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NP Journal for experimenting with ideas, Copyright © 2011-2016 LJ Frank. All Rights Reserved. 


Narrative Paths Journal

“We think we know but have yet to discover.”  Thomas Aquinas


NP Journal is an ongoing experiment initiated within the context of experiences and rooted in treks, voyages, studies and work. The access, integrative content and design of the journal is evolving with the goal of enhancing the reader’s experience. The views and opinions expressed in the Journal are those of the individual authors.


“Narrative Paths Journal is a literary magazine focusing on new philosophies and ideas.”  Uriél Dana




About Us

A brief overview of  the vision and people who volunteer their expertise and efforts is found in About Us.


A look at diverse trends in ideas & philosophies including reviews. Most recent: Intimacy, technology and the human body, from the Future of Sex.


The Art section includes works of abstract expressionism. Several of Frank’s paintings have been donated to nonprofit organizations. An increasing number are on display in business and professional offices and private homes.

Guest Column

Patricia Oblack is the most recent Guest Columnist, with An artist’s thoughts about her work. Guest columnists may contact us at:


Philosophical Inquiries shows the most recent addition listed first. Diplomacy and Language by LJ Frank.


Interviews strives to offer thoughtful and succinct observations in areas that are engagingly diverse and leaning towards the paradigmatic. Varying in length the Interviews offer interviewee insights in their respective fields. The most recent interview is with Viola Timm, I Culture Therapy.


Publications is a preview listing of L J Frank’s published books with links to retail availability.  “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”  Lao Tzu

Now available: The Elusive Mistress of Thomas Paine


The section called Rhythms offers various shapes of experiences, ideas and thoughts in the form of essays and poetry. The words amusing, obscure, or existential could be used as descriptors for these jottings. The most recent entry is placed first – The “open road” is a state of mind,  LJ Frank.

‘Internet of Bodies’ Will Take Intimacy Beyond the Physical World


Excerpt from Design Within ~ Literary E-Spa & Consumer Arts

L.J. Frank’s novels explore the inner world through fictional characters placed in remote worlds and confronted with the inexplicable need to break through external, authoritarian barriers to communication that prevent them not only from expressing what they perceive as real, but from believing in the very existence of their subjective truth.

His artwork has developed an indigenous idiom that likewise communicates the inner experience of color. They represent the many facets of what appears to be the familiar, intimate setting of an unspeakable, breathless relationship to undefined objects through the medium that communicates their presence, color. These are not paintings in the traditional sense, but rather documents of a movement of color.



Timm photoProf. Dr. Viola Timm was a Hayman PhD at the University of California and a Mellon researcher at Johns Hopkins University. She has taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Irvine, New York University, and the University of Fortaleza, Brazil among other academic institutions. She writes about public health, Shakespeare, psychoanalysis and technology. She is currently an independent researcher based in Berlin and continues to contribute to her fields of expertise. She is currently developing an experimental method of cultural therapy online that brings complex interdisciplinary learning about media technology in the humanities to the contemporary reader and consumer. You may find out more here:

NP: You have a richly textured background that includes art, literature, language, public health and psychoanalysis. How would you describe the path you took to arrive at where you are now?

Timm: I was raised in the old liberal arts tradition that originated in the 18th century, which emphasized personal development and individual curricular diversity over political identity. The liberal arts today have morphed into handmaidens to a culturally negating form of political action that no longer teaches integrative methods of processing different types of information and cultural products. The education I received from home and from various institutions ranging from opera, ballet, theater, travel and languages to world-class research institutions is not available as a single package, especially since the pre-20th century liberal arts traditions have been discontinued today, to the detriment of human development. My work and my research certainly carry the unique stamp of my development, but also always engage in dialogue with the contemporary reader that keeps my thoughts focused on the cutting edge of the times. I follow one simple rule: keep a hand on the pulse of the reader. The human mind is the finest instrument available for detecting the most miniscule changes in the cultural climate. I’m also a big gadget lover, so technology is under my skin. I work with it consciously and intensely.

NP: Design Within – Literary E Spa & Consumer Arts is a fascinating and upbeat perspective. How would you assess its place in the digital world?

Timm: Yes, you are absolutely correct to hear the harmonious notes of optimism in the posts. I want to repackage the abandoned liberal arts institutions for expenditure online. Call it cultural recycling and responsible disposal. I don’t want to see the wonderful old methods of cultivating taste and rich inner experience get lost for future generations. The Internet gives me hope, because that’s where thinking individuals “live” today. I didn’t want to just write a blog offering information. We have Wikipedia, its blog extensions, online libraries, and countless other sources for that. They are doing a great job and I use them extensively, but that’s not what I’m aiming at. I want to bring the readers to a more profound understanding of their own cultural needs. My research keeps confirming that mental health is 100% cultural. We are looking at a catastrophic explosion of mental health problems if we continue to neglect cultural health.

NP: How would you explain the service and what the reader will gain from it?

Timm: The science behind my method is long and tedious. I want to spare the reader all that without sacrificing a privileged panorama of the complexity of the human mind pushed to its limits. It is a tricky balance. Most scientists need decades to master the fundamental structural levels of their field. In fact, most basic researchers today never question the theoretical base of their disciplines, but that is where the real value is for the humanities. Structural re-thinking, internal engineering if you will, takes time and loving dedication. I am hoping to awaken a need for this slumbering part of human experience at the individual, private consumer level, because that’s where it is most effective.

