Tuesday, October 3, 2017

LCD Soundsystem

I was driving home from Sunday dinner with my Mom and heard the first single released from LCD Soundsystem's new album, "American Dream." Usually, the drive home on Sunday nights is full of the oldies or the Casey Kasem count down vault from a year like 1977, but a month ago Sunday, all changed when I heard 'tonight.' I nearly swerved off of the road ... what the heck is this super groovy music? I had to wait for a whole week after that to purchase the album. I spent the week listening to the radio waiting patiently for the song to play again in the rotation.

When I first got a hold of the album in its entirely, I confess, I hit #5 over and over again. I couldn't get enough of it. But then #6 moved into the repeat spot with is sweeping, U2-esque stadium melody. And well into a month of owning the album, I can honestly say that I have wrapped my head around all of it. For as much as some of the songs remind me of others like Bowie, the Talking Heads, and David Lynch (one song sounds like one that he would pick for a movie like "Blue Velvet"), it different- fresh and modern. It is Angry angsty, yet there is a naive sweetness and disbelief in what has become of our America that is quite charming and believable. I won't review the album beyond this ... listen for yourself. You'll find yourself wanting to hit the same button for the same song over and over ... until the next one comes to take over your psyche.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

U2: You're the Best Thing About Me

Oh, Bono! The video for the new single, "You're the Best Thing About Me," was in my inbox as a fan club member. Of course, it is easily accessible to all because they are the world's biggest band. I was very nearly cringing as I watched the boys trapezing around NYC singing a pop-y song. Come on guys! What are you up to? And the American umbrellas are really cheeseball. Totally over the top.


I found myself cheerily singing the chorus all afternoon. It made me feel better. Maybe the boys knew all along the tonic that we Americans would need in this time of ... uncertainty. We've been Putined, hurricaned, raced, and tweeted. I teach students in juvenile detention who have been too busy on the street creating menace to have the time or inclination to attend school regularly who understand the First Amendment after a recent lesson more than our President. Things are dire.

But Bono is 'shooting off his mouth, which is one of the best things about' him. And what he's shooting is diversion from the dire. He says that the these things are the easiest to destroy. Maybe. And the short list that I wrote certainly isn't what's best. And I think that I may be guilty of destroying, sometimes, good things because the bad takes up a lot of headspace. My attention is drawn away from what's good by what's bad.

I said to someone recently that Bono is my spirit person. Or animal if you'd prefer. He sings, 'I can see you, oh, so clearly. I can see what you can't see.' You got me again, U2. And thank goodness for the pop stars and the comedians of this world. They are the only thing, right now, keeping me sane.

Maybe that American brella isn't so bad after all.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Puerto Rico: Isla del Encanto

Along the water in Cabo Rojo. Sadly, this is probably no longer there, but I'm sure that it will be recovered.


Puerto Rico, 
You lovely island . . . 
Island of tropical breezes. 
Always the pineapples growing, 
Always the coffee blossoms blowing . . . 

Puerto Rico . . . 
You ugly island . . . 
Island of tropic diseases. 
Always the hurricanes blowing, 
Always the population growing . . . 
And the money owing, 
And the babies crying, 
And the bullets flying. 
I like the island Manhattan. 
Smoke on your pipe and put that in! 

I like to be in America! 
O.K. by me in America! 
Ev'rything free in America 
For a small fee in America! 

I like the city of San Juan. 

I know a boat you can get on. 

Hundreds of flowers in full bloom. 

Hundreds of people in each room! 

Automobile in America, 
Chromium steel in America, 
Wire-spoke wheel in America, 
Very big deal in America! 

I'll drive a Buick through San Juan. 

If there's a road you can drive on. 

I'll give my cousins a free ride. 

How you get all of them inside? 

Immigrant goes to America, 
Many hellos in America; 
Nobody knows in America 
Puerto Rico's in America! 

I'll bring a T.V. to San Juan. 

If there a current to turn on! 

I'll give them new washing machine. 

What have they got there to keep clean? 

I like the shores of America! 
Comfort is yours in America! 
Knobs on the doors in America, 
Wall-to-wall floors in America! 

When I will go back to San Juan. 

When you will shut up and get gone? 

Everyone there will give big cheer! 

Everyone there will have moved here! 

Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
© 1956, 1957 Amberson Holdings LLC and Stephen Sondheim. Copyright renewed.
Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, Publisher. 

Puerto Rico is a lovely island. My sister moved there 22 years ago and has raised a family there. Her children are of Puerto Rico. And the two that I have contact with now in this time of Hurricane Maria who are here on the mainland attending college grieve for it. I haven't spoken to my sister or brother-in-law since Tuesday before Maria destroyed the island. I know that they were prepared and are safe, but I wait to hear them tell me that for certain. 

