Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour

Yesterday was Earth Hour Day across the globe. It started in Sydney, Australia, and coincides with National Dark Sky Week in the U.S. It only requires turning off electric lights and other nonessential appliances from 8 to 9 p.m. on March 29.

We turned off everything except the coffeemaker (essential appliance) and ate dinner by candlelight. It was strange and refreshing not to have any light or noise, to hear the city pulsating in the background and navigate the dark rooms with candles, as in an emergency or blackout.

By candlelight I read Moon Lore, a handsomely designed hardcover book that is part of The Moon Box, published by Chronicle Books. Moon Lore is one of four volumes; the other three are The Were-Wolf, The Moon Goddess and Somnium. Edited by John Miller and Tim Smith, the books are richly illustrated with small blue images from sources ranging from Assyrian times to old French texts and Sicilian coins. The Moon Lore volume includes folktales from South Africa and Tibet, as well as poems by Denise Levertov, Erica Jong and William Blake, fiction by Italo Calvino, and "Moon Gardening of the Pennsylvania Dutch" among other lunology. I got this for a steal at $4 at Strange Maine. (By the way, there's a great unrelated blog of the same name written by a remarkable local artist and lorist.)

I love the anonymous moon haiku included in the book:

The moon's in mid-heaven;
I wander
Through poor streets.

The summer moon shines
On transient dreams
In the octopus pot.

The next morning I had vivid dreams. In one of them I was rowing a small boat, using a spatula for an oar, which actually worked. Later I listened to "Star-Child" and "Mundus Canis" from George Crumb's Birthday Album ad Amnesiac by Radiohead. I drew the picture you see here and wrote the following poem:

Moon Lore

bitter bright unyielding
heart tome

silver spell trove
frozen sleigh bells

fine white ropes
from root to vein

old fear bones
and marigold scars

ocean dusk wine brine
sea horse skies

magic lantern
of demigods

Sunday, March 02, 2008

March Haiku

city dressed in sparkling
white jewelry disappearing
in spring rain

[Photo and haiku March 1, 2008]

Seen, Heard, Read

Stay Close by Death Vessel (CD)
Amazing folk-rock songs with fanciful lyrics written and sung by a striking male tenor (Joel Thimbadeau) with help from his Philadelphia friends.

Ivan's Childhood by Andrei Tarkovsky (DVD)
Tarkovsky's first film. Disturbing, touching, reverberating tale of a child soldier

The Quiet Child by Peter Hoeg (Novel)
Difficult tumbling tale by the Dutch master about gifted children with extra-sensory powers and the circus clown hired to track them down. A tough read, but worth it for sentences like this: "He lost consciousness again, slowly, like a young girl strolling downtown." And "A person must be careful when answering the telephone -- someday it could be one of the great clowns calling."

Ooga Booga by Frederic Seidel (Poetry)
One of the most amazing books of poetry I've read in the last few years, by a true virtuoso.

The Hill Bachelors by William Trevor (Stories)
Haunting stories with rich characters delicately described by the Irish master.

Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources by Claude Berri (DVD)
Tragic tale of fate, cruelty and love set in French Provence in the 1920s. The cinematography is lucid and riveting and the performances, especially by Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil, are supurb.

Burning Chrome by William Gibson (Stories)
I hate science fiction except for books by William Gibson, which I love for the imagery, style and visual descriptiveness. Since I've been doing a lot of database work, I especially liked reading "Johnny Mneumonic." Though his characters can be a bit stiff, there is a theatricality to his writing that is quite remarkable.

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (DVD)
This documentary of Pete Seeger is absorbing and inspiring. Folk music as agent for social change and community -- what an idea!

Nature, Poems Old and New by May Swenson (Poetry)


Walked in the swamp His cheek vermilion
A dazzling prince
Neck-band white Cape he trailed
Metallic mottled
Over rain-rotted leaves Wet mud reflected
Waded olive water
His opulent gear Pillars of the reeds
Parted the strawgold
Brilliance Made him disappear

Folk Songs by Trio Mediaeval (CD)
Traditional songs from Norway arranged for voices and percussion. Celestial.

Saint Morrissey (A Portrait of This Charming Man by An Alarming Fan) by Mark Simpson (non-fiction)
I found this one at the library sale shelf for $3 and it's somewhat entertaining. At times repetitive and irritating, this is not so much a biography of Morrissey as a psychoanalysis of his music, which, as the author notes at the start, pretty much speaks for itself. Nonetheless it's chock full of quirky details about the quirky pop star. Simpson even coins a neologism: "melanalgia" to describe Morrissey's trademark: melancholia mixed with nostalgia.


After hearing about Pandora (music from the Radio Genome Project) I finally tried it on day and was instantly hooked. Best of all it's FREE!

The way it works, is you can easily and quickly custom design your own radio station to play all your favorite songs, and songs that you will most likely love. I quickly designed my own radio station to play a rotating mix of Pentangle, Dead Can Dance, Depeche Mode, Philip Glass, Elvis Costello, The Smiths, Bjork, Sigur Ros, The Cure, Toots & The Maytals, Star Sailor and others. It also analyzes your choices to play a wide range of "similar" musical styles. This is hit or miss, but you can easily tell it you like the selection or ban it from your radio station with a click of the mouse. I've even trained it to play a narrow and particular type of "bad" genre '80s radio music. I've also been introduced to some new artists I like such as Wizz Jones.

In the words of "It's the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Together our team of fifty musician-analysts has been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details on every song. It takes 20-30 minutes per song to capture all of the little details that give each recording its magical sound - melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics ... and more - close to 400 attributes! We continue this work every day to keep up with the incredible flow of great new music coming from studios, stadiums and garages around the country.

With Pandora you can explore this vast trove of music to your heart's content. Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings - new and old, well known and completely obscure - to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. Then sit back and enjoy as it creates a listening experience full of current and soon-to-be favorite songs for you.

You can create as many "stations" as you want. And you can even refine them. If it's not quite right you can tell it so and it will get better for you.

The Music Genome Project was founded by musicians and music-lovers. We believe in the value of music and have a profound respect for those who create it. We like all kinds of music, from the most obtuse bebop, to the most tripped-out drum n bass, to the simplest catchy pop tune. Our mission is to help you connect with the music YOU like."