Projecting Forward

I grew up in the country, in a little house on a cattle ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, surrounded by pastures and hills that are dotted with Live Oak trees. In the background, the Refugio mountains rise, creating a truly beautiful landscape. It was a wonderful place to spend one's childhood because there was always something to do, someplace to explore. I followed cattle trails, played in the creek, slid down the hills on cardboard and spent long, leisurely afternoons lying in the tall grass, making pictures in the clouds.

During the summer before my senior year of high school, my family moved to the typical suburban bedroom community of Camarillo an hour northwest of Los Angeles, and that's basically where I stayed for the next three decades. The idea of living in L.A. was too daunting, so I never strayed very far from Ventura, a small beach city where the countryside is a few minutes away by car. Meanwhile, I dreamed of returning to a more rural area (either Ojai, California or some small town in Colorado), where I'd have a Victorian house with a wrap-around porch and a couple of acres.

Now that I've lived in Stillwater for seven years, I realize that small town life -- or even country life -- is not for me. Where I once saw myself sitting in a porch swing playing my guitar in the summer dusk, I now see myself on a balcony overlooking a city street, my favorite cafe just a short walk away. I love the idea of going to the street market for our produce and walking our dog in the park.

When I project myself into the future and see myself as an elderly person, it is the city that gives me comfort, not the isolation of the country. Through my life journey, I've learned that I am a social creature and need the stimulus of meeting new people and learning new things. When I envision grandchildren and visiting family, it is a city apartment that I see, and when I think about my death and burial, it is the city that I am drawn to.

I never want to stop learning and growing and although I tip my hat to the kind of personal evolution that can be attained through communing with nature, I believe that I've already completed that phase. Now, I want to walk city streets, explore museums and hold musical soirees in my home, growing older while surrounded by stimulating and interesting people.


Oh, the Humanity!

In the past couple of days I've seen some terrible things happen that make me really wonder about the human race—if we deserve to live.

I've seen an insurance man and a married woman scam an entire family—murdering her husband—out of a $5 million life insurance plan. I've seen rednecks who live for hunting while drunk, beat and rape their wives and then torch the local battered women's shelter and try to kill the administrator. I've seen meteors nearly destroy a small Colorado town, a cholera epidemic threaten the entire country and a huge hole in the ozone render L.A. to nothing more than a giant microwave oven, killing birds, whales, and beer-saturated college students...


Saturday Story Time: Louise & Ruthie

Since this is the Saturday before Halloween, I thought I'd tell you a couple of personal ghost stories.

My father was a great believer in ghosts and the paranormal and he told me of a number of ghostly experiences he had as a boy and young man. By the time I was in high school I believed too, simply because Dad was not a man given to flights of fancy. He was solid as a rock, practical and a sound pragmatist.

My first encounter with a ghost came when I was staying with Uncle Dougie in Brighton, England, but that's much too long a story to tell here and I had only one encounter, so I'll move on to my life with Louise.

In 1979 my friend/manager and I and our two kids rented a house together in Camarillo. It was a one-of-a-kind place, built in the late 50s or early 60s and situated on the corner of East Loop Drive and Las Posas Road at the edge of an avocado orchard. (It has since been torn down and replaced with a Habitat For Humanity house.)

There was no discernible activity until about 1983, although the kids sometimes talked about "the lady who checks in on us at night." I felt a presence sometimes late at night when I was settling in to sleep, but I didn't give it much thought. It wasn't until things really began to happen that I acknowledged the presence of this lady, whom we lovingly dubbed "Louise". We only felt her at night as we were falling asleep, but once or twice I was wakened to see a woman standing at the foot of my bed. She was in her 40s, tall, and she wore an old-fashioned apron. The first time I saw her I thought it was my mother but then quickly realized she wasn't. Then she disappeared.

When I finally addressed her, telling her that she was welcome and that we appreciated her keeping an eye on us, things really began to happen. Once, when I was asleep and not feeling well, I felt someone lean over me to feel my forehead. What was distinctly clear about this was the feeling of the bed sinking beside me as if someone had used their knee on the mattress to reach over to me. Once, I felt someone get into bed with me and I woke up, freaked out until I saw that no one was really there.

When we moved out of the house, I had to go to the Edison office 15 miles away in Oxnard to cancel my electricity account and get my deposit returned to me. The clerk who helped me took one look at my closing bill and said, "7 East Loop! That's the house my grandfather built for my grandmother!" I was astonished. What are the chances? I asked her about her grandmother; what was she like? The girl told me she was kind of old-fashioned, very maternal and dedicated to her children and grandchildren. She asked me if I noticed that the kitchen and bathroom counters were kind of high and I said I did. She told me it's because her grandmother was tall and had asked that the counters accommodate her height. I asked her what her grandmother's name was and she replied, "Louise." I didn't tell her that her grandmother was still doing what she loved best.

