Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Red, Red Wine (Neil Diamond)

Having been raised in an Italian family (both my mother's parents hail from "the old country"), I've always appreciated a good wine - I say proudly that I never partook of Boone's Farm in my formative high school or college years, although my choice of Cella Lambrusco probably wasn't much better (although I recall being devastated when they segued from cork to screwtop!).

I did go through a white zin phase in my suburban housewife mentality, but soon wizened up to my current pick of Pinot Grigio or, on the rare occasion when I'm in the mood for red, a Shiraz or Pinot Noir - these days, I drink rarely but appreciatively (interpreting "drunk" in the poem below as a metaphor for joyful.. :-)

Now if this (article below) isn't just some of the best news I've read in a while - salud!

P.S. I first heard today's song about ten years ago as a radio hit from UB40 - found out later it was actually written by Neil Diamond (big surprise, as the only other song I've liked of his is Solitary Man).

Female Wine-Drinkers Less Likely to Develop Alzheimer's

Say cheers: New research shows that women who drink wine on a regular basis are significantly less likely than others to develop Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

The study tracked a group of 1,500 women in Gothenberg, Sweden, for a period of 34 years, measuring their drinking habits over that period of time in relation to their health. According to the results, which were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who regularly drank wine along with other forms of alcohol were 40 percent less likely to develop dementia than non-wine drinkers.

For women who skipped the beer and hard liquor, sticking exclusively with wine, the results were even more promising: Their risk of developing dementia in later life dropped by 70 percent.

Researchers believe that wine's affect on mental well-being may be associated with the drink's antioxidant properties, which could have a positive impact on blood vessels, though"the people who drink wine might have other characteristics that we simply can't measure," epidemiology professor Lauren Lissner told The Vancouver Sun. "But the fact that it gets even stronger in the wine group could also be viewed as evidence that there is something in the wine."

Don't use the results as an excuse to guzzle down a bottle of Cab Sav every night, though – as with most pleasures, moderation is key. One glass of wine every week was enough to show a positive impact; another study found that drinking a glass or more every night could raise the risk of breast cancer.

Lissner warns that "we're not saying that our results are anything to base recommendations on or that women should change their wine consumption patterns," but from what we can tell, a weekly glass of wine could be the key to keeping women's minds sharp for many years to come.

From other sources, I'm learning about biodynamic/organic wines... and wine cork recycling - taking advantage of my increased memory cells... :-)

SONG: Red, Red Wine by Neil Diamond

BOOK: 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World by Gary Vaynerchuk

POEM: Be Drunk by Charles Baudelaire (translated by Louis Simpson)

You have to be always drunk.
That's all there is to it—
it's the only way.
So as not to feel
the horrible burden of time
that breaks your back
and bends you to the earth,
you have to be continually drunk.

But on what?
Wine, poetry or virtue,
as you wish.
But be drunk.

And if sometimes,
on the steps of a palace
or the green grass of a ditch,
in the mournful solitude of your room,
you wake again,
drunkenness already diminishing or gone,

ask the wind, the wave, the star,
the bird, the clock,
everything that is flying,
everything that is groaning,
everything that is rolling,
everything that is singing,
everything that is speaking. . .

ask what time it is
and wind, wave, star, bird, clock
will answer you:
"It is time to be drunk!
So as not to be the martyred slaves of time,
be drunk, be continually drunk!
On wine, on poetry or on virtue
as you wish."

QUOTE(S): "Wine is bottled poetry." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

"Wine is sunlight, held together by water." ~ Galileo

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bad Mood (The Murmurs)

Oh my god, I was in the *worst* mood last night - it really was a series of small irritations (a situation at work, frustration with my older son's less-than-responsible ways, having to take my dog to the vet for what turned out to be a corneal ulceration, my daughter's attitude, etc.) that compounded to become the proverbial straw.

I allowed these circumstances to sidetrack me from my walking, when I actually should have channeled my helplessness by pounding the pavement accompanied by some loud and upbeat tunes on my walkman - however, by 11 p.m. I was finally able to curl up with my book club selection (discussion group meeting tomorrow!), The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which I am enjoying very much... beautifully written despite the stark subject matter.

Today I will: know that the dog is getting better through repeated bacterial eyedrops application, look forward to my youngest coming home from college this evening, realize my daughter's and other son's behavior is short-lived, appreciate my husband's desire to soothe without feeling the need to solve... and make a point to walk every night the rest of the week - note to self: don't forget the jacuzzi!

This poem came along at the perfect time, to help me lose momentum and gain perspective - much better now...