NP: Is the service you offer then purely for private use?

Timm: Yes, initially yes. The short-term gain is certainly intended for the individual consumer. But on the long run our increasingly global society stands to gain inventive solutions to problems and creative new structures for preserving our past that will improve the quality of life immensely. Richly textured minds trained in multi-layered abstract thinking are more likely to invest time and energy in unexplored territory that benefits everyone. Technology is an enabler in the sense that it frees up time and energy from menial tasks, including more complex ones like teaching basic skills, data gathering and standard analysis, accounting, and even nursing. Yet humans are not wired to do nothing and we need to think ahead to accommodate the emerging cultural and mental needs of individuals no longer fettered to 9 to 5 schedules and automated mental tasks such as railroad or airport coordination.

NP: Is there an ethical gain as well?

Timm: Yes, absolutely. Another area of substantial gain is interpersonal communication. The term society does not apply to empty, impersonal mass structures and pre-programmed communities, which is what we teach today, but to elective circles and more intimate settings as well. My posts will train readers gradually to pay attention to transitional objects and phenomena, to borrow Winnicott’s brilliant formulation, as they help them relate first and foremost to themselves, their immediate milieus, collections, practices, rituals and sacraments, and then to others.

The words we use to communicate with those immediately in our presence are, after all, quasi-objective and quasi-subjective, because they are experienced both as belonging to us and as “moving,” emotionally and physically, the person standing before us. A person trained in self-reflexivity will be more attentive to the way he or she positions and is positioned by others. She will be more sensitive to the transitional objects the other person needs to remain within their comfort zone. The goal is to instill the values of service to others, not by conforming to mass formats and empty traditional etiquette, but by granting others the space we ourselves need to thrive and feel luxurious. Luxury does not consist in material objects alone, but in the quality of relational sensations and experiences. Today many appear completely unaware of this dimension of experience, even of their own interior, not because they don’t have it, but because we don’t encourage it. I want to make it visible and present.

NP: Who are your teachers and inspirations?

Timm: Of course I am not the first person to ponder these questions. Historically my closest predecessors would be Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger. Freud’s body of work, which I consider more fine art and literature than science, represents the first attempt to design a service that focuses on individual expression and use of language. Freud also attempted the first bridge between the humanities and the medical sciences. His therapy is called “the talking cure.” He wanted to systematize the use of language to achieve optimal mental health, but found the task impossible, precisely because, like fingerprints, the use of language and transitional objects is absolutely unique to the individual. But Freud did not fail. He was the first proponent of a transfer of medical therapeutic methods from the operation table to linguistic abstraction. This is what we experience with the implementation of every new technology. The current challenge is the transfer of most social services and nearly all-public spaces from their physical addresses to the virtual realm of the Internet. This transfer has occurred in the human mind long ago. The Internet simply externalized it.

NP: I’m intrigued by your research and the possibilities your online service offers for self-help. Do you see yourself as creating a trend or helping to realize something that is already taking place and that you’re tapping into a need while expanding people’s intellectual/cultural/social horizons?

Timm: Very nicely put. The short answer is yes, I want to create a need, intentionally and premeditatedly. At a deep unconscious level, the need is already there, but I want to make people aware of it. The unconscious knows math and accounting as well, every therapist will tell you that, but we still need to take the steps to make that knowledge conscious and useful. That’s where my service comes in. The need I’m referring to is knowledge of the interior and understanding of one’s boundaries and infinity. I want to awaken curiosity about what’s within, because it is as infinite as the universe and we still know very little about it. Psychology and philosophy, especially theology’s focus on the cultivation of the relationship to Christ, have scratched the surface, but there is a lot more to know there. Life online has evolved to a level that was unthinkable ten years ago. The selfie-culture is the most superficial expression of what’s taking place at a more profound level online, the need to establish one’s online presence and persona. This is the need I am addressing and creating in a sense. Training in the liberal arts has just found a new vocation, but it can only happen online.

I want to look at online existence therapeutically. Some psychologists are talking about addiction, but I find that narrative insufficient and counter-productive. We need to harness the energy that’s being poured into the Internet for positive personal development that can only increase the quality of life.

The therapy I envision is very close to Freud’s, but instead of meeting customers physically once or twice a week, I send a text I have designed very carefully and generously to allow the reader plenty of space on the linguistic playground to have an experience that is unique, multi-layered, meaningful, and memorable. This is what the traditional novel also tried to do. In fact, Freud was a huge connoisseur of fine literature. Most of his knowledge came from literary texts. But the novel today is mass-formatted. It doesn’t speak to the individual anymore and no longer serves that mentally healthy purpose of the private playground. My service does. Instead of a talking cure, an online reading cure: Freud in reverse at the individual level.

I am also looking forward to including dialogue and discussion. I plan to offer more personalized, tailored experience to potential clients who will specify their particular needs and preferences. I plan to expand the service to include Q and A, as well as moderated forum discussion. I want to give the reader space to begin designing their inner identity, help them recognize its existence and make it an active player in their lives. I want them to learn to articulate their inner experience on my site, in the context I provide, so they can take what they learn there to other parts of life on- and off-line.

