Friday, November 30, 2007


A group of scientists are analyzing over 500 19th century paintings of sunsets -- including those of Turner, Degas, and Klimt -- for evidence of climate change. They have discovered that those painted during a three-year period during the eruption of Krakatoa have much more red than those of other years.

And planets may be forming around one of the stars in the Pleiades (the Seven Sisters). Astronomers are noticing "an extraordinary number of hot dust particles that could be the building blocks of planets," according to NASA.

The world is such an incredible place, yet I get so caught up in the mundane of work. I need an antidote; a dose of wonder, passion, excitement. Like paintings and new planets.

And the story of Gabriela Montero, a classically trained pianist who has an extraordinary gift of improvisation. She regularly improvises using various musical styles while playing traditional classical music, and takes requests during performances, composing on the spot.

From an AP article: "Her ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ begins with a ‘Habenera’ bass rhythm made famous in Bizet's ‘Carmen,’ then arrives at a joyous variation of Handel's melody, but in a Latin style."

You can hear a sample on her website:

Of course, another antidote is that it’s the weekend and I’ll have time to read, write, and play piano myself. :-)

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[The improvisation] just happens in front of my eyes, with my hands. That's what I love about it — its unpredictability. It's the complete surprise and it's just the magic of, even for me, to see how it develops on its own.
-- Gabriela Montero

There are thousands of causes for stress, and one antidote to stress is self-expression. That's what happens to me every day. My thoughts get off my chest, down my sleeves and onto my pad.
-- Garson Kanin

Books - the best antidote against the marsh-gas of boredom and vacuity.
--George Steiner

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Finding a voice

Concerning the spiritual in art:
savoring stained-glass leaves of October
licking chocolate mousse by the spoonful
strumming guitar, singing

lying body pressed with her lover as it rains
painting a deep red room
playing the song in her head on an old piano

finding a voice in a drop of ink

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Unconscious arithmetic?

C is researching his book; looking up the history of guitars. I’ve been playing piano; awoke with another song in my mind, Ray Lamontagne’s "Three More Days" and worked out an arrangement. That song has that "Memphis" blues rock feel I love.

Different images run through my head while I’m playing and composing: shapes and colors moving, apart and together; a silent movie of an old friend telling a story; two dancers in an unrequited ballet; bamboo screens, eucalyptus, and an open window at night; a castle and someone looking out; thicket of trees and brush after it’s rained; a rider approaching on a horse; a storm rumbling through an afternoon sky; city streets at 2 a.m. on a humid summer night; couples gliding together in a smoky bar.

Synesthesia? Probably not. More likely an active visual imagination, like dreaming. But I do notice that tones from the white keys sound different to me than tones from the black keys. The white key tones sound "open" and remind me of a flat sky in summer. The black key tones sound "multicolored", "woody," and have an emotional pull I can’t quite describe. And I notice that difference even playing guitar; B-flat major or minor has a different "feeling" than C-major. But I don’t hear notes as rainbows of colors like some do. And I don’t see letters or numbers in colors, although maybe if I had, I’d been better at math in school :-}.


Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
~Ludwig van Beethoven

Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting…music is unconscious arithmetic.
~Gottfried Leibniz

Music is what feelings sound like.
~Author Unknown

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Carrying the sun

Who is the East?
The Yellow Man
Who may be Purple if He can
That carries in the Sun.

Who is the West?
The Purple Man
Who may be Yellow if He can
That lets Him out again.

~ Emily Dickinson

Friday, November 23, 2007

Flocking together

Two meals in two days with good friends and food. Food ranging from the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings to the meal C and I made today: pork medallions in an orange-ginger sauce, stuffing with cranberries, peas with fresh mint, Bibb lettuce salad with pears and gorgonzola, and C’s famous pumpkin pie.

Two days with an abundance of food, laughter, good conversation, and friendship.

We didn’t take part in the shopping frenzy today, what with meal prep and all. But we did take a walk, and came upon this "flamingo flocked" house.

According to several articles on the web, pink flamingos have been called "classic treasured kitsch" and the nation’s "unofficial national backyard bird." (And received even more notoriety with the John Waters film).

But "flocked" houses may become endangered. posted this notice:

We are currently out of flamingos.

Union Products, the only company that manufactured the "Don Featherstone" designed flamingos is out of business.
We are very optimistic that the classic "Don Featherstone" signature lawn flamingos will be produced by another manufacturer at which time we will offer them for sale.

