Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 in Review, pt. 6

I need Oswald Bates' help here. Evocationism through abstractionism?


2010 in Review, pt. 5

Positively revelling in contrast?

Yeah, you know me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 in Review, pt. 4

Photo of dead butterfly hanging from a spider's web tilted to give it the look of taking flight?

This is what I do.

2010 in Review, pt. 3

Irony discovered at the cemetery? Of course.

This sign on a gravestone nearly took my breath away. I suppose I should have read it as a symbol of loving devotion, but instead it immediately read to me as a bitter jab at poor mother for having abandoned her child.

2010 in Review, pt. 2



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Found in me creek: Manatee!!!

Arr, me hearty!


When I be looking for booty in me backyard tortuous creek (me creek o' death, as it be), lo and behold, what think ye, matey, that I stumble upon with me sprogs?

Nay, not a mermaid, ye superstitious scallywag!

Arr, it be a manatee.

In me backyard.

Now it be true that I did reassemble its bones just a titch, but merely a titch.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 in review, pt. 1

Stinging creatures? Natch.

And freaky little eggs? Fo shizzle.

And my real goal? To post more photos from NYC and Chicago! Respeck.

Bike in the water

Just remembering the good times of 2010. Remember Nessie, Jonbon?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death Battle of the Bands: Trumpet FTW


Here's a question I posed to my good friend, Jeff, husband of Justcurious, as prompted by the very odd appearance of BOTH the UNC and V-Tech marching bands joining the football field to perform together.

Question: If you had to go to battle armed only with a musical instrument, what would it be?

Assume your opponents are also armed with instruments. You may use more than one type of instrument. You may do a MacGyver and jerry-rig instruments (and instrument parts) however you'd like. It is a battle to the death.


Answer: Trumpet

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cloud Gate

The sculptor of Cloud Gate is Anish Kapoor. And the ever-trenchant detector of subtle irony is Andy D.

Oh, it on!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

even your flow of tears

Normally I remember quite vividly one or two dreams per night. But last night the sole memory I had of any dream was this line spoken by someone else. I do not remember to whom the line was directed, but it was the very last thing I dreamt before I awoke:

"I will miss even your flow of tears when I am gone."

Its spoken cadence in the dream reminded me of the e.e. cummings poem that Michael Caine points out to Barbara Hershey in Hannah and Her Sisters--somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond, especially that wonderful closing line:

"nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands"

Monday, November 08, 2010

Taking down names

Not my area of expertise, but I've got imagine that when angels start taking down names then there's gonna be some hell to pay for someone. I doubt they're just journaling for the sake of self-discovery.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Witch at the cemetery

Sometimes one visits Myrtle Hill Cemetery by oneself to take a walk among the graves and headstones and to contemplate one's own mortality and the mortality of one's loved ones. And, if the spirit calls, to take photos. (And call it does.)

And sometimes when one visits Myrtle Hill cemetery, one has the entire cemetery to oneself with the exception of a witch, whom one sees at a distance in front a mausoleum.

I am glad that these things happen.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Cosmic Joke

Our pretensions:

Our reality:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


No one qualifies statements like I do. No one.

Ok, no one qualifies like I do except for that statement. That was nakedly unqualified.

But in general I'm the master of sussing out qualifying conditions and parsing out exceptions to generalized statements. I'd like to think of my self as King of the Analogy, but the truth is I'm probably just King Equivocator. So let me bold here for a moment.

The music selection I chose for this, a snippet of Radiohead's Paranoid Android is simply the most beautiful section of any song in the history of rock. Period.

Without exception.

True, it helps that it's basically stolen from Mozart's Requiem, but beauty is beauty. Even stolen beauty. Which is not to say it's my favorite song; it's just the most beautiful. (In rock, not all music. Dang! I can't help but qualify.)

Now since I suffer from what one of my colleagues has described as a pathological need for confession, I will now indulge that pathology. When I hear this song, I no longer cry. But I did cry, oh, the first seventy times I heard it. There was no resisting it. Like a freakin' faucet turned on full force the waterworks came. But after listen seventy-one even the most beautiful rock music in the world begins an inevitable slow descent to "meh...."

Which is what makes Bach a miracle, but that's a point for another post.