NP: In your travels, studies and research do you sense a desire to look at traditional cultural contexts but move beyond them and shape our own?

Timm: This is a difficult question. I am very aware and highly sensitized to the cultural environment, which has a history. History is not just something that happened yesterday and was no more. It is an active, permanent co-creator and co-designer of human reality. We must give up the hope of birthing new cultures if we abandon the care of the past. It is impossible, because of the way human memory supports the structures of reality. Heidegger’s work is deeply conscious of the reality-making function of language. His only failing was his historically determined blindness to Biblical language and sacramental experience. But such were his times. Heidegger, like Freud, failed to appreciate the functional influence of the Bible not only on the German language, about which he wrote, but on all languages, whose cultural roots were structurally transformed by the import of the Bible. Many of my posts are dedicated to these theoretical questions. I certainly disclose the scientific background of the service.

Like Freud, Heidegger successfully mapped a bridge between physical being-in-time and language, as well as between language and technology. The internet is the structure that may finally allow us to build this bridge, because it is the first “personal” technology; the PC and its extensions from laptop to smart phone and tablet are private and individual, unlike film, TV, and radio. We have a highly personalized new medium we are still treating like the mass media of the past century, because we don’t know any better. The methods of mass technology, are, however, highly dysfunctional and inadequate when applied to the internet.

Since the Biblical is the only culture I know at the level of professional expertise, my service is limited to those who have a structural relationship to it. The service is by no means universal, though I imagine everyone can gain insight from it. It’s not possible for Biblical cultures to move “beyond” the Bible. That would be tantamount to asking them to move beyond their respective languages. But it is possible to learn from our experience and change the way we re-produce, store, and transmit our cultural legacies. The Biblical legacy has a few centuries of secular thought to process. It fell behind the times and behind its own principles, with dire historical consequences. It’s up to us to bring it up to speed. Secularization was a profoundly Christian phenomenon, but it has reached its historical limit and we are about to begin the process of its archiving and historicizing. The weak state of the humanities today has incapacitated real progress. The university is ill-equipped to handle this monumental task, so I am beginning to suspect it will take place off-campus and online. It has already begun.

NP: Is there a social problem you care most deeply about and that you would like to address in your work?

Timm: Yes, there is one problem related to Internet behavior I find of paramount importance today: online bullying. We understand the problem too little, we research it too insufficiently and inadequately, and we are failing to protect the most vulnerable, but also the most talented and sensitive youths. Bullying is a form of online conformism that is practiced at the most primitive level of social functioning. The Internet eliminates physical human contact and thus allows for the breakdown of barriers and inhibitions, which on the one hand is liberating and promising, but on the other potentially tearing down the social fabric. I am absolutely against any kind of Internet censure or policing of content. That will not solve the problem; it will only force it into the deep web.

The only way to combat the psychologically disastrous, deforming effects of bullying on young minds is to fortify them with strong individual identities. The bully is someone with a very weak personal identity, which is why they feel the need to force everyone else to conform to what he or she considers the acceptable standard of communal identity. We need to work actively to break down this pattern of identity-formation and combat it with character development. This is something we can only achieve through the introduction of individual curricula, the teaching of individual character, and by stimulating private edification, which is exactly the service I want to see blossom on the Internet. I very much hope to start a trend that will reach all levels of education.

Diplomacy has a long tumultuous history with numerous revisions during its illustrious coursing through the centuries. It’s an art, not a science. If you are a conqueror then the language of diplomacy changes to justify the reason for your being in power. Language is diplomacy in action and is a largely successful human experiment with war being the failure of language and conscience. And there is no statute of limitations on the downstream effects of a war.

If efficacious enough the language of diplomacy whether verbally or at times in silence offers a method and means to resolve potential conflicts before they begin. A significant challenge of diplomacy has been keeping promises. Once a promise is made, it’s best to keep the promise when peace is the objective.

Language, logic and culture are complex. Frames of reference are embedded in our words from earliest humans in our negotiations from ancient China, India, Greece, Egypt or Rome among hundreds of other societies, tribes and families. Economics is prominent in most diplomatic relationships. Governments, rulers and officials develop treaties, cultural exchanges and trade policies with economics being the significant influence. What are the benefits to the negotiating participants? The language of poverty and the poverty of language are finely interwoven threads in a given diplomatic culture.

Character is an ingredient that shapes negotiations, whether a nation or an individual. When he was a young man, and not unlike his father, after hearing a fiery sermon from a colonial minister, young John Quincy Adams (later diplomat, president and statesmen) asked the minister why he should pay someone else to be made to feel guilty when he could feel guilty all by himself without another’s admonition and at no cost except perhaps his own conscience. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree that births it. That reputation of questioning served John Quincy Adams well in negotiating treaties later in life on behalf of the young country. The point is our family, culture, knowledge and education affects and shapes our character to a large extent.

