Friday, February 29, 2008

The Princess and the Frog (Michael Smith)

From Today's Writer's Almanac:

Today is Leap Day, the extra day that we tack on to February every four years to keep the calendar in time with the seasons. We do this because the Earth does not orbit the sun in a nice round 365 days, but rather in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds.

Ancient peoples based their calendars on many things, from the movements of the stars to the activities of plants and animals. The Greek poet Hesiod told farmers to begin the harvest when the constellation Pleiades was rising and to begin plowing when it was setting, and to sharpen their farming tools when snails began climbing up plants. Most early calendars were based on the stages of the moon, with lunar months of about 29 days each. But the problem with the lunar calendar is that it's about 11 days short of the actual year, so instead of having to add a leap day every few years, you have to add a leap month. The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to develop a calendar with 12 months and 365 days. When Julius Caesar rose to power, the Romans were using a calendar that was so faulty they often had to add an extra 80 days to the year. In 46 B.C., after his affair with Cleopatra, Caesar chose to adopt the superior Egyptian calendar, and this became known as the Julian calendar. In the first version of the Julian calendar, February had 29 days most years and 30 days in leap years. Caesar named the month of July after himself, so when Augustus came to power, he decided he needed a month too. He named August after himself, but he had to steal a day from February in order to make August as long as July.

The Julian calendar worked well for a while, but in the 13 century, a sick old friar named Roger Bacon sent a letter to the Pope. He had calculated the actual length of the solar year as slightly less than 365.25 days, and he pointed out that the Julian calendar was adding one leap day too many for every 125 years. The result was that Christians were celebrating holy days on the wrong dates. Bacon wrote, "The calendar is intolerable to all wisdom, the horror of astronomy, and a laughing-stock from a mathematician's point of view." Bacon was eventually imprisoned for implying that the pope had been fallible, and his writings were censored. It wasn't until 1582 that Pope Gregory XIII hired a group of Jesuits to fix the calendar, and they came up with the complicated system of omitting the leap day at the beginning of each century, except for those centuries divisible by 400. When Pope Gregory made the change, the calendar was about 10 days off, so Gregory deleted 10 days from the year. People went to sleep on Thursday, Oct. 4 and woke up on Friday, Oct. 15.

At first, the Gregorian calendar was only accepted in Catholic countries, and even there people were uncomfortable about losing 10 days of their lives. It led to protests and financial uncertainty, since people weren't sure how to calculate interest or taxes or rent for a 21-day month. Protestant countries didn't adopt the new calendar until much later, and this meant that for a long time, if you crossed the border of certain European countries, you had to set your clock back or forward by at least 10 days. When Great Britain finally accepted the Gregorian calendar in 1751, 11 days had to be deleted from the year. The change led to antipapal riots, because people believed the pope had shortened their lives. Mobs gathered in the streets, chanting, "Give us back our 11 days!" When the British colonies in America made the change the following year, Ben Franklin wrote in an editorial, "Be not astonished, nor look with scorn, dear reader, at ... the loss of so much time. ... What an indulgence is here, for those who love their pillow, to lie down in peace on the second [day] of this month and not awake till the morning of the fourteenth."

The Gregorian calendar has since been accepted everywhere as the standard. It is so accurate that we will have to wait until the year 4909 before our dates become out of step with the Earth's orbit by a full day.

Leap... frog - get it? (groan!).

POEM: Frog by Chard deNiord

My tongue leapt out of my mouth
when I lied to her and hopped away
to the stream below the house.
Mute then, I started to write the truth.
My tongue turned wild in the stream,
for which I was glad and unashamed.

I listen now from my porch to the complex things
it says in the distance about my heart.
How hard it is to tell the truth inside my mouth.
How much it needs to sing in the dark.

QUOTE: "Leap and the net will appear." ~ Zen saying

Thursday, February 28, 2008

To Make a Long Story Short (Willie Nelson)

I first heard of the Six-Word Story when a friend of mine who's on Flickr tagged one of his photos with the term... and it led me to finding out about an entire category of such pictures/descriptions that qualify:

Ernest Hemingway was once prodded to compose a complete story in six words. His answer, personally felt to be his best prose ever, was "For sale: baby shoes, never used." Some people say it was to settle a bar bet. Others say it was a personal challenge directed at other famous authors.

Then I heard about the new book (below) dedicated to the phenomenon - "I was hooked. Gotta love Google!".

Chuck Klosterman: "Nobody cared, then they did. Why?"

Adam Schlesinger: "We still don't hear a single."

Keith Knight: "I was a Michael Jackson impersonator."

Hannah Davies: "Cursed with cancer. Blessed by friends."

Zak Nelson: "I still make coffee for two."

Scott Birch: "Most successful accomplishments based on spite."

Rip Riley: "No wife. No kids. No problems."

Amy Sedaris: "Mushrooms. Clowns. Wands. Five. Wig. Thatched."

And even more here...