The story of Ruthie is a bit more complicated, but is more along the lines of a "real" ghost story.

In 1997 my then girlfriend and I moved into a 1914 Mediterranean apartment building at 847 Poli Street, in historic downtown Ventura, California. I can't tell you how many times throughout the years I'd passed this building -- both in a car and on foot -- and had never even noticed it. On a May afternoon, however, I saw it as we drove past and I excitedly told my girlfriend to pull over. I had to look at it! Before the car even stopped, I was out the door and on the sidewalk, looking up at the right-hand penthouse apartment. We weren't really looking for a new place to live, but I had to live there. I just felt it. While she waited in the car, I went up the broad steps, into the courtyard, and up the interior stairs leading to apartment #1. A sign on the door said that it was for rent. As soon as we got home I called the property management company and told them that I wanted that apartment.

When I met the caretaker inside the apartment the following day, she showed me around the place and I knew it had my name on it. It was almost as if it wanted me. Standing in the kitchen, preparing to sign the rental agreement, the caretaker and I talked and she suddenly said, "Did you know that the building is haunted?" I replied that I didn't, but that that fact made it all the more attractive to me. She went on to tell me that the entire riviera was haunted because it used to be the sacred burial grounds of the Hopis before Fr. Junipero Serra built Mission San Buenaventura in 1782 and the ensuing urban sprawl began. She said that sometimes Indians walked through the rooms, but that they seemed to be oblivious to the building and the tenants.

"There's another ghost that's kind of a protector of the building," she added. I asked her to tell me more, but she said that was all she knew, except that the ghost seemed to be active only when someone moved in or out. She left then, asking me to put the keys in the mailbox when I left. As I walked through the apartment I at first didn't feel anything, but then I walked down the hall to the bedroom and I felt a cold spot. In the bedroom, I sat on the floor and meditated on the presence, telling it out loud that I respected its attachment to the building and that I was more than happy to share the space with her. Her? I felt that it was female.

Virtually every person who came to see our new place would, after coming out of the hall where the bathroom was located, say that they felt something. We purposely hadn't mentioned it to them beforehand.

Funny things began happening. One morning when I got up to get ready for work I found a perfect "kiss" print on the bathroom mirror. It was greyish-white and when I tried to wipe it off I couldn't. It was dried on, chalky, kind of like spackle. On another occasion, as I sat working at my computer, my girlfriend came into the office/guest room to talk to me. I turned in the desk chair to face her and as we talked I kept feeling something tickling my the top of my head. I thought it was the plant hanging above my desk, but when I turned to look at it I saw that it was hanging far too high and back in the corner to reach me. To touch it I would have had to stand up and lean over the desk. Sometimes I felt someone pass behind me, placing their hand lightly on my waist and, thinking it was my girlfriend, I'd turn to find no one else in the room. I began calling her "Ruthie" and she seemed to like me. She followed me through the apartment (when she was in an active phase) and all but ignored my girlfriend, although she felt her and was afraid of her. I don't think Ruthie liked my girlfriend.

I talked to Ruthie aloud as normally as I would anyone "living" and when we moved a studio grand piano into the apartment, we sometimes heard it playing in the middle of the night. One day I saw her standing in the little front window when I was outside watering the plants. She was a girl in her 20s, with a dark bob. An authentic Flapper from the 1920s. I blinked, and when I looked again, she was gone.

One day the girl who moved in below us came up and asked us if we could keep the baby quiet at night. "What baby?" we said. "We don't have a baby." She asked if anyone else in the building had one and we said no. I never heard a baby while living there, but I began to wonder if that wasn't the key to Ruthie's presence. Maybe she had an illegitimate baby and they both died during birth. Or maybe she'd had a visit from an abortionist... The possibilities intrigued me so I called Ventura's local ghost hunter, Richard Senate, and we spoke on the phone. He said he would come by, but he never did. All the same, my story was printed in the local paper.

We had a party one night and the next day I washed and towel-dried all of the stemware, placing it upside-down in the dining room's built-in hutch. The next evening when I came home from work I decided to have a glass of wine. When I opened the hutch I found one glass right-side up, with the dregs of some red wine in the bottom of the glass. There were also grey lipstick marks on the glass. Not only was I positive that I had washed each and every glass the day before, no one had been home all day and we didn't even have in red wine in the house. I just told Ruthie that if she was going to be drinking wine during the day, she had to to share.

