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Archive for the category “Creativity”

Dylan Hears A Who

Open Culture does it again by digging up this “album” of Dr. Seuss stories turned into songs sung by Bob Dylan. It’s not actually Bob Dylan, but it sure sounds like him. If Bob Dylan recorded these songs would you buy them?

Green Eggs and Ham is delightful. An instant classic!

Here’s Oh, the Thinks You Can Think:

And Too Many Daves (no video, but a nice change of pace):

There are a few more from the fake album, Dylan Hears a Who. You can find them on YouTube. I only wish the artist who created them had included my favorite Seuss book, Fox in Socks.

But as a bonus, here’s Jimmy Fallon’s impersonation of Jim Morrison and The Doors performing Reading Rainbow. (Thank you, Donna.)

playing (great music) for change

If you have just returned from interplanetary travel and don’t know about Playing for Change, do yourself a favor and check them out. What they’re up to is “connecting the world through music”–and what beautiful and moving music it is. These are four personal favorites of the over 70 videos they’ve produced. I can hardly wait for the next CD to be released.

You can never ever have too much music!

episode 63: a change is gonna come

Live from Folsom Prison, the PFC Band at its most soulful.

episode 53: la tierra del olvido

Translates to “land of the forgotten.” 75 musicians from all over Colombia. Just amazing.

episode 49: satchita

A musical journey from Brazil to India (from the PFC2 CD). So joyful.

episode 38: imagine

John Lennon’s song around the world. Still gives me chills

music made visible

Violin_CymaGlyphA3_280108_pdfPlease check out the website for Cymascope (music made visible), where you can see music notes as “holographic bubbles.”

musicmadevisible is a new concept in musical expression, a stream of cymatic images representing an analog of music in visual form. If our eyes could see music we would not see waves, as is commonly believed, but beautiful holographic bubbles, with shimmering kaleidoscopic patterns on their surface. The CymaScope allows us to see this previously hidden realm of beauty.

There is much more information about how this works on the website, which also has a CymaPiano. You can click on the keys to see what each note looks like. Plus there’s a “cymatics experiment,” a short video of Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine. So cool!

in a stranger ocean than I wished

Parachutes, My Love, Could Carry Us Higher

A poem by Barbara Guest


This is one of my favorite poems. Barbara Guest (1920-2006) was a poet of the New York school, which also included John Ashbery, another poet whose work I admire.

Roll the Dice

Speaking of stranger oceans, here’s a great poem–and challenge–by Charles Bukowski:

if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.

you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter, it’s
the only good fight
there is.

you: a work of art in progress

If you thought of your life as a work of art in progress, what existing art form would it most resemble? The idea of living one’s life as a “work in progress” is not new, and I have come across it many times in my travels. More than a few years ago, when I was struck afresh by the rich possibilities of artistic metaphor, I took a look at my own life in this context and also surveyed some friends. My own answer to the question was immediate and obvious, but I was surprised by every single answer I received from my friends.

An ex-insurance industry executive said that his life would be a multi-media performance piece. A writer described her life as a sculpture, while a musician called his life a “junk” sculpture. A computer  programmer was clear that his life was a symphony. Several years later, I posed the question to several different people and got a whole new set of answers, including:

Kelly words

At that time, I saw my own life as a play and this is what I wrote about it:

The things in my life are all stage props; I’m very aware of setting my scenes. All the people in my life are characters in my play and so, of course, am I. I just happen to be writing, directing, and starring in this production which, a friend remarked, would probably be the most expensive play ever produced.

There’s an inherent discipline in living one’s life as a play in progress. This is different from the discipline that’s part of living life as a sculpture or as a painting or as a symphony. In a play, props and scenery are vital–but only to the scenes in which they belong. One can’t become too attached to any particular props. Staging is also important and so are timing and pacing.

