Living, Dying: Mercy? (Blake: The Human Abstract)


Dying, Varanasi (Benares)
: photo by fredcan, May 2009

On his photo Dying, Varanasi (Benares) (brought to our attention by poet friend Aditya), the photographer, fredcan, has this to say:

Varanasi (Bénarès) est aussi la cité de la mort. Plus que n'importe où ailleurs, la vie et la mort s'y juxtaposent, comme pour nous rappeler que rien n'est permanent et que la mort est la seule certitude qui existe.

Je suis tombé sur cette vache à l'agonie, alors que je descendais Harichandra Ghat en direction du Gange, un matin à l'aube. Il n'est pas rare que les vaches tombent en descendant les ghats, se cassent les membres et finissent paralysées. Elles sont alors laissées là, agonisantes. Dans ces cas là, certains viennent s'occuper d'elles, les nourrissent, leur donnent des calmants et les couvrent de couvertures, jusqu'au bout. Il ne viendrait à l'idée de personne de mettre un terme à leur souffrance, puisque, on s'en doute, tuer une vache représenterait un terrible péché pour un hindou.

Varanasi is also the city of death. More than anywhere else, death and life are side by side, as if to remind us that nothing is permanent and that death is the only certainty that exists.

I came across this dying cow one morning at dawn, as I was walking down Harichandra Ghat, towards the Ganga. Sometimes, cows fall down the ghats and break their legs. They end up paralysed and are left there dying. When this happens, some people come and take care of them, feed them, give them drugs and cover them with blankets, until the end. It wouldn't cross anyone's mind to put an end to the animal's suffering, since, unsurprisingly, killing a cow would be seen as a terrible sin for a Hindu.

* * *

William Blake: The Human Abstract

Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor:
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we;

And mutual fear brings peace;
Till the selfish loves increase.
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears:
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.

Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpiller and Fly,
Feed on the Mystery.

And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.

The Gods of the earth and sea,
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain.

The Human Abstract: William Blake, from Songs of Experience, 1794

William Blake: title page of Songs of Innocence and of Experience, 1794

File:Sharecroppers evicted 1936.jpg

Black refugees evicted from sharecropping, now living on roadside, Parkin, Arkansas: photo by John Vachon, 1936 (Farm Security Administration/WPA, Library of Congress)


Three families camped on the plains along U.S. 99 in California. They are camped behind a billboard which serves as a partial windbreak. All are in need of work. Billboard reads "Next Time Try The Train. Southern Pacific. Travel While You Sleep": photo by Dorothea Lange, November 1938 (Farm Security Administration/WPA, Library of Congress)

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1978-085-28, Berlin, Ausgebombte nach britischen Luftangriff.jpg

Berlin, morning after the British bomb attack of 23-24 August 1943: amidst their salvaged possessions, two homeless women seated and waiting for evacuation: photographer unknown, August 1943 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1990-0323-501, Flüchtlingsfamilie in Oberschlesien.jpg

Refugee family in Upper Silesia, waiting in the freezing cold for someone to pick them up to flee their homeland to the west to safety: photo by Blaschka, January 1945 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 175-13223, Berlin, Flüchtlinge aus dem Osten.jpg

Berlin Hauptbahnhof: homeless refugees from Pomerania, East and West Prussia, fleeing westward: photographer unknown, March 1945 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)

Homeless cat, Japan: photo by 新 日 本 奇 行 ふたたび, 10 December 2008

Wrestlers of Pehlwani, Varanasi (Benares), Uttar Pradesh, India: photo by fredcan, 10 March 2008.

"...un combat entre pehlwani, les lutteurs de Varanasi (Bénarès). Je suis allé chaque matin pendant plusieurs jours à l'akhara (l'école), mais les combats n'ont jamais vraiment eu lieu. Tout est toujours très aléatoire et imprévisible en Inde, ce qui rend tout projet improbable."

"...a fight between pehlwani, the Indian wrestlers of Varanasi (Benares). I had been going to the akhara or school for several days, but fights never really occurred. Everything is always uncertain and unpredictable in India, which makes all kinds of plans rather unlikely."