The efficacious use of a single word or sequence of words could mean the difference between positive or negative outcomes, whether it’s détente, brinksmanship, Cold War, Manifest Destiny, domino theory, containment, raison d’é·tat, self-determination, exceptionalism, realpolitik, globalism, convergence theory, big money and numerous other words of multiple meanings within different frames of reference.

People live within frames of reference. A good example was the colonists that used the words of religion as a resource for “conscious morality,” (see) historian Andrew Preston’s Religious Language in US Foreign Policy. He spells out how words and religion are used and their effectiveness in this insightful scholarly work. The danger was/is the effect of narrow religious convictions as the breeding ground for division.

In his work titled God’s Phallus, Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, observes the ambiguous nature of human relations and cultures with their “God” through their choice of words. We give “God” a body through our words and in turn the problems develop in bodily images and roles between men and women. Our beliefs affect our relations on a local, national and international level. Once you give a name to something Martin Buber suggests in his work, I and Thou, you make the person approachable and it serves as an opportunity to control the attributes you give that person or “being.”

In another frame of reference the Ambassador’s Journal, by John Kenneth Galbraith (Ambassador to India during the JFK Presidency) noted the challenge for journalists who traveled halfway around the world to cover a non-war and felt inconvenienced. They decided to word their stories to show that tensions existed between probable enemies that shared a common border, so as to appear they hadn’t traveled there for nothing. Galbraith adeptly stepped back and spoke little. Diplomacy requires being selective with one’s words or being altogether silent.

Frames of reference and its language determine the relationships whether at a diplomatic outpost as well as wading through the twist and chaos of logic in fighting a war. With regards to war one of the most insightful sequence of words is to found in the language of a novelist. In his brilliant work titled Catch 22, Joseph Heller wrote pithily about the nature of words and logic: “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr  (a pilot) was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. That’s some catch, that Catch-22.”

One may come away from reading Heller realizing that “world order” is in the minds of those who act within the framework of their perceived or actual power. Perceived power is an aphrodisiac, observed former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. And words are a form of persuasion even when talking to oneself and looking into the narcissistic world of self. And therein lies a danger when we are unable to step back and discern the nuances of reality.

Words are always used in a framework – perhaps at times with psychological purposes with meanings only known to an inner circle as if they were coded. Still, as Benjamin Disraeli pointed out, “Finality is not the language of politics.” There is always another word(s) to be spoken and another moment of needed quiet. And those who travel that diplomatic path become an ingredient in the ambiguous narrative itself. Pick a diplomatic policy issue and look at its history. Ambiguity is as relevant today as it was during the time of the pharaohs and their relations with their Mediterranean neighbors.

In his Parable of Tribes, Andrew Bard Schmookler wrote, “The experience of meaning requires connection between thought and feeling, between perception and passion.” While today existential alienation allows for us to become “strangers to ourselves,” (see Albert Camus, The Plague).

In Franz Kafka’s work The Trial, one senses a discomfort from the author himself as he attempts to weave as story about a man only known as Josef K. His surname is never revealed. There’s a lack of connection as if everything around was surreal as to what was happening to him, for there was no legitimate explanation. The writing is rough, insightful, poetic and disturbing, much like human relationships within families and the family of nations.

Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher in his work, On Being and Time, suggests to be radical is to get at the root. “Being” is not only the idea that one finds oneself some place, it also means that that we are dealing and concerned with a specific thing. The problem is found in our words and the disparate meanings a given word has within a given frame of reference. People think differently and the same word in different cultures has varied meanings. Man must create his own middle, according to Heidegger.

We use words with intent. An indelible mark or stain remains with an ill-used word. A single word can literally lead to an explosion of words and retribution. In an age of existentialism where we gaze toward the precipice of nuclear havoc, irreversible climate change and the abuse wrought by poverty we need to choose our words and subsequent policies, wisely.

Diplomacy is a high calling. It means we must examine ourselves, our relationships with others and seek to understand our place if we wish to have a peaceful coexistence. The word humble when translated into different languages has cultural variations but the intent is similar. Or as Thomas Aquinas wrote in the margins of a manuscript, “We think we know, but have yet to discover.”



Carmen_Browne-300dpiCarmen Browne is an African American vocalist and composer living in Dublin, Ireland. She was the winner of the 2012 RTE/RAAP Breakthrough Bursary, a national award given by the National Television and Radio Station similar to the BBC in Ireland. Her performance highlights have included being the opening act for M People and Billy Ocean in Dublin’s Vicar Street Venue. She has been the headliner in Dublin’s Workman’s Club, a featured performer at the Dublin Soul Picnic Festival sharing the same stage as Hozier, a popular Irish Soul Musician and a headline act at the Bray Jazz Festival.

Carmen’s debut album, Cloud Ballet, was recorded in collaboration with her producer Everett Bradley, a current member of Bruce Springsteen’s band and reached number 1 on Ireland’s jazz chart. She is currently finishing her second album, “Sublime Light”, which will debut in 2017. For more information, see

NP: You have a remarkable background. In your bio on your website you discuss your evolution and inspiration. Could you elaborate a little more on your inspiration? What are your sources of inspiration?