1) I was born in a Free City, near the North Sea.

2) In the year of my birth, money was shredded into
confetti. A loaf of bread cost a million marks. Of
course I do not remember this.

3) Parents and grandparents hovered around me. The
world I lived in had a soft voice and no claws.

4) A cornucopia filled with treats took me into a building
with bells. A wide-bosomed teacher took me in.

5) At home the bookshelves connected heaven and earth.

6) On Sundays the city child waded through pinecones
and primrose marshes, a short train ride away.

7) My country was struck by history more deadly than
earthquakes or hurricanes.

8) My father was busy eluding the monsters. My mother
told me the walls had ears. I learned the burden of secrets.

9) I moved into the too bright days, the too dark nights
of adolescence.

10) Two parents, two daughters, we followed the sun
and the moon across the ocean. My grandparents stayed
behind in darkness.

11) In the new language everyone spoke too fast. Eventually
I caught up with them.

12) When I met you, the new language became the language
of love.

13) The death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry.
The daughter became a mother of daughters.

14) Ordinary life: the plenty and thick of it. Knots tying
threads to everywhere. The past pushed away, the future left
unimagined for the sake of the glorious, difficult, passionate

15) Years and years of this.

16) The children no longer children. An old man's pain, an
old man's loneliness.

17) And then my father too disappeared.

18) I tried to go home again. I stood at the door to my
childhood, but it was closed to the public.

19) One day, on a crowded elevator, everyone's face was younger
than mine.

20) So far, so good. The brilliant days and nights are
breathless in their hurry. We follow, you and I.

QUOTE: "Brevity is the soul of lingerie." ~ Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February (Dar Williams)

February 18, 2008

Mysterious Beginnings
The Necessity Of Winter

As any gardener knows, the bulbs that contain the beautiful flowers of spring and summer—daffodils, irises, tulips, gladiolas—cannot bloom until they have endured a period of cold. Held in the dark earth during the frigid winter months, they undergo internal adjustments and changes invisible to our eyes. Like babies gestating in the lightless, watery wombs of their mothers, they are fully engaged in the process of preparing to be born. So many of the greatest mysteries of life begin this way, with a powerful urge for growth enclosed in a small, dark space.

We humans have a tendency to yearn for the light, for the coming of spring, and for the more visible phase of growth that all things express in coming to be. In our love for what we can see with our eyes we sometimes lose patience for, and interest in, the world of darkness that nurtures and protects the seeds, bulbs, and babies of the world for such an important part of their life cycles. It is a perilous and mysterious phase of growth, and one that we have little control over, and perhaps that is why we don’t celebrate it with quite the same passion as we do the lighter and brighter phases of life. Nevertheless, we ourselves endure similar periods of developing in the darkness throughout our lives.

Meditating on the image of a bulb, a seed, or an embryo, can bring us into alignment with the side of our own natures that is like the earth in winter—seemingly asleep but busily attending to details of growth that create the pattern for the children, flowers, and creative expressions to come. Touching down on this place in ourselves, we may feel at once peaceful and activated, utterly still and yet fully creative, quietly in tune with the dark and mysterious beginnings of life.

It only makes sense to follow Rachel with Dar, especially since the previous song references this one - Dar also wrote Blue Light of the Flame for Rachel after her death.

In a previous post, I've referenced our ritual of End of the Summer cards on the Dar-list - we send February cards as well among those who wish to participate. To quote the e-mail of dear Amy, who has coordinated the project as long as I can remember (thanks, AW!):

Holy cow is it cold outside! So cold, in fact, that I almost missed that February begins on Friday.

That said, it's time for some cards. I don't know about all of you, but I need some mail that isn't a bill.

Here's the deal: twice a year, Dar-listers send each other cards, using "February" and "The End of the Summer" as Dar-centric timing. These cards can be homemade or store-bought - whichever works best for you. They don't have to involve Dar. They're just a way to reach out beyond e-mail.

What you'll do is e-mail me your snail mail address off list, and I'll put everyone in groups. Then I'll e-mail you your list. You'll send cards to your group, and you'll, in turn, receive the same number of cards.

Please, please, please don't forget to send cards. It's not fair to receive and never give. This also holds true for our Dar friends outside of the United States, who sometimes get left out. Yes, it's a bit more postage, but think about how much they're spending to send stuff to the States. Right? Right.

Deadline for addresses shall be Sunday, February 17. I'll have the lists e-mailed by the next day. Hope to hear from many of you!

I've been saving the DailyOm passage (above) to include in my card, as well as some or all of the lyrics to the Jud Caswell song, Up Through the Snow - not yet sure how I'll be decorating my greeting, but that's as much a part of the process as the content.
As Dar sings, "February was so long that it lasted into March" - bring on Saturday!

BOOK: Crocus (Poets Out Loud) by Karin Gottshall

POEM: Planting Crocuses by Wendell Berry

I made an opening
to reach through blind
into time, through
sleep and silence, to new
heat, a new rising,
a yellow flower opening
in the sound of bees.