As for the photos, well, I liked a fair number of them just fine, but none stood out for me as especially outstanding. I couldn't choose which one or two to select, so I decided to give you the whole shebang. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

.8 mph

This was quite the traffic jam. As I remember it, we travelled about .6 miles or so in fifty minutes. I had been in worse traffic jams before, but I hadn't taken photos of traffic jams before, so hence we have this particular post.

This particular highway parking-lot experience occurred a few months ago--or as I refer to it now, during our pre-GPS days--and we were on our our way up to visit some lovely friends whom we've known for years. At various points throughout the drive the husband of the couple whom we were visiting called us to find out where we were. He has an uncanny ability to guess where we are (literally within five miles or so) based on the number of hours we've been on the road. So while we were stuck in traffic he called us and this funny emotional dynamic shifted into gear. My friend's DNA is hard-wired to kick into full-throttle help/coach/assist/advise/teach/explain mode at the drop of a hat. The truth is he's very smart, knows a lot of stuff, and he's always eager to share what he knows. He's helpful by nature and a natural-born teacher, and that part of his personality remains with him inside or outside the classroom. In contrast, my DNA is apparently wired to resist virtually all coaching, sometimes at all costs, even if the cost entails sucking in car exhaust on the highway. My friend was looking at his computer and providing us with alternative routes to his house. Sweet soul that he is, he volunteered (wanted to) stay on the phone with us throughout our travels just to guarantee we made it out of the jam. In contrast, I wanted to find my way out of the jam by intuition alone--or perhaps by sense of smell, in which I'd follow fresh air no matter where it led us. My wife is a reasonable woman and a peacemaker, and so she subtly brokered a compromise. Our friend would give us directions, which we would write down. In the meanwhile, we would go ahead and conclude our call but he'd keep his cell with him to answer any questions we might have as they would arise. As for me, I could alter the route as I saw fit once we got off the highway.

Juli's instincts were dead-on. We did call him once or twice. And I did deviate from his suggested route a bit. And it all concluded like a beautiful dream: We arrived safely and were greeted by our hosts with some absolutely killer peach daiquiris.

I think I drank two.

And then after the drinks (and hugs and many laughs) I went to bed feeling very much at peace with the world.

It was a beautiful visit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


This morning my wife suggested something to the effect of, "You are such a fortunate man. You have such good friends. They are amazingly loyal." And then she rattled off a healthy list of proper names, several of whom are among the blog regulars. And then she proceeded to explain, very sincerely and lovingly, how despite the fact I am unceasingly making everything all about me me me, these dear sweet loyal friends are forever indulging me in just about every way imaginable. And their patience seems boundless. They let me be me despite all the stuff about me that begs to be just a little bit less me-ish, if you catch my drift.

And beloved readers, the truth of it is that that while I knew this fact, I hadn't considered it as deeply and gratefully as I should have in a long time until Julianne reminded me of it. I was genuinely touched by both her sharing this truth with me as well as of the reality of it. I paused and realized, holy crap, I really am very lucky. My friends are incredible. I really do have sweet and interesting and brilliant and loyal friends, don't I? And I told Juli that I think I ought to take time this week to write them individual notes thanking them for their friendship.

Upon reflection, I hesitated, however. We both agreed that any such gushing note of gratitude on my part would have to be accompanied with a separate note written by Juli herself reassuring the reader that, no, I am not suicidal. Both of us know I'd be incapable of writing such a note that would not draw on the themes of the briefness of life and the reality of suffering and, well, just generally being a great big downer. So for the good of my friends, Julianne convinced me that I probably best NOT write the note. Just this once consider them, she urged.

This cuts against everything I live by, but for the sake of my friends, including many of my dear readers, I assented. So count yourself blessed this week if you don't receive a note from me. Believe me, your day will be a little brighter on account of it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


It would be utterly ridiculous if not altogether insulting to their integrity to say that these two perfectly sweet, charming, bright, funny, self-aware and highly compatible children who love each other's company will someday get married. What kind of moral monster of a parent would make such a suggestion?

Certainly not me.

Nope. Not me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The love you take is equal to the love you make

Life is too short and it’s too long. We complain without ceasing and then we weep when it’s done far too soon.