Varanasi (Benares), Uttar Pradesh, India
: panoramic photocollage by mirrormundo, 8 April 2009

for Vincent and Aditya

J.D. Eicher & The Goodnights - Shifting

JD Eicher & The Goodnights - Shifting
2011, JD Eicher

J.D. Eicher & The Goodnights return with their second album in two years, Shifting, due out May 3, 2011.  The title is apropos, detailing both the growth process of the band and the changes in sound present on the album.  The collective from Pittsburgh and northeastern Ohio delves deeper into Americana roots rock while maintaining the melodic pop sensibilities that filled their prior album, The Shape Of Things.

Shifting opens with "The Beauty Of It All", a melancholy pop entreaty for a return to romance with a memorable chorus.  "Love Is Gonna Find You" shows off Eicher's talent for subtle singer/songwriter pop songs.  The verses are solid and the chorus reaches for the stars, but gets a bit too caught up in repetition.  Eicher ruminates on getting over a relationship and how it turns out be harder than expected on "Easy".  Everything comes together here, with a great melody and a chorus that gets stuck in your head.  Eicher's vocal makes the song, but the mellow rock style blends with a distinctive pop sensibility to create a memorable musical moment.

"It's A Feeling" plays on much the same dynamic, with heavier involvement from the piano ala Ben Folds.  The pop feel is high here while maintaining the mellow dynamic that is at the core of the album.   "Fine Line" is solid, but doesn't work well as the acoustic version at the end of the disc. "Blue Coat On Carousel" is a solid love song with an impressionist flair, capturing a moment in time as a symbol of love and beauty.  This may be the best overall songwriting on the album, but is more subtle than the rest of the album and might be overlooked on the first listen.  "Mr. Misery is intriguing, playing around the pre-conceptions about standard pop construction.  Eicher sews together multiple musical parts in ways you might not expect.  Shifting closes with an acoustic version of "Fine Line" that is very much an improvement over the standard version offered earlier.

On Shifting, JD Eicher & The Goodnights have moved forward from The Shape Of Things; this is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse.  As with many sophomore albums, there is something of a drop-off here.  Solo albums tend to be built from songs written over a longer window with much more development in live shows.  Sophomore albums are often the first time a band is writing in a more compressed time frame with the express purpose of making an album.  Add in the continued growth of a band that knows its craft but is still learning how to execute it in time frames, and Shifting offers up both expected transitions and a few pleasant surprises.  The album is a solid effort showing a band that's made something good and is now trying to decide where to take it.  If JD Eicher & The Goodnights haven't quite figured out their destination yet, Shifting indicates that the journey there should be interesting and worth following.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about J.D. Eicher & The Goodnights at  Shifting drops May 3, 2011.  You can pre-order a digital copy from  Expect wider availability after release.

Have a beautiful weekend.

My darlings, what are your plans for the weekend? Alex and I are going out to a neighborhood French restaurant tomorrow and I'm thinking about wearing false eyelashes just for fun. Have you ever worn them? (Any tips?) Hope you have a wonderful weekend, and here are a few great posts from around the web...

Update: This. (Genius.)

Beautiful Royal Wedding photo. (How gorgeous was Pippa's dress?)

And a funny flowchart.

Ominous Manhattan weather this week.

New York City gets made under.

April showers.

Wedding sparkles.

All kinds of stripes.

Magritte coat hangers.

Aren't you glad this isn't your to-do list?

Basket backpack. (Jane Birkin would have approved.)

Adorable spring collection.

Three guys living in IKEA.

Pretty in pink.

Finally! A truly friendly bike shop in NYC.

Plus, three Cup of Jo posts you might have missed:
* Seahorse tails.
* How to look confident.
* Sea-salt brownies.

Have a good one, my lovelies! xoxo

(Photo by Sweet Eventide, via Poppytalk)

Mother's Day gift guide

My dolls, if you're still looking for a Mother's Day present, I put together a little gift guide here. xoxo P.S. And the present I got my own mom.

