May 31, 2013

The fantastic is rendered commonplace

Not much time to read the short stories themselves but am loving reading the intros to the stories in Object Lessons, Paris Review's book on the Art of the Short Story.

The image below is from an intro by Daniel Orozco to a short story by Steven Millhauser. The story, called 'Flying Carpets', is about a young boy idling away during his summer vacation. “My father taught me not to believe stories about martians and spaceships,” he says. And then his father brings home the popular toy of the summer — a flying carpet!

To quote Orozco:
the "childhood summer is evoked with sensory details as sharp as they are commonplace and quotidian - the flutter of sheets on clotheslines, the buzz of insects, the gleam of a bottle in the grass. It is sense memory that evokes the strongest emotions in us; that's how we remember. We experience the world through our senses, and in remembering we reach for sense memory in order to somehow feel what was, and is now gone.... Nostalgia is evoked by the precision and accumulation of concrete sensory detail -- in other words, by heeding that writerly chestnut: Show, Don't Tell.
 Flying carpets are the diversion of the summer -- ridden by neighborhood boys, skimming rooftops, drifting over fences from backyard to backyard -- until one day the novelty wears off. Summer wanes, the earth turns, and the toys are put away. The fantastic is rendered commonplace, and the magic of a boy's childhood is recalled with the melancholy of the man who can never experience such again." 

BRILLIANT! Now to read the story maybe! 

May 30, 2013

Base Camp, we have a problem!

Nothing succeeds like success and sometimes that is not a good thing! More guides, better gear, and the greed to make more more more money from climbers who want to claim they made it to the top of the tallest mountain on earth and so not restricting the number of climbers in any given year has led to this situation on Mt. Everest. I had previously read about the enormous amount of trash that has been accumulating over the years at this great height -- us humans lead such wasteful lives anyways and in a risky adventure where the weight of what you carry around can be the difference between life and death, I can only imagine how much people have trashed this amazing and very beautiful place on earth! But a picture is worth a thousand words, they say, and this one surely brings to life the severity of how Everest is maxed out!

© Subin Thakuri, Utmost Adventure Trekking


The picture is from an article in the National Geographic that talks about the problems at 29,000 feet! 

P.S. I have not read this article yet but will be doing so later today and may come back and add some excerpts but unlikely I will add more comments about this issue, since I am no expert when it comes to mountaineering. IN fact, I doubt I ever will be and will likely leave this planet never having gone up one.


Related:  Photo essay via's Big Picture website with some lovely pictures from 60 years of men and women climbing Mt. Everest ... my favorite, this picture of Mt Everest from 2003 - as seen from "Everest Base camp, Nepal on May 26, 2003. Sir Edmund Hillary's son, Peter Hillary, is scheduled to hold a prayer session and ritual mask dance at the monastery today to commemorate 50 years of his father's and Tenzing Norgay's climb to Mount Everest. 

(© Gurinder Osan/Associated Press)


May 29, 2013

Mozart's Sister

Behind every great man stands a woman. Sometimes it is your sister! 

Just ran into an article that talks about Mozart's older sister - Maria Anna Mozart, nickname Nannerl, - older to him by about 4.5 years. 

 Maria Anna Mozart as a child (1763) (portrait said to be by Lorenzoni)

"We have few certainties regarding Nannerl Mozart’s musical aptitude but they are significant. We know that she was considered a virtuoso on the harpsichord. As a little girl she performed as a duo with Wolfgang in the international tournées organized by their father, and in the announcements of concerts and newspaper articles she was named – and praised – first. ............. In short, there are many letters in which Herr Mozart vaunts his daughter’s skill at the keyboard and the praise she received. .............once she had grown up and was therefore no longer ‘usable’ as a child prodigy, would be to make her teach the harpsichord, so that the money she earned could go to fill the family coffers and finance the study, travel and artistic promotion of her brother. Naturally Nannerl continued to play in public, but mostly – and not by chance – she performed her brother’s compositions.