Deathly was the giving
of that possibility
to a motion of the world
that would bring it
out, bright, in time.

My mind pressing in
through the earth's
dark motion toward
bloom, I thought of you,
glad there is no escape.
It is this we will be
turning and re-
turning to.

QUOTE: "Like a crocus in the snow, I stand knee-deep in Winter holding Springtime in my heart." ~ Joan Walsh Anglund

Monday, February 25, 2008

Royal Blues (Rachel Bissex)

In the excitement of having my sister here from Wednesday night through Sunday morning, I've not had the time to blog much - this one, honoring musician/friend Rachel Bissex, who died February 20, 2005 is a few days overdue. I posted the following to the Dar-list the evening of her death - read the updates after this re-telling for the proverbial silver lining (god, I miss her so much... :-)

Date: Sun Feb 20 18:05:33 2005

Hello, All -

I received a note from Vic Heyman earlier today... informing that Rachel Bissex died at 1:15 this morning, February 20, 2005 from complications of breast cancer at the age of 48. In an attempt to channel my grief, I wrote up the following a few hours later and posted it to our local sf_folk discussion list - since there's quite a bit of Dar-content, I thought I'd share it here as well...

"She was diminutive in size but she was large in grace
she was so kind to my child and looked right in her face
I won't forget the words she spoke that February night
when she threw back her shot glass and said with all her might..."

I first met Rachel in 1998 when I accompanied Brian W. to Power Studios in Miami for an in-the-round with Marie Nofsinger, Big Blue Sky and Ms. Bissex - Brian is a long-time friend of Rachel's and introduced me to her before the show. I was very new to our folk scene and still in amazement that many of the performers were so accessible and kind - Rachel and I had a lovely chat and, when she found out I was a major Dar Williams fan, told me Dar did harmony vocals on Rachel's just-released I Used to Be Nice CD and that the song, Royal Blues, contained many Dar references. Of course I asked if I could buy it -she sold me the last copy... until she could get home to Vermont to replenish her supply!

I went to my first Folk Alliance (an international music conference) in Albuquerque February 1999 and Rachel hosted the wonderful Emerging Artists showcase - rather than solo artists taking turns, the room was composed of a core group of performers, backing each other up on harmonies and instrumentation as individual songs were spotlighted. The phrase that most comes up when talking about Rachel is "generosity of spirit" and this format was so typical of her - she always stressed collaboration and cooperation.

Our paths crossed many times in the years following - in fact, it was on a recommendation of Rachel's that I switched my wine of choice... and whenever she knew I was in the audience, she changed her song lyric to "got a little Pinot Grigio for a woman with the blues?" and looked knowingly in my direction... :-)

Rachel's version of Dar's I Love I Love reduced me to tears on more than one occasion and we shared a love for Joni as well - in addition to her impeccable taste in cover songs, Rachel's original compositions were political and passionate and pure, singing of body image and love (connected or lost) and those in our community who lift us up by their very presence.

Rachel Bissex was one of those people - when she wrote Just Like That (about Vic and Reba Heyman, among others), she could just as well have been singing about herself. Dancing with My Mother speaks of the "joy and the desperation in music" - Rachel reflected the dichotomy...

Rachel took the Folk Train from Montreal to the Vancouver Folk Alliance in February 2001 - there's a great recounting in story and photos, much in her own words at

"for you have got the power in your trembling hands...
'cause you have got the power in your sweet and gentle voice"

Rachel's song In the Middle was included on Volume II of the compilation Before Their Time, "a musical resource to promote healing, and it contains far more than entertainment. Dedicated to the memory of people who died young - from accidents, illness and disease, suicide, murder, SIDS or stillbirth, war, terrorism and other causes - it is intended to help survivors recover from the emotional trauma and extended grief that follows a premature death."

Rachel was a headliner at our South Florida Folk Festival in 1996 and again in January 2004 - she was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2003, battled tirelessly and seemingly conquered... until this recent reoccurrence. Her latest CD, In White Light, chronicles much of this journey - to quote Rachel: "even though [the songs] were written before all my troubles, they deal mostly with the themes of hope, strength, kindness, and living in the moment. Appropriate".

Many are aware of the lovely video of Rachel's song Here Now, made and performed at NERFA (Northeast Regional Folk Alliance) by a large group of friends - you can see the video at and go to for more info on Rachel's recordings and life history [Susan's note: these links seem to be inactive now]...

I'm writing this before I leave Wednesday for the Folk Alliance in Montreal - two events had already been planned and will be even more poignant now under the circumstances...

~ On Thursday afternoon, we are encouraged to "come share a song for Rachel or a few words, or quietly listen. We'll have a guest book to sign for Rachel and her family. Bring a song, poem, a moment of silence, or just your signature".

