Monday, December 25, 2006
If you want to temporarily leave your body, just but on Ode To Joy. The energy pulsing through that piece flippin' freaks me inside out. Trancendent! I've always associated Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with Christmas so Rob brought it up this morning on the MP3 and turned up the volume. I can only say, once again....WOW!
And in case you wonder what in the world they are singing their lungs out about, here's a translation ("fire-drunk"!):
Ode To Joy
Poem By Friedrich Schiller
"Joy, thou glorious spark of heaven,
Daughter of Elysium,
We approach fire-drunk,
Heavenly One, your shrine.
Your magic reunites
What custom's sword separates;
Beggars become princes' brothers
Where your gentle wing alights.
Whoever succeeds in the great attempt
To be a friend of a friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Let him add his jubilation!
Yes, whoever calls even one soul
His own on the earth's globe!
And who never has, let him steal,
Weeping, away from this group.
All creatures drink joy
At the breasts of nature;
All the good, all the evil
Follow her roses' trail.
Kisses gave she us, and wine,
A friend, proven unto death;
Pleasure was to the worm granted,
And the cherub stands before God.
Glad, as his suns fly
Through the Heavens' glorious plan,
Run, brothers, your race,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, you millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the star-canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.
Be embraced, ye millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods."
Belief in a divinity aside, that is some rapturious singing, that is.
Picture:"Snow Star" by Richard Evans of www.well.com
Sunday, December 24, 2006
We cut an evergreen this year and it stands in a glorious multicolored nimbus like the Bean King of old. A few weeks crowned and brilliantly festooned as our holiday Tree only to be consumed in the woodstove come January. It resides over a small mountain of little wrapped things that give the girls spasms of curiosity. So mysterious and magical, the whole scene.
So we finish up the last secretive bundling, rest, sip wine and eggnog, open one gift, hang stockings and then prod the kids to bed because Santa is coming and he really needs his rest if tomorrow is going to be decent. Cheers.
Picture: The Tree
I've been enjoying some custom "radio" at www.pandora.com which my dad recently steered me to. It's a "music discovery service" where users can stream audio based on their musical tastes. So I get to punch in some of my fave songs and get those and similar sounds in a nice mix. Very cool.
Picture: old Russian postcard
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Spanish Architecture on the brain, I happened upon this interior view of Catalan Architect Antoni Gaudi’s masterwork, the Roman Catholic basilica “Sagrada Familia” in Barcelona. I am in awe of this space with it’s clear loft, treelike columns and starburst shapes. I tend be struck by particular works of an artist rather than the body of work as a whole. Consistently so, which I find unusual and significant somehow. I studied other images of this structure and was almost repelled by the burgeoning energies. A lot of it is a bit much, just a little too…well, gaudy. The Sagrada Familia is literally encrusted with Christian symbolism which puts me off but his use of writhing intertwining organic shapes, plays of surface light and undulations galore completely captivate me. It turns out that this interior canopy is currently being built based on reconstructed versions of lost plans and some modern adaptation so maybe it’s the interpretation that I’m liking. Gaudi distilled? But sunlight through the colored glass inside the basilica (below) and the sculptural curved façade and rooftop chimneys (also pictured below) of Casa Mila are enough to win me over. So I'm unsure if I am a Gaudi fan but I deeply appreciate some of his biomorphic creations and would love to see them in person one day.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
I recently watched Sydney Pollack's documentary"The Sketches of Frank Gehry" about the man who designed the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. Like the other Frank, who designed Fallingwater, the NY Guggenheim and (in my neck of the woods) the Marin Civic Center, Gehry creates structures that are iconic, sculptural and indisputably impressive. But I often wonder at the appeal of this kind of architecture. About its purpose for existing. Whether it can or should harmonize with it's environment. The Bilbao was built to house art but also to attract attention to it's city, in which it succeeds. But does it serve the needs of the humans who use it? The museum seems almost a distraction from and awkward for the purpose it exists to fill.
I've always secretly felt this way about Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings. They are definitely beautiful in that they are visually bold and modernly minimalist, full of natural materials with a consistency of form and vision from the overall floorplan to ornamental details. But at the same time they are strangely unappealing. Uncomfortable, angular and imposing with all the heavy beams and nerve-wracking patterns. Complete unto themselves, his spaces offer no sense of invitation. God forbid I should toss a throw pillow into a Frank Lloyd Wright tableau and ruin the effect. In other words, I wouldn't want to live in one. The impersonal quality of his architecture does seem better suited to public spaces. Frank Gehry's, too.
So, seeing footage of Gehry's Guggenheim (pictured here) I am curious how it would feel to live with such an overpowering presence on the periphery or what it's like to approach it and enter. The Project for Public Places lists the museum in its Hall of Shame based on it's failure to support human activity in and around the building. Lack of clear entrances, cumbersome stairways, dead open spaces with no seating or amenities, few growing things, nothing restful for the eyes. Essentially, uninviting. So even as it triumphs as an epic sculptural manifestation, a visually riveting man-made mountain, it fails to acknowledge us, the wee peeps, as anything more than admirers.
