Sheet ’em in…

February 22, 2019


Ya, long ago looking forward I figured that by now, sixty-six years into this pilgrimage, I’d feel wise. Perspicacious even. That’s how Dad seemed. That’s how Mom seemed. Grandparents for sure. It has slowly dawned on me though that I know a whole lot less than I thought I would this far along the path. Older then, younger now maybe. I do feel lucky. Hmmm.

Few years back in this space (2/16/13) I recounted the experience of sorting through a trove of old stuff and all of the accompanying emotions that nearly overwhelmed me. Well, I’m at it again and I’m here to tell you that whole new emotions have taken hold. We will have to see how effusive I feel over time, but I will start by reporting that I found the above referenced post printed out and lying upon my mother’s desk. It includes a photo and transcription of a Valentine Mom sent to Dad a few months before my birth.

In another place Doctor Brother and I found love letters recounting the first – chance – encounter of my paternal grandparents. I can’t imagine my grandmother using the salutation “gobs of love”. Letters in German from ancestors in Germany. Letters in English from ancestors in England. All 120+ years old.

Before I came across all that, I started going through my old bedroom which still holds everything I saved (or was saved for me) from birth through the day I got married. Baby book sure. Finger paintings from kindergarten. Lots of those simple cheap Valentines we exchanged in elementary.

First quarter kindergarten: “Budge is a friendly, cooperative child. He seems to enjoy all activities. He responds willingly and cheerfully…” But by second grade: “Budge tries hard to cooperate most of the time…” Gets worse before it gets better.

Like I said, depending upon what I allow myself, or trick myself into revealing, you will go: “OMG! Holy shit! I wonder what is in my folks’ house? Better get after it before my kids do.”

About to give up for the day, I found a collection of Thoreau’s essays girlfriend (now wife) sent to me (“I decided to send you a little prize. This book was my favorite book during my summer in Washington…” ) which includes the following:

“The sail – The play of its pulse so like our own lives. So thin and yet so full of life. So noiseless when it labors hardest, so noisy and impatient when least effective.”

So true. As when two parents discuss a problem in a child’s life there is pure effort. Nothing wasted. But flapping lips, pounding fists, slamming doors do not make for headway.

Sheet ‘em in.

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Go Cubs!

February 13, 2019


After 90 full years of pedal to the metal, Gloria de Silva Gierke died on November 6, 2018 in bed just after putting on her glasses, but before selecting a book from her overloaded nightstand.

Memorial services to celebrate her life will be held at 10:30 AM on Tuesday November 20, 2018 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 121 West 12th Street, Davenport, Iowa. The family will greet friends in the Great Hall from 9:00 AM until service time. Memorials may go to The Figge Art Museum,The Quad City Symphony or Trinity Cathedral.

Gloria was born on March 23, 1928 at Cook County Hospital in Chicago where her father was a physician in training. A few years later she was joined by her brother Bud with whom she had a particularly close relationship until his death in 2010. After completing his residency Dr. and Mrs de Silva (Edward and Gretchen) moved their family to Rock Island where he joined his father’s practice. Gloria loved school and attended many, but credited St. Katharine’s for a lifelong love of learning.

As for many of their generation, WWII intervened and Gloria had a trove of interesting memories as her family followed her father’s MASH unit across the country from one army base to another. In Brownwood, Texas she was home coming queen. Upon return to Rock Island she was Queen of the Mardi Gras.

After the War, Gloria attended Northwestern University in Evanston where she was, for a time, pre med, but was graduated with a degree in literature. Thus arose a passion for the arts in all their forms. At about this time she and her brother were devastated by the divorce of their parents. Both parents remarried however and happy new relationships developed all round. The bond between Gloria and Bud greatly strengthened.

