Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

16 January

Here Comes The Cold. Thoughts Of The Federal Workers

by Jon Katz

The weather channels are fulfilling their new commercial purpose of scaring the Hell out of the country, huge sections at a time. The newly named storms are coming at us quickly and with great drama, and if the hyper-ventilating weather people are correct, as they sometimes are, we are on the dawn of some brutal cold over the next week and possibly into April.

We are lucky, at least so far. We have a shed full of wood and a heating tank full of oil. I know there are many people without those comforts, and the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are not getting paid are on my mind. It is hard for me to be so warm while they are so out in the cold and at the mercy of politicians.

Climate change is frightening, but also beautiful, it brings us some of the most beautiful skies. The sheep and dogs and donkeys remind me to practice radical acceptance. Do not worry about things you can do nothing about. I always see beyond the cold and into Spring, which is next up.

I was sorry to see stacks of burgers and pizza and french fries in the wood house, I’m sure the Clemson football players weren’t hungry or starving. Those burgers could have fed a lot of people out of work and without pay. They were marching just outside of the White House. Gluttony is not an admirable political stance when the people who serve us are out getting some groceries at food pantries..

I am getting older, and there are fewer things I can do in a big stormy – they say a foot is coming on Sunday. I can shovel, but in- 10 weather, I can’t be out in the cold too long, my angina protests, too much falls on Maria. I don’t like not doing my share. I will try.

One thing I can do is take pictures, I love the winter pasture and I love the spare beauty of the cold. They are talking about the Polar Vortex splitting open again, and that is never good news. I wish warmth and safety for everyone, especially the federal workers, who have done no wrong.

16 January

Today: Turn On The Radio!: WBTNAM1370 – One To Three P.M.

by Jon Katz

Today, turn on your radio at one p.m. for “Talking To Animals,” my two hour weekly show with Thomas Toscano. You can hear it on the radio, you can hear it on a Simple Radio free app, you  can live stream it here. You can call the station, WBTNAM 1370 and speak to me live with your problems and questions: 866 406 9286 or 802 442 1010.

People are calling from all over the country, they are getting through.

Or you can e-mail me anytime with your questions and comments: I check my mail continuously during the broadcast, and if you can’t get through or don’t wish to be live, just e-mail me your questions and I’ll talk about it on the air.

If you’ve called before, please call back and let us know how your issue was or wasn’t resolved. Tell us what you’ve learned. That can be very helpful to others.

My dream is that we launch the first thoughtful and successful animal show anywhere. This can only happen if you join in, I can’t do it myself and don’t wish to do it myself. This is my chance to talk directly to you and to talk about the issues we will face with dogs and other animals.

This is community radio, your station, your show. If you don’t participate, then the show has few chances of surviving. We are getting lots of feedback, and the volume of calls is increasingly slightly. Calls are essential, I didn’t start this program to talk to myself, I want to talk to you. I want to listen to your problems and help in a thoughtful and researched way.

I only recommend solutions that have been tested by others. So please call if you can or e-mail me if you can’t: 866 406 9286 or 802 442 1010. Or

You can also hear a podcast of the broadcast by going to WBNTAM.US. Be sure to download it before you listen.

One way or another, I hope to hear from you today, Wednesday January 16, from one to three p.m.

16 January

Trying The Monologue Again: THANKS For The Valuable Feedback. More!

by Jon Katz

Yesterday, I tried a new step towards interactivity and openness, I asked for advice on reading my first monologue for Acting 101, taught by Actor Christine Decker at the Oldcastle Theater in Bennington, Vt.

The advice was instant and impressive and unanimous: I needed to do a lot more work to make this monologue work.

The piece is too long for me to memorize, I think, but the consensus of the feedback was that I was reading the work rather than feeling the work.

As is my wont, I went into the detached style of the journalist and observer, I was losing the feeling of it. I’m comfortable talking about my books, but this is very different.

The advice was honest and good: I was paying too much attention to the rhyming, reading too quickly, and was too flat.

I needed to remember that I was speaking to someone about powerful ideas of coverage, boldness, aging and a meaningful life. Important stuff to me. I always cry when I read this monologue, I’ve been reading it for years, yet it is very difficult for me to convey the emotion in the piece and in me.

From Ed: My main reaction is that you are reading the words, but you are not IN the words. Perhaps having someone in mind you are actually speaking to would infuse the words with more of your self. In other words, is there any way to make them YOUR words, reading them as if YOU wrote them, rather than you reading words that someone else wrote. (I took an acting class once and was told to take a slow, full breath after every single line when I was practicing, just to get myself to be IN EACH LINE, rather than reading the piece through to the end. It really helped!) I’m glad you’re exploring and taking risks and looking for input. Wonderful!!

The challenge is for me to do learn how to do that. Christine is opening me up to the idea.

I tried the reading again this morning, this time sitting down, and this time talking directly to Maria and in my mind, to Holden, a young student in the acting class. In a way, this piece is a message to the young and an inspiration to the old. I’ve got to speak to a person or people, I’m not reading a newscast or at a book store podium.