The night before I moved out I felt that Ruthie was sad, and I told her how much I'd enjoyed knowing her and sharing her space.

Happy Halloween!


The Devil's in the the Details

Remember back in the Seventies when the "Subliminal Seduction" books hit the bookstores and corrupted our minds with its Rorschach-like scrutiny? It was fun looking for penises airbrushed onto models' faces, wasn't it. It got to the point where I had to put the books down because I got the feeling I was being subliminally subjected to the author's sexual neurosis and sub-conscious matrixing (seeing faces where none exist, like the devil's face in the smoke plumes that rose from the World Trade Center). I felt dirty somehow. I mean, does the Playboy rabbit's ears really send out a secret castration message? And wouldn't that be a tad self-defeating? While I feel there is probably no small amount of hidden messages in the ads we see, I question the purpose and effectiveness of airbrushing a guillotine on an ice cube in an Absolut ad...


Cream of Thursday Soup - Some Stuff

1. Geez, I slept in. I've been getting up around 8:00 the past few weeks, but today I slept until nearly ten. Blame it on the Tylenol PM I took last night. It's that weird time of year when I can keep the bedroom windows open until nearly midnight, but two hours later the heat comes on.

2. Lynette and I watched a couple of shows on TLC last night. The first one was about a government-subsidized (i.e. our tax dollars pay for it) obesity clinic where the rules allow the patients to order take-out and actually gain weight, and can order special order wheelchairs that cost up to $8000. The second was about a young woman with liver cancer who had to sell her home in order to pay for her treatment. A hard rain's a-gonna fall...

3. There's one strip of road on the way to the new Wal*Mart that freaks me out at night. I always turn my lights on bright when passing through it and I can't really figure out why it's so creepy. It just feels haunted or something. It's just past a four-way stop where a cross has been placed to commemorate someone's death in a car accident. I never feel anything there during the day. Why is it that ghosts only do their work at night? What do they do during the day time?

4. I want a Houdini cork screw.

5. I still don't know what I'm going do for a costume for Ville's party on Saturday night. I've been wracking my brain for two weeks and... nada. I went as Andy Warhol last year. Any ideas? It has to be easy and cheap. We don't have the extra money to put out on things like costumes.

6. I sure am enjoying using my laptop again! All it needs now is a larger battery. My current one only lasts two hours.

7. I need another cup of Joe. Talk amongst yourselves...

8. Is it true that in new model homes the furniture is actually scaled down in order to make the rooms look larger?


No More

I can't watch the news anymore. The ongoing catastrophe in California is breaking my heart. The homes lost, the evacuations, the exhaustion of the firefighters, the wildlife and livestock... all of it is too much for me.

No more news. No more winds. No more loss.


For JP Deni

The quality is bad, but you'll know what I'm saying.

Well, Hail!

We got hit with three (count 'em) three hail storms last night. Fortunately, the hail wasn't large enough to cause damage to our cars, but the thunder set off car alarms twice all over the neighborhood. It was cool.

This morning, the heat came on for the first time this season. Methinks autumn is really here.


Addio Castle Kashan

As I write this, a famous Malibu landmark, Castle Kashan, is burning to the ground. My fellow SoCal natives will remember the castle that sat on the crest of a hill above Pepperdine University overlooking the Pacific as a kind of fairytale vision seen from the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway)...


In About 2 Hours Everyone's Going to Hate Me

In my kitchen, on the counter, is a crock pot of Viennese Goulash. I predict that in about two hours the aroma will just be starting to waft throughout the house, rendering me popular and detested simultaneously.



Hello, I Must Be Going

No time to write today. Ive been infected with the songwriting bug and have already turned out two songs in the past hour.

Back to it!


We Have Mamatus!

Which means that we are in a tornado watch. Ssh. If we're quiet we won't wake them up...


The Brazilian Worm

If you receive an email with "Muito Bacana Incrivel" as the subject line, delete it. Do not open it, even if it appears to be from a friend. It is the W32.Imcontactspam worm. I received 3 of these in my Gmail box yesterday from someone in the Netherlands and it in turn sent out emails to everyone in my address book. If you tried to open the file that is attached to it, it probably has sent the same email to everyone in your address book by now. I found some INFORMATION about it this morning. I hate these Cyberly Transmitted Diseases.

If any of you have received an email bearing my email address, I apologize. Just run a simple adware scan and delete it. I doubt you got infected, however, because you have to actually try to open the file to do so.

