Category Archives: fine arts

love what you see: Kogonada’s Columbus (2017)

Kogonada’s Columbus (2017) is beautifully filmed in Columbus, IN, a small city stocked with distinguished modernist architecture. Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) had a rough adolescence, but in the midst of that turmoil, she started relishing one particular modernist structure in an … Continue reading

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notes on cultural appropriation after the royal wedding

In the current debate about “cultural appropriation,” I would offer these premises: everything is mixed, mixing is good, having your culture borrowed can give you more power, and demands for authenticity are problematic. Although I recognize exceptions and complications, we should … Continue reading

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notes on John Ashbery, Paradoxes and Oxymorons

A “plain” is a level place. Some plains are places that were leveled. Isaiah 40:4: “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” A “level” is … Continue reading

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Billy Collins, The Night House

Thanks to my friend Sterling Speirn, here is a wise poem about the relationship between the private life and the public life (“the grass of civics, the grass of money”). It’s by Billy Collins. Collins interprets civic and economic life … Continue reading

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Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, and memories of Rust Belt adolescence

Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw (pictured below) were born in urban Michigan during the 1950s. By the time they were art students in the early 1970s, they’d seen all the stuff you don’t study in a University of Michigan classroom: doodles … Continue reading

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Anachronist review

The Anachronist is my interactive novel. Several readers have posted reviews of it on the Interactive Fiction Database. (If I may say so, the one person who gave it a low quantitative rating had a complaint about a technical issue that … Continue reading

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The Cliff-Top Monastery by A.B. Jackson

If you want a 20-line respite from the fascinating train wreck of American politics (on which my eyes are riveted, like everyone else’s), I recommend A.B. Jackson’s “The Cliff-Top Monastery” in the May issue of Poetry Magazine. A whole short … Continue reading

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Mozart illustrates the importance of “bids” in romantic relationships

The psychologist John Gottman discovered a fundamental condition of successful romantic relationships (which is consistent with my experience of 21 happy years of marriage). Partners frequently make “bids” for positive attention. Emily Esfahani Smith illustrates with an example: “the husband … Continue reading

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Derek Walcott becomes the volcano

(Orlando, FL) I’ve settled on a poem with which to express homage to the late Derek Walcott: his “Volcano” (1976) Joyce was afraid of thunder but lions roared at his funeral from the Zurich zoo. Was it Trieste or Zurich? … Continue reading

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on inhabiting earth with inaccessibly beautiful things

I unfortunately know no Chinese. The sounds, resonances, allusions, and calligraphy of traditional Chinese poetry can reach me only through paraphrase or as abstract patterns, each character looking not much different from the next. However, Perry Link writes, Should we compare poetry across civilizations? … Continue reading

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