~ Saturday night, "during Rachel's Performance Alley spot several of her close friends have stepped up to the plate to bring her music to Folk Alliance this year. Diane Zeigler, Lucie Blue Tremblay, Eric Schwartz, Stephanie Corby, and Tom Prasada-Rao will each present one of Rachel's songs. Join these and all of Rachel's friends to celebrate her music during that time. "

Rachel Bissex had a huge impact, both personally and professionally, on our South Florida, as well as the national, folk community - my tale of blessings is but one of countless others...

"there's a moral to this story, it's obvious it seems
you can be a queen, you can outlive all your dreams
but don't forget to leave a little something behind you when you go
especially if you plan to walk off naked in the snow
do not be afraid
do not be afraid..."


In April 2005, plans began for Remembering Rachel and in July 2005, a 2-CD set of Rachel's songs sung by her friends and colleagues, including some of the top folk performers, was released, with 100% of all performance, mixing, mastering, distribution, graphic design, hosting and advertising costs donated. This labor of love was dedicated to raising funds to fulfill Rachel's final wish to pay for the college education of her children, Emma Goldberg and Matt Cosgrove.

More backstory can be found here, as well as all the wonderful projects still happening in Rachel's name...

SONG: Royal Blues by Rachel Bissex (I can't seem to find the lyrics online, but it appears the songs can be listened to

BOOK: Remembering with Love: Messages of Hope for the First Year of Grieving and Beyond by Elizabeth Levang

POEM: Flare (Part 12) by Mary Oliver

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,
like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

QUOTE: "Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume." ~ Jean de Boufflers

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Sister (Juliana Hatfield)

So... we pulled it off - my daughter Sarah and I threw a surprise birthday party for my visiting sister!

When Mari e-mailed me a few weeks back, said she was flying into Tampa for a business conference and would love to drive over mid-week when she was finished to hang with us for a few days, the wheels began to turn (no pun intended) - she had a major milestone birthday last month and, having lived in South Florida from 1992 - 2000, there are still people here who know and love her...

Here is the Evite invitation we sent out:

Surprise Party: No Flip-Flop About It - Mari's 40!

Mari (Sue's sister/Sarah's aunt), who lives in Atlanta, will be in town for a visit following a business conference in Tampa. She turned 40 on January 18 and we'd like to surprise her with a women's get-together here.

Mari just got a tattoo on her lower back (of flip flops!) so we'd like to ask each of you to wear your favorite pair, as well as write up some advice/wise words on the occasion of turning the magical Four-Oh (printed on an 8 1/2" x 11" paper of your choice to include in a memory scrapbook, please)...

We will provide scrumptious appetizers and a variety of beverages (soda, tea, water, red and white wine as well as a special drink invented in her honor: the Maritini... :-)

Bring your best self and join us in celebrating Mari... and the circle of female friendships - 40 rocks!

It was a delightful worlds-colliding evening and we are suitably exhausted/exhiliarated - today will most definitely be a Bums By the Pool Day (aaaahhhh)...

I adore my "baby" sister - I was 13 when she was born and truly felt like her second mother for years. The family legend is that my parents tried to have more children after me but were unsuccessful, until my father converted to Catholicism, whereupon my mom became pregnant immediately - the name Mary Catherine (which she later shortened and changed to Mari) was conferred on the "miraculous conception"... :-)

I read to her, played with her, watched out for her - I regaled her with lullabies of I'm the Greatest Star and I'd Rather Be Blue and, when we were both adults and Mari still lived close by and came for Christmas, our clean-up ritual was to put on the Funny Girl soundtrack and sing along (loudly) to the entire CD as we made fast work of Tupperwaring and dishwashing.

She was eight when my husband and I got married - he and I decided to give away all of our duplicate albums (a leap of faith our union was forever!) and she became the unlikely recipient, turning into the coolest kiddo in the neighborhood as the new proud owner of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Joni Mitchell's Blue and James Taylor's Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon.

[ Decades later when I was beginning to segue to CDs, after having transitioned to cassettes, I made the vow I was not going to replace anything I previously had in the other two formats, but would instead just move forward musically from there - for my birthday party the next month, Mari said "that's the stupidest f*cking rule I've ever heard" and gifted me with Carole King's Tapestry on CD (which of course was one of the many albums we had given her way back then... :-) ]

As we grew up, the gap lessened and I segued from caretaker to confidante - I still consider her one of my best friends, and we have such an easy relationship.

We have a variety of running jokes, one of which comes from the long-since-retired TV show thirtysomething, in which the character Melissa is speaking to her younger sister about the differences in their family roles according to birth order - Melissa says, "as the older child, it's my job to fulfill all of mom and dad's deepest hopes, dreams and desires. All you have to do is stay out of prison." So true, so true - I got in major trouble in high school (I plead the fifth on details) and was told I had dragged our family name through the mud but, when Mari did the same thing 13 years later, I recall the party line was "kids will be kids" (no fair!).