Unfortunately, these things seem to make the rounds every once in a while.

Tuesdays With Mozart: "Little Lover"

Photo by Micah Atwell


That Fine Line Between Reality & Fantasy

Can this be real?
Or this?
Or even this?

Sweet dreams!

Who Dun It?

I love storms with lightening that makes the night look like day time and thunder that shakes the house, but last night's storm really threw a kink into my Sunday night date with Inspector Lynley.

Every Sunday night I glue myself to the telly to watch Mystery! or Masterpiece Theatre (depending on which one is enjoying a run) on PBS...


Schools That Don't Teach

Last night we went to the Stillwater High School production of The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood, a campy and cute farcical play in which our Heather preformed. The production, despite bad direction, was a lot of fun and the kids worked their asses off. Most notable was Hannah Rourke, who was delightful as the Townsperson, a kind of mediator between the cast, the audience, and the Technical Director, an unseen godlike presence who creates flashbacks and segues to not only move the story along, but to save Robin Hood and his troupe in the end...


The House I Never Lived In

The three-story terrace house at 9 Hillsleigh Road in the Notting Hill borough of London, is a house I never lived in. Despite this one tiny, insignificant fact, I have some great memories of the years I called it home...


Favorite Things: The Art of William Hogarth

No other painter captured life in the 18th century more honestly or sardonically than William Hogarth. One of my favorite paintings of his is the second of his Marriage à-la-mode duet, The Tête à Tête (1743).
Click to enlarge

This painting tells a story that might seem humorous at first glance, but if we dig deeper we discover Hogarth's feelings about marriage in the 18th century.

The Viscount and his new wife have spent the evening apart and it is clear that the new marriage is heading for disaster.

  • The clock on the right shows the time as 1:20. Art historians are undecided whether this is late at night or the afternoon, but in either case, the implications are equally damning: If it is 1:20 in the morning, the house has clearly been the scene of a wild party: the is knocked over chair, the cards scattered around, etc. If it is 1:20 in the afternoon, whatever occurred the night before hasn't yet been cleaned up. The servants are just waking up, the candles were left burning all night and into the day, including the one that is about to set the chair next to the manservant on fire), and the couple has only recently met the day.
  • The husband looks bored, disheveled and distracted, and has returned exhausted from a night on the town – possibly including a trip to a brothel. The dog has sniffed out what appears to be a lady’s cap in his master’s jacket pocket.

  • The black patch on the husband's neck (which can also be seen in the previous painting) is Hogarth's indication of syphilis.

  • The husband's sword lies broken at his feet signifying it has been used in a duek of some sort.

  • The wife has spent the evening at home playing cards. At her feet is a book entitled, Hoyle on Whist and there is an abandoned pack of cards strewn on the floor to her left.

  • In contrast to her husband, the wife looks content and pleased with herself as she takes a satisfied stretch. She sits in an un-ladylike pose with her legs wide apart and has a large wet spot on the front of her skirt. She is slyly looking to the right through half closed eyes and holding a pocket-mirror above her head as if she is signalling to someone -- perhaps her lover -- out of the picture.

  • The man on the left is dressed in the style of a pious Methodist and has a prayer book in his coat pocket. Behind his ear is a quill pen. His posture clearly shows his opinion of the household and what its eventual fortunes will be. His ledger, together with a clutch of unpaid bills in his hand, contrasted with a lone a receipt on the spike, shows that the Viscount and his are also spendthrifts.

  • The interior is in the neo-Palladian style which Hogarth despised and thought degenerate, and often made the butt of his satire.

  • Everything about the scene and fireplace especially alludes to the deteriorating state of the marriage. The fireplace -- the heart of the home -- is alsoin the neo-Palladian style. On the mantelpiece are a mismatched jumble of Indian figurines, glass jars, statuettes and other ornaments. The Roman bust has a broken nose, signifying impotence.

  • The painting above the fireplace is of Cupid amongst ruins, playing the bag-pipes and with no string to his bow: all alluding to the discordant and defective state of the marriage.

  • The clock to the right of the fireplace is a grotesque and ridiculous pastiche of Chinoiserie and Rococo, with a Buddha holding two candlesticks, a pair of incongruous looking fish and a meowing cat, items that are deliberately out of style with the rest of the architecture.

  • The wall in the far room is hung with three religious paintings -- portraits of the apostles -- and a fourth painting so obscene it has to be kept covered with a green curtain, although a naked foot is revealed.

  • The overturned piece of furniture (this time a chair) seen in the foreground is a device often used by Hogarth to indicate disagreement and discordance.