Guess we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed…


Birds of a feather flock together.

I understand small business growth. I was one.
-George W. Bush

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.
-G. Randolph

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Look on the web and you’ll find an abundance of versions of the history of Thanksgiving. In the past, we were taught that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 in Plymouth, MA with neighboring Native Americans to thank them for helping them (the Pilgrims) survive their first year.

In another version, the first official Thanksgiving was held by English colonists at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia in 1619 as an annual day of thanksgiving to God.

And now, a new book has come out, "America’s REAL First Thanksgiving" (Robyn Gioia) that says the first Thanksgiving feast was in 1565 near Saint Augustine, FL, and was a celebration shared by Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez and the native Timucua people.

While the new historical discoveries of this day are intriguing, I would offer that the main point is for us to take time to give thanks for all we have and for all the ways our families and friends have blessed our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.
~Albert Schweitzer

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~G.K. Chesterton

I feel a very unusual sensation - if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.
~Benjamin Disraeli

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Let it play you

McCoy Tyner CD on the stereo. A pianist who has played with Joe Henderson, Elvin Jones, and the phenomenal John Coltrane. Love his playing and arrangements. Especially his version of Gershwin’s "Summertime". His new CD is a compilation, "Afro Blue." Tracks encompass different flavors of his work, including jazz favorites and a couple of numbers with the Latin All-Stars. He plays with clarity, passion, and a sense of heart. I can see him at the piano in my mind, moving with the music as he performs, with power and grace.

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I just want to write and play my instrument as I feel.
- McCoy Tyner

Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you.
-Charlie Parker

Play is the beginning of knowledge.
-George Dorsey

Help fill the bowls

By playing this game you donate free rice through the UN for those who need food. And you increase your vocabulary at the same time. Try it…


Rice is the best, the most nutritive and unquestionably the most widespread staple in the world.
-Georges Auguste Escoffier

Luck is like having a rice dumpling fly into your mouth.
-Japanese proverb

We ran up the hills where, as you looked down toward the sea, the flooded rice fields lay shining in the sunlight like a broken mirror.
-Colin McPhee

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Work and serendipity

Another weekend nearly gone and another Monday on its way. But those are just labels we have put on time. Ways to mark the rising and setting of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon.

So, it’s another period of night and, hours from now, it will be light again, and I will be expected to appear at my office for a day of work. My particular office was to have been painted this weekend—finished—and so I will be moving my stuff back in during most of the morning. Window will be open and fan running to air out paint fumes. Doing work so I can do more work...

Speaking of work, it sounds like a toney NYC restaurant has a little clean up to do. The Serendipity 3 was shut down by the Health Department after a live mouse, many areas of mouse droppings, dozens of live roaches, and flies were found during a routine inspection. This restaurant was recently in the news for featuring a Guinness World Record setting $25,000 dessert, which included, among other ingredients, edible 23-karat gold.


Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need.

Cockroaches and socialites are the only things that can stay up all night and eat anything.
-Herb Caen

I never kill insects. If I see ants or spiders in the room, I pick them up and take them outside. Karma is everything.
-Holly Valance

A little rain...

Didn't it rain, children
Talk about rain, oh my Lord
Didn't it fall, didn't it fall
Didn't it fall, my Lord, didn't it rain

And then the sun came shining bright
Broke thru the clouds, oh my Lord
Rainbow arcing across the land
A promise, oh my Lord
A promise, oh my Lord

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Playing on stop

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
-Albert Einstein

Ford, you're turning into a penguin. Stop it.
-Douglas Adams

To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.
-ee cummings

If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again.
-Groucho Marx

Stop in the name of love
before you break my heart

-The Supremes

Stop right now,
thank you very much,
I need somebody with the human touch,
Hey you always on the run,
Gotta slow it down baby,
gotta have some fun.
-The Spice Girls

Oh you'd better stop before you tear me all apart
you'd better stop before you go and break my heart
-Sam Brown

We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
-George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A matter of perspective

Perspective: Point of view or vista. Mental view or outlook on a situation. The relationship of aspects of a subject to each other and to a whole, as in a historical perspective. The technique of representing 3-D objects on a 2-D surface, as in drawing or painting. To tell a story from two different points of view; the person in the sunshine and the person in the shadow.

A day at work. Waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting for the emails to arrive. Waiting for others to make their decisions, do their thing, and get back to me, so I can then do what I need to do.