I loved the days when Mari shadowed me from room to room, yakking away, looking up to me reverentially, wishing she had "bazooms" (breasts) - she was a tiny thing ("Bones" was her nickname) and she threw herself into everything she attempted (whether it was Junior Civitan, cheerleading or soccer), never envisioning failure as an option. She was socially and scholastically proficient and graduated from the University of Georgia - she's always been independent and resourceful and grateful for whatever blessings came her way, even when our parents' marriage began to erode and she was caught in the middle.

Mari now has a supportive husband, a darling 11-year-old daughter by a previous marriage (I was Mari's labor coach and helped Julia into the world), a gorgeous and huge home, a responsible and respectable job and a wonderful network of women friends of her own - I am so proud of who she has grown into...

P.S. For the curious among you, the Maritini mentioned in the Evite was equal parts chilled vanilla vodka and
Voyant chai liqueur, served in martini glasses rimmed with cinnamon sugar - yum!

P.P.S. My sister is not a b*tch... but she did turn me to on my post-titled song, so I felt it only appropriate to use - I think it celebrates, without sugarcoating, the love/hate relationship between female siblings... :-)

My Sister by Juliana Hatfield

Sisters: 10th Anniversary Edition by Carol Saline, Sharon J. Wohlmuth

POEM: One Sister have I in our house by Emily Dickinson

One Sister have I in our house,
And one, a hedge away.
There's only one recorded,
But both belong to me.

One came the road that I came—
And wore my last year's gown—
The other, as a bird her nest,
Builded our hearts among.

She did not sing as we did—
It was a different tune—
Herself to her a music
As Bumble bee of June.

Today is far from Childhood—
But up and down the hills
I held her hand the tighter—
Which shortened all the miles—

And still her hum
The years among,
Deceives the Butterfly;
Still in her Eye
The Violets lie
Mouldered this many May.

I spilt the dew—
But took the morn—
I chose this single star
From out the wide night's numbers—
Sue - forevermore!

QUOTE: "A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life." ~ Isadora James

Friday, February 22, 2008

Santa Monica (Everclear)

From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, (books by this author) born in Rockland, Maine (1892). Her middle name came from a hospital - St. Vincent in New York - where one of her uncles was saved from death immediately before her birth.

Her parents divorced when she was little and she and her two sisters moved constantly with their mother. Throughout their moves, her mother always carried along a trunk full of classic literature, including the works of Shakespeare and John Milton, which she often read aloud to her daughters.

Edna was in high school when she entered a poetry contest and wrote a poem - "Renascence" - which she recited at a poetry reading, and a woman in the audience was so impressed that she paid Edna's way to go to Vassar College.

She was a rebellious student at Vassar, then moved to New York City, where she lived in Greenwich Village and had numerous love affairs with both women and men. Edmund Wilson thought she was almost "supernaturally beautiful." He proposed marriage and never got over the rejection.

In her poem "First Fig" she wrote:

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

And in "Second Fig": "Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: / Come see my shining palace built upon the sand!"

I've written about my friend R before - I knew Edna St. Vincent Millay was her favorite poet but only just remembered they shared a birthday. R would have been 55 today - her shining light is much missed...

Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I'll make you little jackets;
I'll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There'll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.

QUOTE: "Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell." ~ Edna St Vincent Millay

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Moonshadow (Cat Stevens)

Last night was the total lunar eclipse, which I watched from the jacuzzi with my sister, my daughter and a few glasses of wine (theirs red, mine white) - it's delightful having Mari here through early Sunday morning, as she flew down from Atlanta earlier in the week to Tampa for a business conference, and then drove across the state to spend a few days with us.

We have plans to hit the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (where Sarah works) for their Happy Hour later today - chilling at home Friday evening (!) and TBA stuff for Saturday night (although the day is earmarked for sunning/lounging by/in the pool... :-)

I love my (13 years younger) baby sister and my blogging will be sporadic (if at all) over the next few days as we hang out together - more later...

Senior Science Writer
posted: 20 February 2008
08:25 am ET

A total eclipse of the moon tonight is expected to delight skywatchers across the United States and much of the world. It will be the last total lunar eclipse until 2010.

The easy-to-watch event will play out in several stages as Earth's shadow blocks sunlight from shining on the moon. Weather permitting, the eclipse will be visible from all locations in the United States, according to NASA. Along the Oregon and northern California coasts, the moon will rise during the early stages of the eclipse, however.

When to watch
Eclipses occur only at full moon when the sun, Earth and moon are in a perfect line. Because the moon's orbit around Earth is not perfectly aligned with the plane of Earth's orbit around the sun, eclipses do not occur at every full moon.

The moon will enter Earth's umbral shadow (the full shadow) at 8:43 p.m. ET (that's 7:43 p.m. Central, 6:43 p.m. Mountain and 5:43 p.m. Pacific) on Wednesday, Feb. 20. It will appear as though an ever-larger bite is being taken out of the moon.