To conclude, we can be certain of one thing: due to circumstances, over the course of the years Nannerl Mozart’s musical talent, however great it was, gradually dried up and went to waste"

In addition to Rita Charbonnier's book, it seems there is also a recent movie about her - albeit a fictional version of her life. And Wikipedia may have some more "real" details about her.


Unfortunately, there is no surviving records of any compositions by Nannerl but so it goes... here then is music by her illustrious brother -- even in a post about her, music by Wolfgang is what will have to be heard here too! I really love almost all compositions by Mozart and really cannot pick a favorite to highlight today - so this is just a random pick!

Music for the day: Mozart's Piano Concertos 17, 20, 21, 23 & 24, with Arthur Rubinstein on the piano with the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra.

May 28, 2013

The day the music died

Rare are the days when I don't feel like listening to ANY music. Today is one of those days.

I am a bit wound up and stressed and while music would normally relax me in such a state, today any kind of noise is irritating me. I thought of playing the Simon and Garfunkel classic 'Sounds of Silence' or something minimalistic by John Cage or Arvo Pärt.... but then thought, why not play the classic song, American Pie by Don McClean....about the day the music died. (I know... I know ... that this was to mark the death of Buddy Holly and others in a plane crash and it is not about someone not wanting to listen to music!)


May 27, 2013

The offices of the imagination and fictive reconciliations

Quote of the day:
"For (Wallace) Stevens, the physical world was variously bare, chaotic, turning, and without meaning; and our cultural traditions so obviously at variance with the physical world that they could no longer offer acceptable accountings of our passage through it. Like the rest of us, the poet, through the offices of the imagination, must construct fictive reconciliations to the physical world so that his or her life might become bearable, even joyous. .. Stevens turned not to received beliefs, like his religious predecessors, but to the resources of the imagination for accommodating himself to the terms of the transient world."  - C. Barry Chabot, in "Fiction, Truth, and the Character of Beliefs", The Georgia Review, Winter 1983 issue.


These lines from a poem by Wallace Stevens come to mind; these lines from Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour:

   We say God and the imagination are one . . .
    How high that highest candle lights the dark.

    Out of this same light, out of the central mind
    We make a dwelling in the evening air,
    In which being there together is enough.

Also, these lines from The Man with the Blue Guitar
    The earth, for us, is flat and bare.
    There are no shadows. Poetry

    Exceeding music must take the place
    Of empty heaven and its hymns,

    Ourselves in poetry must take their place,
    Even in the chattering of your guitar.


And last but not least, whenever there is talk of God and poetry, Wallace Stevens' Sunday Morning comes to, let me end with these lines from that famous and amazing poem.

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.


Music is the weapon

Music for this Monday morning: 

Memorial Day here in the United States and I thought this may be an interesting way to mark this day via music.

Dmitri Shostakovich used his Fourth to Ninth Symphony as a silent protest against the horrors of war and the crimes of Stalin.
"I had to write about it, I felt that it was my responsibility, my duty. I had to write a requiem for all those who died, who had suffered...I had to describe the horrible extermination machine and express protest against it." -Shostakovich on his Seventh Symphony depicting the tragedies of World War II.

This is an early recording of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, Op. 60 (also called the Leningrad Symphony), given that it was composed in 1941! Arturo Toscanini leads the NBC Symphony Orchestra, recording at the NBC studios on July 19, 1942.

Relating reading on the enigma of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony.

May 25, 2013

We are the past coming to terms with itself - Three poems by Mark Strand

I was supposed to post a post about poetry every Friday in May and forgot last Friday and almost forgot this week but though I am a day late, here are three poems this Saturday evening by one of my favorite poets, Mark Strand.