On May 1951 she married Glen Gierke less than a year after their first encounter. A few months of unmitigated bliss ensued until June of 1952 when their first child, Budge, was born. Ed arrived in August of 1954 and Peter in January of 1956. Gloria was an unbelievable mother and neighborhood captain tending tirelessly to issues related to hydration and minor loss of blood. Once Peter was in school full time Gloria returned to work as treasurer of the family business, Gierke Robinson Co. Less than a year later her father wrote to her husband of his concerns about Gloria working too hard. Ha. She never took a sick day for the next forty-five years. She would have preferred to step directly from her office and friends there into heaven, but agreed to sell the business in 2014.

Gloria found time to engage in a wide range of pursuits for the good of numerous causes, including her decade plus services on the boards of the Tri City Symphony, St Katharine’s, and Trinity Cathedral.

Through to the very end she nurtured the development of her children, grandchildren, great grand children, and all significant others. They are all very much the better for her hand in their lives. One felt fortunate to be in her orbit.

She would wax proud and powerful about her sons, her great good fortune in Sally, her wonderful grandchildren: Tiana O’Konek (Nathan), Andrew, Abigail (John Farrell), Peter (Jaiyin Hu), and great grandchildren Henry and Nettie O’Konek.

Chief among the many souls she cherished who left before her were son Ed and husband Glen.

Sui Generis. Go Cubs!

THAT’S NO FUN

May 30, 2014


That’s Dean Potter and his best friend Whisper. Here’s what he says to people who for some reason question the way he spends time with his dog: “Dogs don’t live as long as we do. Every day that they’re trapped inside a house is like seven days trapped inside a house for us. Certain people I know will say, ‘Hey, you’re freaking taking your dog BASE jumping you lunatic!’ But my response is that Whisper wants to come with me. My philosophy is take the dog with you. It’s part of the family. Don’t trap it in the car or at the house all the time. That’s no fun.”*
*From an interview in the July 2014 issue of Climbing Magazine

Just DO

May 16, 2014

Sponge Bob

Ok, I resubscribed to the Harvard Business Review in hopes of finding something of value for my entrepreneur son. First issue to arrive was April 2014* and a quick look at the table of contents led me to page 30 and the “Idea Watch – Defend Your Research” section with: “The Challenge – Does touching men’s underwear really make women more likely to indulge in risky, reward-seeking behavior?” The title of the article gave away the findings of this important research: “Women Too Respond to Sexual Cues by Taking More Risks”.

Hmm. Interesting. Oh ya, I remembered an MTV interview with candidate Bill Clinton during which he was asked “Boxers or Briefs?” by a cute young woman and we all know how that ended. Further recollection brought to mind the series of events that led (eventually) to the birth of all three of our children and indeed tactility and boxers had been involved! I’d long wondered what could induce a young woman in the throes of youthful exuberance to risk all for reward of unknowable dimension. It all suddenly seemed so obvious.

Unfortunately though, a complication inflected these cerebrations at the very next visit to my reading room and what else but the Economist**. Recent experiments have conclusively shown that some lab animals are so scared of men (and not women!) that pain producing nerve cells shut down. “Simply put, the animals were being scared painless. A significant increase in faecal pellets suggested they were scared shitless as well.” And, relative to the above, the mere presence of an article of men’s clothing is enough to induce the phenomena.

Hmm. Go figure. That doesn’t seem conducive to you know what. I guess it must have been my good looks and scintillating personality way back when. But maybe I’m over thinking this whole thing. Recently, while reading of correspondence between artists Eva Hesse and Sol Lewitt, it occurred to me that once again I should meditate or take a run or something other than cogitate.   Hesse was agonizing about aspects of her life and work to which friend Lewitt advised: “Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rumbing, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning… Stop it and just DO!***

*No foolin’: HBR April 2014 P 30
**Economist May 3-9, 2014 Sex, writhes and videotape
***WSJ 4 23 14 “Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt
Note: Lewitt’s “just DO! was written fifteen years before Nike took as its slogan a convict’s entreaty to his own firing squad cf April 6, 2012 below

 

Good Lesson

April 4, 2014

Chang 1
A few weeks ago I accompanied my potter wife to the NCECA* convention in Milwaukee. I’m not an artist, but am always interested, sometimes enthralled, listening to experts describe their enterprise -whatever it might be. At the very least it can be invigorating to watch the approach of truth and beauty at the hands of a mere mortal. Occasionally, with attention and luck there will be a flight of transcendence and such was the case with Ching-Yuan Chang who you see on stage above.