Some 78 minutes later, the moon will slip into full eclipse. About 51 minutes later, a bright scallop will appear as the moon starts emerging. It will be completely out of the umbral shadow at 9:09 p.m. Pacific time, which is 12:09 a.m. ET on Thursday morning.

For Europe and Africa, the eclipse is a predawn Thursday event, with the moon starting entry to the umbral shadow at 1:43 Greenwich (or Universal) Time.

What you'll see
Look for the moon to possibly turn red during the total portion of the eclipse. "The exact color that the moon appears depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the atmosphere," according to a NASA statement. "If there are extra particles in the atmosphere, from say a recent volcanic eruption, the moon will appear a darker shade of red."

The redness occurs because while the moon is in total shadow, some light from the sun passes through Earth's atmosphere and is bent toward the moon. The effect is to cast all the planet's sunrises and sunsets on the moon.

Christopher Columbus famously used a blood-red eclipse in 1504 to frighten natives on Jamaica into feeding his crew.

The planet Saturn and the bright star Regulus will form a broad triangle with the moon's ruddy disk, according to Joe Rao,'s Skywatching Columnist.

You don't need any special equipment to watch a lunar eclipse. Comfortable chairs and warm clothing are good ideas. A telescope will bring out interesting details of the lunar surface, and even a small telescope will reveal Saturn's stunning rings.

Between forest and field, a threshold
like stepping from a cathedral into the street—
the quality of air alters, an eclipse lifts,
boundlessness opens, earth itself retextured
into weeds where woods once were.

Even planes of motion shift from vertical
navigation to horizontal quiescence:
there’s a standing invitation to lie back
as sky’s unpredictable theater proceeds.
Suspended in this ephemeral moment
after leaving a forest, before entering
a field, the nature of reality is revealed.

QUOTE: "The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand." ~ Frederick L. Knowles

Monday, February 18, 2008

Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits)

So... I was having a discussion with a friend Saturday (Hi, Mel!) about the song Romeo and Juliet - she prefers the Indigo Girls' version and, as much as I love them as a songwriting duo, I'm obsessed with the original by Dire Straits. The former is too urgently strident for my taste, while the latter is more achingly plaintive - in either case, whether a wailed Julie or a whispered Juliet, it's a stunningly classic tune I've loved for decades. Who can resist "all I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme, I'd do the stars with you anytime"? - swoon... :-)

There is an amazing live version of R & J on Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris' All the Roadrunning CD - it kicks off with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous piano solo and then segues into a 9-minute tour de force, which I listened to four times in a row, loudly, on my 30+ minute drive to Ft. Lauderdale for a meeting this evening!

All this of course motivated me to make a Shakespeare-themed mix CD, which I'll work on tomorrow morning before I go to work and give to my friend Stephen/Mosh (who lives in Massachusetts) tomorrow evening - his parents rent a condo in Delray Beach for a few months every year, and he comes down to visit for a week. He's my Falcon Ridge buddy, and I adore his mom and dad as well - looking forward to a nice dinner together and catching up on each other's lives!

P.S. I'll add the final tracklist to this post in the next few days - I'll also ensure the compilation makes it into the hands of a few interested parties (see above-mentioned Mel, who I must thank for the inspiration... :-)

Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits

BOOK: Shakespeare A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More by Charles Boyce

POEM: The Bargain by Cyrus Cassells

In the transatlantic fury
when I feared
I might not survive
to see Florence,
clutching an elfin
Love Sonnets of Shakespeare,
I implored:
Lord, let me live
long enough to dare
a love poem—
In time, of course, the skies
stopped glowering.

And in the Tuscan summer's imperial
segue into autumn,
poetry burgeoned—
It's not only the active grace,
the glory between us:
these praise songs spring
from a holy bargain,
from my deepest desire
to live.

QUOTE: "Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs." ~ William Shakespeare

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Jungle Line (Joni Mitchell)

I'm still glowing from Herbie Hancock's Grammy award for his jazz homage to Joni - interesting analysis below... :-)

The New York Times
February 12, 2008

When something newsworthy or popular or positive happens to a jazz musician — a big award, say — many in the jazz world feel astonished for about four seconds, then quickly act very smug. You know: We’ve been sitting here patiently, full of our aesthetic virtue, so used to being ignored, and the world has finally come around to our point of view. Are we happy about it? More to the point, what took you so long?

Are we entitled to feel that way about “River: The Joni Letters,” by Herbie Hancock, being named album of the year at the Grammys on Sunday ? We could, but it would be silly. Perhaps the speculation is true that Amy Winehouse and Kanye West split the vote. And yes, it is very unusual to see a record of such modest sales win the big prize. But inasmuch as it is a jazz album, it is precisely the kind of jazz album that would win this award.

First, let’s just get this over with: Where were you in 1965, Recording Academy, when Mr. Hancock made his venerated album “Maiden Voyage”?