In my head all day was this song from 'West Side Story,' so I give it to you here. That Stephen Sondheim really captured the identity struggle that is Puerto Rico. In the end, Anita sings, 'Everyone there will have moved there!' meaning the States, but over three million people live there today, sixty years later. One thing that my sister has said with humor is that she would have to marry the one Puerto Rican who stayed. That may be true, but the experience of being there is one that her children wouldn't have experienced having not lived there. As it is, she and her husband have raised four kids who are fiercely proud of their island. Once, walking along the beach on the west coast near to where they live, my niece, who was probably 6 at the time, said, 'isn't my island beautiful.' Yes, your island is beautiful. I've spent many moments there enjoying the natural splendor of the place and the character it expresses, which is so different from being 'American.' It is the Latin, I think, that fires the passion for the place. It fuels the belly of the people. And I know that it is for this that the island will climb out of the destruction and debris to come alive again. Her people won't let her down. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Nicole Kidman

In Style July 2017
I have always been a fan of Nicole Kidman. She has a warmth shows through in her characters and intelligence in ones that aren't warm at all. I have not been tempted to watch "Big Little Lies." Too much ensemble for me. And the idea of it as it has been presented is not appealing to me. But give me "Cold Mountain" every autumn/winter, which is a beguilingly romantic movie that shows her character to be what I would like to imagine myself to be ... delicate and strong. Pretty, but unafraid of the things in life that aren't quite so. I am also a big fan of "To Die For." Her broad sense of humor and dogged determination comes across beautifully through the character that she plays.

Early on in the courtship of my sister with her now husband found us at the movies. The story is not that, except it was then that my brother-in-law told me that I reminded him of Nicole Kidman. Naturally, I was flattered; even though, I knew that the only thing that I may have had in common with Kidman is a head of strawberry blond hair. Until now, when ... in this profile of her in In Style magazine, she talked about her relationships: "I've always chosen to have really deep, intense romantic relationships. I don't flit about. I don't dabble. That's who I am, and my mother's always said it: "you're just a child who attaches." Maybe, he saw that this was true of me and so likened me to her. I definitely 'attach,' Although she seems to me to disconnect better than I, but being her, I imagine, she has more opportunity to unlatch and move on.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Harry Styles Meets the Queen

Rolling Stone Magazine June 15, 2017
Never much of a 1D fan, I have come into Harry Styles as a solo artist. And I must say, Harry is quite delightful.

On the cover of May 4th's Rolling Stone magazine, the interview showed him to be a slightly quirky guy, who, for all of his hair tossing, does not have poser in him. And what really got me was when he said, when asked if he was worried about being 'credible' to an older audience different than the teenagers who were 1D's base, that girls have always been the litmus test for pop music, and that: "Teenage-girl fans- they don't lie. If they like you, they're there. They don't act 'too cool.' They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.' Cheers Harry! I am not a teenager, but I do continue to slip into the all or nothing mode of adoration for a band or singer. If I like it, I'm going to love it. This is the beauty of fandom. It is wholly reciprocated as the band continues to make music that I love, and there is no argument. It's unifying.

I have not bought his solo album yet. I'm not sure that I will. I did see Mr. Styles on Carpool Karaoke with his personal, good friend James Corden, and it was great. He is adorable. Playful. And not self-consumed like other pop stars who have come before him (NOT Justin Bieber because I think that he is adorable too ... and I like his groove). But I think that I will like him more as he moves more into film. Dunkirk, the first movie that he has acted in, will be released at the end of July. I think that I'm going to like him in it. He seems to have a lot going on beyond that boy band exterior. It will be interested to see.

To quote the words of Stevie Nicks, who met Styles on a stage at the Troubadour in L.A.: "It's pretty hard to not fall in love with Harry Styles. I feel that we will be good friends for a long time." I agree.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fendi Florals

Elle April 2017
Aren't these pretty shelves of lovelies. I knew two women who lived together in a large, two floored apartment with lots of corners and shelves. They were very proud of their wall shelving unit that displayed their collection of handbags. I saw this and thought that, somehow, Fendi saw that apartment ... maybe on Pinterest, and copied the decor. I'm certain that's how it went down.
What is also strikingly similar of this styling are the Dries Van Noten handbags encapsulated in ice sculptures by Azuma Makotoh.

Whichever came first, the Fendi or the Van Noten, they are wonderful odes to Spring. The striped boots in the Fendi advertisement are a clever pattern play against the floral ribbons, bows and leather. It would be hard every morning if this were my wall shelving unit of my collection of handbags to pick just one for each day. I may have to carry a bag on each arm ... and maybe one or two has a long enough strap to be a cross body bag. Marvelous.

