry thought he was so great I started to read him. I must admit I didn't take to him right away, though with time I came to like him very much. I like books that are uplifting and with happy endings and without elements of horror, and I knew when I read him I had arrived at an uncertain path with people to whom terrible things were threatening to happen to. The uncertainty I came to love, who has not read a book and known by the end of the first chapter exactly how it was going to turn out, have not books become pastuerized and homogenized and formulized? He is a sort of wild card in the deck, and I like that. There is a thread of right and wrong that runs through his books. He has said that wildness and conservatism are woven through his character like a braid, and his books are real and fantastic, both together too. He has been criticized for making horror out of unlikely things but what else is out there to read, yet another book about a serial killer? Please!
His books have life to them and life is worth more than any amount of well, anything else. They always tell you in school how Shakespeare had to be popular and how Dickens was so popular in his day but popularity now seems to mean that it is not any good. I am confused by critics of Stephen King, methinks perhaps we can call this sour grapes.
When interviewed he certainly comes across as a person who has a lot of secrets. He is not sucking up and he takes silence easily. In other words, he is not pushing his books and smiling like an idiot and wondering if the interviewer thinks he is wonderful. He reminds me of James Garner in "Maverick", an actor who acted like he and the audience were in on the joke of how stupid the whole thing was, with a twinkle of self-mockery in his eyes. You just have to respect someone like that.

Adam Duritz

Adam Duritz writes the lyrics for the Counting Crows, the whole group does the sounds, as near as I can say. I am never puzzled by those that are not interesting, and like House, interesting is all that matters. I was unaware of their existance until seeing the "Daylight Fading" video with the bathtub full of Christmas lights image. It was a memorable image, another one was the "Round Here" video of someone sweeping the sand in the desert. It was a really good way of showing life is as pointless as trying to sweep sand out of the desert. Some may say the time to be puzzled by him is over, now we know he is bipolar.
Yet he is no poster child for bipolar, he is someone who makes people who buy his music, care. Now that is some trick. It could be said his greatest talent is that of making friends, it is reported that he makes friends wherever he goes. He says that he wants to make connections with other people, that as a kid he and his family were always moving. I suppose that means he had to make friends very fast. I don't know what it means, he has jumped out of my CD player, he has entered my dreamscape, and he has written at least one of the world's best songs ever written.
At his best he is telling you what his inner world is like, and music I guess does that better than any other language. At his best songwriting I suppose he is very, very depressed.
I read a review once that called the Eagles "wordsmiths". I really liked that. It suggests that words have weight, that word making is a craft like pounding hot iron and just as physical and not a second spoken and then gone. Adam Duritz knows the power of words and when he has the most power is when he sings about himself. Yet he is not perfect, as none of us are. He sometimes seems to reek of self-pity, but again at his best all of his self-pity is not there anymore like it never existed. He sings he can do nothing but he has done a lot of things, traveled all over the world, dated Hollywood starlets aplenty if the news can be believed and then has the maybe the greatest group of musicians in his band with him too. Where does all his pain come from? It is none of my business or yours either but we can't help ourselves. My best guess is a childhood trauma that split him into a million pieces into a vortex that still spins, that will never stop spinning.
And why does pain deepen us and make us different? That is just what pain does, what it has always done and without it maybe we would not have any compassion. Still I think I see him there, somewhat confused, standing on the edge of the abyss.