We went to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University today. Ostensibly, it was to see this installation, entitled Precarity, by John Akomfrah. But, of course, we saw everything else while we were there, too. It is based on the life of “Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden, the first person known to have explored the sonic tonalities of the music we now call jazz.”


There is a single row of benches in the room. And, in the beginning, we had to stand by the wall because all the seats were occupied. When a group got to their starting place and left, we sat at the end of that bench. But, it was too close for me to see all 3 screens without a lot of head turning. So, I moved back to the wall.


It’s a curious piece. There’s no actual narrative. But, it’s still very moving. Some of the triptychs are the same scene from different angles. Some are different scenes entirely. There is old footage from the time of Bolden’s life in addition to new footage of … I guess, ghosts of his life.


I’m glad I saw it.


That smile

Yesterday, I was listening to Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels.  I’ve really been enjoying it.  It’s incredibly grizzly and completely over the top.  (It’s about Pinhead, of Hellraiser fame; so, that’s to be expected.)

One of the characters was described as having a “Gioconda smile.”

The Mona Lisa (La Gioconda or La Joconde, or Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo)

The Mona Lisa (La Gioconda or La Joconde, or Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo)

I like Barker’s use of language as much as I enjoy the stories he tells.

All is Vanitas

The North Carolina Museum of Art had a Still Life exhibition last winter and I learned a new word. It is vanitas. Vanitas “allude to the transience of life.” They, frequently, have fruit (sometimes beginning to spoil), flowers (sometimes beginning to lose petals), butterflies, musical allusions, bones, time pieces.  Some were lavish bouquets of flowers that would never have stayed fresh long enough to be painted, or simply didn’t bloom in the same season.

One piece I found to be particularly clever had fruit and flowers that would never be present together. They are seasonally incompatible. (You have to know some about what produces when for that one to make sense. It would have worked better for people who grew their own food than the denizens of supermarkets. I’m not sure my son knows that grapes and tulips don’t go together.)

I like the more subtle vanitas, the ones you have to be paying attention to recognize.


from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh

Walking Meditation

by Thich Nhat Hanh

Original Language English

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.

(I found this at Poetry Chaikhana, a website of sacred poetry)