Archive for March, 2011

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

March 31, 2011

Beginning of Life

I was thinking about what soul was, and it was very confusing. So I meditated on the beginning of life, which is my favorite subject to meditate on. I see the ancient ooze and the first cell, and to make it easy to understand I color it pink. The cell divides, the resulting cells are also pink. What does it mean? Is it just chemicals or is it a soul?

I’ll get back to you…”  – Rita

Editor:  And while we’re waiting for Rita to get back to us….  “We invented Dloves. Everybody should have a pair to wear.”:

Photo by Carl Nelson


Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

March 28, 2011

Spring is Here!

Rita Celebrates "Earth Hour"


Yesterday at 8:30 pm was Earth Hour. Eva texted me and told me to turn off all the power. I wasn’t going to do that, so instead I went for a long walk in the neighborhood while it was still light. First I found a bag of oranges on the street, half smashed by a car. I shook out the contents, and two huge oranges in the end were completely undamaged. So I grabbed them and continued my walk. The next thing I came upon was a large plastic flowerpot sitting by the curb. I grabbed that too. The pot underneath the dirt was just the right shade of blue to match the mess in my apartment, and a very nice size: a foot tall by a foot wide. My next stop was a pile of earth in one of those wooden sidewalk garden thingy’s. I filled up the pot. Then I took my spoils home and planted cilantro, dill and spinach in that pot. And I ate one of the oranges.” – Rita

Photo/Watercolor by Rita Andreeva

A Poet’s Lives with Lyn Coffin

March 28, 2011

Update from Georgia

Editor:  Scot Bastian and I attended a reading of the new anthology of Forty-Two Pacific Northwest Poets titled MANY TRAILS TO THE SUMMIT by Rose Alley Publications this past Friday evening at the Elliot Bay Book Store.  (What a sentence!  And a good reading to boot…)  Of course, our own Lyn Coffin was included.  

And Lyn Says: ” I’m having a great time here. Busy reading poetry, lecturing, translating. he night before last was my big poetry event. I read at a gallery and my cohort read his Georgian translations= 12 poems of mine, all from Crystal of the Unforeseen. He’s hoping to publish the Georgian version of this, My book of Orten translations is due out (print and electronic) in April. Today, I meet the head of the English Department at Ilia University for tea. And last night, I saw my first Georgian play. I understood about 3 per cent of the text, maybe less, but about five per cent of the play. I would catch one word, tsoli (wife) for example and by the actions, gestures, knew he was asking her to marry him. I caught “visa” and knew it was so she could get a visa. They had a big pad on the wall with numbers, beginning with 100- how many days she had left before she would return to sakartvelo (Georgia) The Georgian language has no capitals and no personal pronouns of gender- they use “iss” for third person plural, and you have to figure out he, she, or it. Plus there are at least five sounds I can’t really make- a ყ which is sort of like the french rolled “r” but is transliterated as “gh” and a bunch of rather gutteral, back in the throat “ch”s-” On the other hand, Georgian always is as it’s spell- no threw and through.
I’m learning a lot. I’m beginning to understand snatches of conversation on the street. That’s always really exciting. In self-defense I’ve learned the phrase, “You’re very kind, but it isn’t true.” (The Georgians are extravagant with their compliments. And they love America. They all want to come to the US because “there you are so free.”)” 

P. S.  გამარჯoბათ! ( I think Georgian looks not a little like elvish)  – Lyn

Scot Bastian and I Can Be Seen Attending Many Art Events Around Town


Photo by Lynn Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

March 26, 2011

How to Make a Living

… as an Artiste’

“While waiting to rehearse at a friend’s home many years ago, I spied a title on the spine of a thick book in his bookcase across the dining room table.   I thought it read, “Foundations of Paradise”.  Thinking that this sounds like the title of a great novel!  I must have somehow missed the existence of, I walked across the room to examine it and found what the title actually said was, “Fundamentals of Parasitology”.  Well!   I examined the book anyway, and over the ensuing years I haven’t found any other book that has come as close – to my thinking – in explaining how life works.

One of the astounding things this book had to say was that the vast majority of life is parasitical.  They made the point that if you were to completely dissolve most host animals – you would still be able to describe that animal just from arrangement of the remaining parasites.

