Saturday, November 30, 2013


"Dance of All Nations" Fête, 1911
The research is blooming, I'm deep in discovery mode. I have more than enough anecdotes to write a fluff piece on Edmund as a Bohemian sidekick, but that glimpse of the truth doesn't feel complete. There's a small opportunity to pay tribute to this misunderstood man and I want to get it right. Also, I don't want to talk out of my ass. It's scary to make statements about a person's life based entirely on the paper trail they left behind. 

Some of Edmund's critics were harsh. Brutally mean. As the kids say nowadays, "haters gonna hate." I wonder if the critics ever got to him. His writing exudes confidence and authority. Sometimes an overinflated sense of self is a mask. I can speculate over what he was hiding, but without evidence (even letters) it's hard to say. I have so many questions, there are so many rabbit holes in the puzzle. He's tangled with fascinating people. Madame Blavatsky, Mohini M. Chatterji, Joaquin Miller, Baba Bharati--all conspiring to pull me down into the rabbit hole. Edmund, keep pressing your lips to my third eye. Push me not into a rabbit hole, but help me raise my awareness. 

The past 2 nights my dreams have been a wrestling match with my waking thoughts. Combing over dates, working on his timeline, following up with emerging questions. Mostly, my dreams have been negotiations of dates and little hints. I spent yesterday afternoon and evening with my sources and laptop, working on Edmund's story. Trying to, anyway. My Friday fixation? He was almost always photographed in profile and I've been wondering why that is. 

Hmmmm. . .

Who the frog prefers their face in profile?

1886 Description of Edmund's Head
I suppose it's because I'm used to seeing myself straight on, but I dislike my profile. Not that I'm wild about the straight-on view of my face, but if I must be seen, I prefer to forget what my profile looks like. How it accentuates my bug eyes. Bird neck. Five-head. Spots. Lumpy chin. Pores NASA can photograph with the Mars rover. Nose could double as a sundial. Okay, so I don't share Edmund's inflated sense of self, nor his desire to be photographed in profile. Back to my line of thinking last night, I was going through the pictures I have of him and marveling (okay, chuckling) at how many are in profile. The "best" one I have straight-on is a gritty newspaper pic.
Maharaja of Mynightmare
The costume is excellent, must have been incredible in person, but this expression is creepy. I'm going to chalk the intensity up to the poor quality of the photo. I bet he looked dazzling when it was snapped. I'm just gonna have to go with my gut on that one. There's no way his eyes were that eerie. Individually, his eyes are charming, not a trace of visible psychosis. 

It's food for thought. Edmund, did you really look that different straight-on?! One of my thoughts last night as I went to sleep was sort of a plea. 
Let me get a look at that face! 
Enough with the profiles!

When I woke this morning, I had an email from eBay about two new auctions for archival newspaper photos. The first photo I saw was of him walking down stairs . . . 

...and the only creepy thing about this photo is 
I'll be buying it on eBay. 

Soundtrack: The Police "Every Breath You Take"
May tonight's dreams bring clarity +
aid the flow of concise words.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Quiet city at night. Moonlight. Productivity.
The trinity.
Blessings and curses. 
The exact reasons I don't want to sleep at night.
Nighttime is for creating.
Last night I found a library listing for a letter from Edmund Russell. I emailed the library, hoping they would share a scan. I also found an article about Edmund with a few mentions of his childhood. Two breaks in one night, that should yield great dreams when I finally drifted off, right?

All I remember from last night was running around in some building, taking stairs and elevators around. It wasn't a bad dream, but it didn't seem to have that certain significance I had hoped for. Of course I'll try again tonight, but I might be thwarted with the nightmare that was my evening -- trying to decipher Edmund's handwriting! The librarian was kind enough to send me a scan this morning. What a treat to get off the mat and have a letter waiting from Edmund, even if I couldn't make out much beyond "Dear Sir" and some ramblings about Greek Hamlet costumes!
I shared the scan with Kev, eagerly awaiting his take on the meaning. I printed the letter out and annotated what I could so I have that to compare with what Kev makes out. The letter isn't dated but Edmund looks like he is wearing the same costume as in some Hamlet pics I found recently. His hair looks the same. I sent Kevin a link to the pics with the scan. Then we started sharing other pictures of Edmund in profile, which led to me pulling out a few cartoon parodies.
And now, despite the trinity being on my side, I'm distracted as ever. So many facets, so many amusing things about Edmund...I'm overwhelmed. But I love it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Edman Warren Russell

Pondering brilliant fashion advice 
while striking a Delsartean pose

"If you have a good figure, 
wear as few clothes as possible." 
So what does this frippery say about Edmund's body, 
and does this costume include pants?

Clothes were often restrictive in Edmund's day, in form and in color. Edmund celebrated the intersection of beauty and spirit. He wanted to show others how to create beauty around them by expressing themselves with vivacious hues. Edmund's opinions may have carried weight with society ladies, but it's hard to say how many men were willing to spice up their wardrobes with his dramatic suggestions. 

I appreciate Edmund's sentiments, but living over a century later, there are present fashion crimes
 that outweigh lack of color... 

Pants that sag below the butt. Never alright!
I'd love to hear what Edmund would say about that.