  • The two violins and the music score, in context of the overturned chair, may further represent this disagreement inasmuch as that which once harmonized and "made beautiful music together" has now fallen, still in their cases. That too could be analyzed to certain conclusions.
This painting is one of the reason why I cannot view marriage in the 18th century through the eyes of a 21st person, especially concerning Mozart, regardless of what my born-again, right-wing detractors say. We cannot judge another century's morals and customs by looking at them through those of the present.


Just Because I Wish He Was Here Today

Various pictures of my dad (the drummer) and his Dixieland band, The Aritocrats of Dixie. I took these at three different venues in the early 1980s, the Queen Mary in Long Beach, the Santa Barbara Elks Club and at the Sacramento Jazz Festival, where they annually presided as the elected representative band for southern California.


Straight Up

Australian doctors used an intravenous feed of vodka to keep an Italian tourist alive after he consumed large quantities of a poisonous substance. The 24-year-old man, in an apparent bid at self-harm, had swallowed ethylene glycol, found in antifreeze, which can cause death. Doctors administered pure alcohol, the conventional antidote, but exhausted the hospital's supply...

All Things Must Pass

Today marks the end of Anthony Bourdain's Top Chef blog. I've really enjoyed reading his commentaries after each show -- more than the show itself, if I may say so.

Bourdain writes like he speaks and his humor comes through loud and clear; now I must order his books. Here are a few gems:

  • "The ability to make a brilliant, creatively-dazzling and delicious plate of food is near worthless if you can’t do it again and again--exactly the same way--at high speed, under the gun, hung over, after a night of fierce Negroni drinking...while listening to Mexican thrash metal."

  • "You GOT to love this guy. He repeatedly has time issues. He’s clearly no bundle of fun. He’s as serious as a bad chest X-ray. He looks like a fireplug." (describing Howie)

  • "Speaking of oblivious: If, in spite of your superb technical skills, excellent training and fine, creative mind, you are consistently ending up on the bottom of the dog pile -- and you are presented with an easy lay-up of a Quickfire Challenge, why, why, WHY would you choose to step forward and proudly push your head -- once again -- into the meat grinder?"

  • "Lab rats and domestic pets, after sticking an appendage into a light socket, usually refrain from doing so again. Yet Hung, week after week, after taking a full dose of house current, jams his nether regions directly into the fuse box. How hard was it to win this challenge?"

  • "After missing the point of the Burger Challenge with what was essentially a steak sandwich tarted up with lobster, he completely fell down with his Elimination choice of Wild Mushroom and Gorgonzola Crusted Filet with Chernobyl Potatoes.

  • "Does anything penetrate Howie's shining, ballistic missile of a head? That his bullet-resistant exo-skeleton can deflect the slings and arrows of his competitors is a good thing (though an asset with diminishing returns since Joey's departure). But it appears as well, that neither logic, nor the criticisms of chefs as great as Daniel, nor the passing seasons -- nor even blunt objects -- can infiltrate the inner workings of his space-age polymer nose-cone."

  • "What the hell is with Casey's knife skills!? During the Quickfire, I was absolutely gobsmacked watching her methodically sawing away at those onions like Ina Garten on Thorazine. No. Let me correct myself. Ina Garten on Thorazine would be faster. MUCH faster."

  • "Why am I humping Hung's leg with such enthusiasm?"

  • "I should point out, by the way, that I'm guest judging again next week. Which means I know what happens. And while I am precluded from discussing future broadcasts by a confidentiality agreement rivalling the NSA's in the severity of its penalties for unauthorized disclosure, I can reveal this: There will be a SlaughterFest of Horror, an Orgy of Bloodletting, Partial Nudity, Flammable Liquids, Unspeakable Misuse of Power Tools and Small Woodland Creatures, and the Plaintive Wailing of the Doomed. It will make Altamont look like Lilith Fair."

  • "Holy crap! Who was that vicious bastard on the judges' panel last night? That angry, mean-spirited snake in the grass...that chained Rottweiler in an ill-fitting jacket, leaning forward on his elbows ready to lunge? Oh, right. That was me.
So far this year, I've had the dubious honor of helping to boot off the show an extremely likeable, open-hearted orphan with a lilting Southern accent, and now, last night, I got to be part of the hunting party who smashed the hopes and dreams of a cancer survivor. Short of biting the heads off kittens while dressed up as a storm trooper, I don't think I could look any less sympathetic.