But look one year further back to 1964. “Getz/Gilberto” won, and besides “River,” it is the only more or less jazz album in 50 years of the Grammys to have earned this award. There might be instructive logic there to unravel why “River” beat some records that are far more successful and far more emblematic of their time. (“River” has sold around 55,000 copies, whereas Kanye West’s “Graduation” has sold two million.)

“Getz/Gilberto” was a collaboration between the jazz saxophonist Stan Getz and the bossa nova musician João Gilberto, with his wife at the time, Astrud Gilberto, as occasional singer. It shares some important qualities with “River.”

Both are quite beautiful, though practical: experiments with strong ideas made moderate. Both are syncretist collaborations between a flexible jazz musician and a famously uncompromising genius who invented his or her own style — two musicians of putatively different worlds. Both feature light-voiced singing on a little less than half the tracks.

And on both, the drums sound chastened. (When a jazz record with really assertive, swinging rhythm wins album of the year, then jazz enthusiasts can feel smug. “Good taste” — an idea that means quite a lot in this category of the Grammys — can be telegraphed quickly by reducing the role of the drums.)

“River” isn’t just a jazz record. It is a singer-songwriter record. (Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Corinne Bailey Rae, Leonard Cohen and Luciana Souza are on it, all singing Joni Mitchell songs, as is Ms. Mitchell herself.) It is soft-edged and literate and respectable. It seems, at least, intended as an audience bridger. And it also a very Grammy-ish record, not just because Mr. Hancock, and others on it, have won various Grammys in the past.

Institutions like to congratulate themselves, and giving the prize to “River” can be understood as a celebration of the academy’s more high-minded pop impulses. The best album category, in particular, is often a corrective or an apology for any excesses or shortcomings of the present.

It can amount to a sentimental, history-minded celebration of album culture. At this point it can conjure and lament a lost world of musicians and styles from the 1970s or before, those who actually played instruments, sometimes very well, and trusted their listeners to pay attention to them in 40-minute chunks. From the last 15 years of the award this idea could explain the victories of Ray Charles, Norah Jones, Steely Dan, Santana, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett and Eric Clapton. (It doesn’t explain Celine Dion, but if we perfectly understood the mind-set of academy members we wouldn’t watch the show.)

Some of what “River” accomplishes as a jazz record is serious indeed. Mr. Hancock’s version of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” is the modern jazz process itself: a complete reharmonization of a familiar song, with rhythm that keeps vanishing and reappearing. Wayne Shorter’s saxophone playing on many tracks, including his own “Nefertiti” and Ms. Mitchell’s “Edith and the Kingpin,” is casually brilliant — some kind of strange, subconscious vernacular. And though Ms. Mitchell has never called herself a jazz singer, her vocal performance on “The Tea Leaf Prophecy” has a rhythmic assurance that a lot of self-identifying jazz singers could use.

It’s a cool-tempered album, almost drowsy. In so many ways it does seem a strange choice, not just in its modest commercial profile but in that it’s the first album to win this particular award for either Mr. Hancock or Ms. Mitchell. Yet it is also august and exquisitely acceptable: precisely the qualities that this category of the Grammy Awards tends to orient itself around.

BOOK: Jazz Styles: History and Analysis by Mark C. Gridley

POEM: Nightclub by Billy Collins

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

QUOTE: "A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges." ~ Benny Green

Thursday, February 14, 2008

History of Us (Indigo Girls)

I have a meeting tonight which can't be rescheduled - however, my husband and I are planning to sip champagne in the jacuzzi afterwards. Works for me - cheers to love, young and old... :-)

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.

The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman.

These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed.

Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)

Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms,
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers.
Thanks to your love a certain fragrance,
risen darkly from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride,
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where "I" does not exist, nor "you,"
So close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
So close that your eyes close and I fall asleep.

QUOTE: "Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century." ~ Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

That's Amore (performed by Dean Martin)

SONG: That's Amore performed by Dean Martin

BOOK: A Treasury of Italian Love: Poems, Quotations & Proverbs/in Italian and English by Richard A. Branyon (Editor)

POEM: That's Amore (parody), author unknown

When the moon hits your eye,
Like a big pizza pie,
That's amore.

When an eel bites your hand,
And that's not what you planned,
That's a moray.

When our habits are strange,
And our customs deranged,
That's our mores.

When your horse munches straw,
And the bales total four,
That's some more hay.

When Othello's poor wife,
Becomes stabbed with a knife,
That's a Moor, eh?

When a Japanese knight,
Uses his sword in a fight,
That's Samurai.

When your sheep go to graze,
In a damp marshy place,
That's a moor, eh?

When your boat comes home fine,
And you tie up her line,
That's a moor, eh?

When you ace your last tests,
Like you did all the rest,
That's some more "A"s!

When on Mt. Cook you see,
An aborigine,
That's a Maori.

Alley Oop's homeland has,
A space gun with pizzazz,
That's a Moo ray...

A comedian ham,
With the name Amsterdam,
That's a Morey.