POEM: A Prayer by Max Ehrmann

Let me do my work each day;
and if the darkened hours
of despair overcome me, may I
not forget the strength
that comforted me in the
desolation of other times.

May I still remember the bright
hours that found me walking
over the silent hills of my
childhood, or dreaming on the
margin of a quiet river,
when a light glowed within me,
and I promised my early God
to have courage amid the
tempests of the changing years.

Spare me from bitterness
and from the sharp passions of
unguarded moments. May
I not forget that poverty and
riches are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not,
may my thoughts and actions
be such as shall keep me friendly
with myself.

Lift up my eyes
from the earth, and let me not
forget the uses of the stars.
Forbid that I should judge others
lest I condemn myself.
Let me not follow the clamor of
the world, but walk calmly
in my path.

Give me a few friends
who will love me for what
I am; and keep ever burning
before my vagrant steps
the kindly light of hope.

And though age and infirmity
overtake me, and I come not within
sight of the castle of my dreams,
teach me still to be thankful
for life, and for time's olden
memories that are good and
sweet; and may the evening's
twilight find me gentle still.

QUOTE: "An eye can threaten like a loaded and levelled gun, or it can insult like hissing or kicking; or, in its altered mood, by beams of kindness, it can make the heart dance for joy.... One of the most wonderful things in nature is a glance of the eye; it transcends speech; it is the bodily symbol of identity." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 28, 2008

Me and My Guitar (James Taylor)

Crazy busy weekend, most of it music-related (shows and house concerts and folk club picnics, oh my!) - seemed like a good time to share the following article I've been saving... :-)

A Journey Shaped by a Guitar
The New York Times
Published: February 22, 2008

EVEN though Nazareth, Pa., isn’t quite the holy city its namesake is, pilgrims with a musical bent still go there every weekday in search of a potentially spiritual experience. They head to a quaint brick building, lured by the promise of taking a tour at the C. F. Martin & Company guitar factory.

More than 200 guitars are made at Martin each day, many more than when the company first opened in
New York City in 1833 (it moved to Nazareth in 1839). But for any guitar player or music lover, getting to see the basic stages in the creation of a Martin moves them powerfully, putting some in touch with emotions they might have thought too inaccessible to be reached.

Martins are arguably the most coveted acoustic guitar on earth — satisfied customers include
Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Freedy Johnston — and wherever pickers and grinners gather to resurrect time-honored chestnuts, from “Helpless” to “Sugarfoot Rag,” there’s a good chance that there will be a Martin chiming in. A trip to the factory could almost be considered a journey to the Lourdes of twang.

The rest of the article can be found

Me and My Guitar by James Taylor

BOOK: Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo

POEM: The Guitar by Federico García Lorca (translated by Cola Franzen)

The weeping of the guitar
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
to silence it.
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.
to silence it.
It weeps for distant
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

QUOTE: "Music has been my playmate, my lover, and my crying towel." ~ Buffy Sainte-Marie

Friday, April 25, 2008

Seize the Day (Ellis Paul)

Ellis Paul, who I first saw open for Dar in January 1998 (god, that sounds forever ago!), will be performing in a friend's house concert series in two weeks - it's been altogether too long since I've heard him up close and personal... and, whenever I do, I request this song... and he always honors... :-)

POEM: Aimless Love by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then
for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,
so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.

I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

QUOTE: "It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop." ~ Vita Sackville-West

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Better Than TV (Kristina Olsen)

I've been meaning to post for days that April 21 - 27, 2008 is TV Turnoff Week, which began in 1995 - when my kids were younger we always participated, to their dismay and my joy!

A few snippets:

Television cuts into family time, harms our children's ability to read and succeed in school, and contributes to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity.

On average, children in the US will spend more time in front of the television (1,023 hours) than in school this year (900 hours). Forty percent of Americans frequently or always watch television during dinner. As US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher said at the Kick Off of TV-Turnoff Week 2001, "We are raising the most overweight generation of youngsters in American history...This week is about saving lives."

Turning off the television gives us a chance to think, read, create, and do. To connect with our families and engage in our communities. To turn off TV and turn on life.

TV-Turnoff Week is supported by over 70 national organizations including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, and President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. To find out who else supports the Week, visit our allies section.

I notice their general website has now been changed to Screen-Time Awareness, which "provides information so people can live healthier lives in functional families in vibrant communities by taking control of the electronic media in their lives, not allowing it to control them... a campaign to reduce screen-time and encourage real experiences with real people in real time" - hmmm, sounds as if they're widening the circle to now include video games, iPods, computers and, dare I say it?, cell phones along with televisions.