Life is not just another mystery; it’s the only mystery in town.

In the West we make sharp distinctions between sacred and ordinary, between sacred and profane. The East, in contrast, attempts to find transcendence in immanence, the divine in the ordinary. For example, rather than setting aside certain areas and consecrating them as holy, Confucianism infuses all of life with a spark of the divine.

I don’t feel the need to take a stand here as to which approach is superior. It’s beyond my pay scale, especially when I’m achy and vulnerable with tiredness as I am presently. And, tellingly, both West and East embrace both approaches to one degree or another, though each side clings to one approach more tightly than the other.

But let me be Eastern for a moment. Let me tell you of something that infuses my life with greater dimensionality. And let me assure you here that I’m speaking from the heart.

By the way, a year or two ago a student told me, “Dr. Bailey, I happened upon your blog last night.” “Oh?” I asked, non-committal. “Man, your voice is so…..strange. It’s just weird. For the life of me, I can’t figure it out.” “Oh, how’s that?” I asked. “How does it differ from my ordinary voice when I speak in conversation?” His response? “Oh, it doesn’t differ at all. It’s exactly the same.”

So I got that going for me.

Lydia's class is reading The Outsiders. I read it in high school though I have virtually no recollection of it at all. My best guess is that it was dated, and badly so, virtually the minute it went to press. Yet it must retain something timeless in it, for generation after generation of young people continue to read it. Apparently one of the rival gangs in the book prefers Elvis and another gang prefers the Beatles, but what this difference signifies—apart from superior musical discernment of the latter group-- escapes me.

Lydia's lit teacher heard through the grapevine (presumably from a grape named Lydia) that I was a Beatles nut, so she asked me to come to the class and discuss what was unique about John, Paul, George and Ringo.

She asked me to speak for about forty minutes. My talk was today.

What were my reactions to the opportunity?

Well what could have been my reaction apart from giddy delight?

Are you kidding me? Are you freaking kidding me?! You’re actually giving me forty minutes of uninterrupted floor time to proselytize The Fab Four?

What did I do to deserve such an opportunity?

Then I began to think about the actual task at hand. Does putting on a CD, kicking back and closing my eyes in bliss count as a lecture? Somehow I doubted it. How could I bring myself to omit a single detail, all of which are spellbinding? It occurred to me that this teaching opportunity, like any other teaching opportunity, needed to be done well. So what should I do? What music should I play? How in the world could I do justice to such a big topic? I wanted to be constructive and helpful. I wanted the students to take away a sense of what made the Beatles special. And that, sadly, would not be accomplished merely by me singing along to Beatles songs, no matter how much everyone would undoubtedly love such an enterprise.

I knew that I would need to spend time in preparation. Hours of preparation. Not one or two hours. But more likley six or more. I decided I’d create a PowerPoint and show plenty of photos and video clips as well as mix in some songs and song snippets. But what would be the connecting themes? And what photos to use? And what clips? What stories should I tell? And, most importantly, what songs would I use? I found the choices one part riches and one part paralyzing.

After a ridiculous amount of time sifting through various options, I condensed my message to just a few points, and I began to work at building the lecture.

So far so good. But as I worked through these thoughts I noted that I was, time and again, working through feelings of profound emotion. As I listened to various songs and reviewed clips, from out of the blue tears would spring forth and blur my vision. I flatter myself that I’m as self-aware as the next person (and undoubtedly as self-absorbed) but I could not account for my reaction. At least not fully at first. But the more I thought about it, the obvious began to emerge. I have very special feelings deep down about the Beatles, feelings complicated and sweetened and deepened by the role the Beatles played in long-gone friendships won and lost, and in ongoing friendships (and a marriage) won and maintained. Feelings complicated by the role the Beatles played in informing my emergence into adolescence and in subtly guiding me into a more mature world of thought and emotions. The Beatles were rebels, true, but they were cheerful and joyful rebels who celebrated love in all its expressions. They were the kinds of rebels a parent would want their children to follow. And now as my own children have enthusiastically embraced the Beatles the circle of life feels a turn richer.

Here I keenly feel my weakness of expression. So the best here I can do in describing my feelings for the Beatles is to use the words love and gratitude.

Irrational love.