Three pretty things

How would you like to wear this...
read a book here...
and vacation here?

(Top photo by the Sartorialist, bottom photo by Papa Stour. Via TKOW)

Congratulations, Will and Kate!

What a romantic moment...
...although maybe a little too loud. :)

(Via Elle)

Signs of the Times: And the Stars Fell on Alabama


Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre presents the Adventures of Tom Sawyer in the Bama Theatre, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
: photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 16 April 2010 (George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs, Library of Congress)

The many masks of the whirling, pulsating stars. A venerable tradition in the time of Andrew Marvell held that momentous historical events were always heralded by unusual occurrences in nature.

A secret Cause does sure those Signs ordain

Fore boding Princes falls, and seldom vain.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678): from A Poem upon the Death of O.[liver] C.[Cromwell", 1658, in Miscellaneous Poems, 1681

Lightning strikes at the heart of the massive tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa and continued on to Birmingham, Alabama: photo by Saxon McClamma, 27 April 2011

Tuscaloosa Tornado as seen from UAB campus: photo by Saxon McClamma, 27 April 2011

A large tornado sweeps through Limestone County, south of Athens, Alabama, 27 April 2011: photo by Gary Cosby Jr./The Decatur Daily/AP

Overnight tornadoes left part of Pratt City, Alabama in ruins, 28 April 2011: photo by Marvin Gentry/Reuters

Concrete steps lead to nothing after a tornado demolished a mobile home in Preston, Mississippi, 27 April 2011; the home and one next to it were blown about 100 feet away into a cow pasture; three related women died at the site: photo by Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Who Owns Copyright in Piano Arrangements?

Dear Rich: If a sheet music publisher wants to license my songs for a folio (a collection of all songs from an album), with the proviso that their particular, notated piano arrangements of my songs are being created as a work-made-for-hire for me, then can the sheet music publisher nevertheless claim copyright in the overall folio as a collection? Or to phrase my question a bit differently: Is the copyright in a collection a "derivative copyright," which I would have to expressly grant to the sheet music publisher? Speaking of sheet music, we recently downloaded sheet music from Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses (the 11th best-selling album of all time) from Wow, the world has come a long way. We can't prevent world hunger or predict earthquakes but we can get the guitar tabs for Welcome to the Jungle in a few keystrokes. Yea!
Right, you had a question. We're going to assume that you granted the sheet music publisher exclusive rights to publish the portfolio. In that case, the publisher (as exclusive licensee) is considered the “copyright owner” of that collection of sheet music and has the right to register the collection and to file an infringement action in court to stop a rival sheet music publisher who rips off the portfolio. In reality, the rights acquired by the copyright owner are narrow because the sheet music publisher doesn't own copyright in the songs or their arrangements -- that's yours. What the folio publisher owns is the equivalent of a "thin copyright" -- a work that contains limited copyrightable subject matter. The key to the publisher's ability to claim its copyright is that the license you granted is exclusive. A non-exclusive license won't cut it.
Do you have to expressly grant a derivative copyright? No, not exactly, but you do have to grant the exclusive license which automatically gives rise to the publisher's ability to register its rights and pursue thieves. The agreement may also modify the rights and relationships of the two parties. So, you could request that if the publisher is going to go after someone that you be notified immediately so that you can also pursue the infringers as well. You can also request to be asked to be named on any copyright filings and of course, once the license ends, all rights revert to you.

Paper Thick Walls - A Thousand Novels

Paper Thick Walls - A Thousand Novels
2011, Paper Thick Walls

Paper Thick Walls had a busy year in 2010.  The quintet of Eric Michaels (vocals/guitar/motif); Kate Schell (vocals/piano/trumpet); Roger Sherman (upright bass); Andrew Sabo (drums) and Jacques René (fiddle/mandolin/guitar) graced the stage at SXSW, NXNE and CMJ Music Marathon.  In the process they came to the attention of sound engineer Mike Hagler (Wilco, Neko Case) with a sound that's been compared to Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire.  Hagler took the boards to help Paper Thick Walls create their debut album, "A Thousand Novels", out May 3, 2011.  Mixing intricate orchestral folk/pop arrangements with articulate tales born of fancy, Paper Thick Walls cut an intriguing musical path.