Better Than TV by Kristina Olsen (you *must* watch the video... ;-)

Etch A Sketch by Michael McNevin (I can't find the lyrics, but the recurring chorus is "life is like an Etch A Sketch, it's better than a TV set"... and I've included above Michael's illustration of his friend Tracy "stealing" his television!)

The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid by Ellen Currey-Wilson

POEM: Fifteen, Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About by Judith Viorst

My pants could maybe fall down when I dive off the diving board.
My nose could maybe keep growing and never quit.
Miss Brearly could ask me to spell words like stomach and special.
(Stumick and speshul?)
I could play tag all day and always be "it."
Jay Spievack, who's fourteen feet tall, could want to fight me.
My mom and my dad--like Ted's--could want a divorce.
Miss Brearly could ask me a question about Afghanistan.
(Who's Afghanistan?)
Somebody maybe could make me ride a horse.
My mother could maybe decide that I needed more liver.
My dad could decide that I needed less TV.
Miss Brearly could say that I have to write script and stop printing.
(I'm better at printing.)
Chris could decide to stop being friends with me.

The world could maybe come to an end on next Tuesday.
The ceiling could maybe come crashing on my head.
I maybe could run out of things for me to worry about.
And then I'd have to do my homework instead.

QUOTE: "Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object." ~ Author Unknown

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From a Distance (Julie Gold)

Song: Sigur Rós - Hoppípolla

Earth Day redux - I know I've said this before but (repeat along with me) "I love Mark Morford!"... :-)

How to sing like a planet
Scientists say the Earth is humming. Not just noise, but a deep, astonishing music. Can you hear it?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This is the kind of thing we forget.

This is the kind of thing that, given all our distractions, our celeb obsessions and happy drugs and bothersome trifles like family and bills and war and health care and sex and love and porn and breathing and death, tends to fly under the radar of your overspanked consciousness, only to be later rediscovered and brought forth and placed directly in front of your eyeballs, at least for a moment, so you can look, really look, and go, oh my God, I had no idea.

The Earth is humming. Singing. Churning out a tune without the aid of battery or string or wind-up mechanism and its song is ethereal and mystifying and very, very weird, a rather astonishing, newly discovered phenomena that's not easily analyzed, but which, if you really let it sink into your consciousness, can change the way you look at everything.

Indeed, scientists now say the planet itself is generating a constant, deep thrum of noise. No mere cacophony, but actually a kind of music, huge, swirling loops of sound, a song so strange you can't really fathom it, so low it can't be heard by human ears, chthonic roars churning from the very water and wind and rock themselves, countless notes of varying vibration creating all sorts of curious tonal phrases that bounce around the mountains and spin over the oceans and penetrate the tectonic plates and gurgle in the magma and careen off the clouds and smack into trees and bounce off your ribcage and spin over the surface of the planet in strange circular loops, "like dozens of lazy hurricanes," as one writer put it.

It all makes for a very quiet, otherworldly symphony so odd and mysterious, scientists still can't figure out exactly what's causing it or why the hell it's happening. Sure, sensitive instruments are getting better at picking up what's been dubbed "Earth's hum," but no one's any closer to understanding what the hell it all might mean. Which, of course, is exactly as it should be.

Because then, well, then you get to crank up your imagination, your mystical intuition, your poetic sensibility — and if there's one thing we're lacking in modern America, it's ... well, you know.

Me, I like to think of the Earth as essentially a giant Tibetan singing bowl, flicked by the middle finger of God and set to a mesmerizing, low ring for about 10 billion years until the tone begins to fade and the vibration slows and eventually the sound completely disappears into nothingness and the birds are all, hey what the hell happened to the music? And God just shrugs and goes, well that was interesting.

Or maybe the planet is more like an enormous wine glass, half full of a heady potion made of horny unicorns and divine lubricant and perky sunshine, around the smooth, gleaming rim of which Dionysus himself circles his wet fingertip, generating a mellifluous tone that makes the wood nymphs dance and the satyrs orgasm and the gods hum along as they all watch 7 billion confused human ants scamper about with their lattes and their war and their perpetually adorable angst, oblivious.

But most of all, I believe the Earth actually (and obviously) resonates, quite literally, with the Hindu belief in the divine sound of OM (or more accurately, AUM), that single, universal syllable that contains and encompasses all: birth and death, creation and destruction, being and nothingness, rock and roll, Christian and pagan, meat and vegetable, spit and swallow. You know?