Believe me, I'm...I'm not like that in real life. Right after this, in fact, I'm going in to cuddle my adorable baby daughter under the butterfly mobiles in her pink-painted room. Baby talk -- and possibly even singing -- will be involved. And then, I will take my beautiful wife out for brunch and somewhere between multiple mimosas, remind her sincerely that I love her."
  • "If you've ever been on an ouzo bender and woken up the next day with your head in a bidet, burping up licorice? That was pretty much my in-flight meal on Air Sara."

  • "Got it now, conspiracy theorists? "Heart" does not mean "nice rack". "Soul" does not mean "looks like Jennifer Aniston". The woman is GOOD. How many times does she have to prove it? Give her the respect she deserves." (Concerning Casey)

  • "I'm sure that Brian still believes that his Jumbo Sirloin With Barbie-Head/Potato Hash was undeserving of scorn."

  • "He's got balls the size of casaba melons." (Describing Dale)

  • "And to those who feel that you have to be "nice" to be a Top Chef, an inspiring chef, a great chef, I leave you with this: Marco Pierre White, Albert Roux, David Bouley, Joel Robuchon.... I could go on, but I have to get back to my pint."
Bourdain's sign-off, "See you next year" gives me hope that his blog will be back. Oh, and oh yeah, so will the show.


Tuesdays with Mozart: "Tutti!"

Happy Birthday Dr. Winston O'Boogie

"Well, we all shine on,
Like the moon and the stars and the sun;
Yeah, we all shine on,
On and on and on, on and on..."*

*From "Instant Karma" by John Lennon


In my life I have experienced many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of peak moments. Moments during which, while listening to music, I have been flooded with an overpowering rapture and wholeness, feeling immense and tiny all at once. It happens while listening to classical, pop, folk... any music, really, that is uplifting, not emotionally, but in spirit. I have no idea why a certain piece or song will move me to this point at one time and will not at another.

During these moments I feel vulnerable yet strong, verbose yet mute, joyous yet hopeless. It is a joy that creates a deep pain in me that demands resolution.

Perhaps this is why I am a composer: I must recreate these feelings for others to experience... No. That's not it at all. To be brutally honest, I must recreate these feelings so that I will remember that I felt them and that I can feel them again, like a photo op at Disneyland: "I was there!" Also, I need to reach out to other creatures like myself who will assure me that I am not alone. That there are others of my kind out there.

Being a composer is like living on acid (LSD) and forgetting that you took it.

I'm trying, for the first time ever, to express this in words -- unsentimentally -- while I feel it. I'm listening to Mendelssohn on Radio Stephansplatz -- a piece I've never heard before. (Of course, by the time this entry is completed, the piece will be long since over. This is the magic of music!)

The heart of a composer is a deep and hidden place and even those who feel they know us best really know very little (you only know what we reveal to you), for there is so much we cannot share, so much that renders us mute. These feelings can only be expressed through music; anyone expecting romance with pretty sentiments will soon be disappointed and that is why so many relationships between musicians and non-musicians fail so quickly. Music appeals to the romantic, but the composer, in actuality, is anything but. We save our best urges for Music. Music takes us to a place where words mean nothing at all, where speaking itself is a sacrilege and the mundane world is but a dark and tawdry impersonation of the truth, like being born with The Red Pill inserted in both the conscious and unconscious minds.

It hurts, this music. It hurts so damned good and it has made my life both a blessing and a curse. But would I have it excised if that were possible? Never! Musicians are the supreme masochists because we live in a world we do not understand yet are pressed to share. I mean, what is music, anyway? It is not merely blobs of ink on paper. Although the transference of music from mind to manifest is achieved via mathematics, that's only the physical language of music, like English, or French, or German. One can speak Spanish and not be a poet. It is the something else that makes music the spiritual experience that it is. No wonder I love quantum-physics and endeavor to understand the universe, although it's presently impossible to do so fully. If you really think about it, no one really knows what the hell music is. Unlike the visual arts, one can only know it through the passage of time. That's how a piece of music differs from a painting.
"A painter paints a painting and it's a painting. Maybe it hangs in a museum somewhere, or maybe somebody buys it. But no one ever said to van Gogh, 'Paint another "Starry Night" again, man.'" (Joni Mitchell, painter/songwriter, in concert, when asked for an encore.)
And does a painting transport the viewer to the same rapture or pain that a piece of music does? I'm not pitting the two against each other -- I love both -- but there is a decided difference that we all feel but cannot adequately explain; we simply feel it.

And there is no neat little conclusion to this entry. No red bow tying it up. That's it, really. And now, this peak moment has ended.


The Color of the Soul

My soul is painted...