A Thousand Novels hits the ground with the lush folk/pop blend of "Old Weathered Dock".  The song is a collection of visual mementos set to a catchy and quirky orchestrated arrangement.  Between Kate Schell's exceedingly pleasant vocal lead, Eric Michaels' Peter Gabriel-esque secondary vocal and the airy, orchestrated arrangement, "Old Weathered Deck" is a breath of fresh air.  "Sighs Of Relief" is a painted poem set to music about meeting someone new and falling in love, diverting into the healing power of love as an aside.  It's a pretty, piano-based tune fleshed out into full, layered orchestration.  Schell and Michaels duet on "Orange Tree", an optimistic song sung on the run from the law.  This memorable tale matches an occasionally bitter circumstance against a sweet and dreamy arrangement that reflects the unreality of the situation.  Don't be surprised if you fall in love with the chorus on first listen.

"Nyquil" is quasi-psychedelic folk, extolling the beauty of one to a host of heavenly bodies.  The song has an odd-yet-charming quality wrapped up in its abstract exploration of consequence.  "A Thousand Novels" is a love story of two people torn apart by war.  This is not your typical song of love overcoming any circumstance unless you're into the metaphysical outcome.  The focus here is how love will be memorialized, and is touching if a bit out of the ordinary.  "Desolate Place" explores the transformation of a relationship's aftermath into rebuilding.   The musical arrangement parallels the story in loneliness and loss with an intriguing theatrical feel in spite of the almost ethereal melancholy that pervades the song. 

"Portrait" is a duet about love and beauty in the abstract, as it exists in our minds but oft times not in our realities.  The media here are paintings, words and memories, but the connection evades in a gorgeous arrangement born of guitar, percussion and bass.  "Overgrown" is a catchy acoustic rocker that finds Eric Michaels out in front.  It's a solid love song that's a bit wordy for its own good, but overcomes this with a pragmatic and catchy arrangement that grabs your attention.  Paper Thick Walls say goodnight with "Infinite", a number that vacillates between introspective, depressive verses and a jaunty chorus.  The mix is jarring, but works well as varying motifs on the theme of falling apart.

Like Belle And Sebastien before them, Paper Thick Walls have found a sound that is both articulate in composition and lyrically melodic.  The converse is so obvious it need not be stated.  A Thousand Walls sucks listeners in the way a great book envelopes your mind.  Musically, lyrically and dramatically, Paper Thick Walls challenge listeners to listen actively and participate on an intellectual and emotional level.  A Thousand Walls will keep you coming back for more.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Paper Thick Walls at or Thousand Novels is due out May 3, 2011 and is available for digital pre-order from  Expect wider availability to follow in both digital and traditional formats.

Say Yes...

...yes to catnaps in the sun.
Yes to milkshake dates.
Yes to remedies for rainy days.
Yes to one more midterm...
...ever. (Now curling up in fetal position).
Yes to befriending people you never spoke to during high school.
Yes to springtime in Chicago!

[photo cred to here via Modern Hepburn]

The Love List

A mixed bag of things on the Love List today. I'm loving...

... these porcelain doilies

...this indoor herb garden

...this most creative wedding invite...

...this tumblr of organized things...

...this small kitchen transformation

...this collection of images in my "styling" Pinterest board

...and, oh all right, this free Will & Kate printable. Will you be watching the Royal Wedding? Maybe my little princess and I will have a little tea party and watch it together.

Have a great weekend!

Aw, sad.

Don't google yourself tonight, Prince William!

The Royal Wedding

So excited for The Royal Wedding tomorrow!!! Are you going to wake up early and watch it? Kate must have serious butterflies.

Fun fact: Did you know that Royals tend not to use last names? I suddenly realized this morning that I had *no* idea what Prince William's last name was. (Apparently it's Mountbatten-Windsor.)

P.S. I can't wait to see all the wedding hats and fascinators.

