Thursday, July 2, 2015

There's truth in this piece by Troy Patterson, writer for Slate, and contributor to the New York Times Magazine


Fireworks Suck

They really do.

Illustration by Rob Donnelly. Click image to expand.

With Independence Day upon us, Americans are coming together once again in celebration of all our many freedoms, among them the freedom to drink outside during daylight hours. Some of us will fish Bud tallboys out of an Igloo on the National Mall; others will knock back rosé on picnic blankets and applejack at backyard barbecues; still others will sip on a pint bottle of Cutty Sark on the same park bench as always. We are a diverse nation.
Then, a bit after 8 p.m., the sun will set. The civilized thing to do at this juncture would be to go home, kick back with a little John Locke, and pass out fast. But, no, we must reckon with the stupid fireworks, an integral part of the Fourth of July since 1777, when they befouled the skies above Boston and Philadelphia. Even if you manage to avoid actually looking at their meaningless nonsense—which is essentially the same nonsense, show after show, year after year—their noise will disturb what should have been a pleasant lack of consciousness. Do we not have an unalienable right to be left alone?
Let me be clear: I have no beef with firecrackers or bottle rockets or Roman candles or anything else that one might set off in one's cousin's backyard. Those are pretty fun, especially if you happen to be in any of the magnificent states where that particular type is banned by law at that particular moment. Doing dangerous stuff in your cousin's backyard is an important element of American folk culture. Those firecrackers are handsomely humble.
Meanwhile, the professional fireworks display is an exercise in pomposity, aggression, triumphalism, and hubris. The pyrotechnician—and, more importantly, his patron—intends to ornament the night sky beyond the powers of God himself. He means to inspire awe for little purpose other than to demonstrate his power. The first great fireworks nuts in the Western world were Peter the Great (who put on a five-hour show to celebrate the birth of his first son) and Louis XIV (who, with a specially equipped sundial, used them to tell time at Versailles). Fireworks are imperialist and, as we used to say in school, hegemonic. That they are popularly believed to be populist entertainment does not say much for the populace.
Troy Patterson is Slate’s writer at large and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine.
No way were all men created equal. According to some of the country's top statisticians, exactly half of them are below average, and that is the segment of the population most likely to get too excited about fireworks. Other species highly intrigued by bright lights include moths and venison. Hearing people hoot lustily at a crossette or chrysanthemum, I assume that they are the same sort who lined up at bear-baiting pits back in the day and, in modern times, watch Howie Mandel reality shows.

Of course, I would be no better than those yahoos were I not to add some nuance to this argument. Pyrotechnicians deserve credit for doing moderately interesting things with light. Light can be pretty, and fire can be cool. Perhaps human culture really began on that Paleolithic night when man first decided that, instead of going out to dinner with his friends, he'd stay in and sit around the fire just for the hell of it, for purely recreational purposes. Who doesn't enjoy the glow of a Yule Log? The rowdy roar of a good bonfire? The lambent flicker of an incriminating document? One New Year's Eve in Amsterdam, I watched a steady orange flame consume an upright piano in the middle of the narrow road. My extreme pleasure was tainted only by the regret that it was not a concert grand.
Just as it is incalculably more thrilling to watch a piano burn than, say, kindling, there is more satisfaction in watching actual stuff explode—cars, volcanoes, toasters, what have you—than in witnessing explosions that produce only bombast. When fireworks blow up, the only things up-blowing are the fireworks themselves. There is no drama. There is violence, but there is not sex. There is a feeling of danger without a corresponding spirit of adventure. They make the smartest people say the silliest things. In his frequently excellent book Fireworks, the late George Plimpton had occasion to mention a Hitchcock scene:
Do you remember Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, their union symbolized by a great crash of fireworks outside their balcony overlooking the harbor of Monte Carlo? The only thing wrong with that scenario, it has always seemed to me, is that any normal couple would be out on the balcony enjoying the fireworks, and not inside tumbling around on a bed.
Really, George? Grace Kelly is in the hotel room ready to go, and you're going to put her on hold to take a peek at some sparklers? Fireworks are magical only in their capacity to derange.

This piece tickled me. I happen to agree more than disagree. I haven't seen a fireworks' display in years because I literally got sick from the smell of sulphur in the air. Fireworks are beautiful, but   they affect the air, the ground, the water with toxins and pollutants.

Visit here to find out just how:

1812 Overture, Tchaikovsky

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Father's Day, Totti!

Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, January 15, 1928

Dearest Totti,

When you told us how it came to be you served in the British Army after WWII, taken as a teenager from your native home of Belgrade when the Nazis invaded and placed you into a labor camp, I could never totally understand the pain you endured. In spite of the trauma, you managed to continue to love and inspire with your gift of storytelling, music, sports, planting, repairing, surviving.

I remember so vividly the weekends of music fests with your friends of different ethnicities; mommy and you playing your accordions while the music blared into our hearts and souls -- mommy's love of country music, your love of classical and contemporary music, too. Hardly anyone knew Bob Dylan, the troubadour who played the harmonica which you loved to play. You did, and introduced me to his music which forever changed my attitude towards life.

Fortunately, dementia has yet to stop you from playing your favorite tunes on the harmonica, or singing and swaying to your beloved music.

Stationed in Hamburg, Germany serving in British Army, ca. 1948

 My sister taping Totti playing the harmonica, 2014
I remember the roses climbing the wall of our building, plants from avocado and peach pits, thriving under your care with loving eyes and hands.

The days we, your children, came down with the measles, colds, or the flu, you'd be there with your
special way of saying everything will be all right with coloring by number. It was no coincidence that my/our love of art came from those gestures throughout my adolescence.

