April 25th, 2008

Book Cover

Good Morning!

Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind
and rain, the snow and moon.
~ Ikkyu ~

Ah, yes!

Last night, I went to see the movie Bab'Aziz, The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul.   It is a beautiful movie and with me this morning.  How simple it seems, "just walk."

I am peaceful and calm this morning, feeling whole.
Steve returns from Rome this evening, so now there will be two to give Tiger and Bella the attention they need.   Bella, especially is very insistent, and as I type right now, there is a tail touching my face.  She is standing on my books and making it very clear what my fingers should be doing.
It is a day of joy and breath.   Breathe!

Satchel Paige wrote:

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

The child in me comes out to play.

gentle waterfall

pondering -

My beloved niece Katy just turned 13 and received all A+'s on her report card except for art which was a B+.   Now, Katy is an amazing artist, creative, focused, conscientious, and disciplined, so the grade was a puzzle.  My brother asked her about it, and I will give you his words on the subject.

"Apparently this teacher appreciates the abstract nature of art and of accurately grading it so she allows them to give a self-assessment grade and which becomes a key component of their overall grade.  So, what do you think she gave herself?  Yep…a B+.  I asked why and she said because she didn’t feel she was an “A” artist."

With further probing, she continued to say “How can I give myself and “A” when I didn’t think my work was worthy of an “A”? 

One might begin by asking how art can be graded, and appreciate that Katy has a teacher who understands that.   Why would we even think of dividing creativity into grades?   Do we judge nature?   Well, maybe we do, but isn't this division what leads to wars, this perception that one thing is better than another? 

I watched a movie last night that consisted a great deal of blowing sand and it was beautiful, yet many people would choose to live by the ocean rather than in the desert.   Before the Romantics, people did not like mountains.  They were afraid of them.  Now, to live on the mountaintop is cause for celebration, and costly.

We are all proud of Katy in her choice, immensely proud, while also recognizing that children are judged by their GPA's.  The irony in this is that Katy is a fine artist by anyone's standards, and yet, part of what makes her an artist is the perception and discernment that allows her to know there is more there for her.  She knows she has more to explore, uncover, express, and she may need to further refine her skills.  She has the discernment to know this.   This is not a case of not being good enough.  It comes from a different place than that.  She is seeing what she wants and knows.  The fulfillment is her own.   It has nothing to do with a grade.

Again, I say how proud I am of her, and I wonder about a world that forces us to judge the work of children.  How has this happened?   Children are tested to get into preschools.  One can be a "failure" at the age of three. 

No wonder this society has condoned torture.   Look at what we do to our children.


A friend of mine who teaches eighth grade shared the story this weekend of a girl in her class who clearly plagiarized her work from the internet but she worked so hard to do it, she could have written it in her own words in less time.  Also, it had been explained to her that it was fine to quote others, just give them credit.   This girl so little trusted her own opinion that she did more work, cheated, was caught, was hysterical that her parents not be told, and for what?  Why?   She is a good student, my friend says.  There was no need for her to cheat.   What prompted her to not trust her own words and word?

I am proud of Katy, of her ability to confidently and comfortably self-assess, and I want a society comfortable  enough with itself to have each child comfortably do the same, knowing they won't be judged by "powers on high" who see only a GPA.

What are we doing?  How can we allow each of us to explore and be with our own state of bliss, and that does not mean a lack of discipline.   It means assessment that fits.



deep sea turtle

grades -

I posed the question on Connection Well about Katy, grades, and art.

Some of us have been posting a poem a day on Connection Well.   Someone asked how each of us would grade our poems.  How would we have written differently if we thought we would get a grade at the end of the month?

At first I felt a tightening, and then, I realized I would have worked harder, would have taken it more seriously.   Grades are a reward, a discipline, a form, that may well motivate "better" work, and that is not to judge, and yet, we do judge.  We do know when we respond to a work of art.

It is a great deal to digest this morning.  I have been so wrapped up in it, I haven't had my morning coffee.  I was raised with grades and seemed to respond well to them, and be motivated by them.   Maybe I should put a carrot of personal grades out for myself.   Maybe I'll use flowers, purple ones today.

In and out of chaos and form, judgment and not, discipline and freedom, freedom as discipline, discipline as freedom, we go.

The point, I believe, is to savor, the ride.

