Wednesday, March 31, 2021

i wanted my father to be what he could not be

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Tall Tails (© 2021). Digital montage.


Sherwood Anderson, Memoirs. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1942—

…as a small boy, I wanted my father to be a certain thing he was not, could not be. I wanted him to be a proud silent dignified one. When I was with other small boys and he passed along the street, I wanted to feel in my breast the glow of pride.

“There he is. That is my father.”

But he wasn’t such a one. He couldn’t be. It seemed to me then that he was always showing off…

…He was like this, let’s say an Irishman came to our house. Right away Father would say he was Irish. He’d tell things that happened to him in Ireland when he was a boy. He’d make it seem so real, that, if I hadn’t known where he was born, in a county down in southern Ohio, I’d have believed him myself.

If it was a Scotchman the same thing happened. He became a Scotchman. He’d get a burr into his speech. Or he was a German or a Swede. He’d be anything the other man was.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

mortality's end / pack a case and leave the rest

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 Above Roy R. Behrens, Carte Blanche (© 2021). Digital montage.


Ronald Blythe, The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age. New York: Penguin Books, 1980, p. 103—

A man who dies at forty will usually show one cause of death, wrote Alex Comfort; a man who dies at eighty will probably show nine or ten, so that had we cured the one that in fact killed him, he would have died soon after of something else. Behind this bleak truth lies the reason why so many aged leave home for homes. They are deteriorating. Their mortality, which has been kept in check or which has been concealed for so long, is now unhideable from themselves and from their families and neighbors. The effect of these last diseases, their breaking down of the organism, is called “not being able to manage.” The pressures from inside and outside then begin, and just at a moment when the smallest decision requires a mighty effort, one is asked to make what for most people is a tremendous effort—to go on managing, and knowing that you can’t, or to be managed. To pack a case and leave the rest. Travel light has always been the advice given to pilgrims and the old people’s home repeats it, though for its own convenience, not for the new resident’s.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

the bean lacks dignity and succotash is vulgar

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Roy R. Behrens, Cross Purposes (© 2021). Digital montage.


Charles Dudley Warner, “Ninth Week” in My Summer in a Garden. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885—

There is no dignity in the bean. Corn, with no affectation of superiority, is, however, the child of song. It waves in all literature. But mix it with beans, and its high tone is gone. Succotash is vulgar.


John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings. Wesleyan University Press, 1961—

The artist conscientiously moves in a direction which for some good reason he takes, putting one work in front of the other with the hope that he’ll arrive before death overtakes him.


Don Marquis, Archy’s Life of Mehitabel. New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1938—

man eats the big fish
the big fish eat the
little fish
the little fish
eat insects
in the water
the water insects
eat the water plants
the water plants
eat mud
mud eats man.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

picked it up and then flung it under the seat

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Root Canal (© 2021). Digital montage.


Ann Barr and Paul Levy, The Official Foodie Handbook. Arbor House, 1985—

When Marilyn Monroe was married to [playwright] Arthur Miller, his mother always made matzo ball soup. After the tenth time, Marilyn said, “Gee Arthur, these matzo balls are really nice, but isn’t there any other part of the matzo you can eat?”


George and Weedon Grossmith, The Diary of a Nobody. London: J.M. Dent, 1940, pp. 55-56—

I was leaning out of the box [at the theatre], when my tie—a little black bow which fastened on to the stud by means of a new patent—fell into the pit below. A clumsy man, not noticing it, had his foot on it for ever so long before he discovered it. He then picked it up and eventually flung it under the next seat in disgust. …I felt quite miserable. Mr. James [a companion], of Sutton, was very good. He said, “Don’t worry—no one will notice it with your beard. That is the only advantage of growing one that I can see.” There was no occasion for that remark, for Carrie is very proud of my beard.

To hide the absence of the tie I had to keep my chin down the rest of the evening, which caused a pain at the back of my neck.

Friday, March 19, 2021

she realized her father was damaged by war

Above Roy R. Behrens, Ebullience (© 2021). Digital montage.

Lyn Lear, in Remar Sutton and Mary Abbott Waite, eds., The Common Ground: A Circle of Friends. Latham NY: British American Publishing, 1992, p. 47—

My dad was sick a lot after he came back from World War II. I remember him screaming in the middle of the night because of the nightmares. The whole house would shake.

We would sit and listen to him talk in his sleep about those terrible war events: his best friend getting blown up in front of him; fights. It was very dramatic. We would sit around and Mom would write all the dreams down. I realized then my father was damaged; I realized what the war had done to him. It was an insight into why my father was the way he was. It changed my relationship with him.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

bereft of wonder we never know anything ever

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Roy R. Behrens, Wondering Eye (© 2021). Digital montage.