But here's the best part: This massive wave of sound? The Earth's deep, mysterious OM, it's perpetual hum of song? Totally normal — that is, if by "normal" you mean "unfathomably powerful and speaking to a vast mystical timelessness we can't possibly comprehend."

Indeed, all the spheres do it, all the planets and all the quasars and stars and moons and whirlpool galaxies, all vibrating and humming like a chorus of wayward deities singing sea shanties in a black hole. It's nothing new, really: Mystics and poets and theorists have pondered the "music of the spheres" (or musica universalis) for eons; it is the stuff of cosmic philosophy, linking sacred geometry, mathematics, cosmology, harmonics, astrology and music into one big cosmological poetry slam.

Translation: You don't have to look very far to understand that human beings — hell, all animals, really — adore song and music and tone and rhythm, and then link this everyday source of life straight to the roar of the planet itself, and then back out to the cosmos.

In other words, you love loud punk? Metal? Jazz? Deep house? Saint-Saens with a glass of Pinot in the tub? Sure you do. That's because somewhere, somehow, deep in your very cells and bones and DNA, it links you back to source, to the Earth's own vibration, the pulse of the cosmos. Oh yes it does. To tap your foot and sway your body to that weird new Portishead tune is, in effect, to sway it to the roar of the universe. I mean, obviously.

At some point we'll probably figure it all out. Science will, with its typical charming, arrogant certainty, sift and measure and quantify this "mystical" Earthly hum, and tell us it merely comes from, say, ocean movements, or solar wind, or 10 billion trees all deciding to grow a quarter millimeter all at once. We will do as we always do: oversimplify, peer through a single lens of understanding, stick this dazzling phenomenon in a narrow category, and forget it.

How dangerously boring. I much prefer, in matters mystical and musical and deeply cosmic, to tell the logical mind to shut up and let the soul take over and say, wait wait wait, maybe most humans have this divine connection thing all wrong. Maybe God really isn't some scowling gay-hating deity raining down guilt and judgment and fear on all humankind after all.

Maybe she's actually, you know, a throb, a pulse, a song, deep, complex, eternal. And us, well, we're just bouncing and swaying along as best we can, trying to figure out the goddamn melody.

SONG: From a Distance by Julie Gold

Earthsong by Bernhard Edmaier

POEM: The Widening Sky by Edward Hirsch

I am so small walking on the beach

at night under the widening sky.
The wet sand quickens beneath my feet

and the waves thunder against the shore.

I am moving away from the boardwalk

with its colorful streamers of people
and the hotels with their blinking lights.

The wind sighs for hundreds of miles.
I am disappearing so far into the dark
I have vanished from sight.

I am a tiny seashell

that has secretly drifted ashore
and carries the sound of the ocean

surging through its body.

I am so small now no one can see me.

How can I be filled with such a vast love?

QUOTE: There's music in the sighing of a reed; there's music in the gushing of a rill; there's music in all things, if men had ears: their earth is but an echo of the spheres."~ Lord Byron

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Everything Green (Christine Kane)


Today is Earth Day, founded as an environmental
teach-in in the late 1960s, and celebrated in many countries each year on April 22.

In September 1969, at a conference in
Seattle, Washington, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on the environment. Senator Nelson first proposed the nationwide environmental protest to thrust the environment onto the national agenda.” "It was a gamble," he recalls, "but it worked."

Five months before the first April 22 Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969,
The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the rising tide of environmental events::

"Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the
war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental being planned for next spring...when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...." Senator Nelson also hired Denis Hayes as the coordinator.

Each year, the April 22 Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Among other things, 1970 in the United States brought with it the
Kent State shootings, the advent of fiber optics, "Bridge over Troubled Water," Apollo 13, the Beatles' last album, the death of Jimi Hendrix, and the meltdown of fuel rods in the Savannah River nuclear plant near Aiken, South Carolina -- an incident not acknowledged for 18 years. At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Environment was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news. But Earth Day 1970 turned that all around.

On April 22, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy,
sustainable environment. Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, and his youthful staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day on April 22 in 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focused on
global warming and a push for clean energy. The April 22 Earth Day in 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. For 2000, Earth Day had the Internet to help link activists around the world. By the time April 22 rolled around, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Events varied: A talking drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, for example, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., USA.

Earth Day 2000 sent the message loud and clear that citizens the world 'round wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy. Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like
Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.

