5CT for June 2019

This is what magic in the day-to-day looks like, wrote Clare Dwyer Hogg, as spoken by actor Stephen Rea, on the Irish border seen through the cluster that is Brexit. Saul Leiter knew something about magic in the day-to-day, just look at these pictures. The legendary UK based lit-band, Dark Angels, has a new album out — Dark Angels on Writing. Early reviews indicate their latest is a scorcher. Since we’re talking about Europe, and magic, and whether to stay or whether to go, here’s Timothy Snyder with some historical context. “Imagination,” said Einstein, “is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” To the 5CT subscriber who wrote to say, ‘I miss 5CT,’ thank you. Me too.


Saul Leiter, photographer

{ snow, 1960 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ subway car 4435 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ jean 1948 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ boy, 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }


Saul Leiter started shooting color and black-and-white street photography in New York in the 1940s. He had no formal training in photography, but the genius of his early work was quickly acknowledged by Edward Steichen, who included Leiter in two important MoMA shows in the 1950s. MoMA’s 1957 conference “Experimental Photography in Color” featured 20 color photographs by Leiter. Read on here >

{ New York 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }


Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a New Yorker writer of uncommon instinct, talent, grace and empathy. A couple of years back, he did what many writers do; he read a whopper of an obituary (Dolours Price, Defiant IRA Bomber, Dies at 61)  and followed his nose. That led him down an extraordinary path, to a murder mystery, a thicket of stories, and to the Troubles. Hard to imagine a more challenging, complicated story to tell. It’s a masterpiece. Read it, you won’t believe it. That’s Dolours on the cover of his book. At the end of her life, she fingered Gerry Adams as the man who gave the orders. She took on Margaret Thatcher and won. And, she became the wife of the actor Stephen Rea, seen below in a Brexit video. For a good podcast on this, go to Longform>

Excerpt from Say Nothing:

Just after lunchtime, at around 2 p.m., a phone rang at the headquarters of The Times of London. A young woman named Elizabeth Curtis, who had just started working on the news desk at the paper, picked up the call. She heard a man’s voice, speaking very quickly, with a thick Irish accent. At first she couldn’t make out what he was saying, then she realized that he was reeling off the descriptions and locations of a series of cars. He spoke for just over a minute, and, though she was still confused, she transcribed as much as she could. Before hanging up, the man said, “The bombs will go off in one hour.


Hard Border: Clare Dwyer Hogg & Stephen Rea

To Clare Dwyer Hogg, playwright, poet and journalist, who wrote this absolutely jaw-dropping piece on Brexit, we give thanks. “We’re holding our breath again, because we know that chance and hope, come in forms like steam and smoke.”


Dark Angels on Writing

The UK writing collective known as Dark Angels (where does that bloody name come from?) has published a new book, Dark Angels on Writing: Changing Lives With Words, aimed squarely at the legions of companies, businesses and writers who want to write beautifully and better. This is a very special book with appearances by such writers as Michelle Nicol, Nick Asbury, Tim Rich, Rowenna Roberts, Larry Vincent, Therese Kieran, Rob Williams, Becca Magnus, Faye Sharpe, Jonathan Holt, Nick Parker, Henrietta McKervey, and many others. Get your copy here >


Timothy Snyder Speaks

Timothy Snyder is a Yale historian and one of the people I look to for help in understanding what’s going on in the world. He wrote On Tyranny in 2017 after the car crash of 2016. This video — The European Union —  is part of a series of 16 or so videos he’s posted on YouTube. These are mini-lectures that he uses to air out ideas he’s thinking through. Episode 1: Russia Defeats America.

5CT recommends his latest book, The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America.



That’s it. Thank you.