Raphael Soyer (American painter, referring to his identical twin brother, the painter Moses Soyer) in Kathryn McLaughlin Abbe and Frances McLaughlin Gill, Twins on Twins (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1980), p. 53—

We looked exactly alike. People would greet me and say, “Hello, Moses,” and Moses would be greeted with “Hello, Raphael.” And I remember, a long time ago, I was walking along Fifth Avenue very briskly, and then I see Moses walking along too, and I was astounded. I mean, I didn't expect Moses to be there at that time. But it turned out to be myself, my reflection in the mirror, from far away.


Ernest G. Schachtel, Metamorphosis (New York: Basic Books, 1959)—

Education and learning, while on the one hand furthering this process of discovery, on the other hand gradually brake and finally stop it completely. There are relatively few adults who are fortunate enough to have retained something of the child’s curiosity, his capacity for questioning and wondering. The average adult “knows all the answers,” which is exactly why he will never know even a single answer. He has ceased to wonder, to discover. He knows his way around, and it is indeed a way around and around the same conventional pattern, in which everything is familiar and nothing cause for wonder. It is this adult who answers the child’s questions and, in answering, fails to answer them but instead acquaints the child with the conventional patterns of his civilization, which effectively close up the asking mouth and shut the wondering eye.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

dust to dust as we totter toward the end of time

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 Above Roy R. Behrens, Architectonic (© 2021). Digital montage.


Wiliam Hazlitt, “On the Fear of Death” in Table Talk (1822)—

Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern—why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?


Roy R. Behrens, “Khaki to Khaki (Dust to Dust): The Ubiquity of Camouflage in Human Experience” in Ann Elias, et al., eds., Camouflage cultures: beyond the art of disappearance (Sydney AU: Sydney University Press, 2015)—

…“I am I” and, to follow, I am not “not-I.” Or, I am “self” as distinguished from “others.” We typically regard our “selves” as permeable identities in a bouillabaisse of ubiquitous “stuff,” a surrounding that seems to a newborn, in the famous words of William James, like “a blooming, buzzing confusion.”  One wonders if this might also explain, as Ernst Schachtel suggested, why we are all afflicted by “childhood amnesia,” leaving us with little or no memory of the first years of our lives, because we lacked the “handles” then—the linguistic categories—that enable us to “grasp” events. In recent years, increased attention has been paid to the various forms of “amnesia” at the opposite end of life, including gradual memory loss, senility, dementia, and the horrifying ordeal of Alzheimer’s. If the boundaries of our figural “self” are blurred when we are newborns, perhaps we should not be surprised that the limits of our “self” grow thin—once again—as we totter toward the end of time.

As adults, we use hackneyed phrases like “dust to dust” to imply that at birth we somehow spring from naught; that we metamorphically evolve through infancy and childhood; live out our ritualistic lives as corporeal upright adults; then slowly—or, just as often, catastrophically—“deconstruct”; and (at last) are literally “disembodied” in the process that we dread as death. Instead of saying “dust to dust,” it may be more in tune to say “khaki to khaki,” since it seems as if our lives consist of time-based re-enactments of a spectrum of nuanced relations between figure and ground, some or all of which pertain to varieties of camouflage. 

online access

taxonomic rhyme and reason in esthetic forms

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Suspended Animation (© 2021). Digital montage.


Nicholas Humphrey, “The Illusion of Beauty” in his book of essays, Consciousness Regained: Chapters in the Development of Mind. UK: Oxford University Press, 1984, p. 126—

Here then we have the beginnings of an answer to what relations lie at the heart of beauty. “All beauty may by a metaphor be called rhyme.” What is rhyme like? Well, let us have an example: cat rhymes with mat; cat does not rhyme with table; cat does not rhyme with cat. Taking rhyme as the paradigm of beauty, let us turn at once to the fundamental question: Why do we like the relation that rhyme epitomizes? What is the biological advantage of seeking out rhyming elements in the environment? The answer I propose is this: Considered as a biological phenomenon, esthetic preferences stem from a predisposition among animals and men to seek out experiences through which they may learn to classify the objects in the world around them. Beautiful “structures” in nature or in art are those which facilitate the task of classification by presenting evidence of the “taxonomic” relations between things in a way which is informative and easy to grasp.


Art, Design and Gestalt Theory

How Form Functions

Embedded Figures in Art, Design, and Architecture

Saturday, March 13, 2021

pare down and reduce the form to minimum

Above Roy R. Behrens, Whiplash (© 2021). Digital montage.


