Monday, October 11, 2010

Remember Me?

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias
Quoheleth, Wisdom
Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
Gabriel Faure, Requiem
Richard Souther, CrossCurrents
Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dulcinea

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer Fling

I haven't hidden it at all. It's probably nothing serious, but it's fun while it's lasting. Upon the first indicator in May, my wife looked at me, raised her eyebrow, and simply said, "Really?" Remembering an outdoor cafe near a cobbled town square, my only response was a smile, a sigh, an apologetic look, and a shrug of the shoulder.

You see, after 37 years, she knows me well. I'm a red wine kind of guy. I prefer Shiraz in general, but am also partial to Napa Valley Cabernets, New York reds, 2005 Merlots (not a lot of those left), and Argentian Reds. I really like Australian Shiraz, Italian Muscatino and an occasional rustic Tuscan Chianti. And I do recall a marvelous estate Compangolo that was so complex it kept my taste buds confused for a few days.

But when she gave me that look, I had just asked for a glass of Pinot Grigio with my salad and sandwich lunch. For three months now, I've had a fling with Pinot Grigio. It's just a summer time thing.

The seeds of this little affair were planted 3 years ago during an educational tour to Italy. We were wandering Florence for a day, migrating between the Duomo and Piazza della Signoria. Our group stopped in a little plazaside cafe for lunch. One of our colleagues ordered a Pinot with his pizza, and it sounded so good that nearly the whole rest of our group joined him. The sun glancing off the awnings in the piazza, the heat radiating up from the cobblestone walk, the constant bubble of water at the Fountain of Neptune, the red tile roofs, Italian men wearing classy Italian shoes walking lovely Italian women wearing flowery Italian summer sundresses, the David, Perseus holding Medusa's head in victory in a pavilion across the square . . . it was all so very intoxicating. We needed a glass of Pinot to stabilize our heady afternoon.

But that began an association which would grow into a summer affair. Pinot and fresh fruit. Pinot and sweetbread. Pinot and cheese. Pinot and good conversation. All mingled with afternoon warmth and jazz and the wafting fragrance of White Alyssum. Pinot and sweet memories.

Some of you reading this, will remember that afternoon. Just know this. I miss you today as I recall with deep fondness those few days traversing the cradle of Western civilization with you. I raise my glass of Pinot to you in love.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Homer, Odyssey
Stephen C. Meyers, Signature in the Cell
Goldmark, Violin Concerto
David Benoit, Heroes
Anna Vandas, All I Thought I Knew
Paramore, Brand New Eyes

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rummaging and Ruminating

This warmer weather has my imagination on fire. I only own 6600 square feet of property, but I have envisioned all of it as garden. Last year the project was a pergola and trellis to enhance the little corner which is my token of Eden. Already I've moved some climbing roses, Clematis, a little Parthenocissus (which will look awesome this fall when it turns brilliant crimson against the wedgewood blue pergola) and planted a few Zinnia, Cypress vine and Morning Glory (little more than a glorified weed, but I love them.)

This year, my projects start with a Potting Bench (which I have desired for about 5 years) assembled from various and sundry scraps sitting around the garage. My container deckside gardening will be enhanced by the addition, not to mention the preservation of my aging back. This is largely an evening and weekend project accomplished in little pieces the way that a really good pilot builds an airplane . . . on the fly. I'm designing the thing as I go, drawing my ideas from 4 or 5 plans viewed on the internet; which will make for a fascinating finished product. All I know so far is that it will hold plant containers and potting soil, and be stained wedgewood blue to match the garden structures.

After this, I have in mind to build a couple Adirondack chairs for the deck. We had and enjoyed some for a few years, but they were made of pine and proved to be a banquet for some of the indigenous fungal and insect life. These newer versions will be made of Poplar, saturated in poison-laced primer of some kind, then finished in six layers of white lacquer enamel that will take the most determined pest a decade to drill through. Built to last? Yeah, its that important.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Saul of Tarsus, Letters to the Corinthians
Westminster Divines, Confession of Faith
Norton Juster, Phantom Tollbooth
Conni Ellisor, Conversations in Silence
Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
Gordon Lightfoot, Sundown

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Trumpet, Cyclamineus, Triandrus, Split Corona

Visited the Botanical Gardens for while this afternoon, simply to spend time with my much better half and to get away from the house which contains more work than there are years remaining in my life. I frankly didn't expect to see much more than budding trees and greening grass since it's still so early in April. I was pleasantly surprised (and chagrined at my presumption) at finding color everywhere.