...which embodies the characteristics of joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, hope, liberalism, sociability, friendship, death, courage, intellect, confidence, communication, travel, movement, attraction, persuasion and charm. Yellow is the color of the element Air and symbolizes the sun, grain and the power of thought.
Personality Test Results
What color is your soul painted?
Click Here to Take This Quiz

I Have a Big Can of Thank You...

...With your names on it:

~ Nettl: For the hot tea and sympathy, playing House Cats and the McPlug.
Heather: For vacuuming the living room and kitchen.
Big Brother Ernie: For cheering me up with your gentle affection.
Karma: For calling me when I was feeling my worst.
Monty: For taking my side.

This was a rough weekend for me. I was in an extreme amount of physical pain and feeling really, really ill. But thanks to these wonderful people, I can face the week ahead with renewed strength and optimism. Thank you all!


Guys & Duckadoon

Although I didn't win an OBA this year (Damn! Damn! Damn!... Okay, I feel better now), I did come is as runner up for Best Culture Blog. I'm still not sure why I've been nominated in this category the past two years; I don't think of my blog as being cultural or even cultured in any way. Still, I'm pleased as punch and I'd like to congratulate the winner, Tasha Does Tulsa. I also didn't win Best Blog Layout, but I didn't really expect to since I've changed my layout twice since my nomination. That honor went to Journey to Simplicity. Congrats!...


A Duck With No Name

Not long after moving to Solvang from Ventura County, I discovered the village pet store on Copenhagen drive, the main street. Being a great lover of animals, I spent many afternoons in there. In fact, I was there so much that the owners (a female couple) asked me if I wanted to help them take care of the animals. Of course, I jumped at the chance.

When the Easter season rolled around, a shipment of yellow ducklings arrived and I was given one. I took it home, along with some food they also gave me, and kept it with me whenever I wasn't in school. I never did give her a name. She was just "My Duck"...

No Okie II Electric Bugaloo For Me

Well, crap. I've been hit by yet another Thyroid Storm and will not be able to attend the 2nd annual Okie Blogger Round Up tonight. Everyone will be there. There will be laughter. There will be hugs. There will be wine. There will be Rubber Ducky Awards (I was nominated in two categories: Best Layout and Best Culture Blog).

I had so much fun last year; I was really looking forward to seeing everybody again, especially since this will be my last Round Up because we'll be moving to Vienna next year.

All my best to everyone! You're all winners in my estimation!



I wonder if my Beta, Josef, looking at me as I work at my desk is the same thing as when I watch the Donau-Fritzi LiveCam?

The Humble Straw

Why do Americans (generally) use straws in public, but not at home? Is the USA the only country that serves every cold drink with a straw in it? Where did the straw come from and why was it invented?

I read that the Sumerians first used them (made of actual straw, doh) in their beer to avoid the solid byproducts of fermentation. I've also read that some people use them out of concern over the cleanliness of the glass and that it is believed that it helps to quench the thirst more quickly.

I never use straws at home and I only use them in public because most soft drinks are served with too much ice; when I use one of the self-serve drink dispensers at a fast food place, I never use a straw, unless I'm taking the food to-go; there is less chance of spillage if one uses a straw.

What are your thoughts?


An Open Letter to Ville

Dear Ville,

As you know, or should know by now, you are of ultimate importance to me. Your health, well-being and digestive conditions are as vital to me as my own. I mean that. Where would I be had we not bumped into each other all those years ago (cue George Harrison song here)? What kind of person would I be today if you hadn't gone to Santa Barbara in my car with Paul that night? I cannot even imagine life without you, and when I try to, I just want to smack you for not accepting Paul's invitation. Although you did. Thursdays would have no significance at all without you and I could never have come up with Cream of Thursday Soup or Hair Night all by myself...

Hung Up

So Hung won the coveted title of "Top Chef". And $100 grand to boot. I can't honestly say I'm surprised. Although he never did grow on me, he was the one with the best skills, which he'd demonstrated throughout the competition, albeit not consistently. I wanted Casey to win, but she kind of fell apart when push came to shove, and Dave, well, although he bucked up at the 11th hour, that was all he'd accomplished the entire season. Who else but Hung?

It was an interesting situation though. Casey would have been the first woman to win and Dave would have been the first gay. Instead, Hung is the first non-white to win. I can't help but wonder if the producers didn't line things up this way.

I don't know about you, but the rosy glow of these Top-This and Top-That shows is wearing off. Let's just get back to Iron Chef America and watch the real chefs work their magic. Come to think of it, I'd like to see Bourdain in action. I love his show (No Reservations), but I've never seen him actually cook. Well, there was that fiasco in Tuscany, but that was Jaimie Oliver's fault. Wasn't it?