What does this have to do with earning a living?  Well!  (I’m glad you asked.)  If you were to completely dissolve the physical structure of any business, you could probably easily tell what sort of business it was just by the arrangement and type of employees left there, (hanging in the air, I suppose).  For example, “Oh look!  There are the cooks, and waiters… receptionist… valet attendants… dishwashers… managers…  My point being, that where as we see ourselves as an entrepreneurial culture, what we mostly are is a culture of quite successful parasites.  For example, take Bill Gates.  What really made his fortune was in attaching himself to the cash stream of IBM by licensing them his software.  Think of the high earning people you know.  Do they really make that money themselves, or are they attached to something (a company),  via a nicely negotiated agreement, which actually generates the cash?

A second point I gathered from reading this book was that, whereas most parasites are hard working (in their own way) – what mostly contributed to their success was their positioning.  Parasites position themselves to be taken advantage of.  The parasite which infects sheep positions itself inside of an insect which climbs on top of a blade of grass which the sheep decides to eat.  Parasites position themselves inside of our food, water, and in our air, everyday. 

This is a very important point.  Because, for example, last night I was discussing with a fellow artist friend how he might earn just a thousand dollars a month.  He had worked the outlay problem, so that with just that small amount of extra earned income he would become self-sufficient; and he could do his work and most of his problems would disappear.  It was frustrating, how we racked our brains!  Because we felt two intelligent healthy artists ought to be able to figure a way to make just one thousand dollars a month from their work… from their talent!

It occurs to me now, that we were characterizing the problem from the wrong position.  It is the host which is the expert in earning the money.  Most companies which make large amounts of money are able to do so because they are very good at taking advantage of large numbers of people.  (I mean this in a good way.)  That’s what makes them a host creature.  They are experts at taking advantage.

So, my friend and I were working the problem from the wrong point of view.  Our real problem is not how to earn money.  That’s the host’s problem.  A good host is an expert in how to take advantage of us.  Our problem is how to position ourselves so as to be taken advantage of.  So, how we should have been putting our minds to work was in looking for a good host.  What’s a good host?  Some entity which makes a lot of money, and which does the sort of thing you’d like to do!  Then you just position yourself nearby as possible –  and try to look vulnerable and attractive.   That is: hard-working, reliable, talented, smart, great attitude, friendly… and most importantly, available.  “Most of being successful, is just showing up,” as Woody Allen says.

A lot of artists get their back up at this suggestion.  Especially women artists.  They stubbornly resist any attempts to take advantage of them.  It becomes a big moral quandary.  I think this is wrong headed.  They should think more like Bob Dylan who said he’d ‘snuck in while the door was open – and now they can’t get rid of me.’ 

Photo by Carl Nelson  (model is John Ruoff)

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

March 23, 2011

Editor’s Note:  More background and foreground sketched in – in this latest episode of the ‘Near-room’.

Egg Situation Escalates!

Contested Food Supplies

The egg situation is escalating. When I came home this afternoon and opened the fridge I saw two jumbo brown eggs missing. When I chanced to glance in the trash I saw a white eggshell there as well, I went back to the fridge and pulled out the white egg tray – one egg was taken from the back. Again, he only put one tick mark on the food spreadsheet. I added the two appropriate ticks and wrote down below: 1 egg = .50 cents
Why are people so petty is what I’d like to know? It’s not just the money, but the fact that going shopping for me without a car and lugging heavy bags is a big pain in the ass. I hinted to him once that if he’d like to go shopping with me once, or just get his own food, that would be nice, because he has a car. But he is such a lazy ass – he never feels like it. When he isn’t working all he does is lie around. Still a huge improvement from the previous near-room-mate: that one didn’t have a job and all he did was lay around.