Founded by the organizers of the first April 22 Earth Day in 1970,
Earth Day Network promotes environmental citizenship and year round progressive action worldwide. Earth Day Network is a driving force steering environmental awareness around the world. Through Earth Day Network, activists connect change in local, national, and global policies. Earth Day Network’s international network reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year. Earth Day is the only event celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a half billion people participate in Earth Day Network campaigns every year.

For years, we've been celebrating Dar Williams' birthday with social actions and, since her birthday is April 19, the last few have been ecologically-centered - below is my 2008 pledge:

Hey, Dar -

Here I am, one day after your birthday, very Joni-Mitchell-like...

"I'm always running behind the time
Just like this train
Shaking into town
With the brakes complaining..."

...and I see that "Dar's Birthday 2008" pledge is now closed - ack!

However, I'm hoping this note will somehow be posted somewhere, however belatedly - I was, as always, trying to find the perfect gift (in the form of action) I could pro-offer for your special day... and the following appeared as I logged on to my local public radio station website earlier this afternoon:

"Make a $50 contribution to support your favorite WLRN programs and our partner American Forests will plant five trees in Hal Scott Preserve and Park near Orlando. Make a $100 contribution and ten trees will be planted. By giving now, your contribution does twice the good. It pays for the great public radio programs you listen to on WLRN and it helps restore balance to the eco-system in an important Florida natural resource."

Count me in for $100 (that's 10 trees!) - Happy Birthday, Dar...

P.S. Happy Birthday (today) to FM as well... :-)

Everything Green by Christine Kane

BOOK: Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living by Doug Fine

POEM: Enriching the Earth by Wendell Berry

To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds
of winter grains and various legumes,
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.

I have stirred into the ground the offal
and the decay of the growth of past seasons
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.

All this serves the dark. Against the shadow
of veiled possibility my workdays stand
in a most asking light. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things. And yet to serve the earth,
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
and a delight to the air, and my days
do not wholly pass. It is the mind's service,
for when the will fails so do the hands
and one lives at the expense of life.

After death, willing or not, the body serves,
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
and most mute is at last raised up into song.

QUOTE: "It is imperative to maintain portions of the wilderness untouched so that a tree will rot where it falls, a waterfall will pour its curve without generating electricity, a trumpeter swan may float on uncontaminated water - and moderns may at least see what their ancestors knew in their nerves and blood." ~ Bernand De Voto

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (Pink Floyd)

Oh my god, I love it when worlds collide - check out my Free Will Astrology Leo Horoscope for the week of April 17, 2008!!!!

This would be a perfect time for you to write your ultimate personal manifesto. I'm talking about composing a sweeping statement of the core ideas that fuel your lust for life. To get you in the mood, take a look at the following lyrics from Danny Schmidt's song "Company of Friends." "I believe in restless hunger . . . I believe in private thunder . . . I believe in inspiration . . . I believe in slow creation . . . I believe in lips on ears . . . I believe in being wrong . . . I believe in contradiction . . . I believe in living smitten . . . I believe our book is written by our company of friends."

What are the odds, I ask you? - then again, I know I'm living right when it all falls into place like this... :-)

I love my chaotic life - sure, there are dark places which sometimes consume and threaten to drive me to roly-poly mode. Fall down, brush it off, get back up - it can be a struggle, but I force myself to overcome.

I got home from work yesterday and had a lovely walk/chat with M - we took the dog out for another half-block and then I came inside and made a dinner of scrambled eggs with turkey and pepperjack cheese. Returned a few phone calls and then my daughter came over (with a friend) to finish up a Road Trip mix I was helping her with (for her upcoming Key West weekend) - we had a blast finalizing and ordering the selections, and choosing just the right photo for the accompanying cover. Her friend C also provided me with an amazing neck and shoulder rub as I worked at the computer - he and I then got into a passionate but friendly political discussion...

My gardenia bush is blooming like crazy and, before I got in the car this morning, I picked some blossoms for the 90-year-old mother of the man I work for - she is fairly housebound, these are her favorite flowers and I try to bring her some on a regular basis. I fill a bowl with water, arrange the blossoms and place it at the table where she spends a good bit of her day in a wheelchair, taking her meals and reading the newspaper - every single time I set the bowl down and tell V good morning, she says, "thank you - the smell is intoxicating!".

Oh, and on the way to the office, I began test-driving the aforementioned mix - you can bet that after the first three selections (whereupon I pulled into the driveway) of Everyday is a Winding Road by Sheryl Crow, Shiny Happy People by R.E.M. and Smooth by Carlos Santana/Rob Thomas, I was smiling broadly... :-)

For the most part, I believe each day/hour/minute is a conscious choice - I choose joy...