The only real entertainment I got from this season was reading Bourdain's summation of each show every Wednesday night. Let's hope next season is better.


A Tale of Two Trees

Perched on a hill are two lone trees that appear to be standing sentry over the city of Ventura, California. There is a path leading from Foothill Road to the summit, a hike I always meant to take, but just never did...


A+B = Doh!

As far as I've always believed, there are 5 things that propel someone up the proverbial Ladder of Success:

1. Ambition
2. Talent
3. Passion
4. Hard work
5. The X-Factor (Luck? Timing? Karma?
Who you know/Who you blow?)

Last night I had one of those peak moments. A genuine Gestalt. I realized there is a 6th item to add to this list and it alone knocks out all the others. Aggression. Seizing opportunities and running with them no matter who gets run over, no matter who gets used along the way.

I've spent the better part of the last 15 years wondering what the hell happened to my bright and promising musical career. So have a lot of other people who know me, too. Why did incredible opportunities slip out of my hands? Why did offers sideswipe me and pass on by? I've finally come to understand that it was aggression, or my lack of aggression that caused me to stall out about 3/4 of the way up the ladder.

My renewed contact with Big Brother Ernie has made me look back at my music career and it dawned on me that at any point along the way I could have asked him for help. As a producer and a friend he would have been all too happy to put me in his studio and help me make a really great demo that I could afford -- probably even for nothing -- but it just ever occurred to me. And now I'm too old to be a pop star regardless of the fact that the music I've written is still really good.

My mother taught me not to use my friends. When I was a kid I knew a girl who had a horse. Two, actually. Two beautiful Arabians, and we often went riding on them. I have to admit that I didn't really like her all that much. She was a sickly child and was a geek like me, but damn, she had those horses. My mother quickly sat me down and explained that it was wrong to use people in that way. Being a nice person by nature and never wanting to hurt anyone, I immediately stopped, keeping her words in my mind throughout the years. So as I moved into adulthood, trying to chase down a career in music, her voice was aways in my head. So much so, in fact, that it never once occurred to me to approach Ernie. I never thought, "Oh, I can't ask Ernie to do that." It simply never occurred to me.

I'm not saying that doing so would have set me on the road to stardom, I'm just saying that I never asked anyone to help me and when I rubbed shoulders with and talked to some really big people out there, I never tried to sell myself by hammering them with what I had to offer musically. I guess I just wanted them to like me; coming off as an opportunist was the last thing I wanted to do. But there's pimping yourself and there's promoting yourself and I didn't know the difference, so I shied away from both, I guess.

I also never fell for the old "casting couch" routine. I refused to sleep my way to the top, bottom, or in-between. I had plenty of those opportunities, but my parents raised me better than that.

The reason this is on my mind today is because of a conversation I took part in yesterday. Someone said that "making it" is about luck, with which I heartily disagreed.

"Hard work, passion and being pro-active is what it takes. You make your own luck."
"But you have to get picked at auditions," she said.
"And that takes hard work and passion, not luck. Again, you make your own luck."

Hearing myself say that caused the light bulb above my head to light up.

I still believe that using people as stepping stones is wrong, but there were a lot of opportunities that I could have ethically utilized. Truth be told, I just wasn't heartless enough and no one taught me the difference between using and asking for help.

I suppose this is part of getting older and acquiring wisdom. It's also part of that old, "If I could go back in time knowing what I know now" crapola. The point is, I can't go back in time, but I can move forward keeping this new lesson in mind. Who knows what awaits?


Good Morning, Glory!

I just wanted to get a picture of my Morning Glories before the first frost sets in. I started these from seeds last Spring and they've taken over about a 6-foot stretch of our back fence. That's a little yellow butterfly that flew into frame just as I was taking the picture just minutes ago.

The Morning Star

Before I go to bed, I just have to say that Venus is peeking in the window above my desk and it's so bright, I can almost see its spherical shape instead of the usual planet-in-the-sky look. (I hope you were paying attention in science class. Stars twinkle, planets do not.)

Good night.

My Big, Fat, Lazy Weekend

It was one of those weekends. Outside of the 2-hour party I contributed to on Monty's Friday night radio show, I didn't accomplish much of anything.

Let's see... on Saturday I made a blog entry, read part of the book I've been asked to review, napped, ate, watched telly, and napped. And yesterday I napped, watched telly, napped, made chili dogs, and napped. In fact, I slept through a storm and a voice lesson (Nettl has pupils on Thursdays and Sundays).

Yep, all-in-all, a perfect weekend!