Monday, January 26, 2015


Courtesy of Brooklyn Mack and his mother, as well as the facilitation of my coworker Katherine, Chimo and I happily attended the 2015 Lifechance, a celebration of dance, Mack, and the Columbia Classical Ballet, in which the Finlay scholars benefited as well. By a fortunate quirk of luck we were down on the ground floor and had wonderful seats and sight lines. Not only that, but I was able to park closer than I have ever been able to and we had just enjoyed a great dinner at Little Pig. Lucretia generously took time away from her son and friends to come over and chat with us after the show, which was special (no doubt people were wondering how we rated). Renata showed up and I got a hug; hadn't seen her in a while. Got to say hello to Myra. Missed out on seeing Zoltan, who is one of the few remaining dancers that I know personally. And afterwards the boy and I got sorbet/gelato in Five Points. A very nice night of entertainment indeed.

But it was a rather unusual Lifechance, with a small spate of irregularities. Before seating was announced I got a little doused when a Koger Center high-pressure waterpipe burst in the men's room. The sound people had troubles with their system (it was funny to hear someone yelling, "What's going on!"). Three dancers stumbled, a somewhat high rate for such a skilled group, though I know it happens sometimes. In fact, I am amazed it doesn't happen more often, as the physical demands of this art are incredible. I really felt sorry for them, though they all recovered as gracefully as possible. The corps only danced one selection (not counting the finale); there were fewer presentations, a total of seven; and we regretfully only got to see Brooklyn do his signature piece from Le Corsaire. If it were humanly possible, I suspect the crowd would wish to see him in every number. There was a recurring clothing malfunction that mightily entertained Chimo. Even Lee Lumpkin, although she was in attendance, didn't grace the opening as she so often has, welcoming the crowd and thanking supporters. I should say here that it is a great thing that the local hospitality tax provides money for the arts. There was, however, this faint feeling of familiarity, of downsizing, or maybe laziness. In fact, unless my memory is completely failing me, many performances seemed to be reprises. Perhaps it is difficult to offer new stuff in events such as this, especially during the strenuous regular season, and it is not unusual for dancers simply to do what they know best and have practiced the most. Still, alas. . . .

Nonetheless, the dancing was wonderful, as always, showcasing our great local company and dancers from elsewhere (Boston, Charlotte, Washington), many of whom are regulars on this stage at this event. The corps presented Etudes by Frederic Chapin, a beautiful but not too daring offering that frequent attendees will remember. The men in the corps seemed much shorter than in the past, not unexpectedly when there are so many Asian dancers, but they did a pretty good job. I loved the long lines of South Korean dancer Sehyun Jin, the delicate Sakura Oka from Japan; both lead Japanese male dancers were good, I thought. Many countries besides the United States were represented, including Canada, Hong Kong, and Hungary. Sadly I don't think there were any Brazilians or Russians. The only other performance in the first half was Tamas Krizsa and Mika Onuki's Last Days. Despite being forced to hold their opening pose for quite a while, they delivered their wonderful modernist piece. Though I like classical material, I also enjoy seeing modern stuff as well.

I think my favorite dance of the evening was Last Lost Chance, a beautiful, athletic, modern duet featuring Anna Gerberich and Pete Leo Walker. Krizsa and Onuki took a second turn, doing Together Apart (which I think I have seen before), and it was very nice. The always lovely Lia Cirio performed the White Swan Pas De Deux, and I seemed to concentrate on her delicate and distinct head and facial positions, as well as her hands. Delightful. She was partnered with Lasha Khozashvili. Ji Young Chi and Jeffery Cirio danced Flames of Paris. Finally, along with Ashley Ellis, Brooklyn took the stage for his adoring fans, displaying his athleticism and skill. Always a pleasure. He has been so generous to this community and we love him. This is a great annual event that deserves continued support.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Turquoise-robed dancers
Fill street corners with motion,
Must be tax season.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I have a few letters that my Dad had written over the years, especially a big group done while he was on a cruise around South America that he wrote to my Mom, which I hope to transcribe and edit at some point, but herewith is a short missive he sent to his Uncle John A. Hartpence in New Jersey. Uncle John had raised Dad's mother and my Dad was very close to him. In 1954 Dad was a new sailor, stationed at Jacksonville Naval Air Base, just before he entered Naval Prep School and then Annapolis. It is interesting to see his mindset as a nineteen or so kid. The letter was sent on 2 July 1954, as he was considering what to do for the upcoming holiday. [I cleaned up his spelling mistakes and made some editorial noted below.]

Dear Uncle John:

First I'd like to wish you a Happy Birthday and I'm sorry that I can't be home tomorrow to put it in words as I originally had expected to be.

I am going to go to Daytona Beach tonite to spend the weekend and see what holiday celebrations they may have down there. As I understand it they are supposed to have quite a time there and here's hoping they do.

I got a letter from my girlfriend [1] the other day and it was written in St. Huberts. [2] She said that they are having a plague of those large black flies in such great numbers that the women can't even hang out their clothes to dry for fear that they will be covered with black marks, and that they will bit the living daylights out of a person.

As I said in my letter to you and Deeah [5] the other day it is still terrifically hot down here and I sure will be happy to get back home.

I understand from Feenie [6] that you had quite a nice birthday party for Johnny [3] at the Stacy Trent [4] last Sunday.

Well by this time next week I should be on route and I should be home sometime Friday nite.

Again I'll say Happy Birthday and good luck to you and Deeah until I see you next week.

Love, Jim

[1: don't know who, but well before he met my Mom]
[2: Most likely St. Huberts in the Keene Valley of New York.]
[3: Dad's little brother John.]
[4: The Stacy Trent was a well known and posh hotel in Trenton, torn down in 1967.]

PS: [5] Dad's aunt, Hannah Lydia Longmore Hartpence
[6] Aunt Feenie, Lydia Josephine Sigley


Notes in my grandfather's papers indicate that two names, formerly unknown to me, who are my great-grandfathers five times removed, were active participants in the American Revolutionary War. Both of these names come from my paternal side. Abraham Cook (b. 1 January 1754 in Branford, Conn--died 3 December 1843 in Philadelphia) served in Connecticut. He enlisted April 1775 under Captain Samuel Barker. He marched to New York and then to Fort Ticonderoga under General Montgomery. There they made flatbottom boats and was sent down to St. Johns to disrupt communications with Montreal. He was wounded in a skirmish. He later enlisted in a New Haven company under a Captain Livingston and marched to Boston, helping drive the British from the city. He then joined a regiment under General Sullivan on a march to New York. This information was gathered from a pension application presented by a Theodora Wright of Trenton, New Jersey. Abraham married Elizabeth Carpenter in 1790, and his granddaughter Mary Ann Rossiter Turpin married Horace Townsend Tidd in 1851. Their son was my future great great grandfather Milton Tidd.

Another forefather was Aaron Hankinson (born 1735 in Rowland's Mills, near Flemmington, New Jersey and died 9 October 1806 in Stillwater, New Jersey). He served as a major in Colonel Ephraim Martin's 2nd Regiment, Sussex County Militia, 10 June 1775; as a colonel in the same militia 18 February 1777; later appointed a colonel in the New Jersey Continental Line (26 December 1780). He commanded a regiment in Bergen County, 7 to 12 April, 1777 and in Pennsylvania under Brigadier General David Forman, 19 September to 11 October, 1777. He fought at the Battle of Germantown, 4 October 1777. He served at Minnisink, several months each between 1778 and 1781. And was appointed commissioner to purchase horses, saddles, and other supplies for the cavalry in service to the United States in 28 March 1778. He married Mary Snyder 9 February 1764. His great great great granddaughter Anna Wesling Hankinson Everingham married Milton Tidd on 17 July 1889 in New York.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Goodreads is probably my favorite website, and besides my email account and facebook, I visit it more regularly than any other. Even more than I check this blog or my poetry site, or any of my favorite blogs (perhaps the bloggess getting the most regular viewing from me). I constantly suggest to friends and acquaintances that they would profit by joining Goodreads, and I frequently post links to specific reviews. I daily hunt through the site in search of new books to pick up, and I have been often rewarded in discovering a new writer or work I probably never would have seen at the local library or bookshop. I seldom go longer than a day without posting a review, adding another to-read, or sending a note to a GR friend. Every week I look forward to reviews by certain friends, and I anticipate special entries, such as Karen's hilarious AIFAFs (as well as her often delicious reviews). I have met a few really nice people (though I keep my "friending" to a minimum, basically close to 10% of the books I have read). Although I don't care if people do it, I don't see myself as a "friend" accumulator, and I don't understand how people would have time to read all the cross posts that follow having so many. I know that the site is as much about promoting sales, especially for Amazon, and for giving emerging writers a chance to market their books and find a readership. One rule I follow is I never friend a writer (although if I were ever asked to do so by a favored author, I might bend that rule). I like listopia.

Still, there are many aspects of Goodreads I don't like so much, both in how some people abuse the system and what seems to be laziness on the part of the administrators. For instance, I think people should be ranked only by the number of books they have actually read, and even better, reviewed (at least rated). Some people seemingly mark as "to-read" every book that swims across their path. One "user" was ranked for having marked as to-read more than 3000 books in a week. What does this tell me other than they have a ton of time on their hands and a rapid-firing clicking finger. In another measuring stick, members claim to have read certain numbers of books. One claimed 324 in a week. Really? I doubt it, even if they are a speed reader. Not surprisingly, they didn't post a single review. On the other hand, I do like when people who actually review books (at least fifty characters) get ranked for having done so. How some people claim more than an average ten books reviewed a day is a bit beyond me however, and you would think admin would check the veracity of these reports. Some people review the short stories, of course. Likewise, there should be a different way to assess what is truly a "best" review, other than the number of people who "liked" that review. Clearly there is nothing wrong with a review such as " wow. wow. WOW. I went into this book not expecting to like it. I'm not sure why, but this book completely surprised me!," but does anyone truly believe this was the best review of a book this week? Come on.

The system of liking is too permissive. Obviously people with large friendships will accumulate the largest number of likes for their reviews, especially those reviewers who like to post the cutesy videos and memes, and I guess there is no reason they shouldn't be allowed to do so, as even I find some of them hilarious. And I know I like it very much when anyone takes the time to "like" one of my reviews (although, strangely, there have been a few times one of my reviews was "liked" even before I posted one.)

Whenever possible, when a book is posted on a list, say, when you click on it, it should always go first to the hardback first edition, not to a paperback or an ebook, or any other variation or edition. Whenever possible.

Trivia questions should be sent only to people who mark that book as read.

I don't know if it is possible, but it sure would be cool if an algorithm could be developed which accurately compared reader compatibility. I think they come close. Wouldn't it be cool if, say, after two people compare 100 or more of the same books and had a 90% similarity, the system would send you a note to check that person out?

What I'm advocating for, I guess, it a stricter system of filtering participation, so that it gives a more meaningful measurement.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Last night I attended the usual Mind Gravy poetry and music gathering at The Drip. First I treated myself to some of the excellent gelato next door, which is supervised and owned by a man who apprenticed to one of the best specialists in the field in Italy. He makes really wonderful and some unusual combinations of flavors, although he didn't have coffee last night, so I went with a maple rum flavor, with a little chocolate. Then I sat and read for a while, finishing Gavin Francis's excellent Empire Antarctica. The opening music act was a duo of young musicians, one a recent graduate of a Cincinnati conservatory who played cello and his guitar/vocalist partner. He played the cello traditionally, as a bass, and as a guitar, and I liked it very much. She is a student at USC and had a good voice. Next up was poet John Lane, whose work didn't blow me away, although I much enjoyed his "Sweet Tea" poem. Then followed the usual eclectic mix of poets and musicians, some of which were entertaining.

Friday, January 2, 2015


As pine needles fall,
the holiday ends and life
returns to normal.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Herewith a gift from Chimo to me for Christmas, a pastel on light stock depicting a forest scene, with a mythical creature sitting on a rock.