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For almost a month now I’ve been very slowly reading Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor.  The Husband heard about the book on 3 Quarks Daily and I’ve been curious about Taoism and Buddhism for a long while now.  One of the things I’m enjoying about the book is the occasional brief meditation exercise slipped into chapters here and there.  For example, from the “Becoming” chapter:

“Sit still and come back to the breath. Center your attention in the rhythm of sensations that make up the act of breathing. Let the agitated mind settle, then expand your awareness to include the rest of the body. With calm alertness gradually increase the field of awareness until you encompass the totality of your experience in this moment: what you hear, see, smell, taste, and touch, as well as the thoughts and emotions that arise and fade in your mind.”  (p. 69)

Meditation is one of those things, like painting, that I really, really hope I learn to do someday but at this point in my life such activities require a focus and patience that I do not seem to possess.  Not that I’m giving up hope!  In fact, I have tried a couple of Batchelor’s little meditations and actually found them very helpful.

Which brings me to the second book I’m reading right now — An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin.  I won’t go into whether it’s a good book or not, I’ll just say this: I love this book so far.  I love how Martin writes about looking at art, wanting to own art.  I have re-read this one paragraph several times already:

“… paintings are layered… first, ephemera and notations on the back of the canvas. Labels indicate gallery shows, museum shows, footprints in the snow, so to speak. Then pencil scribbles on the stretcher, usually by the artist, usually a title or date. Next the stretcher itself. Pine or something. Wooden triangles in the corners so the picture can be tapped tighter when the canvas becomes loose. Nails in the wood securing the picture to the stretcher. Next, a canvas: linen, muslin, sometimes a panel; then the gesso – a primary coat, always white. A layer of underpaint, usually a pastel color, then, the miracle, where the secrets are: the paint itself, swished around, roughly, gently, layer on layer, thick or thin, not more than a quarter of an inch ever — God can happen in that quarter of an inch — the occasional brush hair left embedded, colors mixed over each other, tones showing through, sometimes the weave of the linen revealing itself. The signature on top of the entire goulash. Then varnish is swabbed over the whole. Finally, the frame, translucent gilt or carved wood. The whole thing is done.” (p. 81)

The same day I read this beautiful passage, the Husband and I went to our local art museum to see a show that just opened – Andrew Langoussis: What Was, Is, and Will Be.  I was stopped in my tracks by paintings as tall as me like this:

Siena Apartment, Andrew Langoussis

And especially this:

Street Noise, Andrew Langoussis(you are hereby encouraged to click through and look at the large size image…)

And as we wandered through the gallery, I realized that taking in images like these was the closest I came to meditation.  Perhaps that’s why the passage from Steve Martin’s book stood out for me so much — it captures something of the viewing process, viewing experience.  And if you look back and compare the quote from Batchelor with the quote from Martin, you might see a sort of parallel in the way each writer walks the reader through a series of layers in awareness.

“This moment was a secret among the Avery, the Scotch, and Lacey, and she saw clearly something that had eluded her in her two years in the art business. In a few minutes of unexpected communion, she understood why people wanted to own these things.” (p. 57, An Object of Beauty)

The last time I specifically remember being enthralled with a painting like this was when Marty Maehr had some pieces up in a little gallery in downtown Urbana.  I love the splash of his colors and shapes.  How could I think about everyday distractions when following lines like these?

Marty Maehr Paintings

Calling all library conference organizers!  Please look at this website:

This is one of the friendliest conference websites I’ve seen in a long, long time.  Why?

The When, What, and Who are neatly laid out in the top navigation bar (as “Schedule” “Blog” and “Campers” respectively).

The conference’s name could not be clearer – front and center on the main page with the acronym spelled out and a very brief description underneath.  Wonderful!

The home page is simple:  navbar, info, blog and twitter.  That’s it.  The other pages are also neat and clean, with the schedule laid out in a simple table and the Campers all presented with little icons for eye-candy and plenty of white-space to make for easy skimming.