Perspective: Bored. Restless. Westbound traffic heavy on the street outside. A fan running. Other people talking. Smells like paint. Listening to French Café music. Read a list of French verbs on the internet, trying to stretch my brain into the perspective of another language.

Read the news headlines:

Matt Damon named ‘sexiest man alive’

U.S. sets record in sexual disease cases

Swiss tell German man to learn German

Gay activist group asks Senate panel to end Larry Craig investigation

Economic slump is not expected to last

Objective? Subjective? A matter of perspective…


Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
-Marcus Aurelius

Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems -but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems incredible.
-Salman Rushdie

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
-Anaïs Nin

An apple a day...

News, like apples from a tree…

An international panel of pilots and government officials want the U.S. to reopen investigations into UFOs because they say there are too many unexplained sightings of mysterious flying objects.

Some scientists in Oregon claim they have cloned monkey embryos. Meanwhile in New Delhi, squads of monkeys are overrunning the city and attacking people.

A Wisconsin police officer accidentally Tasered himself. And a guy in Washington got frustrated trying to loosen a lug nut and blasted the wheel with a shotgun, injuring both his legs. Hopefully he’s not employed at the local tire store.

A task force of Idaho legislators are discussing legislation to "keep families together." In their view, "single parent homes, most often headed by a woman, are driving up rates of drug abuse and crime." So they propose doing away with no fault divorce and trying to "find ways to keep mom at home," among other things (instead of working on legislation that would actually improve life for Idaho residents). Here’s a quote from one of these intellectual giants: "Divorce is just terrible," Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, said. "It's one of Satan's best tools to kill America."

Maybe we should send for that police officer with the wild Taser. Or better yet, the attack monkeys.

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I tell you, all politics is apple sauce.
-Will Rogers

Why not upset the apple cart? If you don't, the apples will rot anyway.
-Frank A. Clark

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Traveling in imagination

Sunshine and blue skies yesterday, but rainy, blustery out today. C and I walked to the local coffee shop for an afternoon treat and got quite wet. But the hot café, ah tres bien! Worth the wet.

My three-day weekend coming to a close. Always treasure that time off to do as I please, follow what thread I want. Went photo shooting yesterday. Composed music on piano. Good, long talks with C. Traveling within realms of imagination, conversation, music, and golden images.

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Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
~ Albert Einstein

This world is but a canvas to our imaginations.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Harmonics and news

A rainy Saturday in the Big Spud. Much needed rain. Rain becomes percussion as it falls on the roof. Spent part of the afternoon at the piano playing to the sound of rain, working out an arrangement for Autumn Leaves, and playing, practicing many other pieces; my compositions and arrangements.

As our friend P talked about his trip to Europe, he mentioned visiting Château du Clos Lucé where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his final days. I looked up Da Vinci to learn more about this amazing polymath. Even though long dead, Da Vinci continues to make the news. An Italian musician, Giovanni Maria Pala, claims that Da Vinci may have coded a short piece of music into "The Last Supper." He says that if you draw the five-line musical staff across the painting, the loaves of bread and the hands of Jesus and the Disciples could represent musical notes, which, when played, results in a 40 second "hymn to God." (It must be played right to left; the method Da Vinci used when writing notes in his journals). Since Da Vinci was a musician, among his many talents, and was so interested in experimentation within forms, experts say this could be plausible.

In other music news, a Spanish violinist is living in a transparent box for a week on a busy street in Madrid. Patricia Argüelles said she "hopes to gain inspiration from living under the gaze of strangers." Perhaps she’ll find coded music in the dramas and conversations of passers-by. Or maybe she just wants to make the news…


Where you have harmonic proportions, you can find music.
~ Alessandro Vezzosi, director of Tuscany's Da Vinci museum

It is better to be making the news than taking it; to be an actor rather than a critic.
~ Winston Churchill

Friday, November 09, 2007

Where we can go as we are...

Our friend, P, visited this week; shared exquisite photos from his family’s trip to Europe, where he met members of his extended family and visited the farm of his ancestors. What stood out to him was the sense of home he felt there. That this was where he fit in the family tree, where he felt rooted.

That sense of home. What is home? A place? House? Town? Is it with family or friends where you feel like you best fit? Or perhaps a special connection with your job, occupation, life work? That what you are creating and doing reflects a deep part of your inner essence?