(Source of picture)


The first one is from his book, The Late Hour

by Mark Strand

Now in the middle of my life
all things are white.
I walk under the trees,
the frayed leaves,
the wide net of noon,
and the day is white.
And my breath is white,
drifting over the patches
of grass and fields of ice
into the high circles of light.
As I walk, the darkness of
my steps is also white,
and my shadow blazes
under me. In all seasons
the silence where I find myself
and what I make of nothing are white,
the white of sorrow,
the white of death.
Even the night that calls
like a dark wish is white;
and in my sleep as I turn
in the weather of dreams
it is the white of my sheets
and the white shades of the moon
drawn over my floor
that save me for morning.
And out of my waking
the circle of light widens,
it fills with trees, houses,
stretches of ice.
It reaches out. It rings
the eye with white.
All things are one.
All things are joined
even beyond the edge of sight.

The second one is from his lovely book of poems, The Continuous Life.

The End
by Mark Strand

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.


And though it is difficult to say there is any one book by Mark Strand that I love more than the other, I'd say The Dark Harbor was the most enjoyable in some ways, with The Blizzard of One  being a close second, and The Continuous Life and other books all clubbed at #3! ;-)

So, the last poem today is from The Dark Harbor and is one I had transcribed and saved for later reference via a blurb on Since the entire book is like a series of poems, they do not have titles  and are just titled I, II, III, ... till XLV (45) or something like that.

There is a certain triviality in living here,
A lightness, a comic monotony that one tries
To undermine with shows of energy, a devotion

To the vagaries of desire, whereas over there
In a seriousness, a stiff, inflexible gloom
That shrouds the disappearing soul, a weight

That shames our lightness. Just look
Across the river and you will discover
How unworthy you are as you describe what you see,

Which is bound by what is available.
On the other side, no one is looking this way.
They are committed to obstacles,

To the textures and levels of darkness,
The tedious enactment of duration.
And they labor not for bread or love

But to perpetuate the balance between the past
And the future. They are the future as it
Extends itself, just as we are the past

Coming to terms with itself.


Music is the revolution!

Music for this Saturday morning - new to me the Tunisian singer-songwriter, Emel Mathlouthi, whose protest songs, apparently have become anthems for (some of) the Arab Spring revolutions. I found her via this review in the NYT of her New York debut at the French Institute Alliance Française’s World Nomads Tunisia festival, enthralling the audience even with only half of her band. Apparently she became well  known for her protest songs Ya Tounes Ya Meskina and Kelmti Horra which became anthems for the Tunisian revolution and the 2011 Egyptian revolution.


Bonus video today - an entire album from Marcel Khalife -- again new to me; mentioned in NYT article posted below about Amel Mathlouthi. He is a Lebanese composer, singer and oud player. From 1970 to 1975, he taught at the conservatory in Beirut



Of exemplary lives

Long Read for this cloudy Saturday morning -- especially for you, not for me since I have a bunch of things to do and merely found this during a temporary break with just about enough time to send this off to my Kindle.
Susan Sontag (1933–2004) contributed over fifty reviews, articles, and letters to The New York Review between 1963 and 2002. Her review of Simone Weil’s Selected Essays appeared in the first issue in February 196.
 “Of exemplary lives, there are those which invite us to imitate them, and those which we regard from a distance with a mixture of revulsion, pity, and reverence. It is, roughly, the difference between the hero and the saint (if one may use the latter term in an aesthetic, rather than a religious sense). Such a life, absurd in its exaggerations and degree of self-mutilation—like Kleist’s, like Kierkegaard’s—was Simone Weil’s.”

Also from 1963, this essay by Sontag about the equally exemplary but short life of the amazing Albert Camus, who she writes is..
.. "the ideal husband of contemporary letters. Being a contemporary, he had to traffic in the madmen’s themes: suicide, affectlessness, guilt, absolute terror. But he does so with such an air of reasonableness, mesure, effortlessness, gracious impersonality, as to place him apart from the others. Starting from the premises of a popular nihilism, he moves the reader—solely by the power of his own tranquil voice and tone—to humanist and humanitarian conclusions in no way entailed by his premises. This illogical leaping of the abyss to nihilism is the gift for which readers are grateful to Camus. This is why he evoked feelings or real affection on the part of his readers. Kafka arouses pity and terror, Joyce admiration, Proust and Gide respect, but no modern writer that I can think of, except Camus, has aroused love. His death in 1960 was felt as a personal loss by the whole literate world."