Irrational gratitude.

By irrational I don’t mean ridiculous or juvenile, though I leave it to others to judge me so if they desire. (How could I protest?) Nor by ridiculous do I mean inappropriate. What I mean (I suppose) is that my feelings about the Beatles are ineffable and surely disproportionate in intensity and importance to what anyone would have reason to guess. Or even what I would have reason to guess. Disproportionate to what reason alone can explain.

But, see, here’s the thing. I count The Beatles as a solid in my life.

A solid.

My life has been on balance a happy one, far from misery, and characterized by an embarrassment of undeserved riches. My complaints are largely unwarranted and serve little more purpose than to keep me entertained.

And yet….

And yet life is life.

Life is a forever and inevitably a mixture of high and low, happy and sad, thrill and disappointment, peace and anxiety, promise and heartbreak. Life is a story of healthy bodies that, on one sunny day or another, finally break down and give out. One of my favorite thinkers, the 17th century Frenchman Pascal said this: “The life of man: inconstancy; boredom; anxiety.” I don't know how to improve upon that.

So all of us find coping mechanisms to divert our thought from darkness. Many of us simply refuse to think about what surrounds us and confronts us, either now or later. Others lose themselves in pleasure or in other distractions. Most of these diversions are perfectly innocent, and some are even productive. All of us use many such coping mechanisms, and we hardly think of them as mechanisms. We just think of them as living—and that’s fair, I think. At the end of the day life is as life does.

As for me, I have always known that with the Beatles I could dip into a deep deep well and draw forth satisfying and wonderfully refreshing water.

Just time after time after time, year after year after year.

In my own narrative they are an unbroken thread of joy and depth and exploration.

A solid.

So if this isn’t already alien enough for you, or if not just plain wacky, let me continue. In a non-metaphorical sense that I don’t pretend to integrate into a more traditional theology, the Beatles have played a spiritual component in my life. They helped me grow into adulthood. They helped give me expression to words and feelings I could not otherwise express. They made me feel happy and smart and hip. They made me feel more in love and more alive. The Beatles have been a sanctuary for me, a refuge.

This is simply irrational. But it’s certainly normal, too. People go to familiar parks or to beaches or to or this place and that to recenter themselves. We may feel more ourselves in art museums. Or while shopping. Or in church. Or reading books. Or taking walks. The Beatles were not the only such refuge for me, but they're one of the strongest and most satisfying. And now that I’ve rediscovered them through the eyes and ears of my children, I’m amazed all over again at how they continue to satisfy.

A solid.

And so here with this assignment I had an opportunity to discuss this source of joy and exploration and creativity that has meant so much to me. I was more than excited. I was more than desirous to do a good job. I began to think of the talk in spiritual terms.

Spiritual not in any strict theological sense but in the sense (for lack of a better word) of karma—that what goes around comes around. I came to sense strongly that this occasion was more than accidental. It was an opportunity to pay back to the Great Karmic Bank in the Sky, if only in the smallest measure, a tiny portion of the good I had been given. The truth is, I feel deeply indebted to The Beatles. My life is richer and more thoughtful and more joyful because of them. Just unambiguously so.

A solid.

I do not want to start a theological argument with anyone, but in my gut, just deep down, I believe that if a thirty-year thread of an unambiguous good isn't sacred, then I don't know what is.

Now, I’m certainly foolish but I’m not simply a fool. Of course I know that I cannot pay back the Beatles themselves. Of course. But that’s not my intent. Instead I felt that by introducing their music to young people in a way that conveys my own excitement about it, I am paying forward a gift that was given to me. If nothing else, hopefully I could invite these young adults to explore a new room of emotion and thought and creativity in their own lives.

I confess that with such high expectations, the reality of the experience today did not live up to my highest hopes. Though I had a lovely time, I felt as though ultimately I failed. And that’s okay. I am at peace about the experience. I felt failed but far from discouraged because the story of these students cannot be mine. All I can do is pray that these precious young people will discover their own version of The Beatles—their own special refuge that helps make their lives more vividly felt, more thrilling, richer and deeper. I pray that they too will find their own joys so that, to quote another great musical artist, at the end of the day they will smile with the knowledge that, yes, the going up is worth the coming down.