When your chocolate graham,
Is so full and so crammed,
That s'more, eh.

When you've had quite enough,
Of this dumb rhyming stuff,
That's "No more!", eh?

QUOTE: "Candle light, moon light, star light, the brightest glow is from love light." ~ Grey Livingston

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Possum Kingdom (The Toadies)

Even vampires need love... or a reasonable facsimile thereof - I've been fascinated with The Undead since first watching Bela Lugosi on the screen decades ago... and I still think Salem's Lot is one of the most novel (no pun intended) depictions ever...

I nominate my title tune as The Best Soundtrack for a Car Wash Drive-Thru - crank the volume up to 11, sit back and prepare to visit Goosebump City... :-)

POEM: Der Vampir by Heinrich August Ossenfelder

My dear young maiden clingeth
Unbending fast and firm
To all the long-held teaching
Of a mother ever true;
As in vampires unmortal
Folk on the Theyse's portal
Heyduck-like do believe.
But my Christine thou dost dally,
And wilt my loving parry
Till I myself avenging
To a vampire's health a-drinking
Him toast in pale tockay.

And as softly thou art sleeping
To thee shall I come creeping
And thy life's blood drain away.
And so shalt thou be trembling
For thus shall I be kissing
And death's threshold thou' it be crossing
With fear, in my cold arms.
And last shall I thee question
Compared to such instruction
What are a mother's charms?

QUOTE: "Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire." ~ Napoleon Bonaparte, letter to wife Josephine, December 1795

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Am a Rock (Simon and Garfunkel)

Hey, I never said this Valentine's Day countdown was going to be all wine and roses - one must honor lost love as well, right?

Homestead is only an hour south of me and I've yet to visit this landmark - soon, I've promised myself...

Ever been dumped?

Most of us have. And we've got all sorts of stories about how we've tried to win back the object of our affections.

Did you make a mix-tape full of her favorite songs in hopes of warming her heart, a la John Cusack's music geek character in High Fidelity? Or, for a more romantic gesture, you might have serenaded your sweetheart with a boombox outside her bedroom window (John Cusack again, as Say Anything's prototypical "sensitive guy," Lloyd Dobler). Or you might have just left a bunch of pathetic messages on your ex's answering machine, though we have a feeling your success rate's not so high in that case (unless you're John Cusack).

We know of just one man who could beat Cusack's celluloid record for romantic obsession: Ed Leedskalnin, a Latvian immigrant who spent his whole life pining away for Agnes Scuffs, the sixteen year old girl who ditched him just days before their wedding. After Agnes left him, Leedskalnin was absolutely heartbroken, and pledged to win her back. His method of choice? Building a rock garden in honor of his sweetheart, which he called Coral Rock Castle.

The "castle," located in Homestead, Florida, is no mere monument – it's a huge, sprawling structure, with a nine-ton gate, a 28-ton sun dial, a water well, a fountain, a heart-shaped table, and a 5,000-pound throne, along with a range of other curiosities. In total, the grounds include more than 1,100 tons of oolic limestone.

Leedskalnin began building the castle in 1923, and never let up until his death in 1951. He worked only at night, and gave ten-cent tours of the unfinished palace throughout his lifetime. Sadly, Leedskalnin's lost love, Agnes Scuffs, never came to see the magnificent stone garden that he had built in her honor. Her throne would remain empty forever.

We know it already sounds pretty strange, but here's the weirdest part: Leedskanin, who was only five feet tall and 100 pounds, and had only a fourth grade education, reputedly assembled the entire massive structure himself, with no help – even though some of the individual stones weigh as much as 30 tons, which is heavier than the blocks in the Egyptian pyramids.

Over the years, plenty of people have come up with their own theories about how the lovesick Leedskalnin constructed the amazing monument. Some believe that he was aided by extraterrestrials, or that Leedskalnin himself had supernatural powers. Even the great Albert Einstein had been unable to deduce Leedskalnin's methods, though some engineers believe that Leedskalnin used a block-and-tackle system, which is a common engineering technique. (Though not so common for a fourth-grade dropout.)

Whether or not he was some sort of superhero, or had a race of alien amigos to help him build his palace, it's certain to say that Ed Leedskalnin was one of a kind. We just don't know how Agnes let him slip away.

A person is full of sorrow
The way a burlap sack is full of stones or sand.
We say, "Hand me the sack,"
But we get the weight.
Heavier if left out in the rain.
To think that the stones or sand are the self is an error.
To think that grief is the self is an error.
Self carries grief as a pack mule carries the side bags,
Being careful between the trees to leave extra room.
The self is not the load of ropes and nails and axes.
The self is not the miner nor builder nor driver.
What would it be to take the bride
And leave behind the heavy dowry?
To let the thin-ribbed mule browse in tall grasses,
Its long ears waggling like the tails of two happy dogs?

QUOTE: "Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg." ~ Yugoslav Proverb