There are stories of people who visit a place they’ve never been and quickly felt at home there. Also of meeting someone and feeling as if you’ve known them for years. That "click" of recognition.

We all want to belong to something; a family, a group, a place, a society where we feel valued. A place that resonates with something deep within us. For some, it happens when they are young; for others, it takes years of searching. And some of us are still on the road, hoping for an entry…

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The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
~ Maya Angelou

My first day in Chicago, September 4, 1983. I set foot in this city, and just walking down the street, it was like roots, like the motherland. I knew I belonged here.
~ Oprah Winfrey

Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest, which co-mingle their roots in the darkness underground.
~ William James

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A different focus

After so much focus on the lives of pumpkins, it’s time for a more global view since we are all interconnected, like this ethereal globe (made of interwoven metal hangers by a guy who lives in the neighborhood).

A story of connection I’ve been following: "Waiting for Godot" in New Orleans. Performed outdoors against some of the most devastated areas of the city, before overflow crowds. It’s so moving how this play has been adapted and so aptly expresses the feelings of those trying to put their city and their lives back together. It was brought by Creative Time, Paul Chan, and the Classical Theater of Harlem and features local actors. They worked with the community for nine months to ensure that the impact of the production would go on beyond the performances. The play is free; funds have been set up to help local organizations; creative/artistic workshops have been offered for area residents.

And even though I’m not able to hop a jet to go see it, the articles in the Times-Picayune express the power and magnitude of this event. Art can and does make a difference.

Read more about it here, by clicking on the entries about "Godot".


"Where will you go from here?" Vladimir asks Pozzo (who has just been beaten by unknown assailants).
"On," says Pozzo.
"What do you do when you fall far from help? Vladimir asks.
"We wait till we can get up," Pozzo says. "And then we go on. On!"

--from "Waiting for Godot," Samuel Beckett

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Gourdy Tale -- The Final Encounter

Alas, poor Pumpy, I knew thee well!
Excellent spark, hale fellow and well met,
Now gone fore'er into the noodling dark.

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- An aggressive squirrel pounced on a 4-year-old boy in an attack last week in Cuesta Park in Mountain View, Calif. The attack happened as the boy's mother unwrapped a muffin during a picnic.
[Good thing it wasn’t a pumpkin; he might have lost his head.]

Mountain View Community Services Director David M. said that as many as six people have been bitten or scratched by squirrels since May, and that the attacks have become more ferocious in the last month.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Gourdy Tale, Part 3

This morning's investigation turned up remains of Pumpy's buddies.

But later in the day, the remains had vanished
Pumpy was truly alone...

Will he survive another day? Especially a Monday??
Stay tuned...

A Gourdy Tale, Part 2

The next day, All Saints Day, another soul had gone missing.
Perhaps the gourd goons had their sites on these guys...

And on the following day...

Is it curtains for "Pumpy"? Will the killer be revealed?
Stay tuned for the next installment...

Friday, November 02, 2007

A gourdy tale, part 1

Once upon a time, there were four little pumpkins sitting together on the stoop.

On Halloween afternoon, something alarming happened...

So to not frighten the trick-or-treaters, a “cover-up maneuver” was performed…

And so three little pumpkins greeted the ghouls and ghosts that came to the front door that evening. And the pumpkins breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the danger had passed.

But little did they know…

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cats, gifts and Halloween

With clear weather and no wind, quite a few Trick-or-Treaters stopped by tonight, ranging from toddlers dressed like Sesame Street characters to adolescents dressed like zombies. Some were neighbors; others, we didn’t recognize, but they sensed this would be a street to get a good haul of chocolate.

C and I took turns; we sat in the front room, reading, until the doorbell rang. I almost made it through the November issue of O Magazine.

Read in the news that researchers have decoded a cat’s DNA (without hurting Cinnamon, the cat). Apparently cats are afflicted with over 200 diseases that are similar to human diseases, such as diabetes, a feline type of AIDS, and retinal deterioration. Through further analysis, scientists hope to find new cures, new hope for humans and cats.

Interesting how in the Dark Ages, cats were feared by people in Europe. They believed they were scary and mysterious, animals of the Devil or evil witches. Which is why they are associated with ghouls, ghosts, and Halloween. These days in western culture, they are beloved as pets. And now, the mystery of their DNA may be another gift they give to us.

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When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,
May luck be yours on Halloween.
~Author Unknown

The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.
~Pierre Corneille

Change always comes bearing gifts.
~Price Pritchett