Mr. Chang makes his delicate pots by first scoring (like this: /////) several smallish slabs of clay an inch or so thick and then gently throwing the slabs against the floor till they are so thin that the spaces between the lines have become linear protrusions. He then trims them and assembles the pieces into a vessel of one sort or another; a cup, a pot, a vase. It was fascinating to watch him work while slides of his fired and finished pieces flashed on the screen to the right along with photos of the landscape around Taipei.
Chang 4

There were two sessions. The first was from 1:00 to 4:00 PM on a Thursday and the second from 9:00 AM to noon the next day. I was there transfixed for the whole six hours. He made many different vessels, talked about his career path, related his take on the life of an artist, and with a serenity unavailable to me answered many questions, some repeated many times. “I like to keep things simple” was a frequent refrain.

Toward the end of the second session a petite and elderly Asian woman approached the microphone and asked: “Mr. Chang, I would like to know why you choose to make functional pots and not something sculpture or figure.” I’ve listened to enough related conversations between ceramicists to know that the response to that question will range from a polite demure to inane verbosity.

Mr. Chang said “Something happened to me many years ago that I remember to this day. I was staying with friends in Japan and they asked me to walk their young child down the block to kindergarten. I did so and watched in wonder at snack time when each child was given a drink in a small handmade ceramic cup. One was dropped and it shattered. My Japanese is not very good (my friends speak English), but I finally figured out how to ask ‘why not unbreakable?’ ”. Teacher smile and ask if I speak English.

I nod, she answer: “Well, they are each unique individual pieces made especially for us. Very delicate. The children usually develop favorites and return for the same one every day. But also almost every day one or two are dropped and become shards on the floor. Even in kindergarten there is realization that something special is gone forever never to be seen on this earth again. Like friend. Good lesson.” A hush fell over the room and I thought of those small faces looking down and then up. Ya, good lesson.
Chang 5

* (National Council for Education in Ceramic Arts – the acronym is better than the mouthful, isn’t it?)

Pirouette

January 18, 2014

Ceres Chair

Went to the movies the other night and saw August-Osage County which I just learned was nominated for several Oscars this year.  Hmmm.  Interesting performances, but I just couldn’t relate.  Never interacted with a family so rife with dysfunction.  Film starts off with senior male member of the clan, played by Sam Shepard, taking his own life.  Mother, played by Meryl Streep, drops the f-bomb with great frequency.    If I ever heard my mom utter that epithet I’d know the end to be near.

Sitting there attempting to get comfortable I thought a bit about Shepard.  He’s good in everything and makes memorable the smallest bits of a role.  There’s a personaI connection: I always think of his crooked teeth when I look in the mirror.  Anyway, as you may know he’s also a playwright and something he said about the craft came to mind.  “For me, playwriting is and always has been like making a chair.  Your concerns are balance, form, timing, lights, space, music.  If you don’t have these essentials you might as well be writing a theoretical essay, not a play.”

Well, for me, those concerns weren’t well addressed in that film, but as luck would have it, I got a new chair for Christmas and thus have been given to think about Shepard’s metaphor in relation to the gift and my way in the world.   Visitors to this space will know that I’m a world class daydreamer and should thus expect that facilitation thereof to be important to these ruminations.  Call me VP in charge of staring off into space.

The factors Shepard mentions are all important, but for me light and music stand out. In a chair you ask?  They’re not important for mushroom theory of management* sorts, but reign supreme wherever creativity is important.  And where is it not? I read an article in the Harvard Business Review a while back that described an incipient trend in which job candidates with an MFA were hired over those with an MBA.  They’re better equipped to develop ‘over the horizon’ scenarios.

Light and music in a well wrought play might refer to the manner in which truth about a character, or the plot, or life is revealed.  Think about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid maybe.  Ya, remember when they’re in Bolivia and Strother Martin asks The Kid to demonstrate his marksmanship?  The Redford character first misses the block of wood Martin’d tossed out, Newman winces, but the Kid then says “Can I move?” and with speed, agility, and grace destroys it.