Browne: Although I have been singing since age 6 in church and studied music formally since I was 11, (I played the violin and the piano as a child as well as singing), I feel that in songwriting, I’m mostly inspired by higher thought or spirit. I like to think of each song as being it’s own personality and it’s own being with a message it wants conveyed and to a certain extent I am just an open channel for it. It is obviously written through my voice, but quite often, I will hear a song as a completed work and need to record it or notate it immediately.

NP: Were there ever any crossroads when you wondered whether you were headed in the right direction?

Browne: I don’t know if there was a crossroads, but I have known since I was very young that I was a musician and that there was very little that could ever stop me being one, in some capacity. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t interface with music on some level, even when I’m sad or sick. I’m not sure I would have been able to survive without music as it is such a part of me, like breathing.

NP: How would you describe you singing style and what are the things
that have affected that style, genre or content?

Browne: I would describe my singing style as dreamy and resonant. I sing for myself as much as for an audience. I must feel a chill when I’m singing to feel connected to the vibration of the music. As far as genre, well I love jazz music. I used to listen to standards as a child, when my peers would have been listening to Hip Hop, R&B, electro or pop. Actually I love all music as I can find an appreciation in most quality music. But my voice hits the air as smooth dreamy jazz.

NP: Are things in the field of jazz you wish to experiment and or

Browne: I feel I still have a message to get out there and I’m letting the spirit guide me on how best to spread the message. I feel I have a very positive message of love and empowerment that is healing for me. I think there are any number of people around us who can really use the message I have and I am constantly propelled by that purpose. As for experiments, my dream would be to do some collaboration with other contemporary songwriters and musicians like Jamie Cullum or Gregory Porter.




patty_smAs an intuitive artist I never know for sure how people will respond to my art. I recently sold one of my works to a professional who spends a great deal of time at her desk with no one around except her thoughts. She purchased a work of mine from a jpg or Joint Photographic Experts Group image, never seeing the actual thing, after spending several hours on my various links. She said how amazed she was, it was so much more than she could have imagined and how happy she was, as it would be her only companion while she worked.

I was blown away by that reaction, but not totally surprised.  I’ve been told by galleries and viewers at art shows people linger on my work (sometimes for more than an hour), touching the surface and searching, hoping to find the hidden meanings or messages on the surface, trying to understand my thoughts and processes.

That said, I am not the norm in terms of the artists that I have experienced. I never use ‘art speak.’ Completely self-educated, I work on a level most people/artists perhaps don’t grasp. My work, if I must explain, is based on a gut reaction to the surface, to music and often memories that rush through my head when I put paint to surface. Only after a board is complete, do I really study it, wondering, where was I when I painted this? I’m serious. All my years in Fine Art have been produced with the use of palette knives, even if the piece is 8’x8′, I still use nothing but my small knives.

I love the naming process, which also mystifies, what is the hidden meaning? My work, each piece, is most likely a smidgen of my soul and they are my children. Any number of artists can linger and speak in eloquent prose on the meaning of their work, but when the paint is dry, it’s difficult to say if there is a value beyond your own heart. And, while I may note that my work has not evolved, that would be untrue, the same tools are used and there’s a link from painting to painting, so much so that I’ve been told, when entering a gallery, it’s been said: “Oh my god, you have an Oblack!”  My children have somewhat common threads.






uri by car

Uriél Dana has been honored for her work as a fine artist, writer, and lecturer for more than three decades. Her oils, gouache, and lost wax bronze work has been shown in 12 countries on 4 continents. She is a former U.S. State Department Ambassador to the Arts under the former Arts America Program.

Her oil paintings and drawings are included in dozens of private, corporate, and celebrity art collections. In October 2015 two of her paintings were selected for the Carousel de Louvre exhibition in Paris, and she was included in the catalogue Modern Art Masters in Complex Musée du Louvre.

In addition to her own art career, for 17 years she was known for her painting collaborations with the late Gage Taylor under the name Taylor-Dana. ‬

Her current work is inspired by San Francisco’s nouveau cirque culture.

A few of her honorary mentions include:

  • International Woman of the Year (nominee 4 times)
  • Outstanding People of the 20th Century
    • Outstanding Achievement Awards
    • Outstanding Achievement in the Fine Arts
  • The Twentieth Century Award for Achievement
  • Who’s Who of American Art
  • Who’s Who of American Women
  • Who’s Who in America
  • 2,000 Outstanding Artists and Designers of the 20th century
  • International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women
  • 2000 Outstanding Women of the Twentieth Century


NP:  Your background is rich with the textures of experience and knowledge. What are those things that motivate you to try new things and embark on different paths?

Dana: The Chinese have a saying that we are a house with four rooms (Mental, Spiritual, Physical and Creative) but most people spend their time in only one. I spend time every day in each of those rooms. I learn something new every day, I meditate every day, I paint or write every day, and I exercise every day.

NP:  How would you define your philosophy of life and your work in the areas of fine arts, writing and film directing?

Dana: As the daughter of a Rosicrucian, I was weaned on the mystery schools, the occult, Edgar Cayce, and Atlantis. By adolescence I was on a steady mental diet of the world’s religions, mythologies, and archetypes; washed down with an occasional weekend séance. Add to the menu a lesbian mother who was also a mortician and you have the makings for a child with a sleeping disorder. As a child I suffered parasomic nightmares. I walked in my sleep until I was 23 years old. This has colored every page of my life.