Also, rogues and undertakers wouldn't be the only men allowed to wear noir if Edmund saw how sharp a black v-neck sweater can be. Or maybe I have a thing for the wicked...
Soundtrack: Portishead "Wandering Stars"

Monday, November 25, 2013


March 15, 1903
100-year-old newspapers have some of the finest unintended comedy. Some reporters were intentionally witty, which makes it even better. Sometimes I strike gold and find an article with a  ridiculous subject matter, cleverly written by one of those dazzling journalists. My favorite article lately is kissing guidelines + instructions from Victorian/Edwardian aesthetic authority, Delsartean Disciple, Edmund Russell. 

"Since I have been besieged by women who have asked me how to get a lover, I have had to tell them I  do not know, and the Brahmin sages do not tell us. But they do tell us about kisses. The chapter on that important subject begins without preamble, an example I have not been able to follow, in this wise:
'One may kiss the eyes, the cheeks, the lips and the mouth.'
That appears to be the general rule, and it is particularly Oriental. In India they do not rush things. An Englishman or an American would not dream of observing a formula like that.
The chapter goes on to say it is forbidden to bite the mouth, but you may kiss it if you can. I never could understand what they meant by that, although I have studied it a good deal."
-Edmund Russell

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health 
and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
--James Henry Leigh Hunt

Though I've been busy in dreamland, lots of vivid technicolor activity, my actual dreams haven't had the shimmering brilliance of any of the described kisses. Rather than recount the last few swirling's St. Vincent "Surgeon."

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Hamlet 1903 New York
Saturday night. Wild dreams last night, no earthly translation. Lots of spinning and colors. Tonight I meant to join friends for their annual "Friendsgiving" dinner, but I'm finally getting somewhere with my piece on Edmund Russell and I want to spend time with it. Relax with it. Listen to Coltrane with it. Melt as meaning hits me deeper and deeper.

"The narrow soul is forever on the fence 
in terror of falling. 
The enlightened a fence-jumper."
Are We Becoming Buddhists?

Oh, Edmund. 
Thank you for the light.
ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ

Soundtrack: John Coltrane "A Love Supreme"

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Art of “Letting Go”

"Relax, relax. Let go the tense hold of your arms that is wearing out your vitality. You will get rest by doing this. Sleepless people will fall asleep. Stop holding yourself in a knot and relax. Hold up the chest, breathe slowly and deeply through the nose, and relax the extremities. (Make yourself) a being whose body is the exponent of the soul responsive to every command of the spirit."
-Edmund Russell, 1896. 
(Etiquette rules for absolutely every victorian concern)

The photo above of Edmund Warren Russell is a cabinet card found on eBay, I didn't see the auction until the day after it ended. I would easily have paid 10 times the closing price. At first, I obsessed over this. Maybe the seller would send me a scan, just so I can see this facial hair better? Maybe the buyer is also researching Edmund Russell, maybe we could share some information? Or better yet, maybe I should stop acting like a fixated 4-year-old, relax, refocus on what matters, appreciate the lesson, appreciate the obscure scan version with the watermark, and get back to writing. 

The big lesson is the reminder material possessions do not make us happy, ultimately what matters is compassion for all beings and freedom from desire (yes, Edmund Russell has me quoting The Bhagavad Gītā). The small lesson is to get back to writing instead of Internet distractions. 

Last night: Flying through the sky, heading home to visit my dad. I fell, landed on a fence. Rolled to the ground, brushed myself off. Then I was trapped in some rich family's yard, I just wanted to go home. Their living room ceiling was vaulted like a church cathedral and the wood was inlaid with cinnamon. This is all very significant, or very stupid. The ceiling smelled like home, I started to fly toward it but then I remembered no one else knew I could fly. I walked out of the garage, got trapped in small talk. And small life. (le sigh...) I got to fly and smell cinnamon, it's no exotic dance party with Edmund Russell, but my dream life is still delicious.

Sat nam. 

Soundtrack: Jesca Hoop "When I'm Asleep"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


"Things most wonderful we lose in trying to grasp only mentally. That is why I used to listen to Madame (Blavatsky) as half-asleep, the mind in the viscera; and still do when I really want to absorb anything---hunting, hunting, with the eyes sewn-up and wide-open soul." 

Edmund Russell
"More Recollections of Madame Blavatsky" 

Then there's the 
way the press framed things...

"An Esthetic Idiot 
Who Aspires to be the American Oscar Wilde"

Edmund was misunderstood in his time. Adored by some. Abhorred by others, who were often members of the press. 

But Edmund was clear about his message 
and his mission. 

He spread love.

Not romantic love. Divine love.

He found people listened to him if he preached beauty. So he did. For decades. Journalists had many names for him, sometimes calling him an apostle. "The Apostle of Aesthetics," "The Apostle of the Beautiful," and the "Apostle of Delsarte" are a few. "An esthetic idiot who aspires to be the American Oscar Wilde" falls on the other end of that spectrum of name-calling. That's from an 1886 headline in Washington, hammered into black and white by someone whose mind remains in the viscera while awake. Edmund Russell was more awake + more in-tune than most souls, especially when he was half-asleep. I would love to tell you the name-calling ended in the 1880s, but it didn't. Thankfully, neither did Edmund's devotion. Edmund Warren Russell, I thank you for your shining light. Satnam.

May I dream of you tonight, sweet prince.
May the long time sun shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure Light within you
Guide your way on.

Soundtrack: Grimes "Genesis"