Akio Morita, Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony. New York: Signet, 1988—

Whereas Americans and Europeans often develop complex large-scale solutions to problems, the Japanese constantly pare down and reduce the complexity of products and ideas to the barest minimum. They streamline the design, reduce the number of parts. The influence of Zen and haiku poetry are often evident in the simplicity and utility of Japanese design.


Art, Design and Gestalt Theory

How Form Functions

Embedded Figures in Art, Design, and Architecture

Friday, March 12, 2021

be fair / put things back where you found them

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Rock Paper Scissors (© 2021). Digital montage.


Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. New York: Ballantine Books, 2004—

1. Share everything. 2. Play fair. 3. Don't hit people. 4. Put things back where you found them. 5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS. 6. Don't take things that aren’t yours. 7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody. 8. Wash your hands before you eat. 9. Flush. 10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. 11. Live a balanced life—learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some. 12. Take a nap every afternoon. 13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. 14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. 15. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup—they all die. So do we. 16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned—the biggest word of all—LOOK.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

the embalming of a suckling pig and broken vase

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Confinement (© 2021). Digital montage.


Jorge Luis Borges, in “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins,” Ruth L.C. Simms, translator (1942)—

[On the pages of “a certain Chinese encyclopedia,” the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge] it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.


Rennie Ellis (Reynolds Mark Ellis), Australian Graffiti Revisited. Melbourne AU: Sun Books, 1979—

If voting could change things, it would be illegal.

alphabestiary / the moose found in his pajamas

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Alphabestiary (© 2021). Digital montage.


H.L. Mencken, in The American Mercury, March 1925—

The [Ku Klux] Klan is actually as thoroughly American as Rotary or the Moose. Its childish mummery is American, its highfalutin bombast is American, and its fundamental philosophy is American. The very essence of Americanism is the doctrine that the other fellow, if he happens to be a minority, has absolutely no rights—that enough is done for him when he is allowed to live at all.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

aesthetics / each species appears itself designed

Above Roy R. Behrens, Ogden (© 2021). Digital montage.


James Hillman, Cosmos, Life, Religion: Beyond Humanism, 1988—

Animal life is biologically aesthetic: each species presents itself in design, coats, tails, feathers, furs, curls, tusks, horns, hues, sheens, shells, scales, wings, songs, dances.


Tom Driberg, Baron Bradwell, quoted in the Daily Express (1937)—

Sincerity is all that counts…Think again. Bolsheviks are sincere. Fascists are sincere. Lunatics are sincere. People who believe the earth is flat are sincere. They can’t all be right.

he could not correct his relation to the universe

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Hat Trick (© 2021). Digital montage.


E.L. Doctorow (remembering Theodore Dreiser), interviewed in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work: Eighth Series (New York: Viking, 1988), p. 30—

Dreiser wrote this magnificent novel [Sister Carrie]. It was published in 1900; it was then and still is the best first novel ever written by an American. It’s an amazing work...The book was a magnificent achievement but the publisher, Doubleday, didn’t like it, they were afraid of it. So they buried it. And naturally it did nothing; I think it sold four copies. I would go crazy too in that situation. Dreiser rented a furnished room in Brooklyn. He put a chair in the middle of this room and sat in it. The chair didn't seem to be in the right position so he turned it a few degrees, and he sat in it again. Still it was not right. He kept turning the chair around and around, trying to align it to what—trying to correct his own relation to the universe? He never could do it, so he kept going around in circles and circles. He did that for quite a while, and ended up in a sanitarium in Westchester, in White Plains.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

if they think i am crazy, i will open for a dollar

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Taking Liberties: No Regrets (© 2021). Digital montage.


Daniel W. Humphrey, quoted in Steven J. Zeitlin, et al., A Celebration of American Family Folklore (New York: Pantheon, 1982), pp. 39-40—

One day my dad got hurt on the job and, as a result, he said he couldn’t bear to put any weight on his heel. The doctors, however, said it was all in his mind, and they sent him to a psychiatrist. This irked him, so my dad said, “If they want to think I'm crazy, I'll make them think I'm crazy.” So he goes to the doctor's office, and the doctor brings out the Rorschach inkblot tests. The doctor laid these cards down in front of my father, and Dad reached over, picked them up, shuffled them and dealt them out for a hand of Five Card Draw and said, “I'll open for a dollar.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Robert Pinsky regarding the process of dying

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Hand Me Down (© 2021). Digital montage.


Robert Pinsky (regarding the process of dying) in his review of Philip Roth, Patrimony: A True Story in The New York Times Book Review, 6 January 1991—

The last words, the blessing of the young, the washing of the body, the coins on the eyelids, the deathbed confession, the deathbed reconciliation and the deathbed farewell have been succeeded or crowded by the IV, the respirator, the feeding tubes in the nostrils, the living will, the hospital roommate, the nurses.