The only things I would do differently:

Put the Campers in some sort of order (!) … are they in any order?  I know the alphabet is arbitrary but it’s better than nothing.

Create a “Trends” tab that gives some auto-generated visuals of the current hot topics — such as a tag cloud from the blog or a Wordle cloud from the tweets.  Some sort of topic browsing somewhere would be nice as a way to filter the information from those lucky, enthusiastic campers.  🙂

I must say the website alone makes me a little jealous, but the content coming out of THATCamp *really* makes me wish I was there.  All sorts of fascinating questions coming up!  I only wish I had time to follow it all.  Keep up the great talks, THATCampers.

… to one of my all-time favorite bands: Pink Martini.  This song, especially, makes me feel happy whenever I listen to it and I just found a clip of it from the Letterman Show, so I have to share:

lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” … wordled by yours truly

Not long ago I discovered a blog of historical photos called Shorpy, named after a young boy who worked in a coal mine.   Many of the photographs are black-and-white, many from the 1920s — my favorite decade of all decades.  Today’s photo is very apropos, considering I went to my first dance class last night.  None of the dancers in this photo look all that thrilled, granted, but who knows how long they’ve been at this dance marathon.  My favorite part?  The outfit of the guy on the far left.  I would love to dress like that.

Dance Marathon 1925

I was looking for a good dose of humor this morning, so I turned right away to Piled Higher and Deeper.  I found two comics that really express everything I could want to say about…

1. Life

Your Life

and 2. Politics

I knew it


I’ve never seen anything like this posted on campus before, but there it was – on the bulletin board of the Undergrad Library tunnel.  Do you think it’s a joke?  I thought so at first, but now I wonder if maybe it’s serious.  I feel sorry for the kid, so I’m spreading the word.  If you have a penchant for massages and grapes, here’s your chance.  Me, I’m just not that into grapes.  But I wish him the very best of luck.




Very cool website find of the day:  EarthSky’s Meteor Guide for 2008

Unfortunately, there won’t be much to see for the upcoming Lyrids shower this month… BUT!  In May, we’ll have wish-making opportunities galore with the Eta Aquarids!  The question is – will I actually drag myself out of bed early enough to see them?  Ah. Hm….

Jay Ryan Jay Ryan

I went to a gallery opening last night, despite the bitter cold. No, really … bitter cold. The high yesterday was 13* Fahrenheit. The warmest wind chill we had was 2* Fahrenheit. But you know what? I still love cold weather. 🙂

Anyway, the gallery opening. I’m in a Museum Informatics class, and one of our assignments, naturally, is to visit museums. This gallery opening just happened to be this week, so I made the most of it. What a completely awesome way to see an art museum!! Usually, the atmosphere of this particular art museum is quiet, hushed whispers, empty. Last night, there was a very loud live band in the middle of the galleries, lots of people, wine, shouted conversations, laughing. It was great. And the art itself was not at all what I expected. Posters! by Jay Ryan.

And when I left the museum, I could see stars upon stars. I had forgotten how brilliantly clear the night sky can be on the coldest nights. Lesson learned: homework can be fun.

While catching up on some long overdue Google Reader feeds, I discovered that I am a semicolon. Big thank-you to Jennifer and fellow semicolon Mark

Your Score: Semicolon

You scored 30% Sociability and 70% Sophistication!

Congratulations! You are the semicolon! You are the highest expression of punctuation; no one has more of a right to be proud. In the hands of a master, you will purr, sneering at commas, dismissing periods as beneath your contempt. You separate and connect at the same time, and no one does it better. The novice will find you difficult to come to terms with, but you need no one. You are secure in your elegance, knowing that you, and only you, have the power to mark the skill or incompetence of the craftsman.

You have no natural enemies; all fear you.

And never, NEVER let anyone tell you that you cannot appear in dialogue!

Link: The Which Punctuation Mark Are You Test written by Gazda

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