We were greeted by pink and white blossoms, as well as a heavily perfumed atmosphere in the Camellia House. This set the stage for the rest of our visit. As we left the Camellia House, we saw Tulip and Daffodil gardens with such variety and diversity to disabuse us of thinking in too small a way about the spring. Of particular interest were the small urban gardens with their creative use of space. I never cease to amaze over the ways which a small space can be crafted to be refreshing through the reminder of the First Garden.

Back to the Daffodils; such a simple flower, yet the variations speak of great diversity and, dare I say, Imagination. It got me to thinking how boring the world would be without the wide variations that are manifest in every kind of plant and person and thing. A million different flavors and smells and sights and textures and ideas should keep us from thinking the world a mundane place. I cannot help but agree with Samuel Johnson who declared that boredom is arrogance.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Louise Cowan, Necessity of the Classics
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
Goldmark, Concerti for Violin
Puccini, Turandot
Chip Davis, Sunday Morning Coffee

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Latent Luddite

It is in the unwitting technological commitments that we shape our world.

When America committed to the automobile as its primary mode of transportation, it made an individualistic decision that traps individuals in situations they hadn't expected and it creates environments that no one wants. Have you ever looked at Rte 141? There are sections that no pedestrian would dare to step out onto. I saw a man the other day trotting across Rte 141 keeping a constant eye on approaching traffic just to make certain he wouldn't get caught off guard by an oncoming car. The tragedy is that there are no sidewalks on either side of the road where he was. It's as though whoever designed this thing had no notion that someone on foot might actually need to cross the road. It's design has in view only cars and traffic, not people. This is a technological commitment that is inhumane.

All this to give you a context for my observations a few days ago that shout of technological commitment we have yet to think about.

The ordinary evening routine for my granddaughters is bath, read a book, sing a song, sleep. After her bath, I went into the 2 year old granddaughter's room to read a book to her and was suprised at the sight. She was sitting on a chair playing a coloring game on her mom's iPhone. She held the thing in her hand as naturally as could be, immersed in intense concentration, sliding her little finger across the screen to create a color pattern, tapping to reset the game, and doing it again. It was second nature to her.

On the one hand you have to hand it to Apple. The iPhone is so intuitive and entertaining that a 2 year old can operate it. It's also brilliant from a marketing standpoint. If the iPhone is so easy to use, why wouldn't anyone want one? In fact, why would anyone want anything else? The assumption will be that "this is the brand I use." Brilliant . . . Apple locks in the market at 2 years old. But there is another angle to this. As brilliant as what this is, it makes me wonder what expectations she will have in 8 short years when her friends all have the latest generation iPhone and unlimited Internet access to watch on demand movies, listen to on demand music, and read on demand teen webpages, which she of course will not have any income to pay for. And there are already ethical issues in schools and other settings with the prevalence of personal electronic devices.

But watching this little girl with an iPhone, I have to ask. . . what unintended consequences have we committed to? Which will be the servant of the other?

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Neil Postman, Technopoly
Chris Dawson, Dynamics of World History
John Tesh, Avalon Shores
Michael Buble, Michael Buble
Nightnoise, A Retrospective

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Snowing

Oh man. I hope this is one of those brief snow showers they were talking about last night. Because if it's not, my name is going to be mud for a long time...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Quivering Jello and Joy

I'm strangely invigorated. I suppose what's strange is that the day has been filled with activity and being surrounded by teens who are operating full throttle, and it's basically overstimulation for an introvert. This is our Drama week and the whole school is involved in the production of Hamlet. It demands all my energy and attention, but the end result is typically enjoyable. Not only do we produce and perform a great play, but there is a coalescing of gifts and service that result in mutual appreciation, deeper respect and reliance, and lasting friendships. I love it even though at the moment my body has been "distilled into quivering jello." (I think that's a paraphrase from the play.)

But the point to be amplified is that however exhausted a week like this leaves me, I always walk away awed at the abilities people have and show when you give them half a chance. By way of a couple examples; a 9th grade student is leading and supervising a props committee of 8 that creates stage items such as jewel caskets, swords and thrones. A 7th grader is (with guidance) taking on Production management with budget considerations and activity coordination. An 11th grader is leading Lights and Sound, handling some fairly expensive and sophisticated electronics equipment, and directing others as they set specific stage lighting. How can one not be charged up when working with such capable young people?

You know what I especially like about all this? These are the next leaders who will step onto the stage of life to make their mark. And I get to say that I know them.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Samuel of Ephraim, Oracles
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
Nathan Clark George, Words For Everyday
Michael Hedges, Aerial Boundaries
Mozart, Symphony No. 26