I’m gonna quote myself to bring in a bit of science: “Recent article in the Boston Globe and WSJ describe new research into the emerging field of embodied cognition.  Investigators do indeed believe that movement and gesticulation enhance cerebration.  ‘People think with their bodies, not just their brains… arm movements can affect language comprehension… children are more likely to solve math problems if they are told to gesture with their hands….’”**

Ya gotta move and I can in this new seat like in none before.  I lean forward to type and then back to look at the ceiling or out the window and feel like I’m getting a massage as I stretch.  I think about Dad telling me not to lean back and rock in my chair, and then an article in the New Yorker about how those with Aspergers like to rock and then one in the same issue about how Bill Gates does too.

I quickly became so fond of my new perch that I traced its designer to Germany.    Guy by the name of Wolfgang Deisig.  “A chair should be like a comfortable jacket, you slip into it and it feels good” he says.  Interestingly, for me anyway,  Deisig has had a long relationship with the famed German Vitra firm.  At the Vitra Design Museum near Basel Switzerland recently launched an exhibition about the life and work of architect Louis I Kahn prominent in which is work by his collaborator Anne Tyng about whom I’m deeply engaged in research.

Tyng was fond of psychiatrist Carl Jung who coined the term synchronicity and amazingly enough, that’s just what we have here.    I’ve a long way to go, but look forward to a pirouette from time to time for inspiration and/or celebration.  My chair and I will see this project through to the end together.

Ceres Chair 2

*Keep ‘em in the dark and feed ‘em shit

** See post of January 24, 2008

***Chair is the Ceres by Hon

****Speaking of synchronicity, Ceres is the Roman Goddess of Agriculture-Perfect for this site, no?

I Don’t Get It

January 10, 2014

Big Mac 2

Roy Kroc, the man who made McDonald’s into the purveyor of billions of Big Macs, Royales with Cheese, and reconstituted French Fries once said that “As long as you’re green you’re growing.  As soon as you’re ripe, you rot”.  Look at the photo above and meditate upon that metaphor.

That burger is about fifteen years old.  Recalling how my brother would drive and hour and a half to McDs when he was a geologist in a uranium mine in the middle of nowhere Wyoming I decided to give him one for his birthday many years ago.  Figured I should make sure preparation was up to snuff so took a bite before wrapping it up.

He was thrilled and I was pleased.  I’m older and have always looked out for him and taken pains with instruction related to the Golden Rule.  Imagine then how greatly I was moved when six months later I loosed a ribbon on a box from him and found the same sandwich!

Not to overdo a good thing and drain the exchange of its cathartic potential,  we don’t pass the two patties, special sauce,  sesame seed bun, et al back and forth more often than every several years.  I’d forgotten about it in fact and was thus thrilled to find it in a package for me under the Christmas Tree this year. J

Back to the metaphor.  From the one mouthful, I can attest to its original ripeness, but as you can see there was no subsequent rot to the rest.  No rodent, bug, bacteria, or bit of mold has ever paid it the least attention.  It is not at all fragile.  A recent incredulous visitor knocked it off of my desk by accident and reassembly was a snap.

I don’t get it.  Could McDonald’s have the key to immortality?

D’oh!

January 3, 2014

I thought Homer coined that word and regarding that belief wagered with roommate who did not agree.  I lose virtually all competitions with said woman, but didn’t worry about this one, because knew that her confidence would render the notion of research ridiculous and thus it’d been long forgotten.

Imagine, then, my amazement and dismay having just come across that word in a poem written by Joseph Brodsky in about 1975.  From A Part of Speech:

…After all these years it hardly matters who
or what stands in the corner, hidden by heavy drapes,
and your mind resounds not with a seraphic “doh”
only their rustle.  Life, that no one dares
to appraise, like that gift horse’s mouth,
bares its teeth in a grin at each
encounter.  What gets left of a man amounts
to a part.  To his spoken part.  To a part of speech.