Balancing out the more oppressive facets of architecture with some humane features that serve and invite would be wholly worthwhile. Folding in more of the building theory a la Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language", paying attention to where sun shines and people gravitate, planting more trees, building more benches, encouraging folks to tarry and talk, designing spaces that can be used creatively by all of us so that we not only visit grand structures, we identify with them and love them.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Sounds. Names. Words. Plays on words. I grew up with an ear tuned to impressive expressions. For sheer enjoyment: rhymes, idioms, lingo, nonsensical tongues. Igpay Atinlay orfay acttay. My childish tongue could handle twisters and rolled them off easily and often. In middle school English we coined wordplays and I came up with “Hey, sucker, you’re licked!” Thinking I was original, I was secretly proud but too abashed to share it with my class. My grandfather was a notorious punster and my mom inherited the knack and so it was an intergenerational affliction. I wasn’t surprised that my mind ran along similar lines.
I began to see how words could connect by common roots or just by a similarity of sound. Mysterious wistful hysteria (something I often succumbed to). Fluxy and flummoxed, how you felt when a bad flu hit. I slowly discovered the various charms of written language. Lilting alliteration, sonorous assonance and, the always popular with Batman and boys, onomatopoeia. I wrote long-winded bits dripping with description (still do). It’s a weakness for words that makes me swoon.
Deep into adolescence, I was collecting lists of them. Tepid, infusion, fanning, fused, wilted, wicked, silvered, silted, strand, stray, dimpled, rippled, fen. They stacked up in my notebook in piles like buttons or beads. Strung together in various patterns they led me down obscure paths in my brain, opening out into unexpected clearings. They exhibited an ambiguous sort of precision, which I now associate with poetry.
My dad studied poetry in college and read to me from Chaucer and Keats (ah, The Eve of St. Agnes). I raided our family bookshelf for his worn textbooks and so came to read Emily Dickinson, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost, and Yeats. I scratched out a few poems of my own in high school, just experimenting. I won the poetry contest in senior year (cringe) but mostly shelved any literary ambitions and kept to happenstance chicken scratches in my journals or notes to friends. These days, I recognize poetry rearing its head in popular culture primarily as songwriting and have joined the rampant ranks of ditty-noodlers.
Artistically inclined, I naturally favor the visual form. My teenage obsession with Rick Griffin’s psychedelic lettering on the Haight-Ashbury posters and Grateful Dead album covers extrapolated into my own brand of wild lettering and strange logos. I changed my handwriting style several times and designed a “glyph” signature for my paintings, which has morphed through the years. Scripts, alphabets, fonts, sigils, Chinese characters, Arabic writing, alchemical symbols, calligraphic forms like the Islamic zoomorphic pictures, all captivate me with their pictorial beauty and intrinsic or secretive meanings. I just recently heard invented writing referred to as “asemic” writing, as in “having no semantic content”. So even those glyphic shapes I doodle in my margins are graced with a name.
Beyond playing with words for the joy of it, I contemplate that essential core of the linguistic apple, which is communication. As a means of conveyance, language has catapulted me enough times into such alive revelatory spaces, unfolded, fluid and teeming with flippant shape-shifty sing-song syllabic sublimity that I eagerly penetrate any tangle or string out my own. Maybe I’ll write something worthwhile before my time is up.
Picture: Sample of asemic writing. (As posted on www.thenonist.com)
Sunday, December 10, 2006
She hears the cries of the women in peril
and her hand reaches back to the time
when all was embryonic
and she arose from the middle of a pool of calm.
She can feel the distress of oysters and egrets
ruined and covered in oil
and predict where a pearl, black or white,
will light from beneath the skin.
We are layered up in mud and the wreckage of possession
and she waits on the sand in flamingo expectancy.
Now half of the seafood shacks are washed away
and the shrimp boats are on their sides
or smashed in the pine trees,
the camellia and crepe myrtle in ruins
and the children’s rooms full of standing water.
Even the beds are underwater
where the mothers and fathers used to read
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.
But she hears the tears and the dreams of children
and will guide those who will incarnate again
Their perfect embryonic stages:
the tail and gills falling away,
emerging as water lilies from the mud.
She oversees the architects who use material and designs
that mimic the lotus flower
and raise buildings that stay clean against all odds.
When the sky is brown and the water big and muddy
in Sri Lanka, Cuba, Biloxi
she is the black Madonna found upright in the rubble.
And when a pinwheel forms on the weather map
she is large enough to take it into her
along with the quick and the dying
in the pink and green garden in her breast.