My mother probably found the only Tibetan Monk on the North Side of Chicago. He taught me to navigate through the mysterious nocturnal worlds I found myself swimming in. Learning to remain conscious while in a sleep state and recognize the dream while awake helped me evolve out of a life controlling sleep disorder. You might say it was the first art I mastered. It was the beginning of a 45+ year practice of Tibetan Dream Yoga. Dream Yoga is one of the Buddhist tantric practices. (People think tantra only has to do with sex when in truth, there are 64 tantras and only 6 have anything to do with sex).

As a result, I have always gravitated to the surreal and to those that participate in the world with unique vision. The form isn’t important, everything is a manifestation of that view.

NP:  In the area of film directing how do you approach a project? What things do you look for and what excites your imagination? Do you see an overlap with film, art and the role of Internet?

Dana: Directing film is a recent transition for me but a natural creative progression. As a painter I just see film as “moving paintings”. The few things I have directed I also wrote. All my life I’ve written. In school I was active in journalism and on the school paper. I served as Feature Editor twice and a News Editor for a year. Over the decades I’ve written poems that were published in anthologies, and lectured on many subjects. I’ve edited books, and written mostly art related online articles.

A few years ago I participated in the San Francisco 48 Hour Film Project. Participants are given 48 hours to write, cast, shoot, edit, and score a 5-minute film. You must also produce a trailer. It was life changing. I loved the collaboration and the marriage of the visual and the emotional in film to create a shared group dream. Screenwriting allows multiple genres for people to process an experience. At its core helps people know they are not alone. I’d like to be a part of that.

Recently I was accepted for a year’s tutelage with the Writer’s Guild Foundation in Beverly Hills. The Foundation is attached to the Writers Guild of America, who represent screenwriters & playwrights nationally. I was one of only 50 people selected from thousands of applications that were received all across the US. In May I attended a Writers Guild Boot Camp Weekend with industry giants. The rest of the year I attend weekly & monthly meetings with highly successful mentors.

With the help of the Writers Guild, I’m currently writing an anime premise pilot based on Tibetan Dream Yoga that I will pitch in May of 2017. Anime for me is the perfect medium for the subject because, like dreams, they are not limited by the rules of the waking world.

I am so grateful for being accepted into the program. It is an outreach for veteran writers to offer gratitude for our service to our country. People know me for my art but few realize I was in the Air Force or that I am a Disabled Vietnam era Vet. (My disabilities are not visible. I have some missing internal bits that require medication to stay alive and that compromise my immune system). Unfortunately I also suffer from PTSD. It is Dream Yoga that helps me to function and why I thought my film project would help other veterans.

It’s interesting that you asked me about the Internet’s impact on film and art. It has opened up all kinds of film and television possibilities because of online streaming, with new studio-producer-distributors such as Netflix and Amazon Studios offering original content.

As far as fine art goes, the Internet can be a good research tool. However, I find the emotion you feel off an original painting is stripped out when you view a piece online. It also distorts the color and makes everything more electric. It is not elegant. The Internet has also flooded the market with really bad art. It’s similar to when our phones became our main camera and everyone started believing they were a photographer. A digital painting is an advertising or film tool; it is not fine art.

NPAre there interests you wish to further explore and experiment with?  How do you decide on what to pursue?

Dana:  I follow the love. As a former Ambassador to the Arts, I met artists who created beautiful paintings that did not sell, and artists although lacking in skill their work sold like crazy. Without fail, when I met the artist whose work sold well they were filled with love and joy for what they created. The poor selling artists were angry, bitter, or felt the world owed them a living. “The energy we hold when we create something stays there forever. You can create something perfect but if you were angry when you made it no one will want to be around it, let alone buy it.”

Michelle Pollace_070_8x10 (1)Whether performing her own compositions or her arrangements of standards, San Francisco “Bay Area” native Michelle Pollace [poh-LAH-chi] honors the roots of jazz, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban music while adding a new voice. Her latest CD, New Beginning, has garnered favorable press as well as airplay on around 200 satellite, public, and college radio stations, plus made the “most added releases” list in JazzWeek. New Beginning features an all-star lineup — producer Rebeca Mauleon, a recognized Latin-music expert and renown pianist and educator; David Belove on bass; Phil Hawkins on drums; Carlos Caro on Cuban percussion; Michaelle Goerlitz on Brazilian percussion; and saxophonist Kristen Strom as guest soloist. Michelle’s love of melody and affinity for well-structured compositions creates a classic sound, of which critic Mark Tucker of Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange writes, “I’m highly reminded of Ahmad Jamal’s … and others’ old canons of work.” This melodic sensibility makes her music accessible to a wide audience.
Prior to launching her solo endeavor, Michelle co-led Zarate Pollace Project with guitarist Abel Zarate (hit songwriter for Malo and Willie Bobo).  ZPP enlisted the musical contributions of many Bay Area luminaries, including John Santos, Paul Van Wageningen, Michael Spiro, and others to realize its musical blend of jazz, fusion, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban styles both live and on the CD Soul Redemption. Michelle’s diverse performance and recording credits also include orchestra member in Lou Harrison’s internationally renowned Gamelan Si Betty, keyboardist for Chepito Areas (Santana’s original percussionist and arranger), chorus member in a Gilbert & Sullivan theater company, bassist for a grunge band, and more.