You taught us history through neurotic outbursts, again, from your teenage days in a labor camp which most profoundly taught me the futility of war. And in your way made me understand not to be afraid of hard work and the world around me.

There are no words that could possibly express how much you've done for me. Everything you've given remains in my memories and heart, forever.

I love you, Totti. Happy Father's Day!

My parents' wedding day, Elmshorn, West Germany, April 6, 1950 

My sister taping Totti singing Bixio's Mamma, 2014

Symphony No. 9, from Czech composer, Dvorak's "The New World"
Father's all-time favorite piece of music, period.

Dvorak's Going Home performed by Paul Robeson

Bixio's Mamma sung by Pavarotti,
Father's favorite Pavarotti song

Blowin In the Wind, Bob Dylan,
Father's favorite Bob Dylan song

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday is for Poetry: I DIG, THE NOW, PENUMBRA


I dig
Way deep.
Way way deep
within me.
For hours, months, even years
in search where all is still, peaceful.

He does something.
She says something.
Something happens.
And the many selves of myself dug up
cave in and bury my resting place.

I dig. Again.
**petra michelle, 1/4/2009**
A crystal ball,
Not at all.

There is no future.
Only plans made.
All an illusion.
All dreams.

Now, just be.
Now, just breathe.
Now, flow with each moment
Which promises all that will be.
**petra michelle, 8/17/2008**

External implosion.
Internal explosion.
Dancing in a ballet of ionic mime!
Feeling with infinite intensity!

Running in cosmic direction!
Moving in colors uncharted!
Magnetic pulls play between cerebral spheres!

Looking out at the eclipse of myself.
Looking in at the freedom of me.

**petra michelle, 7/13/2008**

Dig, Incubus

Right Here, Right Now, Jesus Jones

This Penumbra, Digital Squirrel (Electronic)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The beautiful Japanese aesthetic of WABI SABI

Wabi sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The aesthetic is sometimes described as beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent and incomplete." Its concept derives from the Buddhist assertion of the Three marks of existence, specifically, impermanence. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

"Wabi sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West."

"If an object or expression can bring about a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing within us, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi."

"Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; and sabi meant "chill", "lean" or "withered". Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations. Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age; when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear or in any visible repairs.
After centuries of incorporating artistic and Buddhist influences from China, wabi-sabi eventually evolved into a distinctly Japanese ideal. Over time, the meanings of wabi and sabi shifted to become more lighthearted and hopeful. Around 700 years ago, particularly among the Japanese nobility, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today's Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to ″wisdom in natural simplicity.″ In art books, it is typically defined as ″flawed beauty.″

From an engineering or design point of view, "wabi" may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then "sabi" could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi, to rust.

A good example of this embodiment may be seen in certain styles of Japanese pottery. In the Japanese tea ceremony, the pottery items used are often rustic and simple-looking, e.g. Hagi ware, with shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colors or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style. In reality, these items can be quite expensive and in fact, it is up to the knowledge and observational ability of the participant to notice and discern the hidden signs of a truly excellent design or glaze (akin to the appearance of a diamond in the rough). This may be interpreted as a kind of wabi-sabi aesthetic, further confirmed by the way the colour of glazed items is known to change over time as hot water is repeatedly poured into them (sabi) and the fact that tea bowls are often deliberately chipped or nicked at the bottom (wabi), which serves as a kind of signature of the Hagi-yaki style.

Wabi and sabi both suggest sentiments of desolation and solitude to a simpler life. Mahayana Buddhist philosophy itself warns that genuine understanding cannot be achieved through words or language, representing liberation from a material world. Wabi-sabi describes a means where students can learn to live life through the senses and better engage in life as it happens rather than caught up in unnecessary thoughts. In this sense wabi-sabi is the material representation of Zen Buddhism. The idea that being surrounded by natural, changing, unique objects helps us connect to our real world and escape potentially stressful distractions.

In one sense wabi-sabi is a training where the student learns to find the most simple objects interesting, fascinating, and beautiful. Fading autumn leaves would be an example. Wabi-sabi can change our perception of the world to the extent that a chip or crack in a vase makes it more interesting and gives the object greater meditative value. Similarly materials that age such as bare wood, paper and fabric become more interesting as they exhibit changes that can be observed over time.

The wabi and sabi concepts are religious in origin, but actual usage of the words in Japanese is often quite casual. The syncretic nature of Japanese belief systems should be noted.

Japanese Instrumental Music

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It's your birthday today, Joey! Thinking of you, missing you.
This photo of you and your band, Brisby, Kills, & Crash, tickles me so. I remember, especially, how mommy asked you to play Hank Williams Sr.'s Down in the Valley over and over. Having that much dedication just made you the best!
Joey (Joe Dee) on far left playing the electric guitar in his band, Brisby, Kills, & Crash.  The play on Crosby, Stills, & Nash, reflected his humor.

Happy Birthday, "Little Angel, Little Brother"

Joey (Joel) died of cancer in July 2003. His love for the guitar and music came a very close second to his partner, Donna. It's been 12 years but still miss him so. Feeling especially sentimental since Mother's Day with the recent loss of my mother and Joey's birthday being  just a week later.

I love you, Joe Dee!

Little Angel, Little Brother, Lucinda Williams

Joey played so many, but remember his love for the following:

White Room, Cream

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin

Voodoo Child, Stevie Ray Vaughan

Midnight Rider, Allman Brothers Band

Sleep Walk, Joe Satriani

Don't Look Back, Boston

Down in the Valley, The Browns (Couldn't find Hank Williams Sr.)