May this be so!

alan's marigolds

Fun -

The discussion on Connection Well continues on,  jubilantly now, and I think the whole point is to have fun.    Fun, in life, fun, in art.  When did life get so serious?    Remember all the statements, like "When did you stop dancing, singing, laughing sharing?"   Why would one ever stop?

My sons both found college easy because they had been so well-prepared and hammered for so many years with preparing for college that the actual event was a walk in the park.     What is that about?

The word for the day is fun, and work can be fun, so twirl like a dervish to find your own spin.   

fairy penguins - australia

Travel -

Herman Melville journeyed to exotic places and wrote about them.   In the book, Typee, Melville writes:

    .... entering their valley as I did, under the most erroneous impressions of their character, I was soon led to exclaim in amazement: "Are these the ferocious savages, the bloodthirsty cannibals of whom I have heard such frightful tales? They deal more kindly with each other, and are more humane, than many who study essays on virtue and benevolence ...."   I will frankly declare that after passing a few months in this valley of the Marquesas I formed a higher estimate of human nature than I had ever before entertained.

alan's flowers

Rice squeeze -

What can one say about the shortage of rice?  I go in and out of awareness.   I continue to stroke the sides of my ivory tower, though ivory is no longer in use.   Why is it some days hit harder than others?   I suppose it is how we survive.

I am reading The Voice of Hope by Aun San Suu Kyi.  It took about four months to get the book.   Perhaps it is right to wait for a book on hope.

Oddly, my passport renewed in a week and a half.  I thought of paying the extra for faster service, and then didn't when I saw it would only  mean three weeks, instead of four.  Now, it is quickly here.  I like to have it up-to-date in case I decide to leave, and I see again how fragile this spaceship we share.  There is no place to run.  We must refurbish what is here.

little penguin - sydney zoo

Who says there is no happy news?

The picture is of little penguin, not the penguin with the wet suit.

Penguin's wetsuit puts him back in the swim of things

Friday, April 25, 2008

What's black and white and warm all over? A penguin in a wetsuit, naturally. Sounds like a joke, but it's quite serious for biologists at the California Academy of Sciences, who had a wetsuit created for an African penguin to help him get back in the swim of things.

Pierre, a venerable 25 years old, was going bald, which left him with an embarrassingly exposed, pale pink behind.

Unlike marine mammals, which have a layer of blubber to keep them warm, penguins rely on their waterproof feathers. Without them, Pierre was unwilling to plunge into the academy's penguin tank and ended up shivering on the sidelines while his 19 peers played in the water.

"He was cold; he would shake," said Pam Schaller, a senior aquatic biologist at the academy.

Pierre's species of penguin is accustomed to temperate climates, unlike many of their cousins. The birds are nicknamed Jackass penguins because they make sounds similar to braying donkeys, quite startling the first time you hear it in an aquarium.

Schaller first tried a heat lamp to keep Pierre warm. Then she got another idea: If wetsuits help humans frolic in the chilly Pacific, why not whip up one in a slightly smaller size?

Staff at Oceanic Worldwide, a supplier of dive gear based in San Leandro, were enthusiastic about making a real penguin suit.

"We were really excited to do it," said Teo Tertel, company marketing specialist. "We heard most of these penguins only live to 20, and our little buddy there was already 25. Anything we could do to help them, we were all for it."

Schaller conducted fittings to design the suit, which fastens with Velcro at the back, covers Pierre's torso and has small openings for his flippers.

"I would walk behind him and look at where there were any gaps, and cut and refit and cut and refit until it looked like it was extremely streamlined," she said.

One concern was that the other penguins would reject Pierre in his new duds, but in fact, they accepted his sleek new look.

Pierre was outfitted with the suit about six weeks ago. Since then, he has gained weight, grown back feathers on his hind parts and is again acting like his feisty, alpha-male self.

On a recent visit, Pierre waddled around the tank, taking brief dips and standing on a rock next to his mate. He blended in well, although he was the only penguin with a black tummy.

Schaller can't say for sure whether the wetsuit allowed Pierre to recover his fine feathers, but "certainly we were able to keep him comfortable during a period of time that would have been very difficult for him to stay comfortable."

With his plumage restored, Pierre is being weaned off the suit, taking more and more dips in the buff.

There are no plans to make him a matching surf board.

monarch butterfly

The Valley of Elah -

I watched the movie The Valley of Elah tonight.   Sobering.   I wish there were something that could be done.

Cheney says, "So, ..."  

It is beyond what I understand.