I recall being conscious of things as background props and of people (including myself) as characters from an early age. I wrote plays, read plays, directed amateur productions, and hung out with the local drama group. I thought up names and descriptions of characters, along with elaborate decorating schemes, to amuse myself. When I was old enough to notice I decided this was an odd way to think about things. Whereas other people seemed to make choices almost by instinct, I could consider a range of alternatives: the final choice depended on the requirements of the scene or the plot line; choosing otherwise seemed  arbitrary.

That felt like a strange approach, but strange or not, it was my approach. When it came time for me to reinvent myself at a major twist in the plot, I had no difficulty changing my wardrobe, my style, my attitude, and even my name. After all, this isn’t real life–whatever that’s supposed to be.

I wouldn’t use the same metaphor to describe my life now. Some days it feels like a surrealistic jigsaw puzzle: challenging, colorful, so much to look at, still not put together, and not at all what you’d (or I’d) expect.

What about you? If your life were a work of art in progress, what metaphor would you choose to describe it? Would it be a painting, a sculpture, a black and white photograph? A novel, a short story, a play, a poem, an essay? Would it be a symphony, an opera, a collage, a Rodgers and Hart musical, a movie? Or…what?

mandala daze

An assortment of colored pencils

An assortment of colored pencils (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Under the influence of the friend I stayed with right after I moved to San Francisco in 1974, I bought a box of crayons and some colored pencils and jumped into mandala-making. The practice involved creating a new one each day. My first efforts were kind of crude, but the intention was to develop self-awareness rather than to create works of art.

Nevertheless, I was dissatisfied with the slapdash approach that seemed to be necessary in order to produce a new mandala every day. I started being more deliberate and spending more than one day working on each one. Right around then, I met RC (my partner of 30 years), who was a very talented artist. He was working with the mandala form on both small and large scales. He had a stash of drafting tools (among other stashes) and showed me how to use them (the drafting tools). We got into the habit of spending hours sitting together at the dining table, each working on our own drawings.

I made a couple dozen mandalas using markers and colored pencils and developed a heavy Prismacolor habit. We framed a few and hung them on the wall. But i stuck them inside a manila folder a decade or two ago and filed it away in such a safe place I haven’t been able to lay my hands on it for years. In the course of looking for it, however, I unearthed a number of other things I’d forgotten I’d kept or had lost track of. So it’s fitting that last week, while looking for something entirely unrelated, I finally found the manila folder containing the mandalas!

The ones I like best are:

Mandala #1

Mandala #1

Mandala #2

Mandala #2

Mandala #3

Mandala #3

Mandala #4

Mandala #4

Mandala #5

Mandala #5

Mandala #6

Mandala #6

Mandala #7

Mandala #7

Mandala #8

Mandala #8

All of these were created in 1975 and 1976, before the advent of the personal computer and scanner. It was a different time and place, a different way of life. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad to have found them. They remind me of living at a slower pace, of paying attention to things in a different way, and of the companionable evenings RC and I spent together.

I still enjoy coloring mandalas occasionally, but even though I have that stash (of drafting tools) around here somewhere, I haven’t taken the time to draw my own designs in so long it seems unlikely I’ll ever do it again. But that’s OK. That was then, and this is now.

Is there something you once really got into and enjoyed, but that you no longer do–or maybe no longer even think about?

hope for the new year

Dancer/choreographer Lionel Hun performed this exquisite dance in Macau shortly after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The credits say “For Japan.” Let’s have it be “For Everyone Everywhere.”


NOTE: As of January 2013, give me a daisy will publish new posts every Tuesday and Saturday, instead of every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Please check out my new blog, Farther to Go: Creating Meaning in Midlife &  Beyond if you are so inclined.

‘tis the season to be buoyant

buoyant morning

buoyant morning (Photo credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro)

With the arrival of the winter solstice last week, I needed to choose a new keyword for the next three months. The first (and last) time I chose a keyword for a season, I did it without putting much thought into it. Velocity came to me immediately, and so did the accompanying theme song, Glad Tidings by Van Morrison. Somewhere along the way, I realized that focusing on velocity without having first determined my direction was like sending a driverless race-car speeding 100+ miles per hour along a track. Nothing good was likely to come of it. So I paused to set a couple of goals.