Monday, June 12, 2017

XXX:U2 and Kendrick Lamar

I have been meaning to give a serous listen to Kendrick Lamar for nearly two years, and who do you think finally managed to pull me all the way in? Bono, naturally. In the months leading up to David Bowie's release of his last album, "Black Star," a lot was written how Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly" was an inspiration for Bowie. He appreciated the jazz-like structure of Lamar's work and looked to do the same for his new songs. Apparently, Bowie was spending a lot of time in a small jazz club in NYC and poached a few of the musicians to record with him to make the new sound, for what I would argue is his best conceptual album. I had always appreciated Bowie, but "Black Star," to me, showed his real genius. And being Irish, the morbidity of the fact that he wrote his own requiem, not unlike Mozart, is pure poetry.

My niece saw Kendrik in Miami recently and called to tell me how awesome he was. And I thought, oh yeah, I have some homework to do. And in checking out his new album, "Damn," I saw that U2 guested on one of the tracks. I belong to the U2 fan club ... you would think that they would send the notification that they did a song with Kendrick Lamar! I immediately found the song and album to hear what I had figured was going to be really powerful. I read that Bono met Kendrick's producer at a Jimmy Iovine lunch. The producer didn't recognize Bono, but liked his groove. When he was told that he was the lead singer of U2, the hook-up was decided. 

Here is what Billboard had to say about the strange bedfellows ... it will take some of my bias out: 

"Just writing that sentence makes it seem weird all over again. Yet listening to the politically charged "XXX," you're struck by how smooth the unlikely meeting of the minds is, how jarring Bono's dulcet voice sounds sliding into the song whose first half uses a police siren on loop amid lyrics about fame and violent revenge. "It's not a place/ This country is to be a sound of drum and bass," Bono croons, "You close your eyes to look around."

Lamar then doubles down on themes U2 has mined for decades: faith, greed and the duality of America as a place that both welcomes and turns away. Like any musician whose ears are influenced by anything and everything they hear throughout their lives, Kendrick's connection to rock is clearly not as distant as it may seem. 

Getting back to U2, though: Kendrick's years-long deep dive into the heart of jazz also has parallels into U2's Joshua Tree-era exploration of American soul and blues, their attempt to find a common thread that binds us and spans oceans and knocks down barriers between race and background. In looking backwards to sounds from a different genre and an earlier era for inspiration, Kendrick is seeking out the links that connect us even as he sings about the things that divide us."

I'm going to give "Damn" a good hard listen before I move on to "To Pimp a Butterfly." I will get there, but I'll savor this first.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Willie Nelson

Rolling Stone June 1, 2017
Willie has a good point.

When asked if he would ever run for President, he says: "I think that you can do more with music than you can with arguments and politics. I think a song will reach more people than any other thing. There's a reason it's called "harmony.""

And if he didn't have me on that because I too feel that the harmony of music and the shared experience of it makes for much better politics that what is being served up these days, he has this to say about exercising every day: "I'll ride a horse, swim or run. Cussin' is good exercise - I do that too."

That's right Willie, get it our of your system. Don't hold back cause that's the surest way to clog your arteries.

I wonder if Willie is available as a life coach. It'd be a hoot and a holla if he were.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Dries Van Noten's Creations Captured in Ice by Artist Azuma Makotoh

Harper's Bazaar April 2017
Dries Van Noten has come across these pages before. His home and gardens were featured in Vogue, I believe, and I wrote about how I would have gardens the same as his if I were a famous fashion designer with access to purchase an ancient home with grounds and gardeners that could pick the weeds whilst I take cuttings to fill crystal vases on every surface in the home. These beautiful floral ice sculptures truly capture the beauty of Van Noten's gardens and show his collection stunningly. I included all of the pictures so that you may enjoy the artistry. They are beauty to behold.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Netflix's Chewing Gum

If the series is English, I'm likely to watch it. The comedies that Netflix have been dropping from across the pond are not to be missed. I may be biased, but they're funny as hell and different from the same old week night line ups that the networks pass off every season as fresh.

Tracey, seen sitting on the bed above, is truly fresh. A gale force from across the Atlantic. An evangelical, virgin 24 year old, she is ready for action. The funny thing is that she doesn't know what action looks like, smells like, or nothing. Michaela Coel, the show's creator and star, has created a larger than life character whose exaggerations put a magnifying glass on so many current issues including race, sexism, and religion. And as much as she is so different than me, she seems awfully like me as well. She doesn't know what it is that she's looking for all of the time and for that reason, she doesn't what it is when it is in front of her. It's hysterical and terrifically sane at the same time.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

U2's Joshua Tree Tour

From the U2 Joshua Tree tour at Soldier Field, Chicago
Chin on the fence, the Edge's guitar tech sauntered down the runway in front of me during the transition from opening act to U2's performance. He smiled at me, probably because I was wearing an U2 concert t-shirt from the Zoo TV Tour, and flicked a pick at me. It landed on the ground, out of reach. A security guard walked over to pick it up and playing like he wasn't going to give it up, and the woman standing next to me grabbed it. She turned to her boyfriend, who wasn't paying attention, and said, 'hey, you want this?' I wanted to take her down.  But I am not one for confrontation and I certainly didn't want to get booted for fighting. Security was tight.
June 5, 2017 at Soldier's Field
I have lost count of the number of times that I have seen U2. I never tire of the energy that they bring to the stage. Usually, I float away and am happy with the world, content that I will see it again the next night. But this time, I left the first night with doubt. So close to the stage, on the first night I couldn't really take in the visual presentation of the show, but I saw and heard Bono imploring us to believe that America is still home of the free and the greatest show on earth. With the aftermath and disillusionment felt after the election, and standing in a state that is broke and a city that is a war zone, it's hard to feel good about America right now.
But the good thing about going again is that one gets a different perspective. Pulling back to see the visual part of the show, I was reminded of the beauty of America. The Joshua Tree was a big album as it was the one that catapulted U2 into the sky. No longer small enough to wander anonymously across the land, they embarked on a tour that put them in the midst of the muck. Naive, possibly, with an Irish bravado, they took on the challenge to walk to the mountain top. Lasso big ideas. Give a shit about someone other than oneself. I heard Bono this week reaching to pull us back into the idea that we can be great again ... for real. And that's what, in the end, makes them my band. Forty years later, and still trying to find what their looking for is still relevant. In times like these, it is important to remember to keep looking for the things that matter. The things that will enrich others' lives in making our own fulfilling. Oh, for sure, I'm full of the blarney, but that's how Bono and I can be best friends. Because we are, ya know.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Doctor Zhivago

Vogue December 2016
Russia has been in the news a lot of late. And I'm not so sure that we should be so surprised given the storied history of a place that is expansive, cold, and snowy in my imagination of it. One of the sources for the romantic idea that I have of Russia is from the film Doctor Zhivago. Every year, on a cold winter's night, I find this film to watch, for it's beauty, idealism, and romance. This cannot, of course, erase the hard truths of  Stalin, the Ukrainian Genocide, and now Putin to name just a few of the hard line problems of what has held Russia in a lock for centuries. And as it turns out, Boris Pasternak, the novel's author, and his beloved Olga fell into the bear's trap. And as Pussy Riot will tell you (the all-girl punk rock band who performed songs against Putin publicly and sentenced to 2 years of hard labor), for the crime, women carry the burden of the punishment.

Although twenty years older than Olga, it was an immediate attraction between she and Boris. Just having starting to write the novel that would become Doctor Zhivago, their love affair certainly influenced the expanse of the romance of Zhivago and Lara, the novel's lovers. The book isn't only about ill-fated love, it also addresses the sweep of political change during the turbulent early 20th Century in Russian history. And for that, the author was closely watched to determine how closely fiction was written as a mirror of the times (from the article): "In his writing life, the sense of pressure mounting on Boris was heightened by egregious  oppression and political forces. He was under constant surveillance due to the anti-Soviet nature of his work, while contemporaries who were not seen to serve the interests of the new Soviet system executed, exiled, or tortured."

And Olga? She met with the same sexist bias that Putin threw at Pussy Riot: "Little did Olga know that due to widespread knowledge of her affair with Boris, and her unflinching support of his book, it was not Boris who would be "hung, drawn, and quartered" but she herself who would shortly receive unwelcome visitors. On the the evening of October 6, 1949, the secret police arrived at Olg'a home with summons that held terrifying ramifications. The authorities had hatched a plan that would strike right to the heart of the "cloud-dweller." They would send his mistress and muse to a prison camp, and torture her instead."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Twin Peaks

Director David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan (Agent Cooper)
The TV thing can be really frustrating, especially when a beloved program returns to a station for which one does not have access. I have been quietly excited for the return of "Twin Peaks," and when I saw that it was to air on Sunday, I was expressively excited. I was visiting my mother and was sure that she had the Showtime cable station. Settled into her sofa with glass of wine ... what? Mom doesn't have Showtime? Jeez. She has HBO? What good does that do me!

"Twin Peaks" is my show. Of course, others have come along since, but it was the first truly captivating network television show that I had ever seen, and I am not so sure that there has been anything like it since. Typically, I'm not a fan of horror, and I would categorize it as such because the underlying thread of pure evil that courses through it is undeniable, which is horrifying. Bob, the evil that is the show's murderer, is quite easily the scariest character ever created in my mind because he represents what lives, quite possibly, in each of us. He is Freud's Id- the part of our personalities that is instinctual and driven by sexual and aggressive drives that can only be tempered by the ego  and superego. Bob lives in an ordinary box, but when he gets out? Watch out.

In the town of Twin Peaks, David Lynch creates a bizarre world that supports strange. And if everyone is strange, or has a quirk, it is normal. He takes a happy collection of characters, like in the sitcom "Happy Days," for instance, and Picassos them. That's it. The show is a Freudian Picasso: complex, instinctive, exaggerated, and blue.

While I was watching the series every week back in 1990, I had a "Twin Peaks" friend in a very dear friend. We did not live in the same city, so we weren't able to see it together, but we always talked about it afterwards. And for Christmas one year, he traveled to me and surprised me with VHS tapes that he had used to record the entire series. Before there was even a word for binge watching, we spent an entire weekend locked in and binging on Agent Cooper. I baked a cherry pie (Cooper's favorite), we drank lots of wine, and at some point in the middle of the night, we decided that it was a good idea to give David Lynch a call. We were not happy with the idea that Bob had released himself from Agent Cooper psyche. How could good go bad? It makes sense, I suppose, but we didn't want anything to do with it because, ultimately, we didn't want to believe in instinctual evil. I dialed 411 and asked for the Los Angeles listing for Lynch. got We nowhere.

I am sure that there is some way around the Showtime conundrum. Sadly, my buddy has gone to the Blue Room. I wonder if I can buy VHS tapes anymore? If the series ends up on some type of platform that I can tape. , I want to be ready. Then I will somehow transport myself to the Blue Room with a bottle of wine and a cherry pie. Hopefully, behind the curtain, I'll find my friend. I'd like to watch it with him. And I'm sure that we would have something to call David Lynch about.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Betty Freydberg

Oprah Magazine August 2015

I found this in a stack of papers that was set aside to go through some day. Two years later, some day arrived, and I found this gem. The poet, Betty Freyberg, who began writing late in life, died in 2015 at the age of 107 years old. Just a few lines of her poetry is found in the article that originally appeared in "Oprah Magazine," which are: "I am bare now/ Cool to the fire of sunsets/ Gladly undressed of them." It's a rather stunning thought to consider that what was once enthralling has become pedestrian. I think of it in terms of my life and realize that some things just don't hold the same joy as was the times before when I had first experienced it or them or whatever. Strawberries come to mind. As a kid, we didn't see strawberries very often as we probably ate them in season. Later, when I began to set my own table, I always included them because they represented something that was special, but they have become unspecial, especially when I bought them in the supermarket in January. Those weren't the berries of my youth ... they were large, deeply pocked, rubber versions of them. Of course, I got smarter about these kinds of joys. I know now to buy strawberries in June when they are homegrown and sweetest. I get really excited when I see ruby red grapefruits in the market in January because that is when they are their best having been grown somewhere closer than half way around the world. 

But not everything can be figured out so tidily. Yesterday, I was chatting with a colleague who went to the same college as I. In our rambling about the bar and party scene, I remembered a band that I loved that played in a small, strip of a bar called the Club. It was so hipster. All of the Art and Design students hung out there in their new wave or punk gear, drinking cheap beer, and posing. The band was David and the Happenings, which was made up of students from the Art and Design department I am sure of. The band, from what I remembered, was a punky soul band. David loved to sing James Brown. He was skinny and blond, and could move across the stage like a blue-eyed soul man. Come to think of it, he was a hippier version of Darryl Hall of Hall and Oats. The band was just so damned cool. I would wear the old checkered jacket that I took out of my Father's closest, wear a tie, and line my lapels with all of my favorite band's pins. I loved to get it up! As I talked to the colleague, I found that someone had uploaded a video on YouTube of David and the Happenings from 1981. They weren't at our college, but it was surely them. What a prize to find! I sent the link to my brother who attended the same school as I and his response was: "David & the Happenings!  Those were in fact “the Days!" Yes, they were. And as much as I loved them, the band wasn't what I truly remembered them to be. I could see why I loved them ... for a bar band. But the one other person aside from my brother who I would like to share the memory with is no longer living. Sometimes fiery sunsets aren't there to find at the right time as they are gone forever. 

Another poem of Freydberg, "Chorus of Cells," is another that gives me pause. She writes about her making the bed every day. How the making and then getting into the bed is the constancy of her day. She wakes up, makes the bed and is alive. She pulls the covers back at night, for she is alive. My mother is a bed maker. And when I stay with her, I make my bed. When I'm not, all bets are off. But I see in her the rthym of her day and how the bed making marks the passage of another day with the "constancy" of her breathing. From what I have read of Freyberg's work, she portrays the quiet of what must be the end of one's life,particularly one that has been lived in good health and stability. In the quiet of that time, I imagine that one is reflective and though strawberries are sweet and a band makes one dance, it is life itself that one truly experiences the meaning of it all. I wake up; I make the bed. I pull back the blankets; I lie having lived another day. 

Chorus of Cells
By Betty Freydberg

Every morning,
even being very old,
(or perhaps because of it),
I like to made my bed
is the biggest thing I ever do,
I smooth away the dreams disclosed by tangled sheets,
I smack the dented pillow's revelations to oblivion,
I finish with the pattern of the spread exactly centered.
The night is won.
And now the day can open.

All this I like to do,
mastering the  making of my bed
with hands that trust beginnings.
All this I need to do,
directed by the silent message
of the luxury of my breathing.

And every night,
I like to fold the covers back,
and get in bed,
and live the dark, wise poetry of the night's dreaming,
dreading the extent of its improbabilities,
but surrendering to the truth it knows and I do not:
even though its technicolor cruelties,
or the music of its myths, 
feels like someone else's experience,
not mine.

I know that I could no more cease
to want to make my bed each morning,
and fold the covers back at night,
than I could cease
to want to put one foot before the other.

Being very old and so because of it,
all this I am compelled to do,
day after day,
night after night,
directed by the silent message
of the constancy of my breathing,
that bears the news I am alive.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Justin Bieber

Super Bowl commercials aren't the tah-dah that they used to be because so many of them are released before the actual event. Most everything anymore is spoiled by our frantic need to know about everything before it happens. The element of surprise has been eliminated from our collective consciousness.

Ah, but then Justin Bieber showed up  on a T-Mobile commercial, and I was surprised by his adorableness. Actually, I was not that surprised by his being adorable because he is regularly. But I didn't know that he was going to be a Super Bowl commercial. That was my surprise for the game (come on, you didn't think that Tom Brady wasn't going to win? He's too practiced, too steely, and he knows how to win. It was inevitable).

I was talking to a guy at work who had asked what a particular student thought to talk to me about when I told him that he was asking me if I liked Justin Bieber. Now this student was more like a guy that would ask me if I liked Chief Keef, and he may have been trying to get my goat, but I always respond to silliness as if the query was for real. It always throws 'em off ... oh, it surprises them. My colleague told me that he didn't think much of Bieber until he saw him on Comedy Central being roasted. He said that he liked that Bieber was a good sport about all of the ribbing and actually was quite self-deprecating. I was not always a Belieber, and it took "Car Pool Karoake" for me to realize that he is endearing. He doesn't take himself  seriously, and he's fun. I did a turnaround. And this spot, if you haven't seen it check it out on YouTube, is all of the evidence that you need. It might just surprise you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It's a Man's World

Lonely Planet  Winter 2016

The caption for the photo reads: "I stayed with Lkhagvaa and her family in Khatgal, a small village on the southern tip of Lake Khovsgol. Her husband and a friend knocked the goat unconscious with a rock, then, as is the tradition in Mongolia, made a cut in the the belly with a sharp knife before reading a hand inside to cut the aorta and kill the animal. The was pulled inside, then Lkhagvaa and her sister cleaned and prepped all the innards- throwing away nothing- while the men and her young son watched wrestling on the TV in the background."

While the men and young son watched TV ... sound familiar? I her beautiful silk robe, she stands in the kitchen ready to cut the guts out of dinner. We are more alike in this world than we are different. And this is evidence for it.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Queen Victoria

Vogue January 2017
This was the first January in six years when "Downton Abbey" was not on Sunday's menu on "Masterpiece Theater," and to be honest, I wasn't sad. I faithfully watched the program from its first airing through all of the exaggerated  hoopla that surrounded its final show. It was exhausting. And the show had lost some of its innocence and the organic feeling of a 'special' find. In the end, everyone watched it. And I don't mind being a part of everyone, but its huge popularity detracted from its original charm. One of the things that I like about a "Masterpiece Theater" program is in its quiet. The landscapes are peaceful. The costumes are intricate, not loud. And the passion that characters may, or may not, feel for each other smolders beneath the surface, never quite igniting into a blaze. Its a cozy, winter throw against the chill of a Sunday evening that is fine fare to accompany a Sunday roast and glass, or two, of Bordeaux.

Sunday evening's offering started off this year grandly with the final episodes of Sherlock Holmes. The three episodes were dizzying with complexity and the brilliance that is Benedict Cumberbatch. I am not nearly over them and vow to watch again so that I can capture all of the plot ... it runs fast. And I'm sorry that it will be the last of this incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. He's a character that I will never tire of seeing solve mysteries, and Cumberbatch was the finest who has played Holmes.

And now, we have "Victoria." Being an Anglophile, I watched Netflix's "The Crown" in a few sittings. With that over and waiting for its next installment, PBS brightening the dull winter sky with a beautifully produced story of Victoria. I hadn't realized that it was coming up, but I dutifully turned to a Sunday night view with this gift. Like "The Crown," "Victoria's" strength is in the actors who portray the characters. English actors are just better. And they morph into ancient souls flawlessly while creating a dimension all of their own. Jenna Coleman, who plays the young queen, is superb. She's a tiny girl, but like Victoria, she rises up out of size with strong conviction and a mighty force. Rufus Seawell plays her confidante, Lord M, who was Victoria's first Prime Minister. Seawell has changed since I last saw him on the screen, but the age that has come to him is wonderful. I don't remember him being so ... resonant. Their love for each other, which was established early on in the show, is believable and bittersweet. Much older, his wife has run off with Lord Byron ... oh, I love that! Byron the romantic. Byron the traveller. Byron the naughty boy. And Lord M. isn't naughty. He convinces Victoria that theirs is not a love to be had ... though he silently battles the rage he feels when other men come along. And the one man who does come along that captures Victoria's heart is Prince Albert, played by Tom Hughes. Hughes is more dreamy than any Downton lad by far. He holds himself away from Victoria to test that love, not duty, draw the two together.

Pour me another glass of wine. I am happy in the wrap of this to get me safely through winter.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Twenty One Pilots

I wore a David Bowie t-shirt to the Twenty One Pilots concert this past weekend. They are my nephew's favorite band, and he convinced his mother to bring him up from the island to see them for his 16th birthday, which falls on Christmas day. He sort of always gets short changed as much as we try to make the evening of his birthday special, so I guess that this was a big make-up for that fact. My sister, his mother, told me that no one would appreciate the Bowie ... hah! I told her that this band wouldn't be if it hadn't been for him, and as you can see from the top photograph... a new Star-man is in the house ... Mr. Tyler Joseph. And my t-shirt? It was noticed. These kids, the fans who call themselves the skeleton clique, are not totally unaware of what has come before. And Twenty One Pilots in a very short time have demonstrated their grit in crossing, pulling, and dragging cross cultural genres of sound of innovation. I can't think of any one else who is doing what they are doing ... except those that are now imitating it.

The show put on by Tyler and his band-mate, Josh Dun, was buoyant and penetrating. They demand of their audience movement, and through the two and half hours of the show everyone was in sync with the maestro- Tyler. Josh drives it with his pounding beats ... pretty close to him at one point in the evening, I could see how every muscle in his shoulders, arms and chest work to make gorilla sized sound from his kit. I wouldn't have believed it if I had been there to see it pulled out into the crowd while he drummed us senseless. But Tyler is the star man. He it at ease with his crowd, which pulled young to old who were happy to jump up and down, wave arms in the air, and yeah, yeah, yeah at command.

One of the highlights of the show was when the boys pulled their opening acts, Judah & the Lion and Jon Bellion, out on stage to perform a couple of cover songs: Tubthumping (Chumbawamba), No Diggity (Blackstreet), Where is the Love (Black Eyed Peas), and Jump Around (House of Pain). Both acts were great on their own, but all together, it was joyous. What better tonic for the times we now live that raucous, mashed up hootenanny?!

And the best, best part of it? My nephew got to see his favorite band live.  And he was happy to share it with his mom and two aunts. That is what it is all about. My dad gave me the line to soothe all sorts of aches and pains with the world of music, so it makes sense that I pass that same key to existence to the next generation.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Bruno Mars

Rolling Stone 
Versace and Gucci man! I don't know anyone who doesn't love 'em some Bruno Mars. Whether James Browning it at the Grammy's or through the songs that he writes for other artists (like Adele), the man is full of sparkle and shine. And he's got the gear to reflect it.

I love his outfit here! I'm guessing that it is Versace. It's a tear-out from a months old magazine pull-out that I found on my desk. My magazines have been coming late because my key is still broken off in the mailbox, and I still refuse to pay the $100 for a locksmith to come fix it when I am renter, and I believe that my landlord should fix it. It's not as if I broke the key on purpose or was negligent. It was old and weak. It broke. Now, I'm at the mercy of the mail carriers in what is considered one of the worst postal codes in the whole of the United States. All I have is this cover. No article. No descriptions. But I think that it is Versace. And this is why ...