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvellous error! -
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart
I said: Along which secret aqueduct
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvellous error! -
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvellous error! -
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt,
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvellous error! -
That it was God I had
here inside my heart.

QUOTE: "The philosophy of mine earth can be summed up as this: Sunshine creates happiness, and I create myself. Nights are long and life is predominantly good. Wind is refreshing. Tea is wisdom. Do the best you can, and be good to yourself so that you can above all be good to others." ~ Jessi Lane Adams

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Taxman (The Beatles)

From Wikipedia:

Tax Day is the common term for the day on which tax returns (statements about income taxes) are due to the U.S. Federal Government and to the U.S. states from U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and certain nonresident aliens. More specifically, this is the last day on which tax returns can be mailed (as postmarked) to avoid penalties, with some exceptions. In the United States, Tax Day has usually been April 15 since 1955.


At the end of the tax year, the Tax Office sent an inspector to audit the books of a synagogue. While he was checking the books he turned to the Rabbi and said: 'I notice you buy a lot of candles. What do you do with the candledrippings?'

'Good question', noted the Rabbi. 'We save them up and send them back to the candle makers, and every now and then they send us a free box of candles.''Oh', replied the auditor, somewhat disappointed that his unusual question had a practical answer.

But on he went, in his obnoxious way: 'What about all these biscuit purchases? What do you do with the crumbs?'

'Ah, yes', replied the Rabbi, realising that the inspector was trying to trap him with an unanswerable question. 'We collect them and send them back to the manufacturers, and every now and then they send a free box of holy biscuits.' 'I see!' replied the auditor, thinking hard about how he could fluster the know-it-all Rabbi.

'Well, Rabbi', he went on, 'Wh at do you do with all the leftover foreskins from the circumcisions you perform?'

'Here, too, we do not waste', answered the Rabbi. 'What we do is save up all the foreskins and send them to the Tax Office, and about once a year they send us a complete dick.'

Obviously this post is a day late and a dollar short (no pun intended) - well... maybe... :-)

Higgledy piggledy, my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
Gentlemen come every day
To count what my black hen doth lay.
If perchance she lays too many,
They fine my hen a pretty penny;
If perchance she fails to lay,
The gentlemen a bonus pay.
Mumbledy pumbledy, my red cow,
She's cooperating now.
At first she didn't understand
That milk production must be planned;
She didn't understand at first
She either had to plan or burst,
But now the government reports
She's giving pints instead of quarts.
Fiddle de dee, my next-door neighbors,
They are giggling at their labors.
First they plant the tiny seed,
Then they water, then they weed,
Then they hoe and prune and lop,
They they raise a record crop,
Then they laugh their sides asunder,
And plow the whole caboodle under.
Abracadabra, thus we learn
The more you create, the less you earn.
The less you earn, the more you're given,
The less you lead, the more you're driven,
The more destroyed, the more they feed,
The more you pay, the more they need,
The more you earn, the less you keep,
And now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to take
If the tax-collector hasn't got it before I wake.

QUOTE: "We have long had death and taxes as the two standards of inevitability. But there are those who believe that death is the preferable of the two. "At least," as one man said, "there's one advantage about death; it doesn't get worse every time Congress meets." ~ Erwin N. Griswold

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hiding in the Stone (Peggy Bertsch)

This is for M and me, who committed to healthier bodies three weeks ago - we are feeling much more flexible, toned and all-over better about ourselves. We are dedicated to walking (3 1/2 miles!) almost every day (excluding bad weather and prior engagements), stretching and eating more mindfully - the changes are not huge and immediate... but they are most definitely evident - it would be easy to become discouraged at this slow pace, but we will NOT allow a descent into frustration when we KNOW we are doing so many things right!

It takes 21 days to change a habit - we have new shoes (New Balance... :-), a new outlook and new routines (oh my!)... and the rest will surely follow...

BOOK: That Mighty Sculptor, Time by Marguerite Yourcenar (author), Walter Kaiser (translator)

POEM: Dream Girl by Carl Sandburg

You will come one day in a waver of love,
Tender as dew, impetuous as rain,
The tan of the sun will be on your skin,
The purr of the breeze in your murmuring speech,
You will pose with a hill-flower grace.

You will come, with your slim, expressive arms,
A poise of the head no sculptor has caught
And nuances spoken with shoulder and neck,
Your face in a pass-and-repass of moods
As many as skies in delicate change
Of cloud and blue and flimmering sun.

You may not come, O girl of a dream,
We may but pass as the world goes by
And take from a look of eyes into eyes,
A film of hope and a memoried day.