May 24, 2013

Music for the day: Stormy Monday

Music for this Friday evening... 

This is a version of a famous blues song that I had not heard before today and is appropriate in many ways for the week that's been! No play for me this Saturday though.... and I don't pray either! But this has been a stormy week, to say the least! So... Lord... mercy..mercy ..mercy on me! ;-)

"They call it Stormy Monday
But Tuesday's just as bad.
They call it Stormy Monday
But Tuesday's just as bad.
Lord, and Wednesday's worse
And Thursday's all so sad.

The eagle flies on Friday,
Saturday I go out to play.
The eagle flies on Friday,
Saturday I go out to play,
Sunday I go to church,
Gonna kneel down and pray.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy on me.
Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy on me."


The first time I heard this song, many many Mondays ago, twas this version by the AMAZING T-Bone Walker


And then a few years ago I heard this version, which to me, is much better than the Eva Cassidy version above. Etta... o... Etta! What a voice!


And here's the amazing BB King, who I wish I had seen alive some years back when he was still doing tours and in quite a groove even though nearing 80. Now he's almost retired except for the odd short performance at a White House event or some such... and I can only enjoy him through his records and youtube videos.


And one last one... a version by the rock group band, Allman Brothers with their heavily blues-influenced guitar playing - I found them quite late in life but really enjoy their music. This is from their session at the Fillmore East in 1971 - an amazing album all round!


May 23, 2013

Literature with cosmic ambition

I have often written about how one of my favorite poems,T. S. Eliot's The Four Quartets seems to encompass the whole world in it and can be read and re-read and studied all your life and yet you would not be able to consume it all. So, T. S. Eliot's poem is what sprung to mind immediately when I read this description by the author Aleksander Hemon about the writings of the Argentine author and poet, Jorge Luis Borges.

The work of Jorge Luis Borges belongs to the tradition of literature with cosmic ambition: the Bible, the Iliad, the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, Ulysses, etc.—the works that strive to convey complete universes, containing everything. They’re contingent upon (and thus imply the belief in) the totality of language: all of history, all of memory, all of current cosmology and/or theology, all the unbreakable continuity of human experience can be deposited and narrated in language. Indeed, in such works language seems to be able to cover the perpetual entirety of the past, present, and future and involve the real, the imagined, and all that is in between. They offer crucial evidence that it is utterly impossible to conceptualize humanity without literature. Their philosophical/ethical/aesthetical ambition demands total commitment from the reader—an ideal reader would devote his/her entire life to the exegesis of, say, Joyce’s Ulysses, thereby erasing all the nonreaderly aspects of his/her existence. Such a reader, of course, would be a perfect Borgesian character, for whom the experience of life is unavailable outside literature.

Incidentally, just last night I finished reading James Wood's excellent and at times raving essay about Hemon's writing. So it is quite a coincidence of sorts that I ran into this today morning in a book I picked up at the library yesterday - Object Lessons - The Art of The Short Story, a book of short stories from the Paris Review magazine, with the stories introduced by other famous writers. A longer excerpt of Hemon's introduction to a Borges short story, I now find, can be read here. However, even if you, like me, are not too familiar with Borges work, I recommend you try to find the book and read the entire essay in its entirety.

May 22, 2013

Music for the day - Autumn Leaves and Spiritual

Music for this Wednesday: I don't pray but this is as close as it gets to spiritual, indeed!


And though it ain't the right season, I feel the need to add a bonus track. I  ♥♥♥ the sound of Stan Getz's saxophone.... so, this version of the famous Autumn Leaves tune particularly delights!