NP: When did your interest in jazz begin? What artists influenced you?

Pollace: I became interested in jazz when I started playing piano formally. We didn’t have a piano until I was 14, but I had wanted to play since I first touched a piano at a family friend’s house when I was 4 years old! Since we didn’t have a piano for quite some time later, I quenched my thirst for musical knowledge in other ways … recorder in 5th grade led to flute for a brief time, and I picked out piano parts on a handed-down Estey organ I got when I was 9 or so (remember those? With the push-button chords in the left hand?) I taught myself chord qualities and how to read music on that thing. I picked up a cheap electric bass and was gifted a cheap acoustic guitar, so I taught myself how to play them …

We finally could afford a piano when I was 14. I started my formal training with taking piano lessons down the street at the local music store, but working out of those beginner books wasn’t interesting or challenging for me, especially since I had been playing by ear anything I set my mind to learning — mostly rock songs. When my dad found a jazz piano teacher, Martan Mann, we both went down to the Garden City, a club where Martan played. I got to meet him on his break and he talked about his approach to teaching. The idea of improvising appealed to me! But I wasn’t hip to too much jazz, then. I started listening to artists he recommended – I remember McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Monty Alexander, Joe Zawinul being among them. The two first jazz albums I ever bought with my own money were “Dimensions” by McCoy Tyner and “Voyage” by Chick Corea and Steve Kujala. Still have my wax of those! My Dad’s copies of Ahmad Jamal’s “Live at the Pershing” and Erroll Garner’s “Carmel by the Sea” were also impressionable. I managed to add my dad’s vinyls of those titles to my collection, too. Dad, if you’re reading this and wondering where they went, I have them.
My big influences now … McCoy Tyner, first and foremost – I just did a concert featuring the Latin Side of McCoy Tyner, where I led a trio through some of his works that touch on Brazilian and Afro-Cuban rhythms. By extension, I love, love, LOVE, the small-combo work he did with John Coltrane in the early/mid 60s. Another longstanding influence is Chick Corea – Return to Forever and his Elektric Band in particular. I don’t think Chick’s influence is as apparent in my playing as Tyner’s is; however, I admire how his ensembles improvise – they manage to go far out and then come back down to earth, and never ditch the listener. I also love Chucho Valdes, Michel Camilo, Hilton Ruiz…great Latin jazz pianists who’ve done small-combo work I can really sink my teeth into. I’m sorry if I have left any influences out; I’m sure I have! This doesn’t count musicians that I enjoy listening … I think everything I listen to influences me in some way.
NP: How do you approach your music? How would you describe your jazz? Your creative process?
Pollace: That is an interesting set of questions! How I approach my music is guided by my aesthetic, what I want to put out in the world. I think of releasing creative works as an exploration of where an artist is at a given point in time; I don’t feel compelled to adhere to what was important to me, say, 5 years ago. But, some things have remained fairly consistent. For example, valuing these qualities in compositions: a strong melody, a defined structure, and a combination of what is accessible/familiar with something new. I’d like to think that I could describe my jazz as having these qualities. I could also describe my jazz further by genre; the description “piano-centric, small combo Latin Jazz” feels right.
As for my creative process, I get ideas from all kinds of places. I might be working on music and make a mistake, and like the way that mistake sounds … so I use it, either a chord progression, or a riff. Sometimes a melodic or harmonic idea will come to me and I will do a scratch recording of it, then base a composition off of it. Sometimes I am inspired by an existing composition – “Forro” was like that. I was inspired by Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro” and wanted to write something that had the similar harmonic movement and similar melodic elements. I am always learning, and writing what I incorporate in my studies. Reminds me of that Sergei Rachmaninoff quote, “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” I feel that in my creative endeavors I will never do more than barely scratch the surface of what is possible to absorb and make my own.
When it comes to choosing a song to arrange and record, it’s really about taking a song that moves me and defining the concept for arranging it. With “La Comparsa,” I wanted to take a well-known Cuban piano piece and play it with my band. It has been done before, but my arrangement is my own. With “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” I wanted to nod to the past in a different way … my grandfather, a professional jazz pianist, once accompanied Judy Garland when she strolled into the Chicago hotel where he played; this was one of the songs they performed. I never got to hear my grandfather play, but he remains an inspiration to me. So I dedicate my arrangement, which puts the song into the Latin Jazz vein, to my father—whose love of jazz led me embracing the music as well—and to the memory of my grandfather. In both cases, and anytime I decide to record another well-known song, I strive to add something new to it. Otherwise, why bother recording another version?
And sometimes, it’s just an image, or a feeling, that comes over me and I want to capture that with music. I have collaborated with other musicians before (in my band Zarate Pollace Project with guitarist Abel Zarate, for example), but for the last several years I have preferred to compose alone. I think it’s also just easier … I’m juggling duties and mom, wife, bandleader, composer, and more. I have to fit in my creative process whenever I can and it’s easier to do that solo.
NP: There are so many forms of jazz today. What is your philosophy of jazz and of life?
Pollace: There are many different forms. Whenever I hear someone say “I don’t care for jazz,” to me that is like saying, “I don’t care for rock.” Really? In all that vast library of sounds, you can’t find anything you like? I find that not to be true … if someone cares enough about music to have an opinion of what they don’t like, they are discerning enough to find sounds they do like, and there is probably something there in the jazz umbrella they would dig, lol. Those two genres in particular have a variety that is quite staggering.
My philosophy of jazz … as far as what constitutes jazz? I admit I sometimes hear something and go, “That ain’t jazz.” But I keep it to myself, lol. I know what I like and don’t like, I think that’s what it comes down to. Some people are purists … I am not. But I do have boundaries as to what aesthetically satisfies me, but I don’t outright dismiss any given subgenre.
My philosophy of life … well, that’s a living document, always changing, because I am always learning and growing, not just musically, but in other aspects of life. I believe in lifelong learning; right now I and the rest of my family are taking tae kwon do. That’s been exciting! To occasionally have something in your life that you approach from a novice perspective, I think it keeps you young. It keeps a sense of wonder.
I also admire integrity and a sense of self that allows diverse creative expression while still maintaining one’s identity. Musically, I always admired David Bowie, for example. His integrity and sense of self tied it all together, the glam, the blue-eyed soul, the Tin Machine days, all of it. Prince had that depth too. Some artists try new things and have that stamp that is distinctly them no matter what they do. Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea…I strive to have that creative freedom and artistic integrity.
Other than that, I try to remain in a state of gratitude. Also, the golden rule applies, “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” That’s really learned empathy, isn’t it? I just think the world is a better place when we operate from gratitude and empathy, compassion and generosity of spirit. It’s something to strive for. And so is having fun and a sense of humor. On that note, I’m going to leave you with a quote from Frank Sinatra, one I think we can all take to heart as we navigate life: “You gotta love livin’ baby, ‘cause dyin’ is a pain in the ass.”