Sonnet, with dark wings

by 2 Permalink

Sonnet, with Dark Wings

1. A thin, slender neck road. The ocean stretched forever left. Wooded marshlands, right. A crow dropped in and attacked from the top of a wind bent telephone pole. Scared the shit out of me. 2. “I’m from the UK,” he squawked to the back of my young, foolish head, “that’s a million miles from here. As the crow fl— forget that, cliché.” Black wings flapped around my face as the beast hightailed it back whence he’d come. 3. Chills pinged the length of my spine, as I pushed on, biking into the wind down the cracked asphalt, looking back, watchful and afraid. Finally, something had actually happened to me. Something weird, possibly mysterious. Maybe a portent. A harbinger. An omen. A forewarning. Who could know these things? 4. Night. Inside my unheated knotty pine cottage of overdue rent and flickering courage, I tapped out my stories on my mother’s old typewriter, a Remington. Of black winged memories and of my grandfather, who near his end, stood in a midnight rain, ancient, spotted, bony hands pulling and pulling at the door of a cruel, empty car. As if that old car was the all of it, the whole wide world, leaving him. Through a curtain I spied him begging for more time, more something. “Room for one??!! Room for one??!!” he shouted. I went outside and took him home. In fits and starts I wrote what I didn’t know — the beating heart under my paper thin skin. 5. The stories were always the same — only the chords changed. A man who was young and old. On a road of some sort. A coming from, a going to. Arrival always in doubt. 6. Creatures real and not dashed onto the stage. Beagles and nuns and coaches, wine-glugging, boy-loving priests. A rain stick house. A neighbor kid with the All American story: soldier, husband, civilian, divorcee, murderer, convict, ex-con, ordained Deacon, Harley rider, excessively tanned resident of Florida, and finally dead on a desert highway. Tattooed ex cons. Hundred year old rowhouses, beautiful, hundred-year old crack-smoking Muslims. The lonely dried-flower lady who loved gossip. And Chester, who cold-nosed his way into the center of my being and made me love him. 7. So apropos of nothing – this was just the other day — I looked up crows. They are carriers. Of life magic and the mystery of creation. Of destiny and personal transformation. 8. It seems I’m slow on the uptake, it took me decades, but black crow, I take your meaning. I accept. 10. And so this is a song of gratitude. This is a song of a million miles of thank you’s. A song of trying, of beginnings, of asphalt roads, of black winged words, of unheated shelter, of flickering courage, of sad rememberings of a dying man lost in the rain who gave me so much more than story. 11. This is a song of being. And of being together. 12. That old black crow is gone now, his ghost haunts the causeways and the spits searching for the next kid biking past a briny sea, a wooded marsh, dreaming how maybe one day he could be a writer. 13. How he might find his long and thin slender neck road…meet his dark winged crow, his life magic, his night rooms of sorrows and ardour 14. and shed his tears such as Angels, Dark Angels, weep…

5CT for June 2018

Delighted to be back after a long absence. Dog lover and New Yorker, Maira Kalman clearly has it all going on. Totally. Unfair. Alexander Chee is a beautiful writer from Maine and San Francisco, and is someone worth reading and thinking about. The great Emmet Gowin, who studied with the great Harry Callahan at RISD in Providence, RI, began by photographing his family in Danville, Virginia, and now he’s onto…. moths. A Bukowski poem inspires a brilliant young English animator. Carolyn Drake’s collaborative photographs in China are cryptic and amazing.

Maira Kalman|Word & Image

Maira Kalman, My Favorite Things

How do I combine this writing and this art to say as much as I can with as few words as I can.” Maira Kalman

Continue Reading…

Live appearance!

by 0 Permalink

Tis a rare event, but the person behind 5 Cool Things, will be making a public appearance this month with Ted Leonhardt at the truly wonderful Seattle Folio in downtown Seattle. The date is March 20th. The time is 7 pm. The address is 314 Marion at Fourth Street. All to do with the new book, Established: Lessons from the world’s oldest companies. Written by the Dark Angels and published by Unbound. Be there.

Ted Leonhardt

Richard Pelletier

March 20th 7 pm. 314 Marion Street Seattle, WA

5CT for February 2018

by 0 Permalink
The 5CT editorial staff is in love with a song from the Helge Lien Trio, from Norway. The 40th anniversary of a legendary concert just flew past on January 24th. Also in this issue, Bulgarian Demon Chasers, powerful local journalism from the vacant lots and dying shopping malls of the northeast and, the most amazing trees ever. Do you ever do this? “How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.” ~ William Faulkner

Helge Lien Trio

Helge Lien Trio Live at the A-Trane, Berlin April 20. 2008

From Chris Jones at the BBC in 2009:

The first couple of tracks do, in fact, put you in mind of the kind of fast-paced Jarrettisms that EST were so adept at, yet to call HLT derivative is a huge disservice. Lien’s modal approach owes as much to the original source, Bill Evans, as it does any of his fellow near-countrymen. By track three (Radio) Berg’s bowed bass propels this mysterious number into unknown territory. Like the cover image of a dark forest’s interior, this is interior music made by men who, like most Norwegians, hold a deep respect for the pristine wilderness that surrounds them.

The dancier numbers here: Troozee, Diverted Dance or Snurt, contain enough catchy riffs to make them trusted friends upon repeated listens, while on Halla Troll Lien’s use of dissonance is a fabulous counterpoint to the jagged time signature.

By the gorgeous closing In The Wind Somewhere you’ve forgotten that there ever was an Esbjorn, Brad Meldhau, Tord Gustavsen or whoever. This is a world perfectly created by Lien and his pals. Get over it and just enjoy…

Read the full piece here >

We’d be remiss if we did not include the amazing Last Chance to Dance Trance (Perhaps)


Keith Jarrett, the Köln Concert

This famous Keith Jarrett concert was unknown to us, but thanks to 5CT subscriber TR for the great tip. The back story is a classic—a nearly perfect narrative structure with all the elements of great storytelling. An exhausted musician on tour, a teenage festival producer’s first big gig, a bad piano, an audience primed for a killer performance. What a night it was, what a night.

Kind of Weird: How the Köln Concert Made Keith Jarrett a Pop Star, by John Lingan


Jarrett was sleep-deprived and harried that night, and his mood wasn’t helped by the fact that the opera house had supplied a relatively small, poorly tuned piano rather than the Bösendorfer grand that he requested. Even after an emergency tuning, the instrument supposedly sounded like a toy, with shrieking high notes and little projection in the low registers. On the record, having passed through two microphones, the piano has an almost otherworldly sound, like it’s five stories high and made of glass. Jarrett plays it harder than he does on his other solo recordings, bashing the keys and keeping largely to the mid-range notes, perhaps out of frustration. “What happened with this piano was that I was forced to play in what was—at the time—a new way,” he explained years later. “Somehow I felt I had to bring out whatever qualities this instrument had.

This is all backstory and context, but as an album, The Köln Concert melts context, vaporizes it: Purely as music, it exists outside time and space.

Read the whole story here>

Aron Klein’s Bulgarian Demon Chasers


5CT subscriber Gothic Horror, pointed us to these amazing photographs and suggested that your correspondent arrange to make a Whidbey Island version of these Demon Chaser ensembles. For that, please stay tuned. For now, here’s the real story:

“Kukeri is an ancient pagan ritual practiced annually across the Balkan mountain regions where local men wear carved wooden masks of beasts’ faces and hang heavy bells around their waists as they perform arcane dances,” says London-based photographer Aron Klein. The Kukeri Project is Aron’s magical and dreamlike series that consists of hypnotic images of large men in carnivalesque costumes, posing menacingly in the wintry Bulgarian mountains. These figures are intended to dispel evil spirits and protect their community from ill fortune. The project came about after Aron started working as a photographer for Meadows in the Mountains music festival in the Rhodope Mountain range between Bulgaria and Greece. “I’ve fallen madly in love with this forgotten corner of Europe with its tiny villages, steeped in ancient folklore and mysterious traditions,” he tells It’s Nice That.

Marc Monroe Dion

They say (whoever they are) that local journalism is in dire straits. They are right. There’s been a savage hollowing out of local newspapers with no end in sight. However, there are still glimmers of great work being done. After the recent State of the Union, the Democratic Party response was given from Fall River, Mass, your correspondent’s hometown. With a search of the local paper, The Herald News, came the discovery of Marc Monroe Dion and his column, Livin and Dion. Amazing video by a guy who is channeling the greats.

Marc Monroe Dion is so good we thought you’d want to read this, too.

Welcome to Our Hillbillyhole

by Marc Monroe Dion

America is a “nation of immigrants,” and “diversity is our strength.”

The overused phrases are like pennies with the date worn smooth.

Here in Fall River, we have always been right at the grinding, pushing, moving, intermarrying, confusing, “This customer doesn’t speak English. Get Frank to come out here” end of immigration.