This song was originally composed by Joseph Kosma, a Hungarian-French composer, with the French lyrics by Jacques Prévert, & the latter day English lyrics by Johnny Mercer, set to music for Marcel Carné's 1946 film 'Les Portes de la Nuit', literally 'The Dead Leaves'.

The first time I heard Autumn Leaves was Miles Davis with Cannonball Adderley though... that version rocks! Ooo...listening to it now and WOW. Again! I came upon Getz's version much later and like that too... but this one does particularly delight and is one of my favorite jazz tracks! 


Autumn Leaves has been recorded by many and I can't keep posting them all here but am going to leave you with this last video for the day ...another version that I love.  


May 19, 2013

Random Links - May 19, 2013

Some days you are the cormorant, some days you are the fish! ;-)

Also in the same gallery this lovely picture of tulips in.... no, not Netherlands... but in China.


Two links about the amazing world we live in! 

First up, ever wonder why every cell in a honeycomb is a hexagon? 

So which to choose? The triangle? The square? Or the hexagon? Which one is best? Here's where our Roman, Marcus Terentius Varro made his great contribution. His "conjecture" — and that's what it was, a mathematical guess — proposed that a structure built from hexagons is probably a wee bit more compact than a structure built from squares or triangles. A hexagonal honeycomb, he thought, would have "the smallest total perimeter." He couldn't prove it mathematically, but that's what he thought.

Compactness matters. The more compact your structure, the less wax you need to construct the honeycomb. Wax is expensive. A bee must consume about eight ounces of honey to produce a single ounce of wax. So if you are watching your wax bill, you want the most compact building plan you can find.

And guess what?  Two thousand thirty-five years after Marcus Terentius Varro proposed his conjecture, a mathematician at the University of Michigan, Thomas Hales, solved the riddle. It turns out, Varro was right. A hexagonal structure is indeed more compact. In 1999, that said so. As the ancient Greeks suspected, as Varro claimed, as bee lovers have always thought, as Charles Darwin himself once wrote, the honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering. It is "absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax."

And  secondly, what a brilliant hypothesis/explanation to explain the cicada's love affair with prime numbers!
Cicadas that emerge at prime-numbered year intervals, like the seventeen-year Brood II set to swarm the East Coast this year, would find themselves relatively immune to predator population cycles, since it is mathematically unlikely for a short-cycled predator to exist on the same cycle.


Want to share this post from the brilliant Maria Popova on "Why we fall in love, what we’re all made of, how dreams work, and more deceptively simple mysteries of living." Her website, is a treasure trove of lovely information (I am often envious of her and wish I had put in the energy and dedication to start a site like hers!) and just this one post itself deserves to be deemed a treasure trove by itself!

Alain de Botton explores why we have dreams,  Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins breaks down the math of evolution and cousin marriages to demonstrate that we are all related,  Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains why we can’t tickle ourselves, Particle physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss explains why we’re all made of stardust,  and last but not least author Jeanette Winterson on how do we fall in love!

 Kind of a follow-up to last week's link about grammar - 10 questions about grammar; how much do you know about apostrophes, semi-colons, dangling participles, etc.


A few letters this weekend from another website which is a treasure trove of delectable stuff like this - Letters of Note. Letters from or to the author F. Scott Fitzerald, who is all the rage lately because of the release of the movie, The Great Gatsby.

First up, a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter...with a lovely list of Things to worry about, Things not to worry about, and Things to think about. And then, from the sound of it, there is an intimidation in the P.S. at the end! *Shudder*...would hate to have a father who wrote me such letters! Luckily, mine wrote just letters full of love and concern.

F. Scott didn't mince words when it came to giving writing advice either; brilliant stuff in this letter to Frances Turnbull, then an aspiring young author and sophomore at Radcliffe College.
"I've read the story carefully and, Frances, I'm afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell." 