QUOTE: "Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before." ~ Jacob A. Riis

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Murder of One (Counting Crows)

"When I think of heaven (Deliver me in a black-winged bird)

I think of flying down into a sea of pens and feathers
and all other instruments of faith and sex and God
In the belly of a black-winged bird"

I've always been a music lover, but I vividly recall the 80's (what I refer to as "the lost decade"), in which very few songs spoke to me - I just couldn't seem to connect with Kiss, Journey, Styx, Boston, Toto, insert one-word-band-name here. I did enjoy New Wave (B-52's, A-ha, Thomas Dolby, Fine Young Cannibals, etc.) but it was more about the sounds than the words - figured I'd bide my time until things came back around to my way of listening...

I will never forget hearing the first strains of Mr. Jones on the radio in the early-90's, perking up and thinking, "thankyoujesus, it's about time" - I completely fell in love with Counting Crows' dark lyrics, moody sound and Adam Duritz's dangerous good looks and rushed right out to buy August and Everything After, still in my Top Ten albums of all time.

I recently made a Time mix CD and, motivated by the use of one of their tracks, have had the above-mentioned August on repeat play in my car for the last week - it cycles through, I contemplate ejecting, think better of it and listen for the re-start of Round Here, which surely qualifies as one of the best opening song lines ever (see Beginnings list to the right).

Heaven = Counting Crows
Below are my favorite lyrics from each song, in tracklist order:

"Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white" ~ Round Here

"Get right to the heart of matters, it's the heart that matters more" ~ Omaha

"I want to be Bob Dylan, Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky" ~ Mr. Jones

"I got bones beneath my skin, and mister... there's a skeleton in every man's house" ~ Perfect Blue Buildings

"And everytime she sneezes I believe it's love, and oh lord, I'm not ready for this sort of thing" ~ Anna Begins

"Maybe someday, I won't be so lonely and I'll walk on water every chance I get" ~ Time and Time Again

"I belong anywhere but in between" ~ Rain King

"Past the shadows that fall down wherever we meet" ~ Sullivan Street

"Remember everything." she said, "when only memory remains" ~ Ghost Train

"But what would you change if you could?" ~ Raining in Baltimore

"There's a bird that nests inside you sleeping underneath your skin, when you open up your wings to speak I wish you'd let me in" ~ A Murder of One

SONG: A Murder* of One by Counting Crows (scroll 2/3 of the way down for all lyrics to August and Everything After)

*murder is the collective noun for a group of crows

What words or harder gift
does the light require of me
carving from the dark
this difficult tree?
What place or farther peace
do I almost see
emerging from the night
and heart of me?

The sky whitens, goes on and on.
Fields wrinkle into rows
of cotton, go on and on.
Night like a fling of crows
disperses and is gone.

What song, what home,
what calm or one clarity
can I not quite come to,
never quite see:
this field, this sky, this tree.

QUOTE: "I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs." ~ Joseph Addison

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Let the Wind Carry Me (Joni Mitchell)

From yesterday's DailyOm:

Let Yourself Be Carried
The Flow of the Universe
April 9, 2008

The flow of the universe moves through everything. It is in the rocks that form, get pounded into dust, and are blown away. It is in the blossoming of a flower born from a seed planted in the spring. The growth cycle that every human being goes through is part of this natural flow, which is also the current that takes us down life’s paths. When we move with it rather than resisting it, we are riding on the universal wave that allows us to flow with life.

Many people live struggling against this current. They try to use force or resistance to will their lives into happening in the way they think it should. Others move with it like a sailor using the wind, trusting that the universe is taking them exactly where they need to be at all times. This flow is accessible to everyone because it travels through and around us. We are always riding it—it is just a matter of whether we are willing to go with it or we resist it. Choosing to go with the flow is often a matter of relinquishing the notion that we need to be in control at all times.

The flow is always transporting you where you need to go. It is merely a question of deciding whether you plan on accepting the ride or having it take you there with your feet dragging. Learning to step into it can help you feel a connection to a force that is greater than you and is always there to support you. The decision to go with the flow takes courage because you are surrendering the belief that you need to do everything by yourself. Riding the flow of the universe can be effortless, exhilarating, and unlike anything you ever expected. When you are receptive to being in it, you open yourself to possibilities that exist beyond the grasp of your control.

As a child, you were naturally swept by the flow. Tears of sadness falling down your face could just as quickly turn to tears of laughter. The mere tiniest wave carrying you forward off the shores of the ocean could transport you into peals of delight.