This time, I wasn’t quite so hasty. I discarded my first choice of keyword, focus, when I realized focus is one of those things that repeatedly gets me into trouble. I don’t usually have difficulty focusing. On the contrary, what I have difficulty with is stepping back and loosening the reins of my focus. Sometimes circumstances change, you know? But I’m nothing if not persistent, so it often takes me a while to notice and then to back off or switch gears.

What I came up with for my winter keyword is buoyant. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I really dislike winter. I dislike the cold temperatures, the noisy furnace, the layers of clothing, the short days, the gray skies, and the snow (when we get it). Winter feels heavy and oppressive to me. If I could wear shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt year around, I would. It takes temperatures hovering around 100 degrees before I comment on the heat. I’ve hiked the Sandia foothills in the mid-afternoon in the mid-90s. You just have to slather on the sunscreen, wear a hat, take plenty of water, and try not to run a marathon out there.

So the three months between December 21st and March 21st are my least favorite of the year—a trial to get through. This year I’m going to try a different tactic by attempting to lighten up, loosen up, and be a little more cheerful. Along with cheerful, lively, and sprightly, a few other synonyms for buoyant are:


All good stuff, but it gets even better because buoyant also means:


Since I’m working on a new venture right now, this sense of the word buoyant is ideal for that, too. The third definition of buoyant refers to being light and able to float on water. Large bodies of water and I are not friends, so although I love this concept, it’s a little edgy for me. But that’s OK; a little edginess never hurt anyone. And light is the opposite of heavy, which is good.

now i know how it feels
to have wings on my heels

The search for a theme song also took longer this time than it did before. A lot of songs came close, but none of them hit exactly the right note. Then I came across this one by, of all people, the Moody Blues, from To Our Children’s Children, and it’s perfect.


Floating free as a bird
Sixty foot leaps, it’s so absurd
From up here you should see the view
Such a lot of space for me and you
Oh, you’ll like it
Gliding around, get your feet off the ground
Oh, you’ll like it
Do as you please with so much ease
Now I know how it feels
To have wings on my heels

I confess to having owned several Moody Blues albums way back when, but I don’t think I had this one.  And I probably wouldn’t have chosen this song for one of my playlists in the normal course of events. But the purpose of choosing a keyword is to aim my attention in a different direction, to consider things from a different perspective, and to get out of my usual mindset. In this case, to be more buoyant!

Do you have a keyword for winter? If so, please share it.

permission to fail


(Photo credit: American Artist Ben Murphy)

A handful of quotes to inspire you to fail and fail again because failure is an essential part of the creative process. It’s also a part of life.

If we’re not failing, we’re just not trying hard enough.

So go out there and fail better, fail faster. Rack up as many failures as you possibly can!

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.

–Edwin Land

Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.

–Winston Churchill

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.

–E. J. Phelps

It takes sixty-five thousand errors before you are qualified to make a rocket.

–Werhner von Braun

Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

–Leonard Cohen

I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot… and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s precisely why I succeed.

–Michael Jordan

To develop working ideas efficiently, I try to fail as fast as I can.

–Richard P. Feynman

Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure—or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember, that’s where you will find success.

–Thomas J. Watson

An inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. If he succeeds once then he’s in.

–Charles Kettering

I failed my way to success.

–Thomas Edison

Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

–Samuel Beckettt

To be wrong is nothing unless you continue to remember it.



The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.

–Linus Pauling

If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.

–Alfred Nobel

So try not to be too attached to any of the ideas you currently have.

sittin’ with the kitten

The Bedroom Chair

The bedroom chair.