And here is a letter between F. Scott and his editor about the publication of The Great Gatsby... which starts: "I think that at last I've done something really my own), but how good "my own" is remains to be seen."

And last but not least, Hemingway's "review" of a book by F. Scott..that begins: "Dear Scott: I liked it and I didn't." Read the whole letter here.


And lastly, a few LongReads for the week, which I have sent to my Kindle but not yet read!

Music for the day - Issa Bagayogo

There are many musicians from Mali that have delighted over the years but when it comes to a great voice (male), two men stand out - one is Boubacar Traoré and then among the younger generation, it is undoubtedly Issa Bagayogo.

Here then are two tracks from him; the first one is a recent find.

Issa Bagayogo - Namadjidja, from his album, Mali Koura.



And the second one is one that makes me want to get up and dance every time I hear it! ;-)

Issa Bagayogo - Nogo,  from his album, Timbuktu.


May 18, 2013

I ♥ Elephants - 1

Love this animated picture from the brilliant series of photographs from the 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest, collected at the In Focus site run by The Atlantic.

The contest is under way, and entries will be accepted for another six weeks, until June 30, 2013. First prize winner will receive a 10-day Galapagos expedition for two.

 A group of 12-14 hyenas were chasing a herd of 7-8 elephants. The elephant herd included 2 adult females, a few teenagers, and a baby that was a few days old (belonging to one of the adult females). The hyenas were trying to get at the baby. In this picture, the mother is kicking at the hyenas. (© Jayesh Mehta/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Amazon’s ‘invisible flying rivers’

See the video at this link via BBC:

The trees in the Amazon suck up water from the ground and pump out billion of tonnes of water vapour a day into vast “flying rivers”. In this film Dr Miguel Pinedo-Vasquez, from Columbia University and Cirfor (Center for International Forestry Research), lead scientist with The Nature Conservancy Dr M Sanjayan, ecological economist Dr Trista Patterson and environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev, reveal how this water is carried across Latin America where it falls as rain and nourishes the agricultural economies of these countries.
(Picture Source)

Music for the day: Dobet Gnahore

I have listened to a lot of music from Mali and other nations of Africa in the last 7 years but am relatively new to Dobet Gnahore, who is a singer from the Côte d'Ivoire but is now settled in France. What a lovely voice!

This track, called Samahani, is from the album: "Djekpa La You".


And one more bonus video of this great talent from Africa.. this is from the 2009 Afrikafestival Hertme in Netherlands.


To dwell in the heads of vaporous ladies with fine sensibilities

Interview of the week - I have not read Wolf Hall, the much raved about novel by Hilary Mantel, which won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2009.  It is the first of a planned trilogy of novels charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, the powerful minister in the court of King Henry VIII. So, I barely even noticed last year that the  2nd book in the series, Bring Up the Bodies, came and was equally raved about and once again the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2012!
But last night I ran into this interview with Hilary Mantel in the New York Times and really loved it!

The surprising (to me) bit was the answer to the question: What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
The Answer:
"Stacks of books on cricket. I am fascinated by its history. It’s a story told in match statistics, but it’s also bred some stylish prose. My head is full of the ghosts of men in white playing games that were over before the Great War. "

And the best line in the interview was unarguably this one: 
"I don’t like overrefinement, or to dwell in the heads of vaporous ladies with fine sensibilities."

May 17, 2013

Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-roll

So, why does music we like make us feel good? Science may have an answer.

In 2001, neuroscientists Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre at McGill University in Montreal provided an answer...... people listening to pleasurable music had activated brain regions called the limbic and paralimbic areas, which are connected to euphoric reward responses, like those we experience from sex, good food and addictive drugs.