I’ve been in Fall River corner stores when three languages were being spoken simultaneously. I’ve used my half-forgotten French-Canadian dialect to interpret for a Haitian lady who was having a little trouble in the Stop & Shop checkout line.

Immigration isn’t a political theory in Fall River. In Fall River, immigration is your grandmother’s accented English, the way the Pakistani-born corner store owner talks. It’s the Cambodian food your new son-in-law’s family eats. It’s your girlfriend talking to her sisters in Spanish.

People come here running, fleeing a war in Syria, a famine in Ireland, poverty and a fascist government in the Azores, too many kids and too small a farm in French Canada, the pogroms of Russia, the hunger of Poland. Everybody shows up here panting and unprepared, broke and scared, fodder for the lowest-paying employers.

You don’t come here because things are going good at home. How do you think your Irish ancestors looked when they came off the boat, gabbling in Gaelic, ragged, hungry and clannish?

When you get here, the others from your country who are already here welcome you. Everyone else wishes you’d go home because you can’t speak English, your food smells funny and you’re “taking all the jobs.”

On my mother’s side of the family, the first Munroes arrived in North America in the 1600s They showed up in chains, captured by the British after a failed Scottish rebellion. By every law, they were traitors, criminals. One of their descendants is believed by some historians to have fired the first shot in the American Revolution. The Dion side of my family came to Fall River around 1900. They were illiterate, as unpromising a group of people as ever came to America.

When you get to America, most likely one of the people you meet is the old, native born man who doesn’t mind telling you that you’re ruining the country or ruining the city, or “taking over,” or not learning English fast enough. Sometimes he’s the guy who hires you to work in his factory or his warehouse. Sometimes, you landscape his yard, or work in his hotel. He makes fun of the way you talk. He calls you names. He thinks you’re stupid. He never learns to pronounce your last name because he never tries.

We elected that guy president.

And now, in Fall River, where immigration is not an abstraction, we face the fact that we did not come here from “good” places. If they had been good, we would not have left, or our families would not have left. And we hark back to the words of poet Emma Lazarus, who called those who came here, “wretched refuse,” but who knew it was a term of pride. It was what you were because it was how others saw you, but it wasn’t what you would become, what your children and grandchildren would become.

I am the proud descendant of traitors and illiterates, of the unskilled and the uneducated, those who came here from someplace worse or were dragged here in chains. None of us were a good bet. After all, we’d already messed things up at home. What made anyone think we’d do any better in America?

They came from some potatohole in Ireland some snowhole in Quebec, some favashole in Portugal, some bucket of borscht in Russia, some hummushole in Lebanon, and the first thing they learned in America was the insulting name they were called by the people who owned the country.

It’s still happening, and it will probably always happen because the instinct of people to call other people names cannot be bred out of the species. Communications improve, but people do not, and what you used to spray paint on a wall, you now spatter on Twitter. Bigotry will hitch a ride on anything that travels.

Welcome to America. The country is such a hillbillyhole that you can’t quote the president in a family newspaper.

Beth Moon’s Ancient Trees

{ Zalmon Olive Trees (c) Beth Moon }

{ Bowthorpe Oak (c) Beth Moon }


by Beth Moon:

“Portraits of Time” is a series of portraits of ancient trees from around the world that explores time and survival, celebrating the wonders of nature that have endured throughout the centuries. This fourteen-year project has taken me on an exhilarating journey to many parts of the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

The criteria I use for choosing particular trees are: immense size, great age, and notable history. Locations are researched by a number of methods: history books, botanical books, tree registers, newspaper articles, and information from friends and fellow travelers.

Few of these trees have signposts or any markings/recognition. Indeed, they often grow in unexpected places, seemingly unaware of their surroundings, as if they exist in another world. Many of the trees I have photographed have survived because they are out of reach of civilization; on mountainsides, private estates, or on protected land. Certain species exist only in a few isolated areas of the world. For example, there are six species of baobabs found only on the island of Madagascar, and the mythical dragon’s blood tree grows only on a tiny island in the Arabian Sea.

Full story here >

{ Wakehurst Yews (c) Beth Moon }

{ Heart of the Dragon (c) Beth Moon }

{ Kings Canyons Sequoias (c) Beth Moon }