Picture: Painting "The Calling" by me. Poem by Amy Trussell
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Now the Iraq Study Group report is published and that part of the world blips back to front and center. Within days the report has soared to No. 18 on Amazon.com and is already into a second printing. Apparently, a lot of people are as interested as I am to see some things spelled out, finally, after years of the most inexcusably murky reporting on this war. The report is available to read at: http://www.bakerinstitute.org/Pubs/iraqstudygroup_findings.pdf
It is interesting to skim through it just to glean some details about the different warring factions which give a little insight into what’s unfolding. Anatomy of a Quagmire. Stressing a renewal of diplomatic ties and talks with Iran and Syria is all good. A proposal to recommit to resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a no-brainer. Talk is good but it’s cheap. Actions speak louder than words.
Beyond the more complicated issues of addressing the rage and despair Iraqis must feel, exposing the hidden politics of this war and understanding the various cultural and religious perspectives that would necessarily inform any comprehensive solution, there seems to be some basic stuff left out of the equation. For instance, the fact that most Iraqis absolutely want the US to get the hell out (WorldPublicOpinion.org) and yet we have 14 major military bases strategically constructed throughout Iraq along major waterways and roadways. I mean BIG bases. What does that say to the average Iraqi about out true intentions?
The “super base” Barad Air Base north of Baghdad is run by our favorite Halliburton and houses over 28,000 troops and 8,000 civilian contractors who enjoy amenities such as a movie theater, miniature golf, fast food a la Pizza Hut, Burger King, Starbucks, etc., giant airstrip and full-sized swimming pool all surrounded by a monolithic wall of impenetrability. Speaks volumes.
Or the massive $600 million US Embassy currently being built in Baghdad, due for completion June 2007. When finished it will be the “largest, most secure diplomatic compound in the world”. It’s said it will be two-thirds the area of the National mall in Washington, D.C.. A 21-building compound sealed off from the surrounding area by massive walls. Inside residents will enjoy a swimming pool, gym, fast food court, beauty and barber shops, a school, apartment buildings, locker rooms, warehouse, vehicle maintenance garage, etc. All this to be self-sustained with water, electricity and sewage treatment plants independent of Baghdad's city utilities. Most Iraqis get about 2 hours of electricity a day from their disabled infrastructure and none of them are swimming in chlorinated pools. Do they even have clean drinking water?
There are no words.
Our continuing presence in Iraq is just one more reason for the violence. The most fundamental first step: Pull out completely.
* Not forgetting how many of “us" knew invading Iraq was a hell of a bad idea long before we went in. How did "we" know this so certainly all those years ago? Could it have been as simple as basic information, common sense and good old-fashioned people skills? It's good to be able to tell if you're being sold a load of bull. Or phantom WMDs. To hear some interesting and heartwrenching firsthand accounts direct from Iraq, check out: AliveInBaghdad.org
Photo:The swimming pool at Balad Air Base, as seen through the window of a Black Hawk helicopter.
Monday, December 04, 2006
The visuals were mythic and poured in to replace any lingering sickness. The road snaked through the woods and meadows until about Oceansong when the vista really opened out panoramic. The atmosphere was so clear we could see down across the contoured Petaluma hills and valley all the way to Point Reyes stretching out into the open sea. Due west, the sun was lowering and sending out this uncanny corona of pure white light that made it look heavy and blazing. The sea, sparkling out toward the horizon, was reflecting back the sunlight in this wide swath that looked like a gold spill. I’ve never seen the like. I couldn’t get a picture. Just too much light.
We got out to clamor about on some big boulders and drink in some icy air. I wish I could take pictures with my eyes. My mental snapshots include: the nearly full moon rising out of the bright green hills, a soft white calf rimmed in sunlight beside his majestic jet black ripple-furred mother, big stones covered in chartreuse and yarrow gold lichen against a purpling sky, that blinding spill of gold as we descended toward the water.
We got to the coast near sunset and hit Schoolhouse Beach just in time to watch the show. Everything was on fire, even the kelp ruffles littering the sand. We spied out some big meaty starfish, in orange and plum, curled into some rock crannies and poked among the sea debris for shells. All of us were just in awe at the colors on the water as the sun sank. Like painted silk in silver green lavender gray with waves fringed in pink lace. We watched the glowing orange round soften out into what Eden declared “A teacup!” A perfect apricot teacup and saucer and then just a saucer, then a drop, then gone.
We drove toward home and the big milky moon still low in a sky darkening to dusky lilac. It hung there over the dusty dark hills foaming with blooming coyote bushes. Look! A rocket! So near, it looked like it had launched from the lunar white. A jet catching a last ray of sun on it’s belly was stretching off into the night, ablaze. It’s tail stretching out behind like a veil.
I have such love for this place that I call home. My edge of the world.
Picture: Pacific Parfait. Taken by me.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
Which, by the way, is why I love the blog format because, hey, that’s OK!
Photo: Ibis mummy X-rays /Yale Peabody Museum's Mummy Collection of Ancient Egypt