Getting a reasonable roommate is a very complicated affair. Most normal people (by normal I mean people without significant baggage) don’t rent rooms, because they’re able to plan ahead and take care of their stuff. There’s always something wrong with people who rent rooms. I interviewed 3 people this time before choosing D. The first one needed a room because he was fresh out of prison and was living in a half-way house. He also was under an opinion the room came with a free booty call. He couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t be thrilled.
The second one was a woman. I never actually met her face to face, because she had an enormous knack of complicating simplest things, so they never got done. Frankly, I was suspicious from the beginning, because she wrote an extremely long introduction letter, explaining how hateful her best friend turned out, now that she’d been staying at her place, because she wouldn’t give her a key. I thought, well, well, if her best friend thinks she can’t be trusted with a key, I should probably pass. So I didn’t respond to her email. But she wrote again, saying,  “I really need a room, I’d hardly be there, since I’m very busy, and I had a criminal background check done which you can see.” So I emailed her back saying to stop by. On the appointed hour she called me and said she was lost. She was somewhere by Yesler and 17th, so I said, just go North from there. About 20 min later she calls again, telling me, she is still lost. I asked her where she was, and she said, over on Capitol Hill, somewhere. I told her she was too far North and needed to come South. She calls back in another half-an-hour.
“Where are you?” I asked, quite annoyed with her by now.
“Broadway and Boren.”
“Go East up to 17th Ave.”
“But that’s almost 10 blocks! I was up there before!”
“You didn’t tell me right! I was there before.”
“I am beat for today, can we make it another time?”
I nearly screamed from joy, “Yes! Please! Let’s!” and quickly hung up before she changed her mind.
A third potential roommate sounded very nice. He said he just got a new job in Seattle and needed a room, and that he had a very sweet, well behaved, small-ish dog. Okay, I made an appointment for him to stop by.
His dog was like a lab-rottweiler mix, about the size of a calf.
As the man came in and looked at the room he said, “I’m actually thinking of moving here…” I was already thinking then, “No fucking way!” But out of politeness I offered him to sit down and chat a bit, so I could turn him down nicely. I didn’t have time to think of a way. That mutt of his proceeded to chase my cat Iris all around the living room, the chairs and hair were flying, growling and hissing filled the air. Iris leaped over the desk and unto the windowsill, from where she stared back terrified and insulted. The dog kept growling at her.  I got up, shaking from anger, shoved the dog away from the desk and yelled at the man, “Out! Right now!” He left mumbling, “Sorry,” in a voice completely devoid of remorse. I fucking told him I had a cat! I said to the man’s back, “You really should be more forthcoming with the information upfront…”
So when D. the current near-roommate came by, I couldn’t find any reasons not to rent to him. He showed me his drivers license, he had a full-time job, and he needed a room so he didn’t have to fight traffic coming from Tacoma waterfront where he lived on his boat. And he is clean, quiet and considerate. So aside from stealing eggs he is fine. Hopefully he won’t feel insulted by my insistence that he pays a fair price for the eggs or quit his job and sail to Mexico (which, by the way, I would have done a long time ago, if I had a boat).”  – Rita

Photo by Carl Nelson

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

March 22, 2011

The Eternal Battle

They All Look Good at the Beginning


“My nearroom-mate is beginning to worry me: he whined about getting burnt-out at his job, I think he’s also beginning to hate me.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m paranoid… but…
He also ate 3 jumbo size brown eggs and only put one line in the food-tracking spreadsheet. That’s just wrong!”  – Rita

Photo (taken wildly out of context again) by Carl Nelson

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

March 22, 2011

Spring Special!

Lucy the Cat

“Spring special: a portrait of your pet – only $25 you provide canvas or whatever you want me to paint on, $35 if I provide canvas. Now, mind you, I’m talking about reasonable size here, if you want an epic mural 8′ across I’d have to charge you $20 per foot”  – Rita

Painting by Rita!

From the Editor’s Perch

March 20, 2011

We’re All Crazy!!!


And Finding Friends Where We Can


“The first thing you need to know,” a prominent and widely respected psychiatrist I read, wrote, “is that we’re all nuts”.  I wish I could remember his name, but the statement was so outrageous that it has stuck in my mind several years after I read it.  That, and the fact that I liked the idea so much.  It takes a lot of the pressure off, when you think about it. 

And, it properly places all those ‘Realists’. 

You want something real, Mr. Hard-headed Realist?  Pick up a rock.  It will conform to all the laws of physics.  It will not disappear, nor morph into something new, or suddenly rise out of sight.  Nothing unexpected will happen.  And my guess is, like Reality, it doesn’t even know we’re here.  And like Reality – my second guess is – it doesn’t even know it’s here.  The only way in which it is not like Reality, it seems, is that lots of ‘Realists’ don’t worship it.  Which is puzzling, to be sure, because it’s a lot easier to find a rock – than to describe Reality.