So I guess to Brodsky “doh” is almost a moment of awakening.  Homer occasionally gets it, while most of  the rest of us avoid the risk of introspection. Not all. Brodsky elsewhere wrote that: “The real history of consciousness begins with one’s first lie” referring to an incident in a library of his youth.  Asked about his religion, he chose feign ignorance rather than respond with the Russian word for Jew which led to quite a stream of consciousness for a seven year old.

*Amazingly enough, I just recounted an incident of my youth in a library involving dishonesty.  10 18 13

Thought I’d Know More

December 13, 2013

Galesburg Rail Yard

Few days after Thanksgiving I dropped son off at train station for him to make his way back to work some six hours north.  We’ve had the pleasure of A fair amount of travel by rail and find it much the most enjoyable means by which to get from A to B.  You can move about, see the countryside, converse face to face, and get a neat nights sleep on longer journeys.  No TSA.

Depot is about forty-five minutes from our home and as per usual I used the time to share nuggets of my accumulated wisdom.   I could tell it was well received because son’s eyes were closed in concentration.   We hugged, I watched him board, and the bullet quickly departed on schedule having only stopped for ten or so minutes.

Wife knew of some sort of special repository in the vicinity and asked for me to find it and bring a load of stuff home.  I followed GPS to where I’d asked it to take me, but found that of the two related locations, I’d made the wrong choice.  Called the place and found that I was close and that the crow’s path would take me by the rail yard you see above.  It is huge.

In no hurry I stopped to survey the scene.  While so doing, for some reason, my mind went back to the advice I’d shared with son.  I remember thinking first that, like most of the time I hold forth, I should pay more attention to myself.  And then, while recalling the wizened faces of elders telling me how best to negotiate life’s labyrinth, realized that back then I figured that the nature of my consciousness would be different by this ripe old age than is in fact my experience of it.

Thought I’d know more, feel like a sage.

Blackbird

November 23, 2013

Cresset

That’s a cresset.  A concave metal frame lined, in this case, with screening, fixed atop a pole, filled with combustible material, and set alight.  It is not difficult to imagine that a precursor apparatus was first developed not long after Prometheus and that the underlying motivation remained largely unchanged up to at least Colonial Williamsburg from whence came the model for what you see above.   It’s not ‘green’, but fun and was employed with great success to gain the attention of trick or treaters  a few steps more than the usual remove from our front door.

Thoughts of that flickering came to mind for some reason when reading about the findings recently released from NASA’s Kepler project – the search for earth like planets beyond our solar system.  Many questions are left to be answered, but, long story short, there could be a lot of ‘em out there.  Billions.  Programs like Science Friday on NPR had researchers arguing and foaming at the mouth by turns.  This here observer is left with the thought that it will likely be a long time till we will know if Goldilocks could really be out there.

Unless, that is, the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) transmitting/listening devices that have been reoriented as a result of Kepler yield something interesting.  One researcher said that the amount of space scanned up till now, relative to what’s out there, is analogous to the draft of a single cup from the rest our planet’s waters and that the effort will be greatly refined based upon Kepler findings.  So, assuming that ET’s not already been here and left bemused, perhaps the redirected signals will be perceived by some entity able to detect them and respond more quickly than the multi light year distance would have us think possible.

Hope they’re friendly.  Hope they help us all with our wood chopping and water carrying obligations, as opposed to, say, annihilating us.  Steven Hawking and others point to the fate of native peoples subsequent to contact with cultures more advanced.  Not pretty.  But what, me worry?  Na.  Just as I turned to see birds dart about against wispy cirrus bathed in the soft pink light of dusk, a Pandora DJ spun a string rendition of the Beatles’ Blackbird*.  It’s Friday and I’ll soon be home with wife and little black princess Nellie.  Who knows how things really work?  The only people I trust say that they don’t.  Louis Kahn said that a great question is far more important than attempts to answer.  Yep.

cirrus 2

*You should listen to it.  On Three Fervent Travelers by Time for Three.