There’s no one here to take a picture of the two of us (Naima and me), but this is the chair in which I spend time each and every morning doing what I call sittin’ with the kitten. Naima isn’t really a kitten anymore at two years and nearly four months old, but she’s still quite kittenish and playful.

I can’t recall how we got into this habit. There’s another white wicker chair in the living room next to the tallest cat tree, and that’s where we first started doing this. At some point we switched to my bedroom, which has a large window facing a grassy area and a bird-filled tree.

I’m a creature of habit in the morning, and Naima has learned my habits well. She precedes me down the hall first to the bathroom and next to the closed door of my office. Then she waits while I get all my computer equipment turned on, open the blinds in the living and dining areas, and get the water heating for my coffee before I feed her. After she eats her breakfast, she plays with her toys while I finish fixing cereal or toasting an English Muffin.

I eat breakfast in front of the computer (nasty habit). When Naima’s done playing, she comes and sits just inside or just outside my office waiting for me. I’d say waiting “patiently,” but it’s hard to ascribe patience to a cat. After I finish eating, I take the rest of my coffee back to my bedroom.

Sometimes, Naima lags behind a little. If she’s not in the room when I sit down in the wicker chair, I say, “Where’s the kitty?” That’s her cue to peek around the corner and then come running over. She prefers to get up into my lap from the left side, so she might have to circle the chair before jumping up. Then she settles against my chest, with her head near my left shoulder, and we snuggle for a while.

white space

This is usually the only white space in my day. If you don’t know the term, here’s a chunk of information from Wikipedia:

In page layout, illustration and sculpture, white space is often referred to as negative space. It is the portion of a page left unmarked: the space between graphics, margins, gutters, space between columns, space between lines of type or figures and objects drawn or depicted. The term arises from graphic design practice, where printing processes generally use white paper. White space should not be considered merely “blank” space — it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all, the balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition. When space is at a premium, such as some types of magazine, newspaper, and yellow pages advertising, white space is limited in order to get as much vital information on to the page as possible. A page crammed full of text or graphics with very little white space runs the risk of appearing busy, cluttered, and is typically difficult to read. 

I worked in the Retail Advertising Department of a newspaper for several years, which is where I became familiar with the term. Then a year or so ago, a newspaper copy editor blogged about the idea of incorporating white space into one’s day—to serve the same purpose as white space in an ad. Cramming the day with activity after activity with no time to just be leads to a cluttered mind, he suggested. It’s hard to take a deep breath when we’re always focused on or engaged in something, always trying to complete a task, converse with someone, or solve a problem. I agree. There’s almost no white space in my day–except for the time I spend sittin’ with the kitten.

be here now

Looking down from above.

Naima atop her perch. Be Here Now.

After Naima has had enough cuddling, she moves over to the cat tree, gives herself a bath, and then arranges herself on one level or another to watch what’s going on outside. I finish my coffee. And look out the window. And talk to her a little (her tail swishes in response). I’ve thought of bringing a book in there to read once she gets off my lap. Or a notepad to jot down the list of things I need to do or whatever random ideas may occur to me. You know–do something useful. But no. Then it wouldn’t be white space, anymore.

If I’m preoccupied, Naima notices. She reminds me to be present with her. A couple of years ago, when I was tutoring kindergarten students in the Albuquerque Reads program, one of my students, Angel, was very bright but easily distracted. One day, I heard myself say to him, “Angel, be here now.” He interpreted that to mean “pay attention.” Whenever he noticed he wasn’t paying attention–maybe it was a look I was giving him–he’d say, “I know. Be here now.”

At the end of the tutoring year, I created a card for him using a photo of Naima looking very sternly and  intently into the camera. I added the caption Naima says: Angel, BE HERE NOW, which he got quite a kick out of. I wonder what his parents made of it.

The fact is I’ve gotten some of my best ideas sitting in that wicker chair in the morning without really trying to have them. So I don’t let anything intrude into this white space. It’s one of the most important parts of my day. I’m sure Naima would agree.

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