Our souls feel good when we go with the flow of the universe. All we have to do is make the choice to ride its currents.

A friend recently wrote to me in an e-mail: "Made me think of you, straight off . . . You really do sorta coordinate your universe beautifully. Glad life is clicking away as it should for you, with all the pieces falling effortlessly where they belong. Thanks for including me in that world, if even for a moment . . . it feels light."

Sweet - going with the flow is a beautiful thing, when we trust... :-)

POEM: Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII by Rainer Maria Rilke

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

QUOTE: "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." ~ John Muir

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's Bad Grammar, Baby (Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks)

Throughout our now-almost-ten-years of attending the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Stephen and Pat (my grammar/
punctuation-police buddies) and I would photo-document the various grammatical errors we encountered on signs during the trip surrounding our annual pilgrimage (including vendor signs at the festival itself), which I then incorporate in a calendar (which also includes pictures of friends and performers) I make and give to each for Christmas (keeping one for myself, of course!) - I am now officially in love with Jeff Deck, who takes it one step further (*not* farther... :-)

Photo credit: Stephen Moshkovitz, July 2005 (note the misplaced apostrophe)

Man Drives Cross-Country, Correcting Typos

Jeff Deck is on a mission. Loaded up with a supply of pens, pencils, crayons, erasers, and White-Out, the 28-year-old Dartmouth grad is driving cross-country through America, keeping his eyes peeled for places where he might need to make an emergency stop to offer his assistance. Within minutes of stopping, he's back on the road, headed for another destination in desperate need of help.

So how, you might ask, can Deck help the world using the tools of the classroom? Simple: He corrects its grammar.

As most of us know, it's impossible to leave your house without spotting an array of atrocities against the written word: Unnecessary quotation marks (see this hilarious blog for some glaring examples), misspelled words, and don't even get him started on the travesty of the misplaced apostrophe: "The apostrophe shows up when it's not wanted and is never there when you need it," Deck lamented to ABC News.

So, over the last year, Deck has been driving through long stretches of the country on the look-out for grammatical errors to correct. In New York, he finds a "chicken parmasan" on a menu; in California, he spots "carmel corn" for sale. Each spelling and grammatical correction is carefully documented in Deck's blog, Typo Hunt Across America.

Deck isn't being nit-picky for no reason – he's trying to keep American society from sliding into illiteracy. He doesn't want to watch children grow up thinking "strawberries" is spelled "strawberry's," just because they saw it spelled that way on a sign.

And though Deck may seem a little on the gruff side when it comes to grammar, he's not as judgmental as you might think. "We try not to be jerks about it," he said. "We want to help them out. It's not about making anybody feel bad or making somebody look stupid or something. It's just really about going after the errors themselves."

Sound's like a reel grate gye 2 us. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

P.S. I can't seem to find the lyrics to today's song so I've included a link to their website - I heard Jukies Ball on the Georgia Tech station (very under the radar) when I was in high school and fell in love with their eclectic sound and lyrics. The album Striking It Rich continues to be a favorite - gotta love their harmonies and that sweet violin...

SONG: It's Bad Grammar, Baby by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks

The Grammar Bible: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Grammar but Didn't Know Whom to Ask by Michael Strumpf, Auriel Douglas

POEM: Rules and Regulations by Lewis Carroll

A short direction

To avoid dejection,
By variations
In occupations,
And prolongation
Of relaxation,
And combinations
Of recreations,
And disputation
On the state of the nation
In adaptation
To your station,
By invitations
To friends and relations,
By evitation
Of amputation,
By permutation
In conversation,
And deep reflection
You'll avoid dejection.

Learn well your grammar,
And never stammer,
Write well and neatly,
And sing most sweetly,
Be enterprising,
Love early rising,
Go walk of six miles,
Have ready quick smiles,
With lightsome laughter,
Soft flowing after.
Drink tea, not coffee;
Never eat toffy.
Eat bread with butter.
Once more, don't stutter.

Don't waste your money,
Abstain from honey.
Shut doors behind you,
(Don't slam them, mind you.)
Drink beer, not porter.
Don't enter the water
Till to swim you are able.
Sit close to the table.
Take care of a candle.
Shut a door by the handle,
Don't push with your shoulder
Until you are older.
Lose not a button.
Refuse cold mutton.
Starve your canaries.
Believe in fairies.
If you are able,
Don't have a stable
With any mangers.
Be rude to strangers.

Moral: Behave.

QUOTE: "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put." ~ attributed to Winston Churchill, rejecting the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition