June 17, 2020

What I wanted to learn.

I wanted to take the "Master Class" from David Sedaris, but I couldn't bring myself to pay $99 for a subscription to the app until I saw that they also had a class from Billy Collins, a poet I've liked ever since I randomly picked a book off a high shelf at Paul's Books and read one poem.

Both Sedaris and Collins, I see now, begin their writing by noticing some little thing that is present in their own life. Both teach that you ought to carry a notebook with you everywhere and jot down these little things as they happen.

That's all writing. Of course, I wanted to learn about writing, but what else? Master Class has 80+ famous people teaching how they each do their thing. I've watched 2 others, neither in the writing category. I watched Bobbi Brown, who teaches about makeup — the kind of makeup that honors whatever face you happen to have. (You do not need to "contour" your nose or "overline" your lips.) And I watched Alice Waters, the restaurateur, who says you really need to start your cooking by getting in touch with your local vegetables.

Do you see the theme of these 4, which I chose without thinking of a theme? The theme occurred to me as I was doing my sunrise run this morning. I don't listen to headphoned-in music anymore when I run. I listen to the immediate environment and let thoughts rise up from within my own head, and I got where I could see how these 4 choices represented a single desire on my part. All these lessons have to do with awareness of what is right here.

When I got back to my car, the radio was on MSNBC, which I'd listened to on my little drive out to my running place. I'd put up with Joe Scarborough angsting about Republicans being less likely  to wear masks than Democrats — what is wrong with them?! — but I didn't want that infecting me on the ride home. I clicked over to music. It was Neil Young:
Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleeping
We could dream this night away
But there's a full moon rising
Let's go dancing in the light
We know where the music's playing
Let's go out and feel the night
Neil was getting what was for him an unusual idea: To go out and experience the moon.

I got the idea a while back to get out and experience the sunrise, to go running in the light.


Mark said...

Hope I have a chance to see Neil play again, have seen him in about every combination of band in the last 20 years.

His Nashville band (like for this album) put on an unbelievable show, probably as good as his touring band that had Booker T on keyboards.

Having said that, after leaving Peggy for Daryl Hannah I am saddened by Neil. If you wanted to hit that you missed by decades dude.

rehajm said...

My spouse got me Gordon Ramsay as a gift. Loved it. I reinvested for Aaron Franklin, Thomas Keller and Daniel Negreanu.

Masterclass is too infected with moron lefties but as far as I can tell they so far haven't called for deplatforming the normal people.

Hard to believe there's people what feel they need to pay extra to listen to what Krugman has to say.

Linda said...

Harvest Moon is one of my all time favorite songs!

rhhardin said...

You can get an electronic shooting earmuff that amplifies sounds to the level your dog hears (but limits how loud sounds are), if you want awareness. Dogs are really aware. It's just a matter of teaching them to write.

Kevin said...

Shorter Althouse: if people focused locally rather than globally, Joe Scarborough wouldn’t have an audience.

wildswan said...

"awareness of what is right here."

On that theme, I wonder how life is affected by working from home. Lots of people like telecommuting and many like home schooling and it seems as if these will grow. But the surroundings are very different and I wonder if that will eventually affect the product. Actually, I already know that home-schoolers are different. Though they do well on exams and in college they tend to be independent thinkers and it is very difficult to get them to follow a routine or fake working. When a job is done (and they are quick) they want to be left alone to sleep in the back if they feel like it. And now there's story about the disconnect between the media moguls and their reporters. The top people fled covid to the Hamptons and then missed being in NYC during the riots. The story suggests that this created a disconnect between them and their reporters and this disconnect is the true explanation for the rash of firings of top media people. So then, what if government people began working from home - would centralization come to seem less desirable throughout government?


Laslo Spatula said...

"Both Sedaris and Collins, I see now, begin their writing by noticing some little thing that is present in their own life...."

"His orangified, poofed up, spray-spritzed hair."

Wow! It works! Thank you Master Class!

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Writing Workshop, simplified.

1. Notice things.
2. Have talent.
3. Do the work.

What is funny is that number three is generally the bigger obstacle than number two.

I am Laslo.

Sally327 said...

Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets and this is one of my favorite poems. It makes me laugh just thinking about it:

Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

Howard said...

Gently amplify what already is? That's what rh seems to say. Nature worship, getting back to your pagan roots of a Cinnamon Girl.

Have you pulled the trigger and decided to move out West?

Fernandinande said...

masterclass.com brags about their wonderful racism:

"Representation matters. Our instructor roster will exceed the diversity of our society. Black voices will be consistently represented in each of our nine subject categories. We are creating a timeline to accomplish this and will publish the timeline by August 30, 2020."

But no useful classes for the proles, like plumbing or small engine repair?

Shame, I say shame, on those shameless elitists for substituting racism for true diversity and inclusion.

Fernandinande said...

You can get an electronic shooting earmuff that amplifies sounds to the level your dog hears (but limits how loud sounds are), if you want awareness.

They don't seem to offer any classes in shooting or dog training - however, RuPaul can instruct you on "authenticity".

iowan2 said...

All these lessons have to do with awareness of what is right here.

Grandma alway used to tell us, "keep you head where your hands are."

I see a factor in our societal angst attributed to the declining influence of family. Unfortunately grandparents are not as big of presence in the family dynamic. I know I wish we could be much closer and more involved, maybe soon we will move to be closer, we have no ties here.
But back to the topic at hand. "Keep your head where your hands are" was a used when I was coveting something, a place, experience, item, person, etc, that I didn't have. Grandma would just say, "keep your head were your hands are" be grateful with the moment you are in. Or, if I had made a mistake, or messed up some chore, she would remind, to "keep your head were your hands are" or, concentrate on what you are doing, be involved, not just physically, but with your head, heart, spirit.

So, instead of plugging in the earbud, experience "where your hands are"

Lots of advice columns can easily be distilled down to "what would your grandmother/grandfather tell you to do?

A more involved family would vastly improve our culture.

Lewis said...

Oh yes!

Mrs. X said...


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Lewis said...

I was looking for 'Ohio'


Inga said...

Harvest Moon, such a great mellow song. One of the few I actually like by Neil Young.

Laslo Spatula said...

Writing Workshop, 2020 update:

1. Notice things.
2. Analyze to see if it may trigger any group or identity.
3. Try to notice something else.

I am Laslo.

Fernandinande said...

I just realized that RuPaul, by offering instruction in "authenticity", was actually teaching irony. Well done!

Paul Krugman offers a class!

Economics is not a set of answers — it’s a way of almost always being wrong about almost everything without getting fired.

Fernandinande said...

Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House

Here's his version.

It's quite inferior to the The Arrogant Worms' Kill The Dog Next Door, which gets even better @1:22

Anthony said...

WOWP thing. Again.

Ken B said...

You have asked about Bayes. For free you can see truly excellent videos on YouTube by 3Blue1Brown. This guy is — gotta get that word in — a master explainer. He covers a lot of topics, some quite non trivial.

Ken B said...

Thanks to Sally327!

Temujin said...

One of the greatest of Neil Young's songs. A classic that will still sound good in another 20 years. If he and his music have not been erased beforehand for impure ideas.

I subscribed for a bit to Master Class a couple of years ago because I wanted to get some Master Lessons from accomplished writers. It was, for me, a waste of time. Very surface, non-informational. I gained nothing from it. And though their lineup is spectacularly seeded with great names from all aspects of life, the answer to any of these things is: Just go do it. You learn by experiencing and doing. Your experience and your doing are going to be different from their's and listening to Judy Blume talk about her writing approach is not going to help mine.

As a former instructor once told me: "You need to quit trying to copy Richard Brautigan and find your own voice." I've been searching for it ever since.

RMc said...

I'd put up with Joe Scarborough angsting about Republicans being less likely to wear masks than Democrats — what is wrong with them?! — but I didn't want that infecting me on the ride home.

Why do you listen to this moron in the first place? Do what I do...listen to the Beatles Channel!

Ken B said...

I've seen the ads. To me it looks like they are selling a chance to be one of the cool kids, an overt appeal to snobbery and status seeking.

Big Mike said...

@Temujin, interesting. In my technical writing I consciously set out to imitate the great Donald Knuth. I never got there, but I did find my own voice along the way and I spent the rest of my career refining it. Lucky, I guess.

tim in vermont said...

Dogs would mostly write about smells, I think, judging from my dog. Smells and treats. Though it seems to me that all food tastes the same to my dog, I would bet that what he would write about would be the circumstances and behaviors that led to getting the treat, rather than details of the treat itself, except chicken liver, that he really seems to enjoy much more than a Milk Bone.

Ken B said...

“ In my technical writing I consciously set out to imitate the great Donald Knuth.”

People in computers science *try* to be understandable and understood. Not all disciplines are like that!
One of my favorite books in high school was Strunk & White. When I switched into computer science I was surprised to find how many people in CS treasured that book. Clear, succinct, simple. Pinker hates it. I think everyone should read it, though the vocabulary section could be omitted.

SensibleCitizen said...

In an interview, Bill Murray was asked what his goals were for the future. He said his goal was to be present. Really present. It was an illusory goal for him at the time but the most important thing in his life at the moment.

Jordan Peterson, in 12 Rules for Life, says you can experience being present by looking deep into a baby's eyes, and watch them "regard you". He says the same works with a dog. Ha!

Paddy O said...

The ones with Malcolm Gladwell and Steve Martin are also really good.

I had Masterclass for about a year (free through work) and it was worth the time. Lots of interesting insights but really good about method and time, as well as telling about the journey to the point of success. Not every topic, thus person, was as interesting to me but it was a worthwhile window.

effinayright said...

The line from a Neil Young song I sing to my still-at-home son is:

"You can't be 27 on Sugar Mountain"

Tina Trent said...

There's only one book about creative writing that I can recommend. Richard Hugo's Triggering Town.

I can't recommend his lifestyle.

His poems are good.

eddie willers said...

"You can't be 27 on Sugar Mountain"

I hate to be pedantic, but the line is: "You can't be twenty, on Sugar Mountain".

Neil was lamenting the fact that he loved this teen only "nightclub" but wasn't allowed after he was no longer a teen. ie. Twenty.

For awhile, this was a legendary hard song to find early in his career. It was only on the flipside of a 45. (I think "Cinnamon Girl"). I scoured Atlanta to finally find a copy and then had to find a 45 adapter as I hadn't bought a single since Rubber Soul.

RigelDog said...

Harvest Moon, one of my very favorite songs of all time. As soon as those first soft ringing chords begin, I'm back 30 years and it's a gentle September night and I'm dancing with my love with the smell of pines and a little woodsmoke in the air.

Our twenty-something son is living in NYC and asked us to ship his guitar so that he could have more productive things to do with his time in lockdown. I happened to mention recently how much I love this song and a half-hour later he texted me an audio file---of him playing it. Tears in my eyes even now, retelling the tale of the magic that comes, then goes, and then sometimes weaves its way back into your life in the form of a new blessing.

eddie willers said...

Re: Harvest Moon. Probably the last great Neil Young song. I'll take this opportunity to link to Youtube a version by my favorite "copy band", Foxes and Fossils from the Atlanta area (Smyrna, hometown also to Julia and Eric Roberts.)

This is a band of a few journeyman musicians who created a side project when the lead singer's very young daughter turned out to have great pipes and seems to be able to have a harmony only family members can achieve. They were a church going family and his daughter was in the choir with a young girl with a clean, clear voice. Their harmony on Helplessly Hoping stuns as well as the original. Many videos were put up on Youtube and slowly percolated.

Anyway, the girls grew up (they started at 15 and 16), went to college etc. and that seemed to be the end of it. But the younger girls (especially Maggie, the lead singer who graduated college and now works at a Nashville Talent agency) noticed the analytics and other measures from Youtube and, using the magic of the Internet to record remotely, etc. They decided to "get the band back together" and do new recordings. I should mention that once Maggie went off to college, the band got another 15 year old to fill in for a couple of years. Her name is Chase Truran and has unbelievable pipes. She has a real chance to be a big star. This a more powerful Cass Elliot.

So, anyway, now all three women (no longer girls) have a chance to shine. And the first song they chose to do after reforming was a really good version of Harvest Moon. Maggie sings lead and may be better than Neil's coming from a female perspective.

Foxes and Fossils cover Harvest Moon by Neil Young

Check out any song of theirs...you'll be surprised. Recents include "Dedicated to The One I love", (and after John Prine's death) "Angel From Montgomery" and one many people requested, "Seven Bridges Road".

RigelDog said...

The barking dog poem reminds me of one I wrote in high school:

The sun was up, the man was up--
too early--from his bed.
Some stupid bird was singing
He shot it in the head.

Not the slightest bit dismayed
By all the man-made gore,
He fell right back asleep
And thought of it no more.

Art in LA said...

I'm surprised the brand name "Master Class" hasn't been canceled yet. I think they were creatively imitating "Great Courses".

I was thinking of subscribing to Master Class for the photography and video/film courses. I'd be interested in the writing and cooking too. Ultimately, to Laslo's point above, I just need to do the work ... maybe the vids would spark some inspiration?

Lewis said...

So I got your friends to write poetry - I'm quite smug about that! Listen, I know I'm terrible - def, able to give terror -and I try to be good - hence, only writing when your not looking - but this situation and you, together, has obviously affected me in ways I couldn't foresee - that's not an excuse, I don't need to be 'excused', just a rough statement of fact. I think there is the fact I've been isolated in a rough part of Britain for to long, it makes me uncouth and so grateful when I see or hear or read an intelligent woman I always spoil it. I'm sorry - put me in purdha for at least a fortnight, a month better - that's only because I can't promise you I won't try to 'return' - Zombie like, as they say on social media (I think - I'm only on fb because of alleged 'family' and 'friends'). Sorry.

Lewis said...

If you need to reply ( I know you don't, I'm just being polite - and keep this private, please) I'm at lewis.deane@googlemail.com

Lewis said...


Lewis said...

‘So That Everything Becomes Attenuated’

So that everything becomes attenuated.
I do not allow the silence necessary
To take on that silence. The art of the fugue
I have learnt the best and to unlearn it I need
More than a figurative closeness. I am not
Strong enough merely to function on sympathy.
Without the juvenescence and expecting
The unexpectable I have to long and to well
Tortured myself with the impossible.
‘JeŇ°t? nevysloven√©’ - a future that may not exist.
Some things may never be said, some poems (the best)
Are rightly never written: Is that it, the silent place
Towards which we are going, the sacred place,
The place for only the silent? And all these words, then,
The barbarism of an era, the superficial,
The overloud chatter as the frightened anticipation
Of dreaded departure? Like the abandonment
Of this house, the security that it offered,
The mother that it was. A silence that exists,
O fearfully exists, now, if only I would listen,
If only I was to refuse the usual and continuous
Distractive absorptions of the temporary.
Sometimes. Never once truly.

Lewis said...

She's not 'important' because she's like you, because you're both women, but yes, I think that's important - really important


Lewis said...


Lewis said...

I can't see, even undress you , Joni -
Your guitar hides your breasts
And your skirt so long
I couldn't understand it
Beyond which I love you, deeply,

Lewis said...

I don;t 'my women' to be stupid - tha;ts not what I want - the opposite - but if you see things in context you'll see she smarter than J anis - that's what I love, toughness

Lewis said...

You know how the walls fall? You just poke them. Otherwise they stand tall and indifferent.

Lewis said...

We northern louts are always the same - either killing Germans or ourselves:


Lewis said...

My love :


Lewis said...

I know this is quite hellish - sorry


Lewis said...

I'm not only one in a million


Lewis said...

I'm very drunk - have been for days - I can't get out of it - I think about my grandfather who ducked into a poned, it happened Dieppe. He said to me he had bycicle on his arm and a bar of chocalate in his pocket. Gues what he did - he eat the bar of chocalate.

Lewis said...


Lewis said...

This, is coming like a gohst town


Lewis said...

My friend, I'm no I'm drunk , have been for 7 days, and that's unfair to you and me, sorry.