It is fashionable currently to genuflect before the glories of the Scientific Mind and to scorn the ‘Idiocy of Religion’ and all their in-house crazies who currently are held to fan all the problems of our Shrinking World.  But how do we know what’s crazy?  What makes doing or thinking one thing more, or less, crazy than doing or thinking another?  Most of us take our cue from Christ, “By their fruits you will know them.”   We generally say someone is acting or thinking ‘crazy’ if they are doing or saying something which doesn’t provide a good outcome.  So, the Scientist retreats to his/her laboratory to perform all of these ‘crazy’ experiments… until the outcome of what he/she has discovered is found to be very beneficial.  Aha!  He/she was never crazy at all!  All along they were employing the Scientific Method.  But, likewise, the Religious Figure, retreats into the cloisters of his/her faith to perform all of these crazy rituals and to perpetuate the teaching of all of these preposterous ideas… until the outcome is to have spawned an enormously successful society; a society which by nearly all human measure far outstrips whatever had previously come before.  Aha!  So why does it not seem that they were not crazy after all but were employing the ‘Religious Method’.  Like I tell my Scientifically biased – and rather rude friends: “When the cult of the EverReady Bunny creates another Western Civilization – you can believe I will take it very seriously.”

You wonder why people join Cults?  You wonder why people lose their lives fighting over the most inane notions?  You wonder why people run off into the desert after some charismatic figure?  It’s very simple:  We’re all crazy!  That’s what separates us from the rocks!!!   If you’re wondering why the populace will follow crazy people, it’s because crazy is the energy we run on.  That’s my take.  And the more crazy energy you have, the more followers you may get.

This is certainly true of the stage.  When directing actors, one of the things a mediocre actor often doesn’t understand is that merely ‘becoming that character’ isn’t giving us a great deal.  “Congratulations,” I feel like saying, “you’ve become a rock.  You’re right up there on the same level as a piece of furniture on the set.  You will be just as interesting as the playwright has written you… but no more.” 

If you want to give a memorable performance as an actor, you have to infuse that character with life.  Life is not a rock.  Life is not a chair.  Life is not a described situation with dialogue.  Life is an inspired situation.  You have to bring to that character some of your own ‘craziness’.  That’s how we’ll know you’re human… and give you our estimate.

Photo and Opinion by Carl Nelson


Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

March 19, 2011

Editor’s Note:  Rita grew up in Russia.  She has a very ‘unvarnished’ perception of the world.  And I thought it would be interesting to hear a little bit about her background.  And, it is!  Here is the first of a few bits Rita has sent me:

Life as I Know It

“What I’d like to know is how many people out there can’t remember their early childhood, or is there something wrong with my brain?
Because out of first 6 years of my life I only remember 4 snapshots:
A huge pink piglet chasing me every time he sees me, and I’m running away from him, screaming, scared to death. (I was avenged – I was told the piglet was eaten the following winter. I was glad at first, but later felt a bit sorry for him.)
 I’m sitting on the swing talking to a deaf and mute little girl, my mom stops by and asks me how I can be talking to her, and I’m surprised to learn of her condition.
My mom throws away my toy mouse because it has a big hole, but I still love that mouse more than anything in the world and nothing can replace it.
Being in the hospital with the pneumonia and screaming bloody murder every time a nurse has to give me a shot or give me a bath.
That’s all, just those 4 things and nothing else, absolutely nothing, as if I didn’t exist.
Is that weird or is it just me?
As I got older, I remembered a little more. Not much more, though. The first 6 years of school I only remember day one of the first grade and then a bit from this or that year, but no idea which year – only the event itself, and sometimes a name of some person to go with the event. Actually, no names at all for the first few years of school, no names come to mind until maybe 5th grade. Except our dog Tim, and my mom’s second husband, Aleksei Nikolaevich – they were obtained by my mom when I was in 1st grade. I liked them both very much, Tim a little bit more. When they got divorced, both left together, the man and the dog, and my mom wouldn’t let me get another dog until she got her 3rd husband. I wonder why buying dogs was always connected to her getting married?