In 1995, I traveled to Europe for many weeks right before I started my high school teaching career. My travel partner was a software designer who worked as a consultant, so he was able to block the time out for the trip. We flew to Frankfort without any reservation except for our flight. We wandered through Prague, Budapest, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, and arrived at our last stop in Final Ligure, on the Mediterranean in Italy. There, we were ready to get home and found that we were in the least cool place from our trip. It was a beach town. The restaurants were under tents on the ocean, and each one had the same menu and the same, same old. We discovered one part of the town that was more charming that the rest. And we stumbled across a restaurant on a cobbled street where wonderful aromas emanated from within and six tables that begged for a sitter that hugged the street. We asked for a table and were denied. We fixated on this little jewel and finally after asking twice the next day, lunch and dinner, the man finally sat us down for lunch on the third day. It was worth being denied three times, as the fourth time was more delightful that we could have ever guessed. Six tables was all that they sat for lunch or dinner, and we were at the mercy of the waiter, who brought out to us course after course of wonderful food. We sat down at Noon, the first to sit, and left at 3 or 4, the last to leave. The chef came out to the table to ask us how the meal was and congratulated us on our appetites ... for food and wine.

As we drifted off into the afternoon gullet filled, we ran across a Versace store. We looked in the window at what was predominantly men's clothing. My travelling companion said, 'let's go in.' And we left out after he had purchased a pink themed Versace shirt. I encourage his extravagant purchase. I was in no position to buy something so dear as I had been student teaching, had no 'regular' job, and wasn't sure that I had a teaching position secured for the school year start. It was a beautiful shirt. Well constructed, and the colors were so vivid. I don't think that he ever wore the shirt. He was too conservative to wear a pink shirt that exploded with color.  I wore it once. And now that I think about it, I should've kept it. He is gone now, and the shirt probably ended up in a bag for the Goodwill, his mother not understanding the beauty of it.

Ah, but it looks good on Bruno. It reminds me of the meal at the little restaurant on the street tucked away from the crowds of Italian vacationers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Kurt Seyit ve Sura

I ran across this Turkish delight on a sleepy, winter evening last week on Netflix. I wasn't sure that I was ready to commit to sub-titles when I could barely keep my eyes open, but the snowflakes that swirled around the opening scenes made me feel nostalgic and cozy under my warm throw. And so like love, Seyit and Sura caught me by surprise. The series is based on true stories of a Turkish man from Crimea who fought for Czar Nicholas at the time of the Russian Revolution. He meets a beautiful Russian woman of noble birth, and the two fall in love at first sight. Always running from the forces that will change Russia forever and the families who don't approve of their match, theirs is a wistful tale of all-consuming love and the stubbornness that keeps it together, only to tear it apart. It is a soap opera to be sure. The villains are horrible, and I find myself yelling at  Petro, in particular, who is a horrible man ... jealous of his childhood friend Seyit and in love with Sura. But their constant reconnection after harrowing escapes and escapades is sublime. It is a truly romantic story. Produced and filmed in Turkey, I am determining that it is filmed according to a more traditional code. Seyit is more likely to kiss Sura on her forehead than her lips. Somehow this makes it all of the more ethereal. 

And Seyit ... what can I say about the man that I love. Wowsa. He had me at hello, good-bye, and see you later. The man is beautiful. And I have watched episode after episode to watch him explode across the screen. He has an intensity that is so attractive. With a gesture, I feel myself move closer to the screen to meet his command. I've Googled the actor, Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, and have read up on the story of the story. I was overjoyed when I discovered that Season One meant over 30 episodes. I would not have to wait for more when it kept coming at me. Sadly, I was beginning to see that Seyit and Sura might succumb to the pressures that surrounded them- Petro is working really hard to kill Seyit, send him back to Russia to face execution, and murdering someone to put the the blame on him. He is a dirty scoundrel, who is always trying to ingratiate himself into Sura's arms. And she nearly always falls for it as if he will be the savior of her lover.

And I did look ahead as it is reported online, and it made me sad. Yesterday, I saw an episode that showed a reconciliation between the lovers, and I am tempted to leave it at that ... stay away from the final episodes so that I don't watch it fall apart. Yesterday, when I was getting ready for work, I remembered that I had a ring from Turkey. I helped a friend organize the estate of one of his friends when he had died suddenly. When I was going through a drawer, I found the rings. I remember the owner telling me that when he traveled to teach in Turkey, he found the men to be very handsome. He was very happy being there and in their company. He suggested that I follow him and work there as well. I would have my choice of men. If they are anything like  Kıvanç Tatlıtuğk, I think that I might have passed up a good thing. In the series, when Seyit finally asks Sura to marry, he gives her his man's ring. She wore it happily on her index finger. Yesterday, I wore my Turkish man's ring. I walked around in a swirl of imaginings of flight, struggle, and the romantic beauty of Istanbul.

What better way to occupy oneself in a fantasy of true love on short, dreary, wintry days.