Cheese pairings

My lovelies, here's our third (and final) cheese tutorial! If you're planning a romantic night at home, or a fun evening with friends, here are three cheese + drink pairings that will knock your socks off...
The stinky French cow's milk cheese Langres comes in a wooden container. The traditional way to eat it is to pour Champagne into the little dip (or "fountain") on the top of the cheese -- which makes it effervescent and delicious! (Confession: We used Prosecco to save some coin, but it was still fabulous.)
There are two types of people in the world: Those who love smoky flavors, and those who hate them. (Which are you?) This smoked goat cheese, Up in Smoke, packs a major punch--and almost tastes like bacon! The award-winning cheese is bright, tangy and smoky, since it's wrapped in smoked maple leaves spritzed with bourbon. Double the intensity by pairing it with a really smoky beer. (Alex was obsessed with this combo.)
I never drink coffee (which is ironic considering my blog's name), but I made an exception for this amazing cheese. Barely Buzzed is a cheddar-style cheese made by two brothers-in-law in Utah, and the rind is rubbed with espresso coffee grounds and lavender. The flavors permeate the milky cheese--it's incredible. Barely Buzzed won a Blue Ribbon at the American Cheese Society three years in a row. Pair it with a strong cup of coffee for a taste explosion...and a serious spring in your step. :)

What do you think? Which would you go for?

P.S. More cheese-y posts!

(Recommendations from Murray's Cheese. Photos by the amazing Jamie Beck for Cup of Jo)


Just 'cause.

How Do I License Information Designs?

Dear Rich: I have created several information designs in the past few years in the hope of seeing them improve commercial communication. I have the additional hope that they could be licensed and generate a little royalty. Is there a company like the Copyright Clearance Center which might work for me? Do I have to PAY a lot up front, especially to an attorney? We think we have a rough idea what information design is all about and we assume that you're talking about licensing specific information design works (for example, things like this or this) and not the underlying tools, elements or processes used to create your designs. These types of works could possibly be licensed through CCC under their RightsLink program (which does not require an attorney's help.) (And of course, you would need to provide a format that contains the various works -- a website, book, or other collective work -- to enable the viewing of your works.)  Organizations such as CCC will manage license arrangements and collect fees but they don't actually bring in the licensing customers. That's still your obligation, either via web traffic or old-fashioned solicitations. To that extent, if you can find licensees on your own, you probably don't need an organization's services and can license directly to customers. You can find plenty of examples of license agreements at Nolo's website or through other sources.

Andrew Marvell: The Mower to the Glo-Worms


Noctilucent clouds, Kuresoo bog, Soomaa National Park, Estonia: photo by Martin Koitmäe, 2009


Ye Living Lamps, by whose dear light
The Nightingale does sit so late,
And studying all the Summer-night,
Her matchless Songs does meditate;

File:Glow worm lampyris noctiluca.jpg

Female Glow Worm (Lampyris noctiluca) in field grass, Princes Risborough, Bucks.
: photo by Timo Newton-Syms, 2007


Ye Country Comets, that portend
No War, nor Prince’s funeral,
Shining unto no higher end
Than to presage the Grasses fall;

Contrail across tail of Comet 2004/F4, seen from Cactus Flats: photo by The Starmon, 2004


Ye Glo-worms, whose officious Flame
To wandring Mowers shows the way,
That in the Night have lost their aim,
And after foolish Fires do stray;

Laser beam directed toward the centre of the Milky Way from Yepun laser star guide facility at ESO Paranal Observatory, Chile, crossing the southern sky and creating an artificial star at 90 km. altitude in Earth's mesosphere: photo by ESO/Yuri Beletsky, 2010


Your courteous Lights in vain you wast,
Since Juliana here is come,
For She my Mind hath so displac’d
That I shall never find my home.

Glow-worm heaven [Lampyris noctiluca swarm], Waitomo Caves, Waitako, New Zealand: photo by milkthebasic, 23 October 2006

for Don

Andrew Marvell: The Mower to the Glo-worms
, summer 1650 or summer 1651, posthumously published in Miscellaneous Poems, 1681