From Nova: A piece like this can be read slowly…pauses are absolutely permissible…it gives the listener a chance to savor the words and the images evoked…a slower delivery allows you to taste each word…the exercise becomes like a reverie rather than a performance….just my thoughts. Love that you are doing the acting class!

I can’t say how impressed I was by the quality and range of the feedback – teachers, actors, producers, artists and writers and the thoughtful regular readers of the blog. It was an impressive display of the potential of the Internet to do good as well as rant and rage.

The piece is beautifully written and it can and should be read slowly, each word tasted in Christine’s words.

From Bob: you are not experiencing the content… you need to own the content as if you wrote it and express your feelings in your voice and delivery… make it sound authentic & real (be an actor) and not with a newscaster style of reading/delivery… FYI… Marie is too much into you to offer constructive criticism… is too sensitive about feelings… I have no conflict of interest…

So thanks, advice is precious when sought and needed, and I appreciate it. Please let me know if you see any improvement at all, and if you have any other thoughts on how I can do justice to this piece. Your comments very much echoed the critique of Christine Decker, my teacher, and altogether, this has helped me to see a way to bring more feeling and openness into my life and work.

Perhaps in class I’ll read it to one person rather than the whole class.

This is the point of the class for me, I’ll never be an actor, but I can always  be a better human.

You can post your comments and feedback right here at the bottom of the blog post, or e-mail me: or on my Facebook Page: Jon Katz I got about 75 comments in all. No one loved my delivery, but there was not a nasty one in the bunch.

There is hope for us all.

15 January

Sylvie: Jehovah, Hope And Letters

by Jon Katz

A big stack of letters came for Sylvie from the Mansion today, she is one of the eight Mansion residents staying at the Danforth Adult Care Center while the damage to the Mansion is being repaired. The Mansion residents have struggled to deal with this frightening disruption in their lives, but Sylvie seems to have handled it more easily than anyone.

Sylvie is eager to get back to the Mansion, yet she is both hopeful and accepting. She was thrilled to see this stack of letters. Sylvie loves getting letters, you can write to her c/o Sylvie, The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. She will soon be back and ready to receive them at the Mansion.

Sylvie tries to answer each one, she loses and misplaces more stamps than a crooked postmaster.

I bring stamps to her several times a week, they seem to vanish into one of her many tote bags. Some letters get through, some get lost. Rumors are she has 1,000 stamps hidden away somewhere.

“The lost letters are my prayers,” she tells me. “That’s the way I see it.” That is very Sylvie. She does not complain or despair.

She  reads religious texts much of the day, and when she is done with them, she reads and answers her letter. She tells me “I have many good friends on your blog.” That is good to hear.

Sylvie is  regal and entitled. As I was leaving the Danforth today, she handed me a stack of letters to stamp and mail without comment. ‘”I love you, Jon,” she said, and I told her I loved her back. And I do.

A month ago, Sylvie invited me to come with  her to her weekly Jehovah’s Witness meeting. I enjoyed it very much, I got to see the strength and faith of her community, and its great meaning for  her.

I’ve been watching Sylvie this week and wondering at  her equanimity when so many of her fellow residents are struggling so painfully.  I see it is her faith. A fellow congregant visited her last week and Sylvie told her “I have asked Jehovah to take care of things. I know he will.”

Sylvie told me she knows it will be all right, her faith told her so. She simply accepts it. In the meantime, she is independent, busy and engaged with the world. “This is where I live right now,” she said, “so it is home right now.” Wow, I thought, Sylvie has her stuff together.

I was shocked to see Sylvie playing bingo at the Danforth the other day. She never plays Bingo at the Mansion, she says a former boyfriend who died loved to play bingo with her, so in his honor she doesn’t play. She said she played at the Danforth because she doesn’t want to become bored there.

Sylvie never feels helpless in the face of turmoil. She can be imperious and demanding, but she has great strength of character, and it guides her through the ups and downs of life. This week, it was especially impressive to see.

Sylvie’s faith sustains her, she had fallen back on her God since the Mansion troubles, and it grounds her and gives her certainty and faith. She says she is never alone. I have struggle all my life with the idea of God, I often wonder how it would be if I had Sylvie’s conviction.

I appreciate her giving me something to think about, as well as someone to care for.


15 January

Sweet: Gypsy Jazz At The Round House Cafe

by Jon Katz

We usually have to drive a few miles to hear wonderful music, we live in a small town in New York State right by the Vermont border. Tonight, a rare and much appreciated treat, a band called the Hot Club from Saratoga Springs came to play in the Round House Cafe, the performance was sold out in a couple of hours.

We are starved for music this good here, we’d happily pay them every week to come back. The Round House was in its glory last night, stuffed with people drinking wine, eating Scott Carrino’s now famous gourmet pizza and rounding things off with Lisa’s cookies and cakes.

We really loved this music, the band focuses on Gypsy Jazz from the 30’s, they were terrific. They inspired us to start looking for good music, Saratoga is only 40 minutes away. We also live near Vermont, Albany, Glens Falls and Williamstown, Mass. Time to google. And since the place was SRO, maybe the Round House will do it more often.

It’s a ton of work for Scott and Lisa, but there is sure an appetite for good music here.

We had the sweetest time. Thought you might want to hear a slice of it.

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