But why?  ...... The truth is no one knows. However, we now have many clues to why music provokes intense emotions. The current favourite theory among scientists who study the cognition of music – how we process it mentally – dates back to 1956, when the philosopher and composer Leonard Meyer suggested that emotion in music is all about what we expect, and whether or not we get it. Meyer drew on earlier psychological theories of emotion, which proposed that it arises when we’re unable to satisfy some desire. That, as you might imagine, creates frustration or anger – but if we then find what we’re looking for, be it love or a cigarette, the payoff is all the sweeter.

This, Meyer argued, is what music does too. It sets up sonic patterns and regularities that tempt us to make unconscious predictions about what’s coming next. If we’re right, the brain gives itself a little reward – as we’d now see it, a surge of dopamine. The constant dance between expectation and outcome thus enlivens the brain with a pleasurable play of emotions.


Music for the day: 

James Brown's  Sex Machine

Music for the day: Ravishankar and Menuhin

I think I had listened to this album of the Ravishankar-Menuhin collaboration (West Meets East) many years ago (late 90s? early 00s?) but had forgotten about it. It was a selection on a flight I took recently and I loved this particular track so much, I heard it 3-4 times on the plane and am listening to it again this morning. ♥ it!

May 14, 2013

Music for the day - Jacqueline du Pré and Elgar

Music for this Wednesday evening.... a British cellist renowned for her version of an English composer's famed cello concerto -- the amazing Jacqueline du Pré, who I learned last year was particularly associated with Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, with her interpretation has been widely praised as "definitive" and "legendary."

May 12, 2013

Random Links - May 12, 2013

Starting today, on every Sunday I will have a post with a short list of interesting links that I found that week. To keep it useful, I will try to keep it at a manageable 5-6 links (and at most 8 links) every week even if I've found and read quite a few more.


1) A fascinating  new theory about why Egypt stopped building pyramids 

The pyramids' perfection became their imperfection; their smooth facades broken by the precision of their construction. 


2Chinese DIY Inventions - With China's recent economic growth, there's a rise in DIYers, inventors, and wannabe entrepreneurs also.

Offered without comment for now, just treat it for now as something to pass the time this morning!


3) Grammar Rules
The dangling participle, split infinitives, ending a sentence with a preposition, the dreaded misplaced apostrophe, and other ways we falter...


4)  It may or may not be Usain Bolt but scientists believe we are reaching the limits of speed, even after accounting for performance enhancing drugs!
Usain Bolt is fast. He is, as far as we can tell, the fastest human who's ever lived — in 2009, at a race in Berlin, he ran the 100-meter dash is 9.58 seconds. This translates to an average speed of just over 23 mph (with a top speed closer to 30 mph). His '09 performance in Germany was .11 quicker than the 9.69 he ran at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the fattest chunk ever taken off a world record at that distance. Considering the unadulterated simplicity of his vocation and the historic magnitude of his dominance, it's easy to argue that Bolt has been the world's greatest athlete of the past five years. And yet there's an even easier argument to make than that one: Within the next 10 years, Bolt's achievements as a sprinter will be completely annihilated.


5) And last but not least, this great photograph of the Fitzgeralds in a review of 'The Great Gatsby' in the LA Times in 1925!

F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife, Zelda, and daughter, Frances (a.k.a. Scottie), celebrate Christmas 1925 in Paris. (© Hulton Archive / Getty Images)


Music for the day: Ali Farka Toure's Savane

Music for this Sunday morning: 

Some day I may be able to gather the words of all that this song and Ali Farka Toure's music means to me but for now, offered without comment is a song that I often listen to when I don't feel too good and one needs something soul-warming. Just that kind of a day ....

Note: Savane is the title song in Malian musician Ali Farka Touré's final solo album, released posthumously.

Like a string of empty tin cans rattling behind an abandoned car...

Poetry for this Sunday morning....

    Early Sunday Morning
    by Edward Hirsch

    I used to mock my father and his chums
    for getting up early on Sunday morning
    and drinking coffee at a local spot
    but now I’m one of those chumps.

    No one cares about my old humiliations
    but they go on dragging through my sleep
    like a string of empty tin cans rattling
    behind an abandoned car.

    It’s like this: just when you think
    you have forgotten that red-haired girl
    who left you stranded in a parking lot
    forty years ago, you wake up

    early enough to see her disappearing
    around the corner of your dream
    on someone else’s motorcycle
    roaring onto the highway at sunrise.

    And so now I’m sitting in a dimly lit
    café full of early morning risers
    where the windows are covered with soot
    and the coffee is warm and bitter.

May 11, 2013

Music for the day: Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba

I have been a fan of music from Mali for the last half a dozen years or so and so today, presenting one of the great current musicians from Mali. I saw him with his band, Ngoni Ba, live in the Boston area a few years ago and it was a great concert -- hope I'll see him live again some day but until there are videos via youtube to enjoy!

I read that Bassekou Kouyate is celebrating the release of his album, 'Jama ko' with the launch of this brand new video 'Jama ko'. Given the civil war in Mali and related violence and tensions, this video is a "cry for tolerance and peace. Bassekou invited the Christian community, Muslims, Touareg friends like Manny Ansar (head of the Festival Au Desert in Essakane, which I hope to go to some day in my lifetime), the tailor from next door, and many other people to celebrate the open spirit of Mali. Bassekou launched the video on TV in Bamako on Africable and ORTM to spread the message."


You can find many other videos online for this group but I'll just add one more, one of the songs that gave me the most joy at the aforementioned live show. His wife, Amy Sacko, has such a great voice!


May 10, 2013

Kay Ryan and line breaks in poetry

Five poems today by Kay Ryan, who was the US Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2010. 

Her  poetry charms me despite me always left scratching my head about the line breaks. I never really have developed an intuitive feel for where to put line breaks in any poem but in Kay Ryan's poems, more than anywhere else, they beguile! At least with Creeley, it seems to work seamlessly and magically (it does seem like magic when it so seemless; he does work magic with words in addition to that deep-rooted philosophy in his poems that I love), but with Kay Ryan, though the poems work for me overall and usually have a simple and direct way of inviting you in, I am totally lost about why she has line breaks as often as she does.

Read the poems below and see what I mean...


Weakness and doubt
by Kay Ryan
Weakness and doubt
are symbionts
famous throughout
the fungal orders,
which admire pallors,
rusts, grey talcums,
the whole palette
of dusts and powders
of the rot kingdom
and do not share
our kind’s disgust
at dissolution,
following the
interplay of doubt
and weakness
as a robust sort of business;
the way we
love construction,
they love hollowing.


by Kay Ryan

Like slime
inside a
stagnant tank

its green
from lime
to emerald

a dank
but less

than success
is in general.


Failure 2
by Kay Ryan

There could be nutrients
in failure -
deep amendments
to the shallow soil
of wishes.
Think of the
dark and bitter
flavors of
black ales
and peasant loaves.
Think of licorices.
Think about
the tales of how
Indians put fishes
under corn plants.
Next time hope
relinquishes a form
think about that.


by Kay Ryan

Patience is 
wider than one 
once envisioned, 
with ribbons 
of rivers 
and distant 
ranges and 
tasks undertaken 
and finished 
with modest 
relish by 
natives in their 
native dress. 
Who would 
have guessed 
it possible 
that waiting 
is sustainable — 
a place with 
its own harvests. 
Or that in 
time's fullness 
the diamonds 
of patience 
couldn't be 
from the genuine 
in brilliance 
or hardness.  


Don’t Look Back
by Kay Ryan

This is not
a problem
for the neckless.
Fish cannot
swivel their heads
to check on their fry;
no one expects
this. They are
torpedoes of
compact capsules
that rely
on the odds
for survival,
unfollowed by
the exact and modest
number of goslings
the S-necked
goose is—
who if she
looks back
acknowledges losses
and if she does not
also loses.

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with  a poem  today by Emmy Pérez. Not one more refugee death by Emmy Pérez A r...