The Elusive Mistress of Thomas Paine

frank_mistresscover_finalCopyright (c) 2016, All Rights Reserved, Smashwords Edition. Published in ebook formats at  ISBN: 9781311165534   Price: $4.95

She was an extraordinary, mysterious and striking woman – both a Mistress of Thomas Paine and an actress during the late 1700s. She kept a personal journal of her life as a mistress and as an actress. This is the story of my search for the truth about the Mistress and my meeting of her seductive descendant. The resulting book is a blending of fact and fiction.


Projects or ideas can come from many different sources – a documentary, a book, an image, a group in town, or a shop assistant. The need to write is powerful indeed. I am not a writer that has to write as a job – writing just happens to make me a better person. Call it a way to vent. I also walk and swim to keep fit and relax. We all need an escape. Since I don’t drink or smoke, writing is my vice! (As well as chocolate, cakes, and good food, but we don’t need to go into that.)

As a reader who is always looking for the next big read, I have to admit that I have been disappointed over the years at the “must reads” that have been thrown in our direction. Sometimes, I do not like to follow the trend and other times I don’t realize a book was trending when I rave about an author! I have read many self-published books that have blown me away, and other traditionally published mainstream books that have left me wanting. Originality is important for me as a reader. However, sometimes it is nice to read a book with a predictable plot line. But, “nice” is never special.

In my opinion, there has been a surge of YA/children’s books over the last 20 or so years that have caught the imagination of many young readers. Harry Potter, Twilight, Divergent, Hunger Games, Who Wants to Train a Dragon, Noughts & Crosses, Gone, Alex Rider, Half Bad… As well as the multitude of paranormal romance (guilty as charged) series that have flooded the market. Readers love these books (myself included) and my daughter, 12, is voracious in reading them all! Of course, Roald Dahl is still a favourite, as well as David Walliams.

As a reader, I want to be shocked. I want to laugh, cry, feel loved, everything… Human nature dictates that we seek these emotions. Safer in a book than in real life, don’t you think?

I think that children need to be encouraged to discover books. Libraries need to stay open and investments in education need to continue to secure the future development of our children. Saying this, Goodreads is a great site for readers to discuss books, meet other readers, and share. Social media is a powerful tool for any author. If you master it, you are on the road to success.

Goodreads Author Profile:

I have a feeling society, in terms of its individuals and their basic needs, will ever change that much in the long run. We all have different wants and interests. You will never get me interested in watching too much sport, but then others that socialise by going to support their favourite teams might arguably be having a better time with friends than I am with my book – I did say arguably!

Becoming a writer has enabled me to use my skills and imagination. To create something that I can be proud of. It has also made my children aware of how hard it is to create a book – to write it, edit it, make covers, promote it, etc… I am hoping my daughter will be an agent one day! She is very critical. The fact they also see me read, blog, use social media, also means that I am closer to the world they are growing up in. I am not a complete dinosaur!

To conclude, can I challenge anyone reading this and wondering to just go for it? Write down your ideas, work hard to make it come together, have patience, and one day stand back and say to yourself, “I did that.” That’s when you allow yourself to smile.

Now for the sales pitch – Make me smile by checking out my books! A sampling:

Four booksNEW (1)


Thanks for reading,

Vanessa Wester




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