Funny… Somewhere around 3rd or 4th grade I remember the name of the girl I wanted to be friends with: a popular blond girl Marina Mironchikova, but don’t remember the name of the girl I was friends with. Well, not really friends – I mean, she wanted to be friends with me, and back then you had to have a friend, if you didn’t, you were considered weird. So I basically allowed that girl to think she was my friend, just during school, but avoided her after school. I also remember Marina’s best friend’s name – Natasha Nikolayeva. Natasha jealously guarded her Marina, and during school wouldn’t let me near her. So Marina ignored me while at school, but outside of school, when Natasha wasn’t around, she cheated on her friend and played with me in secret from time to time. Marina liked me too, because we both were artistic, but she explained that, naturally, because she was friends with Natasha much before we met, she had to be faithful to Natasha and couldn’t be my best friend, and because Natasha was very possessive of her, we had to act distant during school. The friendships among girls were sort of mimicking marriages – all that loyalty and jealousy and cheating…
I kept watching Marina all day with admiration and thinking how unfair life was, because we were so much more alike than her and Natasha. More out of affection than animosity we kept fiercely competing at singing and drawing, and she kept besting me at singing, but I did at drawing. She hated me being better at drawing, because she wanted to be best at everything, and that bit of resentment peculiarly accounted for her spending a bit more time with me than she would otherwise. Natasha hated it all, because she wasn’t really good at anything, except she always did her homework and had decent grades. One time when I drew a picture for Marina to give her as a surprise present and put it in Marina’s desk, Natasha found it first, crumpled it up and threw it away, without telling Marina about it. I was very hurt, because I thought Marina threw away my drawing.” – Rita

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

March 18, 2011
Ur Editor

“Over thirty years ago I worked for a local moving outfit where most of the endless days were spent loading or unloading vans at one of the many loading docks.  One of my fellow workers, Dale, was a huge Italian, who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen.  He would skip on his toes across the warehouse floor – like one of those dancing hippos in Disney’s Fantasia – flicking jabs, to amuse himself on slow days, while he went from here to there collecting bits of stray string or torn sections of cardboard in order to appear busy.  He was tall and powerfully built with olive-skin, oily black hair, large fleshy features, liver lips and an enormous beer belly – so enormous in fact, that in order to stay upright he had to lean backwards while skipping forward.  He was a former ‘deep-water sailor’ who harbored in Belltown and drank with his cronies at the Two Bells.  He was a binge drinker who now and then just wouldn’t show up for a while.

But when Dale was there, if he were in a talkative mood, he share with us the ‘adventures of the sea’: about sailors who’d strap bras to their back while out at sea to make a little extra money, and about visiting his retired pals who spent their days keeping track of the whores on First Avenue with red pins stuck in a large map of downtown Seattle – as if conducting military maneuvers.  Dale generally stayed above any argument that would break out from time to time in the coffee room.  But when he did voice an opinion, it was always the same one:  “The question is,” he would say with a chuckle as he lifted his meaty forefinger to make his point: “are you da Fucker, orderda da Fuckee?”  And I had to admit, Dale’s comment almost always hit upon the crux of whatever was bothering those guys.  His gnome-like silence notwithstanding, this ‘one-thought’ intelligence-of-his was downright uncanny, in fact.

One boring winter afternoon I asked Dale how his Christmas had gone.  He had been looking forward to spending the holiday with a woman and her young son in a cheap motel room along Aurora Avenue North.  I assumed she was probably a hooker who came with the room.  “Not so good,” he said.  “We got in an argument and I ended up throwing the tree and the turkey out the back door.”  In retrospect, the dark humor of it seemed to be its saving grace.  I had the feeling Dale was perplexed, and more profoundly depressed than he could admit. There was something in the nuance of a relationship which seemed to trip him up.  Nevertheless, he seemed to admire the dark humor of it – of those fragile Christmas tree ornaments hitting the asphalt with a pop!.  It was the kind of world he might have designed, himself.

Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous bright people who’ve tried to explain to me again and again the reality of the same situations Dale could have summarized with greater and more accurate ease, in a phrase.  I guess they repeat themselves again and again because they think I don’t get it; I can’t face it; I’m poorly read; I can’t understand it; I’m ignorant; I’m weak; I’m a waffler…    I miss Dale.  I think the reason we sort of liked each other was because we both grasp that their  ‘reality’ – just doesn’t work.  I could look at him and realize that he got the joke.

Photo by Scot Bastian


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